Friday, February 29, 2008

Property Rights

I saw this item on and thought that it had really fascinating implications. It also seems to play into the worst stereotypes of gallerists as opportunistic, self-serving, scale-covered charlatans who will stop at nothing to make buck. Even if it is patently dishonest and morally reprehensible:

Rauschenberg Sues to Stop Gallery from Selling Items Pulled from His Trash

Artist Robert Rauschenberg has filed lawsuits against a Florida artist and art gallery, reports USA Today. Rauschenberg says that Robert Fontaine and the HW Gallery of Naples, Florida, improperly sold artwork under his name, complete with bogus certificates of authenticity, after pulling discarded pieces from the artist’s trash. "Rauschenberg is an incredible artist,"

Yale Freeman, Fontaine's attorney, said recently. "But what happens when that incredible artist discards material? Do the laws of abandonment apply?" Neither Rauschenberg nor his associates can comment because the matter is under litigation, said Mark Pace, speaking on the artist's behalf. Pace is executive assistant to artist Darryl Pottorf, a close Rauschenberg colleague and confidante. Rauschenberg's attorney, Lawrence Kolin of Orlando, could not be reached for comment. "I have no comment," Lauren Greenough, director of HW Gallery, said Wednesday.

HW Gallery lists four Rauschenbergs on its website. The lawsuit filed in US District Court in Fort Myers asks that Fontaine and his associates be stopped from doing anything likely to mislead others into believing that works of art not attributable to Robert Rauschenberg came from the artist or are approved by the artist.

*note: the image pictured is pulled from HW's website. I do not know if it is one of the contested images or not.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


"Murmur of Wounds" is imprinted upon a banner floated just below the surface of the pond that faces UNF's library. It is not immediately visible until one is above it, looking down. Then it leaps out of the landscape like a misplaced modifier.

At first glance, it is tempting to dismiss the piece (which clearly borrows from Christo and Jean Claude) as a synthesis of that unique collegiate female who has been reborn under the rubric of Dworkin-esque feminism and Greenpeace-ish activism.

The words are so carefully chosen: "wounds," with all of its juicy, broken bird's wing yet vaguely antiseptic connotations; and "murmur" with a sort of soothing onomatopoeic structure, conjure the softest yet deepest of hurts.

Worth noting: one of the definitions in the OED defines wound as an incision, abrasion, or other injury due to external violence, in any part of a tree or plant. While one of the definitions for murmur includes: to complain against; to criticize the actions of (a person); to accuse. Accurate perhaps, on a campus that is situated at the nexus of commerce and development.

That said, it is easy to image (indulge me in a few generalizations) a group of self-righteously environmentally aware young women sitting around, fiddling with their hemp and bead necklaces, trading war stories (in whatever form, relationship or protest, they take), channeling Eva Hesse and Ana Mendieta, and finally deciding that some sort of action must be taken. A statement must be made.

The thing is, they're not wrong. The message, which is clearly a protest against the rampant development in Northeast Florida, is one that's hard to contest. The placement is clever, and the succinctness is ambiguous enough to tease the imagination. A bit melodramatic perhaps, but effective overall.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Cry Havoc

"Cry havoc and let loose the hounds of war!"

This is taken from Marc Antony's famous speech in Julius Caesar.

Reading Shakespeare can be confusing, an exercise in frustration as his words are meant to be spoken. So it it appropriate then, that a spoken-word poet, retranslates one of Shakespeare’s most famous (many of us were forced to read it in high school) plays, the aforementioned Caesar as the play/poetical Julius X. It is a recasting of Malcom X’s final days through the framework of Julius Caesar.

Al Letson is known across the country and here in Jacksonville as a powerful, clever, and insightful poet. I also have the good fortune to count him as a friend. He has been working on the form he calls a poetical, for several years now. I saw his first effort, Chalk, and I have steadily watched the progress of the poetical Julius X.

Julius X debuted this month in Jacksonville at Players by the Sea. Last weekend, I went out to catch it, and was, with very few exceptions impressed. The cast worked together, transitioning seamlessly between Letson’s words and those of the Bard with clarity and often forgot that this performance was two ideas become one.

Using minimal sets that echoed the shapes of Harlem, ancient Rome, and Mecca, the director, Barbara Williams (who has directed Letson many times before) created an atmosphere tense and melancholy. There was no promise of a happy ending here, but Williams managed to make the journey to the final tragedy compellingly terrible--laced with betrayal. The result was a play that the audience could not tear their eyes from.

There were a few dissonant notes, the seers, while effective in conveying the terrors ahead in the Ides of March were, at times, a bit too dramatic, verging on camp. But praise certainly goes to David Girard’s Cassius; as Cassius, Girard seemed to savor his own cunning evil, holding it in his entire form the way others experience a fine wine.

Brutus was played with convincing anguish by actor Larry Knight, who realizes only too late, that perhaps Juius X must not die. Cast in several smaller parts (Marullus/Caius/Reverend), Ryan Sinclair emanated gravitas and wisdom; even if that wisdom (as Malcolm X would surely argue) was misplaced. And Renee Freeman as the Soothsayer is clearly that being who thrives on others' misery.

Letson’s play covers the few months between X’s return from Mecca and his death. It chronicles the man’s epiphany that Islam—as he experienced it--is a religion of inclusiveness, and his own personal transformation in regards to race relations in America. It is also an effective glimpse into the power-struggle that was occurring inside the Nation of Islam.

But more than anything else, the play reminds the audience--whether one agrees with the title character’s views or not--of the imperfect nature of humanity, the lessons that history carries, and the lengths that the power-hungry will go to to condense and maintain that power.

It is also worth mentioning that the 43rd anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination has just passed, February 21. This year, he would have been 83. One wonders what the organization he formed after breaking with the Nation, the Muslim Mosque Inc., would have accomplished. That of course, assumes another assassin’s bullet would not have found his heart.

On a personal note, it aroused enough curiosity in me to finally sit down and read Malcolm X's autobiography. More than just the tale on one man's life, it is an anthropological snapshot of a time consigned by the history books as *literally* black and white, when in reality there were many, many shades of grey.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Be Mine

For the past two years, my sweetie and I have had a very low-key Valentine's Day. This year wasn't too different, only instead of joining the hordes crowding out the city's most popular restaurants (not that we don't love you Bistro Aix...) we decided to spend it with friends.

Cafe Nola, inside of MOCA Jacksonville, is one of Downtown's favorite lunch spots (the shrimp salad wrap, with hints of lemon is worth the extra-long lunch hour alone). But many people don't know that chef Kathy Collins has started opening three nights a week (Weds, Thurs, & Fri).

This posting might seem out-of-place on a blog where I regularly rail against/wax poetic-ish about works of art, but the thing that really garners my respect about Nola is Collins's enthusiasm and dedication. She strives to work within a framework of accessible food, while maintaining a commitment to contemporary cuisine.

She took over cheffing and managing the restaurant from the former company that was handling it, Chives, about a year ago. Since then she's had an uphill battle; though the lunch crowd is strong and supportive, there are things she wants to accomplish as a chef, that are in many ways best for the evening meal. Whether it's pairing wines, or creating coursed dishes, there are simply limitations to the lunchtime aesthetic. Especially considering her primary diners are Downtown business people and art-community types--people who don't often have time for a three course lunch, paired with wine flights.

I've been in for dinner several times, but this was far and away the best. The prix fix menu ($39 per person, including a bottle of champagne to split), had two courses per person and a shared dessert. It's been a long time since I was equal parts satisfied and surprised with my meal: I started with the shrimp; it was poached in champagne and served chilled over a bed of greens with a blood orange vinaigrette that'd been laced with chunks of sea salt. Here there was a play of flavors and textures, the citrus bite of the vinaigrette set off the cool creaminess of the shrimp, while the sea salt provided added crunch and just a hint of the sea.

For an entree, the lure of fresh truffled papardelle pasta with portabella mushrooms and fresh thyme proved too strong to resist. I slowed down to eat this dish. It is so rare to find good Italian food in Jacksonville, that I savored the experience. The scent of the truffles filled my mouth while the fresh pasta was both comforting and refined--finished against the fresh greeness of the thyme, it was a dish of classic flavors, carefully balanced against one another.

For dessert we split the chocolate pyramid with the creme anglais heart, coconut truffles, and chocolate sauce. Though chocolate can be overwhelming, Collins transformed the dessert into manageable bites, each varied enough to tickle the palate.

Overall, it was a wonderful, quiet meal spent among friends (it'd be disingenuous of me to pretend that I don't count the chef and the front-of-the-house-manger among my peeps). The only drawback, the kitchen seemed to be a little understaffed and it took a while for our first course to appear.

But if one can't overlook small things on a day no-one likes to work (Valentine's is famous for bringing out amateurs), then perhaps staying at home is advisable (one caveat, Matthew's in San Marco is where fine dining has died--the last time we were there we got to witness a Sopranos-esque character throw wads of cash around, have his date serenaded by a barbershop quartet, and then listen to a keyboardist play weak renditions of Yanni's greatest hits).

Anyway, enough of where not to dine. Check out Nola for dinner...added bonus? Viewing the new Duval Carrie sculptures the museum just acquired, they're right there in the lobby.

*What's that in the picture? Meat and Potatoes Redux: a medium-rare petite filet with a sliver of fois gras, roasted baby carrots and a gruyere and potato gratin served with a cabernet sauce. There really is a reason the French are consistently at the top of the food pyramid.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Baby Shoes, Never Worn

From the website:

"Legend has it that once, when asked to write a full story in six words, Ernest Hemingway replied: For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.

In this spirit, of simple yet beautiful brevity, the magazine Smith asked readers to write the story of their lives in one simple sentence. The result is Not Quite What I was Expecting a collection of famous and not-so-famous writers, artists, and musicians. Their stories are sometimes sad, sometimes funny, and always concise."

I think that this is such an incredibly smart project, that I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. And yes, I have wondered about what my own six-word utterance would be, but since I'm under deadline for another project, I haven't really been able to sit still and think about it.

One of my favorites is: "After Harvard, had baby with crackhead." Think of how much is contained in that sentence.

Feel free to post your own here. Or just check out the npr story:

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Not A Vegetarian

Image, copyright Gary Larson

I am not a vegetarian. I used to be, but after ten years, the siren call of bacon lured me back into the meat-eating fold. Recently though, I read a bit of information in the NY Times that directly corollated the growth and consumption of meat to energy terms; and that I haven't been able to stop thinking about.

"Growing meat (it’s hard to use the word “raising” when applied to animals in factory farms) uses so many resources that it’s a challenge to enumerate them all. But consider: an estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which also estimates that livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than transportation.

To put the energy-using demand of meat production into easy-to-understand terms, Gidon Eshel, a geophysicist at the Bard Center, and Pamela A. Martin, an assistant professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago, calculated that if Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent it would be as if we all switched from a standard sedan — a Camry, say — to the ultra-efficient Prius. Similarly, a study last year by the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Japan estimated that 2.2 pounds of beef is responsible for the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average European car every 155 miles, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days."

Wow. It really puts human appetite into perspective. Combine that with the cruel and unsanitary conditions the animals are raised in, it's enough to inspire a return to vegetarianism. Or at least to spur a reduction in burger consumption.

Might not hurt the old *squeeze* waistline either.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Got People? Not Likely

Taxes are daunting. Especially when you're an artist, freelancer, or any other category that doesn't place you square under the one-employer rubric. So, most people I know get help with their taxes...and believe me, this help can result in the savings of hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

So, in 2005, when I went to do my taxes, I went to H&R block...I thought that my situation was relatively simple: a full-time job, and a few freelance projects. 

Fast forward a year, and the IRS is sending me scary letters, saying I owe thousands in back taxes.

Oh, and their must-vaunted protection up to $5,000? Sure, if you buy it. Plus, be sure to keep your receipt...they won't honor their commitment without it; apparently H&R Block doesn't keep those records.  

Insult to injury: whatever funds they then pay out to you? Become tax liabilites for you. I.e., they write you a check to cover the $1,000 you suddenly owe the IRS, you now must declare that on your current fiscal year taxes. Paying taxes on paying taxes...awesome.

My advice, steer clear of H&R block and find a reputable accountant. When I did, it even cost me less to have my taxes prepared. Freelance weirdness and all.  

I think it's especially important for artists to be aware of this, as the system is not set up for the self-employed. Consider setting yourself up as a corporation. As a corporation, you get benefits not accorded to private citizens.

...and we still think our country is a democracy? Protect yourself, the government won't.

Sunday, February 3, 2008


In thinking about words, word origins and definitions, for most critics, there is one source to turn to, the Oxford English Dictionary. I thought it might be instructive to look at the etymology of two words through this filter: drawing-because it might add a little depth to the idea of how one considers it, and opinion--because it seems rather timely.

Though “drawing” is recorded as entering the English language circa 1305, it was then describing motion (as in to draw a weapon...or a bucket of water), it isn’t until 1530 that it is applied in the sense that it relates to mark-making.

Here’s that entry:
2. a. The formation of a line by drawing some tracing instrument from point to point of a surface; representation by lines, delineation; hence, ‘any mode of representation in which the delineation of form predominates over considerations of colour’; the draughtsman's art.

"Opinion" seems to have entered the lexicon in 1340, and seems to always have been about the view of the individual.

Here’s that entry:
1. As a count noun: a view held about a particular issue; a judgement formed or a conclusion reached; a belief; a religious or political conviction. Formerly (also): a plan, an intention (obs.).

It is interesting then, that the view of the individual asserts itself when the “one team one fight” mentality is challenged instead of hiding behind the shield of "league". And to note that since opinions are (often) supposition and not based in fact, they can be recanted. See: jaxcal chat.

Drawing update

There are a few things happening soon that seem to be an organic outgrowth of the act of drawing; of working with limited resources to great effect.

The first, perhaps works on a metaphoric level:

“Next Things Next” the February show at OPAQ gallery. But before I speak too highly of this show, the reader should know that I am not an entirely objective source: two of my new works will be included in the show.

However, if one cares to overlook the self serving nature of the post, I was intrigued after chatting with Matt and Katie about the the works to be included in the show…Katie said that many of the works have been executed with “a delicate hand.” That phrase, somehow so old-fashioned, yet evocative piqued my interest.

Matt and I also talked about the suite of drawings he’ll be installing at the show; he said that the images he’s creating have their roots in technical drawings…but that he doesn’t really have experience in executing them.

Further in line with the drawing theme, MOCA is examining drawing as a process in a series of exhibitions which open in mid-April 2008. The featured show is works by LA artist Chris Natrop (pictured top). Also on exhibit will be drawing by John Bailly (second image), a Miami based artist who teaches at FIU.

Natrop’s work has similarities to Swoon’s installations and to Tord Boontje’s gorgeous work, especially the uber-popular lamp-shades (final image) and wall panels. The Miami-based Bailly’s work recalls Phillip Guston and, to a lesser extent, Anslem Kiefer…pieces with a “lexicon of spattered gestural marks and weblike textures.”

Also, the 3rd floor will host an exhibition entitled “Making Marks: A Survey of Jacksonville Drawings.”

Exciting no?

Friday, February 1, 2008

Drawing: Personal and Practical

According to Holland Cutter, "For Michelangelo drawing was the most practical and personal medium; it was a laboratory, a diary, an end in itself. If you could do a perfect drawing, he came to think, why bother to turn it into a painting or sculpture? Perfection in any form was the goal."

The show up at the Morgan Library and Museum in midtown Manhattan, examines the role of drawing in 16th Century Florence. It triggers thoughts of the current role of drawing; what an intimate gesture, unaffected by artifice it is. How immediate and wholly satisfying it can be, and how the disparity between the formal works an artist presents, and casual drawings and studies can be quite startling. 

Closer to home, the best example of this I can think of is the Lucian Freud etching currently on view at MOCA. Freud's paintings are celebrated as violent, deliberately ugly and ungainly portraits of the human body on par with those of Titian, Rubens and Velázquez, but the etching on view (in this case taken as an example of the artist's drawn work) lacks the power of Freud's paintings, and instead exists for the viewer as an example of process. 

Perhaps that is the crux of the drawn line, it is a look behind the curtain into something honest and unadorned; relying on a quality of of line and an arrangement of form in (or against) space.

Simple. Lovely.