Monday, March 31, 2008

What's that? You weren't one of the 700+ people who passed through the AAC's doors for Wreckfest at Tiffany's last Friday? See what you missed below.

Friday, March 28, 2008

You know where you're supposed to be tonight.

See Daily Candy, The Washington Post, and a bunch of other places.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

If you'd like to party with Oliver Herring--and, presumably, a pack of giddy art students--now's your chance. TASK will be at the University of Maryland on Wednesday, April 2nd, in conjunction with Herring's show at the University's art gallery. Paper unibrow, here I come!

Do I wish I could be in NY right now? Well, yeah...although according to Paddy, I'm not missing much.

You can also read AFC's take on the Whitney Biennial.

I finally saw it last weekend. My impressions of the show: The videos are pretty good; the photographs are large and blurry; laminated mdf and mirrors continue to be big...and Robert Bechtle's in it, for some reason. Frame those insights with the obligatory big-institutional-shows-don't-matter-anymore-because-of-art-fairs trope (about as useful at this point as writing about record high prices at an art auction), and you've got a review.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

There's been a lively discussion in the comments for Tuesday's post. Scroll down and read here. (Glad to see Tim Conlon entering the fray by day's end, too.)

Now, on to other important matters. Like, say, '90s indie rock.

Remember the early ‘90s? When playing a guitar that you fished out of a dumpster seemed like a good idea—as did recording your full-length LP on a four track in somebody’s basement, or burying your vocals under a wall of reverb and noisy guitar overdubs?

Anyway, that was how music seemed to work when I discovered Polvo. When I first heard those queasy string bends, dueling detuned guitar parts, and herky-jerky, stop-start song structures, I thought: Surely this is rock music for the ages.

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t, but you should at least be glad that they’re back. Polvo is rested, ready, and doing a reunion tour, and will be playing the Black Cat on May 9. The last time I saw them there, they were touring in support of Shapes, their final album, and they opened—opened! Injustice! Sacrilege!—for Trans Am.

See live video below—Fast Canoe, from Exploded Drawing.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

First, apologies if you read that block quote from yesterday's post and wondered where the heck it came from. (As one reader asked: "Is this from Colin Powell's speech? Why's he calling himself a liar?") The whole quote was supposed to link to the page on the artist's website from whence it came. Link is now fixed.

Second: In the CP on Friday, Kriston wrote about Collectors Select.

I think Kriston’s a great writer—and I don’t just say this because we work for the same mag. Frankly, at this point, as far as intelligent local artwriting in print media, he's the only game in town. So I'm pleased as punch that he made his way to the AAC to write about our show.

But of course I'm going to nit-pick a little:

1) There are six collectors, not five. (Seven if you count Heather and Tony separately.)

2) Kriston's complaint about Philippa's room is that it isn't avante-garde enough.

No, graffiti in a gallery isn’t groundbreaking or edgy, and hasn’t been for decades. But Philippa’s stated goal isn't to shock; it's to make visual art accessible to audiences that it might not traditionally reach--because graffiti's, y'know, so familiar.

Wreckfest tries to attract and involve a newer, younger crowd in gallery culture, and encourage them to try their hands at collecting affordably priced works by young artists. (Hence a reception later this week with a DJ, sponsored by a car company and a lite beer distributor.) Complaining that it isn't succeeding at something it doesn't set out to do just isn't productive.

2) The main argument of the article: Collector aren’t professional curators.

Whether you like the influence of the market or hate it, collectors play a major part in determining what art you do or don’t get to see in both galleries and major public institutions. So throwing a spotlight on their attempts to impose order on their respective corners of the art world is bound to be instructive--and not jut because it reveals that, no, none of them has an MA or a PhD in art history. Which we presumably already knew.

Read the whole article here. (You'll have to scroll down past the Phillips Collection stuff.)

Monday, March 24, 2008

You've probably heard the news by now: The U.S. Death toll in Iraq has reached 4,ooo. Four soldiers were killed in yet another roadside bombing on Sunday.

Last year, Spanish-born artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle pointed out that the war we're now six years into was sparked by phantasms. His piece in 2007's Documenta 12, The Phantom Truck, was an attempt to envision the Platonic ideal of the rolling weapons labs that Colin Powell described in his now-infamous presentation to the U.N.

Powell depicted these vehicles as an imminent danger--and therefore a justification for war. Of course, when the actual trucks were finally found, it became clear that they didn't have any of the capabilities that Powell had warned about:
…an idea is fabricated about a truck, which then becomes 'intelligence', which in turn becomes a virtual representation (i.e. a PowerPoint presentation), only later 'discovered' in the desert and retroactively identified as the actual object (literally a re-presentation that precedes its presentation), which is then revealed to be, in fact, a mis-representation and, finally, only as art, is it given actual form. That is to say, the 'fabrication' is now itself fabricated. No longer evidence of a supposed 'truth', the phantom honestly presents itself as a mere representation --that is to say, The Lie.

Friday, March 21, 2008

As the day ends, and I head out the door, preparing to contend with the NJ turnpike, I leave you with your instructions: Go see Jason Horowitz's work in the Craigslist show at Civilian Art Projects. The reception is tonight from 7:00 - 9:00.

Wish I could attend, but as a wise radio comedy troupe once said: How can you be in two places at once when you're not anywhere at all?
Last weekend, I attended the opening of the Dan Steinhilber show at G Fine Art. Steinhilber has always excelled at gestures using cheap, commonplace found objects—shampoo bottles, oscillating fans, coat hangers—that should come off like cheeky, inside-y art school one-liners. Instead, Steinhilber’s work typically offers just the right mix of humor, élan, and grace, and the viewer is left wondering why something as simple and faintly ridiculous as a flurry of agitated Styrofoam packing peanuts can hold the attention and imagination for such long spans.

Of course I’m referring to Steinhilber’s installation at the Baltimore Museum of Art. That piece serves as the inspiration for much of the artist’s current body of work at G. Despite its obvious debt to postminimalism, his art has always seemed fresh, contemporary. His new show, however, offers a strange sense of temporal dislocation. Maybe it’s just the photos lining the gallery walls, and documenting abstract, blurred explosions of those same peanuts from the BMA show. All of the pics are grainy, blurry black and white—at least superficially resembling the documentation of some early ‘70s ephemeral action or other. Or maybe it’s the floor pieces: sculptures made from black plastic trash bags, still more packing peanuts, and gorilla glue—vacuum-formed into arched, twisting forms, resembling molten asphalt or charcoal. These could maybe pass for works by some contemporary of Eva Hesse's, all giving conservators fits as they slowly degrade, consuming themselves in some museum storeroom.

This is possibly the most commodifiable that Steinhilber has seemed: It’s one thing to buy, say, a pair of oscillating fans, one blowing into another; it’s something else to buy one-of-a-kind handmade sculptures that refer to an artist’s recent prestige piece—or photos you can hang on your wall for the same effect. It’s therefore a little ironic that these works more closely resemble the postminimal period on which Steinhilber so clearly depends.

The one truly mesmerizing piece in the show hides behind curtains of black plastic sheeting: A wall-mounted square of buzzing, flickering light. Is this a video piece, a projection? Nope, it’s a cluster of dying fluorescent tubes, all of which have had their ballast pre-distressed by the artist to make them almost flicker into life—but not quite. Making art with fluorescent tubes is admittedly a risky proposition—hey, look! Dan Flavin! But Steinhilber pulls it off, showing that even when he wears his influences on his sleeve, he’s still capable of a magic trick or two. Like the best of Steinhilber’s work, even after you’ve thoroughly figured out just what the heck it is you’re seeing—after you’ve pinned down the impoverished material at the work’s heart—the fascination doesn’t go away. (No wonder that this piece sold before the opening even got underway.)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Things I owe you: Thoughts on what I saw last Saturday; things to see this weekend.

In the meantime, I'm having a Sun Ra sort of morning.

Nuclear war? You know what it is. (Goodbye, ass...)

Monday, March 17, 2008

In the news this weekend: Read more about G. Wayne Clough's appointment as new Smithsonian head in the NYT--he won the job over Cristián Samper, who was a favorite within the organization. Samper will now return to his previous post as Director of the Museum of Natural History.

The former president of Georgia Tech is apparently taking a pay cut--from both his previous post and from what his scandalized predecessor, Lawrence Small, was pulling in: Small had a $900,000 salary by the time he stepped down; Clough will be making about half of that. (Clough presumably won't be taking as many vacation days, either.)

Meanwhile, in Sunday's WaPo, Blake Gopnik had a nice profile of Shinique Smith, the Baltimore-born artist who currently has an installation in the National Portrait Gallery's hip-hop-inflected art show, Recognize! If you haven't seen her piece yet, you're missing out--and, unfortunately, if you're going now, this means you've missed your chance to ponder John Alexander's hilariously unnecessary retrospective there (it closed this weekend). It's not often that I find myself nodding in agreement with something Gopnik has written, but his faint praise for Alexander--placing him in the top 5,000 artists--was spot-on.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Yes, I’ll see you this Saturday at 1515 14th Street for the usual openings. Check out this piece from Sunday’s WaPo on Charles Cohan at Curator’s Office--another entry from Blake Gopnik in his From the Studio series.

This installment actually has some informational content—rare for a feature that’s typically just a couple of unilluminating sentences in a larger-than-normal typeface, disconcertingly surrounded by white space. (Note to the Post: A caption for an oversized photo doesn't really count as local visual arts coverage.)

What else is on my calendar? Coming up at the end of March: The Merce Cunningham Dance Company will perform their newest work, eyespace, at Sidney Harman Hall, March 27 - 29.

The new dance’s soundtrack will be distributed to audience members on iPods—so presumably there will be no music bouncing around in the space itself, just buzzing through hundreds of pairs of earbuds. You can even download an mp3 of the score for yourself once you’ve bought tickets online.

Rather than appearing to defy gravity—something audiences might reasonably expect with traditional ballet—Cunningham’s dancers often appear emphatically earth-bound as they execute everyday movements, sometimes awkwardly. Cunningham’s choreography can often boil down to the simplest possible view of what dance is: Bodies traveling in space together at different tempos, appearing and disappearing, seeming to track in and out of synch with whatever rhythms are (or aren’t) being generated by the score. As dancer and longtime Cunningham collaborator Carolyn Brown once put it:
Merce always appeared to be interested only in the correct timing and spacing, seeming to believe that if these elements were right, any other problems would solve themselves. When asked, “How do you do this turn (or fall or jump)?”, his answer was inevitably, “You just do it.” Viola Farber and I were always amused when after a rehearsal had been a total disaster, Merce’s only comment, as he glanced at his stopwatch, would be, “It’s two and a half minutes fast.”
(An entertaining and very readable introduction for anyone interested is Calvin Tomkins’s The Bride and the Bachelors--which illustrates the link between Marcel Duchamp and a new generation of avante-gardeists in various disciplines, including John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, and Merce Cunningham.)

Below is a video clip of Biped, a dance Cunningham created using computer software (he now choreographs all of his dances on Danceforms) and motion capture technology:

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Oh, never mind that vast plane of tilted text, scrolling its way up to a vanishing point somewhere in a distant star system: Saul Bass would've done it better.

Link courtesy of C-monster...who recently offered a prestigious blogger's apartment tour--complete with burrito lunch, lite beer, and a bong hit--for a mere $50. Take that, Jeff Koons!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Things to do: Tonight, between 6:00 and 8:30, you should swing by the opening reception of Meat Market Gallery's new show of artworks by Lisa Blas. Blas's work is all about national identity, historical narratives, iconography in civil war monuments--and the intersection of all of these things with day-to-day life in the present tense.

Also opening tonight is the DCist photo show at Civilian Art Projects--reception from 7:00 to 9:00. Panel discussion follows next Wednesday.

Of course, you already know where you're supposed to be on Saturday. From today's WaPo:

THE SCENE: See Through the Eyes of the Collectors of "Collectors Select" Tomorrow, some of the high-profile Washington collectors who designed the six differently themed mini-exhibitions on display at the Arlington Arts Center finally share their visions for their shows this weekend. They'll take the public on a tour of the galleries (each of which reflects the taste and collecting styles of its "curator"); Henry L. Thaggert, Heather and Tony Podesta, Daniel Levinas and Philip Barlow will discuss their favorite pieces and talk about the local scene. Free. Talk from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., followed by a reception from 6 to 8. Show through March 29. Arlington Arts Center, 3550 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. 703-248-6800.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Also opening this Saturday, March 8: Patrick Holderfield's show at Project 4, Pilgrim.

I don't know much about Holderfield, but based on the jpegs on the gallery's website, it appears that he's yet another artist who likes to paint that painting.

Which painting, you ask? You know it: A collision of visual codes in the middle of an empty field--some brushstrokes; some illusionistic renderings of brushstrokes; some calligraphic curlicues, and maybe some goopy cosmic sci fi stuff. Or some intertwining conduits, pipes, and wires. Or neurons, or blood cells--biological flotsam. Something like that. Think Matthew Ritchie, or Julie Mehretu...or the thousands of grad students who love them.

I'm not saying that all of this work is bad, or that it's all created for the same reasons--heck, I actually like a few of the local artists who make some version or other of that painting.

But maybe we can all agree it's time to start making a different painting.

Anyway, Patrick Holderfield painted one of the 14 pictures below. See if you can figure out which one. Bonus points if you can place all of the remaining 13--each is by a different artist, believe it or not. Answers next week!

This Saturday, March 8, after you've listened to Henry Thaggert, Heather and Tony Podesta, Daniel Levinas, and Philip Barlow talk about their experiences with Collectors Select at the Arlington Arts Center (the talk is from 4:30 to 5:30; be there!) might consider marching over to Randall Scott Gallery and catching the opening of Cara Ober's new show, i am who i pretend to be. (Wasn't that a Sinead O'Connor album? Oh, never mind.)

But is this really Cara Ober? Or is it instead some sort of thinly veiled--and thinly justified--conceptual art feint by some other Baltimore artist? Boy, wouldn't that be something?
(Answer: No, it wouldn't.)
Pictured: Cara Ober, Well Meaning, oil and acrylic on canvas, 40" X 38", 2008

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Here's a clever idea for an art blog: Each month, painter Isabel Manalo will visit with a local visual artist who doesn't have commercial gallery representation and post about their meeting here.

The site seems pretty bare-bones thus far--a handful of photos and stray anecdotes--so I'll be curious to see how the content and presentation develop going forward.

This month at Studio Visit: Bridget Sue Lambert.

Pictured: Isabel Manalo, Friendly Fire, mixed media on canvas, 60" X 60", 2007

Monday, March 03, 2008

This piece actually made my wife yell at her newspaper on the way to the metro this morning. Kriston comments on it here...I kept thinking maybe it was some sort of parody, or prank, but, nope, it appears to be in earnest:
So I don't understand why more women don't relax, enjoy the innate abilities most of us possess (as well as the ones fewer of us possess) and revel in the things most important to life at which nearly all of us excel: tenderness toward children and men and the weak and the ability to make a house a home. Then we could shriek and swoon and gossip and read chick lit to our hearts' content and not mind the fact that way down deep, we are . . . kind of dim.
I know that dead tree media is in trouble all over...but the Post's strategy of reaching out to people who don't read--by confirming their worst assumptions with lazy, fact-free content--isn't going to keep them from hemorrhaging readers who, you know, actually do read. Sober up, folks.
I'm a little behind the curve, but former NGA curator Jeffrey Weiss has resigned from his post at DIA. This comes after less than a year in the position, and without accomplishing his one major goal: finding a new space in NYC.

Weiss's last notable show at the NGA was 2007's Jasper Johns retrospective.

Tyler broke the story on Friday; Carol Vogel of the NYT followed on Saturday...with a piece that uncharacteristically includes no references to record auction sales.