November 6, 2012 | by Jillian Steinhauer
Much has been said and written about New York Comic Con. It’s weird, it’s magical, it’s overwhelming, it’s hell on earth, it’s the best event in the world. If you’ve ever attended, it’s easy to see how all of these things could subjectively be true. Only one thing seems objectively true, however: Comic Con is utterly unique (unless you count San Diego Comic-Con, which seems to be the only comparable event in the United States, and which I’ve never attended).
Here is a list of things you can buy at Comic Con: the video game Just Dance 4, anime DVDs from Japan, K-pop posters, books titled How to Be Death and Victorian Sexual Positions, your zombie portrait drawn for $19.99, your superhero portrait photographed for $10, a steampunk corset, potions, comics-related earrings, sriracha-themed boxer briefs, “premium” (the seller’s word, not mine) hugs for $2, a photorealist painting of superheroes for $2,495, Nancy Drew manga, the Bible as manga, an autograph (free), and a picture of a girl dressed as hipster Hitler (also free).
One thing they don’t sell yet: strollers. But it’s only a matter of time. As a man I overheard on Sunday afternoon astutely observed, “Yo, they should sell strollers here! They’d make a killing.”
At Comic Con—and for many blocks north, south, and east of the Javits Center, which hugs the West Side Highway—you can see adults and children alike dressed up as Batman, Robin, Batgirl, Superman, Captain Marvel, Mario, Luigi, Transformers, and at least a hundred other characters I couldn’t identify. People attend discussion panels while painted blue or stroll the aisles in their underwear.Read More »
August 2, 2012 | by Jillian Steinhauer
In November 2010, ArtReview magazine published its annual Power 100, a list of the most powerful people in the art world. The highest-ranked living artist, coming in at number thirteen, was the Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei. Two months later, the Chinese government demolished Ai’s brand new, two-thousand-square-foot studio in Shanghai in one day—this despite the fact that officials had approved (and by some accounts invited) Ai’s plans for the studio, which took a year and almost a million dollars to build. Then, in April 2011, Chinese authorities took Ai into custody. Without announcing charges against him or when he would be released, they held him in detention for eighty-one days, during which time guards watched him constantly, even when he went to the bathroom or slept. He was released in June and, a few months later, charged with “economic crimes” and an accompanying bill of $2.4 million.
May 23, 2012 | by Jillian Steinhauer
We’re fascinated by artists who die young. Something about the unnaturalness of an early death gives us a kind of morbid thrill. We hail their genius, attracted by the mystery of the unknown (and unknowable). Maybe we’re envious—at least, the parts of us that seek fame and approval. For the dead, everything is fixed and frozen; there’s no more work and no more pressure to perform. Pore as we will over their output, what they’ve left behind in the world will never change.
Francesca Woodman was an artist who died young. She committed suicide, jumping from a window when she was twenty-two. I was thinking of waiting to tell you that, of trying to withhold the information until later in this essay, but the effort seemed futile: if you’re in art school, or read the New York Times, or have looked at the Guggenheim’s Web site lately, or even if you get the Skint, a daily New York events e-mail, you already know.
The Skint mention is particularly curious. Somehow, in a newsletter composed of brief, one-line descriptions of featured events, Woodman’s suicide merited inclusion: “Thru 6/13: 120 works of photographer francesca woodman (nsfw), who committed suicide at age 22 in 1981, go on display at the Guggenheim.” The implication seems to be that her suicide either makes her more interesting or more worthy of an exhibition.
May 7, 2012 | by Jillian Steinhauer
I’m sitting in an apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens. It’s a nice apartment, with decidedly un-Ikea furniture and mild-mannered art on the walls. It feels well kept but welcoming, gently used. The room I’m in is a classic New York living/dining-room combo, its zones delineated by, on the one hand, a multicolored wood table and, on the other, a sleek white couch.
The couch looks surprisingly comfortable, but I have no idea if it is; I’m sitting back-to-back with it, on a triangular block of foam. There’s a semicircle of these foam stools filling the room’s neutral territory and six people sitting with me. As we wait in awkward and anticipatory silence, I notice the sunlight streaming in from the windows. It glosses the shiny floors, which stay that way, I assume, because everyone who enters this apartment has been told to remove her shoes, just like in my home growing up.
I don’t know who lives here. According to a map the Guggenheim has given me, this is “Erin’s House.” Erin is nowhere to be found, but she has generously loaned out her living/dining room for a few weekends in April and May, for a project called Stillspotting. As its name implies, the project is a search for still spots—quiet spaces, moments of respite, refuge from chaos—in New York.