Who and what are the Shadow Citizens?
They are the people who are unheard of, unrecognized and obscured. In extreme cases they may be in hiding, in isolation, or they could be ambivalent or apathetic about human contact. They are citizens who have no voice, no presence, and do not appear. In normal situations, they may be people who wish to retain a greater degree of privacy, or do not engage outside of a small group.
They are people who could be citizens, would be citizens, or were citizens. For whatever reason they are in the shadows, barely seen, invisible, through lack of participation in the public sphere. They may have friends and family, but they seek and find obscurity.
This is a concrete cast of the head of J. B. , a friend of mine who I credit with some important ideas for this work. I placed his cast head in a small creek in western North Carolina, not far from where J. B. lives; I am not sure anyone will ever see this post, or if anyone will ever see the concrete head. It is not much different than the other stones in the stream.
“Something Possible Everywhere”at 205 Hudson Street Gallery,
through Nov. 30
205 Hudson Street, NYC
In 1983, David Wojnarowicz, Mike Bidlo, and other artists started making work in Pier 34, one of the abandoned shipping facilities on New York’s West Side. Andreas Sterzing, a German photojournalist, extensively documented their activities, for a 1984 story in Der Stern. Sterzing’s images of freshly painted murals, performances, and works-in-progress form the basis of “Something Possible Everywhere: Pier 34 NYC, 1983-84,” an exhibition organized by Jonathan Weinberg, an art historian and critic who has written on the piers for this magazine. Weinberg has interspersed Sterzing’s photographs among paintings and sculptures, often juxtaposing an image of an artist’s site-specific work on the pier with a gallery-ready one. Luis Frangella paintings of headless torsos are seen in one of Sterzing’s photos as a sprawling fresco that, surrounded by rubble, looks like a fresh ruin. Frangella’s Encounter (1983), in acrylic paint on canvas rather than on a dilapidated wall, offers a closer look at his renditions of limbless bodies, like fragmented classical sculptures, in expressionist brushwork. To the right of the painting, a 1983 photo by Peter Hujar shows Frangella at work on the pier.
There’s a common sensibility among the thirty-one artists included in “Something Possible Everywhere.” This was not the photographic conceptualism that won critical favor in the early 1980s, or the bombastic Neo-Expressionism that was ascendant on the market. It’s messy and figurative, as Neo-Expressionism was, but warmer and more human in its timbre and scale. The palettes here are thick with rusty reds and browns—polluted as the Hudson River. Totemic motifs crop up often, from the bull in Wojnarowicz’s paintings and stenciled overlays to David Finn’s mannequins cobbled together from garbage and cast-off clothing, with brightly colored animal heads. The earnest work communicates the spirit of artists who worked not only for the East Village gallery scene but also for themselves and each other in a space associated with illicit activities like gay cruising, as well as the city’s economic decline in the 1970s. Pier 34, as this exhibition makes clear, wasn’t just a makeshift studio space. It was an exhibition center, a community hub, and laboratory for experimenting with the effects of art materials on real, rough surfaces. --Brian Droitcour
This is work made from laminated maple that has been carved; the shape was insired by an old tree trunk and is hollow. What follows are the photos of my efforts to burn out the inside by starting a fire and using twigs and a torch to further hollow the inside.