Notes on Looking, February 18, 2010

Hello friends and Fellows,

One of downtown Los Angeles’ most beloved art supply stores, Roark, has recently hit some bad times and is at risk of going out of business after thirty years. The USC School of Architecture has generously extended their hand by donating the use of the Verle Annis Gallery for an auction this weekend to help keep Roark afloat. An auction preview on Saturday, February 20 will be followed by a live and silent auction and raffle on Sunday, February 21 from 1–5pm. Follow link for details. Come out and show your support!

The Piano Spheres concert we saw on Tuesday the 9th was wonderful. While a storm swept past downtown and hurled itself at the foothills, inside Zipper Hall we were inspired by Susan Svrcek’s playing. Bill Douglas taught music at Cal Arts from 1970 to 1977 when Svrcek was also there, and she played two selections from his “Celebration for Piano” to start, telling us she remembers Douglas “playing this piece at Cal Arts (and) finally I’ve got the music!” She followed with pieces by Messiaen (each preceded by recordings of pertinent birdsong), Schoenberg, Rihm and Xenakis.

I don’t know Iannis Xenakis’ Mists well enough to be certain, but I think it may have challenged Svrcek with more than half an hour of pretty intense clustered chords repeating and varying. This was all bewitching to hear and see, but it seemed to end suddenly, then Svrcek thumped her forehead, turned to the audience, accepted our enthusiastic applause and quickly left the stage. She returned a moment later and held up her hand saying, “I don’t know if this is the right time, but I have a need to play this.” She played a lovely piece, I understand from eavesdropping on conversations in the audience after that it was by Brahms. When she stopped, she closed the keyboard, kissed her fingertips and caressed the piano. There wasn’t an unmoved heart in the house.

I’ll remember the moment of that kiss and the music Svrcek played for a long time. Once again I’m taken aback at how lucky I am to be present on occasions like this. If I were king of the world and could arrange to have anything I want, still I couldn’t arrange for anything so magical as this performance.

Every time I go out, every concert I see, every time I visit an artist’s studio or see their work this magic is possible, likely even. Good Lord my friends, I exhort you to take advantage of all these riches! There’s another Piano Spheres recital coming up on March 16, with Joanne Pearce Martin, Principal Keyboardist for the LA Phil. In her spare time Pearce Martin jumps from airplanes. Click and see what she’s playing – chances are she’ll throw safety to the winds on the piano, too!

Saturday afternoon we spent at the Hammer watching three films by Keren Cytter. Last week while looking around online for info and images from the Whiteread show and Jonas Wood’s show I came across Anne Ellegood’s essay which compelled me to see the films for myself. They are hilarious and brutal and way more fun than most anything I’ve done in a while! Here’s a link to Ubuweb and Les ruissellements du diable, one of the films included.

Jonas Wood, Oil Can 2010. Oil on canvas. Probably not the Jonas Wood image or link you were expecting. Link to Hammer show is in post, this link to La Montagne Gallery, Boston. Wood is a busy man!

David crowed about Four Seasons, also in the Hammer show, all weekend long, telling anyone who would listen “We giggled while snow fell on a bleeding man in a bathtub and flamboyantly orchestrated pianos and strings (Ferrante and Teicher, no less!) played and played. We kept our fingers crossed that Stella and Lucy would be reconciled and settle down with her/their nice neighbor.” You’ll gasp, you’ll be confounded and you’ll laugh, too. Apropos nothing (except Cytter’s use of spoken descriptions of forsaken, oppressive architecture influenced by Borges’s story The Immortal) I offer you a link to a fascinating experience with a real Borges nerd,, an online image and link-heavy dictionary to Borges sources.

Here’s a link to another Cytter film not included in the Hammer show Something Happened (serious) and a promotional video she produced for Dance International Europe NOW which offers a nice Cliffs Notes look at Cytter’s working methods.

(Proposed nice note to Jonas Wood on the occasion of his show at the UCLA Hammer Museum) Dear Jonas, your paintings at the Hammer are great! You mention Alexander Calder in the interview you did with Corrina Peipon for the catalogue (available upstairs at the bookstore – remember this when you get your ticket/sticker), what about the connection I see to Mark Rothko, with the blocky tri-partite color organization you use? Your brushstrokes are beautiful – they look thick and heavily applied but are see-through in places and extremely carefully placed. Sure, the whole two dimensional nature of painted space conundrum was a big topic way back, and you make reference to it again in the interview, but only in the words does the subject seem tired – the paintings hold my attention in a way that makes me glad to be looking.

Good Lord, Geoff first things first! Natilee Harren curated what I think is the best group show in town. (Yeah, no qualifications. Just is.) Friday, February 19 at FOCA Mandarin Plaza join all the best people you know at the closing party for All Time Greatest.

Work by Gabrielle Ferrer, Brendan Fowler, Alex Klein, Dave Muller, Eamon Ore Giron, Vincent Ramos, Steve Roden, Brian Roettinger, Sumi Ink Club (Luke Fischbeck and Sarah Rara), and Stephanie Taylor. You know I don’t always list all the artists in group shows; sometimes it’s easier for you to follow a link and read for yourself. But I particularly want you to notice each name and be aware that each of these stellar artists gave Natilee artwork/s that will beguile and delight you and also a vinyl record of their fave tunes to be played by you, the viewer, as you look at the work. At Friday’s celebration we’ll be serenaded with the vocal stylings of Simon Leung as he sings from the Stephanie Taylor songbook, and Brendan Fowler will perform as Steven/Stephen. (By the way, All Time Greatest will be on view through February 27.)

Taylor is one of the artists currently working in LA who’s pushing at the crispy dry edges of conceptual practice, making thinking-people’s art beautiful and fun.

David and I did a studio visit with Taylor a few weeks ago and spent two fascinating and exciting hours looking at and listening to several bodies of work while Taylor explained the intricacies of her systems based art, which is full of language and visual rhymes and intuitive cross-connections. What I notice about artists who “use systems” to make their work is that they are at their best when the systems go to hell. Not literally, of course, but while the intelligence used in making art may need structure and/or a reason for making, art can only be successful when liberal doses of intuitive thinking are allowed.

Kathryn Andrews is another artist who makes looking and thinking fun. You’ll remember her work from Emma Gray’s 2009 show at Honor Fraser, Bitch is the New Black and from her series of project space shows for other artists in Apartment 2. Do check out the wonderful work she’s showing at David Kordansky Gallery right now. The chromium-plated fence/gate things hung with balloons on the anniversary date of Andrews’ choosing have kept me happy since the opening. “There’s a party here!” they might say when the balloons are aloft, and “The gate is closed so maybe you can’t come in” which is a nice backhand slap to expectations. As the balloons deflate and sink one might be reminded of one’s own mortality. The angled cross-bar reinforces this notion of mortality by aping the cross-bar in the count-to-five method of marking a count with lines.Go look.

We visited with Sayre Gomez recently, too. After we saw the excellent show he curated at the Eagle Rock Art Center I had to meet him and see what he’s up to. I remember a 20″ x 20″ (give or take) panel with a small greenish area drawn and painted in the center of a carefully smudged and battered ivory field, resting on a shelf. It was in the middle of a very busy wall at the back of the studio. It sat there confident of being noticed. (Gomez has a show coming up at Fourteen30 in Portland in March. Check out that link and quickly find a reason to visit Portland! What a cool space. What great artists and books and projects they have! I love when looking up an artist brings me to great stuff like this.)

Each of these artists has the ability to sometimes use another artist’s work to complete their own work. (Among other things, of course.) This is a working method I’ve been appreciating lately. It sounds so easy, you just take great work from someone else, give it space or put your own work next to it and voila. But I think that anything so charmingly flip and seemingly lazy, and (to my eye and mind) so satisfyingly successful raises a lot more questions than much other work I see around. Did I mention beauty? That old-fashioned and sometimes undervalued priority too is almost always present in these artists’ work.

In the late 1990’s when David and I first started really looking at art in LA I was fascinated with monochrome painting. The luscious surfaces; beautiful and sometimes problematic colors; singleness of mind brought to bear in completing a work with such minimal affect by spending weeks or months doing it; all this captivated me. As is often the case with first loves, the more I saw and the longer I looked I became dissatisfied with the limited possibilities in these paintings.

James Krone, in his show The Wilderness is the Witches Leash at Country Club confronts those limitations head on and completely blows them away. Krone’s paintings are relatively monochromatic purple canvases that don’t speak to me of long, labored effort or of narrowing down choices. They look like chronicles of their making and, dare I say, like photo-exposures of the artist’s state of mind while painting. I feel involved, as I look, in the meditative nature of Krone’s act: quickly, deliberately and with as few brushstrokes as possible marking out a rectangular space in the canvas, encouraging the red and blue to show alongside the purple and the purple to sometimes become black.

A louche modernist, that’s James Krone in this show.

James Krone, Ceremonial Painting–Make us think. Make us think slow, 2009-2010 Oil on canvas. Link to Country Club.

Oh boy! For all you fellow catalog lovers and searchers for arcane knowledge: LACMA opens online catalog reading room! This report borrowed liberally from the LA Times, where I read this a few weeks ago and have meant to pass it along every week. Edward Kienholz (1966) and The New York School (1965) both curated by Maurice Tuchman, also A Report on the Art and Technology Program show (1971). Sixteen Projects (1981) by Stephanie Barron. Six Painters (1963) by Lawrence Alloway. Now I’ve done my part – the rest is up to you. enjoy.

The OsCene 2010 at the Laguna Art Museum. Opening Saturday, February 20th. This time I won’t list the artists as there a dozens of them, all from our southerly sister county. Curated by Grace Kook-Anderson, Jacqueline Bunge, Ashley Eckenweiler and Keiko Beatie.

Brad Moore, Jung Hye Sa, Anaheim, California 2008 From the show OsCene at Laguna Art Museum, curated by Grace Kook-Anderson. Link to Moore’s website.

If you’re planning on staying in town, here’s a plan of action:

Start out sometime before 5 pm at Richard Telles Fine Art, 7380 Beverly Blvd to see De Rigueur, a new group show with work by Walead Beshty, Lis Deschenes, Morgan Fisher and Seth Price. Telles cannot be accused of having florid taste.

I guess from here I’d go East on Beverly to Silverlake and catch the 101 South to the 110 North Chinatown offramp. Exit the 110 at Avenue 52, go North, turn right on Monte Vista and stop at Monte Vista Projects, 5442 Monte Vista St. Of course this opening’s not until 7 so you’ll want to stop in Chinatown (Chinese New Year Festival, which makes me reconsider sending you there. It’ll be a madhouse.) or at Workspace (Jenny Yurshansky: A Chance Operation) or The Brewery Raid Projects (Default State Network curated by Ryan Wallace) to spend the time between Richard’s and the opening.

Minimum Yields Maximum is the show opening Saturday. Curated by Gina Osterloh as a sort of homage to the work and community-building of Roberto Chabet, a Philippine artist who since the 1970’s has encouraged several generations of South-east Asian artists with his own work, his teaching, and his dedication to organizing.

Hmm. Let’s see. We’ve fought a war with Spain in the Philippines, and with Japan. We’ve fought the Philippines themselves on a few really ugly and shameful occasions. Remember learning in school about our colonizing ways back in, oh dear, that hero Teddy Roosevelt’s time? Why don’t we know more about this art? How many times do we need to be reminded to pay attention?

The proselytizing tone is mine. The work by these artists that I’ve seen online and at other shows is fascinating. There’s a list of artists after the link – check it out!

Stay a while at Monte Vista then race across town to LACE for an evening of performance at Gutted, organized by Dino Dinco. I’m not really sure what to expect of this evening, which is probably good. Surprise is a helpful part of most performance, unless you’re doing ritual. I have seen Brian Getnick perform last year at Elana Mann’s Performing Economies show at FOCA. And you know I’ve seen Dawn Kasper perform because I’ve told you about it. Gutted looks to be a party not to miss. See you there!

An otherwise nice girl called Alice, doing it at Miss Kitty’s. Appearing at LACE in Gutted on Saturday the 20th. Link to Alice’s website.

Benjamin Weissman, performing at LACE on Saturday. Link to The Believer March 2005 article about Weissman.

Good grief my friends, it’s gotten late. Thanks for spending time with me. Until next week!

Geoff Tuck

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