All notes with the topic Wanderings | Notes on Looking

Late Superbloom

“…and I turned around in that house which was like a shallow garden and all my fears collapsed upon me like a landslide of flowers and I ran screaming at the top of my lungs outside and down the stairs.” – Richard Brautigan 1. At some point I realized most of southern California is the same: the same outdoor strip malls, same plants, same sunlight driving in sideways in the early evening. April is just as boring in Long Beach (where I live) as it is in San Diego (where I used to live). I have lived here, alone, in a room downtown for eight months; my hair has grown four inches. I used to be afraid to leave my window open. I still sometimes sleep with the light on. Living alone in a new city is complicated for someone who loves solitude and people equally. I am still depressed, as I have been since I was sixteen, and it catches up to me at night but in a new, lonely adult way, especially when I’m on the bus headed home, watching neon light streak past the window, stepping off at my stop that’s recently become overgrown with bougainvilleas. When I cross the street to my block, I am caught by the sight of a big pink bush – it’s new, I’ve never noticed it before. It speaks to me. I am tiredly mesmerized, bleary eyed. I stare and wonder what type of flower it is. Rhaphiolepis indica, Indian Hawthorn. Its variety? A “Ballerina”. A Ballerina bush. A sprig of it was carried here from China some hundreds of...

The Sexual Bronze Show

Ordering dinner was the worst idea; we should have just had a quick drink. We met for one reason, and it’s definitely not going to happen here. We both finger our foods, swirling the ingredients into each other on our plates, leaving us with two comminlged pools of indistinguishable goo; somehow it’s reassuring—it’s the only sign that we are on the same page. Bettina Hubby’s exhibition, The Sexual Bronze Show, at Klowden Mann left me feeling like I was on the wrong side of a joke. It can be quite upsetting to be the only one in the room that doesn’t understand what is going on; it was fitting then, that I was the only one in the room. We live with immediate remedies for ignorance; who hasn’t Google searched a term moments after pretending to understand what someone is talking about? With so much information at our fingertips, rote learning nowadays seems less relevant. Many people have replaced flirting with liking and swiping, and have created online personas for themselves that match their offline personalities as much as a lemon matches a clothespin. Do you know Daniela? Yeah, I follow her on Instagram. That’s not what I asked. Matthew Barney brought last year to a close with his bro’d out extruded bronzes forged as underwater cum shots. Bettina Hubby begins this year with life-like, wickedly twisted, diminutive bronze pairings that sit atop thirteen svelte pedestals. Each pillar stands as a separate little island, holding aloft two seemingly disparate objects, a ravioli and a gourd, or a yellow dishwashing glove and a roll of sausages. They coyly sit with...

Sweet 16

Nothing changes in the New Year; or, at least, nothing goes away and disappears on its own. It’s that time again. Make resolutions. Launch efforts to “better” our lives and fix the failures of the previous year as we enter the new one. Stop drinking. Stop smoking. Stop for the entire year or six months or just the singular month of January. Well, it’s been a hell of a week. It’s been raining, maybe a few days off will do the trick, bottoms up! Find fulfillment in new ways—a job change, a healthier diet, a revamped sex life, a vow of celibacy; or hope nothing changes (gun advocates) and look to the year ahead as a chance to find solid ground, settle down as they say, read a little more and hope this isn’t the year when an earthquake wipes out half the population of Brooklyn, I mean Downtown Los Angeles, I mean DTLA. It’s the New Year and galleries already have their schedule of exhibitions set; go online and see who is going to be showing when and where. Set your entire calendar for art outings in 2016. This isn’t to say there won’t be any surprises. There’ll be many: new galleries, pop-up shows, impromptu performances, an abundance of writing (I hope). Spaces will close. Some will expand. Certain artists will show the same old thing. So-and-so will pick up a paint brush again, Did you hear that she is working in clay now? She should have stuck to doing those portraits! Oh, the gossip is to die for. There will be shows where the work doesn’t live...

Mystic Pizza

What does it mean when an artist duo breaks up? Does it make a difference if the partnership was also romantic? What happens to the resulting output? Can the players be substituted? Are the works a result of the action, the history of two bodies, two minds, or two hearts? Marina and Ulay have everyone atwitter again with their pending lawsuit. The now collapsed collaborative has been carved into the canon thanks to a practice where they pushed the other beyond acceptable thresholds. Their time together climaxed with an epic final performance on the greatest wall, face to face with their absolute limit, each other. We all recognize that there is no such thing as a clean break when passions are involved. What leaves uglier scars than the psychic tears in one’s artistic identity after it’s wrenched from being bound up with another’s? Rebuilding takes a whole new set of tools; slapping a prosthesis over the phantom limb of your missing familiar. You have to find another language for concocting your spells, a completely different set of ingredients. How do you fill the void left by the other’s absence? Is that even possible? There are many ways to cram a vacuum, almost all have to do with basic instincts, basic drives. For David Bell and Ashley Jean Harris, the pair behind the pop-up cooking project Fat Jasmine the hole to plug was the stomach, the drive was hunger. The filler for their performative material was pizza and it was through this medium that they worked their creative voodoo. This dish it turns out, is more divisive than its usual...

Brody Albert and Kaeleen Wescoat-O’Neill: OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

I had nearly just touched the red gate to open it, when Chris jumped out from behind the wall to tell me it’s not to be touched no matter how inviting it may seem. We talked to one another from opposite ends through the matching collapsible gates, an empty space between us. Not knowing if I was going to be invited to his side of the gallery or if this was it, I began to think about my parking situation from earlier. I wonder if I have a ticket right now. I didn’t think I needed a permit during the day as long as I moved my car before two. I’m pretty sure I had two hours; or is that still only if I have a permit? Does it mean something different because that part of the sign was green? The car in front of mine didn’t have a permit in its window, but did that sticker on its back bumper mean anything? They had obviously been parked there awhile, so I think I’m good for at least another hour. But what if we both get tickets? Wait, is it Wednesday? What happens when the part that unites two sides is removed, when the middle is taken away? I often only eat the center of bread, leaving the crust. I’m not much into the head or tail of a fish, and most anyone would choose the window or aisle seat while flying on a plane. The middle child is passed over. The center of the week feels daunting. Intermission in a concert can be a good or bad thing...

Sandeep Mukherjee: Mutual Entanglements

As I sat staring at the pattern on the back of the seat in front of me during a three-hour flight from Houston to Los Angeles, I contemplated Sandeep Mukherjee’s impressive painting installation, Mutual Entanglements, at Chimento Contemporary, the last art exhibition I saw before leaving on a four-day trip to Florida to visit my family. I was without a book or a pen during the flight; all I had was the back of the seat and my mind’s wanderings. Bus, train, and plane upholstery share common features. They are designed in hideous patterns in order to complicate the eye’s perception, disallowing the passenger to recognize the dirt and grime built up over months and years of excessive use. Often multi-colored grids or complicated crossed eye-inducing patterns, public transportation seat fabric pushes the viewer’s gaze out as it holds everything in. Mukherjees’s paintings are not hideous. They are physical, finely tuned palimpsests of dignified expression. Imagine a landscape pulled apart, ripped and torn, piled up and spread flat. Ten large panels cover two adjacent walls, forming a wide V with a Serra-like effect that dwarfs the viewer and echoes the massive weight of steel from afar. I am pulled forward. Gradually, the heaviness dissipates; the thin, errant edges and misaligned contours of the individual panels reveal their independence while holding onto solidarity through color and a general schema. The deceptively thin material provides a sturdy enough surface for the rigorous but gracefully applied array of mixed media resting on top of one another. Melded markings, mulch, foliage too thick to traverse—one must find another access point. I remember sitting...

“But all I can see is Red, red, red, red, red now What am I gonna do” : William Kaminski’s Haunted Heck

What is sleep you ask, what is dream I ask, what is real you reply. Being scared makes you freeze, makes your body shut, having fear means there’s an action to be taken, fear is a bravery you need to work through. I was reminded that there is also terror, terror makes fear breakable, terror shakes you to the core of your being and never leaves you be. We were the first in line for the second night of LIVE THRU THIS KURT COBAIN HAUNTED HECK. We decided to enter sober. Standing in front of the red corridor, you asked me to hold your hand. I said I would never let go. I reassured myself. It would be too obvious for a ghost to enter a haunted house; they have more fun inside our beds. I was wrong. We smiled at the tiara-wearing girl (Hole – Live Through This) in the entrance and walked in. I asked you if you want to be in front of me or behind me; you moved to my front, taking my arms above your shoulders and crossing them over your heart. Your upper back was on my chest, my chin was above your head; walking with spread legs, I realized I couldn’t protect you even if I wanted to. Passing through the first room where Kurt was sitting on a toilet making sick noises, we had to almost touch him in order to maneuver our now-one-body through the room, startled by our reflection in the bathroom mirror. We entered into Courtney’s closet – she came out of the rack and started shouting, you...

Jay Erker: Living Together

This doesn’t mean as much as you might think; or it could mean a lot, if you want it to. It’s been awhile since I have written anything so I really have to bite into this one. Literally. I bit into the wall of Jay Erker’s show. I left my bottom teeth marks on the outside of a small window cut-out and the impression of my top teeth on the inside. I could sense what she wanted: for me to not be afraid of doing what I felt like doing. I shouldn’t be uncomfortable, or feel like I didn’t belong. Therefore, there was no reason to act accordingly, as in the way I felt I needed to act at the previous four galleries I had visited earlier that day. I sank my teeth into the wall where images had been sketched by the artist and other patrons who attended the opening. I was surprised by the near lack of bathroom humor; given the artist’s anarchistic and gratifyingly crude behavior. There was some though. The other opening is a dick fest, someone scribbled confidently. Eat Pray Love, wrote another. The latter was less offensive, but perhaps that’s because I haven’t seen the end of the movie and sadly I’ve been to plenty of dick fests. Moments after sitting down with Jay, with her magnetic disposition and a demeanor that fluctuates between extremely serious and socially-conscious and carefree, articulate and bad ass (I am not sure if those are even opposites), we were drinking whiskey and talking inconclusively about community in relation to our art practices. She is studying to become...

Searching for Home / Leaving Yourself Behind

Our noses fill with dust. We enter the curvilinear sanctum where this immaterial soil hovers between thousands of individually labored slabs of adobe that fill a perimeter over which our eyes trace, failing to find a point to rest. The thick surface smothers the noises spawned from within, echoes have no place here. It is a space of penetrating sounds that go no farther than the moment they are contained by. S. He makes an altar out of the humble precious material. His body sublimates the space with movement that transcends affiliation. His arms fling beyond code, his back arches, stretching past the limits of his skin. From the top of his roughhewn pedestal he topples another’s sacred idol. P. His body snakes between us. Bound in stockings, a fine mesh is all that protects him from the elements, he becomes part of the dry dirt, inhaling it deeply. It covers the floor in a soft brown layer that filters through and becomes a poultice on his skin. He clings to the walls, audibly popping his delicate casement along the straws and pebbles of the adobe bricks. The walls offer protection as much as they contain us, just as walls do. Just as he anoints them with dots of blood, they reciprocate and anoint him with their matter, both are transubstantiated, two bodies becoming one, stained with the same blood, sweat, tears, and clay. It is a mother, he is an earth. He searches through us for her. Sliding between, swiping us with his unction, making us wholly aware that to step out of his way is to avoid...

Rebecca Bruno, a building a body. Bye Bye Broadway

“The next motha fucker that says some racist shit to me, I’m gonna cut his ass up and spray my pepper spray in his wounds,” she shouted. “Everyone is racist,” said the man wearing the reflective vest next to her. She looked at him dumfounded.  His face did not look up from the sidewalk, he just continued pulling cigarette butts between the curb and the street into his bin with his battered broom. “You, me, everyone,” he said softly. I remember having three to four bags in each hand, glass piercing through at various places, black plastic and black holes, holding them stiffly outward to avoid contact with the sides of my calves, a beer wine mixture dripping from the bottom corners; bulging pastry decoratoring tips, an evidential trail leading back to the guilty party. Halfway down the steps, the plastic overextended itself and the previous night’s debris cascaded forth in front of me in a wave of shattering bottles, gnarled cans, and limp wet cigarettes. For weeks I was reminded of the incident, my rubber soles kissing the sticky stairwell as I came and went, muah! The mysterious and wingless silver fish with a life span of up to 8 years outruns its predators; no problem with its slick zigzag movements. Yet, with appendages that lack radical escape ability on vertical surfaces, it’s best it stays horizontal to the floor. If you were to end its life, it disappears with little trace and without cleanup, simply blow the remaining pinch of dust and poof it’s gone! She asked me if I had the building manager’s number and if...

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...