Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dawson on the Black Panthers

The WaPo's Jessica Dawson does a really good job in reviewing "Black Panther Rank and File" at the Decker and Meyerhoff galleries at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.

She also makes a good point when she writes:

"The exhibition was organized by San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in conjunction with Claude Simard, a curator associated with New York City's Jack Shainman Gallery. Shainman represents many of the contemporary artists on view; the gallery also supplied a number of historical pieces.

Though Shainman is a well-known source for African American artists and ephemera, Yerba Buena's association with a commercial gallery raises questions about conflict of interest. The show favors Shainman artists, who gain exposure on this small museum tour -- "Black Panther Rank and File" originated at nonprofit Yerba Buena, traveled to nonprofit Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art and now hangs in a university gallery. That kind of exposure can translate into higher earnings for Shainman artists, casting a shadow over this otherwise strong show."
And Dawson also hits the mark dead on when she questions:
"But what of the Panthers' critics, of which there were many? For the most part, this is a pro-Panther project. Yerba Buena worked closely with former Panther Bill Jennings to construct the show; he's even credited for suggesting the project."
When I was a kid in Brooklyn, one of my first jobs was in a store on Belmont Avenue that used to have a sidewalk stand outside its doors. My job was to stand outside, freezing my buns in winter, broiling in the summer, and watch the stand and either send people into the store when they bought something and needed change, or to take their money if it was an exact amount. I was also the "chaser," when someone grabbed something from the stand and ran away with it.

Usually, if the gonif was being chased, he'd drop the merchandise and keep running, and I would return it to the stand.

But back to the Panthers.

During that time the Black Panthers were big in Brooklyn, and about once a month they'd come by Belmont and Pitkin Avenue hitting all the stores for "contributions" to their various programs. They were one of three such groups that demanded, not asked for, but demanded, some sort of cash flow in order to assure some degree of safety.

In addition to the Panthers, my employer (a Cuban Jew named Simon, who was fluent in Spanish, Yiddish, Polish and German and who used to smoke huge cigars all day long) had to grease the hands of the local Brooklyn cops and the local Mafioso. Of the three, the cops came by most often.

Dawson finishes with "...the only overtly critical work comes from the painter John Bankston, who points out Panther homophobia in his 2005 canvas 'The Sermon.' In it, two latter-day Panthers have seemingly strong words for a transvestite and his companion."

A really good review for what sounds like a very interesting exhibition. The show is up through Dec. 16. Read Dawson's review here.

PS - Museums, non profits and commercial art dealers have been dancing together for a long time and will continue to do so. Here's something I wrote in 1995 (do forgive the 1990s style website) about the Gene Davis legacy to the museum where he was a Commissioner. When that piece was published in the WaPo back then, I actually received a couple of hate phone calls.

Postcards from the Edge

The Preview Party for this year's Postcards from the Edge benefit is Friday, November 30 from 6:00 - 8:00 PM at the James Cohan Gallery in NYC. $75 admission includes one raffle ticket and one lucky winner will select any postcard that evening!

postcards from the edge

Participating artists attend free (names held at door). Sneak peek only -- No postcard sales. Benefit Sale is on Saturday, December 1 on World AIDS Day from 12:00 - 6:00 PM & Sunday, December 2 from 12:00 - 4:00 PM.

Over 1,000 original postcard-sized works of art. Only $75 each. First-come, first served. $5 Suggested Admission - Works are signed on the back and displayed anonymously and the artists’ names are revealed only after purchase.

Close Calls

That pretty young lady to the right is my daughter Elise, a highly talented ballerina, an A+ student, an award-winning actress and singer, and quite the existentialist workaholic.
Elise Campello
Elise lives in gorgeous Gig Harbor, in Washington state, one of the prettiest, and most charming, and priciest, and safest villages in the Pacific Northwest, about 45 minutes from Seattle.

A couple of months ago Elise and a friend were shopping in one of those huge chic stores that manage to present a tony appearance while being enormous in size. And suddenly, just like in the movies, a masked robber grabs my baby daughter, and throws her to the ground, points a gun to her head and begins screaming about a "hold up and everyone hit the ground."

And people do.

And the robber lets go of Elise and walks towards the counter to grab the cash. And when he does so, Elise crawls into a fitting room, locks the door and using her cell phone calls the police.

And the police have no idea where the store is and ask Elise for an address.


Eventually the robber gets away with his cash (probably not a lot... who the hell uses cash these days anyway?) Why are robbers still robbing stores? If you're so desperate, or such as idiot as to use a gun to rob for cash, then why go after a place with little cash?

So he gets away and although she's pretty freaked out by the whole sequence of events (and as someone who's had a gun pointed to his head not once but twice, and as someone who's been shot at - once in Brooklyn and once in Beirut - I know), she moves on.

Elise also works as a teller in a local Gig Harbor bank while being a full time student - she graduated from High School in three years and already has her Associate Degree and next year will be a junior at the University of Washington.

A couple of weeks ago, an older man approaches her and hands her a note informing my daughter that the bank is being robbed.

Elise hits the silent alarm and (as she's been trained) hands the bank robber the money. Yep... my supercool daughter does not panic and does as ordered, delaying as much as possible.

The bank robber runs away - bummer for the asswipe that Elise had just cleared her drawer of cash a few minutes earlier.

The cops eventually arrive...

The bank (and her dad) decide that Gig Harbor is now part of the 21st century and from now on the bank will have a guard on duty.

Meanwhile, here's the bank robber:
bank robber wanted in Gig Harbor This surveillance photo shows the man who robbed the Key Bank in Gig Harbor on Friday, Nov. 9, 2007.

The suspect is described as a white male, 55-years-old, 6 feet tall with a slender build and long brown hair. He wore glasses, a gray stocking cap, blue jeans and a black pullover jacket with white stripes and cuffs on the collar.

Pierce County Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and charges filed in the case. Call (253) 591-5959 if you have information. You can remain anonymous.

Here's a bigger pic of the robber:

image of wanted bank robber

Update: A reader points out that the bank robber looks a lot like Ward Churchill! Now that's funny!