413 West 50th Street
New York, NY 10019
160 East 25th Street
New York, NY 10010
SMART ART BASTARTZ
135A Queen Street
Cleveland, QLD. 4163
The CARPORT CAFE GALLERY
3 Pickwick Street
Cannon Hill, QLD. 4170
07 3899 8414
413 West 50th Street
New York, NY 10019
160 East 25th Street
New York, NY 10010
SMART ART BASTARTZ
135A Queen Street
Cleveland, QLD. 4163
CARPORT CAFE GALLERY
3 Pickwick Street
Cannon Hill, QLD. 4170
07 3899 8414
_ 1956 born as Heinz Krautberger in Graz, Austria
_ 1974 took the professional name of Andre van der Kerkhoff
_ 1974 -1986 worked as graphic & fine artist, and stage designer in Austria & France
_ 1986 -1995 emigrated to Australia creating Bonsais in Sydney & Mackay
_ 1996 -2010 lives & works in Brisbane as a fine artist (painting, mixed media, photography )
_ 2009 Founded together with Darek Solarski CHARLATAN INK LLC New York
_ 2010 Creator and Patron of the CHARLATAN INK ART PRIZE for Visual Arts ( Inaugural Prize 2011 / New York )
_ SOLO Exhibitions 1995 to 2017
_ 2017 CarportCafeGallery, Brisbane, QLD, SMART
_ 2016 Artbreakgallery, NYC, USA/
_ 2015 Jadite Galleries, NY, USA/
_ 2014 Jadite Galleries, NY, USA/ Artbreakgallery, NYC, USA/
_ 2012-2013 Recovering from Cancer
_ 2011 Jadite Galleries, NY, USA /
_ 2010 Jadite Galleries, NY, USA / Brunswick Street Gallery, Melbourne / David Rex-Livingston Art Dealer, Sydney, NSW / Artbreakgallery, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, USA /
_ 2009 Artbreakgallery, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, USA / Jadite Galleries, NY, USA / David Rex-Livingston Art Dealer, Sydney, NSW /
_ 2008 Galerie Baguette, Brisbane, QLD / The Rosetta Stone Fine Arts, West Palm Beach, Florida, USA / Galerie Luz, Montreal, Quebec / Jadite Galleries, NY, USA /
_ 2007 Jadite Galleries, NY, USA /
_ 2006 Galerie Luz, Montreal, Quebec / Jadite Galleries, New York, NY, USA / The Rosetta Stone Fine Arts, Florida, USA /
_ 2005 Galeria Aniela Fine Art, Kangaroo Valley, NSW / Manyung Gallery, Mt. Eliza, VIC / Rinaldi Gallery, Melbourne, VIC /
_ 2004 Michel Sourgnes Fine Art, Brisbane, QLD
_ 2003 Michel Sourgnes Fine Art, Brisbane, QLD /
_ 2002 Michel Sourgnes Fine Art, Brisbane, QLD / Goya Galleries, Southbank - Melbourne, VIC / Marlene Antico Fine Arts, Sydney, NSW /
_ 2001 Marlene Antico Fine Arts, Sydney, NSW / Trevenen House Gallery, Brisbane, QLD / Galerie Baguette, Brisbane, QLD /
_ 2000 Michel Sourgnes Fine Art, Brisbane, QLD / Marlene Antico Fine Arts, Sydney, NSW / Freestyle/tout Gallery, Brisbane, QLD /
_ 1999 Marlene Antico Fine Arts, Sydney, NSW / Galerie Baguette, Brisbane, QLD /
_ 1998 Marlene Antico Fine Arts, Sydney, NSW / Galerie Baguette, Brisbane, QLD / Bauhaus Art Gallery, Brisbane, QLD / Myer Centre Queen Street Mall, Brisbane, QLD /
_ 1997 Bauhaus Art Gallery, Brisbane, QLD / Gilchrist Galleries, Brisbane, QLD / Myer Centre Queen Street Mall, Brisbane, QLD /
_ 1996 Bauhaus Art Gallery, Brisbane, QLD / Gilchrist Galleries, Brisbane, QLD / The Upstairs Gallery, Mackay, QLD /
_ 1995 Entertainment Centre, Mackay, QLD /
_ GROUP exhibitions & prizes 1995 to 2011
_ 2011 Artist in Residence ( Ye OLDE CARLTON ARMS HOTEL, New York )
- 2010 Creation of CHARLATAN INK LLC New York /
_ 2010 Artist in Residence ( Ye OLDE CARLTON ARMS HOTEL, New York ) / The Armory Show, New York / The Rosetta Stone Fine Arts, Florida, USA /Florida, USA
_ 2009 Artist in Residence ( YE OLDE CARLTON ARMS HOTEL, New York ) / The Armory Show, New York /
_ 2008 RosettaStone Fine Arts, Florida, USA / David Rex-Livingston Art Dealer, Sydney, NSW / Galerie Baguette, Brisbane, QLD
_ 2007 Invited to participate in the BIENNALE INTERNAZIONALE DE11’ARTE CONTEMPORANEA Firenze, Fortezza da Basso 1 – 9 December 2007 /
_ 2006 The Tighes Hill Gallery, Newcastle, NSW / The Rosetta Stone Fine Arts, Florida, USA / Arta Gallery, Toronto, CAN / The Hart Gallery, Carmel, USA / Art Gallery Collections, Surfers Paradise, QLD /
_ 2005 The Rosetta Stone Fine Arts, Florida, USA / Rinaldi Gallery, Melbourne, VIC / SAUC Gallery, Sydney, NSW / Art Gallery Collections, Surfers Paradise, QLD / Moda Rouge, Mount Eliza, VIC / Caelum Gallery, New York, USA /
_ 2004 Finalist ‘CROMWELL’s ART PRIZE 2004 / Jackman Gallery, Melbourne, VIC / Embassy of Australia, Washington DC, USA / The Hart Gallery, Carmel, California, USA / Art Gallery Collections, Surfers Paradise, QLD / SAUC Gallery, Sydney, NSW /
_ 2003 Goya Galleries, Southbank - Melbourne, VIC / Goya Galleries, La Trobe Street, Melbourne, VIC / Scott Livesey Art Dealer, Armadale, VIC / Art Gallery Collections, Surfers Paradise, QLD /
_ 2002 Marlene Antico Fine Arts, Sydney, NSW / Goya Galleries, Southbank - Melbourne, VIC / Art Gallery Collections, Surfers Paradise, QLD / Lighthouse Gallery, Noosa, QLD /
_ 2001 Marlene Antico Fine Arts, Sydney, NSW / Art Gallery Collections, Surfers Paradise, QLD / Cronulla Gallery, Mount Tamborine, QLD / Mary Place Gallery, Sydney, NSW / Lighthouse Gallery, Noosa, QLD / Hang-Ups Gallery, Brisbane, QLD /
_ 2000 Marlene Antico Fine Arts, Sydney, NSW / Fox Galleries, Brisbane, QLD / The Manly Gallery, Brisbane, QLD / Art Gallery Collections, Surfers Paradise, QLD /
_ 1999 Marlene Antico Fine Arts, Sydney, NSW / The Artists Gallery Hunters Hill, Sydney, NSW / Fox Galleries, Brisbane, QLD / Gilchrist Galleries, Brisbane, QLD / Hang-Ups Gallery, Brisbane, QLD / Art Gallery Collections, Surfers Paradise, QLD / The River Gallery Art Competition, Brisbane, QLD /
_ 1998 Marlene Antico Fine Arts, Sydney, NSW / Gilchrist Galleries, Brisbane, QLD / The Artists Gallery Hunters Hill, Sydney, NSW / SELECTED ENTRANT & FINALIST TATTERSALL’s CLUB LANDSCAPE ART PRIZE & EXHIBITION, Brisbane, QLD / National Works on Paper Exhibition Mornington Peninsula Gallery, VIC / Cronulla Gallery, Mount Tamborine, QLD /
_ 1997 Bauhaus Art Gallery, Brisbane, QLD / Universal Language ( Gilchrist Galleries & Fire Works Gallery ) Brisbane, QLD / Conrad Jupiters Art Prize Exhibition, Gold Coast, QLD / Cronulla Gallery, Mount Tamborine, QLD / Cintra Galleries, Brisbane, QLD /
_ 1996 Bauhaus Art Gallery, Brisbane, QLD / Gilchrist Galleries, Brisbane, QLD /
_ 1995 Bauhaus Art Gallery, Brisbane, QLD /
Exhibitions prior to Australian Residency 1974 – 1986
1986 Triest Townhall, Triest, Italy /
1985 Foyer of the Steiermärkische Sparkasse, Graz, AUT /
1983 Galerie Alain-Fournier, Albi, France /
1982 Centre Cultural, Toulouse, France /
1981 Galerie Café Pont-Neuf, Toulouse, France /
1979 Galerie St. Cyprien, Toulouse, France /
1978 Schloß Seckau, Seckau, Austria / Schloß Herberstein, Herberstein, Austria /
1977 Kaffee Galerie Schillerhof, Graz, Austria /
1975 Grazer Künstlerhaus, Graz, Austria /
1974 Forum Stadtpark, Graz, Austria /
_ 2009 ' HOBOHEMIAN FLOPHOUSE: The Carlton Arms Hotel, where each room is a funky art installation and there’s a cat box down at the end of the hall, is New York City’s last low-rent hipster haven by Ed McCormack
_ 2009 ' POSTAGE FOR REPUBLICS OF DREAMS ' by Ed McCormack
_ 2009 ' Andre van der Kerkhoff Enters the ³Bath of Multitude² by Ed McCormack
_ 2008 ‘ METALLIC EDGE ‘ Brisbane News by Phil Brown
_ 2008 ' SEXING THE CITY' Andre van der Kerkhoff Bites 'The Apple' by Ed McCormack
_ 2008 ‘ THE NAKED AND THE SACRED in the Art of Andre van der Kerkhoff ‘ Gallery&Studio Magazine, New York by Ed McCormack
_ 2008 ‘ PASSION FOR PHOTOGRAPHY IN HIS VEINS ‘ Courier Mail by Penny Brand
_ 2008 ‘ FIGURING FEMININITY ‘ Courier Mail by Suzanna Clark
_ 2007 ‘ SEDUCTION & ABSTRACTION ‘ New York Times by Ed McCormack
_ 2005 Australian Art Collector Issue 32 / Australian Art Collector Issue 34 /
_ 2003 Courting Controversy / Brisbane News / Art with Phil Brown - 27/08/2003
_ 2002 ‘ ABC ‘ “ Sunday Afternoon “ / Australian Art Collector Issue 21
_ 2001 Brisbane News / metro with Trent Dalton, November 2001
_ 2000 Brisbane News / culture vulture with Darren Nicol, April 2000
_ 1999 Brisbane News / culture vulture with Alicia Pyke, November 1999 / Radio 4RBH : Interview with Brenda Gale / Sydney’s Eastern Suburb Radio Station: Profile of an artist / Australian Art Collector Issue 9 / Art & Australia Vol. 36 No. 4 /
_ 1998 Brisbane News / city beat with Alica Pyke, May 1998 / Interview on Stateline, ABC Queensland (16/10/1998) /
_ 1997 Art & Australia Vol 35 No. 2 / Brisbane News / city beat with Alicia Pyke, October 1997 / Brisbane News / ArtBeat with Phil Brown, November 1997 / Courier Mail – Bits and Pieces /
_ 1996 Brisbane City News / Out of Hours: ART
_ 1995 Channel 7 Mackay: Interview with Stan Goddard, December 1995 / The Daily Mercury, November 29 / Pioneer News, November 29 / The Daily Mercury, December 8
A Moment After 2
It is probably 2 PM in the afternoon:
my watch stopped an hour earlier.
‘Who let the dogs out?’ escapes flatly
from daVincky’s open Chinese laptop
impersonating a drive-in cinema
on top of the concierge’s red painted window sill.
The roaring Metro-Goldwyn lion is replaced by
a Polish domestic scene grinning down on me
sitting on the first step up towards B Floor.
Between cold coffee and blurred photos
black latex looking plastic bags accumulate
in the seemingly adult world lit lobby,
the sparse sparkle of rotating disco ball
bouncing off the linen bags’ black sheen.
Cobalt blue skull in whimsical confines
within an ingeniously crafted aquariovision
anchors the news sprawled on all tabloids
of the greatest deceit discovered up third Avenue
in the not too far from here located lipstick tower.
A relative fortune tumbles through my fingers
counted in quarters and a single dime.
Essential baked aromas packaged in molecules
seep up through timeless fissures from below.
Yet the bottom line of the sum in my hand
doesn’t allow the pursuit of freshly baked pizza.
Focusing my craving’s entirety through one gap
in the stairwell’s chunky wooden balustrade,
I see clearly although blurred along the edges
a Polish persistence rooted deeply within Teutonic strength
delicately glazing a giant sparrow’s resting wing
escaped in its singularity from Diza’s golden cage
and the urban expressionistically graffitied C Floor.
The dogs have gone up the Bronx tagging territories
and the momentarily left behind silence is broken
by Robert Cray’s warning, ‘Baby, I am just a looser!’
A moment of belonging
There are emotions bottled deep within one’s heart,
essences of a million tears and too little precious laughter,
which make me begin this poem with trepidation
encouraged by a glass of Seven Deadly Zins
in a space filled with childhood yearnings.
To many of you it mightn’t be much and might be banal,
but for this little boy in an old man’s coat that room full to the hilt
with other people’s memories and artificial but colorful anecdotes
is and was just simply heaven; my usual intolerance to tourist’s kitsch
is replaced with a laissez fair friendship and profound love.
Aware of the one sidedness of my emotions,
the cynical bloke in me doesn’t care too much about equilibrium,
but simply rejoices in every moment with the folk of the place
who have given him for the first time in his long lonesome life
a simple nickname that wasn’t negative in its connotation.
I was and still am Mr. Dot of 14D, … also known as de Angelo
and those two names hang proudly from my old man’s shoulders
like the cape of Superman, which hangs above me just to my left side
in the Insane Asylum’s bridge of command that has been
eclectically constructed from the dust of a thousand adventurers.
The bouquet of the Seven Deadly Zins is profound and
quakes my body into a pleasant shudder while my palate harvests with gusto
each of the seven different Zinfardels, … from one grape to the next,
such variety mimicked on a dull wooden board, keys of all color and sizes
hanging in alphabetical and mathematical order from 2A to 15D.
There is a shrine behind me worshipping the Impossible but so too
a commercial Christ, a screaming red lipped Billie Holliday and a plastic sphinx
worn and rubbed smooth, with an iconic Madonna on beeswax behind its tail,
while two cartons of extra crusty pizzas have their lid open,
impersonating giant clams with surreal accuracy.
I turn towards the voice that seeps through thick Plexiglas
separating the Asylum from the Sane, and momentarily my face reflects
in the badly scratched plastic window and gets layered with the face
on the other side that looks in, enquiring with Nordic tone,
if she could have a room and if she could choose one to her liking.
‘I am just a guest’, I hear myself say and shrug my shoulders,
‘He just went down to get another bottle, just around the corner,
… he won’t be long,’ my voice squeezed through the window’s speaker holes,
and I gesture with my free hand to come in into the hotel’s inner sanctum,
known to all of us as ‘Insanity!’
America is a dream born into
the slavery of hope,
its essence rooted in fundamentally fertile soil
fenced in by the power of ‘Have’,
without regard to those who ‘Have Not!’
How does one begin a love poem
when the object of admiration is a Hobohemian flophouse
in the slow gentrified Bowery of New York,
tucked away between architectural modernism
which tries to kill passing pedestrians during snowstorms,
and Mikes due Pizza, run by a cantankerous but loveable Sicilian
who sells his grandmother’s secret recipes for small change
to fortune-seeking students.
Do I dare to start this little ode with rolls of hand woven Costa Rican tissue paper,
or do I flaunt names like Jarmush or, God forbid, Frederico around?
And if that wouldn’t be enough I too could wake anybody’s interest by mentioning Kerouac and a famous novel.…..
but although there is a little bit of Waits and Tennessee within its walls, I have decided that I will simply start with Charlie the cat.
Charlie isn’t beautiful, nor is he young or charming, he is just a cat,
finding contentment within five floors, fifty-four rooms and a bistro setting on A floor overlooking third Avenue.
He accepts his un-voluntary mascot status reluctantly, barely tolerating Norwegian chain smokers, Austrian storytellers and Finnish ‘Absolut’ drinkers, who frequently hibernate in arty-farty rooms for weeks on end,
only to appear dressed confusingly in Scot’s kilts to march with Celtic pride and matching harmonies down 5th Avenue on St. Patrick’s Day.
His feline Realm reigns unopposed from Transsexual renditions of romanticism to Hugo’s Tangolesque masculinity in 2A, ending in regular intervals on a damascene armchair in 1A, which bears witness to the claws’ sharpness within the shredded threads of suffering silk.
Those of you who aren’t fluent in Latin, the coat of arms indicates with Anglo-Saxon pompousness that there aren’t any chocolates on pillows, and those things in similar color found on occasions around the place are just feline mementos.
Why does one like something? What makes one fall in love?
It certainly wasn’t comfort nor sanity, as I had nightmares featuring virtual armies of bloodsucking bedbugs and copious pissing patrons leaning against walls, shouting from below Fitzgerald’s, and across the avenue out of The Hairy Monk’s open windows; Gothamesque frivolities which broke every urban frequency law were no match for the complementary Air Tahiti Nui ear plugs, which failed miserably.
Yes, I have to mention that my love affair isn’t without self-interest,
as I am one of those who have stamped their design onto the crumbling walls, mosaic of plaster-soaked unwashed secondhand towels lovingly smoothed into place by a lanky mysterious Italian Red Wine drinking Pom, exuding his air of cool, together with a Gibson abusing You-Tube addicted Brummie, whose electrical skills are slightly do-it-yourself, and guests are advised to learn the in and outs of the New York electricity grid.
It’s the whole that makes for such an unforgettable place;
The people, the zoological menagerie, the insane asylum, the weekly mess, PGTips-Tea and Alphonse’s slightly weird fixations;
John’s constant internet search and Chino’s sincere Puerto Rican
generosity, daVincky’s pure unpolluted Polish Charlatanism and Diego’s love for Uruguayan chanson and soccer, Ron’s unbelievable sleeping habits and Mozzarella addiction and who could ever forget a conversation with Masuda, the man, who invented the dictionary of miscommunication.
To put all those things into a single sentence I need to write an epic without full stop or a jingoistic jingle, and I have decided to do neither and just say simply with all my heart: ‘I love you, Artbreakhotel !’
Overlooking the weekly bustling market on Union Square
a clock busily subtracts heartbeats from eternity soon reaching 5 PM
and Virgin’s enormous fluorescent Red brightens with the falling dusk
luring naiveté towards its storey-high ready armed fashion trap
were Cesaria laments in Portuguese about the vastness of oceans
and Gouldian sighs in Jarrett’s virtuoso reminisce a long forgotten Köln.
Across franchised capitalism private enterprises in stalls and vans
sell with intensity the day’s leftovers from harvests across states
and the caramel nutty smell of fresh baked bread has evaporated into winter air,
while I wait to cross Park in front of North bound city slickers in yellow cabs
to meet people dear to my heart, selling across from me Art in little boxes
containing angst and frustration whimsically powerful within their banal spaces.
Laden with D’Agostino’s cosmopolitan culinary ingredients,
two bottles of full bodied Tempranillo and still crusty baguettes tucked under arm
I arrive in time to see the last box being stored into a translucent plastic crate
which then gets fastened onto a giant sized toddler’s trailer
and dream sellers’ cheeks reddened by icy Winter’s breath
are ready to go home and leave the hustle-bustle behind warm private doors.
I met Miriam and Tony two years before at the same exact spot,
when I bought photographic nudity in silver pendant to hang around my neck,
and a friendship got struck into the invisible metal of inexplicable human affinity;
sharing on most Saturdays now their table and with it, their love for me,
expressed with laughter, tears and generosity beyond well cooked French meals
or silly existential thoughts in the pitfalls of Pat’s wine selection.
With Miriam and Tony comes Pat, a gentle giant from Washington,
harboring in his Sequoianesque Heart a cinematographic dream of stage and film,
debuting in ‘The Warm Light Of The Sun’, a Twilight Production, that had been
condemned from the first click of the clapboard never to see the light of day,
a setback he savored in long humoresque soliloquies in between surreal choices
of too young Chilean Malbecs or too old Tuscan Chiantis.
Seen from someone else’s perspective, maybe sitting on a cast iron railing
or retaining wall watching exhibitionists’ expressions of young and old
in a space encircled by stalls, vans and other people enjoying simply life,
our procession must look like the mythical march of the Wilder Beasts
crossing the Serengeti, as we cross from the East to the West of Union Square:
Tony in front - pulling the cart, I in the middle, cool and collected,
while Miriam keeps up with us mimicking in Zen the waddle of Eskimos.
Our destination is 15th Street across 5th Avenue on the corner of 6th,
an ugly apartment block called appropriately for Tony’s French Parisian roots ‘Left Bank’,
and each time I push the swinging glass doors open I think of Sartre and Camus,
while images of Croissants, bowls of coffee and ‘Liberation’ attach themselves
in my imagination like octopuses onto my mood, and once I step out of the lift
I am ready for Tony’s Michelin creations, and ready to receive their precious gift.
Guest from 15B
Just once I looked into her steel blue eyes
and saw the simple wish to belong,
… somewhere, anywhere, …
where ever that might be,
simply to be able to stay within the walls of cool
held up by ghosts of saints and gallons of paint.
Where was the love or warmth of family,
when she came that mid-February night,
swept up the stairs by wind like dry tumbleweed,
the icy breath of winter flushing her cheeks
as she reached with hope for the set of keys
from a concierge’s mozzarella smelling hand.
Fifteen B was home for now, a courtyard view
two floors above card-board squat,
the brief joy of belonging somewhere daily
interrupted by the certainty in man’s laws
guaranteeing expulsion within twenty eight days
of grasping that set of keys.
What was her name? Who knew her story?
We all guiltily saw her plight simply as Life in the Apple,
knowing her only as the guest from fifteen B,
in need of two daily quarters to push into a communication slot,
and yes, I too ‘mea culpa’,
was one of those who found her somewhat odd
and kept perceptively under lock and key my so called humanity.
Many Dreamings Ago
How often that laughter embraced so our hearts
and distances were butterflies drifting with the wind
across the sun burnt land.
We drank the love of our fathers and mothers,
as if it were the cool sap of the Boab tree,
and enjoyed the sweetness of childhood
many Dreamings ago.
M . . . . r
When Scorpio metamorphosed into Sagittarius
and hoar frost sat elf like on Autumn roses,
my first scream welcomed life with trepidation
as I burst forth from an open mother’s womb.
Steam rose from wrinkled skin
while hands of little love
bundled yearnings in tightly wrapped cloth
and hunger placed onto full rounded breasts
drew from swollen teats more blood than wholesome milk.
With every drop of pain through bitter sweet food
my mother wilted with each ordeal
pushing me into childhood bare of love
that I longed for so incessantly,
as dry soil longs for breaking rain.
While many rivers gushed since then their lengths into oceans
and the trickle of emotions turned into floods much later,
my longings dried up with time into simple dust and
loneliness just turned my heart into stone.
Madison Square Garden
Sitting on an uncomfortable city bench in a park
wedged in squarely by Fifth and Madison Avenue,
I smell fragrant Cuban smoke drifting across crisscrossing paths
and watch squirrels busily collecting paper scraps for later comfort as
Hobohemian chess players duel for silvery change lubricated minds.
Trolley-mounted an upright piano with downpour-soaked veneer
gets pushed by a dude in front of a dry fountain,
a big yellow bucket is placed into view by assistant hands
to catch nickels and dimes, quarters and spare greenbacks,
for free rendered rags, rhapsodies and jazz, … rarely requested.
A queue of Pythonesque length meanders twice daily through the park,
its snaking belly holding city slickers who wait their turn for hip overpriced snacks,
while those already served search in rows of occupied benches
for privacy to eat, text and chat via mobile phone to friends and family and
those already digesting fold neatly their refuse into simple plastic origami.
Dogs of all kinds lead all kinds of owners from invisible landmarks to the next to Morse their presence in urine yellow or read with canine intensity
the odor laden headlines splashed across anything remarkable,
posts, trunks, chopsticks, wind-swept takeaway coffee cups, or by chance
rolled up posters advertising the upcoming premiere of Sex in the City.
The guy with the fragrant Cuban cigar places his Haitian frame next to mine,
telling me out of the blue an Epic that spanned from total misery around the hills of Port-au-Prince to the cinematographic cliché of ‘The American Dream’, earned through hard labor and a healthy dose of resilient self-preservation.
The lengthening shadow of the wedge-shaped Flatiron steals my sun,
flocks of office suits rush in punctuated waves towards 23rd Street station,
the Haitian throws the inhaled Cuban towards the dry fountain,
landing just short, missing by that much the big yellow bucket,
while Gershwin dances rag on well worn ivory, … a bit loose and slight off key.
My Soles of Comfort
My soles of comfort
feel the flood of tears
soaked into the road
of no return.
My feet stride full of hope
towards the calling in my chest,
that fell silent an eternity ago,
but woke when you glanced
towards my soul, lost.
The clock ticks in past tense,
never can I overtake life as it is
laid out in front of me,
along an incessant path
that begins with a scream and ends in uncertainty.
The Big Apple
At first glance the Apple, although big,
looks more like a well-chewed, spit-out core
lying in the gutter of decay.
Cinematographic perspectives on plasma screens
reveal themselves as Hollywood inspired dreamscapes
far from pothole pitted sewer reeking vistas.
Icons once climbed by apes and movie stars
are much less impressive viewed live
than in popcorn flavored imaginations.
The leading edge of importance got blunted
long before lunatics flew sanity into symbolism,
its echo still reverberating from Penn to Central Station.
Striding through Central Park one can’t escape the cliché
forced upon us by its wealth centered neighbors,
beginning and ending with refined Jewish parody.
Once disappointment subsides from expectations
and streets are walked with eyes blind of superficiality,
the new Gotham grows on occasions into the mythical State.
Disagreeable smells disappear into the ethnic cacophonies
of stampeding yellow cabs and anarchic pedestrians
making the rush within its geometric grid an Odyssey.
The flash of a flasher or the onion rich smell of gyros on corners
of South North running Avenues and East West crossing Streets
feel like Mission Impossible within the rigging of quotidian scenes.
Conversations drifting on whirling currents in between canyons
are laden by neo American naiveté or deep existentialism born
on pragmatic leather couches and whimsical do-it-yourself self-analysis.
Mute isn’t a setting in Manhattan’s reach in-between two rivers,
nor can one escape within its boundary the rude aloofness
that typifies each tourists encounter with the native New Yorker.
New York is a place within its expanse of expressionistic urbanism
that doesn’t allow procrastination, nor can one sit on an urban fence;
you love the city, or you don’t !
The Citizen without Ship, the Ship without Harbor.
Don’t I have a heart or soul?
Where are my tears and longings
for ‘Homeland, Heimat and Patrie’,
my place of birth and destiny,
bone seeded soil reeking of family?
Am I stone or just empty and hollow?
Red-White-Red victories are as banal to me
as is the White in white-washed Ashes,
nor would Göbbles have raised a heartbeat in me,
the citizen without passport for patriotic borders.
The Last Supper
Eccentric Spartan extravagancy gauntly worn
into hollow cheeks, carpet and eclectic sheet music
from Scriabin to Strayhorn reveals instantly
a man’s obsession with Self,
reflected poignantly within wall to wall mirrors.
Consumed by self-reflection the dress code above
Second Avenue is dandy leaning towards Broadway
but sparse in its theatricality that is as natural to him
as are his culinary concoctions from fruit to seed,
once served, curiously palatable in their originality.
Egoistic politeness probed the willingness
to overturn promises given to others behind the expectation,
that the image of his eccentric ego was his alone.
That the prospect could hang beyond Narcissus’ Realm
was too preposterous to contemplate.
When leaving the small refuge on the 20th floor,
waiting for the lift to come, music seeped into the corridor,
‘Weather Watch’, tango influenced free jazz,
Piazzolanesque accordion and an extravagant Spartan eccentricity
on piano improvised the melody of ‘Je ne regrette rien!’
From above and in between canyons of steel,
rugged mountain passes or plains as far as the eye can see,
wind caresses earthy stillness with feathery breath,
parting fields of harvest with the ease of hungry flocks or
whispering hushed harmonies into birch trees' metallic luster.
From pulsating swarms of choreographed finches,
combining pillowed clouds and hollow thunder,
wind grows from a swift kite into the expanse of an eagle,
hunting pray and everything loose in it’s path
leaving an aftermath abstract in chaotic twisted wrath.
From gale nine to an instant lull, the soft bulge in shipping sails,
the ripple on water, the play with the fisherman’s cork,
wind plays many rolls in life’s intricacy on earth;
without it no wave would lap onto shores nor
would rain fall from above
What is friendship, if not unconditional love,
whose center holds dormant a seed of two fruits,
germinating over time within its husk into an antipodean harvest,
as different from each other as the sun is from the moon.
When time has no meaning
and birds sweep through skies
full of promise,
my heart yearns in the emptiness
of too many thunders,
while my hands feel the dust
of a life's work.
Hope our nourishment, and
love for the godforsaken place
that soon will be forgotten.
While I might listen to Nina or John Lee
and keep their Blues within mine and me,
roots from the past in search of answers
sprouted irresistibly through the web of time,
and a single response from far beyond
seems to have freed the feared avalanche
from its precarious perch on my mountain of tears;
lets see the Blues and find its constant beat,
maybe in time we might grow back as a single tree
carrying instead of questions just the simple fruit of family.
Jetlag Jitterbug Walk
The hotel’s heavy red iron door slams shut.
A northerly squall reflected from across the street
throws a handful of sticky snowflakes into my face.
My first steps on the frozen sidewalk
feel like cotton as do the winter clouds.
Australian Summer still deep in my bones
and too little to wear to be considered native
I turn right and downtown onto third
feeling salted insurance beneath my feet
while savoring intensely the immediate Now.
Without preconceived direction I just walk
counting down familiar yet distant streets
passing neon lit brands and spotlighted individuality
slotted together side by side, displaying the time of plenty,
advertised as half full or twice as much for the price of one.
On Third Ave and 14th Street, St. Marks and Union Square
are immediate choices within the possible spectrum
of a two stop train ride to Bedford Avenue or beyond and
the longer voyage into the mythical darkness of Harlem,
sadly not yet discovered by me.
Jetlag decides it for me: St.Marks and falafels it is.
Mile’s trumpet stereos back and forth in my ears,
Tunisian Nights color my vision in translucent candy
blurring all and anything within seeable sight,
as if lifted off from an obscure Ray Blackman painting.
My right foot finds one of New York’s thousand pitfalls
ankle deep slush dammed gutter flooding my shoe partially
waking me from standby mode to an instant feline leap
over city grim colored snow drift ploughed roughly
against anything present at the time.
A shopping trolley partially buried by the body of a fallen avalanche
displays ‘Become Your Dream’ on Keith Haring inspired background
ironically painted by the street artist De La Vega and in its irony
lies my memory of a photo I took the year before of a homeless soul
sleeping on a rotting mattress next to one of those ubiquitous trolleys.
I am craving a cigarette just now, although having not done so for many years,
and the incessant bite of the Northerly Breeze coats my presence in a film
of freezing cellophane and within my cravings for nicotine, cinnamon and
apple-pie I bump into a six foot two long legged boot wearing transvestite
with running mascara and hour old sandpaper cheeks.
We look each other in the eyes,
mine, bloodshot and half a globe in between dreams,
his, nightmarishly glazed by stuff grown worlds away,
and for a split finite moment we see each other’s souls,
only to excuse ourselves with a generic ‘Sorry!’
Still having his sweet feminine perfume up my nose and on clothes
I cross Third Avenue into Ninth Street and walk towards Second
and from a seemingly warm looking gentrified brownstone hallway
Michael Nyman’s ‘The Heart Asks Pleasure First’ drifts from the open door
out into the street only to disappear with each step I take towards the Avenue.
Sirens and blue lights slice their way through yellow tsunamis
and following one, I turn right not passing too many people crazy enough to
put their noses into the wind, even canine eagerness seams to avoid going North,
and those, who have no choice which way to go have caricature etched onto faces
retreating their identity into the warmth of well fleeced polar hoods.
Having traversed the New York Eastside Winter Wonderland of fundamental conservatism and cosmopolitan neo-narcissism I begin to feel the immense
vastness of the Pacific in my knees and not wanting to yet face up to the wind
from the arctic, I simply stop in front a place that oozes from its pores
a deep dark sweetness, called Max Brenner’s Chocolate Bar.
‘Hot Chocolate, please,’ I say to the young waiter as I sit down.
‘Tall ? Regular ? Large?’ an Australian accent enquired.
‘Medium !’ I replied with a smile.
‘Just arrived ?’
‘Yeah mate, just arrived!’
And I think to myself: I’ll have the falafels tomorrow !
A Song from the South
Light opaque steam rises from my teacup,
as my gaze drifts from inside my room’s warmth,
out into the bleak deep lifeless courtyard
squeezed in between architectural laziness, and
catches dancing, tumbling, swirling snow flakes
falling through the gap of the concrete wasteland
only to land, brutally melting on utilitarianism.
A woman mid twenties with toddler on arm
watches me from across the narrow bleakness
wondering if my gaze invades their privacy,
while shutting light colored wooden blinds.
‘Have you ever seen Kings Cross, when the rain
is falling slow?’ Paul Kelly asks in the background
where colored dots on black paint listen to his music.
Hell and its Fury in bold large fonts are resting in print
on a black pressure-pot whistling cast iron heater
which reaches boiling point just an octave later
as spiraling wind gusts milky laden with snow
force a city pigeon to take shelter on my window sill
and the paper falling sprawls onto the stenciled wooden floor
and Kelly repeats over and over ‘I remember, I remember …’
Looking through a claustrophobic lightless gap across 24th street
I can just see the stark entrance of ‘An American Dream’,
a hostel smelling strongly of cheap eucalyptus disinfectants,
home to souls a day’s work away from cart-board squat,
and while I contemplate for a second or two their free market plight
I faintly smell smoke of burning Torwoods, Ribbon Gums,
Mountain Ashes, Mallees, Yellow Boxes and Narrow-leaved Sallies.
I imagine Steve Irwin’s Australiana fleeing from reserves, parks, plantations
and pockets of the Untouched, while behind their flight a dormant Giant
awakes, rising up in a blue cloudless sky, billowing upwards and onwards,
mimicking, impersonating ferocity only associated with Pinatubo or Vesuvius,
spitting ashes, cinders and a thousand million micro flames around
King Lake and too many to name other places to set alight their future,
the present thereafter needing more than just time to raise from its ashes.
‘…and there is so much water, so close to home, …’ Paul sings melodically
as I put down my cup of tea and walk away from the window towards the open
paper showing the mangled burnt out mess of so many peoples’ dreams,
but within their still smoldering ashes lie too many lost souls
whose future no phoenix can bring back on golden wings
and we all remember them as it all happened so close to home.
‘I haven’t cried yet, but it is coming!’
Each day I go downstairs
and out of the door onto 25th
turning left towards Lexington
wedging myself through student hordes
only to wait patiently my turn
once I have reached the gyro van
to ask for my daily lamb over rice
or chicken with Merguez piquant,
when feeling a bit rebellious
or simply fed up with the monotony,
chicken with the lot
certainly spicy and hot
with white sauce and tons of runny harissa
daydreaming about Fes or possible Ibiza.
‘Comment ça va?’ Achmed grins with teeth like Atlas grit.
‘Ça va bien, … et toi ?’ I return the friendliness.
‘A bit cold, le temps c’est comme chez moi! …. The usual?’
‘Oui, comme l’habitude!’ I confirm, watching him
dice, slice the meager vegetables and precooked meat
tossing all from raw to crust on smoking hot flapjack
only to scoop it once done onto saffron yellow rice
getting cold in Styrofoam container,
while waiting, ready to go.
‘Sauce?’ he asks.
‘Mais oui, comme l’habitude!’
‘C’est cinq Dollar!’
‘Et oui, as usual!’
‘Merci, et à demain !’
‘Oui, à demain!’ I say and walk away.
‘The usual ?’ daVincky enquires entering the Asylum
sniffing intensely the garlic laden air.
A Moment With Masuda
The House Rent Boogie booms digitally in my aching ears.
Hooker’s voice dictates the rhythm of my hand’s pointillism.
I dot 14D’s total black with the purity of Titanium White
following a design beyond my immediate consciousness that
blends and folds translucently into my homage to the owners of my adoptive land, … Down-Under.
Savoring the last diluted flavors of a crispy Sicilian Pizza
I hear Masuda’s mutterings from the stairwell and a second later,
having passed Italian influenced Pharaohs, nondescript theatrically
piped hieroglyphs and an exhibitionistic interpretation of Cleopatra,
he lights a cigarette at the open window on D Floor, looking out
onto third avenue and The Hairy Monk.
Floating down the hallway along plaster cast dynastic Dignitaries,
smoke expands throughout the corridor with typical Virginian flavor,
blond and husky, that for some reason or other reminds me of Kim,
… Kim Novak, that is!
‘Masuda’, I shout from out of my room down the length of the corridor,
‘Watch out for the Fire Alarm!’
‘Yahh, Yahh, Yahh, Yahh’, gets returned with a slight tonal irritation in Masuda’s voice, together with his typical Japanese pronunciation,
‘No -orry, no -orry, - NO – NO, - Don’t kno-, no -orry,’ I hear him utter in between deep pensive inhalations, which, together with Hooker’s gravely voice and Chilling Out with Canned Heat, gives the whole scene an authenticity beyond the banal.
A good cigarette’s length and five dozen dots later, having moved on to
Harry Manx Live at the Glen Gould Studio introducing Indian harmonies,
I suddenly become aware of someone’s presence and turning around
I see Masuda looking into my room leaning against the peeling doorframe
holding a pear shaped unusual sized light globe in his hand, while mumbling
incessantly: ‘NO, - .ood, , l.ghtpulp NO .ood.’
‘-ood mousik ?’ he interrupts his pensive soliloquy pointing towards my
earphones and smiles with his typical broad generous kamikaze smile,
while I imagine him in a diving Zero over Guam or Guato Canal shouting
out of the cockpit window down to the Yanks: ‘Did youu –now Fvire –ire 2 types, … ya, ya, ya … !’
‘Yes, it is good music!’ I say to him turning around to continue dotting.
‘Chino requesto –ight glob, toilettt,’ he exclaims and when I look back at him
I catch him holding a light globe up against the 75 watts of my room’s light
searching for the shattered filament within the pear shaped glass, then throws in:
‘ .ood paint, ya, ya, … Jappanese arttisst, also dottss, ya, ya …, old now, ya, ya, ya, … bring book toumorrroaw, ya, ya, …. Jappanese artttisst, .ery, ery old now,
…. ya, ya, ya, …
I nod my head now, placing the single Japanese chop-stick onto the ladder’s step
pointing towards the stick’s paint incrusted tip and reply with pedagogic demure: ‘Pointillism is an artistic global expression reaching all continents throughout all ages; … it probably is the most primitive and common form to apply paint, as easy as frying chips!’
‘ ….ya, ya, ya, …chippps, no .ood, no .ood, makz youu fatt, ya, ya, ya, ….
And with that comment Masuda leaves down the stairwell, muttering:‘no .ood,
SSomsink like aah teanaga, ya, ya, ya, al.ays fuccck, shittt, crap!’
Two floors later Harry Manx’s ‘There is a notion of this …. who could care less about the fame and the glory’, percusses with ‘tablatic’ rhythm Masuda’s monologue, and I have returned to my white dots which are an account of life and death and sexuality and procreation and …….
La Generosidad de Puerto Rico
A joyful Guaracha reaches its musical climax within the rhythm of rumba
invading sensually out of Chino’s boom box the inner most sanctum of
the Insane Asylum’s last bastion, just off the main lobby and a step further,
behind daVincky’s ‘Fiction imitates Madness’ neo-surreal fresco containing
rooting Pandas getting happily clubbed to death by desperate Goyanesque housewives and Indigenous Secret Man’s business becomes borrowed dotted prop for a cocaine stoned sex driven giant octopus, which had escaped one late afternoon from 5D and its cold blue oozing transsexual connotations.
I look at my watch and it is Monday; a Monday anticipated for weeks by
and everyone’s anticipation is being vindicated right now at this precise moment,
normally reserved for bicycle mounted Latinos delivering soggy pizzas, beige flavored Pad Thai noodles or Nasi Goreng in Americanized throwaway containers.
From within the inner core beyond the office space, a doorframe further in, musical and gastronomical harmonies of Daniel Santos’ ‘Corneta’ and Chino’s wife’s Puerto Rican feast’s Caribbean smells float past the weekly managerial meeting and out into the lobby, where Marlena, a lost food critic, enters recipes onto Facebook.
It all came about one afternoon when Chino first entered my room and shouted:
‘Eso es magnífico!’
‘¿Qué?’ I said almost like Manuel in Faulty Towers, but understood instantly
once I laid eyes onto Chino, what he meant.
‘Muchas gracias’, I said and continued: ‘Es mucho el trabajo!’
‘Sí, sí, por supuesto, …. of course!’ he replied, and with that we chatted away
a good hour from a drab dreary snow-floury New York Winter afternoon,
ending in his promise that he would bring one day a typical Puerto Rican banquet
to the hotel, while kissing his pyramidically clenched first three fingers of his right hand and saying: ‘Buena, muy buena!’
In the meantime, while the hotel’s managerial elite split the infinitive lengthwise without finding a common sense, passionately focusing onto You-Tube uploads showing Taser experiments with hilarious primeval sound scores
or giant scrotums hanging like bouncing balls from Third World bodies,
Chino, dressed in his favorite Red Yankee Baseball Colors and cap,
heats up, carves, stirs and tastes his wife’s lovingly prepared pemil with morcila and tripie and chuletas ahumadas, served on arroz con habichuelas and Buñuelos de viento thereafter, wind puffs soaked in vanilla, lemon and sugar syrup for desert.
Those in the know, those enough privileged to be allowed to enter the inner sanctum of the Asylum will know, that Chino’s efforts to serve a banquet in
its chaotic masculinity isn’t a mean feat to attempt, let alone succeed.
And succeed, he did!
Sipping on a bottle of Medalla Beer I watch Chino explain with great Latin
gestures to Marlena the more intricate aspects of Puerto Rican Food, while Geof is boiling the kettle to brew a pot of English PGTips-Tea, John picks his teeth freeing morsels of roast pork from dental confines and the boy from Birmingham with fair complexion and music aspirations far beyond actual possibilities, finger picks his well weathered Gibson somewhat melancholically, while staring at Alphonse, who leans against the sticky-tape shut fridge watching Marlena and her more eccentric
peroxide bleached windswept hairdo that reminds me in some mysterious way
of an art critic’s hair style.
Hugo lights a cigarette and sits back in the only real office chair and contentment is
sprawled on his face, that is so Argentinean to me, as is Piazzolla to Tango, and just behind him, sitting on a crate, drinking Heineken, Diego says out of the blue:
‘Gracias a Dios por nosotros los monos!’
‘Thank God for us monkeys!’
‘ … y la esposa de El Chino!’
There once were and still are
places numerous in their unimportance
which shaped and shape young lives
without regard to well being or simple happiness
built for appearance, to nourish the greed of few.
Sadly enough those principles of small bourgeoisie
expand from their unimportant place of birth
into places of greater importance,
enough to soil earth with sins of different proportions,
just enough to taint paradise with hell.
Many Men’s Hope
With each mast, sail or smoke-billowing chimney
casting their shadows onto Ellis Island,
wallpapers changed in brownstones
and breezes carried the odor of the Other
towards the establishment.
With each ship, train or modern plane
touching its imagined shores,
blood, sweat and tears changed
from one hand to the next,
hope gripping instinctively life’s relay baton.
Each finish line drawn individually
by God or common worldly fate,
ended for all in graveyards as vast
as many men’s dreams,
masses falling short of their expectations.
Without those brave, desperate,
adventurous and foolish souls
coming ashore in pulsating waves
in hope for a better life, freedom and equality,
America would have ended up as Beckett’s Godot,
… never to arrive … at its destiny … whatever that might be.
I have to say it is amazing to see all those photos as a single flood
pouring forth from a tiny virtual folder named ‘slike_obrezane.rar’
for although decades have passed since I saw them last,
my eyes instantly recognized each one of them.
But as soon as I did past experiences denied the familiarity,
Simultaneously filing them as curious strangers’
While windos popped up around me
flashing warnings not to duplicate my memory with false emotions.
I am amazed with the youth of my parents in those faded photos,
for when I shared their time as a child of theirs they were just old,
but now I am older than them then in their sepia colored world
and my perceptions changed in a blink of an eye, … just like that;
and they have become instantly something totally different:
they have become human and not just solely my life’s limitations.
Looking into my father’s eyes I can see myself in his life’s depth,
and mother’s are placed straight from birth within my facial expressions
and the fear they could extrude from all my pores has mellowed
into pity and forgiveness, … although sadly four decades too late.
J’accuse not them; j’accuse ‘Expectations!’
Expectations turn love into bitter resentment,
pushing us into an abyss of reverberating irrelevance
which h(a)unts us relentlessly like a hungry pack of wolves.
Conceptual Memories of 24 Moments
When I met him first
it was a brief handshake
and two to three words
of generic niceties.
When I met him thereafter
the encounter was again brief
but instead of a few words
I got Culture thrown as headline.
When I met him the third time
on the staircase in between floors,
he elaborated on conceptual art
while being photographed in black&white.
When I met him an hour later
in the tiny but heated space of 7A
he oozed Germanic efficiency
within his metric measured gestures.
When I met him just short of half a dozen of times,
somewhere on 5th Avenue, between 33rd and 34th,
he muttered something about American aloofness
and how ‘IT’ simply frustrated him.
When I met him the sixth time
on the corner of 27th street and the Museum of Sex,
he labored heavily with two old suitcases on wheels
containing teenager’s frustrations carved into tabletops.
When I met him the next day
at the Curry in a Hurry on Lexington Avenue,
he philosophized over a Chicken Jahlfrezi that
Art can never be the backbone of a nation.
When I met him on eighth Avenue
in packed bustling neon-drenched erogenous zones
he explained to me in between hustler and peep
the importance to be earnest with one’s work.
When I met him on the ninth occasion
in the Insane Asylum drinking amber Brooklyn Ale
he outlined his vision for 7A, which in essence
contained a lot of gray and a fold-up bed.
When I caught him reading the Ten Commandments
in 1B surrounded by homoerotic neo-classical murals
he carefully prepared the deep scratched surface of a
school-desktop depicting a Matisse-like shark for printing.
When I met him the next day around 11 AM,
rushing down the stairs to catch a train to go up the Bronx,
he yelled out that he needed a mirror and some cloth, preferably silk,
and if I was prepared to photograph him doing rubbings.
When I met him at Noon on 23rd and Madison Avenue,
next to the skyscraping scaffoldings of One Madison Park,
he kneeled on a gray silk cloth and rubbed with blue oil sticks
messages off a concrete slab that contained greetings from Plato & Selena.
When I met him on a bus sitting next to a girl that had just entered her teens
and was ‘SO’ not interested in us two middle-aged men,
he said to me looking at his electronic Japanese timekeeper
that he is running out of time and 7A might become a Spartan cocoon for Zen.
When I met him at the subway entrance on 3rd Avenue, 14th Street,
on my way to Vanessa’s Dumblings’ Evening specials,
he called out to me from across the street waving a hammer through the air
and the words not swallowed by traffic spelled cryptically fold-up bed.
When I met him 15 hours later
in the midst of a carpenter’s night long frenzy,
he explained to me with sawdust coated eyebrows
that the room didn’t demand Germanic precision.
When I met him sixteen steps further up in 1B
a few silent moments after I had first laid eyes on his craftsmanship,
he brewed percolated coffee next to a giant Chinese Ink brush
while defending his artistic concept as minimalism.
When I met him thereafter ‘Sweet Seventeen’ with bop altoistic fervor
reverberated within the Asylum’s inner sanctum from where I watched
with interest the differences in men’s body languages when expressing
disagreement, as he tried to convince the management of his work’s merit.
When I met him at eighteen hundred Eastern Daylight Time
over Hamburger and Chips at The Hairy Monk’s Karaoke Happy Hour,
he complained about New York in general, but mostly of his inability
to communicate his project’s vision to people like John, Hugo and Geof.
When I met him in front a carmine red 19th Century Brownstone house
not far off the Manhattan Diner on Upper Broadway,
he expressed relief that the 4Rooms and 1Wall opening at the hotel
was just around the corner and he therefore could concentrate on printing.
When I met him the following evening I had 20 bucks left,
just enough for another pint of Guiness and
a tip for Michael Power’s early session at Terra Blues,
which he videoed in almost total Nightclub darkness.
When I met him and all other 21 protagonists of the opening,
just after I had finished playing professional photography with daVincky,
he asked me, if I would be so kind to capture his final effort in 7A
for posterity and that he might use it as a platform for a future project.
When I met him twenty-two minutes thereafter
I saw him in a LCD camera screen trying to convince
The Three Amigos, framed within a tiny mirror on the wall,
of the deeper meaning in his deliberate Spartan crudity.
When I met him the next day on 23rd and Lexington
having had my daily breakfast latté in a tasti D’lite coffee shop,
he asked me what I thought about last night’s event and that
he thought, that peoples’ reaction to his installation was immature.
When I met him for the last time on the 24th of March
moments before I hailed a cab on 3rd Avenue for JFK,
he mentioned as he grabbed my hand in farewell:
‘You know, Art isn’t here to be just pretty!’
An Art Project
Fragmented Thoughts at Random
by Andre van der Kerkhoff
The greatness of a nation doesn't rise from fleeting sporting glories, but by it's ability to recognize past wrongs.
Righteousness used for propaganda becomes a dangerous tool and should be condemned regardless of who uses it for their cause.
I say it is time to expand the Ten Commandments to eleven and proclaim:
"Thou shall not rape my children."
You can build walls as high as your guilt, but their height can't protect you from your shame.
Who would have thought that the colonisers would become the colonised?
Isn't it easy to use evil to incite the passions of our righteousness, especially if it is committed by others and not us.
I say to those who choose silence over condemnation when faced by evil, that no Hail Mary may absolve you of your complicity.
Leaders who can't show mercy towards the condemned shouldn't lead nations, as their lack of compassion might lead to inhumanity.
Just plough Jerusalem beneath its blood soaked soil and from its field's peace may grow.
Walls conceived to divide people from each other are never lasting monuments to man's bigotry.
The human experience should classify " God bless America. " as an irony.
How can we expect equality, when every social doctrine points towards the glory of being first?
The status quo of today will be the upheaval of tomorrow.
Oligarchy awaits man of no convictions.
I say to those who place profit before the common good, that the pro-clamation, “let them eat cake”, cost Marie Antoinette her noble head.
Men without rudder will annihilate empires.
Show me a man who says that he never had a racist thought in his life and I’ll show you a liar.
In the age of virtuality, gadgets replace spirituality.
In today’s ambiguity the truth is bilingual.
Man carries the ill of racism as stigma to his intelligence.
The Jewish tragedy is simply a paradox between faith and reality.
Man's possibilities lie between E = m square and the furnaces of Auschwitz.
Only mediocre men have to hide behind ideologies, strong men create their own.
Sadly most men choose trivia over substance.
Man is not good nor evil but fallible.
Instead of wisdom and knowledge man directs television to numb the people into social impotence.
Only a fool might value progress when comparing the thoughts of Voltaire with those of Jerry Springer.
Man’s curse of good and evil lies simply in his ability to conceive and believe in an abstract thought.
If God is worth dying for, life must have been on sale.
Man’s demise will originate within his vainglory.
Where everything has a beginning and an end, endless is as abstract as silence in an ever-reverberating universe.
Sex is the Alpha and the Omega of Life.
One’s self is encased by the nutshell of ones ego.
Intimacy comes only after ones complete self-surrender.
I can’t help but think that, if there were a God, he must be an anti-Semite.
Wrong is wrong is wrong, whoever the perpetrator.
When it comes to persistence and self-belief Semites are the champions.
Self-importance and bigotry are elementary to tyranny.
Those who believe that they are the chosen one’s have been chosen more often then they would wish to care.
An assassination is a coward’s way to have the last word.
I wish the Jewish intelligentsia wouldn't brand every non-Jewish criticism with an anti-Semitic label.
To kill to kill to kill is always murder.
Suicide bombers are victims of three enemies.
Who can claim innocence, when confronted by history?
How long can the perpetuity of one generation stealing from the next, last?
The cruelty lies in planet Earth’s inability to accommodate six billion educated spirits.
It’s paradoxical that education is a link in man's dissatisfaction.
Education frees man from slavery, but shackles him to money.
Only visionaries can see beyond their own field of vision and expand our horizon.
Only those stricken with despair may see patience as a virtue.
Art is an anthropological essay to solve the reason for being.
Art can be a line from A to B, but also just a single dot.
Life itself is art - the art to exist against all odds.
In mans’ indifference towards his fellow beings lies the essence of inhumanity.
Only man could have come up with an idea as bizarre as money.
A man of virtue must find society alien.
In almost all of us a tyrant lies dormant, waiting for his cue.
Tyranny is a virus for which only time stands as a cure.
Sport is mock war.
Sport and Art: While sport seeks to be the potassium bromide for the proletariat, art aims relentlessly for revolution.
It is difficult to find an original thought in the shadows of Shakespeare and Aristotle.
“There can't be silence after a Big Bang”.
It's ironic that the church condemns abortion, yet blesses soldiers for the slaughter.
The seed for greed grows deep in our need to heed to our ego.
Shopping trolleys are the hyenas of greed.
Life’s road isn't straight and narrow, but ever changing.
Christianity has to carry the burden of the Holocaust.
The silence of churches stoked the furnaces of inhumanity.
Freedom that has been built on slavery can only be American.
The land of the free is only anyone’s savior, if one is part of its ego.
Isn't it a paradox that those who want to sit in judgment over others don’t want to be judged?
Nuremberg was just, but with every new burning cross it’s validity became an American satire.
Man’s patience can end in volatility.
Maybe the passion in enlisting men would be less exuberant, if they would possess the wisdom, which they will have acquired by armistice.
Love can only be seen when lost or found in tears.
Australia has fought in so many unnecessary wars, yet it hasn't yet fought it’s most important of all – “The war of independence”.
The scarcity of white Australian history is the Freudian umbilical cord to Mother England.
When priests abuse innocence without fearing God’s wrath for their earthly lust, Christianity lies naked of all divinity.
I never forgave Mao Tse-Tung for his recognition of Pinochet’s Chile – It stunk of Guano.
Guano opened my political eyes - I just saw shit.
In politics shit has always taken precedence over doctrinal integrity.
The Right wouldn't mind Pinochetorial insights - Refugees might vanish forever-ever in never-never.
As long as the chosen one's don’t choose to break the bread in half, their history will always be written in blood.
The theological dignity of difference is to anyone who died on a religious battlefield an oxymoron.
Soon the unjust deeds of Israel will expunge the guilt of the Holocaust.
Like the Roman Empire the Western World will be swallowed up by much hungrier nations.
Only if we are prepared to sacrifice half of our wealth to feed those who see our world as their salvation might we be able to hold onto our land.
Remember always that the face of a refugee could be one day yours.
Why do we judge life's success by its worldly wealth and not it’s spiritual one.
Generosity is only genuine, if it can’t be tax deducted.
We only need God, because we can’t grasp the meaning of nothing.
If the human spirit could rationalize endless into mathematics, God might stand after the equation.
I say - capitalism is dead - long live the mutual fundism.
The political fabric of the Western World is turning beige and heading towards black and brown.
Most wars are wars about righteousness, but only a very few are right.
As human beings we all share the same needs, fears and ambitions, yet we harbor racism in our souls.
Out for food, love and shelter, man created a world in excess.
Crossroads are choices that may lead to opposed realities.
Mans’ belief in his singular importance creates the being nature has to fear.
God have mercy on an educated man, as he just has complicated the essence of life.
What a pity that the aged mind hasn’t a body of youth as a vessel - then maybe that is nature’s way to ensure revolution within evolution.
Why do prophets need miracles for their justification of being?
An atheist’s worst nightmare consists of being shipwrecked on a deserted island with an ultra orthodox existentialist.
Today our dreams evolve around share portfolios and red Ferraris, yester-day we dreamed of liberty and democracy, whilst our prehistoric ancestor wished just for the mammoth to appear, just what will our great grand-children dream of - A blue planet?
Half an education is worse than no education at all.
The inhospitability of other worlds should be man’s dogma for the preser-vation of his remaining Eden.
Between parasitic liberalism and parasitic socialism one’s choice is grim.
War is conceived by few, but endured by many.
How satisfying life could be, if man’s daily search for utopia could be replaced by just a kind thought.
If the Jewish psyche believes that it’s identity lies in the ashes of Auschwitz, then the nation of Israel will always be a nation of victims.
What will happen to the want society, when there is nothing more to be had?
Further the bourgeoisie leans towards an “Us and Them", closer my affinity lies with the underdog.
Fragmentation of substance can lead to trivia in choice.
Love and expertise are inherent to cure.
If there is a sense of reality, there must also be a sense of possibility.
A friend is as rare as two pearls in one oyster.
Beware of friendship that is generic.
I am afraid for the future, because yesterday and today are the yardsticks by which we will live tomorrow.
Maybe America's obsession with youth lies in it’s still historic adolescence.
Knowledge is the E - m square of man’s curiosity.
Man's ultimate aim for knowledge is God.
Knowledge is like a Russian doll only without it’s outer coat.
The citizen’s opinion is mostly composed of envy and fear.
Present handshakes have depreciated from their past value.
Only the dead are delivered from prejudice.
Prejudice cloaks humanity’s potential.
Skepticism of men without opinion unleashes bigotry.
Memory and hope seem best - reality worst.
Prophets predict changes; Messiahs revolutionize doctrines.
Good and Evil are inherent notions of the human intellect, and only life and genetics will determine which of the two might dominate the existence.
Good and Evil are perplex anthropological concepts; in as much as their in-terpretation varies by and large on societal values whose moral perimeters might be sins apart.
In the age of exploitation philanthropy seems less and less genuine, especially if the motivation of the philanthropist lies in his self-promotion.
It’s a pity that religion got hold of God.
The Big Bang is our birth, therefore the uterus belongs to God, and God is female.
God is man’s bath plug of angst.
Religion and sexuality are the oil and water of morality.
Greater man’s knowledge, abstracter his belief.
Churches are poison to faith.
The seeds of carnal lust flourish in man’s moral pretence.
Priests are only men and men are capable of anything.
I say to anybody who witnesses evil, that to look away is as repulsive as the deed itself.
I believe in nothing, because everything is just temporary.
Man's history is simply the continuous repetition of past wrongs.
Those who possess power have an exclusive truth over the weak.
When historians exchange invasion for settlement, then the truth has become bilingual.
When politicians explain genocide as evolution, then the truth is being raped.
Truth is only pure, if on the other side of the equation no gain can be found.
Society would fail itself, if it did not question, from time to time, it's leaders' right to lead.
Love lies somewhere in between sex and chocolate.
Commitment can only be true, if it is free.
Man has a gift to transform necessities into nuisances.
Death is just a point where the individual's time ceases.
It’s surreal that man near death has no fear of him, yet fears him to death a whole lifetime away.
Love and death are life’s certainties without a date.
Death is the collision of two realities.
The indifference of the bourgeoisie is politics' fundament.
Man's indifference to the consequences of his actions makes him a pest of nature.
The statue of liberty is pure irony in the face of colored people.
Death is equal to all.
Money is an existential pestilence.
Only a few men have the strength to do without the lure of money.
Money is absurd, as it’s value depends entirely on abstract notions of validity.
A paper note’s value is more abstract than those of a silver coin but the same amount becomes faith when virtual in cyber space.
Only arrogance could have invented money.
Man is perfectly happy to exchange evil for monetary gain.
Money and Evil are intricately tied together, inseparable as Gordius’ knot.
The paradoxical and tragic reality of man is that he only perceives value in things, which are exchangeable for money and he might end up with nothing but an empty world.
Instead of having made the world go round, money will sell it out.
Love is real, when time hasn't ravaged the beauty of your lover in your eyes.
Man just does, without reflecting on tomorrow.
Man’s motto: Now is important – tomorrow might not be.
Man tries to live life as if it was an all you can eat smorgasbord.
Mankind’s indigestion is just around the corner.
Love might be a fleeting thought that you caught in mid air and treasured to this day.
Love can be the feeling of your loins in between innocent gazes.
The experience of Communism throughout the 20th century was nothing more than the brutal rape of an idealistic idea.
From a Darwinian point of view, an egalitarian society would represent a far greater evolutionary leap away from its hierarchical ancestral existence, than any society based on class.
Social Marxism might work in a society in which money and power are non-entities.
It is quite a paradox that Christianity and Socialism have never found a common denominator, although Christ had been the worlds first re-corded socialist.
Man’s psychological characteristics are antipodal opposed to the concept of egalitarianism: man wants more and not less, and certainly he doesn't want to share.
Sadly the principles of Communism will always be correlated to the failed Soviet-Chinese experiments of Gulagian oppression and arduous Cultural Revolution.
Don’t put ideals into human hands, as they will soon tarnish to misery.
Every human has ideals, but only very few are able to experience them as a reality.
Ideals are youth's manna; age survives on pragmatism.
Only a dead idealist can’t betray his ideals.
To be an idealist one has to be first a romantic.
Text messages might rebirth romanticism into cool cyber sentimentalism.
Woomera stands as testimony to our societal egoism and callous political expediency: Shame Australia Fair.
For the youth of today, I fear for tomorrow, as we weren't too exemplifying.
Perceived societal changes are just oscillating facts of expedient political correctness.
In language there isn't a singularity of meaning and one's precision of intent depends solely on one's experience in common.
Youth is life's orgy before taking stock.
While youth flouts its age, age cherishes its memory.
Every stage of life is singular and without return.
I can't imagine life without solitude; it vivifies my imagination.
Solitude by choice is liberating, but a gulag when imposed.
No solitude can be shared.
The present rarely lasts longer than a heartbeat.
To procrastinate is a man's way to enjoy yesterday.
Love can be as simple as a grain of sand or complicated as Ibsen.
Love is the taste of one's lover's lips.
Politics is the art of trickery.
The more I understand man, the more I wish to be alone.
In the age of greed man’s integrity becomes endangered.
God erred by giving Earth to man; Mars would have been a better choice.
Man's ego is the cause of all evil.
War is the time span between political bravado and social reconstruction.
Imagine a world without ego: Bliss.
Walls are only barriers to physics; not to the mind.
Inseparable like twins, Love and War forge mankind’s destiny.
Only if one has loved, one is privileged to grief.
Love is as divine as the taste of truffles.
Love is an antidote to selfishness.
War is like water, without exception it finds its way.
The opinion of the majority falls often short of what is right for the people.
War is an archaic tool to win an argument, which has been verbally lost.
War can erupt with a single command, but it takes many men’s wisdom to establish peace.
God exists in the mind of people.
God is the drain of an existential whirlpool.
The quote, " ... for those who've come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share, ... ", is for those, whose hopes are fenced by razor wire, a cruel irony.
Ironies are stepping stones to wisdom.
Morality is majority's influence put forth onto individuals.
Morality is the guardrail of life.
Morality is the know-how to pretend.
Sincerity is an endangered virtue.
Today's sincerity is as illusionary as certainty.
One might think of certainty as absurd, ... if not at all imprudent.
Revealing much of oneself might to some be a way to hide themselves.
Eden is ever just an inhumanity away.
Neutrality is the art of indecision.
The self-preservation of indifference is neutrality.
Life demands choices, while death chooses you.
Objectivity is alien to Man.
Lust can be a momentary surrender to one's enemy.
Lust is the art of indulgence.
Lust is life's greed for possession.
Philosophy is the art of giving man to man.
Man's questions demand philosophy; without it, that, what has to be known, would just rest an enigma.
Nostalgia is the blind man's recollection of the rainbow.
In between possibility and reality lies hope.
Men robbed of hope become sailors of despair.
Hope is the effervescence in the quotidian.
Men need hope more than bread.
Beginnings are always full with possibilities, but in the end just reality remains.
Don't mourn your dead, Israel, as you assassinated hope.
Rabin mourns Sharon's dream.
If you expect in life to matter most, life might cut you down quick fast.
Necessity’s reality depends entirely on the interpretation of need.
Necessity is a human claim, which has to be taken with a grain of salt.
Lies belong to the essential spices of life.
Lies are small follies or enormous pain.
A single lie can kill love forever.
Lies are absurd, yet real to man.
Man's zeal for happiness is ultimately his fundamental source to un-happiness.
Happiness and unhappiness are two abstract notions of absurdity, yet they are real to man and are consequential for his well being.
Absurdity is less absurd if seen on CNN.
Absurdity is a notion to which only man is subject to.
Despair is hope's coma.
Almost any originality is an astute interpretation of common knowledge.
Originality without sincerity is only a novelty without merit.
A brush stroke can be original, yet repeated once it is a copy.
Swimming pools are blue so that man can dive into heaven.
Without chaos and order life itself might have no rhythm to go by.
Hill hoists are icons, yet rust nevertheless.
Poverty bears talent, however much more withers by its blight.
Poetry is youth's yeast's fermentation to be enjoyed later on.
Today's men pursue life with such speed that they might just hurry past it.
Hypocrisy is a man's yoke; only in his pleasures he is free of it.
To proceed in life by plan invites fate to intervene.
Perception impairs man's vision; without it the world would be boundless.
To look with a telescope at yesterday is simply nostalgia.
One single illusion can keep one going till one has found another.
To fallen heros glory comes too late.
Honors are variable like the Melbourne weather.
One man’s honor might be another’s contempt.
In an avaricious society honesty is an alien virtue.
The assassination of a hero guarantees his idolization.
Man's freedom is utopian: life itself depends.
Man isn't condemned to be free, but to be chained with needs.
Without rules man would be lost in freedom.
Society needs chains to hold in place a common value.
Great men live either far off or are simply dead.
Sometimes greatness is just an envious misunderstanding.
Who judges the greatness of men: Men.
Ungrateful people’s hearts are impaired with senility.
Expectations grind away man’s zeal into exhaustion.
Anyone who has too many expectations in life might as well jump off a cliff and end it now.
Expectations go hand in hand with disappointments.
An unexpected gift seems almost heavenly whereas had it been expected, it just would have been a common substantiation.
“Lest we forget” should be Howard's motto, when bear hugging fascists.
The habit of man is life's fingerprint.
When habits become dependency, one begins to cease to be.
It takes greater courage to tell the truth than to murder it.
Courage is the art of self-sacrifice.
Does courage make men, or are men the source of courage.
Today’s democracies are neither that nor other, but are caricatures of themselves.
The essence of democracy evaporates quickly in between polling times.
Democracy is wasteful to justice.
Justice is not immune to injustice, nor human evil.
If evil shall be our motivation for alliance, then please lets not forget Vietnam and Mi Lai.
Napalm onto children is essentially evil.
America's future lies in totalitarianism, and may God have mercy on the rest of us.
In life man frequently loses sight of what is important by reaching for it's shadow.
Without imagination there couldn't be knowledge.
Today's laws were yesterday's dreams.
Modern art is the expression of an imagination dilettante.
Without illusions man couldn't cope with the prospect of tomorrow.
Take away man's illusions and be not surprised if he revolts.
Conscience is a fragment of God in us.
God is man's utopia.
Hitler’s conscience was divided by one thousand years.
The German conscience has to live with the specter of its collective deeds.
Men without conscience are just beasts.
To mean “ sorry “ isn't weakness, but shows strength of character.
Death is man’s greatest motivation to repent.
When lived a life of pain, death isn't black but sane.
Honesty is admired yet often unrecompensed.
Honesty is reflected in the tranquillity of conscience.
If certainty would reign earth, men couldn't survive.
Without the certainty of uncertainties life would be dull.
The difference between the beasts and us is uncertainty.
Nothing is more intriguing than the prospect of revelation.
Security is not truth; security is the wicked foolish belief of certainty.
To really live, one has to dare.
Security is the tourniquet to suppress courage.
Show me a boring man, and I will know that he is secure.
Securely painted paintings are the people's choice.
Intolerance is the Trojan horse of politics.
Weaklings find ample strength in intolerance: lest we forget the Tampa.
Political negativism doesn't show determination but philosophical bankruptcy.
I say, “do to politicians what bees do to their drones”.
Men running for office to satisfy their ego are men of moral disrepute.
Classless societies are myths and belong simply with fairy tales.
Rationalism is the art of killing creativity.
When the future will just exist for those who weren't expendable, future itself will cease for mankind.
Man needs purpose, without it, he becomes a liability.
Peace is the product of social satisfaction.
Man values life fully when faced by his own mortality.
At conception death is guaranteed.
Life and death are symbiotic timekeepers.
Without life, time is irrelevant.
Man’s fear of death bore religions.
Man’s conscience puts fear into dying.
Death to man is evil, while immortality belongs to Gods.
There lies a tragedy when man forsakes his conscience at the moment he would need it most.
Conscience is the collective moral sum of life.
Today's society squanders the tomorrow, as if it would have been made just yesterday.
To place social responsibility into the hands of philanthropic generosity is irresponsibility par excellence.
Today's artificiality makes me wonder how the two car, internet, fast food -de-pending middle class would fare, if life itself would return to basics.
Image is the me-generation's idol; yet individuals of substance don't really give a damn.
Image is an airbrushed illusion of truth.
Substance comes with conviction.
Man's inability to grasp the essential gives advertising the power of suggestion.
Man enslaves men for the colour of money.
Money is substance, but that of misery.
Image is an expensive lie.
Democracy and man are epiphytic companions, using each other's weakness to strengthen those already in power.
Political correctness gags liberty itself.
Multiculturalism is the social equivalence of putting off tomorrow, what has to be done today: to evolve into a people.
Difference without tolerance is human hell.
Tolerance is the acceptance of the possible.
Intolerance is the fear of inferiority.
Hell wreaks havoc in every man's solar plexus.
Hell can be next door or within yourself.
Hell is the property of man.
The reflection of one's greater self in one's spit-polished ego is vanity.
Most of man's misery is due to men craving importance.
Between man and ape the only difference is that the ape instinctively knows not to destroy his habitat.
Conformity is the password to enter the bourgeoisie.
Conformity is man’s camouflage for tranquillity.
Conform and be beige.
Conformity corrals freedom and growth.
Discontentment breeds revolution.
Time abrades any gloss.
Ignorance is the art of denying the obvious.
Man's existence is nature's error.
The weak shall inherit earth when she has nothing more left to leave.
Humility is a decadent no-no in yuppie culture.
Yuppieism is unsustainable arrogance.
Generosity is the social counterweight to moral guilt.
Rare are those who give for the sake of giving.
Madames et Messieurs, Ladies and Gentlemen, Meine Damen und Herren, "Bienvenue, Welcome, Herzlich Willkommen" to Charlatan Ink's Inaugural book launch.
Charlatan Ink has great pleasure to announce the release of its first publication "Postage for Republics of Dreams" a Bonsai-sized Coffee Table Book for Adults by Andre van der Kerkhoff. Born out of the whimsical childishness of two artists shedding the confines of 'The Importance of Art', Charlatan Ink is the brainchild of the NY Charlatan Darek Solarski and the Austro-Australian Charlatan Andre van der Kerkhoff.
"Postage for Republics of Dreams" is an Adult version of a Children's Book laced with 'Germanic Accented' English poetic prose and Polish influenced esthetics. It is a publication to be taken with a grain of salt, however one should be quite careful not to over-salt the experience. Charlatan Ink hopes that you will have as much fun reading the book, as we had in creating this 'Unique Piece of Charlatanistic Folly!'
The Official Launch of the book will take place on the 6th of October at Jadite Galleries in Manhattan during an exhibition opening in which Andre van der Kerkhoff will show his latest photographic works on brushed aluminum. Due to the philatelic nature of the show's subject people are advised to bring with them Loop and Tweezers and a few original stamps to exchange!
"Postage for Republics of Dreams"
October 6-31, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, from 6-8PM
413 West 50th Street, New York, NY 10019
'GOTHAM CITY BLUES' photographic exhibition at the ARTBREAK Gallery, Brooklyn, NY.
23rd of January - 20th of March, Artist in Residence, 'YE OLDE CARLTON ARMS HOTEL', Manhatten, NY.
'SYDNEY_NEW YORK AND_BACK' photographic exhibition with DAVID REX-LIVINGSTON ART DEALER, Sydney
'LAST TANGO' photographic exhibition at JADITE GALLERIES, Manhatten, NY.
Andre van der Kerkhoff can rightly be described as an agent of change. Short of taking up residence on another planet, he has changed just about everything one person can: his name (from Heinz Krautberger); his country (from his native Austria to his present home in Australia); his professions: (from graphic artist/set designer to bonsai cultivator; from writer/poet to photographer to painter); and from styles to subject matter. He is nothing, if not versatile. He is also a self- taught artist—no thanks to a dismissive and disapproving father. He had his first “real” exhibition at age 14. Clearly, he was not one to follow the beaten path, and he still doesn’t. “I always have rebelled against norms, and I was easily bored by uninspired teaching formulas,” he says. ”I think I have always created work that is my own, containing references interpreted by my search for something new.”
This man on the move with a chameleon-like life is endowed with a porous personality able to absorb, adapt and recreate the world around him, sharply observed and keenly felt. His poetic/prose/photographic portrayals of New York City, during which he roomed at the Carlton Arms, a hotel located in the city’s then grungy, un-gentrified Lower East Side, is a case in point. (It still exists, now adorned by van der Kerkhoff’s murals.) It is also where he launched into taking a big bite out of the Big Apple.
His camera depicted the city without a glimmer of glitz or glamour. Van der Kerkhoff is fresh out of city slickers, debutante damsels or Chanel-clad courtesans of the upper crust. It is dressed down to the nitty-gritty of its streets and its darker denizens, unvarnished portraits populated by the fringes of a society from which we often avert our gaze. His moon shone on the misbegotten, the wayward and the woebegone, the forlorn and the godforsaken. If there is a cutting edge of veracity, it is not without compassion illuminated by a silvery sheen.
His photographic works are streetwise, peopled by the likes of pin-ups and prostitutes, flashers and fast- moving passers-by, seemingly insensate and oblivious to the surreal of the city, the solitary figure, and the erotically charged–from bimbos to buildings, from femmes fatales to faceted façades–a devastating picture of the stricken post-September 11th city in a striking social commentary.
Don’t just look, he told us, see. He is still telling us that.
His surroundings permeate him as readily as rain beneath his peripatetic feet. His latest move to Australia, where he has resided since 1986, has spawned his latest permutation after a ten-year hiatus during which he cultivated bonsai trees. “Sometimes,” he says, “one needs time out...the art of bonsai is a great occupation to find peace and ideas for an artistic renewal. I am a funny man. I can’t do two things at
once: when I write, I can’t paint; when I paint, I don’t bonsai; when I bonsai, I don’t write.”
He returned to art with an astonishing vigor; 95 paintings created in seven months is no small feat. “I just painted and painted and painted until my studio was full to the breaking point.” Ranging in sizes from 24”x24” to 70”x70, they often layer mixed media on Belgian linen–oil, acrylic, inks and enamel—sometimes up to seven options on the same canvas.
Enter aboriginal art, stage right. Despite not exploring it and having had only a minimal contact via art galleries or art magazines, as he professes, it must have left an impression upon him, however subconsciously or unintentional. “When I did this series, ‘Where Dragonflies Tango,’ I didn’t set out to produce anything aboriginal.... I do my art,” he explains, “and unconsciously it contains a spiritual language that is visually linked to the Indigenous Interpretation of this Continent’s Landscape. Aboriginal people might feel a connection within my visual expression, but would not call it Aboriginal painting.... It isn’t traditional or native art!”
That said, aboriginal art does appear to be a fertile ground upon which van der Kerkhoff has sown his cerebral seed, weaving a tapestry all his own—a homage of sorts–an echo of a culture not his, but now internalized.
The dragonfly and the butterfly are among the myriad of shapes that conjure up insects, turtles, lizards and snakes, flight paths and trajectories; floral-type patterns recall the woven mille-feuilles backgrounds of medieval wall hangings; circles string coiled pearls in a nebula of another universe.
There is a mystery encased in these images–a hidden tale told in still another poetic language tinted by other landscapes. Landscapes he has made uniquely his own, rendered in earth tones, a “palette [that] reflects the pigments of the Australian Continent,” he writes.
A quasi-musicality and a rhythm inhabit these latest works, a near- repetitive refrain, somewhat reminiscent of some “outsider art.” But van der Kerkhoff is no outsider. His is a reconstruction of an Australian fabric emanating from a melody within, heard by a stranger in a strange land.
He is a stranger no longer.
“It would be rather strange,” he states, “to live in one of Earth’s oldest landscapes and not be interested in it and its unexplainable power and magic. There is a culture present, which has understood this landscape for thousands of years and become one of the most remarkable interpreters of it.... For me landscape is life, and I try to find a compromise between the two different landscapes which have so far dominated my life.” In so doing, he has enriched and embellished our own
landscapes, with a perspective that we had not suspected, through a window we did not know was there.
Like many who wrote about him, the word “dream” is one that recurs, even when he describes himself—a wanderer with “half a globe between dreams.” Dreams are the seams, it would seem—beautiful veins on the leaves of a life well lived, tracing the artist, resurrected and reinvented.
A man of many voices, he has created a magical mosaic–an inner territory crafted from multiple far-flung “landscapes” where we wander and where we, too, are drawn to dream.
For someone adverse to the all-but-sacrosanct Artist’s Statement, Andre van der Kerkhoff is nonetheless outspoken. His art is his statement. For once, words, other than his own, seem almost superfluous.
He may be half a globe away from some of us, but Art, thank God, knows no distance.
Art critic of The New York Times, July 2017, NYC, NY
by Ed McCormack
> Consider his latest conceit: a stamp album! Such is the audacity of Heinz Krautberger, an Austrian who has settled in Australia and reinvented himself as Andre van der Kerkhoff, a name that seems to have little to do with either his actual or adopted nationality.
> Sometimes I think van der Kerkhoff has to be the most subversive artist since Andy Warhol, with whom he shares a background in commercial art that gives him an edge when it comes to communicating subliminally. This is something I can state authoritatively, having known Andy and spent sufficient time at The Factory, at parties, in restaurants, watching him fuck with peoples’ heads. (I once saw a confirmed drag queen switch genders overnight because, at lunch in a health food place called Brownie’s, Andy made a casual remark: “Oh, Jackie, I think I liked you better as a boy .” But that’s another story.)
> Van der Kerkhoff I only met face to face once, a couple of years ago, at Jadite Galleries, in Hell’s Kitchen, New York. I seem to remember a little graying Max von Sydow beard and a grip –– perhaps the overcompensation of a European self-exiled to the land of Crocodile Dundee –– that made me remind myself never to shake hands with this dude again. But since he seemed otherwise personable, I chalked it off to an excess of social exuberance and turned my attention back to the work: nude images of comely young women he had photographed with black and white film then printed on large sheets of brushed aluminum. The areas that would normally register as white took on the silvery radiance of the bare aluminum, bringing the generous areas of naked flesh in his pictures peculiarly alive. But he tempered the innate eroticism of his imagery with flat areas of primary color that added an element of Mondrian-like austerity to his compositions, even when piquant touches of fire-engine red were used to fill in lips or nipples.
> What made this tension between hot and cool all the more intriguing was being hard put to decide whether van der Kerkhoff was redirecting the so-called “male gaze” toward higher planes of aesthetic contemplation, or simply providing us with a new pretext for looking at pictures of naked girls for the same reasons we have always looked at them.
> The fact that van der Kerkhoff’s femmes fatales are as iconic as they are titillating is just the beginning. His subversiveness goes way deeper in terms of how he blurs the line between photography and painting in a manner that, had he lived to see it, would probably have given poor old Clement Greenberg, the most curmudgeonly of formalist critics, heartburn. In his classic essay, “Towards a New Laocoon,” Greenberg wrote that “purity in art consists in the acceptance, willing acceptance, of the limitations of the medium of the specific art.” But van der Kerkhoff, it would seem, accepts no limitations whatsoever. Certainly he is no purist when it comes to either photography or painting. In this sense, he is very much in tune with the postmodern eclecticism exemplified by the so-called “Pictures Generation” (Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Robert Longo, and Company), privileging pictorial content over the traditional values of the medium every time.
> And while the title “The Model as Muse” would seem even more apt for his nudes than for the current show about the cultural influence of couture at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in a subsequent series of New York City street scenes van der Kerkhoff proved that he could also create compelling pictures in which everybody (with the exception of an intrepid flasher in one picture) keeps their clothes on. Shown last year at Artbreak Gallery in Brooklyn, these digitally enhanced photographs, also printed on brushed aluminum, are loving odes to a city that the artist once thought “symbolically reeked of a nation’s decay.”
> Although van der Kerkhoff claims that this Sodom on the Hudson later grew on him, resulting in 2500 images to print from following a three-day photographic orgy, one suspects that its New Hades aspects were what he still found most inspirational: the crumbling landmarks and broken iron security gates; the ironic graffiti; the visual cacophony and the lonely crowds; the discarded citizens slumbering on flattened cardboard boxes under the scornful gaze of million-eyed Moloch financial towers where future Bernie Madoffs were holed up plotting new crimes; the cracked, piss-smelling sidewalks; the face of the dead actor Heath Ledger in the evil clown make up of his last role as the Joker in “Batman,” dissolving into the darkly brooding toxic clouds like the Ghost of Gotham...
> Back in New York for the show at Artbreak, van der Kerkhoff stayed at the Carlton Arms Hotel, the city’s last outpost of hobohemia, now that the Hotel Chelsea has been commandeered by a new board of directors intent on turning out all its long-term artist residents like bedbugs and trading on its former legend to turn the place into a glitzy hostel for affluent wannabe hipsters. At the Carleton Arms, which still has the narrow halls and frayed charm of a Bowery flophouse (before the Bowery itself was gentrified) van der Kerkhoff found community and was prevailed upon by management to decorate one of the guest rooms with his imagery, joining the select group of international artists thus honored and gaining a permanent foothold in the city he has depicted so dynamically.
> Now, however, for his new show in his adopted city of Brisbane, some might think that van der Kerkhoff has gone too far. Is nothing sacred anymore? they might ask; has the man no scruples that he should see fit to impose his priapic vision on the scholarly field of philatelics? Is not even the humble stamp album, sacred refuge of innocent hobbyists and asexual nerds, safe from this incontinently imaginative image fiend?
> Apparently not, judging from the rich array of often surreal images he has come up with for his faux postage, such as a USA stamp bearing the profile of a hipster in shades who could appear to be nodding out after a fix in the manner of William Burroughs in the Beat Hotel, with “Ye Olde Carlton Arms Hotel” running up the left side, and, “If you after fun, join Club Med” emblazoned diagonally across the image, with the denomination “13 dimes” at the bottom. Another Carlton Arms Hotel stamp with an image that could suggest a black and white still from “Sid and Nancy” says, “Funk or Punk,” and has the disclaimer, “No substance has been taken during the taking of this image.”
> The texts that adorn postage stamps have obviously given van der Kerkhoff an opportunity to indulge and expand upon the conceptual wordplay that figured less prominently in some of his earlier work, particularly his street scenes, where the found phrases on billboards, the signs on store facades, and graffiti have commented wryly on the imagery, amounting to a kind of found poetry. Here, he goes all out with verbal free-association, as in another USA stamp showing a lithe young nude with a shaved pubis (but grown-up breasts to offset the Lolita effect) and lots of hair hanging in her face posing with outstretched arms as though for a crucifixion bearing the legend, “dervishingly fluent Isabelle.”
> Along with the unabashed Balthus-like voyeurism of a middle-aged man enthralled by youthful beauty, van der Kerkhoff also pays homage to some of his illustrious artistic predecessors in stamps such as one bearing a picture of a model in scanty lingerie that says, “Thinking of Schiele”; a Deutschland commemorative in which the face of Bertold Brecht –– adjusting his circular spectacles with a Freudian cigar in one horny paw and framed in a central rectangle that could be the window of a peepshow –– is surrounded by feminine imagery multiplied as in a hall of mirrors. And as if to make the point that something more than subtle and tender than brute Humbert Humbert lust is at play here, he also gives us a 30 centavos stamp for Chile juxtaposing a relatively chaste image of a blond beauty with that of the ultimate maestro of love poetry, Pablo Neruda, a wistful little smile on his lips, that trademark pancake cap plopped atop his portly pumpkin head like a fallen halo.
> This stamp, like Norman Mailer’s poignant title, “The Prisoner of Sex,” also suggests that the mature lover of youthful beauty can often be not so much an exploiter or an oppressor as simply a hapless, if happy, victim of what nature hath wrought –– a fact perhaps not as freely acknowledged as it should be in precincts of political correctness in relation to the heterosexual male, on whom it has become safe to blame all that is wrong with the world.
> That said, there are even stamps in this collection bearing no female imagery at all, most notably those of the artist’s adopted country Australia, in which the distinctive beehive-shaped mountains and rock formations of the indigenous western region known locally as “Bungle Bungles” figure prominently. Sometimes they tower over the metal carcasses of an automobile graveyard, perhaps suggesting how we sully even our rarest natural wonders with our ever growing junk heaps of consumer detritus. And on more than one Australian stamp, these topological oddities seem to be transformed into lungs by traceries of fine, vein-like lines, calling to mind Frederick Seidel’s poem “Climbing the Mountain,” about an aging man’s near-fatal attempt to keep up with the exertions of an athletic young woman in bed.
> Not that one could reasonably expect van der Kerkhoff to be familiar with the work of that excellent American poet, since most Americans certainly aren’t. However, both artists, in their different mediums, touch poignantly upon certain futilely romantic mature male aspirations that may be more or less universal.
> “When I started, I hadn’t the idea to conceive images in the form of stamps, that fact evolved organically in the past few weeks step by step,” the artist admitted to me in an e-mail some time back. Yet it was a brilliantly intuitive stroke, nonetheless, for Andre van der Kerkhoff to impose his private obsessions on formats normally reserved for governmental commerce and propaganda, turning actual nations into republics of dreams.
> Ed McCormack, a former columnist
> and feature writer for Rolling Stone,
> and one of the original contributing editors
> of Andy Warhol’s Interview, has written
> extensively on art and popular culture
> for the Village Voice and numerous other
> publications. Presently, with his wife
> Jeannie McCormack, he co-publishes
> the New York art journal Gallery & Studio.
The Carlton Arms Hotel, where each room is a funky art installation and there’s a cat box down at the end of the hall, is New York City’s last low-rent hipster haven by Ed McCormack
Photos by Darek Solarski
If it happens to be laundry day, a visitor to a nondescript tenement on Third Avenue at 25th Street with a pizza parlor on its ground floor and an incongruous red awning that says “Ye Olde Carlton Arms Hotel” might encounter an obstacle course of plastic bags the size of large boulders, spilling down the long, narrow stairwell and blocking the entryway. This presented no problem for a trio of youthful Scandinavian backpackers, two boys and a girl, who scaled the stairs as effortlessly as Alpine climbers, with barely a glance at Darek Solarski’s ambitious mural, reprising in miniature the multitude of works by other artists that cover virtually every square inch of the hotel’s five floors.
It was not just their clean-cut blond Hansel and Gretel looks and knapsacks that evoked the term “babes in the woods.” While one of the boys took care of business at the first floor check-in window, the other two kids gawked through a guest-room door –– presumably left open to air out the stuffy little cubicle –– at the riot of color swarming the walls within, and took in the signs saying “toilet” and “shower” that jutted out into the narrow corridor.
After confirming their reservation for a triple, a member of the managerial staff, a tall, taciturn Argentinean man named Hugo Arizmendi, who sports a Borat mustache, handed the boy at the window several keys and said, “Go upstairs, take a look at the empty rooms, and pick the one you want.”
This seems a sound policy, since the decor of some of the rooms could hasten a nascent case of the DTs or heebie jeebies. In fact, in much the same way that a fresh coat of paint can sometimes magically delouse a decrepit old apartment, it may have been the murals that drove out some of the former residents, described by one staffer as “madmen, junkies, comedians, ex-cons, pushers and hookers, transvestites, drunks and nuts of all kinds...”
Over the past century and a half, the Carlton Arms has evolved from a respectable mercantile stopover with a stable to a prohibition bordello with a speakeasy to a sleazy SRO with frequent stabbings, muggings, and fires caused by guests freebasing cocaine. It was during the latter incarnation, some twenty or so years ago, that the then manager, Eddie Ryan –– reasoning that art might cover a multitude of sins, including cracked walls and exposed plumbing –– started inviting his artist friends to grace the rooms and halls with their creations.
He might have hoped to eventually turn the place into a refuge for hip eccentrics like the legendary Hotel Chelsea, where we once showed up for a party thrown by the composer George Kleinsinger, who kept a veritable jungle of exotic plants and pets in his suite, and our host immediately handed my wife Jeannie and our friend Beverly two live boa constrictors, saying, “Don’t worry; they won’t crush you unless they sense fear.”
Or maybe, given the more modest size of the building and its advanced state of decrepitude, Ryan had something more modest in mind; something on the order of another small rundown establishment in the Latin Quarter of Paris, once nameless, which became known as “The Beat Hotel” after William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, and other writers and poets of the Beat Generation took up residence there in the early 1950s.
In his forward to the poet Harold Norse’s memoir of the period, Burroughs recalled, “There were no carpets, no telephones in the rooms, and the toilet facilities consisted of a hole in the floor on each stair landing.”
However, the manager, Madame Rachou, liked writers and painters, placed few limits on their personal behaviour and let them decorate their rooms any way they wished.
Norse remembers the entire room that Burroughs was holed up in when he wrote “Naked Lunch” being “covered with black marker drawings of endless paranoid labyrinthes.”
In any case, by letting artists paint the rooms at the Carlton Arms, Ryan may have been hoping to attract a better class of outcasts.
* * *
Next to the smudged plexiglass check-in window there’s a door with a novelty-store sign that says “Insane Asylum.” Behind it are two small rooms, one with an old desk and rows of room-keys on the wall, the other with a half-full bottle of booze on a table opposite a row of green metal lockers. If it looks more like a clubhouse than an office, the four men who man it seem more like an overgrown boys club than a managerial staff. Today John is sitting behind the desk. He was the first of the four to arrive, so he holds the official title of Hotel Manager, but he holds it lightly, almost as though by default. For he, Hugo Arizmendi, Andrew Hickey, and Geof Green are, to a man, non-hiararchal types and share most of the duties and responsibilities of running the Carlton Arms equally between them.
“When I first came to work here in 1986, they had just passed the law ending SROs and the place was in transition,” John is saying now, as we all sit around on the odd assortment of old chairs and stools in the Asylum. “We never kicked anybody out; the SRO tenants just gradually died off –– the last one was, an old guy named Charlie Byrd who had lived here for ages, and went in 1997. But we were gradually turning into a transient hotel, particularly popular with young Europeans, Scandinavians and Asians. They’re still the majority of our guests today, since they generally come to explore the city, not just sit in their rooms. They’re attracted by our low prices, which start at just $ 80 for a single room and $110, for a double; they like the funky, artistic atmosphere, and they aren’t put off, as a lot of Americans might be, by the fact that there are no TVs or phones in any of the rooms and that over half of the rooms don’t have a private bath. Come to think of it, for some odd reason, the only guests who seem to complain about no TV are the ones who come for what we call ‘short stays,’ a special three hour for $30 deal that’s a holdover from the old days.”
“They probably want to watch pornos,” I suggest.
John chuckles and continues: “For awhile, we were also a mecca for transvestites. (I think one of the previous managers had a thing for them.) But these were not your fastidious, elegant transvestites. They were the type that frequently needed a shave! They were, like, if I just stuck a woman’s wig on my head!” And here he grins and strikes a comic pose.
Like most boys clubs, the members of the managerial staff seem to delight in telling gross-out stories. High on their list are ones about “smell issues,” as John refers to them.
“By the time I got here, I’d say at least twenty-two of our fifty-four rooms were still occupied by the SRO tenants,” he says. “One of them was a really stinky old lady named Myra, who lived in room 2B and pretty much kept to herself. We rarely saw her, but we certainly smelled her. She had such serious personal hygiene issues that I sometimes had to go up to her room and have a talk with her: ‘Myra, honey, you’ve really gotta do something about the smell!’ Then one day it got to be too much, overwhelming, everybody was complaining. But when I went up to her room and knocked, then pounded, on her door and she still didn’t answer, I had to kick it down –– just like a detective in the movies!–– with these big Doc Marten skinhead boots I wore then. It turned out she had been dead about a week and the body fluids had begun seeping out into the hall and into some of the other rooms. The coroner has this deodorant that they use in cases like that, but it doesn’t help much; it might even be worse, because once you get familiar with it, it still smells just as much like death.”
Another time, when an old guy named Frank didn’t show up in the lobby for a longer time than usual, and a putrid stench started to permeate the whole place again, Geof said, “John, I think we have another one.”
“It was August, hot as hell, and we found him by the bed,” John recalls. “He apparently had had a heart attack and his body was so bloated that, by the time we discovered him, he had inflated like one of those huge balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. In fact, the coroner’s guys actually had to pop him like a balloon –– that’s exactly what it sounded like!–– to fit him through the door.”
One of the things John learned is that, while the coroner’s guys are pretty delicate and respectful when they come to take away a body in most situations, when you die without any next of kin in an SRO type of hotel, even an arty one like the Carlton Arms, all formality goes out the window.
Mrs. Chu, the elegant wife of Mr. Chu, the Chinese businessman who owns the Carlton Arms, happened to be standing in the lower landing when, thump, thump, thump, the body bag came rolling down the stairs. That was fifteen years ago, and Mrs. Chu has not set foot in her husband’s hotel since.
Everyone who works at the Carlton Arms has had their own initiation. Andrew’s came on his first overnight shift when a cop showed up and said,”Did you have an old guy living here?”
“Well, we have several old guys residing here,” Andrew said in his nice British accent, and the cop led him downstairs and around the corner. It turned out to be an old guy named Mike who had lived in the hotel for a number of years and had become increasingly more paranoid over the last few. He was convinced that someone was sneaking into his room through the window and stealing his socks and underwear when he was out. It’s possible that he may have jumped. But since he was more paranoid than suicidal, Andrew and the others think it’s more likely that he went up on the roof to investigate how the imaginary thieves might be gaining entry to his room and accidentally fell over the edge.
“Another old bloke named Fidel came downstairs to help me identify the body, which was pretty messed up,” Andrew says. “He took one look and said, ‘Yeah that’s Mike all right, can I have his room?’ because Mike, you see, had a room with a bath.”
Although some of them could be a royal pain in the ass, for the most part Andrew, Hugo, and John speak with bemused affection about all the characters who have come and gone. John remembers Charlie Byrd coming into the Asylum one day and asking to borrow the wire-cutters.
“ ‘Sure, Charlie,’ I said. ‘They’re hanging right there on the wall, go ahead and take them.’ A few minutes later, I happen to glance out into the lobby, and there he is, sitting in a chair with his shoes and socks off and his incredibly long toenails curling around his toes like talons, performing surgery on his corns with the wire-cutters!”
By that time the Carlton Arms was well into its transition from ordinary fleabag hotel to what John describes as “a cross between a Fellini film and Pee Wee’s Playhouse.” The old guard characters like Fidel and Charlie Bird were now joined by a new breed of characters like Sylvain Sylvain, the guitarist for the seminal glitter-punk band The New York Dolls, and the late character actor and standup comedian Rockets Redglare.
“You know how fat Rockets got in the last few years before he died, right?” John asks. “ Well, I remember one night when he feel asleep in a chair in the lobby with his false teeth propped up on his enormous chest. Now, there was a sight!”
It was Rockets who discovered the body of Nancy Spungeon, the groupie girlfriend of the Sex Pistols guitarist Sid Vicious, after he stabbed her at the Hotel Chelsea, where Rockets also stayed sometimes. Not to be outdone, John says, “We had our own Sid and Nancy, this punky junkie couple who used to stay here with their two kids, one a toddler and one slightly older. One day the older kid comes running into the office and says, “Mommy’s not working!” And right away I knew what he meant: she had overdosed. While Andrew called 911, I ran up to their room. She had stopped breathing, but I did CPR and, luckily, I was able to revive her.”
Although painters, poets, and musicians like the bluesmen Dr. John and Michael Powers have stayed at the Carlton Arms over the years, unlike the Hotel Chelsea, it has not played host to many A-list celebrities. Some of the cheaper ones, however, have been known to park their assistants and other underlings here. One day John showed up for his shift and saw a stretch limousine parked right outside the building. A beautiful woman in a long fur coat got out and flew up the stairs. When John made it up to the lobby, he realized it was Racquel Welch. She was storming around and screaming, “I’ve been trying all morning and I couldn’t reach any of my staff people! Doesn’t anybody ever answer the phone around here? What the hell kind of hotel is this supposed to be anyway?”
John shakes his head and rolls his eyes heavenward at the memory. “I was, like, ‘Well, why don’t you put them in a better place?’”
But, in fact, you get the impression that John (who frankly admits that he doesn’t feel qualified to work anywhere other than the Carlton Arms, that he is “totally unemployable”), can’t really imagine a better place. And it seems clear enough that the other two members of the managerial staff who are hanging out in the office (and probably Geof, too, who happens to be off today ) feel the same way.
At the same time, while Mr. Chu pretty much leaves the day-to-day operation of the place to them as long as business is reasonably good, who knows what his eventual plans for the building may be? At times he has talked about adding more floors (“First five floors art hotel, rest nice hotel for tourists!”), a notion that would be the kiss of death as far as the fleabag integrity of the place is concerned and fills them with dread. Then there’s this swine flu scare, which has seriously hurt business lately, since widespread advisories have been issued by governments overseas against travel to the U.S., scaring away a lot of foreign backpackers like the ones we saw earlier in the lobby.
It’s almost as bad as after 9/11 when business got so slow, according to John, that every day they expected Mr. Chu to come in and announce that he was going to raze the hotel for a parking lot. It might have been around that time, with their future completely in someone else’s hands, that they decided it wouldn’t hurt to have some kind of backup. So all four of them eventually became partners in an outside project: an art gallery called Artbreak in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, featuring the work of some of the artists who have painted rooms in the hotel. But they only got around to opening it just as the recession was kicking in, so now the gallery’s future is a little uncertain.
But it’s obvious anyway that the Carlton Arms is their real home away from home. In one way or another, they all seem to think of themselves as outsiders and to feel a genuine affinity with many of the fellow outsiders who have passed through the hotel over the years, ranging from the long gone old SRO geezers; to the various artists, musicians, and lowlifes such as one guy who had the dubious distinction of being first heroin addict in the city to be put on the methadone maintenance program; to Chino, a Puerto Rican dude with a Che Guavara beard who lived here with his wife when they were first married and stayed on to become the main room cleaner; to a painfully polite African American named Alfonso who actually grew up in this place with his mother back in its bad old days and is still considered part of the hotel family.
Hugo, a man who carries himself with unpretentious dignity, seems more reserved than the others, even a bit shy for such a big guy. But you can see his eyes light up and his Borat mustache twitch with bemusement when Andrew says, “Why don’t we tell them about Mickey Cass? Now, there’s a story!”
“Oh my God, Mickey Cass! Mickey was this handsome, muscular young drifter who showed up here about four years ago,” John begins. “He had no money but he offered to do carpentry in exchange for a place to stay, and at that time, since we needed a lot of work done, we thought, ‘Why not?’ And he did do good work when he felt like working. In fact, he built this shelving over the desk here. But Mickey had serious drug issues, and after awhile it was hard to get him to do anything. Not only that, he turned out to be a real mooch, always borrowing money from everyone on the staff, twenty here, twenty there. He got away with it for awhile because he could be quite winning and seemingly sincere. But when I realized that he never paid anyone back, that he was probably spending it all on drugs, I finally got fed up one day and started yelling at him. I said, “Mickey, you’re nothing but a loser. All you do is stay in your room getting high and you just sleep all day and mooch off everyone. I don’t want to hear that you borrowed another dime from anybody in this hotel. Do you hear me, Mickey? Because if you do, I’m gonna throw your ass out. Are you listening to me, you goddamn loser you? I mean it, Mickey: do it one more time and you’re outta here!”
It was only a week or two after John finally had to make good on his threat that a couple of detectives showed up at the Carlton Arms. They wanted to question Mickey about the murder of a gay man in Buffalo, New York. And not long after, Hugo, who commutes to work from Connecticut, saw him on the street.
“I was over by Grand Central Station, on my way home,” he says, “when I spotted him for a minute before he vanished into a crowd. He was just walking along eating an ice-cream cone .. Only in New York, right?”
Soon after that it was all over the news: Mickey Cass had been arrested for the murder of another man, who he picked up in a gay bar out in Coney Island and strangled with his bare hands.
“I’m gay, so that really freaked me out,” John says. “ Just to think that I had been right here in this office with Mickey standing right across the desk, screaming my head off at him, insulting him, calling him everything in the book. I could have been killed!”
* * *
Although the sunlit cat box under the window at the end of the hall, belonging to the hotel’s free roaming mascot, Charlie, lends it a homey touch during the day, some people at the Carlton Arms are convinced that the D-floor (the 5th floor) –– where the corridors display auspiciously spooky faux hieroglyphics, sarcophagus-like cast plaster 3-D life-masks of the hotel staff, and a full body cast of the artist, Diana Manni, wearing nothing but a Cleopatra tiara –– is haunted.
Tamara, a friend of John’s, swore she once saw horrible faces in a mirror in one of the rooms up there. And when he’s cleaning the rooms, Chino often sees, hears, smells, and feels things on that floor all the time: doors that open or close on their own; lights that go on or off inexplicably; disembodied voices; unfamiliar, musty odors; and gusts of air that blow from nowhere. It got so intense in one room he cleans regularly on the D-floor that he and his wife had to perform a Santeria ritual, burning sage to exorcise malevolent spirits.
“Right after checking in, one guest came running down from there in his tightie whities, trembling,” John tells us. “He claimed someone was in his room. So I went back up with him. I even opened the closet to show him that nobody was hiding in it. But just then the curtains stirred and he let out a shriek and ran all the way down five flights of stairs and right out onto the street. After awhile, when he didn’t come back, I called our local police precinct: ‘Did you by any chance pick up a man in his underwear?’ ‘Whereabouts?’ ‘ Twenty-fifth Street and Third Avenue?’ ‘How about Lexington?’”
Even before we heard these stories, Jeannie, who is more attuned to psychic phenomena than I am, said she definitely sensed something in a couple of the rooms that we visited with our own handful of keys, courtesy of Hugo. Most doors had standard locks, while a couple –– perhaps reserved for guests more concerned with protecting their belongings than their privacy or safety –– were padlocked from the outside. One intricately painted door on the D-floor bore the warning: “This room has transpeople. If you are uncomfortable with this, please choose a different room. Do not alter my painting. I am transgender. Venus the Artist, 2003.”
Inside, the walls were painted a deep nocturnal blue and adorned with Venus’s life-size figures of winged hermaphrodites –– onto whose lower male genitalia, Hugo tells us, one guest saw fit to tape paper loincloths. That same guest might also have taken offense at Irene Dogmatic’s mural of cute copulating pandas in a room on the B-floor. Still, there seems to be something for everybody at the Carlton Arms: a room by Noelle Elia decorated like a Day-Glo Hindu temple, with big paintings of Ganeesh the Elephant god and other exotic deities; another done up like a shrine to the Almighty Dollar with Neo-Pop monetary imagery by Jennifer Sands Deane; Yunichi Ochi’s black and white room, with sinuous Sumi-ink calligraphy and intricate floral forms all over the walls; a room by Scott Forbes where eerie, zombie-like figures loom over the bed, gazing down in a mournful manner calculated to unnerve the more morbid visitor; another was turned into a cartoon jungle by the anonymous artist known only as Banksy, who also adorned the stairwells of the B-floor with a riot of zany characters; an Edenic environment of idealized floating figures ala Michelangelo by Darek Solarski; a visionary arboreal fantasy of spidery trees and floating clouds by Doug Ford; and a battleship gray room by Brian Damage, who, instead of camouflaging the hotel’s exposed plumbing with zebra stripes or decorative vines (as other other artists have done quite resourcefully), added a maze of trompe l’oeil painted pipes to the real ones, creating something like the basement domain inhabited by the protagonist of Ralph Ellison’s novel “The Invisible Man.”
* * *
While I honestly can’t claim to have perceived anything remotely supernatural on the D-floor or any of the other four floors of the Carlton Arms, I did see a remarkable range of artistic ingenuity put to the service of environments that, for their wealth of weirdness and visual wit, often outdid many gallery and museum installations. (“Whenever a new room is completed, we have an opening reception, just like in a gallery,” Bruno says. “We send out invitations, serve drinks, and sometimes even have live music. For our last one we must have had about 400 people here.”)
What I did feel very strongly everywhere throughout the building was a sense of how the actual history of a place can haunt it in a very down to earth way. Which is to say, there is a lingering atmosphere here of hard luck lives lived on the margin that defies self conscious artistic renovation and cannot be buried under no matter how many layers of paint. At best, this residue of the past can collaborate with the art, lending it additional depth, as in a room that Hugo Arizmendi created around a noirish mural by Colette Jennings featuring a 1940s pulp fiction floozie loitering against a brick wall emblazoned with the motto, “Live Fast, Die Young.”
* * *
Because of their transient clientele, the constant comings and goings of varied characters, hotels of all types and classes naturally lend themselves to storytelling. Former hotel worker turned artist and writer Ludwig Bemelmans gave us a now sadly forgotten comic masterpiece set in a New York luxury hotel in “Hotel Splendide.” Joseph Mitchell, that superb urban archaeologist, wrote an unforgettable account of rooting through the dusty relics left behind in a long-empty flophouse for retired seamen on South Street in his immortal New Yorker piece “Up in the Old Hotel.” And of course we all remember great old movies like “Grand Hotel.”
Perhaps it’s a vestige of my long lapsed Catholic upbringing that hotels have always struck me as purgatorial way stations where, as my experience as a traveling journalist later bore out, one stood a better than usual chance of encountering what F. Scott Fitzgerald called “the dark night of the soul.” But that wasn’t the main reason I turned down Hugo’s generous offer to be his guest for a weekend at the Carlton Arms. Having given up itinerant journalism years ago, when I quit freelancing for Rolling Stone, I have simply become too happily habituated to the modest creature comforts of our fifth floor walkup in Yorkville to take him up on it. Hugo, being the old school gentleman that he is, had courteously extended the invitation to both my wife and me. But since to stay almost anywhere with someone you love is to be essentially a tourist, insulated from the existential terrors of solitary introspection, I knew that to get what Hugo called “the whole Carlton Arms experience” I would have had to go it alone. And frankly I just didn’t feel up to it. Not being an adventurous young tourist from France, Sweden, or Japan –– or even for that matter, the whacked-out younger self to whom my wry friend Fran Lebowitz used refer as “The Existential Ed” –– I preferred to imagine, rather than experience what it would be like to make one’s woozy way down those narrow corridors to the water closet in the middle of the night, naked light bulbs illuminating the garishly painted walls, making them glisten like entrails in the belly of the beast. (Like something out of one of Charles Bukowski’s worst nightmares, I should think!)
Surely I wasn’t as intrepid as Heinz Krautberger, an Austrian artist who migrated to Australia and for some strange reason reinvented himself as Andre van der Kerkhoff, a name that would seem to have little to do with either his actual or adopted nationality. It was through Heinz that I first heard about the Carlton Arms, the name of which initially evoked that of The Ritz Carlton, the real-life model for “Hotel Splendide,” giving me an ironically misguided notion of what class of establishment it might be. Heinz –– well, hereafter let’s do him the courtesy of calling him by his assumed name –– Andre moved into the hotel about a year ago while in New York for an exhibition at Artbreak Gallery, in Brooklyn, and stayed for awhile to paint room 14D.
Given a sizable public space to decorate, most artists will use it as a billboard to advertise their signature style. Richard Hambleton, for example, splashed one of his life-size “Shadow Men” in the downstairs vestibule; Andre Charles perpetrated characteristically funky graffiti all over the 4th floor corridor; and art guerilla Banksy adorned the building with images like the ones he became notorious for sneaking into museums. So since van der Kerkhoff is best known for exquisitely erotic photo-based works, one might have expected him to paper the walls of 14D with blown up images of naked girls striking seductive poses, creating a single occupancy oasis for lonely onanists. But being one of those precious few contemporary artists more driven by spontaneous inspiration than self-promotion, he says, “I saw the room and I began to paint circles which grew into a homage to my adopted country’s aboriginal people who are the only keepers of the dream time.”
He ended up creating a spiritually edifying cosmos of circles and boomerang shapes as visually dazzling as an early Op Art canvas by Larry Poons or Brigit Riley. However, his sense of the engagingly louche still fully operative, he also became the eyes and the ears of the hotel during his two-month stint as an artist in residence, producing a series of memorable black and white photographs documenting its characters and day to day life in a gritty style akin to Robert Frank and Larry Clark, which he later exhibited in a solo show in Brisbane.
Andre, who may be The Last Romantic, was bowled over by the Jim Jarmusch movie atmosphere and sense of fellowship that he found at the Carlton Arms, where he befriended a resident blues musician named Michael Powers and hung out in the Insane Asylum with “the head honchos,” as he called them. For all intents and purposes, he went native as only a foreigner can. And although primarily a visual artist, he was moved to compose a series of impressionistic “love poems” to the place, written in a breathless Kerouacian stream of consciousness prosody made even more impressionistic by his Germanically inflected broken English and a wide-eyed yokel-like enthusiasm for New York weirdness unequaled since John Lennon first embraced the city that would fatefully put an assassin in his path.
Even while enduring “nightmares featuring virtual armies of bloodsucking bedbugs and copious pissing patrons leaning against walls shouting from below Fitzgerald’s and across the avenue,” Van der Kerkhoff fondly describes communal feasts of take-out pizza and Puerto Rican food with fellow inmates and confesses with unabashed sentimentality his possibly unrequited affection for his fellow residents: “Aware of the one sidedness of my emotions, the cynical bloke in me doesn’t care too much about equilibrium, but simply rejoices in every moment with the folk of the place who have given him for the first time in his lonesome life a simple nickname that wasn’t negative in its connotation. I was and still am Mr. Dot of 14D (also known as de Angelo) and those two names hang proudly from my old man’s shoulders...”
While Andre’s rhapsodic outpourings sometimes swamp specifics and smother clarity, they possess a peculiar poetic resonance from which an attentive reader can occasionally excavate perceptive cameo characterizations of a staff and guests well matched in their eccentricity, and come upon half-buried gems of poetic description like the “shredded threads of suffering silk” (referring to the much-clawed armchair where Charlie the cat often reposes like a leonine lord of the manor) and the “feline mementos of similar color” that the same creature leaves in place of the gift chocolates found on the pillows of fancier hotels.
After evoking “Finnish Absolute drinkers” who “hibernate in arty farty rooms for weeks on end to appear dressed confusingly in Scot’s kilts to march with Celtic pride and matching harmonies down 5th Avenue on St. Patrick’s day,” van der Kerkhoff concludes his ode to his newly discovered hobohemian flophouse with, “To put all those things in a single sentence I need to write an epic without full stop or a jingoistic jingle, and I have decided to do neither and say simply with all my heart: I love you, Artbreakhotel!”
Nor was Andre van der Kerkhoff the first to be inspired to literary expression by the Carlton Arms. A young hipster named Mike Tyler moved in after his girlfriend kicked him out of their East Village pad, ended up staying several years as “poet in residence,” and wrote a somewhat fictionalized book about it called “Hotel Stories.” In fact, being a lazy researcher (as my refusal to accept Hugo’s offer and “embed” myself, even for a weekend, should indicate) I had hoped that Tyler’s book, out this year from a small press called Art Cannot Be Damaged Inc., would be a rich source of anecdotes from which to quote. (In truth, I probably wanted him to have done some of my research for me. )
But while, unlike Andre, English is supposedly Tyler’s first language, many of his sentences turn out to be as much of a shambles as the room in which he appears in the large author photo on the book’s back cover, striking a Johnny Rotten pose, his fingers hooked under the suspenders he sports over a soiled wifebeater undershirt. He is decidedly an exponent of so-called “experimental” prose (something I probably should have guessed from such downtown credentials as his association with the Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe, where, according to the dust jacket copy,“he famously broke his arm while reading a poem”). Writing about the chotchkas cluttering the Insane Asylum, for example, he sounds like the bastard child of Gertrude Stein: “The things were all kinds of things. And the walls were also walled with all kinds of things. It was corny of plenty. It was shaken and stirred. It was a mess. It was beautiful.”
Yet he has moments of inspired standup-style schtick. Taking poetic liberties with an already improbable reality, he describes “The Pickle room,” where, “Embalmed pickles were hanging from the ceiling and attached to the walls, walls in the main painted green”; “The Diaper room, where you slept in a cradle”; “The Bachelor Pad,” where James Bond music blared when you opened the door, the bed was a see-through waterbed with olives floating through it, the ceiling was mirrored, and the bathroom wallpaper was made with cutouts from old magazines with names like Swank and Swoon”; and, best of all, “the Hotel Room room, with a framed picture of ducks, a plastic mint taped to the headboard of a sorta brass bed, a phone with a red LCD above it that added exorbitant amounts to your bill every time you tried to use it (it didn’t do that really), a television (the only television in the hotel), and a ‘do not disturb’ sign permanently affixed to the outside of its door.”
In fact, there actually is one rather plain parody of a regular hotel room at the Carlton Arms. But what it really evokes, with its neatly folded towels, its miniature bars of soap artfully arranged on a little wood table, and its Edward Hopper ambiance of shabby hopefulness, is what all of the rooms might have looked like just before the hotel began its steep decline and eventually had to be resurrected as a unique walk-in work of art.
* * *
Certain parallels can be drawn between the German-born photographer Juergen Teller and the Austrian-born artist Andre van der Kerkhoff, who was known as Heinz Krautberger before taking his present pseudonym in 1974. Both choose to live and work outside their own countries, Teller in London, England, van der Kerkhoff in Brisbane, Australia. Both have commercial backgrounds, Teller in fashion photography, van der Kerkhoff in graphic design. Both, like Andy Warhol, who was a successful illustrator before turning to fine art, apply their commercial experience auspiciously to the work that they show in galleries. But, above all, both have garnered attention verging on notoriety for work that can seem transgressive at a time when what art historians refer to as ³The Male Gaze² has fallen out of favor with those cultural tastemakers who lobby for political correctness in the area of sexuality. Claiming that most fashion photography has been shaped by a gay male sensibility, Teller has transgressed by deliberately photographing female models from a heterosexual male perspective (which is to say with a raw, sometimes sloppy sensuality) and carrying that tendency over into his gallery work as well. And Van der Kerkhoff has transgressed by defiantly perpetuating the Male Gaze with a vengeance in the frankly erotic photo-derived images of pinup-like female nudes printed on brushed aluminum that he first exhibited in New York in 2007. Even mitigated by strategically placed geometric color areas that, as I observed in a review at that time, create a ³tantalizing tension between hot and cool, eroticism and formalism,² these images have the power to outrage some viewers by virtue of appearing frankly prurient, and even idolatrous, rather than ironic in the manner of Pop art. As Teller said of his own work in a profile in New York magazine, ³frankly, it¹s girls you want to fuck.²
Having each in his own manner graphically made the point that individual heterosexual male artists should be as free to express their own preferences as, say, David Hockney or Robert Mapplethorpe, without being penalized for the one-sidedness of art historical precedent or persecuted by the forces of political correctness, both Teller and van der Kerkhoff have moved on, the former to a series of autobiographical German scenes and autoportraits, the latter to the gritty urban images featured in his new solo exhibition ³Gotham City Blues,² at Artbreak Gallery, 195 Grand Street, in Brooklyn, from February 13 to March 14. (Reception: Friday, February 13, 6 to 10pm)
³I had not picked up a camera in thirty years before I began the series,² van der Kerkhoff, previously known for the landscape paintings he had exhibited throughout Australia, France, Canada, and the U.S., said in an artist statement issued in connection with his first New York solo show of nudes at Jadite Galleries, his Manhattan art dealer, where he will show in October of this year. And digitally enhanced photography continues to be his medium in the new exhibition at Artbreak Gallery. As with his nudes, the cityscapes are all printed on brushed aluminum plates, which not only gives them the heft and ³objectness² of paintings, but imbues his urban imagery with an eerily dreamlike quality, since the areas that would normally be white have a silvery phosphorescence.
Van der Kerkhoff¹s method for creating these pictures is to roam the streets of Manhattan, literally chewing up the scenery, as they say of actors in theater who give a larger-than-life performance and blow everyone else off the stage. (He had some 2500 images to select from for printing after one ³three-day photographic rampage.²) On first visiting the city in 2006, Kerkhoff found it a place that ³symbolically reeked of a nation¹s decay,² and while he subsequently claims to have fallen in love with this Sodom on the Hudson (he had some 2500 images to select from for printing after one three-day photographic orgy), a sense of ambivalence still permeates his pictures. This comes across not only in the title (³Babylon²) of his picture of tall buildings in the financial district of Lower Manhattan, but also in the anthropomorphic aspect that he imparts to these structures, which is reminiscent of the Moloch metaphor for office towers in Allen Ginsberg¹s ³Howl.² Like the late Beat poet, too, albeit in visual terms, he has an unusual ability to eroticize unlikely things. Indeed, in a catalog essay on some of his earlier urban imagery, I observed that ³van der Kerkhoff¹s eye is clearly an erogenous zone, as capable of imparting sensual qualities to pee-smelling streets, with their kinetic collage of lonely crowds and tattered semiotic wonders, as to the naked bodies of beautiful young women.²
Given the innate seductiveness of his vision, that still holds true. But I now also perceive an element of S&M in his love affair with a city where, in his picture, ³Gotham City Nocturne,² the sinisterly made-up face of the star-crossed young actor Heath Ledger, in his last role as ³The Joker² in Batman, decomposes spookily into the clouds above the silhouetted skyline. The Joker¹s face also appears superimposed at billboard-scale over the facades of the midtown buildings near Macy¹s in another print called ³The Power of Hollywood.² Frowning down on the traffic-choked avenue, here the late actor¹s visage seems to symbolize not only the power of filmic fantasy to blot out pedestrian reality, but also its destructive influence on some of those it briefly exalts.
Then again, only in a city as lawlessly various as New York can reality hold its own so handsomely against fantasy by producing a cast of characters who prove that truth can indeed surpass fiction. Perhaps as evidence of this, van der Kerkhoff submits ³Eccentric Spartan Extravagance,² an image of a gaunt-faced citizen sporting dark glasses and a long plume in his tophat whose everyday street persona is as striking as that of any of Batman¹s arch rivals.
Van der Kerkhoff obviously has a gift, rare in a non-native, of focusing in on the incongruous yet telling juxtapositions that make the city a veritable font of found surrealism. One example is his picture of a homeless soul slumbering on a discarded mattress next to an abandoned supermarket delivery cart decorated by the ubiquitous street artist known as De La Vega with his usual Keith Haring-like and the ironically inspirational graffiti slogan for which the image is named: ³Become Your Dream.²
When the irony is not inherent in the subject itself, van der Kerkhoff pinpoints it conceptually with a title such as ³Marlboro Man² for an image of an elderly geezer puffing away on a cigarette as he leans out a tenement window above a smaller structure festooned with floral designs and the phrase ³inner Peace...² In fact, found phrases within some of his pictures constitute a kind of concrete poetry that can often seem more apropos than their actual titles. For example, the title ³In Search for Sponsorship² is amusing enough for his image of a totally nude flasher pulling a blanket draped over his shoulders away from his body to reveal an erection. But the word ³Unisex² on the shop awning above the man¹s head seems even more apt, given his mincing pose and the almost feminine voluptuousness of his flabby physique, which could suggest a horny hermaphrodite. A woman entering the shop as he exits merely glances slightly askance, as though a naked man in the streets of New York is no big deal, nothing to get alarmed about.
Van der Kerkhoff takes such aberrations in stride as well even creates them in some cases through digital means by distorting the image or illuminating some areas in an otherwise monochromatic print with areas of glowing color. For he, too, becomes his dream, as though the island of Manhattan sets loose in him some inner demon that is insatiable to devour its every detail, from the teeming thoroughfares of Chinatown where the graffiti scrawled across the sides of the tenements engages in a funky dialogue with the elegant ideograms on the shop fronts and awnings below to the almost empty side-streets around The Brooklyn Bridge, where squat landmarks of crumbling brick are linked from above by Hart Crane¹s ³choiring strings² of steel.
That Andre van der Kerkhoff finds lyrical beauty, as well as gaud and grunge, in the urban scene should surprise no one who has been following his work from the beginning. For to appreciate a landscape, or the terrain of a woman¹s body, or the streets of a city, are all facets of beauty unadorned, are all aspects of a love never wholly sacred or profane. Like Baudelaire with a camera, van der Kerkhoff just as easily enters into ³a bath of multitude² as he ³populates his solitude,² finding in each extreme a microcosm for the whole. Every one of his pictures is a journey into the self for both the artist and the viewer.
Posted in Photography
Just launched this week at Gallery Luz is the exhibition New York Blues by Andre van der Kerkhoff.
Kerkhoff, an Austrian currently living in Australia, recently roamed through New York City and captured this hectic, gritty, larger-than-life metropolis with his digital camera. The works on display are a series of digitally modified prints on brushed aluminium. Straddling the divide between photography and screen print, the images are dark, mostly black and white, with small areas of strong reds, blues and purples thrown in, creating an atmospheric, urban feel. Kerkhoff’s prints buzz with the New York vibe.
Andre van der Kerkhoff
New York Blues
exhibition period: July 2 - 26, 2008
Austrian born artist Andre van der Kerkhoff likes to refer to Franz Grillparzer when asked about the inspiration or geneses to his current range of works ‘Beware of Silence.’
The phrase that Andre quotes is ‘The road of modern culture leads from humanitarianism via nationalism to bestiality.’ Tough stuff; not for the fainthearted and neither is Andre’s new exhibition.
Paintings that depict stark images of the Twin Towers against a background of the American flag, or a phallus pinned to the church with hovering cherub, and carefully executed global brand icons presented in road sign satire are inevitably destined to provoke and outrage.
To say that the artist doesn’t care whether people find the works confrontational or shocking and distasteful is not true, he says. “My paintings aren’t the gospel; they are just images whose purpose isn’t to preach righteousness, but to spark a discussion between politically antipodean perspectives to the recent and past events in politics and society.”
‘Beware of Silence’ may have had its catalyst in the events of September 11, but it is crucial to make the point that this catastrophe was only a catalyst. Andre’s range of subject matter is both contemporary and historical and is borne of the man himself, his cultural heritage, his European political and social intensity and then the transition to the New World.
Trite as it seems, it’s imperative to look at the environment this artist has emerged from, to gain an appreciation of the man and his work. And trite as it also seems – this artist has an integrity and intensity, which we usually see only in youth and their zealous life-unsullied aspirations. He could be called naïve, but he wouldn’t care and would argue that if passion and holding true to belief is to be naïve, then his exhibition and its controversy has total vindication.
Andre is reclusive. There is little obvious drama or prima donna to the man. An Austrian, born in Graz in 1956 with a grandfather who served in the SS, Andre immigrated first to France in 1978. There he lived in Toulouse working as a graphic artist, set designer and began his fine art career.
In 1986 he immigrated to Australia. As with so many émigrés to the New World, Andre found himself forced to take a much more entrepreneurial approach to employment and after some interesting but short lived ventures, found success in creating bonsais.
He didn’t paint for nearly 10 years after arriving in Australia, resuming in 1995. His early exhibitions in Australia have strong influences from his graphic and set design days. There is a static, controlled, overly precise quality, an Austrian’ quality perhaps, but much more palatable to the general viewer though. This was his calm before the storm.
In the last two years, particularly the exhibition of 2001 titled ‘From Above and Below’ a wildness and discombobulating sense had well and truly its way from his heart to the canvass.
‘From Above and Below’ was dark, brooding, intense with disconcerting perspectives. Most viewers thought the works were complete abstracts and of a science fiction genre. A complete misread, although perhaps a little understandable. The title gave a clue to the subject matter – a series of curious landscapes with dreamlike curling tree stands. This exhibition is a significant precursor to the current series.
Interestingly, as Andre has developed the current series, a softening emerges. Not in the subject matter, which moves from September 11 to Racism to Banality of society and Global brand aggrandizement; the Jewish tragedy and sexual molestation within the churches, - but in treatment.
Colours become in some almost luminous with pastels, a new dexterity, lightness and paradoxical and allegorical approach emerges. The obvious and most contemporary subjects are the first paintings. Andre agrees that these were easier to execute, as the violence of the events demands an equally explosive and immediate response.
He works in mixed media, with a lot of oil stick and pastels. Andre’s works have always glistened with influence of his graphic design training, demonstrable in precision, lightness of texture, and perspective distortion.
‘Since September 11 my focus towards the arts as a professional vehicle to produce pretty petty pictures for petty pretty walls has changed into a wish to communicate with my audience a slightly different perspective to the media’s propagandized truth’ is how Andre summarizes his work and philosophy.
It’s a dangerous approach – a mid life enfant terrible at his best and worst? Fortunately for the artist and us, it works. The works are not only highly competent they are deeply allegorical, and cleverly executed.
Then there is the guilt of Andre and his familial ‘Culture Cringe’ of being an Austrian with a grandfather in the SS. Is this Andre’s own attempt at atonement for the collective sins of his fathers? He doesn’t argue the point and he goes further by laying claim to the rare altruism of intent.
The exhibition is titled ‘Beware of Silence’ but in fact, most of the paintings are filled with screaming words. Not immediately apparent and requiring close examination. The artist has extended this play of silence by linking the exhibition with thoughtful homilies between the works. Most of course are damning commentaries: ‘When Priests without fearing God’s Wrath abuse innocence for their earthly lust, Christianity lies naked of all divinity.’
The question left perhaps is this: ‘Beware of Silence’ a middle aged European’s personal rant against the evils and inexactitudes of life through his chosen artistic medium? A somewhat tired and 70’s Andy Warhol set up, if so. Or, is Andre van der Kerkhoff holding true to the precepts of the medieval and reformation heretics? Misguided, misunderstood, but brilliant and valid?
Austrian born and Brisbane-based artist Andre van der Kerkhoff has taken the alluring feminine
presence and formed an exhibition of phot-derived art on brushed aluminum sheet.
Unlike his well-known landscape paintings, Kerkhoff's latest exhibition, Citizen K's Seductive Blues,
is an erotic body of works utilising colour and aesthetic appeal to celebrate the form of the modern-
Until April 20 at Baguette Gallery, 150 Racecourse Rd. Ascot
Cannon Hill artist Andre van der Kerkhoff’s latest series of paintings will go on display
without titles and without sound.
Beware of Silence opens at Michel Sourgnes Fine Art Gallery, 16 Stephenson Street, Ascot, on August 2 and runs until the end of the month.
The works, made from oils and pencils, focus on the themes such as September 11, the church, child abuse, oligarchy and societal disarray.
No single piece has a title, rather, all have been slugged ‘Without Words’ and each piece is numbered and carries a message from the artist.
An example is ‘Without Words II’: “The greatness of a nation doesn’t rise from fleeting sporting glories, but by its abilities to recognise past wrongs.”
“As I watched the live images of commercial jets being flown into the icons of Western virility, a dictum came to mind: ‘the road of modern culture leads from humanitarianism via nationalism to bestiality,” van der Kerkhoff said.
“Since then my focus towards the visual arts has changed from wanting to produce petty, pretty pictures for pretty, petty walls to communicate with the public a different perspective to the media’s propagandized truth.”
Andre van der Kerkhoff has been watched closely during the last few years with the result that over the last twelve months Michell Sourgnes, Goya Galleries and Scott Livesey have invited Andre to join their stable.
His Works are included in the private collections of Marlene Antico, Philip Bacon, Marilyn Domenech and various corporate collections within Australia and Europe.
Andre, born in Graz, Austria and a resident of Australia since 1986 took a rather long sabbatical from painting during which time he turned to a more organic medium and created bonsais. After an interval of 10 years, he resumed painting and has since then exhibited regularly and successfully in Australia.
The current exhibition to be seen at Trevenen House Gallery will be selected by Michel Sourgnes and dedicated to Paul Holman, Owner and Director of the Gallery as a mark of affection between artist and gallery and gesture to Paul as he faces the daunting challenge of terminal cancer.
' From above and below ' examines Andre's preoccupation and fascination with the possibilities of a symbiotic and dynamic relationship between two juxtaposed antipodean languages of imagery.
" I would find it rather strange, if I, as a painter, wouldn't be interested in my adopted country's landscape. Coming from the center of Europe with a set of imagery that spans from the mosaics of Pompeii all the way to Klimt and Mondrian, I am torn now in my new place between the old and the almost avant-garde visual interpretation of a very old people's understanding of their LAND. "
"This exhibition shows a small stage of my journey towards my own landscape " is how Andre summarises the body of work which exhibits lusciousness, fluidity and urgency in a framework of precision and discombobulating perspective.
Austrian-born artist Andre van der Kerkhoff visited the mysterious mountainous outcrop, the Bungle Bungles, in north Western Australia in 1982 – a time when few Europeans knew the beehive-shaped rocks existed. The colourful and strange rock formations were shaped by wind, rain and seismic activity over 20 million years. Its beauty enchanted the artist, as did its tangible spiritual presence.
Nearly a quarter of a century later that long-remembered visit has been translated onto canvas in ‘Where dots become dreaming’, Andre’s first Canadian exhibition being shown at Galerie Luz, 372, Ste-Catherine Quest, suite 418.
In the harsh Australian landscape, it is perhaps fitting that with the unusual natural artistry of the Bungle Bungles, the Boab is interwoven, depicting life and resilience. The beehive shape of the Bungle Bungles also resembles an egg, signifying the new life that also evolves from the landscape.
The exhibition ‘Where dots become dreaming’ uses humour – rather than just the stunning Australian outback – to intrigue.
Each painted landscape is used as a metaphor to tell its own story. For example, replace the beehive shape in ‘Solitude’ with a human figure to express loneliness. But with Andre’s pieces, it is the eye of the beholder that the real story is told.
The 50-year-old self-taught artist worked as a graphic artist for over a decade before immigrating to Sydney in 1986. Once on Australian shores, he downed the paintbrush for nine years, instead cultivating bonsai. It was during this time that Andre soaked himself in the visual language of the indigenous people, those he feels are the only real avant-garde artists in Australia.
Andre’s technique balances the traditional Western concept of landscape art with the more physically precise yet spiritually expressionistic style of the indigenous artist. Within Andre’s dotted paintings you will find texture, warmth and a blurring – of both of the physical line and the seemingly impenetrable one between European and aboriginal painting.
Indeed, Andre’s work requires the international art world to rethink the boundary between indigenous and European styles.
Andre has worked as a fine artist in Brisbane for the past 10 years, using the city as a base to roam the unchartered lands of the Outback, which remains his source of inspiration and memories for later interpretation onto canvas.
“ Speechless “ might be a better way to describe the viewer’s reaction to Andre van der Kerkhoff’s latest exhibition.
“ Without Words, “ which will be opened by Janice McCulloch, editor of Art Almanac, at Marlene Antico Fine Arts on 11 September 2002. The Austrian born artist, almost a recluse, seems to have become a middle-aged enfant terrible in that he refuses to be diverted from his ambition to use his canvasses as a testament to his dissatisfaction with society – with our collective de-sensitisation to current events and our lack of independent thought and deed concerning social morality.
Confrontational and sometimes shocking, “Without Words “ presents a series of controversial images dealing with equally controversial and sometimes disturbing subject matter: September 11, Racism, Sexual Molestation within the Church, Global Commercial Control by a few big Brands, and the Banality and Conditioning of Society, to name a few. Andre is unrepentant that his works are provocative:
“ As I watched LIVE the images of commercial jets being flown into the Icons of Western Virility, a dictum by Franz Grillparzer came into my mind: ‘ The road of modern culture leads from humanitarianism via nationalism to bestiality.’
Since then my focus towards the visual arts as a vehicle to produce petty, pretty pictures for pretty, petty walls has changed into my wish to communicate with the public a different perspective to the media’s propagandised truth, as in today’s ambiguity the truth is bilingual.
Having lived in three different countries whose social and political fabric has been woven throughout the ages from very different historic yarns, I evolved and learned through time and betrayal that only humanism has relevance.
To quote Stefan Zweig, ‘Our greatest debt of gratitude is to those who in these inhuman times confirm the human in us, who encourages us not to abandon our unique and imperishable possession: our innermost self.’ “
The exhibition derives from Andre’s youngest years and from the guilt that he openly acknowledges stems from his familial ‘ Cultural Cringe ‘ being an Austrian with a grandfather who was in the SS. Is this Andre’s own attempt at atonement for the collective sins of his fathers? He doesn’t argue the point. He does lay claim, however, to the rare altruism of his intent. One simply cannot view Without Words without an intuitive personal reaction. This is not an artist or an exhibition that will tolerate a ‘ party line ‘ response.
Andre cleverly incorporates street signs in his compositions as symbolic signposts that warm the viewer about problematic elements in our society. As one wanders along the path of life, struck by such indicators, does one ignore the, acknowledge them or actively try to do something about them?
The paintings are executed in mixed media, with oils, oil sticks, pencils and pastels. They show a finesse and delicacy in treatment, which serves to dramatise the subject matter even further. Andre treads on difficult and dangerous ground. Fortunately for the artist and the viewer it works. The paintings are masterfully and cleverly executed, deeply allegorical, evocative and challenging.
Middle-aged men pine for their lost youth in Andre van der Kerkhoff’s latest exhibition
When young Andre van der Kerkhoff was growing up in rural Austria, art wasn’t something he was encouraged to do. In fact, the opposite was true. His father, an engineer, wasn’t happy with his drawing and daubing, but the young Andre persevered.
He travelled to India as a young man then returned to work in set design, continuing his artistic endeavours. He migrated to Australia in 1986 but it wasn’t until 1994 that he dedicated his life to art. Andre van der Kerkhoff now exhibits regularly and his exhibition ‘When Youth Become Memory’ is now showing at Michel Sourgnes Fine Arts in Ascot.
After a small chat, we browse through some of the 31 works in the show, including stark, often draftsman-like-cityscapes with erotically charged images of alluring young women often being ogled by older men.
Not exactly politically correct, but there you have it. Mind you, Andre has a penchant for controversy. In an exhibition at Michel Sourgnes last year, he explored the global order since 11 September on canvasses emblazoned with the Star of David, Swastikas and Crosses in an Iconoclastic Survey of where the world was then, and maybe is even now.
This time around he’s exploring the same territory as Nabokov in his controversial novel Lolita, later an equally controversial film in two screen versions. There are direct references to Lolita business in some of the works, most particularly one that uses the name in the title, ‘ When Loloita Cancels Out Reason.’
You’ll recall in Nabokov’s book an older man becomes obsessed with a young teenage girl. Despite the arty and psychological pretensions of the story, it dealt, basically, with pedophilia. It must be pointed out that this is not what this exhibition is about. ( The artist did, however, deal with this subject in his last show.)
What he’s more concerned with here is the idea of ‘ Male Menopause.’
“ There is also this idea of sadness that youth will never come again,” says the 47-year-old artist.
The figures, often lone and seemingly alienated, linger on railway platforms, on empty streets and in apartment windows, longing for their past. The erotic femmes featured, occasionally streetwalkers dressed for the part, symbolise the lost potency of youth. The middle-aged men equate youth with sexual potency and sexual conquest, it seems.
The scenery, not surprisingly, is distinctly European for obvious reasons. The titles help viewers tune in to the artist’s wavelength. Titles such as ‘ When Eroticism becomes just another Burden, When Age feels like a Crime you haven’t committed, When Fantasy is as tired as your wicked bones ‘ evoke ... convey the message.
Some might feel uncomfortable with the images evoked by the artist. Not that their inherent eroticism is at all pornographic. It’s just that the idea of the older man dreaming of, and occasionally lusting after, the younger woman is probably not socially acceptable.
Any discomfort on that score is probably contrived, though, and exactly what the artist is seeking to evoke. “ I’m not trying to be controversial, though,” he says, with a twinkle in his eye, “ I am, however, trying to get people to debate ideas such as this.”
What is the Art of Andre van der Kerkhoff? At first glance his artworks may be viewed in terms of their superior technique, balance and beauty. Look deeper and you see another dimension whispering elusively to the viewer: whimsy, passion, disturbing, even contradiction. Andre van der Kerkhoff’s latest exhibition ‘My Secret River’ floods the viewer with its intensity and originality. You can drink in these virtual vistas at Rinaldi Gallery Melbourne during November.
There is an element to these works which draws you in and, much like the artist himself, there is the hint of still waters running deep. To meet the man is like viewing his art, for he himself is an enigma. At first impression his blond hair and blue eyes, Germanic upright demeanour and thick accent are more reminiscent of Arnold Schwarzenegger with a pencil and brush. Scratch the surface and you discover a man who would walk through fire to save his precious terrier; who has written poetry; who has educated himself in all aspects of life. He is a man whose heritage is steeped in the traditions of Middle Europe, juxtaposed with his Australian appreciation for freedom and space; a man who loves deeply, is larger than life and yet is somewhat shy and sensitive.
How does the man translate himself through his artworks? To put it simply his landscapes are metaphoric interpretations of the Australian vista which may be interpreted by the viewer as fantasy or just as a dream. Viewing any of Andre’s works is to walk into his mind and see his different perspective, the photographic vistas of his mind’s eye elucidated on canvas.
Every picture tells a story and the themes interwoven through Andre’s work juxtapose two very different understandings of the landscape in art: traditional European mathematical perspective and precision – capturing a moment in time… and the representation of Indigenous spirituality traditionally dotted over surfaces, telling an ancient people’s story.
Andre states: “It would be rather strange to live in one of Earth’s oldest landscapes and not to be interested in it and its unexplainable power and magic. There is a culture present, which has understood this landscape for thousands of years and become one of the most remarkable interpreters of it. I come from Europe and a very different history of landscape: my landscape stretches from the mosaics of Pompeii to Klimt and Mondrian! I am on a journey through my landscape. For me the landscape is life, and I try to find a compromise between the two different landscapes which have so far dominated my life.”
In his latest paintings Andre takes us on a journey titled ‘My Secret River’ – a logical evolution from the past series: ‘Somewhere West’, ‘From Above and Below’ and ‘Waltzing Somewhere West.’ In his latest offering he excites us by poetically interpreting the harsh Outback with delicacy and depth. Andre has broken through the traditional Australian colour cliché and experiments with hue, intensity and translucence, giving his works a spiritual quality. Andre offers us a contemporary portrayal of this great Southern Land: depicting the landscape with a new millennial eye. If you have a passion for your country then you will be drawn to this exhibition. If you are a dreamer you will be excited by what you see. If you are looking for something new and refreshingly original you won’t be disappointed. I know ‘My Secret River‘ won’t remain a secret for long.
Mark Holsworth, art critic ‘ Culture Critic @ Melbourne
What makes an artist known for one type of work in one medium suddenly embark on a new mode of expression in an entirely different medium is one of the great mysteries of the creative personality.
" I had not picked up a camera in thirty years before I began this series," the self taught artist Andre van der Kerkhoff, born in Austria and presently a resident of Australia, said of his exhibition " The Seduction of Citizen K," seen recently at Jadite Galleries, 413 West 50th Street, New York.
Since he was previously known for his Australian landscapes, this series of photo-derived female nudes printed on brushed aluminum represents a significant departure for the van der Kerkhoff, who has exhibited widely throughout France, Australia, Canada, and the United States.
" I wanted to explore for the first time the human figure and embrace the new possibilities of digital media," the artist stated of his erotically charged yet formally cool images of comely young models striking seductive poses, set against bare aluminum accented with color areas of an almost Mondrian-like austerity.
Exhibited unframed on the gallery walls, they have a sense of "objectness" that traverses the boundaries between two dimensional representation and sculpture. But it is the tantalizing tension between hot and cool, eroticism and formalism, that lends these works an appeal akin to the deadpan portraiture of Andy Warhol and the "Great American Nudes" series of Tom Wesselmann.
However, van der Kerkhoff approaches his nudes without Pop irony. That their poses are as overt as those in some of the more explicit men's magazines does not suggest a parody or a moral judgment so much as a direct expression of our changing sexual mores. The models are obviously comfortable vamping for the camera and the artist feels no need to depersonalize them, as Wesselmann did when he made his figures increasingly more anonymous.
Rather, he preserves the individuality of his models, even while making the spaces and shapes around them as important a part of each composition as the figures themselves. Indeed, it is the contours of the figures that create these spaces and bring them alive, so that even the empty spaces are permeated by their presence and enlivened as if by a lingering trace of perfume. Even in "Nude XXI", where most of the details vanish into the silvery surface of the aluminum, the figure is brought to life by the geometric forms around it; the placement of one filled-in nipple, like a tiny blue square in a geometric composition by Mondrian, becomes the focal point around which the rest of the figure materializes in the viewer's imagination.
In other works, art historical references are suggested by such details as the naturally elongated torso of the model reclining on her back in "Nude VIII", which recalls the slenderly graceful figures of Modigliani. And even in those works, such as "Nude XII" , where the model's voluptuousness is palpably present and her pose is most explicitly alluring, it is much to Andre van der Kerkhoff's credit that, through the skillful spotting of color areas, he imparts to his compositions a sense of abstraction that makes their purely aesthetic qualities at least as engrossing as the physical attributes of his subjects.
----- Ed McCormack -----
After he swapped paint for a lens, artist Andre van der Kerkhoff
found that aluminium was the perfect foil for his art.
Pressure to impress New York art lovers convinced Brisbane artist Andre van der Kerkhoff to change tack. The artist is known and respected for his landscapes, and there had been interest when his work was exhibited in Europe and the US.
But collectors in the Big Apple are hard to please, and when Andre’s New York art dealer asked him to do something New Yorkers might relate to more, he was temporarily stumped. Not for long though, because Andre rose to the challenge and came up with a new genre.
The 51-year-old painter picked up a camera and started shooting. The result can be seen in his latest exhibition, Citizen K’s Seductive Blues, now at Baguette Gallery, Ascot. These limited edition prints enshrine painterly virtues but use new media to great effect.
“I hadn’t used a camera in 30 years before I began this series,” he says. “When I went out shooting some photos in New York, I ended up taking 2500 images, and when 1500 of them were good, I knew I was on to something.”
Back in Brisbane, a friend had wanted to pose for some nude studies so Andre decided to take her up on the offer and started shooting nudes.
“When I saw these images on the computer, I immediately thought they would look good on metal,” he says. “I thought stainless steel might work but ended up with brushed aluminium.”
Once the works were digitally manipulated and printed on thin metallic sheets, he realised the technique was ideal for his new vision. The marriage of mediums works brilliantly and gives the artworks a contemporary edginess that was missing from his landscapes.
In the words of New York art critic Ed McCormack, the new works are “erotically charged yet formally cool images of comely young models striking seductive poses, set against bare aluminium accented with colour areas of an almost Mondrian-like austerity”.
The works are also reminiscent of Edvard Munch, particularly Munch’s Madonna, and those of some late 20th century artists such as Andy Warhol. This seems appropriate considering the New York connection, although Ed McCormack says there are differences.
“Unlike his Pop predecessors, van der Kerkhoff does not appropriate images from the mass media in order to distance them as banal objects of satire or deny their honest erotic power in the manner of those Victorian hypocrites who banished every unclothed figure to a sterile limbo of myth to placate the clergy,” McCormack writes.
“Rather, he photographs the models himself, directing them with the discerning eye of a fine artist and evincing a reverence that is reflected as viscerally as a shudder in the shimmering aluminium surfaces on to which he prints his icons of unabashed desire.”
It’s New York that inspired this new strand of Andre’s work, and that city sometimes features as the backdrop. He’s selling well there.
Being a landscape painter, Andre can’t help setting his nudes against his local cityscape. Old Queenslanders, the river and the CBD’s high-rises can be glimpsed beyond the central figures, who luxuriate in their own nakedness.
The images seem to shimmer, and the aluminium surface gives them a surprising immediacy. “This is just the beginning,” he promises. And it’s a very good place to start.
Although art historical convention compels us to classify them as ³nudes,² it would probably be more accurate to refer to Andre van der Kerkhoff¹s figures as ³naked.² There is an important distinction to be made here; for while the nude is an idealized and therefore depersonalized artistic construct, nakedness implies the baring of a particular body possessed of individual identity.
One might logically expect this differentiation to please the gatekeepers of political correctness. Yet they who most vociferously deplore the identity-blurring objectification of the so-called ³Male Gaze² are often those who holler loudest when any male artist dares to depart from the hourglass stereotype of ³Ideal Form,² generally demure of pose and devoid of pubic hair.
So how they will react as van der Kerkhoff¹s renown grows, as it most certainly will given the recognition and the number of exhibitions his talent has already begun to garner him, remains to be seen. (Consider the scandal when his worthy modernist predecessors Amedeo Modigliani and Egon Schiele first substituted nakedness for nudity, then multiply that by the many times more touchy cultural climate of our present postmodern era).
Clearly, the aerobically athleticized young women that van der Kerkhoff chooses to depict in his photo-derived prints on brushed aluminum belong to a bold new species of contemporary beauty, as they proudly display their nubile charms in a manner that makes a mockery of old-fashioned modesty. Look how frankly that angular waif with the tousled blond tresses spilling down around her pert breasts gazes out at the viewer from under quizzical Brooke Shields eyebrows; how that somewhat more curvaceous model preens her silvery nakedness like a living arabesque, set against vibrant hard-edged color areas reminiscent of Mondrian; how yet another lithe sylph stretches her slender arms high above her head with drowsy feline grace before a red-framed window in which gray dawn breaks over a phallic bouquet of sun-splashed skyscraper-spires.
Unlike his Pop predecessors, van der Kerkhoff does not appropriate images from the mass media in order to distance them as banal objects of satire or deny their honest erotic power in the manner of those Victorian hypocrites who banished every unclothed figure to a sterile limbo of myth to placate the clergy. Rather, he photographs the models himself, directing them with the discerning eye of a fine artist and evincing a reverence that is reflected as viscerally as a shudder in the shimmering aluminum surfaces onto which he prints his icons of unabashed desire.
Indeed such series titles as ³The Seduction of Citizen K² and ³Citizen K¹s Seductive Blues² reveal a candidness akin to Norman Mailer¹s self-characterization as ³The Prisoner of Sex.² At the same time, van der Kerkhoff takes care to invest his compositions with formal qualities as engaging as the physical attributes of his subjects, achieving, as I once noted in another context, a tantalizing tension between the hot and the cool, the blatantly erotic and the purely aesthetic.
To the active imagination, each of Andre van der Kerkhoff¹s prints can suggest a narrative subtext: One composition may evoke a poetic California dreamer, perhaps a fledgling folk singer fresh from the hot tub; another, a promising student moonlighting at an escort service to pay her way through medical school; yet another, an elegant agent for high-end Manhattan real estate, just before dressing for success.
Every picture seems to celebrate the complexity of the contemporary young woman, whose take on feminism is more likely modeled on the self-empowerment of Oprah and Madonna than the strident rhetoric of Kate Millett or Germaine Greer. In any case, she almost certainly sees her beauty as a facet of that empowerment, rather than a detriment to being taken seriously. Andre van der Kerkhoff appears to take her very seriously indeed, bathing her nakedness in a light that signifies one man¹s vision of the sacred.
* * *
Ed McCormack, one of the original contributing
editors of Andy Warhol¹s Interview,
has written extensively on art and popular culture for
Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, the New York Daily News,
New York Times and numerous other publications.
At present, with his wife Jeannie McCormack, he publishes the
art journal Gallery&Studio.
Most recently he wrote a catalog essay for the exhibition
³Willem de Kooning, 1981-1986,² at L&M Arts, New York City.
One would think that the nude and near-nude photographic prints of knowingly wicked young woman, immortalized on large plates of brushed aluminum, with which Andre van der Kerkhoff made his initial splash in the New York art world, would be a tough act to follow.
However, in ³New York Blues,² his new series of streetscapes in the same medium, this Austrian-born transplant to Australia demonstrates that it is his unique angle of vision, rather than a choice of pointedly provocative subject matter, that makes his post-Pop compositions so compelling.
Interestingly enough, Kerkhoff claims that when he visited New York City for the first time in May of 2006, he thought of it as ³a place that symbolically reeked of a nation¹s decay.² Then, four months later, he returned to the city and experienced a vibrant creative epiphany that he now describes as a ³love affair.² Still, there is no trace of wide-eyed tourist naiveté to be found in his pictures; rather, a sense of decaya residue of festering decadence, to be more precise permeates the images he selected to print from among 2500 downloaded after a three day photographic rampage.
Times Square may have been ³Disneyfied,² as some New Yorkers (this one included) who preferred its earlier, sleazier incarnation are fond of complaining; but van der Kerkhoff obviously has an instinct for sniffing out its underlying funk that seems all the more remarkable in a non-native. Indeed, his innate street-smarts are everywhere in evidence, enabling him not only to pick up on the jackhammer beat, the underlying rhythms, of what Norman Mailer once referred to as this ³insane, rapacious, avid, cancerous city,² but also to isolate telling details in its unrelenting visual cacophony.
The atmosphere of impending apocalypse that has haunted Manhattan island since September 11, 2001 comes across especially spookily in ³Deja vu,² where a tiny jetliner, streaming over rooftops and a watertower, is juxtaposed with the sinisterly glowering faces of Leonardo De Capio, Matt Damon, and Jack Nicholson, looming on a huge billboard for ³The Departed.² Down below, a somewhat smaller airline ad for travel between New York and London bears the slogan, ³CROSS THE POND WITHOUT GETTING SOAKED.²
In another print,³Missing in Action,² the streamlined span of the Brooklyn Bridge shoots like a silvery missile toward the broken skyline of Manhattan under dark clouds brightened here and there by the metallic surface of the brushed aluminum, which invariably substitutes for white in van der Kerkhoff¹s prints, heightening their otherworldly luminosity.
The pregnant mood also extends to less overtly ominous images such as ³Passing By² and ³Canine Blues on Broadway,² where hurrying pedestrians or a woman walking a dog through a drizzle (both in absurdly matching raincoats! ) are dwarfed by gigantic billboard goddesses whose imperious poses seem to mock their smaller-than-life mortality. And in ³Scaffolded Icon,² the eternal precincts of art itself appear under symbolic assault by a scaffold superimposing the blown-up face of badgirl supermodel Kate Moss over the facade of the Guggenheim Museum as if to suggest that mass media fame is the only remaining Immortality!
Van der Kerkhoff possesses a special gift for evoking profound notions with casual snapshot immediacy, even while endowing his compositions with an immutable formal grace by virtue of his spare, flawless ³spotting² of brilliant primary colors, skillfully balanced with glowing areas of bare aluminum. Yet, he is not above making witty asides: In ³No McDonald in Sight,² he artfully savors the cruddy but newly chic facade of Yonah Shimmel Knish Bakery, which has survived since 1910 on the ground floor of a rotten-tooth tenement now bracketed between slicker structures on the recently gentrified Lower East Side. He also takes wry notice of a much newer, more pretentious neighborhood establishment called Alias Restaurant, in another insightful print called ³In Need of Identity.²
It would not be a stretch, prompted merely by the more overtly sexual imagery he has exhibited in the past, to say that Andre van der Kerkhoff eroticizes every subject he photographs and subsequently transforms in his peculiarly painterly prints on brushed aluminum. For van der Kerkhoff¹s eye is clearly an erogenous zone, as capable of imparting sensual qualities to pee-smelling streets, with their kinetic collage of lonely crowds and tattered semiotic wonders, as to the naked bodies of beautiful young women. Taken in these terms, his newest work represents a deepening of his exquisitely seductive vision.
New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Village Voice & the New York Daily News,
Editor & Founder of Gallery&Studio,
Contributing Editor of Andy Warhol's Interview,
New York City, 2008
'Where Dragonflies Tango' Exhibition by Andre van der Kerkhoff @ Carport Cafe Gallery, 3 Pickwick Street, Cannon Hill