Whose Picture Is It, Anyway?

NY Times Published: April 11, 2014

Last fall, while on a family bike ride around Central Park, I took a photo of my 9-year-old son. His cheeks were flushed, his big brown eyes were lit with happiness and the golden sun made his light-olive skin appear to glow. It was a great picture and one I wanted to share with my friends online.

My son, however, was opposed to the idea. “You’re not going to put that on Facebook, are you?” he demanded, flashing me the look my husband and I had long ago named his “dark and stormy.”

Yes, I told him: “You are my child, and I’m proud of you.”

“But it’s my picture,” he said. “And I don’t want it on your Facebook page.”

My firstborn child is bright and charming. He also bristles at authority. He wants to do almost everything (math homework, tie his sneakers, eat his vegetables) on his own terms. His objection to appearing in my social media feed fit perfectly with his contrarian nature, so I chose to disregard it. I posted the picture later in the day when he was in his room, playing with Legos.

I figured that he would be none the wiser, and, more important, that as his parent, I had the right to go against his wishes.

My parents made me wake up at dawn and swim in an ice-cold pool before any of my friends were out of bed. My father had a belt, my mother a short fuse. Posting a flattering picture of my son online? That hardly seemed like something that would land him on the therapist’s couch as an adult.

Except it very well might. Jim Taylor, who has a Ph.D. in psychology and works with children and families in Marin County, Calif., said it had been a mistake to dismiss my son’s request and wanted to know if I had talked to him about why he felt the way he did.

In fact, I had: while at the sink doing the dinner dishes, my son at the small table in our kitchen, sipping Ovaltine. Our conversation elicited the information that he was O.K. with my emailing his photo to some friends, but Facebook and Twitter were “too public.”

My boy, at 9, had drawn a clear line between what was public and private. It also bothered him that I had not asked for his consent. “I don’t want stuff going on without me knowing,” he explained.

Dr. Taylor, the author of “Raising Generation Tech: Prepare Your Children for a Media-Fueled World,” was impressed. “Your son is obviously pretty darned mature to be already grasping the power that social media can have, its upside and its potential risks,” he said.

My son may also be introverted by nature, unlike his kid sister, who loves to vamp it up for my iPhone camera. Or he may have picked up on subtle cues from my husband (who isn’t on Facebook). “Kids model themselves after their parents,” Dr. Taylor said.

Parents, of course, run the gamut. A friend deletes posts about her children days after uploading them to protect their privacy over the long haul; my editor, a mother of two under 10, not only thought I should honor my son’s wishes but also proclaimed that all parents should abstain from posting pictures of their children online until they are old enough to give explicit consent.

I would be more amenable to her point of view if my favorite part of Facebook wasn’t seeing the features of my childhood friends, many of whom live faraway, such as in Tennessee or Minnesota, in the faces of their offspring: Carrie McAlexander Tessier’s daughter has inherited her red curls! Michael Walsh’s son has his trademark smile!

But Dr. Taylor worries about the “need to chronicle children’s lives on the Internet” and questions “whose needs are being met” when Mom gives a shout-out to Maya’s umpteenth winning goal at soccer or Dad showcases a snap of second-grade Johnny doing fifth-grade math. “Look in the mirror and ask yourself, ‘Do I get a little ego boost from this?’ ” he said.

Another friend, the novelist Allison Winn Scotch, rebelled last summer against what she calls an “inaccurate” representation of family life online and dared to post a picture of her daughter, then 6, in the midst of a tantrum on the streets of Paris. “Refusal to walk because we didn’t agree on her dinner choice,” Allison wrote.

When I called her and told her about my issue with my son, she said she would never post an unflattering picture of her son, who, apparently, is more sensitive than his sister. He’s also 9, which made me wonder: Could social media awareness be a new developmental milestone? And if so, is my son part of the first wave of children who are nearing adolescence, and all the social awareness that entails, to realize their parents have been posting embarrassing pictures of them online since they were minutes old?

Legally, I’m well within my rights as my son’s guardian, but what about ethically? Howard Cohen, a chancellor emeritus and a professor of philosophy at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, Ind., said that depended upon whether I agreed with the teachings of Aristotle or those of Immanuel Kant.

Aristotle saw children as essentially moral beings in training, while Kant viewed morality as a simple matter of relationships between free and rational beings. “To me, the virtue of independence of mind would be something worth considering in this situation,” Professor Cohen said. “By acceding to your son’s request, you are helping him make personal decisions about his own sense of dignity and integrity,” adding that even under Kantian ethics, in consideration of my son’s “fierce” personality, I should think about giving him the benefit of the doubt.

“A child may be rational in some respects and not all respects,” he said. “Your son has exhibited what I would call a willful rational choice.”

I’m willing to agree. This wasn’t an argument about my boy not wanting to eat his peas or wear a coat and tie to a friend’s wedding. Those things are still nonnegotiable. With social media, I had no such moral high ground.

But could there be reasonable exceptions to the rule? Every Christmas Eve, for instance, I’ve orchestrated a family photo on a couch in my mother-in-law’s living room. Since I rarely make the time to send out holiday cards anymore, I’ve been posting that photo on Facebook. I wanted to do it again last year. Would it be ethically permissible for me to override my son in this instance?

Well, Professor Cohen asked, do I want to teach my son “to stick to his principles” or do I want to “teach him about compromise and negotiation”?

“I’m not sure,” I replied. “Both?”

Later that weekend, my son sat on my bed weaving a Rainbow Loom bracelet as I explained what the family Christmas photo meant to me. Would he give me his consent to share it with my friends online?

His answer was still no. “Why can’t you just take the picture and not do anything with it?” he asked.

My thoughts ran to Dr. Taylor’s comments. What were my motives? And were any of them worth upsetting my son? Nope.

“O.K.,” I told my son. “I understand.”

He stood up. “Now can we play some baseball?”

April 16th, 2014
pentti monkkonen




Through May 1

Hacienda via

Truth and Consequences via

April 15th, 2014
Bruce M. Sherman

Untitled, 2014
Stoneware, glaze
7 x 4 x 2 inches

Photo credit: Adam Reich

Bruce M. Sherman | What IS Your Original Face?
Opening Reception: Sunday, April 13. 3-5 PM
April 13 through May 15, 2014

What IS Your Original Face?

“A collection of a hundred great brains makes one big fathead.” – Carl Jung

Not knowing what a body is to be, rather, allowing an inner body to find the outer
body; looking inside the self to find form; producing from quiet; letting intuition
and whimsy act as a medium and a tool rendering the sculptural object complete:
all these are at the nucleus of the work of Bruce M. Sherman. His approach to
sculpture brings to mind corporeal mime, a method developed by Étienne
Decroux in the mid-20th century for performers wishing to transform their ideas
into a physical reality and make visible the invisible. Corporeal mime seeks to
express abstract and universal ideas and emotions through body movement,
much like the way Sherman pursues the expression of intuition (of the inner
body) as a priority over thinking (of the outer body) in the creation of an object.

In Shermanʼs forms, faces and bodies oscillate between concealment and
legibility. Empty vessels sit on top of deconstructed forms made up of mouths,
eyes, hands and feet. Glazes are applied, fired and re-applied to propel
patchwork color combinations, mimicking multiplicity within the self. The Inner
becomes articulated on the outer so that the invisible becomes visible.

Bruce M. Sherman lives and works in New York. Past exhibitions include “Estate
of Lucie Fontaine,” Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York; “For January, Just Ask
Alice,” Fitzroy Gallery, New York; “Think Pink,” curated by Beth Rudin DeWoody
at Gavlak Gallery, Palm Beach; “Plus B,” curated by Amy Granat at Front Desk
Apparatus, New York; and “Six Americans,” Museo Regional Michoacanao,
Morelia, Mexico. His drawings are featured in Fran Shawʼs forthcoming book
“Lord Have Murphy: Waking Up in the Spiritual Marketplace.”

South Willard Shop Exhibit

April 12th, 2014

Frank Lloyd Wrong
Aluminum, wood, steel, metal hardware
81 x 32 x 70 inches

March 29 – April 26, 2014

Marc Foxx

April 12th, 2014

Watch decline_of_western_civilization in Entertainment  |  View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

Friday, April 18, 2014
The Decline of Western Civilization| 7:30 pm
The Decline of Western CivilizationPart III—New 35 mm Print | 9:40 pm


Thanks to Jonathan Maghen

April 10th, 2014
Like, Degrading the Language? No Way

Screen shot 2014-04-10 at 9.53
Credit Tucker Nichols

NY Times Published: APRIL 5, 2014

IF there is one thing that unites Americans of all stripes, it is the belief that, whatever progress our country might be making, we are moving backward on language. Just look at the crusty discourse level of comments sections and the recreational choppiness of text messages and hit pop songs.

However, amid what often seems like the slack-jawed devolution of a once-mighty language, we can find evidence for, of all things, a growing sophistication.

Yes, sophistication — even in the likes of, well, “like,” used so prolifically by people under a certain age. We associate it with ingrained hesitation, a fear of venturing a definite statement. Yet the hesitation can be seen less as a matter of confidence than one of consideration.

“Like” often functions to acknowledge objection while underlining one’s own point. To say, “This is, like, the only way to make it work,” is to implicitly recognize that this news may be unwelcome to the hearer, and to soften the blow by offering one’s suggestion discreetly swathed in a garb of hypothetical-ness.

“Like, the only way to do it” operates on the same principle as other expressions, such as making a request with the phrasing, “If you could open the door …” — hypothetical, when what you intend is quite concrete. “Like” can seem somehow sloppier, but only because youth and novelty always have a way of seeming sloppy.

What’s actually happening is that casual American speech is, in its “like” fetish, more polite than it was before. Sooner than we know it, the people using “like” this way will be on walkers, and all will be right with the world.

The use of “totally” mines the same vein. “He’s totally going to call you” does not mean “He is going to call you in a total fashion.” It has a more specific meaning, although only handled subconsciously by speakers, as so much of language is. “He’s totally going to call you” contains an implication: that someone has said otherwise, or that the chances of it may seem slim at first glance but in fact aren’t. As with “like,” “totally” tracks and nods to the opinions of others. It’s totally civilized.

Linguistically, underneath the distractions of incivility, America is taking a page from Dale Carnegie’s classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” There is, overall, an awareness of the states of minds of others in much of what is typically regarded as Clearasil-scented grammatical sloth.

Texting’s famous “lol,” for instance, started as literally meaning “laugh out loud,” but now serves the same function as the quiet chuckles and giggles that decorate most casual conversations, as I learned in research I did with my student Laura Milmed. Lol creates a comfort zone by calling attention to sentiments held in common.

“I just studied for three hours lol” — no one would say that guffawing. It is a graphic titter, channeling the very particular drudgery the texter and the receiver both associate with studying. It warms texting up into a graphic kind of spoken conversation.

In this vein, the “because X” expression recently celebrated by the American Dialect Society as the word of 2013 is just more of the same. “ ‘Five Second Rule’ May Be Real, Because Science,” a blogger noted recently. The usage has a specific meaning, implying a wariness toward claims of scientific backing that all readers presumably understand when, in this case, it comes to whether we can actually always feel safe eating food off the floor. We consider the views of others, we step outside of our own heads. “Because X” is another new way to say “we’re all in this together.”

The increase in public profanity may seem to speak against such a sunny perspective. But what qualifies as profanity? Today, the “four letter” words traditionally termed profanity in American English are more properly just salty. As late as 1920, the lowlier word for excrement rarely appeared in print; its use has increased a hundredfold since. The uses of “damn” and “hell” in print are higher than ever in written history. No anthropologist observing our society would recognize words used so freely in public language as profanity.

At the same time, consider the words we now consider truly taboo, that we enshroud with a near-religious air of sinfulness. They are, overwhelmingly, epithets aimed at groups.

Gone are the days when our main lexical taboos concerned religion — with “egad” as a way to evade saying “Ye Gods!” — or sex and the body, as when Americans started saying white and dark meat to avoid mentioning breasts and limbs.

Instead, today the abusive use of the N-word, the word beginning with F that refers to homosexual men and a four-letter word for a body part that can be used to refer to women are considered beyond the pale even in casual discourse, to an extent that would baffle a time traveler from as recently as 50 years ago.

A keystone of education is to foster awareness of, and respect for, diversities of opinion. Changes in language suggest that the general populace has become much more attuned to this kind of diversity. The increasingly wide and diverse circles of acquaintance Americans are likely to have may increase attention to a certain conversational civility. Texting cries out for substitutes for facial expressions and intonations that cushion and nuance spoken conversation. The civil rights revolution hardly created a paradise, but its impact on what we consider appropriate language was revolutionary.

We may not speak with the butter-toned exchanges of the characters on “Downton Abbey,” but in substance our speech is in many ways more civilized.

We are taught to celebrate the idea that Inuit languages reveal a unique relationship to snow, or that the Russian language’s separate words for dark and light blue mean that a Russian sees blueberries and robin’s eggs as more vibrantly different in color than the rest of us do. Isn’t it welcome, then, that good old-fashioned American is saying something cool about us for once?

April 10th, 2014

Thanks to Steve Hadley

April 10th, 2014
sigmar polke

POZ 10
“Butter”, ca. 1963-1965
Ballpoint pen, gouache on paper
11 3/4 x 8 1/4 inches
30 x 21 cm

Through June 7, 2014

Michael Werner

April 9th, 2014
daniel payavis


April 13 – May 18, 2014
Opening reception: Sunday, April 13, 5 – 8pm

Texan Equities

April 9th, 2014
mathias poledna

Imitation of Life, 2013,
35mm film, 3 minutes

Graduate Lecture Series
April 9, 2014
12:00 PM – 2:00 PM

USC Roski

Thanks to Steven Baldi

April 9th, 2014

April 9th, 2014
Poachers Attack Beloved Elders of California, Its Redwoods

Screen shot 2014-04-09 at 9.19.16 AM
Thieves who target burls, protrusions on trees that are valued for their intricately patterned wood, are driven by a sluggish economy and costly methamphetamine habits, officials said. Credit Jim Wilson

NY Times Published: APRIL 8, 2014

REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS, Calif. — It was an unlikely crime scene: a steep trail used by bears leading to a still, ancient redwood grove. There, a rare old-growth coast redwood had been brutally hacked about 15 times by poachers, a chain saw massacre that had exposed the tree’s deep red heartwood.

The thieves who butchered this and other 1,000-year-old arboreal giants were after the burls, gnarly protrusions on the trees that are prized for their intricately patterned wood. Although timber theft has long plagued public lands, a recent spate of burl poaching, with 18 known cases in the last year, has forced park officials to close an eight-mile drive through old-growth forests, the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, at night to deter criminals. More closings are expected.

While some burls are small and barnacle-like — perfect for souvenir salt-and-pepper shakers — others weigh hundreds of pounds and can fetch hundreds or thousands of dollars per slab.

The poachers, known locally as the “midnight burlers,” are motivated by a sluggish local economy and expensive methamphetamine habits, park officials say, and they have been targeting ever-bigger burls and using increasingly brazen tactics. Last year, a redwood estimated to be 400 years old was felled by thieves who wanted access to a 500-pound burl 60 feet up. It was the first time an entire tree was cut down for a burl, said Brett A. Silver, the state park’s supervising ranger.

The burl was so massive that the thieves wound up dragging it behind their vehicle, leaving a trail of skid marks. The trail led rangers two and a half miles to the Redwood Highway — U.S. 101. They found the burl stashed beneath an overpass for safekeeping.

“How many do we have that we haven’t found?” Mr. Silver said of the poached trees. “It’s not just a property crime. It’s a legacy, like hacking up a church.”

This 132,000-acre park, a Unesco World Heritage site, is the repository of a significant portion of the planet’s remaining virgin coast redwoods, which were largely logged by timber companies. The trees thrive only along a narrow, fog-shrouded ribbon of land between the California-Oregon border and Big Sur. The burl wood, with its complex, swirling patterns, is the result of bud tissue that has not sprouted; the park describes it as “a storage compartment for the genetic code of the parent tree.”

Old-growth coast redwoods are among the earth’s most tenacious organisms, some living 2,000 years or more. Removing a burl cuts into a tree’s living cambium layer, which can weaken it and make it vulnerable to insects and disease.

Although scientists are not entirely sure how burls are formed or why, they do consider them to be marvels of biodiversity: Giant burls perched like penthouses above the canopy are habitats for mollusks, salamanders and other creatures. “It’s as if you took a chunk of the forest floor and suspended it into the air,” said Stephen C. Sillett, a professor at Humboldt State University, in Arcata just south of here, who specializes in the ecology of the redwood forest.

Park officials liken the crimes to killing elephants for ivory. The most recent episode, discovered in February, involved 21 burls cut from four trees in the park’s northernmost reaches. The park is managed cooperatively by the National Park Service and the California Department of Parks and Recreation; investigations of illegal activities are handled by about 12 law enforcement rangers, approximately one per 11,000 acres.

These days, a tight grain of paranoia runs through places like Orick (population 357), which is near the park’s southern entrance and proudly markets itself as a “burlwood capital.” Park investigators have been among the shoppers at establishments like Burl Bill’s that sell redwood gifts — clocks, bears, bees and unfinished slabs — for $500 to $700 apiece. “Everything here has been dead for hundreds of years,” said Burl Bill, who declined to give his real name.

Orick — barely hanging on, with only 11 students in its school — used to be a timber town, but it went into a steep economic decline when its sawmill closed in 2009. Burl poaching, said Joshua Oquist, 27, who grew up in Orick, is “a sad way to earn a living, but there is no industry here.”

Because poaching tends to occur at night off established trails, catching a thief in action is rare, said Paul Gallegos, the Humboldt County district attorney. Quantifying the value of thieves’ spoils is also difficult — and important, Mr. Gallegos said, as the value “can distinguish a felony from a misdemeanor.”

Local culture plays a role in the thefts as well. “People still feel they have a right to extract from the forest to make a living,” Mr. Gallegos said. “But parks are a state and national resource. These trees belong to the people of the United States of America, so they are in fact stealing from them.”

Dealers like Landon Buck, 32, who runs what may be the country’s largest operation, redwoodburl.com, said there were legitimate means of acquiring the wood, including through private lands cleared for new development and salvage permits from lumber companies. Mr. Buck — who looks every bit the burl dealer, with his wool cap and even woollier beard — bought half a million pounds of redwood burls last year and is a presence on eBay. His vast warehouse in Arcata is filled with specialty woods and works by master carvers. “Hey,” he said, glancing around. “Would I risk all this to buy a truckload of burl from some tweaker?”

But there is a strong global demand. Gary Goby, founder of Goby Walnut and Western Hardwoods in Portland, Ore., said that a local buyer might sell a burl to a veneer mill overseas — perhaps one of many in China — where it will be sliced into thin layers that bring out the wood’s elegant whorls. “Finding a remote buyer over the Internet is easy, unfortunately,” he said.

But it is difficult to put a price tag on a stately and ancient tree. Hiking through moist ferns to a ravaged redwood the other day, Jeff Denny, the state park’s redwood coast sector supervisor, observed that the titans in his midst had survived lightning, fire, high winds and other natural disasters, but poachers with chain saws were something else entirely. Consumers need to be aware of a burl’s source, he said, and “ask the tough question: Where does it come from?”

April 9th, 2014
Mary Weatherford

Screen shot 2014-04-08 at 8.44.27 PM
La Niña, 2014, Flashe and neon on linen
117 x 104 inches (297.18 x 264.16 cm)

April 19, 2014 — May 31, 2014
Opening Reception: April 19, 6 to 8PM

David Kordansky

April 8th, 2014
Zuni Ask Europe to Return Sacred Art

09ZUNIjp1-articleLargeA Zuni shrine with carved wood idols and a stacked rock wall, 1904. Credit Matilda Coxe Stevenson/National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution

NY Times Published: APRIL 8, 2014

PARIS — Octavius Seowtewa, an elder of the Native American Zuni tribe from New Mexico, was sitting in a Paris cafe late last month, scrolling through his iPhone pictures of Ahayuda, carved and decorated wooden poles that are considered sacred to the Zuni. They were taken at his recent meetings with representatives of major European museums, whom he is hoping he can persuade to return the artifacts.

Mr. Seowtewa, who exudes a quiet persistence and was dressed that day in a black leather blazer, dark slacks and a button-down shirt, acknowledged that he hadn’t had much luck in his meetings at the Musée du Quai Branly here or at the Ethnological Museum in Berlin, among others. But he said he was just getting started.

Since 1978, the Zuni have been more proactive than other Native American tribes in reclaiming ceremonial objects: in their case, more than 100 Ahayuda, also called war gods, from institutions and collections in the United States. The Zuni have taken advantage of federal legislation that requires all United States institutions to return objects considered sacred by Native Americans to individual tribes or risk losing federal funding. But those laws do not apply in Europe. Here, the Zuni case is a moral one. “That’s all there is,” Mr. Seowtewa said. “We believe if you listen to us about the power these objects have to our community, that these are exemplars of sacred objects, of communally owned objects,” then museums will consider sending them back, he added.

Mr. Seowtewa said the Zuni wanted back only the Ahayuda and are not asking for other artifacts, including pottery and beads.

But museum experts say that some European museums are concerned that sending objects back, especially if they were bought by museums from private owners, would set an unwelcome precedent that could call into question the legitimacy of other works in their collections: from artifacts acquired from Africa and Asia to even the Elgin marbles in the British Museum, whose return Greece has formally requested several times. Each year, on the winter solstice, the Zuni make two Ahayuda to protect the tribe from harm and to promote fertility. Only the tribe’s special Bow priests are allowed to touch the Ahayuda, which are communally owned, Mr. Seowtewa said, so any that left the Zuni Pueblo over the years, by definition, left illegally.

There are hundreds of Ahayuda extant; they are also made whenever a new Bow priest is initiated, which hasn’t happened in decades. But Mr. Seowtewa said it was impossible to determine when any particular statue had been made or when it had gone missing, because the Ahayuda had been secreted away for centuries, since the tribe’s first contact with Europeans.

While some European museums have sent back a few individual items from their Native American collections to various tribes over the years — as well as human remains, which are governed by different laws — the Zuni are the first tribe to seek the return of objects from so many museums at once in a proactive way.

“My hope is that what we started in the States, being the first tribe to repatriate,” will continue in Europe, Mr. Seowtewa said.

In a separate case last year, the Annenberg Foundation bought 24 items considered sacred to the Hopi Native American tribe at a private auction in Paris for $530,000, in order to return them. That sale was orchestrated with the help of the United States State Department, which has said it is fully supportive of the Zuni quest to reclaim their Ahayuda.

But these cases of repatriation are never simple.

“It’s a culture clash, of museum culture and Zuni culture,” said Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh, the curator of anthropology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, who has been working with the Zuni tribe on repatriation issues since 2002 and secured grant funding for the European trip, on which he accompanied Mr. Seowtewa.

While Native American tribes want to preserve items sacred to their culture, museums in Europe take a more “colonial” attitude, Mr. Colwell-Chanthaphonh added. “They think it’s their job to preserve culture.”

Mr. Seowtewa said he had high hopes that the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, in the Netherlands, which removed Ahayuda from public view after requests from Zuni religious leaders, might be the first in Europe to return Ahayuda from its collection, largely because the curator of the museum’s North American collection, Pieter Hovens, supported the idea. In an email, Mr. Hovens said he was also hopeful that the repatriation would take place.

But other European museums are reluctant to go down this road. Yves Le Fur, the director of heritage and the collections at the Musée du Quai Branly, which has 101 Zuni items, including one Ahayuda, in its collection, said it was up to France’s Culture Ministry to decide how to proceed.

“In France, the national collections are the inalienable and imprescriptible property of the state,” Mr. Le Fur wrote in an email.

The museum has just opened an exhibition of work by Plains Indians, which will travel later to the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Hannah Boulton, a spokeswoman for the British Museum, said that the museum had a “cordial meeting” with Mr. Seowtewa and Mr. Colwell-Chanthaphonh last month, but that it could not comment until it had received a formal repatriation request from the Zuni leaders. She dismissed the idea that returning Ahayuda might set a precedent that would call into question the museum’s claim on other works, including the Elgin marbles.

“It is not about the precedent set, but about the fundamental purpose of the British Museum and its collection,” Ms. Boulton said. The museum exists “to tell the story of human cultural achievement from two million years ago to the present day,” she said, and its trustees want the collection “to remain as a whole.”

Richard Haas, the director of the Ethnological Museum in Berlin — which has come under fire for its vast collection of objects from former German colonies in Africa and from the Kingdom of Benin, in parts of what is now contemporary Nigeria — said that the museum had had “a very interesting and fruitful conversation” with Mr. Seowtewa and Mr. Colwell-Chanthaphonh.

But Mr. Haas said all repatriation decisions fell to the president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. “I am sure we will go on with these very important discussions,” he wrote in an email.

Back at the cafe, Mr. Seowtewa said he was eager to continue the conversations. Also, he added, he had gone to the top of the Eiffel Tower that day. “Not many in Zuni have done that,” he said.

April 8th, 2014
bruce m. sherman

Untitled, 2014
Stoneware, glaze
3 1/2 x 3 inches

Photo credit: Adam Reich

Opening Reception: Sunday, April 13. 3-5 PM
April 13 through May 15, 2014

What IS Your Original Face?

“A collection of a hundred great brains makes one big fathead.” – Carl Jung

Not knowing what a body is to be, rather, allowing an inner body to find the outer
body; looking inside the self to find form; producing from quiet; letting intuition
and whimsy act as a medium and a tool rendering the sculptural object complete:
all these are at the nucleus of the work of Bruce M. Sherman. His approach to
sculpture brings to mind corporeal mime, a method developed by Étienne
Decroux in the mid-20th century for performers wishing to transform their ideas
into a physical reality and make visible the invisible. Corporeal mime seeks to
express abstract and universal ideas and emotions through body movement,
much like the way Sherman pursues the expression of intuition (of the inner
body) as a priority over thinking (of the outer body) in the creation of an object.

In Shermanʼs forms, faces and bodies oscillate between concealment and
legibility. Empty vessels sit on top of deconstructed forms made up of mouths,
eyes, hands and feet. Glazes are applied, fired and re-applied to propel
patchwork color combinations, mimicking multiplicity within the self. The Inner
becomes articulated on the outer so that the invisible becomes visible.

Bruce M. Sherman lives and works in New York. Past exhibitions include “Estate
of Lucie Fontaine,” Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York; “For January, Just Ask
Alice,” Fitzroy Gallery, New York; “Think Pink,” curated by Beth Rudin DeWoody
at Gavlak Gallery, Palm Beach; “Plus B,” curated by Amy Granat at Front Desk
Apparatus, New York; and “Six Americans,” Museo Regional Michoacanao,
Morelia, Mexico. His drawings are featured in Fran Shawʼs forthcoming book
“Lord Have Murphy: Waking Up in the Spiritual Marketplace.”

South Willard Shop Exhibit

April 7th, 2014
Oligarchs and Money

NY Times Published: April 6, 2014
By Paul Krugman

Econonerds eagerly await each new edition of the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook. Never mind the forecasts, what we’re waiting for are the analytical chapters, which are always interesting and even provocative. This latest report is no exception. In particular, Chapter 3 — although billed as an analysis of trends in real (inflation-adjusted) interest rates — in effect makes a compelling case for raising inflation targets above 2 percent, the current norm in advanced countries.

This conclusion fits in with other I.M.F. research. Last month the fund’s blog — yes, it has one — discussed the problems created by “lowflation,” which is nearly as destructive as outright deflation. An earlier edition of the World Economic Outlook analyzed historical experience with high debt, and found that countries that were willing to let inflation erode their debt — including the United States — fared much better than those, like Britain after World War I, that clung to monetary and fiscal orthodoxy.

But the I.M.F. evidently doesn’t feel able to say outright what its analysis clearly implies. Instead, the report resorts to euphemisms that preserve deniability: the analysis “could have implications for the appropriate monetary policy framework.”

So what makes the obvious unsayable? In a direct sense, what we’re seeing is the power of conventional wisdom. But conventional wisdom doesn’t come from nowhere, and I’m increasingly convinced that our failure to deal with high unemployment has a lot to do with class interests.

First, let’s talk about the case for higher inflation.

Many people understand that a falling price level is a bad thing; nobody wants to turn into Japan, which has struggled with deflation since the 1990s. What’s less understood is that there isn’t a red line at zero: an economy with 0.5 percent inflation is going to have many of the same problems as an economy with 0.5 percent deflation. That’s why the I.M.F. warned that “lowflation” is putting Europe at risk of Japanese-style stagnation, even though literal deflation hasn’t happened (yet).

Moderate inflation turns out to serve several useful purposes. It’s good for debtors — and therefore good for the economy as a whole when an overhang of debt is holding back growth and job creation. It encourages people to spend rather than sit on cash — again, a good thing in a depressed economy. And it can serve as a kind of economic lubricant, making it easier to adjust wages and prices in the face of shifting demand.

But how much inflation is appropriate? European inflation is below 1 percent, which is clearly too low, and U.S. inflation isn’t that much higher. But would it be enough to get back to 2 percent, the official inflation target in both Europe and the United States? Almost certainly not.

You see, monetary experts have long known about the case for moderate inflation, but back in the 1990s, when the 2 percent target was hardening into policy orthodoxy, they thought that 2 percent was high enough to do the job. In particular, they thought it was enough to make liquidity traps — periods when even an interest rate of zero isn’t low enough to restore full employment — very rare. But America has now been in a liquidity trap for more than five years. Clearly, the experts were wrong.

Furthermore, as the latest I.M.F. report shows, there’s strong evidence that changes in the global economy are increasing the tendency of investors to hoard cash rather than put funds to work, thereby increasing the risk of liquidity traps unless the inflation target is raised. But the report never dares to say this outright.

So why is the obvious unsayable? One answer is that serious people like to prove their seriousness by calling for tough choices and sacrifice (by other people, of course). They hate being told about answers that don’t involve more suffering.

And behind this attitude, one suspects, lies class bias. Doing what America did after World War II — using low interest rates and inflation to erode the debt burden — is often referred to as “financial repression,” which sounds bad. But who wouldn’t prefer modest inflation and a bit of asset erosion to mass unemployment? Well, you know who: the 0.1 percent, who receive “only” 4 percent of wages but account for more than 20 percent of total wealth. Modestly higher inflation, say 4 percent, would be good for the vast majority of people, but it would be bad for the superelite. And guess who gets to define conventional wisdom.

Now, I don’t think that class interest is all-powerful. Good arguments and good policies sometimes prevail even if they hurt the 0.1 percent — otherwise we would never have gotten health reform. But we do need to make clear what’s going on, and realize that in monetary policy as in so much else, what’s good for oligarchs isn’t good for America.

April 6th, 2014
kelly marie conder


Joshua Abelow Art Blog

April 6th, 2014
Florian Pumhösl

Georgian Letter, 2013-14
Stamping with oil paint on ceramic plaster
57 9/16 x 40 1/4 inches (146 x 102 cm)

Through April 27, 2014

Miguel Abreu

April 4th, 2014
Surprise! The Rich Won One

By Gail Collins
NY Times Published: April 2, 2014

Today, we are going to discuss the Supreme Court decision on political donations. Already, we have run into a terrible problem, which is the difficulty in having a fun conversation about campaign finance laws.

Let me try for a second: On Wednesday, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., who once played Peppermint Patty in a school production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, told the nation it was unconstitutional to say that a rich person could only give a total of $123,200 to congressional campaigns each election cycle. This would have been called the majority decision, except that Clarence Thomas, who never talks in court and had that pubic hair controversy back in the day, wrote a little memo of his own.

Roberts was joined by Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy is the famous swing vote, and also a person who once, as a young student, traveled around Europe for a summer with a bottle of whiskey his father had given him, which he used only to gargle.

Their bottom line was that the founding fathers intended America to be a country in which every citizen had the inalienable right to donate, say, $3.6 million every two years.

How do you feel about that, people? On the one hand, this cannot possibly be a helpful step forward. On the other hand, we already live in a country where billionaires can spend endless amounts of cash trying to influence elections with their own private groups. The Koch brothers’ group has spent more than $7 million on ads in North Carolina against Senator Kay Hagan, and there isn’t even a Republican candidate yet. How much farther could we sink?

“They can now do even worse things,” predicted Fred Wertheimer, the long-suffering leader of Democracy 21, a nonprofit that lobbies for campaign finance reform. There’s a big difference, he claims, between an independent group that has to at least pretend it’s not coordinating its message with a political party, and a rich guy simply “going to a leader in Congress and saying: ‘I’m going to write you a check today for $2.5 million, providing I know what your position is on the following. …’ ”

Wertheimer has been working on this issue for a long time. “Let me see if I can add it up, 41 — no! — 43 years,” he said. “I started with Common Cause in 1971, and I was assigned to two issues: campaign finance reform and legislation to end the Vietnam War.”

And, you know, now the Vietnam War is over.

So Fred Wertheimer is not going to give up on this issue. But what about the rest of us? The vast, vast majority of Americans believe there should be some kind of cap on the amount of money candidates can take in and spend. However, they don’t generally want to master the details of the independent expenditure-only committees or the aggregate spending cap. It’s tough enough being a concerned citizen. You’ve got to be able to identify your state senator and have an opinion on the level of pre-K funding in the municipal budget. There’s a limit.

The downside to the decision is pretty clear, unless you are of the opinion that what this country really needs is more power to the plutocrats. But let’s try to be positive for a minute, and look at the plusses:

Potential upside of opening the door to bigger campaign contributions from rich people:

1) Perhaps Justice Roberts was trying to pile up some right-wing cred so that he can swing left on the Obamacare contraception rule. O.K., I’m totally making that one up.

2) The federal government will no longer be “eliminating a person’s right to choose.” This is the spin from Lincoln Brown, a talk radio host who interviewed Shaun McCutcheon, the plaintiff in the suit that the Supreme Court just decided. This would refer to a right to give several million dollars directly to people running for federal office, not a woman’s right to control her reproductive system. But maybe there could be a trend.

The interview, by the way, is up on McCutcheon’s website, along with the announcement that he is writing a book on the way he made legal history, which will be “ready in a few weeks.” For the C.E.O. of an Alabama coal-mining firm, this guy is one fast typist.

Watching events in Russia and Ukraine, you can’t help noticing all the stupendously rich oligarchs with their fingers in every political development. It’s a useful word, connoting both awesome power and a group you don’t really want to have around.

In the former Soviet Union, the money elite generally get their power from the politicians. Here, it seems to be the other way around. But the next time casino zillionaire Sheldon Adelson invites the Republican presidential hopefuls to go to Las Vegas and bow before his throne, feel free to say they were just off honoring an oligarch. Apparently, the founding fathers would have wanted it that way.

April 3rd, 2014
Fleshing Out the Bones

Celeste Carballo worked last week on a diorama for “Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs,” an exhibition that opens at the American Museum of Natural History on Saturday. Credit Piotr Redlinski

NY Times Published: MARCH 31, 2014

In a brightly lit production studio at the American Museum of Natural History in February, 12 artists were hard at work, heads down, eyes focused.

In one corner, a sculptor was shaping clay to create a cat-size flying reptile, a rhamphorhynchus, using a tracing of the animal’s footprints that had been captured in a stone trackway excavated in Utah. In a back room, in hazmat suits and respirators, a team of three was building another kind of a pterosaur, as the flying reptiles are known: a nine-foot-long tropeognathus from foam, fiberglass and epoxy around an aluminum frame.

But in the center of it all was the big daddy — the 28-foot-long quetzalcoatlus, with a wingspan as wide as a fighter jet and a crested head the size of a canoe. As the star of the museum’s latest show, “Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs” opening on April 5, he has had four artists assigned to him full time since December.

Hannah Rawe, a sculptor, was seated next to the foam-filled animal, scratching what were supposed to be tiny hairs into its huge shoulder. At one point, she stopped to ask her boss where the hairs should end and smooth skin should begin. They emailed Alexander Kellner, one of the two curators of the show, a paleontologist at the Museu Nacional in Brazil. Stop at the wrist, he instructed them. And so Ms. Rawe did.

Since the fall, Ms. Rawe and all 55 members of the museum’s exhibitions team have been working closely with curators, paleontologists and scientific consultants to get their creations — down to a hair — as close to reality as possible. In addition to painters and sculptors, there are computer animators, graphic designers and filmmakers.

These three floors in this part of the museum complex — the Power House, where the coal fires were once stoked to heat the entire museum — are where art meets science. Where theory becomes reality.

With each changing exhibition, including “Darwin,” “Whales: Giants of the Deep” and “The Power of Poison” and now this pterosaurs show, scientists translate their concepts for the visual realm. And artists patiently tease out the minutiae of science from experts in the field.

“It’s kind of like the Santa’s workshop of the museum,” said the museum’s spokesman, Roberto Lebron, about the fifth-floor exhibitions studio. “These are the people who put it all together.”

For the past 90 years, artists and sculptors — known as museum preparators — have labored in this room. The taxidermy for the museum’s famous displays and dioramas were done here in the 1930s. Hanging high on the studio walls are antlers, fish and casts of animal faces from old specimens, as well as one black-and-white photo of workers scraping an elephant hide for the Akeley Hall of African Mammals.

Those animals still fill the museum’s halls, frozen in time. But these days, the beehive of activity inside the studio never seems to end. There are usually two special exhibitions each year, with work on one starting just as work on another is ending. The creation of each show begins in much the same way, with executive-level museum administrators learning from, and hashing out ideas with, the curators of each exhibition — this time, Dr. Kellner and Mark A. Norell, head of paleontology for the museum, who has curated more shows than anyone else on staff.

Dr. Norrell, one of the stars of the paleontology world, spends half his time traveling the globe, acquiring fossils in places like China and Romania, and the other half explaining to the staff what to do with them. Early on, the curators decide which animals they want to include. An architectural model is made of the show to figure out what will go where.

“The process is kind of like making a film,” said Dr. Norell, seated in his rounded office in one of the museum’s brownstone turrets overlooking Central Park West near West 77th Street. “You have an idea, then the smaller pitch, then the shooting script, deciding how everything’s laid out, what objects and artifacts to use, what the look and feel of the show is going to be; then you start building your models.”

Dr. Norell and his fellow scientists work closely with the artists to come up with drawings for each specimen. Together they decide what the creature will look like, based on fossils and research materials, then what position it will be in: soaring, flapping, mouth open, mouth closed. The color of a long-extinct animal can sometimes be determined by melanosomes — intercellular bodies that might be preserved in the fossils. Minute amounts of chemical residue that hint at color are also sometimes present. Based on discussions and research, the artists make their sketches, which Dr. Norrell must approve, usually with some back and forth. Then the team starts building.

A few exhibitions staff members have biology backgrounds and do much of their own research. Jason Brougham, who is working on a diorama for the coming show, researched the pterosaurs and fish that would be included, as well as the plant life from the early Cretaceous period. He helped advise many of the other artists on anatomy.

While most of the staff was still working on the “Power of Poison” exhibition this summer, Mr. Brougham was already immersed in prehistoric flying reptiles and their environment. He worked closely with John Maisey, a paleontologist on staff, who has dug in Brazil’s fossil-rich Romualdo Formation.

Mr. Brougham studied biology as an undergraduate, switched to scientific illustration, then got his master’s in fine art, studying painting. At the museum his past creations include replicas of the human brain and twisting brass models of genome protein folds.

“I came to New York to be a big-shot painter,” Mr. Brougham said. “But I took a day job here and totally fell in love with scientific art, reconstructing extinct animals. I really found my calling. It’s great at cocktail parties: a billionaire hedge-fund manager and a 5-year-old both want to talk to you with equal interest.”

For the diorama, Mr. Brougham also worked closely with Dr. Kellner, using a thalassodromeus skull fossil from which they extrapolated what the rest of the animal might have looked like. They examined a similar pterosaur specimen, tupuxuara, to piece together the body.

“Most of the questions that we actually get from artists, the answer is, ‘I don’t know,’ ” Dr. Kellner said. But the more research that’s done, the closer their guess can be on an animal that’s been extinct for 66 million years.

“In art you can do whatever you want,” Dr. Kellner said. “You have an expression of how you feel about a certain subject. But in paleo art, you don’t have that liberty. You must try to present the reconstruction of those animals the best way that you can based on true scientific evidence.”

Together, he and Mr. Brougham reconstructed the muscle groups, then placed the eye and soft tissue, including a crest and big gullet, where they should be. The artists at the museum use not only fossils to determine what the animal might have looked like, but also anything and everything else that might help. In the quetzalcoatlus work space, there were photographs of modern birds — a Marabou stork and a crane — and even a photo of a raw chicken cut and splayed open to help envision the musculature.

The curators watch the process closely, touring the work space every few days or, if they’re away, receiving photos of the progress and offering tweaks and suggestions. There is a weekly meeting to discuss the show’s progress.

A Moving Target

Sometimes, changes in science happen so quickly that an artist’s creation must be considerably altered. For instance, Michael Habib, a consulting scientist who specializes in the aeronautics of pterosaurs, was about to publish a new paper, and he suggested all the bodies of the models be slimmed down. The feet of Quetzalcoatlus underwent major changes as well: Five toes per foot were edited down to four; they were shortened and the toenails removed.

Changes on the fifth floor were then communicated to the multimedia artists two floors down so that their work — which included an interactive digital flying pterosaur — would match. Rather than being frustrated by the constant changes to their creations, most of the artists seem proud to be working to get things exactly right.

Tom Doncourt, an artist and a former cabinetmaker who made the original sketch of the quetzalcoatlus for the show based on a skeleton already in the museum, said that the challenge of fast-changing information was not unique to prehistoric reptile science. The Hall of Human Origins, built in the 1990s, was quickly made out of date by anthropological discoveries, he said.

“Sometimes it’s obsolete the minute we finish it,” said Mr. Doncourt, now a senior principal preparator at the museum.

The “Dark Universe” show in the planetarium had to be adjusted as well. Midway through production last year, a higher-resolution map of the cosmic microwave background was released. The new data was integrated into the show.

“Occasionally,” said Dr. Kellner, “once you have it done, everything is fine, everyone is happy. But then a year later someone makes a new discovery. This is why we paleontologists are never going to be out of a job.”

Mick Ellison, who has worked with Dr. Norell for 24 years, photographing fossils and reconstructing animals from them, said he did not like relying on previous drawings because there was no telling how accurate they are. Mistakes, he said, can be passed down from artist to artist, year after year. For the “Whales” exhibition last year, Mr. Ellison, a senior principal artist, used a jawbone to recreate an entire Andrewsarchus, a long-extinct land-dwelling relative of the whale.

“It was this big hairy beast that had always looked this certain way that was completely inaccurate if you looked at the fossil,” Mr. Ellison said. “It didn’t look anything like this image. But everybody copied this image. Discovery Channel, all these dinosaur movies.”

So Mr. Ellison tries not to take anything for granted. “It’s pretty satisfying if you can get close to something that’s true,” he said.

Mr. Ellison, who studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art and worked as a medical illustrator, has taken anatomy classes to help him recreate creatures great and small.

For the quetzalcoatlus wing he created for the show, Mr. Ellison used an old-school trick to get it just right: the grid method, which dates back to the Renaissance. He placed the huge wing bone model on a giant piece of graph paper and numbered each square so that the finished product — the filled-in wing — would fit the bone exactly. He then went new-school and composed the drawing on the computer. But the wing and the matching computer file were so large that the computer kept freezing. So he broke the file in two.

Most people, he said, think art and science are two different worlds. “I used to think they were very separate, but they’re actually very similar. You have to be creative and you have to be observant.”

Thanks to Shannon Ebner

April 1st, 2014

April 1st, 2014
Mike Kelley

Mike Kelley, Friend of the Animals, Animal Self, 1987, 2 Parts glued felt, 244 x 183 cms, Malmö Konsthall_original
Friend of the Animals and Animal Self
glued felt
2 parts, 241 x 172 cm and 244 x 183 cm

03.31.14 – 07.28.14


April 1st, 2014
Lisa Lapinski

Untitled 1 – 2013

Through April 19, 2014

Johann König

March 28th, 2014
America’s Taxation Tradition

By Paul Krugman
NY Times Published: MARCH 27, 2014

As inequality has become an increasingly prominent issue in American discourse, there has been furious pushback from the right. Some conservatives argue that focusing on inequality is unwise, that taxing high incomes will cripple economic growth. Some argue that it’s unfair, that people should be allowed to keep what they earn. And some argue that it’s un-American — that we’ve always celebrated those who achieve wealth, and that it violates our national tradition to suggest that some people control too large a share of the wealth.

And they’re right. No true American would say this: “The absence of effective State, and, especially, national, restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power,” and follow that statement with a call for “a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes … increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate.”

Who was this left-winger? Theodore Roosevelt, in his famous 1910 New Nationalism speech.

The truth is that, in the early 20th century, many leading Americans warned about the dangers of extreme wealth concentration, and urged that tax policy be used to limit the growth of great fortunes. Here’s another example: In 1919, the great economist Irving Fisher — whose theory of “debt deflation,” by the way, is essential in understanding our current economic troubles — devoted his presidential address to the American Economic Association largely to warning against the effects of “an undemocratic distribution of wealth.” And he spoke favorably of proposals to limit inherited wealth through heavy taxation of estates.

Nor was the notion of limiting the concentration of wealth, especially inherited wealth, just talk. In his landmark book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” the economist Thomas Piketty points out that America, which introduced an income tax in 1913 and an inheritance tax in 1916, led the way in the rise of progressive taxation, that it was “far out in front” of Europe. Mr. Piketty goes so far as to say that “confiscatory taxation of excessive incomes” — that is, taxation whose goal was to reduce income and wealth disparities, rather than to raise money — was an “American invention.”

And this invention had deep historical roots in the Jeffersonian vision of an egalitarian society of small farmers. Back when Teddy Roosevelt gave his speech, many thoughtful Americans realized not just that extreme inequality was making nonsense of that vision, but that America was in danger of turning into a society dominated by hereditary wealth — that the New World was at risk of turning into Old Europe. And they were forthright in arguing that public policy should seek to limit inequality for political as well as economic reasons, that great wealth posed a danger to democracy.

So how did such views not only get pushed out of the mainstream, but come to be considered illegitimate?

Consider how inequality and taxes on top incomes were treated in the 2012 election. Republicans pushed the line that President Obama was hostile to the rich. “If one’s priority is to punish highly successful people, then vote for the Democrats,” said Mitt Romney. Democrats vehemently (and truthfully) denied the charge. Yet Mr. Romney was in effect accusing Mr. Obama of thinking like Teddy Roosevelt. How did that become an unforgivable political sin?

You sometimes hear the argument that concentrated wealth is no longer an important issue, because the big winners in today’s economy are self-made men who owe their position at the top of the ladder to earned income, not inheritance. But that view is a generation out of date. New work by the economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman finds that the share of wealth held at the very top — the richest 0.1 percent of the population — has doubled since the 1980s, and is now as high as it was when Teddy Roosevelt and Irving Fisher issued their warnings.

We don’t know how much of that wealth is inherited. But it’s interesting to look at the Forbes list of the wealthiest Americans. By my rough count, about a third of the top 50 inherited large fortunes. Another third are 65 or older, so they will probably be leaving large fortunes to their heirs. We aren’t yet a society with a hereditary aristocracy of wealth, but, if nothing changes, we’ll become that kind of society over the next couple of decades.

In short, the demonization of anyone who talks about the dangers of concentrated wealth is based on a misreading of both the past and the present. Such talk isn’t un-American; it’s very much in the American tradition. And it’s not at all irrelevant to the modern world. So who will be this generation’s Teddy Roosevelt?

March 28th, 2014
A Nation of Takers?

By Nicholas Kristof
NY Times Published: MARCH 26, 2014

In the debate about poverty, critics argue that government assistance saps initiative and is unaffordable. After exploring the issue, I must concede that the critics have a point. Here are five public welfare programs that are wasteful and turning us into a nation of “takers.”

First, welfare subsidies for private planes. The United States offers three kinds of subsidies to tycoons with private jets: accelerated tax write-offs, avoidance of personal taxes on the benefit by claiming that private aircraft are for security, and use of air traffic control paid for by chumps flying commercial.

As the leftists in the George W. Bush administration put it when they tried unsuccessfully to end this last boondoggle: “The family of four taking a budget vacation is subsidizing the C.E.O.’s flying on a corporate jet.”

I worry about those tycoons sponging off government. Won’t our pampering damage their character? Won’t they become addicted to the entitlement culture, demanding subsidies even for their yachts? Oh, wait …

Second, welfare subsidies for yachts. The mortgage-interest deduction was meant to encourage a home-owning middle class. But it has been extended to provide subsidies for beach homes and even yachts.

In the meantime, money was slashed last year from the public housing program for America’s neediest. Hmm. How about if we house the homeless in these publicly supported yachts?

Third, welfare subsidies for hedge funds and private equity. The single most outrageous tax loophole in America is for “carried interest,” allowing people with the highest earnings to pay paltry taxes. They can magically reclassify their earned income as capital gains, because that carries a lower tax rate (a maximum of 23.8 percent this year, compared with a maximum of 39.6 percent for earned income).

Let’s just tax capital gains at earned income rates, as we did under President Ronald Reagan, that notorious scourge of capitalism.

Fourth, welfare subsidies for America’s biggest banks. The too-big-to-fail banks in the United States borrow money unusually cheaply because of an implicit government promise to rescue them. Bloomberg View calculated last year that this amounts to a taxpayer subsidy of $83 billion to our 10 biggest banks annually.

President Obama has proposed a bank tax to curb this subsidy, and this year a top Republican lawmaker, Dave Camp, endorsed the idea as well. Big banks are lobbying like crazy to keep their subsidy.

Fifth, large welfare subsidies for American corporations from cities, counties and states. A bit more than a year ago, Louise Story of The New York Times tallied more than $80 billion a year in subsidies to companies, mostly as incentives to operate locally. (Conflict alert: The New York Times Company is among those that have received millions of dollars from city and state authorities.)

You see where I’m going. We talk about the unsustainability of government benefit programs and the deleterious effects these can have on human behavior, and these are real issues. Well-meaning programs for supporting single moms can create perverse incentives not to marry, or aid meant for a needy child may be misused to buy drugs. Let’s acknowledge that helping people is a complex, uncertain and imperfect struggle.

But, perhaps because we now have the wealthiest Congress in history, the first in which a majority of members are millionaires, we have a one-sided discussion demanding cuts only in public assistance to the poor, while ignoring public assistance to the rich. And a one-sided discussion leads to a one-sided and myopic policy.

The reality is that the current “personal need” benefit for a single homeless person in California (the state with the best benefits) is…

We’re cutting one kind of subsidized food — food stamps — at a time when Gallup finds that almost one-fifth of American families struggled in 2013 to afford food. Meanwhile, we ignore more than $12 billion annually in tax subsidies for corporate meals and entertainment.

Sure, food stamps are occasionally misused, but anyone familiar with business knows that the abuse of food subsidies is far greater in the corporate suite. Every time an executive wines and dines a hot date on the corporate dime, the average taxpayer helps foot the bill.

So let’s get real. To stem abuses, the first target shouldn’t be those avaricious infants in nutrition programs but tycoons in their subsidized Gulfstreams.

However imperfectly, subsidies for the poor do actually reduce hunger, ease suffering and create opportunity, while subsidies for the rich result in more private jets and yachts. Would we rather subsidize opportunity or yachts? Which kind of subsidies deserve more scrutiny?

Some conservatives get this, including Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma. He has urged “scaling back ludicrous handouts to millionaires that expose an entitlement system and tax code that desperately need to be reformed.”

After all, quite apart from the waste, we don’t want to coddle zillionaires and thereby sap their initiative!

March 28th, 2014
Annette Kelm

Paisley and Wheat, Orange # 2 – 2013
c-print, framed 61 x 45.5 cm; 24 x 18 in 62.4 x 46.9 cm; 24 1/2 x 18 1/2 in 6 + 2AP

Through April 19, 2014

Johann König

March 26th, 2014
Chris Martin

Chris Martin, “For Paul Thek” (2010), oil and collage on canvas, 54 1/8 x 45 1/4 in

by Jennifer Samet
Hyper Allergic
March 22, 2014

A couple of years ago, I heard Chris Martin give a talk to Columbia MFA students. Rather than the standard artist’s slide lecture, Martin brought along his conga drums and a small band, a girl wearing a metallic dress and carrying a boom box, and a couple of people who tore sheets from a book of Italian Renaissance drawings and handed them to audience members. He asked people to shout out questions and alternated between zany sound effects and empathic responses to students’ concerns. I remember giggling nervously: not sure what to make of it, but knowing it was raw and exposed and real.

A youthful, feminine energy also permeated his studio when I visited. Studio assistants and family members were talking, working, and yes, giggling around a Mexican-blanket covered sofa and bamboo coffee table. They shared their coconut water with me and gradually left the room so Martin and I could talk. Joy and play are harnessed in Martin’s work into a serious investigation. What happens when we don’t self-censor, when instinct guides creativity, when we disrupt the normal means of distribution and display?

Martin was born in Washington, DC, in 1954, and has lived and worked in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, since the 1980s. His work incorporates all kinds of material: glitter, newspaper, carpet scraps, macramé and vinyl LPs. He has spray-painted on bread and snow. He is known for his interest in “outsider” art, children’s art, pop music, and vernacular forms of visual expression, and he has occasionally shown his work on the sides of buildings and on the street.

He is represented by Mitchell-Innes & Nash in New York City. In his 2012 exhibition there, he displayed one painting in the center of the gallery on concrete blocks, and placed a gnome figurine in the corner. For a 2011 solo exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC, Martin installed three 26-foot-high paintings in the atrium. He was also the subject of a 2011 exhibition at the Kunsthalle Dusseldorf, and he participated in the three-person exhibition XXXL Painting at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam in 2013.

* * *

Jennifer Samet: I know you grew up going to the Catskills. How does the landscape play a role in your paintings?

Chris Martin: Since I was a baby, I went to one valley in the Catskills. I still go there when I can. It is an ecosystem I love, and was a formative place when I dropped out of school. On some level, I am always a landscape painter. Even when I make what other people see as more severe abstract paintings, for me, the presence of a horizon line or line at the bottom establishes a ground and basic landscape orientation.

I think there are people who are more figurative painters, and people who are landscape painters. De Kooning is someone who paints figures and landscapes, and a lot of his work is a figure in a landscape. For me, the landscape usually doesn’t contain figures. I think of Thomas Noskowski as a landscape painter, rooted in the Shawangunk Mountains: the landscape just south of the Catskills.

My formative influences as an artist were people like Arthur Dove, Georgia O’Keeffe and Marsden Hartley. There is a whole tradition of American transcendental or sublime landscape back to Ralph A. Blakelock and George Inness. I spent a lot of time as a teenager and young adult in the Phillips collection, which has Dove paintings, Hartleys, and great Albert Pinkham Ryders.

The other big influence for me is the New York School of Abstract Expressionist painters. And my heroes, like Pollock, use a very large size. For me, making work of this size is also a way of investigating the idea of being in a landscape, where there is a constant shift in one’s attention between the larger vista of the distant mountains or forest, and the tiny mushroom at your feet.

I am interested in accessing a scale that can encompass the shift between large image and small detail. Julian Schnabel does that, with his plate paintings, where you have a large image, which is only understood at ten feet away, but when you come closer, you see a piece of Mexican design on a plate. That kind of painting experience is very exciting to me. There is an engagement over time, a sense of discovery that is up to the viewer.

JS: Although you spent time in the Catskills, you also grew up in Washington, DC. The city and urban vernacular plays an equally large part in your work. Do the landscape and the urban represent two different poles in your work, or do they come together?

CM: I am drawn in different ways when I’m in the country versus in the city. My great inspiration from Washington, D.C. was African-American music. That whole scene, and the civil rights movement, has had a lasting impact on me. I arrived with my friend, the artist Peter Acheson, in New York in 1976. Graffiti was really exploding then.

New York City is an amazingly beautiful, lively, crazy place, and it was perhaps crazier when it was half-ruined. It is not just the street art, but the side of any bodega, and the way the weird photographs are slapped on top of each other. Now there is sticker art. I am influenced by all of that.

JS: There is an undulating vertical form that appears in many of your recent paintings. How did this form develop in your work?

CM: That is everybody’s form, or anybody’s form. I certainly saw it in the paintings and sculptures of Paul Feeley, and in ancient Greek art. There are trucker decals of flames. When it is going horizontal, one reads it more as a feminine, watery form. When it is vertical, one sees it as more figurative.

On some level my practice is based on unconscious drawing, doodling. There are times when you doodle spirals a lot, other times when you make jagged things, and other times you make things out of dots. There are conscious or unconscious associations one could put on them. You could say, you’re thinking about snails or galaxies. Or, maybe, you’re not thinking at all, and you just like making spirals.

There is a lot of pleasure in making that wavy form. And you ask, “Why is this fun, why am I doing this over and over?” Sometimes forms recur and they may accrue meanings: certain desires and certain pleasures. In an abstract form like that, it is important to realize that it’s not a sign, in the way that you see a stop sign and know what it means. An artist doesn’t always know what it means.

JS: In addition to traversing boundaries between the city and country, your work also traverses different categories: unusual installation practices, collage, the use of different materials, text, and public or performative aspects.

CM: When I was a young painter, there was a severe orthodoxy about painting, about what one could and could not do. It was very hard to find any room in that world. To be new or on the track it was about minimalism. I made very severe paintings in the 1970s. In the 1980s, things broke apart, and people like Schnabel and Sigmar Polke, who is a hero of mine, opened up great worlds.

For a long time I used to paint odd, eccentric things, but I destroyed them or didn’t show them. Gradually I allowed myself to paint paintings that didn’t all look like one another, to mix photographic images with invented abstract images, to use materials that weren’t necessarily “art materials.”

There are artists who do great when they have a narrow, circumscribed practice. I don’t go to a Morandi show and think, “It’s too bad the guy didn’t branch out or paint more women.” You can see that was his natural path. But I am someone whose models are artists like Paul Klee or Polke. I do better when I allow myself to pursue different directions at the same time.

Initially, it was only in my drawings that I let myself explore different things. I have a huge amount of work on paper. On paper you are not so worried if it’s good enough. Friends would say my drawings were ahead of my paintings. I came to see that they had more action and energy. I gradually let myself treat paintings the way I treated drawings. One way to do that was to start a lot more paintings.

I was also influenced by my work as an art therapist, which I did for about sixteen years, beginning in 1990. I worked with men and women with AIDS, with drug addiction, with mental illness, and other problems. There was the most fantastic, interesting crew of people. We worked with crazy material: glitter and gold and silver paint, pom-poms, craft projects. Those were gradually fascinating to me, and that’s where I discovered glitter as an art material.

The way these adults made art was a big inspiration. They were not trained as artists, but they were fearless. Some of their paintings were so moving, so directly expressive of their situation in life. I would go back to my own studio and see my formal training, and all my intelligence, and art history in college didn’t necessarily help me to make paintings as fresh.

Then, there is the idea of making “good” paintings: the degree that one applies an academic or connoisseurship critique to painting, and sees one’s job as trying to make the finest, most beautiful, high quality paintings. For me, that was a terrible burden.

I started not worrying about whether it was a good painting, and instead thinking, “This is just a particular painting, it is about this memory, or this woman’s song. I don’t care if it’s a good painting, but it is something that is emotional or important for me to make.” You have to work hard to suspend your judgments, so that you’re not thinking, “This isn’t good enough” or “I’m going to keep the best one.” Instead, you follow where the painting takes you and allow yourself to leave things around in the studio.

Painting is a physical activity. We don’t distrust the kind of pleasure we get from cooking or dancing or yoga. In fact, we trust there is great intelligence in the body. But we don’t always trust what the body did on a painting, without being able to explain or justify it, without being able to construct an armature of French linguistic theory around it.

It is hard for people to say, “I don’t know why I put that blue in the corner,” or, “The orange tipped over, and I ended up with this.” But that kind of a physical joy is contagious and it communicates. That is why we love painting. In that way, painting can be very naked. If you make a painting and you are bored or constricted, then it’s going to be a boring and constricted-looking painting. Other people aren’t going to enjoy looking at it either. Consequently, when you look at a seven-year-old’s painting of a sun, you get it; that energy is communicated.

JS: Peter Acheson has talked about a shift from the idea of artist as “hero” to the artist as “trickster.” Although I identify you with the “trickster” sensibility, in terms of placing art on the street, and breaking down barriers between high and low, you work on a large scale that we tend to associate with “heroic” art. Is the large scale heroic for you?

CM: I think that is more of a general perception: that a big painting is a large, heroic, public stance. I have never felt that way. I felt the large paintings had the possibility for intimate engagement, a surround experience for the viewer. At the same time, obviously one takes responsibility for making these large things. What it comes down to is a personal, unexplainable joy that I get from that size.

You also raised the issue of the presentation of painting in the world. Artists suffer from having to fit into the societal mechanics of showing work. We all have so many friends with many wonderful paintings in their studios, but they can’t get them out of their studio and into the world.

Bob Dylan, in a 1960s interview, said, “Great paintings shouldn’t be in museums. Paintings should be on the walls of restaurants, in dime stores, in gas stations, in men’s rooms. People would really feel great if they could see a Picasso in their daily diner. It’s not the bomb that has to go, man, it’s the museums.”

The situation in the art world is deeply distorted. Museums have less than 1% of the incredibly valuable things that they own on display. It is all locked away. One envies that the work of poets and musicians is out there and accessible. You can’t say, “We love this Dylan tune so we’re keeping it safe, so nobody can hear it.” But with a Rothko, we are saying, “This is so valuable that no one can see it; it is in a climate-controlled environment.”

When I have put paintings on the street, people think it’s crazy. It is not crazy at all. Why shouldn’t we all put some paintings on the street and give them to people? When people do dance performances they don’t get hung up that it’s not going to last for five hundred years. I see no reason not to occasionally go out there and create our own Temporary Autonomous Zones, to put our paintings up on the side of the wall or the tree and enjoy that.

Tribal art is made with perishable materials. It is danced with, seen on the outside of the home. The Westerners get hold of it and see how great it is and consequently wrap it in tissue paper, put it away in a fancy drawer. It is a way of both preserving it and destroying it. I am grateful for the chance I’ve had over the last few years to show my paintings and to make a living selling paintings. At the same time, one sees that the situation is appalling.

There are one hundred billion square feet of offices in Manhattan and all these office workers are looking at are poster reproductions of a Monet. Every hospital in New York should have real paintings. When I worked at Rivington House, they were going to hang horrible poster prints in the hallway. I was slowly able to persuade people to hang the patients’ art, which we were making. A lot of people thought, “It’s very nice of you to put it up, but we know it is just ugly-looking stuff.” In fact, it was fantastic. And the patients got up in the morning to go to the nurse’s station, and walked by the painting they made. That’s the way it should be.

JS: You have also done work like spray paintings on snow. Is this part of the impulse to make work that is not so sacred, that exists out in the world?

CM: When you know something is going to be temporary, it is often very freeing. I had a student once who was very negative about her work. The whole semester she was saying she wanted to destroy her paintings. I would respond, “No, no, don’t do it.” Finally, one day, I was sick of it, so I said, “You want to destroy your paintings? Okay, how do you want to destroy them?”

We decided to build a fire in the courtyard and burn some of her paintings. Other students were walking by. They saw what we were doing and wanted to burn paintings too. They started burning paintings, and then they started making paintings, specifically to burn them.

What happened is they made the most fantastic paintings, and then they would say, “Well, I don’t want to burn this because it looks really good and fresh.” And other people would say, “No, you have to burn it.” Then we started burning paintings half-way, taking them out of the fire, and they would look really good.

Everyone had a great time making art that they were going to destroy. There was an energy and hilarity to it. It was one of the best moments for that group, and for myself. It freed everybody to not worry.

If you ask a bunch of college students, “Is anybody here an artist?” most will say, “Oh, I can’t paint, I don’t know.” Everyone is embarrassed. But, if you put on some music, and say, “Anybody want to dance?” well, everybody can dance. No one says, “I haven’t really studied dance.” People get up and they have a good time. I’m just saying — that’s good! In the art world, we could all dance a little. Dancing’s fun.


Thanks to Basil Katz

March 25th, 2014

March 24th, 2014
Pritzker Architecture Prize Goes to Shigeru Ban

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The so-called Cardboard Cathederal in New Zealand, designed as a temporary sanctuary by Shigeru Ban after the city’s 19th century cathedral was ravaged by an earthquake in 2011. Photograph by Stephen Goodenough

NY Times Published: MARCH 24, 2014

Architecture generally involves creating monuments to permanence from substantial materials like steel and concrete. Yet this year, the discipline’s top award is going to a man who is best known for making temporary housing out of transient materials like paper tubes and plastic beer crates.

On Monday, the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban was named the winner of this year’s Pritzker Architecture Prize, largely because of his work designing shelters after natural disasters in places like Rwanda, Turkey, India, China, Haiti and Japan.

“His buildings provide shelter, community centers and spiritual places for those who have suffered tremendous loss and destruction,” the jury said in its citation. “When tragedy strikes, he is often there from the beginning.”

In a telephone interview from Paris, Mr. Ban, 56, said he was honored to have won, not because the Pritzker would raise his profile but because it affirms the humanitarian emphasis of his work. “I’m trying to understand the meaning of this encouragement,” he said of the prize. “It’s not the award for achievement. I have not made a great achievement.”

Mr. Ban is credited with challenging traditional notions of domestic space and what it means to have a roof over your head. His Naked House in Saitama, Japan, features four rooms on casters within a house clad in clear corrugated plastic and surrounded by rice fields. He stepped in after the 19th-century Christchurch Cathedral in New Zealand was ravaged by a 2011 earthquake, designing a transitional sanctuary fashioned mainly from cardboard tubes.

Asked to create something related to the Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct on the Gardon River in the south of France, he came up with a footbridge, using his signature cardboard tubes and recycled paper as a counterpoint to the ancient structure’s heavy stone. And his Curtain Wall House in Tokyo links interior and exterior with white curtains that can be opened and closed.

“His works are airy, curvaceous, balletic,” Michael Kimmelman wrote in The New York Times in 2007. “An heir to Buckminster Fuller and Oscar Niemeyer, to Japanese traditional architecture and to Alvar Aalto, he is an old-school Modernist with a poet’s touch and an engineer’s inventiveness.”

Mr. Ban is also known for somewhat more conventional projects, like the Pompidou Center’s satellite museum in Metz, France (with a roof inspired by a woven bamboo hat) and his entry for the competition to redesign the World Trade Center as part of a team that included Rafael Viñoly, Frederic Schwartz and Ken Smith. Mr. Ban’s Aspen Art Museum, a 33,000-square-foot structure in Colorado with a woven exterior wood screen, is to open in August.

Yet, in a way, Mr. Ban also represents a kind of anti-architecture, a rejection of the aura of celebrity status pursued by many in the profession. In public remarks this month, for example, Mr. Ban took architects to task for not putting their expertise to work for a greater social good.

“I’m not saying I’m against building monuments, but I’m thinking we can work more for the public,” he said in London at Ecobuild, an annual conference on sustainable design. “Architects are not building temporary housing because we are too busy building for the privileged people.”

Each year the Pritzker goes to a living architect whose work has contributed to humanity and the built environment. Mr. Ban will receive a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion to be awarded on June 13 in a ceremony at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Previous winners of the prize have included Philip Johnson, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid and Norman Foster.

Mr. Ban was originally drawn to disaster relief by the squalid condition of Rwanda’s refugee camps in 1994. “I thought we could improve them,” he said. He traveled to Geneva to work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on designing prototype tents with paper poles.

He then turned his attention to the aftermath of the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan, designing emergency housing with beer-crate foundations and paper-tube walls. He has since become a familiar presence on the scene of major international disasters, arriving with architecture students to teach them about developing solutions at such sites.

Many of Mr. Ban’s temporary structures have become semi-permanent. In Kobe, for example, shelters meant to be used for three years were used for 10. “Whether they keep it is up to them,” he said. Born in Tokyo in 1957, Mr. Ban studied at the Southern California Institute of Architecture before transferring to the Cooper Union School of Architecture in New York, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in architecture in 1984. A year later, Mr. Ban established a private practice in Tokyo; he now also has offices in Paris and New York.

Many New Yorkers became acquainted with his work with the arrival of his Nomadic Museum, mobile shipping containers parked on a Hudson River pier to showcase “Ashes and Snow,” a 2005 exhibition of Gregory Colbert’s animal photography that made its debut in Venice.

With Dean Maltz, the architect who runs the American branch of his practice, Mr. Ban has also designed a set of glass duplex penthouses atop the Cast Iron House, a 132-year-old landmark on lower Broadway, and Metal Shutter Houses, a condominium on 19th Street in Chelsea. And Mr. Ban designed Camper’s flagship shoe store on Prince Street, with red-and-white interiors and a vertical garden.

Although such commissions are highly lucrative, Mr. Ban said he is not motivated by the compensation. “I’m not really interested in making money,” he said. “I’m not interested in the design fee.”

“As long as I can make people happy to use my building,” he added, “I’m happy.”

March 24th, 2014
craig green



Craig Green

at 12345 here in Los Angeles

originally seen on Charlie Porter thanks to Matt Connors

March 24th, 2014
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