Steves beat play/Seen at Howl Arts: A Gathering

Time

 

Old: hey you, you looking for something out here. Seems like you’re lost

 

Young: oh no I’m just new to the neighborhood. I’m feeling my way around.

 

O: well where you livin at and where are you from?

 

Y: I’m from New Orleans. I moved into a tiny apartment on 3rd st last month.

 

O: so why choose dear old lower east side?

 

Y: I came here because I love the beat poets. I’ve been reading them since high school and I want to be a writer

 

O: oh wow yeah they were down here back in the 50s. I knew all of them. Quite a bunch of characters. Hell raiser.

 

Y: what was the scene the like?

 

O: completely different from what it is now. You know we got all these yuppies around. But we still got these poor ass blacks and Puerto Ricans mostly In The housing projects. And a hand full of drug addicts here and there, selling their regular shit.

 

Y: what’d you say your name was?

 

O: they call me old timer, I’ve been down here so long. This is my bench.

 

Y: pleasure to meet you Ol timer, I’m Virginia.

 

O: yeahhhh it was real different down here back in the 50s. It was long before rock us if and all that folk stuff. The music scene was jazz.

 

Y: is that right? Who are some of he musicians who played down here.

 

O: people like miles at the Jazz gallery, Mingus at the five spot, and even Trane played down here sometimes with miles or monk.

 

Y: the beats were into that kind of music

 

O: you see that guy over there. He was one of them.

 

Beat: what’s your name sister, where you from

 

Y: I’m Virginia. Im from the south.

 

Beat: you want a hit on this joint?

 

Y: no thank you

 

B: for some reason they call me low life. See that place over there? That’s where the five spot was located. On Saint marks and 3rd ave. want me to show you around.

 

Y: but where did the poets hangout? Just at the Jazz clubs? We’re there any coffee spots they went to? Cheap places to eat?

 

B: I still know those spots. I’m certainly not paying these high rents. Hey Hellen get your but over here. Let me introduce you to Virginia. She’s new to the hood.

 

V: I love Rimbaud, Baudelaire, and I can’t get enough Henry Miller and Walt Whitman.

 

H: you must be some kind of existentialist.

 

V: I guess maybe yes, maybe no.

 

H: you’re talking to someone who lives in the moment.

 

L: the scene was like,, I guess back in the day, everyone was cool.- hip.

 

H: give it to her straight low life. what do you mean?

 

L: you know what I mean woman. Everybody was relaxed easy going.

 

V: what do you mean everybody was relaxed? And why was that the case?

 

L: well look at it everything was cheap the rent?

 

H: you could sit in bar all night and only pay $5. And don’t even talk about going hear music. You’d never spend more than $10

 

V: yeah but the poets didn’t spend all their time in bars did they? Where did they get together to discuss books and art and film.?

 

Low life and Hellen laugh

 

H: all over the place

 

V: like where? All over where?

L: coffee shops cheap diners and each others pads.

 

H: you meAn their cribs?

 

V: did they work? What did they do for bread?

 

L: they worked in bookstores, waitress, paint people’s apartments. Whatever. They didn’t need much money cause everything was cheap.

 

V: you guys makin it seem like it was an artists paradise down here.

 

L: you gotta meet jimi.

 

V: who’s jimi?

 

L: he’s around your age you’ll like him. His father was part of that scene.

 

H: let’s go over to smokey joes on the Bowery. Hell fill you in about back in the day.

 

Guy: say you guys, anyone got spare change. I gotta get me something to eat.

 

L: just ignore people like that Virginia. I don’t care how yuppified we’ve become down here it’s still full of those characters. Ain’t never gonna change.

 

L: tell me about some of your favorite writers. How bout filmmakers?  And are you into the art scene at all? How about Andy  Warhol?

 

V: pop art? That was late. It was about abstract expressionism,  Jackson pollock, and the, actors studio.., Brando, tony Curtis, isn’t that right?

 

H: don’t forget the bomb! (Laughing)

 

V: what bomb? And where are we going anyway?

 

H: the bomb they dropped on Japan during the Second World War.

 

V: didn’t the war end in 1945? And we’re talking about 50s aren’t we.

 

H: yeah and everything wS absurd. With Albert kamus the stranger, Harold pinter, Ionesco and Beckett. Like waiting for Godoy and all that kind of stuff

 

V: I’m just dying to meet jimi now cause guys aren’t really tellin me that much

 

L: hey jimi! Look what we got.

J: hey mr cool, what’s up? And hey Hellen! Long time no see

 

L: everything’s fine and dandy. Give me five

 

J: it is what it is. And who you?

 

V: well it’s Virginia, but if I stay down here long enough maybe I’ll end up with a nick name

 

J: I’m jimi. Min d if I call you V?

 

H: she’s into poetry jimi so be nice

 

J: you’re a writer? What kind of stuff you write?

 

V: stuff

 

J: yeah but what kind of stuff? You got somethin to share with us. You wAnt a coffee, tea, glass of wine? It’s on me. Have a seat. I just made a bunch of money helping this guy move into his apartment.

 

V: no I’m cool.

 

J: aside from writing do you dance sing paint draw? Just writing that seems boring to me.

 

V: I do a little acting here and there. And in my spare time, I draw. well what about you? What do you do?

 

J: well fancy that. What are you doing later on tonight. We’re gettingone actors together to put on a play. Maybe we could use a little fresh meat.

 

V: a play? A play about what?

 

J: mysticism? You’re from New Orleans. Know anything about voodoo?

 

V: I know about the book of changes and I know how to cast spells.

 

H: what’s your sign?

 

V: Aquarius.

 

L: you read poems? Bein from New Orleans you must be some kind of fortune teller. You ain’t no gypsy are you?

 

V: you’re askin me all these questions, I wanna know more about the Beats. Tell me about the scene.

 

H: fuck the establishment! You get it. That was it! If you were anti establishment. You were down

 

V: is that where Alan got all those lines in howl from. Angel headed hipsters draggin themselves through the negro streets at dawn lookin for an angry fix.

 

H: you nailed it

 

J: like the man says, everything is everything. You ever heard of Ferdinand celine?

 

V: yeah I told you I read all that stuff? That’s why I’m here. I came to be part of the scene.

 

H: you’re in the right place babe

 

L: yeah but as duke says “ things ain’t like they used to be”

 

J: like I said before “it is what it is”. We gotta get started on this play. Wanna know what it’s about. We can really use you.

 

V: have any of you ever used drugs? Like peyote? You ever had visions? I heard the beats used to see visions all the time. At least that’s what I heard.

 

L: you better go back and read Naked Lunch

 

They all laugh

 

V: y’all sound like y’all are trying to put me on

 

J: ain’t nobody trying to put you on babe. We just wanting to be hip and not square

 

V: well let’s get to it what this play about

 

J: I’m writing it right now. I got all the information from Pops. He was part of the scene and I was a little boy when all that was happening. That’s when I was learning to play the drums and the trumpet.

 

L: well who’s gonna play what role?

 

J: you be you. And Hellen be yourself.

 

H: and what about you

J: I’m gonna play pops. When he was sleepin around, cheating on my mom

 

L: and what about V.

 

J: vs about my age so she can play my lover. How does that sound?

V: I guess I’m down w that as long as we don’t get physical

 

J: no way jose

 

H: then let’s get down

 

V: go for it

 

 

Obama on the Orlando Shooting

 

Today, as Americans, we grieve the brutal murder — a horrific massacre — of dozens of innocent people. We pray for their families, who are grasping for answers with broken hearts. We stand with the people of Orlando, who have endured a terrible attack on their city. Although it’s still early in the investigation, we know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate. And as Americans, we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to defend our people.

I just finished a meeting with FBI Director Comey and my homeland security and national security advisors. The FBI is on the scene and leading the investigation, in partnership with local law enforcement. I’ve directed that the full resources of the federal government be made available for this investigation.

We are still learning all the facts. This is an open investigation. We’ve reached no definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer. The FBI is appropriately investigating this as an act of terrorism. And I’ve directed that we must spare no effort to determine what — if any — inspiration or association this killer may have had with terrorist groups. What is clear is that he was a person filled with hatred. Over the coming days, we’ll uncover why and how this happened, and we will go wherever the facts lead us.

This morning I spoke with my good friend, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and I conveyed the condolences of the entire American people. This could have been any one of our communities. So I told Mayor Dyer that whatever help he and the people of Orlando need — they are going to get it. As a country, we will be there for the people of Orlando today, tomorrow and for all the days to come.

We also express our profound gratitude to all the police and first responders who rushed into harm’s way. Their courage and professionalism saved lives, and kept the carnage from being even worse. It’s the kind of sacrifice that our law enforcement professionals make every single day for all of us, and we can never thank them enough.

This is an especially heartbreaking day for all our friends — our fellow Americans — who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub — it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.

So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American — regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation — is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country. And no act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that make us Americans.

Today marks the most deadly shooting in American history. The shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and a powerful assault rifle. This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub. And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.

In the coming hours and days, we’ll learn about the victims of this tragedy. Their names. Their faces. Who they were. The joy that they brought to families and to friends, and the difference that they made in this world. Say a prayer for them and say a prayer for their families — that God give them the strength to bear the unbearable. And that He give us all the strength to be there for them, and the strength and courage to change. We need to demonstrate that we are defined more — as a country — by the way they lived their lives than by the hate of the man who took them from us.

As we go together, we will draw inspiration from heroic and selfless acts — friends who helped friends, took care of each other and saved lives. In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another. We will not give in to fear or turn against each other. Instead, we will stand united, as Americans, to protect our people, and defend our nation, and to take action against those who threaten us.

May God bless the Americans we lost this morning. May He comfort their families. May God continue to watch over this country that we love. Thank you.

A Conceptual Journey by George Spencer

“For in this long digression which I was accidentally led into, as in all my digressions (one only excepted) there is a master-stroke of digressive skill, the merit of which has all along, I fear, been overlooked by my reader, not for want of penetration in him but because it is excellence seldom looked for, or expected indeed, in a digression. And it is this: That tho’ my digressions are all fair, as you observe,—and that I fly off from what I am about, as far and as often too as any writer in Great Britain; yet I constantly take care to order affairs so, that my main business does not stand still in my absence.”

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

Recently I moved to Stuyvesant, New York, a small farming community, about 25 miles south of Albany on the Hudson River.  I used to live in Bushwick, Brooklyn.  Peter Stuyvesant, the last Director General of the Dutch colony of New Netherlands, named the area Boswijck in 1661.

In 1644, Stuyvesant lead an assault on a Spanish fort in the Caribbean.  A cannonball destroyed his lower right leg, which was gruesomely amputated.  He was then given his signature wooden leg.  And the sound of his wooden leg, reportedly, can still be heard tapping against his coffin at night. His other remains are all over New York City. A high school, a street, a barrio, statuary.

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Stuyvesant greatly expanded the settlement of New Amsterdam.  He built the protective wall on Wall Street, a canal that became Broad Street, the lower part of what became Broadway, and the location of Time Square stretching fifteen miles from lower Manhattan through the Bronx into Westchester County.

A strong supporter of the supremacy of the Dutch Reformed Church, he did not tolerate religious freedom in the colony. Lutherans were refused the right to organize a church.

He attempted to force Jews from the colony, fearful that if Jews were accepted in New Amsterdam, other persecuted groups such as Roman Catholics might be attracted to the colony. Finally, he agreed that they could remain subject to onerous restrictions including not being allowed to build a synagogue.

Not satisfied, Stuyvesant imposed fines and imprisonment on anyone guilty of harboring Quakers. In 1657, he ordered the public torture of an influential preacher, Robert Hodgson, a 23-year-old Quaker convert. And he was a major slave-owner in a city that, for part of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, had more slaves than any other city on the continent.

Returning to more pleasant, sylvan matters, we note that in 1609, three years before Peter Stuyvesant was born, Henry Hudson traveled the river named after him as far as what we now know as Stuyvesant.

The Hudson River was important to the people who lived near it.  The Indians traveled it long before Hudson. Then the Dutch reexplored the river.  Later, sloops sailed between New York City and Stuyvesant, a fourteen-day round trip. The river was the link to the world carrying first beaver pelts and then agricultural products.  From 1820 to 1938 a ferry crossed the Hudson between the Newton Hook area of Stuyvesant and Coxsackie.  This spring I began fishing for striped bass at Newton Hook and I can see the river from my house. Ships now carry cement, oil and I fear to think what else.

I have not been able to determine if the town was named after Peter Stuyvesant but it appears likely.  In any event I am living in an area that is full of history and I am now exploring its artistic and cultural offerings. Recently I found old nails, horseshoes and parts of kitchen utensils in the garden of my 1750 house.

However, occasionally, I do need to return to New York City.  I am here now for a few days and I have found some very interesting things to think about here. There is the exhibit of Ellsworth Kelly’s photography, a major show of the work of David Hammons, and finally a show of the monotypes of Edgar Degas. Very few cities would have these three shows running at the same time and have them be only a small part of its cultural offerings. Certainly not Stuyvesant, a historical curiosity surviving without galleries, bookstores, poetry readings, film festivals and a Starbucks.  And, interestingly, its population of four-legged creatures exceeds the two-legged population. This is believed to explain the very low crime rate, although I recently saw a Confederate flag and many posters demanding the repeal of the S. A. F. E. Act (New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013), and fewer posters supporting Bernie Sanders.

Perhaps Degasmight find solace in the view of the Hudson River. But I am not sure he would be content here particularly after having been deacquisitioned by MoMA. On the other hand, he would be happy to know that he is back at that august institution.

Degas spent time in the United States. He visited family in New Orleans in 1872 and did some paintings while there.

I believe he also spent a few days in New York City. I have a book of his letters in which he wrote about his travels but the book is either in a box here in Stuyvesant or in storage, so I must, sadly, rely on memory.

Less well known is the fact that his ancestors included descendants of Free Blacks. Unlike the Jeffersonian model-based on ownership and rape, this part of his lineage was the result of a consensual relationship between Vincent Rillieux and Constance Vivant.

Degas’ great-grandfather, Vincent Rillieux, captured an English ship during the American Revolution. His crew of fourteen made a clamor sufficient to suggest a much larger force and made prisoners of its fifty-six soldiers. He constructed a large house on Royal Street, now occupied by Brennan’s Restaurant, one of New Orleans’ toniest eateries famous for sumptuous breakfasts, Bananas Foster and Bloody Bull cocktails.

Rillieux’s son and namesake had a longstanding relationship, called plaçage, with a free woman of color, Constance Vivant.

Plaçage was an extralegal system in the French colonies of North America whereby European men entered into the equivalent of common-law marriages with African, Native American and mixed-race women.  The women, known as placées, were not legally wives.  The relationships could be formalized with contracts. Property could be settled on the woman and she and her children, if slaves, could be freed.

As Frederick Law Olmsted, visiting New Orleans during the 1850s said, “they form so strong attachments, that the arrangement is never discontinued, but becomes, indeed, that of marriage, except that it is not legalized or solemnized.”

Harriet Martineau reported that the girls resulting from such liaisons were raised “to be what they [i.e., the mothers] have been, the mistresses of white gentlemen. The boys are some of them sent to France.”

Norbert became a leading chemical engineer. His work transformed the sugar industry. The records in the City Hall read: “Norbert Rillieux, quadroon libre, natural son of Vincent Rillieux and Constance Vivant. Born March 17, 1806. Baptized in St. Louis Cathedral by Pere Antoine.”

Norbert was sent off to Paris and by 1830, at the age of 24. He was an instructor in applied mechanics at the Ecole Centrale, having published important papers on steam engines and steam power. In 1833 he returned to New Orleans. He pursued land speculation and other enterprises including the design of a sewer system for the city.  According to Charles Rousseve in his book The Negro in Louisiana “Local authorities refused to accept” Rillieux’s plan because “sentiment against free people of color had become sufficiently acute to prohibit the bestowing of such an honor upon a member of this group.” Norbert returned to Paris in the early 1860s.

Degas (1834-1917) and Norbert (1806-1894) were contemporaries who shared some interesting characteristics.  Norbert was a difficult personage, gruff and sharp-tongued and impatient with fools, just like his cousin the painter. It is not known whether they sought one another out.

Norbert died in 1894 at the age of 89, and was buried in Pere Lachaise, with the inscription, Ici reposent Norbert Rillieux ingenieur civil a la Nouvelle Orleans 18 Mars 1806/ decede a Paris le 8 Octobre 1894/ Emily Cuckow, Veuve Rillieux 1827-1912

Below are photos of both men. Which is which?

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Degas is miscast as a painter and sculptor of petite ballerinas. In fact, he was a ferociously opinionated anti-Semite, a misogynist and political reactionary. He was also a fearless experimenter. No one knows how many works of art failed to survive because of the techniques he was exploring. Thus we will never know the true extent of his genius.

In the mid-1870s Degas began making monotypes, starting with ink on a plate that was then put through a press. Usually one print was the result.

Demanding spontaneity that often leads to improvisation, monotypes are made with brush (both ends), rags, fingers, whatever is available.  Speed is essential. The first impression from each plate is unique; if more versions, called cognates, are printed from the same plate, the images will be increasingly indistinct but also unique.

Degas enhanced his monotypes with pastel. He experimented with heavily pigmented oil paint.

Viewable at MoMA are 120 monotypes in addition to about half as many prints, paintings, pastels, charcoal drawings and photos. Three sketchbooks are on view and can be flipped through digitally. There are landscapes, washerwomen, models, bordellos, all of Degas’s mature subjects.

Degas wrote in one of his letters, “Nothing pleases me more than the black women of all shades, holding little white children, so very white, in their arms, against white houses with columns of fluted wood and in gardens of orange trees, and ladies in muslin against the fronts of their little houses…” Yet other than an indistinct figure in one painting, there was no recognition of blacks, either slaves or the free. Was it that the European underclass of prostitutes, washerwomen and models were acceptable symbols of oppression but black slaves were not? Were they too close to home?

 

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Did his white relatives talk about the Rillieux family or see them? We do not know. We do know that his vaunted skill as an eye that unflinchingly saw everything had a blind spot?

The exhibition is a beautiful tribute to a maker of modernism and will be one of the major shows of 2016. The show comes down on July 24, 2016. A gambler would bet on an extension. Ellsworth Kelly, who died recently, lived in Spencertown, New York.  Spencertown is located a short distance from where I live.  There is no known relationship between my family name, Spencer, and Spencertown. In any event, Degas in France and Elsworth Kelly in the United States and perhaps France, experimented with photography. In 1862, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and a group of French artists and French intelligentsia signed a petition denouncing the “industrial” method as an unartistic abomination. Degas was not among the signatories.

Further downtown from MoMA, at the Matthew Marks Gallery, is the first ever exhibition of Kelly’s photographs. While too often photos are still considered an invasion of industrial exactitude into the free-form art world, the photography of Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis, Félix Vallotton, Edouard Vuillard and more recently Rauschenberg and Warhol continue to amaze because of their inexactitude. Any aficionado of Court TV knows that photos lie. Of course, that is another subject.

Is it possible to make an enduring art of pure shape and pure color in the late Twentieth and early Twenty-First Centuries?  Reacting against what he considered pumped-up AbEx masters, Kelly tried and in part succeeded. Whether his reputation exceeds his contribution is for time to tell. However, a look at a selection of his photos is a good place to start.

The recently deceased Ellsworth Kelly began using a camera in 1950 and now we can see gelatin silver prints made over forty years.

His photos of unadorned structures, barns and other buildings, flattened because of a lack of shadows and other depth-creating techniques, appear to be floating hard-edges planes, often patterned but without convincing texture.

 

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A master framer, Minimalist and denier of metaphor, Kelly’s black and white geometry is everywhere and everything. Strips, triangles, squares and rectangles remain as the underlying objects disappear. The thirty photos are,

to my eye, uneven. Some could be anyone’s cropped photos. Others strike me as artsy. And the lack of content becomes overwhelming.

Keats ruined an otherwise lush ode thusly:

Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all

                Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. 

Keats’ all-encompassing claim that there are answers to such questions, spoils the fun. In his case the fun was the rest of the poem. This does not, it seems, encourage a dialogue.  Why, for example, are there no references to the world he lived in? No social conservative can be offended by what is visible in his art.

This brings me to David Hammons who famously said, “I can’t stand art actually. I’ve never, ever liked art.” And indeed he didn’t and doesn’t. I assume he did not have Kelly in mind. However, he knows that the sacrosanct, the palaver of art, is always symbols. Intangible and fungible, they are useful as vessels crying out for content. They are the playthings of saint and sinner, of politician and magician and of artists who transmogrify them, extending their usefulness into the quotidian. What he makes of this can be seen at Mnuchin Gallery, 45 E. 78th St., New York.

Hammons’ early pieces from the Sixties in Los Angeles include a series of life-size body-prints created from oil-smeared bodies, his own among them, leaving imprints on paper. Not in the show but, for a good example, see below, Boy With Flag:

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Later, in the 1980s, he retailed snowballs on the Bowery and made sculptures from hair found on the floor of Harlem barbershops. In Brooklyn he built a three-story basketball hoop. No trendy galleries here, but enough elusive content—bizarre, droll, cutting and unforgettable—to define the racist underbelly of America in which Peter Stuyvesant lived and prospered. The same underbelly that Degas wrote about and never painted.

His assemblages used materials found in urban black life, including a patterned wall sculpture of hundreds of beer and soft-drink bottle caps and the ripped off hood of a hoodie exhibited like a stuffed animal on a wall.

Or “Which Mike do you want to be like…?”  Jackson, Jordan and Tyson? But who can reach these super high microphones?

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Basketball is another uncertain route up and out. The hoop mentioned above has been reduced from three stories to gallery size featuring ropes of  cut-glass beads:

Hammons’ recent work deals with the history of art, or rather subverts it. His vigorous, light-infused abstractions whose lushness he then denies us, are often obscured by old bedding, crumpled plastic sheets, and material from construction sites.  Mirrors with baroque gilded frames are partially covered with street detritus.

In this exhibition we are led, or better said, marched by the artist, as in a multi-venue performance piece, through his concerns. If you understand the show to speak about the failure of contemporary art to be relevant, you will want to return to this concept again and again to see the mind of David Hammons as it works its way through the tragedy that is the human history of the United States. And this history is unavoidable as he looks at our symbols and turns them against us so we are forced to see the reality they hide.

Hammons bought a warehouse in southwest Yonkers where he plans to open a new art gallery. Yonkers lays on land that was purchased in 1645 by Adriaen van der Donck, the first lawyer in New York City. (This was one year after Stuyvesant lost his leg leading an assault on a Spanish fort in the Caribbean.) Van der Donck was known as the Jonkheer or Jonker which meant young lord. The city was named after him. His property was subsequently acquired by Frederick Philipse who went on to acquire enormous tracts of land and to become one of the wealthiest men in the Dutch Colony. Philipse’s other activities included slave trading which he often did in partnership with Adam Baldridge, who, in addition, was a pirate.

Baldridge created a haven for pirates in Madagascar and supplied them with the goods necessary to pursue their trade in exchange for high fees. Baldridge lived well on the island and had his own harem. However, he was forced to flee after it was discovered that he had sold a group of natives as slaves.

Frederick Philipse was a self-made man initially selling iron nails. Subsequently, he began a new career as a landowner. His accumulated holdings became Philipsburg Manor that contained about 52,000 acres, much of present day lower Westchester County.

Below is a map showing the extent of the Philipsburg Manor.

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Map of Philipsburg Manor

Philipse died in 1702. Buried with his two wives in the crypt of the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow, he is best remembered for his belief that “It is by negros that I find my chievest Profitt. All other trade I only look upon as by the by.”

What is it that makes this odd threesome so interesting? Blackness in America is part of the answer. Degas was surrounded by it and did not paint it. Other than as a color there was no place for it in Kelly’s pure art. And Hammons inadvertently finds his warehouse-gallery on land once owned by leading figures in the development of New York City and New York State who also owned of slaves and promoters of slavery.

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Although I am writing in NYC now, I didn’t go to MoMA, Marx or Mnuchin. I cruised the Internet. Perhaps not exactly the same as seeing the real thing. But is a monotype the real thing? Is a 20-foot high basketball hoop real? Are photos of shadows real?

We live in the Age of Information.  We know all about the hidden, the torturer’s tools, the politician’s mistresses, the priest’s boys. We can also know a great deal about these three artists without seeing their work in a museum or gallery. Reproductions of the works in these three shows are Googleable.

Perhaps it’s time to move from large cities. Perhaps it’s time to move to Stuyvesant and log in and see what’s worth looking at and then Google a bit. No crowds, no pollution but lots of trucks, guns, hunting dogs, cow manure, chicken shit, cornfields, etc. The real world that so much art refuses to recognize.

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I am indebted to Christopher Benfey’s book, Degas in New Orleans: Encounters in the Creole World of Kate Chopin and George Washington Cable, for information on the ancestry of Degas, part of which was published in The Nation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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