Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Boo Anyway

I can’t help but feel that I should post a musing or two on the theme of the day. How it is a modern-baccanalia, a pagan rite (complete with sacred whores) revisited--as Camille Paglia might argue, or just a day to escape oneself. But I don’t think I’m quite up to it.

Halloween, falling mid-week as it does this year, somehow seems like more work than fun this time around. So I’m planning a visit to the museum--sans costume--for the Dracula movie with the new Phillip Glass score. Boo anyway.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sadness Like Water

Sitting here, listening to Elvis Presley croon “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” I am forced to think about the nature of sadness and of memory. Which leads, it seems, to thinking about the work of artist Zhang Huan.

Huan is perhaps most famous for his performance piece, “12 Square Meters” (1994) where the artist, then living next to a garbage dump in Beijing, covered himself in fish oil and honey and sat in a public latrine for an hour as flies crawled over him, into his nose, the corners of his eyes, and into his ears.

I remember seeing an image of the work, shortly after it was made public (ArtForum I think) and it struck me then, and strikes me now. Not least because the image is beautiful in its own way, but also because of the thick thatch of pubic hair visible, lends itself to the disquieting understanding that the flies probably found their way into that most intimate space.

Since then, Huan has steadily been increasing his global presence. And though some of his works have been accused of pandering to a Western audience’s ideas of the East, there is enough mystery to keep collectors and critics looking.

Most recently, the artist has garnered press (if not accolades) for a recent series that at first glance examines Buddhism. But a more prolonged meditation of the work ideologically links it to China’s history as a conquering nation, as well as it’s (more recent) Maoist past, and the ways in which the country is emerging in the 21st Century.

The works are large disembodied heads made of the ash from incense sticks burned at Buddhist monasteries that the artist sweeps up. The heads, with elongated earlobes (traditionally sign of spiritual development and superior status) are not beautiful, often sprouting hairy warts that look rather masticated, and reference, like the welded hands he creates, the broken Buddhist figures he found in Tibet. Tibet, which has its share of China-generated woes.

Simple and direct the sculptures communicate sadness, loss, and displacement in different layers and with varying intensity. Feelings that are surely not the sole provenance of a Chinese artist. They are also profound comments on impermanence...the inevitable decline into decay and then nothingness.

*Of interest: the NY Times reports that Huan recently joined PaceWildenstein’s blue-chip stable.

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Note From the Editor

After getting a phone call from my mother (pictured, blue shirt), complaining about how difficult it is to read this, then having my brother back it up (not pictured), I have decided (as you can see) to change the look up a bit. I might like it 'cause its less pretentious...then again, maybe not. Either way, I hope this makes your perusal easier.

But, in an effort to bolster my lost sense of pretention, I'm thinking (we're thinking) about using the "royal we" in future posts. Ridiculous.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


I love documentaries. Give me a narrator with a well-modulated voice, thoughtful and nostalgic shots, and I'm in heaven. Of course, I realize that this Discovery Channel model isn't exactly revolutionary and even as I nod off midway through many of the shows I attempt to watch, that's not a ringing endorsement.

So, when I went to see "8 BIT," the movie about video game and video game art, I didn't really know what to expect. Its garnered accolades from around the world (which alone suggests it won't be constructed a la Discovery or A&E), and indeed, it is an interesting look into a subculture. But really, that's about all it amounted to.

The premise of the film is simple, it looks at old, outdated technology like 8 bit computers and the ways in which the code can be broken and forced to do new things. And its pretty interesting, as one artist in the film says, "graffiti for the computer nerd set."

Here's what Moca Jax had to say about the film: "By weaving together arcane histories of digital subterfuge, candid interviews with cutting edge artists and theorists, wild videogame concerts, and highlights from the best digital artwork being made today, 8 BIT exposes the cultural ramifications of video games and proposes that Generation X’s coming to grips with its digital heritage signals the beginning of a new social and artistic reality."

And its true, the art/music/performances being made by some of these artists is quite interesting with overtones of nostalgia and innocence. Perhaps the most compelling work being made are the chip tunes, musical compositions created using the audio signatures of early video games.

However, the discussion of chip tunes is also where the film becomes overly indulgent and tedious. Despite interesting and funny interviews, the segments where the audience is treated to selections of chip tune performances is intriguing at first, and then descends into annoyance. Not least because the music closely resembles trance and techno, and a little electronica goes a long way. That's not a wholesale dismissal of the form, just a warning. In fact, I had to leave early because the music triggered a migraine.

Overall, this film was worth the price of admission, just don't plan on watching it if you tend to headaches.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Changing the Landscape

Beauty and impermanence go hand in hand. Capturing a fleeting moment or the attitude of a time can result in startling, wonderful revelations. That’s why, when I stumbled across this program, The Diesel Wall Award, I thought that something similar could be done in Jacksonville, especially with the preponderance of eyesore buildings here.

A juried competition, the Wall Award project invited artists from all over to submit their proposals, and the winners get picked to have their work on the entire side of a building in a globally-oriented city. Of course, this all plays into the branding program of Diesel itself, but I must say it’s a pretty smart way to engage artists in cities and cities with artists. And its inevitable that there are logistics to work out and payment to be met, but really, as an idea, it’s a kind of great one to steal.

And if the city couldn’t step up and do something like this, then perhaps a private enterprise could partner with the city, and say, the museum. It could even be a bi-annual thing...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Inevitable Cascade

P-Jay Fidler's art is a non linear narrative unfolding onto canvas. The viewer is as important to the story as the painting itself. Because his audience brings with them a major part of the story, the results are often surreal, ambiguous yet very much familiar. His work reflects a mixture of adolescent archetypes with dark psychological aspects of the human condition. These images juxtaposed against a silent landscapes combine to create a piece of art work that is truly awe inspiring and thought provoking, while leaving the audience with more insight and questions about the work as well as themselves.

Studying illustration at Art Center College of Design, Fidler learned to tell stories effectively through imagery. Raised in a small farm community in central California, he was very influenced by his childhood surroundings. With animal imagery, landscapes, religious iconography, combined with his love of Flemish paintings, vintage children's books and contemporary graphic design, he creates a non-linear storyline of Life, Love and Death that is disturbing yet beautiful.

Fidler lives and works in Los Angeles. His work can be seen in galleries and national publications and is an active member of the Broken Wrist Project.

Mr. Fidler will be in attendance at the opening.

You may visit P-Jay at his website:

Friday November 2, 2007 - 6pm - Midnight. Live DJs will be spinning music for the duration. Refreshments to appease the American palate will be served. The show will run thru November 30, 2007.

The Gallery at Screen Arts is conveniently located at 228 W. King Street, 2 blks west of US Hwy 1 in Beautiful West St. Augustine

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Once More, Into the Breach--Over the Pond

Above image from Ad Reinhardt's 1966 series of "Black Paintings"

It seems that I’ve been spending an awful lot of time over at “The Guardian.” I just stumbled across this piece, “Is Lazy Reporting Harming the Visual Arts?” by Jonathan Jones.

Normally, I read Jones’ work with real pleasure (see earlier post) but this I read with a mixture of boredom and incredulity. Can he really be asking questions about why record-setting auction prices, graffiti, and artistic plagiarism get printed?

Despite the fact that this is a society that thrives on extremes and competition, there’s also a perceived dearth of interest in real, critical, thinking (most American reporters are told to write for an audience of 9th graders). Combine that with the fact that newspapers are reporting record losses (the N. Y. Times just made its previously subscriber-based webpage free in an effort to attract readers), and that many reporters are being asked to juggle several beats, Jones’ call to “to take a hard look at the conventions by which newspapers and online news outlets cover visual art stories,” ignores the reality of the current state of print media.

The question isn’t “What are our arts reporters doing wrong?” It is, “What are our reporters being asked to do?”

Speaking from personal experience, sometimes you have no other choice than to tackle the assigned task-at-hand. And sometimes, that means reporting on insincere bullshit. Like the fellow at the fair making potato-chip "art," or the girl sewing monkey puppets for a Guiness book record (thanks to Mssrs. Sedaris and Green for lovely examples).

Good v. Great

Zarina Bhimji’s “Your Sadness is Drunk,” 2001-2006

I love to read “The Guardian.” Not least because I never fail to imagine that the articles are being read to me in clipped British tones that are simultaneously measured and pugnacious. The British, or at least their writers, seem to have better, smarter, slang than we Americans do, and a knack for putting it together seamlessly.

So, today, while perusing the online version of the august institution, an article by Jonathan Jones discussing the upcoming Turner Prize and those artists who are ‘also-rans’ posed a really great question: the distinction between good and great art.

The crux was society’s capability to recognize good art, while often overlooking that which would/will later be considered great. It’s an interesting—if not wholly original premise—but nonetheless makes for interesting pondering.

It’s also a good article since it provides a link to this year’s 4 finalists, and images of their works. Hoo-ray for artistic voyeurism.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Boobies and Art (like something out of de Kooning’s dreams…)

The Gallery at Screen Arts has a reputation for exhibiting some of the most interesting, well-known, and not-so-well-known artists in America. With an aesthetic that’s largely West-Coast, Rob DiPiazza (owner/director/dj) nonetheless shows and supports selected Florida artists.

The Current Show, “Breast Defense, Glamour Girls For Early Detection” is a fundraiser designed to raise awareness for, that’s right: breast cancer. The premise is simple and kind of genius in that it combines celebrity-watching and artists. How?

Plaster casts of famous burlesque bust-lines (including Dita Von Teese, Kitten Natividad, and Julie Atlas Muz) have been distributed to artists to customize as they see fit. The roster includes a list of names familiar to those who read magazines like Juxtapoz and Fecal Face, including Derek Hess, Mark Mothersbaugh and Iggy Pop. Plus, Jacksonville-based artists, Tonya Lee, Mark George, Tony Rodrigues and Ian Chase are participating.

The opening, held at the Casa Monica Hotel is free. The after-party, at the Gallery at Screen Arts is $20.00 at the door–with half of the proceeds going to breast cancer organizations.

Casa Monica Hotel, 95 Cordova St., St. Augustine
The Gallery at Screen Arts, 228 W. King St., St. Augustine