As 2021 comes to an end, I have been reading lists, Jerry Saltz's The Best New York Art Shows of 2021 in Vulture and Hyperallergic's The Best of 2021: Our Top 10 United States Art Shows to name a couple, and they gave me a little retro-FOMO. I wish I had seen more art, travelled more, as always. I made a list of my own memorable encounters with art (beyond those I have already written about here.) Not so much a best-of list, my list is an argument for taking art personally and how, in many forms, it comes to meet you where you are.
About a week before I saw Dawn DeDeaux: The Space Between Worlds, at The New Orleans Museum of Art, Liza, who is fourteen years old, told me she had gone to a haunted house with her friends. A memory surfaced...
Lately I have been noticing spray paint and thinking about spray paint. It might have it started on Instagram, scrolling through images of paintings and noticing marks made in sprayed paint alongside marks made with the more traditional brush. Spray paint on an otherwise traditionally painted canvas can be a statement of irreverence, a disruption, a small revolt...
I wasn’t in New York to see Holding Time; I was in New Orleans. I saw the show on a one-on-one video tour with Z Behl, the artist and filmmaker who organized the exhibition. The seventeen participating artists were children in close proximity to the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Holding Time was an invitation to these artists, several who were friends attending Stuyvesant High School, to articulate, commemorate, and share their personal experiences and lasting impressions of this global event.
I was standing in the viewing room of Jack Shainman Gallery in front of a large painting by Enrique Martinez Celaya. The painting showed a shirtless adolescent boy holding up a dead rabbit. The figure was looking directly at me. I wanted to look and I wanted to look away. A second large painting depicted another boy (or man?) with similarly intense eye contact. There is something straightforward about Martinez Celaya’s work, something ultra-sincere, but there is also something reluctant, held back.
The first art opening I attended last spring after the long lockdown was at Wading Room Gallery on Alvar Street, a new and temporary space created by Peter Hoffman and Ryn Wilson. Though I usually avoid openings, I wanted to support the new project, was curious to see what was there, and maybe just needed to get out of the house. This event and gallery, a garage and surrounding lawn, got me thinking about the spaces–current, past and future–to see art in New Orleans.
Carmine Cartolano, an Italian artist and writer, has been living in Cairo for twenty-one years. After a couple of email exchanges, Carmine and I met on a Zoom call in March. We talked about the pandemic and how it has affected our work, and life in our respective locations.
It was dark outside my window in New Orleans and nearly dark outside Katarina Janeckova Walshe’s studio in Corpus Christi, Texas. We were finally on a video call; she was sitting in her studio, an enclosed space underneath her stilted house and I was in my home office. I apologized, remembering I was chewing gum, took it out and stuck it on my tape dispenser. Katarina held up a slice of pizza and said it was okay because she was eating her dinner. Speaking to her, one feels immediately on familiar terms.
How close can you get to a painting in a museum that’s not open to visitors? Is it possible to see an exhibition in a city you can’t travel to? What is the best way to experience art from a lockdown? It has been over a year of closed venues, online viewing rooms, and limited travel.
“I am not entirely opposed to madness, not when it comes with this kind of clarity.”
― Akwaeke Emezi, Freshwater
When I heard New York Times art critic Holland Cotter speak at Tulane several years ago, he said something like, …