July 30, 2004


Here are images of a painting finished the dya before yesterday. I finished it just as Dave and Phil arrived for Tossa Frolic, stage II. We went out for drinks and celebrated. The next day, I stretched two smaller panels... I feel like I've got a groove on. This painting has a little charm to it, some grace, an open feeling and easy elbow room...

...it's hard to express at the moment. Here are some details:

I always like to start out with the first crop. It seems you need the overall, the tight crop and a couple of close-up details to replicate the experience to standing in front of the real thing.

There nare these marbleized areas that are flat as a result and in the base of the painting, just like the flat blue areas. As a result of that and the red monograms, the surface of the painting had to be open and a net of marks.... lots of space and linen exposed.


Posted by Dennis at 2:36 AM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2004

FireWorks at Sea

Kiko invited us out to see the fireworks at a town south of us called Blanes. The ride was by sea on a catamaran, a party boat.

I haven't been out to sea for many years, a studied avoidance. Cruising the Pacific in a warship for a few years can do that to you.

A side note in reference to the last blogpost: As we ate the hamburgers and curry potato salad, I began to think about the recent coincidence of the vomit fest performed by my pals Dave and Phil. A passsing thought: "Three's a charm."

Then the cups of beer.

Then the champagne.

Then the whiskey shots.

We were sitting on the top deck, where the conn is abve the main deck. The sway and rock of the waves are accentuated there. This couldn't be another puke episode, could it?

Could it?

By that time, I was sweating. And my waistband seemed tight. Then I could feel my stomach ball up in ready-set mode. I made my way downstairs for the ship's head. Shutting the door, I was primed to erupt. I flipped the toilet lid and studied the situation in a crouch, mentally preparing to see the burgers again. Then the door swings open ( I forgot to set the latch) and the people (a crowd) outside gasped in unison, eyes wide and mouths agape.

That seemed to divert my attention and the feeling passed. A funny remedy that was. Back to the party!

Teresa (center) is Kiko's wife. She's from Andalusia, speaks spanish crisply, with pride. She majored in college in hosptiality arts I think, wine and champagne (or cava, as it is known here). Their daughter Nerea is to the left, the daughter of the owner (Pepa) of a great local bar, El Priata is seated to the right.

The whole family was dancing and shaking their groove thang all night. Much fun was had by all. Kiko loves his daughter of course: "She will break my heart one day." They all (Catalans, the whole boat) sing along and they know the lyrics too.

It was great to be off the coast of the Catalonia, seeing Tossa by sea. As the fireworks was launched many other boats were out beside us too, the captains jockying for position with subtle rudder, thruster action. People ooh-ing and ah-ing, shouts of "?Ole!" and "?Que guapa!".


Posted by Dennis at 1:01 PM | Comments (1)

Sea Nymph







Stephanie and I have been together for 21 years now. I'm a very lucky man.

Posted by Dennis at 11:59 AM | Comments (0)

Caca, Cuts and Vomit

Beware, people.... visiting us here in Tossa will cost you.

You may recall the fate of our last visitors, Joel and Tiff. Tiff and I embarked on an expedition to snorkel around the rock formation that is Tossa. Tiff was taking on water and when we clambered out onto the rocks, she was swept up by the swell and smashed onto the barnacle encrusted rock. Bleeding, we gingerly crawled over the rocks to safety, having to ford a huge ravine along the way.
(Joels' father is a doctor, it must come natural for him.)

Fast forward to our next visitors, Dave Deany and Phil Wagner. We went to Barcelona to visit them as they install Jorge Pardo's show at La Caixa Forum in Montjuic. Dave and Phil are painters orignially from Illinios who were canny enough to find work for Jorge in ChinaTown LA, that's where we met.
The Caixa Forum is another institutional venue for the artworld, the building used to be a textile factory, an interesting assemblage of bricks, incredibly simple and direct.
So we drop in to see the handiwork of Dave and Phil, and to marvel at the company of friends so far removed from ChinaTown. They tell us that they had the weekend off and we suggested they spend it in Tossa.
Here's Dave in the room hung in thousands of pounds of MDF board that has been computer cut with undulating waveforms and painted orange:
Here's Phil, who is working so hard, I could only get a blurred image:
The idea is to have this room lit up with Pardo signature lamps and to have other art star pieces (I forget the names, big time art star types) from some collection (mabe the Forum's) hung on the orange walls. Pardo, the elaborated art container, the anti- "white cube".
I think he should have hung Dave and Phil's paintings instead.

ANYWAY, the guys decided to accompany us on our bus back home to Tossa, very delightful. As we sat at the bus station, we were talking so much, we missed the bus and we had to take the next one, close to midnight. Phil was starving, so he hunted for food at the bus station and he found this cheese sandwich.

I remember looking at the sandwich... I didn't have the articulated thought that the cheese was iffy... but I remember looking twice at it. As the bus wheeled onto the highway, Phil begins groaning... then sweating... then he had to unbuckle his belt, his belly swollen.

(Shall I get into the details?
...OK, just a few more...)

The ride is over an hour long. It's a double decker bus, we were sitting in the very front seats above and the bus is nearly packed with Germans mostly, youngsters who are headed to the town just south of Tossa, Lloret. There's a row that's nearly empty in the rear and Phil manages to stumble back there with Dave's ziplock bag once used for soap.

Essential travel tip: throw in a ziplock baggie into your bag, just in case.

As we arrive into Tossa (the last segment of the drive is on extremely winding mountain roads, fast and swervy), the baggie is filled. Phil was thankful for the mechanical plastic fastener of the high quality consumer product. The wonder of night timeTossa was diminished a bit for Phil as he suffered into the wee hours of the morning. He said he couldn't even keep water down.

Now, that's some cheese for you!

The next day was tender as you might imagine. Dave and I went for a vigorous snorkel. I showed off with many stunts meant to arouse wonder and astonishment. We chose a prime spot in the edge of the little cove, it was packed with people. Phil was getting back to the living again.

That afternoon, we went to a restaurant, a favorite pizza place where the people are smiling so much it's awkward sometimes jsut to walk by. There's much talk of the night before and the new set of abdominal muscles that Phil had aqcuired overnight. We tell the waitress (the owner, I assume) of Phil's travails and she lectures us that we must eat only bread and bottled water as we travel. You can't trust anyone, she said in spanish. This, she said as she was setting down the grilled sardines, pizzas and white beans. Phil, Stephanie and I remembered that one funny fish at the end of the plate. It wasn't as roasted as much as the others... or something. It was of a different color, the rest were carbonized brown... this one was blueish and fatter than the rest. Phil took a pass, he wasn't a natural fan of the sardine. Stephanie chose a different fish than that blue one. Dave's fork stabbed that remarkable fish before I took my turn.

Later that evening, Dave got to see that fish again. He said it was the most dramatic body flushing of his life, a fountain on two ends. (This happened as Stephanie and I were having drinks with the collector family mentioned in the previous blogpost. The guys were napping, supposedly.) Dave recovered enough to report the bad news as we were grilling chicken (bad choice, I guess). At first, I asserted that there must be some germ warfare contaigon going on, the coincidence was too strong. Then, the memory of the unique sardine dawned on us. Slowly, and then with such amazement!

Oh, and the Caca?

Yes, it does rhyme very nicely. But aside from the abiding Catalonian theme of excrement in the form of the caganeras (little sculptures of shitting figures that adorn the rear of Xmas nativity scenes, a remnant of some misty pre-Christian past, I assume), the day in Barcelona was punctuated with two references to this nether world.

First was my attempt to pronounce "Caixa" as I was asking for the location of the Forum, the ladies at the information booth at the Placa Espa?a bust our laughing. Naif that I am. Apparently to their ears, I had asked where the Shitty Forum was located.

Secondly, whilst we were waiting for Dave and Phil to show up at the bus station, Stephanie and I had appetizers at a restaurant near the station. Muy delicioso... and at the table next to ours was a family: mother, father and little girl. The girl was muy precioso and active. When she would touch the ground or the street, the parents would say: "?No! ?Caca!".

Ah! That brought me back to my childhood.

UPDATE: Dave adn Phil returned from the opening to report that a total of six people came down with the illness, Jorge too. AHEM. My deepest apologies to the hospitality industry here in Catalonia... Funny, how the mind finds a pattern whether there is one or not.

One the other hand, the contagion suspicion was spot on... nothing yet to support the biowarfare lab experiment gone awry. Or maybe it's an Al Queda trial run?

Posted by Dennis at 11:37 AM | Comments (1)

Open House

I'm beginning to invite people I know here in Tossa to see the work before I ship it off to Z?rich.

"?Que significa?"

Always, the first question. How do you say this in spanish?:

I hope the painting would be so insistent that the qualitites of materiality would precede a rational justification for the work and that those qualities would force a spontaneous and even capricious association of a talkitive mind.

Instead, I say: "Cada su quieres, especialmente si tu quieres."

I remember our Spanish teacher gently mocking our primitive efforts: "Don't speak like an Indian!" Then she bats her mouth in an Indain war whoop: "Woo wooo woo!", her eyes wide and the corners of her mouth in a smile.

Back to the paintings, it is a fact that here in Europe, an artist gets much more respect that one gets back in the states. From all stations of life, people have a high regard for the arts. Many people here in Catalonia in particular tell me that they too paint or often as not, are poets too. Many streets are named for poets and painters. Add that to the long list of reasons of why we moved here.

Also, we had a visit from a family who are collectors and who bought one of my paintings, one that was in my first show at Chac Mool in Los Angeles. Now they live in Paris, blessed with beautiful twins and each have facinating careers. They found me through the weblog, amazement of this information technology never ends. We had drinks after a studio visit nd we spoke about art and I discovered to my delight that they are very well informed artwise. More than that, they have a wide ranging curiousity and they collect that way, many names popular and obscure. Rare. Wonderful.

They told me that there are as many people who love my work as there are those who hate it and that they have regular consuming debates with friends about the subject. Story of my life: love me or hate me.

Things could be worse.

And here are images of the last painting, which I teased in a blogpost or two ago:

Where was I? I was wanting to upset the applecart of the past several paintings.... hence the large ribbon smear in the middle left. But as much as I wanted to change, I was toggling the same switches: Blue "sky", suggestions of earth, and in particular the strange green I re-membered from an earlier painting, this time larger.

Posted by Dennis at 9:58 AM | Comments (1)


Mark M?ller sent me an image of the invitation card. There's nothing like seeing your name in print to get your blood flowing faster. He asked me to select the color for the card (a convention of his, every announcement is a color monochrome representation of the show, which I like) and I was a bit too scattered to make the best choice. I chose a salmon-orange color, one that I was using recently in the computer... luckily, Mark gracefully took on the task of selecting it, this (cerulean) blue. And this is indeed a perfect pick, so much of it is in the paintings and it reinforces the title.

Here's a snippet from my email to him, where I was sorting my thoughts for the first time:

Titles... As the one aspect of making art that does not flow but instead emerges as if from the depths*3... we have no time to do what I am wont to do: let the clock sun out let the ideas emerge... indeed, as-if-from-the-depths.

Sitting still for a moment and here- typing and thinking on the run, I have been troubled by titling because of my troubled relation to representation. The loaded subject for me always loses against the tide of triviality*1... (a thought intrudes)

"new country"

-literally, the first recourse is to go to the popular signifier. Yes of course we have moved recently. And yet, this biographical detail is not insignificant. This new country in which we now live has been very impressive.

-But it points to a difference from what I have recently done, paintings in the States, a difference of character in the paintings themselves.

-"New Country" also refers to landscape, an ancient member of a limited set of figuration*2. Another schema, such as I have done for a time now.

-Also with landscape, there is my history as an architect. Architects see topography in landscape. The picture plane thickens with low altitude formal dynamics. The horizon shifts ninety degrees. Indeed, the relation to the world as skindivers have is not much different. Hmmm... skin diving?

-I wouldn't disavow the biographical connection to my work, but I would prefer that it not be reduced simplistically. Some look for the hand and mind of the architect. There has to be some fruit from the intellectual wanderlust I call my education, and I hope a biographical interpretation entangles itself with the rest of my biography (AmerAsian- Cold War spawn- Sailor-etc.).

*1 I was going to say that since art is not solely a singular idea but an entanglement of ideas and phenomena

*2 (portrait, landscape, still life, figure...)

*3 The image should be: laboriously hauling a huge angry squid in some thick-roped net from the depths... (mental image of some '40 black and white film with Kirk Douglas as a salty fisherman, fresh from his role as Van Gough0

Posted by Dennis at 9:17 AM | Comments (0)

July 23, 2004

Muchas Cosas

Tons of things have happened, many falling through the blog cracks... lots to catch up on, paintings done, thoughts and doubts and anticipation to report...

...but we're off this afternoon to Barcelona to see our friends Dave Deany and Phil Wagner (Artists who are doing a jobber installing a show for Jorge Pardo at the Contemporary Museum there.

Pics and descriptions to come soon.

Posted by Dennis at 5:06 AM | Comments (0)

July 22, 2004


Check out this article I found at Salon.com

Just how inventive can an anonymous group of people be? Could an online mob produce a poem, a novel, or a painting? We like to believe that the blue bolt of artistic inspiration strikes only the individual. "[The] group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man," John Steinbeck wrote in East of Eden. Hollywood scriptwriters constantly moan over how their brilliant ideas were mutilated by studio "editing by committee."

Sounds good.

But collaboration has a long history in art. Plays are frequently infected with ideas that came from actors or even sound engineers. Some Shakespeare scholars wonder whether some of the Bard's lines came from onstage improvisations by actors. And though many of today's writers and creators would never admit it, editing by committee can rescue an overindulgent work. Collaboration is old hat.

Yea, few collaborative experiences have that charm. People are like chemistry, most mixtures are bland, some are explosive and some are sweet.

Still, until now it's been limited to a small handful of people, usually face to face. The Internet lets thousands of total strangers collaborate to produce a truly hivelike result. One intriguing example is "Typophile: The Smaller Picture," a project that let an anonymous crowd design a font. Kevan Davis, a British Web developer, created grids of pixels, 20 by 20 in size, one for each letter of the alphabet. He randomly dispersed black-and-white pixels in each. Then he put them online and let people vote on whether a particular pixel should be white or black. As thousands of people voted on each one, letters emerged, forming a democratic consensus of what the alphabet should look like.

Sounds great, huh? I tried the links, but nothing worked.

Davis created animations that show each letter taking shape, and they're mesmerizing, a time-lapse movie of a collective mind at work. Another designer took the results and produced crisper-edged versions of each letter. The final result looks like a mildly punk version of Helvetica, with occasional flashes of creative weirdness, such as the jaunty serif on the foot of the letter "J."

Yet the process has its flaws. When the mob tried to draw a few simple pictures, it couldn't. Davis told it to draw a television, but the image never congealed. The group agreed that the tube should be represented by empty space, but it couldn't generate any other details. An attempt at drawing a face produced an even more shapeless mess. The only partially successful picture was a goat: At around 4,000 votes, it looked pretty goatlike, and at 5,000 votes the mob revised it to make the horns curvier. But after 7,000 votes the picture decayed into a random jumble of pixels, as if the group could no longer agree on what a goat should look like. Mobs, it seems, can't draw.

Quick! Draw a television. Take a victory lap for the individual!

Why did letters work, but not pictures? Probably because the second experiment was too free-form. Ask a group of people to draw the letter "E," and most of them will envision something pretty similar. Ask them to draw a face, and they'll have a much broader array of opinions, and thus more disagreement. Truly huge artistic collaboration on the Internet seems to work only if the gang has a well-defined objective.

Kind of like our art world today, huh?

The Wikipedia people have been discovering this themselves, after launching a project to have people collaboratively write textbooks: Wikibooks. When I spoke to Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's founder, he noted that while some textbooks are evolving nicely, most aren't experiencing the wild success of the Wikipedia. A textbook requires a consistent sense of style and a linear structure, hallmarks of a single authorial presence. An encyclopedia doesn't.

In a sense, the world of online collaboration is discovering what artists have always known: Rigid conventions are often crucial to producing art. Novels, poems, and oil paintings are really just structural devices that take an artist's zillion competing ideas?an internal, self-contradicting mob?and focus them into a coherent work.

I'm not sure this is a key concept in our artworld. certainly, when I was in grad school (yes, a long time ago, '91, but our artworld is substantially no different conceptually from the end of the eighties... same hoary concepts, different packaging. Oh, one key un-hoary idea? That there might be a ironizing twist that produces an unlimited set from a limited one.

Posted by Dennis at 4:58 PM | Comments (1)

July 21, 2004

The Expedition

(Permit me to introduce our good friend Tif Sigfrids, who will tell you the story of Joel and Tif's visit and our snorkel expedition round mount Tossa. -DH)


Sitting on a fourth floor between mountains and sea and drunk seagulls flying in unusual ways, a siesta is nice, but the water is nicer.


Swimming up and through fish and tasting the salt, the water is so clear here.




Be weary not of the water, but the rocks you should fear.


but what's better than the water is to drink the cava sangria. the fruit that's left in the bottom of the pitcher makes the best dessert,


Stephanie and Tif's cava sangria... which is as follows:
1 bottle of cold champage
1 crushed white peach
8 fresh cherries halved
1 orange cut into small pieces
1/2 lemon
directions: dice peach and crush using a morter and pestal and place in the bottom of the pitcher... pit and cut cherries in half and place in pitcher... cut orange into small segments and place in pitcher.... squeeze the juice of half of a lemon over the fruit and pour champagne on top! stir.


That or faeron who performs nightly at the flamenco bar around the corner.


In the morning a coffee and boats,


Kayaks or your own two legs to take you out to sea.

The best advice is to keep swimmng... around and around tossa.... and to never leave.


Posted by Dennis at 1:13 PM | Comments (0)

July 20, 2004

That Tuttle Feeling

Richard Tuttle came to mind.

This painting: a Bigger Tuttle.

Tuttle's cool.

He works out the edge of a mesa in New Mexico.

Very nice.

(Later, I have my doubts...)

But Tuttle stays small. Being large was never a problem for him apparently.

Morandi, another champion of the smaller canvas.

If this is Tuttle, it's of a late Elvis kind. Dissapated Brando.

Being small is an argument. Making super large institutional scaled work is whoredom. So what does it mean to make paintings in this intermediate scale?

I wish I had an answer for you.

Posted by Dennis at 8:22 AM | Comments (1)

Art and Science

Not much time for explication, as I'm typing this with a pallette knife in my teeth... but I came across this article (I get the ArtJournal newsletter) and I wanted to stick a flag in it so I can come back to it later:

When I scanned the first paragraph, I saw:

As a psychologist previously trained in the humanities and in studio art, I have spent my career applying the science of cognitive psychology (and recently cognitive neuroscience) to studying the creation of and response to art.

And I felt both dread and curiousity. Then I came across this:

Despite the dangers, however, there is much to be learned from the scientific study of art. Why, then, are so many humanists critical of it?

The very different cases of two scientists who have ventured into the field of art history, one from physics, the other from economics, provide a starting point. Both discovered a genuine phenomenon and proposed an explanation for it. The story of the physicist shows how science can make a valuable contribution to our understanding of art and suggests why humanists have failed to recognize the contribution: They are unwilling to play the science game and think like scientists. The story of the economist shows how important it is for scientists not to apply less-stringent criteria when they explain artistic phenomena than when they offer explanations of phenomena in their home discipline.

Let's see if this has any meat on the bone....

Posted by Dennis at 4:13 AM | Comments (2)

Check this out

Take a look at this great new blog, Iberian Nature by Nick Lloyd that looks at the environment here in the Mediterranean coast of Spain:

It would be blind to deny the admittedly uneven benefits that tourism has brought to Spain and the Spanish population as a whole. Much of Spain's so-called 'economic miracle' of the 1960?s rested upon it. Yet, what do the majority of people today have to gain from ever more tourist complexes and holiday homes? The evidence points towards a saturation of the market: tourists numbers have been dropping for the last three years and last year occupancy was only 53.6% .? This year's provisional figures are even worse. But, we continue to allow new hotels to be built. that will have scrap over a smaller and smaller market.?

This, with Iberian Notes is a bookset of required reading for us here. I'll toss the new link into the soup of links asap.

Posted by Dennis at 2:34 AM | Comments (7)

July 18, 2004

Snorkel Report


Stephanie and I ended my recent wonderfully troglodytic experience with some snorkeling. The water was not that smooth, it was a little choppy. And it wasn't as warm as it was on the last perilous dive*. The chop increased the particles in the water, reducing visibility. Take that and a fogging mask too!

Here's a map:

Snorkel Dive 2.jpg
You can see the deep gorge into the cliff face that extends into the sea. Very deep with lots of fish in close quarters. Few people make it here, even though it's not that far from the cove. Most snorkelers have enough on their hands inside the confines of the cove.

What we saw: as always, schools of fish from minnows to those the size of your hand. Lots of sea urchins, sea grasses and moss. Fish feed off the fauna in the flora of the underwater hillside. We have yet to see octopus in situ, I have to tune into ahere they like to hang out. Rocks form a wonderful three dimensional world underwater that continue down, out of sight into the abyss.

As you might imagine, the entire blazing gemlike blue depths of the Med to one side suspended so vulnerably in such immensities, so much so that when one is not astonished at the immense saturation of color, one is checking for any shifting shadows of the big fishes such as those who would find a snorkeler delicious.

The wave action was choppy so as to make a return require a little effort. The fins are long enough to make simple surface paddling selfconsciously ineffectual, and periodic shallow dives were necessary to use the full power stroke of propulsive force.


A note about my new and most favoritist fins in the world: Cressi! I remember my first fins. They were Cressi. They had an image of bird via a rubber welt on the full face of the fin, all black. I grew up in them, mostly in Panama. My dad was probably all heady in a Jacque Cousteau way back in the day. I'm glad he took my brother and I along for his ride. This image is of my new ones, very long and serious gonna go diving yellow. With the length, hey provide lots of power underwater, I'm traversing good distances in them.

I asked my friends (Joel and Tif) at that bar El Pirate: "Do I look like how I feel underwater? Am I zooming around like a rocket boy?" I ask, gesticulating over a beer. (Images of this Japanese animated cartoon circa 1960's play in my head... what's his name? That rocket boy with headgear and jet boots going 'round in circles, savin' the world?)

*news of this to come in our first guest blogpost by Tif Sigfrids!

Posted by Dennis at 10:16 AM | Comments (1)

July 17, 2004

up for air

Lots has happened, much to blog about. I had to narrow my attention to this painting. I have just finished it after about four days of struggle. I'm not sure what I've done, how much I like it. Sometimes these result in remarkable paintings (not hyperbole, but that they are worthy of remarks) and sometimes they are stinkers.

I've got a few things to write about this one... and I want to start another painting soon... and I want to catch you all up on the highjinking fun we had with our friends Joel and Tif recently (as I might have noted earlier, Tif willl guest blog and narrarate the harrowing snorkeling adventure which resulted in many barnacle cuts, streaming blood and a desperate hike out over rock gorges, all soon to come)... and I want to snorkle today with Stephanie as a reward for the recent deep studio submergence.

We're off to the cove....

Posted by Dennis at 5:27 AM | Comments (3)

July 15, 2004

Campanas Campanada

It's after seven in the evening, the bright afternoon light has broken towards dusk. I'm staring at a blank canvas and the church bells are sounding... three bells... they sound far apart, but they are all probably in the bell tower... three bells in ascending size... and they ring one after the other slowly as if in calll and answer... mournful. At the end, the small bell rings three times, it is done.

I have no idea what it means. A burial?

Posted by Dennis at 12:36 PM | Comments (2)

un momentito

Our friends Joel and Tif have departed and now I have some painting to do. Lots happened, lots to post a blog about. (Tif will guest blog soon!) More later, hands full...

Posted by Dennis at 12:28 PM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2004

mental maps

Here's an article that feeds my interest in scale, how technology drives modernity, how we map the world mentally, and how tools become an extension of our bodies both technologically and in my paintings (brushes, pallette knives, screeds, shards of cardboard and ballistic paint):

For example, research has found that brain cells become active as objects approach the space around the body. These cells will fire when, say, you see an insect fly toward your face. This so-called peripersonal space extends to arm's length; people with longer arms have a bigger peripersonal space. And when they use a tool, a rake, a joystick or an automobile, their body schema and peripersonal space expand to include it.

Moreover, perceptions change as the body schema changes in response to outside stimuli. A hill looks steeper when you wear a backpack than when you do not.
Posted by Dennis at 3:19 PM | Comments (0)

July 8, 2004

Museo Dali

I've just finished a painting and my mom and aunt (Beng) will be concluding their visit next week and our friends Joel and Tif will be arriving soon, and Ramon had just delivered the next panels (plus the initial parts of the door for the fourth floor), and I have yet to see the Dali museum in Figueres, and mom has a rental car burning a hole n her pocket anyway....

It was time for an afternoon Catalonian road trip!

While I have always respected Salvador Dali, I've always thought that whatever was good about his work was overshadowed by the taint of overpopularization... or schlock.

I remember seeing Dali's Last Supper at the National Gallery in Washington D.C. many, many moons ago. His technique is mezmerizing, built as it was from intensively conventional representational techniques... a kind of tech that erased its' own mechanics.

(BlogPost Interruptus, sorry about that! Joel and Tif arrived and it's been nonstop highjinks ever since. Let's see, where was I?)

Oh yea, After finishing the last painting we went to the Dali museum in Figures for a looksee. I've avoided the museum for many years because of his chequered reputation and multiple reports that the museum itself was nothing special. Before the withering summation, the good stuff: Figueres had taken on the Dali legacy and theme parked it (oops, sorry to slip back into critique), and they enshrined the museum in the urban heart of the town. Narrow streets, courtyards, gardens, shopping and restaurants and all very well taken care of. The egg topped, bread decorated building commands an elegant authority as the surrealist king urbanistically, it does look good there.

Umm, that's about it. It's a theme park nonetheless, no different from Disneyland, Vegas' Golden Nugget or a Lloret disco for that matter (or worse, Gnomo Park, near here).

Dali's work is best in his early meticulous hyperrealism paintings, many no larger than the palm of your hand. They have the classics: Gala with her back turned, Salvador's still life of bread, stuff like that. There are also many of his early hack jobs painted when he was a pup in the early twenties in Paris: bad cubism, bad whateveritwas-ism. I become aware of my earlier assertion that once someone accomplishes something great, the author should get special dispensation for hack jobs done before and after... like Coppola for example. I guess Dali would now be the exception.

My first response was to think that this must be the patient zero of all the terrible assemblage work done by students in grad school for the past several decades: take someting, glue it onto something else, ponder the metaphysical ramifications... failing that, glue something else, repeat. Schlock. There were so many terrible pieces there that one gets the impression that Dali's reputation was not here well served. Swome artists would think that once they did something remarkable, everything else touched in their life has the mark of genius... even the mearest smear of it . Sam Francis, for example. That guy never edited himself, everything he touched was signed, catalogued and archived in an unbroken stream of life-production. Too bad for him that he did so, it didn't serve him well.

There is also the thought of the legacy of the Pop artist and the mercantile address of their work. Evidently, before Kieth Haring and later Murakame (and Jorge Pardo for that matter) annointed themselves the hiers of Warhol's factory and Oldenburg's "store", there was Dali's exploitation of the multiple print business. Eye catching images, mass produced at various pricepoints, controlled for maximum profit.


But what was a surprise was Dali's personal collection, which was mixed into his. Here lies Duchamp's "La Mallete", under glass. Unfortunately, all the work in this museum is fraying and generally is not well taken care of. In Marcel's case, the piece is delaminating here and there, disheveled.

And above hung an actual Greco. Amazing.

Posted by Dennis at 12:15 AM | Comments (0)

July 6, 2004





Posted by Dennis at 10:21 AM | Comments (1)

Back to it.

Meanwhile, I repressurize the second floor.

Back from the dinner at Blanes, I resume the position. Like a fisherman over an ice hole, I wonder if there are any fish below at all. No, that's not it... there are many fish below... then am I overoptimizing the choice? Bah. The night takes its course and the familiar BBC news on Tito's old TV revolve one after the other, I sample LA radio over the web. I look up and notice that the sky is lightening up already. The canvas is still blank. It matters and it doesn't matter at all.

So I pick up a tool and load it up, and I touch the surface... it's seven in the morning.

This was shot thirty hours later.

Posted by Dennis at 10:20 AM | Comments (0)

July 4, 2004

Into the Mix


It's a feat to balance the diversions of Tossa against the needs to pressurize the studio. Life's too short, and you've got to try to do it all without making yourself crazy. But I'm not complaining! I love this problem.

Stephanie has gone to Playa D'Aro with my mom and my aunt (Tita Beng). Picture of familly to come soon! Meanwhile, I stay in the studio and shut the doors, make a pot of coffee, take the stereo to the studio and turn it up a little. I really like the shutters on the windows, an inside and outside system: many modes of light are available to shape a room... a revelation considering we've been shaped by California Modernism, the legacy of the Case Study program... a house was opened to the garden and the inside /outside has many places. Here, houses are thick and openings select and few. All openings have shutters on the inside, sometimes bars on the outside (banditry was a fact of life not so long ago) and a weatherable roll down shade on the outside, and curtains where privacy is needed. As a result, rooms or cuadros are cameras, with light managed to conserve the coolness against the Mediterranean summer.

Later, I begin to feel like the guy in Well's Time Machine, to the rest of the world, I must be a frozen statue, the sun and moon spinning round as the plants grow over the studio, hours seem like minutes as I consider several ways to proceed. The trouble is, I like many of them and I know that the risk of a scrape off is high.

I stretch this linen that I'm getting from my mother. Many months ago, I started to want to be free of the Belgian Linen I used to buy at the art store (no offense, guys!), I thought of using canvas again. But I didn't like the generic quality of canvas. Then this old linen came along and it fit the bill. It was linen, the weave is interesting. And it was of a color closer to canvas. At first, the monograms and the seams were osmething to work around. I accepted them and let them show, not wanting to conform this unique material to a non-unique standard. Then I associated the letter forms with my old work, the first paintings I did coming out of grad school. I appreciated the reminder of the first paintings that led to this current body of work. Then, after having read Hughes "Barcelona", I was struck by the significance of the monograms, the link to the history of Catalonia. Slathering paint on the intimate furnishings of the once landed gentry. Very private property, the fruit of the first Industrial Revolution in Spain. Machine made and hand stiched. Lost symbols of family, lost families. Slowing the slide towards the landfill of some of these artifacts. Like the refernce to my earlier work, I didn't mind all these overtones.

What does it mean? All this and nothing.


And still the canvas is there, blank. Blank, there before me whilst my mind is too crowded.

The trio of Stephanie, my mom and my aunt call. They are inbound, curious if I want to eat lunch with them. Why not? They pick me up at the bus sation and off we go to Blanes, a town not far south, below Lloret. The restaurant was a place known better to locals than the tourists. I choose the atypical, offseason stew, the rest order fish. Salads, deserts, appetizers, cafe con leches. We talk of family, a big topic.

Posted by Dennis at 3:45 AM | Comments (0)

July 1, 2004


On this day, I had only my tiny spycamera with me, so the detail of our lunch is lost to crude pixelations. It's simple spread: salad, sausage, avocado, bread, cheese.

Our little courtyard is still pretty rough. Generations of home improvements will have to pass before we can reform this courtyard into something better. But for now, it's sweet and simple. Muy tranquil.

Posted by Dennis at 6:13 AM | Comments (0)

Tide Pools

Every morning, we take our dog Juno out to go potty (Caganera!) in the dry riverbed, now a parking lot next to the beach. Our path takes us to the point at the base of the old fortifications where the rocks meet the sea.

Juno runs the seagulls of in a huffy display of bossiness. She will chase them, jumping across the river and into the surf, she has no fear of water. One morning soon, I want to take her out for a swim, early, before the beach policeman tells us to get the hell out of there.

And we usually sit and take in the morning air, the smells, light and sounds of the city workers preparing the beach for another day of tourist tanning. A morning meditation on the rocks. At that time, you might see the skippers of the glass bottom boats, rowing out in their dingy to their tourist craft moored out in the water. Like clockwork they are.

Posted by Dennis at 6:06 AM | Comments (0)

By the Way...

Oh yea, and writing of construction... here are a couple of shots over my wall into the site of my neighbor's rennovation of their house. The shot above is of their yard. You can see the well in the corner (there's another out of site to the bottom of the image here). Coming from California, the standards here are very loose comparatively. The earthquake codes back in Cali are beefy and these look sooooo sketchy to me.
You can see the new column to the right of the picture. Stacked masonry units. The footing was dug out, a six foot cube of earth... and a little steel was placed into the bottom, then much concrete poured (prepared in a small mixer in site) with a little steel positioned at teh top for the column connection. Back in California, that hole would have been set up with a steel cage with bottom, middle and top steel all tied securely together and linked to the column with leveling plates so that the steel in the column would be fixed to the steel in the footing.

Over here, you can mix a little mortar, stack a few rocks one atop the other and this assembly would stay together for hundreds of years, no problem. That is, aside from social unrest, anarchy, burning and looting... no harm would come to it for generations.

Posted by Dennis at 5:58 AM | Comments (1)


I've written about city planning in the past, having formulated an idea of cities new and old and how scale has shifted so radically as to challenge our ideas of urban planning. The world over, there is only one idea for urban planning and this is zoning, an abstract schema of urbanism that finds its energy in cartography: the flat map where human activity is organized according to very simple graphic standards (flat geometries of lines, squares, circles... colored areas, hatching, graphic schema in general). Maybe we need a new way to image cities (Sim City, lead the way!) before we can reconceptualize how we live in them?

The critique of this (I'm thinking of Leon Krier's polemic, the simplest and most persuasive) is that human life has more dimensions that this graphic universe will allow. Krier takes the literal human body as the index for a proper scale. The attendant arguement is that physical human scale has been abandoned to the scale of the human imagination, and with this, all that is thrilling and terrifying too.

The big question is whether or not we can elect to control scale. Can we design cities that can recover the intimacies of human scale as we have long appreciated in the older city centers? Barcelona is a textbook example, a living archaeological section of the ancient city center (Bari Gotic), the cosmopolitian urban blocks of the Eixample and the suburbanized periphery typical to new cities worldwide, the spawn of Levitown and Los Angeles.

Is progress a rip tide and that a struggle against the effects of this tide (expanding human scale) is foolish and perhaps dangerous? Is the scale of the old city a nostalgia best left for tourists and theme parks? Or can human will overcome the sometimes limiting products of it's own progress and curiousity? Can we elect... to select... limits for ourselves?

These thoughts are longstanding ones for me, my own Gordian knot that has been a fierce sentry guarding the entrance to a larger, personal architectural vision.

As I was critiquing the students' porjects in Barcelona for Gerry Smulevich's and Paul Grove's class last month, I remembered these super cool little vehicles that navigate the tiny streets of Tossa. Dumpers. I realised that the scale of transportation can and should adjust to the scales of the urban fabric. The Smart Car, the moped, these dumpers, cranes (ubiquitous here in construction sites everywhere), smaller street sweepers, smaller trash trucks, little tricycle vehicles that deliver food to the restaurants. It would be interesting to try to design smaller scaled urban blocks inserted into contemporary (American) cities, and specify a suite of smaller scaled urban vehicles to service them.

This is Kiko's dumper. There are a few construction outfits here in Tossa, all have their own vehicles like this. These guys tool around on these things like they are mopeds: fast and loose. Usually, the workers are young and they dress very hip: the current style is a shaggy mohawk, sometimes natty dreads with ribbons and hair ornaments, baseball caps, spiffy sunglasses, multiple body piercings, shorts and unlaced tennis shoes.

Kiko's dumper has one cylinder, and they sound like cast iron Soviet lawn mowers. Bam, bam, bam, clankity- clank! These things race around the tiny streets ferrying debris and construction materials. I've seen others with six cylinders, customised. Swanky.

A couple of weeks ago, they had an annual ceremony where all the builders paraded their dumpers into the middle of town. Little children presented the contractors with flowers and they attended a dinner together.

Human scale is wonderful, isn't it? Can we elect to do this in tomorrow's cities... or is this a lost relic of the past?

Posted by Dennis at 5:46 AM | Comments (0)