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The Miraculous

The Miraculous: New York

76. (The Brooklyn Museum)

At the sparsely attended opening of his first museum show in the United States, a German artist carries a 16-mm movie camera on his shoulder throughout the event. As people come up to congratulate him, he says almost nothing while pointing the camera at their faces. It’s unclear whether or not he is actually filming, but the camera effectively insulates him from his fans, however few they are.

The Miraculous: New York

77. (249 Lafayette Street, 57th Street)

At the age of 38 an Argentinian artist who has abandoned a law career to become a painter moves to New York City where he rents a studio in Little Italy and supports himself by working as a waiter at the Caffe Figaro on Bleecker Street. The same year he has his debut solo show in the city and moves his studio to 248 Lafayette Street. The following year he has his breakthrough idea of leaving the front of his paintings solid white and applying color only to the sides. When he shows one of his first “sides only” paintings at a 57th Street gallery, an art critic who visits the show climbs onto a chair to see if the top edge of work has also been painted. (It has.)

The Miraculous: New York

78. (416 East 55th Street)

A painter who was a USAAF bomber pilot during the Second World War recounts to two of his poet friends how on several occasions he flew a famous movie star around North Africa. His friends don’t believe him until one day in the early 1960s when the three of them get invited to a party for the launch of a book the actress has written. The two poets are delighted because they will finally be able to prove that their painter friend simply made up his connection to the glamorous star. As they walk into the private club where the party is taking place, they espy the actress seated at a circular banquet talking with several people. She looks up as they approach and the painter makes a small hand gesture, the slightest of waves. She immediately responds with a smile and calls out to him by name and with a big “How are you?” His friends are so shocked he thinks they are may pass out.

The Miraculous: New York

79. (Brooklyn Navy Yard, Columbia County)

An artist in his mid-30s living in New York and working in a 300-square-foot studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, finds himself consumed by frustration and anger. Although he is having exhibitions, after the shows close his paintings inevitably return to his studio, unsold. He’s not sure he wants to go on being an artist. A psychiatrist he consults helps him to understand that his anger revolves around his feelings about race, class and entitlement. Eventually the psychiatrist recommends that he begin working with a physical trainer, who has him start boxing and working out with a punching bag. Around the same time the artist, who is half-Choctaw and half-Cherokee, has been meeting with traditional Native American artists who tell him how the practices of dancing, drumming and beading have saved their lives. These experiences lead him to make a breakthrough in his work. Instead of focusing on painting, he begins to adorn Everlast vinyl punching bags like those he has been using at the boxing gym in extravagant styles inspired by Native American beadwork, pop culture, and everyday life. Along with beads, he adds tassels, sequins, brass and steel studs, yarn, chains, and sundry items. Some of the bags feature beaded texts quoting everyone from Simone de Beauvoir to Public Enemy.

The Miraculous: New York

80. (Brighton Beach; Plainfield, New Jersey; 11 West 53rd Street)

After her father is killed in an anti-Semitic pogrom, an 8-year-old girl emigrates with her mother from the Ukraine to New York City. It’s only long after, at the age of 45, that she begins to paint, using, among other materials and tools, enamel paint and glass pipettes from her husband’s costume jewelry business. Working with these unconventional means she develops a novel method of painting that involves dispersing fluid drips and pours of paint across the entire canvas. Her studio is a few square feet on the parquet floor of the Brighton Beach apartment she shares with her husband and son. Thanks in large part to the actions of her son, her work attracts the attention of several avant-garde refugees from Europe (two of whom pay visits to her in Brooklyn) and other people interested in “primitive” art.


The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2021

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