Sunday, April 24, 2011

Strange Pilgrims

If not me, who? And if not now, when?

Mikhail Gorbachev

Welcome to Mockba

With the peculiar name of Domodedovo, a 600 year old town on the outskirts of Moscow is home to one jumbo international airport. With so many Russians living in Miami, there are now direct flights weekly. The 747 air-busses are flying at half occupancy so no need to pay first class as there is plenty of room in coach to stretch out for the 12 hour ride to the other side of the world. Though so far away, Moscow today is not so different than any other major city. The lines of cultural distinction are blurring faster than you can say domodedovo.

Spudnik Moment

Yes, you will have a time deciphering the alphabetical characters and there are plenty of signs to challenge your linguistic dexterity and amuse your sense of the foreign. There is also plenty of unmistakable proof that you are in the former USSR.

Here, obvious yet awesome are the places where tourist are drawn to congregate and like Infante's Three Sad Tigers, me and my new friends made a perfect trio of horse's asses while GPS'ing our gringo selves towards the ramblings of Red Square.

Up n Down Infinitum

With winters that make Canada seem like Cancun and years of proletariat development, it is no wonder that the subway system of this bolshevik beehive is often more magnificent and palatial than our little Trump towers. The network of subterranean tunnels are resplendent and crowded with a multitude of mole-like locals performing the ebb and flow of a well rehearsed commuter ballet.


For each example of drab and dull monolithic boxes with windows, there is another absolutely outstanding edifice of distinction. From ancient places of worship to bewildering modern marvels, the cityscape is an architectural aficionado's paradise.


The Juxtaposition of old and new is everywhere, a striking mix of classlessness that is rich and richer.

Red Energy

To light up this mega-metropolis takes kilowatts and lots of them. Stack of billowing productivity tower above a blanket of Eastern European charm.

Yes Parking Anytime

Boots on the ground, pedestrians beware. When is Moscow, the motoring public rules the street. Yet it warms my illegal butt to see that locals can park for Free just about anywhere in this busy city. In other words, sidewalks are fair game. It appears the one rule is to not obstruct traffic. On the downside car congestion slows traffic down to the speed of cold molasses.

The Peeps

Enough of the inanimate. Let's get to the proud people of this populated place of 11 million inhabitants.

Shepard's Herd

People are people wherever you go. Graffiti is like consumerism, it was invented by civilization. Here we find a very good example of cave-painting circa 2011.

Zen of Stuff

Materialism has arrived in Bearland and permeated a culture that has resisted owning stuff for centuries but not without the secret individual yearnings for more stuff.

Koh Incidence

The ominous and profound has been packaged. Like the t-shirts adorned with Che sold in Havana, a visit to the tomb of the diminutive giant father Vladimir Lenin was not without trinkets and luxury items for sale just across the square at a super-mall laden with un-essential consumer products.

Brother from Another Planet

What trip to the titanic of totalitarianism would be complete without one of those famous 'doll in a doll in a doll' thingies. There is one available with the US presidents, but after opening the first doll with likeness of Obama i just about barfed up my borscht so I opted for the more apropos puzzle of the russian royalty.

Haves n Have Mores

Affluence and unapologetic flaunting of riches is commonplace today. From the Ritz Carlton adorned with four kinds of marble to this gold-chromed car, evidence of this economic power-house are abundant.

Next Stop, Garage CCC

Some say that art and science are disciplines founded on our vises. I will not argue with that. But vise does not exist without virtue and materialism will not flourish without spirituality. This is where my host, the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture exists as the definitive place where a new age of collaboration among those who understand that Art is the most powerful force on earth.

With All Due Respect

To his credit, Roman Abromovich may be the Medici of Moscow. I may get a visit from the KGB for this candid photo of one of the richest men in the world, but it's not exactly a state secret that it takes the likes of Roman to move mountains and build bridges for cultural understanding.

Borscht Festival

The Beetroot Soup at the Garage Cafe is only second best to a bowl from Veselka in NYC East Village.

Santa Che

Enough with the introduction, let's get to the meat and potatoes of the art exhibitions.
But before we survey the main course permit me a few words on the Cuba photography show organized by ICP and coincidentally on view during my visit there.

Now, those rabid cuban-american republicans in miami might want to change the channel because although i am no fan of castro and his island museum of a failed system , I am also not so much of a neanderthal as to forfeit the gold-plated opportunity to soak in art that you will never see in miami. With tremors of tantrums i sucked in my cuban complexity to gather whatever this album of black and white vintage photos could deliver. Of particular interest was photographer Korda's contact sheet from where his now iconic image of Che Guevara was obtained. Unassuming as it was at post-card scale, that freeze frame is now forever etched on the global psyche of the revolutionary spirit. I also was morbidly drawn to a room featuring photos of Guevara's corpse and evidence of his fate at the hands of the CIA in Bolivia. Good riddance and pass the rum. The rest of the show just reminded me of the family feud that is Castro and the Diaz-Balarts; a crapy mexican novela. BTW, revolutions are not supposed to last 50 year.

Time to Make the Donuts

The New York Minute Show was a round the clock extravaganza. From the minute i arrived, preparations were well under way. Crates were being opened, logistical staff was on full throttle, armies of installers in white gloves were puzzling over instructions, walls were moving around cavernous spaces, artists were busy making their messes and people in general were getting acquainted for the sole purpose of delivering one kick ass art show. I am old now and have been behind the scene at countless institutes where all manner of seemingly life-or-death productions are built but this place was like an aircraft carrier preparing for an invasion. The excitement was contagious.

Spring Loaded

Like a welcoming pharmaceutical, the approach was a calculated and calibrated obstacle course garden of swirling mandala turbines powered by an unapologetic arsenal of oscillating fans. Ara Peterson's temporary elegance leaves an indelible and tranquilizing after-effect of prisma-colored satisfaction.

Begin with the End in Mind

This large Rosson Crow painting of inspired reverence to dear departed pal Keith Haring encapsulated the gist of this curatorial endeavor by Kathy Grayson to resuscitate a very significant period of art history by presenting a sincere and unabashed sampling of its continued influence on contemporary art from the ground zero mega petri dish that is NYC.

Pop Goes Surreal

Likewise the signature piece of the show, the wild and wonderlust painting and sculptures by DearRainDrop are an apostolic manifestation of the continued influence of wunderkind Kenny Scharf whose Closet #16 was featured. Kenny and I build the thing some 18 years ago right here in North Miami and it has been in cold storage in Germany until its timely excavation today.

Deity of Destruction

Here is a detail of the day-glow interior depicting the ravages of a post-nuclear day. Like king Tut's tomb, the embellishment is crisp as the day it was minted albeit with a very musty aroma.

Blessings and Babushkas

Rasputin would be confounded by the hypnotizing spectacles of Terence Koh. This unassuming fella had the uncanny audacity to attempt a trial rehearsal of his Red Burka performance in Red Square one day prior to this procession at the opening. Not surprisingly, at Red Square version, we were quickly descend upon by secret service and prompted to disperse or face certain detention. We complied. The initiation of the show at the Garage was allot more well received.

I find television very educating.

Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.

Groucho Marx

Lady of Knottingham

Not all works are elaborate and complicated. The whimsical sculptures of Martha Friedman offered visitors the elasticity of contemplation to enjoy the simple elegance of a knot. Made from giant rubber bands, the array of an everyday pop object delivered Oldenburg comfort.

After Before After

The french Burka police would get their panties in a knot from this reconsideration of anonymity by Brendan Lynch where he take tie and die out of the closet and into the garage.

“Russia will not soon become, if it ever becomes, a second copy of the United States or England - where liberal value have deep historic roots.

Vladimir Putin

Gee! Mr. McGee

You couldn't meet a nicer guy than Barry McGee. It is no wonder then that his mastery of popular style and motif are a fitting compliment to his people skills.

Nobody Knows My Name

The fact is lost in this freeze-frame of our slim vandal, he is actually an automaton with an articulated arm that stokes the can seemingly not quite frozen in the final stages of executing a sanctioned piece. He is so cool that he is cold, but it warms my heart to see old-school graffiti on display.


Swamp's very own Jim Drain was a site for vodka eyes as we were both unaware that we'd both be there. Jim is the quiet type until he gets to work. With one foot in Miami and another in NYC, Drain is the jolly multicolor giant. When Burrows talks about the 'one all-purpose blob' as metaphor collective of man, Drain hammers the point with spontaneous orgasmic cellular communion.

Thin Blue Line

Spencer Sweeney is dedicated to community service. His NYC police cruiser come dance floor light show ceiling is suspended overhead daring gazers and inadvertent wanderers with the uncertainty of illusion. Relax, Sweeney serves and protects with authoritative reassurance, and some expert rigging.

Snow Gets in Your Eye

If you were part of the polaroid generation, Dash Snow's enlarged arranged images of everyday life will be familiar. What's powerful about this narrative is just how real real can be when it is all said and done. For the post-polaroiders the originals carry tremendous allure and curiosity.

I Like Simple

Patrick Griffin delivers button-size slogans with deep clarity. Proponents of NO are quick to cross the line of censure where others will lean towards the Yes of things tolerant. To wear sentiment on your lapel is a small but effective instrument for revolution.

Angels with Dirty Faces

The are several other works of equal strength included but this has gone way past the cardinal rule of keeping blog posts short and to the point. Of the myriad of characters encountered, Jack Donoghue must be mentioned as he somehow encapsulates the embodiment of New York Minute. Like the contemporaries of my young adulthood in the 80's, the flash of spirit from NYC is a constant. Only the faces change.

Strange Pilgrims

Damn it you're good enough. So where do the travel weary art assistants go to get their batteries charged? They go to the oldest Russian bath house in Moscow. Being at the Sanduny Bath House was like the perfect final act of a short story by Garcia Marquez, a happy ending for this strange pilgrim from the swamp.

The art of any propagandist and agitator consists in his ability to find the best means of influencing any given audience, by presenting a definite truth, in such a way as to make it most convincing, most easy to digest, most graphic, and most strongly impressive.

Vladimir Lenin



  1. Glad you had a HAPPY ENDING Oliver

  2. So good article! Thank u so much!!!!