Curating my Refrigerator

February 2014


I’ve begun to curate my refrigerator, possibly as a result of being trapped indoors during the Catskills winter. My first “show” consists of a large postcard (7″ x 10″) from the current exhibition at the Sperone Westwater Gallery, on the Bowery in New York. It’s a detail of “Red Gas” by Emil Lukas, which at first seems to be an angular abstract painting in the style of the 1950s — it could be the cover of a jazz album — but when you look closer, is thousands of strands of thread, attached to pins on the edges of the “painting.” (None of this is clear in the postcard, which is being held by a little stuffed animal: a spotted dog with magnetized paws. Nearby is a monkey holding our shopping list, which currently consists of:








“Ream” means a ream of paper. “Veg.” is short for “vegetables.”) At Sperone Westwater, Lukas’ work was impressive, accomplished, but rather empty. On my refrigerator, the piece is consoling. Maybe it’s the miles of white snow around us, but red thread cradling a bluish sphere seems mystically meaningful. Within each of us is a delicate sphere we must protect.

* * *

At Jim Kempner Fine Art in Chelsea is Yoko Ono’s “Wish Tree.” It’s a real Japanese maple, in the courtyard of the gallery. Near the tree is a little ledge stocked with white tags and small sharpened pencils. On a tag you write your wish, then tie it to the tree. The tree is thick with white wishes.

I’ve always wanted to be included in a Yoko Ono artwork, and now I am. I wrote on my tag: “The New York Times will fall in love.”

I didn’t read any of the other wishes; they seemed private. Now that I think of it, two days later, Yoko’s work is often about the boundaries between people. Her most famous performance, “Cut Piece,” invited members of the audience to cut off pieces of her clothing. She and John Lennon posed naked on the cover of Two Virgins. Often Yoko forces us to decide whether we are intruding on someone else. Are the wishes on the Wish Tree “public” or “personal”? What is the difference, ultimately, between these two states? I certainly wanted everyone else to read my wish. The “Wish Tree” is a group of secret desires sharing one living being — though it’s winter, so the tree looks dead. The writings are anonymous, or anyway mine was. (Perhaps everyone else signed their name.) These written aspirations gather like a cloud of dead souls.

(Actually, I know one wish, because a woman working at the gallery told me. It was stuck in the soil beneath the tree and read: “I wish I could tie a knot.”)

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