What a month to summarize. First, there was my trip to Cranbrook Academy, under the invitation of the artist/teacher Beverly Fishman, where I spent three full days looking at the work of her remarkable graduate students in their studios. It was after my talk at dinner that I met the art historian and critic Jaimey Hamilton Faris through Beverly and her bright, simpatico husband, the art historian Matthew Biro. Our conversation was lighthearted yet settled on the important topic of how best to bring communities of artists and writers together—a topic of particular interest to Jaimey who ran a pop-up salon, [OFF]hrs, which advocated for art as a lived and “applied” critical culture where she lives and teaches at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. The conversation indeed reminded me of Mary Ann Caws’s editorial “Translating Communities” in our November 2014 issue. Communities are so central to the task of translating art that the task is best accomplished around a table with drinks, friends, and food, much as it was in the case of how the Rail got started in October 2000, the Miami Rail in the summer of 2012, and the Third Rail in the winter of 2013.
Secondly, as soon as I returned to NYC for two full days on a jury committee for the Walentas/Sharpe Studio Program, my understanding that art is something that develops socially was intensified. I should thank Jane Walentas, Lisa Kim, Kate Gavriel, and Randy Wray for their remarkable support, and thank fellow artist/jurors including Michael Berryhill, Carl Fudge, Diana Al-Hadid, and Beverly McIver for their valiant efforts to select the 17 recipients of the 2015 – 16 residencies. It was only the next day that Patricia Cronin’s project Shrine For Girls was officially announced as a collateral event at the 56th Venice Biennale. We all were ecstatic about the news, partly because we would get our chance—as a collaboration with Patricia and the world-renowned curator Ludovico Pratesi under the banner of the Rail Curatorial Projects—to bring greater awareness to how, despite the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, women and girls around the world continue to be perpetual victims of brutal violence, indescribable repression, and enforced ignorance.
Thirdly, after a productive week sparked by the legendary poet, activist, and hip-hop and spoken word maestro Bob Holman, the guest editor of this month’s Critics Page (whose impassioned and enduring project of examining endangered languages was grafted into an invaluable and beautifully-made documentary Language Matters, produced and directed by David Grubin), Bob and I paid a visit to a new and exciting gallery and performance space Howl! Happening, located at 6 East 1st Street, to meet Ted Riederer, the artist, musician, and gallery director, and to see Elizabeth Murray’s powerful painting “Stay Awake” (1989) at the Elizabeth Murray Art Wall, which was such an integral part of the Bowery Poetry Club’s first incarnation. Howling “wow!” in front of Bob and Ted was my response to her painting! I should also mention our last panel Some Thoughts on Painting, in collaboration with Hunter College, and in response to the fevered conversation around The Forever Now exhibit of contemporary painting, curated by Laura Hoptman at the MoMA, was a pleasure to those who attended. I’d like to thank the moderator extraordinaire Carrie Moyer, and the esteemed panelists Alex Bacon, Greg Lindquist, Phyllis Tuchman, and Amei Wallach for their participation and support.
How wonderful life was this past month as it concluded with Saturday, March 28’s simultaneous opening receptions of James Siena’s New Sculpture and Tom Nozkowski’s new paintings at Pace Gallery on West 25th Street. How perfectly was the pairing of the two artists—two friends who have shared the so-called “reasonable sized” paintings for a long time, but have shown such childlike playfulness and excitement lately. In other words, as James is venturing to build the three-dimensional world of his landmark images of complex and seductive algorithms, previously known in his two-dimensional works, Tom extends his musical hands as a delightful composer who is in the most happy rapport with his conductor and musicians—all aspects of himself became one unity the first time.
I remember clearly Russell Webner, one of the Cranbrook grad students, was driving me to the airport, and asked whether it was feasible for him and his friends to move to NYC after graduation to be artists. I said in response, “you will all end up working full-time, or working three or four part-time jobs just to merely pay your rent and leave you with no time or money to work in a studio.” The truth is that artists, writers, poets, musicians, and other creative individuals have proven that they can, time and again, create their own culture wherever they migrate to in large numbers. Especially over the last two decades, artists have shown that they can stimulate economic revivals that benefit their neighbors in every sense. As we were talking about the potential of the Detroit Rail, we both realized how exciting it would be if all of us could gather all our strength and energy with the future support of local philanthropists and lovers of arts and culture. (The last proud moment of the city was when the Pistons won the championship in 2004 with Richard “Rip” Hamilton, Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups, and Tayshaun Prince, and not-so-proud moment was when the city declared bankruptcy on July 18, 2013.)
This issue is dedicated to Poetry Month, to our friends and neighbors in Detroit, and in memory of Elizabeth Murray, and Frances Galante.
Phong H. Bui is the Publisher and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Rail.