The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2021

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JUL-AUG 2021 Issue
The Miraculous The Miraculous: New York

65. (SoHo)

“A sensitive organization of lines and colors on a canvas must have ultimate social value,” writes an artist in the early 1940s. Some 30 years later a former student of his gets his first solo show at the age of 32. For the exhibition, the artist, who lately has been spending more and more time making music, dumps in the middle of a SoHo gallery a tangle of wires and light fixtures. So impoverished as to be practically homeless, the sculptor-singer has scrounged the materials from streets and subway stations: “I didn’t have no money, I had a rough life. I used to go down to the train station and take lights outta there. I’d find wiring all over, because SoHo was being built up. Tons of great trash.” On one evening, his band (which is just him and an iconoclastic keyboard player) perform a concert of their shockingly stripped down and aggressive music at the gallery. It’s a cold wet night and many members of the audience arrive wearing soaked clothes. The heat from the light sculpture in the middle of the floor is so intense that some people start draping their coats and jackets onto the lights to dry them out. In a videotaped interview years later the artist, who sold none of his work from the show, explains: “It was great to see these kids with their coats and stuff and smoking pot and just lounging in the room, man. It was like part of the thing. I always loved the fact that art could have some kind of use in life.”

(Ad Reinhardt, Alan Vega, Martin Rev)

Contributor

Raphael Rubinstein

Raphael Rubinstein is the author of The Miraculous (Paper Monument, 2014) and A Geniza (Granary Books, 2015). He is currently writing a book about the Jewish-Egyptian writer Edmond Jabès. A Professor of Critical Studies at the University of Houston School of Art, he divides his time between Houston and New York.

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The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2021

All Issues