Notes on Looking, April 15, 2010
Hello friends and Fellows,
I missed you last week.
La Cienega galleries in Culver City, playing follow the leader with big boys Blum and Poe, had a Friday night opening on April 7th. Eek! What can it mean? Um, probably nothing; but I favor exclamatory openings, even pointless ones. Where would the marketplace be without manufactured excitement?
Retrogradiato cruciata refers to the structure one uses for composing a sestina, a complex poem form 12th Century troubadours employed to delight and woo maidens. (Apparently Medieval maidens were charmed by abstruse mathematical formulae sung by handsome young men in tight, bright hose. Well sure.) Briefly, the form requires 6 six line stanzas completed by a three line envoi passage. Written in blank verse, the final word of each of the first six lines must repeat formulaically as endings in the following stanzas and then again in the envoi where two previously final words appear in each line. Whew!
Greg Wilken at Country Club Friday night screened his film Retrogradiato Cruciata on the generously wide-screen living room wall of Schindler’s Buck House, employing the 12th Century compositional structure with film clips and sound in a film that utilizes found, archival clips and lovely 16mm films that Wilken has shot on his travels around the world. Wilken’s choices include shots of libraries and archives, pedestrians negotiating rainy city streets, fantastical glowing underwater creatures, lightning storms in the tropics, film of the Buck House itself and other architectural spaces, each clip carefully and beautifully demonstrating the contrast and repetition that exists among color, pattern, shape and structure in our visual world.
All of this shown in a Modernist masterpiece of domestic architecture that might have been designed for film. The living room wall is wide enough to mimic an old fashioned “silver screen” and a narrow strip of windows along the top provide a view of Wilshire Blvd towers that gound one in the city. To the south a bank of floor to ceiling windows offer a view from the patio, where many guests gathered on this night enjoying Wilken’s film, the crackle of a fire and the clack of giant bamboo in the soft breeze. It was glorious. Thanks Greg.
Saturday morning we headed to Sea and Space to (finally) see Nicholas Grider’s curatorial project Queer Territories. There we met artist Joanne Mitchell gallery sitting. A portion of Mitchell’s piece in the show called Dear Lesbian takes takes it’s title from an often re-published early 1970s classic of Feminist literature Our Bodies, Ourselves and in particular the chapter relating to lesbian culture. In a very matter of fact fashion Mitchell shows us an image of each cover as the book has been reissued over the years, changing tables of contents and titles of chapters, and also excerpts from these chapters as the culture within the collective producing the book changed and the larger culture around them changed. In front of this wall mounted installation stand two old fashioned microphones and across the room near the entry a table is scattered with xeroxes of letters written to the collective after publication of the first edition from women interested in the brief Lesbian chapter.
I appreciate the light touch with which Mitchell offers us these epistolary remnants from a time when people felt separated even while among others who also felt separate. I don’t think the authors of these letters would feel made use of by Mitchell, nor did I feel that my political sympathies and emotions were manipulated.
The personal-ness of Mitchell’s project comes across when you and a friend select a letter to read aloud at the microphones. The words as I read them put me right there – between the eyes of the artist and the paper as she typed the letters by hand reading them in the library where they are stored. I was also aware of the eyes of the staff member of the collective reading the letter for the first time in 1974, and I was able to picture a woman sitting down, picking up a pen and writing this letter. As it happens the letter I chose was from a fifty-four year old woman living in a small town in Massachusetts in 1974.
I had the thought that moments such as the ones documented in these letters are where Feminism and indeed many political actions get their start: in a personal thought, an impulse followed through, a way found, and lessons learned and taught. From tiny acorns and all that. Now we’re surrounded by the resultant giant oaks I think it’s easy to lose sight of the acorns still all around us.
With Queer Territories curator Grider does a great job of showing work that is basically political and identity based yet does not come across as didactic or even terribly literal. While none of the work is necessarily abstract there is a sense of freedom a viewer feels and a distinct and pleasurable openness to the many possible readings of the individual works and the show as a whole that clearly relates it to the history of abstract art. Nicely done.
I just got an email from Kantor Gallery telling me that Dennis Koch has an opening this Thursday from 6 to 8. I remember seeing and admiring Koch’s work at High Energy Constructs on Hill St. in Chinatown a while back. Kantor’s hours are Monday through Friday noon to 5 pm and by appointment. What on earth?! Who, who, who can get out to galleries on weekday afternoons? This nice person (Mr. Kantor), who has long been a fixture and is a second or third generation art dealer in Los Angeles, might do his artists (and their public) a better service by opening on Saturdays. Dennis, your work is beautiful (everyone see the attached image), and I hope I get to the opening; but it’s not likely since I’m beat by the end of the day. If you are able to wander during weekdays make sure to stop by Kantor!
Kantor Gallery, 7025 Melrose Ave, 90038. (Parking is pretty cruel in this neighborhood. There’s plenty of street parking on Melrose and also La Brea but watch for the 4 – 7 pm No Parking.)
Speaking of High Energy Constructs: Michael Decker is having a show at Steve Turner opening April 24th, I Wish I Could Say What I Feel. (Granted that’s two weeks away so think of this as a companion piece to the Dennis Koch note.) Also opening that evening at Turner will be Rowan Wood with a show modestly titled For the Benefit of Humanity. If you’ve paid attention at all over the last year you’ll recall seeing Wood’s calligraphic black and white paintings in shows at Parker Jones, Steve Turner and Eli Langer’s Sundays gallery. So bring your memories with you when you come and check out what looks like entirely new work, reminding yourself as you look that manufacturers make the same thing perfectly again and again while artists advance, reconsider, shift direction – um, it’s a human thing. Pretty cool! (If you want a refresher course on the paintings click to Wood’s artist page on Turner’s website – it’s homework worth doing.)
Steve Turner Gallery, 6026 Wilshire Blvd, 90036
Not to beat myself to death relentlessly boosting Turner but on their schedule I notice an upcoming show with Julie Orser. Someone at this gallery is brilliant. Cheers.
We visited Iva Gueorgorguieva’s show at Angles on Saturday. Gueorgorguieva has been showing in LA since 2005 and while her large canvases are quite rooted in representation and often in folk tales this new show comes very close to abstraction. I stopped myself from using the word “deliriously close” because you’d wonder why my head is spinning. (Use adverbs and adjectives carefully, I often remind myself.) There exists an almost vortexical feeling of action in the paintings, and she’s cut strips of muslin, dyed them and attached them to the canvases like brushstrokes – in some places cutting away to reveal the dyed muslin underneath the canvas. In other places she cut through the canvas itself to leave gaps and spaces.
Angles, 2754 S. La Cienega Blvd, 90034
I’m frustrated to admit that I haven’t been west of Robertson in a while. It’s a big city and one day a week isn’t enough anymore. I’m coming out to you with this because a nice person named Lem Kelley took me to task about it. Um, for shame, Geoff. Among the shows I’m looking forward to seeing on the Westside are:
LA Louver – Olga Koumoundouros Hard Times: Owed to Studs Terkel and all of us; Charles Garabedian Recent Paintings; and David Hockney More Drawing in a Printing Machine. Three amazing and fairly disparate artists each at different points in their careers. Louver knocks one out of the park again. In other Charles Garabedian news Julie Joyce is “working fast and furiously” on a survey of the artists work set to open at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in January 2011. Look forward to that show and to catalogue essays by Christopher Miles and Michael Duncan. Early congratulations Julie!
Garabedian is a kind of anachronistic artist in Los Angeles. If Marcel Duchamp is the moon that draws the tides of basic contemporary art in LA as elsewhere, then I suppose Garabedian worships another orb entirely. Although contemporary with Larry Bell, Ed Moses, Robert Irwin, etc. he sort of branched off just before Modernism to work out his own figurative and often mythology based paintings. As a painter he can’t be matched so one should really see this show.
(Keeping Santa Barbara in mind please, please, please help me remember the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum. I hardly ever make the trek to SB to see what’s going on but I keep hearing about the amazing programing by Executive Director Miki Garcia. Currently showing are Sanford Biggers Moon Medicine and Melanie Schiff Stones. Produced by the CAF to accompany Biggers’ exhibition is his first monographic museum catalogue – well done Miki Garcia!)
Christopher Grimes currently has Waltercio Caldas showing. Grimes website has an ocean of resources on it, including for Caldas a video interview between Caldas and Gary Garrells. Yay.
Luis de Jesus (previously mentioned but not yet visited) has new work by David Adey. Everything I know about this show is contained herein. There are images and a nice press release online. Check it out.
At Rosamund Felsen, Karen Carson’s Let’s Face the Music and Dance closes this week.
I imagine some of you saw Louis Andriessen’s La Commedia at Disney Hall on Tuesday. If you missed it let me hasten to cheerfully assure you that you missed an unforgettable performance. Really. I was practically dancing in my seat. (Yes I’m famously susceptible but honestly this was great.) Andriessen draws on Dante’s Divina Commedia, the King James Bible, a text by Joost Van Den Vondel (17th Century Dutch poet) and a text by Herman Pleij (Professor of historical literature at the University of Amsterdam). Andriessen “…views Dante’s text as more concerned with our life on earth than with the afterlife, and Dante’s comic vehicle was irony. Irony is what generates the drama in my opera…” (from Thomas May Program Notes) For a more considered and knowledgable review read Mark Swed’s Culture Monster blog post.
If you don’t want to miss the next probably life-changing performance in LA then come to Zipper Hall for Vicki Ray’s April 27th Piano Spheres presentation of Olivier Messiaen’s Harawi, Chant d’amour et de mort with vocalist Elissa Johns and video artist Lars Jan. (Lars Jan on Vimeo and on Mobile Performance.org). I understand from reading that this music can be thought of as Messiaen’s response to Wagner’s Liebestod. Wagner was writing at the cutting edge of music in the 19th Century and Messiaen considered what Debussey and Stravinsky did with music at the turn of the last century to then write this wonder at the cutting edge of the 20th Century. I heard this concert with the same performers (lacking only the video accompaniment) at Jacaranda last year and am totally in line to see it again. (Click for link to Patrick Scott’s fascinating history of Messiaen’s piece.)
Zipper Hall, 200 S. Grand Ave, LA 90012.
I’d be worse than remiss if I failed to tell you that Jacaranda has a concert this Saturday. Magic Realism includes music by Heitor Villa-Lobos, Osvaldo Golijov and Astor Piazzolla.
Kelly Barrie and Sherin Guirguis invite you to their home for an evening of art with Artist Curated Projects new show Tilt. Work by Tami Demaree, Stephen Heer, Pearl C. Hsiung, Amir Fallah, Asad Faulwell and Zachary Hansen. Yes, you heard me right – in their home. Exceedingly generous (and brave) of them. Sunday, April 18 from 4 to 7 pm.
The Barrie/Guirguis House, 5908 El Mio Dr., LA 90042.
Country Club opens Fritz Chesnut: Peak and Flow Saturday, April 17.
Country Club, Genesee and 8th St., LA 90036
2nd Cannons has Group Show (Almost A4 Person Show) from 7 – 9 pm at their 510 Bernard St. space. Katie Aliprando, Darren Bader, Matias Faldbakken, Mateo Tannatt. Come have a beer and cheer them on!
2nd Cannons Gallery, 510 Bernard St, Chinatown, 90012
Did you hear something about Mateo Tannatt? Have you seen his show Rendezvous Vous at Marc Foxx Gallery? What did you think of it? What about Charlie Chaplin came to mind? Did you channel Frank Wedekind and Friedrich Schiller while you were there? (Do you believe Wikipedia that Wedekind’s birth name was Benjamin Franklin Wedekind?) (Can you please give me a very brief primer on Schiller’s On the Aesthetic Education of Man? I love his plays but I completely stumble with that one.) How many questions can I possibly ask? Do you want details about a performance this coming Sunday in Mateo’s purple welded steel sculpture? Did I hear a “YES!”?
The answers to these and many more of your questions are available at:
Mateo Tannatt, Rendezvous Vous
Marc Foxx Gallery, 6150 Wilshire Blvd, LA 90048
I’ve been holding my breath. I just exhaled. Thanks again for reading!