Friday, May 1, 2015

An Even Taller Manhattan

A rendering of projected new towers, many under construction, some still in planning in Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn to the year 2020 from The New York Post.

New York City is going through its biggest building boom since the Great Depression.  Perhaps that is a measure of the depths of our lingering economic crisis.  Just as in the 1930s, the combination of cheap labor, cheap building materials, and ever more concentrated wealth creates opportunities for construction on an immense scale.  At least 4 new buildings currently under construction will dwarf the Empire State Building when they are finished.  One of these new buildings will be (unofficially) the tallest building in the city.
What is different about today's building boom is that most of these huge buildings will be residential.  Four Thirty Two Park Avenue is already taller than the Empire State Building and will soon hold the title of the world's tallest residential building.  It is all condominiums supposedly selling for a minimum price of $50 million for a unit on the lower floors.  The penthouse, rumored to be priced at $150 million, has already sold.  Instead of office towers rented out by corporations using these buildings as headquarters, these are entirely private buildings off limits to the public.  Most of the buyers are international plutocrats looking for secure and profitable places to park their money.  Manhattan real estate is very much in demand as just such an investment.
Very few of these investors will actually live in these residences.  Many will sublet them to slightly less wealthy tenants.  Other units may well remain vacant as pied-a-terres with a live in staff, and visited by the owner only occasionally if at all.

Here are my photos of 432 Park Avenue.  Pardon the schmutzig pictures.  The trusty little digital needs to go to the shop.

432 Park Avenue viewed from Williamsburg in Brooklyn.  That's the UN in the foreground with the Trump residential tower on the right (at one time the tallest residential building in the world).  You can see the two green towers of the Waldorf-Astoria on the left.

 A close up of the new tower.  I think it has topped out, but as you can see, it is still under construction.

 A picture that I took last year of 432 Park Avenue under construction from the Bronx Community College campus.  The Empire State building is to the right.  Second from the right is the new WTC, still officially the tallest building in the city, and expected to remain so...officially.  You can see the top of the Chrysler Building on the left, with the Citicorp Tower and the new Bloomberg Center further left.  The spire on the far right is the top of the new Bank of America building by Bryant Park.

Midtown Manhattan at night photographed a few days ago from the Burnside Avenue station in the Bronx.  432 Park Avenue is the tall glowing blue thing on the left.

The reign of 432 Park Avenue as the tallest residential building in the world will be brief.  Already under construction and scheduled to be finished by 2018 is the new Nordstrom Tower near Carnegie Hall on West 57th street in Midtown.

Here are the latest renderings of the future Nordstrom Tower.  A huge hypodermic needle in the sky.

The Nordstrom Tower will be officially a multi-use tower, but as you can see, over half of it will be über-expensive residences above a thousand-dollar-a-night hotel.  The bottom 10 floors will be the largest Nordstrom's Department Store in the USA.  The penthouse at the top will have the world's highest private terrace.

The Nordstrom Tower will officially be the second tallest building in the city, just a foot short of the new WTC at 1775 feet.  However, the Tower will stand on ground that is 70 feet higher in elevation than the land supporting the WTC.  Thus, the new Nordstrom Tower will be the unofficial tallest building in the city.

Just wait until the next blackout.  Life for the residents of these ultra tall towers will be very interesting with no elevators and no running water.  I can't imagine living someplace so high that I might as well be in a plane.  But, as I said, most of these condominiums will likely remain empty.

These towers are objects of widespread resentment throughout the city and beyond.  The prices that these condominiums are fetching, even before they are built, are wildly skewing the city's housing market driving up already insanely high rents to even new heights of unaffordability, even in the less desirable parts where the city warehouses its poor in the Bronx and easternmost parts of Brooklyn and Queens.  That so much of this new high priced residential space will likely remain empty is especially galling since the city has its biggest homeless population since the Great Depression, and those who are housed are typically paying half or more of their incomes on rent.  Unscrupulous landlords are resorting to all kinds of measures, legal and illegal, to drive out longtime residents to make room for higher paying tenants.

It's hard to imagine a clearer and grander expression in architecture of our transition from democracy to oligarchy than these tall and taller towers.  Our overlords will indeed look down on us quite literally as the class divides harden and widen into chasms.  A coarse and brutal culture gets the brutal out-of-scale architecture that it deserves.  Albert Speer is smiling in his grave.

The new WTC is getting smaller and smaller, and the old Empire State Building will be practically a midget in a few years.

Happy May Day!

The International Labor Day, a holiday created by Americans that Americans find to be so threatening that they created a separate American Labor Day in September.

Print by Walt Crane

Lotsa talk these days about inequality and widening wage gaps by lotsa politicians.
I say to them all, put your money where your mouth is.

So let's dance.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Supremes

All 9 of you, think it over....

Sunday, April 26, 2015


The death toll is past 2000 as Nepal digs out from their worst earthquake since 1934.  Thousands upon thousands more are feared dead throughout the region.

Durbar Square in Kathmandu

Durbar Square today.

A Shiva Puja performed by a very young Brahman priest on the steps of the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu in 2007.  It is impossible to know what has become of all of these people in this clip.  We can only hope for the best and wish them well.  According to news reports, the temple is damaged but still stands.  Other ancient temples in the city were leveled.

Donations for earthquake relief in Nepal can be made though Oxfamamerica.

Through The American Red Cross (You may donate specifically to Nepal relief or to 'Where it is neeeded most,' or to both)

Through Episcopal Relief and Development.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Second Wojnarowicz Series in its Current State

Steven Bates who has photographed my work for many years paid a visit to my studio recently and took pictures of 8 of my recent paintings from 2013 to 2015.  Most of them are from the new series of paintings that I am working on about the artist and writer David Wojnarowicz.
Instead of showcasing only the new work, I'm showing the whole Wojnarowicz series in its current state.  I plan to finish with 15 panels and 10 of those are now finished (actually 9 since I plan to do one again this summer).  I've decided to leave open the possibility of adding more panels to the series in the future.

All of the paintings in the series are oil on canvas, 20 inches by 30 inches.

Painting David, 2011

I don't have a definite order in mind for the series, but I've always considered this one to be first.

David's Dad, 2013

David Wojnarowicz came from an abusive household with a violent alcoholic father.  His father beat David and his brothers and sister with a baseball bat, fired off guns in the house, and threatened to kill his mother at least twice.  The police were regular visitors to the family home.  David felt especially vulnerable as his homosexuality manifested itself.
David found solace in those days and for the rest of his life in the small creatures of ponds and streams.  He considered himself to be particularly lucky to find a green snake.

"What Is This Little Guy's Job In The World?"  2012

This painting is based on this text by David Wojnarowicz:

What is this little guy's job in the world. If this little guy dies does the world know? Does the world feel this? Does something get displaced? If this little guy dies does the world get a little lighter? Does the planet rotate a little faster? If this little guy dies, without his body to shift the currents of air, does the air flow perceptibly faster? What shifts if this little guy dies? Do people speak language a little bit differently? If this little guy dies does some little kid somewhere wake up with a bad dream? Does an almost imperceptible link in the chain snap? Will civilization stumble?

Hustled, 2013

David Wojnarowicz ran away from home for good around the age of 15, and like most young gay runaways, made a dangerous living hustling.  He lived out on the streets for a few years as he writes about in Seven Miles a Second and in The Waterfront Journals.  He was raped and nearly murdered twice according to his own accounts.

I'm not really happy with this painting.  It has some nice parts, but doesn't add up very well.  I plan to make another version this summer.

Krazy Kat Landscape, 2013

David Wojnarowicz loved traveling through the desert and mountain landscapes of the west, first by hitchhiking and later by renting a car and driving aimlessly and alone. Wojnarowicz, like many other artists of the 20th century, admired George Herriman's Krazy Kat comic strip which ran from 1913 to 1944. Wojnarowicz compared the western landscapes that he saw to Herriman's cartoons. Herriman himself spent most of his life in California and traveled frequently in the west, especially in Arizona, looking for inspiration for his comic strips. The composition of this painting is loosely based on stills from some of John Ford's western movies.

Here is a sample of George Herriman's Krazy Kat comic strip.

I originally finished this painting in 2012.  I repainted it extensively after my own western travels in 2013.  Here is how the painting looked in 2012 photographed by Steven Bates.

The Backseat, 2013

During his travels, Wojnarowicz had many sexual encounters that he wrote about in "The Waterfront Journals" and other books. They were part of the thrill and adventure of traveling for him. He writes about these encounters and how he always was wary of discovery, especially by the police since homosexual hook-ups were still illegal in most states (in Missouri you could get 5 years in the state penitentiary, and that really happened to some people).

The Green Pterodactyl 2011

David Wojnarowicz was a regular at the abandoned West Side docks on the Hudson river in New York in the 1970s and 1980s. The docks, once a very busy port between inland agriculture and industry and maritime shipping, lay abandoned and crumbling from the early 1960s on. The ruined warehouses and offices became a gay cruising ground in the late 1960s. Wojnarowicz was one of many artists who painted on the walls of the old dock buildings. Those paintings are now known only from photographs. The old docks are now all gone.

A pterodactyl painted on the walls of the West Side docks by Wojnarowicz photographed shortly before the buildings were destroyed in the late 1980s.

A detail from another painting by David Wojnarowicz from the West Side docks, also now destroyed.

Painting Fire, 2014

Another painting based on David Wojnarowicz's paintings in the West Side dock ruins.  The painting within this painting is a composite of several works by David Wojnarowicz.

Here are 2 paintings by Wojnarowicz that are quoted in this painting.

The Lazaretto, 2014

This painting was inspired by a collaborative installation piece that David Wojnarowicz participated in with other artists in 1989. A lazaretto is a quarantine hospital in a port city intended to isolate possibly infectious patients. The first lazaretto began in Venice (where the term was coined) in the 14th century after the Black Death.
Wojnarowicz and the other artists chose the word lazaretto to describe the isolation, fear, contempt, and malign neglect that AIDS sufferers felt in those days. Wojnarowicz had already lost many friends to the disease and would himself succumb to it. The figure in the Tina Turner wig is based on a memory of mine from many years ago of a young man I saw at a party in Tina Turner drag who upon closer inspection turned out to be covered with Kaposi's spots.

"When I Put My Hands On Your Body...", 2015

This painting is based on this text by David Wojnarowicz:

“When I put my hands on your body on your flesh I feel the history of that body. Not just the beginning of its forming in that distant lake but all the way beyond its ending. I feel the warmth and texture and simultaneously I see the flesh unwrap from the layers of fat and disappear. I see the fat disappear from the muscle. I see the muscle disappearing from around the organs and detaching itself from the bones. I see the organs gradually fade into transparency leaving a gleaming skeleton gleaming like ivory that slowly resolves until it becomes dust. I am consumed in the sense of your weight the way your flesh occupies momentary space the fullness of it beneath my palms. I am amazed at how perfectly your body fits to the curves of my hands. If I could attach our blood vessels so we could become each other I would. If I could attach our blood vessels in order to anchor you to the earth to this present time I would. If I could open up your body and slip inside your skin and look out your eyes and forever have my lips fused with yours I would. It makes me weep to feel the history of your flesh beneath my hands in a time of so much loss. It makes me weep to feel the movement of your flesh beneath my palms as you twist and turn over to one side to create a series of gestures to reach up around my neck to draw me nearer. All these memories will be lost in time like tears in the rain.”


In addition to the Wojnarowicz series there is this painting from 2014, The Mountain, painted in oil on canvas, 24 inches by 30 inches.

And finally a self portrait from 2014


My Facebook page for my art just hit 600 likes today.