Abridged 0 – 4: An(other) Irishman in New York

Curator Greg McCartney, selecting for a 2007 Context project, reports from an Arts Council of Northern Ireland Residency in New York.

Week 1. ‘Once again a knife wielding maniac has shown us the way…’

Well what a first week it’s been in this irritable if not actually angry city! In Derry would they stop a bus until a guy who’s insisting that it’s his constitutional right to drink a coffee on the bus actually drinks the coffee? Back home we’d just call him strange and let him drink the coffee. But here the employees are equally afraid that the guy has a gun or that the boss might appear and find a guy drinking illegal coffee so lose their job. This happened five minutes after I arrived.

As you’ve already guessed these blog entries from our man in New York will ramble much like he’s been wandering through the New York streets. There will be reports on good art, bad art, silly art and of course expensive art, which is a category in itself. Plus anything else that comes to mind! And Donald Trump.

Well I started my explorations in Chelsea (and not just because of the Hotel or the Football team…well maybe a little) as that is very a lot of galleries live. And I do mean ‘a lot of’! There seem to be millions, piled upon each other; from street level to sixth floor. After about the tenth show your eyes start to glaze over. They used to apparently subject prisoners in the Spanish Civil War to repeated exposure to abstract paintings as a form of torture. Let me tell you it works! I’d have told them anything! There is of course no doubt excellent essential commercial reasons for dodgy abstraction but bloody hell…However there is good stuff amongst the dross. It’s just a matter of walking a lot. And avoid the traffic. Traffic it may be argued is at the bottom of the very aggressive US foreign policy. Anyone who has to either drive or cross roads here (i.e. everyone) knows that road laws are just advisory and not to be adhered to especially if avoidance is advantageous to self. Consequently there is a constant battle of wills between cars and pedestrians, cars and cars, lorries and everyone. Thus New York is continually narked. Imagine if it’s the same in Washington. Someone has to suffer. Road rage therefore could be the driving force behind American foreign policy.

I feel that it’s my duty to point out that if you have bad skin, hair, are ‘chubby’ or acne then Chelsea galleries (with one or two hopefully honourable exceptions of whom more in future) probably won’t employ you. They are entirely populated by very ‘beautiful’ types. Though this might of course be completely coincidental. The spaces I have come across so far themselves are a mixed bag. The more expensive (and I used the term deliberately) galleries have essentially made for themselves white cubes with big windows in former factory buildings. The smaller galleries seem to make more imaginative use of the spaces they inhabit. I’m going to go into more detail about the shows I’ve seen in future entries but artists that should be googled include Christina Ray, Lynne Gelfman, James Surls, Jon Waters (yeah, that one) and Maurico Alejo. I’ll go into more detail anon.

Well that’ll do as an introduction. By the way I’ve stolen the Factory records habit of giving a number to everything. Talent borrows, genius steals and all that. More soon about exhibitions, artists and galleries. And Donald Trump.

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