August 3, 2004


Swinging from painting to painting, there was time to hang with some friends, visiting recently from ChinaTown LA. As Dave and Phil rolled in from the Pardo installation opening at La Caixa Foundation, I was literally laying the last licks.

"Nuestro vida es corta." Do it all. Soon enough, we will winter here and think of the companionship of old friends from Los Angeles. We miss them sono enough, so it's hard to defer the fellowship at hand.

I've had bad photo karma during most of the visit. Since so much time was spent in the water, I think we will need a waterproof digital camera someday soon. There is such a visual richness going on out there, I'd like to try to convey it to you all.

Most of the images here were shot in the last night of the visit. I would write about the recreation, but seeing it in print just doesn't cut it. Somehow, writing in detail just brings it down.

Suffice it to say that it was... good. (Many adjectives have just been erased.)

Damn good.

Bettina and her sister Bolyn were traveling in Europe together and a day or two of Barcelona can be traded easily for time spent in Tossa. They arrived on a Friday with plans to stay a night. One night became two.

At one point, I said that the fun meter has just been broken. We had just returned from a two hour Zodiac boat ride with the five of us. Phil opted out, having had his fill of boatrides in his youth. Bouncing and holding on for our lives, Kiko unleashed a some type "A" behaviour at the helm of a boat he co-owns with his pals Nacho and Cherlo. We had just toured the caves and nooks North and South of Tossa.

Bettina's response: "Does that mean we can't have any more fun?" Later that night, Bettina was shaking her groove thang (photos below) until the sun came up.
Bolyn is a research scientist whose company is trying to cure cancer. As far as I can understand, they are using viruses, a variant from a military bio warfare research legacy, a virus that was customised to be a microbiological truck as vehicles to administer an engineered genetic code that will effect a immunological response eradicating cancer cells. She spoke of this in very certain terms, very confident. (G-dspeed to her.) Her Ph.d work was in immunology.

I got to ask her my favorite questions: "What is life, actually?" As I had read and seen the images of mitosis and mieosis of cell division in high school, I had wondered where the motive force comes from to orchestrate the ballet of life. G-d, is that you there? If molecules link into proteins and proteins into more complicated (cellular) structures, is life just a cascade of events? Are we more like rocks rolling down hills?

Her answer: "We don't know."

At one point we were all walking together and Kiko said to Bolyn in his initimable Catalan accent, "I think you are going to cure the cancer, Belen." (There is a name in Spanish, "Belen", and this is how Bolyn pronounces her name.) Bolyn pipes up, "Fuck cancer, I want to stay in Tossa!" (I know this might sound rough, but it was exotic coming from her mouth. You had to be there.)
Naturally but with caution (like samauri warriors, the unsheathed sword must taste blood before it returns), we three painters spoke of painting. Dave and Phil went to undergrad together in Illinois. Phil went to the San Fransisco Art institute, where he met Joel Mesler, and where they both were influenced by the cranky yet exciting and challenging painter there, Sam Tchikalian. Dave went to the Chicago Art Institute. I got the impression that artists of that generation (the most recent, the 90's) saw the figural as the task at hand and process art as an older agenda... perhaps as an exhausted mine.

Dave's work seems literary to me, images of owls, overgrown monuments, seascapes... spooky stuff, lots of glazing and dark colors. He makes installations and he relates the paintings to whole floors made of wood reclaimed from cargo pallettes ( a show at DianePruess a couple of years ago). He seems to be drawn to moody colors and motifs (yea, but he did buy a kitten lamp when he was here). One night, the Prussian Blue of the sea caught his eye (that's what Tossa will do to you). I can compare his work to that of Steve Hanson's ballpoint Victorian night street scenes. Dickens. Two points are enough for me to dead recon a course. Steve isn't a literary expert but his wife Frances Stark might be, and that's enough to take the concept to the bank.

I think my interpretation may have surprised him, but Edgar Allen Poe seems the fit comparison here. The Yankee Victorian era had laid the foundation for Goths to come. But it would be wrong to think of Dave's work in Goth terms... he is not affected as you might see in his picture (no black lipstick for example)... but the imagery in the way he renders indexes to Poe, and I mean that as a compliment (or a good intentioned observation). I think that the time of Poe offers otherworldly imaginative possibilities barely explored today in our virtual times.
Phil managed to take off without leaving me his CD of images of his recent paintings. That's too bad since they were pretty interesting. It looks to me that he's got a groove going on (no pressure, Phil). He's been rendering images of his favorite things, figures from his artworld: Picasso, his shirtless back to the viewer (camera?), in a cocked bowler hat... a younger Frieda... a younger Guston (it liiks like from the LA muralist years)... Jonathon Lasker in profile, his checkered jacket a riot of marks....

All this, rendered mainly in black and white, with an occassional tint of color here and there. And the rendering is coherent enough to deliver the figure but loose to rely on the ocassional accident (a so-called accident) of the hand. Fresh. And extendable, lots of things to come it seems.

---Phil, send me the disk if you can, and get some of Dave's stuff too!

Now, until these guys met Kiko, we have already been having a good time. No doubt they would have gone home in a rosey glow, brimming with stories to tell. But Kiko stepped up and broke the fun meter. At the time this picture was shot, we had been swimming and snorkeling and bouncing on a zodiac in the Mediterranean, we had been to the bars Flamenco, El Pirata, San Antoni and as the sun began to rise, the local disco Tu Rai.
Kiko and his wife Teresa and Nacho's wife Leslie and Bettina and Bolyn danced gleefully on the dance floor. The rest of us hung on the preimeter and wriggled a bit, Dave jumping in and out. Phil was a ranger, belly to the bar. Nacho sells motorcycle products, there's a huge motorbike culture over here. Nacho was trying to communicate (a perpetual smile framed in whispy whiskers trimmed in the latest style) in fractured English, these poetic concepts: "The moon is not the important thing, it is the moon (reflected) in the sea... and it gives (us) a road..." and then he invented a new word (I forget) to decribe this moon-road to where, I don't know.
Tu Rai is the club people here go to when they plan to party to the break of dawn. The club is skinned inside in rusting steel, big plates and messy welds. On the corner atop the counter is a model of the first Catalan submarine. In Robert Hughes' "Barcelona", he devotes eight or so pages(pages 264 and on) to the story of the invention of this underwater vehicle:

And the submarine worked. There were a few glitches and leaks, caused by damage from a botched launching in june 1859. But that September, Ictineo made her first public trials in Barcelona Harbor, followed by a flotilla of excursion boats with hundreds of people on board: deputies, professors, scientists, journalists, and the merely curious. She swam in a stately manner along the surface, filled her tanks, dived, surfaced again, dived again. Her descents were short, because she carried no air supply beyond what was in her small hull at normal pressure. But by the end of the day she was a success, and Narcis Monturiol was a local hero, acclaimed as a veritable Catalan Leonardo da Vinci.
turai.jpg Posted by Dennis at August 3, 2004 9:58 AM

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