Untitled Vase #2, 2014
9 X 7 X 3 inches
February 9 through March 6, 2014February 9th, 2014
Daniel Payavis, Untitled, 2014, oil on linen
18 x 16 inches
February 8 – March 6, 2014
Opening reception: Saturday, February 8, 6-8PM
Untitled, 2013, wood, wire, thread, buttons, plastic containers,
62.5 x 25 x 25 inches (165.1 x 63.5 x 63.5 cm)
February 15 – March 15, 2014
Opening reception: Saturday, February 15, 5-7PM
Book release party and signing for
Magdalena Suarez Frimkess, Michael Frimkess, John Mason,
Ron Nagle, and Peter Shire, curated by Ricky Swallow
Thursday, February 6, 2014 6-8 PM
The Mandrake, 2692 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90034February 4th, 2014
“I don’t feel connected to my food,” says Sushi Gen chef Toshiaki Toyoshima. “It’s like I’m not making sushi with my own hand.”
(Anne Cusack, Los Angeles Times / January 17, 2014)
By Betty Hallock
The Los Angeles Times Published: February 2, 2014
For decades, Toshiaki Toyoshima has followed the same ritual each morning at his downtown restaurant: He ties on his indigo happi — a short-sleeved Japanese chef’s jacket — and dons a white cap before he begins cutting fish for nearly 500 customers who dine at Sushi Gen daily.
But in January, Toyoshima’s tradition-bound routine was upset. He had to add a step: A new law now forces him to snap on a pair of thin vinyl gloves before he can touch the fish.
His gloved hands seem to move no less deftly as he stands behind mounds of tuna fillets glistening on his counter and slices the raw fish with a long knife.
But the normally stoic Toyoshima can’t hide his frustration. Having to wear gloves, he says, is the worst thing that has happened to him in 48 years as a sushi chef.
“I don’t feel connected to my food,” says Toyoshima, known to diners as “Toyo-san.” “It’s like I’m not making sushi with my own hand.”
In a regulatory war against food-borne illnesses in the U.S., where 1 in 6 people are projected to get sick every year, more states are adopting laws that prohibit bare hands from touching food.
Cooks must wear disposable gloves or use scoops, tongs or other utensils when handling “ready-to-eat” food such as fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, deli meats — anything that won’t be cooked or reheated before it goes out to diners.
Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada and New York have similar bans. In California, the law went into effect Jan. 1.
Many chefs in Los Angeles are livid. They say the law is confusing, ineffective, costly and bad for the environment, and can compromise a dish. They share Toyoshima’s complaints.
“It’s very important to me to be able to handle my ingredients with my bare hands,” says Nancy Silverton, the chef and co-owner of Mozza restaurants.
At Osteria Mozza, she often works behind the open mozzarella bar in the dining room and can tell the difference between her bufala mozzarella and her burrata by touch.
“It helps me when I construct my dishes, just like a sculptor touches clay,” Silverton says.
“When I’m plating, it contributes to the beauty of that sculpture, so to speak. If I have this obstacle in the way, then there is going to be some sort of disconnect,” she says. “It would be similar to saying parents can no longer touch their babies with their hands.”
Ludo Lefebvre, the chef of Trois Mec in Hollywood, is worried about how he finishes his dishes. “I season all the dishes at the end using my fingers. For 27 years, all my [adult] life, I’ve touched fleur de sel with my fingers and I know exactly how many grains of salt just by feel. With a glove there’s no sensation. It’s scary.”
Some chefs say they weren’t aware of the law until they saw angry Facebook posts and tweets. David Lentz of the Hungry Cat tweeted: “thank you @JerryBrownGov and the great state of #california for passing this asinine glove law! makes it harder & harder to do biz in CA!”
Bartenders are also required to use gloves or tools, according to the California Restaurant Assn., because they handle ice and garnishes. The gloves aren’t exactly sexy, says Matthew Biancaniello, one of the leaders of Los Angeles’ experimental mixology scene. “When I see it, I flinch a little and think ‘hospital.’”
The regulation is recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is supported by data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But some studies have shown that gloves aren’t necessarily more effective than proper hand washing, partly because they can encourage risky behaviors (most people have seen restaurant workers who touch money in between handling food without changing gloves).
“It’s not about gloves or not gloves,” says Ben Chapman, an assistant professor at North Carolina University and contributor to Barfblog.com, which covers food safety issues. “It’s are you doing the right things when you’re touching food, whether you have gloves on or not.”
Because hygiene compliance can be poor, the FDA reasons that the ban provides extra protection to diners should food handlers not wash their hands properly, Chapman says.
But chefs aren’t convinced. Many think the ban will bring about more detrimental habits. And added costs.
“The Band-Aid of a blanket glove regulation is potentially dangerous,” says Neal Fraser, chef-owner of the Beverly Boulevard restaurant BLD. “People get into the tendency to not wash their hands. And environmentally it’s very unfriendly. It’s funny that at the same time L.A. institutes a plastic bag ban, there’s this.”
Mendocino Farms, a chain of sandwich shops, and other big restaurant operators already use gloves. Its executive chef Judy Han says its seven stores go through about 10,500 gloves per week.
For sushi chefs in particular, the rule is anathema to a tradition that requires laser-like precision when it comes to slicing fish and Zen-like focus that channels all five senses — most important, touch.
It’s said that when making nigiri — the ingot of vinegared rice topped with sliced fish — each grain of rice should face the same direction. Try doing that with gloves on. (A sushi chef wearing gloves is practically unheard of in Japan.)
“The whole idea of making sushi is to touch it, feel it,” Toyoshima says. “It comes from within, and then through my hands.”
Sushi Gen is an early adopter of the law because Toyoshima thought he was required to use the gloves as of Jan. 1. But according to the California Restaurant Assn., restaurants have at least six months to comply.
Angelo Bellomo, director of environmental health for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, says it plans to start strictly enforcing the law in January 2015, when inspectors will deduct points on their reports, which could affect restaurants’ letter grades.
In New York, where health inspectors also issue letter grades, sushi chefs at top-rated Sushi Yasuda in Manhattan are known not to wear gloves (they wash their hands religiously) and instead steel themselves for a citation.
Toyoshima says he won’t risk losing points that could lower his A grade, so he and his son, Sushi Gen manager Jason Toyoshima, set out to find the best possible glove. “Some of them start to stretch as soon as you start working with them,” Jason Toyoshima says. An hour in, “they’ll start to flap.”
The Japanese brand of gloves they’ve found that work the best cost $15 a box for 100 gloves. The Toyoshimas say the kitchen goes through five boxes a week; that would add about $4,000 to the restaurant’s annual operating expenses.
The new regulation includes “a very limited exemption in very rare cases,” Bellomo says. Restaurant operators would have to prove that it isn’t possible to not touch food with their bare hands and show that they’ve met stipulations that include more training and a long list of additional safeguards.
As the lunch rush hour approaches, Toyoshima turns a pristine marbled fillet of tuna to inspect his own handiwork and sets it onto the counter. “I don’t know if wearing gloves is a benefit or not,” he says. “As far as the food, the cooking, it’s not an improvement. And I will never get used to it.”
NY Times Published: FEB. 1, 2014
WHEN Woody Allen received a Golden Globe award for lifetime achievement a few weeks ago, there was a lively debate about whether it was appropriate to honor a man who is an artistic giant but also was accused years ago of child molestation.
Allen’s defenders correctly note that he denies the allegations, has never been convicted and should be presumed innocent. People weighed in on all sides, but one person who hasn’t been heard out is Dylan Farrow, 28, the writer and artist whom Allen was accused of molesting.
Dylan, Allen’s adopted daughter who is now married and living in Florida under a different name, tells me that she has been traumatized for more than two decades by what took place; last year, she was belatedly diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. She says that when she heard of the Golden Globe award being given to Allen she curled up in a ball on her bed, crying hysterically.
With everyone else commenting, she decided to weigh in as well. (Full disclosure: I am a friend of her mother, Mia, and brother Ronan, and that’s how Dylan got in touch with me.) She has written a letter that I’m posting in full on my blog, nytimes.com/ontheground. I reached out to Allen several days ago, and he declined to comment on the record.
That he got away with what he did to me haunted me as I grew up. I was stricken with guilt that I had allowed him to be near other little girls. I was terrified of being touched by men. I developed an eating disorder. I began cutting myself.
That torment was made worse by Hollywood. All but a precious few (my heroes) turned a blind eye. Most found it easier to accept the ambiguity, to say, “who can say what happened,” to pretend that nothing was wrong. Actors praised him at awards shows. Networks put him on TV. Critics put him in magazines. Each time I saw my abuser’s face — on a poster, on a T-shirt, on television — I could only hide my panic until I found a place to be alone and fall apart.
A firestorm erupted in 1992 over allegations described as “inappropriate touching” — in fact, what Dylan recounts is far worse, a sexual assault. She was 7 years old.
There were charges and countercharges. A panel of psychiatrists sided with Allen, a judge more with Dylan and her mother. A Connecticut prosecutor said that there was enough evidence for a criminal case against Allen but that he was dropping criminal proceedings to spare Dylan.
Look, none of us can be certain what happened. The standard to send someone to prison is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but shouldn’t the standard to honor someone be that they are unimpeachably, well, honorable?
Yet the Golden Globes sided with Allen, in effect accusing Dylan either of lying or of not mattering. That’s the message that celebrities in film, music and sports too often send to abuse victims.
“I know it’s ‘he said, she said,’ ” Dylan told me. “But, to me, it’s black and white, because I was there.”
I asked her why she’s speaking out now. She said she wants to set the record straight and give courage to victims: “I was thinking, if I don’t speak out, I’ll regret it on my death bed.”
These are extremely tough issues, and certainty isn’t available. But hundreds of thousands of boys and girls are abused each year, and they deserve support and sensitivity. When evidence is ambiguous, do we really need to leap to our feet and lionize an alleged molester?
But I want to leave you with a sense of Dylan’s resolve. She declares:
This time, I refuse to fall apart. For so long, Woody Allen’s acceptance silenced me. It felt like a personal rebuke, like the awards and accolades were a way to tell me to shut up and go away. But the survivors of sexual abuse who have reached out to me — to support me and to share their fears of coming forward, of being called a liar, of being told their memories aren’t their memories — have given me a reason to not be silent, if only so others know that they don’t have to be silent either.
Today, I consider myself lucky. I am happily married. I have the support of my amazing brothers and sisters. I have a mother who found within herself a well of fortitude that saved us from the chaos a predator brought into our home.
But others are still scared, vulnerable, and struggling for the courage to tell the truth. The message that Hollywood sends matters for them.
That’s something for all of us, even those who aren’t stars, to reflect on.February 1st, 2014
January 31st, 2014
Photograph: Andrew Sullivan/The New York Times/Redux
January 31, 2014
The New Yorker
Posted by David Rees
I live in Beacon, New York, where three men are known by their first names. One is a paranoid schizophrenic who lurks around the coffee shops, one is a member of our town council who owns a local bar, and the third was Pete Seeger.
In my seven years in town, I had maybe four encounters with Seeger. (I could never bring myself to use the overly familiar “Pete” when talking about him with friends.) Once, shortly after his ninetieth birthday, I was behind him in line at the post office; he was picking up a huge bin of fan letters and birthday cards that had overfilled his P.O. box. As he left with his haul, a guy buying stamps muttered something about his being a hippie Communist. (Beacon has its share of tensions between old-school residents, many of whom are working class, and recent immigrants from Brooklyn. Seeger lived in Beacon longer than just about anyone, but his political leanings and the adoration of hipster parents meant that he was often associated with “new” Beacon rather than the more authentic “old” Beacon.) My favorite postal clerk, who is decidedly “old” Beacon and probably went to elementary school with the stamp-buying guy, watched him walk away. Then she made a simple announcement to everyone in line: “Pete has done more for this town and this river than that guy and his alcoholic friends ever will.”
One weekday afternoon in 2008, I was putting up flyers for the Dutchess County branch of the Obama campaign. I went into the oldest black-owned barbershop on Main Street. There was one customer: Pete Seeger. I remember the barber was trimming the hair around his ears, so Seeger had removed his hearing aid and put it in his lap. Seeger inserted his hearing aid and listened patiently as I explained some minutiae of county campaign strategy. The owner took pity on me—after all, I was literally explaining political organizing to Pete Seeger—and he cut me off with a conspiratorial smile: “You know who this is, right? My friend here?” Before I could answer, he was directing me to his collection of faded newspaper clippings about Seeger. I walk by that barbershop all the time. Seeger is the only white customer I’ve ever seen inside.
During the Iraq War, if you were driving to the mall in Poughkeepsie, you’d always see two small crowds of protesters clustered on opposite sides of Route 9. On one side was a group sporting tie-dyed shirts and sloppy banners and acoustic guitars; on the other side, American flag jackets and signs with bald eagles on them. Every so often you’d see a lanky figure with a banjo singing with the tie-dyed people. Understand this: Pete Seeger, one of the icons of twentieth-century American music, was spending his Saturday afternoons on the side of a six-lane thoroughfare singing folk songs about peace while people yelled at him. He was in his late eighties. And he would wait for the traffic to calm, cross the street, and chat with the opposing protesters. My friend says he saw one of them giving him a hug.January 31st, 2014
Untitled, 2010, ceramic, glaze and ink,
26 x 20 x 10 inches (66 x 50.8 x 25.4 cm)
January 30 through February 2, 2014January 29th, 2014
Mr. Seeger, performing at the Mosque Theater in Newark in 1965.
By JON PARELES
NY Times Published: JAN. 28, 2014
Pete Seeger, the singer, folk-song collector and songwriter who spearheaded an American folk revival and spent a long career championing folk music as both a vital heritage and a catalyst for social change, died Monday. He was 94 and lived in Beacon, N.Y.
His death was confirmed by his grandson, Kitama Cahill Jackson, who said he died of natural causes at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
Mr. Seeger’s career carried him from singing at labor rallies to the Top 10 to college auditoriums to folk festivals, and from a conviction for contempt of Congress (after defying the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s) to performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at an inaugural concert for Barack Obama.
For Mr. Seeger, folk music and a sense of community were inseparable, and where he saw a community, he saw the possibility of political action.
Mr. Seeger was a mentor to younger folk and topical singers in the ‘50s and ‘60s, among them Bob Dylan, Don McLean and Bernice Johnson Reagon, who founded Sweet Honey in the Rock. Decades later, Bruce Springsteen drew the songs on his 2006 album, “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions,” from Mr. Seeger’s repertoire of traditional music about a turbulent American experience, and in 2009 he performed Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” with Mr. Seeger at the Obama inaugural. At a Madison Square Garden concert celebrating Mr. Seeger’s 90th birthday, Mr. Springsteen introduced him as “a living archive of America’s music and conscience, a testament of the power of song and culture to nudge history along.”
Although he recorded more than 100 albums, Mr. Seeger distrusted commercialism and was never comfortable with the idea of stardom. He invariably tried to use his celebrity to bring attention and contributions to the causes that moved him, or to the traditional songs he wanted to preserve.
Mr. Seeger saw himself as part of a continuing folk tradition, constantly recycling and revising music that had been honed by time.
During the McCarthy era Mr. Seeger’s political affiliations, including membership in the Communist Party in the 1940s, led to his being blacklisted and later indicted for contempt of Congress. The pressure broke up the Weavers, and Mr. Seeger disappeared from television until the late 1960s. But he never stopped recording, performing and listening to songs from ordinary people. Through the decades, his songs have become part of America’s folklore.
“My job,” he said in 2009, “is to show folks there’s a lot of good music in this world, and if used right it may help to save the planet.”
Peter Seeger was born on May 3, 1919, to Charles Seeger, a musicologist, and Constance de Clyver Edson Seeger, a concert violinist. His parents later divorced.
He began playing the ukulele while attending Avon Old Farms, a private boarding school in Connecticut. His father and his stepmother, the composer Ruth Crawford Seeger, were collecting and transcribing rural American folk music, as were folklorists like John and Alan Lomax. He heard the five-string banjo, which would become his main instrument, when his father took him to a square-dance festival in North Carolina.
Young Pete became enthralled by rural traditions. “I liked the strident vocal tone of the singers, the vigorous dancing,” he is quoted in “How Can I Keep From Singing,” a biography by David Dunaway. “The words of the songs had all the meat of life in them. Their humor had a bite, it was not trivial. Their tragedy was real, not sentimental.”
Planning to be a journalist, Mr. Seeger attended Harvard, where he founded a radical newspaper and joined the Young Communist League. After two years, he dropped out and came to New York City, where Mr. Lomax introduced him to the blues singer Huddie Ledbetter, known as Lead Belly. Mr. Lomax also helped Mr. Seeger find a job cataloging and transcribing music at the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress.
Mr. Seeger met Mr. Guthrie, a songwriter who shared his love of vernacular music and agitprop ambitions, in 1940, when they performed at a benefit concert for migrant California workers. Traveling across the United States with Mr. Guthrie, Mr. Seeger picked up some of his style and repertory. He also hitchhiked and hopped freight trains by himself, trading and learning songs.
When he returned to New York later in 1940, Mr. Seeger made his first albums. He, Millard Lampell and Mr. Hays founded the Almanac Singers, who performed union songs and, until Germany invaded the Soviet Union, antiwar songs, following the Communist Party line. Mr. Guthrie soon joined the group.
During World War II the Almanac Singers’s repertory turned to patriotic, antifascist songs, bringing them a broad audience, including a prime-time national radio spot. But the group’s earlier antiwar songs, the target of an F.B.I. investigation, came to light, and the group’s career plummeted.
Before the group completely dissolved, however, Mr. Seeger was drafted in 1942 and assigned to a unit of performers. He married Toshi-Aline Ohta while on furlough in 1943.
When he returned from the war he founded People’s Songs Inc., which published political songs and presented concerts for several years before going bankrupt. He also started his nightclub career, performing at the Village Vanguard in Greenwich Village. Mr. Seeger and Paul Robeson toured with the campaign of Henry Wallace, the Progressive Party presidential candidate, in 1948.
Mr. Seeger invested $1,700 in 17 acres of land overlooking the Hudson River in Beacon and began building a log cabin there in the late 1940s. In 1949, Mr. Seeger, Mr. Hays, Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman started working together as the Weavers. They were signed to Decca Records by Gordon Jenkins, the company’s music director and an arranger for Frank Sinatra. With Mr. Jenkins’s elaborate orchestral arrangements, the group recorded a repertoire that stretched from “If I Had a Hammer” to a South African song, “Wimoweh” (the title was Mr. Seeger’s mishearing of “Mbube,” the name of a South African hit by Solomon Linda), to an Israeli soldiers’ song, “Tzena, Tzena, Tzena,” to a cleaned-up version of Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene.” Onstage, they also sang more pointed topical songs.
In 1950 and 1951 the Weavers were national stars, with hit singles and engagements at major nightclubs. Their hits included “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” and Mr. Guthrie’s “So Long (It’s Been Good to Know Yuh),” and they sold an estimated four million singles and albums.
But “Red Channels,” an influential pamphlet listing performers with suspected Communist ties, appeared in June 1950 and listed Mr. Seeger, although by then he had quit the Communist Party. He would later criticize himself for having not left the party sooner, though he continued to describe himself as a “communist with a small ‘c.’ ”
Despite the Weavers’ commercial success, by the summer of 1951 the “Red Channels” citation and leaks from F.B.I. files had led to the cancellation of television appearances. In 1951, the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee investigated the Weavers for sedition. And in February 1952, a former member of People’s Songs testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee that three of the four Weavers were members of the Communist Party.
As engagements dried up the Weavers disbanded, though they reunited periodically in the mid-1950s. After the group recorded an advertisement for Lucky Strike cigarettes, Mr. Seeger left, citing his objection to promoting tobacco use.
Shut out of national exposure, Mr. Seeger returned primarily to solo concerts, touring college coffeehouses, churches, schools and summer camps, building an audience for folk music among young people. He started to write a long-running column for the folk-song magazine Sing Out! And he recorded prolifically for the independent Folkways label, singing everything from children’s songs to Spanish Civil War anthems.
In 1955 he was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee, where he testified, “I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature.” He also stated: “I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this.”
Mr. Seeger offered to sing the songs mentioned by the congressmen who questioned him. The committee declined.
Mr. Seeger was indicted in 1957 on 10 counts of contempt of Congress. He was convicted in 1961 and sentenced to a year in prison, but the next year an appeals court dismissed the indictment as faulty. After the indictment, Mr. Seeger’s concerts were often picketed by the John Birch Society and other rightist groups. “All those protests did was sell tickets and get me free publicity,” he later said. “The more they protested, the bigger the audiences became.”
By then, the folk revival was prospering. In 1959, Mr. Seeger was among the founders of the Newport Folk Festival. The Kingston Trio’s version of Mr. Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” reached the Top 40 in 1962, soon followed by Peter, Paul and Mary’s version of “If I Had a Hammer,” which rose to the Top 10.
Mr. Seeger was signed to a major label, Columbia Records, in 1961, but he remained unwelcome on network television. “Hootenanny,” an early-1960s show on ABC that capitalized on the folk revival, refused to book Mr. Seeger, causing other performers (including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary) to boycott it. “Hootenanny” eventually offered to present Mr. Seeger if he would sign a loyalty oath. He refused.
He toured the world, performing and collecting folk songs, in 1963, and returned to serenade civil rights advocates, who had made a rallying song of his “We Shall Overcome.”
Like many of Mr. Seeger’s songs, “We Shall Overcome” had convoluted traditional roots. It was based on old gospel songs, primarily “I’ll Overcome,” a hymn that striking tobacco workers had sung on a picket line in South Carolina. A slower version, “We Will Overcome,” was collected from one of the workers, Lucille Simmons, by Zilphia Horton, the musical director of the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tenn., which trained union organizers.
Ms. Horton taught it to Mr. Seeger, and her version of “We Will Overcome” was published in the People’s Songs newsletter. Mr. Seeger changed “We will” to “We shall” and added verses (“We’ll walk hand in hand”). He taught it to the singers Frank Hamilton, who would join the Weavers in 1962, and Guy Carawan, who became musical director at Highlander in the ‘50s. Mr. Carawan taught the song to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at its founding convention.
The song was copyrighted by Mr. Seeger, Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Carawan and Ms. Horton. “At that time we didn’t know Lucille Simmons’s name,” Mr. Seeger wrote in his 1993 autobiography, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” All of the song’s royalties go to the “We Shall Overcome” Fund, administered by what is now the Highlander Research and Education Center, which provides grants to African-Americans organizing in the South.
Along with many elders of the protest-song movement, Mr. Seeger felt betrayed when Bob Dylan appeared at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival with a loud electric blues band. Reports emerged that Mr. Seeger had tried to cut the power cable with an ax, but witnesses including the producer George Wein and the festival’s production manager, Joe Boyd (later a leading folk-rock record producer), said he did not go that far. (An ax was available, however. A group of prisoners had used it while singing a logging song.)
As the United States grew divided over the Vietnam War, Mr. Seeger wrote “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy,” an antiwar song with the refrain “The big fool says to push on.” He performed the song during a taping of “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” in September 1967, his return to network television, but it was cut before the show was broadcast. After the Smothers Brothers publicized the censorship, Mr. Seeger returned to perform the song for broadcast in February 1968.
During the late 1960s Mr. Seeger started an improbable project: a sailing ship that would crusade for cleaner water on the Hudson River. Between other benefit concerts he raised money to build the Clearwater, a 106-foot sloop that was launched in June 1969 with a crew of musicians. The ship became a symbol and a rallying point for antipollution efforts and education.
In May 2009, after decades of litigation and environmental activism led by Mr. Seeger’s nonprofit environmental organization, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, General Electric began dredging sediment containing PCBs it had dumped into the Hudson. Mr. Seeger and his wife also helped organize a yearly summer folk festival named after the Clearwater.
In the ‘80s and ‘90s Mr. Seeger toured regularly with Arlo Guthrie, Woody’s son, and continued to lead singalongs and perform benefit concerts. Recognition and awards arrived. He was elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972, and in 1993 he was given a lifetime achievement Grammy Award. In 1994, President Bill Clinton handed him the National Medal of Arts, America’s highest arts honor, given by the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1999, he traveled to Cuba to receive the Order of Félix Varela, Cuba’s highest cultural award, for his “humanistic and artistic work in defense of the environment and against racism.”
In 1996, Mr. Seeger was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an early influence. Arlo Guthrie, who paid tribute at the ceremony, mentioned that the Weavers’ hit “Goodnight, Irene” reached No. 1, only to add, “I can’t think of a single event in Pete’s life that is probably less important to him.” Mr. Seeger made no acceptance speech, but he did lead a singalong of “Goodnight, Irene,” flanked by Stevie Wonder, David Byrne and members of the Jefferson Airplane.
Mr. Seeger won Grammy Awards for best traditional folk album in 1997, for the album “Pete,” and in 2009, for the album “At 89.” He also won a Grammy in the children’s music category in 2011 for “Tomorrow’s Children.”
Mr. Seeger kept performing into the 21st century, despite a flagging voice; audiences happily sang along more loudly. He celebrated his 90th birthday, on May 3, 2009, at a Madison Square Garden concert — a benefit for Hudson River Sloop Clearwater — with Mr. Springsteen, Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp, Joan Baez, Ani DiFranco, Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, Emmylou Harris and dozens of other musicians paying tribute. In August he was back in Newport for the 50th anniversary of the Newport Folk Festival.
Mr. Seeger’s wife, Toshi, died in 2013, days before the couple’s 70th anniversary. Survivors include his son, Daniel; his daughters, Mika and Tinya; a half-sister, Peggy; and six grandchildren, including the musician Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, who performed with him at the Obama inaugural. His half-brother Mike Seeger, a folklorist and performer who founded the New Lost City Ramblers, died in 2009.
Through the years, Mr. Seeger remained determinedly optimistic. “The key to the future of the world,” he said in 1994, “is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.”January 28th, 2014
A work by Christopher William, whose photographs compose an inventory of increasingly obsolescent film-based eqipment–cameras, lenses and darkroom gear–as beautiful and precise as catalog product shots.
By PHILIP GEFTER
NY Times Published: JAN. 23, 2014
At first glance, viewers of “What Is a Photograph?” opening on Jan. 31 at the International Center of Photography, will not even recognize the work on the wall as photographic. There is no easily identifiable subject, no clear representational form.
“The show does not answer the question,” said Carol Squiers, the show’s curator. “It poses the question. It is an open question, and that’s why I find this period in photography so exciting.”
Ms. Squiers pointed to Travess Smalley, who cuts shapes from magazine pages and colored paper and composes them into photo collages directly on a scanner. He considers the scan the negative for the print. “He doesn’t necessarily call the result a ‘photograph,’ “ she said, but she wasn’t ready to define exactly what it was.
Photography is vastly different in these early years of the 21st century, no longer the result of light exposed to film, nor necessarily lens based. As digital technology has all but replaced the chemical process, photography is now an increasingly shape-shifting medium: The iPhone, the scanner and Photoshop are yielding a daunting range of imagery, and artists mining these new technologies are making documentation of the actual world seem virtually obsolete.
“Practices have changed,” said Quentin Bajac, the Museum of Modern Art’s new chief curator of photography, one of four curators at major institutions who spoke of the opportunities and obstacles of their jobs at this pivotal moment — photography’s identity crisis.
The shift of focus from fact to fiction, and all the gradations in between, is perhaps the largest issue in the current soul-searching underway in photography circles. Questions swirl: Can the “captured” image (taken on the street — think of the documentary work of Henri Cartier-Bresson) maintain equal footing with the “constructed” image (made in the studio or on the computer, often with ideological intention)?
Museums, for their part, are debating whether photography should remain an autonomous medium or be incorporated into a mash-up of disciplines in contemporary art. And photography curators, too, are questioning the quality and validity of new practices, as the ever-morphing ubiquity of social media challenges the singularity of the photographic image.
“The biggest problem facing curators and historians of photography,” Mr. Bajac said, “is the overflow of images.”
MoMA, the first museum to create an autonomous department of photography, in 1940, perpetuated the idea that documentation of the actual world as in the work of Eugène Atget, Walker Evans and Robert Frank was the backbone of photographic art making. Mr. Bajac’s predecessors — Beaumont Newhall, Edward Steichen, John Szarkowski and Peter Galassi — presided over the field from what critics have, at times disparagingly, called “the judgment seat.” Mr. Bajac acknowledges a definite change in that paradigm.
“Today, MoMA is only one of the judgment seats,” Mr. Bajac said. “We’re writing one history of photography, while other people or institutions are writing simultaneous histories.”
Asked why he thought he was offered the job at MoMA, Mr. Bajac, impeccable and youthful at 48, surmised that “someone who is not American, who is not linked or connected to that long history of photography, is more appropriate now.” He arrived at the museum from Paris, where he had been chief curator of photography at the Pompidou Center and before that at the Musée d’Orsay.
In his inaugural exhibition, “A World of Its Own: Photographic Practices in the Studio,” which opens on Feb. 8, the focus is on the practice in the photographer’s studio as opposed to the aesthetics of the print, a clear shift in emphasis from museum canon. The works on view, drawn from MoMA’s archives and arranged thematically, include 19th-century and contemporary material, and film and video.
This idea of the studio as both a laboratory and playground is exemplified by Charles Ray’s diptych, “Plank Piece I-II” (1973), showing the artist pinned to the studio wall, in two different ways, by a large wooden plank — a conceptual performance for the camera.
A 2008 work by Walead Beshty of Los Angeles, who creates photograms — cameraless pieces — by exposing photographic paper to colored lights, verges on pure abstraction. Mr. Bajac said he was among the younger generation of artists in the recent New Photography series at MoMA whose “practices are entirely studio-based.”
Many works in the show are by international artists like Constantin Brancusi, who considered his studio as much a photographic subject as his sculpture. Another such artist is Geta Bratescu of Romania, who lived in her Bucharest studio in the 1970s, during the Communist regime of Nicolae Ceausesu, and made a 17-minute film, “L’atelier” (“The Studio,” 1978) acquired by Mr. Bajac for MoMA, signaling the recognition of video in a photographic context.
“For Bratescu, of course, the studio was a place of open expression,” the curator said, an escape from the pressure to create propagandist art glorifying Ceausescu.
Mr. Bajac also explores the studio backdrop, an artifice that divorces the subject from context — “The model or subject becomes a kind of specimen in scientific terms,” he said — and the use of props and costumes for portraiture, from the draped curtain behind an Auguste Belloc nude in the 1850s to Cindy Sherman disguises in 1983.
“Taking people away from their natural circumstances and putting them into the studio in front of a camera did not simply isolate them, it transformed them,” Irving Penn said, in a quotation on the gallery wall.
Matthew Witkovsky, the curator of photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, echoed a growing consensus among curators that, today, the field is more pluralistic. “One wants not a judgment seat,” he argued, “but strong judgment.”
In the past, the role of the curator required tireless advocacy for the medium’s legitimacy. Christopher McCall, the 38-year-old director of Pier 24, a museum-caliber private photography center in San Francisco with roughly twice the gallery space for photography as MoMA, sees that battle as ancient history.
“For myself and my generation, whether photography is art has never even been the question,” he says.
Today, the job calls for distinguishing serious photographic art making within the vast, visual cacophony of image making. What criteria are to be applied to what is called a “photograph” when digital technology has revolutionized where, how and how often pictures are viewed?
The wall-size photographic print was already the rage in Chelsea galleries at the turn of the century (the 21st, that is), as digital files replaced the film negative. Thanks to scanners that can read imagery with optical fidelity, the evolution from chemical process to digital is nearly complete.
Yet several works in “A Sense of Place,” at Pier 24 through May 1, pose more questions than answers. Eric William Carroll’s large diazotype prints — a process used for architectural blueprints — fill the gallery with blue-tinted shadows that resemble leaves, evoking a walk in the forest. For “24 HRS in Photos,” Erik Kessels downloaded and printed every photo uploaded to Flickr in 24 hours; an avalanche of images tumbles down — wedding photos, selfies and “sexties” — the democratization of art made tangible, and threatening.
Lucia Koch, a Brazilian artist, registers a welcome degree of wit in her digital exploration of perceptual, as opposed to technical, anomaly: Her photograph appears to be a sun-filled hallway; in fact, it is the interior of a spaghetti box with two cellophane windows.
At the International Center for Photography, Ms. Squiers asked the essential question that permeates the field: What even constitutes a photograph?
While younger artists are incorporating chemical processes into their experiments with digital techniques, many “are still finding this need to make an object,” Ms. Squiers said.
An example is Marco Breuer, who has several works on display with no visible relationship to photographic imagery. His work “Spin” consists of fine concentric circles scratched and embossed on chromogenic paper. The camera-less process still requires emulsion and developer, but the result is a one-of-a-kind handmade object.
Ms. Squiers also included the work of Christopher Williams, whose photographs compose an inventory of increasingly obsolescent film-based equipment — cameras, lenses and darkroom gear — as beautiful and precise as catalog product shots. The accompanying text adds detail about how the equipment was used. Such scrutiny suggests, with elegiac clarity, the end of the chemical era in photography.
Mr. Witkovsky, at the Art Institute of Chicago, is giving Mr. Williams his first museum retrospective, beginning this month, in a traveling show, “The Production Line of Happiness.”
“This is a fully arrived ‘history of art’ in photography,” Mr. Witkovsky said of the work by Mr. Williams, who applies an art historian’s scrutiny to the social and historical implications of the medium in the mid-20th century.
Mr. McCall, of Pier 24, acknowledged that a curatorial consensus on the photography’s future has not been reached. “There has to be some photographic process involved, some piece of technology that we acknowledge as photographic, but I don’t think it means it has to be lens-based,” he said. (But don’t feel bad for the auteurs of representational photography in the digital age: Shown at Pier 24 are also Thomas Demand, Andreas Gursky and Paul Graham — whose photographic documentation of the “authentic” moment continues a stalwart tradition.)
Mr. McCall dismissed the notion that experimentation with unconventional processes or the overabundance of images poses any threat to contemporary photography. “It’s a benefit,” he said, encouraging curators “to analyze and think about images because they’re everywhere.”
Trying to define what a photograph is today situates the curator at a new frontier, Ms. Squiers suggested. While it’s unclear where the medium is headed, she is certain that contemporary photographers are doing something that is disorienting yet ultimately transformative.
“You feel like the cord to the mother ship has been cut,” she said, “and now you’re floating in space.”January 26th, 2014
The tiny plastic beads, common in personal care products and not biodegradable, are an emerging concern among scientists and environmentalists.
link to video
By Louis Sahagun
LA Times Published: January 25, 2014
Scientist Marcus Eriksen stood ankle deep in the murky Los Angeles River on Friday and dipped a net into the water, looking for a problem.
Eriksen was searching for “microbeads,” bits of plastic no bigger than salt grains that absorb toxins such as motor oil and insecticides as they tumble downstream and into the Pacific Ocean.
The tiny polyethylene and polypropylene beads are an emerging concern among scientists and environmentalists. The beads come mostly from personal care products such as facial exfoliants and body washes. They are not biodegradable, however, and because they are not removed easily by wastewater treatment plants, they flow out to sea and enter the food chain.
“Microplastic is now a ubiquitous contaminant in the Pacific Ocean — and seas around the world,” said Eriksen, a scientist with the 5 Gyres Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to researching plastics in the world’s waterways. “We believe that 80% of it comes from coastal watersheds like Los Angeles.”
Eriksen is just starting to test the Los Angeles River to determine if it holds microbeads, and if so, their source. On Friday, he found what he was looking for in about 10 minutes.
Near the confluence of the river and Arroyo Seco, about three miles north of downtown, Eriksen found a handful of algae and wriggling leeches speckled with tiny filaments, shards and beads that could have come from myriad sources: laundry wastewater, degraded plastic bags, stir sticks, personal care products.
“The scary thing is that the beads sponge up toxins, then get consumed by organisms from shellfish to crabs to fish” later eaten by humans, he said.
Scientists are only beginning to understand the hazards posed by microplastic pollution in the world’s oceans and inland waterways. In 2012, Eriksen and a team of researchers discovered large amounts of microbeads and other microplastic pollution in the Great Lakes. Those findings prompted a coalition of mayors of Great Lakes cities to ask the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to determine the possible health risks to lake ecosystems and humans.
A year later, 5 Gyres launched a campaign asking the manufacturers of personal care products to remove plastic microbeads and replace them with nonplastic alternatives such as crushed walnut husks and apricot kernels that will degrade naturally. Several companies have agreed to phase microbeads out of their product lines.
In a statement, the Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies, for example, said it has “stopped developing new products containing polyethylene microbeads.” The company expects by 2015 to have replaced microbeads with alternatives in half the products that currently use them.
That’s not soon enough for 5 Gyres, which is circulating a petition titled, “Get plastic off my face and out of my water now!”
Standing in the river, Eriksen demonstrated the problem. He squeezed several drops of Johnson & Johnson’s Clean and Clear facial scrub into a small jar full of water, then shook it up and filtered the foamy mixture through a black T-shirt.
Left behind on the fabric were hundreds of tiny white, pink and blue plastic beads. “We estimate there are about 330,000 microbeads per tube,” he said.
The source of beads washing down the L.A. River isn’t known yet. In rainy weather, the river holds vast amounts of runoff from across the region. But in the current drought, 80% of the flow comes from the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant, which sits 12 miles upstream from Eriksen’s survey site and treats sewage from the homes of 800,000 San Fernando Valley residents. The other 20% is from myriad sources in the area.
Jimmy Tokeshi, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Department of Public Works, suggested it’s not coming from the plant, which sends sewage through a series of holding tanks, digesters, filters and sanitizers before discharging the treated water into the river at a rate up to 27 million gallons a day.
“The city of L.A. meets and/or exceeds all Clean Water Act requirements as well as all local, county and state water regulations,” Tokeshi said. Using cloth filters, “We capture microplastics that are larger in size than 10 microns, or 0.01 millimeters, in the water reclamation plant,” he said.
Most of the visible plastic debris Eriksen found was much larger than 10 microns in size.
Eriksen said he doesn’t yet know the origin of the beads. But he said his nets don’t lie.
“Using a net only 2 feet wide for 10 minutes in a stream a few hundred feet across, I caught dozens of bits of plastic,” he said. “So, it’s easy to extrapolate that millions of plastic particles flow through this channel every day.”
He pivoted to face downstream, and with a wave of his muddy hands, he declared: “That’s a problem.”
Thanks to Jonathan MaghenJanuary 26th, 2014
Tom Willey, left, and Jim Gerritsen converse in the Esalen garden in Big Sur, Calif. Peter DaSilva for The New York Times
By CAROL POGASH
NY Times Published: JAN. 24, 2014
BIG SUR, Calif. — Among the sleek guests who meditate and do Downward Facing Dog here at the Esalen Institute, the farmers appeared to be out of place. They wore baggy jeans, suspenders and work boots and had long ago let their hair go gray.
For nearly a week, two dozen organic farmers from the United States and Canada shared decades’ worth of stories, secrets and anxieties, and during breaks they shared the clothing-optional baths.
The agrarian elders, as they were called, were invited to Esalen because the organizers of the event wanted to document what these rock stars of the sustainable food movement knew and to discuss an overriding concern: How will they be able to retire and how will they pass their knowledge to the next generation?
Michael Ableman, a farmer and one of the event’s organizers, said the concerns were part of a much larger issue, a “national emergency,” in his words. Farmers are aging. The average age of the American farmer is 57, and the fastest-growing age group for farmers is 65 and over, according to the Census Bureau.
During their meetings, some of the farmers worried that their children would not want to continue their businesses and that they might have to sell their homes and land to retire.
Esalen is the birthplace of the human potential movement and a stunningly beautiful spiritual retreat overlooking the Pacific Ocean. When they were not in conference, the farmers wandered among floating monarch butterflies through Esalen’s farm and garden, rich with Calypso cilantro, tatsoi and flamboyant orange marigolds.
But the institute also holds conferences on major world and national issues. Mr. Ableman and Eliot Coleman, a Maine farmer, organized the intimate conference. Mr. Ableman, the author of “Fields of Plenty,” is writing a book about the gathering. Deborah Garcia, the widow of Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead and a filmmaker whose previous films include “The Future of Food” and “The Symphony of the Soil,” is making a documentary.
While the farmers here were proud of their anti-establishment beginnings, their movement has since gone mainstream, and organic farming has grown tremendously. Sales of organic food in the United States reached $31.5 billion in 2012, compared with $1 billion in 1990, according to the Organic Trade Association.
So the grandfathers and grandmothers of organic farming should be joyous, but they are not. Their principles of local, seasonal fruits and vegetables have been replaced in many cases by year-round clamshelled tomatoes for Walmart, Target and other stores. Some of today’s organic farmers have thousands of acres of single crops, which are flown to supermarket shelves, where they are sold at lower prices than many small organic farmers can afford to sell their produce.
Generally, the farmers at Esalen have less acreage and sell dozens or hundreds of varieties of fruits and vegetables at local farmers’ markets, to upscale restaurants and through so-called community-supported agriculture. C.S.A.’s, as these arrangements are known, consist of consumers who pay before the harvest for weekly deliveries of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
The sustainable agriculture these farmers practice goes beyond farming without synthetic fertilizer and pesticides. They adhere to a broader political and ecological ethos that includes attention to wildlife, soil, education and community. For most of them, the bottom line has never been their bottom line.
Many have done well, though not all organic farms succeed in the same way.
Some farmers operate a “debit card” C.S.A.; members make annual payments and buy at a discount only what they want. Jake Guest, who farms 70 acres in Norwich, Vt., said customers told him, “It’s like we’re getting free food.”
Stephen and Gloria Decater of Live Power Community Farm in Mendocino County, Calif., whose six Belgian draft horses help till the soil, operate “a participatory C.S.A.” with 200 households whose members split operating costs for the season and share the harvest with weekly baskets of organic food.
The proliferation of farmers’ markets has been a boon. Betsy Hitt sells her cut flowers, fruits and vegetables at one of 12 Saturday markets within 70 miles of her farm in Graham, N.C. Nash Huber, who farms in Washington State, sells his produce at seven farmers’ markets.
Some farmers have farm stands, some of which bring in $1 million or more annually. Another has a farmer’s cafe.
Farming an acre and a half of land in Harborside, Me., Mr. Coleman grosses $150,000, netting $30,000 annually. Tom Willey, with his wife, Denesse, grosses $2.8 million in direct food sales in the San Joaquin Valley. A few have had rough patches. But even they wax romantic about their love affair with the land.
“We went out of our way to give everything to the earth, and the earth gives back to us,” said Jack Lazor, who started his organic dairy farm in the 1970s. The earth doesn’t always give cash, though. He dropped his health insurance in 2008, because, he said, “We couldn’t afford it.”
All of the farmers were rebels. “We were told it was impossible to grow food without chemicals and pesticides,” said Mr. Coleman, who farms year-round, aided by his invention, a greenhouse on wheels.
They had few mentors or books to guide them. They went to schools like Tufts, Dartmouth, Cornell and the University of California. Some dropped out, protested the Vietnam War, occupied buildings or went to jail. They smoked marijuana and started communes.
“Every one of us broke the law,” said Frank Morton, 57, an Oregon seed farmer, with perverse pride.
When he was younger, Bob Cannard, 61, sprayed DDT and malathion, he said, and he passed out “many times” while working for his nurseryman father. Now Mr. Cannard lets weeds grow in harmony with his crops and is the main herb and vegetable grower for Chez Panisse in Berkeley, a temple of organic cuisine.
Mr. Ableman climbed out the window of his parents’ house when he was 16 and ran away. He was soon managing a 100-acre orchard, and then a 12-acre farm in Southern California, which grossed close to a million dollars. He now farms on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, and travels to Vancouver to oversee urban farms he developed for people coping with addiction and mental illness. They are paid to work the land, and they sell their food to 30 restaurants and at six farmers’ markets.
Amigo Bob Cantisano’s dreadlocks dangle below his knees; he is tie-dyed down to his socks. Mr. Cantisano, 63, is the only one of the group at Esalen who has regular contact with industrial organic farmers. Some of them are Republicans in cowboy hats, he said, but they overlook his nonconformist appearance. He consults with companies like Sun-Maid, Sunkist and Earthbound Farm on how to improve yields and practice better sustainable agriculture.
Mr. Morton, who sells seeds through his Wild Garden Seed catalog, discovered at age 6 that food could be free but digging was hard. As a teenager, he said he “came to the realization that seed was the key to wealth and independence.”
Some related their marketing tips. Mr. Coleman, who sells his produce to 10 restaurants, said the endive variety called Bianca Riccia da Taglio would not sell until he renamed it. “Within two weeks, every lobster salad was sitting on a bed of golden frisée,” he said.
When farmers changed the name of Mandarin Cross tomatoes to tangerine tomatoes, sales soared. A farmer who had trouble selling her misshapen potatoes labeled them “Ugly Potatoes” and cut the price. They sold.
And many came looking for answers to the conundrum of retirement. Some have put their farms in land trusts; others said they tried to negotiate similar deals but failed. Like other family farmers around the country, some are finding that their children do not want to carry on their work.
Dru Rivers of Full Belly Farms in the Capay Valley in California was one of the few farmers whose children had returned to the farm, with their own ideas. A son is doing farm weddings and dinners. A daughter is operating a summer camp and running farm tours. In true hippie style, Ms. Rivers said: “I don’t want to die with one thing to my name. I want to give it all away. We have to do that to regenerate.” So she will give the farm to her children.
Norbert Kungl, 58, who farms in Nova Scotia, is concerned about the future of his land, which he says produces enough income for only one family. “I can’t find a cushion,” he said. “What options do I have other than selling to the highest bidder, which I do not want to do? These are questions that I have no answer for.”
Mr. Willey, 65, said he called a family meeting with his three children. “We made clear to them we have a very profitable business,” he said, but none were interested in carrying it on.
He understands why. “Farmers often work seven days a week and as many hours a day as the sun is up,” he said. “Young people looking into agriculture are not willing to make that drastic a sacrifice.”
Mr. Huber, who owns 25 acres and farms more than 600 acres on the north Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, said, “I think we’re looking at models that don’t work anymore.”
“I’m 72. I love what I do,” he said. “Obviously, I can’t keep doing it.” But young people “don’t have the financial resources to make it happen,” he said, with land in his area going for $26,000 an acre. “And they don’t have the knowledge, yet.”January 25th, 2014
NY Times Published: JAN. 23, 2014
By Paul Krugman
“The outstanding faults of the economic society in which we live are its failure to provide for full employment and its arbitrary and inequitable distribution of wealth and incomes.”
John Maynard Keynes wrote that in 1936, but it applies to our own time, too. And, in a better world, our leaders would be doing all they could to address both faults.
Unfortunately, the world we actually live in falls far short of that ideal. In fact, we should count ourselves lucky when leaders confront even one of our two great economic failures. If, as has been widely reported, President Obama devotes much of his State of the Union address to inequality, everyone should be cheering him on.
They won’t, of course. Instead, he will face two kinds of sniping. The usual suspects on the right will, as always when questions of income distribution comes up, shriek “Class warfare!” But there will also be seemingly more sober voices arguing that he has picked the wrong target, that jobs, not inequality, should be at the top of his agenda.
Here’s why they’re wrong.
First of all, jobs and inequality are closely linked if not identical issues. There’s a pretty good although not ironclad case that soaring inequality helped set the stage for our economic crisis, and that the highly unequal distribution of income since the crisis has perpetuated the slump, especially by making it hard for families in debt to work their way out.
Moreover, there’s an even stronger case to be made that high unemployment — by destroying workers’ bargaining power — has become a major source of rising inequality and stagnating incomes even for those lucky enough to have jobs.
Beyond that, as a political matter, inequality and macroeconomic policy are already inseparably linked. It has been obvious for a long time that the deficit obsession that has exerted such a destructive effect on policy these past few years isn’t really driven by worries about the federal debt. It is, instead, mainly an effort to use debt fears to scare and bully the nation into slashing social programs — especially programs that help the poor. For example, two-thirds of the spending cuts proposed last year by Representative Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, would have come at the expense of lower-income families.
The flip side of this attempt to use fiscal scare tactics to worsen inequality is that highlighting concerns about inequality can translate into pushback against job-destroying austerity, too.
But the most important reason for Mr. Obama to focus on inequality is political realism. Like it or not, the simple fact is that Americans “get” inequality; macroeconomics, not so much.
There’s an enduring myth among the punditocracy that populism doesn’t sell, that Americans don’t care about the gap between the rich and everyone else. It’s not true. Yes, we’re a nation that admires rather than resents success, but most people are nonetheless disturbed by the extreme disparities of our Second Gilded Age. A new Pew poll finds an overwhelming majority of Americans — and 45 percent of Republicans! — supporting government action to reduce inequality, with a smaller but still substantial majority favoring taxing the rich to aid the poor. And this is true even though most Americans don’t realize just how unequally wealth really is distributed.
By contrast, it’s very hard to communicate even the most basic truths of macroeconomics, like the need to run deficits to support employment in bad times. You can argue that Mr. Obama should have tried harder to get these ideas across; many economists cringed when he began echoing Republican rhetoric about the need for the federal government to tighten its belt along with America’s families. But, even if he had tried, it’s doubtful that he would have succeeded.
Consider what happened in 1936. F.D.R. had just won a smashing re-election victory, largely because of the success of his deficit-spending policies. It’s often forgotten now, but his first term was marked by rapid economic recovery and sharply falling unemployment. But the public remained wedded to economic orthodoxy: by a more than 2-to-1 majority, voters surveyed by Gallup just after the election called for a balanced budget. And F.D.R., unfortunately, listened; his attempt to balance the budget soon plunged America back into recession.
The point is that of the two great problems facing the U.S. economy, inequality is the one on which Mr. Obama is most likely to connect with voters. And he should seek that connection with a clear conscience: There’s no shame is acknowledging political reality, as long as you’re trying to do the right thing.
So I hope we’ll hear something about jobs Tuesday night, and some pushback against deficit hysteria. But if we mainly hear about inequality and social justice, that’s O.K.January 24th, 2014
Through April 12, 2014January 24th, 2014
Thanks to Daniel PayavisJanuary 22nd, 2014
Exterior and Interior Color Beauty
Through March 1, 2014January 21st, 2014
BY SAM SWEET
The New Yorker Published: Sept. 20, 2013
At four thousand eighty-three square miles, Los Angeles County is more like a small planet than a metropolis. Its geography encompasses majestic shoreline and hard-bitten desert, forested mountainsides and fathomless cement flatlands, eight-lane freeways and desolate dirt highways frequented primarily by lizards and tumbleweeds. Movie stars, migrant workers, and criminals have an equal stake in the cosmology of Los Angeles, whose current population is 9.8 million. For all of these reasons, the developers of Grand Theft Auto V—the latest iteration of the popular “open world” video-game series—chose L.A. County as the basis for the fictional setting of Los Santos. Within twenty-four hours of its release, last Tuesday, G.T.A. V had grossed over eight hundred million dollars, which translates to about thirteen million copies sold. Those numbers suggest that by this weekend there will be more people living in the imaginary state of Los Santos than in the real city on which it was modelled.
The British and Scottish designers at Rockstar, the company behind Grand Theft Auto, have made immersive environments a trademark. Still, the team’s expansive and iconographic depictions of Miami and New York City don’t compare to Los Santos. With forty-nine square miles of interactive territory, the map of G.T.A. V is bigger than all of Rockstar’s previous open-world environments combined. Los Santos—which has been made an island, if only to dispel any notion of unreachable territory—is also the largest interactive environment ever built for a video game. More crucially, the island is as detailed as it is deep. It’s not just that the dark-cedar utility poles look right—the chipped divots in the utility poles look right.
Similar to the way that Rockstar approached New York and Miami, the G.T.A. V team conducted more than a hundred days of research in Los Angeles, taking thousands of photographs and hours of digital video—all of which was later transmogrified into the computer-generated realism of Los Santos. That exhaustive field work is unique in that it wasn’t conducted to document a living space. Rather, it was collected to create an extremely realistic version of a Los Angeles that doesn’t actually exist. The map of Los Santos is familiar but its contents are condensed. The landmarks are exact but the placement is screwy. The neighborhoods are recognizable but their names are counterfeit: Hollywood is “Vinewood,” Venice is “Vespucci,” and so on.
Los Santos is intended as a sunbaked modern-day Middle Earth in which you, the participant, are allowed to do and see anything you want. Though the debate over G.T.A.’s unapologetic celebration of sex and violence rages anew, the carnage in Los Santos now feels far less fantastical than its total freedom of movement. In Los Angeles, it can take half a day just to get from one side of town to the other. In Los Santos, you can drive to the beach in seconds, then go for a free dive on a whim, spending an hour exploring the ocean floor, rendered with opulent detail equal to that of the terrestrial city. Afterward, you might hijack a helicopter that will carry you into a regal cluster of mountains just north of the metropolis. The team at Rockstar imported parts of Yosemite National Park to fill out their idealized map of Southern California.
That sort of geographic plastic surgery seems at odds with the franchise’s obsession with verisimilitude. Los Santos is not a real city; it is the Los Angeles of cop dramas and heist flicks and music videos, a love letter to the synthetic Los Angeles of the imagination. It overlaps with the real place only in ways that are occasional, incidental, and unplanned.
From Ed Ruscha to Roman Polanski, artists who create enduring images of Los Angeles do so with its light. More than any other aspect, it is the city’s essence. “Even with smog there’s something about that light that’s not harsh, but bright and smooth,” wrote the director David Lynch, whose L.A. films exist in a world of enhanced but uncertain realism. “It fills me with the feeling that all possibilities are available. I don’t know why. It’s different from the light in other places. The light in Philadelphia, even in the summer, is not nearly as bright. It was the light that brought everybody to L.A. to make films in the early days. It’s still a beautiful place.”
For a century, people working in Hollywood have brazenly manipulated the geography of Los Angeles for their own private purposes, but they’ve never been able to fully disguise its light. It permeates the real city as much as it enhances the imaginary one. It’s the light that transforms the anonymous sprawl of L.A. into something instantly recognizable and distinct. It even sneaks into non-cinematographic sitcoms like “The Office” and “Seinfeld.” Though those shows were filmed on sets, the intermittent scenes in which characters are shown walking outside reveal instantly that they’re not in Pennsylvania or in New York, but in California. And, while you could state the facts of classic crime films like “Heat” or “Chinatown,” it is the light of the city—as mystical as it is reliable—that makes those stories linger in the memory as emblems of Los Angeles.
In August, Aaron Garbut, the art director in charge of the look of Los Santos, gave an interview in which he appeared more excited about the advancements in the lighting technology of G.T.A. V than he did about any of its action sequences. “The buildings, the people, the cars, the architecture, even the smog, it all centers around the sunshine,” he said. “There’s poverty, violence, and a real underside to the city, but it’s the sun that gets you first.” A lifelong resident of Edinburgh, Garbut perceived that the key to making Los Santos convincing was that light.
Garbut and his team have worked hard to insure that the players of G.T.A. V encounter nothing dull. The repetitive, nondescript swathes of city, which are so integral to Los Angeles, have simply been deleted. Characters move without pause from San Pedro to Koreatown to Venice to the mountains and the desert. And yet there are still fleeting moments in the game in which you drive your character’s car up some unspectacular street. The surface of the concrete shows several layers of scarring and the midday sun hits it in a way that intensifies every inch of its battered epidermis. For all of Rockstar’s expertise in making Hollywood fantasy feel like reality, there is nothing in the entire game as authentic, or as seductive, as the light on that pavement.
Thanks to Steve HadleyJanuary 20th, 2014
“Pastoral (Den’en),” by Ay-O, in “Tokyo 1955-1970: A New Avant-Garde” at the Museum of Modern Art, which featured non-Western works that are too rarely seen. Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo
By HOLLAND COTTER
NY Times Published: JAN. 17, 2014
A new year. A new New York mayor. Old problems with art in New York. I have a collection of complaints and a few (very few) ideas for change.
Money — the grotesque amounts spent, the inequitable distribution — has dominated talk about art in the 21st century so far. It’s a basic fact of art history. Emperors, popes and robber barons set the model for the billionaire buyers of today. Of course, it is today that matters to the thousands of artists who live and work in this punitively expensive city, where the art industry is often confused with the art world.
The distinction between the two, though porous, is real. The art industry is the nexus of high-price galleries, auction houses and collectors who control an art market renowned for its funny-money practices. In numbers of personnel, the industry is a mere subset of the circle of artists, teachers, students, writers, curators and middle-range dealers spread out over five boroughs. But in terms of power, the proportions are reversed, to the degree that the art world basically functions as a labor source, supplying the industry with product, services and exotic color but, with the age of apprenticeships long gone, only uncertainly sharing in its wealth.
Do I exaggerate? A bit. The argument can be made that labor is benefiting from its ties to management, in a high-tide-floats-all-boats way. Visit art schools or galleries, and you get the impression that a substantial portion of the art world is content to serve as support staff to a global ruling class.
The reality is that, directly or indirectly, in large ways and small, the current market system is shaping every aspect of art in the city: not just how artists live, but also what kind of art is made, and how art is presented in the media and in museums.
I got tired of money talk a while back. Rather than just sputter with indignation, I figured it would be more useful to turn in another direction, toward art that the industry wasn’t looking at, which is a whole lot of art. But reminders keep pulling you back to the bottom line. With every visit to the gallery-packed Lower East Side, I see fewer of the working-class Latinos who once called the neighborhood home. In what feels like overnight, I’ve watched Dumbo in Brooklyn go from an artist’s refuge to an economically gated community.
Recently, my attention was drawn to a controversy surrounding a large and much praised group exhibition installed at a complex of converted warehouses called Industry City in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The show, “Come Together: Surviving Sandy,” was conceived as a benefit for artists who had suffered losses in the 2012 hurricane and was promoted as evidence of art-world solidarity. Yet a widely read blog, Art F City, reported that the owners of the complex, which had for some years provided low-rent studios for artists, were now raising rents dramatically, forcing many artists to vacate. (Landlords say 25 percent of Industry City tenants are artists). The new residents seem to be an upscale clientele drawn by the artsy atmosphere.
Whatever the full facts, money is the winner, and with that comes caution and conservatism. This is almost absurdly obvious on the high-end of the market. Sales of retrograde “masterworks” can be relied on to jack up the auction charts at regular intervals; the most recent record was set last fall by a $142.4 million Francis Bacon painting of Lucian Freud, a monument to two overpraised painters for the price of one. Meanwhile, big, hugely pricey tchotchkes — new whatevers by Jeff Koons, say — roll out of fabrication shops and into personal museums being assembled by members of the international power elite.
Outside auctions, the marketing mechanics buzz on. Roughly since the end of the multicultural, postmodern 1990s, we’ve watched new art being re-Modernized and domesticated, with painting the medium of choice, abstraction the mode of preference. Together they offer significant advantages. Paintings can be assembly-line produced but still carry the aura of being hand-touched. They can be tailored to small spaces, such as fair booths. Abstraction, especially if color is involved, can establish instant eye contact from afar. If, in addition, the work’s graphic impact translates well online, where stock can be moved eBay style, so much the better.
Other traditional forms — drawing, photography, some sculpture — similarly work well in this marketing context. But an enormous range of art does not, beginning with film, performance and installation, and extending into rich realms of creative activity that defy classification as art at all. To note this dynamic is not to dismiss painting or object making, but to point to the restrictive range of art that the market supports, that dealers are encouraged to sell, and that artists are encouraged to make.
The narrowing of the market has been successful in attracting a wave of neophyte buyers who have made art shopping chic. It has also produced an epidemic of copycat collecting. To judge by the amounts of money piled up on a tiny handful of reputations, few of these collectors have the guts, or the eye or the interest, to venture far from blue-chip boilerplate. They let galleries, art advisers and the media do the choosing, and the media doesn’t particularly include art critics. What, after all, does thumbs up, thumbs down matter when winners are preselected before the critical votes are in? In this economy, it can appear that the critic’s job is to broadcast names and contribute to fame.
Conservative art can encourage conservative criticism. We’re seeing a revival — some would say a disinterment — of a describe-the-strokes style of writing popular in the formalist 1950s and again in the 1970s: basically, glorified advertising copy. Evaluative approaches that developed in the 1980s and 1990s, based on the assumption that art inevitably comments on the social and political realities that produce it, tend to be met with disparagement now, in part because they’re often couched in academic jargon, which has become yet another form of sales-speak.
There’s no question that we need — art needs — an influx of new commentators who don’t mistake attitude for ideas, who move easily between cultures and geographies. Regular gigs in mainstream print journalism have all but dried up, but the Internet offers ambitious options in a growing number of blogazines including Art F City (edited by Paddy Johnson) and Hyperallergic (edited by Hrag Vartanian), which combine criticism, reporting, political activism and gossip on an almost-24-hour news cycle.
And although both are based in New York, they include national coverage and in a feisty mix of voices, a welcome alternative to the one-personality blog of yore. That mix would probably be even more varied, and transcultural, if a few forward-thinking, art-minded investors would infuse some serious capital into such enterprises so they could pay writers a living wage and make online freelance writing a viable way of life.
I don’t know what it would take to get a global mix of voices into some of New York’s big, rich art museums. If archaeologists of the future unearthed the Museum of Modern Art as it exists today, they would have to assume that Modernism was a purely European and North American invention. They would be wrong. Modernism was, and is, an international phenomenon, happening in different ways, on different timetables, for different reasons in Africa, Asia, Australia and South America.
Why aren’t museums telling that story? Because it doesn’t sell. Why doesn’t it sell? Because it’s unfamiliar. Why is it unfamiliar? Because museums, with their eyes glued to box office, aren’t telling the story.
Yes, MoMA and the Guggenheim have recently organized a few “non-Western” shows. MoMA’s 2012 “Tokyo 1955-1970: A New Avant-Garde,” packed to the ceiling with art we’ve rarely if ever seen, was a revelation. But they need to take actions far more fundamental and committed. International Modernism should be fully integrated into the permanent collection, regularly, consistently.
Their job as public institutions is to change our habits of thinking and seeing. One way to do this is by bringing disparate cultures together in the same room, on the same wall, side by side. This sends two vital, accurate messages: that all these cultures are different but equally valuable; and all these cultures are also alike in essential ways, as becomes clear with exposure.
With its recently announced plans for an expansion, MoMA has an ideal chance to expand its horizons organically. The new spaces, which should certainly be devoted to the permanent collection, won’t be ready for several years, but the museum has no excuse for waiting for its long-overdue integration process to begin.
And on the subject of integration, why, in one of the most ethnically diverse cities, does the art world continue to be a bastion of whiteness? Why are African-American curators and administrators, and especially directors, all but absent from our big museums? Why are there still so few black — and Latino, and Asian-American — critics and editors?
Not long ago, these questions — of policy but also political and ethical questions — seemed to be out there on institutional tables, demanding discussion. Technically, they may be there still, but museums seem to be most interested in talking about real estate, assiduously courting oligarchs for collections, and anxiously scouting for the next “Rain Room.” Political questions, about which cultures get represented in museums and who gets to make the decisions, and how, are buried.
Political art brings me back to where I started, with artists, and one final, baffled complaint, this one about art schools, which seem, in their present form, designed to accommodate the general art economy and its competitive, caste-system values. Programs are increasingly specialized, jamming students into ever narrower and flakier disciplinary tracks. Tuitions are prodigious, leaving artists indentured to creditors for years.
How experimental can artists be under such circumstances? How confidently can they take risks in an environment that acknowledges only dollar-value success? How can they contemplate sustaining — to me this is crucial to New York’s future as an art center — long and evolving creative careers? The temptation for many artists, after a postgraduate spurt of confidence, is to look around, see what’s selling, and consider riffing on that. We’re seeing a depressing number of such riffs these days.
Again, do I exaggerate? And, again, sure, to some degree. By no means is all the news bad. Start-up galleries are opening; middle-tier galleries are holding their own, or doing better than that. Artist-intensive neighborhoods like Bushwick and Ridgewood are still affordable, companionable and fun.
But when the rents get too high, or the economy fails, or art buying falls out of fashion, and the art industry decides to liquidate its overvalued assets and leave? Artists, the first and last stakeholders, will have themselves to fall back on. They’ll learn to organize and agitate for what they need, to let City Hall know, in no uncertain terms, that they’re there. They’ll learn to share, not just on special occasions, but all the time. They’ll learn that art and politics are inseparable, and both can be anything and everything. They’ll learn to bring art back from the brink of inconsequence.
As someone long on questions and short on answers, let me ask: Why not start now?January 20th, 2014
The architects Ricardo Scofidio and Liz Diller, urged razing the American Folk Art Museum building, which was designed by another architect duo, their longtime friends Billie Tsien and Tod Williams
Photograph by Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times
By ROBIN POGREBIN
NY Times Published: JAN. 18, 2014
As in any fight between longtime friends, there are raw emotions, tarnished memories, tears.
And now, silence.
Two celebrated architect couples, whose careers took off almost simultaneously in the hothouse of New York City design and who supported each other’s successes, are barely on speaking terms.
One pair, Billie Tsien and Tod Williams, designed the former home of the American Folk Art Museum on West 53rd Street; the other, Liz Diller and Ricardo Scofidio, just recommended demolishing it as part of their plan to expand the Museum of Modern Art next door.
Both built reputations for sophisticated design and sensitive urban planning. And now, fate has led them to a personal and professional breaking point.
Architects say they cannot recall an instance when one set of architects took down another’s celebrated building just a few years after it went up.
Pennsylvania Station, Yankee Stadium and 2 Columbus Circle were all noteworthy buildings demolished by people re-envisioning the future. But the designers of those buildings were long dead.
“It’s been a subject of discussion among every single person who’s involved in architecture,” said Karen Stein, an architectural consultant. “It’s hard to think of an analogous situation.”
In architectural circles, the debate has gone beyond a discussion of the personal relationships to questions of design integrity, of form versus function and the conflicts that can arise when aesthetic concerns confront a client’s pragmatic interests.
Some say Ms. Diller, Mr. Scofidio and their partner, Charles Renfro, should have turned the commission down, or at least found a way to retain the Folk Art’s textured bronze facade. Others disdain that as “facadism,” suggest the building’s interior was too quirky to be repurposed and say few architects would have begged off a high-profile commission to help remake MoMA’s high church of contemporary and Modern art.
“It’s a no-win situation,” said the architect Peter Eisenman, who had Mr. Williams as a student at Princeton. “Accepting the job made it difficult for them to do anything but what they did.”
That the two couples were friends, dined together, traveled to Africa together and shared similar histories — both pairs met their spouses through architecture and then became professional partners — only makes it that much more complicated.
“We’re all torn about this,” said the architect Marc Kushner. “We don’t know which side to land on.”
Although the couples have occasionally competed for the same commissions, there had never been evidence of professional jealousy between them.
Both have prestigious projects on their résumés. Diller Scofidio & Renfro handled the overhaul of Lincoln Center, created a new home for the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and collaborated on the High Line. Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects designed the new Barnes Foundation museum, Asia Society’s Hong Kong headquarters and the skating rink in Prospect Park, Brooklyn.
Designing the new Barnes was also controversial because the museum in Philadelphia replaced the original in Merion, Pa., a move that many said violated the wishes of the museum’s founder.
“It’s delicious irony that the architects who needlessly pressed their personalities onto the ‘re-creation’ of the building to house the Barnes Foundation collection now protest the decision to demolish their museum,” said Jay Raymond, a former teacher at the Barnes and a litigant against the move.
Many architects say they were shocked by Diller Scofidio’s demolition proposal, given the firm’s reputation for creative interventions with historic properties like Lincoln Center.
“All of us who knew them thought this was going to be pretty much a slam dunk — that they would save the Folk Art Museum,” said Peter Wheelwright, a former chairman of the architecture program at Parsons, the New School for Design. “I knew they were capable of doing it and that, because of their friendship, that they would make a sincere, genuine, wholehearted effort.”
MoMA acquired the Folk Art building in 2011 after that institution defaulted on its construction debt. The building, just 10 years old at the time, had won its share of design awards. Last spring, MoMA announced a plan to raze it, arguing that the existing design was unsuitable as a connection between MoMA’s original building and galleries in a Jean Nouvel-designed tower planned for the other side of the Folk Art building. Many objected and MoMA then hired Diller Scofidio to re-examine the situation.
“I never thought it would be easy,” Ms. Diller said in an interview. “We stepped into harm’s way with the expectation that we would figure out a way of saving the day.”
But after six months of study, the firm came to the same conclusion as MoMA.
Any effort to reconfigure the existing building, Diller Scofidio determined, would require changing it beyond recognition and to preserve the facade alone would be an empty gesture. “In the end, we realized that the degree of disfigurement to the building would be of no good to the architects,” Ms. Diller said, “and the level of compromise to the program would be of no good to MoMA.”
Other architects balked at that reasoning.
“That building is a facade,” said the architect Alexander Gorlin. “To say, ‘If you can’t save the whole building, you can’t save any part,’ is disingenuous.”
Ms. Diller and Mr. Scofidio told Ms. Tsien and Mr. Williams of their conclusions in a recent wrenching conference call. Ms. Diller would not discuss the conversation or the current rift.
Ms. Tsien and Mr. Williams similarly said they had nothing to add to a statement they released on Jan. 8 objecting to MoMA’s decision.
Some architects say it would have been difficult for Ms. Diller and Mr. Scofidio to contradict a client that had already expressed an interest in demolishing the building or to refuse the assignment. “Every architect would say, ‘I’d love to get my hands on that project,’” said the architect Richard Gluckman. “I don’t think there’s a good architect in this world who wouldn’t take the challenge to investigate.”
Others say they should have declined the commission because it was so fraught and they have so much other work underway.
Ms. Diller said the decision about what to do with the Folk Art building was never a fait accompli and her firm felt a responsibility to help MoMA rethink its future.
“To walk away would have been unethical,” she said. “You have to try to do something special with the site, something that contributes to the public good or the cultural good.”
Henry Smith-Miller, an architect who studied with Mr. Williams at Princeton, said the fallout resembled “Greek drama.”
“You have friends who find themselves in opposition,” he said. “It’s a terrible tragedy.”
Thanks to Jonathan MaghenJanuary 19th, 2014
January 16 – February 15, 2014
Thanks to Steven BakerJanuary 18th, 2014
January 11 — February 15, 2014January 17th, 2014
I have been a paying member since- I’m pretty sure- day one. There was a period when being a premium member meant you didn’t need to see ads before getting the content you were after. Then that changed and paying members were forced to see ads- at that point, mostly from other surf companies. I wrote you a letter back then about this, but nothing was changed, and obviously, I’ve just accepted it and moved on. When I went on this evening though, the first thing that caught my attention (much to your and your paying advertisers pleasure I’m sure) was an ad not for something relatively benign as a boardshort company, or beer, or something hyping up a football game (who are these people???). What I did see was an ad, just below my home cam- the first place I look on the site- for Glock handguns.
This is wholly despicable. Where in surf culture- even what is now considered surf culture, which every day resembles more and more something closer to jock culture (not coincidentally rhyming with Glock)- is there a place for this utter lack of taste, decency, and value of human life?? Tell me how it’s possible that I’ve never seen a single ad for any weapon, on any website, until now- on a website for SURFERS??? How greedy you must be to allow such imbecilic garbage to play on a loop on your homepage- or any page. Or, maybe it’s part of a larger story- a reflection of who surfers actually are now. That’s for an entirely different letter, to an entirely different entity than Surfline- preferably one with even a slightly higher intellect than the majority of your editors (a daily scan of the captions of your photo features will showcase some of the worst usage of the English language). I’m sure shame is the last thing you feel while you sit in your oceanfront McMansion in Seal Beach, but it’s the first thing you should feel for taking money from a company whose sole purpose and generation of profits is the act of killing. I dare you to donate all of the profits of the sale of that ad to the Newtown Memorial Fund, or the Aurora Victim Relief Fund, or one of the multitude of organizations pushing for stronger gun control. I dare you. In the meantime, that $70 a year that I pay to thread my way through such drivel as surfers moronic Instagram photos in order to see what kind of swell might be heading my way? That money will be going straight to a charity with the intention of banning any ads like that, anywhere. Furthermore, I am forwarding this letter to every user of Surfline I know (to use one of your favorite appropriated Aussie terms, HEAPS), and will encourage them to do the same, and ask that they too cancel their membership and/or stop using Surfline.
Moses BerksonJanuary 16th, 2014
Oil on panel with wood
42.5 x 32.4 cm
16 3/4 x 12 3/4 in
Through March 1, 2014January 16th, 2014
No title yet, (Red and green)
Oil and acrylic on canvas
60 x 40.5 inches
January 18 – March 1, 2014
Opening Reception: Saturday, January 18, 4-7pm
January 19th through March 2, 2014
Opening Reception: 3-6 PM January 19th
The actor performs an excerpt from his monologue “Rodney King,” part of the Under the Radar Festival at the Public Theater.
By ERIC GRODE
NY Times Published: JAN. 14, 2014
A quarter-century ago, Roger Guenveur Smith cajoled his friend Spike Lee into writing him into the script for “Do the Right Thing.” (He played Smiley, the mentally disabled man clutching a photograph of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.) Now Mr. Smith, who has since constructed stage monologues around figures like Huey P. Newton and Frederick Douglass, has turned his wry attentions to an even more ferocious racial conflagration, this one all too real.
In his sinuous, complicated, deeply moving “Rodney King,” Mr. Smith seems at first to harshly judge his title character, the black construction worker whose beating at the hands of white police officers in 1991 in Los Angeles provoked fury culminating in riots after the acquittal of three officers at trial a year later. The opening lines of this 60-minute monologue denounce Mr. King as an Uncle Tom whose remarks in his memorable “Can we all get along?” news conference amid the riots made him worthy of assassination.
These lines, it turns out, are from a rap song that the former Geto Boys member Willie D released at the time. Once Mr. Smith has gotten this atypically strident material out of his system, he adopts a far more nuanced, even admiring view of a man whose personal demons colored much of the coverage he received, all the way up to his death in 2012.
The result is nearly as impassioned and insightful as “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992,” Anna Deavere Smith’s own monologue dedicated to the riots. Where she found compelling details by speaking with and then quoting the participants (though not Mr. King himself), Mr. Smith’s third-person narrative focuses on offbeat nuggets of information that would do any historian proud. Mr. King donned a Bob Marley wig during the 1992 riots and drove — in the same white Hyundai he had driven that fateful night a year earlier — to see them firsthand. Bill Cosby urged rioters to stay home and watch the final episode of “The Cosby Show” instead. And, most shocking of all, Mr. King was a fleeting acquaintance of Reginald Denny, the white truck driver whose own beating was caught on film during the riots.
Mr. Smith’s syncopated, hypnotic delivery finds room for these factoids within a gorgeously paced narrative that is marred only slightly by a pair of superfluous codas. By restoring a sense of humanity to a tremendously flawed human being, he has done a heartfelt and extremely right thing.
“Rodney King,” part of the Under the Radar Festival, will be repeated Wednesday and Saturday at the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street, at Astor Place, East Village; 212-967-7555, undertheradarfestival.com.January 14th, 2014