Monday madness at Notes on Looking

Hello my friends,

First, a development on the home front that I’d like to share with you: the budget axe has fallen on my day job.

I am no longer working with HED to make a sleeker and more efficient architectural services deliver model. As of Friday I am exclusively Geoff Tuck, “Notes on Looking.”

Two and a half years ago when I started the Notes on Looking weekly emails I had several hundred weekly readers. Over the months with FOCA and then with FYA my readers list grew to several thousand a week. Now, on my own banner I reach a similar number of local and international readers. I accomplished this in thirty months working only ten or twenty hours a week. All of you know who I am and seek out my thoughts. I’m proud of what I’ve done with limited hours. Can you imagine what I can do working full time?

To use one of my favorite locutions – I’m stoked.

There are several ways I can carry forth on my plans, I shall be a while considering and researching. Feel free to make contact: [email protected]

When I look around the field of journalism and communications I see many content providers, internet and paper based, and hybrids. Many of them are replicating an older style of delivery: sort of top down, single-source, in the objective voice and at a remove from what is being discussed. In addition I find a new style – one that takes advantage of free or cheap labor for the promise of greater exposure.

The first feels old fashioned to me. The second new style, just feels wrong.

When I look at Notes on Looking I see the future. Notes is a voice coming from within the social network of cultural producers. My concern is to work my butt off to look at art and to ask questions of artists. As I learn I share, in the hope that my search may inform your own. My model is one of support, rather than critique. Never a yea or a nay, work isn’t “good” or “bad” in my reviews, work is unpacked and explored. I find that the artists I talk with learn things just as I do. Since you keep reading I hope that you learn things, too.

As against the publishing world, which I see dying in a field dry of new attention, when I look around the Los Angeles art community I see…. people like Mark Allen of Machine Project – a huge inspiration to me and one of the grandparents of the world I live in. I see Eve Fowler and Lucas Michael of Artist Curated Projects, Paul Pescador and Daniel Ingroff of Workspace, Davida Nemeroff of Night Gallery. Julie Deamer of Outpost and now of the Harpo Foundation and I see Carol Stakenas of LACE. They all create communities because they offer cheerful, intelligent, rigorous, adamantine: hope. Review my Solstice 2010 post where I’ve listed fifty some such organizations and individuals. I mean that, really. I’m proud of that post – it’s beautiful! Read it if you haven’t.

(After I posted this yesterday evening, I had a studio visit with Jason Ramos of Raid Projects. Ramos delivered an impromptu and inspiring speech that warmed my heart. Paraphrasing: “I cannot simply make a painting and wait for it to show, I have to build a context for it to communicate something deeper – to find those deeper notions. I have a space, so I invite people to show their work, this begins a conversation; I challenge these new friends to curate a show with artists they admire. Each new voice adds to the grammar of our growing shared language. We polemicize and dispute, we converse and engage in dialectic: we create a pedagogy. We become a community.” This is so up my line! Yay Jason.)

We all seem to share what I’ve taken as my motto:

For one of us to succeed, we all must succeed.

The key is to experiment freely and invite other artists, and audiences, along. Everybody gets to have fun. And everybody gets the goods. Because the goods are in sharing, and discovering, and in offering, and bringing along, and in changing.

Every act I make, every word I write on Notes on Looking, is designed to push our conversation farther – and to encourage people and to empower them to do great things. That I think of this as giving you the news of the LA art world should tell you that I have spent my life watching advertisers and popular culture makers (who in my mind eat the souls of their audiences), and I know the tricks.

I can create more enthusiasm than a Pepsi ad.

And I won’t eat your soul. I understand that my readers generously give me their attention, you give it to me, I don’t steal it. In my above example of advertisers and popular culture makers, attention is stolen and then is misused; and nothing is generated. Your energy is transferred. From audience to….. the commercial maw of culture death.

The only way I can make my enthusiasm generative is to pay it back with respect.

I hope you’ll continue to come along with us as we cheerfully remake the world.

In the meanwhile, I am of course famously a word tiger – eager to write. I have some good things going on just now and I would certainly have time for you if you’d like to pay me. Um, and if you have a need and simply wonder if – email me. We can work something out.

Good cheer to you all, and thank you again for your support.

Yay, Onward.

"Architectures of Survival" Curated by Komplot and presented in conjunction with Art2102 in Los Angeles, December 2008

"Architectures of Survival" Curated by Komplot and presented in conjunction with Art2102 in Los Angeles, December 2008

When an artist has been making powerful and consistently interesting and pertinent work for fifteen years often this numerical marker is seen as a transition point in the career and is one  opportunity for a “mid-career” survey exhibition.

What do we do to acknowledge the contributions of the curator, director and creator of spaces that host and support the social activity that is experiencing international art in two west coast cities over a similar period of time? (You are about to find out!) Julie Deamer has, with singular flair and determination, imagined and made fact (in 1995 at Four Walls in San Francisco and then in 2005 at our own Outpost for Contemporary Art) a space that invites challenging international artists to visit Los Angeles to ask tough questions of our communities. Mind you, much of what Outpost does also manages to be fun.

Projects such as “Construction Site” by Temporary Services in 2005 (click and read! I remember this exciting two week event at the intersection of Sunset Blvd and Alvarado. Artists, neighbors, school kids, young students and more all came together to create a fortnight of art happenings making use of materials scavenged from the locale. Pretty neat. btw one may now revisit the site to see a rather disappointing “green” condo building); “The Economy of the Imaginary: Pirates and Heroes” with Minerva Cuevas, in 2006;  in 2007 “Connecting in Kyiv” took US artists Jeff Cain, Adam Frelin and Angie Walker to Kyiv to present two week community projects; and then in 2008 Outpost brought Kyiv artists Olexander Gnilitsky and Lesja Zajac to our city for “Institution of Unstable Thoughts.”

You get the idea. I could go on and on, in fact if I have piqued your interest I suggest you visit Outpost’s Archive to read more.

Vlatka Horvat, "This Here and That There in the Los Angeles River," July 2010, Outpost for Contemporary Art

Vlatka Horvat, "This Here and That There in the Los Angeles River," July 2010, Outpost for Contemporary Art

As we all know, Julie is moving on from her creation Outpost for Contemporary Art, leaving it in the hands of a vital and capable Board.

I invite you to pay Julie her propers this coming Saturday, May 7 at “Breaking New Ground –  A Tribute to Julie Deamer.” I use the term “pay” with care: one wants to leave Julie’s creation, Outpost for Contemporary Art, not only in good hands but also in hands full of… tribute. Denero. Moola. Coin of the realm. Um, semoleons anyone? This event will be held at the NeutraVDL House on Silverlake Blvd. You may purchase tickets here and indeed you should look forward to the silent auction, organized with love to allow you to prove your support.

Congratulations Julie!

Julie Deamer, image from Hammer Lectures

Julie Deamer, image from Hammer Lectures

Charles Garabedian, Study for the Iliad, 1991. Acrylic on paper. Private Collection, Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA.

Charles Garabedian, Study for the Iliad, 1991. Acrylic on paper. Private Collection, Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA.

I’ve not done a post to start the week in the past – but then, new is always my world – and “not” and “haven’t” may always turn to “might” and “could.” And indeed to “shall.”

I want you to go to Julie Joyce’s Charles Garabedian exhibition at the Santa Barbara Art Museum. Since my two brief posts mentioning this excellent exhibition too many are the times I’ve been pulled out of a conversation and  asked, “Is that Garabedian show still up at Santa Barbara???? Did I miss it?!”

My friends, and especially the many painters of Los Angeles, calm your hearts. Julie Joyce’s labor of love, “Charles Garabedian: A Retrospective” has been extended to May 1, 2011.

Do you notice that I keep mentioning Julie Joyce? I admire her. I respect her tenacity in making this exhibition happen. This exhibition is a major statement by one of LA’s best and most loved iconoclast painters. And the Santa Barbara Museum of Art is to be commended and praised for having the sense to understand this notion:

Los Angeles is full of artists. Much of the best work being produced internationally comes from our home town. Art museums serve many… sorts of visitors. Each of these visitors, whatever their interest, have as part of that interest the work of artists. No artist anywhere intrigues other artists more than a stand-alone, iconoclastic, venerable and possibly crabby artist. I know that this is true because each of the people who desperately posed me the above query about this Garabedian show are themselves artists. Painters, many of them. And if you visit any of our museums that exhibit contemporary art this weekend (MOCA, the Hammer, LACMA, etc.) and check the names on the wall tags I promise you that twenty-four of the twenty-five people who pressed me for information have their names on work currently being exhibited. In these same museums who missed an opportunity to engage with the artist who engages the artists they show. (The twenty-fifth was an iconoclast in the making. A total desperado.) link to music fixed on June 12, 2011

Get down with your bad self Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

Charles Garabedian, Channel Swimmer, 2006. Acrylic on paper. Collection of Barbara and Ian Robertson.

Charles Garabedian, Channel Swimmer, 2006. Acrylic on paper. Collection of Barbara and Ian Robertson.

Do the smart thing and go see this show before it closes. Allow me to direct you away from Notes to Culture Monster and Holly Myers: Charles Garabedian on Opera and Poetry beckons painter Charles Garabedian. (note that this second link has four pages and you must click to each, near the bottom of the column above the string of social networking links.)

I also offer you cogent (and pungent) thoughts on the exhibition from Doug Harvey.

Oh! But about the show!

The museum is lovely – nice and happy old fashioned architecture of the City Beautiful style, and in the Main Hall are statues. I remember them all being Greek and Roman carved marble, but I suspect that there is work from other ages there, too. All are figurative and classical. Take a look while you’re in, pay attention to what you see. Julie has smartly grouped Garabedian’s work in rooms around this large, open space. Garabedian’s paintings, many of them, include similar imagery. The gentleman has never felt it necessary to abandon nor to ironize this classical work. Statue room is a wonderful way to begin your experience.

Charles Garabedian: A Retrospective, installation view at Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Image from LA Louver.

Charles Garabedian: A Retrospective, installation view at Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Image from LA Louver.

Charles Garabedian, Ulysses, Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Image from LA Louver.

Charles Garabedian, Ulysses, Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Image from LA Louver.

Charles Garabedian: A Retrospective, installation view at Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Image from LA Louver.

Charles Garabedian: A Retrospective, installation view at Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Image from LA Louver.

Okay – see that yellow face painting in the image above? Now turn around and look behind yourself and a little to your right. If I remember correctly right there is a painting from the mid 1980’s of a family watching television. In 3D. The painting, not the television show. Bug-eyed Zapp Comix suburban people in a crazy room in a crazy city all with parts sticking off the surface of the painting, or collage, or whatever it is. Eek. This was an exciting moment for me! An extremely precisely cadenced docent was touring a group through and was telling them about this work. (Docentry is itself an art form, a graceful dance of information and social niceties. I heart docents.)

UCR MFA Exhibition 2011 - Nathan Bockelman, Cameron Crone and David Gilbert. Sweeney Art Gallery, Culver Center for Art. work by Nathan Bockelman and David Gilbert pictured in the installation view.

UCR MFA Exhibition 2011 - Nathan Bockelman, Cameron Crone and David Gilbert. Sweeney Art Gallery, Culver Center for Art. work by Nathan Bockelman and David Gilbert pictured in the installation view.

The best art school in Los Angeles right now is in Riverside. University of California, Riverside. (If anyone asks you tell them that the other best art school right now in Los Angeles is UC Irvine.)

David and I went out on Saturday afternoon, preceding the opening reception, and spend two or three hours looking around. In point of fact, I spent two and a half hours crawling around the floor on my hands and knees and butt taking pictures and looking. Poor David went next door to the California Museum of Photography and in his absence the Sweeney closed. The nice people inside never told me and simply let me continue my work in quiet. Bless their hearts. David, while patient, was pretty annoyed with me. Still, being patient he had the awesome character to ask me questions about what I was doing while we drove to the west side of LA to a dinner party.

D: So what took you so long?

G: Well, I stayed in the main gallery for a while, then went back out to the front to see the “cafe installation.” I was so blown away by Nathan Bockelman’s floor. He spread the entire unimproved space with sheets of clearish plastic – it crinkled when I walked on it! Somehow it felt a friendly gesture and it reminded me of his performance at LACE. In “So Funny It Hurts” he made the demand that the audience experience the art by participating in it. He made us somehow complicit in the performance. The floor had that effect, too. Walking on it made me part of his work and aware of my feet. Sweet. He pulled the sheeting up a foot or so all around the bottom of the walls – even across doorways. So cool. The borders he nailed up to hold the plastic – they’re lengths of wood, gray and black and unpainted. I don’t know if there was a pattern but there was an intelligence to how he did it, a consideration for capturing interest. Amazing!

G: I decided to photograph that border.

D: What about it? Why?

G: Remember those photos I took at Morro Bay, of the baseboards around the sliding glass door of our hotel room? Those edges, where floor and walls meet, like the pictures I always take of the floors and the ground, those spaces feel right to me. They look really interesting.

G: I found great stuff while I did it and along the way photographed every sculpture, photograph and wall notation that felt like it might be part of the installation. I found a tiny wedge-shaped piece of wood, casually on the floor in one corner. I wondered if Cameron put it there, thinking of his sculpture in the main space.

D: What do these spaces feel like? Give me an emotion.

G: Emotion? Safe. Not filled with someone’s intent. Not in danger, as no one has  a reason to bother them. They make me happy to look at, to spend time with. No one else bugs me there. They’re quiet, out of the action, they provide the background and the support for everything else, in a way.

D: So what about the pavement? Sidewalks, ground and streets. People are all over them, how is that “safe?”

G: Who bothers a concrete sidewalk? I guess tree roots, but the sidewalk isn’t done violence – it simply changes. Plus edges and corners and floors are so beautiful. Sort of plain, capable of holding and hiding a million details if one chooses to look. Those little things I pick up – wow. For weeks and months and longer they might lay there; events pass, intent passes right over and by, the only stories that get imposed move along quickly. Nobody much notices. I feel like these bits of broken metal and bent things may appreciate my focus, as equal to equal. They support the world as my gaze passes along, looking and watching. I show my respect by paying attention.

D: Safety then, that’s the emotion?

G: Well, it started a long time ago with safety, yeah. I had to get away. I wasn’t able to hide, I tried to and failed. So I hid in place. I walked in the hills, day and night. I walked in the streets and sidewalks. Looking and paying attention. Alongside safe would be they are kind of abject places and objects – that abjectness is part of what makes them attractive to me – it matches melancholy and sadness, yet allows room to be cheerful. Abject is kind of a eye of the beholder thing. The places I look, and the bits I pick up, are kind enough to let me in.

G: Now early necessity has become an interest. I’ve learned a lot. I want my work and my writing to express the feeling of support and that same good cheer. I want the power of my gaze and the gentleness of my intent to be what people find. I think that my art is there.

I would get right back to the Riverside MFA exhibition, friends and neighbors, but I am going way long with this post.

Geoff Tuck, Notes on Looking

P.S. I’ll get the remaining UCR images online sometime later today or tomorrow. Bockelman, Crone and Gilbert have each turned out stellar exhibitions. As Philip Glass put it in Akhnaten, “They make the river shine!”

1 Comment

  1. how did I get to your blog? and to this particular post about the Garabedian show 6 months after the close of this show? just one of those clicking things that happens on a sunday. But so glad I did. I thought the show was astounding, I actually was made physically anxious by the enormity of the largest painting- I felt intimidated not just by the size of the canvas but the power of the image and the paint itself.
    your blog will be duly bookmarked for future reading!
    thanks, julia schwartz

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