Friday, June 29, 2007

First, thanks to everyone who came out to McLean for Strictly Painting 6 last night!

Kriston writes about the show in this week's City Paper.

Read it here.

In that same CP, I've got a pick for Building at Project 4.

Read that one here.

In Show and Tell, Jessica Gould writes about the birdhouse fiasco that I've been following. Damn you, arbor cops!

And there's a new blog on the block: Rex Weil's Central Intelligence Art is up and running.

Rex is an editor for ArtNews, a fellow adjunct at UMD, and a tremendously clever guy.

If you read the wall texts that Rex wrote for the Ian and Jan show, then you already know he's got a wicked sense of humor, too.

Visit him often.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Yesterday Tyler countered Peter Plagens' suggestion in Newsweek that Les Demoiselles D'Avignon is the most influential work of art of the last century with his own choice: Matisse's Blue Nude.

I'll go along with that. I think Plagens makes a good argument, but in so doing, he also presents the typical charicature of Matisse as the comfortable bourgeois confectioner, wearing nice suits and making decorative, precious paintings while scantily clad women lounge around him. In the first line of the Newsweek piece, he states that when Matisse first saw Les Demoiselles, he was "shocked at how raw, cacophonic and nasty it looked."

It's easy to forget that Matisse went through some strange and hungry years himself. 1907 was one of them, and Tyler rightly points out that Picasso saw Blue Nude first, and that it in many ways prompted Les Demoiselles.

Part of the problem of Matisse's influence has been PR: The wrong people bought his stuff. His wonderful Moroccan paintings were spirited away to Moscow; the wrong Steins--Sarah and Michael, not Gertrude and Leo--bought some of his boldest early pieces.
The Matisse Picasso show at the MoMA back in 2003 helped clarify the relationship between the two artists, presenting it as something akin to a collaboration--albeit not always a friendly one.

As for the most influential Matisse, a number of folks have argued for The Red Studio because of the obvious impact it had on American abstraction when it came to New York in 1939.

Matisse or Picasso: Painters tend to gravitate toward one pole or the other. If you like Picasso, you probably experience and represent light through chiaroscuro, mostly; if you like Matisse, lyrical color trumps value contrast.

I've always been a Matisse fan first, and I'm pretty sure Tyler is, too--which explains why we both like Richard Diebenkorn so much. Hard to imagine what Diebenkorn's work would look like without the precedent of, say, Zorah on the Terrace.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

There will be a reception this Thursday, June 28th, from 7 to 9:00 pm, for Strictly Painting 6: Color Field Revisited at McLean Project for the Arts.

Kristen Hileman, assistant curator for the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, was the juror. She'll be on hand to discuss the exhibition and the 21 artists she selected.

I'm one of those artists, as it turns out. I have two pieces in the show and will be there for the juror's talk.

So come by tomorrow night! Say hi. See some paintings. Talk to Kristen Hileman. Good things, all.

Pictured: Sisters of Songhuong, oil on canvas, 44" X 36", 2006

Friday, June 22, 2007

I have a pick for Matt Ravenstahl's show at Meat Market Gallery in this week's City Paper.

Read it here.

Tomorrow night--Saturday, June 23rd--my band, The Object Lesson, will be playing the Velvet Lounge.

Fox has lovingly hand-picked a couple of great bands to play with us: The Soundscapes and the Famous Lovers.

Remember that birdhouse project I told you about? Well, the houses are coming down. The city threatened Workingman Collective--Tom Ashcraft, Janis Goodman, and Peter Winant--with a $100,000.00 fine. It turns out that you can't attach structures to D.C. trees.

If the trees are privately owned, that's another story. But in this case, they were definitely public property.

Probably would've been good to know that in advance.

From what I understand, the curator, Welmoed Laanstra, experienced some sort of miscommunication.

More Site Projects are planned through the end of July. Let's hope that the city is prepared to tolerate at least a few of them.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Summer is the time for vacations. I took an impromptu one for the first half of this week. Apologies if I left you hanging.

What's new, pussycat? Mostly, I've been amazed by the stupidity of the furor over Salman Rushdie's knighthood.

For me, it's heartbreaking to read Step Across This Line, Rushdie's collection of essays from 2002. The book in part documents Rushdie's efforts to promote secularism in the middle east--because of his belief that free Muslim societies can only exist if church and state are wholly separate. As Rushdie puts it: "...secularists know that a modern nation-state cannot be built out of ideas that emerged in the Arabian desert over thirteen hundred years ago."

Heartbreaking, I say, because the thread ends with September 11th, and with a war led by a U. S. administration that, as former attorney general John Ashcroft famously put it, believes it has "no king but Jesus"--a statement that Christopher Hitchens describes as "exactly two words too long."

Rushdie, an Indian born ex-Muslim, is ultimately agitating for art and literature as the only truly sacred space--a little room that "claims no rights except the right to be the stage upon which the great debates of society can be conducted," as he described it in 1990, in the Herbert Read Memorial Lecture:

Between religion and literature, as between politics and literature, there is a linguistically based dispute. But it is not a dispute of simple opposites. Because whereas religion seeks to privilege one language above all others, the novel has always been about the way in which different languages, values and narratives quarrel, and about the shifting relations between them, which are relations of power. The novel does not seek to establish a privileged language, but it insists upon the freedom to portray and analyse the struggle between the different contestants for such privileges.

I've always thought that art is the place where a society learns about itself. In the case of really resonant, powerful art, something that we didn't fully understand about the present moment and its relation to history is suddenly made clear.

The result is not universal truth. But it is perspective. Everything changes because of it. I count on art to do this for me--to challenge me, change my mind about cherished assumptions, cause me to do a little mental somersault. Free expression, intellectual curiosity, empathy, doubt: Those are pretty much the only things I hold sacred. Rushdie helps me to understand why.

Friday, June 15, 2007

I'm looking forward to powering my life with Vivoleum.

Vivoleum is the fuel of the future. In the coming decades, as global climate change wreaks havoc on the weather, crops, and health and well being of mostly third world nations, the oil industry will begin to render Vivoleum from human flesh--specifically, from the victims of these catastrophes.
This Soylent Green-like scenario was unveiled yesterday in Calgary, Alberta, during the keynote speech for GO-EXPO, Canada's largest gas and oil show. The show had an estimated 20,000 visitors; 300 oil executives were on hand for the Vivoleum announcement.
"With more fossil fuels comes a greater chance of disaster," said ExxonMobil rep. Florian Osenberg, "but that means more feedstock for Vivoleum. Fuel will continue to flow for those of us left."
Okay, if you haven't figured it out already, Florian Osenberg doesn't really work for ExxonMobil. He's the alter ego of Mike Bonnano, of the activist/prankster group, The Yes Men.
After Bonnano and Andy Bichlbaum--posing as National Petroleum Council rep. Shepard Wolff--attempted to get members of the audience to light ceremonial Vivoleum candles, they were forced off the stage by security guards.
In the past, in similar ruses, the Yes Men have announced everything from the dissolution of the WTO, to oil companies donating their profits to build better levees for New Orleans, to a new mascot for Dow chemical: Goldie, the golden risk assessment skeleton.
Because it's okay to have a skeleton in your corporation's closet if it's a golden skeleton.
Check out the 2003 Yes Men documentary.
Tangentially related news: Veteran culture jammers Negativland are coming to the Rock and Roll Hotel on August 5th.
I saw them last when they came to the 9:30 club on the True/False tour. Brilliant stuff. Not to be missed.
Tickets go on sale today at 10:00 a.m.
I have a pick for the Pulp Fiction show at Adamson in this week's Washington City Paper.

Read it here.

Pictured: Marcel Dzama, Untitled, from the Cabin of Count Dracula Suite

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Tyler pounces on that very same NYT article, noting inconsistencies and charging journalistic laziness. I'll go along with that.

What's most interesting to me is Vogel's implication that the fair could effectively close up shop ten minutes after the opening bell.

What's left to do--what's left for a reporter to say--after all of the major transactions have been, uh, transacted?

I suppose you could look at the art.
At the CAA conference back in February, during a panel discussion on the art market, collector Don Rubell said that at an art fair, everything happens within the first twenty minutes. "If you aren’t there in the first twenty minutes," he insisted, "you miss everything."

According to this article in today's New York Times, you can now cut that number in half:

The doors to Art Basel, the annual contemporary art fair here, opened promptly at 11 a.m. Tuesday, and 10 minutes later Ms. Mosseri-Marlio, a collector from Basel, looked distraught. Works by artists like Kelley Walker, Sherrie Levine and Rudolf Stingel had already been sold. Steven P. Henry, director of the Paula Cooper Gallery in Chelsea, seemed just as surprised. “People literally ran and were here by 11:01,” he said.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Matt Ravenstahl has a show opening at Meat Market Gallery this Friday, June 15th.

Like me, Matt got his MFA from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Things I remember about Matt's work: A room with green indoor/outdoor carpeting and sky blue walls; in the middle sat a huge pile of burnt cheese sandwiches.

A piece in which he slowly asphyxiated himself with a motorized lift and a chain.

A thesis show in which he received a full--well, almost full--body wax while eating a steak dinner.

I suspect that whatever he's showing at Meat Market, it'll be entertaining.
How about a little Marina Abramovic for your Wednesday Morning?

Expansion in Space, from 1977.

Contains nudity, but of the grainy, distant, black and white variety.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

This sounds fun: Local artist and WETA art critic Janis Goodman has a new project involving birdhouses and, um, coveralls.

I wrote an artifact about Janis for her show at Flashpoint earlier this year. She also appeared in the Ian and Jan video, in which she explained why DC is a feminine city. You know: Traffic circles, low-rise buildings, leafiness. That sort of thing.

From the press release:

Site, Cite, Sight: 30 Bird habitats to be installed by artists in trees from P to U

Starting June 11, three species of birds that migrate, brood, and breed in Washington, DC will get brand new homes. As part of WPA/Corcoran SiteProjects DC – a city-wide effort to move art into the streets from traditional galleries and museums – three Washington artists will install wood habitats for the Bluebird, Black-capped Chickadee, and Downy Woodpecker.

Populations of all three species have been drastically reduced by the West Nile Virus.

June 11-13, from 9:30 am until 3:00 pm, artists Janis Goodman, Tom Ashcraft, and Peter Winant, while dressed in orange coveralls, will install the custom designed and built birdhouses in 30 individual trees lining 14th Street.

A plaque depicting binoculars will be installed near each tree at eye-level, alerting pedestrians to look up.

WPA/Corcoran SiteProjects DC lasts for six weeks, but the bird houses are scheduled to remain up indefinitely.

Friday, June 08, 2007

It's my first gallery feature in awhile, and it's a double header: In today's Washington City Paper, I've got a review of Wolfgang Tillmans at the Hirshhorn, and Mingering Mike at Hemphill.

Read it here.

I think this is my first longer piece since the CP redesign, and I must say, it's really nice to have those color photos in the print version.

Also nice to have a two page spread with no ads--either they wanted to preserve the integrity of my piece, or they decided to put all the ads in pieces people might actually read. The visual arts, she's a money maker.

I've also got a pick of the current show of drawings over at Curator's Office--the one with all the "D"s in the title. There's a nice little James Siena in that show; I resisted the temptation to tuck it under my arm and nonchalantly sprint out of the building. Nonchalantly, you see.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Matthew Langley posted links to a few summer art movies today. I couldn't resist including one of them here: Robert Rauschenberg explaining the erased DeKooning drawing. A sentimental favorite.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

So we deinstalled Ian and Jan on Monday.

It was a good run--a nice review by Jessica Dawson in the Post, one by Kriston in the CP, and a lot of positive feedback all around. Meg and I were both really pleased with how it all turned out.
Now the component pieces are just sitting around, crowding both of our studios.
What's next? We're working on finding more venues for the show--hopefully taking it to Richmond and Baltimore. We'll see. We're also planning to cut the four videos together into one long piece, maybe take it to a few film festivals...

It's easy to lose momentum with this sort of thing, though. When I did the collaboration with Jefferson and Chris last year, we had all sorts of plans to shop the show around, build additional components...but we all moved on to other projects. Already I'm chomping at the bit to start my next body of work.
In the immediate future, I have a piece in Strictly Painting 6: Color Field Revisited.

Ironic, eh?

Yes, last summer, between the Flashpoint project and Ian and Jan, I did a group of abstract paintings based on found and manipulated digital images for a one man show at Howard Community College. One of those will be on view at McLean. I'm very happy to have been selected...but the piece obviously doesn't exactly reflect my current, ah, change of direction.

Anyway, below are some parting installation shots. I managed to get an image of the video projection--hard to photograph.

1. View of Chariot, Wings, related photos, and performance video

2. Process drawing for Chariot (detail)

3. Ian's action suits; drawing of Ian and Jan wearing proposed Sam Gilliam-esque drape costume

4. Corner Piece--projection of performance superimposed over resulting plexi painting

5. View of main video and black and white performance photos of Jan (Note to aspiring video artists: Think you can't afford a 40" LCD monitor? Rent-a-Center is your friend.)

6. Streaking (detail). Apologies for the blurry photo.

7. Another view of Corner Piece

The article's about a month old, but it's new to me: Richard Dorment says that the most interesting thing about Salvador Dali...was Luis Bunuel.

I'll go along with that.

I've never cared for Dali. I don't think his painting has much to do with, you know, painting--he basically discarded all of modernism's pictorial ideas in favor of an academic style.

Of course, I could just be carrying around negative associations. I knew a lot of guys in college who, after showing you the Dali posters on their walls, would ask, "Dude! Have you read Jim Morrison's poetry?"

The appropriate response is to run away screaming.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Today, Michael Kimmelman gushes about Richard Serra...and sneers at everything else. Contemporary art, art that follows Duchamp's lead, relies on narrative or language--none of this, according to Kimmelman, can compete with a big weathered band of Cor-Ten steel.

Now, I like Serra--though I do wonder sometimes if I admire the newer work simply for the tremendous quantities of capital and manpower required to put it in place. When I saw Rolled and Forged at Gagosian last year, it seemed like half the pleasure for me was the thought of just how the tens of thousands of pounds of art on view were installed, or deinstalled--or how a collector might take one of the pieces home. I think Tyler shares this fascination.

Anyway, I'm always a little perturbed when a writer proclaims his disdain for art that's about language--sort of like, as I've mentioned before, Dave Hickey curating the 4th annual SITE Santa Fe biennial. Hickey wrote that for him, the job of the curator should be simply to prepare the site, and arrange and install beautiful works. Leave the job of sussing out meaning to critics--critics like, say...Dave Hickey? How convenient.