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Elvis and the Phoenix heat

In 1990, the good people of the European Union voted It’s Now or Never,  by Elvis as the greatest rock n’ roll song ever. Ain’t that something? Elvis Presley, ladies and gentlemen. The time is 2:30 AM. The dj’s voice carries over the sound of the mixer as it beats my dough. Fifty pounds of mix makes fifty dozen doughnuts. It’s Monday, so I’ll only do this twice tonight, making a hundred dozen doughnuts total, plus another thirty dozen cakes and old fashioneds. I look across the table and up the wall to where the radio hangs from a nail. It is 2:35 now, and according to the thermometer, it’s 110 degrees in the kitchen. I put my cigarette on the edge of my work surface, and walk out to the sales counter. The store is bright, and empty. The AC is on out here, and I stand in the cool, thinking about an entire continent taking time to vote for Best Song. What must it be like there, I wondered? I remember the dough, now idling in the mixer, I remember my cigarette on the table; I worry briefly about neglecting them both, and then I sink back into my own mind, and think about the dj, and what he said. His manner is direct, intimate, and his voice is reassuring. In my mind, he knows what he has to say, so he says it. I am not so sure of my voice. I think about those Europeans and their vote. I think that I love Now or Never because it has been given certainty. It’s not only a song, or even a hit, it’s the best, the best song...

Purple crystal from 1989

  Pervert. You know that guy was AIDS and he probably gave it to you. It burned up his throat and he can’t talk. We put him out as bait. You couldn’t resist. We’ve been watching this park for a while now, tracking perverts like you. We weren’t having sex, that would have come later. I touched his dick with my hand and spoke to him. He was pale blonde, and had blonde facial hair. He looked very sweet. He nodded without speaking, and looked away. I wasn’t surprised to be arrested. Now and again they would focus on a different area and arrest all the guys. Or as many as they could. I didn’t think it would happen to me, but at the same time, I expected it. It’s just what happened. I moved to Phoenix a few days later. I never did get arrested in Phoenix.  ...

Andrew Choate on Green Umbrella

The Sō percussion ensemble originally commissioned David Lang’s “the so-called laws of nature” in 2002, and their physical familiarity with this elaborate composition made watching their performance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall intensely visually captivating. The piece is divided into three sections, and the four performers gradually moved further and further away from the audience to access their respective percussion stations. The first section focussed on the sound of mallets on a thin wood plank, and each performer looked like they were playing ping pong with themselves, bouncing sounds back and forth on the plank. A syncing and de-syncing of rotating patterns gave me the impression of the sound of corrugation, or a jug full of water gurgling over. I found the actual tone of the mallet on the wood to be a semi-shrill clatter, like when you drop a long piece of wood, or a couple of 2x4s stacked poorly fall on their side. But that harshness dissipated almost instantly, lasting only for the duration of the split second of the strike. Because this music depends on the patterns and speed of the music, and less on variety of tone, hearing wood over and over again felt like listening to a kind of sawing, like something might break in half before it was over. Not knowing what was to come, I started imagining these patterns on different materials like rubber, cloth, metal, fur, bullets, bushes, ozone. And then the first part was over, and the musicians took a couple steps back, turned their bodies 90°, and started playing similar patterns on some sort of metallic tubes. I...

Carmen Argote: watermelons, no catchies or bouncies at Commonwealth & Council

The blacktop of the playground ignites a very specific memory to my individual history. I grew up mostly in a small solar powered house with a well that supplied my family’s water. Washing clothing was an issue for two reasons: one, because the machine sucked all the power from the rest of the house, often forcing us to start a noisy generator in order to finish a load of clothes; and two, the water that came from the well was straight from the earth, anything white would eventually become slightly off-white, then eventually beige and sooner or later would have to be discarded. This inevitably led me to wear mostly dark colors, or black; nothing that allowed for visible stains. Unfortunately, my school provided a uniform for Physical Education, white shirt and grey shorts, as an attempt to make us all look “the same”. Most kids enjoyed getting dirty during recess; I became an expert at participation without overexertion. Anything involving a ball and the blacktop meant dirty hands, so as I watched other kids casually (or aggressively) wipe the soot on and into their clothing knowing they could take them home to their parent’s magical machines and return the next day looking fresh and clean; I caught the ball at a distance, kept my hands slightly off to the sides of the material that threatened to expose my home life. A day when I didn’t have to take my uniform home to the washer was a successful day at recess. Carmen Argote’s Painting for an Exterior Wall presents the viewer with a simple Mondrianesque arrangement caked with a...

Rafa Esparza / Elizabeth Sonenberg Interview

(Note this interview was intended for publication on August 19th but was delayed due to unforeseen technical difficulties on Notes’ end. Nevertheless, we liked what was happening here and wanted to see it through.) Artist and curator Elizabeth Sonenberg talks with Rafa Esparza in the weeks leading up to his new work with Elysian Valley based Clockshop entitled building: a simulacrum of power on the site of Michael Parker’s The Unfinished. For nearly a month Esparza has been holding a collaborative, labor intensive residency with his parents and 5 siblings making hundreds of handmade adobe bricks on site, at the post-industrial Bowtie Project, just feet from the LA River. Once completed the bricks will be laid atop The Unfinished, where Esparza and artist Rebeca Hernandez will stage movement-based performances engaging the bricked surface, the LA River and the sun. This conversation has been held throughout the last few weeks over site visits, bike rides and email.   Elizabeth Sonenberg: I’ve been thinking about what form writing about your work should take and I thought it would be nice to have an ongoing back and forth. Here are some questions and digging followed by more questions and more digging. dirt dirt dirt GOLD is dirt. Rafa Esparza: Haha, yes. Gold is shiny dirt. ES: We’ve spoken about ritual and approaching objects with intentionality. In your work, you are in dialogue with certain rituals, and also produce your own. What sanctifies an object for you? What is this idea of the sacred for you, and what type of attention or focus does it require? I’ve talked to you about alchemical shifts...

Coyotes on the Golf Course – Photos and text by Janne Larsen

I had what seems to me the quintessential Los Angeles moment one morning at Griffith Park. On an early morning hike, I witnessed a pack of coyotes inhabiting a luscious green with a pack of plaid garbed golfers.  The golfers paid no heed or were perhaps unaware of these skulking animals weaving through the trees around them. They proceeded to golf while the coyotes continued to follow them, seemingly at ease with one another.  This idea of the wild west constantly lurking in the shadows amidst this urban metropolis is the essence of Los Angeles to me. The inherent wildness slowly reveals itself as you plunge deeper into the layers of the city. Los Angeles is an apocalyptic city precisely because of it’s relationship to nature – floods, wildfires, tsunamis, earthquakes, and drought not to mention the man-made conflicts within its tumultuous history. Ultimately, the people who casually pass through never get this about our urban sprawl: the wild lurking behind the façade. This led me to start noticing when the natural elements and the man-made coexist in ways which hint at a grander battle. This is most apparent in the cracked sidewalks or abandoned buildings with the natural overgrowth that smothers, and covers and pulls down walls over time.  On a more subtle note, I began noting street signs around the city that have plants growing through their structure. These signs are human attempts to communicate a law or courtesy.  The plants use these signs as trestles and are indicative of the wildness, the un-tameable. When I notice these small treasures, they give me a punk rock feeling...

Classical Music for Artists

Notes on Looking is undertaking a new endeavor in its mission to explore and support the creative communities of Los Angeles. In July 2010, David and I began the Parkfield Project, a series of retreats for artists in the small, Central California town of Parkfield. Colloquially, this project has been called Outward Bound for Artists; and to date the project has hosted some 150 artists for long weekends in the country. Additionally, three artist books have been published which contain individual responses to the experience. These publications have been collected by the Getty Research Institute and by every artist who has attended.    For this new endeavor, or perhaps it is an adventure, which is titled Classical Music for Artists, David and I are offering up to twenty artists a season ticket each to one of five concert series focusing on contemporary classical music: Piano Spheres (at Zipper Hall and at Red Cat), Monday Evening Concerts, Jacaranda Music, and the Green Umbrella series of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.   David and I believe that music, like visual art, is best appreciated and understood through a sustained experience. I know that it was my own continued attendance of concerts that allowed me to finally relax and recognize patterns in the pieces I was hearing, and to hear and understand the differences and similarities among the compositions and among interpretations of the performances of the same composition. (I wonder if that old saying, “Music tames the wild beast” refers not to any calming effect of music, because much that is music is not calming, but rather to the fact that the...

The Permission of Mike Kelley, by Karl Erickson

The recent traveling retrospective exhibition of Mike Kelley reveals the artist’s artwork to be generous, permissive, moral and caring; though not kind, gentle nor easy. There also exists in equal measures cynicism, cruelty and negativity. Caring, in that he strove to ruthlessly expose systems of repression in our lives; unkind, in that his withering attack left few beliefs unexposed, and no sacred goats left unshorn. This permission and generosity can be experienced in three overlapping ways: 1) Mike Kelley provides an example of how to make intelligent, critically engaged work. This provides permission to artists to wholly invest in their subject matter; 2) Kelley’s drive to over-stuff his subjects with meaning to the bursting point. This is an act of generosity to the subject while damning our culture of over-analysis; and 3) Kelley’s work is generous in the sense that he served, as the well-known image of him documents, as a janitor, an astringent force working elbows deep in the pus and bile of mass culture to clear out blockages. When I first encountered Kelley’s work in the mid-1990s, l was a young artist living and attending undergrad in Detroit. I had never seen anything like his combinations of images, materials and texts. His art was a revelation that serious, smart, complex work could be made of and from the subjects he worked with: pop culture detritus, weirdos, noise, shit. To a 19-year old in the Midwest, this was mind-blowing; and a very long way from Van Gogh and Warhol. Sure, there was plenty of conceptual and pop art available, but not like this delirious assemblage. Conceptual Art, as represented...

Summer and the movies, by Paul Pescador

1. We’re sitting in traffic. It’s the first day summer. No, thats not true, its the first day that June gloom has burnt off and the heat has set in. We’re sitting in the car stuck in gridlock traffic. It’s Saturday and we’re trying to get to the beach for a birthday in Malibu. We’re dead silent; frustrated and exhausted by the heat and traffic. We sit and listen to Siri read us directions as she sends us on and off freeways. Somewhere between the 101, 105, 405 and the 710 intersection, I remember why I never go to the beach. The traffic is like Godard’s film Weekend (1967): miles and miles of traffic and car accidents. I shout out, “There better be a dead body!” When I think of summer, I think of Jacques Tati’s film, Mr Hulot’s Holiday (1954). Mr Hulot’s Holiday takes plays in a French beach town during a summer holiday. The protagonist, Monsuier Hulot (played by Tati himself), is a fumbling middle-aged man who wanders around with his trilby and pipe. We rarely hear him speak, as his humor is action-based. Hulot is reminiscent of characters developed by silent film stars such as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton: underdogs and outsiders who constantly get themselves into trouble by pestering others. Most of the film’s characters don’t really develop — they are more types than characters: a sneaky kid who pull pranks, a naive shy heroine, and a grumpy waiter who constantly gets frustrated when anything goes wrong at the hotel. Although they are not fully developed as characters, I find pleasure in watching them....

A consideration of work by Thomas Winkler and Daniel Mendel-Black in the group exhibition “Sand in my Shoes” at Tif Sigfrids

Sand in my shoes I am cruising through the desert The wind is banging on my ear 10 000 miles away from home objects in mirror are closer than they appear There are blue flowers on the sidewalk I´m too fast to watch them grow Buy some frosted flakes and hot dogs while the sun is trying to go How am I driving? How do you do? How can I leave the past behind? Unfinished future, sad and true a bunch of questions on my mind I´m so lucky, I´ve got air conditioner, that´s great! The heat is just illusion Right in the middle of this state the system´s the solution I stop at nine at motel six The only place where i can go Take a shower, swing my hips in a room with HBO Here I am, all dreams fullfilled I am your governor´s lost son There are so many words, I can build using the letters in „Fun in the Sun“. It´s an empty time in an empty town With Ice-cream, orange-juice and white bread I met twentyeight girls in twentynine palms „Hi! My name is Manfred!“ Thomas Winkler, Twentynine Palms, Oktober 2003 © Verlag Heckler und Koch, Berlin   Sand in meinen Schuhen Ich fahre in der Wüste umher Der Wind klopft gegen meine Ohren 5 674 Kilometer weg von Daheim sind die Dinge näher als sie im Spiegel erscheinen Es gibt hier blaue Blumen auf dem Gehweg Ich bin zu schnell, sie wachsen zu sehen Kaufe mir ein paar geröstete Flocken und heiße Hunde während die Sonne versucht, zu gehen Wie finden Sie meinen...