100 100 100 100 100
This Goodreads giveaway is open for entries from April 12 to May 8, 2019. If you want an e-book, here's your chance; the winners will be announced after May 8. So far, 118 people have signed up, but plenty more will do so in the next 24 days. But if you want a real print book, one you can touch and sniff and read voraciously, or put on a shelf to be looked at and gather dust, pre-order it now for delivery on the print book release date, May 2.
It had been a long time since I had attended gallery opening, but what could be more New York? It wouldn’t be a big gala affair studded with celebrities, for the Robin Rice Gallery at 325 West 11th Street – just two and a half blocks from my building – is a small gallery featuring photography and open only certain hours on certain days of the week. I had already mentioned this gallery in my blog, briefly in post #365 and more substantially in post #401. It was near me, and I had glimpsed the photographer’s work the previous Sunday and wanted to see it again, together with whatever kind of a crowd the opening might draw. And I might even meet the photographer himself, whose name appeared in an e-mail that the gallery had sent me, along with the title of the show:
41 Degrees Latitude
April 10-June 12, 2019
The opening was scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 10, so on that day, having had a light snack at home, I went.
My first discovery – really a rediscovery -- upon arriving at the gallery: openings aren’t for serious displays of art; they are gabfests. The small gallery was crowded with people, including one scampering child and one infant in arms, who seemed to all know each other. Standing with their backs to the walls and the photos, and holding a small plastic cup of wine, they were fiercely jabbering away. The photos themselves, thirteen of them and large, hung on the walls, unobserved, except for me and a Chinese lady, who maneuvered as best we could, so as to get clear of the jabberers and see the photos themselves.
Ah, the photos! Large. Portrait style, meaning vertical, and not horizontal like a landscape. Devoid of people and objects, and almost devoid of color. Oceanscapes, so the gallery had informed me, taken by the photographer while standing in water at a beach in Rhode Island moments before dusk or dawn, and using long exposures. At first glance the previous Sunday I had taken them for abstractions, but now I knew better. Expanses of dark and light gray, or sometimes a misty vague bluish white, with a trace of light at the horizon. In two of them a curl of foam could be seen, but otherwise one could barely make out the sea. And two of them were so uniformly dark blue as to blur the scene completely. Challenging, notable for what they left out, unique. At first glance the previous Sunday, when I was the only viewer, I had thought at once: Whistler. For he had done landscapes that were a study in color and little else.
At the far end of the gallery was a heavyset man in his fifties, wearing a scarf and glasses like me, surrounded by friends and acquaintances who kept him busy with hugs and chatter: Michael McLaughlin, the photographer. Since he had a broad, toothy smile that seemed cordial and welcoming, I inched closer, and when he said good-bye to young couple with their infant in arms, I addressed him.
“They’re painterly,” I said. “When I first saw them last Sunday, without the gabfest, I thought: Whistler.”
This sparked his interest at once: a stranger who had actually looked at his photographs! I went on.
“I’ve never seen anything like them. They’re unique.”
“I’m glad to hear you say that,” he replied. “That’s what I was aiming at.”
I then told him about my blog and said I would do a post on the opening and his photographs; he was delighted.
“I’m Mike,” he said.
We exchanged cards, and I identified myself as a transplanted Midwesterner who was now a committed New Yorker, incapable of living anywhere else.
“I’ve just been out there” he said. “In Nebraska and Indiana.”
I told him I had relatives in Indiana, and we agreed that Midwesterners are good people, friendly, laid back, genuine, quite the opposite of intense, fast-paced New Yorkers. But he too, Brooklyn-born, identified himself as a New Yorker, even though he travels a lot and did these photographs in Rhode Island. And we agreed that New York was not for everyone; you lived here because you couldn’t live anywhere else.
On this note we parted, and after a last lingering glance at some of the photos – those that weren’t blocked by the gabbers – I departed.
Why the title: 41 Degrees Latitude? Because that is the latitude of the beaches in Rhode Island where the photos were taken. And the prices? Either $2500 or $3000. For everyone to look at, but not for everyone to buy. But I wish Mr. McLaughlin well. His opening – his sixth at that gallery -- had been a good experience, a real New York affair, a discovery, an adventure.