Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"Marfa, Texas"

Marfa, Texas, 2011.
After years of threats, I have finally made the artist's pilgrimage to Marfa,  the tiny town in far West Texas where a few artists with a powerful creative vision made their own utopia of sorts by reclaiming and reinventing a nearly abandoned spot on the map in the middle of the high desert.

Prada, Marfa, Texas, 2011.
I was already half-way there, being in my home town of Splendora, Texas, only to realize it was still an exhausting 11 hour drive, without ever leaving Texas soil.  A shortcut was determined, flying Houston to El Paso, where still it is a nearly 3 hour drive.

Luckily, there is a road side attraction along the way, a prize for not letting the monotony of the landscape hypnotize the driver. As one glides silently through the sand and sun, a mirage appears. For the intrepid New Yorker and professional window dresser it might be hard to believe, but there on the outskirts of Valentine, Texas, next to nothing, is Prada Marfa. Created by artists Elmgreen & Dragset, along with a team of architects and art foundations, is the permanent installation of a storefront, complete with signage, shoes, and handbags. Installed in 2005, it has became it's own myth and legend, appearing everywhere from photographs to Gossip Girl, and yet there are those that still believe it to be a hoax.

Well, it's not, it's there, it's art.

Upon entering the town of Marfa, 20 or so minutes later, one is at first struck by the elegance of the architecture, cool gray cement coated adobe, xeroscaped yards, and an Americana that was once popular in small towns everywhere. The difference here is the artistic sensibility. It's everywhere. Many of the local businesses have also adopted the look, including The Thunderbird Hotel, where I thought I was staying.
Thunderbird Hotel, Marfa, Texas.
The Thunderbird Hotel is a project from the hotelier Liz Lambert, who has the beautiful San Jose in Austin as well as other properties. Rumor has it that Liz is no longer the proprietor, having opened El Cosmico trailer park up the road, which happens to be hosting the big music festival the weekend I am there, however Liz's distinctive style  permeates not only the Thunderbird, but has spread to other parts of town. Here I meet my friend and host Adrina Miller, who has planned a full itinerary for my weekend visit, but before I can get too comfortable, she shows me my transportation for the festivities, a bike, and points me up the hill to where I'll be staying, an office/gallery just off San Antonio Street.

My Accommodations in Marfa, Texas.
I found it an appropriate abode, the artist installed in the gallery, complete with grand piano and plate glass window. Just as I was settling in, it was time to get out and about, as the festivities were already underway.
Gail Chovan for Blackmail, Marfa, 2011.
First stop was to make an appearance at the trunk show for the talented Gail Chovan for Blackmail. In a large screened in porch, she was showing her latest collection, '14',  hand-painted frocks, adding a splash of vivid blue to her signature black.

The champagne started flowing then, and seemed to continue for the rest of the weekend, including over dinner at the delicious Miniature Rooster, from acclaimed chef Rocky Barnette, located just across the street from my new address.

Saturday morning, we mounted our bikes, and set out to see the rest of the area by the light of day. Remarkable in Marfa, is how Donald Judd deftly took over major portions of the town. The artist first visited Marfa while stationed at a nearby military base, and later, when he had acheived art world success in NYC, he returned with a few choice friends and began purchasing buildings.

Judd Property, Marfa, Texas, 2011.

A bank becomes a gallery, a shed becomes an architecture office, a state building becomes arts administration, and a super market becomes a studio.

Judd Property, Marfa, Texas, 2011.

But Donald Judd's most impressive acquisition is the military base on the edge of town, which, along with some help from the Dia Foundation, transformed the abandoned base into an unbelievable testament to contemporary art.

The Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas, 2011.

Donald Judd founded the Chinati Foundation with help from the Dia Arts Foundation of New York, on 340 acres of the former Fort Russell. The transformation began in 1979, and officially opened in 1986, marking its 25th anniversary this year. (2011.)

Donald Judd, Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas, 2011.
 The concept of the foundation is to show the work of a small group of contemporary artists, with an attempt for the art to both compliment and accentuate the surrounding nature. Above, Judd's concrete  pieces are scattered about a field, forming a 1 kilometer long installation, with cows grazing along side it.
Donald Judd, Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas, 2011.
 Within the former industrial structures, Judd's 100 aluminum boxes perform a dazzling interplay with the West Texas sunlight.
Dan Flavin, Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas, 2011.
 Speaking of light, the light artist Dan Flavin is also represented here. In 6 U-shaped former army barracks, Flavin has installed his neon tubes, with jarring subtlety, inviting both exploration and interaction.
Dan Flavin, Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas, 2011.
 The interplay of light illuminates the long corridors of the barracks, bouncing off white walls and polished concrete floors.
Claes Oldenburg & Coosje Van Bruggen, Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas, 2011.
 There are a select few other artists represented at the Chinati, including Clase Oldenburg, who created an over-sized horseshoe, paying tribute to a military horse, which was shot on the spot in a military ceremony. The inspiration for the piece, an actual horseshoe found on the grounds, years after the event.
John Chamberlain, Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas 2011.
 Back in town, next to the train tracks, the Chinati also has a huge space dedicated to the work of John Chamberlain. His crumpled car sculptures, perfectly embody both American and the rusted metallic sentiment of high desert.
John Chamberlain, Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas 2011.

The Chinati Foundation has 25 of the Chamberlain pieces, each vaguely nostalgic  work gently provokes with a promise of danger, force, and strength.

Judd Foundation, Marfa, Texas, 2011.
 Next stop is the Judd Foundation, which includes the residence and studios of Donald Judd. Here his obsession with right angles and the square is prevalent in everything from the swimming pool and outdoor furnishings...
Judd Foundation, Marfa, Texas, 2011.
...to his numerous works on display in various galleries, from the shape of the windows and buildings themselves....
Judd Foundation, Marfa, Texas, 2011.
 ....to the fire pit and walls of the grounds, from the organized engineering of his library.....
Judd Foundation, Marfa, Texas, 2011.
.....to the furniture he designed and built for the Foundation.

But the beauty in Marfa is that artists continue to keep the spirit of creativity alive here, beyond Judd and his contemporaries. Homes are beautiful restored and decorated, gas stations are converted into galleries, even the hip restaurants (a choice few) and boutiques have the unmistakable influence of art.

"Imaginary Funerals", Lorna Leedy, Fancy Pony Land, Marfa, Texas, 2011.
One such boutique/gallery is Fancy Pony Land, where I even discovered a piece of art about me. Artist and designer Lorna Leedy, has created a series of "Imaginary Funerals" with a guest list chosen from a questionnaire sent to each contributing artist. I quickly purchased the self-referential piece, being not only an artist, muse, and model, but also a patron. Lorna has just completed a book on the series which is available through her website.
Lorna Leedy, Fancy Pony Land, Marfa, Texas, 2011.
 Lorna also has a fascination with the penny, and through utilizing the proximity of the train track, she smashes the coins into copper discs which she incorporates into jewelry and other decorative uses. (Growing up near the railroad in Splendora, putting coins on the track was a favorite summer hobby of my own, so the work she creates has a sentimentality that I can't deny.) Above, Leedy has used the penny as a bathroom floor covering in one of many applications
Adrinadrina, Marfa, Texas, 2011.
Two doors down, artist (and my host) Adrina Miller, aka Adrinadrina, was cleaning out her studio space, and along with neighbors we all enjoyed a cold Shiner Bock beer and allowed the heat of the day to subside.

Alton Dulaney, Marfa, Texas, 2011.
Seemingly around every corner and in every reclaimed space of Marfa art continues to thrive. What was once a dry and barren near-ghost-town, has become a fertile oasis for creativity.

For more info on Prada Marfa, visit:

For the Thunderbird Hotel visit:

For Gail Chovan for Blackmail:

For the Miniature Rooster and Rocky Barnette:

For the Chinati Foundation see:

For the Judd Foundation:

For Lorna Leedy and Fancy Pony Land:

For Adrinadrina check out:

And for me, well sign up to follow this blog, be my friend on Facebook, check out my website, You-Tube my name, write me a letter, or otherwise, just stay tuned for more on the arts in all the many shapes and forms.

Friday, September 16, 2011

"Nick Cave" - Times Two

Nick Cave, Jack Shainman Gallery, NYC, 2011.
It has been Fashion week here in NYC and the fashionistas are everywhere with lanky ladies and gorgeous guys on the streets and the runways. The first hints of autumn in the air also has the locals feeling fashionable, with fall looks coming out of the closets and shopping bags. How appropriate then that in the past week, not one but TWO galleries in Chelsea are celebrating the work of the art-world's most fashionable rising star Nick Cave. And no Rhoda, not as in the Bad Seeds, but as in the Chicago based artist who builds elaborate, sculptural costume-sculptures, turning  every day materials into powerful and fanciful artistic statements.

Nick Cave, Jack Shainman Gallery, NYC, 2011.
If you're not familiar with Nick Cave's work, or even if you are, it is best to start the tour at the Jack Shainman Galley. His exhibit there is titled Ever-After, and represents some of his newer work, with his creatures coming together en masse. Upon entering the gallery, the viewer is greeted by a row of bunny like figures, life-size sculptures covered in blonde hair and topped with rabbit ears.

Despite the lack of apparent features, this figures still emanate a sexually-charged male energy, provoking mixed feelings of weather to hug or to hump. And although some of the figures assume threatening poses, the overall statement is somehow comforting and welcoming.

Nick Cave, Jack Shainman Gallery, NYC, 2011.
Further exploration of the gallery delivers two tableaux, with the alien forms appearing metallic and scale-like from a distance, but upon closer inspection one realizes the surface is in fact covered with buttons - thousands of buttons, with "each offering the reflection of a memory" as declared within the artist's statement. The faces of these creatures are fur-lined, gaping maws, suggesting an infinite black-hole, unfathomable depths to be plunged into the psyche.

Nick Cave, Jack Shainman Gallery, NYC, 2011.
The third installation is as if the various ideas have managed to link together in an orgasmic connected whole, now telling a silent (ironic as Cave refers to all of these as "Sound Suits") and unified story. The figures are either dancing in a group, or standing around bored, but they are part of the shared experience, joined by a glimmering umbilical cord.

Nick Cave, Jack Shainman Gallery, NYC, 2011.
Once again the surface is a cacophony of common buttons, each one hand stitched, and together glimmering like hammered metal or faceted jewelry.

Nick Cave, Mary Boone Gallery, NYC, 2011.
The Mary Boone Gallery is just around the corner but a world away stylistically for Nick Cave. Here one is hit with an explosion of color and texture, in Cave's more typical style of thematic 'Sound Suits'. Each individual piece tells its own complex story so rich that it deserved intense study.

Nick Cave, Mary Boone Gallery, NYC, 2011.
From a distance it is mere shapes and color, but when observed closely it is a tribute to the world, covered in globes.

Nick Cave, Mary Boone Gallery, NYC, 2011.
A foreignness and almost perversity is given to every day objects. Noise makers cluster to create an orgiastic racket, overwhelming the eyes with deafening intensity.
Nick Cave, Mary Boone Gallery, NYC, 2011.
Here, too, is the presence of fur and hair, but in technicolor vividness. These couture creations virtually scream at the viewer, but in such a friendly way, as to draw one closer rather than repel. I found myself almost wanting to fondle the objects, stroke the hair.
Nick Cave, Mary Boone Gallery, NYC, 2011.
And while there is a seriousness to the statements being made, individually and collectively, the sense of wit and whimsy is still present. Above, a wicker chair is incorporated into one of Nick Cave's creations.
Nick Cave, Mary Boone Gallery, NYC, 2011.
It is as if each sculptural form is from a different planet, aliens who have collected the detritus and debris from neighboring Earthlings and transformed it into  friendly armor. The far too familiar becomes fancifully foreign and then magically transforms itself back again into a welcomed sight for sore eyes through the artistic genius of Cave. It is both known and unknown, while remaining recognizable and delightful.

Nick Cave by Alton DuLaney, NYC, 2011.
The artist, Nick Cave, was on hand for the opening, with his personal style and eccentricity perfectly complimenting his creations.

These are two MUST SEE shows currently on view in NYC. Don't miss them, as it is also a rare opportunity to see the origins and the progress of a contemporary artist capable of taking you to another world while welcoming you back home again.

The Jack Shainman Gallery is located at 513 West 20th St, NYC.

The Mary Boone Gallery is located at 541 West 24th St, NYC.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"Mercedes Benz Fashion Week NYC 2011"

Alton DuLnaney, Set Designer, MBFW NYC 2011.
It's that season again in NYC, the temperature is slightly cooler and fashion is crackling in the air. This week is also Fashion Week in NYC. As Set Designer for one of the shows in The Tents at Lincoln Center, I was on-hand for the festivities, and bring you a behind-the-scenes look at some of what goes on in preparing for a fashion show.

Above, the Set Designer posing with the Sponsor, Mercedes Benz. I like the Motto: The Best Or Nothing! My sentiments exactly.

As Set Designer for the fashion designer Monique Lhuillier, I took inspiration from her debuting collection to produce a complimentary and flattering back drop to present her designs. 

Set Design, MBFW, NYC, 2011.
Of course, before that 10 minutes of glamor and paparazzi, there is a lot of work to be done. Here, in the studio, the scenic painters are preparing the hand-painted muslin that will be stretched to cover the runway.
Set Design, MBFW, NYC, 2011.

Later, in The Tents at Lincoln Center, the crew begins the laborious task of laying down the runway.
First, 4x8' sections of MDF are laid out in the shape of the runway, in this case an 88 feet long "U" shaped runway.

Set Design, MBFW, NYC, 2011.
Then the painted muslin is laid out, carefully pieced together like a puzzle. The space we are working in is called "The Theater" and is the largest venue at The Tents during Fashion Week.

Set Design, MBFW, NYC, 2011.
Next, the very talented and patient crew, work diligently to stretch the muslin over the runway, making sure everything is perfectly aligned and tight, without wrinkles or imperfections. For the back-wall, we use a bright white drop with a 14" baseboard running across the bottom, to add an architectural element.

Monique Lhuillier, MBFW, NYC, 2011.
After the lighting is perfected and the sound is cued, it is SHOWTIME. Above the first model makes her way down the runway.
Monique Lhuillier, MBFW, NYC, 2011.
The collection included bold color blocking and stark use of color, from cobalt blue to cadmium yellow, to fuchsia, a departure for the designer best known for her bridal collect. The fashion was both daring and elegant, and looked great against the crisp white back drop and as the models glided down the stripped runway (if I do say so myself!)

Monique Lhuillier, MBFW, NYC, 2011.
The finally was an army of gorgeous women in evening gowns, marching off to a gala or red-carpet event. Speaking of, there were plenty of celebrities in the audience, eying what they might soon be wearing to their own event.
Mandy Moore at MBFW, NYC, 2011.
Spotted on the front row was Mandy Moore (pictured above), Rose McGowan, Robert Verdi, Miss Jay. and others,  as well as all the editors and media.
Monique Lhuillier, MBFW, NYC, 2011.
The show was well received, and backstage, the celebrities, the press, and the fans all flocked to congratulate Monique Lhuillier on her edgy new collection. Above, George Whipple from NY1 interviews Monique.

Overall it was a great experience - hard work that paid off with a beautiful and glamorous show.

To see out more of the show, check out Style.com.

Friday, September 9, 2011

"Nicola Formichetti Pop Up"

Nicola Formichetti Pop Up, NYC, 2011.
In celebration of Fashion Night Out, (8 September 2011) I ventured downtown to brave the crowds at the new Pop Up Boutique and Gaga (as in Lady) Gallery from Nicola Formichetti. The 'store' occupies a space on Walker Street, near Broadway, just below Canal street - not your typical high end retail address. Still, there was a queue of people waiting to get into the shattered mirror space to see what all the fuss was about.

It was well worth braving the crowds, as the boutique and gallery is brilliant with its multi-faceted reflective walls and disco-tech lighting. The whole space feels more a night club than a retail experience, though the creations from Mugler's Creadtive Director and Lady Gaga's personal stylist are equally powerful.

Nicola Formichetti Pop Up, NYC, 2011.
The designs ranged from the wild to the completely ridiculous, but all with a couture, rock-and-roll edge. Something one could easily imagine Gaga wearing on an everyday basis.

Nicola Formichetti Pop Up, NYC, 2011.
And while it is easy to see the value of these on stage or in other types of performances, the taste is definitely very specific. 
Nicola Formichetti Pop Up, NYC, 2011.
Perhaps with Nicola Formichetti's recent appointment as Mugler Creative Director, the fashion world might should once again prepare itself for some runway theatrics and outré couture creations.

The crowd was equally over-the-top, with downtown hipsters rubbing elbows with nightlife glitterati.
Mugler model Rick Genest, NYC, 2011.
I even spotted the head-to-toe tattooed Mugler model Rick Genest, posing along side artwork of himself. Every visible inch of his body is covered with anatomically provocative ink, including bones, veins and musculature fully covering his face.

Nicola Formichetti, NYC, 2011.
The man of the moment was also present. In addition to his involvement with Gaga ( who was apparently a no-show, unless she was in disguise) and Mugler, Formichetti is also fashion director for Vogue Hommes Japan, and fashion director for the international retail chain Uniqlo. A busy guy!

Alton DuLaney, Nicola Formichetti Pop Up, NYC, 2011.
Of course, I took time to stroll around with NY's hippest, posing for a few photos of my own, before jumping back out into the night, to attend other parties and art openings.

The Nicola Formichetti Pop Up is located at 50 Walker Street near Broadway in Lower Manhattan. But hurry, it's only there until 21 September 2011.