FREE Memberships at 40 Cultural Institutions

I don’t really need another card to carry in my wallet, but the opportunity to get a free year-long membership in 40 of NYC’s cultural institutions (including the Met, MOMA, the Brooklyn Museum) enticed me to apply for my IDNYC card   The process was very easy;  I filled out a short form, available on-line, set up an appointment on-line, then 2 days later, I went to the enrollment center, got my picture taken, and my ID card arrived in the mail about a week later.  I’ve already used it to become a member at the New Museum  (more on their exhibits in a future post).  My goal is to join a new institution every week, so you’ll be reading about a lot of different places! The IDNYC card is available to residents of NYC 14 years of age and older. 

Outsider Art: Moving Inside?

Architectures, Jean-Pierre Nadau, Polysemie Gallery

Architectures, Jean-Pierre Nadau, Polysemie Gallery

The past ten days shone a spotlight on  “outsider art” with  the death of artist Thornton Dial on January 25th, the sale of William Edmondson’s 1936 sculpture Boxer at the Christie’s Outsider Art Sale for $785,000, and the Outsider Art Fair  over the weekend,  the last two prompting people to once again ask whether “outsider art” has gone mainstream. That was one of several questions tackled by the panelists at a lively and wide-ranging discussion at the Swiss Institute last week, as part of the Outsider Art Fair. (Panelists were:  Dan Fox, co-editor Frieze magazine;  Massimiliano Gioni, Artistic Director, the New Museum; Jens Hoffman, Deputy Director Exhibitions, the Jewish Museum, and Amanda Hunt, Assistant Curator, the Studio Museum in Harlem; Chris Wiley, artist, moderated).

The profile of “outsider art” was certainly raised in 2013, when it was  placed front and center in the Venice Biennale, and it continues to be more prominent in the US.  Even defining “outsider art” was tricky for the panelists, one of whom likened them to punk musicians, basically self-taught artists working outside conventional channels.  Another noted that institutions such as the Studio Museum in Harlem and MOMA were founded to show art that was considered outside the cannon either because of the artists’ race or the type of art they created.  I don’t know that anyone would disagree that these are now mainstream institutions. That raised the question of how important the artist’s biography is to understanding the work;  if an artist has struggled, does their work automatically demand that we give it a closer look?  Does it make that work (more) valuable? Or should it stand on its own? And how should art be displayed – does it need a cultural context as in an ethnographic museum?  While there was no resolution to these issues, there seemed to be a general consensus among the panelists that the boundaries of “inside’ need to be expanded and include marginalized artists.

UFO Sculpture by Ionel Talpazan

UFO Sculpture by Ionel Talpazan

With this discussion in my head, two days later I visited the Outsider Art Fair. (Thank goodness I changed my visit from Saturday to Friday!)  I’ve always enjoyed this show, as it’s not too big, and the dealers are friendly and willing to talk to you about an artist’s work.  While most of the participating galleries are based in New York, a number are from other cities in the US, as well as Haiti, Italy, France, Canada, the Netherlands, the UK and Japan.  Here are some of the standouts for me:

The show opened with a memorial exhibition of works by Ionel Talpazan,  a Romanian immigrant who sold his paintings and drawings of UFO’s and outer space on the sidewalks of Manhattan.  His works were later acquired by collectors and museums, as well as being profiled in ArtForum, Frieze and other publications.  I especially like his use of blues and gold, and the way his paintings make you wonder if outer space and the deep sea are mirror images of each other.

Sculpture by Daniel Swanigan Snow, Cathouse FUNeral Gallery

Sculpture by Daniel Swanigan Snow, Cathouse FUNeral Gallery

Daniel Swanigan Snow (Cathouse FUNeral gallery) made a career shift to art in his mid-50’s.  Employing found items such as clocks, stools, dolls and metal shards, he crafts 3-D collages, some of which are quite delicate, others quite solid.  While some also take on social issues such as civil rights or the environment, they all are suffused with a certain joy.

Charles Vincent Sabba (Y gallery) a New Jersey cop, uses police fingerprint forms as his canvas, covering them with portraits of artists, criminals who have stolen art, and references to stolen works of art. I also liked the way he refashioned bullets into bees.

Frank Jones (Dutton Gallery) began drawing in prison while serving a life sentence for murder (he maintained his innocence).  Using just red and blue pencils, he created drawings which, from a distance, look like early American stencil work; up closer, you see that he’s drawn intricate images of little ghosts and devils, waiting outside “devil houses” to collect souls.

Detail from Untitled by Anna Zemankova, Cavin-Morris Gallery

Detail from Untitled by Anna Zemankova, Cavin-Morris Gallery

Anna Zemankova’s (Cavin-Morris Gallery ), delicate, complex floral ink collages caught my eye, and close up, you see the fine embroidery she’s employed in her work. As a needleworker myself, I viscerally appreciate the effort and skill.  I’d like to see more.

Hidehito Matsubara  (Yod Gallery) used repetitive patterns of cut and layered paper in monochromatic shades to create three dimensional undulating canvases.

Cai Dongdong (Klein Sun Gallery ) showed what I can only describe as black and white “happy peasant” photos.  Some had  cutouts, revealing a mirrored surface underneath; others had objects attached to them, such as the photo of a group of archery students, with a very large arrow affixed to the right of the target.  I’m not sure if the intent was humor or irony, but I liked it.

The intricate, elaborate pen and inks by Jean-Pierre Nadau and Evelyne Postic at Polysémie Gallery were marvelous; fairly large with fine, dense, repetitive lines, they burst with intensity and insistence.

Finally, I’d like to give a shout-out to Fountain House Gallery, which represents artists with mental illness.   If you didn’t know the backstory, you’d still stop at their booth.  I especially liked the black and white cartoons by Anthony Ballard;  Robin Taylor’s paintings of Jenny, whose flaming orange spiky hair made me think of a punk Raggedy Anne; and the fibre art pieces by Alyson Vega.

There were lots more artists whose works I enjoyed.  I say, put this fair on your list for next year.


IMG_0515In New York, we’ve not only got people from just about every country, we’ve also got a number of foreign cultural institutes.  Throughout the year I’ll be featuring a different one, and we’re starting off with Ireland.  Now I know some of you are scratching your heads, since March, with the Saint Patrick’s Day parade would seem a more logical place, but last week I was at the Irish Consulate for their monthly First Friday breakfast reception where Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade spoke.  2016 is a centenary year for Ireland and a number of events are planned across the US to commemorate the 2016 Proclamation of the Republic.  You can find a list of events on the website of the Irish Consulate General in NY  

New York also boasts a number of Irish performing arts/cultural centers.  The Irish Arts Center NYC   hosts wonderful theatre and musical performances.  Right now, they’re co-presenting Enda Kenney’s “The Last Hotel” which is playing at St. Anne’s Warehouse in Brooklyn through the 17th.  At the end of February, they’re bringing back “The Man in the Woman’s Shoes” and in April, the singer Camille O’Sullivan will be performing there.  The IAC NYC also runs classes in Irish music, dance and language, and has lots of programs for kids!

The Irish Repertory Theatre   is currently using other space while it’s own is being renovated.  Through March 6th, you can catch Burial at Thebes, Seamus Heaney’s reworking of Antigone (I’ll be going to see it on the 23rd, and will post a review), and on January 29th, a reading by playwright Jennifer O’Grady of Charlottes Letters.

Just across the East River (and only one stop from Grand Central) in Long Island City, Queens is the New York Irish Center,  an intimate space that’s great for concerts,  films and theatre, and has low ticket prices.  This Friday, they’ll be showing a documentary on the late Luke Kelly of the Dubliners.  Every month, they host a Ceili:  an evening of traditional Irish set dancing.  The Center also hosts classes in Irish music and language.

The American Irish Historical Society  hosts lectures, seminars, readings and performances throughout the year. On January 25th, it will host a lecture on Edward O’Meagher Condon;  on January 27th, a concert with Israeli pianist Tomer Gewirtzman, and on February 25th, the launch of a CD of Yeats poems set to music. Its library and archives contain a wide variety of rare books and artifacts from the 17th century to the present.

At Glucksman Ireland House NYU  you can enjoy concerts, films, and talks, as well as readings by writers, poets and playwrights throughout the year, many of which are free, the others of which are really low cost.

In the fall, Origin Theatre produces 1st Irish, a festival of Irish plays, readings and films that’s simply wonderful.  Every year I attend several of the performances, and they’ve all been great.  Mark your calendars NOW!

If you’re down by Battery Park, stop and visit the Irish Hunger Memorial  at Vesey Street and North End Avenue. It blends very well into its surroundings, and you may take a moment to realize you’ve found it.  Designed by artist Brian Tolle, this calm and pastural site representing  a rural Irish landscape, contains a rebuilt 19th century Irish stone cottage, set in a field with walls made of stones from all across Ireland.

I’ve only covered the tip of the iceberg here, so to speak.  There are many other organizations who will be having events throughout the year, and I’ll post information on them when I get it.  In the meantime, I think you’ve got enough here to get started…


Calling Independent Filmmakers

The Chelsea Film Festival (CFF)   just announced that its early submissions are currently open for feature-length, short films and documentaries on the theme of global issues, with a focus on youth.  This edition of the CFF will also introduce foreign films.  The official submission deadline is Friday, June 24, 2016 with a late submission deadline of Friday, July 29, 2016. The Chelsea Film Festival was founded by actresses Ingrid & Sonia Jean-Baptiste to provide a platform to independent films and to discover new talents.  The CFF will hold its fourth edition in Chelsea, Manhattan from October 13-17, 2016. 

Official submission requirements can  be found on their website under Submissions.

New Year – New Events!

Coney Island Parachute 12:01 am on 1/1/16

Coney Island Parachute 12:01 am on 1/1/16

HAPPY NEW YEAR!  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season.   I started off the New Year with the festivities at Coney Island – a great way to greet 2016!

And the next day I went to see Deaf West’s production of Spring Awakening.  The story line, such as it is, it a bit weird, to put it mildly, but the performances were great!  How to stage a musical with deaf performers is not immediately obvious, but the hearing and deaf actors integrated seamlessly, and this production showed how well the possibilities of performance can be stretched beyond where we think they can without distorting the show.  Catch it before it closes on January 24th.

There’s a lot happening in the Big Apple in January, with several performing arts conferences and festivals.  I’ve listed them on the CURRENT EVENTS page. Previous events have been moved to Past Events page.

I’ll resume my regular blog reviews in another week or two, but wanted to alert you to all these wonderful events.