Monday, November 09, 2009

Hudson, New York and John Foxx

Yesterday I returned from Hudson, New York after seeing John Foxx at the BCB Gallery. This past April was my first visit to the gallery, which I blogged about here. The gallery proprietor, Bruce Bergmann, had featured some of John's artwork in his April exhibition, "The Peaceable Kingdom". I bought one of Foxx's pieces from him, and we've been corresponding ever since. At that time he mentioned to me that they were tossing around tentative dates in early November for Foxx to show a film at his gallery, but I'd kept that to myself as nothing had been finalized yet. The Hudson event was made official in July, and I immediately made my reservations at the Inn at the Hudson. Lodging is tough to come by that's within walking distance of the gallery, and it's still the best place to stay in the area.

The last several weekends in New Jersey have been crappy weather-wise, so it was nice to have a beautiful, sunny weekend for a change. I drove up to Hudson on Friday, and looked forward to an evening relaxing before the event on Saturday. On Saturday morning I went down to breakfast, and met a very nice man from Birmingham, Alabama called Arthur Price. Arthur is a painter, and had an exhibition at Hudson's Basilica Industria that he was planning to take down that day. I drove over to the Basilica with Arthur and his friend Angela to see it before they disassembled it. Arthur also invited his friend Rowland to come along who was staying across the street. Turns out that Rowland is rock photographer Rowland Scherman. You just never know who's hanging around in Hudson.

Arthur's work is magnificent--beautiful floor-to-ceiling canvases that need a large public space to be displayed. They are probably at least 8 feet tall each, and are painted on canvas cloth. (Pretty clever in terms of portability--he can just roll them up and take them to the next place). The images were very appealing, as his work has a Jungian, dreamlike quality--much like William Blake. My favorite piece was called "The Daughter of the Local Sorcerer", which shows a beautiful nude of a woman in the middle, surrounded by many emblems of knowledge--and secret knowledge. It was like looking at a dream image. A lot of his work represents figures from folklore and mythology. You can see a slideshow of Arthur's work at his website.

After saying goodbye to Arthur and Angela, I went back to the B&B for a short time, then headed to Bruce's gallery at noon. I got there just at noon. Bruce opened the door, looked at me, and said, "You're punctual, aren't you?" I looked around at the exhibition of John's work, which was beautifully framed and presented. Two or three American fans came in early--Tom, Eileen, and Maryann (and my apologies if I'm misspelling their names). John Foxx and Steve Malins showed up a little after 12:30, and they spent some time setting up the DVD, and John needed some time to rehearse his narrative cues for the film. Interestingly, John was testing the DVD output with his copy of Tiny Colour Movies. This was kind of funny, given that the film he was showing, "A Man Made of Shadows", was entirely in black and white. There was some initial difficulty with the output--the image from the PAL DVD was shaky, and John and Bruce spent a lot of time pushing buttons, saying "I wonder what will happen if I do this?" Eventually it was decided that color output was problematic, so they switched over entirely to black and white. John pushed some button that suddenly cleared up the image beautifully, so eventually it was set. I told Steve I'd never seen Tiny Colour Movies, and he asked John about showing it. John said, "No, I'm not showing that one today." He pointed out that the monitor was now black and white and this was Tiny "Colour" Movies. Steve suggested it could be a re-interpretation of Tiny Colour Movies in line with the Quiet Man. John laughed, but it was still a no go. One of these years I'll get to see John perform Tiny Colour Movies.

John was looking at his artwork, and we were discussing the resolution of the images. Many of them have obscenely high resolutions (he couldn't give me a number), and the process of combining the images can create files that are as big as 700 MB, which the computer just can't handle. Given the complexity of the images, the sharpness and clarity of them was magnificent. I asked how his computer handles the storage of all of this--he has a standard Mac with external drives appended to it. While that is the obvious solution, I imagine the downside would be trying to figure out where you put stuff (is that on Drive Z?).

John did not play any music for this event--he only showed "A Man Made of Shadows" and provided the narration. He gave a brief introduction to the film which I recorded--you can see it on YouTube here. Afterwards, he had a question and answer session, part of which you can see here. Bruce Bergmann was also recording--but my camera was running out of disk space, and Bruce's camera also shut off at one point. Sadly, neither Bruce nor I caught the best question and answer on tape (at least it was the best in my opinion...). Someone asked John about the religious imagery in his work. They were referring to the statues of angels and such that appear in his artwork. John said he never uses religious imagery, and in fact stays away from religion and anything smacking of spirituality in his work. The reason? He was born and raised Catholic, and decided to leave Catholicism after discovering masturbation. Whatever his own spirituality may or may not be, he thinks religious ideas can be dangerous. With regard to images of angels and such--he said angels were an idea of perfection, and humans are always trying to perfect themselves. Religion is one way that people do this, and while the dedication to self-perfection can be admirable, it can also lead to negative things--the idea of creating a "master race" and oppressing other people, for instance.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly already knows that my wheels are turning on this subject. I generally agree with John, though I think I see religion's function a little differently (though the "perfecting" idea is absolutely prevalent in the West). But I will save that for another blog post.

John spent a lot of time afterwards talking to fans, who were pleasantly surprised at his approachability. There is nothing of the "rock star" mentality in John, which is much to his credit. After a short break, we all came back for the exhibition opening. John was running a bit late for that, and showed up at about a quarter to seven. I spent a lot of time talking to Steve Malins, and another Foxx fan who went by "Mo", who had flown in from Los Angeles. John came over and joined us, and Mo had a lot of interesting questions for John about his musical and creative background. Mo works a lot with mathematics, and was trying to understand creativity and the creative process, in a left brain/right brain context. John suggested that music and mathematics are quite close, and that working with mathematics has a creativity of its own. It was a great discussion, just the sort of conversation I love to get involved with.

By the time the opening was over, we were all a bit punchy. A lot of photos were taken, and for some reason we all started wandering around testing the floorboards in Bruce's gallery to see which ones were the squeakiest. Bruce made dinner reservations at a nearby restaurant, and we talked a lot over dinner about a wide variety of things, mostly art-related. John mentioned an exhibition he wanted to see of Carl Jung's artwork, that is apparently going on in New York right now. That is certainly an exhibition I want to see as well. We all parted company at around 10:00, and John and Steve apparently left very early in the morning to head back to Manhattan. (For those of you unfamiliar with New York--New York City is probably 2 to 2 1/2 hours away from Hudson, in good traffic, 2 hours by train--almost 200 miles). Sunday was a gloriously beautiful Indian summer day, 73 degrees, so it was a wonderful day for the long drive home. I didn't sleep much Saturday night, so I spent time uploading the videos and photos I took at the event. You can see the photos of the event here.

Overall, it was an excellent and tiring day--thanks again to Bruce and Sam for their hospitality, and to John and Steve for making the trek across the pond. BCB Art will be showing John's work from the Quiet Man until late December, if you want to see it, and I recommend that you do--you can find the details about the exhibit here.


Anonymous said...

You lucky lady to go to see that as he does not tend to take his work out of England much these days.

It's a shame you could not have flown to London to see his exhibition there.

Brigid N. Burke said...

Actually, I have seen his exhibition in London--in fact, I've been to the UK 6 times in the last year, many of those times to see Foxx--Cargo in London, Liverpool Awaydays set, Quiet Man and DNA opening in London, and just got back from Quiet Man in Bath. :)