Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Holding My Nose As I Pull The Lever

     I prefer not to use Facebook for politics, so I'm posting this here on my old blog. I'm pretty much a moderate, leaning left and right on various issues. I heartily voted for Obama in 08 and like so many had high hopes after eight years of the Bush administration. Four years later with Obama vs Romney, I'm holding my nose as I vote.  So why write this? My reasons for not voting for Romney are of extreme importance to me and seem logical, too, yet I know several people voting for him and I'm perplexed. I don't know if they (or anyone for that matter!) will read this but perhaps I might convince them otherwise. I tried to write this mainly in terms of what is for many THE crucial issue, the economy, and some historical perspective (past and future).

     Before I get into why I cannot bring myself to vote for Romney, I'd like to point out a few of my disappointments with Obama in no particular order. 
     The Patriot Act appears to have been a useful tool in protecting us. I think that the Obama of 08 would've wanted some aspects of it revisited, like accessing peoples bank records and personal info without a judge's permission, or the "lone wolf" part of it, too. I don't think it should've been repealed, but the carte blanche aspect of looking into "suspicious" people is troubling. History shows that one aspect of a governmental seeking more power is accessing and accumulating personal information on its citizens which can be used or twisted as means to an end. We have a system in place to prevent abuses of this power, that is getting permission from a judge for wiretaps etc, that need to be brought back into the equation somehow.
     Guantanamo wasn't closed and people have been held for 10 years or so. I don't think they should just be released, but due process and right to trial is part of the foundation of this nation. Give them a trial, convict if guilty, but indefinite imprisonment without trial is wrong. (As an aside, how would we feel if Cuba had a military base in, say, Florida?)
     John Boehner's statement in Congress that the Republicans' goal was to see Obama not get re-elected was treasonous. In my opinion, that strategy says that regardless of the legislation, regardless of its helping the economy and Americans, regardless of its merits -- the Republicans would not vote for it. They put party before America. Therefore when the Obama administration is criticized for the economy, think about that statement. Every no vote, every obstruction by Eric Cantor and crew, every defeat of Obama and Dem's proposals HAS TO BE suspect. Were the Republicans against the legislation, or simply against everything Obama? Their actions and clear statements lead me to believe the latter. Shameful politicking at our expense. Now, that being said, I cringed nearly everytime Obama spoke about an issue and promised "initiatives" or "investing in the future" or similar words because that all meant more spending. As valuable as spending is in many cases, at some point everybody needs to take a hit if we want to reel in the deficit. (Another aside: the immense debt we have to China is like a piano hanging by a wire over us, but too complex to get into now).
     I wish Obama could be more succinct, more concrete, and sometimes just call something for what it is. I love that he's so intelligent and educated, but in politics and life there are times where you need to cut to the chase. Not everyone is college educated or adept at the subtleties and gray areas of forming an opinion and yes, there are times when a politician needs to take it down a notch to get their points across so people can understand and get it.

     If my GOP voting friends are worried about the economy, then they need to worry about his relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu . They first met in the late 1970s when they were both working at the Boston Consulting Group. Their alliance is pretty clear already. Also clear is Netanyahu's desire to attack Iran and destroy part or all of its nuclear facilities. Ahmadinejad has said horrible things about Israel, no question. But to dismiss him as crazy is foolish, too. Not all of his rhetoric is wacky, but that's all the press covers. Anyway-- historically, the biggest drain on any nation is war. We all know how the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have debilitated our economy, and I believe that if Romney is elected, within 2 years or so we will be dragged into a war with Israel vs Iran. Do some research into the Iran/Iraq war. The stories of Iran's tactics, kamikaze-like self-sacrifice, and viciousness are unreal. The comparison to WWII Japanese tactics is not far off, and I don't know if we're prepared for another conflict like that. As far as the economy, getting dragged into another large war in the mid-east would be devastating. To bring it to a more human level, would you want your son/daughter fighting Iran? what about the inevitable bombings at our airports, NY, etc? Do you really think Iran wouldn't do those things to us? If you're voting for Romney based on the economy, you must factor an Israel/Iran conflict and our inevitable involvement into the equation.
     On social issues, the Republicans fail, and Romney has flip-flopped. If your daughter is raped and impregnated by a rapist, I believe she should have the choice to abort it or not. The Republican platform wouldn't allow this. As a matter of fact, there is a movement to classify an embryo as a living person which would mean abortion could then considered a prosecutable murder.
     There has been an avalanche of ridiculous claims and statements about rape. Rape is rape. Whether or not it's God's will, it is still rape. The foolish claims about women's biology and rape are laughable if the ignorance wasn't so scary. I also ask my friends if they know that the bulk of Planned Parenthood's activities are cancer screenings and helping women who cannot afford therapists, lawyers or insurance? Yet Romney wants to basically do away with it. I worked weekly at Covenant House in NY for two years. I had many young women tell me stories of abuse, neglect and rape. I saw first hand the tough life of unwanted children. If these homeless, abused, messed up (and soemtimes addicted) 15 yr old girls are forced to have a baby, what about that baby? How good a life will it have? Will it be cared for and nurtured properly? I highly doubt it.
     As for being anti-Obamacare, I don't pretend to fully grasp it. I don't think most politicians do! 5 years ago I had open-heart surgery. This is a pre-existing condition now and at some point the likelihood of having more done is probable. My bills were north of 100k and my insurance covered most of it. If I had to get new insurance without Obamacare, I can be denied coverage by all the insurance companies. I'd be screwed.
     And with college grads having such a tough time finding work, "boomerang kids", and so many jobs not offering health insurance, is it so bad for parents to be able to keep their kids on their coverage til age 26? I think that's a good thing. Obamacare is not perfect but it's a step in the right direction. Perhaps if Obama's re-elected and the Republicans' non re-election agenda is moot, they can put their energy into a bi-partisan committee to work out its kinks. Alot of people I know cannot afford insurance and as a result when they get sick they go to the emergency room. Do the math of how much money will be saved if people can go to a doctor rather than an emergency room, if you are really concerned about the economy.

     As a businessman, I was intrigued by the idea of a businessman in office especially one with experience as a governor. But I can't ignore the downsizing and outsourcing of Bain Capital's practices or Romney's despicable 47% comment. He said that. It's on tape. He said it to a room of rich donors. Did any of you hear his off the cuff remarks about cleaning up a football field and comparing it to the Hurricane Sandy cleanup?? As many good things as he's done for people (service to community is a wonderful part of his Mormon faith) I think it's pretty undeniable that he's out of touch and pretty unsympathetic to the plight of most people not in his demographic. Some of you might interpret that as me being a drum-circle pounding 99% protestor, which I'm not...I truly feel I'm being objective in that assessment of Romney.

In conclusion:
• Both Romney and Obama are guilty of taking money from controversial groups, tweeking facts, outright untruths, and all sorts of political bullshit.
• As for the economy, I think it's six of one, half dozen of the other. Obama spends too much, Romney will pave the way for rich get richer legislation and possible war.
• Socially, Romney loses. And I think alot of his and the Republicans' social issue stances will negatively affect the economy in the long run.
• One of my brothers is gay. If he wants to get married or adopt or do the same things that I can do, I want him to be able to. The Obama administration has done more for gay rights than any other, and a Romney administration would stop that progress and very likely try to reverse gains already made.
• Shifting the focus from Iraq to Afghanistan helped get Osama Bin Laden and cripple Al Qaeda.
• In 2004 many people voted for Bush because they "didnt want to change horses in mid-stream," the stream being the war and the economy. Why aren't those same people applying that logic to this administration?
• When a president enters a 2nd term, they no longer have to campaign or worry as much about alienating corporations, donors, unions, etc. They have less shackles when it comes to decision making and legislation. That, coupled with the GOP's energy draining goal to have Obama lose could result in bi-partisan cooperation in several key areas.
• Objectively, no one could've dug us out of the hole we were in in 3-4 years. And I cannot deny two big facts: unemployment rates are down (9+% to appr 7.9%) and the stock market is appr 2000 points ahead of what it was when Obama took office. You can if/and/but that all you want as Romney has, but dem's are da facts put out by government agencies. You can't blame Obama when unemployment rates were over 9% using government stats, and then deny those stats when the # goes down.

There are countless facts and nuances that I could not possibly get into here. I'm sure that my friends voting for Romney could trot out counters to what I've written. I merely ask them to pause. Don't just think about what's going on right now, and in your immediate world. Think of the big picture, now and years from now. Think about how many of Romney's and the Republicans' actions will (or could) affect you or your children in the years to come. They will. Maybe not in a year or two, but they will. Women, do you want these Republican men (not all, but geez there alot that think that way) making rules about your body and what you can and cannot do based on religion and sometimes sheer ignorance? If this election is a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils, I'll go with Obama and hope for the best.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Ghirlandaio's "An Old Man and His Grandson"

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY: "The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini" til 3/18/12

One of my favorite portraits is in this exhibition, a Renaissance classic and standard in art history books, "An Old Man and His Grandson" by Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1480, on loan from the Louvre. The obvious thing that makes this piece stand out is the grandfather's nose, riddled with lumps from a sinus disease. Compositionally it's interesting to note that the nose is in the exact center of the painting. The second thing that stands out about it is the pose. It's one of the most naturalistic portraits of the time, informal like a snapshot rather than a posed portrait.

The thing I love about this painting is this: ever watch grandparents and grandchildren? No matter how old, fat, unattractive, immobile, unhappy, missing teeth or hair, uneducated, or smelling like mothballs the grandparent is, no matter how many negatives about that grandparent -- the kid doesn't care. It's pure love. And it goes both ways. Look at the grandson in this painting. He is not fazed one bit by his grandfather's appearance. He might stare, he might ask about those lumps with a child's naivete, but it does not impact his love one iota. As for grandpa, can't you sense his love and patience towards the kid? This is a timeless painting. I can walk to any park in the world and see this same image from 1480 acted out every day, and Ghirlandaio nailed it here.

Emotional impact aside, the painting itself is excellent, and the overpowering presence of the two figures overshadows the classic landscape outside the window. One can attempt an argument that it's a bit of a trompe l'oeil of a landscape painting and not a window, but most agree it's not. Don't miss the chance to see this and other classic Renaissance portraits if you are in the NY area.

Below is text from ibiblio.org:

Ghirlandaio, Domenico (1449-94). Florentine painter. He trained with Baldovinetti and possibly with Verrocchio. His style was solid, prosaic, and rather old-fashioned (especially when compared with that of his great contemporary Botticelli), but he was an excellent craftsman and good businessman and had one of the most prosperous workshops in Florence. This he ran in collaboration with his two younger brothers, Benedetto (1458-97) and Davide (1452-1525). His largest undertaking was the fresco cycle in the choir of Sta Maria Novella, Florence, illustrating Scenes from the Lives of the Virgin and St John the Baptist (1486-90). This was commissioned by Giovanni Tornabuoni, a partner in the Medici bank, and Ghirlandaio depicts the sacred story as if it had taken place in the home of a wealthy Florentine burgher. It is this talent for portraying the life and manners of his time (he often included portraits in his religious works) that has made Ghirlandaio popular with many visitors to Florence. But he also had considerable skill in the management of complex compositions and a certain grandeur of conception that sometimes hints at the High Renaissance.

Ghirlandaio worked on frescos in Pisa, San Gimignano, and Rome (in the Sistine Chapel) as well as in Florence, and his studio produced numerous altarpieces. He also painted portraits, the finest of which is Old Man and his Grandson (Louvre); this depicts the grandfather's diseased features with ruthless realism, but has a remarkable air of tenderness. Ghirlandaio's son and pupil Ridolfo (1483-1561) was a friend of Raphael and a portrait painter of some distinction. His most famous pupil, however, was Michelangelo.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Gallery Hoppin' - NYC 1/12/12

Frosch & Portmann, 53 Stanton St, NYC
Dacia Gallery, 53 Stanton St, NYC
Lambert Fine Arts, 57 Stanton St, NYC
Luxembourg & Dayan, 64 E. 77th St, NYC

Crazy day running around Brooklyn and Manhattan, but managed to slip into a few galleries. Here's a brief bit about 4 of the lot.

Renewed energy on this strip of galleries on Stanton (Chrystie and Bowery). Went to see the effervescent Johnny Leo, he of the Fountain Art Fair fame, and the group show he has at Lambert Fine Arts. The show is quite a mix - locals and foreign artists doing graf/street, pop surreal, and collage/assemblage.
Rachel Meuler's transformational, morphing critter people is a subject visited by artists many times, but her small watercolors on stretched white paper draw you in nonetheless. Curious to see where she goes with them.

Also there were mixed media pieces featuring a male face and text ( left) by Benito. In a similar vein, but more graffitti oriented were three small framed pieces by Terrenceo (below right). He'll be having more work in a show opening here on January 20th, with Shalom Neuman who does colossal sized assemblage robot like creatures. One was in the gallery, an imposing 12-15' tall.

Next door was another group show at
Dacia Gallery of appr 15 artists. Most of the work was representational in a wide array of styles from tight realism to big eyed Keene-inspired paintings of girls. Of note were some detailed graphite on paper drawings by Leah Yerpe. I was told that she does miniature or very large (like several feet long) drawings. There are works by Ms. Yerpe and others in this show on the gallery website that are worth checking out.

And next door, the Frosch & Portmann Gallery was setting up but let me take a quick look. In the corner was a blank canvas on the wall and artists materials. On the floor was a painting of a satellite photo of the gallery and surrounding neighborhood. Artist Brad Nelson was going to do live painting at the opening standing on the satellite image, which was the spot he was standing on and painting!

From the funky lower east side to the elite upper east side to see the NY Times reviewed "Grisaille" show at Luxembourg & Dayan. The group show featured work in shades of gray with work from Giacometti to Jeff Koons to John Currin. Below are photos and a detail of the Currin piece ("L'Intimite," hangs on 1815 wallpaper by Joseph Dufour et Cie). Across from his piece were two pieces by Leonor Fini from 1938, "L'Penture"and "L'Architecture." Below is a detail from the former, of the upper body of the figure.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Brooklyn Museum visit

Went to the Brooklyn Museum a few weeks ago to catch the "HIDE/SEEK" show, and also walked through a few other shows including Eva Hesse. To the left is the one photo I got of a painting by Romaine Brooks. Beautiful portraiture, but read recently in a Modigliani bio that she had a hard time getting commissions. Generally portraits are a hard sell unless commissioned, but her pieces here were so good that I've been inspired to learn more about her.
Below are photos and the description of the exhibition (up to Feb 12, 2012):

"The first major museum exhibition to focus on themes of gender and sexuality in modern American portraiture, HIDE/SEEK: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture brings together more than one hundred works in a wide range of media, including paintings, photographs, works on paper, film, and installation art. The exhibition charts the underdocumented role that sexual identity has played in the making of modern art, and highlights the contributions of gay and lesbian artists to American art. Beginning in the late nineteenth century with Thomas Eakins’ Realist paintings, HIDE/SEEK traces the often coded narrative of sexual desire in art produced throughout the early modern period and up to the present. The exhibition features pieces by canonical figures in American art—including George Bellows, Marsden Hartley, Alice Neel, and Berenice Abbott—along with works that openly assert gay and lesbian subjects in modern and contemporary art, by artists such as Jess Collins and Tee Corinne."

There was a small show of work done by Eva Hesse during a stay in NY. Apparently she was experimenting a bit with her work, and it is exciting to see this process when an artist is loose, letting it flow, and not necessarily thinking about the outcome. The work has an energy and excitement to it, maybe not so much in these photos, but definitely in person. Here are some pieces and a portion of the wall text.

Below the text are miscellaneous shots from the museum including a large painting by Kehinde Wiley from a room full of his work, including chapel-like ceiling pieces. In another part of the museum were these skateboards spread out on the floor and if you look closely, they're covered with Persian rug pieces. A cool commentary on youth cross-culture and amusing play on a magic carpet ride.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Alessandra Exposito at Mixed Greens Gallery

The front gallery of Mixed Greens is currently dominated by a large branch-like structure sprouting from a nightstand. The clay piece is adorned with flowers, however upon closer inspection there's an odd assortment of other items as well. Are they passing visitors, like the little mouse, or dead/dying remnants like the potato sprouting "eyes" or pea pods? For that matter, what's up with that mouse? A pet? unwanted vermin? or a natural wanderer into this porcelain garden? and what about that potato - amusing and strange.

This whole structure and its inhabitants look as if they gazed into the face of Medusa and turned to stone, frozen in time. Alessandra Exposito has mined this terrain before, most notably combining skulls of various animals with fictional narratives in a gorgeous show from a few years ago, also at Mixed Greens. According to the artist, the nightstand is reminiscent of one she had growing up in the 70s. Ever seen a piece of wooden furniture left outdoors for an extended period of time? Nature overtakes, and perhaps this tree sprouting from the nightstand is a metaphor for life moving on, memories getting colored over time, and how we wish that some childhood memories could indeed be frozen in time. Or how they're attached to us whether we want them there or not.

Another similar piece hangs on the wall, only with a much smaller branch and covered with a glass dome. Suspending it on the wall rather than setting it on the floor was a nice touch and gives it an otherworldly quality. On a more formal level, it keeps it from being overpowered by its larger counter-part. From a pop culture perspective, it would fit in with the other floating objects in the opening sequence of Rod Serling's "Twilight Zone."

In some ways these pieces are like a giant cigar box filled with items from someone's youth. While so much work today looks dashed off or made sans dirty hands on a computer, this is no rush job, it's clearly labor intensive, well-planned and engaging for us viewers. Ms. Exposito has a unique gift for combining humor and melancholy with excellent craftsmanship.