Notes on Looking, July 15, 2010
Chris Miles threw a great party at Acme on Saturday. Miles showed many ceramic sculptures titled “Noggins,” which are large head-shaped fired and glazed things mounted on stainless steel poles. These Noggins are installed en masse in the small rear gallery at Acme. Twenty of them, or more. (It feels like more.)
At the opening I had the distinct impression that two parties were happening at once but in different times: all us human cheerful gallery-goers were chattering to each other, congratulating Chris Miles, variously talking about our latest projects or querying about someone else’s. And we did this while bobbing and weaving among these other, frozen party goers who glared over our heads. These heads (the ones who glared) are ceramic glazed in oranges and umbers, a nice tone of yellow ochre and one I recall in a lovely mottle of cloud blue and terra cotta. They’re snarling, shouting, laughing, and selfishly vying for attention and posed on their stands well, just like well, people at a party.
Indeed it was a vivid affair. (And how like life, too!)
When I look at Caitlin Lonegan’s abstract paintings (in the front spaces at Acme) a story starts in my mind about how she might have made them. I imagine the paint being applied to the canvas, I see how the paints react to each other when they meet – sometimes bubbling and cracking on the canvas – I imagine I can see how Lonegan reacted to some of the painting’s own moves. Basically I’m aware that a conversation is going on here among an artist and a painting and of course a history and tradition of such painting. And an audience. We look and if we’re lucky we become interested and continue to look and wonder and think. This is Lonegan’s first show since graduating from UCLA. Abstract painting – painting qua painting – takes time and practice for an artist and for an audience.
Acme, 6150 Wilshire Blvd., LA 90048
By the way. Harumph. I understand (from guests at that barbecue I attended on Sunday) that UC Irvine is dismantling or has dismantled their giant sized ceramics kiln. A rumour is also making the rounds that UCLA is on a similar track as concerns ceramic art. (I honestly doubt that Cal Arts even acknowledges the existence of ceramics except as some well designed thing out of which one eats one’s lack-of-object-hood.)
WTF?! (To use the common parlance.) It’s been a long time since ceramics moved from being strictly functional and decorative to… art objects worthy of respect as vessels of conceptual exploration. (to turn a phrase) Furthermore, if an artist doesn’t learn to use a tool how in the hell are they going to be able to misuse it to their and our benefit? And I’ll go one step farther: You can’t pretend something doesn’t exist and thereby master the thing! Trust me, I know. I find I have to study harder work I totally don’t respect or else it will trip me up and make me look and feel stupid when I then choose to dismiss or mock it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge fan of ceramic art per se. I do see work that includes ceramics that completely grabs my attention and I’m a big fan of an open art that maintains a necessarily critical mind yet considers everything in it’s path.
“Cheeses rice,” as a student commented at a particularly alarming turn during a talk I gave recently to Christopher Russell’s first year art class at Rio Hondo College. I treated the twenty-five students to a images of work by the recent Cal Arts and Irvine grads and another large group of images I pulled from past Notes and and talked (a little meanderingly) about my own interest in art and how they can approach art and why they should want to. I used particular images to make clear why I look – sometimes the reasons I shared were very personal and sometimes they came from my interest in art history. Sometimes the work I showed was something I liked and sometimes not but the reasons for being interested stayed the same. Human endeavor is worthy of attention.
Onward to more Notes!
Micro-financing. What an inspiring and empowering invention! The thought that my several dollars will help a person change their life is pretty great. Shift gears to our own art community.
Kickstarter is a new way for artists to reach out to friends and also a broader community to finance a project. An email with a link goes out; individuals see an artist they know speaking passionately and intelligently about their planned exhibition catalog, or view clips from a film project; terms are set in the announcement for a defined period of time in which to raise the desired funds; results are shown and updated instantly on the Kickstarter website. No money goes anywhere unless the goal is reached! One knows how important one’s decision will be! One still may choose not to support but the comfort level is there to make it wonderfully easy to give! I offer you two opportunities that recently came my way: Damelo Todo (Give Me Everything) by artist Wu Tsang and the Silver Platter / Wildness community and also Splendid Entities by artist Phyllis Green. You’ll see two different and equally powerful examples of outreach when you click on these links: Green makes a matter-of-fact personal appeal – almost as though she’s talking to friends; Tsang offers a moving and compelling clip from his upcoming film Damelo Todo. Each artist has a different goal, a different hoped-for outcome and differing time constraints. I won’t twist your arm – I won’t need to!
Tsang’s film is about Wildness, a weekly nightclub that attracts a young, immigrant trans gendered crowd for drag shows, dances, contemporary art events, political action and legal aid. Essentially Wildness exists as a maker of community for people who can’t have one at home because of fear, anger and rejection on the part of family and context. In this country their dream becomes a possibility (through an awesome force of will). Thinking about it, that people find the challenges our country arrays against them in the form of anti-immigrant campaigns, legal persecution and plain old meanness easy to deal with (or at least easier than any alternative) makes me feel absolutely… humble. And grateful to be human. If people who are like you and me can be so great-hearted and strong then it’s all gonna be ok.
The Silver Platter (the bar where Wildness is hosted) is itself a bastion for the immigrant queer community and has been for forty years. All of this makes for a compelling story with gorgeous images. Who doesn’t like a crazy drag show?!
They Have Not the Art to Argue With Pictures is closing this weekend!!! Good Lord if you haven’t been to Cherry and Martin to see work by Robert Heinecken, Erik Frydenborg, Nicolas Guagnini, Wade Guyton, Leigh Ledare, Amanda Ross-Ho and Collier Shore you are missing the single chance you will ever have to see examples of each of Heinecken’s altered periodicals as one glorious, unsettling, awe-inspiring, pornographic thing. (Settle down in the back row there! I see what you’re doing!) Here’s a review by David Pagel in the LA Times. I recommend you ignore everything Pagel writes in this review about any artist who is NOT Robert Heinecken. I think Pagel’s crabby about something, and I refer him to my above sentiment that you can’t reject an entire way of making art (as Pagel does with some conceptual art) just because you want to. Or you can but readers stop paying attention.
Cherry and Martin, 2712 S. La Cienega Blvd., LA, 90034
The Alchemy of Things Unknown is not closing this weekend. It’s not closing on July 31. BUT GO THIS SATURDAY ANYWAY! Do you want to be the last person in LA to see the amazing Aleister Crowley painting that Leila got her hands on? Or the gorgeous William Blake engravings that exist quite happily beside two Jim Shaw drawings? Scoli Acosta’s Tambourine Man-esque relics titled Red Pentagonal Monochrome and Yellow Pentagonal Monochrome? (Clever is the artist who can make monochrome paintings interesting again.)
I am told that Jim Shaw will be performing in the gallery on July 24. Where would you like to be on that night? Call the gallery for details 323-472-6498
Khastoo, 7556 Sunset Blvd., LA 90046
My friends once again my obsessive checking of various websites each week TOTALLY PAYS OFF FOR ME AND FOR YOU:
Tuesday Afternoon in a Cage opens at Shirley Morales’s Ltd. Los Angeles this Saturday, July 17. (I like this title Shirley!! Good work.) Paintings by Van Hanos, James Hayward, Scott Reeder, Jan Van Imschoot, Michael Williams. Ltd is another reason to hit Sunset Blvd on Saturday. If you time things right you can see the show at Khastoo, Benevento’s excellent new show (make sure you give yourself at least 35 minutes to view Spartacus Chetwynd’s film and Pipilotti Rist’s video), and then cross Sunset to Ltd.
Ltd. Los Angeles, 7561 Sunset Blvd. #103, LA 90046
Benevento, 7578 sunset Blvd., LA 90046
Spend an hour with Shirley at Ltd then you’ll want to jump in your roadster and motor down either La Brea or Fairfax, turning left on Wilshire (if you take Fairfax) then right on Ogden (at the glare of Chris Burden’s City Lights) left on Genesee and park anywhere you can. If you’re going La Brea I guess you’ll turn right on Wilshire and left on Spaulding ( btwn the old LACMA parking lot and the tall white building).
“Why are we doing this Geoff?” Well my friends because you don’t want to be the silly willy who misses the opening of Kori Newkirk’s solo show at Country Club.
Imagine if you will this famous sculptor, poet, glitter-tongued art master and general nice guy taking over Schindler’s modernist utopian crisp white hard-edged stunning space and (I’m told) colonizing it with a decade’s evidence of physical (and artistic) exertion in the form of Newkirk’s sweat-stained T-shirts worn in the studio then used as cleaning towels. Yes, you got that right! The stain of the artists existence mars the purity of the modern setting.
Country Club, 805 S. Genesee Ave., LA 90036
Among the very new: Latned Atsar an artists space at 3222 W. Jefferson Blvd., LA, 90018. Offering as their inaugural exhibition “Larval Stages” the aptly titled presentation of thirteen artists “sketches, mock-ups, maquettes and drafts” recontextualized as artworks. This sounds like work we aren’t often invited to see, and given the artists involved I’m intrigued. Spencer Lewis, Julie Orser, Luke Whitlatch, Anna Skarbek, Joshua Callaghan, Hannah Greely, Frank Ryan, Patrick Jackson, Annie Lapin, Nick Kramer, Nathan Danilowicz, Rob Doran, Jani Benjamins.
Latned Atsar, 3222 W. Jefferson Blvd., LA 90018
Eve Fowler’s exhibition Hustlers & Books from “The One Institute” at Apartment 2 has had me thinking and re-appreciating my experience since I saw it in mid-June.
Fowler took these photos with her 4 x 5 camera after she left Yale, while she was making friends and hanging out with these boys and men in the West Village. Some she posed like school pictures against a blue background and others, among which are the 28 she installed in the living room at Apartment 2, Fowler invited these friends to pose as they wished to in the setting of their choice. Many of these photos were taken in the very streets the hustlers walked. (Can you imagine setting up a large format 4 x 5 camera and capturing moments that disappear quickly on a street that is completely sketchy?) Others were taken in the living room of a client, at the beach, or in a car.
The boys’ poses and the resulting photographs combine rawness with play-acting. A person posing for the camera usually looks hidden within the pose. Or so affected as to reveal nothing. Not so these boys – they look raw and open in the pictures, unable to cover themselves. I wonder if they’re nostalgic for the life that cast them off onto the streets? I wonder about the sense of nostalgia I feel for these photos and the loss I recognize in those faces. I imagine Eve with her large camera and tripod walking these streets, making short-term connections, making photographs, embracing the drama. The image of her in this act has the same outlandish quality and a similar poignancy to the playing of the boys.
For this show she printed the photos 3-1/2″ x 4-1/2″ essentially the size of the film used. She installed them a bit below eye level in a horizontal band around all the walls, far enough apart that each photo occupied its own space. Doing this Fowler invites us to consider the posed men just as she saw them through her lens. (This size of the photos matches contact prints, which a photographer will print to make her final selection of images and it seems to me another generous invitation to intimacy with the artist.) The pictures, while exhibiting the bold and dashing personalities of the boys also seemed evanescent and precious, like relics or icons from a time that’s gone away; which the time pictured is. Gone personally for Fowler these 15 years later as well as for the hustlers. (It seems like it was disappearing even as she took the photos. The contingency of the hustlers life: coming from another place, with few connections, soon to be gone; I imagine this is partly what drew Eve Fowler to these boys as subjects.) Also that scene is gone culturally – hustlers don’t now populate the dark corners of Manhattan anymore than they do Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood and Selma Avenue in Hollywood. It’s bittersweet, this new morality. As is the attendant assimilation of otherwise queer culture.
In the bedroom Fowler installed her sculptural piece 43 Books, which are forty-three examples of lesbian literature collected from sale racks at The One Institute. (The One Institute is a USC affiliated archive of queer history) (as an aside I’ve been told by a scholar friend that this same One Institute archive has in the past discarded many of the hard core examples from donated literature in an attempt to cleanse the history they preserve)
Fowler wrapped these collected novels and narratives of lesbian life in paper from her own editioned zines and placed them grid-like on the surface of a high table. Not being able to read the titles or leaf through the books was a frustrating experience. Nahr – the past was really gone and locked away from me! These thoughts of lesbians were hidden not only from me, a man, but from all potential readers. This reminded me of the past that was also documented as disappearing in the living room hustler photos. But with the books Fowler offered me a way in. She typed a list of the titles, for example: 43 Books: The Sophie Horowitz Story, Sarah Schulman, 1984, the Naiad Press Inc. “We all knew Laura Wolfe. She was part of a group known as Women Against Bad Things…” and later on Fowler offers her own thoughts on the titles – Retreat: As it was! A fantasy by Diana J, Young, Naiad Press, Inc., 1979. cover by Tee A. Corinne. Retreat-A world of women beyond your imagination? What it was like before the men came. The cover is the best part of this curious gay sci fi work of fiction. My favorite part of this story and also of the wonder of the Internet is that here and now I can offer you a link to this document on Fowler’s blog Treasures From A Lesbian Library. Life continues to be good!
Here’s an interview of Eve Fowler by Gil Blank (originally published in Influence magazine) that will help you understand how nostalgia and loss fit into Fowler’s (self) portraiture. Highly recommended reading.
Apropos nothing but a desire to spread the good word I offer you a link to the QCC homepage where featured is an article by Jonathan D. Katz titled Allen Ginsberg, Herbert Marcuse and the Politics of Eros. Enjoy.
Thank you very much for spending your time with me. Come again next week!