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Video in the 2014 Counterweight

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Published on Mar 30, 2014 by Bill Rabinovitch

This 34 minute video is a close in lively, raw slice of the SoHo art world in NYC in March 1981 during our Whitney Counterweight #3 in dialogue with that Whitney Biennial. This long lost video has never been shown & just now found for the first time as posted here. An entertaining, wide array of art spread over 6 spaces on Grand Street with performance art. Interview of the 3 artist organizers together -- Vernita Nemec, Barnaby Ruhe & myself Bill Rabinovitch in my then headquarters gallery/studio at 74 Grand Street. Includes our famous colorful artist Waltzing Ball at the Counterweight closing. Famous artists Elaine de Kooning, Alice Neel, George McNeil, etc, donated original silkscreen editions to defray my expenses in 1981 and a few remain available from me.

Performance artist Cusi Masuda as the Genius star of our 1981 Whitney Counterweight in his dazzling naked performance emerging from rubbery paraphernalia then dangerously hanging like a butterfly upside down from a steel tripod by a chain, head half shaved. “Emergent Butterfly” the name of the performance us a stunning several minute live performance videoed in 1981 plus Cusi’s later commentary toward the end. The 34 minute video including his performance is a close in lively, raw slice of the SoHo art world in NYC in March 1981 of our Whitney Counterweight #3 in dialogue with that years Whitney Biennial. The tape done by Brooklyn College as a class project was never shown & lost since I just found it in an old box & posted it to Youtube.

Mel Chen in Whitney Counterweight 2014 knew Cust Masuda & on 04-27-14 I saw the below piece he wrote of his experiences with Cusi on Mel’s “The Memory of Elephants” Facebook page. Cusi’s live Butterfly performance along with Cusi’s later commentary is on this video toward the end.

Mel Chen THE FISH MONGER'S SON by Seneca Dent

I first met Cusi in Puffy's, he was a Japanese performance artist who had been in the city for about almost ten years but he spoke English like he had just stepped off the gangplank ... it was really difficult to understand him and he was also drunk most the time as was I. He was the son of a poor fishmonger who grew up after the war, but everyone was poor at the time. G.I.'s would throw candy at him from passing jeeps which made him very excited and happy ... it was probably the most he would eat that day. He somehow went to art school, which was unheard of for an impoverished kid from the a ramshackle hut near the sea. His name was Masami Matsuda but took the moniker of Cusi because he admired Brancusi. After many beers and tequila we would often go to his ground floor loft next door and have more beers and shots. He would scream 'Wagner!' and I would yell back'Nietzsche!'. Neither one of us knew what the fuck we were screaming about. Once his mongrel mutt bit my hand and he fell on the floor laughing. His loft was vast but with little amenities. He would spend months building eight foot spheres out of electrical conduit ... sheath them in plaster. When he was done he would shave the hair off half his head and body. He had severe astigmatism in his left eye and seemed like he was never looking at you. He was a plumber by trade and his clients would tremble at the sight of him. He invited friends and artists over to witness him naked demolish his spheres with an axe over the ensuing days. A pipe with razors attached would turn in a pipe threader as he weaved in and out about it. A friend with a first aid kit stood nearby acting as a medic. When he was done he would haul the debris out to a dumpster and that was the end. Cusi married an American girl named Kyla, she was the second of four wives he would eventually have. She was a bigger drunk than him. They had a daughter but the union would last less than a year. After she moved out he calls me up one night to come over, saying Kyla was coming to gather some belongings ... that he needed someone with him to watch her. I really didn't want to go but I did. As Cusi was moving some of her things to her car in the ally, Kyla rummages through his desk grabbing financial documents. He runs in yelling "Kyla you bitch!'. She runs past him out the back door laughing. The next spring some Japanese artists friends of mine ask me if I could arrange for an Uptown dealer, who was the brother of a schoolmate chum of mine, to come by their studios to look at their stuff. Although I didn't know him that well, he complied. He was cordial but not very interested in their work, but asked me if I knew Cusi. And if he could meet him. I related to Cusi of the dealer's interest in him. Cusi screams, 'FUCK THOSE PIMPS! I'M NOT GONNA BE THEIR WHORE!'. I say ' OK ... OK' and that was the end of that.

"Julian Schnabel Versus Bill Rabinovitch" 1996 -- 30 Minutes
Bill Rabinovitch's original play made for cable TV
from bill r on Vimeo.

Filmed throughout SoHo in 1996 about art & art stars on people's minds including issues of competition, power, Basquiat & Warhol. Bill Rabinovitch premiered his original play a few months after Schnabel’ s Basquiat film. Bill's play proved to be a new & complex form of experimental television with comedic & serious elements that quickly attained fame. One of his most popular, good natured & wild unpredictable plays with a wide artist cast plus real life Cameos by dealers Leo Castelli, Larry Gagosian, Tony Shafrazi. etc, created & directed for his then Manhattan Cable public access TV show. This play was broadcast over 100 times over years, as selected by Time Warner for all it's 4 channels both day & night when other producers failed to deliver their tapes.

More description about this play as well about my vast video archive of NYC art world openings on the linked Vimeo page I’ve personally taken over more than 2 decades. I’ve developed an exciting plan in 2014 seeking backing, so we can all have an interactive time machine experiencing what went down — when art still trumped money.

"Action Painting Battle"
by Bill Rabinovitch


Deborah Scherrer, I've seen rescue elephants and their handlers. The handler was NOT telling the elephant what to do. You can't make this stuff up. This is real, and to down-grade it by claiming abuse is absurd. It is beautiful, and elephants are extremely intelligent. These folks are saving hundreds, maybe even thousands, of elephant lives.

Whitney Counterweight 2014
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