All notes written by David Bell | Notes on Looking

Adorable Dudamel, Fuck Your Encore, Love Alice

Her long, skin tone gown stays pressed to her body down to the tops of her knees; as she walks, the fabric and gemstones below the patella flail with the angular momentum and sweeping back and forth motion of a gondola ride at a carnival. She sits down at the piano, waits for silence, and begins to knead the keys as the rest of the orchestra softly strokes away at strings of various lengths, wound tightly, to masses of desperate proportions. Dudamel faces the orchestra and waves his hands faithfully, though his motions seem abbreviated from his signature moves, frozen in their triumphant candor and suspended from light poles throughout the city. The musicians’ eyes burn through their sheet music anyway; they have been fixated on her ever since the moment she appeared before them. Her sounds begin to escalate over the rest of the instruments, turning the entire symphony into background noise. She accelerates her motions even further. They pause and watch stoically; she keeps playing, faster and faster. His back remains turned to her; she sits in front of him, in front of all of us.  In between everyone, she is the center of the earth. The one who cannot face her is the one thought to be in charge. She talks through him, and demands, through accentuated notes, when the rest of the orchestra can play and, with the same sweeping inflection, when they should stop. Her hair is trimmed just above her closed eyes, sharply cut to their outer edges; sleek blackness jetting down extending out forward beyond her face, impenetrable blinkers, internalizing her visual...

Not Our Own

I’m standing between two horizons, on top of a huge ball; a conglomeration of bones, history, plants, water, boats, and houses. There are whales swimming right now. There are peacocks and little creatures in your eyes, and cats, and leaves, and flowers. There are fires that burn millions of acres and we let them burn; guns, so many guns and bombs that could destroy everything I just said and will say. There are hurricanes in the sky and earthquakes that happen under the sea; creating waves that rise as high as the buildings we built to line its shores. There is enough liquor to go around. There are jobs. I drove fifteen miles today to a job; it took me an hour. It often takes longer because there are too many people and we are all seemingly going to the exact same place; yet I arrive alone and wonder where they went. I am late, thirty minutes late, to a job. I take little nails, place them between my fingers and pound them through tin and into wood, because this is someone’s art, and I make it, and people will buy it. I’m there hammering nails into tin because I need money, so I can get some food to eat; not the most expensive food, it takes more than hammering tin to buy that food; it takes more than hammering tin to buy art that is simply hammered tin, made by someone who just wants some food. I saw a man sitting on the side of the road earlier, while I was sitting behind a car in front of...

These Carnations Defy Language: Alexandra Grant and Steve Roden

Only cheesy romance-novel vocabulary could possibly describe them. They were two exquisite specimens running in-place together, their perfectly chiseled bodies glistening in the 90-degree heat, curly locks bouncing sensually just above their heavenly faces. They were replicas of one another, not only in their physique, glimmer and (very little) wardrobe selection; but also in the way they moved—synchronized to perfection even as they waved to passersby with a left-handed flutter of the pinky-ring-middle-and-pointer. They practically danced in the middle of a four-way intersection, their location choice nowhere short of an accident. All lanes stopped; though clearly one of us had a green light. Red cheeks reflecting off windshields, slowly we’d have to pull ourselves away, but it was a standoff, and no one was quick to draw. Funny, I have met bodybuilder identical twins before. “Excuse me…” It was the summer I worked at a hostel in Venice Beach. “Excuse me!” They came here from Spain solely to work out at Muscle Beach; I remember cleaning their room and it smelling like meat… “Excusery, yuwu cawnt take pictuwres of the art.” I turned, “Excuse me?” “You can’t take pictures of the art,” the young woman repeated, shouting toward me. Realizing my daydream of the boys had taken me from the room, I responded, “Oh sorry, would you like me to erase this one?” “No, no,” she said, “Just don’t take anymore. You’re not allowed to take pictures of the art in here.” “But it’s my friend’s, I thought it was OK.” “What?” I explained once again, “It is my friend’s painting—I thought it would be OK if I took a picture of my friend’s painting.” “No,” she jolted, “Under no circumstances is it...

Property Value

Amongst her large bags, under a small umbrella, a lady braids hair on the corner; she doesn’t look up, no matter the sound.  Cameras down at their bellies, a class of eager students surrounds her, clandestinely snapping; she pays them no mind. Later, with her on the wall, they discuss balance and light, considering better angles for next time. Luckily for them, their subject is not going anywhere anytime soon; they can return when the light reflects more brightly off her situation. It’s getting better, it’s getting better around here, and the war drums from down the street are fading without a permit. You can’t do that here. You have to go. This was my sight line and what I had asked for, but it didn’t sit right to be deprived of my own view. Was I not allowed to look out my own window?  After all, they lined up in such a way that a level bridge could connect us over the street, uniting our floors; just a few steps and we would be in the same room. We often shut off our lights at the same hour, when night grazes the morning. Was this a one-way street, me watching her? Why did I feel like a performer in my own home, did she notice me trying not to notice her? I’d seen her working out late at night with liters of milk at one a.m. or maybe two. I was her mirror, unwavering. I had seen her in bed with men, a few men, they always ended up in the bathroom, she’d go in first; on her...

Rosha Yaghmai: Easy Journey to Other Planets

  Receiving a $500 phone bill is an unfortunate surprise. Unfortunate because it’s like receiving five phone bills at once. It’s a consequence for not considering the future, so caught up in the moment that you are actually living outside of it. It’s important, though, because it provides a visual testament of a time of convergence, something actually is happening, and neither sender nor receiver can deny that space that has been shared; but it also solidifies a distance. Simply talking with someone, the experience of their voice, the constant entertainment and creative ways of affection keep each yearning for more; yet the actual distance can leave both parties departing with a sigh. Closing your eyes at least takes the empty room away—the act of falling asleep draws them near even if decorated with unfamiliar faces, waking up to their call, “How did you sleep?”… “Fine, how was your day?” Rosha Yaghmai’s solo exhibition Easy Journey to Other Planets at Kayne Griffin Corcoran started with a list of simple questions she sent out to multiple people. -Who is a person/some people you associate with Los Angeles? (can be from any era) -What are a few important or memorable events that occurred here? (ex: The ’84 Olympics, the new pier… Manson murders… can be major, or not) -What is your favorite place here? Please describe it. -If you aren’t from here, when you moved here what was surprising to you? (ex: there are mountains, tangerine juice) -When you travel, what do people ask you (or talk with you) about LA? -If you could move anywhere else in the world, where...

A conversation: Chris Adler & Ali Edmark with David Bell

DB. When we live behind, in or between the exhibition space, we are putting our life on display alongside the art exhibited. Home, which is uniquely located from person to person but often rooted in some form of solid or safely identifiable location, becomes malleable; allowing for a violent breakdown of identity, your comfort becomes a representation of those around you, constantly penetrated. When I walked into Vacancy for the first time, the show Casual Friday had a cohesiveness that stood out immediately. Not only did the work go together, there was an obvious relinquishment of space from each artist, each person giving up a little self, and in the end benefiting tremendously. I find this deliciously satisfying, as it forces the artists to hone in on each of their strengths, simulating perhaps the experience you have living with it, sharing your home or allowing your home to be less about you (two). C&A. Yesterday, a visitor walked into our space while we were sharing some sandwiches. One of us had recently spilled aioli on his shirt (not naming names). No time to change, he went out to greet the guest, gesturing a little too much with his hands, unconsciously signaling the mid-belly stain. The ironic proximity to our own wardrobe in that moment is perhaps the reflection of a choice to have a more chance-based privacy. It’s a funny thing that our bedroom almost transforms into our office during open hours, but with the constant lull of, say, working while sitting in bed with your shoes nearby. There is a more than slight confusion of the front-stage and back-stage. In...

Musing on Blue Violets

  I sent a long love letter to someone; I sent it to the wrong person. The wrong person responded as the right person. It was difficult to read. I was reading words to me as if I were the right person. She responded with an open heart; she exposed herself with little hesitation, tore down her own walls, answered where the other person was supposed to. She took my words as hers, gave her words to me, exposing me further after thinking I had nothing left to give. She believed in her response, forcing me to believe in it just the same, denying me my ability to look away. I owed her my attention. I reread my letter. The places where she once never existed, I could now only see her. Was I there that night he speaks of? Of course I was, or else he would not speak of it; and I would not have this response to offer him. If this is what he meant, then this is what he shall receive from me. I was certain I was there that night and that she was not; it was before I even knew her. But now there she was, there in my words. I read about her, in that moment meant for someone else. There was nothing I could do. I had to be honest and say it wasn’t meant for you, that I had made a mistake. She said she didn’t believe in mistakes. I said I make them often; she said she didn’t believe that either. I thought about what I had written while...

Spectrum for an Untouchable: Meital Yaniv

I’m pretty sure he was trying to beat the red light. I’m pretty sure she thought he was going to stop. He didn’t stop, and neither did she. He struck the front of her truck; his motorcycle went way beyond where he went, but he went far too. He landed close to my door, to my left. My friend asked if I had seen what had just happened. I looked at the man. I asked my friend what he meant. He said that truck just hit that guy on the motorcycle and his bike is way over there and he is right there lying on the ground. I looked at the man: black pants, black shirt and black helmet. I asked my friend if it was real. He started to breath heavy. I didn’t know if I should get out of the car. People started to gather, it felt like there was nothing I could do. I looked down at the man wondering if he was real, wondering if he was alive. Through my window, I heard the man ask another man if his arm was missing, the stranger responded, no it’s just broken. The blood slithered out from under his helmet onto the sidewalk. I didn’t hear any other words, and I didn’t see any more movement; but he still had his arm. My friend was freaking out. At that point, I was trying to be okay. When I had asked Meital Yaniv a little over a week ago what her writing was about, she said it was about Israel. When I told her I felt like I...

The End…

  Hello friends,             Notes on Looking is closed. Thank you all for your attention and encouragement. Thank you for making art. Thank you for being in Los Angeles (:  Geoff Tuck I found these words, dated December 17th 2014, in the drafts folder of Notes on Looking while intently yet ineffectively attempting to figure the ins and outs of managing the website. In January, Geoff Tuck asked if I would like to take over the blog that he created, nurtured, and pursued with voracious passion, for nearly a decade. Yet, now that the torch has been passed I have hesitated to begin; stumbling around town, looking for a way to feed the fire, whilst attempting to not burn everything to the ground. When I came across Geoff’s brief words of departure (that he never posted) I could relate all too well, in my current disheveled state of not knowing how to start. I knew immediately that his letter was written while in a dark place; exhaustingly brief. We have all been there, laying in bed oscillating between words, the absolute most perfect way to say something to someone else; and then, in a moment of fatigued rumination, we disregard all prose, toss away all drafts, and return to the minute rudimentary inscription of what we are trying to say- Thank you, Good Bye, Notes on Looking is closed. And even still, we don’t send it; we reach into the trash bin, un-crumple the discarded pages and write twice as much; read and reread, until eventually deciding it may be better if it simply goes unsaid. Until now, I didn’t...

Jenny Yurshansky | Blacklisted: A Planted Allegory

Through the tall slender stalks of deer grass, and clumping masses of wild rye, she treads gently. Shadows still laying horizontally she takes shade under a California Bay inhaling the sweet smell of lavender and sage carried in from the quiet breeze. She removes her gloves revealing the dirt embedded deep in her nails, bends down takes off her shoes and begins to extract the foxtails that have woven themselves masterfully into her socks. Holding the removed seedpods in the palm of her hand while using her thumb and index to excavate the others; she draws out strings of cotton with each failed attempt. The act seems violent. She sits in the shade, feet out in the sun. Without identification, who are you? How old are you? Where are you from? Can you prove it? If you are pulled over by the police, you must present them with a card. This card states that you belong; you are identifiable. You may nervously smile, trying to simulate your photographic self, explain your situation; where you are coming from, where you are going. Has your name changed? Is this your current address? Are you wearing the glasses in which your card states you should be, are you legally blind?  Mediterranean mustard is an erect, canescent, biennial or perennial growing to some 3′ tall.   With the delicate eye of a botanist and the unique ecological perspective of California’s Invasive Plant population, Jenny Yurshansky’s solo show at Pitzer College addresses issues of permanence and belongingness, combined with sociopolitical awareness and hidden agendas.  The stems are branched both from the base and above, and...

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...