Zach Baron

  • diary December 17, 2008

    A Farewell to Arms

    New York

    MEMORIES OF RIVINGTON ARMS form a palimpsest: the old, bright white gallery space on Rivington Street; cadged to-go margaritas in Styrofoam cups from the Hat down the street; the ever-present opening sidewalk sprawl. There were the close quarters; the move north, to Joey Ramone Place, just off the Bowery; dinners at Kelly & Ping; the casual, louche booths at sundry art fairs; the parade of ghostly artists now gone from the gallery; and the familiar presence of those who stayed. A phalanx of Rivington Arms veterans, past and present, guarded the door Thursday night at the gallery’s last-ever

  • diary October 07, 2008

    Centre and Periphery

    New York

    “I don’t know what 95 percent of you are doing,” admitted Katherine Liberovskaya, the Montreal-based video artist and organizer—sort of—of the forty-four poets, musicians, and filmmakers gathered to pay homage to the composer Phill Niblock on his seventy-fifth birthday. The slate of participants alone ensured a good turnout on a rainy Wednesday night at Anthology Film Archives, but if the evening’s master of ceremonies was befuddled, what hope did we, the audience, have? “This whole evening was kind of haphazard,” Liberovskaya said, laughing—the cost, evidently, of organizing on the down-low in

  • diary June 20, 2008

    Riding the Wave

    New York

    How many photographs of downtown scenestress and musician Lydia Lunch can one person stand? Scholars in future generations will now be able to piece together pretty much every outfit the postpunk doyenne ever wore in her first five years in New York, thanks to an avalanche of documentation in books from the past couple years: Marc Masters’s No Wave, Paula Court’s New York Noise, and Thurston Moore and Byron Coley’s just-released No Wave: Post-Punk. Underground. New York. 1976–1980. Like any good insular art scene, No Wave kept outsiders (and audiences) at bay but photographers on hand. If you

  • diary May 19, 2008

    Swimming Upstream

    New York

    Is any genre more despicable, more dependably hollow, than the rock documentary? The avalanche of peripheral figures; the unflagging unanimity of praise; the dull, paradoxical insistence that “you had to be there” (if we had to be there, why watch now?); the turgid arc, from humble beginnings to sound-barrier-shattering innovation; the undistinguished archival footage, presented onscreen like an unveiling of the Dead Sea Scrolls?

    So all credit to Matt Wolf, whose documentary on the downtown cellist and disco auteur Arthur Russell, Wild Combination—which had its raucous New York premiere at the

  • diary March 25, 2008

    Continuing Education

    New York

    In 1977, Ikue Mori moved from Tokyo to New York. She was in her early twenties, spoke no English, knew no one, and was due back—she’d promised her mother—in three months. Wandering around the Lower East Side, she met a guitarist, Arto Lindsay, and a keyboardist, Robin Crutchfield. While her mother waited in Toyko, Mori and her new friends formed the epochal No Wave act DNA; within a year, her abstruse, sculptural playing—her bandmates taught her drum parts via pantomime and diagram—had made her a downtown goddess. The Brian Eno–curated No Wave document No New York followed; so did a cameo in

  • diary December 17, 2007

    Uptown/Downtown

    New York

    Last Thursday’s Young Collectors Council Artist’s Ball at the Guggenheim brought uptown a low-life tableau appropriate to its guest of honor, the photographer Ryan McGinley. Plausibly candid yet staged, intoxicated, and headlined by the artist of the evening’s favorite band, Blonde Redhead, McGinley’s Guggenheim takeover sported nearly as many flashbulbs and cameramen as people willing to pose for them.

    The museum’s press reps had promised heavyweight lens fodder, and some even made it: indie-music darling Feist, Piper Perabo, Leelee Sobieski, and, nailing the New York zeitgeist, Gossip Girl’s

  • diary July 10, 2007

    Eye of the Storm

    Brooklyn

    “YOU are the 78th member!” explained Boredoms band leader Yamataka Eye in the program notes for 77BOADRUM, a once-in-a-lifetime performance held last Saturday by the Osaka, Japan, noise-rock quartet. “This is because the sound will spiral outwards, from left to right, like DNA, from deep inside of us right out to you. The 77 drum group is one giant instrument, one living creature. The 77 boa-drum will coil like a snake, and transform to become a great dragon!”

    The four thousand or so people lucky enough to gain entry to Brooklyn’s Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park were greeted by the sight of a

  • diary May 24, 2007

    High Life, Low Life

    New York

    Two days before the end of the first-annual H&M High Line Festival, performance artist and musician Laurie Anderson stood onstage at the Highline Ballroom and asked, “Don’t you love whores?” The festival’s producers, Josh Wood and David Binder, and its curator, David Bowie, surely would have rather avoided the question. But Anderson has a knack for this sort of persistent fragment—what novelist Jonathan Lethem once called “an itchy or gummy phrase”—and so it stuck.

    Money for trade: The High Line’s relation to the festival that bears its name had been explained in articles leading up to the

  • diary April 06, 2007

    Dead Beat

    New York

    Information was deliberately scarce on Sunday, when Chinatown gallery Reena Spaulings hosted an event to mark the opening of a show called “Dead Already,” a spur-of-the-moment collaboration between Kim Gordon and Jutta Koether. Dance (“a return to”); Deadwood, the HBO series; and the last name Graham—as in Martha and Dan (the latter was present and showing work)—were involved, but who knew exactly how?

    At 3 PM on the drizzly afternoon, the pallor on recently awakened faces—there were many—was uncomfortably similar to the gray light filtering through the gallery’s rear windows. Precarious wooden

  • diary January 17, 2007

    Tone Poems

    New York

    For a Thursday-night program enigmatically promoted as “an evening of words and song,” Patti Smith took just the length of a poem to set the evening’s tone, letting us in on the joke: “Should I clap quiet, because it’s a poem?” she wondered along with the reverent audience in the well-lit confines of the Robert Miller Gallery. “What I usually do,” she finished, taking mercy, “is nothing.” She had arrived calm, breaking off one moment onstage to hug her late-arriving daughter, Jesse, another to applaud the inventor of the lens (she was sporting new glasses). Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall

  • diary December 20, 2006

    Berlin Reconstruction

    Brooklyn

    Lou Reed’s epigraph billed his four-night St. Ann’s Warehouse residency and first-ever live performance of the entire Berlin album as “an evening to press between the crumbling leaves of Fall,” a claim only made more self-regarding by the insistent media flogging (“Sometimes called the most depressing album ever made,” quoth Ben Sisario in the New York Times) surrounding the event. The will-call line was heavy on formalwear, Times Arts sections tucked into overcoat pockets, graying ponytails, cigarette smoke drifting over ubiquitous war stories—even hearing aids. Some formulated their own pull