Recently by Joshua Johnson

Pulse Pounding

“… but so, Ben was in his speed monster form, but his badge powered out, and the Weather Robot was all like crazy and Grandpa Max and Gwen were about to be electrocuted and then there was this big BOOM! explosion and…”

“… experts at the Fed believe that the sub-mortgage crisis may have bottomed out with the recent Bearn-Stearns buyout by JP Morgan Chase bank, but critics of the government’s involvement in the buy-out are calling it a bail-out…*”

I click off the radio as I pull into the parking space, and listen with half an ear as Peter explains to me the latest episode of his new favorite TV show. Michelle is buckled up in her car seat, and I have to go to the back of the van and unload the stroller.

“Now hold my hand Peter,” I say while trying to push the stroller down the parking lot towards the mall with my free hand, “and remember, if you don’t feel well, say something, we don’t want a mess on the floor like last time.”

The doors slide open and we enter into the wide fluorescent expanse of the mall. They just moved to a new location, and while the new space is much more open and clean, it lacks the charm of the old location—admittedly though, the old place was getting a bit dilapidated.

Brightly colored plastic things vie for our attention, and Peter begins to wrench his hand from mine, running in the direction of the first thing that catches his interest. In the middle of Kinz Tillou & Feigen is a bright monitor with acid test colors flashing across the surface like a demented screen saver.

“Jeremy Blake,” I think to myself, while Michelle coos in appreciation in the stroller. This is the first time I’ve seen one of these in person, and I can understand why they’re tempting. A lot of the new digital stuff seems more designed for functionality than any kind of attractiveness—too bad about the poor Blake though, visionaries always die young. I make a mental note to recharge my iPod when I get back home.

I glance back at Freight and Volume where some small quirky works by Jim Lee are on display in front. They bear some resemblance to products I’ve seen from Richard Tuttle before, but I still can’t help but love the rough-hewn and off kilter precociousness. Peter, of course, can’t be bothered to glance, while Michelle seems to be drooling slightly. At least she’s content.

We head up to the Saatchi-Online booth, where they have some things culled from local entrepreneurs. Saatchi-online is like one of those E-bay stores that just facilitate transactions between small-time merchants and consumers, and I’m glad to see that they’re supporting the local economy here.

The sales staff informs me that they picked people who were just getting their start for this display, and that all proceeds will go directly to the manufacturers. Saatchi is a big brand though, and I sometimes wonder whether or not it is more about them, than the work they are supporting. While I’m distracted talking to the sales people, Peter starts picking at the sales tags on the walls, which are, shocking for such a big company, hand written. I have to hurriedly pull Peter away from the store though, and in my haste forget to note the works-- I do, however, have some fond memories of these linear geometric abstractions.

I push the stroller forward slightly before I practically run into a clear glass booth where inside a woman is demonstrating a brand new toaster. She’s a representative of Arts Corporation, a cooperative that specializes in creating unique electronics that display their own functionality. The display item imprints the name of the company on toast, but I learn I can order my own custom toaster that will imprint my name on the toast. The sales person offers Peter a bit of toast, but he is completely absorbed by the demonstration video on the side of the both, and I think Michelle has fallen asleep.

We’ve barely made it into the door here, and I can already feel myself getting fatigued. Nevertheless, we push on past PPOW, where I see they have a nice large Julie Heffernan piece and some Carolee Schneeman photos. Around the corner is a curious display of piled up military figures, which Peter immediately goes wild for, but I guess that’s the sort of thing that catches a young boys attention. It’s one of the few overtly political things we see that day, but I’m a little non-plussed by its GI Joe bravado.

We head up the way to Alexander-Ochs, a German outfit, oddly specializing in Chinese items. The sales staff seams a bit bored and I politely chat with them while Michelle gurgles and stretches her arms out towards a series of simplified heads on plinths. The woman working there informs me that their gallery has been doing incredibly well with their Chinese merchandise, and that their company has been involved with that market for over eleven years. They’ve actually been expanding into quite a few locations like this one, she says, though she is a bit surprised at how slow business is today. I look around and realize that the floor is a little empty for a brand new mall. Maybe business will pick up over the weekend.

Peter, who is easily drawn to colorful things, spies a bright orange wall up ahead with a rainbow colored stripe painting by Tim Bavington and a large red plastic sculpture out front. I run to quickly catch up with him, and brought face to face with some goopy day-glo abstractions by Ali Smith at Mark Moore. It’s a Californian establishment, and the place gives off the sunny, good vibes you’d expect from that kind of brand. That doesn’t mean, however, they shy away from a bit of the sinister side—Allison Schulnik’s painterly image of a psychotic clown adds a tastily demented edge to the bright outlook, and I practically have to swat Peter’s hand away from the painting.When I look over their desk I spot another Julie Heffernan. Her stuff seems to be popular.

Unfortunately, Michelle is getting a bit fussy, and starting to whimper, so we head on down the way looking for a place to rest. Surprisingly, the Parsons New School has a booth here showing off the quality of their program. I’m grateful, because not only are the student volunteers friendly, but they offer a brief place to rest. Brandon Nastanski, who has designed his Reading Room display, offers Peter a book to distract him, and I have a small glass of wine with him in the back room. Michelle, fortunately, calms back down and begins surveying the surroundings with eager eyes. The Reading Room has a nice personal quality to it, and I’m won over by its uniquely personal charm—if only there were more relaxing spots like this here.

We get going again, passing by a small drink stand selling Grolsch where it appears that they’ve sponsored a display by Jade Townsend. Townsend is a great craftsman, but his recent concern with consumerism has lead him to produce things that are beautiful in themselves, but wear a bit thin intellectually… this collaboration with Grolsch only seems to confirm that sentiment. Above a table piled full of white-washed hand made items hangs a chandelier of empty Grolsch bottles. Peter starts crying out that he’s thirsty, and I have to remind him that these are adult drinks, and we’ll get something for him later.

We head down another corridor and I'm confronted with a Japanese boutique-- Nanzuka Underground. Peter obviously likes the headless dancing cubist skeleton, but I'm afraid I have to only shrug. The sales person directs me to a catalogue from Keiichi Tanaami, who does incredible symmetrical psychedelic prints with a Lichtenstein-like flair-- too bad they aren't here.

Michelle, unfortunately, begins to cry, and I have to pick her up and rock her while we walk. When we reach Envoy, a local establishment with a branch on the Lower East Side, her attention is caught by some dangling rubber heads by Marc Seguin in front of an abstract cut-out by Kanisha Raja, and she begins to calm down. I myself, find Ryan Wallace's abstraction on the other side of their booth to have a quiet, but sophisticated presence.

Down the way, a little Spanish store called Espacio Líquido, was offering some clothing for sale by a small collective whose name I cannot recall for the life of me-- they've embarked on a new branding enterprise-- Marx. I couldn't help but get a little chuckle out of that. Peter really liked one of the shirts, a blue button up with imprints of Marx's face all over it, but sadly I think its a little out of my price range... what would Marx do, I wondered....

I didn't have terrible long to think, however, because Peter had already torn about half-way down the hall, and into an open area by the food court. When I caught up to him he was standing in front of a monitor playing some crazy cartoon by Federico Solmi. "See," he says, "that guy in the big hat, he's the Pope, and he sits in front of his computer all day watching something called 'porn' and then he's got these big armies that he leads around to kick butt, and... whats porn?" I could only listen to half of what Peter was saying, because I was quite taken in by the video, and it obviously caught Michelle with its crazy quilt colors, because she was gurgling a happy baby giggle, and then I realized that Peter was attentively watching all of this as well... needless to say, I had to quickly lead him away from TV.

Unfortunately, he really began throwing a tantrum, which, inevitably lead to Michelle crying. Not wishing to make a scene, I dragged the kids out, and we headed back to the van…