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This Week: Must-See Arts in the City

WNYC's Arts Datebook: December 15 - 21, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011 - 12:00 PM

WNYC

The forgotten photos of a Chicago nanny, a street artist that turns paint buckets into self-playing drums and the multimedia work of one of Croatia's early feminists. Plus: a talk at the New Museum explores the ways in which video games are bleeding into other areas of culture. It's a good week to be in the big bad city. Here's what we're looking at:

Vivian Maier at Steven Kasher Gallery When Vivian Maier passed away at the age of 83 in 2009, she left behind more than 100,000 negatives and hundreds of undeveloped film rolls. It was a vital record of public urban life — from society dames to passed-out drunks — except that nobody knew about it. Maier had worked as a nanny for much of her life, mainly for families in the Chicago area. That she appeared to spend her every spare minute taking pictures is not something that ever appeared to catch anyone’s notice. In 2007, a boxful of her negatives turned up at auction when her storage locker was seized for non-payment. It was sold for $400. Since the discovery of her work, her unflinching black-and-white pictures have been the subject of newspaper articles and gallery shows. Now a small portion of her images are going on view at Steven Kasher — a fine opportunity to soak up the work of an artist who, in death, has no choice but to let her work speak for itself. And speak it does: about the frailty and power of human existence, but also its joys and its absurdities. If for some reason you can’t make it to the exhibit, be sure to pick up the new monograph of her work that was just published by PowerHouse Books. It is absolutely riveting. Opens today at 6 P.M., in Chelsea.

David Ellis, True Value, at the Joshua Liner Gallery For years, this long-time street artist has largely occupied himself with two types of works: collaborative murals whose creation and destruction he records via time-lapse video and massive sound installations crafted from common objects (think: water jugs and empty beer bottles). In his first solo show at Joshua Liner, Ellis will be showing a bit of both, including a new time-lapse video titled Animal, as well as a sonic sculpture made out of paint buckets. Should be good for getting down. Opens today at 6 P.M., in Chelsea.

Sanja Iveković: Sweet Violence, at the Museum of Modern Art One of Croatia’s early feminist artists, the Zagreb-born Iveković has long explored issues of politics and gender in her work — most famously in 1979, when she openly flouted a ban on sitting on balconies (Marshal Tito was in town). She not only sat on her balcony, but read a book, drank whiskey and feigned masturbation, a short-lived performance (the authorities showed up at her door) that was documented in photographs. Now the artist is the subject of her first solo museum show in the U.S. — a good piece of it centered on her work from the 1970s, when artists in Croatia began to push back against the institutions that had long governed their lives. Opens Sunday, in Midtown.

PLUS: The New Museum is hosting a conversation with Kill Screen magazine on the dialogue between video games and other facets of culture. On the roster are new media stalwarts such as Dave Mark, Mary Flanagan, Tabor Robak, Katherine Isbister, Casey Reas and Andy Nealen. A must-do for the game geeks. This Friday at 7 P.M., on the Lower East Side.

Courtesy the artist and Joshua Liner Gallery
The Joshua Liner Gallery in Chelsea is presenting a solo show by David Ellis, an artist known for his urban intervention and his collaborative pieces. Seen here: a still from his 2010 video 'Animal.'
Courtesy the artist and Joshua Liner Gallery
Another piece by Ellis: A series of album covers comprise the wall sculpture titled 'Mubarak.'
Courtesy the artist and Joshua Liner Gallery
Ellis also produces wild kinetic sound installations. Seen here is one of his latest: 'True Value (Paint Funkett),' from 2011.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York © 2011 Sanja Iveković
MoMA is holding an exhibition devoted to the work of Sanja Iveković, who is known for pieces that comment on the tropes of mass media. Above, a still from the 1974 video 'Sweet Violence.'
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Iveković's works (video, collage and performance) often pick apart the ways in which women are portrayed in the media and in advertising -- as in her 1978 video, 'Make Up – Make Down.'
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Iveković emerged during a period in which Croatian artists were finding ways to break away from institutional settings and work independently. Seen here, a still from her 1982 video 'Personal Cuts.'
Courtesy of Steven Kasher Gallery, New York
The work of Vivian Maier -- a photographer who chronicled the good and the bad of the street -- goes on view at Steven Kasher. Above, a man lies on a grate in New York in 1955.
Courtesy of Steven Kasher Gallery, New York
Maier took tens of thousands of pictures throughout the course of her life -- such as this image of a couple with a dog in the 1960s.
Courtesy of Steven Kasher Gallery, New York
Maier turned her lens on the poor, the old (especially women) and the run-of-the-mill, producing a riveting chronicle of urban American life in the 20th century -- such as this image from ca. 1967.
Courtesy of Steven Kasher Gallery, New York
A Maier image from 1967. She worked as a nanny for most of her life. Her photography wouldn't become known until after her death.
Courtesy of Steven Kasher Gallery, New York
Another vintage New York City shot from Maier: A Macy's parade balloon, photographed in 1955. (Makes me think that the Thanksgiving Day parade needs to bring back the retro toys.)

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About Gallerina

Carolina A. Miranda is a regular contributor to WNYC and blogs about the arts for the station as "Gallerina." In addition to that, she contributes articles on culture, travel and the arts to a variety of national and regional media, including Time, ArtNews, Travel + Leisure and Budget Travel and Florida Travel + Life. She has reported on the burgeoning industry of skatepark design, architectural pedagogy in Southern California, the presence of street art in museums and Lima's burgeoning food scene, among many other subjects. In 2008, she was named one of eight fellows in the USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program for her arts and architecture blog C-Monster.net, which has received mentions in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. In January of 2010, the Times named her one of nine people to follow on Twitter. Got a tip? E-mail her at c [@] c-monster [dot] net

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