Dear Friends and Readers,by Phong Bui
As the summer nears its end and many of us anticipate the eventful autumn—back to school and back to work after the Labor Day weekend with renewed energy and fresh perspectives—I’d like to share with you the following:
1) What a monumental achievement it was for the Center for Reproductive Rights to have won a significant Supreme Court case in their fight against anti-choice laws! What an inventive campaign they launched in February with the 5.4 Million and Counting quilting project to represent the 5.4 million women of reproductive age in Texas whose healthcare was at risk. This case—which concluded with the most significant abortion-related ruling in nearly a quarter century—will have a national impact in states where similar laws attempt to close down abortion clinics. This is a huge victory for reproductive rights and for the millions of women in Texas and many more across the United States who will be empowered to fight back against deceptive anti-choice laws.
2) What a remarkable milestone Socrates Sculpture Park has reached. It has been over thirty years since our friend, the great sculptor Mark di Suvero, along with a team of artists and local youth, began magically transforming the four-acre abandoned landfill and illegal dumpsite in Long Island City into what it is today! Currently led by executive director John Hatfield, director of exhibitions Jess Wilcox, and their brilliant staff, Socrates Sculpture Park has shown the large-scale sculptures of over 1000 artists, ranging from well- to lesser-known artists, from early- and mid- to late-career artists of all genders, from thirty different countries. On Thursday, September 22, citizens of the art community will join together to honor Mark and celebrate the park’s thirtieth anniversary. Like many artists, I am an admirer of this unique living organism.
3) Every artist who has been a regular customer at New York Central Art Supply has one way or another come to know Steve Steinberg and his precious staff, most of whom are practicing artists. This beloved landmark for artists, located at 62 Third Avenue at the corner of East 11th Street, which has operated under the leadership of the Steinberg family since 1905—one of the oldest art-supply stores in the United States—will be closed by the end of this summer. Many of us will remember how thrilling it was to discover and explore the rich resources of materials and supplies the store provided for decades! How one appreciates Steven’s often told story of delivering art supplies as a kid to the studios of Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Rothko, among others. His personal history was undoubtedly reflected in the deep devotion, technical knowledge, and care among his staff.
4) We are so grateful for the enthusiasm and support from everyone in this incredible year of momentum for the Rail. I am particularly pleased that, in my new role as Co-Founder and Artistic Director, I will be able to focus my energies into the many curatorial projects, studio visits, public programs and all the other endeavors that make the Rail such a dynamic social environment. I am looking forward to continuing my conversations with artists for our ever evolving journal, and to the wonderful alchemy of our team here at the Rail HQ. And so, on behalf of the Rail’s board, I would like to welcome Consulting Editorial Director Amy Ontiveros, who this month takes the helm of the Art Seen section and the Art section of featured artist interviews, and Stephanie Skaff, who has joined our team with great enthusiasm as Development and Outreach Associate. We also wish the best of luck to Stephanie Del Rosso, our outgoing dance editor, in her future endeavors, and welcome our new dance editor (and longtime Rail contributor) Gillian Jakab.
5) We would like to thank both our editorial intern, Louis Block, and our production assistant Clarisse Fahrtmann—the first a painter and the second a writer—for their exceptional temperaments and work ethic . They were both wonderful presences at Rail HQ. They shall be missed.
6) Having visited the exhibition FORTY, curated by the legendary Alanna Heiss, I’ve realized how radical her vision was both in terms of the spirit of experimentation and collaboration. Forty years later, FORTY shows the early formation of both Alanna and seminal artists they built their own intimate community. This exhibition is a reminder of art, in the words of Ernst Fischer, “as a ‘life substitute,’ [and] as means of putting man in a state of equilibrium with the surrounding world—the idea contains a partial recognition of the nature of art and its necessity.” When Alanna founded PS1 as the latest venture in a series of pioneering projects organized through the non-profit Institute for Art and Urban Resources (which included the Clocktower Gallery in Lower Manhattan and other projects in disused spaces across New York City) the existing architectural features—be they classrooms, stairwells, windows, closets, bathrooms, boiler rooms, courtyards, or attics—formed the given physical and spatial conditions in which the artists adapted and made their works accordingly. Forms and methods of making art were therefore changed in response to those various conditions. Thank you, Alanna, for the generous reminder.
Happy fall, in solidarity,
This issue is dedicated to the memory of those whose lives were taken by the devastating earthquake in Ametrice, and Accumoli in Lazio, Marche in the village of Arquata del Tronto, and the hamlet of Pescara del Tronto, Italy.
PHONG BUI is the Publisher and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Rail.