Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It took quite a bit of back and forth, bargaining, and compromising, but Welmoed, Kriston, and Martin eventually came up with a list of finalists for Unlimited Edition at the AAC.

You can read about the results--and a bit about Philippa Hughes's Tee Party, also taking place on the night of December 12--over on the official AAC blog.

Other AAC-related news: The November/December issue of Art Papers features a review by Andrew Kozlowski of our August/November show, Picturing Politics. It's a thorough, carefully considered treatment of the exhibition--a bit of a mixed review, ultimately, but Kozlowski clearly took the requisite time to unpack the curator's intentions and weigh the many disparate artists and approaches on offer. This is the kind of serious, thoughtful criticism that curators pine for.

Kozlowski sums up the show early on:

"While Picturing Politics features some visually unappealing works, very few confront the viewer with the kind of didactic grandstanding that often makes political art tough to stomach and easy to dismiss."

Gee...does that sound familiar?

"With few exceptions, "Picturing Politics" batters us with its liberal agenda -- an agenda as rife with polemic as the rightist politics its artists oppose."

No, I guess it doesn't.

Hey, happy Thanksgiving! See you next week.

Friday, November 21, 2008

WPA Executive Director Kim Ward announced her resignation today, after six years of working with the organization. In her statement, Ward sounds a bit like an embattled politician leaving Washington:

The decision to leave as Executive Director is solely precipitated by my desire to spend more time with my immediate and extended family. In the next few years my children will begin leaving home and starting college and I would like to be more present in their lives and see them as much as possible.

Seriously, though, Ward will very much be missed around here, and her departure is undoubtedly going to have a significant impact on the shape of the D.C. arts community going forward.

So...who do you think should take this job?
I've been busy finishing up my piece for the WCP on the Christo & Jeanne Claude show at the Phillips. Barring anything unforeseen, it should hit newsstands (are there still newsstands?) next Thursday.

I should also have an announcement re: finalists for UNLIMITED EDITION at the Arlington Arts Center before the day ends.

It's been over a year since I started curating at the AAC, and I'm finally, finally starting on a new art project of my own. I've just barely gotten started, and I've already discovered that I understand next to nothing about woodworking, or simple mechanisms, like cams.

AAC visiting artist Evan Reed loaned me a very helpful book from a company called Flying Pig, and it's exactly at my level of comprehension. Of course, it's basically a kids' book, showing you how to make cardboard dogs that nod their heads, hopping sheep, etc. Me, I'm planning to build something the size of a small car.

Clearly I need an assistant.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Author and New Yorker staff writer Calvin Tomkins will be at the NGA this Sunday, November 23. He'll be talking about his new book, Lives of the Artists (no, it's not a new Vasari translation) with Harry Cooper, curator of modern and contemporary art.

Tomkins is the author of a number of very reader-friendly books about modern art, including The Bride and the Bachelors, Duchamp: A Biography, Off the Wall: A Portrait of Robert Rauschenberg, and Living Well is the Best Revenge--a book about Sara and Gerald Murphy and the lost generation.

Free, of course, in the East Building auditorium at 2:00 pm.
Did you notice? The AAC has a new website!

We're still working out some kinks, filling in content...but I think it's already a vast improvement over the old one.

The new site features pages for all of our resident artists, and includes an official AAC blog--which I hopefully should be able to start updating soon.

Visit us often!

Friday, November 14, 2008

I love it. Tyler's solution for fixing what ails the Corcoran, which has long had a reputation as D.C.'s most dysfunctional museum: Dismantle it. Peel off the various collections and programs and distribute them around town.

So if the Corcoran closes, what to do with the school and the physical plant? American University or George Washington University could each absorb relevant parts of the college. The physical plant could go to the National Gallery of Art, which would have to renovate the buildings before installing its American art and photography collections.

Mr. Greenhalgh, tear down this wall!

Read the rest of Tyler's prescriptions for the Corc here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I'm working on a show for next summer called Paradox Now!--which is all about parodies, reenactments, and hoaxes. While I was chatting with one of the artists about it, Monty Python's classic 1979 film, Life of Brian, came up. It's such a brilliant movie, and, of course, it almost didn't get made: EMI got nervous and backed out a mere two days before filming was set to start out in the sand dunes of Tunisia. Former Beatle (and rabid Python fan) George Harrison had to ride to the rescue, mortgaging his house in order to finance the production.

Anyway, below is a snippet from a 2007 documentary on the making of the movie, and the controversy that followed it--mostly stirred up by people who had never seen the film, and probably wouldn't have enjoyed a good laugh, anyway. It features a few clips from an interview that I wish I could find in its entirety: Stars John Cleese and Michael Palin arguing on the BBC talk show, Friday Night, Saturday Morning, with writer Malcolm Muggeridge and Mervyn Stockwood, the Bishop of Southwark. The two Christians barely engage the Pythons, and mostly seem intent on behaving badly and appearing outraged for the benefit of the audience. Michael Palin's evident frustration with the exchange is wonderful.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

This Sunday, November 16, there are two open studios events competing for your attention. The first will be at the Arlington Arts Center, where you can meet our resident artists--Evan Reed, Lisa McCarty, Gilbert Trent, Mark Roman, Sabyna Sterrett, Paula Bryan, Van Nguyen, Monica Stroik, Anne Marie Coolick, Edith Heins, Scott Hutchison, Matt Best, and Jill Romanoke--from noon to 3:00.

Once you've gotten a sense of things here, you can head out to Mount Ranier for an open house at Red Dirt Studios that runs from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm. See the work and work environs of Laurel Lukaszewski, Novie Trump, Kyan Bishop, Mila Kagan, Noah Armstrong & Andrea Roberson. The first twenty visitors all get a free ten pound bag of red dirt!

Okay, yes, I'm kidding: No complimentary dirt bags, but there will be plenty of food and drink at both events, and free parking, besides.
Michele Kong has redesigned her website. Coincidentally, Christmas is only a few weeks away, and if you're looking for an early gift idea for me, one of her drawings will do quite nicely, thanks. (What, you weren't planning on buying me original artworks?? Skinflint.)

Visit her--and pick out something for me, for under the tree--here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Okay, so I know Nick and Sheila Pye are giving a talk at the Corcoran today, and I believe they're screening their new work there, too...but there's no mention of it on the Corcoran website, or anywhere else that I can find. Maybe it's just in conjunction with the school, not the museum.

So maybe, possibly you want to be at the Corcoran today at 1:00...? Or maybe I imagined the whole thing. But I did hear it straight from the horse's--er, artists'--mouth(s). And we were all fairly sober at the time, too.

Sadly, I don't think I'm going to be able to play hooky today, so, hey, if you do hoof it over there, tell me how it went!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

You have through this Sunday, November 9 to check out Leo Villareal’s show of new work at Conner Contemporary—and, if you haven’t done so already, to experience Leigh Conner’s spacious new digs. The new CoCo at 1358 Florida Ave, NE, opened back on September 27; it has dramatic high ceilings and 7,000 square feet of space—including two main galleries, an enclosed room devoted entirely to video/new media (there’s a piece by Brandon Morse in there right now, as part of a sort of stable survey show in the back half of the building), and an outdoor exhibition space/patio.

It frankly feels less like a DC gallery, and more like a grandiose space in Chelsea, miraculously uprooted and flown down to a new unlikely home by Gallaudet and the bars on H Street. The only question remaining now: Which gallery is going to be next to head to NE, perhaps moving into the equally impressive space just above Conner? Okay, the economy may not cooperate with the big dreams of gallerists and dealers at the moment. Luckily, given the size of the new venue and the amount of work on the walls, Conner can serve as a destination gallery, anyway.

I will confess that I am a bit ambivalent about Villareal’s work—the gee whiz factor is undeniably high, but there’s something about his oeuvre that to me lacks contemporariness, and can seem bloodless, besides. I felt this pretty keenly when seeing his work in the context of earlier generations of electronic artists in the Hirshhorn’s Visual Music show back in 2005. (You can read what I had to say about that here.)

Still, it works as impressive tech spectacle. Even more impressive once it’s finally finished will be the 42,000 LED lights Villareal currently is installing at the NGA--in the ceiling and walls of that shimmering silver corridor running underground between the East and West buildings. It’s hard not to like the project, both for the welcome interaction of the NGA with a living contemporary artist (okay, not a local, but at least someone with local representation. Does that count?),and for the prospect of being overcome by oscillating white light while bouncing along those silly moving walkways.
Things I think after last night: John McCain's concession speech was almost gracious enough to erase from my memory that awful campaign he ran. I actually got a little choked up hearing what he had to say--which seems insane, given how desperately I didn't want him to win.

I've also been trying to think of some work of
visual culture that can generate something akin to the feelings I had last night--when Obama finally strode across that stage in Grant Park. I'm at a loss...although given the number of commentators who credit the election results to a coalition of minorities and college educated whites, this finale from a popular 1984 film seems appropriate:

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Someone posted this video of my old band, The Object Lesson, playing the Make Music New York festival in Williamsburg this past June--our last gig before Fox moved to NYC permanently. The performance was a little rough around the edges, but we were having fun, and it makes me regret that we didn't get to have one last summer of gigs before calling it quits.
In honor of this historic election today--in which a black man, for the first time ever, very likely will become our next president--Tyler has been posting an image from the civil rights movement every hour on the hour. Can I compete with that? No, I can't.

I voted this morning. Of course, I voted in D.C., where the outcome for the presidential election is already a given. The only question, really, is how many points less than 10% McCain will get in the popular vote here. (I believe Bush received about 8% of the D.C. vote in the last presidential contest.) Still, casting that ballot felt like a powerful moment, and the mood around the polling site was buoyant.

Also this morning, between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., I stopped by the K Street metro entrance to see Lisa Blas. Over the course of about an hour, the artist, dressed in a suit jacket and appearing to be ready for work in any of the office buildings lining the busy street, stood motionless, just a few feet from the escalators. She held a red sign proclaiming that THIS TRAIN IS NO LONGER SERVING MAIN STREET. People were generally unresponsive, although occasionally someone would stop to ask a question or two, which Blas would politely, matter-of-factly answer.

This was just one installment in an ongoing public project by Blas. I didn't take any photos, but I did record some sound, which will accompany an interview I'm doing with the artist...which is part of a larger collaborative audio venture I'll be unveiling in a few weeks. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 03, 2008

In case you missed it: Below is video from AAC's performance night last Thursday, October 30.