Friday, August 29, 2008

Take a cue

I decided to take a cue today, from my friend over at Atlantic Shark's Tooth Society, and just post some pictures of some beautiful work. But already, I have violated her gorgeous, minimal silence with my blathering.

Please enjoy Hisano Takei.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Everyone Poops

As a senior in high school, we were forced to write a research paper. The topic could be anything, but it was pretty strongly suggested that we write about something close to our major. I chose to write about artistic freedom as embodied by Andres Serrano's Piss Christ and Maplethorpe’s suite of S&M photos. I argued that not only did the First Amendment give the artists to make these works, but that the prevailing Judeo-Christian culture of America could do nothing but understand them as offensive.

Now, from the comfortable distance of a decade or so later, I look back on that effort and cringe, wishing I’d chosen something a little more (ahem) subtle. But, unlike one of my first forays into writing, Andres Serrano is back. This time around with a body of work based on shit (some of his interim works used corpses, others were art-school obvious images of priests and nude, strung up women). The images, shot like semi-abstract close-ups of food, with gorgeous backdrops, nuances of color and blown up to eight feet high aren’t so much offensive as they are evidence of thin thinking. In fact, the artist says that he came up with the idea for the suite while watching the nude wrestling scene in Borat.

Lynn Yeager’s Village Voice interview with the artist is kind of genius. Not just because she discusses the illegality of procuring caca from, say, the zoo. But also because, as the Voice’s fashion writer, she clocks the artist’s gear (a Blackpool Bombers T-shirt, a humongous rhinestone-studded belt, and a pair of artfully molting, pointy $1,000 Gianni Barbato boots) and his apartment (his East Village home, a once-normal-looking residence transformed by votive candles, chandeliers, ecclesiastical statuary, and the replacement of every inch of sheetrock with limestone into a sort of medieval crypt). These descriptions of the artist and his residence do more to undermine his aesthetic than a protracted dissertation on the validity, artistic precedents, and intelligence of Serrano and his work.

It’s not just the incredible arrogance of the artist that shocks (more than the work itself), it is the dull, boringness of premise (the byproducts of the body human/ body animal have already been explored more elegantly and intelligently). Clearly, this is an artist who, though he might acknowledge the stink of his shit, still thinks he can turn it into gold.

*of course, I’ve only seen the images online; in person, at 8ft tall, I might change my opinion. However, I tend to think that shit–-even served up on a golden platter-–is still shit.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Making Marks: Jacksonville Creates

Some of you may or may not know that I was asked to help curate the above show (with Ben Thompson, J. Marshall Adams, and Matthew Clay-Robison). So far, it has been an interesting, exciting, and frustratingly fascinating experience.

I hope you will come out and support the museum and the local scene. There will be many new, and never-before-seen, works on display from artists both familiar and less so.

This is the first in a series of shows (to be held on a semi-annual basis) that examine works being produced locally. I hope it proves to be a satisfying experience.
Sept 19-Jan 4.

Monday, August 25, 2008

made new again

I read today that art critic John Russell has died. In the NYTimes article that noted his career and his passing, they quoted several of his beliefs/approaches. Though I tend to agree a little more with Hickey in that I hope the art I hate simply disappears, never to be seen again, the three quotes that follow are really wonderful…especially the first and last, the second is just hella elegant.

“When I first began writing, my aims as a critic were simple,” he told The Art Newspaper in 1999. “I wanted to persuade people to go and see things that I myself liked.”

“I do not see my role as primarily punitive. There are artists whose work I dread to see yet again, dance-dramas that in my view have set back the American psyche several hundred years, composers whose names drive me from the concert hall, authors whose books I shall never willingly reopen. But it has never seemed to me much of an ambition to go though life snarling and spewing.”

“When art is made new, we are made new with it. We have a sense of solidarity with our own time, and of psychic energies shared and redoubled, which is just about the most satisfying thing that life has to offer.”

Fay and Sarah Kay

Typically I embrace storms as grand adventures. However, this time around, I was just ready for some sunshine. Which is why, on Saturday night, when artist Sarah Kay’s show opened at Three Layers in Springfield, I couldn’t drag my sorry carcass out.

The next day though, there was enough sunshine to connvince me to leave my nest. And when I did, I wished that I had been able to attend the opening. Sarah Kay isn’t just an artist, she’s possibly one of the nicest, most optimistic people I know, and this is reflected in her sunny-side-up kind of drawings.

Her work, highly graphic and comic-esque, is clearly the work of an artist at the begining of her career. However, unlike other fledgling artists, Kay has already made the distinct decision to work within a framework of style and theme. As her friend, I have pawed through her works with her, and offered totally unsolicited advice, but I think the most notable thing about her Three Layers show, is the editorial eye she brought to bear on her own work.

Unlike many artists (emerging and otherwise), she has been able to select works that not only hang together well, but that reflect her vision most accurately. Of special note, the piece Lily Houses (top); here she is beginning to use the entire page as a platform for pattern and repition. She takes the focus off of one simplified form, and arranges it in a manner that recalls Dow-esque rules of pattern. It is an aesthetically sastisfying solution that she can then apply to other drawings and ideas.

That being said, Kay still has alot of work to do (more texture and resolving her backgrounds are areas that need improvement), but I am confident that with time, she’ll do it.

*incidentally, Three Layers is a really wonderful addition to Springfield. Located at 6th and Pearl streets, the shop is warm, and welcoming, with really fantastic drinks and a staff that makes you feel right-at-home. On Sunday when I dropped by, Shrek was playing...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I miss everyone

I left work early yesterday and scooted out to the beach to watch the ocean, to watch the storm roll in. And as I watched the sky turn fantastic shades of grey, I was struck--not for the first time--with how it is the simple things that make us/me happiest.

Shortly thereafter, the wet sand soaked through my jeans and I took my soggy bottom home, but not before reflecting on the essential absurdity of my life and what I do: write as a means to understand the world.

Then, today, on American Craft Magazine's website, I stumbled across this mini-manifesto by Daniel Eatock...and it seemed to strike to the core of what I hope to be's kind of perfect because there is room for give, take, and even compromise...but not at a cost no-one really can afford to pay: personal integrity.

* I especially like the idea of honesty as a solution.

“Mini Manifesto
Begin with ideas
Embrace chance
Celebrate coincidence
Ad-lib and make things up
Eliminate superfluous elements
Subvert expectation
Make something difficult look easy
Be first or last
Believe complex ideas can produce simple things
Trust the process
Allow concepts to determine form
Reduce material and production to their essence
Sustain the integrity of an idea
Propose honesty as a solution”
—Daniel Eatock

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

a resolution of truth

Attempting to begin to synthesize one’s own experiences into a memoir; to try an organize the important from the unimportant, to scale down stories, and to view one’s own unvarnished reflection is terrifying.

Not only do you have the opportunity to completely expose yourself as an utterly mundane member of the human race, but to know, really know that nothing you are doing or experiencing is really that different from those who have come before you.

It is frightening and freeing at the same time.

I write this post to explain what some of you may have already discovered, that I have begun a new blog entitled the seduction of suicide. Right now, I am the only person who can read it. The reason for starting it was/is simple, I am attempting to force myself to write in a more autobiographical vein.

The results so far: incomprehensible gibberish that I can barely read back to myself without cringing. As it turns out, I am a petty, vainglorious, creature who delights in using words like quantify and qualify in an attempt to bury the details of my own emotional life.

Anyway, back to the blog. Why such a semi-public forum, why not a diary or just a Word document on my desktop? Simple: those things are too easy to hide. This way, everytime I log on to palaver about artisntrocketscience nonsense, I am reminded of the other task I set for myself.

So, wish me luck, and don’t forget to prepare for Fay...even if that just means a gallon of bourbon and a tub full of cleanish water...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

...yes yes y'all

Summer in the city is always a weird time. The city (in this case Jacksonville) slows down to a snail's pace. Those who can, make a kind of mass exodus for cooler parts, or hotter beaches. Of course there are sidetrips and day trips taken by those of us not summering in Maine. The result is a scene with a kind of catch-me-if you-can fluidity, lubricated with beer and fish tacos.

Well, at least that has been my experience.

This year, 9th and Main played host to the annual Summertime in the City jam. An all-day event, there were b-boy battles, free hot dogs and soda the kids, and at some point a free keg (though I arrived long after it was gone).

I arrived at the venue at about 11:00 p.m., well into the show. As I slipped into the theatre, Peyton Locke, formerly Therapy (please call him Peyton from now on), of the AB's and Perceptionists, and currently of the Smile Rays, was doing his thing.

Locke is one of the most multi-talented individuals in Jacksonville's hip hop scene. I've interviewed him before, and then he told me one thing: "I dream of crates and crates of my own records."

These days though, he's got his own DJ. And although Locke brings the same passion and sense of fun to the stage, it seemed as if, as with his name change (back), he's trying to work things out, to figure out his next step.

In fact, several of Jacksonville's regulars seemed to be trying to do the same thing: trying to figure out how to interlace the capabilities of production that seem to be as close as the next Mac, with the balance of a well-crafted show.

Willie Evans Jr., who is another favorite put together a quick performance, "I want people to stay long enough to see me," he said of the notoriously behind-scheduleness of the scene, "before they look around and realize there are no girls here." But his performance too had a sort of thinking-out-loud quality to it.

Neither performer was a strong as I have seen them be, but I am pleased to say that neither of them sampled twice from the (correct me if I am wrong) same record as did Dillon from Atlanta. With many props thrown out to Isaac Hayes, Dillon, rapped quickly and funnily over Hayes samples that are so good as to almost insure the success of the performer working "with" Mr. Hayes.

As I left, Dope Sandwich had taken the stage, and if I'd had a little more stamina, I would've have stayed to see them perform. From the glance I got, their rhymes were tight, and their beats dope.

And really, one can't ask for anything more than that, to step out the door into sweltering humidity, with a neck-bobbin' beat for you to exit the scene on. Whether or not everyone brings an "A" game then becomes a moot is the summertime after all.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Where the Wild Things Are

I should probably start this post by admitting that I had to shame myself into not titling it “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Jungle Fever,” or “Jungle Gym.” As it is, I obviously couldn’t ween myself off of the idea of wildness.

However, this post isn’t meant to highlight my lack of editorial imagination, but instead to say how excited I am to have stumbled across Shelton Hull’s blog: Money Jungle Safari.

Shelton is one of Jacksonville’s best, most faceted writers whose opinions I always read with real relish. He is smart, and sees connections where the rest of us just see coincidences. It has always been startling to me that the more mainstream publications have never picked him up. On second thought, it doesn’t.

However, it does seem that Shelton, like so many of us, has grown weary of waiting for the imprimatur of establishment publications, and has gone out on his own.

In the coming months, I look forward to reading his thoughts on everything from national politics, to local art shows (and of course, pro wrestling).

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Summer of Wonder

One whiskey-fueled evening earlier this summer, I declared that it was going to be the summer of Stevie Wonder. Though I had forgotten about that proclamation, I re-remembered it yesterday when I ran across this 45 second snippet of a 1974 Stevie Wonder throwaway.

Since I found it over on ?uestlove's blog, I'ma go ahead and finish this post with a excerpt from ?uest about these seconds, "...and prompted many of us to keep this shit on repeat for a good 7 hours… left me feeling elated and sad at the same time."

Summer of Stevie is back.

Monday, August 11, 2008

thrill of the new

One of my favorite things to do, is to stumble across an artist whose work is new-to-me and whom I fell an immediate affinity for. Today that happened with artist Pae White.

Her work is described as "amplifying the "artfulness" of everyday things, to use her term. Books, advertisements, barbeque grills, a shopping bag, even a theatre curtain become the objects of her witty elaborations and re-constructions. She looks far beyond the question posed by Charles Eames: 'Who ever said that pleasure wasn’t functional?'"

Currently, her work is on display at SMoCA, in a show entitled, Lisa, Bright and Dark.

Year of China

Watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics with a friend of mine, we both had the same reactions:

1. It was an amazing visual spectacle.

2. China has thrown down the gauntlet: they are going to define the coming decade.

Later, talking to another friend, she mentioned that out of the past ten centuries, China has been one of the wealthiest nations in the world for nine. I do not necessarily think that China's rapidly ascending star bodes well or ill for the larger world, however, I do think that it will raise important questions about human ethics in the coming years.

By all accounts, China is a kind of totalitarian wild west. Our challenge will be to reconcile five-thousand years of tradition in a world that has--for the duration of the industrial revolution--been shaped by a Western worldview. How can our nation or any nation(s) convince the looming Chinese juggernaut to be more every sense of the word.

Interestingly enough, since China's booming economy has resulted in a culture of affluence informed by lux Western brands (Gucci, Dior, Chanel, BMW, Mercedes Benz, etc...) it might prove to be a fertile market for artists. Then again, one must reconcile with the idea of doing business not with Communists, but with a people as voracious, and (in many ways) amoral we are once were...and could possibly still be.

Friday, August 8, 2008

the thinking person's critic

“As you all know Globatron isn’t into art about Monsters...”

It would seem that the not-so-mysterious masked man has committed the cardinal sin of art-commentary: the visual equivalent of fingers-in-ears.

Well-done masked man: clearly thoughtful, eloquent, and elegant.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

bump in the night

The Monster Show at the Haydon Burns Library was just about what I expected it to be…slightly homespun, ragged around the edges, packed, and overall fun. The unexpected factors included pre-recorded shrieks and music, and a few zombie girls to point the way downstairs…into the basement.

Placing the show in the basement was an aesthetically and functionally (lots of walls, no distractingly teetering easels) good move. Wandering through the interconnected rooms, with steam (?) pipes overhead, there was a certain Freddy-Kruger-goes-to-artschool vibe permeating the place. Or perhaps that is the impression that you take with you if, at the height of your impressionable years (4th grade), your best friend’s older brother lets the two of you enjoy the distinct pleasures of A Nightmare on Elm Street. It was decades before I could go to bed without the door cracked to let in a little light.

Interspersed throughout the place were, of course, the works. Ranging from sweet, slightly creepy drawings to Moby Dick/Cthulhu referenced installations the work was diverse, boasting a sense of humor, and a kind of recklessness (not to be confused with carelessness) that speaks to a feeling of joy in the act of creating. It also conjured images of your favorite art(geek) friend not exercising demons, so much as reveling in that 8th grade ambition to be a comic artist: fearless, foolish, brave.

Perhaps the most startlingly solid pieces were two “portraits,” by Clay Doran, a.k.a. Squidust. The portraits, which look like zombie clowns on the third day of a five day bender, evince a easy handling of paint, satisfying mark-making, and stand on their own outside the confines of the (so-called) monster art genre.

All in all, the only downside to show (the sense of fun pervading the space was enough to buoy even pieces I'd normally stop to question), was the meth-face with the quarter-sized-herpes-sore on his upper lip. I'm always down to talk about art--with just about anyone--but when you are so high, you can't read the artist's name in the corner of the piece, I'ma back away slowly. Incidentally, he was then ready to look for Brian Gray...who I described as a short, blond guy. Who's got your back?

*pictured: Squidust vs. Globotron, courtesy urbanjacksonville; the two portraits by Doran; an owl by Grant Thornton (I think…I left my pencil and pad in the car—my apologies to any misnamed persons).

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Art is too serious to be taken seriously.

The other day, the magazine Humanities (the published arm of the NEH) ran an article that took a look at the ideas of Clement Greenberg (1909-1994) and Harold Rosenberg (1906-1978). Dubbing them the Ali and Frazier of the Abstract Expressionist era, the article cursorily sums up each man’s view. Though their arguments now have the dated tone of ideas whose time has come and gone, it is nonetheless instructive as we today still wrestle with the ideological leavings of the 40s-70s.

In fact, the author writes, “...American modern art reached its apex in the 1950s through the flowering of Abstract Expressionism, art criticism achieved a glittering purity of its own—a beautiful high criticism perfectly matched to the period of high art.” This discussion is timely: the Jewish Museum has mounted a show (underwritten by the NEH), Action/Abstraction, which mounts works by “rival godheads,” Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, and fine works by (notably) Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still, and later painters like Joan Mitchell, Helen Frankenthaler, and successors Jasper Johns, Frank Stella.

However, interspersed in the exhibit, writes Peter Schjeldahl, “abundant texts, photographs, and memorabilia. Film clips display the men’s differently impressive rhetorical panache: Greenberg is incisive and imperious, Rosenberg droll and oracular. (Parallel shots witness Pollock dripping and de Kooning stroking).”

In considering the show, one must cede the point that both Rosenberg and Greenberg were wonderfully logical writers, and highly influential thinkers. But now, we deal with their ideological detritus that asks writers to quantify, qualify and organize art...possibly/probably to our disadvantage.

As writers and essayists decry the obtuse and often seemingly nonsensical art writing of the present, we (as artists, writers, performers...) are left defending a position that though defensible, sometimes begs the question, why.

No, this is not a call for art and by extension art-writing to become incredibly accessible (art is elite, good art even more so), it is however, a call for truth in writing. Sometimes, a work is successful purely on its aesthetic merits...and that is enough. Placing artworks in a larger, social/political, cultural context is always instructive, but not always necessary.

That being said, it is worth noting that it took this writer 351 words to spit that idea out.

It is the ability to defend and explain that should be nurtured, not the need to endlessly do so. That way, when one is on a plane and forced into a conversation with a seatmate who argues the old trope "My kid could paint like Jackson Pollock," the line, "But little Sally didn't," can thrust home...leaving one in peace.

Pictured top: Greenberg, de Kooning, Rosenberg

Bottom: The Irascibles protest their exclusion from a New York exhibition in 1950. Back row: Willem de Kooning, Adolph Gottlieb, Ad Reinhardt, and Hedda Sterne; middle row: Richard Pousette-Dart, William Baziotes, Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still, Robert Motherwell, and Bradley Walker Tomlin; front row: Theodoros Stamos, Jimmy Ernst, Barnett Newman, James Brooks, and Mark Rothko. —Photographed by Nina Leen, Getty Images

Monday, August 4, 2008

posters and culture

The other night I stopped by the Art Institute of Jacksonville’s show for Dog and Pony Showprints, Sight and Sound. Curated by the Institute’s gallery group (a student-run group), the show hung together with an effortless ease buoyed by humor and the, well, the niceness of everyone there.

Perhaps that intelligent-sans-competitive-edge vibe is a manifestation of the school, or perhaps it was the leakage from Sean Tucker and Tim McGugan. Founders of the studio, they are both really thoughtful and unpretentious. Their designs make intellectual, instinctual and visual sense...and a few are just really beautiful.

Of special note: The Helio Sequence (pictured) which was created with help from Karen Kurycki, and Handsome Furs (the shape of the snake’s head is fantastic) while the encapsulation of the text into a simple circle is Also, their first effort, a white on white poster for the film Heima deserves a mention: the art-historical reference is witty, and the piece was lighted in such a way as to enhance the poster.

Nicely done gallery group, nicely done Dog and Pony.

*Perhaps as importantly, the show illustrates the increasingly convergent world we live in, where art influences actuality, which in turn presents real problems for creative-minded individuals to solve.