Art Scene || No. 1

Roberta Berman

The Dance Company Sculpture Series
featuring “Black and Blue”

by Roberta Berman (www.sculpture.org/robertaberman)

Last year, with my sculpture series, The Dance Company, I proposed an idea to the community in which I live: Turn Morningside Gardens Co-op into a Sculpture Garden. “We can’t walk on the grass of our one acre of paradise on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, so why not put sculptures there?”

berman-sculpture2

Jay Quinn, artist's son, preparing the ribbon. (photo by Berman)

Background: Our topsoil is so thin, due to another civilization buried beneath us, that walking and playing on it would erode it in no time. When a past newsletter had an article describing to the confused, new co-operators why we can’t enjoy our lawns, a child was quoted. When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, she said: “A pigeon.” Why?! “Because they can walk on the grass.”

A very special thing about this co-op is that when it was conceived 50 years ago, the earliest co-operators designated community spaces in each of the six buildings. In my building in the basement is a full-scale woodworking shop, ceramic studio and darkroom. The co-operative spaces are run by whoever wants to join for an extremely nominal fee. Among the members are professional craftspeople, artists, and fixer-uppers. This group offered to support the costs of making my sculptures, and some members volunteered their skills in finishing and installing. The Grounds Dept and Building Manager also volunteered their support with installation and maintenance, including protective serveillance.

“Black and Blue” was installed in July 2009. The response from the community has been remarkable, and I was asked to create more. My next piece is an homage to Merce Cunningham. I was working on this piece when he passed away, and I immediately wanted to commemorate my gratitude to him for inspiring me throughout my own journey.

Doris Prillo, an original co-operator, who will cut the ribbon. (photo by Berman)

Doris Prillo, an original co-operator, who will cut the ribbon. (photo by Berman)

I also have a goal to reach beyond Morningside Gardens and have my sculptures ‘dance across the street’ beginning with the Grant Houses, to unify the neighborhoods, echoing the community-building that is already begun. Their Board recently voted for me to proceed.

Creating sculptures for and with a community is a profound joy. This work and work process has been documented in a film, Site Sculptures, the Making of Black and Blue” by Dylan Morgan, and can be viewed below.

The Making of Black and Blue from Dylan Morgan.


Takeshi Yamada

Takeshi Yamada’s Museum of World Wonders

    Takeshi Yamada was born in Osaka, Japan and moved to the United States in 1983. He has had over 300 art exhibitions, including 34 solo art exhibitions, at galleries and museums in Spain, the Netherlands, Japan and the United States. His artworks are part of the collection of numerous museums.

    Yamada started producing a series of artworks inspired by horseshoe crabs after his first visit to Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York in 2001. By combining the mythology of “Princess Otohime of Dragon’s Palace” in China, “Tale of Urashimatarou” in Japan, stories of western mermaids, and the Buddhist concept of reincarnation, Yamada painted the portratit of Princess Otohime on the prosoma of a horseshoe crab shell as a ceremonial spiritual object at “Palace of Ocean.”

    He has also produced a series of “Warriors Ceremonial Masks” on horseshoe crabs as ceremonial objects similar to the Japanese “Haniwa” at Palace of Ocean. “Haniwa” is a clay-image figure to be buried with emperors and kings to protect them in the after life. Their facial expressions and helmet details were painted after careful examination of the intricate patterns appearing on the horseshoe crab shells. – G. David

TAKESHI YAMADA PHOTOI regard myself as a “Visual Anthropologist” and my artworks as a “Visual Encyclopedia” because they are furnished with comprehensive descriptions and cross-cultural anthropological research behind them. With my creations, I have had over 400 fine art exhibitions including 42 solo shows at museums, universities, nature centers, fine art galleries, art centers, and midways internationally.

My recent super-realism artworks reflect my investigation of the unique and distinctive culture of Coney Island area of Brooklyn, New York. This culture is called “Coney Island Sideshow”. At one time, Coney Island was much bigger than Disney World, Six Flags and Hollywood combined. Coney Island was literally the center of entertainment culture and the universal hub where the most spectacular beauties, curiosities, oddities, monsters and marvels were gathered from around the world to satisfy the human mind, intellect and imagination.

yamada-JGS-5-6At the sideshow, I was particularly fascinated by the series of “specimens” of mythic creatures on display, which are called “gaffs”. Gaffs are a form of highly specialized hyper-realism sculptures simulating artifacts of curiosities and oddities (some are completely fictional, such as Fiji Mermaid and Jackalope) displayed at the pay-per-view sideshows behind large, vividly painted large banners. Historically, gaffs have been a vital part of the “Cabinet of Curiosities” (also known as Wunderkammer or wonder-room). The cabinet of curiosities was a collection of natural history specimens kept and often displayed in cabinets by many early practitioners of science (and they were symbols of wealth, social status and power by international trade merchants) in the early 16th century in Europe, and were precursors to today’s natural history museums.

With these in mind, I have created over 500 post-super-realism and neo-taxidermy artworks simulating the treasures of the cabinet of curiosities. Examples of them are 6-feet Fiji Mermaids, 5-feet Chupacabra, 31-feet giant sea serpents, dragons, two-headed babies, shrunken human heads, fossilized fairies, nuclear radiation giant stag beetles of Bikini Atoll, Canadian hairy trout, New York City giant subway bugs, king tarantulas, Mongolian giant death worms, two-headed snakes, four-legged turkeys, vampire monkeys, Chinese flesh-eating mushrooms, two-headed and six-fingered alchemist, human-faced insects, artifacts of the Dreamland Fire of 1911 in Coney Island, relics of ancient civilizations, sea rabbits of Coney Island, giant prehistoric horseshoe crabs, alien specimens collected by the Area 51 US military base, and Coney Island brand exotic canned foods, among many others. With my collection of curious, odd and mysterious specimens, artifacts and artworks at Takeshi Yamada’s Museum of World Wonders, I want to celebrate one of the primal desires of human nature, which seeks the mystery and wonders of the universe.

Takeshi Yamada has had over 500 art exhibitions internationally with his paintings and sculptures exhibited in Spain, the Netherlands, Japan and the United States. Yamada teaches art classes at in , and gives educational lectures at universities regularly. Below are two current exhibits:

Brooklyn Streetcar Artists’ Group (BSAG)
Group fine art exhibition
M-F: 9am – 6pm, through November 27, 2009
Coney Island Hospital
2601 Ocean Parkway
2nd floor, main building
Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY 11235
Takeshi Yamada’s painting on canvas “Time is Money: Health Care, Time Care, Life Care” is on display at a group fine art exhibition of Brooklyn Streetcar Artists’ Group of newly opened fine art gallery space at Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn, New York. Yamada is one of the steering committee members of BSAG.

Takeshi Yamada’s Cabinet of Curiosities
Through December 31, 2009
Brooklyn Public Library – Coney Island Branch
1st floor & 2nd floor.
Display cases #1, #2, #3
FREE ADMISSION. Over 100 rogue taxidermy artworks and sideshow gaff specimens by Yamada, entitled “Museum of World Wonders: Cabinet of Curiosities” (solo art exhibition) are on display currently for the public in three large glass cabinet display cases at Coney Island Library in Brooklyn, New York. Examples of items on display are shrunken human head, 3-eyed human skull, mummified dragon head, T-rex bone, vampire monkey, giant Chupacabra snail, nuclear radiation giant stag beetle, giant carnivorous snail, sea elephant, mummified 6-fingered witch hand, homunculus (cloned human), among other items of oddities.


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