WILLI SMITH ~ ODE to a FRIEND and FASHION ICON

by Kim Steele

Entry to Willi Smith: Street Couture show, Cooper Hewitt, 2020 featuring Kim Steele’s portrait of Willi Smith ~ @KimSteelePhotography

~On view March 13 through Oct. 25~
Willi Smith: Street Couture is the first museum exhibition devoted to American designer Willi Smith. The exhibition seeks to restore Smith’s place in the fashion canon as a groundbreaking cultural producer who laid new roads for fashion before dying suddenly of AIDS-related complications in 1987 at age 39.

Willi Smith: Street Couture is named for Smith’s iconic fall 1983 collection, which brought together fashion, video art, and music in a unique event that symbolized the designer’s effort to democratize fashion through the intersection of the arts with affordable basics inspired by his diverse audience. Included in the exhibition are more than 150 works by Smith and his collaborators, such as Juan Downey, Dan Friedman, Keith Haring, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Les Levine, Dianne McIntyre, Nam June Paik, and SITE. Many of the works on view, which include photography, video, design drawings, garments, patterns, and ephemera, have not been seen in more than 30 years.

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Kim Steele, wedding attire bespoke design by Willi Smith @KimSteelePhotography (photograph shot by Ben Buchanan)

Kim Steele with his colleague & friend, Willi Smith, all photographs in this post contributed with respect, love & fond memories ~ courtesy of @KimSteelePhotography

 

My friend Willi Smith was generous of spirit and affectionate. I was a young nobody, he embraced me into his circle, and invited me to parties at his spacious apartment at Two Horatio Street, a neo-classic Bing & Bing 1930’s building, in the West Village. At Willi’s top floor space, with a terrace overlooking the Hudson River and Jackson park below, we partied until the wee hours with artists, designers, actors, and of course photographers. Willi’s sister, Toukie, was dating Robert DeNiro at the time, and they would join us occasionally for the revelry–although DeNiro was a bit circumspect in his deportment, but adequately friendly. DeNiro was already a legend at that time, and imposing.

I recall Willi’s very touching pattern of sending me, by messenger to my studio, a tall, spring branch of flowering cherry blossoms on my birthday, every February, with a very sincere note.  Willi always remembered.

 

Willi Smith, shot at Kim Steele’s studio, Lower Broadway, Manhattan @KimSteelePhotography

 

Laure Mallet and Willi Smith @KimSteelePhotography

 

Often the parties were hosted by Willi’s business partner, Laure Mallet, in her loft on Prince Street, just around the corner from my studio on Lower Broadway. Laure’s place was chockablock full of artwork, including my large black and white industrial prints, and fabulous designer furniture.

 

WilliSmith logo @KimSteelePhotography

 

Willi Smith @KimSteelePhotography

 

Willi was an art collector.  His spacious apartment, which was the entire top floor, was packed with art from Christo to Warhol to African artifacts–that made a striking impression. His home was designed by the infamous Peter Marino, who was at the time part of a duo design team (with Jed Johnson) that designed Willi’s apartment, then his newer place on Lispenard Street below Canal Street–Willi’s office was designed by SITE. I rode out to the Hamptons one time with Marino and Willi, one of the most terrifying high-speed drives of my life, on the Long Island Expressway. We went to Marino’s home, the decor was before his notorious “leather-daddy of luxury” phase.

 

Jorge Soccarás and MaryAnne Levesque (in the Willi Smith designed wedding dress) @KimSteelePhotography

 

One of Willi’s most gracious gestures was to design my first wife’s, MaryAnne Levesque, and my suit for our wedding in New Hampshire, in 1985.  There were multiple dress fittings, and yes, it was expensive, but it was totally gorgeous, a white satin floor length number with a train and lovely satin covered buttons running down the back.  My Willi designed bespoke suit was an African inspired print, with pegged legs and shortened pants.  I was also friends with the designer Perry Ellis at the time–he supplied the two toned loafers to accompany the Willi suit.  I made the wild statement.

 

Willi Smith @KimSteelePhotography / Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, NY

 

Willi Smith @KimSteelePhotography

 

This era was tragically stained with the death by AIDS of many of my close friends and colleagues. My dearest friend was Oliver Johnston, a gifted designer who designed my first logo, and who also designed the first AIDS logo, Silence=Death, for the Silence=Death Project, formed by six gay activists in New York City, in 1987: Avram Finkelstein, Brian Howard, Oliver Johnston, Charles Kreloff, Chris Lione, and Jorge Soccarás. The poster was then used by the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power (ACT UP), as their central image.

 

Logo design by Oliver Johnson

 

Willi succumbed to the disease in a slow demise that I sadly remember well. It was a very, very wrenching time for our community. I miss Willi dearly–as much I miss Oliver, and my many other brilliant friends…

 

Willi Smith @KimSteelePhotography

Cooper Hewitt to Present “Willi Smith: Street Couture”

Born to Surf

by Peter Rittmaster

 

Unrequited Love, sculpture by Peter Rittmaster

 

When I was a child there were two images I found to be horrific. The first was Christ impaled on a cross, tortured and hanging limply in pain.  The second, a vision of my first pizza pie—a steaming, unsightly mess that looked nothing like Mom’s apple pie. In time, I grew to enjoy pizza. But I could never stomach the image of Christ on the cross.

How can we all in good faith, leave this gentle teacher and enlightened soul on a cross for over two thousand years? He hangs there to remind us that he suffered and died for our sins. Do we really need this kind of reminder?

 

The Fashion Icon, sculpture by Peter Rittmaster

Born to Surf, sculpture by Peter Rittmaster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a long time now I’ve been having this recurring dream about sneaking into a church, taking Christ off of his cross, and putting him on a skateboard.

I figured it was about time to do something about it.What kind of mentality, after all, would keep him pinned there? Why does the church insist on this image, and why do so many great artists, from his own time to our own, continue to show him in this posture? I cannot imagine that Jesus or any of his early followers would like to have him depicted in torment for eternity.

We’ve got to get him off the cross. Ask yourself, would he rather be impaled on a cross or dancing and surfing? After two millennia, he deserves to have a little fun, and so, we do.

 

The Matador, sculpture by Peter Rittmaster

Born to Ride, sculpture by Peter Rittmaster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The image of Christ on the cross is far too frightening for any eight-year-old boy. How can we possibly relate to this tortured image? But the eight-year-old boy certainly can relate to Jesus on a skateboard. And why shouldn’t he? Jesus’ grace and elegance shines through when he’s off the cross. We have to create new myths to pass on, to retire the old, which have grown tiresome and weary. All sightings of Christ or the Virgin Mary take place in some elusive shrine or chapel high on a remote mountain range. But why not St. Moritz, or St. Tropez? Couldn’t Christ be spotted on a skateboard near Mick Jagger’s house on Mustique? Thousands make pilgrimages to these sites each year. Think of the response: Jesus has been glimpsed riding the waves at Laguna Beach. Hallelujah!

Removing Christ from the cross seems as natural as removing the “pie” from pizza pie. The church should understand that if you free Jesus, everyone can find him. We’ve got to make religion a little friendlier, a little timelier, a little more fun. Call your local clergy. Demand that Jesus be taken off the cross. It’s the decent thing to do.

 

Cyber Jesus, sculpture by Peter Rittmaster

For more of Peter Rittmaster’s work visit here: https://rittmasterart.com/

ALL PHOTOS BY: Antoine Bootz

Rome Before Romans

by Giorgio Fabretti

 

Albalonga

Millions of tourists every year come to Rome, reading in the guidebooks that Rome was founded in the year 753BC. Very few know what Rome was before it had been “founded.”

Prince Prof. Giorgio Fabretti at his caves, the source of the cobblestones used to build St. Peters Basilica, in Rome, photo by Kim Steele

I can tell you because I inherited the title of “Prince of the Roman Antiquity,” from my ancestor Raffaele Fabretti (1618-1700). Raffaele Fabretti was entitled in the year 1691, by a decree of Roman Senate, sealed by the the Pope Innocenzo XII, from famiglia Pignatelli from the south of Italy, elected on July 1691. He was the founder of Roman Archeology. I followed in his scientific footsteps, having been a Historical Anthropologist at the University of Rome, Sapienza. Another curiosity, even my family name “Fabretti” (that means “Smithsons”) is older (as it has been spelled until today) than Rome; possibly 3,000 years old; as old as the Latin Language.

In fact, Rome flourished at least 250 years before the “official, political foundation by Romolo,” by being a detachment of the Albalonga Kingdom (nowadays Albano Laziale), built on the top of the then dead “Vulcan of Albano”, which 280,000 years before, had vomited its “lava,” like a ‘tongue,’ indeed a river of liquid stone (called “leucitite”) all the way to the future Rome. That solidified river of hard stone became later the first real and longest proper road (the Appian Way) from Rome to Brindisi Harbour, and to Greece, linking the two countries which founded Western Civilization.

File:Lo Scheggia, Reduction of Alba Longa by Tullus Hostilius, Circa 1430 - 35, Sotheby's.jpg

Lo Scheggia, Reduction of Alba Longa by Tullus Hostilius, Circa 1430-35

The Roman detachment of Albalonga, possibly 3,000 years old, was about a 15 mile distance from the Tiber River. It’s purpose was to defend the trade of cows and sheep with the neighboring Etruscans, grazing just across the ford on the Tiber River (the crossing of the river that is called today “Ponte Rotto,” at the “Tiberine Island” in the center of Rome).

The cows and sheep were then a precious merchandise bred by the Latin tribes, and parked in precincts built on a muddy valley bordering the crossing of the river Tiber, that a millennium later was to be “Circus Maximus,” whose ruins can still be visited today. That was the largest arena of the ancient times, made for horse races and having up to 250,000 seats, in the year 0 (yes, zero!).

Back to the detachment of Albalonga, 1,000 years BC, in the late Bronze Age, at the beginning Iron Age, the cows and sheep in the valley of the crossing had to be guarded against frequent robberies of animals. So the “Romans before Rome,” indeed Latin soldiers speaking Latin Language, had been stationed and were living on the two small hills (40-80 meters high) overlooking the wet river valley, where malaria was a problem. On the two hills, instead, called later Aventino and Palatino, there were less mosquitoes and more security from robberies.

Time came, that the animal trading flourished, and many more Latin people moved from Latin Lands (where they were living on what we call today “Castelli Romani” and “Campagna Romana”) onto the Palatine Hill overlooking the Tiber crossing, and onto the neighboring hills, which in those days were called “mons” singular, “montes” plural.

 

 

And now, to the mainly Latin populated area of “Septimontium,” that was “Rome before Rome.” This included seven hills (“montes”) that were not the “seven hill” of the later expanded Rome (Aventino, Campidoglio, Palatino, Celio, Esquilino, Quirinale, Viminale). Rome before Rome was a smaller area that the first founder of Rome, Romolo, in the year 753BC, who wanted (210 hectares) of its then main strategic competitor of Veio, an Etruscan capital city of 200 hectares, a few miles from Rome, across the Tiber River. So the Septimontium properly said, was extended to these smaller heights called “montes”: 2 on Palatino hill (Palatium, Cermalus), 3 on the Esquilino hill (Fagutal, Oppius, Cispius), and 2 others Velia, Caelius.

 

Archeological findings support the hypothesis that the first Septimontium was not including Caelius hill, that was added later, while the precincts were surrounding seven inhabited territories whose seventh one was “Mons Carinae and Subura” rather than Caelius (Septimontium originally meant not “seven hills,” but rather “septis” or “precincted heights,” related to a functionally defended border, rather than to a symbolic number).

 

 

Mons Carinae was a secondary height of the Velian one, sharply declining toward the small stream running down the Carinae height (today buried under the paved streets of Via Urbana, Via Leonina, crossing under Foro Romano, and falling into the Cloaca Maxima, toward the Tiber River). Subura was, before Rome, a poor Latin village of simple huts made for the servants of the shepherds in a malaria area. It had been densely populated because it bordered the enemy territory of Sabina, on the nearby Quirinale hill, where the Sabine tribes–also called Quirites, were challenging the Latin tribes.

In those prehistoric times, all the heights surrounding the strategic Tiber River were occupied by different tribes (like today along the borders of Thailand, Burma and Vietnam), causing an embarrassing competitive sort of ‘chess game’ of thefts followed by conflicts.

Image result for subura

Subura

The most famous chess game happened in Subura, shortly after the foundation of Rome (that indeed was a sort of ethnic cleansing to reunite the mainly inhabited Latin heights into an homogeneous speaking territory, called “Rome” from the Etruscan name for the strategic river crossing). This was the legendary, “Abduction of the Sabines” by the Latin men, who simply pulled the beautiful women, by force, into the Latin side of the Subura. The unknowing Sabine women had been washing their clothes in the small stream surrounded by natural precincts of canes growing around those streams, at the feet of those heights of “Rome before Romans.”

I have depicted a sketch of the Latin tribes living in what later would have been Rome of the Romans. They were groups of shepherds speaking an oral, not yet written Latin language. They lived in a border town, were warriors to defend themselves from other populations, but in order to trade animals they remained open to cultural hybridization–this was indeed the “softpower” that guided the Roman diplomacy afterwards.

“Rome before Romans” provides both historical and anthropological foundations as to the phenomenon of how and why shepherds came to build the largest and most populated empire of the ancient times, which in fact founded modern global civilization, centering on a city of about 1.5 million people, 2,000 year ago, with stadiums, theaters, thermal baths so large and well built they could accommodate and entertain 1 million people at the same time–all of them Roman citizens, apart from 1/3 of the population who were slaves.

Image result for abduction of the sabines

Abduction of a Sabine Woman, 1581-83, by Giambologna, sculptor of the Medici Family, 1583, Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence

 

Cuba and the XIIIth Bienal de Arte

Cuba and the XIIIth Bienal de Arte

by Jeffrey Bishop

Few experiences are as jarring or exhilarating as a first-time visit to Cuba, a country in a sometimes cruel, sometimes beautiful time warp, where a resilient population scrapes by with steely resolve and deep pride, and an even deeper warmth of spirit. When my sister-in-law, the artist Jana Harper, was invited to participate in the 13th Havana Biennial, we paid our first visit.

Arriving from NYC (direct flights now from JFK to Havana), the contrast from the 24/7 churn in the U.S. and the depressing Trumpian news cycle is at first overwhelming. The writer Claire Bishop, (no relation), has characterized such disparity as “capitalist hyper-acceleration versus crippling stasis.”  Bishop has written a significant piece in the May 2019 issue of Artforum, on the prominent Cuban artist/activist Tania Bruguera, and her art of resistance waged in protest against the repressiveness of the Cuban government to open and free expression. The little bit of research I did prior to my trip was frustrated by scant information on the Biennial itself, and I found myself reading rather about resistance on the part of a number of Cuban artists, expats and otherwise, who have been, over the years, and indeed recently, jailed, detained or ostracized by the Ministry of Culture, a clear mouthpiece for the government which has recently issued a new law called Decree 349. The decree can criminalize artists who act independently of government-sanctioned artistic practice. PEN America has called Decree 349 a clear affront to free expression and Amnesty International has deemed it dystopian. Another prominent artist with International stature, Coco Fusco, was denied entry to the country in April. It must be noted however that to this first-time visitor, with little time to roam far afield, there was no overt evidence of protest or controversy anywhere in this XIII Biennial.

Wandering through La Habana Vieja, the historical old city, I was immediately struck by the astoundingly beautiful Colonial architecture, some in fine splendor, but much of it crumbling in decadent decay. Most everyone knows about the cars: American models mostly, (with a smattering of Soviet era Ladas), from the 50’s and 60’s, many convertibles, many in striking tropical pinks, turquoise and other hews that never rolled off an assembly line in Detroit. More significantly, I was forced to reflect on the intense and tragic history of Cuba, the residue of which is everywhere to witness, from centuries of Spanish colonial rule, to the legacy of the slave trade, a monolithic sugar economy that eventually collapsed, and the subsequent revolts and revolutions in quest of autonomy and freedom, first via the greatest Cuban hero, José Martí, and then the 1959 revolution of Fidel Castro and Ché Guevara – only to be supplanted by servitude to and dependence on the Soviet Union, until its disintegration. Perhaps most severely and continuing to this day, the hard and heavy hand of the United States on the throat of the Cuban people in the form of the embargo, termed in Cuba El Bloqueo, and sanctions that continue to cripple life on this magnificent island, a mere 90 miles from Key West. To what continuing purpose one asks?

U.S. made convertibles in Havana near Parque Central

One thing unmistakable in even casual conversation with many Cubans, brought up with scant prompting, is their deep antipathy to the 45th American president, who has shockingly, (or not!), rolled back the slow progress, but progress nonetheless, initiated by Barack Obama and Raul Castro, toward amelioration of relations between the two nations. Unfathomably sad and maddening to ponder.

Organized by a committee of seven curators, The XIII Havana Biennial was titled, The Construction of the Possible. My wife, Jill Baker and I set out to find El Centro de Arte Contemporáneo (CAC), also known as The Wilfredo Lam, which was understood to be the heart and center of the wide-ranging, indeed country wide, exhibition. There we took in strong textile hangings by Abdoulaye Konaté, from Mali, and work by the Cuban, David Beltrán, abstract looking paintings actually based on super close-up photographs of a painting by Diego Velázquez. Also intriguing was work by Fernando Foglino, from Uruguay, who showed a dazzling array of objects coated in gold, including a striking figurine of a girl, meant to replicate the stolen spoils of colonial loot. In the courtyard, Alexia Miranda, had installed elegantly woven hangings.

Abdoulaye Konaté, Les Gouttes Rouge, 2018

Taking our leave from the Wilfredo Lam we asked if there was a map of Biennial sites to take away. Sadly no, was the response; nor was there any literature to speak of, or any curatorial essay. Better help came from people themselves, with directions and suggestions.

Eventually I came to feel that the frustration of trying to take in a reasonable number of widely scattered exhibition sites in our limited time frame, was somehow an appropriate metaphor and warning to the expectations of a typically over-amped American art viewer. Impatience is futile. Those expectations were going to be humbled and the Biennial and indeed Cuba was going to reveal itself very much on its own terms, in its own time.

David Beltrán, Les Gouttes Rouge, 2018

Our first evening we took the obligatory convertible ride, in a red ’54 Ford, with the original engine, (or so claimed the driver, who proudly popped the hood to display the engine block), out to the Hotel Nacional, the grand emblem of Cuban deco/neoclassical architecture where the (eventually) corrupt dictator Fulgencio Batista cemented his coup, and where Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano held the largest ever meet up of the Mafia.

Alexia Miranda, Tejido Colectivo, 2013-2019

There we began our stroll on the Malecón, Havana’s iconic seawall, to a spectacular sunset and a leisurely walk back to our hotel, eventually via the Paseo de Martí, itself reminiscent of Las Ramblas in Barcelona. There were dozens of sculptures and installations amidst the lovers and groups of friends sitting on the wall, or walking, listening to and playing music, while taking in the moonrise in the cooler evening air. Again, there was at best spotty information as to whether this or that work was part of this year’s Biennial. One of the more compelling installations seemed more of a guerilla action piece, where an artist had jammed rolled up pieces of paper into every available cavity in the pockmarked, salt scarred façade of a crumbling colonial building.  Later, I was gratified to be able to identify this artist as Elio Jesús Fonseca.

Elio Jesús Fonseca, Site specific intervention (Title not known), 2019

The next day at the Fábrica del Arte, a huge and venerable building once the site of a cooking oil factory in the Vedotto neighborhood of Havana, recently converted to a raucous multi-media art space with galleries for exhibitions and multiple stages for performances, we came across the engaging work of Enrique Rottenberg, a force on the Havana scene. One large disturbing photograph titled, The Fearless Woman, showed multiple women hanging upside down, naked and bound by their feet. In an installation called, Gone with the Wind, Rottenberg staged a humorous commentary on teacher student relations (old Soviet/ Cuban relations?), wherein a large standing fan addresses a classroom of smaller table fans which are eagerly perched on old schoolroom seats awaiting instruction before they all “fan up” in eager response.

Enrique Rottenberg, The Fearless Woman, 2019

Elsewhere in the the Fábrica a piece by Ronald Vill constituted a commentary on consumption and desire, even in a society where scarcity is truly the norm. The artist had taken a multitude of photo images from a popular internet site where people can trade or sell possessions, cut them up and fed them into a meat grinder.

Ronald Vill, Take advantage of the Ganga, 2019

 

 

A smiling young woman in a large photograph displays the results, called Ganga, for your consideration. The artist notes that Ganga is defined as a good acquired at a price well below that which normally corresponds to it, at the same time is material that accompanies the minerals, and which is separated from them as useless.

 

Adonis Flores, Visionary, 20

Down a staircase, in a photograph titled Visionary, Adonis Floris hints or teases at Cuban military mythology with a uniformed soldier holding a pair of toilet rolls in place of binoculars.We meandered this labyrinthine building with pleasure as the decked out and largely local crowd began to gather for multiple performances. Eventually we found our way to a simple roof garden where we had a satisfying dinner well away from the more touristy spots in Viejo Habana.  The Fábrica is seen by some as a symbol of Cuba’s accelerating opening to the world. As we left the building near midnight, the line to enter went around the block.

Two other restaurants worth mentioning were La Guarida, made famous in the Oscar nominated film Fresca y Chocolate, and El del Frente, which sported a very hip retro roof terrace.

Before leaving Havana for the elegant smaller city of Matanzas, a second Biennial location, we took in the Museo Nacional de Bellas Arte where I was gratified to see a healthy selection of work by a long-time favorite, the modernist painter Wilfredo Lam, (1902-1982). Also present was work by Ana Mendieta, (1948-1985), long shunned by official Cuban culture for her ex-pat status, but finally inscribed into Cuban art history, thanks largely to the efforts of Tania Bruguera, who restaged, Mendieta’s performative work alongside her own exhibitions until the point was sufficiently made.

In Matanzas we found a smaller but much better organized and digestible segment of the Biennial, curated by the prominent Cuban born American based artist María Magdalena Campos-Pons, who is originally from the city. Despite favoring a disproportionate number of artists from Nashville (Vanderbilt) and Boston (The School of the Museum of Fine Arts), where Campos-Pons has held faculty positions, the Matanzas portion of the Biennial proved very satisfying, spanning a number of venues around the lovely city, most notably in the newly and specially refurbished Ministry of Justice building. Compos-Pans has called her part of the exhibition, Intermittent Rivers, and in a statement of purpose called for a “space for the exchange of ideas that prioritize the need for balance between society, culture and nature.” Much of the work in the Biennial did indeed embrace ecological subjects and issues around communality.

Here were big-name inclusions by Carrie May Weems and Julie Mehretu. The latter had apparently insisted on air conditioning for her handsomely framed works, a not altogether unreasonable request given the delicate nature of paper in a hot and humid climate. But the luxury did not extend to other artists. Given the heat, the space became a popular recharging spot. Richly rewarding were encounters with artists unknown to me, such as the Cuban artist Jorge Y Soloman, who showed three very large paintings made on Ifá mats. Ifá being an Afro-Cuban religion in which this artist is a priest. He cites the pain of the whip, the disbelief of being uprooted and the slavery of black people among sources that flow into the work.

Jorge Y. Salomon, The Way of the Ancestors, 2019

 

Cosmo Whyte, Jamaican DJ Kart, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also enjoyed Cosmo Whyte’s, The Well-Travelled African, a Jamaican DJ cart from a “project tracking patterns of movement shaping the African diaspora.”  Especially arresting was Ramon Pacheco’s untitled installation featuring a collection of objects from Cuba’s “periodo especial.” The name refers to the hardship Cuba experienced after the collapse of the Soviet Union, leaving the country without its primary benefactor and plunging it into economic freefall, imposing ever harsher periods of extreme shortage. In the face of these dire circumstances the period nonetheless spawned a time of innovative resourcefulness some examples of which are on display in Pacheco’s installation. Note in the photograph for instance the metal food tray that served as a television antenna. The timeframe of the period changes depending on who one talks to. Some say the period lasted for 2 to 3 years, others said a decade and still others wistfully that it persists to this day.

Ramón Pacheco, Installation, (Periodo Especial), 2019

 

 

 

 

On Sunday, the 13 of May, the last official day of this year’s Habana Biennial, my aforementioned sister in law, Jana Harper, led a procession she had conceived with Danza Espiral, a Matanzas based dance group directed by Lilian Padrón, from the beautiful small square Parcque de la Ruida. The performance called, Cargas, proceeded through the streets of the city down to a newly and elegantly refashioned riverside esplanade. Each of a dozen or so dancers, dressed in all white, carried large white sacks on their shoulders. The imagery harked back to the sugar burden that so defined much of Cuba’s economic history. Re-purposed to contemporary significance the dancers had written in red powerful terms they had selected on the sacks: pais (peace), racism, hope, injustice, HIV, transport, utopias, etc. Carrying these sacks in an ingenious choreography of slow, shared movement, these new burdens signified ever-continuing issues plaguing Cuba, but also brought ever hopeful aspirations. The procession slowly snaked its way to the main town square where it deliberately and fittingly made its way inside the newly refurbished Ministry of Justice. A large and satisfied crowd of observers and well-wishers followed.  It was a fitting finale to the 13th Havana Biennale.

Jana Harper, Cargas , 2019

On our final night in Cuba, in a restaurant called Bar Bistro Atlantida, in a coastal town away from the tourist beach strip of Varadero, a band showed up to serenade us with some soulful son Cubano. The singer mesmerized me with a powerful rendition of a song I knew from the version by the iconic American jazz bassist Charlie Haden, which he had titled Song for Ché. In Cuba it is called, Hasta Siempre Commandante, and was composed by Carlos Puebla.

Check it out. You might also fall in love with Cuba.

~All Photographs by Boulevardier, Jeffrey Bishop

Minority Report: Treatise on Art (with asides from the art professor in my head)

April 16, 2019

I’m in Luxembourg, standing in a gorgeous building, an architectural gem called MUDAM, the Luxembourg Museum of Modern Art. Designed by E.M. Pei, it has great lines, great bones, and a fabulous setting overlooking the fairytale city. And I’ve just enjoyed a delightful al fresco lunch in the museum’s sun-drenched courtyard. I should be the […]

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MICHAEL LIGHT: Great Basin Autoglyphs and Pleistoseas

March 11, 2019

  ‘Size is not everything but…’ has a large impact on photography.  This writer has always been sensitive to the size of prints presented in a gallery setting since they broke on the scene in the late seventies. I printed some of the first large (one meter square) prints on the floor of my studio in […]

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La Sacra Allegoria di Giovanni Bellini~Gallerie degli Uffizi

February 6, 2019

A visit to the Uffizi to sink our hands in the ancient roots of Occidental culture… At the Uffizi there is a small painting, a small painting with an unreal and fantastic atmosphere, which contains an enigma not yet solved. ☼ The painting does not have large dimensions, but does not go unnoticed alongside the […]

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FREESPACE: Venice Architecture Biennale 2018

September 24, 2018

  “FREESPACE describes a generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture’s agenda, focusing on the quality of space itself. FREESPACE focuses on architecture’s ability to provide free and additional spatial gifts to those who use it and on its ability to address the unspoken wishes of strangers. FREESPACE celebrates […]

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PETER HUJAR: Speed Of Life

August 6, 2018

If the camera lens is the portal to the soul of the photographer, then this one is fuzzy – intentionally.  Peter Hujar often bragged about being on the margins of society, in his life style and his image making.  Hujar had a brief stint as a magazine photographer, the last assignment shooting the Gay Liberation […]

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Silver Spoons & Syringes

March 27, 2018

It’s high time to pull my head out of the dark clouds and celebrate Boulevardiers, flâneurs,  strollers, loungers, saunterers, loafers, and of course, Faire du Lèche-Vitrines everywhere. I’m smiling inside and floating away thinking about Gwynnes, Vanderbilts, socialites, and princes… The Federalist: “The Boulevardier cocktail has a romantic origin tied to a particularly heady period […]

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Chemicals, Casks, Crowns & Corks

October 1, 2017

Depending on your perspective, as a Boulevardier, one of these might come to mind as a place to start perusing this post… What contemptible scoundrel has stolen the cork to my lunch?      ~W. Clement Stone His heart danced upon her movement like a cork upon a tide.        ~James Joyce What you learn after you are […]

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Venice 2017 and the Biennale

August 16, 2017

No matter how many times one is fortunate enough to visit Venice it is impossible to be blasé about the wonders of this most liquid of cities. This is especially true when, every two years, significant cultural capital is expended staging what is still the most venerated of Biennales, in an all out effort to […]

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Ivan Karp: An Eye for Talent

July 11, 2017

  Wearing sunglasses indoors is a pretense. Except if you are Ivan Karp. He paired this affectation, which he pulled off with aplomb, with an unlit cigar clenched in his teeth all day long. Ivan Karp lorded over one of the most prestigious and long lasting galleries in New York, situated in SoHo before it […]

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Larry Sultan: Close to Home

May 3, 2017

A thoroughly California product, Larry Sultan mined the Golden State’s sensibility for most of his career. After a degree in Political Science, he pursued a graduate degree at the San Francisco Art Institute.  He was immediately drawn to the conceptual dimension of picture taking and joined forces with a fellow conceptualist, Mike Mandel.  They collaborated […]

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Ohachimeguri (literally, “going around the bowl”)

March 6, 2017

2017…is a making me long for places I’ve been. A walk on our local path through the neighborhood park on a drizzly day, yet under a bursting cherry tree, made the dense clouds of 2017 disperse. Last weekend we saw the Japanese Photography show at SF MOMA. Last December, we were lucky enough to catch […]

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A Tale of Two Museums: Mexico City

February 8, 2017

On a recent end of year art pilgrimage to Mexico City, we set our sights on a visit to the Museo Soumaya in the city’s Nuevo Polanco neighborhood. The museum, which opened in 2011, houses the private collection of one of the world’s richest men, billionaire Carlos Slim, who built his fortune in telecommunications and now […]

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Philip Guston: Laughter in the Dark, New York

January 9, 2017

In this current milieu of political upheaval and rancor, these acerbic drawings of Guston’s strike a poignant cord with the American public.  These drawings were executed in Guston’s studio in Woodstock, New York, collaborating with the writer and friend, Philip Roth who had just completed a similar critical series of essays, titled ‘Our Gang.’ As […]

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ART BASEL Miami Beach 2016

December 10, 2016

As a neophyte, going to the largest art fair in the world now, was an eye opening experience.   It requires preparation, stamina and fortitude. I had the advantage of traveling with seasoned veterans who had visited there six times and who run a company, art-collecting.com. There are numerous venues scattered around the Miami area, ranging […]

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Danny Lyon: A Cult Figure

November 15, 2016

There is an aspect of my encounters with young photographers that seek rebellion and adventure – it comes with the territory. Danny Lyon personifies this dynamic. I had the honor of participating in a workshop he taught in the seventies and was very moved by his conviction to the medium, and his irreverence as well. […]

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Five Years of The Boulevardiers and the beautiful things along the way…

October 2, 2016

The goal of The Boulevardiers is to bring art to life in the context of culture and design.  Sometimes it has been humorous, sometimes very sober.  But the guiding force has been our view of beauty and how it sustains life.  There have been many assaults on art over the years, from many fronts.  Recent […]

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Greek Game of Thrones — Acrocorinth Castle

September 16, 2016

Who could resist the temptation whilst in ancient Greece to visit a mysterious site, the Temple of Aphrodite, at Acrocorinth, marked only with a lone column, where legend reveals that more than 1000 sacred prostitutes associated with the temple. Acrocorinth is the acropolis (the upper or higher town) of ancient Corinth. When The Boulevardiers arrived […]

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Roberto Burle Marx: Brazilian Landscape Designer Brillante

August 14, 2016

Photograph © Leonardo Finotti.

There was much trepidation as the 2016 Olympics approached; everything from security, Zika, to running water and accommodations. Several stories appeared in The New York Times about assaults, and robbery. As the date approached, the Torch Bearer was stoned and ridiculed because of all the offenses to the citizens of Brazil — the displacement of […]

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Advil on a silver platter…

July 31, 2016

One of the joys of life these days, and I know I am ultra-privileged, is that my life offers me the opportunity for international travel, with my learned and adventurous spouse, and, oh!, the places we go! I’m in London and Paris each year, and I’m determined to go to a Fashion Week show. The […]

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Josef Sudek – a passionate man: Jeu de Paume

July 10, 2016

Rarely does a photographer look so inward to create his or her images. In the many years I have viewed photography, I have not been so emotionally moved by the sentiments of a series of images depicting the inner sanctum of a visual artist. The range is extreme here in this retrospective: well hung and […]

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The World is my Oyster ~ artist Ahmed Alrashid

June 26, 2016

  The ‘Global Village’ is a clique. But in the world of design, be it architecture, graphic or product design – it is a global market. Jordan tennis shoes come to mind. Working from the Middle East, based in Kuwait and traveling to Dubai, Ahmed Alrashid, has struck a note that resonates throughout the world, […]

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Gem in the Desert, Museum of Islamic Art ~ Doha, Qatar

April 30, 2016

Approaching the cubistic building along a path of luscious palm trees, I knew there was something special inside this Museum. In my travels across the Mid-East, there was an alarming dearth of cultural artifacts. The National Museum in Kuwait City was appalling, and impossible to find, as well. The excuses for cultural artifacts were dark […]

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Saved by Ivana…

March 12, 2016

  From our Boulevardier & Publisher, Kim Steele: I shot a portrait once a week for Time magazine, Business section, in the 1980’s, and hit all the major players, including The Don. Trump was the most difficult, made me wait for hours, hurried me, until Ivana came in and said, “The reason you don’t like […]

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Biggest Scam in the Art World in a Century: Greed shows it’s teeth

March 4, 2016

  Forgery is not an offense under the law of Scotland, but here in the U.S. it has caused quite a stir. The distinguished Knoedler Gallery in Manhattan has shuttered it doors after one hundred and fifty years. Knoedler dates its origin to 1846, when French dealers Goupil & Cie opened a branch in New York, as […]

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Coralie Bickford-Smith — A Love Story

February 12, 2016

        The Boulevardiers have a new friend, Coralie Bickford-Smith ~ the book designer.  When you read about Coralie and her magnificent work, if you don’t know Coralie yet, you will be envious of our friendship. Don’t despair, it’s ok to fall in love, read on…!     In Coralie’s words from her […]

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DAVID IRELAND – San Francisco’s Most Famous Art Home

January 17, 2016

  The first time I had the honor to walk into the home at 500 Capp Street of the renowned artist in 2001, about whom I knew very little, I realized it was a special place. I was introduced by the Director of Crown Point Press, Valerie Wade, a friend of Ireland. Ireland was elderly […]

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Albertopoulis…the V&A…and an “extremely capacious handbag”

December 25, 2015

  Happy & Beautiful Holidays to all our Boulevardiers & Readers…thank you for another inspiring year!   The Boulevardiers recently did London, from top to bottom, Shakespeare to the Houses of Parliament, to Bond Street & Saville Row, to museums, many, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, which is really one of the wonders of […]

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MICHAEL HEIZER: The man who moves mountains

October 27, 2015

  THE MOST PROMINENT EARTH SCULPTOR IN THE WORLD, Michael Heizer has experienced a resurgence in his work, as evidenced by his recent exhibition at Gagosian Gallery in New York this summer, which The Boulevardiers had the pleasure of viewing. As a neophyte in art reviewing, just awarded my NEA grant as an ‘emerging critic,’ […]

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