Notes on Looking, August 19, 2010
Hello my friends,
I don’t often recommend bars to you. Or to anyone – I mean good lord, who wants advice on a drinking establishment from a middle-age man? (Oh, right – taking into account life experience who might know better?)
On the other hand I’m definitely not going out on a limb by telling you to visit 1642 on Temple Street. I do this because the room felt good to be in. Really good. Easy even. It fit my soul, so to speak. And the proprietor was extremely nice to me even though I had only $2 for a root beer and no tip. The place is entirely comfortable, spare, and hosted by the aforementioned proprietor – the charming and also bracingly spare Elizabeth Fischbach. (I deduce her name from this helpfully descriptive LA Times article by Jessica Gelt.)
By the way – I read 5 online posts about 1642 and three of them mention salted peanuts. It’s important for me to note that the peanuts are not salted. The pretzels are. The peanuts taste fresh, not sugared and definitely not salted. Yay. The address again? 1642 Temple Street in LA, 90026. Just south-east of where Glendale Ave. and the 101 cross below Echo Park Lake.
This has been a particularly good weekend for being out of doors and then moving inside to look at things. Beginning for me in the burning glare reflected off of Disney Hall, where we considered waiting on line for two or so hours to trade concert tickets we don’t want for ones that we do. With Redcat just around the corner it wasn’t even a struggle to quit the wait. My desire to secure good seats for the upcoming LA Phil / Thomas Ades festival “Aspects of Ades” will have to wait. (Here’s a link to NY Phil Music Director Alan Gilbert talking about In Seven Days and Ades’s collaboration with artist Tal R.)
Ok. This Ades fest doesn’t take place until April. I just want to dream about it for a while right now. Among the music featured will be Ades’s own In Seven Days, Stravinsky’s Les noces, Conlon Nancarrow Studies 6 and 7, Gerald Barry The Importance of Being Earnest (a world premiere), a new work by Ades paired with Olivier Messiaen’s Eclairs sur l’au-dela, and more. Links are to an entire suite of Stravinsky selections including les Noces; an unidentified recording of Nancarrow’s Study 7; and a lovely 6 minute portion of Messiaen’s Eclairs. Gently putting music aside we move on to art.
At Redcat, Chen Chieh-jen is is showing Empires Borders II – Western Enterprises, Inc. this is a three channel film installation roughly telling the story of Taiwan’s incorporation into Western-based globalization in the Post-WWII cold war era. What I saw managed to do this through the lens of the artist’s relationship with his father and the father’s mysterious (and in fact purposefully disappeared) past. The father volunteered in the 1950s to serve in a “National Salvation Army” on an anti-Communist foray into the mainland, which was largely – or entirely – orchestrated by the CIA. In later years he destroyed the contents of photo albums and file folders leaving only containers for lost memories. I will admit to not staying 64 or so minutes to watch the entirety of the three projections – we were there about 20 minutes then had to dash to feed our meter.
The films are beautiful, if achingly slow. The attendant photographs (along the front space) are very touching when one understands the source and some of the story behind the images. We (who wilfully spend our spare time searching out museums, galleries and art spaces) understand the commitment required to take in art, especially film work it seems. It’s nice to be reminded that understanding takes time. It’s also sometimes a tough call for me.
I respect and admire what’s up on the screen but I only have one day for this…
North to Chinatown and Actual Size to see Katie Herzog, Informel.
The Birth of Satan, a show of work by Gustavo Herrera is at Human Resources through September 14. (click on Current Exhibition)
Allow my worrying (and sad) self to break in on this conversation for a moment. Changes are taking place in the wonderful neighborhood that serves our city as a Petri dish for young art and experimentation – Chinatown. While there are cheer-making lateral moves happening (China Art Objects moves to Comey Street in Culver City while Pepin Moore moves to 933 Chung King Road; another two spaces with admirable programs are – so the story goes – moving variously from Chinatown to Hollywood and Culver City) I’m hearing stories (without real knowledge) that a few long standing and estimable spaces may just have or may just be about to… disappear.
These passionate and hard working dealers who’ve been single-mindedly inviting artists to push us ever farther along the cultural continuum deserve a ton of credit. Thank one of them. Gee, if it’s not too late and you’re able, say thanks by buying something. But given the general dearth of profits for any business these past few years – let’s face it, it may have to be a simple heart-felt “thanks for showing this work, you’ve really enriched my life” or something like that.
Since I can’t change things I’ll stop here.
On a lighter note, the LA History Archive and the Studio for Southern California History have (has?) moved into 977 N. Hill St. in Chinatown. We saw big signs on the street: “NEW MUSEUM!” “COME INSIDE” so, being two rubes we did. And had fun visiting. What we saw are clippings from newspapers over the years documenting community action and law enforcement reaction – juicy things from the past 150 years. This newly relocated but one year old space offers a huge opportunity for learning, becoming involved, smiling and countering any cynicism one may feel with a good dose of showing us what’s possible through group action.
A quote from the website mission statement: “Our mission is to critically chronicle and disseminate the region’s social history in order to foster sense of place and social responsibility.”
Did I qualify this as lighthearted? I think that, even with the gallery attendants’ easy smiles and cheerful offers of explanation, these people are quite serious. (Every once in a while in the non-profit art/culture world I want someone like Mark Lombardi to map all the connections out for me. Drawings, file cards, the whole shebang. Especially when a thing feels so… seamless. Um, where do they get all this… energy?)
Jancar Gallery has Supernatural up through the 28th. Last call!
Supernatural is a large show spread across two floors with about a million artists. Jenny Holzer hangs right inside the front door patiently explaining to us that “When you start to like pain things get interesting…” Well not Holzer herself, but a page-size flat simulacrum in black lettering with red background. Pretty sweet. Dorit Cypis has a nice photo and text piece from I think 1975 – an image of the horizon from a beach with her ruminations on actually finding the ability to believe the earth is round. It’s really captivating and sweet.
Sarah Cromarty shows a painting (with I think ink jet print) on plywood panel: a young woman in a black dress with her back us on an undefinable dark concrete-like ground who isn’t quite looking into a large hole that’s hacked into the plywood sort of over her head and right shoulder. I notice a rainbow ribbon crossed in a lower corner, the ends trailing off the painting, above they circle almost to enclose the painting’s space. I see similar tattoos on the woman’s ankles. I wonder about this, and also about the paint-smeared plastic crystals dangling in the hacked hole – again a rainbow effect. How many ways can one read a hole, a void in a painting? Several immediately come to my mind and trail off in different directions. Does the repetition of the rainbow (tattoos on painting’s subject and applied to the surface of painting and then again on the crystals) indicate that as one reads the colors on the painting’s surface they also imply some (interior) information about the woman? Or about the artist? Where does self-portraiture fit into Cromarty’s way of painting? Does it at all?
This is what I sometimes do in front of a painting – ask questions. It helps.
Pepin Moore have a lot going on this weekend. Friday they’re launching Second Story, an ambitiously wide-ranging multiple showroom / resource located above the main space. Caution here (or more likely enticement): Pepin Moore are not yet publishing what we commonly call multiples and prints. In this initial phase of a long term project they’ve invited select artists to bring them works of art that come in multiples. (“Can I have Artworks That Match for $1000 Alex?”)
I saw two of Kristin Calabrese’s meticulous oil paintings (these of embroidered jean pockets – they brought to mind the rear-ends of cheerfully decadent girls in the suburban CA neighborhood where I grew up in the 1970s); a pair of lovely white ballet slippers (by an artist whose name escapes me now – but don’t let my foolish lack of note taking stop you from asking to see these wonderful sculptures), and as we talked with Genevieve and John a new package was delivered (and went unopened while I stayed) holding the promise of art looking and buying opportunities hidden inside the wrapping.
A quick jump down Hill St. to the Cesar Chavez cutoff, left on Grand (not quite the Champs Elysees and doesn’t want to be anyway), swooping gracefully onto the 110 south to exit at 4th St.
Musee Los Angeles, 1451 East 4th Street, Second Floor – open Friday thru Monday from 1 to 6 pm.
Often I try for an overarching theme to draw my writing together. When I think to myself now, “What is the thing you noticed this weekend overall, Geoff?” I must respond that I noticed depth and excellence of work. In many places. Supernatural at Jancar; here at Musee Los Angeles where Mieke Marple pulled together stunning work by young LA artists as well as some international heavy hitters – works by Fiona Banner, Meg Cranston and Jason Rhoades that look not like the typical “examples of work by” give-aways to an ambitious young curator but in fact are “works by X, X and X” in the service of an idea.
Keeping with the theme of excellence and depth (while beginning a new paragraph) we headed to Culver City where we watched the middle hour and a half of the movie Vanishing Point at Drew Heitzler’s Endless Bummer / Surf Elsewhere show at Blum and Poe. The film isn’t mentioned on the check list, it sort of hides in a small back space just beyond where Scott Benzel’s turntable sits on the floor. We wandered in to look for a moment and found ourselves at closing time transfixed by the beautiful, nihilistic statement of 70s… something. Later, as we walked up La Cienega David asked me whether I remembered the many wonderful Saturday afternoons we spent at Drew Heitzler and Flora Weigman’s Champion Fine Art on Comey Street and how absolutely on point and challenging much of what we saw and talked about there was. And how thought provoking and generous was the spirit with which Drew and Flora imbued that space. I do remember, with gratitude. And I understand why he asked the question – the time we spent in Blum and Poe watching Vanishing Point had the same mind opening effect. Thanks Drew, for a great experience.
Kelly Barrie Between the Blinds at Maloney Fine Art on La Cienega. There’s a fairly detailed and interesting description of the artist’s working method online and in the gallery. To make these photos Barrie moves luminescent dust around on black paper with his feet – sort of dancing photography, if you will. What strikes me is how much of himself Barrie puts into these photos, and in a very un-handed way. As I write it occurs to me how closely the term un-handed resembles unmanned – as an artist Barrie is skilled with his hands: a man’s skills are intertwined with his self-hood, perhaps his manhood. One would feel goofy and not confident working this way (with one’s feet), and accidents would happen. Barrie is early in this body of work. Mistakes are adding up just as his skills are developing. This tension is nice.
I’m nearly spent, I haven’t found any images yet, it’s late. I don’t feel like I’ve covered as much as I want to. Yes, I’m making excuses. I’ll add stuff to the blog as I’m able.
Thanks for reading, thanks for waiting for me. I missed you on the email last week!