All notes written by Geoff Tuck | Notes on Looking

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.  ...

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...

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...

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...

Appreciating William T. Wiley

I saw a piece by William Wiley this weekend, at the Santa Monica Auctions preview. Wiley is a funny artist. His work is a little old-fashioned, but for reasons that are good: Wiley’s work is engaged with the world he sees and lives in. It is committed to an irony that is not self-reflexive but is evidence of a skeptical relationship to the larger world. His paintings and works on paper target political figures, environmental concerns, personal life, the art world, and culture. It seems charmingly naive right now to work the way Wiley does, to not announce in scare quotes in one’s art that with this present action, one is making Art. Wiley uses language in his paintings and drawings, in titles and in the bodies of the work. His titles are often acerbic moments of wordplay that lampoon current events, somewhat in the manner of a political cartoonist. In his drawings and paintings he will sometimes script a running commentary that, for me, disrupts my experience as a solitary viewer and places the artist himself in my face and ear and mind. It is also true that Wiley’s paintings and drawings are beautiful, for he is an amazing technician. As an artist, Wiley seems skeptical of the art world, and his work is often critical of art world pretensions. Yet Wiley is not an outsider. He’s been in a Whitney and a Carnegie International. He’s represented the US in the Venice Biennale and Documenta V. William Wiley kind of kicks...

O captor, my captor—EJ Hill and David Bell at Grace Exhibition Space

There was a fight last week, in Brooklyn. A pair of friends, EJ Hill and David Bell, boxed for twenty minutes on a bare floor in a second story loft. O Captor, my captor it was called. Fighting is a curious way to express friendship, and yet within the structure of a boxing match much can be explored and expressed about human nature and about the nature of male friendship. Two quotes help me think about what I saw that night, both from a 2009 interview of boxing writer and novelist Katherine Dunn by Mateo Hoke: “…within the body of the human animal and the mind of the human animal, boxing as a business, as a sport, as a community unifier, as an individual meditation instrument, as a teaching tool, and probably many other things—all of those things are operative there. And you can see the very bad—the conniving and the backstabbing, the lying, the cheating, the stealing. But you can also see a very wide spectrum of extremely positive traits. And because of the simple structure of the sport, it’s very overt. It’s not fancy. What goes on there is really upfront. It’s really in your face. So it’s easy to discern.” “From the moment the bell rings and two people come together, it is a ritualized crisis. And the individuals have to respond to crisis. Just as every news pundit will say, when the flood came or when the earthquake happened, you saw people operating in a crisis and they were terrific, or they fled and bit each other in the back like cowards, or whatever. What...

Zach Leener at Tif Sigfrids

Zach Leener’s sculptures at Tif Sigfrids are all without title, and they lack even the honorific “untitled.” This choice feels self-deprecating; I think of Leener’s sculptures that they might decline the status of art objects in the way that Groucho Marx declined to continue as a member of a social club: “Please accept my resignation. I don’t want to belong to a club that will accept me as a member.” 1 This unnamedness feels like an act of resistance on the part of the artist; and I wonder to myself whether I need a formal designation to tell me something is art, and I wonder why this might be so. I think about the space between art objects and objets d’art. I think how confident these objects seem: they are what they are, and if one names them one risks getting it wrong, or missing the point. Leener repeats two basic shapes in the seven artworks on display, and this repetition points equally toward high design specialty retail and the repetition in Minimalist Art. The first claims artisanal status in a manufactured world; the second claims the banality of manufacture in a world of art. Both offer ways for an educated and necessarily wealthy elite to identify itself (and reassure itself) through the display of good taste. Leener’s sculptures cheerfully do none of this. (Well, they are art, so they are in that refined and specialized world of informed choices and considered histories. But they’re weird; they don’t offer camouflage, they stand out.) The exhibition Zachary Leener brings to my mind fond memories of R. Crumb and Zapp Comix,...

Kaucyila Brooke and Rabelais: Gargantua and Pantagruel in the Garden of Eden

The tale of Madam and Eve is an adventure story and creation myth told in wall-mounted photomontages that look sort of like comic book panels. Visiting Kaucyila Brooke’s show, Tit for Twat: Can We Talk? (at Commonwealth & Council through March 29) and watching as the generously proportioned characters pose themselves in elaborate gardens, I imagined I was seeing travel snapshots from an alternate reality: a reality where humankind springs from the loins of two robust young women; a reality where the Garden of Eden does not imply a fall from grace. In this three-part project, of which Can We Talk? is the second part, Madam and Eve are played by two friends of the artist, who were in their youth when the photos were taken some twenty years ago. Also featured is a Greek chorus of daytime talk show hosts: Oprah, Rikki Lake, and two whose names no longer come so easily to mind offer commentary on Brooke’s narrative and drive it forward. There is an undercurrent of 1970s Feminism and of communes and lesbian separatism which places this work directly in the field of identity and gender-based art. But instead of approaching her politics with a tone of pedantic moralizing, in Tit for Twat Brooke employs the rambunctious, ebullient and satiric sensibility of Rabelais and of Cervantes. Madam and Eve might be Brooke’s Gargantua and Pantagruel, poking fun at an established culture which is conservative, self-important and corrupt. The two have fun; they revel in their own bodies as in the body of the world. Their quest is not only pre-Modern (where Modernism is a reductive search for truth), it is pre-Enlightenment; and...