Friday, September 03, 2010

September Comings & Goings (Artists, Fat Beats, Almanacs)

While on my way from one place to another, I happened upon a corner display of colorful, witty series of vernacular paintings and decoupages in SoHo that stopped me in my tracks. After a little bit of conversation, I learned that the pieces were the work of, who works in a range of media and whose deceptively simple imagery contains more than its sly share of political and social commentary. (That it was on display outside an empty storefront in SoHo only flavored my impression.)

I particularly liked the LLC-Storefront assemblages (I couldn't afford one on this go-round), which are visible along the bottom row of the two photos right below, but I did get a tiny $20 painting that had a delightful image (Gordon Park's famous "American Gothic, Washington, D.C.") collaged in. (Check out his hat in the photo below too; it's part of his Shotgun series, just as t-shirt was part of his Ties series of paintings.) All of the pieces I saw offered stories, both readily apparent and more complexly embedded in them, a few of which Patrick-Earl expounded on for me.

Do check out his site; all his pieces are for sale, at reasonable prices for original artwork in New York.
Patrick-Earl's pieces, SoHo
Patrick-Earl's display, in SoHo

Patrick-Earl's display
The display from another angle

Patrick-Earl (r) and an admirer
Patrick-Earl and an admirer of his work


Though a fan of hiphop music, I never spent that much time in Fat Beats, the legendary underground hiphop music store on 6th Avenue, but I did stop in a few times over the years, and would often encounter the self-distributing, aspiring rappers as I passed below its windows on my way to NYU's campus, or in the opposition direction towards the PATH station on 9th St.

Like so much of 1990s New York City, and especially the West Village, Fat Beats has now closed its doors, in part because of the economic shifts in the music industry and because of the still-too-high cost of renting in Great Recession-era New York City. The store's closure underlines the impression I had of the very rocky state of affairs in NYC, despite all the official pronouncements. Just a few weeks ago I was on 8th Street, once the shoe bazaar to rival them all, and lighted up and lively well into the early hours, and not only was the block between 5th and 6th Avenues eerily dark, but it was somnolent as well. Yes, NYU has yet to start back up, but that wasn't a problem 5 and certainly not 10 years ago....

Fat Beats final day(s)
A crowd milling about outside Fat Beats, on 6th Avenue, in the West Village, during its final day(s)


For several years (including this summer!) I have been working on several books, one of them a novel, and it's entailed original historical research, among others. (I admire Edward P. Jones's genius and daring, but I am not he....) Among the books that I had been trying to get ahold of were Boston (or Massachusetts, or even New England) almanacs from the earliest years of the 19th century, without having to physically travel to the various libraries (Boston Public Library, Harvard's library, American Antiquarian Society, etc.) that have copies.

Let me be clear that I am quite fond of Boston and would visit in a heartbeat, but I've been trying to limit my travel whenever necessary, given my already peripatetic existence).  A bit of searching online led me not only to a number of online volumes, scanned in by various universities and colleges around the US, in partnership with the Google, but also to the find below, which cost...$10, + postage! I haven't authenticated it, but it appears to be an original almanac, from 1804, with writing from some period shortly thereafter. The text correlates closely with other almanacs from that area and that year, and the inscriptions are fascinating in and of themselves. Someone used the book to do quite a bit of sums, though reading the currency conversion chart at the back, you'd have needed a piece of butcher paper not only to convert foreign (British, Spanish, etc.) money into the amounts legislated by Congress only a few years before, but, as other almanacs have shown me, between the various US states, which had their own sometimes quite divergent currencies.

Since I have the online versions I don't have to use it, but I thought it was quite cool that this little treasure was available, online, for a song. (And perhaps texts of this sort usually sell for almost nothing, but as I'm quite unschooled about such things, I was surprised.)

1804 New-England Almanack
New-England Almanack, from 1804

Pages of 1804 New-England Almanack
Pages of the 1804 Almanack

Pages of 1804 New-England Almanack
Pages of the 1804 Almanack

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