New Yorkers don’t HAVE to stay in New York, of course. One bright Sunday, we made our way up north (not so very far) to the Dia Beacon. Lots of Lawrence Weiner painted maxims language everywhere, and still the Beuys felt you come to feel wrapped in too. Still the unforgettable Louise Bourgeois femme-maison upstairs, and still, for me, the Robert Smithson holds its and his own: Nonsites, Maps, Mirrors, and my favorite: Gravel Mirror with Cracks and Dust of 1968. Wonderfully, his thinking always seems to lead somewhere else in your mind..
Back in the city, what to see next? To begin with just the art! To my recent astonishment, right at the subway station of 96th and Broadway, the Broadway Mall Community Center houses the West Side Arts Coalition, set up in 1979. Here it is, 2011, and I come across it yesterday: that's New York for you. There's now an exhibition called Moving Currents: Abstractions 2011, with Wind paintings by Leanne Martinson (Wind-Breakup, Wind-sturm, Wind-drang, very Sturm und Drang in brightness, contrasted with Robert N. Scott's Reassuring Mountain Breeze. These days, or any day, reassurance is nice.
If you are going to Chelsea, you do want to see everything you can at the same time, including the High Line, and the Chelsea Market. At the Loretta Howard Gallery is something super, which is an exhibition devoted to the Black Mountain College adventure in the mountains of North Carolina, and our remembering of it: Black Mountain College and Its Legacy. A few years ago, as a North Carolinian infused with some sort of nostalgia for my summers near Grandfather Mountain, in a village called Linville (now very heavily golf country, and tidy), I went with my sister to seek what Black Mountain College would have been. Nowhere did we find it or any trace -- we were clearly looking in the wrong spots. We went to Daniel Boone inns, probably just one, but it felt numerous, we went to Appalachian State, a college with a library where no one knew anything about Black Mountain, and it all became deliciously mysterious.
All that to say that this exhibition, like the several books devoted to the BMC (our Bryn Mawr College merges in my mind with anything so initialed), is fascinating. Some legacy! I especially took to, take to, the publication with it, full of pictures of the adventuresome folk and their ongoingness there and after. So you get to read about Anni and Josef Albers, who came up often in Hedda Sterne's conversation over the almost weekly suppers she made for me. (Her memorial is this afternoon, so she is greatly on my mind -- I loved the wall-length painting in her apartment, I loved everything she talked about, I loved her.)
And the rest of them are wonderfully there, with their quarrels and splitups mentioned but not dwelled on, with their joyousness at what can only be called creative gathering in full and well-conceived display. Cage and Cunningham, Motherwell and Frankenthaler, Bucky Fuller and Ray Johnson, the de Koonings and Rauschenberg, Kline, Tworkov, and Twombly: good heavens, what a crew. Motley, if you like, but marvelous. Films of dance, preciously rare poetry journals, all that from the greatest years of the BMC. To celebrate this, there will be a reading very soon now, with Maureen Howard and John Yau and Francine Du Plessix Gray and Vincent Katz, all of them. In a moment when the cornerstone of St. Patrick's seems to be so noticeably lost, when it is drizzling in New York, this Black Mountain College goingonthing seems very grand to me.
More Chelsea. As a fan of Vik Muniz (creator of all sorts of architecture in chocolate and sugar and other amusing concoctions – I remember a celebration of the dust on a Whitney floor some years ago), I hastened to Sikkema Jenkins & Company, to see Pictures of Magazines 2, with blowups of celebrated paintings, from Caillebotte to Corot, with all sorts of faces and references poking through the floorboards and landscapes. I loved it.
There was a funny play on Magritte at the Matthew Marks Gallery, La Carte d'Après Nature, with "domesticated nature" stuff, surrealistic in its wayout humour. Tacita Dean, the super real Dean, contributed. That would raise the level of anything.
And in the Astor Place neighbourhood, the Grey Gallery has an enormous and energizing show of FLUXUS and the Essential Questions of Life, as in Art (What’s it good for?), Change, Danger? Death? Freedom? God? Happiness? (etc., all in big letters on the floor in front of the captivating objects – all very George Maciunas, all very 1960’s. You have to love it to like it, I guess, but I do. I like the Flux-Kit of 1965, like Duchamp’s Valise.
Big Things Happening here and all over: Occupy Wall Street is very much going on, all over, and then, in another key and more uptown, Willem de Kooning has taken over MOMA. I greatly take to the way Peter Schjeldahl writes, and his New Yorker essay on it, Shifting Picture, marks the crucial turnings. Then – we are speaking of 1945 – “his genius bloomed,” then his “Shoot-the-works abstractions like Gotham News (1955) and Easter Monday (1955-56), then, with Two Figures in a Landscape (1967), he “was back in full throttle.” And it doesn’t end badly, as so many seem to think: “The show’s concluding room should settle doubts of his last phase’s cogency.” When he could no longer even sign his name, Schjeldahl maintains, the artist seems to “grope for the basic, mysterious resilience of late-Renaissance pictorial space and to find again that, yes, it’s there. …When last seen, de Kooning was still inventing; the old art of painting was born anew at the ends of his brushes, day by day.”