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Come join me and James at ABC No Rio's benefit on May 3rd at Allegra LaViola on the Lower East Side. There will be wine, beer, food, a great silent art auction, and guest DJs including Anna Kustera, Doug McClemont, and Kembra Pfahler.

Tickets start at $50.

James and I are on the benefit committee for this amazing collectively-run center for art and activism founded in 1980 -- initially as a squat where they took over an abandoned building to put on an art show called Real Estate.


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The old tenement building is going away to be replaced by a new building by architect Paul Castrucci based on sustainable design principles. Even if you can't make it to the benefit, any donation would be most appreciated!

From the New York Times obituary of Alberto Granado, who accompanied Che Guevara on his motorcycle journey around South America.

Before Che left Cuba in 1965 to pursue revolutions abroad, he left several books with inscriptions for close friends. They included one about the sugar industry for Mr. Granado.

The inscription was prescient.

"My dreams shall know no bounds, at least until bullets decide otherwise," wrote Che, who was captured and killed in Bolivia in 1967. "I'll be expecting you, sedentary gypsy, when the smell of gunpowder subsides. A hug for all of you. Che."

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Our dear friend John Blee, who lived in DUMBO in the 1980s, is having a show this weekend in the gorgeous apartment (with incredible views) of Norma Jean Markus.

Event Details

Reception: March 12, 4 - 7 pm and March 13, 1 - 4 pm.

Location: 70 Washington Street #12G, DUMBO, Brooklyn

To visit by appointment: Contact Norma Jean Markus at 917.446.7234.

Many visitors to our apartment have admired the two paintings we have of John's. The larger one was actually one of the first works of art in the apartment. This is your chance to see a range of John's work from the 1980s to present all at once.

Related blog posts: jameswagner.com and Art Wrap.

Below is an essay by David Matlock on John's work.


John Blee in DUMBO

As the 100th anniversary of Kandinsky' s breakthrough approaches, it is fair to ask: what
has been achieved? Are abstract paintings today repeating what has already been said--
and with each repetition, fading in strength? Or do they have something new to say, both
from a technical standpoint and in terms of meaning?

At the beginning, abstraction exploded. Kandinsky himself tried to consolidate a more
controlled language and connoisseurs still argue about his degree of success. When the
Abstract Expressionists adopted the language on a larger scale, canvases exploded again
in shamanic frenzy. Success was hit or miss, all too dependent on possession.

John Blee' s first mature paintings, dating from the early 1970s, were also shamanic,
painted on the floor, and dependent on force and a possessed dancing. In a career of 40
years, the man has achieved total control over paint and, more importantly, now owns
his meditative inscape. He owns the land that earlier painters had to burst into by force.
His paintings are deliberate acts of self-intoxication. (It is worth noting, that although he
came of age in the 1960s, he has always disdained the use of recreational drugs.) The
Hindu and Buddhist art he experienced as a child and adolescent in India were formative;
as was the medieval sculpture in the caves of Ajanta and Ellora; and the work of Indian
modernists in the National Museum. Blee responds to Asian art as an insider--someone
who was shaped by the culture before he received his American inheritance.

The paintings on display are easy to enjoy but difficult to understand. From a technical
standpoint, the rendering of space is unique. There is nothing arbitrary or " atmospheric"
about the backgrounds--they are architectonic--that is, they create a definite space in
which " painterly event" unfolds. It is easy to take pleasure in the paint--casual admirers
often remark, " What a painterly painter! What a colorist!" without suspecting the hidden
narrative. I strongly suspect the hieratic " Sphinx" (2009) is one of Blee' s dogs, posing
nobly on the grass--the humorous title a reference to the difficulty of knowing what the
animal is really thinking. These paintings are truthful because they begin from within
and encompass the outside world in an ecstatic veil of paint. Earlier abstract painters
discovered a new continent; John Blee is traveling inland and is providing a faithful
record of what he finds.

John Blee studied with Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Moskowitz, and Robert Motherwell.
His paintings have been shown in Paris, Moscow, Boston, Washington DC, and New
York City (including the Andre Emmerich Gallery). His work is in the Museum of
Modern Art and the Los Angeles County Museum.
He currently living in Washington DC.

- David Matlock

Many thanks to curator Thomas Lax for bringing this to my attention. I met him at the awesome panel organized by artist Larissa Bates titled "Macho Man, Mother Man: Rethinking Masculinity" at Monya Rowe Gallery last month.

AB Soto is a gay LA-based hip-hop artist, and did the styling for the video. You can follow his musings on his blog and Twitter.

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James has the full details on his blog, but I wanted to make sure my readers knew about this too. We'll be there on Sunday.

PROTEST DETAILS

Sunday December 19, 2010, 1:00 PM

GATHER on the Metropolitan Museum steps Fifth Ave. & 82nd Street

Then MARCH to the Cooper-Hewitt/Smithsonian FIFTH Ave. & 91st Street

Wear your free expression best and be part of the message.

Art+ is a New York City-based art action group - fighting censorship and homophobia

http://artpositive.org/

From an interview in the December 2010 Progressive.

Q: You call your work not science fiction, but speculative fiction. What's the distinction you're drawing?

Margaret Atwood: The distinction has to do with lineages. It has to do with ancestries, and what family books belong to because books do belong in families. The ancestor of science fiction is H. G. Wells with books like The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds. Those books involved things that are very unlikely to happen or are actually impossible, but they are ways of exploring possibilities and human nature and the way people react to certain things. And if you go to another planet, you get to build the whole society and you can draw blueprints and have fun with talking vegetation and other such things.

The lineage of speculative fiction traces back to Jules Verne, who wrote about things that he could see coming to pass that were possible on the Earth--this wasn't about outer space or space invasions--but things that we could actually do.

There were a lot of utopias in the nineteenth century, wonderful societies that we might possibly construct. Those went pretty much out of fashion after World War I. And almost immediately one of the utopias that people were trying to construct, namely the Soviet Union, threw out a writer called Zamyatin who wrote a seminal book called We, which contains the seeds of Orwell and Huxley. Writers started doing dystopias after we saw the effects of trying to build utopias that required, unfortunately, the elimination of a lot of people before you could get to the perfect point, which never arrived.

Over breakfast I mentioned these two news items today, and James suggested the connection.


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Jack Levine, Welcome Home, 1946, via his obituary in the New York Times

It shows an armchair general being honored at an expensive restaurant, a wad of food in one cheek. On his right sits a bored socialite. Two decrepit businessmen in tuxedos make up the rest of the party. The central figure, Mr. Levine said, was "the big slob who is vice president of the Second National Bank and the president of the Chamber of Commerce, only now he's been in the Army."

When "Welcome Home" was included in an exhibition of American culture in Moscow in 1959, the chairman of the House Committee on Un-American Activities mounted a campaign to have it removed. President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, "It looks more like a lampoon than art, as far as I am concerned," but refused to intervene.

The uproar made Mr. Levine a star. He later told an interviewer, "You get denounced by the president of the United States, you've hit the top."


Fired Afghanistan Commander Named to JetBlue Board

Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was fired by President Barack Obama after making insulting comments about top administration officials, was named Tuesday to the JetBlue Airways Corp. board of directors.

Bohemias. Alternative subcultures. They were a crucial aspect of industrial civilization in the previous two centuries. They were where industrial civilization went to dream. A sort of unconscious R&D, exploring alternate societal strategies. Each one would have a dress code, characteristic forms of artistic expression, a substance or substances of choice, and a set of sexual values at odds with those of the culture at large. And they did, frequently, have locales with which they became associated. But they became extinct.

...

We started picking them before they could ripen. A certain crucial growing period was lost, as marketing evolved and the mechanisms of recommodification became quicker, more rapacious. Authentic subcultures required backwaters, and time, and there are no more backwaters.

-- from All Tomorrow's Parties, 1999

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James and I went to the Irish Hunger Memorial today to see an excerpt of The Voyage of Garbhglas by Christopher Williams courtesy of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

The video above is a short segment of the 30-minute performance. I've also added one photo, and you can see more in my flickr set.

Never miss a chance to see this choreographer's work. His 3-hour work The Golden Legend at Dance Theater Workshop was funny, moving, and brilliant.

Details:

Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City, 290 Vesey Street at North End Avenue

Monday, August 2, 2010, 12:301PM
Tuesday, August 3, 2010, 12:301PM
Wednesday, August 4, 2010, 12:301PM
Thursday, August 5, 2010, 12:301PM

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Our friend Susan C. Dessel recently finished a residency at the ACSL (Art and Culture Studies Laboratory) in Yerevan, Armenia. While there she spotted this arch which made her think of our site ArtCat. Visit her blog for her adventures in Armenia.

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