Notes on Looking, February 11, 2010
Hello friends and Fellows!
I had the good fortune Saturday evening to hear an eyewitness report on the George Baker LACMA talk, Joseph Beuys and Paul Thek: Glamour and a Woman’s Touch. Good Lord, I’m even sadder I missed it now that I’ve heard about Baker’s fascinating presentation! Baker showed a powerpoint of images and, in the words of artist and thinker John Pearson, “…riffed on these images – taking us in many directions freely, as though unrehearsed. And he drew easily from an obviously deep store of knowledge.” (OK. No-one talks like this. My notes are cryptic at best. John is smart and he used clever and fun words to state what I manage only partially to convey.)
Pearson characterized Bakers initial comments on Beuys as “tactfully declining to admire” the artist. Baker told a story of Thek having seen a survey of Beuys work while visiting Germany and calling it “ponderous and didactic” and famously in a letter to Susan Sontag decaring that the work “needs a womans’ touch.” Baker spent considerable time researching this story to determine exactly which Beuys show it is that Thek may have seen and what work was included. Scholarship is cool. Try googling stuff like that!
It seems Baker rather pointedly did not discuss the Beuys multiples currently on view at LACMA and used Beuys as a kind of overblown counterpoint to the more interesting and honestly mysterious artist, Paul Thek. Hmm. Do I also recall Pearson saying that Baker proposed Tom Burr as an artistic descendant of Paul Thek who somehow bridges the gap between Thek and Beuys? Not sure.
What I am sure of is that we’re lucky to live in a town where artists, writers, scholars, curators and sophisticated enthusiasts can each make contributions to the contemporary art scene, learning from and teaching each other, together advancing the discourse. Baker, a UCLA Professor of Art History, is actively engaging our culture and our city through the web project Words Without Pictures, talks at local institutions, publications such as The Artwork Caught by the Tail – Francis Picabia and the Dada in Paris and the forthcoming study of artists Tacita Dean, Zoe Leonard and Sharon Lockhart titled Lateness and Longing. I’m eager for this last one. Lockhart’s photographs and films of people performing various tasks or rituals of play sometimes are so affectless as to feel aggressively boring to me and I’m interested to learn what’s behind the curtain of her gaze. (Links to video of Dean’s 2009 Tate Christmas Tree project; Lockhart’s Lunch Break, recently shown at Blum and Poe and soon opening at the Kemper Art Museum; and VernissageTV video at the reception for Leonard’s Photographs, a 2009 exhibition at Pinakothek Moderne, Munich.)
A Zoe Leonard viewing opportunity requiring one to pay attention and also wander around town: Go to MOCA Geffen, go straight down the stairs and turn left behind the area with Carroll Dunham and Basquiat, wander ahead for a while, turn right at the Cathie Opies walk more and then stop. Right in front of you are seven powerful and beautiful photographs by Zoe Leonard. These are small format gelatin-silver prints, hung pretty near eye level – maybe just a little lower, they are black and white photographs of vaginas. They surround two much bigger but not really huge paintings by fairly famous guy-type artists: Jack Goldstein and Martin Kippenberger. The installation is wonderful. The photographs are unforgettable. Thanks to Paul Schimmel and the other nice people who planned and installed this show.
The link I’ve provided above is to a Journal of Contemporary Art interview of Leonard by Laura Cottingham. In it Leonard talks about the nervousness she felt hanging these photographs in her 1992 Documenta 9 installation at the Neue Galerie in Kassel, “I had a much more complicated set of images [photos printed from hundreds of rolls of fiml Leonard had shot at fashion runway shows] planned for Documenta, but about six days before I went to Germany to install, I realized that all these complex impulses were contained in one image: a woman’s sex. That one image would be both passive and aggressive, that it would represent the invisible, but implied sex of the women in the paintings, the non-existent female artists, and the never-addressed sexuality of the women in the paintings.”
A woman’s sex. This reminds me to tell you about a reading Eve Fowler is presenting for Five Points Readings at Workspace this Sunday at 6 pm. Readings by contemporary artists from Fowler’s personal library of Feminist and Lesbian writings from the last century. As an artist Fowler has been making photographs of the characters that make up the contemporary community she lives in and documenting their individual histories. This rather personal focus in art-making offers photographic evidence of day to day, humdrum living as objects of art. For me this brings to the fore roles played by individuals in creating our larger culture(s).
Hey! I love this press release: “Eighth Veil is pleased to announce Number[s], a show of recent work by artist Darren Bader. Employing a serialized stream of numbers between 2 and 3266, Bader supplants actual numerals with non-numerical forms – turning the objects in his installation into simple units within a larger notational system. The show will also incorporate hamburger and bumper stickers.”
The only thing I can think to add to such clever Darren Bader PR is that at MOCA PDC in 2008 MOCA Librarian Lynda Bunting and MOCA Director of Publications Lisa Gabrielle Mark organized To Illustrate and Multiply: An Open Book (Awesome show! One of the best of that year.) and at the walk-through/curators talk Lynda Bunting raved about Bader’s 2008 2nd Cannons publication, Pulturebook (b&w version). “Look! He’s put the colophon on the spine!” she exclaimed. I had to look colophon up and you can see the memory stayed with me. (Colophon: Say it, spell it, use it in a sentence.) The ravings of inspired curators are the lifeblood of institutional progress and something we should note for those moments, like this, when the object of the rave crosses our path again. Darren Bader opening Friday, February 12 7-9 pm at Eighth Veil, 7174 Sunset Blvd 90046.
By searching for updated information on the two organizers of the MOCA show I learned that MOCA has an online archive of curators and artists talks. Maybe I’m the last one to find this out. Included is the show I mentioned above along with talks by Paul McCarthy, Dan Graham, Susanne Kippenberger and more. I believe the excellent Ms. Bunting has moved on to the University of Southern California. Congratulations Lynda!
I can hear many of you shouting at me: “Geoff! The Hammer Museum has EVERYTHING it programs online for viewing/listening!” I know. Our nimble Athenaeum in Westwood does everything it can to keep us paying attention. You know that already. If you don’t, then you do now. MOCA deserves a mention.
We all know it’s not as fun visiting MOCA PDC bookstore since Dagny Corcoran left – Corcoran’s collection was the genesis of this bookstore, now the books are still there and also the nice people at the counter, but somehow the soul of any collection stays with the collector. In 1974ish a really smart and very motivated Corcoran began her collection by purchasing the library of the Pasadena Art Museum (as that institution completed its pirrouette of death, simultaneously imploding under the pressure it’s own ambition and being strangled by would-be saviour Norton Simon). A year later she worked with the remainders of that Board when they founded the Fellows of Contemporary Art and she contracted to purchase FOCA’s catalog library. Connections. I tell ya.
The Hammer had a Bash last Thursday celebrating Rachel Whiteread, her drawings and some of her sculptures. Halleluja! I think it’s been a while since one of our museums featured Whiteread’s work and I understand this is the first exhibition of her drawings.
Although the Hammer doesn’t “open” project shows with a reception, also celebrating a new installation are paintings by Jonas Wood. This sounds like a sherbet course in the feast the Hammer currently has up: three films by Keren Cytter, a show of Rembrandt prints, Woods’ paintings and Whiteread’s exhibition.
I’d like to give a Notes shout out to Corrina Peipon, Curatorial Assistant at the Hammer and curator of Woods’ exhibition. I think this is her first curatorial project at the Hammer and even if it isn’t I still say “Hurrah!” Not because Peipon has any connection to FOCA or because I know her – I don’t. It’s because I recall seeing work of hers in Celine and Julie go Boating, a 2005 exhibition that Michael Ned Holte organized for Anna Helwing Gallery and in 2006 at Rosamund Felsen Gallery in A Play on Action: 5 Los Angeles Artists Consider Feminism a show Bari Ziperstein curated as a counterpoint or accompaniment to Connie Butler’s Whack! at MOCA. I admired her work in these shows and it has stayed in my mind. Obviously Peipon is continuing along a path of excellence. Cheers!
Speaking of Michael Ned, he let slip to me at the opening of Kordansky’s latest show (go see this if you haven’t – really great work by four women artists) that he’s working on an interview of and essay about Roger Corman. Wow! Holte tells me Corman has a most fantastic deep and melodious voice that he’d love to present in recordings. What an idea! All of this will appear sometime later this Spring at East of Borneo, the (much anticipated) web project of Tom Lawson and Stacey Allan.
Speaking of whom, both Tom and Stacey took East of Borneo to Chicago this weekend and are attending the College Arts Association Conference. Festival? Potlatch? Anyway, they’re having a blast showing off their new baby to all the scholars and now, if you follow the link to the East of Borneo site, you too can see what it’s all about! Art database, archive, social networking site and essay central. If you hit the site too early it means Chi-town is busier than Stacey Allan anticipated. So be patient, sign up for notifications and visit again tomorrow.
About the Chi-town link. Yeah, you got me pegged. I’m a gentleman of a certain age who fell for Judy Garland when I was 13 and never got over it. Of the two videos I found one had her lip syncing worse that Milli Vanilli and in the other, well, the dolls had taken their toll. (Sing it with me, please!)
David and I visited with Andrew Hahn a few weeks ago and he showed us three bodies of work – a series of fascinating handbills or prints, a group of sculptures and paintings, and the possibility of a stage set. Hahn has a show opening at WPA Saturday, February 20th and I’m pretty excited to see which work he decided on! I remember telling you several months ago about a screening of his 2008 film Manifesto, I found it online at Guide LA (linked here) and watched again with David. Hollywood may be great at movies, but artists are better!
James Krone, just in from Berlin, has a painting show opening Saturday February 13 at Country Club at Rudolph Schindler’s Buck House, 805 S. Genesee Ave 90036. Berlin meets Vienna in LA. (How World War II expatriate/intellectual exile that sounds.) Purply-black bruise like paint stained canvases will be hanging against the hand-crafted-to-look-machine-made plaster walls of Schindler’s iconic 1934 Modernist dwelling. There are also sculptures occupying the spaces; Krone made ashtrays hoping, I think, that guests would take up the old fashioned habit at least for the duration of the show. These are beautiful paintings and looking at the show in a dwellling rather than a gallery setting is an interesting experience for me. Go to Country Club on Saturday, sit for a while, enjoy a cigarette and get to know these new paintings.
Statler Waldorf Gallery is still showing Depthless the excellent group exhibition I told you about last week. As if great art weren’t enough reason to visit the gallery, this Friday February 12 from 7 to 9 pm S W Gallery hosts “A Real Sweetheart of a Pickle” a pickle tasting party and subscription pick up. If you don’t have a subscription – what are you waiting for?! Friday’s installment includes pickled onions and fennel in a citrus brine, young radish kim chee, and the always popular Lady Marmalade! Tangy savories and sweets, bottled with art in mind and free for the tasting. Statler Waldorf 1098 West Kensington Road 90026. Park where you can, but be nice – don’t park in a driveway.
The Velaslavasay Panorama. I just love typing that. Only as I typed the words was I able to say them aloud. Previously I would say to myself, “The Vela-thing. That 360-degree-19th Century-surround-vision pano-thing.” On view in the panorama itself is The Effulgence of the North, a visual celebration of the radiant, psychedelic magnificence of the limitless horizon lying beyond the Aurora Borealis. Plus (this gets better and better!) If you arrive before 8:12 pm you can be part of the elaborate and exotic ribbon cutting ceremony opening Shi Yun Zhi Heng: 12 Interesting Stones. Scholar’s stones selected by local artists to invite the Year of the Metal Tiger into our experience. After the pickles on Friday why don’t you join me at 1122 West 24th Street 90007 in West Adams?
Good Lord, I gotta fly! Thanks as always for reading and enjoy your time looking.