I will be leaving to go to Denver on September 8th, less than two weeks from now. Damn, it's been a whole summer already. I have been back from the East Coast since the end of February and I feel like a lifetime has passed by. I am very happy with the work that is going to be show at my project space solo with Black Book Gallery, and very curious to see how people connect with it. It finds much more simplicity, to me a new sense of clarity, and a certain meditative vibe to the whole endeavor... I will post more soon..
As I sit in my brother's apartment in the Prospect Park section of Flatbush in Brooklyn, NY I get to reflect on my trip and larger life in this city. Some places just tell stories and we are fortunate enough to add and blend stories with them. Yesterday I shot down the tracks of Q line tunnels, feeling the metal behemoth of a subway car bounce and shake and juke and jive and twist and undulate, eating track and time and space as it barreled into Union Square. Switching to the 4 train to shoot up to 86 and Lex so as to buy my pension of bagels to bring back to California (because lets be frank about it, in comparison Cali bagels suck, end of story) I embarked on my trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I hadn't been to the MET in over ten years and was ecstatic at the chance to walk into those huge, inspiring halls and view one of the most amazing collections of art assembled on this earth. Samurai Armor, Modern Painting, Tanguy, Giacometi, medieval weapons from the Middle East, African Masks, Tibetan Paintings and sculptures from long ago, absolutely amazing.
The show was awesome. Triangle Magic was received really well I thought. The reception was very successful I felt, and the conversations I experienced about the work were informative and really helpful. People dug the work and really felt that it was a good step, one that shows a lot of growth and change and forward movement. It was so good to see everyone who came through. Many generations of people in my life here came and hung out, and one of my NYC family spun great music all night long. The next day lunch with Littlefield owner Julie Kim and my Mom was absolutely awesome, and then a VIP comped trip to the New York City Ballet made for a truly mind blowing experience. Within two days I felt like I had experienced more life than I do in months on end sometimes. Life is good.
I lived in New York city for a long long time. I lived here as a child in the mid to late eighties and then from 1998-2006. There is something to be said for the ways in which this city communicates, the speed and agility with which the people negotiate every second with each other, the amount of activity and productivity that occurs, and the general attitude of "you tell me no, then you watch me make it happen". This place was a major hand in raising me. I learned how to the navigate the world from the 8 years of living here I embarked on at age 18. I went through hell and heaven here, and it was in fact a very, very different place when I resided here, but all the elements of how to navigate the hustle are still here and are not going anywhere. In short, New York will be here. To quote Kareem Bunton "New York ain't goin' no where Felix."
Now at 33, 7 years of living in the Bay Area, every time I come back to New York I can't help but feel that it is much more "home" than anywhere else in a lot of ways. I don't mean to come off sounding like one of those people who moves here and three years later says "I'm from New York." That drives me crazy. When asked where I am from it is hard to explain because I lived half my life here until the age of 26 so it is rather complex saga of growth and evolution. But it does still feel like home. When you spend your formative years in a place for a long time, it carries a sense of home with it. I learned how to think on my feet here, how to love, how to fight, how battle the world, how to negotiate, how find the good in bad situations, how to be hopefully, how to be realistic but remain optimistic out of necessity, how to accept, how to multi task, how to deal with life at a speed and an intensity that to many is unfathomable here. I was taught the ropes by some greats like Nature Boy Jim Kelly and Kareem Bunton. I had lovers, some rather older than me that taught me so much about love and life. And I was surrounded by a thriving art and creative culture that was specific to its place in time and what New York City was when I was here. I just don't see it in its full glory anymore when I come back, but I know it is there just below the surface and always (I hope) will be.
The one consistent thing about New York City is that it is always changing. That is what New York is, change. I left my jaded, grudge heavy, disdain for what the L.E.S., or Williamsburg, or the East Village "was and had become" behind a while ago. And so it is amazing to see my friends and family that live here, which are deep and expansive, getting married, moving into adulthood, all growing together, becoming important parts of the city itself. Who knows I may move back at some point.
Every time I come back here the salsa music blasting from the bodega, the Jamaican accents and voices overpowering all other sounds on the sidewalk, the rush of perfection in taste and texture from a slice of pizza, cars driving by booming the latest hit on Hot 97, the hipster fashion show that is Havemeyer on a Friday night, the sound of tattoo machines at Flyrite Tattoo, the old worldly sound of Hassidic conversations and singing walking down Willoughby Ave, the greetings from the staff at real deal Izakaya spot Yakitori Taisho, bring me back into a dialogue that I have been a part of since 1986. I love this city, I love many cities, but this city is forever woven into the fabric of my being. In addition it is a beautiful thing to see and know all these years later that I am woven in the fabric of its beings, that things I have been a part of and done here have had an effect on its history and its evolution. The generation of creatives that I am a part of from here has done a lot to shape and change the landscape of this place. Every time I come back as soon as I stop and smell the air, smell the burnt electricity of the subway and the smell of Gyro stands and the perfume of a fine ass woman passing by, I thank god for home.
This is a repost from my piece for today on the http://artnowsf.com site, but I really can't think of anything to add off top, so I will get back atachya tomorrow, but until then... "So here we are. One day until New Years Eve 2011. We are about to enter what the Mayan Calendar deems to be the end of the world as we know it. If anything 2011 has been a harbinger of drastic change, a platform from which “globalization” seems to be working for the iron fist of the wealthy elite as usual, but is starting to be a very powerful tool for the rest of us in the world to share ideas and develop tactics to fight “the man” so to speak. We definitely exist in a world that is going through some very dramatic changes, hurtling forward technologically faster than ever before, and increasingly environmentally unsustainable (for us) due to our reliance on consumerism. There is war everywhere, and the gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow on a scale never before seen in history and we are all at the mercy of totally failed and rapidly disintegrating economic system. (Pretty soon we’ll be trading labor for crafts and goods again and making trade with things that are actually worth something, hrrmmmmmm, sounds like what America was like before the settlers got here) All this being said, I for one am actually very excited about living in this time and seeing what 2012 will bring. It could be a violent hurricane of revolution and mass destruction, it could become an even more sterile society of ownership and apathy, or it could erupt into one of the most beautiful eras of human history where people farm for themselves and each other, where a mass consciousness overtakes us and we can all break bread together. Probably non of those things to that degree will happen, but 2012 will most definitely mark a series of sprouts to seeds that have been planted in 2011 in a broad range of societal changes.
We have seen some amazing steps in the past few years in terms of art, design, information technology, communication tools, food, music, creativity, and new creative ways of living as a whole. We are truly starting to see the ability of art and artists to free themselves and those around them mentally and spiritually in the face the stifling hand of consumerism and the culture it has created. To the same effect we are also seeing the commercialization of art like never before through a new generation of advertisers and marketers. We are seeing an influx of DIY culture resurging and growing larger than it has ever been to try to combat the ills and destructive nature and soullessness of mass production and an obviously failed economic system. And still again on the same token we are seeing whole communities being owned by companies like Monsanto and WalMart, and are living in a time when the power of branding and "the Brand" has become one of the most important aspects of our lives. Despots and violent dictators are being toppled but we are all concerned with who will replace them and who will actually control those replacements and for what reason. While we don’t seem to have any Martin Luther King Jr.s or Ghandis at the moment, we are seeing groups of people coming together as one in larger numbers on a global scale and acting as a unified voice so that one person does not have to. But damn it would be nice to have a leader that cannot be bought again, too bad Obama couldn’t seem to fit this part of the bill.
So I guess my point here in is this. We are all just humans. While we have evolved in so many ways, we really haven’t even begun to scratch the surface on what it takes to truly be highly evolved beings with an understanding of consciousness and can’t agree on the right ways to move forward, but within in this mess we find beauty. Without pain there is no pleasure, and peace and serenity are only truly understood when one has been far far from them. Without the world I live in I can’t make the art I make and send out a message of life as I know it. So tomorrow night, spend it with people you love and love you, do something good for someone else, and don’t forget to laugh and make love, because according to the Mayans this is your last year to do any of it in this life. Yep stay positive, it will pay off for you when the shit hits the fan! While this era of civilization is on its way out, we definitely are moving quickly into the next chapter. Be happy you are here to witness it.
In passing this photo below is of a new painting so far entitled "A Conversation With Coletrane About Spirituality...", it is in progress and is will face opposite the "Conversation With Charles Mingus..." piece in the Altar/ Installation at Queens Nails Projects on February 4th.
Text, Art, and Photos by John Felix Arnold III Middle Photo By Shaun Roberts