We Must Stop Police Abuse of Black Men

NY Times Published: DEC. 4, 2014

I CAN recall it as if it were yesterday: looking into the toilet and seeing blood instead of urine. That was the aftermath of my first police encounter.

As a 15-year-old, living in South Jamaica, Queens, I was arrested on a criminal trespass charge after unlawfully entering and remaining in the home of an acquaintance. Officers took me to the 103rd Precinct — the same precinct where an unarmed Sean Bell was later shot and killed by the police — and brought me into a room in the basement. They kicked me in the groin repeatedly. Out of every part of my body, that’s what they targeted. Then I spent the night in Spofford juvenile detention center.

For seven days after that, I stared into the toilet bowl in my house at the blood I was urinating. I kept telling myself that if it didn’t clear up by the next day, I would share this shame and embarrassment with my mother, although I could never bring myself to start that conversation. When clear urine returned, I thought I was leaving that moment behind me. I never told anyone this, not even my mother, until I was an adult.

As I attempted to put that shame and attack on my manhood away, new horror stories kept compelling me to relive those memories: the nightmare experiences of Randolph Evans, Patrick Dorismond, Abner Louima and countless other young men have reminded me of my own secret. Think of all the secrets that young men of color are hiding. How many are concealing some dark truth of the abuse they endured, and what is that darkness doing to them?

In order to finally bring this darkness into the light of day, our nation must address the foundation of this crisis. That starts with acknowledging that the training taught in police academies across the country is not being applied in communities of color. After six months in the police academy, that instruction is effectively wiped out by six days of being taught by veteran cops on the streets.

I learned this myself firsthand. I didn’t want any more children to go through what I endured, so I sought to make change from the inside by joining the police department.

Hours after coming out of the police academy, I was told something as a new rookie officer: You’d rather be tried by 12 jurors than carried by six pallbearers. In my impressionable first days, I saw officers leave the precinct every day touching the lockers of their fallen brothers. They started their shift on the defensive, thinking about protecting themselves, as opposed to the communities they served, regardless of the complexion of those communities. One of my white fellow officers once told me that if he saw a white individual with a gun, he took extra care for himself and the individual. When he saw a black individual with a gun, he took care only for himself.

These are the lessons to which I was exposed, and the reality of what policing communities of color has been, not just in New York City but across America. There is a legacy of inequity that did not just appear overnight, but was carved into the culture of law enforcement over decades.

There is reluctance on the part of police leadership, which has long believed in the nightstick and quick-trigger-finger justice, to effectively deal with officers who have documented and substantiated records of abuse. These individuals need to be removed from the force. That is an essential component of the larger response we must have to address this history of abuse.

We cannot continue to approach policing in an antiquated fashion, and that certainly includes technology. Technology has been used as a crime-fighting tactic, but not as a tool to determine what happens during a police action. New York City has taken the right step in putting body cameras on police officers, but what about cameras on guns themselves? While I was a state senator, I introduced a proposal to allow such devices, which would not interfere with the function of the weapon; this proposal deserves to be revisited. In fact, we can go further, with cameras on police vehicles as well. Not only will technology shine a light on the darkness of these police encounters, it will be significant in advancing community trust that accountability does in fact apply.

Equally important, especially in the wake of what has taken place after the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, is reform to our grand jury system. Grand juries were established in England in the 12th and 13th centuries, a vestige of a time when people needed to be protected from unfair prosecution from the king and others. There was a necessary element of secrecy — one that need not apply in cases involving police misconduct.

Open, preliminary hearings in court can and should determine if a case should be stepped up to a trial. Additionally, the handling of police shootings should be wholly separated from local grand juries. These bodies cannot handle cases involving local police officers on whom they rely every day.

Special grand juries should be convened for police-related incidents, and independent agencies must gather evidence even before they convene, at the time of police encounters where a death has occurred; the evidence gathered at that moment is the evidence that will shape whether there is an indictment, as well as whether there will be a fair trial based on the facts.

All of these ideas need to be moved forward under the leadership of our president, our governors, the mayors of our major cities and our law enforcement leadership. If we fail to take advantage of this moment that history has laid on our doorstep, we are doomed to more abuse, more division and more chaos.

When my son was 15, he was stopped by the police in a movie theater for no apparent reason. He showed his ID and explained that his father was a retired police captain and a state senator. The response was “So what?” It doesn’t and shouldn’t matter who he is. He shouldn’t have had that experience at all. And until that changes, for all men of color, real reform will never come.

December 5th, 2014
Ruby Neri | Face Pots

Ruby Neri Face Pot
Untitled Face Pot #5, 2014
glazed stoneware
14 x 6.5 x 4.5 inches

Opening Reception: Sunday December 7, 2014. 3-5 PM
December 7, 2014 through January 2, 2015

South Willard Shop Exhibit

December 2nd, 2014
An Artist Who Wrapped and Bound Her Work, and Then Broke Free

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Untitled 1989
Photograph by Ruth Fremson

NY Times Published: DEC. 1, 2014

Judith Scott was an artist based in Oakland, Calif., who made abstract works from fiber and found objects. Some of them are small and slender, like a hunter-gatherer’s quiver. Some are large enough to cradle in both arms. Some you would need a shopping cart to move. One actually is a shopping cart, piled high with seemingly random objects and cocooned in white string.

That piece and many others are on display through March at the Brooklyn Museum in “Bound and Unbound,” a comprehensive survey of Ms. Scott’s art. The title is apt. Ms. Scott’s method was to use yarn, string and knotted fabric to wrap mundane materials, like crutches, bicycle wheels and plastic tubing, to the point of transformation. The shrouded objects are often left unrecognizable. The results are bafflingly beautiful.

Some works once reminded a Times critic of “the animal-shaped kono power objects of the Bamana people of Mali.” But it’s safe to say of Ms. Scott’s art that the Bamana people have nothing to do with it, and that any detected symbolism or allusion is a viewer’s projection.

Ms. Scott had no formal training, no education to speak of, could not hear or speak and had Down syndrome. Her work exists without explanation, even as to how it should be displayed. Right-side up or down is a curator’s assumption. Every one of her 200 or so pieces is “Untitled.”

The art world does agree that the works are superb. They are shown around the world, the subject of articles, books and films. On film, you can see Ms. Scott spooling, cutting and knotting with a quilter’s patience and a genius’s dedication. She would work until her fingers were stiff and bleeding, motivated by who knows what. “Some mysterious personal juju” is how the musician David Byrne, an admirer, put it, acknowledging that it is impossible to know what was going on behind her watery eyes.

As a child, Ms. Scott was declared profoundly retarded and ineducable. At 7, she was sent to a state hospital in her home state of Ohio. She was institutionalized for 35 years. She got out only because her twin sister, Joyce, living in the Bay Area, missed her and became her guardian. In 1987, Joyce took Judith to Creative Growth Art Center, an innovative studio in Oakland for people with developmental disabilities. After nearly two years there, dabbling uninterestedly with paint, Judith found her medium.

She also found respect and deference as her talent blossomed. She became “very regal,” Joyce said, the queen of the place, with her own table and a wealth of supplies. As she wrapped her pieces — summoning the staff to remove them when she was done — she also made an artwork of herself, with colorful scarves and hats and strands of jewelry. A short documentary, “Outsider,” shows her as a woman of warmth and teasing affection in a close web of family, colleagues and friends.

Such dignity through achievement is too often the exception for people with Down syndrome, whom society prefers to infantilize and ignore. People with mental disabilities are easily pitied but seldom listened to; in the broader struggle for civil rights they remain a forgotten group.

Timothy Shriver, the chairman of Special Olympics, writes in a new book, “Fully Alive,” that people with intellectual disabilities bring those who are “normal” face-to-face with their own limitations. “In a world where we strive for independence and self-sufficiency,” he writes, “people with disabilities remind us that we are all dependent in some way.” The impulse has long been to hide these reminders away, locked in institutions or overlooked within families, sequestered from their own potential.

Sometimes, rarely, one among them hits the cosmic lottery and breaks through on her own.

Judith Scott became an artist in her early 40s. She was 61 when she died, in 2005. Her artistic vision, like all genius, is a mystery, but what made it possible is simple to explain: her own hard work, the love of a sister, the attentive support of a groundbreaking arts institution — and miles and miles of string.

Ms. Scott’s pieces are colorful, oddly shaped yet graceful, unself-consciously beautiful. That is also a good way of describing a human being, which Ms. Scott — against overwhelming odds, and the larger world’s denial, and without saying a word — declared herself to be.

December 2nd, 2014

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All Night Menu

December 2nd, 2014

Thanks to Jonathan Maghen

December 2nd, 2014
A Singular World That Won’t Fade Away

Meredith Monk Celebrates 50 Years of Work
“I just keep trucking along.” Credit Julieta Cervantes

NY Times Published: NOV. 28, 2014

The traffic was light, the sky dark, the sidewalks mostly empty on a bitterly cold recent Sunday evening in TriBeCa. Looking down shadowy side streets, it was possible, for a moment or two at a time, to imagine being back in the forbidding, exhilarating downtown New York of the 1970s.

The fantasy only deepened on arriving at the West Broadway building where the composer, vocalist, dancer, choreographer, director and filmmaker Meredith Monk has lived and worked since 1972. A star and survivor of that long-ago downtown scene, she marks the 50th anniversary of the start of her professional career this year, an ideal moment to honor her pathbreaking work, which has inspired artists as different as Merce Cunningham and Björk.

“I’ve been in fashion, out of fashion,” Ms. Monk, 72, said with a broad smile over fennel tea in her loft, where the cozy, if still rough, living quarters lead through a doorway to an expansive rehearsal space. “I just keep trucking along. It’s an inner necessity to work, and that’s not going to change. I need to create. I need to.”

She made her reputation stretching her voice, and those of her collaborators, into primeval, wordless yowls, keens and rasps, placing those strange sounds within luminous, ambiguous theatrical and choreographic events. Much of the music and movement for these pieces wasn’t recorded in conventional written form, so the questions of whether and how they will be transcribed, notated and eventually revived after she is gone hang over her golden anniversary.

But much of the celebration is characteristically forward looking. Wednesday brings the New York premiere, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, of her latest music-theater piece, “On Behalf of Nature,” a spare yet grand, despairing yet affirming elegy for our planet.

While her work is often sober, Ms. Monk in person is elfin and funny, with a taste for brightly colored, unexpectedly puffy pants and her hair in two thin braids. Peppered with her hearty laugh, the rehearsal at her place that frigid recent Sunday was also focused on a newish work, “Night,” composed in 1996 and revised in 2005. But her early roots were visible, and not just in the loft. She and her vocal ensemble began the session with the same joyfully overlapping “Hallelujah” warm-up that she is shown leading in a 1983 television documentary about her ambitious output, which includes piano miniatures, her signature extreme vocal solos, three-act operas (the exquisite “Atlas,” 1991) and more recent forays into orchestral writing (such as “Night”).

Old and new rub up against each other throughout her anniversary season. The holder of this year’s Debs Composer’s Chair at Carnegie Hall, she has written a new piece for the hall’s resident Ensemble ACJW, to have its premiere in February. The St. Louis Symphony will play “Weave” (2010) at the hall in March, two days before a sweeping concert there of works both recent and classic, with guests like Jessye Norman and John Zorn. In May, Ms. Monk and her vocal ensemble will close the season at Carnegie with a selection from a broad swath of her career.

Born in 1942, she grew up in Queens and Stamford, Conn., playing piano and taking classes in Dalcroze Eurhythmics, a system that ties musical education to movement. There were musicians on both sides of her family, and her mother was a noted studio singer who performed on radio advertisements and variety shows. But commercial work was fickle, a lesson her daughter internalized.

“I learned that I didn’t want anyone else to be in control of what I was doing or not doing,” Ms. Monk said. “I wanted to make my own life.”

She fell in love with folk music’s plangent melodies, and studied voice and dance at Sarah Lawrence College. But traditional forms were unsatisfying. “When I would do a classical music recital, it just didn’t feel big enough for me,” she said.

From the time she graduated, in 1964 and moved to Manhattan, her work was indeed bigger: more capacious and elusive. In “16 Millimeter Earrings” (1966), Ms. Monk sang “Greensleeves,” read aloud from Wilhelm Reich’s “The Function of the Orgasm” and wore a large sphere over her head, on which video footage of her face was projected.

“One day, I had this revelation that the voice could be like an instrument,” she said. “I didn’t have to do words, and it could be male and female, animal, vegetable, mineral. There could be landscape, characters, textures.”

She began pushing her range, emerging with a style full of clicks, creaks, ululations, exhalations, vibrations and trembles that were wild sounding — “drastic,” the critic Jill Johnston called them — but intricately controlled. Dreamy, ethereal tones, like Joan Baez’s or Joni Mitchell’s, tipped over into something part obscure confession, part primordial ritual. (“Beginnings,” on the Tzadik label, is an essential compilation of these early experiments.)

Intelligible English would occasionally emerge from the artful babble. “She must be crazy,” Ms. Monk croaks on her first album, “Key” (1971), and some listeners may well have nodded in agreement.

But she was more than merely idiosyncratic. While her vocal techniques were haunting, and deployed with arresting confidence, she used them not as effects but as seemingly organic outgrowths of fully formed worlds that felt simultaneously contemporary and ancient. Her charisma and theatricality, with crucial doses of wit and warmth, also carried her in pieces like “Our Lady of Late” (1972), in which she sat alone on a vast stage, accompanying herself with drones made by rubbing a wine glass.

This theatrical element grew more complex in sprawling multimedia pieces like “Quarry” (1976), a child’s-eye opera about war, which prompted the formation of her vocal ensemble. Ms. Monk and five ensemble singers went on to perform “Dolmen Music” (1979), which retained the intimacy of her solos while widening their scope into a mesmerizing communal rite. Made into a classic recording — her first of 11 (and counting) on the ECM label — the work still feels both familiar and radically strange.

“It invites us into new worlds,” Derek Bermel, the artistic director of the American Composers Orchestra, said of Ms. Monk’s work from the Carnegie stage before the group performed “Night” on Nov. 21. “But ‘invites’ is the word. It doesn’t push us.”

He was speaking about her aesthetic. But the observation is also true of her political posture, which can seem reticent, even mild.

“I always think making art in this world we’re living in is political,” Ms. Monk said. “But I’ve never been a ‘pointy’ kind of artist.” Speaking of “On Behalf of Nature” in “Conversations With Meredith Monk,” a recently published book of interviews, she asks, incredulously, “Am I supposed to be telling people to call up the guys to not have fracking?”

Those hoping for a rally may be disappointed by the piece. Set on a bare stage, with eight vocalist-dancers, “On Behalf of Nature” is an attempt to speak as nature rather than about it. Though it includes a bracing solo for Ms. Monk that she calls a “nonverbal rant,” the mood is more ruminative than raging.

It’s not always the case these days that Ms. Monk is included in her casts. “She’s starting to write music for other people, and it’s going to be really interesting,” said the composer David Lang. “Her personality is so big that when you’ve seen her perform, you may not have realized just how beautiful her music is.”

But her work can suffer from her absence. There are sensitive instrumental textures in “Night,” but they don’t carry the interest or intensity of the vocal lines, and even the voices are less intriguing because Ms. Monk’s isn’t among them. When the San Francisco Symphony performed her “Realm Variations” at Carnegie in 2012, the work was energized when she sang, slack when she didn’t.

The unexpected death of her partner, the choreographer Mieke van Hoek, after a stroke in 2002 contributed, by several accounts, to her fresh interest in how her work will continue after she is gone. “She’s done a lot of meditating and a lot of self-reflection,” said the vocalist and composer Theo Bleckmann, a longtime collaborator. “So I think that reflects in her work and what she wants to do and what she wants to leave.”

In 2000, she joined the roster of the influential music publisher Boosey & Hawkes, but not when she was first asked. “Forget it,” she recalled telling the company when it originally inquired about signing her. “I’m going to let it die with me, because no one will understand how to do it.”

Now she takes more seriously the painstaking task of preparing the performable scores needed to bring her pieces before a wider audience. The process of creating a broadly understandable version from the available material often begins with the laborious process of transcribing recordings, with assistance from the various, sometimes faint memories of Ms. Monk and the original participants. It has been slow going.

“I had to invent half the notation,” said the composer Missy Mazzoli, who helped transcribe “Book of Days” (1985), a medieval fantasia. “I had to listen to these amazing primal wails, with improvisation and not improvisation on top of each other, and communicate that through the score. No one is ever going to perform her works like Meredith Monk, but the goal was to create something that was at once a document and a jumping-off point.”

Having a viable score is only the beginning. “Just singing the notes does not even get close to what makes this music tick,” Mr. Bleckmann said, adding that the intangible emotional and even spiritual context — the pieces are deeply informed by her Buddhist practice — must be passed on, too. Yet the goal is not sheer verisimilitude. While Ms. Monk has allowed, and often guided, performances of her work by others, she dislikes new versions that try to mimic her originals.

“The one person who kind of got through without trying to be Meredith the Second and sounding awful is Björk,” Ms. Monk said. “She did ‘Gotham Lullaby’ ” — an aching 1975 melody on the “Dolmen Music” album — “in her own way and kept the feeling of it. She kept the form in her own way. She kept the mood. She kept the integrity. Other people have tried to do it note by note, and it doesn’t work, it never works.”

Ms. Monk has given her blessing to a vocal sextet called the M6, which formed in 2007 to revive some of her older works. And she has approved an eventual new production of “Atlas” proposed by the director Yuval Sharon, which will be the opera’s first staging since its premiere.

“Most meaningful of all to me is that she would trust me to bring it to life,” Mr. Sharon said. “It’s a big step for her, letting another person realize her work in a way other than how she originally imagined it.”

Important questions still lie before Ms. Monk and her management arm, the House Foundation for the Arts. Will she choose to leave certain works unpublished, and therefore unperformed? Will securing future rights be contingent on bringing in Ms. Monk’s collaborators to train performers in the subtleties of her style?

“I’m of two minds about it,” Ms. Monk said. “On one hand, I love the idea that the music can live beyond me. And maybe there are some things that can’t. And then we have recordings, and that’s great.”

But Ms. Mazzoli insisted, “This work is not going to die with her.”

November 30th, 2014
Bob Baker 1924 – 2014

lat-bob-baker-dies-photos-la0006666733-20121030Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times
In October 2012, Bob Baker joined some friends in the party room at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater just west of downtown Los Angeles. The marionettes: Hansel and Gretel, left and right, and the Fairy Godmother.

LA Times Published: November 28, 2014

For years, puppeteer Bob Baker’s marionette theater hung on by a thread.

In the end, it outlasted Baker, who died Friday at age 90 after an eight-decade career pulling the strings of his whimsical creations and delighting young and old alike.

Baker died at his home in Los Angeles of age-related causes, said Greg Williams, a friend and puppeteer who worked with Baker for many years.

Baker’s theater, which occupies a former cinder block movie scenery shop west of downtown Los Angeles, is the oldest puppet theater in the United States. When it was opened in 1962 at the corner of 1st Street and Glendale Boulevard by Baker and business partner Alton Wood, it was an immediate hit with children and their parents.

Thirteen years earlier, Baker and Wood had teamed up to form a touring company that kept busy staging puppet shows at school fairs, women’s clubs and churches. They also had a thriving side business at a small Santa Monica Boulevard workshop where they designed and built puppets for movies and commercials and produced toy Pinocchio puppets sold at Disneyland.

The workshop created promotional windows for Disneyland and animated displays for Knott’s Berry Farm. Its puppets appeared in commercials for Bob’s Big Boy, McDonald’s and Burger King as well as in ads for new cars, drug stores and a cigarette maker.

Over the years Baker enjoyed recounting how he had worked as an animation advisor with Disney Studios and walked through Disneyland with Walt Disney at his side the day before the park opened for business in 1955. He also reminisced about birthday parties where he performed his puppetry magic for the children of such Hollywood celebrities as Eleanor Powell, Jack Benny and Danny Kaye. He was proud that his puppets had roles in “A Star Is Born,” “Star Trek,” Elvis Presley’s “G.I. Blues,” Disney’s “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

But film and TV commercial work dried up when computer-generated imagery came into vogue in Hollywood. Attendance at weekday puppet shows dwindled as schools struggled with budget problems and began cutting back on field trips. A roofing company that rented space on the theater grounds closed up shop because of the recession.

By 2008 Baker had fallen behind on the theater’s mortgage payments and the property was listed for sale for $1.5 million. Closure was averted when the Ahmanson Foundation and other donors came to its rescue. A year later, Los Angeles officials declared the theater — the oldest of its kind in the United States — to be a city historic-cultural landmark.

Baker put the property back on the market in 2012 for $2 million as he searched for $150,000 to pay back taxes and for a private investor willing to refinance the mortgage. He made it clear that only the theater site was for sale: He intended to keep his collection of 4,000 puppets intact and hoped to lease back the theater from its new owner.

The building was sold last year, but Baker’s puppeteers plan to continue staging performances there at least until the lease runs out in March, Williams said Friday.

It’s no wonder Baker wanted to hold on to his creations. His marionettes were elaborately designed and carefully crafted, with some taking 350 hours to hand-build and outfit in sumptuous costumes. Others, like dancing cactus plants, were delightfully simple. Many were surprisingly complex: circus figures riding on horseback, monkeys that juggled while walking on stilts, Spanish tango dancers. Some cost as much as $5,000 to create.

From the theater Baker also ran the Academy of Puppetry and Allied Arts, where high school students could learn the art of puppetry. The academy helped subsidize tickets for school kids’ field trip to marionette shows.

A Los Angeles native, Baker lived in the same house in Koreatown where he was born Feb. 9, 1924 — a place seven minutes away from the theater.

Baker always explained that he was bitten by the marionette bug as a 6-year-old when he went to a puppet show. By age 8 he was taking puppetry lessons; he staged his first professional performance in 1932 for an audience that included film director Mervyn LeRoy.

By the time he was a student at Hollywood High School, Baker was working with the WPA doing puppetry and selling his own hand-crafted marionettes to high-end department stores. After graduation, he apprenticed at George Pal’s animation studio, recognized for its Oscar-winning stop-motion techniques using puppet figures. In less than a year, Baker became a lead animator for Pal’s Puppetoons division, which was contracted at the time to Paramount Studios. Later, he and Wood formed Bob Baker Productions. Wood died in 2001.

As a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Baker helped pick winners for the Oscars’ animated feature film award category. He also served as governor of the animation branch of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and was a former president of the Los Angeles Puppet Guild.

The marionette theater was a trip back in time for generations of baby boomers and others who grew up watching TV’s “Kukla, Fran and Ollie” in the late 1940s, “Howdy Doody” in the ’50s, “The Shari Lewis Show” in the ’60s and “The Muppet Show” in the ’70s.

The Los Angeles City Council designated Baker’s theater a historic-cultural landmark in 2009 after a parade of puppets marched across the council’s ornate horseshoe-shaped desk and other Southern California puppeteers rallied to support the landmark nomination. Baker, ever the workhorse, missed watching the 14-0 vote because he was staging a previously scheduled series of shows in Paramount.

He has no immediate survivors.

November 28th, 2014
closed for black friday

South Willard will be closed for Black Friday

November 26th, 2014
Lewis Baltz 1945 – 2014

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Lewis Baltz
“Southeast Wall,
Vollrath, 2424

NY Times Published: NOV. 25, 2014

Lewis Baltz, whose caustic but formally beautiful black-and-white images of parking lots, office parks, industrial garage doors and the backs of anonymous warehouses helped forge a new tradition of American landscape photography in an age of urban sprawl, died on Saturday in Paris. He was 69.

The cause was complications of cancer and emphysema, said Theresa Luisotti, whose gallery represented him for many years.

Mr. Baltz was one of a group of photographers — including Robert Adams, Stephen Shore, Joe Deal, Nicholas Nixon and Frank Gohlke — who became known as founders of the New Topographics movement, named for a highly influential exhibition, “New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape,” at the George Eastman House in Rochester in 1975. Their work was united by a seemingly dispassionate, affectless presentation — the critic Ken Johnson, writing in The New York Times, once compared it to pictures taken by an insurance adjuster — of the rapid transformation wrought across the countryside in the 1960s and ’70s by suburban development, strip malls, highways and motels.

More than those of his colleagues, Mr. Baltz’s stark, geometric photographs used the language of Minimalism, the dominant mode of sculpture at the time, to convey a kind of creeping soullessness in the man-made landscape of Southern California, where he grew up.

“Viewed one way, this could be photography as art criticism,” William Wilson wrote in The Los Angeles Times in 1992. “Instead, Baltz cuts to the sociological quick. This use of the land is not evil because it is merely venal, but because it is rational.”

Mr. Baltz’s best-known photographs include no people, as if humanity might have been cleanly erased by some technological devastation. In interviews, he was comically pointed about the effect of suburban and commercial architecture on the concept of its inhabitants.

“You don’t know whether they’re manufacturing pantyhose or megadeath,” he once said, in an often-cited observation about the people who might have been working inside the warehouses his pictures showed.

In a 1992 interview, he said: “Coming from Orange County, I watched the ghastly transformation of this place — the first wave of bulimic capitalism sweeping across the land, next door to me. I sensed that there was something horribly amiss and awry about my own personal environment.”

Lewis Baltz was born on Sept. 12, 1945, in Newport Beach, Calif., the only child of a couple who owned a mortuary business. His father, who was also Newport Beach’s deputy coroner, was an alcoholic who died of cirrhosis of the liver when Mr. Baltz was 11.

At 14, Mr. Baltz began working in a Laguna Beach camera store whose owner, the photographer William Current, took him under his wing and gave him books, advice and a view of the wider world of art that lay beyond the conservative oceanside towns of Southern California.

Mr. Baltz graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1969. He received a master’s degree in 1971 from Claremont Graduate School (now Claremont Graduate University), where his master’s thesis was a series of photographs of tract houses that seemed like a bridge between the romanticism of Minor White’s barns and the stark reductiveness of Brice Marden’s monochrome paintings.

Work from Mr. Baltz’s landmark book, “The New Industrial Parks Near Irvine, California,” was shown at the Castelli Gallery in New York in 1975, a year after it was first published. In 1977, his work was included in the Whitney Biennial along with that of Conceptual artists like John Baldessari, Mel Bochner and Robert Cumming.

In the late 1980s Mr. Baltz moved to Europe, where his work had a strong following, and he taught for many years in Switzerland and Italy. At his death he was living and working in Paris. Around the time of his move, he turned toward color photography and began bodies of work — sometimes using imposing imagery enlarged to several feet tall — that explored political issues, like surveillance and the reach of technology, that have since become even more pressing.

His work entered many major public collections, including those of the Guggenheim, Tate Modern, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In 2013, the Getty Research Institute acquired Mr. Baltz’s archive, donated by him and his wife, the artist Slavica Perkovic, who survives him, as does his daughter, Monica Baltz.

Though he worked in photography all his life, Mr. Baltz expressed deep philosophical skepticism about the medium — or at least the art-photography world. “I think being a photographer is a little like being a whore,” he once said, with characteristic bone-dry wit. “If you’re really, really good at it, nobody will call you that.”

The camera, he said, was often a device less for communication than for a kind of existential defense. In 2009 he told an interviewer for the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, “I used photography to distance myself from a world that I loathed and was powerless to improve.”

November 26th, 2014

November 26th, 2014
No Indictment of Officer in Ferguson Case


Donald fields, 37, with daughter Olivia Fields,9, at a Leimert Park gathering during the Ferguson, MO grand Jury decision. “If that was my little brother I would be very sad, she sad.

November 24th, 2014
Calling Out Bill Cosby’s Media Enablers, Including Myself

NY Times Published: NOV. 24, 2014
By David Carr

Amid the public revulsion at the news that Bill Cosby, a trailblazing black entertainer, allegedly victimized women in serial fashion throughout his career, the response from those in the know has been: What took so long?

What took so long is that those in the know kept it mostly to themselves. No one wanted to disturb the Natural Order of Things, which was that Mr. Cosby was beloved; he was as generous and paternal as his public image; and that his approach to life and work represented a bracing corrective to the coarse, self-defeating urban black ethos.

Only the first of those things was actually true.

Those in the know included Mark Whitaker, who did not find room in his almost 500-page biography, “Cosby: His Life and Times,” to address the accusations that Mr. Cosby had assaulted numerous women, at least four of whom had spoken on the record and by name in the past about what Mr. Cosby is accused of having done to them.

Those in the know also included Ta-Nehisi Coates, who elided over the charges in a long and seemingly comprehensive story about Mr. Cosby in The Atlantic in 2008.

Those in the know included Kelefa T. Sanneh, who wrote a major piece in The New Yorker and who treated the allegations as an afterthought, referring to them quickly near the end of a profile of Mr. Cosby this past September.

And those in the know also included me. In 2011, I did a Q. and A. with Mr. Cosby for Hemispheres magazine, the in-flight magazine of United Airlines, and never found the space or the time to ask him why so many women accused him of drugging and then assaulting them.

We all have our excuses, but in doing so, we let down the women who were brave enough to speak out publicly against a very powerful entertainer.

Mr. Whitaker has said he didn’t want to put anything in the book, which he wrote with Mr. Cosby’s cooperation, that wasn’t confirmed — which of course raises the question of why he wouldn’t have done the work to knock the allegations down or make them stand up.

And given that the allegations had already been carefully and thoroughly reported in Philadelphia magazine and elsewhere, any book of the size and scope of Mr. Whitaker’s book should have gone there.

Mr. Coates recently expressed regret on The Atlantic website that he did not press harder on Mr. Cosby’s conflicted past. In the course of his reporting, he said he came to the conclusion that “Bill Cosby was a rapist.”

He added: “I regret not saying what I thought of the accusations, and then pursuing those thoughts. I regret it because the lack of pursuit puts me in league with people who either looked away, or did not look hard enough.”

I was one of those who looked away. Having read the Philadelphia magazine story when it came out, I knew when the editors of the airline magazine called that they would have no interest in pursuing those allegations in a short interview in a magazine meant to occupy fliers.

My job as a journalist was to turn that assignment down. If I was not going to do the work to tell the truth about the guy, I should not have let him prattle on about his new book at the time.

But I did not turn it down. I did the interview and took the money.

I paid for that in other ways. The interview was deeply unpleasant, with a windy, obstreperous subject who answered almost every question in 15-minute soliloquies, many of which were not particularly useful.

After an hour of this, I mentioned that the interview was turning out to be all A. and no Q. He paused, finally.

“Young man, are you interested in hearing what I have to say or not?” he said. “If not, we can end this interview right now.”

Mr. Cosby was not interested in being questioned, in being challenged in any way. By this point in his career, he was surrounded by ferocious lawyers and stalwart enablers and he felt it was beneath him to submit to the queries of mere mortals.

He was certain of his own certainty and had very little time for the opinions of others. Mr. Cosby, as all of those who did profiles on him have pointed out, was never just an entertainer, but a signal tower of moral rectitude.

From the beginning, part of his franchise was built on family values, first dramatized in “The Cosby Show” and then in his calling out the profane approach of younger comics and indicting the dress and manner of young black Americans.

Beyond selling Jell-O, Mr. Cosby was selling a version of America where all people are responsible for their own lot in life.

He seldom addressed bigotry and racism. Instead, he exhorted individuals to install their own bootstraps and pull themselves into success. And while they were at it, they should pull their pants up and quit sagging, a fashion trope Mr. Cosby found inexcusable.

It proved to be a popular theme with white audiences and less so with black ones. A generation of black comics who revered other pioneers like Richard Pryor found Mr. Cosby’s lectures tired and misplaced.

But that moralism, which put legs under his career as an author and a public figure, made Mr. Cosby a target. In 2005, ABC News reported on accusations of a former Temple University employee, who said that the entertainer drugged and fondled her.

That was followed by a report on “The Today Show” that he did the same thing to Tamara Green, a California lawyer.

The Philadelphia magazine story with a more comprehensive list of victims came out in 2006 and was followed by a story in People magazine about Barbara Bowman, who said that she was drugged and assaulted. And then the story just died.

Mr. Cosby was (mostly) out of view, his lawyers pushed back and tried to knock down every story and victim, and no one in the media seemed interested any longer. Mr. Cosby was old news, he had been investigated but never criminally charged, and there seemed to be little upside to going after a now-ancient story.

But as Mr. Cosby’s profile rose again when it became clear that he would get another ride on television with shows on NBC and Netflix, so did the scrutiny.

In February of this year, Newsweek published accounts from two of his victims, including Ms. Green, who called Mr. Cosby a “rapist” and “liar.”

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In the end, it fell to a comic, not an investigative reporter or biographer, to speak truth to entertainment power, to take on The Natural Order of Things.

On Oct. 16, comedian Hannibal Buress took the stage in Philadelphia, Mr. Cosby’s hometown, and railed against the incongruity of his public moralizing and private behavior. He told the audience, “I want to just at least make it weird for you to watch ‘Cosby Show’ reruns.” (TV Land has since canceled those reruns, and both Netflix and NBC have shelved projects with Mr. Cosby.)

He said Mr. Cosby has the “smuggest old black man public persona that I hate. Pull your pants up, black people. I was on TV in the ’80s. I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom.”

And then he dropped the bomb. “Yeah, but you raped women, Bill Cosby. So, brings you down a couple notches.”

Social media, a nonfactor when the allegations first surfaced, feasted on a clip of the set posted on Philadelphia magazine’s website.

On the heels of Mr. Buress’s routine, Mr. Cosby’s public relations people asked his Twitter followers to make funny memes of the entertainer, and that promptly backfired in a massive way.

With NBC and his other former partners having jettisoned him, Mr. Cosby’s lawyers were left alone in the bunker, playing Whac-a-Mole against charges from women that are popping up everywhere. And on Sunday, The Washington Post did a comprehensive recap of the charges.

For decades, entertainers have been able to maintain custody of their image, regardless of how they conducted themselves. Many had entire crews of dust busters who came behind them and cleaned up their messes.

Those days are history. It doesn’t really matter now what the courts or the press do or decide. When enough evidence and pushback rears into view, a new apparatus takes over, one that is viral, relentless and not going to forgive or forget.

November 24th, 2014
Susan Te Kahurangi King: ‘Drawings From Many Worlds’

Screen shot 2014-11-22 at 7.56.54 PM
An untitled 1965 work by Susan Te Kahurangi King includes familiar characters

NY Times Published: NOV. 20, 2014

Since the early 1960s, the New Zealand artist Susan Te Kahurangi King, 63, has been reworking Looney Tunes characters like a rogue animator, abstracting, distorting and disassembling them in surreal and psychedelic landscapes. A small installation of her drawings was the undisputed hit of this year’s Outsider Art Fair. She is now making her gallery debut, with a bigger presentation, organized (like her art fair display) by the independent curator Chris Byrne.

In one early graphite drawing, Sylvester the Cat has met with a fate even Tweety Bird could not have imagined: He’s involved in a nasty-looking pileup of cartoon body parts. Later comes a Popeye head sprouting from the beak of the Road Runner, a composite figure surrounded by ducks who are floating skyward in the manner of Tiepolo figures.

Ms. King also has a way of animating negative space; clearly, she does not suffer from horror vacui. In her colored-pencil drawings from the late 1970s, waves of tiny, minnow-like figures press in from the bottom right corner of the page, but leave half of it blank.

As the gallery’s news release tells us, Ms. King stopped speaking at the age of 4 (for reasons that have never been attributed to a specific disability). This bit of knowledge encourages us to see her extraordinary fluency with graphite and colored pencil as a kind of substitute for speech. But we don’t necessarily need to know that to appreciate that her drawings, which invoke, among other things, the sonic mayhem of Saturday morning cartoons, are commandingly vociferous.

Through December 20, 2014

Andrew Edlin Gallery

November 22nd, 2014
Albert Oehlen

4905_offer_50Albert Oehlen
Untitled, 1992
Oil on fabric
78 1/2 x 78 1/2 inches (199.5 x 199.5 cm)

Fabric Paintings

Through December 20, 2014


November 21st, 2014

Thanks to Jonathan Maghen

November 21st, 2014
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