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This week between editing and teaching, I managed to visit a few key exhibitions and concerts featuring compelling rarities. Two of them come thanks to recommendations from Holland Cotter, of the New York Times. Lately, I've been really appreciating his exhibition coverage…


Here are some highlights from my week in New York.


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Icons of the Desert: Early Aboriginal Paintings from Papunya, at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery

http://www.nyu.edu/greyart


The body of work collected here focuses on early 1970s paintings on panel and cloth made by artists as part of a collective started by a Westerner. Grey’s website mentions this about Papunya’s location: Papunya is an indigeneous settlement 240km north-west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, Australia. Papunya is on aboriginal land and a permit is required to visit. Papunya was established by the Australian government in the mid 1950a as an administrative center for the Aboriginal people who had moved in from the desert. Current population of Papunya is approximately 300.       


There are two floors of paintings and three fabulous ethnographic documentaries about the making of the work. These magical works are rarely shown in the United States, and in fact there haven’t been many opportunities to see this Aboriginal art since the 1988, when there was a previous New York showing.





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No Career lecture series at Columbia

After the Aboriginal Art, Matt Greene and I headed uptown to Columbia’s Art Department building for the latest lecture in the “No Career” series to see curators Kathy Garcia and Sarvia Jasso talk about lesbian porn and all manner of abject media. Hosted by Dena Yago and Juan Olivares, “No Career” is a series of admission-free weekly lectures taking place at Columbia University’s Watson Hall (612 W 115th St) on Wednesday nights. So far, they’ve hosted Richard Aldrich, Jordan Wolfson, AIDS 3D, Leigh Ledare, Terence Koh, Ryan Trecartin, Kathy and Sarvia. Next week, Michael Bilsborough will talk. “No Career” aims to “create a forum for conversation between early career artists and no career students.”




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Michael Williams: Uncle Big, at Canada

Thursday night we headed to Chinatown to catch Michael Williams’ opening at Canada.

http://www.canadanewyork.com/artist/michael_williams



Surf N Turf 2, 2009


Oil on canvas


60 x 40 in


Bacon and Eggs, 2009
Oil on canvas
50 x 74 in




In the Woods 2, 2009
Oil on canvas
64 x 96 in

Williams’ new body of work pulsates with color and texture. It has a great sense of humor too. In some ways it reminds me of visionary architect Friedrich Hundertwasser’s work:





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Mandala: The Perfect Circle, at the Rubin Museum

Friday evening, Matt and I visited the Rubin to check out the mandalas.

http://www.rmanyc.org/nav/exhibitions/view/444

This exhibition is so powerful---I’ve never seen so many mandalas in one place! My eyes got a work out staring at these powerful images. The show focuses on mandalas relevant to Tantric Buddhism, and texts strewn about the exhibition describe the different types of meditation practices that the mandalas and yantras are made for. They even have a few 3D mandala sculptures that help one to envision the “palaces” built into the mandala designs. The metal palace image below is an example of a sculptural mandala they have on display



Yes, that is a mandala on "flayed human skin." !! It is said that this sybolizes the mandala's tackling of possibly dangerous subject matter, and that one needs extra spiritual fortification to meditate on the severity of wrathful deities. Rather than being a horrific meditation, wrathful deities can rather be a reminder of worldly challenges to overcome, thus transforming potental negativity into postivity.



This is the 3D metal mandala.



This is a beginner's mandala. Rather than featuring a buddha in the middle of the lotus, it features an empty seat so that one can imagine the buddha, thus practicing the concentration that more advanced mandalas demand of the viewer.


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Vashti Bunyan at 92Ytribeca

After the mandalas cleared our minds, we caught a rare Vashti Bunyan set. Bunyan is one of my favorite singers, her voice is so sweet, sincere, and trembling with assurance. Her storytelling between songs, too, is such a treat. For those who don’t know her, Vashti is a folk singer and guitarist who made a wandering minstrel album back in the 60s, Just Another Diamond Day, chronicling her horse-drawn caravan from England to Scotland. This lost classic recording has had a rebirth of sorts, in parts thanks to Devendra Banhart and others who have encouraged her to sing to young audiences. While Bunyan now lives in the city, her second album, Lookaftering, also compiles endearing tunes about country and wilderness. Last night, she played a new song and mentioned going back into the studio soon to record a third LP. I am so excited to hear it! Her records are few and far between but worth the patient waiting.





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