Our curated events picks for this week: Underground Eats Game of Thrones dinner, Patrick Bateman’s birthday bash, the NY African Film Festival.
MONDAY, APRIL 1:FPP Harlem hosts the season finale of its second season for the First Person Plural Reading Series on April 1, 2013 at Harlem’s Shrine World Music Venue. The event features poets Jericho Brown and Khadijah Queen, novelist Rachel Sherman, multimedia artists eteam and DJ Lady DM. The writers are invited to read or perform pieces that explore the collective voice and may also read from other recent work. Special guest DJ Lady DM will begin and end the reading with thirty minute sets. 6:30pm at The Shrine World Music Venue, 2271 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard. FREE. (more…)
When one spends a certain amount of time sitting in a hotel stairwell, you inevitably see an interesting selection of people moving between the floors. In a way there is a sense of mystery to it. However the fourth floor landing at Soho House now has a permanent tenant who presides and oversees the goings-on in the hidden world of the exclusive club and hotel. This “resident” is the full wall mural painted by David Foox. Commissioned for the space, Foox spent 9 days of working in the artificially lit stairwell to complete the piece. When asked how people will find the work, the artist responded cryptically that ‘it emanates an energy which draws people to it’, and that it certainly does.
Soho House was originally founded in London in 1995 to be a member’s only club for those in the film, media and creative industries. Thinking about the image surrounding the New York branch today, one no longer really associates the place with the arts (at least your average New Yorker wouldn’t). Although involved in the contemporary art scene, this original idea seems to have become lost amidst an air of celebrity and wealth. However the new and permanent resident on the fourth floor may bring Soho House a little closer to its roots.
The mural is riddled with symbolism and meaning which evokes this mystery of the stairwell in which it is placed. Nothing in the piece is included purely for aesthetic purpose. When you speak to Foox about the piece, you discover how inspired and well thought out the piece is. And when you take the time to sit a really take in the piece and the surroundings you really begin to experience it.
What struck me first (perhaps because I am British), was the inclusion of the Union Jack as the background, or at least the pre-1801 one. However perhaps the most dominant element of the mural is the Seneca Chief Head given pride of place at the center of the mural. The inclusion of the Chief has two meanings: Firstly it is a territorial spirit-located on Seneca Territory, the inclusion recalls the origins of the place where Soho House New York is located. Secondly, the tribe traded with the British, tying together the Union Jack and the chieftans head, ‘blending indigenous people with imperial roots’. This in turn encapsulates the concept of bringing Soho House from London to New York.
Close Up of Venus surrounded by constellations
The other dominant theme in the piece is the celestial imagery both visible in the constellations (including Foox’s own ‘celestial rabbit’), and the four large triangles in each corner containing the symbols of four planets. To add yet another layer of meaning, two phrases are written in ‘elvish’ at the top. Why choose a language created by Tolkien for a fictional country which no one on our earth speaks? Well the choice is simple-when confronted with messages, signs or phrases in foreign languages, people rarely take the time to actually translate what they see and discover the message the writer was attempting to convey. Only those who actually make the effort to look into and translate the words will actually discover something beautiful hidden beneath.
The symbolism he has chosen definitely anchors the work to the roots of the New York branch of the club, but perhaps the commissioning of this permanent piece also brings back the artistic roots of the club itself. His next commission for the club? Well it follows in the same theme of Native American and British relations, but as for how this will take shape, well you’ll just have to find out for yourself”¦.literally.
As part of Women’s Contemporary Week, artist David Foox has been painting a mural live on the fifth floor of Saks Fifth Avenue. From March 29 to April 1, shoppers got an exciting chance to watch Foox in action. I was lucky enough to catch up with him while he was painting and ask him some questions about his work.
Getting off the escalator and turning the corner in the women’s contemporary department, I came upon a lively scene. In a small space surrounded by mannequins and racks of clothes, Foox had set up a mini studio with a drop cloth covering a patch of floor, tubes of vibrantly colored paint both on top of and underneath a small table, and brushes of different sizes poking out of a large glass jar filled with water. Foox himself was seated on a tall chair in front of his painting, which was already well under way and bursting with bright colors.
It’s hard to describe the impression the enigmatic Foox made on me, but as I first approached him with photographer Chuck Lau, I had the uncanny feeling that he knew exactly who I was before I had even gotten close enough to introduce myself. He did, in fact, say that he thought he recognized me from somewhere, as if we had met before in a past life. Normally I don’t consider myself a very spiritual person, but there was something about his energy that had me absolutely convinced. Foox said he would be happy to answer my questions, and continued painting as he did. The work in progress popped with color and light. With a small brush, Foox layered blue paint onto the figure in the center.
I asked first of all how he got the opportunity to do this live painting. Foox told me that Saks’ marketing team reached out to him, adding, “they’ve never had live painting in the store before. It’s unprecedented– a first.” Several of Foox’s friends had come to watch his progress and he introduced me to them as they wandered onto the scene. I asked him what the reactions have been like. “There have been a variety of reactions,” he replied. “Some guy compared me to David Hockney. An old woman asked me if the figures represent the Trinity. They do represent the Trinity– the Trinity of Man: mind, body and soul.” I asked him which figure was which. He pointed to the two smaller figures, saying that they represent the mind and body. The large figure in the center represents the soul. He continued, “The mind and body are synonymous with each other because they are both couched in the material universe. The soul is connected to the universal mind and entire ONE consciousness, the seat of genius if you will.” I asked him to explain the red symbol hovering over the soul. He told me that symbol is one of the oldest symbols in the world. It’s been found in Sumarian ruins, Babylonian ruins, Egyptian ruins. “It’s the most poetic symbol you can attach to a piece about transcendence,” he added.
I asked Foox if his process for this painting is different from the way he normally paints. “Very different,” he said. “I only have four days to complete a painting that would normally take months. The painting is faster, more wild.” He pointed to the yellow brushstrokes, emphasizing the way they’re very pronounced. I asked him if he’s currently exploring these themes and symbols in his other work. He said,
“As an artist I wonder where inspiration comes from because I’m afraid I’m going to run out. You know, I’m very inspired now, but you never know how long that’s going to last. Any truly great artist would never call himself a great artist because he recognizes that inspiration is fleeting. He should be thankful for this moment of genius. That’s what the Ancient Greeks believed, as the word genius comes from the Greek.”
As he said this, he looked straight into my eyes and I had an unearthly feeling that he was staring deep into my soul. His words resonated with the artist in me and I felt that they’re true not just for painters but for all artists: writers, photographers, dancers, musicians, anyone who aims to create something meaningful.
Just then we were interrupted by a family with two little boys who approached Foox and announced that they were artists too and wanted to paint. Foox bent down to greet the kids on their own level and told them that of course they could add to the mural. He propped the older boy on the chair and gave him a brush with yellow paint. The boy applied long strokes to the canvas and Foox encouraged him before giving a turn to his younger brother. The beaming parents took photos as everyone watched. It was beautiful, the type of moment that inspires children to decide they want to become artists when they grow up. As they were leaving, the older boy told Foox that he was going to draw him when he went home and Foox said, “maybe you can send it to me.”
When they left, Foox told me that he loves the distractions–unlike when he’s working alone in his studio–because each person adds their energy to the painting. He remarked that at first he felt a bit strange being on the women’s floor, but after a while he began to feel at home there. He revealed that in his studio he likes listening to strong feminine vocals like La Roux and Lady Gaga. So perhaps there is something special about women’s energy that Foox can relate to.
I asked Foox what we can expect to see in his upcoming solo show in SoHo. He replied that the paintings in the show will feature Mayan symbols, Greek figures like Persius and Poseidon, and metaphysical creatures that take human forms. He asked my horoscope, and when I told him that I’m a Leo, he said that the lion is an important symbol in his work. Foox is a Libra, and lamented the fact that the Libra symbol doesn’t translate as well in art as signs like Leo, Scorpio, and Taurus. Indeed, Foox featured the lion in a limited edition proof currently on auction at Christie’s.
Check back soon for more information on this talented and inspiring artist. He has a handbag designed exclusively for Stella McCartney on auction at Christie’s until April 11 and a solo show called “The Air is So Thin Between Here & There” opening at the MINY (Made in NY) Gallery (26 Greene Street, SoHo) on April 18. Untapped previously checked out Foox’s uncanny studio high up in an empty Wall Street office.
Addendum: Foox also collaborated on a 2012 summer Tee called “Devourer” using QR code technology. It is available as a women’s tank top and a men’s t-shirt on addmyberry.com/foox
We previously profiled artist David Foox in his post-apocalyptic studio in an abandoned office floor high above Wall Street and hung out with him at the new studio of celebrity photographer, Patrick McMullan. This past weekend Foox made a pit stop at New York Comic Con. Here’s what we chatted about:
Untapped: So Foox, What makes New York’s ComicCon unique?
Foox: NYCC is New York’s answer to the venerable SDCC (San Diego Comic Con). However as politics and infighting has ruined SDCC, NYCC seems unstoppable. I am so lucky to be included in the festivities here at NYCC. This year’s ComicCon is bigger badder and more fun than anything I have done before. It’s also been a funny Comic Con so far. It’s tremendously understaffed at the Javits and has become a free for all (or FFA as they say in gaming speak) and people are just bum rushing the entrance with or without tickets and no one cares. It’s the “occupy wall street” of the comic book world. This is by far the largest NYCC New York has ever seen. Untapped: Where are you exhibiting here and offline?
Foox: I’m not satisfied with any of the “normal” steps artists take to “make it” and instead I am forging my own path. I want to exhibit my golden bars with Sumerian Tablets scrawled on the back and I wanna do this soon.
It was one of those New York moments. Artist David Foox called me to catch an event at Cooper Union, which was apparently harder to get into than Soho House. So instead we decided to go to Soho House. I insisted on being green and we happened to walk by Patrick McMullan’s studio. McMullan is a good friend of Foox and had just received some of his Follow rabbit pieces we had seen in Foox’s post-apocalpytic Wall Street studio space.
McMullan is an American photographer, most well-known for his work on celebrities–rooted in his days at Studio 54. But like most New Yorkers, his story is not what you expect–Untapped, even. His catalog is not like yours or mine–Aamoth to Aoki, Barton to Blass, Bridges to Cary, Clooney to Dicaprio. His studio is full of Mac computers sitting beneath some of the photographs he’s taken over the years.
He just moved into the space above his studio and was in the midst of unpacking, deciding on how to hang Foox’s pieces and teaching his childhood friend how to use the dishwasher (or was it the other way around?). In fact, there were two friends hanging out from high school. “I wasn’t cool,” McMullan says. “I’d show up [at Studio 54] with a briefcase that said NYU business school. Margie had to get me in.” One of his earlier cameras was sent to him by Andy Warhol. An Olympus XA, small enough to bring to parties. It cost $200 at a time when his rent was $120.
The photos in his book so8os: A Photographic Diary of a Decade reads like a who’s who, with photos of Madonna, Jack Nicholson, Warhol, Basquiat, River Phoenix, Michael J. Fox. A complete list would take paragraphs. He kept a low profile though–the small camera from Warhol helped. He also shot with a Canon Sureshot, a 35mm and a Nikon in addition to the Olympus.
These days, the pace is a little slower even though he is still just as much in demand as he ever was. The night we saw him, he was invited to photograph the GLAAD awards. He’s maxed out the number of friends he’s allowed to have on Facebook, at 5000, but he really just enjoys sitting on his patio or watching the show Hoarders. “They don’t have it on demand, he laments.”
The view upwards from his patio
On this balmy summer evening, we sat on his new patio talking about the old days and new. Should they go see Cowboys and Aliens? There were amazing garage sales in Texas. The office building just across the way was Google–can you imagine how many computers there were inside? Could someone demonstrate some cool acrobatic tricks?
He then let us wander around his studio and apartment, photographing what we wanted. We exited through the front door of his new place, wondering if it was time to call it a night.
“Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night” – Bette Davis, on a pillow held by artist David Foox