May 2, 2015

Art with the Police

A project I just completed in my home town, Flint, Michigan, (though I still live in Brooklyn) has a very indirect relationship to the news for the past two weeks from Baltimore.

The night Mark Baldwin and I went on the first site visit for the Sarvis Park Art Parade, we met Aaron Turner, who was watching his kids at the basketball court in Sarvis Park. He put us in touch with his brother Jermaine and another friend, Cory Pulliam, all in their early 30s; they had all adopted the park and were keeping it clean. The next night there was a deadly shooting with a rifle a couple of blocks away on Clio Road. That Sunday I went to all of the neighborhood churches, including a humbling experience speaking to the congregation at the Blackwell AME Church, with its sublime gospel choir.

That week I started developing concepts with Oaklin Mixon, and Catie Newell and Anca Trandafirescu. Oaklin and I met the Sarvis Park group and walked the parade route, identifying houses and handing out postcards. We passed one tiny house filled with about a dozen young teens, with a grandmother sitting on the porch. I said, what's up with that house? One of the guys said, "That's called poverty."

We put together a plan, Oaklin designed the installations, and we went into production with the guys from Sarvis Park, who we agreed to pay to help us cutting and painting boards at the Neighborhood Engagement Hub and installing them on site.

After a nonstop two weeks of work that included another project at the nearby Welch Avenue business strip with Ben Gaydos, working in cooperation with Michigan State troopers and city of Flint Police Department through their Light Up the City community policing initiative, which tries to build relationships between the police and communities, the Sarvis Park Art Parade event brought everyone together to walk through the neighborhood as a gesture of celebration and reclaiming the streets, with the Flint police chief joining us and leading chants with the young kids.

Yesterday, before flying back home, I went to photograph the finished houses. Along the parade route, I saw elementary school kids waiting for school buses in front of buildings painted with beautiful conceptual art works instead of vacant buildings with broken windows.

I agree with Geoffrey Canada's Harlem Children's Zone "Whatever It Takes" strategy. Art is not enough, but it can be a part of series of programs to improve neighborhoods.

The Neighborhood Art Parade project is produced by Flint Public Art Project with support from the Ruth Mott Foundation.

Mar 11, 2015

Armory Show 2015: Instagram-Friendly Art

Ahmed Mater, Cowboy Code (Hadith), 2012

Made of plastic gun caps, Ahmed Mater compares the code of ethics of the American West and statements of Mohammed, known as the Hadith.

No time to hit all of the art fairs this year. It would have been great to see the artists performing the Black Lives Matter protest at the Armory Show on Saturday.

The fair included a timely curated group of artists and galleries from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Mediterranean (MENAM) that immediately softens the edge of a show that is by definition about nothing more than what can be sold for large sums, yet will ideally be resold at obscenely larger sums in future years. That's the nature or the beast, and I'm pretty sure that even bothering to acknowledge this makes you a dinosaur. Who knows if it reflects something else that's going on in the world.

Most striking this year is the preponderance of Instagram-friendly installations and people taking pictures of themselves in and with the art. I see why mirrored and reflective installations were such a phenomenon in the last couple of years. 

I enjoy this and find it perfectly fitting for the way are brains are being rewired by electronic media. Everything must flow through it. Everything is connected. Yet the frenetic pace of media fragments it all. 

Here's a selection of stand-outs that caught my attention with a view to attendees' interactions.

-Stephen Zacks

Mona Marzouk, Trayvon #3, 2014 at Gypsum Gallery, Cairo, Egypt.

Egyptian art about American police brutality. 

Bade Stageberg Cox-designed bundle-roses seating.

Panos Tsagaris at Kalfayan Galleries, Athens, Greece

Reflecting on representations of the Greek debt crisis in gold.

Susan Hefuna, Untitled, 2014 at Pi Artworks (Istanbul & London)

Mekhitar Garabedian, 'fig.a, a comme alphabet (carpet, 2012) at Albert Baronian Gallery

David Brian Smith, My Soul Hath Them In Remembrance And Is Humbled In Me 

Painting on herringbone linen

Olivo Barbieri 

Always striking. Archival pigment print.


Janice Kerbel, Lust Deceit Love Death Revenge, 2014

I can relate.

Dan Graham

Me and Dan Graham.

Olaf Breuning, young old and beautiful, 2015

Kiki Smith at Galeria Lorcan O'Neill, Rome

Jeppe Hein, You Are Special, 2014

So true.

Superflex, I Copy Therefore I am.

Thought it was a new Barbara Kruger.

Martha Wilson

Erika Verzuti, Pie, 2014 

Concrete, beeswax, polyurethane, acrylic

Ceramics and eccentrics.

Alex Katz

Getting at good angle. 

Brandon Ballengee, Frameworks of Absence at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts. 

Brandon Ballengee comments on the disappearance of species.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Ekrem Yalçındağ, and Ebru Uygun at Dirimart, Istanbul, Turkey.

Richard Slee

Ceramic and metal saws.

Berta Fischer, toylim, 2014.


Xu Zhen, Metal Language at MadeIn Company

Chains on stainless steel. Third-place for most Instagrammed.

Bettina Pousttchi, Double Monument for Tatlin and Flavin VII, 2013 

Powder-coated crowd barriers and neon.

Tae Yoon Kim, SteadyGriffins, at One and J. Gallery, Seoul, Korea

Stephen Felton, Circus, 2015

Anna K.E., Untitled, 2015

Rafael Rozendaal, Info Time 14 11 06, 2015

Lenticular painting.

Glenn Kaino, A Shout Within a Storm at Honor Fraser Gallery

Second-most Instagrammed.

Mark Flood, Hot Link, 2013

Acrylic on canvas.

Michael Muller for Galerie Thomas Schulte and Aanant & Zoo

Trenton Doyle Hancock, Island and He

Julio Le Parc, Sphere Jaune

Most Instagrammed.

Really bad. 

Alan Vega

Represented by the kinetic- and electronic- art focused Howard Wise Gallery in the 70s before he launched the pioneering electronic punk band Suicide.

Miguel Angel Rios, Untitled from the series The Ghosts of Modernity, 2012

Nick Cave, Soundsuit, 2011


Jose Davila, Untitled (Alternative Diagonals of March 2, 1964 (to Don Judd)), 2014


Kehinde Wiley

Always great.

Chiharu Shiota, State of Being (Children's Dress), 2014

Ivan Navarro, Con Raizon o Sin Ella, 2012.

Jim Campbell

Allen Ruppersberg