And That's The Way It Was


After seeing it posted here and there, I finally got around to reading the Times article on Rachel Barrett's photo series of NYC newsstands.

The documentation & typology field has been well plowed, photography-wise, but I guess Barrett doesn't have to necessarily break new ground to make good art.

Still, for my money--and I wish I'd been able to spend it, but I was literally like the fifth or sixth hold on it when it took over Andrew Kreps' booth at the 2003 Armory Show, so I never had a chance--no newsstand-related art beats Cheyney Thompson's spectacular, life-size painting of a newsstand on East 86th St, An Event Commencing in the Spring of 1997 (part 2).

Even back then, in 2003, when there were still newsstands aplenty, Cheyney's work was already marking lost time; he'd painted the same newsstand three years before. Never mind that every detail--magazine covers, candies, drinks--were completely different, and yet somehow the same. And never mind the inherent futility of using an excruciatingly slow and laborious medium to capture a single instantiation of an everchanging media landscape. Or actually, mind all these things, which are embodied in the meticulously non-photorealistic brushwork.

According to the Times, Barrett's photos have been overtaken by nostalgia for a disappearing streetscape. Fine with me; the only things I buy at newsstands are Dots and the occasional Sunday Times anyway. But Cheyney's painting has me reminiscing about the good old days, too: the days when an art fair was a major event of discovery, where an energetic young painter would declare his presence with a work three or six years in the making, not three months. Ahh, 2003. Those were the days.

Yesterday's News [nyt]
An Event Commencing in the Spring of 1997 (part 2), Cheyney Thompson, via Andrew Kreps Gallery []
Michael Wilson wrote about Cheyney's work in 2003 for Frieze []

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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first published: July 14, 2008.

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