Leslie Sacks Contemporary

Contemporary & Post-War Art Gallery



Image: Gabriele de Santis: The Dance Step of a Watermelon While Meeting A Parrot For The First Time, installation view, Depart Foundation Project Space, Los Angeles. (Jeff McLane / Photo by Jeff McLane)

Q&A: Rome’s Depart Foundation opens L.A.-area space with Gabriele De Santis

By Deborah Vankin, latimes.com 

The Italian nonprofit arts organization Depart Foundation, which exhibits contemporary emerging and mid-career artists from around the world in Rome, is expanding its footprint, debuting a West Hollywood space Wednesday night with a show by Italian artist Gabriele De Santis.

Since launching in 2008 with the dual mission of adding to the Italian contemporary art scene as well as sparking an international art dialogue, Depart has premiered work by artists Sterling Ruby, Oscar Murillo, Nate Lowman, Frances Stark, Sam Falls, Amanda Ross-Ho and Lucien Smith, among others. It will open a new center in Rome in fall 2015 and is considering a Shanghai outpost.

Over the next few months at its 3,200-square-foot L.A. space, a former spa on the Sunset Strip, Depart will also put up exhibits by British painter Kour Pour, New York artist Grear Patterson and L.A.-based digital conceptual artist Petra Cortright. 

The inaugural Southern California show, “The Dance Step of a Watermelon While Meeting a Parrot for the First Time,” was curated by Britain-based Adam Carr. It features new paintings, sculptures, video, photography and installations by De Santis, who spoke to Culture Monster about its themes of skate culture, pop culture and digital culture.

Your show features hashtags in the work itself and all over the press materials. What are you trying to say about language, symbols and new ways of communicating?

Hashtags seem to be really of the moment — and I have always appreciated art that’s reflective of the moment. The instantaneous connotations of the hashtag — where everything is instantly portrayed by an image or comment and then loaded online — coupled with marble, which takes thousands of years to form, creates a strange tension and juxtaposition within the show. Symbols themselves are a link or key to something else. I consider this an aspect of any show. Any show is a symbol of an artist’s research at a given point. Research and symbols themselves are often ambiguous.

The work says something about movement, too — physical movement and shifts in art history. Some of your canvases even feature wheels on the back. Can you talk about this?

I really like the idea that artworks have the ability to move. Art history, itself, is in constant movement. I think the artworks, which are constantly defining art history, should be allowed to move too. There’s the curious notion sometimes in an exhibition that you must stand still — standing still looking at whatever may be on the wall or on a classic exhibition plinth. I find this really dull. It’s rare you would find so much stillness in an artist’s mind or studio.

How does Michael Jordan factor into the work?

Artist and athletes do the same thing! They both flow and perform for an audience. I find his achievements fascinating. He embodies a need for height and power. I link him to the Roman Empire within the show. They are both marks and symbols of achievement. They cross eras — a bit like the marble works with hashtags.

Dualities and illusions — things that appear to be what they’re not — is another theme in the show. How does the work reflect this?

I like things to need a second look. There is an element of fakeness in the show — fake marble, fake self portraits. They’re works which require more than just a quick glance, more than that immediate impulse we have to hashtag something. Things in the show are also exactly what they are. For example, the plaster columns placed on roller skates: They are exactly that!

Why is air and space — how the works are positioned on the wall — so important to you?

It is something every artist deals with when forming an exhibition. For me, they are measurable volumes but also symbols in themselves. Michael Jordan has been symbolized by both these things.

Does the city of Rome, where you’re from, play into the work at all?

Yes. Within the space you will see elements referring to Rome: the wallpaper with Roman monuments and the classic plinth. My studio is in Rome and I think the location of a studio always has an impact on what you create. Rome is a very special place, which in the past has achieved many things. I like this as a backdrop to work and to form ideas. I always find the phrases which have developed about Rome to be fascinating: “all roads lead to Rome,” “the grandeur that was Rome,” “when in Rome do as the Romans do,” “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” “Rome, the eternal city.” People often describe Rome as one large open-air museum. I think, living with this for so long, it becomes inherent in my work!

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Above: Tom Finkelpearl. Photo: © 2014 Patrick McMullan Company, Inc.

Tom Finkelpearl Promises to Make New York Livable for Artists

By Benjamin Sutton, artnet.com

Tom Finkelpearl, the new commissioner of New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), believes artists can save the city. And he’s making news. Last week his department launched CultureAID (Culture Active in Disasters), a program conceived in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. A collaboration with the city’s Office of Emergency Management and FEMA’s Sandy Recovery Office, the initiative aims to formalize the essential role artists and arts organizations played in relief efforts after Sandy in anticipation of future disasters. In the lead up, Finkelpearl sat down with artnet News to offer a wide-ranging look into how he was approaching his new job, including thoughts on CultureAID, creating a more expansive vision for arts funding in New York, the Department of Cultural Affairs’s contribution to the city’s proposed new Municipal ID Card, and more.

“I have a place in Rockaway, and I witnessed what happened after the storm first-hand on a day-to-day basis, with Occupy Sandy and Klaus Biesenbach bringing materials down there, and the Rockaways Surf Club, all of which was incredible, there was all this volunteer work going on,” Finkelpearl, the former director of the Queens Museum who began his job as culture commissioner under mayor Bill DeBlasio in April, told artnet News recently. “The Queens Museum did a very quick benefit on behalf of the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance and raised $65,000 in four weeks. But what was needed was not $65,000, it was $65 billion. So these billions and billions of dollars are what was necessary, and it pointed to me the difference between community action—and a lot of community action was done by artists and arts groups—and government action. Both are extremely important, and community action by the artists was very psychologically valuable, just this idea that some hipsters are showing up on your front porch saying, ‘We’re here to help.’”

CultureAID will make it easier for artists and arts organizations to help, both with disseminating disaster preparation information and in relief efforts. The initiative is emblematic of Finkelpearl’s approach, which he honed during his 12-year tenure as the executive director of the Queens Museum. He sees artists and cultural organizations as vital not only for the economic benefits they bring to the city—a popular argument for arts funding during the Michael Bloomberg era—but also because of the integral roles they play in their communities.

“The city has been extremely good at measuring the economic impact of the arts, and I believe it, I really believe it,” Finkelpearl says. “Tourism is important to the economy, and arts are important to tourism, and it’s measurable, and that case has been made quite well. The counterargument to that is: Nobody got into the arts because it’s good for the economy. You got into the arts because of a particular artistic experience, the intrinsic rather than the instrumental value of the arts. The instrumental is that it’s good for the economy, and the intrinsic is that something happens that’s not measurable when you’re at the ballet or looking at a painting. The problem with making the economic argument is, if you’re basing your entire argument on that and you say, “We should build a new museum because it’s good for the economy,” well, it might be more advantageous for the economy to build a stadium. And I’m not saying I agree with that, but there are other things you can argue for economically that might be just as good or better than the arts. So therefore we have to look at what’s inherent in the arts. But in between there is this idea of the social value of the arts, this idea that art is good for communities, which I really believe and I’ve seen in Queens. And that’s something we want to focus on and think about as well. Because when you’re making the argument for the economic value, you’re essentially making the argument for the big Manhattan institutions. And again, I believe it, and we should support them. But when you make the social argument, you’re making the argument for community-based institutions.”

Part of championing and promoting the work of neighborhood arts groups beyond Manhattan means approaching the role of his department in a more complex way. Two thirds of the $156 million in funding that the DCA distributes go to the 33 members of the city’s Cultural Institutions Group—which includes the Metropolitan, Queens, Brooklyn, and other major museums, as well as smaller groups like the Bronx County Historical Society and Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning—and the remainder is split among some 1,000 organizations. Visiting with as many of those groups as possible is a big part of Finkelpearl’s community-based approach. Or, as he put it, “We fund around 1,000 groups; if I went seven days a week and went every day to a different group, it would take three years just to visit the ones we’re already funding, and I think we’re not funding a lot of groups in New York City that we should be funding, so that’s one of the challenges here.”

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Image: Kiefer’s towers punctuate the parched landscape around his studio complex at Barjac in southern France, 2012. Courtesy of Charles Duprat/Royal Academy.

Inside Anselm Kiefer’s astonishing 200-acre art studio

Steampunk shipping containers, planes full of sunflowers and triptychs the size of squash courts – Michael Prodger visits the place that’s produced some of the most extraordinary artworks of the last century

Michael Prodger, theguardian.com

Anselm Kiefer is a bewildering artist to get to grips with. The word that comes up most often when his work is discussed is the heart-sinking and slippery “references”. His vast pictures, thick with paint and embedded with objects from sunflowers and diamonds to lumps of lead, nod to the Nazis and Norse myth, to Kabbalah and the Egyptian gods, to philosophy and poetry, and to alchemy and the spirit of materials. How is one to unpick such a complex personal cosmology? Kiefer himself refuses to help: “Art really is something very difficult,” he says. “It is difficult to make, and it is sometimes difficult for the viewer to understand … A part of it should always include having to scratch your head.”

Now 69, Kiefer is the subject of a retrospective at the Royal Academy, where he is an honorary academician and which, through its summer exhibitions, has done much to bring him to the attention of the British public. This show is part of an extended German moment in UK galleries:Gerhard Richter and Georg Baselitz have both had exhibitions recently, while Sigmar Polke comes to Tate Modern next month. It is therefore a good time to judge Kiefer’s standing. Such is the scale of many of the pieces in the exhbition, 40% of which are new, that the RA is leaving more time to hang them than it did for the Anish Kapoor show in 2009, wax-firing cannon and all.

Kiefer’s Germanness is different from Richter, Baselitz and Polke’s; they are of a slightly older generation and from the Protestant east of Germany rather than Kiefer’s Catholic west. Unlike his peers, Kiefer has no personal memories of the war but only of its aftermath. He is a child of the rubble and of the national silence about Hitler’s atrocities that settled on Germany after 1945. It was here that he formulated his idea that “creation and destruction are one and the same”. Whatever else is going on in his pictures and sculptures, history is always present.

The weight and seriousness of his art can perhaps be traced to the day of his birth, two months before VE Day. Kiefer’s mother was living in the Black Forest town of Donaueschingen, where the rivers Breg and Brigach converge to form the Danube. Thanks to its military garrison and rail hub it was a regular target for allied bombers. On the day he was born, 8 March 1945, the house next door, belonging to his parents’ landlords, received a direct hit. The only thing that survived was the couple’s Singer sewing machine, which was blown into the street where it landed upside down amid the debris and dust. This lump of metal set into crumbled greys and earths was a prototype Kiefer, fashioned by high explosives.

Kiefer is a great revisitor of themes. His art is best seen not as a progression but as a cycle, and as such a reflection of the way he sees the present and the past. “No atom is ever lost,” he points out, and so, for him, the atoms that surround him and make up his work are the tangible remains of former times and long dead people. An atom or two that are now part of Anselm Kiefer himself, he believes, were once a part of Shakespeare, Nietzsche and indeed Hitler.

Such mutability fascinates him. It is why he often includes a material such as straw in his pictures, or dribbles acid on them and leaves them out in the rain, or dunks his sculptures in an electrolysis bath, so that even when they have taken their place in a gallery the pieces continue to change. Kiefer gives the old artistic adage of “truth to materials” a new twist.

A favourite substance, lead, has an even weightier role: as he explains it, “lead comes from the depths of the earth, from which it is extracted and a shaman then places a chunk of it on a plinth between heaven and earth, between the spheres of the Nigredo and the spirituality of the Albedo … equally I could mention the sacred groves of the Druids, the Celts, the Germanic tribes …” No viewer confronted by Kiefer’s lead books, for example, could be expected to extrapolate even a fraction of this – perhaps the only word that makes some sort of sense is “shaman”. However, few viewers standing in front of the work itself could fail to sense that this is not the meretricious gobbledygook of the contemporary art world taken to a new level but that, for the artist, there is something meaningful going on, however knotted or nebulous that meaning might be.

The Kiefer worldview is best seen at La Ribaute, his 200 acre compound near Barjac in the Cévennes. At the centre of the estate is a handsome stone manor that was once the heart of a silk factory, and around it is a series of barns where the manufacturing processes took place. When Kiefer moved there in 1992 he needed 70 lorries to move the contents of his studio: he would need rather more now. The artist turned this quiet domain into a Brobdingnagian Gesamtkunstwerk, surely one of the most extraordinary artworks of the last century.

The grounds are dotted with teetering towers made from the stacked concrete casts of shipping containers that resemble a steampunk San Gimignano. There are Kew Gardens-size greenhouses that are used as immense vitrines, containing a 12-foot lead battleship washed up on a choppy sea of broken concrete or a full-scale lead aeroplane sprouting sunflowers. Elsewhere there is a cathedral-like barn with six house-size paintings in it and an underground temple of Karnak, where the columns were made by digging out the earth from around the foundations of the buildings above. There are tunnels and subterranean hospital wards, a lead-lined room full of water and a series of pavilions, each bigger than a squash court, with doors that open like an altarpiece triptych to reveal a single work inside. Metaphysics and megalomania are mixed on a daunting scale, and the effect is overwhelming.

Kiefer intends the RA exhibition to be a “concentration” of Barjac. La Ribaute is no longer his main workplace, he has another Ozymandian studio set-up – 36,000 square metres in a former Samaritaine department store warehouse at Croissy-Beaubourg outside Paris. La Ribaute is the site for what Kiefer calls “reverse architecture” – putting artefacts back into the landscape. He moved there for its wildness and to escape the art world, and now he is thinking of leaving it to the French state. Given his origins he likes the idea of a German artist making such a gesture; it is another way of addressing and redressing the past.

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Anselm Kiefer is at the Royal Academy from 27 September to 14 December.

Image: Among the rising gallery showings in downtown Los Angeles was an Olga Koumoundouros exhibition, including “Possession; Verion 3,” inside the Farmers and Merchants Bank on Main Street. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles’ art world is bigger and wider 

By Christopher Knight, latimes.com 

On a hot, arid, mid-August evening at the small but splendid Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Lincoln Heights, the tower’s sonorous bell rang. Red double-doors opened wide, and a few hundred people filed inside, filling the pews in the handsome English Gothic Revival interior.

They had not come for vespers. They had come to see art. Performance art.

Jeffrey Vallance volleyed questions about his illuminated Vallance Bible, a highly personal 2011 revision of the sacred Christian text, in queries tossed by Brother Tom Carey, vicar of the historic church. (Dating to 1887, it’s a community anchor where Cesar Chavez once organized support for the farmworkers’ movement and Chicano students assembled to prepare protests to the Vietnam War.) Then, with musician Robert Crouch, Julie Tolentino did a movement performance within a landscape of sound.

A pair of high-profile performances by two well-known artists is not in itself out of the ordinary. But the double bill was the debut event in a performance art series planned for the church. Taking place in a largely residential neighborhood northeast of downtown Los Angeles, they could be said to be emblematic of a relatively recent shift: Slowly but surely, the L.A. art world’s center of gravity has been tilting to the east.

The public face of L.A. art has long been peripatetic, but since the 1950s it’s typically been assumed to be centered on the city’s Westside. (Think Venice Beach to Fairfax Avenue, south of the hills.) Anyone can think of exceptions to the rule, but that’s what they are — exceptions.

No longer. Economic and demographic changes are having an effect.

L.A.’s art galleries are different. As a service industry, they have typically prospered in communities adjacent to the residential areas where collectors are presumed to live. A prominent dealer on the prowl for a new Westside gallery space once told me, with only a hint of mischief, that he began his search by making a list of high-end pet groomers and dry cleaning shops, and then looked for nearby vacancies. That’s why West Hollywood, Santa Monica and, more recently, Culver City prospered as gallery sites.

Now, though, Hollywood and downtown are solidifying as essential gallery destinations.

Galleries have been downtown since the 1980s, of course, when several dozen clustered in an area adjacent to the Museum of Contemporary Art’s newly opened Little Tokyo outpost. (Most disappeared in the early ’90s economic downturn.) More recently, funky storefronts in Chinatown were de rigueur. Today, for new or newly relocating galleries, both commercial and nonprofit, it’s industrial warehouses — with plenty of parking — south of the 10 Freeway and east of the L.A. River.

Speaking of MOCA, the once shaky institution is getting back on its feet, while across Grand Avenue, the blue-chip Broad Collection will be its new neighbor when it opens to the public, free of charge, sometime next year. Seven blocks away, downtown developer Tom Gilmore even envisions a 50,000-square-foot art exhibition space and rooftop sculpture garden for his revitalized Old Bank District, around 4th and Main Street.

Like downtown, Hollywood has also long had a smattering of worthwhile galleries, but it took a big leap two years ago. That’s when Regen Projects opened on a gritty stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard, just east of Highland Avenue, in large, impressive quarters designed by celebrated architect Michael Maltzan. Now close to a dozen galleries, large and small, cluster in the vicinity — including some that have moved east from Venice and West Hollywood. Midway from there to Culver City’s gallery row, Kayne Griffin Corcoran and David Kordansky have opened, shifting the locations of their prominent, established Westside galleries to the east.

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Above: Workers for Dun-Rite Specialized Carriers orchestrated the placement of “Points of View” in Madison Square Park on Friday. Photo credit: Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

The Art Is Indeed Long (66 Feet). And Very Heavy (About 12 Tons)

By James Barron, nytimes.com

Brooke Kamin Rapaport, the curator who shepherded an art world set piece in Madison Square Park on Friday, called what was being installed “the great levitating sculpture.”

The sculpture was “Points of View” and consisted of three extremely tall, extremely heavy pieces, but none of them rose from the ground and floated magically through the air. There were no David Blaine maneuvers, no seemingly impossible sleight of hand.

And that raised a question: How do big sculptures — in this case, irregularly shaped bronze towers just over 22 feet tall that weigh 8,000 to 10,000 pounds each — get there?

They cross the Atlantic on a container ship, go through customs at the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal in New Jersey and are driven across the George Washington Bridge and the Macombs Dam Bridge in the middle of the night. Tractor-trailers take them to a lot in the Bronx used as a staging area by the company that would install them.

From there, they go over the Madison Avenue Bridge into Manhattan and down Fifth Avenue. And finally, with help from a 10-person crew and a 40-ton crane with a 148-foot-long boom, the pieces take the places in the park that they will occupy until Feb. 8 as part of the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s public art program, known as Mad. Sq. Art.

That was the short answer.

The long answer, according to Michael Narcisco, the president of Dun-Rite Specialized Carriers, the hoisting and rigging company hired by the conservancy to handle the installation, involved moving more than the sculptures. It involved moving a line of people “longer than any conga line I know,” he said.

It was the line of customers waiting at the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. The customers were blocking the route for the sculptures, which were delivered early Wednesday morning.

He asked everyone in the line if they would simply move a few yards.

“Nobody gave up their place,” he said. “They all sidestepped.”

“Points of View,” and two other sculptures that were installed in Madison Square Park earlier in the week, were created by the artist Tony Cragg. He made casts of pieces he had done from 2008 to 2013 at a foundry in the German city of Wuppertal, where he lives. He visited Madison Square Park last spring to decide where to put them.

“They’re quite big sculptures, but everything in New York is big,” said Mr. Cragg, who arrived at the park at 8 a.m., six hours after his plane had landed and two hours after the Dun-Rite crew had begun setting up for the installation. “There’s a tendency to be monumental, but these are just big. It’s a question of scale.”

Several things happened as the crane lifted the second of the three towers. The restaurateur Danny Meyer walked by, cellphone clamped against his ear. Dog-walkers and nannies paused. Dogs strained on their leashes. Children dozed in their strollers. And Mr. Cragg said he was mostly pleased with the way the tower looked after its long trip from Europe.

“It needs some rain,” Mr. Cragg said. “It’s slightly buffed from the wrapping around it. It needs a patina. A few days in the New York air and some rain, and it will settle down.”

For the next couple of hours, he and Ms. Rapaport stood watching what she called “the choreography of the installation.” As with any important performance, there had been a dress rehearsal.

“We spent a whole Sunday in the yard figuring how to pick them up,” said Marek Kowalik, a project manager for Dun-Rite.

Mr. Narcisco said the idea was to become familiar with the work in a way that is different from just staring at it.

“So many times, with monumental sculptures, they lift awkwardly and the center of gravity is not known,” Mr. Narcisco said. “At the job site, there can be no conjecture. You have to know where your sling placements are. This is why homework has to be done. We’ve already done the installation, so to speak, in the yard.”

Or, as Mr. Kowalik put it, “It looks easy here, but we spent 12 hours on it on Sunday.”

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Friday Feature: Charles Christopher Hill & Tom Waldron

imageCharles Christopher Hill: paintings and works on paper

Tom Waldron: steel, wood and concrete

September 13-October 25, 2014

Reception for the Artists: Saturday, September 13 from 5 – 7 PM

Leslie Sacks Contemporary is pleased to announce a two-person exhibition of paintings and sculpture by Los Angeles based painter, Charles Christopher Hill and New Mexico based sculptor, Tom Waldron. The exhibition will feature Waldron’s voluminous welded steel sculptures alongside Hill’s sleek acrylic paintings and distressed works on paper mounted on canvas. 

Charles Christopher Hill’s recent acrylic paintings on canvas continue the visual vocabulary of his deceptively minimal, striped compositions, but are rescaled in new proportions with slender singular bands of red, black or blue against broad fields of white. Hill’s slick acrylic surfaces immediately evoke Los Angeles’ iconic Finish Fetish aesthetic while demonstrating a meticulous process. The build up of countless layers of a full spectrum of color yields something that is more object than painting. The exhibition will also include new works on paper mounted on canvas, which echo Hill’s distressed, stitched tapestries of newsprint and fabric from the 1970’s. The current works, however are something of an illusion, with their apparently tactile, weatherworn surfaces. In fact, they have a visually contradictory smooth finished surface. As always, Hill addresses concerns of surface and texture through experimentation with his process and materials. Charles Christopher Hill’s work is included in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Musée des Beaux Arts, Angers, France; and the Total Contemporary Art Museum, Seoul, Korea among other encyclopedic modern and contemporary institutional collections. 

This exhibition marks Tom Waldron’s first gallery presentation in Los Angeles, featuring sculptures ranging in size from 3 to 6 feet, fabricated with steel, wood and concrete. Waldron’s welded sheet steel sculptures are dense with their richly finished bronze patinas, but are conversely hollow within. These forms reference the most fundamental structures and vessels people build—boats, water tanks, buildings and pots. In addition to his anthropological and philosophical concerns, Waldron employs geometric ratios- strength to weight and surface area to volume. The resulting objects seem born-at-once, but in fact require months of model making and calculations. For Waldron, the forms are meditative, much like the process of welding itself, where one holds a position intently in balance, moving indiscernibly in response to a flame. As an independent sculptor (he does not work with a foundry), each studio Waldron has occupied has directly informed the progression of his work. The 80s and early 90s were a time of complete immersion for Waldron as he both lived and worked in his studio, a dilapidated warehouse in downtown Albuquerque. A studio move in the 90s led to working with new materials: adobe, concrete, wood and plaster, all of which he was concurrently using to build his home. In his current light-filled studio, the work is attuned to subtleties in surface quality, color and the interplay of form and light. Tom Waldron’s sculptures can be found in public collections across the United States, including Scripps Hospital in La Jolla, California and Cedars Sinai Hospital, Los Angeles.

Click here to visit the gallery’s website. 

Above: Ron Dominguez, an Upper East Side doorman, in front of a piece in his collection, ‘Do Ask, Do Tell.’ Craig Warga for The Wall Street Journal

A Sailor-Turned-Doorman Finds Refuge in His Home Art Collection

Ron Dominguez Was in the Navy and Is Now Doorman; His Real Love Is Art.

By Ralph Gardner Jr., online.wsj.com

If you want to know what the life of a typical New York City doorman looks like after he sheds his uniform and goes home to his family at night, don’t ask Ron Dominguez, a doorman at a building on Fifth Avenue in the 80’s.

"I don’t happen to know any other doorman that happens to be a psychotic art collector," Mr. Dominguez said as we sat in his art-laden Harlem apartment beside his newest acquisition: a 6-by-8-foot canvas of a black rhino that he commissioned from the artist Martin Wittfooth.

The work is called “Do Ask, Do Tell,” and it’s rippling with iconography, as I discovered when Mr. Dominguez launched into a lengthy discussion of its elements. These include, in no particular order, lovely tocororo birds, which are indigenous to Cuba. His family fled the island in 1971.

There’s also a mooring post with the letters “NMMI.” That refers to the New Mexico Military Institute, from which Mr. Dominguez graduated. And a number. “My military ID number,” from the days he served in the Navy aboard submarines and submarine tenders at a military base the U.S. shared with Italy off Sardinia.

Hence the sub bobbing just offshore in the painting.

And then there’s the rhino itself. “The rhino represents having an elephant in the room,” the elephant being the Clinton administration’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” policy that took effect while Mr. Dominguez was stationed overseas.

"It was a double-edged sword," the doorman remembers. "I wasn’t out yet. If you decided to come out, they sent you home."

But more than anything else, I suspect that the rhino represents Mr. Dominguez’s passion for art. It’s a statement piece, the statement apparently being that now that he owns the painting he is going cold turkey and spending his hard-earned salary and holiday season tips on something other than the Pop Surrealism he adores.

"I have to stop collecting art," he insisted, as much to himself, describing the rhino as the apartment’s "piece de resistance." "I think I’m done. In a good way. I promised Michael I was going to stop. I don’t want this place looking like a salon."

Michael Millare, a registered nurse, is Mr. Dominguez’s husband. “We have this agreement,” the doorman explained. “I buy art. Michael deals with furniture.”

Handsome, unobtrusive midcentury modern, to be precise. Mr. Dominguez’s taste is somewhat more outré. Indeed, the rhino is staid compared with some of the apartment’s other objects.

For example, the cartoonlike work by the artist Gary Baseman, and a fantasy light fixture that more than holds its own beside the “Do Ask, Do Tell” rhino. Titled “Phaedra,” it’s by Adam Wallacavage—the bulbs extended on octopus tentacles.

To be honest, I didn’t ask Mr. Dominguez what about the Lowbrow movement, as it is also called, appealed in particular to him. Similar to other passionate collectors, he overwhelmed me with the names and dates of every piece, as well as stories about how he acquired them, and his friendships with artists and dealers that grew from his pursuit.

I suspect the art was also a reflection of the doorman’s personality and the style he brings each morning at his prewar building.

"I work with a wonderful staff and I’m blessed with wonderful residents," said Mr. Dominguez, who asked not to reveal the building’s address, where he has worked since 1999, to protect his tenants’ privacy. "I’m a jack-of-all-trades. We do packages, deliver pharmacy. We deal with dry cleaning. We’re not a concierge building per se but we do concierge stuff."

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Above: The Hammer Museum in Westwood announced plans for its annual gala this fall. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Hammer Museum gala to honor Mark Bradford, Joni Mitchell

By David Ng, latimes.com

The Hammer Museum will fete Los Angeles visual artist Mark Bradford and singer Joni Mitchell at its annual gala scheduled for Oct. 11. The Gala in the Garden is a key fundraiser for the Westwood museum, which raised $2 million at last year’s event.

Hammer officials said that the couple Emily Blunt and John Krasinski will serve as co-chairs of the gala. The event is also being chaired by Danna and Ed Ruscha, and Tomas Maier. Proceeds from the gala will support museum exhibitions and public programming.

Filmmaker Cameron Crowe is scheduled to give a tribute to Mitchell at the gala, and author Sarah Lewis will speak about Bradford.

Last year’s gala celebrated artist Robert Gober and playwright Tony Kushner.

Bradford has worked extensively in collage, among other media, throughout his career. The L.A. native received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2009. He has exhibited his work worldwide and was the subject of a career survey show at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, in 2010.

The artist collarborated with L.A. Dance Project in 2012 in a site-specific production at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

In addition to her prolific career in music, Mitchell has created visual art and worked in ballet. She is releasing a new book this month titled “Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words.”

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Photo credit: Todd Heisler / The New York Times

Upstairs, a Walk on the Wild Side

Unruly Final Section of High Line to Open

By Anne Raver, nytimes.com

When the High Line at the Rail Yards, the final section of the elevated park, opens on Sept. 21, we will no longer have to stop at 30th Street and stare longingly through the construction gate at the Queen Anne’s Lace blooming in wild profusion along the old tracks.

We can walk out on a wide plaza made of the familiar concrete planks, tapered so that plants appear to be pushing up out of the crevices. It’s the same planking system that flows from Gansevoort Street, a mile south, where the High Line begins in the heart of the meatpacking district, in the dappled light of a birch grove.

The northernmost $75 million section has the same benches, too — modernist perches, of reclaimed Angelique, a tropical hardwood, and precast concrete, that appear to peel up from the floor. But now, they have morphed into picnic tables and even a seesaw for children, as one heads west, along a grove of Kentucky coffee trees toward the river.

Quaking aspens, their leaves rustling in the slightest breeze, rise out of beds full of sumacs, sassafras and the countless prairie plants and grasses that Piet Oudolf, the Dutch master plants man envisioned here. “It’s still lush, still natural, but we used different trees and other species,” Mr. Oudolf said on the phone from his home in Hummelo, the Netherlands.

The wild, untouched section is reached only after crossing the 11th Avenue bridge, where a wide central path rises gently over seven lanes of streaming southbound traffic, and lifts the heart with its dramatic views up and down Manhattan’s grid.

It is a relief to leave behind the old tamed High Line, truly a garden now, complete with a lawn. (Couldn’t lawn lovers just go over to Hudson River Park?)

After the bridge, the joy is gazing upon unruly plantings, left by the birds or the wind, growing out of the rusted track: chokecherry, laden with berries, milkweed pods bursting with seeds, evening primrose and blazing star, even a crab apple tree fruiting in the middle of a sea of Queen Anne’s lace.

Working with the designers — James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio & Renfro — Mr. Oudolf had created meadows and shady woodlands, a kind of call and response to the sunny openings and architectural canyons traversed by the entire High Line.

But now, as the tracks curve westward at 30th Street, there is more of a visceral sense of those freight cars that once rushed straight for the Hudson River, before taking a sharp right turn at the West Side Highway and shooting north to 34th Street. The wide open feel of the plaza at 30th Street quickly shifts to a westward journey. At first, sections of original rail track, with new wood ties filled with bonded aggregate, form a smooth walking path. After the bridge, you find yourself on a path with rusted rails and weathered ties, running along the untouched, self-seeded landscape all the way.

“We haven’t pruned a thing,” said Tom Smarr, the director of horticulture for the Friends of the High Line, as we gazed at a crab apple tree, heavy with fruit. “We’re going to do very little here.”

It’s the spirit of the old railroad that Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani wanted to tear down in 1999 when nobody loved it, except for a few graffiti artists and street people, and others drawn to industrial ruins. It was a romantic, forgotten place, but once it became a park, it had to support the weight of the five million people who now flock here annually.

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Friday Feature: Damien Hirst


Image: Damien Hirst, Ellipticine, 2007, spot-etching, 43 1/2 x 54 1/4 inches, edition of 75, signed and numbered in pencil.

Being best is a false goal, you have to measure success on your own terms.” - Damien Hirst

About the Artist

Damien Hirst (b. 1965) is one of the most renowned and avant-garde artists of our time. He is a multimedia artist who works in such ranging fields as painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, conceptualism, and installation. His works question life and death, and his presentations often provoke controversial responses.

Born in Bristol, England, Hirst became fixated on death and life’s symbiotic relationship at a young age. The teenage Hirst would visit Leeds Medicine School and spend hours in the anatomy department drawing cadavers. It has been noted that Hirst said that “death can scare you, or it can ignite a vigor for life.” Growing up in Leeds, he then moved to London where he worked in construction for some time before attending Goldsmiths College in 1989, where he obtained his BFA. Not long after, he won the prestigious Turner Prize in 1995.

In a classical sense, Hirst’s themes resonate with the centuries of artists before him—tackling themes of life and death, science and religion, beauty and ugliness—however, it is his contemporary take on the subjects that have garnered him international notoriety. Hirst couples classical and romantic sensibilities with modern aesthetics, like minimalism, to create a new visual vocabulary for these universal themes.

Spots, spins, butterflies, skulls, sharks, and cows, are Hirst’s iconic imagery. His spot paintings, consist of randomly colored spots in structured rows and columns. He says that these spots “pin down the joy of color.” He also works with butterflies to create dazzling, yet distressing, mosaics, sometimes using diamonds to complement their gemstone colored wings.

Other notable works are, “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living”, a 14 foot tiger shark, forever floating in formaldehyde, which debuted at Saatchi’s Young British Artist exhibition in 1992. Hirst and the YBAs would dominate the British art scene for most of the 90’s. “For the Love of God” is a memento moriof a human skull that he cast in platinum with 8,601 diamonds. Such works illicit varied responses from critics and viewers to this day.

Hirst has works in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Tate Modern, the Museum of Modern of Art, New York and The Broad Art Foundation, to name a few, and has exhibited on behalf of Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1993 and 2003.

Click here to view the gallery’s collection of works by Damien Hirst.