Dear Readers and Friends,
“Enthusiasm is the electricity of life. How do you get it? You act enthusiastic until you make it habit.”
“I prefer the errors of enthusiasm to the indifference of wisdom.”
One of the fundamental reasons why the Rail is poised to celebrate its 17-year anniversary is because it has continued to thrive with no mission statement, even while that has been difficult for some public and private foundations to understand. We’ve fought hard to stay honest with our commitment to the artist’s creative journey, a mission whose statement is the work itself. (There’s an immense difference between taking a trip from one place to the next with a known distance and duration, versus a journey where one does not know the destination or when or if he or she will arrive.) I’m reminded how frustrated I was at times having to articulate this position, and have seen artists caught in the predicament; one suspects he or she avoids speaking about their work as much as possible, or else speaks through analogies to prevent being pigeon holed, or bored.
As the publisher of this inventive yet impractical monthly journal, I’ve to come to realize over the past few years our most brilliant supporters—in addition to a handful of friends such as mediaThe Foundation, The Golden Rule Foundation, Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Distracted Globe Foundation, New York State Council for the Visual Arts, and Industry City where our Headquarters are based—are artist foundations, having welcomed the Rail with open arms. While some including Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason Foundation, Bill Jensen and Margrit Lewcuzk Foundation, Wege Foundation, the Viola Fund, Alex Katz Foundation, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, and the Andy Warhol Foundation are directing their support into lessening the intense burden of our day-to-day general operations, others underwrite a specific section such as the Al Held Foundation with the Critical Held Essays, Helen Frankenthaler Foundation with the artist interviews, the Willem de Kooning Foundation with the Artseen section, the Richard Pousette-Dart Foundation with the Verbatim section, Dedalus with Art Books in Review, an anonymous friend with the Book Reviews, and Eugene Lemay with Field Notes. I should note our good friend John Thomson, an avid art collector and former board member, with his Thomson Family Philanthropy underwrites the bi-monthly interview with museum directors called The Directors, and the philosopher Arthur Collins with his son, the painter Jacob Collins, advocate for the Morris and Alma Schapiro Foundation to underwrite the series of interviews with critics, art historians, and writers. Our staff and I are working hard to welcome other artist foundations and future friend’s foundations to underwrite the rest of the sections. We need to cover Fiction, InTranslation, Dance, Music, Film, Theater, and Poetry. We’re confident that by the end of this year we will achieve our goal, to pay our writers from here and onward, and keep the Rail thriving with greater freedom and commitment.
The camaraderie and dedication of our board and staff has harmonized into a most ideal family of mind, which has been a joy for everyone! Our daily conversations at lunches and around endless projects have kept us close in our collective labor, and as a result our personal growth has been encouraged through open criticism and constructive insights.
Here is what we have been up to:
- Launching Tell Me Something Good, the first anthology of Rail artist interviews, published by David Zwirner Books
- Curating the monumental Rail Curatorial Project: Occupy Mana: Artists Need to Create at the Same Scale that Society has the Capacity to Destroy / Friends in Solidarity, Year 1 at Mana Contemporary (October 15–December 15, 2017)
- Publishing The River Rail, a bi-annual and free publication dedicated to environmental and climate change research in writing
- Creating Against the Current: The Rail’s Social Environment, a book about the Rail’s history to be distributed free of charge, among other surprises for the holidays.
Occupy Mana is a two-part exhibit. First, Artists Need to Create at the Same Scale that Society has the Capacity to Destroy will be shown in the 50,000 square feet Glass Gallery and surrounding outdoor area featuring works centered around human rights and equality, and the environment and climate change. Participant artists are Shoja Azari, Huma Bhabha, Lauren Bon, Mel Chin, Christian de Boshnek, Lyle Ashton Harris, Jenny Holzer, Alfredo Jaar, Maya Lin, Deborah Kass, Eugene Lemay, Shirin Neshat, Adam Pendleton, Clifford Ross, Alexis Rockman, Tim Rollins & KOS, Will Ryman, Hank Willis Thomas, Nari Ward, Fastnet, Tomas Vu & Rirkrit Tiravanija, among others. The second Friends in Solidarity will be installed throughout the five floors of the main building. Featuring a selection of one half of works from artists-in-residence at Mana, shown alongside peers invited from elsewhere to join in. Together, they will be installed in transient and unexpected spaces. The participant artists are Dana Buhl, Jennifer Kraus Chapeau, Sante D’Orazio, Chris Felver, Cary Hulbert, Ben Keating, James English Leary, Alberto Montaño Mason, Kele McComsey, Cy Morgan, Geraldine Neuwirth, Rocio Olivares, G.T. Pellizzi, Lola Montes Schnabel, Pacifico Silano, Ray Smith, Miryana Todorova, Nathaniel Ward, Hands Off Our Revolution, and texts by Raphael Rubenstein and and Heather Bause, among others.
We stand together in protest of the negative and offensive political agenda implemented by the Trump administration imposed on our social lives, our vulnerable neighbors, and our natural surroundings.
Enjoy the beautiful autumn,
P.S. We send our belated birthday wishes to two of our advisory board members Alex Katz and Wolf Kahn, whose steadfast commitment to their journeys have inspired us to undertake our own. We send a robust salute to Jenny Dixon on her recent announcement to retire after having served for 14 years as the director of the Noguchi Museum in Queens. We also send strength to the resilient spirit of the people of Puerto Rico in their recovery after Hurricane Maria’s grave destruction. This issue is dedicated to the monumental contributions of the poet John Ashbery, to poetry, literature, and art criticism. He will be missed.
PHONG BUI is the Publisher and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Rail.