Friday, December 21, 2007

David Simione at Floating Art Project

Justin & I made our way to the latest installation of the Floating Art Project here in Pawtucket tonight. We were pleasantly surprised at the caliber of work and presentation in the space. It had a nice, casual approachability with a compositional sensibility that was both professional and thoughtful.

My only "complaint" about the exhibit is due to my own particularity: I am not hip on hand-written labels. I'm much more fond of a numbering system and with a corresponding typed information sheet and here's why: Labels give too much attention to the commercial aspect of galleries (which there has to be in order for galleries and exhibits to happen). I don't suggest getting rid of the commercial aspect; I suggest the numbering system because it weeds out the lookie-loo's from the prospectors and can help a gallerist to know when someone is genuinely interested in a piece of work and thus earn their commission (which should always be paid, gratefully). Even if a viewer can't (or doesn't want) to purchase a piece, their effort to seek more information (which just happens to be near a comfort station >>> beer/wine/cheese) shows that they possess more interest in the work, the artist or the gallery, all of which are important to an artist or a gallerist. I'll step off the box, though, because that's one of those things that is a detail, not an end-all for me.

I spent some time talking with David Simione, a young photographer whose photographs were especially haunting and lovely. All the displayed work was beautiful, but his was especially nice because of the subject matter combined with some harmless obstruction of law and a lack of formal training that invites experimentation.

Mr. Simione documents abandoned mental facilities. The images are lovely in several ways: they comment on the human's desire to "walk away" from things and nature's desire to "take it back." Lichen and moss envelop radiators and chairs; bedframes rust under the weight of the open windows; paint flakes from the walls as if it's looking to escape. What's most interesting though, is the stillness. These items were simply left and years later found by Mr. Simione's and his medium format camera.

The Floating Art Project is a one-night deal. If you hear about an opening, make sure you go because you'll miss out on it three hours later.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Bird is the Word...

It is Thursday, November 29, 2007 and I have just had an art-of-body experience.

Justin & I made our way to Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel in Providence to see Andrew Bird, violinist extraordinaire, and his experimental band of gypsies perform. I'm writing about it here because I believe what I experienced tonight was less of a concert and more of a witnessing of event, never to be replicated; fully autonomous.

We arrived on time to make sure we got a great spot, and we did. We were about 10 feet from the stage with a perfect view of everything. Just slightly off center to the right, one could say we were in the Golden Mean of stage viewing.

Upon entering the space of the stage we noticed an *insane* drum kit. I don't even know how to explain it. All of the cymbals were altered. Several of them were cut, welded together, spiraled, shaped and reshaped. One of the spirals was probably five feet high. This was the kit of percussionist Glenn Kotche.

He was a one-man army of sound. He had several different items with which to strike things and a profound number of items to strike. He had no bass drum, but he did have what I believe to be a series of crickets in boxes. I can't do it any justice by trying to explain it. See it for yourself here.

And while Kotche was a pleasant and welcomed surprise, even more so was Andrew Bird's brilliant performance. Nothing short of rich and lively was this man who has been sent by heaven's holy messengers to create performance art masked as music. If you're not familiar with his work, visit his website and download a couple tracks from Armchair Apocrypha.

First: the set. He has these awesome altered Victrolas. One of them is oversized and on a decorative stand with antiqued wallpaper and these gorgeous little drawing/paintings coming from its darkest parts and spilling outward. Both traditional and progressive, it really spoke to me as an object and as a metaphor of *everything* that should be. The other Victrola (or gramophone?) was hooked to another one much like what I could accurately describe as a Siamese Victrola which with a pedal he could make it spin really really fast.

The drummer played keyboard, too, and the guitarist used some sort of space-age (handmade?) object on his guitar to make special sounds. At one point, Mr. Bird used a child's pull toy (A is for Apple or C is for Cow - I couldn't see the front) for some sort of strange effect. All in all there were three men performing the tasks of at least 9.

And the songs were expertly progressive and altered for live performance. While they were still recognizable on some levels and the lyrics remained mostly untouched, the melodies and delivery were bounced around, toyed, altered and - at times -felt even impromptu - yet somehow still cohesive and dedicated.

And it was good they didn't strictly adhere to the Armchair Apocrypha set. While this album is really great, AB has a long history of experimental, exploratory, and extraordinary music that can fit into almost anyone's tastes at one point or another.

He didn't perform "Dr. Strings" but the video is super cute if you haven't seen it yet. There were some requests for it, and I hadn't heard of this venture, so when I got home I looked it up and it's pretty much fantastic. It makes me love him even more (insert big, pulsating hearts in place of eyeballs). If he comes to your town, run to your venue and buy all the tickets you can afford, then give them away to people you love.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Using a Rembrandt as an Ironing Board

At long last, I have finished reading the book "Dada- Art and Anti-Art" by Hans Richter. It was a well written and very informative book by someone who had actually "been there, done that", which makes the book all the more believable since the information was first hand...a very rare thing indeed in the history of art.

The first thing that caught my notice were the ongoing explanations of just what Dada is/was. Every new section of the book has a new meaning, and though they are all different, they pretty much say the same thing. "Dada means nothing...thought is production of the mouth". (Dada Manifesto, 1918)

The second thing I would like to point out is that Dada seemed to be an excuse to exercise bad behavior, since Dada gave the group the freedom to not give a damn about anything. It was the "absence of opportunism", in an age without reason or future...which seem to bring about a kind of wild abandon within this group of artists. This was the "central experience of Dada" (p. 50)
Since the emphasis on Dada was "chance", then absolute spontaneity was called for. Hence, the importance of living in the moment was emphasized. These behaviors brought about monumental changes within the art world. (P.91)

The Dadaists valued personal freedom and independence- a concept that has been in existence in our (USA) country since its inception. This new idea of total freedom from pre-conceived
ideas and relationships opened up endless possibilities within the sphere of creativity.

The "pure chance" of Dada led the author (and visual artist) Hans Richter to begin experimenting with ways in which to paint. Working in twilight, he began to create "Visionary Portraits". As the light began to fade, he would continue to paint until he was working in the dark. Working in this manner, free of conventional methods, Richter found himself painting with his "inner eye". The experience had a profound effect on him. Creating though sheer instinct showed him a freedom he never before experienced in his work.

I would like to take this moment to draw a comparison between this method of working, and my "Blind Sewing" performance. The action is the same. Pulling the threads with a practiced hand while envisioning where the stitches will land and what they will look like was a completely freeing experience for me. All Dada is pure chance. The portraits and the sewing began as the random actions of the artists, and turned into a process of working with innate intuitiveness.

The most wonderful aspect of Dada is having the freedom to discard preconceived notions about process and techniques. Dada went beyond the tried and true methods of creativity. The lines between the individual categories of art became blurred. Painters became writers, and poets, dancers. Artists no longer felt tied to convention, but blossomed under a new-found freedom that enabled artists like Marcel Duchamp to conceive what he called "reciprocal ready-mades"....hence the idea of using a "Rembrandt as an ironing board." (p. 89, 109)

Thank God for Dada.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

This is the first long-hand video of Red Square Diaries. I have some ideas I might like to employ to create a more finished and sincere end result for future performance recordings, but this is definitely a start. Comments and/or suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Sao Paolo, Brasil, I think?!

Friday, November 9, 2007

St. Red Square

Performance Residue, St. Mary's Church, Pawtucket, RI

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Performance, 90th & 5th, NYC; November 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Accidental Artist

I feel it is my OBLIGATION to put into writing my thoughts on the book I have just finished reading called "Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp" , which was written in 1967 by Pierre Cabanne. I learned a great many things about the "Accidental Artist", which I have now termed him, most which were surprising. The first is, he never stopped working, like so many believe. I understand, now, that he stopped "PAINTING"...but quietly kept "making" and "assembling".

Hmm. Surprise surprise. All the way up into graduate was mentioned time and time again that he stopped working as an artist immediately after the "Fountain" episode. Unless I misunderstood, which could very well be the case. This is a relief to me. A man who, with no formal education, a disgust for "Retinal" art (eye candy) and a real hatred for the formalities of the art world, becoming one of the most famous and respected artists' of all time really got up my nose.

I feel much better now.

It seems to me that Duchamp was a person who needed to be challenged... mostly to keep from being bored. His was a life that craved "Amusement". Every other comment he made was "It amused me" or "It was amusing". What did I make of this? I felt as if he was making fun of the interviewer, that the first three quarters of the "Dialogue" was a joke to him. I thought he was retarded. Honestly. Then I thought maybe he was being contradictory not because it amused him...but because he hated the whole process of being interviewed.

He didn't seem very likable.

Then things started to change. Duchamp began to speak about his work. His art. Other artists that were making work at the time...and then I understood. Duchamp felt nothing but irritation for anything made that was completely non-conceptual. And, as so much of art then, as now, IS non-conceptual, why bother? His "ANTI-ART " sentiments resounded loudly to me.

So...what's the point of making art if it is purely decorative? It's uninteresting and pointless. It's BORING. He needed amusement...a challange, something that made him think. I hear you, Marcel, I hear you.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Nava Lubelski at the O H + T Gallery

Stopped into the O H +T in the SOWA Arts District in the South End of Boston and espied some seriously awesome work constructed by Nava Lubelski. OMG! We were ALL struck by the beauty of this work. After stretching a canvas, the artists would split, tear, or rip a hole in it, then would lovingly repair it with the most gorgeous of stitches...close to embroidery, and bordering on tatting, the tiny and fragile stitches took on a life of their own. Exquisite! Worth the trip.

Steppin' Out

Well...I would say that the best part of yesterdays road trip was the debut of "Red Square Diaries", put on by the players of "The Theatre of the Absurdly Funny". All through Cambridge and Boston the 3 Stooges went about with their RED SQUARE, struttin' their stuff in and out of it, hysterically laughing the whole time. But, seriously, folks, it was a rousing debut enjoyed by all. Part 2 coming soon to a city near YOU.

Carolee Schneemann at Pierre Menard Gallery

Notorious multi-media vixen, Carolee Schneemann, has a small, intimate collection of work at Pierre Menard Gallery in Cambridge, Mass.

The one thing about this collection of work that really made it shine was that it was displayed expertly. Upon entering the space there are two rooms. One big room to the left and one smaller room to the right and down two steps. Attention was given to the space and the objects within it.

In the room on the left of the entrance was a double -video projection that initiated ideas of love and violence, social struggle and desperately intimate experiences. Titled appropriately, Devour was set on a loop and examined intimate and social relationships.

The power of DEVOUR lies in its contrasting of life's evanescent pleasures with what Schneemann described as the forces determined to destroy them: time, disaster, bellicosity. In title and imagery, it also makes a direct link between unexamined consumerism and violent militarism. As elsewhere in Schneemann's work, cats recur as metaphors of domestic comforts, psychic connections, and the human interface with the natural world. They also continue her challenge of cultural taboos, as if to say, "Surely kissing a cat is less revolting than blowing someone's head off." How is it possible that there is no outraged proscription against waging war? (source)

The theme of social injustice, world aggression, war & politic continued into the smaller room to the right of the entrance. Viet-Flakes projected its atrocious message:

Viet-Flakes was composed from an obsessive collection of Vietnam atrocity images, compiled over five years, from foreign magazines and newspapers. Schneemann uses the 8mm camera to "travel" within the photographs, producing a volatile animation. Broken rhythms and visual fractures are heightened by a sound collage by James Tenney, which features Vietnamese religious chants and secular songs, fragments of Bach, and '60s pop hits. "One of the most effective indictments of the Vietnam War ever made". -- Robert Enright, Border Crossings. (source)

In the same room with Viet-Flakes, we were faced with collaged photographs of Americans jumping out of the Twin Towers, NYC, 2001. On the opposite wall were more images lifted from magazines describing the most horrible and awful things we humans do to each other: some very old, some relatively new. The coupling of Vietnam images with our most recent "War on Terror" was an interesting juxtaposition for me. It's as if to say, The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Downstairs, Body Collage offered a portrait of the artist in her completely fluxus persona. A young, naked Schneeman spreads glue all over her body, then rolls around in a pile of paper garbage. She washes and repeats.

I found Vulva's Morphia to be really well-stated. She had these kind of ambiguous words strung together in between rows of collaged imagery, all of which were tacked to the wall and motivated by small fans to move around.

Schneeman says about Vulva's Morphia:

"A visceral sequence of photographs and text in which a Vulvic personification presents an ironic analysis juxtaposing slides and text to undermine Lacanian semiotics, gender issues, Marxism, the male art establishment, religious and cultural taboos." (source & image)

Which to me says, "a sequence of sexually political images that play on irony to undermine the male social dogma (encouraged and employed by social philosophers /psychoanalysts such as Lancan & Freud that often base their theories on sexual polarities) using text, semiotics, Marxism and religious/cultural taboo subject matter."

Or something like that.

And then there was Fuses:

All in all, I left the work, but the work didn't really leave me. Haunting, daring and exceptionally performed, I recommend anyone in the area to visit Pierre Menard at 10 Arrow St. in Cambridge, Mass.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Boston Bound

Tomorrow is a big day for my new California friends. I am taking them on a nickel tour of Boston and Cambridge. This may not seem like a big deal for those who have "been there, done that" but I take my job very seriously. This is the cradle of the American Revolution for heaven's sake! I am proud to be a New Englander...a "Yankee", and yes, a "sometimes" Red Sox fan! After all folks, tonight starts the World Series and the boys from Beantown are warming up this very minute in Fenway Park. GO SOX!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Low art in the High Desert

Still Life at Barter Faire, found no shit.

"Keep it real" as Tim Robbins said in a crappy feel good world music documentary. So, here is a little bit of art outside the white cube. The Okanogan Barter Faire. The people come for the community, weed and freakshows and unashamedly to make a little bit of a living. I was looking for a pitch fork and some red beats.

Everything is art. Bodies especially, people dress up special for the Faire. I find the short people dressed in children's clothes with dirty face makeup on particularly disgusting. Wait, those are children. Tents are decorated, layers are in vogue, happy signage is the visual unifier. Nice lessons. I find them authoritarian. Let's just say I'm a reactionary.

I spotted only five artists who made original paintings (there could have been more, Frank + I kept walking down the same rows.) The paintings were similar to the t-shirt prints, decorated buses and other paraphernalia. It is a coherent culture if anything. Rasta, green anarchists, fairies, Indian East and West, hillbillys, yuppies, did I say coherent?

I interviewed Sera.
Sera did not have any visual art education in primary school although she was involved in music and drama. She was actually inspired to start drawing when she saw a sunset driving in our hills only eight years ago. Now there's an assumption blown away. What, you mean Andy Warhol didn't knock you on the head with a Famous Stick?!! She said it was fun. What, you mean you don't want to change every one's opinions by making a leftist painting?

For Sera, a lifestyle change brought on drawing. She used to enjoy beading, still may, but children seemed to get in to a mess with that delicate medium. Practicality, creativity, stress release. Art.

For a long time, Sera only drew. Painting "intimidated" her. "You have to know what you're doing to paint." But the process of learning about texture and color drew her in and she's eschewing her insecurities about paint. She's very confident about the outcomes of spontaneous mark making. She simply "starts with a line or a shape" and goes from there. I like Sera's attitude toward art making, I'm not so hot on the fairies or the psychedelic colors, but if that's influenced by her culture or just what she likes, whatever.

Oh, look what I just found in the latest art magazine.

So, to this one person art is personal release and sharing fun. But seriously, after post-modernism and the huge umbrella that is art, why does the hierarchy between drawing and painting still exist?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Paper Girl's Performance Art... "Blind Sewing or Sewing Blind?"

Well, Keri, I must repeat something I told you yeaterday when we ventured forth on my maiden voyage in the realm of Performance Art... I expected to be a little shy about putting myself out there in public doing something most would consider "a bit off". As it turns out, it was just the opposite. It was really amazing to discover that because I could not see what or who was around me, I was totally unfettered by shyness, embarrassment, or any of those feelings one could expect to experience while performing in public. It was an interesting experience, and I am anxious to push it further. I'll be by today to discuss the details. As always, I really appreciate your help and support. I couldn't have accomplished this without you. You rock!

I would also like to note that the piece is more than just a "letting go", but about the process of actually getting there. Learning to do and accept a different way of making art... to stop controlling every outcome and accepting the end result is a difficult task for me, to say the least.

The universe is a random and chaotic place that we cannot controll. I could, for instance, be struck blind at any moment, and have to start dealing with how to live my life in a completely different way. I would not have all of the control that I have now over many aspects of my life...including my work, and since sewing is big part of my work, and knowing that I may not be able to manipulate the stitches as I do now would change my art in ways that I cannot imagine. The randomness of the stitches on the cloth that I created yesterday was a real breakthrough for me as an artist, and as a person.

Jo (aka Paper Girl)

Blind Sewing or Sewing Blind?, Joanne Luongo

Joanne is developing a performance piece called Blind Sewing or Sewing Blind?

Today I went out with her on the street and documented her premier performance. She talked a little about the concepts behind the work:

"This is helping me let go because I'm such a control freak with everything. And I'm thinking how when I stitch and everything has to be so damned perfect, and I get really annoyed if it's not perfect and so I'll take the 'wrong' stitches out so sometimes... sometimes I can't get any work done."

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Mass MoCa, North Adams, Massachusetts

My inaugural visit to Mass MoCa was pretty much laughs and good conversation for the whole day.

A little bit about the campus.

The good: it's freaking massive. It's located at what is basically the borders of Vermont, New York & Massachusetts in what used to be a (I think a textile) mill converted into like a billion square feet of museum space.

The bad: Half of it was closed (maybe not exactly half... as I was told it's probably closer to a third). The Anselm Kiefer exhibit was scheduled to go on display yesterday and it was, uhm, empty and in the big installation room there was some sort of art quarrel where somebody needed more money and somebody else said no, so the judicial showdown left us without even being able to view the largest gallery.

I was okay with missing the Anselm Kiefer since I just saw Heaven & Earth at SFMoMA with Ellen in January, though it would have been cool to see what Mass MoCa purchased, since what was to be on display was to come from the new addition to their permanent collection.

But what was on display was pretty cool for the most part.

On the main floor was a large collection of work by Spencer Finch, What Time Is It on the Sun? Of the work as a whole I'd say it was like ... oh, I don't know... 3 out of 5 stars? I mean there were some real jewels in there, but there were also some pieces that felt like they were kind of shoved in spots just to fill up space. And in my opinion, there's nothing much worse than that.

I'd rather have seen him just title an empty wall.

But let's not harp on the negative; the museum is large and I have a lot to say (when don't I?).

Like I said earlier, there were some really beautiful pieces in the exhibit, namely:

Night Sky Over the Painted Desert, Arizona had a choice piece of gallery real estate as it is the very first thing one encounters upon entering the space. And it's breathtaking, really, even before you read the title. This raised an invisible bar: now I expected this caliber throughout the whole exhibit. The above image is taken at the Whitney, but at the MoCa installation the proximity of the "stars" to one's head was very noticeable. The presence of the work leeches into your personal space, but it isn't unfriendly, in fact, it's quite pleasant and warm.

Moving through the space and to the right we encountered:

102 Colors from my Dreams, 102 Rorschach tests in unstained maple frames. This piece in the MoCa was a little more condensed and its randomness made me feel like it was filler. Jo & I agreed that we would have liked these a lot better if they were just "T-pinned" to the wall. The (what seemed like) cheap frames added a level of pretension that Finch didn't have in other works. Even now I'm considering the fact that the frames could have easily been those $5 ones from K-mart and I just don't see any purpose for them at all.

But in the next room the installation that we happened on next actually blew my mind and I adored it:

When we were coming in off the street into the museum I remarked to Katie and Jo that I loved things "like that," pointing to the outside of this installation, noting that it's something that is usually taken for granted as being part of the architecture and passed on by, well, passers by.

But I didn't know at the time (nor did I even realize it when I snapped the photo) that this was an installation by Finch. My own current obsession with windows required me to snap the photo. The above image isn't altered from the camera; the whole room was bathed in this incredible warm and comforting light: Candle Light, as he calls it. I could have spent my whole day in this room alone, wrapped in this warm reality. It was just so damned beautiful. It was an incredibly sensual experience.

MoCa says about Candle Light:
"In a gallery facing the museum's entrance courtyard, Finch will create a luminous wall of stained glass, one of two site-specific works created for MASS MoCA. In this yet-to-be-titled installation, the colored glass panes, a mix of yellow, red, and grey, will transform the sun's light into the intimate glow of a candle's flame."

Trying to remember the color of Jackie Kennedy's Pillbox Hat was both poignant and sweet. To me, it brought a reminder to a kind of world we once had or maybe to a world marketers have led us to believe we had. Either way, there aren't many ladies like Jackie O any more. Though the work could be considered fluff by some circles, I think that might have been the point -or maybe it wasn't. But it asked more questions than it provided answers and for me, that always makes art what it is.

There's only one more piece of Finch's that I'll discuss, though there were many other really good ones and bad ones that I could bore you with loving or hating.

On Finch's website he shows Sunlight in an Empty Room (Passing Cloud for Emily Dickenson, Amherst, MA) with the flourescent tubes outside of the camera view, but this image (screenshot from MoCa's site) is actually how you encounter the piece. It's light and looming at the same time. Jo and I carefully slid our bodies (as to not disturb the piece) underneath the sculpture to feel its presence above us. It was exactly like an open sky or dooming cloud. It was weird because you'd expect to feel confined with something like this six inches above your head, but it was strangely pleasant, almost familiar.

Onward to the rest of the museum...

The show-stealer of the second floor was most definitely tucked way in the back of an offshoot gallery. Theo Jansen makes these incredible wind-powered animals, or beasts, really, out of some sort of pipe and bottles. I suppose I should note that I favor well with materials that are left in their natural state but used for other purposes. This guy has it all... well, hell... see for yourself!

On display they had one of the "beasts" and it was just so cool. The duck tape Jansen used on the beast was beaten by wind, half fallen off, merely a residue of some wild beach experiment. The documentary video shows Jansen guiding, fixing, working with these "animals" who have obviously consumed his entire focus. Just gorgeous and exciting.

There was also this other story about Emery Blagdon, a vagrant for many years of his life until a death in the family granted him a home in Nebraska. He was diagnosed with cancer at some point and made "his pretties" which he also called his "healing machines."

"Blagdon believed that his deliberately and delicately constructed pieces, made from copper wire, foil, ribbon, beads, magnets, and other found items, in combination with small rhythmic or concentrically pattered paintings, generated an electromagnetic energy that could alleviate pain and prevent—perhaps even cure—disease. Blagdon arranged his machines and paintings in a manner that was to aid in the conduction of electromagnetic pulses in a shed he built on his farm in Nebraska. Intriguing as potential healing devices and captivating as art, the entire composition is at once challenging, alluring, and mysterious. Blagdon was 48 years old when he embarked on this project never knowing the journey his creation would eventually take." (source)
I also found some interest in about half of what the identity project Breyer P-Orridge created, example Amnion Folds:

I really enjoyed the ambiguity of this piece and another one of which I couldn't find an image. The other one was in a similar style but was only four panels of a nude woman's lower torso with crossed legs and fishnet stockings. In the top left and bottom right corners the top slit of the clitoris was visible and in the top right & bottom left, it was either hidden or an image of a different part of the body. The lines from the fishnets seemed to draw your eye to the center and away from it giving a nice push/pull effect. These were the most successful of the pieces.

There was a really well done "stairway" with kitschy little framed Jesus pictures all bordered with gold glitter above each "stair." I noticed that the very top stair's picture was a landscape and all the others were portrait. It was set up like a cross section of a home from maybe the 70s or late 60s with deep maroon wallpaper.

There were also these crazy wolf-head sculptures, all dolled up in ridiculous fake jewels and craft mirror pieces, feathers and dried flowers. Part midwestern housewife and part fetish club victim, the wolves' bloodied lips held daggers with their upturned throats allowing the blade to jut into space through the outstretched mouth and teeth. In one sculpture two wolves heads circled each other, one strung from the ceiling on a rotator and the other on a pedestal. The blade-tongues almost touch with each revolution, but not quite. There were some really successful metaphors overall.

Much of this work dealt with my favorite topics: kitsch, gender identity and sexual idiosyncrasies; I just felt that some of it was trite and overdone, or that it made either too much sense or not enough sense (in a not very good way). But maybe I just didn't get it. Or maybe I got it too much. I don't know.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the next installation to go up again. Next trip will be to the Fuller Crafts Museum in Stoughton, Mass. Jo was telling me about these cloth paintings that I need to see.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Slam SAM

A visit to the SAM. A visit back to art history 101, old school style, as in traditional mausoleum display of big men names in chronological order. What is a museum to do with gifts though? Hide them away in storage like the Cheney Cowels Museum did to Ed Kienholtz’s Jesus Corner? The work stops you as if you were on the street and really, it looks good in storage jammed next to crates and tacky sculptures. (everyone should get to see it this way.)

The left hall in the SAM displaying West Coast Funk could use a little of that disorganizing. The crappy, colorful ceramics looked like found objects displayed with pretension instead of work oozing out of the Californians’ minds and studios.

The Modern/Contemporary hall was a little treat like Oldenburg’s small (1’ x 3’) Pecan Pie Slice. All works by men, which brings up the concern that validating only men’s work of the past, reinforces the confidence levels of those viewing the work today. By confidence, I mean, the value placed on museum hung paintings transposed to contemporary works. Pop is fun but not the only work going on in the 50-60’s. Even the work through the 80’s 90’s were mostly by men. So the SAM only has so much room and so few acquisitions, might as well fill up space with a bunch of big art + big names. Okay, enough ranting. I do like Wesselmann’s Great American Nudes. (Which are big.)

Cai Guo-Qiang’s video/installation Illusion was not convincing. The video stretched the 30’ wall. Playing on a loop for 90 seconds, a firework exploding Ford Taurus “appeared” to drive through Times Square. SAM says “Illusion explore(s) how images and truth are experienced and understood in our unsettled world,” and Guo-Qiang is “inspired by . . . Western technology, science and art.” It was filmed at eye level, the superimposed exploding car wasn’t quite on the street, didn’t look like it was actually moving, and that was it. The actual car was on display in front of the video. Sol LeWitt wrote in ’67 that the physicality of an object detracts from it’s meaning (paraphrased.) The car at first looked like a car bomb. Then on closer inspection the burned out firework cartridges seemed high school, the paint was undamaged, the car wasn’t really a car, it was gutted before the incident. All of this “physicality” squashed the excitement that could have lit some sparks in my head. The experience I had from this was that explosions don’t really do any damage. So, sure it was an illusion, but obvious from the beginning to end. I think this is another example of name recognition replacing good work. Of course once a museum gets a hold of an artist, by then his name is already recognized, then determined worthy. See previous paragraph. “The addition of this significant installation by Cai Guo-Qiang to SAM’s collection continues the museum’s commitment to representing global contemporary art of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.”

The best treat of all was on floor four . . . . . . . . . . Nick Cave’s Sound Suit!!!!! It was a good one, crocheted colorful wacky. I’m partial to the hobby, I don’t do it but it is very popular around here. Sadly, it was standing alone. The display of the “artifact” ill affected everything in the museum. The Masai women’s beaded jewelry lost all meaning apart from their bodies. I participated in a Masai wedding reception, so to see the ringed necklaces rigid and still was, well lame. According to Colleen Curran who saw a Cave performance, “Dancers lope across the stage, swishing, clanging, banging -- the effect is tribal, animalistic and utterly intoxicating.” Visually it worked with the traditional African mask displays and video/installation of a contemporary tribal social performance. Still, I am ruminating on the placement of the work in the African art hall instead of with the western contemporary works.

Fred Wilson has had an affect on museum curators, in fact there was a Wilson mixed artifact piece on the opposite side of the entry from the Sound Suit. But I think the idea was to decompartmentalize the museum not classify. Maybe the suit was a bridge between today’s Western + African cultures. I’m still thinking. Daily art in the world vs art made for a meuseum going public grasping for meaning.

I promise, next entry will be all about art I like. I'll ignore the venue and focus on the art. It will be about Drake Deknatel, who recently passed on god damnit! And hopefully a visit to Beth Sellar’s Suyama Space to find out what “challenging art” really is.

Suit Up
Colleen CurranRichmond.comMonday, October 13, 2003

Paragraphs on Conceptual Art, Sol LeWitt. Artforum June1967