Sunday, July 28, 2013

Rain Room at Inside and Out

It's 8 pm on the last day/night of Random International's Rain Room (2012) at the Museum of Modern Art - and it's raining outside.  I imagine people are now standing in the rain, waiting to enter the Rain Room, which is the experience of standing in the rain without getting wet.  Someone has to point out the irony in all that - it's too delicious to let slip by without a comment.

Announcements were sent out to inform the public that the show would close at 12 midnight to accommodate those die-hearts unperturbed by standing in line for as little as 1 1/2 hour (members) and as much as 8 hours or more.  Once inside the Rain Room, you can stay as long as you like - but only 10 people may stand inside the room at one time.  (One wonders which MoMA wunderkind thought that this was a good idea for a city of millions and its thousands of summertime guests - not.)  As of last weekend, over 70,000 visitors braved the challenging New York heat for fear of missing out on this much-talked about attraction.

If you are like me, however, and can't spare 1 hour - let alone 8 hours - for just about anything these days, take heart.  We still have videos.  Here is one with the artists as your guides:

And at the Barbican Gallery last year:

Or you may share my "rain room" on the porch, gently perfumed with Nature's own refreshing blend.  


Beth New York
aka Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
New York Arts Exchange

Our next tour will be Edward Hopper at the Whitney Museum, July 31 at 1 pm.
Please confirm your reservation at
Thank you.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Rosalind Solomon: Portraits in the Time of AIDS, 1988, Bruce Silverstein Gallery, through August 2

Rosalind Solomon, New York, 1987
Courtesy of Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York

 "Because life leads inevitably to death, these pictures are about all of us." 
 --- Rosalind Solomon,"Artist's Statement," Portraits in the Time of AIDS, 1988

From May 17 through July 2, 1988, the exhibition Rosalind Solomon: Portraits in the Time of AIDS filled the rooms of New York University's Grey Art Gallery with its large 32 1/2 by 32 1/2 inch square, black and white photographs, attached to a beige fabric wall with ordinary push pins.  The installation seemed uncharacteristically stark and vulnerable for this tony Greenwich Village venue. Each photograph focused on a few anonymous people (the afflicted, their families, their friends and their lovers).  The entire experience of the images (unprotected by the glass of conventional framing) performed a visceral confrontation as well as an intimate encounter for the viewer.  

Solomon's portraits also became a visual collaborative essay produced by the sitters and artist as they decided on the settings, poses and circumstances. Sometimes at home, sometimes in a hospital, sometimes in the arms of loved ones, Solomon strove to capture the individual as simply that: a person, whose body turned into battlefield inside and out. The emotions run the gamut, from the appearance of isolation to affectionate embracing, from wistful mediation to active defiance. In each, we are forced to consider a vibrant personality tested by pain, trauma and confronting the inevitability of death. 

In 1988, the Grey Art Gallery exhibition intended to break through the vicious stigma, instigated by the media and ignorant hearsay, that had turned people with HIV into social pariah because the public feared contamination. In 2013, hopefully, we are wiser and more compassionate. Today, these portraits memorialize the victims and historicize the moment.

The Grey's director at that time, Thomas Sokolowski, had discovered Solomon's work in the fall of 1987 and asked her to complete the series for a spring opening. The experience for both artist and curator was unusual, but necessary. AIDS (Acquired Immune-Deficiency Syndrome) was on the rise, destroying scores of populations everywhere. The medical community, the arts community and the gay community - among others - felt an enormous urgency to stop this predator and cure those already afflicted with the condition. Rosalind Solomon: Portraits in the Time of AIDS (a title inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez's 1985 novel Love in the Time of Cholera, translated into English in 1988) attempted to enjoin this zeal through fostering a personal connection through portraiture.  

Solomon wrote in her statement for the current reprisal of the 1988 AIDS show, now at Bruce Silverstein Gallery: 

In my practice, I am interested in breaking down stereotypes.  Though I am always aware of the social and political context in which I am working, my pictures raise issues.  They do not give answers.  Wherever I am, I connect on a gut level.  I never gloss over the raw realities of life.  I do not tell people what to believe, but cause them to confront their assumptions.  I take them to the places where I have found connection with strangers and their lives.  My convictions and confusions intermingle as I meet individuals living with emotional and physical stress.  I think that viewers reminded of their own problems, find this disturbing.  They face their own mortality.

Photographing people with AIDS and those in their lives was a wrenching experience.  For a year of my life I met individuals facing the affliction.  My life was all about AIDS.  It was total immersion.  When the show opened, for the most part, it was ignored or got negative reviews.  I was accused of exploitation. Most of the people in the photographs exhibited came to the opening of the exhibit and liked it.  They knew that they were being memorialized.   After that year, I worked on other projects and tried to put the pain that I felt behind me.

Rosalind Solomon remains one of America's most important artists whose primary media is photography. This particular series in her oeuvre features individual portraits (as opposed to genre pieces) and, therefore, is unique among her other endeavors.  

In general, Solomon's photographs bear witness to the extraordinary in our times: the strong, the mysterious, the tragic and the beautiful.  Elsewhere  I have written about her photographs of rituals.  

I look forward to hosting an evening with Rosalind Solomon on September 10, 2013 at  287 Spring Gallery and Performance Space, beginning at 7 pm.  An exhibition of selected works will open as well, continuing through September 17th.   Please save the date and join us.

(Other exhibitions on AIDS in the 1980s are on view at the Whitney Museum, through September 1, and the New York Historical Society, through September 15.)

Best regards,
Beth New York

aka Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
New York Arts Exchange

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Le Quatorze Juillet: Bastille Day 2013 - and an Anniversary Poem for Andre and Jeanne Salmon

Moise Kisling, Portrait of André Salmon, 1912 and Portrait of Jeanne Blazy-Escarpette Salmon, 1919

Poem Read at André Salmon’s Wedding

July 13 1909

Seeing the flags this morning I didn’t tell myself
Behold the rich garments of the poor
Or democratic modesty wants to veil its sorrow
Or honoring liberty now makes us imitate
Leaves o vegetable liberty o sole earthly liberty
Or the houses are ablaze because we’ll leave never to return
Or these restless hands will labor tomorrow for us all
Or even they’ve hanged those who couldn’t make the most of life
Or even they’ve renewed the world by recapturing the Bastille
I know it’s only renewed by those grounded in poetry
Paris is decked out because my friend André Salmon’s getting
        married there

We used to meet up in a damned dive
When we were young
Both of us smoking and shabbily dressed waiting for sunrise
Smitten smitten with the same words whose meanings will have
        to be changed
Deceived deceived poor kids and we still didn’t know how to laugh
The table and two glasses became a dying man who cast us
        Orpheus’ last glance
The glasses fell shattered
And we learned how to laugh
We parted then pilgrims of perdition
Across streets across countries across reason
I saw him again on the bank of the river where Ophelia was floating
Who still floats white amongst the water lilies
He went off amongst wan Hamlets
Playing the airs of madness on his flute
I saw him near a dying muzhik counting his blessings
While admiring the snow that looked like naked women
I saw him doing this or that in honor of the same words
That change children’s expressions and I’m saying these things
Recollection and Expectation because my friend André Salmon is
        getting married

Let’s rejoice not because our friendship has been the river that
        made us fertile
River lands whose abundance is the nourishment all hope for
Or because our glasses cast once more Orpheus’ dying glance
Or because we’ve grown so large that many people confuse our
        eyes with stars
Or because flags flap at the windows of citizens who’ve been
        content these hundred years to have life and trifles to defend

Or because grounded in poetry we have the right to words that
        form and unmake the
Or because we can weep without being absurd and because we
        know how to laugh
Or because we’re smoking and drinking as in the old days
Let’s rejoice because the director of fire and poets
Love filling like light
All the solid space between stars and planets
Love wishes that my friend André Salmon get married today

translation © Jack Hayes 2010

From Robert Frost's Banjo


Le 13 juillet 1909
En voyant des drapeaux ce matin je ne me suis pas dit
Voilà les riches vêtements des pauvres
Ni la pudeur démocratique veut me voiler sa douleur
Ni la liberté en honneur fait qu'on imite maintenant
Les feuilles ô liberté végétale ô seule liberté terrestre
Ni les maisons flambent parce qu'on partira pour ne plus revenir
Ni ces mains agitées travailleront demain pour nous tous
Ni même on a pendu ceux qui ne savaient pas profiter de la vie
Ni même on renouvelle le monde en reprenant la Bastille
Je sais que seuls le renouvellent ceux qui sont fondés en poésie
On a pavoisé Paris parce que mon ami André Salmon s'y marie
Nous nous sommes rencontrés dans un caveau maudit
Au temps de notre jeunesse
Fumant tous deux et mal vêtus attendant l'aube
Epris épris des mêmes paroles dont il faudra changer le sens
Trompés trompés pauvres petits et ne sachant pas encore rire
La table et les deux verres devinrent un mourant qui nous jeta le dernier regard d'Orphée
Les verres tombèrent se brisèrent Et nous apprîmes à rire
Nous partîmes alors pèlerins de la perdition
A travers les rues à travers les contrées à travers la raison
Je le revis au bord du fleuve sur lequel flottait Ophélie
Qui blanche flotte encore entre les nénuphars
Il s'en allait au milieu des Hamlets blafards
Sur la flûte jouant les airs de la folie
Je le revis près d'un moujik mourant compter les béatitudes
En admirant la neige semblable aux femmes nues
Je le revis faisant ceci ou cela en l'honneur des mêmes paroles
Qui changent la face des enfants et je dis toutes ces choses
Souvenir et Avenir parce que mon ami André Salmon se marie
Réjouissons-nous non pas parce que notre amitié a été le fleuve qui nous a fertilisés
Terrains riverains dont l'abondance est la nourriture que tous espèrent
Ni parce que nos verres nous jettent encore une fois le regard d'Orphée mourant
Ni parce que nous avons tant grandi que beaucoup pourraient confondre nos yeux et les étoiles
Ni parce que les drapeaux claquent aux fenêtres des citoyens qui sont contents depuis cent ans d'avoir la vie et de menues choses à défendre Ni parce que fondés en poésie nous avons des droits sur les paroles qui forment et défont l'Univers
Ni parce que nous pouvons pleurer sans ridicule et que nous savons rire
Ni parce que nous fumons et buvons comme autrefois
Réjouissons-nous parce que directeur du feu et des poètes
L'amour qui emplit ainsi que la lumière
Tout le solide espace entre les étoiles et les planètes
L'amour veut qu'aujourd'hui mon ami André Salmon se marie

Vive la Liberté,
Beth New York

aka Beth S. Gersh-Nesic
New York Arts Exchange