Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuesday Evening in Downtown Brooklyn: Opening Reception for Harumi Yamada's "The Daydreamer's Sketch" at Ouchi Gallery

This evening we took the G and A trains to Jay Street/Boro Hall and then walked up Jay Street, past NYU-Poly first-year students on a tour of their new neighborhood, and across Tillary Street to just the other side of Flatbush Avenue, heading up to Ouchi Gallery,

a secret gem of a home-style art gallery that displays work of contemporary Japanese artists. As its website explains,
No, not "ouch". Pronounced OOH-WOO-CH-I, Ouchi is Japanese for "home" or "house". Our gallery has this name because it displays works by contemporary Japanese artists in a home-like setting.

Art should be more than a business commodity. It should transform all of our daily lives, awakening new thoughts and passions each day. The best art teaches that there are no limits to individual pursuits; that our own possibilities are infinite.
So when you visit Ouchi Gallery, we hope that you feel both at home and inspired. Perhaps you will feel something exhilarating—a positive "ouch!"

We were there for the opening reception for Harumi Yamada's "The Daydreamer's Sketch," a show featuring some of this innovative artist's exquisite works that manifest a kind of blunt ethereality.

This was the artist's first solo exhibition, and we were really impressed with the integrity of her tiny objects, both wryly playful and delicately wrought.

She's a Japanese speaker, of course, but we are pretty sure we got across that we liked her art a great deal.

Her statement for this show:
There are always arts in my life.
At a given moment, an image appears in my mind, I turn this image into
a drawing, writing or a sculpture.
Being a product of my subconscious, it is very difficult to explain what it is.
Therefore, I seek to make the image visible and tangible.

I believe, it is the best way to express myself more purely.
I would like to know where my images come from or what they mean.
For I come up with the answer to this question, I try to keep creating.

The little chihuahua in the Ouchi Gallery logo, we think, is just above, with the artist and another visitor.

You can see Harumi Yamada's work until Sunday, September 5, at Ouchi Gallery, which was, for us, a nice discovery - up five floors in suite 507 of 170 Tillary Street - in a familiar place, just off Flatbush Avenue right by the start of the Manhattan Bridge.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday Night in Fort Greene: Ghita Schwarz and "Displaced Persons" at Greenlight Bookstore

Tonight we went over to the absolutely fabulous Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene, right by the Fulton Street stop of the G train running along Lafayette Avenue (and the Lafayette Avenue stop of the C train running along Fulton Street - but only MTA employees can go between these stations).

We came for a reading by Ghita Schwarz, a neighborhood resident and author of a first novel, Displaced Persons, which has been garnering wonderful reviews and which we can't wait to read.

Ghita is well-known as a civil rights litigator specializing in immigrants' rights, but she's been writing for decades, from her undergraduate work in The Harvard Crimson to more recent articles everywhere from The Believer to The San Francisco Bay Guardian. We were alrady impressed with the great reviews of Displaced Persons and Ghita's interview with Leonard Lopate on WNYC.

She read two passages from her novel. The first took place in the displaced persons' camp in Europe where her three major characters - Pavel, Fela and Chaim - form a makeshift family. The second, longer, excerpt took place in the 80s or 90s, as they and their families and their fellow survivors debate the now-public nature of the horrors they experienced: whether to go along with "Shpielberg"'s Holocaust oral history project, how and whether to compare their suffering with that of the victims of the Atlantic slave trade and their descendants, and how to make sense of their lives.

The author clearly has a gift for characterization, for inner dialogue as well as the conversational speech of the people she writes about. The long question-and-answer period at Greenlight brought out many interesting testimonies from other children of survivors.

We grew up in a very Jewish world in Brooklyn in the 1950s and 1960s, but except for The Diary of Anne Frank, we knew very little about the Holocaust; it wasn't talked about by the few people (a couple of neighbors or parents of friends) who experienced it, and nothing much was said about it even in four years of Hebrew school at Flatbush Park Jewish Center.

As far as we knew, no one even vaguely related to us had anything to do with it, so it was fairly removed from our lives until the 1970s when the world seemed suddenly filled with books, TV shows, discussions and films about the subject. Anyway, now we are excited about Ghita Schwarz's novel, and like many others - the book's a bestseller already - we look forward to reading it.

Any author who says, as Ghita did in an interview with The Brooklyn Paper, "I love living in Brooklyn, period. I just love biking and walking around. I’m very happy living here, and for me it’s easier to write when I’m happy," knows what she's talking about.

Monday Morning in Williamsburg: "OMG!!! KATRINA" sign at Metropolitan Avenue and Lorimer Street

On this fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we liked this sign on Lorimer Street just south of Metropolitan Avenue. We saw it on our way back from Key Food on Grand Street.

It's by "RK," though we don't know who that is. But it's good work, we think. RK's "Sleep" was on the other side of the sign.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Afternoon in Williamsburg: Delorean at the Last 2010 Pool Party at East River State Park

We were tired after a little too much beach this morning and early afternoon, but naps - which we only learned to take after we hit 57 - are good, and we thought we'd stroll over to the last Pool Party of 2010 (itself barely rescued from cancellation) just to catch one band's set.

Luckily, we got there around 4 p.m. when Delorean was just coming on. They're really superb, even on a blisteringly hot day like today. As Pitchfork wrote in reviewing the band's new album Subiza, released in the spring:
Delorean helped define the bright, beachside vibe of last summer's indie landscape, but they also deserve to be placed in a broader context. On their new album, Subiza, the Spanish four-piece deploys the build-and-burst tempos of 90s house and techno music, and they do so explicitly, never shying away from arms-in-the-air piano bridges or incandescent raves.

This music is proudly informed by the resiliency and vigor of classic club music, and its title (named after the Basque town in which the album was recorded) recalls the famously nightclub-centric Ibiza and the Balearic dance music that originated there.

What surprised us today was how easy it was to get into East River State Park. We remember the old days of the McCarren Pool, when we sometimes couldn't get in (like to MGMT) or had to wait in line for half an hour or more. Even at the waterfront, there were some long lines along Kent Avenue last year.

But we actually got berated for not going in faster before the few people ahead of us. "Sir! You have no bag! Go right in!" the security guard snapped.

Just before Delorean - guitarist Guillermo Astrain, drummer Igor Escudeo, keyboardist Unai Lazcano, and bassist/vocalist Ekhi Lopetegi - came on, when there were DJs on stage, we stood in pretty much the middle of the midway before the stage and there was nobody within about thirty or forty feet around us.

And we had put on fresh deodorant after our post-beach shower. We swear!

Delorean was really killing it, but the mood - and maybe it's easy for us, two generations older than most of the audience to misread this - seemed weirdly subdued.

Maybe it was just so sultry that even the dancing and volleyball seemed desultory.

We still think that given how excellent the band was, there would have been more people there and more excitement and energy at the old McCarren Pool circa 2006 or 2007.

It probably got a lot more vibrant once we left for our old folks' early bird special.

Anyway, it looks like next year's Williamsburg Waterfront Pool Parties will be different.

The Open Space Alliance has been talking in the press about "more varied programming" (read: for non-hipsters).

Change is inevitable - hey, our mom entered a nursing home last night, which is freaking us out even though she's had Alzheimer's for many years - and anyone who's lived two weeks in Brooklyn knows nothing stays the same.

We're grateful we saw Delorean.

And we look forward to next year's Pool Parties, whatever they may be like.

Sunday Morning in Brighton Beach: The 34th Annual Brighton Jubilee at Brighton Beach and Coney Island Avenues

We wanted to go to the beach on a sunny Sunday this final weekend of August, and when we got off the Q train,

we realized we'd stumbled onto people setting up the 34th annual Brighton Jubilee, which to us looked basically like a collection of vendors

along Brighton Beach Avenue and Coney Island Avenue.

Okay, here's what the Brighton Neighborhood Association says:
The Jubilee is our only fundraiser and is a Brooklyn tradition that celebrates diversity. The multi-block festival features multiple entertainment stages and blocks of merchandise and informational booths, as well as kiddie rides and delicious food. Established 34 years ago, the Jubilee now attracts more than 125,000 people every year and is dedicated to bridging the communication gap through the international language of music.

We were there way too early for the music. Too bad. What it did seem early for was the smell of fried flesh: a little overwhelming before 9 a.m., the official start of the Jubilee. But then we're vegetarian.

Our family - two brothers and our mom, our dad enlisted on weekends sometimes - were vendors at The South's Largest Flea Market, Preston Henn's Swap Shop, on Sunrise Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, through most of the 1980s. Our memories of it are hazy but not pleasant.

We lived nearby and taught at Broward Community College and we hated when someone was sick on the weekend and we were called to substitute, so we now have an aversion to events with outdoor vendors. Our brothers and mom, though, were good at it and sold really nice shirts, too, from a Korean manufacturer in Queens.

The life of a vendor can be lonely.

We don't mean to take anything away from the Brighton Jubilee. And we saw real bargains here, actually, especially on fairly decent clothing.

And how can you go wrong with ceramic vegetables?

Or all these makeup things for people who wear makeup?

This was like an infomercial come to life.

This girl was really eyeing those dolls.

This vendor didn't even bother with a table and just sat on her merchandise. She made two sales while we were standing there, too.

And of course there were the madcap Lawrence Welk-like bubbles in the air.

But still, we were grateful to get onto the beautiful beach for the rest of the morning.

Is it our imagination or did the boardwalk get lower or the sand higher?