Whitehot Op-ed, July 2010: Chris Kaspar, 2drunk; Alissa Guzman, Seven Years and Counting
by Chris Kaspar
Early in May, Patti Smith spoke at the Cooper Union and advised young artists not to come here, when asked if it was possible to come to town and find a way to stardom, the way she did, Patti told the crowd: “New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling. But there are other cities. Detroit. Poughkeepsie. New York City has been taken away from you. So my advice is: Find a new city.” The romance of being poor and young in New York is not what it was. The old lifestyles of the “starving artist” in Manhattan and nearby Brooklyn, that included the cheap live/ work space and the ability to get by without a job are long over. The mythology of “artist-communities” have been reified by real estate agents and sold to the wealthy in search of culture over the last thirty years. With all that has gradually been taken away from artists and other art workers, you can still always find a free drink to take the edge off, and maybe help open a door or two.
The “starving artists” still exist in New York, although they are being pushed further and further out in Bushwick and into Ridgewood. As starving as a young artist may be, one need not go thirsty. Freewheelin’ Franklin of Gilbert Shelton’s The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers says, “dope will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no dope.” Although there are plenty of “dopes” around, that maxim could be used in New York by replacing “dope” with “booze”, except there is rarely an event I can think of which doesn’t have free drinks early either during and/or after the event. There is always the availability of a free beverage. It’s often white wine. Sometimes it’s poured from a bottle. A free can of beer is not hard to come by, unless you’re at an opening in a non-profit space where you’re forced to put out two bucks for one of those nice, big bottles of Grolsch.
The kids aren’t taking Patti Smith’s advice. They are coming here in droves, the young sycophants, to the city of princes and thieves, in search of the live/work space, in search of a means of income, which doesn’t occupy all of their waking time; in search of a studio visit and a show. It’s a tough gig, we know. To remedy these stresses, you can stumble into any crummy gallery on any night of the week and get a couple drinks to stave off the anxieties about your defaulted loans, which grow like the oil spill, that you racked up while drinking during your MFA.
You can also gulp down chardonnay to help you get the words out, “I like your work.” You can rub elbows with the rich and famous, and paupers in worse shape then yourself. It isn’t just an anesthetic for your array of anxieties, it is very much the social lubricant that has primed many conversations which lead to the group shows, the freelance gigs, one night stands, long-term relationships and lasting friendships. The ever-flowing sauce keeps the lines between the personal and professional thoroughly blurred.
New York is a tough place. It’s full of phonies and people just like you who manage somehow to climb the greasy pole. The drinks are on the town. It’s one of a handful of generosities the city has to offer in abundance. What you’ve heard about the rents, the competition, and the general high cost of living are all true. So you may as well have a couple of drinks.
Seven Years and Counting
By Alissa Guzman
When Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue Artwalk began seven years ago it had a clear purpose. Artists who lived and worked within the surrounding area initially collaborated with local businesses. Retailers hung artwork in their stores, giving the area a temporary allure, while artists opened their studios to the public. However while walking along the lonely avenue on a recent humid Saturday, I found that the event had departed from its beginnings since the search for participating venues turned into a frustrating game of Where's Waldo.
Similar to SoHo and Williamsburg, many artists no longer live in neighborhoods that the Atlantic Avenue Artwalk wanders through: Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn Cobble and Boerum Hill, and Gowanus. Most galleries, I found, do not permanently exhibit in these areas either. The artistic flight was underscored this year by the number of pop-up galleries that took place in a range of spaces such as an empty doctor’s office and a luxuriously furnished but vacant apartment. The lack of live/work spaces made it hard to appreciate the messy magic of an artist’s studio. While there is nothing inherently wrong with seeing art in odd spaces, it’s not the type of experience or interaction the walk promises, and perhaps once delivered.
Little of the art shown could be considered professional: most looked and felt like hobby art. Found objects, for instance, appeared as either painted pallets, used cardboard, or thrift store finds and was the predominant genre of choice, along with “office art” such as ballpoint pen-and-ink drawings, notebook paper, staples, and post-its. A couple highlights were Mac Premo’s ready-made inspired sculptures, and Joshua Phillippe’s playful collages and silk screens. But in the end, art was drowned out by retail. Unless the Artwalk can drum up more participating artists and collectives, a change in title might be necessary.