Last Chance to See the Ray Hamilton Exhibit

A clock that is minutes away from reaching 12:00. The words "closing soon" are written on the clock.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Currently at the Kerry Schuss Gallery is a very special exhibition. Many retrospectives cover decades, but this one is only six years long. It is a sensitive, sweet coverage of the artist’s recovery from a serious stroke in 1990, and the work he created from that point up until his death in 1996.

A navy veteran from South Carolina, Hamilton was taking art classes through a nonprofit called Healing Arts Initiative (or H.A.I) as he relearned his body. With pens, pencils, and paint on large sheets of cheap paper, he traced objects of his life over and over. You can see how he struggled to keep a pen steady, or where he practiced writing his own name in huge, wandering letters.

There’s nothing childlike in his art, despite the deceptively remedial subject choices. When he draws his hands and paints them clumsily in blue with red blogs for nails, the right hand is twisted, just like his. When he draws shoes or feet, they are always staggered slightly, like those of a man who walks with effort. Windows are high on the page, as they would be seen by someone who spent more time in a chair than standing. A single clock, drawn with particular care, seems to be full of tense waiting. A knotted fist and a cane, both colored in with furious blue hatching in ball-point pen, are surrounded by seemingly manic lists of numbers. Costs? Days? There’s no knowing.

The only writings we have by Ray Hamilton are the things in the background of his artworks—lists and places and the occasional far-off date. Mostly his own name, scrawled or printed in a painstakingly stylized print or somewhere in-between, unmistakably the marks of a man trying to affirm for himself that he is who he always has been: Ray Hamilton.

Ray Hamilton: Drawings began in January and will continue through March 12th. Kerry Schuss Gallery is located at 34 Orchard Street, Manhattan. See it before it’s gone.

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Todd Webb’s ‘A City Seen’ Coming to Museum of the City of New York

A photo of the New York City skyline.

Photo credit: ThinAir / Shutterstock

Todd Webb (1905–2000) arrived in New York in 1946, armed with a camera and the training of a Navy photographer. By then, he’d already worked with other photography greats like Ansel Adams and Harry Callahan. But Webb ultimately made a name for himself with the images he took of the American military in the South Pacific Theater.

In New York, what he saw and fell in love with was the everyday life of the people who surrounded him. His first major show, I See a City, happened in that year with the aid of Beaumont NewHall and Grace Mayer in the Museum of the City of New York.

His photography of New York was that of a man exploring at street level. Walking, finding beauty in anything he sees. He loved the small, crowded shops of Third Avenue. The elevated trains, the street markets and food vendors and the busy ant-like life of the sidewalk commuter.

On April 20th, over 70 years after that first exhibition, the Museum of the City of New York will once again host Webb’s vision. His second solo exhibition in the same halls, A City Seen: Todd Webb’s Postwar New York, 1945-1960 will be a retrospective of more than 100 prints from that 15 years of the photographer’s wanderings, highlighted by excerpts of writings both by Webb and his artistic contemporaries.

Alongside his original prints, made using large format film and a tripod for which he became known, there will be new prints made by artist John Hill using negatives from the era; most by Walker Evans, but some by Webb as well.

Concurrently to this exhibition, The Curator Gallery in Chelsea will be hosting Down Any Street, another collection of Webb’s photographs from the same time period.

A City Seen begins April 20th and will go until September 4th of this year. The museum operates on a “suggested admission” system, which is $18 for adults, $12 for students and seniors, and free for ages 19 and under.

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A Review of “Raymond Pettibon: A Pen of All Work”

An illustration by Raymond Pettibon of a naked woman carrying a bloody ax.

Artwork by Raymond Pettibon.
Image courtesy of jlggb at Flickr Creative Commons.

Holland Cotter of the New York Times describes Raymond Pettibon’s art as having a “prickly, manic feel.” He also calls it “a steady indictment of American culture… over the past 60 years.” Anyone who visits the “Raymond Pettbon: A Pen of All Work” exhibit at the New Museum in Manhattan may very well agree with him.

The collection is as much a through-a-lens view on American history as it is an artist’s retrospective. In pen, ink, and paint, hundreds of portraits and comics spread across three floors of the New Museum, most illuminated by the artist’s pointed titles, comments, and captions. There is a collection of historical monsters: Hitler, Stalin, Lenin. There are also sketched summaries of the Vietnam War, of Korea, of Iraq.

Going farther back along the path of retrospective, viewers can see the birth of themes that Pettibon would track for his whole career. In grade school, back when Raymond Pettibon was Raymond Ginn, he drew surfers and soldiers, landscapes and Olympic athletes.

Recently, while in his 50s, he annotated those early sketchings. One, particularly poignant, was done in crayon: a picture of Nazi fighter planes. Now it sports a Proust quote that elevates the idea of a child drawing war machines and dreaming of his own battles:

“They are innocent enough as long as they are regarded as mere toys.”

It is a phrase that could be applied to much more of his artwork. Much of it can be interpreted as silly and aimless, unless one steps closer to read his spidery penciled comments.

Today, Pettibon continues to make pithy comments and observations about the world on his Twitter feed, though he produces art as he always has. This likely won’t be his final retrospective.

“Raymond Pettibon: A Pen of All Work” will run at the New Museum through April 9, 2017. Information can be found at newmuseum.org or by calling (212) 219-1222.

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High Line Plinth Sculpture to Be Announced Soon

A picture of buildings taken at High Line Park.

A photo taken from High Line Park in New York, NY.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

For anyone watching, the transformation of the High Line into a series of parks, wild spaces, and art spaces has been a lovely one. One of the final pieces is now on the horizon: the High Line Plinth.

London has had a plinth for decades, Fourth Plinth, where a bare pedestal was supposed to support a statue of William IV, but instead has hosted a long series of contemporary and temporary installations of sculpture or, occasionally, performance.

The High Line Plinth, expected to be completed in 2018, will be set in the triangular plaza above 30th Street and 10th Avenue, where a spur provides enough space for assembly and larger sculptures.

The Plinth will be overlooked by the new skyscrapers of the Hudson Yards office complex, and tall enough that work standing on it will be visible from the street below.

Early calls for art work were put out last year, quietly, and nearly 60 artists submitted ideas. By this spring, an advisory committee of artists and curators will narrow that list down to a dozen, then to two.

Ideas for the first sculpture to occupy the plinth include Sam Durant’s stylized drone, Baba Yaga’s hut on stilts by Haim Steinbach, and a massive bust of a black woman with cowrie shells for hair by sculptor Simone Leigh. The inaugral choice of sculpture will be on display on the plinth for eighteen months before a new work is chosen. The plinth is planned to change size and shape as needed.

The advisory committee currently responsible for narrowing down the choices consists of Helen Molesworth, chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA and Franklin Sirmans, who directs the Perez Art Museum in Miami among others. There has been some criticism that the choices made for the High Line should be made by New York City natives, but it is two High Line officials who will make the final decisions.

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The Met Just Made 375,000 Images Available for Public Use

A photo of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art located in New York, NY.
Photo courtesy of Steven Pisano at Flickr Creative Commons.

The collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art are so much more than what is hung on its walls. Literally hundreds of thousands of artworks stock their archives, more than they could ever show, even if they rotated their displays daily.

“Our comprehensive and diverse museum collection spans 5,000 years of world culture,” said Met director Thomas P. Campbell in an announcement on Wednesday, February 8th. “Our core mission is to be open and accessible for all who wish to study and enjoy the works of art in our care. Increasing access to the museum’s collection and scholarship serves the interests and needs of our 21st-century audiences by offering new resources for creativity, knowledge, and ideas.”

To those ends, more than three hundred thousand works in that vast collection will be made available to the public in digital form. To be more specific, 375,000 high resolution scans and videos will be made available for free via the museum’s website and CreativeCommons.org. Interested viewers from all over the world can take a closer look at these artifacts from their phones and computers.

To be able to host and provide these images, the Met took on a number of partners, including non-profit Creative Commons, online archive Wikimedia, and social-media site Pinterest, which does indeed seem the natural assistant to a public archival project of this magnitude.

Perhaps as noticeable as the scale of the project is the light-handed attitude of it. Loic Tallon, the Chief Digital Officer of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, says that the images are there to be used however the public wants to use them, without limit. That is a first in the oft-tense relationship between the Internet and museums.

Museums have historically clung to what little intellectual property rights they can claim, which mostly involve photographs of their collections. But this is prescisely what the Met has just made available to all.

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The History of the Typewriter

A photo of a woman's hands using an old typewriter.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Did you know that February is International Typewriter Appreciation Month? What better way to kick it off than with a brief history of the typewriter!

It may sound boring at first, but believe it or not the typewriter is an icon of modern day industrial design. Sure, the earliest models were limited in functionality, full of glitches, and ugly as all hell. But they paved the way for future technological advancements. In fact, George Kravis, author of 100 Designs for a Modern World, lists the typewriter as one of the most of revolutionary inventions of all time.

The very first typewriter dates all the way back to 1867 when Christopher Latham Sholes of Milwaukee engineered the initial prototype. Shortly after patenting his invention, he sold it to Remington & Sons of Ilion, New York. You may recognize the name “Remington” as the name of a famous gun manufacturer. Yep, it’s the same company. Who knew that guns and typewriters would go hand-in-hand?

At first, the machines didn’t sell very well. Remington & Sons had a hard time marketing it to the public due to how expensive they were. However, the company eventually convinced people that it was a lot faster than writing by hand. Once people realized how much quicker and more efficient they were, the machines became much more popular.

That’s not to say that there wasn’t room for improvement. As mentioned earlier, the earliest models were quite the eyesore. They were bulky and only came in black. Consumers began to demand a sleeker and more appealing design. But it wasn’t until the 1930s that a whole new look was unveiled. The typewriter now came in a multitude of colors, and it was much more compact than its predecessors.

But 1961 was the year when things really took a turn. That’s when IBM introduced the Selectric Typewriter. It was the first typewriter to have no typebars. On top of that, it was faster and more accurate than any other typewriter in history. Because of that, demand for the machine soared.

IBM initially only planned to produce 20,000 in the first year. But by the end of 1961, more than 80,000 orders had been placed. It remained the most popular typewriter for more than 25 years.

And there you have it—the history of the typewriter! Did you find this information just as fascinating as I did? Let me know in the comments below!

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Shia LaBeouf: He Will Not Divide Us

A picture of Hollywood celebrity Shia LaBeouf.

Photo credit: Tinseltown / Shutterstock

“He Will Not Divide Us” is Shia LaBeouf’s ongoing protest art project. Outside the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York is a gray-painted wall with the single bulbous eye of a webcam glaring darkly underneath the titular text stenciled in black. Beginning on Inauguration Day, he invited the public to join him in appearing on that camera and repeating the words, “he will not divide us.”

‘He’ is, of course, President Trump. LaBeouf and his artistic partners, Nastja Sade Ronkko and Luke Turner, hope to keep the project streaming live for the next four years, every hour of every day.

Amid the protests that have washed like tides across the country since the Inauguration, though, the project is off to a rocky start. LaBeouf was arrested and removed from the site in the wee hours of the morning on Thursday, January 26th, less than a week in. He faces minor charges of assault for grabbing a man’s scarf and verbally fighting with the police.

LaBeouf, who began his career as a child star on the Disney Channel, has grown into an eccentric and often provocative artist who encourages public participation in his exhibitions and performances. In 2015, for instance, he invited all comers to participate in a three-day non-stop marathon of every movie he acted in as a child and teenager. Shortly after that, he lived for several days in an English art gallery, asking the public to call him up and tell him their stories to “touch his soul.”

During the 2016 election campaign, LaBeouf posted frequent, explosive videos expressing his outrage at how things were proceeding. “He Will Not Divide Us” appears to be a culmination of those feelings. He has certainly not become less angry. This was not the performer’s first brush with the police, and it likely won’t be his last.

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