Right now, Kristan Kennedy – our lovely Visual Arts Program Coordinator – is off in New York City, visiting galleries, studios, and festivals to soak up the New Year in art. Read on for a photogenic insight into the mind of one of our curators:
I spend about a month in New York every year. It is a self imposed sabbatical and a working vacation. It is during this time that I settle into the sidewalk, finding comfort in the canyons created by tall buildings on either side. For the first week I stay way, way, way, way out in south Brooklyn, in a nameless neighborhood past the newly hip Ditmas and before Sheepshead Bay and Coney Island. This is where I grew up, and this is where I come to look at the beautiful noses and beautiful wares and beautiful handwritten signs of my beautiful people. 
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Junk, Cookies and Cabbages on Kings Highway, Brooklyn NY
Even though I have just about had my fill of Russian elegance and promise myself that I will rage on New Years in the City, I get an invitation to go to the country, and I take it. The city is going nowhere fast and, when I return, I suspect it will be waiting for me. I head up to Hudson, NY. My friends house is a work of art, with every surface covered in some fantastic pattern, and every possible assemblage of this-and-that; the best kind of installation. They have Portland baristas here now, and Marina Abramovic is rumored to be opening a performance space soon. Other than that, there is snow and there are antiques and there is lots of old upstate glamor. We run through the streets at midnight, it is a good time. 
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Keith Crowe (Co- Founder and Former Owner Operator of Portland’s Half and Half ), Illustrator Brent Johnson (formerly of Motel Gallery), and me in Hudson, NY. 


A trip to Hudson would not be complete without scouring their incredible thrift and antique stores. My favorite one, run by Bunnybrains, is pretty much better appointed than any gallery I have ever been too. His new shop is more organized than the last, but still has it’s moments. I buy and observe these things:
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L to R: Vanity Fair from 1985 with a great feature on Willem DeKooning, Collage by someone special, One of Bunny’s magical installations, A poem I had to have, Old paper on an old leather couch, Bunny’s sense of humor is worth the cost of these useless bags.
He also always has a cache of paintings by local artist “Earl.” Last year I bought one for 40 dollars, this year they go for triple that. I still dream of one that I passed up that had a man sitting on a toilet made out of puffy paint and macaroni. Now he is painting on bits of crappy rug. Looking at these is driving me crazy; I should have picked them up then and there.
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Paintings by Earl
After getting my fill of country living, I dive right into Chelsea. The frustrating thing about being here this time of year is that the whole art world shuts down. They are all somewhere looking at their beautiful people, too. Portland artist Justin Gorman is in town and I catch up with him after his morning out shooting pictures in the Bronx. We meet at Printed Matter, which is filled with things I want desperately… including anything by Josh Smith, a pair of glasses that say “Surprise, you’re pregnant” on the rims, and just about everything else. (This just in! Printed Matter will be carrying Peter Kreider’s catalog that PICA co-produced and authored with the Cooley Gallery!)
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Josh Smith collage, Justin Gorman takes a look at Derek Sullivan’s accordion fold book, Persistent Huts.
We walk to 19th to take in Besides, With, Against, and Yet: Abstraction and the Ready-Made Gesture at The Kitchen. Deb Singer’s send up of painting is filled with guilty pleasures. I have been waiting to see this show for so long I can hardly believe it is real. The gallery – a normally awkward space – looks stunning. Even though I am in love with many of the artists in this show, together they seem to wash one other out. Walking around and giving each one a loving look seems to help. Polly Apfelbaum, Jacob Kassay, and Richard Aldrich are all stand-outs. I worship Charline von Heyl, but her selection here leaves me flat.
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Polly Apfelbaum’s rolled up paintings.
Many of the galleries are closed and it is clear that I will have to come back after the openings on the 8th for a truly immersive experience. Still there is something interesting about walking around during install time. Many of the galleries are empty except for giant crates and dealers and preparators making and executing plans. We see the steps to the new-ish High Line Park and quickly take to the stairs. This stretch of elevated freight train track has been transformed into a simple and meandering pedestrian park. It is my first time up here, and I am impressed by the rooftop views and windswept grasses.
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We descend and take shelter from the bitter cold in PaceWildenstein. Zhang Huan’s show, Neither Coming Nor Going, is the first in a series of shows, both visual and performance, that I will take in over the next few weeks that completely charm me. While I tend to prefer “assaultive” work, it seems that on this trip I am mostly going to be assaulted by the sincere and the exquisitely crafted. When I was in Beijing a few years ago I was lucky enough to see several bodies of Zhang’s work up close. Here, I am met with a giant Buddha made up of ash and wood and steel. The centerpiece was surrounded by obscenely large drawings on rice paper embellished with feathers and swirling ink.
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I am normally turned off by any work of art with a bird, a deer, a house or just about any sculpture made with a rusty box spring mattress, here Zhang’s animals have me in reverent repose from my cynicism.
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At Sikkema Jenkins & Co. I get another blast of painting. This time, Building on a Cliff brings together the work of three artists, Matt Connors, Arturo Herrera, Merlin James. Matt Connors’ work continues to delight me, especially when his cartoonish simplicity pushes against the architecture of the gallery.
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Glasgow-based Merlin James flips the frame around, painting on stretched silk and leaving traces of gestures scattered about.
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Who is real who is not real? A moment in time at D’amelio Terras.
Joe Bradley curated a show for Zach Feuer aptly titled Jr. and Sons (not a female in the bunch…). I fell in love with this Jason Fox number, it reminds me of a daruma doll, one eye scratched in and the other waiting for wish fulfillment.
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After trudging around for the better part of the afternoon, we met up with Jessica Burton, PICA’s Development Associate who had just landed and made the long journey from JFK to Chinatown. We headed towards St. Marks for Japanese food. The street, which is still littered with vendors selling gloves and Guatemalan fanny packs, has also turned into a strip of loud and clanking Tokyo-style eateries. We head around the corner and up the stairs to the site of our annual “first night at UTR” dinner. We stick to soup and snacks although that “berkshire pork intestine and yam cake” is calling my name. No seriously. I want it.
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NYC wind chill has nothing on this bowl of soup.
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Justin Gorman and PICA’s Jessica Burton.
After we dine, we hop in a cab to the World Financial Center and move past the missing buildings to the Winter Garden. Here is the site of MK Guth’s new performance installation This Fable is Intended for You. We sneak into a rehearsal and watch as MK directs her cast through a series of simple, but precise movements. A single note on a horn is the cue for the players to cascade down the steps – they drop lengths of braided fabric behind them, they pass strands to one another and walk them through a maze of palm trees, winding about and criss-crossing like a giant game of cat’s cradle.
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On opening night of the Under the Radar Festival, I take in the work in progress showing of American Document, based on seven minutes of archival footage of Martha Graham’s dance of the same name. The piece tries to fill in the holes in American History from then (late 30′s) to now, using samples of key texts, Kerouac, feminist protest, radio serials, personal accounts of brutality in the war on “terror” etc. and so forth.
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Dancers and non-dancers take on Grahams iconic movement.
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The theater was 1,000 degrees HOT, so the lobby was a welcome respite, although it is already filling with presenters from all areas of the globe.
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Andrew Andrew and the beloved Kenny Mellman (TBA alum) get the party started.
Although the night is young there are a week of late nights/early mornings ahead of me. After a bite to eat I start my commute home to the edge of the universe. When I get there, a catawampus moon is there to greet me.
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When my camera can’t accurately capture its sharp definition, I draw a picture of it and then hit the hay.
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More soon, including, but not limited to, jerks, goats and chautauquas!