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Artist Project: Lesley Moon on Swimming and Divers

As I was checking out Notes from up in San Francisco this week (somehow meaningfully late last night from the heart of the Sunset on 47th Ave. and Noriega when I discovered my first solid ethernet connection in a week!) I couldn’t help but drift back to this image as I read your reflections on all the swimmers and divers from the last few days. Despite its place as an incredibly important image within early modernist photography, the position and figure always struck me as such a totemic, emotive figure, something speaking presciently and metonymically to the continual struggle artists face as they are  pushed to the margins under difficult personal and cultural conditions and continue to push on – as K did till he was in his 90s. Kertesz went to New York in 1936, and shot that iconic drooping tulip from the States. (I would miss Paris in the Twenties too.) He was 25 when he took this picture in 1917. Thanks for bringing together the work, as always. As I sat, only a couple blocks from the ocean amidst the fog, I was so glad to remember this other thing, and the idea of swimming underwater, the power of the eroticized and empowered subject and the delicacy I feel for the surface of the water that you spoke about in relation to Abel Gutierrez’s paintings. Lesley...

Abel Baker Gutierrez – Swimming

Abel Gutierrez’s exhibition, Swimming, at Luis de Jesus Gallery, closes this Saturday, August 27. Gutierrez’ recent investigations into the nature(s) of maleness are continued with these modest-sized paintings of Boy Scouts at play in nature. A film in the second space of the gallery offers another view of these, or some, boys. Do you know? I want to reconsider my use of the term ‘investigations’ and try ‘wonder’ or ‘wondering’ instead. Investigation is such a harsh term, so clinical and academic and what Abel Gutierrez is doing feels much more… tender and considerate in a human way of his subject matter. The eroticism on display in this exhibition is quiet and nostalgic and not terribly urgent – I don’t feel lust so much as I am aware of loss. What I think about most – as I am writing now it becomes clearer to me – is a possibility that boys such as these could play, and a pre-adolescent erotic energy would be present among and around them, and an onlooker might be aware but not implicated, and there could be room for this ambiguity and freedom. Rather, we have a larger culture that has long monetized such sweet moments and turned them into opportunistic and damaging entertainments and marketing campaigns, and so we may have poisoned the well of childlike nature from which we drew. Ambiguity doesn’t fare well in a market-driven society and young boys, as well as young girls, need nothing if not to be uncertain, or certain but mercurial. How sad that we as a culture have lost those several years of freedom that are...

Paul Thek’s Untitled (Diver)

I’ve been blue and am in the mood for another shade of the color that denotes moody introspection. Tone it down and take it back, Geoff, the present is here, your past is all in your head, and this too shall pass. Paul Thek’s work was at the Hammer last year (or was it years ago or yesterday? This featureless, immediate space is my current wistful domain.) and speaking of the fact of this painting at a recent studio visit gives me reason to revisit Paul Thek’s particular blue, Diver. This small shade will fade away in the noonday sun of current work. Diver will return to its time and place. The past is persistent, insubstantial, present and sometimes is its own cure. Cheers. October 3, 2012 Paul Thek: Diver closes on August 28. Beginning around 2007 I heard Paul Thek mentioned as a reference and inspiration by artists. Up to that time I hadn’t heard of Thek and from the conversations he sounded to be always young, blonde, winsome and beautiful. Oh, and somehow tragic and very romantic. I still never knowingly saw his work, it just wasn’t around. In 2009 a book was published, Paul Thek: Artist’s Artist, and everyone bought it. Then, or concurrently, news of this current exhibition came to my attention and I began seeing images of Thek’s painting Diver. Make that Diver, Paul Thek’s iconic painting, which stands above everything else the artist produced. His many sculptures are fantastic and memorable but this image is simple enough to ‘stand’ for Thek in the public’s mind, or maybe just in my mind. The painting...

UCI at LCP “Nothing Comes From Nothing”

As usual, I digress. I offer you a musical emphasis of the above sentiment: Billy Preston performing Nothing From Nothing in Belgium in 1981. Preston’s looking a little middle-aged in an embroidered yellow jacket with wide lapels and long profile. There’s a crazy enthusiastic half naked young guy in the beginning, waving his shirt at the audience and generally having a very visible good time. For fun here’s Preston on Burt Sugarman’s “The Midnight Special” in 1973 looking much differently with a big ‘fro and hugely contrasting bright shirt and coat. The song is Will it go Round in Circles. And because graduations are about change, and because indeed A Change is Gonna Come, here in 1981 Belgium again Preston sings Sam Cooke’s famous song. (Preston’s dedication of the song to “the kids of Atlanta, Georgia” is a reference to the years of serial murders in that southern city.) Oh lord, I can’t stop. The master, Sam Cooke himself giving us his dream for change. Good god, he’s beautiful. Off you go. But first, the University of California at Irvine Graduating Masters of Fine Arts. Let me just begin, since I’m not able to find any group installation shots. Even our friends at Tryharder don’t have any. The Irvine grad show is closing this weekend, on Saturday, August 20. Las Cienegas Projects is the host of the show and you all know where that is, so I imagine you are jumping in your cars even as we speak and heading to the boulevard. For those of you who stay around reading and choose to go tomorrow, I’ll continue. I’m...

Matt Lipps “Horizon/s” at Marc Selwyn

I want to remind you about Matt Lipps’ exhibition Horizon/s at Marc Selwyn. This show feels important, and like a big one for Matt. It’s beautiful and fun, too. Horizon/s closes this weekend, Saturday, August 20. If you click on the image above, you will see a nice large format view of the multi-photo work and can zoom in to appreciate the artist’s consideration for shape and volume and a cinematic kind of repetition. When you look you can see cut-out figures, they’re like characters in a puppet show, or maybe a shadow theater. There’s an Isamu Noguchi type of sculpture occupying the center of the left-most panel, at the far left might be Bojangles. Some historical figure (Samuel Clemens? Nathaniel Hawthorne?) has his cheekbone resting on his fist and looks out reflectively, a Greek sculpture seems to punch a mysterious black shape and the sculpture’s back is repeated in the next frame. A politician, (Richard Nixon?), reaches out to an absent crowd (expecting attention to be paid?), while near him a blackened figure of a boy or man with stark white eyes stares at us. Is it a defiant stare? Hungry with desire? Is he bored and vacant because after all he is just posing and is caught for eternity? There’s no telling. He’s posed inexplicably before an Ab Ex painting – and is one of those nearby men the artist, posing in front of his work? Or is the painting a character, too? A man in exotic garb – a coat, pointy-ish hat and big collared boots – gestures at the left and right corners of two...

York Chang, deeper into the rabbit hole

Entirely quoting in this post from York Chang. Capturing the artist as author, or giving a maker space to dig a hole… enjoy. I’m often told that these projects are the inverse of purely poetic gestures, which find their way to the poetic through  a strategy of reduction and purification, while projects like second life and the Visceral Realists rely more on the density and weight of complexity- say, the difference between haiku and literary fiction.  The projects ask for significant investment from a viewer, which not everyone is able to spare, so it’s incredibly gratifying to see the scribed evidence of your experience. A friend (and the hardest-working artist I know) Tony De Los Reyes remarked recently that with each of my projects, we are going deeper into the rabbit hole- Geoff, I think you’re down here in the rabbit hole with us. Let me spend some time looking at your Note for a day, and I’ll try to show you around a bit- point out where the potions for shrinking and growing are, and where the cheshire cat likes to sit and grin his biggest.  Ps. I agree, the LA Times review of the project was interesting and provocative- the best reviews are like that and go beyond simple boosterism.  I think any critic, particularly one as sophisticated as Mizota, is bound to have complicated, uneasy feelings about what she articulately observed to be a “supremely ambivalent” project. I have always been deeply and uncompromisingly committed to ambivalence, to covering all my bases, to taking multiple positions simultaneously. And you’re absolutely right, the best part is that Mizota heard the facsimile...

News from “right back at you Aaron”

FLASH: This just in from our friend: “Geoff, I don’t know if I answered your question directly on the audience’s participation.  Hopefully what will happen is the viewer experiencing the artwork will feel useful and as much a part of the work as the artist or gallery/context. Also, I must defend myself a little w/ what I said about the mixing of art and life.  I know how romantic it sounds.  I know it sounds like some softy, sensitive and almost cliche outlook.  In all honesty it’s this uneasiness and potential critical outside look that excites me about it all.  Then again it could be my own paranoia. As a last declaration I’m looking for a site for this project to occur.” All is well in Notes on Looking land, things are popping. If perchance you can imagine a project such as this taking place in a space that you… run or direct, jump on Wrinkle’s wish to exhibit – he’s easy to find. And imagine if you will – paintings to sell, people dropping their pants, Aaron twisting himself up trying not to appear too romantic – how much fun can it possibly be? Aaron Wrinkle, preamble – Friday Night Party and Performance, or “It is all about Aaron Wrinkle” Aaron Wrinkle, part one – Making Myth with Aaron Wrinkle, or The Studio Visit Aaron Wrinkle, part two – I went to a garden party Aaron Wrinkle, part three – News from “right back at you...

Aaron Wrinkle, part two: “I went to a garden party”

GT: Can you tell me (us) about your practical plans (desires) for this proposed exhibition? Some time ago, and outside the context of this current dialogue, we talked about public spaces as possible sites. I recall your interest that these spaces have already  their own place on the public experience, that they be somehow charged or places of power. With or without that last statement, What are you thinking? How would people perceive and interact with the exhibition/performance? What will it look like? Also I want to say that the paintings are great – they totally function as paintings and as works of art. I guess this shouldn’t come as a surprise but given the context my eyes were expecting to see quotation marks around them. No way! Your watercolors are beautiful! “woman with fan….” does an interesting switch with the horizon – the lady seems perched atop the edge as though presenting herself; the greenery then retreats, as landscape does in such a picture, to background, offering another horizon some distance behind. The lowering purple sky doubles back – almost in an attempt to envelop or contain the lady, but she and her wall remain inviolate, almost on the surface now. I like your line work in the performance sketches, too – rather than awkward, the painted lines feel expressive and that you limit yourself to three or four distinct tones of greyish feels like a nod to Minimalism in painting. The lines feel like representatives for more of that tone elsewhere out of sight. AW: Whether it takes place inside or outside I would like it connected...

on middle age after midnight

The hour is late and the night is dark, the window shows me just myself when I sit down to write Sleeping sounds in another room, muffled traffic, Hollywood outside The city after midnight: I used to know the place Young people have a wonderful freedom of anonymity that I lost with age I stand out too much in the dark so now I...

York Chang or not

I saw an exhibition at the 18th Street Arts Center this Friday. It was my first day out in a week and the distant west seemed like a good place to begin. The exhibition is titled “York Chang, second life” or perhaps it is titled “second life, York Chang.” I begin not to trust much when York C. is involved. I met Chang a few years ago at an exhibition related to his project “The Search for the Visceral Realists.” (I find that the Visceral Realists have their own website here.) It was one of those chance emails I got, the kind I am always following up on. We traded emails and then David and I went to the opening of the show. We spoke with York Chang for quite some time and he showed us excitedly around his show explaining the exploits of his group, whom we presumed that he made up. Ten minutes later, after we had continued looking on our own, we happened to stand by York as he was introduced to a young woman as the curator of the exhibition rather than as the artist. We sort of eavesdropped as he repeated much of the story we had heard, except in this second telling it all sounded so real. The Visceral Realists had existed in South America in the 1980’s and had presented some challenging exhibitions and even a few mass protests. Not a moment of fiction was allowed to enter into his new conversation. The young woman listened, fascinated – just as we had been ten minutes before but for entirely different reasons. I...