Friday, October 31, 2008

First: Thanks to everyone who came and participated in our first-ever performance night at the AAC. Darts were blown at a living golden buddha; sardines were slipped into unwitting patrons' drinks by a cranky sea turtle; and many people experienced the least flattering makeovers imaginable. All in a day's work! I'll post some video from the event next week.

Second: Project 4 has new digs--although as of this writing, their website, confusingly, makes no mention of the fact, and still lists their address as 903 U Street. Don't be fooled! Head over tomorrow night NEXT Saturday night to the third floor of 1353 U Street NW (that's the same building as Hamiltonian) to see the opening of their latest show of work by Los Angeles artist Thomas Müller. Müller pairs tiny, crudely-made clay sculptures of animals with fresh ripe fruit in both photos and installations, presumably to humorous effect.

Third: It's my favorite holiday today, and that can only mean it's time for me to post some Dario Argento: Suspiria, with music courtesy of Goblin. Those made squeamish by graphic--albeit stylized--'70s Italian gore: Skip it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

This Thursday night, come see--or even participate--as Baltimore-based performance artists Sarada Conaway, Judy Stone, and Virginia Warwick all perform simultaneously in different galleries inside the Arlington Arts Center.

Sarada Conaway will be offering free makeovers to willing volunteers--and shooting and posting before and after photos of her subjects. Conaway's piece echoes consumer culture's promises of better living and escape from oneself. Yet her makeovers will give each of her subjects a merely different appearance, not necessarily an improved one. The resulting images will reflect institutional uses of photography--for data collection, not glamor.

Judy Stone will continue her ongoing exploration of religion and weaponry. Her piece will include a two-channel video with images of sharpshooting and transcendental meditation, and a live two-person performance providing a literal expression of the Buddhist admonition: "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him."

Virginia Warwick performed her piece, Underwater Adventure 2008, during the opening of FALL SOLOS 2008. In that piece, the artist dressed as a sea turtle. She wheeled herself into the gallery on a low furniture dolly, declaring that she was hung over, lost, and desperately looking for the ocean--and made absurd demands on audience members as she tugged at their ankles and moaned.

Warwick will perform a different piece based on the same character on October 30. Her work generally has to do with pairing childish fantasy with traditional elements of performance art, such as endurance and audience involvement or implication. Warwick's works are both humorous and decidedly uncomfortable, as audience members try to imagine what sort of interaction is expected of them or even acceptable for them personally.

Documentation from all three performances will be on view in our experimental galleries on the AAC's lower level through the end of the exhibition.

FALL SOLOS 2008 continues through Saturday, November 29.

Images: Sarada Conaway performing in the 2006 Transmodern Festival; Judy Stone performing her 2005 piece, "Good Job Brownie"; and Virginia Warwick preparing to have another underwater adventure.

We all owe Andrea Pollan a thank-you note: Nick and Sheila Pye are returning to Curator's Office. I insist that you go see the Canadian husband-and-wife duo's new show, Vanitas, when it opens next Saturday, November 8, with a rception from 6 to 8 pm. The show includes Loudly, Death Unties, the final installment in the couple's cinematic trilogy of marital sadism.
Read my review of their last show, A Life of Errors, here.
Pictured: Romance, digital-c print, 2007, 48" X 48"

Monday, October 27, 2008

I know, I know, you're sitting there at your little desk, drumming your fingers impatiently, wondering why I haven't posted anything since last Wednesday. Man, I need a staff, or an intern, or a paycheck, or a stiff drink, or something.

I have been a little busy: I'm wrapping up a piece for the City Paper (yes, they still exist!) on the Christo and Jeanne Claude show at the Phillips Collection, Over the River, A Work in Progress. Now, I don't want to let the cat out of the bag or anything, but I can safely say that I won't be agreeing with Blake's assessment that ran in the WaPo last Wednesday: That, since Over the River hasn't actually been installed yet, and won't be until the summer of 2012 at the earliest, the current exhibition is pointless.

Since the pair has been doing "current projects" shows--where they put up drawings, models, and photos for ideas that are in the works, but not yet green-lighted--for decades, I'm not sure exactly what to say about this conclusion. Were all of those shows pointless, too? Or did they become retroactively OK once the projects to which they were attached eventually reached completion?

Besides which: While they might not be conceptual artists per se, their work certainly falls in line with the anti-commercial elements of conceptual art from the 1970s. So all the preparatory drawings and photos of meetings in high schools are essential to their work, and are how their career and their work will be experienced for posterity, anyway. Right?

Blake does make some other interesting points, though, particularly about the show's resemblance to a marketing campaign (of course, what art show at this point isn't just that?), and about exactly how environmentally friendly the SUV-attracting project actually will end up being.

Lots going on at the AAC. At some point, all of my Arlington content will migrate over to a spiffy new AAC blog, with guest contributors and tasty goodness all around. When that day finally arrives, I will undoubtedly experience full blown panic, since I have no idea what I'll fill my weeks with here. Actual reporting? A return to some honest-to-goodness criticism? Or twice as many posts lifted from C-Monster or Modern Art Notes as I offer now?

I'll post about our Thursday performance art event sometime today. Short version: You need to be here on the night before Halloween.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

C-monster (the real one) linked to a review in the NYT of a new Love and Rockets book, The Education of Hopey Glass. The reviewer, Douglas Wolk, gives a note-perfect description of Jaime Hernandez's funny way of rendering children, totally separate from his sense of adult bodies: When Hernandez draws little kids, his vivid evocations of body language give way to an endearing, exaggerated style, all vaudeville scenery-chewing and wailing “Peanuts” heads.

I bring this up because I've been talking to someone at another arts venue about collaborating on a show about comic art, fine art, and folks who inhabit the gray zone inbetween. The subject is near and dear to me: I grew up reading my dad's tattered old copies of Zap Comix, Bijou Funnies, and The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers (perfect for fifth graders: fun features like "Help Fat Freddy Find the Dope!"); eventually graduated to contemporary fare like Los Bros Hernandez, Peter Bagge, Dan Clowes, Scott McCloud, Joe Sacco, etc.; and harbored fantasies of one day becoming an underground cartoonist myself (I dropped it; my friends Mike and Jen, who started the short-lived ZERO with me at UVA, kept at it).

So...can you think of contemporary artists in the region whose work walks that line, or even regularly crosses it? (Andy Moon Wilson and Nekisha Durrett, of course, but who else?) Leave your thoughts in the comments section, if you like. If this idea bears fruit, the show will be in 2010, and it'll be very, very large.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Thanks to everyone who came out for the opening of Fall Solos 2008 at the Arlington Arts Center on Friday! If you missed it, make sure to see our next event: an evening of performance art on Thursday, October 30, during which Baltimorean artists Sarada Conaway, Judy Stone, and Virginia Warwick will all be performing in different parts of the building. (If you made it to Arlington on Friday, you might've caught Virginia's transformation into a directionally challenged, hung-over sea turtle in her fairly uncomfortable performance, Underwater Adventure. The turtle will return on the 30th, but in a different context.)

Thanks also to all of the folks who attended Civilians for Obama at Civilian Art Projects. I don't know if my piece in the show actually sold, but if it did, I commend the taste and bravery of the purchaser, who clearly decided that her or his wall needed to be graced by a picture of a fully frontally nude Jeffry, covered in Morris Louis stripes. Hey, who doesn't need that?

Finally: In case you missed it, DCist's Aaron Morrissey ran a profile of me on Sunday. The piece makes me out to be a very busy bee...completely missing my tendencies to procrastinate, stare off into space, or sit on my ass for hours at a time watching old zombie movies. Dynamism, indeed.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The reception for FALL SOLOS 2008 is tomorrow night--Friday, October 17, from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Come by and see nine galleries full of contemporary art, partake of free food and drink, peek into our resident artists' open studios, and witness artist Virginia Warwick's transformation into a demented, combative sea turtle in her live performance, Underwater Adventure.

See installation shots below:

Photos by Robin Dana, whose work explores the barren, alien-looking landscapes created by kaolin mining in central Georgia.

Ben Pranger's drawings and wooden sculptures all use language, taken from literature and translated into morse code or braille. Every decision he makes in his work is determined through some sort of byzantine system, the gist of which you can get in a binder available in the gallery, containing copies of some of the artist's sketchbook pages.

The Bride Adorned is Pranger's large, roughly 10' X 6' X 8' piece that is composed of a passage from the Book of Revelation--each word of which has been transformed by Pranger into a sort of braille tinkertoy. As for the title: Gee, I wonder if Ben likes Duchamp.

Andrea Chung's work explores colonialism, her own personal history, and images of the exotic Other. Above: A portrait of her grandmother painted in brown sugar and paste.

These photos document Chung's project in which she pasted up her own parodic, troubling advertisements for travel to Jamaica.

The large sculpture shown here is probably the most fragrant piece of art we've had here--each palette has ingredients and spices from a traditional recipe attached to it. (Please: Don't lick the turmeric.)

Andrea's May Day series, w/excised figures.

Katie Creyts uses glass to create damaged fairy tales, filled with odd transformations and dark sublimated desires.

Carriage, 2007

Real Blown Boy, 2008. No, kids, that's not a second nose.

Parmatella Passes Through Midnight, 2007.

What if the helpful little birds in the story of Cinderella made her dress out of the stuff that they found most useful in their own lives?

In the hallway, it's Robin Dana's photographs of spoiled landscapes; in the Tiffany Gallery, it's Morgan Craig's large oil paintings of rotting cityscapes.

It's nice to have Craig's pieces next to the Tiffany windows--it's as if he's painting the ruined shells of buildings from that era. Okay, his structures were probably built more recently than I'm imagining...but, still, I like to think of Craig as a sort of post-apocalyptic Charles Sheeler.

This is the setting for Virginia's Underwater Adventure: giant synthetic kelp fronds, made of plastic, wire, and floral tape. The unearthly soundtrack playing in the space, Through the Kelp Forest, was composed with Dan Breen, and sounds like a mix of cymbal-scraping, feedback, and weird underwater rumbling. After Friday, video of the performance will be running on a monitor in the space.

The view into Lily Cox-Richard's space from Virginia's.

Lily's installation, SPARK GAP, inludes lightning rods, bright copper tape, cast plastic, and a handmade linen rug simulating the pattern that lightning leaves when it strikes an open field. The room feels a bit like an aging natural history museum display.

Also on view:

Upstairs in the Wyatt Gallery, it's AAC resident artist Paula Bryan, with textile work inspired by natural forms...

...and in the community gallery, it's our annual Day of the Dead celebration. Come back Saturday, November 1 for a proper party in this room.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

I'm in the middle of installing Fall Solos 2008 at the AAC, so things will be pretty quiet here until Friday.

I will post something this week about UNLIMITED EDITION, a juried show about art, mass reproduction, and marketing. I've asked Kriston Capps, Martin Irvine, and Welmoed Laanstra to put their heads together and judge the submissions for us. Deadline for applications is November 8; more details soon!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Wrong, wrong, wrong:

"The sausage art is now popular in Russia. They have made some major masterpieces out of sausages and wurst and put on display so that anyone can eat them."

Tonight you should go see the opening of Uncommon Beauty at that other contemporary art space in Arlington.

Uncommon Beauty was juried by curator Sarah Tanguy, and includes some fine choices--like performance artist Mary Coble, and photographers Jason Horowitz and Frank Day.

The artists' talk is from 5:30 to 6:30, with reception to follow.

See you there!

Pictured: Image from Mary Coble's electroshock performance, Aversion; Liz #3 by Jason Horowitz; Blown Up 11 by Frank Day.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Re: The panel discussion at the Phillips on painting in the 21st century. No, I wasn’t there. I was interested, even if this doesn’t exactly seem like the right moment to be having this conversation. As Tyler said, one wonders if any discussion about the death of painting should include an appropriately vintage soundtrack--Whitesnake, he suggested.

I’m annoyed that the Phillips doesn’t appear to have recorded any part of it. How can you talk about painting in the 21st century if your website’s still in the 20th? Why let an event vanish into the ether, undocumented? Hopefully someone will at least post their notes on the discussion.

I particularly would’ve liked to hear what Andrea Pollan had to say, but it appears that her segment was cut short due to other speakers running over. Which makes me sad, but also makes me regret having missed it a bit less.

From what I’ve gathered reading Tyler’s post and talking to Kriston, Blake Gopnik’s remarks were interesting (yes, I’ll stick with interesting). He claimed that the problem with painting now is that painters don’t address their work directly to art critics. This is an odd thing to say, but it's pretty much in sync with other sorts of observations Blake likes to make about the art world. Like, for example, when he asserted that art is better when developments in the market aren’t leading or influencing museums—and museums can be left to do their job in peace.

At the time, I thought this was simply a bizarre misunderstanding on Blake’s part. But Blake is a smart guy, and hearing this new curious notion has made me realize that he has a remarkably consistent viewpoint—albeit one not even remotely grounded in reality. He seems to be wandering through a utopian socialist shadow art world, one in which painters don’t try to sell their works, and collectors are shooed away from the boardrooms of institutions, or from contact with curators.

So Blake has a method, a thought process, and a consistent view of how art ought to work, even if he is ultimately wrong. One wishes the same could be said about his colleagues.

Below: Your Whitesnake karaoke moment.