Monday, January 18, 2010

The Quick Trip

Oh, how I love Manhattan.

When I visited New York last autumn, I divided my time between shopping, cocktails with friends, lunch dates and participating as a judge at the Moth. True to New York-- I didn't have a chance to see everyone, to do everything--what I missed most was the chance to look at art.

Last Friday night, Saturday and Sunday morning, I went back with plans to check out some galleries (+ etc.) with my friend Feifei Sun. She suggested we meet at the corner of 20th & 8th down in Chelsea. From there, we wove our way in and out of the early twenties as dusk settled over the city.

One exhibit of particular interest is The Camera as Consolation, Carl Johan De Geer and The Swedish Underground 1964- 1971 at the Steven Kasher Gallery. The intimate photographs and hastily scrawled lettering, literally on the wall, arrested our attention. These were photographs that seduce; images of blooming marriages, proof-positive affairs, other-women's-children, self portraits, random items of immediate interest, old apartments, narrow unmade beds, chipped china... "These are amazing," Feifei said. Other viewers were similarly engaged; a couple moved through the gallery alongside the gallery director, poised to purchase an image.

Narrating titles indicate stolen imagery-- flaring flash after the sinful, desperate touch of skin, the deep breaths of relief after acts of deception, an affair photographed, the shutter snapped as a momentary deceit-against-deceit, one image that solidifies what was supposed to be secret (no proof) but, having happened, should be photographed, too. All acts serve to feed the eager artist. And there are other images, as well: dinner parties, buildings, busted cars...

De Geer's photographs are the sort of images that make you wish you had photographed more moments from your own life-- That you, too, could submit images of your personal history in effort to evoke memory, thought, inspiration in anonymous viewers. To supply a moral picked from some long ago, fading instance that would educate or generate hope in another.

As a writer, I do much the same with words.

"Did you take pictures?" My best friend exclaimed, driving away from the Savannah airport.
"No," I said, sadly, "I wanted to. I wish I had."

Images in my mind I wish were still frames: The flurry of passing buildings on Park Avenue, headed south, through the frame of the back window of a cab (an image that reappears in my mind each time I hear TV On the Radio's "Wrong Way."); the bored expression on the bleach-blonde Asian boy hostessing at The Half King who I had effortless conversation with; Feifei's smile as she clasps my iPhone in her hand and squeals in delight at dinner, post champagne; the pair of gallerinas in Gagosian Gallery, each dressed in black-and-white floral patterns, serving the flock of people standing at their shared desk; interior of a crowded p.s.450; blurry movements behind the bar, servers dressed in all black; Todd, with an eyebrow raised, mischievous smile, hand reaching on instinct for the bottle of Sapphire; a self portrait of myself frantically getting dressed, black lace, slender white pants, a flirtacious and enchanted response to the text message, "For gods sakes, hurry." I'd snap an interior shot of the French bistro where I shared a bottle of white wine and escargot at 4:30 am... The look this guy gave me across the kiosk at Delta check-in at Lagaurdia where I, disheveled and hung over, muttered at the machine, "God damn it... Don't do me that way," for failing to find my boarding code and a corresponding self portrait of the smirk I shot him back before he turned and walked silently towards security check-in. Also, a final image of introduction: making a new friend in Manhattan at Gate 13A, the kind smile of the guy from the kiosk when he sat down beside me and asked my name. But there is so much more.

Next time I go back I'm taking pictures. Late March, that's the plan.

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