Office in the sky

Yesterday, early, before it got too hot, I walked down to Socrates Sculpture Park. It hadn't been too long since I last dropped by, but I did notice something I had overlooked before: a piece by Natalie Jeremijenko, TREExOFFICE, a "co-working" space that is a treehouse. The workspace "overlooks the East River and has magnificent views of the Manhattan skyline, wifi and locally-produced power." The poplar, your new boss?

Neighborhood garden

Flux Factory's latest show, Bionic Garden, asks visitors to reimagine urban spaces both public and private. The art space incorporates a rooftop garden, a seed-sharing station, and plants rigged with wireless sensors that trigger an LED when they need to be watered. I found the seed-heads by Daupo, above, fanciful and functional.

We may have a hard time getting much of anything to grow in our backyard, but I suppose we'll try planting the tulsi seeds we picked up and hope for a little more luck with it than we've had with our ill-fated flowers.

Flux Factory, 39-31 29th Street, Long Island City, New York, 11101; exhibit closes June 24; open weekends, noon to 6 p.m.


Took a long (LONG! Ten or twelve miles total) walk yesterday, winding my way from Astoria to Long Island City and then to Bushwick, all before looping back to Queens by passing through Greenpoint. A lot of rubber was burned.

I happened upon two artful octopi. The pasted-up drawing above was on a  hoarding in LIC; the vibrant painted fellow below was in Bushwick.

Now at Socrates

Walked down to Socrates Sculpture Park yesterday; it was still a little soggy from Friday's rain, but the current exhibit, "Civic Action: A Vision for Long Island City," is good for meditating on. (It continues through August 5, 2012; the Civic Action Tumblr offers more information on the works.) The mirrored pavers, below, are a cool visualization of what Sunswick Creek once was (Mary Miss, "Sunswick Creek: Reflecting Forward").

There's tons of great stuff going on at Socrates this summer: next weekend is the LIC Bike Parade, and outdoor cinema kicks off on July 4 -- the films that will be shown haven't been announced yet, but food will be served at an installation built by artist Rirkrit Tiravanija.

LIC Arts Open 2012

Dropped by one of the LIC Arts Opens's "Nabe Nites" -- at 2 Gotham Center, right on Queens Plaza South. Great installations in vacant retail space; also pretty cool because it's an area with such heavy foot traffic -- people on the street couldn't help but poke their heads in to see what was going on, decidedly more democratic than many other city art events.

Tomorrow is the Vernon Boulevard Nabe Nite Out, and Friday's focus is Jackson Avenue. The festival continues through May 20, and there's tons to see. Just a few highlights if you plan on hitting the neighborhood this weekend: a Bill Bollinger retrospective at the Sculpture Center (44-19 Purves Street, on through July 30); the 10x10 benefit auction (Saturday) and exhibition at Art Plus LIC (43-01 22nd Street); a block party on 22nd Street between 43rd and 44th Avenue (Saturday, between noon and 6); and, of course, open studios at PaintCan Studios (10-10 44th Avenue, third floor) and Reis Studios this weekend.

Dust to dust

The Museum of Arts & Design (at 2 Columbus Circle) has a cool exhibit on now. "Swept Away: Dust, Ashes, and Dirt in Contemporary Art and Design," up through August 12, focuses on works made out of unorthodox materials -- a murder of crows out of burned wood, say, or designs "printed" with smog on porcelain that was blocked with a stencil and left exposed to the ambient haze of LA for months.

Above left, a sand painting by Joe Mangrum, who I believe mentioned he was installing another such painting encircling the MAD building in Manhattan on June 8 and 9; above right, a smog piece by Kim Abeles.

Lost and found

I've posted about Le Corbusier's Modulor before, and I remain interested in the architect's writings and work, particularly given connections to Chandigarh. So it was really cool to read, on the architecture Web site Archdaily, about a "lost" building of his recently discovered in Iraq. Le Corbusier designed the Baghdad Gymnasium in 1957, and it was built in the city in 1982; it was "rediscovered" less than a decade ago by Caecilia Pieri and has set off a movement toward preservation of buildings, insofar as it is still possible, in today's Iraq. AFP offers more detail on this fascinating story.

Well-packed shelves

This 2011 piece by Manolo Valdés, Bookcase, is spectacular. This snapshot is a poor reflection of the towering sculpture, which appears at first glance to be a bookshelf stuffed with a compulsive collector's hoard; when you look closer, you see that it's slabs of gorgeous wood, full of beautiful textures and inevitably calling to mind the source of all those pages you've turned.


Shine on

Sometimes, works of art are cool as independent objects and as a basis for creating a new way of seeing. I was drawn to a few pieces at Armory that had bright, reflective surfaces, all the better for seeing the room in refraction.

At left is Dall'anno Uno by Michelangelo Pistoletto; the woman with the book on her head is screened onto stainless steel (for another view of the work, see here), but in this shot, there's the blue canvas, a few gallerists, you can make out a bit of my face, and you can also see a man's hands as he snaps a picture of the piece (as well as the reflection of his hands and his camera phone). Perhaps less interesting, at right, I took a close view of a shiny chrome cube, with the lights and the beams of the pier visible overhead.

In the blink of an eye

I finally got around to going to the Armory Show. (Go tomorrow or forever hold your peace -- well, until 2013.) I saw a lot of cool things, but I keep thinking about the Tony Oursler's video projections of blinking eyes on these big white orbs. Unnerving, to some degree, being disembodied, but weirdly intimate at the same time -- the crinkles at the corner of the eyes, the minute shifting of the glance. Lehmann Maupin has a bit more info about Oursler, as well as images of his other installations.

The Hare with Amber Eyes

I'm terribly behind the curve on this, but I'm loving Edmund de Waal's The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family's Century of Art and Loss. I'd probably progress more quickly through it if I wasn't turning to the Internet at the end of every chapter, seeking out images of the paintings he describes or looking at netsuke on de Waal's Web site and on Google Images to get a feel for the lovely little objects that are the center of the story. 

What's it about? Well, says the jacket cover:

The Ephrussis were a grand banking family, as rich and respected as the Rothschilds, who "burned like a comet" in nineteenth-century Paris and Vienna society. Yet by the end of World War II, almost the only thing remaining of their vast empire was a collection of 264 wood and ivory carvings, none of them larger than a matchbox.

The renowned ceramicist Edmund de Waal became the fifth generation to inherit this small and exquisite collection of netsuke. Entranced by their beauty and mystery, he determined to trace the story of his family through the story of the collection.

I'm still looking for a facsimile of the portrait of Louise Cahen d'Anvers by Paul Borget, but the Internet doesn't have all the answers. Still, there is something thrilling about being able to see Monet's La Japonaise (Camille Monet in Japanese Costume), below left, and James Tissot's La Japonaise au bain, below right, alongside de Waal's discussion of the Japonisme that took hold in the latter half of the 19th century.

In the prologue, de Waal describes spending time with his great-uncle Iggie, the keeper of the netsuke for a time: "I liked the way that repetition wore things smooth, and there was something of the river stone to [his] stories." Repetitive the text is not, but there is solace in the easy progression of the prose; I can't help but think of one of my favorite David Berkeley songs, and though it has little bearing on the text, it's nice to take a listen, glory in the way these vastly different places and times end up with similar themes.