Friday, August 29, 2008

So Jessica’s review of Picturing Politics appeared in today’s WaPo. Jessica’s conclusion: The show is a sledgehammer, full of heavy handed left wing didacticism.

Except maybe for the video projection by Jefferson Pinder and Matt Ravenstahl—which, according to Jessica, is complex, resonant, and powerful.

And except for Judy Byron’s installation, too, because it includes a compelling portrait of life as it’s lived.

And except for Rick Reinhard’s whole gallery, because of his poetic and understated photos of political protests.

And except for the part of the show installed in the community gallery downstairs, because of the photos and videos it features taken by veterans of the Iraq War, showing the story on the ground as they’ve seen it.

Okay, so let me tally this up here:

Jose Ruiz’s room, the Gaitans’s half room, and Renee Stout’s stretch of wall, accounting for about 1/4 of the show, are all objectionable for Jessica.

At least 3/8 of the show, however, is fine by her…and we’re left to guess which way the remaining 3/8 leans.

As it turns out, a lot of that remaining 3/8 consists of open-ended or humorous pieces that completely undermine her thesis.

Like, say, Lisa Blas’s curious pseudo-archeological investigation of the syntax of equestrian statuary…

…or Wendy Babcox and Meg Mitchell’s interactive website, which allows viewers to ask whatever questions about conflict in the Middle East they like without ever really receiving answers (by design), all the while watching scrolling text of randomly generated headlines from newspapers in the region.

And never mind her glaring omission of Mary Coble’s piece—at least as affecting as Jefferson & Matt’s, I’d venture, even if the visuals are reductive—just a quivering hand against a stark black background, tensing and trembling from the application of electrical current.

And speaking of humorous work—what about The Pinky Show??? How could you leave out the most engaging part of the show? Educational, yes, but with a lightheartedness and sense of genuine inquiry that doesn’t feel even a bit like a hammer blow to the head.

I’m left to marvel at how she misreads some of the pieces she does discuss. If you can’t find the lightness in Jose Ruiz’s installation, in which viewers are asked to drink Mexican and American beers and use the empties to construct a border fence…and in which Ruiz drops a loop from Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” behind a voiceover by Lou Dobbs…and includes a drawing of the Iwo Jima memorial in which the soldiers are replaced by cartoon day laborers, one of whom is busy laying down a paint roller stripe of white color across a map of the U.S…well, maybe it depends on your sense of humor.

An aside: I think Rex’s pairing of Jose’s free-spirited, almost improvisational looking installation with Randall Packer’s overblown (by design & intent) meticulously managed multimedia black box requiem for America—a big gallery-filling piece she doesn’t mention—is pretty inspired, actually. That would’ve been a contrast worth exploring.

Look, it’s a really dense show, and it requires repeated viewing—and probably more column inches than Jessica had at her disposal to treat seriously. So I suppose I can’t blame the Posties. I’d just encourage you to come spend some time with the show—yes, it demands your time—and judge for yourself. Meanwhile, look for more comprehensive and sustained considerations of the show in one or more national art publications soon.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Hey, I'm still on vacation, but that doesn't mean I'm not being productive:

Sand sculpture! A whole new direction for my artistic production. From now on, it's nothing but ephemeral fish. (My wife named this one Phil.)

While I've been away, people have started noticing Picturing Politics. The Express ran a nice feature written by Chris Correa on the show.

As usually seems to be the case with this sort of thing, I can't say that I recognize either of the direct quotes attributed to me as being my actual words...but I was on a cell phone, zipping through North Carolina at the time of the interview, so who knows what the heck I said? I'm just happy the show is starting to receive such good coverage.

Look for another review in the WaPo this week!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Posting notice: Good lord, I'm busy. As you no doubt have guessed by the complete lack of activity here this week, it's crunch time at the AAC again.

We're currently installing my good friend Rex Weil's show, Picturing Politics, featuring all sorts of folks--Mary Coble, Jefferson Pinder and Matt Ravenstahl, Alberto and Victoria F. Gaitan, Randall Packer and John Anderson, Renee Stout, the Pinky Show, Jose Ruiz, Helga Thomson, Wendy Babcox and Meg Mitchell, Lisa Blas, Benjamin Edwards, Judy Byron, Rick Reinhard, and photos from the National Vietnam Veterans Museum and the Independence Fund's Veterans Art Project.

That's fifteen different artists and/or artistic collaborations. Lots of video, which means several darkened spaces-within-spaces, which also means hanging drywall, moving existing walls, curtains, paint, etc. Thankfully, enough of the artists are self-starters that my interns and volunteers won't kill themselves. Or me.

So, look, I'm going to be awfully tied up between now and next Friday. After that, I'll be on vacation for two weeks. I'm sure I'll have internet access at the beach, and certainly I'll intend to post a few things...but seeing as how I've lost an entire week this week without really meaning to, my guess is that the tumbleweeds will be tumbling across H&S until September.

Unless I can get a guest blogger, maybe. Any volunteers? Suggestions?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Error 404 no more: Grammarpolice is back!

Now Kriston finally can get back to the serious business of posting cute'n'fuzzy koala videos.

Friday, August 01, 2008

This Saturday at 11:45pm, go see They Live at the AFI Silver Theater. This 1988 John Carpenter classic features fully mulletted wrestler-turned-wanna-be-actor Rowdy Roddy Piper, presumably building on his succcess (?) in 1987's inscrutable Hell Comes to Frogtown.

They Live imagines that class warfare and consumer culture are the machinations of undead-looking extraterrestrials; the aliens manage to walk amongst humans undetected, thanks to perception-altering signals with which they blanket the planet, and subliminal messages they've placed on billboards, magazines, and on television. Piper's character discovers special sunglasses that allow him to see past the deception, and he quickly becomes a fugitive.

The movie also includes one of the longest, most bizarre fight scenes ever committed to film. (I suppose if you're going to put a pro wrestler in your movie, you might as well have him wrestle.) Piper grapples with the indispensible Keith David for what feels like half an hour, even though it's really only about five minutes or so. See below.