Category Archives: Brooklyn Art Scene

The Coney Island State of Mind

coney-island-state-of-mind-poemsConey Island is hip and if in doubt there’s always Brighton beach. That’s the new hipster word on the street for Summer in the City. Hot times! Thank you Lovin Spoonfull!  Thank you Lawrence Ferlinghetti, West coast’s answer to poetic genius! His Coney Island of the Mind is an awesome collection of his Summer of Love point of view with the Coney spin working overtime! Check it out! They are cramming the B the A the F the Q, anxious to hit the boardwalk and the gritty pebble filled sand of these two iconic Nyc legendary beach escapes. Oh Coney has the history of the proverbial cat where it keeps coming back to life, over and over, and Brighton, well is it really America? Whenever I go, I know I’m in Kiev, stepping down from the 75 year old steps of the elevated subway platform engulfed by the smell of knishes, the sound of Russian spoken , the sight of the old world shops and inhabitants of a NY village they have claimed as theirs and made it home. nathans-franks-2014-coney-island-cultureI am thinking about M&M, the Russian food store of all flavors and favorites, the liquor stores where they sell the Vodka Standard the Mother of Vodka, and every flavor Schnappes known to man, and the homemade delicacies offered on the sidewalk stands each one looking tempting and appetizing but I have a mission and it’s the beach so I keep walking walking till I see the glory of the boardwalk and the sky and water beyond.

Tatiana is my sign that I am really here. The boardwalk mega restaurant, serving up every Russian delight in mega portions to the sun drenched , beach lover, who maybe didn’t make it to Miami, or Bahamas , or Long Island but hey, made it here and it feels pretty damn good!

Apartment escapee, summer weekend warrior, Nyc homesteader, you made it to one of the coolest beaches around! The other one is of course Coney Island.

mermaid-parade-2014-brooklyn-nycConey is Pop Central! The dreamland of colorful, kitsch, whimsy, childhood fun of past memories, from Mermaid parade to Famous Nathan’s the Emperor of hotdogs, the Polar Bear clubs meeting place every New Year, and those frank photos iconic and so real of the under the boardwalk make out sessions, of the fifties when coney was the cool summer beach paradise everyone who was anyone escaped to whenever they could.

And now? Well now, it’s cool again. Because hipsters loooove anything that’s kind of tattered, rough around the edges, bohemian, gritty, even if it’s seen as dead and buried by the people who lived it when it was Really cool. Like they discovered a rare artifact while on an archeological dig that’s suddenly made them famous. It’s soo ironic how brighton-beach-brooklyn-ny-blog-culture-artold cool becomes new cool only through hype and bullshit, word of mouth blah blah with a dose of the media megaphone thrown in for good measure.

But for me, I dig it because it’s Verrry POP! Couldn’t get better than Coney for POP culture incarnate. That insane looking roller coaster now rebuilt, the fried clam bars and greasy fries, the oddball diverse mix of people crushing the boardwalk for a glimpse of the ocean, a scent of saltwater, a breath of ocean air, kids hysterical with happiness over the sight of cotton candy, hotdogs, and corny blowup toys, all give me and others the feeling of days long gone, called childhood, where the best thing, the most exciting thing in summer was going to the beach, and for city folk that meant Coney Island.

original-70's-pop-art-brooklynI painted Nathan’s in the 80’s, being attracted to the iconography of the hot dog, one of the important cultural foods symbolic of American life. I saw the artsy pop style trending like an electric current throughout the entire scope of the Coney Island fabulous persona. It is and was there , a powerful, je ne sais quois, element of crazy, fun, excitement, individuality, funk, subterranean stuff the stuff that art comes from the stuff that feeds the artist hunger with an ever abundant source,  inspiring, elevating ,and delivering more and more art.  But face it kids, Coney, and Nathan’s go hand in hand. Coney is Americana on steroids! It’s pop culture at its max. It is the beach place for the people. I mean the Real people. brighton-beach-brooklyn-ny-blog-culture-artThe elite hop the jitney, and head for the Hamptons, or hop their Town car without a look back. But for the Brooklyn, Manhattan transplants who are young, voted for Obama, bearded, tattooed, fedora headed, skinny jean, techies, the Hamptons seems kind of square. Stuffy, old, and wayyyyy too rich. I mean these hipsters aka the young, the “are we gonna be able to get hired after we graduate?” kids, are shacked up 3 and 4 in an apartment, in order to make rent. Hamptons? Uh, isn’t that the Mecca of the Wall Street screw ups who basically have these hipsters in hock for life , with unbelievable student loan bills they won’t ever be able to pay ????? Like, really, are they heading for Hampton hell? Nooooo. It’s Coney, it’s Brighton all the way!

mermaid-parade-2014-coney-island-brooklyn-nycA quick train ride, transversing the hinterlands of avenue H,J,M, Kings  Hwy, Sheepshead Bay, graffiti left over from the 80’s providing an entertaining view as the train takes you closer and closer to the seaside amusement park , that’s hard to believe still exists – a place soooo much cooler than the picture perfect, oasis, aka Hamptons.

That’s what pop culture, art, posters, cards, all represent. Youth. Lightness. Fun. Frivolity. Kooky. Divine. Freedom. Drag. Bukowsky. Satie. Jeff Koons. Elvis. Liza with a Z. Blondie with a B. Kiki with a K!

That’s Coney Island!

It’s Nathan’s!

coney-island-old-brooklyn-nyc-cultureIt’s POP all the way, from that iconic boardwalk ingrained in the bowels of history, to the sparkling icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

It’s fifties legends of romance and pure delight.

And 70’s horror stories of gangland wars, neglect, and the junkie haven it became.

It’s now reborn, renovated, and rediscovered by the new New Yorkers, the hipsters, the kids, the newbies

The old becomes young again!

It’s appeal, it’s nouveau, honky Tonk vibe, is IN again. yes and it’s hip and it delivers in spades.

Lucky us, Brooklynites, Lower Eastsiders, Downtowners, we get to experience the beach in the city , get our grooves on in Coney  technicolor Madness, do summer our way, and beach it with the best!

Old school, new school we are all a part of this urban technicolor dream show in which we live!

GO!

Brooklyn Fedora Frenzy

hipster-fail-brooklyn-1While cruising Brooklyn galleries last weekend looking for information and inspiration, I notice now that spring has sprung the Fedora fetish has come to life with a frenzy! It’s everywhere and anywhere, that little straw hat with the black band perched slightly sideways on heads roaming the streets of Nyc , and particularly dominantly Brooklyn. It’s positioned on hat heads, meaning the head that’s genetically made for a hat, and unfortunately on non hat heads as well. That’s unfortunate. But it does give the hipster look to the non hipster who craves that appeal. Easy. Just put a fedora on and boom! You are a hipster, except now it’s become tired. Used to be the artsy types sporting a fedora with the cocky self assured confidence of the innovator style setter. But that was 2 years ago and now it’s still hanging on with a vengeance but lacking the nouveau allure it had in its infancy.

hipster-fail-brooklyn-2Some lucky people can work the fedora with swag but the ones who fail give the fedora a bad name . So why do it? In the art Soho days of the 70’s when art was dirty and kind of the way it is supposed to be, nobody would have been caught dead wearing a fedora. Waaaay too affected pretentious and downright silly. But in the Soho of past days, guys wore a lot of hair and girls did too. Remember the Broadway show HAIR? To hide your flowing locks with a straw hat would have been shameful and counter productive! Hair was to be seen in all of its glory – as the artists covered the battered lofts of downtown with their newest inspiration and the subways and walls of Manhattan with the graffiti tags that made them street worthy artists like Basquiet, Haring and Warhol.

Warhol, Mr. Pop himself, never wore a hat. Hair identified him along with the Campbell’s soup can and his ubiquitous dollar signs. Lou Reed in a fedora? I don’t Think so!

sarah-bernhardtBut today it’s all about about a Fedora! That snappy down in the front and up in the back look that defines the hat is ambiguous at first glance but historically Sarah Bernhardt played Princess Fedora in a play written for her by Sardou  in 1889. Being a cross dresser Bernhardt sported the fedora with style and finesse. Great! Michael Jackson often wore one while performing,  and it’s also been as a favorite for gangsters in cinema and otherwise. But today it’s become commonplace by its complete lack of individuality and indiscretion by those who choose to wear one. Like anything too much becomes boring ,overplay, overkill, which causes stagnancy and then proceeds to die a slow death. The attention span of the typical person is brief. Who knows whether or not Warhol would be the icon he is today if he had not suffered an early death and assassination attempt in his prime? I cannot imagine pop art masters Rosenquist, Wesselmann, and Rauschenberg strolling the streets with a fedora on their heads. These were men making crazy innovative art!  The fedora just wouldn’t cut it.

Max-Kansas-City-NYCHipsters have a fashion look that’s obvious. Too obvious. Trouble is that it’s all the same. The artists are copycats, paper doll cut outs where one can be exchanged for another. Patti Smith was one of a kind as were Blondie, Iggy, Basquiat, and the rest of the crew who hung at Max’ Kansas City back in the day. There were no mass reproductions and their art reflected that fact.

That’s how art develops – in a wildness where people choose their OWN look without the need to regurgitate a fad lacking individuality or unique choice.

So can we give the fedora a rest? Let it go.

Just. Let. It. Go.

FIRE

Bukowski“What matters most is how well you walk through the fire”. That’s a well known quote by underground author Charles Bukowsky. Artists need to walk that walk.

Occasionally I get the guts and desire to venture out into the proclaimed Hipster Haven known in Nyc as Williamsburg. It’s entertainment for me since I have been typecast by media as a Boomer so looking at these kids in their hipster garb and attitude is pure theatre. I have to do it every once in awhile to remind myself just how much the  art scene has been transformed from the grit and grunge of my 1970’s, 80’s and even 90’s world into this hipster Disneyland of stylized fashion, accessories, gadgets, and desperately craved “Coollness.”

The minute my feet hit the ground on Bedford Avenue, the tsunami of Hipster Nation members and future recruits surrounds me . I’m ok with the youthful attitude, the  need to out hip the next person, the playful art look (even if you don’t know the difference between Napthol Crimson and Pyrrole – after all it’s Today’s generation.

And I get that. Being a “Child of the Sixties” – where us artist types mingled and lingered in the dirty nasty rough  graffiti infested, and often scary NYC of past times the one that spawned the Patti, Blondie, Lou, Andy, Jean Michel, Keith, Mapplethorpe, Ginsberg, Kerouac,  to name a few, in the grit and grunge of NYC that nourished their creative impulses with its raw rough juices makes me question just HOW these New School Hipster Nation followers – many striving for artistic recognition have a chance to show creative individuality while dwelling  in this new NYC – the cleaned up, generic, attractive, expensive, brand of banks, CVS, yogurt shops, and condos, lacking the kindling, the gasoline, the match, so necessary to stoke the artists flame and make that walk through the FIRE.

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