Archive for the ‘art’ Category

Counting on Karina

December 10, 2007

My friend Yvetta Fedorova has an Op-Art piece in The New York Times. It is the first in a series of comic-strip-like work on the peculiarities of raising a child in Manhattan. The strip is funny, and years from now Karina will be able to show it to her therapist.


Blind Light

November 30, 2007


There’s only one day left to experience Antony Gormley’s Blind Light at the Sean Kelly Gallery on 528 West 29th St. in New York. It’s incredible: You walk into a transparent room within a room filled with air so misty that you can’t see more than two feet. It’s totally disorienting and cool.

Gormley wrote: “Architecture is supposed to be the location of security and certainty about where you are. It is supposed to protect you from the weather, from darkness, from uncertainty. Blind Light undermines all of that. You enter this interior space that is the equivalent of being on top of a mountain, or at the bottom of the sea. It is very important for me that inside it you find the outside. Also you become the immersed figure in an endless ground, literally the subject of the work”


November 16, 2007

I’ve always had a soft spot for Yeti (the abominable snowman), Sasquatch (“wild man of the woods”), the Loch Ness monster, and other folklorish creatures that dreamy people think are real. And thus I was delighted when the Scottish loch-ness-monster.jpgserpent was spotted on holiday in Brooklyn of all places. Artist Cameron Gainer installed the 12.5-foot-tall Nessie in the salt marsh off Marine Park. I’ve watched Nessie grow up, because Cameron built the serpent in my friend Matt’s synagogue. New Yorkers in need of a nature fix should check out the improbable visitor.  Rumor has it (and I won’t deny it) that I slipped information about the Loch Ness monster into my book King’s Gambit.

The S___ the Talent Had to Put up with

June 21, 2007


I needed some recent photographs of me that my publisher could use to promote King’s Gambit: A Son, a Father, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game  My friend Damian Panitz shot me at a stone chess table in a park in Sunnyside, Queens.  Please note all the bird feces (to the right of me on the bench) that Damian subjected me to.  There were excrement-free chess tables, but no, Damian is an artist, and he insisted that the light was diffuse, and hence perfect, at this table. 

Easy for the photographer to say: He did not have to sit under a tree inhabited by a flock of diarrhetic pigeons.  There was soupy poop next to the board, and we needed to work fast before goopy dung landed on my black shirt.  It was a hot day, and you can see by the water bottle on the table that at least Damian attended to his model’s hydration needs.

The Dominican chess hustlers in the park decided I was an Eastern European chess god.  They surrounded us, and I tried to tell them that I was just an obsessed woodpusher, but the language barrier interfered with their understanding me.  We drafted the guy who said he was champion of the park (and who carried a broken iPod) to hold Damian’s reflector for the photo shoot.  The position on the board is something the guy insisted on showing me.  For the actual photos (this one was just a test), we set up the age-old position known as the King’s Gambit.

Prostrate Problems

May 21, 2007


Four-story Flatland habitat (courtesy of

Flatland is over.  The two artists who stuck it out for the full 20 daysliving 24/7 in a very narrow (“can’t turn over in bed”), four-story, 24-hour-Webcamed transparent habitat at the Sculpture Centerhave now reemerged into the third dimension.  Their lives may be less cramped, but mine sadly has now lost a dimension.  I can no longer make my frequent pilgrimages to check on how the Flatlanders are doing. 

Perhaps I romanticized 2D life, and the idea that in 20 days of quietude, even if the quarters were tight, I would satisfyingly write a novella. 

One of the 2D fellows, with whom I played e-chess while he lived in Flatland, blogged:  “in flatland, i unconsciously learned to limit my movements.  i learned to go to the bathroom twice a day, not seven. i learned to not cook. i learned to not move my computer. i learned to not reach for clean clothes (stored in a basket, amongst the i-beams of the ceiling). i learned to wait …..”


May 19, 2007


Four-story Flatland habitat (courtesy of

Although the Flatlanders are emerging from their two-dimensional world tomorrow, my e-mail chess with one of the artists will happily continue.  Four of the six artists have already abandoned their two-dimensional transparent habitat, and my e-pal is one of those MIA.  It’s still not too late to visit the Flatland Project at the Sculpture Center in Long Island City. 

You can attend the exit party on Sunday from 4:00-6:00 PM, when the remaining two flatigued inhabitants will rejoin the three-dimensional world.  At times like this, I wish I had a doppelgänger: I can’t participate in the exit bash because I’ll be upstate at a birthday party.

First Look

May 18, 2007

I need to start breaking news on my blog.  So here, never before published on the Web, is the cover of my forthcoming book, King’s Gambit: A Father, a Son, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game.  The pub date is Sept. 11not, I hope, an ominous sign. 

Esopus 8

May 16, 2007

Esopus is a frothy creek, frequented by trout and tubers, that snakes through the towns outside Woodstock.  My friend Tod once had a cottage on a roaring stream connected to the creek.  Now he has created a lush extravaganza of a magazine called Esopus

I went the other night to a launch party for their eighth issue, in the white gallery-space basement of New York City’s Center for Architecture, an attractive building that’s just a stone’s throw from the granite chess tables in Washington Square Park. 

Before I joined the hundred other Esopus revelers, I added my name and cell phone number to the bottom of a list that was kept by a greeter who sat at a desk by the front door.  I was told that sometime during the evening I’d be called by a member of the Headlong Dance Theater, a Philadelphia-based troupe that would put on an individualized dance performance just for me.  The greeter volunteered that no sex would be involved.

An hour and a half and two chardonnays later, a woman called my cell phone and asked where I was.  She instructed me to go up two flights of stairs and out the front door.  She said she would call me back when I was outside.

As soon as I was in front of the building, she called again and told me to cross the street without getting run over and take a seat atop a small yellow sticker attached to the base of the famous statue of Mayor LaGuardia.  “Paul,” she said, “you need a nickname.  I’m going to call you Buzz,” and she pronounced Buzz as if had four z’s.  “Is that okay, Buzz?”

It was more than okay.  I liked it.  It was macho.  Like Buzz Aldrin.  I had the right stuff. 

As I sat on the sticker, she told me to experience the world around me.  “The man drinking coffee on your left, the UPS truck passing in front of you, the birds on the branch above your head,” the voice coming through my phone said, “now take it all in, Buzz.”  I took it all in, but she was nowhere to be seen.  She told me to sit there for 30 seconds immersing myself in my surroundings and she’d call me back.


She called on cue and asked me how I was doing.  Then she instructed me to go to a pay phone half a block away on the other side of the street.  She said I’d find a colored sticker to affix to my shirt.  While I walked to the phone, she asked me if I knew that a bee has 3,000 eyes through which they are able to see everything around them.  I told her I didn’t know that.


Once the sticker was on me, she instructed me to go around the corner and into an NYU building.  The security guard, she said, would notice the sticker and check to see that my name was on a list.  Then I’d take the elevators to the sixth floor and look for Room 606.  It was confusing to find the room, she said, so she promised to call me back when I emerged from the elevator.


When she called back, she told me to walk past the picture of Billie Holiday and around the corner past a series of music practice rooms.  I did as she instructed and found Room 606, which had a honeycomb-cell symbol on the door.  “Be brave, Buzz,” the voice on the phone said before hanging up.  A woman emerged from Room 606 and greeted me, “Hi Buzz.” 


I finally got it.  Buzz was not a spaceman’s name but had bee connotations.  The woman explained (or maybe the phone voice had told me some of this—my recollection is fuzzy because at the time I was nervous and excited about what would be expected of me) that I’d have four minutes alone in the cell with three dancers.  That they would respond to my movements and mimic them.  That no one would be watching.  That I should make of the experience what I wanted.  That it would end in exactly four minutes when the music stopped.  She asked me if there was anything I wanted to leave with her while I went inside.  I gave her my sweatshirt and glasses. 


Inside were two casually dressed women and one man who were all down on the floor entwined theatrically in a frozen dance pose.  All was quiet.  Then the music started and I gingerly walked around them. They did not respond.  I was unnerved that they were not copying my movements, as I thought was promised.  I walked in a big square around them and self-consciously raised my arms a bit, but still they did not respond.  I’m the kind of person who, at parties with strangers, usually hovers in the corner near the chips and salsa. 


Something overcame me, though, and I suddenly got down on the floor and scooted in close.  Now the bees came to life, and I can’t really describe what happened next—it was all a fun blur—but one of the women was kind of in my lap at one point.  Just as I was getting comfortable, the music stopped and my four minutes were up.  The performance was incredible.


May 15, 2007


Four-story Flatland habitat (courtesy of

Through Sunday at the Sculpture Center in Long Island City is a fascinating installation, the Flatland Project, which I’ve been visiting regularly since it first went up. Ward Shelly has created a very narrow, four-story-high, transparent (except for the bathroom), beautifully pristine structure that six artists were scheduled to live in for 20 days. I say “scheduled” because three have already slipped out, with everyone set to leave in five days.

Now this is not deprivation living, a la my friend David Blaine, who lived on fortified water for 44 days in a transparent box suspended from a crane over the Thames. The Flatlanders have their laptops, WiFi, and cell phones, and food delivered by Fresh Direct. Okay, sleeping may not be much fun, if you’re a tosser and turner. And exercise is difficult unless you care to climb up and down on the movable ladders that link the floors.

One of my friends said the artists wouldn’t last three days; all of them have done better than that. I think the place looks cozy and peaceful. I wish I had known about it in advance and had volunteered. I would have used the time to try to bang out a novel on my laptop.

Early in my visits I noticed a folded chessboard on one of the higher floors. I wrote my e-mail address on a piece of paper and invited the Flatlanders to play chess with me on the Internet (on a cool chess server called Red Hot Pawn).  I taped the invitation to the first floor of Flatland.

Now I’m engaged in two chess games, but it’s a bit frustrating because my opponent(s) is not  chatty and doesn’t respond to my questions about life in two dimensions.

When I visit the transparent habitat, the six residents don’t seem to be doing anything exciting: they drink Bustelo coffee (can’t Fresh Direct do better?), they type on their laptops, they climb ladders to reach the bathroom.  One or two Flatlanders smile at me and acknowledge my presence.  Often I’m the only visitor there—which seems strange given how great Flatland is. 

The twenty-something dude who mans the door at the Sculpture Center calls me Chess Guy, as in, “You were here yesterday, Chess Guy.” 

Who is in more need of a life, someone who can afford to live in an art project for 20 days and not do much of anything or someone who comes day after day to watch people who are not doing much of anything?  I wish I could change my status from Flatland groupie to Flatland inhabitant.

Well, here’s the position from one of my chess games. I’m White and have a forced checkmate (oh goody, goody!) in two moves.

Flatland Project Game

Do you see the mate?

[May 16th update: my opponent, who has prematurely rejoined the three-dimensional world,  now cheerfully chats with me when we exchange moves online.  He says he is experiencing “flatlag.”]