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A few notes on FOCA (from Dec 9, 2009)

In the way back of January, 2007 Notes started as an occasional email message to the members of the Fellows of Contemporary Art – a Los Angeles institution of which I was then the President of the Board. Four years of evolution have happened with Notes, things have changed. I’m no longer as deeply involved with FOCA as I had been for the past decade and Notes on Looking is flying solo. I do still get questions about FOCA and interest in the history. From a December, 2009 post celebrating FOCA’s Annual Membership Meeting: Hello friends and Fellows, Walk with me please, along a path through the garden of philanthropy that is FOCA’s mission. I’ll point out some of the landmarks and share some of our history. FOCA’s founding in 1975 as the Fellows of Contemporary Art followed the demise of the Pasadena Art Museum, then the most important venue for contemporary art in the United States. A group of PAM supporters under the leadership of Martha Padve, Peggy Phelps and Gordon Hampton chose to continue their support of California contemporary art in a strikingly prescient way. Rather than found another institution or join another museum group they sought to remain independent of anything but the support of exhibitions of California contemporary art. These exhibitions would be initiated and sponsored at a variety of spaces around the city and the state – established museums, college galleries and other adventurous spaces. FOCA’s Exhibitions began in 1976 with Ed Moses Drawings at the Frederick S. Wight Gallery UCLA and continued in 1977 with Unstretched Surfaces/Surfaces Libres at Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary...

A rainy day on Hwy 1

To complete what  I began with my oblique almost quote in the title: I was a stranger in the city, out of town were the people I knew I had that feeling of self-pity – what to do, what to do, what to do? The outlook was exceedingly gloomy but as I walked those empty streets alone, it turned out to be the luckiest day I’ve known. A foggy day, in London-town had me low, had me down I viewed the morning with alarm, the British Museum had lost its charm. “How long,” I wondered, “Could this thing last?” But the age of miracles had not passed For suddenly I saw you there and in foggy London-town the sun was shining everywhere! Transcribed from memory – a youth spent listening to Judy Garland’s 1962 album “Live at Carnegie Hall” from the time I was 11 until….. well, still – every once in a...

Lamentation and Melancholy

Hello my friends, I picked up my LA Times the other morning and read of the demise of art criticism at the LA Weekly. Well, to be honest I read about this in the Times’ Culture Monster the night before (it is my custom to check this and a few others before I shut down) and then again on paper after the comics in the morning (another of my customary behaviors). I won’t whine and I won’t castigate a business that is trying to make money. Well, I will too whine, a little. “Rough sledding” the publisher called Doug Harvey’s writing. And by implication any such writing. Really? Academic? It’s art criticism for crying out loud. God. By nature writing expects a certain sophistication of an audience. When we aren’t sufficiently sophisticated on a subject we look things up. That’s why we read!!! To learn!!!!! If I only read what I already know well, ick – who wants that kind of world????? Sir, Mr-Publisher-Guy, your audience is going to disappear. In an entertained to non-existence, anti intellectual barren soul-hole of navel-gazing. And you’re helping them along. Oooh. There is a creepy vacuum developing where there should be writing about ideas and historical precedents, thoughtful considerations of the slow shift and development of artists’ careers, high points and lacunae in the collections and exhibitions of local museums, honest praise for honest work by one or another Los Angeles curator or artist – we who have so much (and many) in the way of artists, musicians, practitioners and cultural producers are losing our scribes – we are losing a vital link to the world...

The present moment and for the future

Hello my friends, Yes – it is the time of year once again when we get loving reminders of importance embedded in pleas for donations. Wonderful things, these opportunities for giving. I’m offering you a few suggestions as concerns active goodness of heart. Some are institutions that will be familiar and some you see on my list will be artists’ spaces and/or enterprises that are run as small cultural production businesses – probably these are not tax exempt, possibly not even set up to expect or receive gifts – but I imagine if you have a generous feeling no one will turn you away. In several cases perhaps you’d be able to purchase something instead of gifting. Um, let me rephrase that: buying something from an artist or small business may be the greatest gift you can give....

Weekend of Dec 18, 19 – Part 1

  Hello my friends, this is a great weekend to go out looking. And a chance to see a few important painting exhibitions. Christine Frerichs, On Recognition at Kaycee Olsen is closing Saturday. Frerichs is a recent UC Riverside grad and for her first post-grad solo show in town she’s presenting abstract paintings and works on paper thinly veiled as portraits. For some of the paintings she uses a method of layering parallel loose lines of color and in others thick dabs of color. A brief techincal description, as I understand it: thickly painted radiating lines are painted first – in the painting I recall best this originating surface was painted in shiny dumpster green – then Frerichs added a series of purple hatch marks, the purple were mixed to resonate with a memory of Frerichs’ mother and only enough paint for one day. She repeated these actions, attempting each day to once again match the purple tone to her memory and to the previous day’s color until the canvas was covered. Loose, wavy lines painted in Frerich’s skin tone were then painted over all. The effect Frerichs achieves might feel like op art except for the apparent inexactitude of (or Impressionist-ish) paint application and the very personal nature of the painting. A small realistic painting, titled Self Portrait Laughing faces into the space behind you as you enter the gallery and will likely be the last painting you notice in your first go round. I had to be told by another painter friend the inspiration for this painting was fin de siecle Austrian painter Richard Gerstl – a tragic hero, youthful suicide...

Alice Clements “In the Basement” at Jancar

Yet another good show to see before it closes on Saturday, Dec 18. Plaster has a lack of presence in contemporary art making, perhaps as material inquiry plaster could be termed a ‘non-site.’ Often it is used along the way to something else: as a plaster cast, or a mold. In this dimly lit basement Clements demonstrates that plaster does, like so many things, go both ways. Vessel and art. Maker and object. (Geez, I didn’t intend this to go all weirdly pre-Feminist and also sexual reference laden, what with an implied “vessel crack’d” and “plaster casts” that give birth to art objects. I hope oblique references to barren wives and Jimi Hendrix’s dick don’t offend you Alice.) Moving right along. The objects in this show are in fact made using molds, and yes one of those molds did break. The colors Clements uses also look in-between – muted off tones of pink, and buff and taupe. They remind me of the colors Morandi used to depict his collections of containers. (There they are again – vessels!) The grouping of small humps and lumps nearest the door are easy to skip over in favor of the larger tablet shapes leaning against two walls, but go back to them after you miss them. They’re friendly, and small – maybe in need of protection from our big bodies and feet. I didn’t notice, but perhaps you will, that they are only of two shapes, with one half shape. When I recall them I see hand-formed organic looking lumps such as I used to make with dough. In conversation Alice has told me that...

Erich Bollmann closing at Commonwealth and Council

    Rube’s Apprentice, Erich Bollmann’s exhibition, is closing this Saturday at Commonwealth and Council. As is custom for C&C at the closing Bollmann will present a publication. If ephemera excite (excites?) you as much as me then I’ll expect to see you there. Rube: one who, or that which, is a hayseed, a bumpkin, or a mark. (link dead, see below 5/18/12) Apprentice: what each of us is until we get our chops. I’m just clearing up some terms here – Bollmann’s show is very much about language and our relationship with words. “Cooties,” “My Stevedore,” “Outhouse,” are samples of words handwritten in the rough plaster book sculptures that are installed on the floor of the front room. “Cooties” as a word makes me blush a little, remembering being a little kid. “My Stevedore,” My Antonia, “My X” is, or was a favored construct for popular intellectuals to title their written considerations of the character of one or another public persons or ideals. “Stevedore” is a pretty neat sounding word (and having a stevedore might be hot too) – where on earth does it come from? “Outhouse” completely stopped me when I read the word inside the softly colored open book, turned a little to the wall on the floor at C&C. This is a weird year for coming out. A creepy lay organization of the Catholic Church, a weak-willed museum, David Wojnarowicz, and a lot of bile are combining this year to make the term outhouse feel variously like a safe house and like a closet. Neither has pretty resonances with me. Or perhaps like a camp to which that “lay...

Las Cienegas Projects, Simon Leung at (and more!)

This coming Friday, Dec 17 from 6 to 9 pm you will want to be at 2045 S. La Cienega Blvd to see Simon Leung’s three-channel video installation POE. (Also shows with Yvonne Rainer and Nils Schirrmacher.) This December exhibition provides us with an excellent opportunity at the close of a year of excellent, beautiful and challenging programing to thank Amy Thoner and Steven Hull for  Las Cienegas Projects. I didn’t see every show at LCP during the year but I’ll recap a few great ones that have stuck with me and that I’ll continue to think about: In January, 2010 LCP featured Dante Brebner and Marcos Rosales and Francis Coy in a multi-dimensional collaboration that resulted in truly bizarre work. (I’m going to give you an alternative Coy link since the main site is under repair and soon to be relaunched. Franics Coy video.)  Tortured stream 0f consciousness writings by Rosales were given to Brebner who created enigmatic, tiny dioramas depicting scenes – or possible stage settings – for the drama that Brebner inferred from Rosales’s text. I recall these as being mounted into the central gallery walls at a bit lower than eye level with small windows for viewing. Really small – a couple of inches square. Rosales received photos of the dioramas and wrote a script from which a film was made by Rosales and Coy. This film was shown in LCP’s third space. The dioramas and the images in the film were gorgeous – colorful, rich, weird and disturbing, plump with possible meanings. Sort of  Hollywood-via-Carl Jung archetypal scenery. The “Sagging Mattress” instead of the “Crossroads,” magical seeming...

Weekend of the 11th and 12th (Saturday morning)

Continuing now with the O’s and the C’s a little late perhaps, but there it is. I was going to say that Dan Graham at Regen is closing today and then discovered that it closed on Dec 8. Weird isn’t that? Closing on a Wednesday. Sad too, since I missed it. Seth Augustine, Mash-Ups is opening at Luis de Jesus today, Dec 11. Alberto Burri at SMMoA is not closing but will be on Dec 18 so if you haven’t seen it you should go. In Hollywood Maha Saab and Patricia Fernandez are opening tonight Dec 11 at Ltd. Hmm, at Khastoo Dan Shaw-Town Used Paper is showing through Jan 15, which isn’t probably news but – the gallery is offering a “limited edition holiday photogram gift box by artist Job Piston.” Click here for info. This sounds completely neat and weird, for ease and to avoid getting wrong something I know nothing about I’ll grab from the press release: “Inside the box are twelve unique photogram prints by the artist, each depicting an installation shot of the twelve exhibitions and projects at Khastoo Gallery to date. Beginning with the inaugural exhibition, “The Crack-Up,” from November 2008, all the way up to the current exhibition by Dan Shaw-Town, this archive of the gallery programming is transformed by the artist into the perfect collectible item. The photograms are made by exposing chromogenic paper to a laptop still, producing an image without the use of an enlarger. The resulting prints, 8 x 10 inches each, provide a fresh perspective on artifacts, temporality, and exhibition documentation. The box set will be produced...

Weekend of the 11th and 12th (currently it’s 7:15 pm on Fri…)

Quickly now, Edgar Arceneaux “The Algorhythm Doesn’t Love You” an ongoing series and Martin McMurray Dystopia – 1010 Years Ago are both closing at Susanne Vielmetter Candice Lin Holograms is closing at Francois Ghebaly Thomas Helbig Use Your Relatives is closing at China Art Objects I strongly recommend that you look at this video – no, film – contemplation of life, art, space and sofa sleeping made to celebrate CAO’s recent move to Comey Street in Culver City. Video of China Art Objects (Thanks to fb friend Zack Peabody for linking me to this cool video.) Larry Mullins New Baggage at Blythe Projects is closing and on the high note of a Leah Ohlman review in the LA Times. Congratulations Larry! Koki Tanaka Random Hours, Naotaka Hiro Night and Fog, Tubes on Black Mountain, Kaz Oshiro Home Anthology 2, John Tottenham Paintings and Drawings are all closing at Las Cienegas Projects. This is waaaaay too much to miss. I know La Cienega is a featureless and drab avenue to travel but travel you must. Today or tomorrow. Dress up a little – it suits the LCP vibe. Drive up La Cienega (Again, sorry that it’s gross and trafficky. Maybe switch to Robertson at some point.) At Margo Leavin The City Proper isn’t closing nor is it opening. Leah Ohlman reviewed the show in today’s Times and Catherine Wagley on Daily Serving. D and I were at Margo’s last week – I’ve wanted to see work by Peter Holzhauer and Lisa Ohlweiler for a year or so I was pretty stoked. More so now having seen how good their work looks. Welling...