All notes from Archives | Notes on Looking

Along La Brea Avenue: 5 photographers, 4 introductions

In the order that I saw them: Dong Hoon Jun   Joey Lehman Morris   (back to Dong Hoon Jun) Josh Cho   (back to Joey Lehman Morris) (also return to Josh Cho) April Friges   (one more time! Dong Hoon Jun) (check in with April Friges) Ann 330 is in one of the art buildings on La Brea, an old part of town for galleries and one which offers guaranteed parking tickets and towing after 4 pm. (Like La Cienega, La Brea is a freeway in disguise: La Cienega is in light industry drag and La Brea is a cool retail hub.) The show (titled Saudade) includes several works by each of four artists – enough to make me come home and look up the work I did not recognize, and to reassure my thoughts on things I had seen in the past. The work of Dong Hoon Jun is described in the press release as remarking on the peculiarity of North American institutions of higher learning (you know who you are) to mimic corporate architectures. (And, I would add, adopt corporate strategies for monetizing their product – students, and their loans. But I digress.) Dong’s photos show the artist playfully inhabiting classrooms and administrative offices, hiding his identity in a box, behind a shade, crawling partly inside or behind almost any container or potential shield. They are funny pictures and the artist’s play with identity goes somewhere beyond humor to darkness. Again, the pr tells me that Dong explores how creativity may adapt to space that is designed to “contain, divide and conform,” and I see this,...

Rodarte, Prada and Post Empire

Can fashion be art? If  you ask the curators of museum shows lately they would say “yes – of course.”  We are not talking about lifestyle manufacturers like Ralph Lauren and Karl Lagerfeld. We mean those two sisters from Pasadena who have set a small media bonfire in the fashion world and Miuccia Prada whose company is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange. Rewind to the beginning of New York Fashion Week showing Fall 2012 RTW (ready to wear clothing that will be in the stores in September). Fashion Week is a bi-annual ritual of the fashion world that lasts nearly a month and takes the glamorati  – that big ball of  fashion goo – from country to country,  New York to London to Milan to Paris  in an unlikely marathon  in the service of predicting what you will be buying, wearing , coveting, reading about and  red carpet watching  in six months. This obsession for one who is no longer part of this world began for real when I started  streaming live the New York shows. I was already interested in Rodarte as artists since MOCA gave them a show at the Pacific Design Center last year  based on the Black Swan film  for which they designed the fantasy costumes for Natalie Portman. In addition, LACMA gave them a mini show based on the Fra Angelico in the Renaissance collection of the museum.  But can the clothes  that are made  to be worn serve as art as well? Also, there is a show at the Met this spring of Schiaparelli and Prada assuring the status of the...

Staalplaat Soundsystem and LACE

Staalplaat Soundsystem in residence at LACE from LACE on Vimeo. It occurred to me that light might be as much a part of the upcoming concert as sound – and that both would become components of music. A slide carousel was clicking and flashing its empty square on one wall, antiquated monitors glowed an old-fashioned grey light, on them copper wires were taped, splayed like futuristic sense organs across the screens and picking up static then transmuting that free energy into sound. Unlike many sound/music installations, cause and effect were clearly observable here – or enough so to make me feel like I understood the proceedings. The youths who take part in this weekend’s teen workshop with Staalplaat Soundsystem at LACE will receive “as brief an instruction as possible (in the science and art of making music with household and thrift store equipment) to avoid burdening the creativity of the moment by giving them a “right” way to do it. Ooh, the air was redolent of hot plastic and the low sizzle of possibility underlay everything. I recalled the scent of overheated TV’s from my youth, and hanging out in the self-built stereo room of a friend’s dad: he played weirdly packaged records, and my friend and I watched avidly the progress of reel to reel tapes and I savored – without knowing why – the pops and crackles of connoiseur-level electronics. This same favored dad once took us to Wallich’s Music City on Sunset Blvd, where we sat in private glass cubicles and sampled audiophile lp’s from foreign countries while Mr. Beeken smoked and told us what was what. Stunning memory. Staalplaat Soundsystem practice...

Thoughts and questions on Brendan Threadgill’s recent exhibition at USC

Hi Brendan, I saw your show today (Jan. 13). Good work, I like the photos. I neglected to note the dates of any of the work, is it contemporary with what I have seen in your studio, or are these recent work that continue the project? Looking at them, my first thought was of maps, and of oceans. Red areas for heights, and gold tones representing something like the dry and rugose terrain of Afghanistan maybe. The blue ones felt like those colored charts that flatly represent underwater surface features.The funny smallest one I took to be a blurred landscape. These certainly are “photos of place without the familiar evidence of place” and this is true in the physical sense as well as psychologically. Visual cues that these photos came from somewhere include the scratches that seem to document the time spent in the dirt and with rocks. Even with your avoidance of composition, the results are very aestheticized. This feels tricky and challenging to me, and somewhat satisfying, beauty must matter to you: I find that much of your work that I have seen manages to be beautiful while also pushing beyond simple beauty to historical investigation and political questioning. That you separate yourself from the making, i.e. using a camera and choosing a shot, makes me think of the bombed automobile reconstructions you showed a few years ago, which are also beautifully crafted objects that were modeled on, well – not on an accident but maybe via some discard of unpredictable violence. Where are you in all this, Brendan? Your drawings are manifestly made by hand, so perhaps your strategies depend upon...

Go Tell It on the Mountain, Papel Tejido, JC Muñoz Hernandez, East LA Photos, Paper Fashion, Ave 50 Chicanos & Brinco

Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit the studio of artist and curator Nery Gabriel Lemus.  Lemus, who was raised in Los Angeles by Guatemalan parents, combines fine art with social and political beliefs and bi-cultural issues.   Through his use of drawing, painting, installation and video, Lemus is able to discuss issues of stereotypes, immigration, poverty, domestic violence, and prejudice. Many of the works he shared with me revealed the division between African-Americans and Latinos, such as in his series Black is Brown and Brown is Beautiful which focuses on the prejudices Latinos have toward African Americans, and in his barber shop series Fallen Nature and the Two Cities, in which Lemus documents a stylized haircut shared between African Americans and Latinos. In his series Friction of Distance (which was shown at Steve Turner Gallery), Lemus juxtaposed and appropriated images to make the audience compare and contrast birds and humans as a way to challenge the issues of immigration. Fortunately you can check out Lemus’ current show, which he has curated at Charlie James Gallery.  But you have to hurry as it ends February 18th. Go Tell It on the Mountain appropriately opened during the weekend of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, as the show stems from the inspiration Lemus found in James Baldwin’s 1953 novel Go Tell It on the Mountain.  The novel reveals the double-sided role of the Christian church for African-Americans.  On one side, the church could be viewed as hypocritical and a vehicle to oppress people, whereas on the other side the church could be seen as a place for community and social awareness. ...