Monticello Road is a community arts project in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through photography and a series of public events and conversations, we explore how an art can be an essential, integral and everyday part of a healthy community.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Where's the Love?

First the "Love" note got taken down, now the whole dialogue has been removed.

Someone took down the "Love is in the air" response to the recent mockingbird bulletinboard battle. That's just sad.

Of course, I blame it on the City Itself, which renders people utterly incapable of handling Nature's slightest caprice, all the while becoming caricatures themselves.

I reiterate: someone needs to take a little vacation from the city...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Love is in the Air, Part 2

It started with a note on the bulletin board at my studio building. Something to the effect of, “Hey everyone! Call 311 about that annoying electronic bird song device that always goes off around midnight.

Hmm.. that’s odd… I’ve never heard it (though I’m not usually at the studio at midnight. I wonder if it’s a real bird?

A few days later, a reply:

I think it’s a northern mockingbird. They sing their mating call at night. Let us know if you discover otherwise.

Soon, another resident chimed in:

It’s definitely more than one kind of bird.

And back:

I don’t think so. Listen to mocking bird (aka nightingale) calls. They imitate everything and only sing about 3-5 reps of each song. It stopped singing at 11:06 tonight.

That’s very interesting. Thanks for your advice.

With a second sheet of paper now filled, the OP posted on a third sheet,

Last night it was quiet. If it was a real bird, perhaps he changed shifts. More plausible it was a device and someone changed the timing. All last week, two calls at a time continuous from 11:00 at night to 4:00 or so in the morning. Does not match typical bird behavior unless it was a very loud mockingbird (perhaps with an amp) and OCD. I think it man-made.

Too much fodder for ridicule to even bother with that one. Clearly, someone needs to a. get out of the city for a while, b. start preparing for black helicopters to descend, or c. pick up some ear plugs.

On yet another sheet, confirmation of the sound’s avian origins from a fourth writer:

I asked a birder friend—male mockingbirds run thru all the different bird call sounds to attract a mate. They only sing around midnight and when they find a mate, they don’t sing anymore. Maybe you should just hope the poor guy gets a date…

Then some wiseacre [not me this time] tagged the corner of this last sheet with some inspirational words that brought the dialog to a nice conclusion:

Love is in the air…in every sight and every sound.

Cue the music. "Hush little baby don't say a word..."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Affordable Art!?!? That's Crazytalk!

I’ve always liked the idea behind the Affordable Art Fair. Simply by putting those two words together and into the public mind through their marketing, the fair’s organizers are doing us all a great service. The notion that art is the conceit of the wealthy (the dreaded "elite") is a difficult barrier for many would-be collectors. Obviously we need to grow the pool of collectors and I applaud any gallery, consultant, artist, or collector who encourages more people to take that plunge. This is an institutional mechanism to do just that.

One question though: are the organizers implying that the other fairs are full of art that’s not affordable and therefore a little repulsive? It’s too often true, but that’s a problem for the various fair organizers to address if it bothers them, and it should.

People are starting to ask if the whole art fair thing has gotten a little ridiculous. They can be a great marketplace and some galleries now depend on them for the majority of their business. They allow regional galleries to be players in the global marketplace. These two factors create the perception that it’s necessary for galleries to go if they wish to be relevant (or viable). This introduces an irrationality into the equation and as a result show organizers can model their business around attracting exhibitors and fees, and thriving regardless of whether anything actually sells.

After a day at the Affordable Fair I was talking at a Williamsburg opening with a well-known curator. He told me that Scope Hamptons had only a handful of sales in the whole show. The market their is obviously weak because they’re trying to compete with the beach or trying to entice a numerically miniscule number of uber-wealthy collectors. Despite these dim prospects and the ridiculous costs of doing business there, they continue to attract exhibitors, if not visitors.

So he’s not exactly bullish on the whole art fair system, even though that is an important avenue for him (he doesn’t have a dedicated white box). He asked me about the Affordable Fair and I had to tell him that business looked pretty brisk. The work was engaging and some of it was quite good and the exhibitor I spoke with were generally quite satisfied. I would say that galleries need to chose their fairs wisely—they’re not all on-ramps to the global art speedway, but they can be useful.

Caveat Exhibitor.

Big thanks to Laura and Rob from Migration for hooking me up with tickets. They are very selective about which fairs to attend and it looks like they did pretty well with this one.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Biennial Checklist

The Biennial was not a total waste. There were a few good pieces (like this one), but most of it was very predictable.
Julia Meltzer and David Thorne, Still from not a matter of if but when.....
[then the title gets so long it's silly] 2006. Video projection, color, sound; 32 min.

Better late than never, here is the much-anticipated Whitney Biennial checklist:
  • Building Supplies/Low-Brow Materials
    Home Depot should have sponsored the show
  • Clip Art
  • Design as Art
  • Pantone
  • Chairman Mao
  • Suburban Angst
  • Size without Monumentality
  • Obsessive Multiples
  • Faux-naif/Infantile drawing style
    Nothing's sadder than an MFA who (a) managed to avoid learning how to draw
    or (b) can draw but feels the need to pretend not to.
  • It’s not about the figure, it’s about the body/Bodily fluids/Cast body parts
  • Ominous Buzzing sound. [Will installationist ever get tired of that? I
    did about 25 years ago]
  • It’s not about the execution, it’s about the fabrication
  • It’s about Language but it doesn’t say anything

I must say that I did not notice any deer antlers, robots, or creepy manequins and that left me rather disappointed. A few artists did stand out with work good enough to restore my faith:

Julia Meltzer and David Thorne made me question my assumptions.

Harry(ette) Dodge goes on a witty and touching journey.

Daniel Joseph Martinez delivers in every facet from idea to execution.

Mary Heilman's paintings are delicious and understated.

Charles Long. Didn't want to like it but I loved it. His work combines really
well with Heilman's.

Rahel Harrison does a great job of commenting on the mess that used to be the American Dream. It's the show's single mostt dominant thread.

JedediahCaeser's sculptures(?)/paintings(?) are just great.

Adam Putnam's Magic Lantern was so good I didn't want to leave.

Mika Rotttenberg might have the best piece in the show. Very immersive,very thought-provoking. I give her and Julia Meltzer co-prizes for best in show.

Worst in show: Certainly the hanging. Perhaps taking a cue from the crew at the New Museum, it's very, very difficult to tell who created which work. On a positive side, and positive being the key word, the show is hung in such a way that the over-and-over dreary subject matter does not make for a depressing experience. I felt fresh all the way through the visit, though annoyed to see so much derivative conceptualism (a deadly combination). still, it was worth the visit and there were a few yummy veggies hidden amidst the iceberg lettuce.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Looking Good at 50

What an honor to get training tips from the legendary Bill Rodgers!
And he's so cool and humble!

Yesterday was the 50th Anniversary of a historic date: the founding of New York Road Runners, my employer for the last nine years. The good they have done and the countless lives they have changed are well-documented. For me personally they’ve been dream employers and have done more for me than I could ever recount.

Interesting, meaningful (and at times, exciting) work on a flexible, part-time basis; real interest in my family and my many diverse areas of passion; a real family environment; active encouragement to live a happy, balanced life. People ask me if I actually get paid for what I do and I have to pinch myself to remember it’s true. Like any family, we sometimes have to be patient with each other at NYRR—and Lord knows I’m not always a model employee. The atmosphere at Road Runners can sometimes feel manic and it’s irrepressibly maniacal in pursuit of its mission. But that’s why I love it there and I could imagine being anywhere else. That’s not some naive cliche—I’ve been other places and I know of what I speak.

When I moved to New York, I prepared myself to suspend my running campaign—concrete jungle, asthma-inducing air quality and all the other obstacles just seemed too much. I literally stumbled into NYRR (thanks to S-Doug) and they flat-out wouldn’t let me quit my running. They’ve helped me create this wonderfully balanced life that combines art, work, family, and healthy living (listed in arbitrary order). It’s a life full of wonderful and unusual yet consummately New York things. For example, my Wednesday began with a swim at the Met Pool, included stops at Tavern on the Green, some fast-paced work at my office across the street from the Guggenheim, canap├ęs at NASDAQ, a track meet in the shadow of a prison, and it finished with a run in Central Park. Not a typical day but par for the course at NYRR.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happy Birthday NYRR and THANK YOU!!!