January 30, 2005

Meanwhile

A special day:


I walked forward to my station, cast my vote and then headed to the box, where I wanted to stand as long as I could, then I moved to mark my finger with ink, I dipped it deep as if I was poking the eyes of all the world's tyrants.

I put the paper in the box and with it, there were tears that I couldn't hold; I was trembling with joy and I felt like I wanted to hug the box but the supervisor smiled at me and said "brother, would you please move ahead, the people are waiting for their turn".

Yes brothers, proceed and fill the box!
These are stories that will be written on the brightest pages of history.

Posted by Dennis at 4:00 PM | Comments (0)

Back in the Saddle

I'm not 100 % yet, that virus kicked butt. Now, Stephanie has it and the only consolation is that it seems to be a weaker version that I had (no aching bone/muscle effects). She took good care of me last week, now it's my turn.

I've been able to make repairs on the Green painting. Normally, I would blog the whole thing, but I think's it's best to move ahead and take on this big panel before me.

Ramon's late, I've been ill, the studio is so cold, I can see nostril exhalations. The next few weeks are going to be intense.

The best thing to do is to turn up the music, strap on warm gear and get to work.

Posted by Dennis at 11:48 AM | Comments (4)

January 27, 2005

Toughy

I'm not complaining, but it's been a tough day:

1. We awoke to the sound of water cascading over our building. Ice had burst the copper pipes overnight. This required an undesireable (flu shortened breath) morning walk to Se?or Candelario for repairs as I witnessed people everywhere in town undertaking similar damage control efforts.

2. The BBC had wall to wall coverage of the Auschwitz ceremonies the tv laying a carpet of sound all day. And all I could do is remember all the antisemetic remarks I've heard in my time.

3. The green painting slogged an a couple of chunks fell to the ground (low temps?). Photos to come. I thought I had let it jell long enough to hang it on the wall, but I didn't factor in the fact that the substrate was superthin, more than usual and teh monads had little bedding to stay attached to the surface.

ARRRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHH.

4. FedEx never came on the day they promised, and the delivery is not cheap.

5. Oh yea, and since we didn't have running water, we had to get creative with the plumbing. I'll leave it to your imagination... but let me praise the reseviour of the dehumidifier machine.

6. And it was kind of cold, too.

7. And did I mention my flu? At least it wasn't this bad.

Posted by Dennis at 8:15 PM | Comments (3)

Better

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It's a pretty rough virus.

I'm starting to feel normal, but the feeling only lasts for an hour or so and down I go again like the bad battery in this very laptop (which should be replaced soon).

Last night, I got a hankerin' for a lullaby*, Glen Gould's Goldberg variations. Thanks to modern life, we can fetch up nearly anything we want online, so I dialed up my request in iTunes. I write "nearly" here because Mr. Jobs' gizmo doesn't stock Glen Gould's work. I had to download John Rusnak's version, which is serviceable. (He twiddles the keys more than I'd like sometimes... but what do I know? Musically, I'm a punk.)

To communicate (no, indulge) my enthusiasm for Glen Gould's work, I googled to a fan site, where I found his picture. Also, read the 1955 Columbia Records press release, priceless:

Gould at the keyboard was another phenomenon ? sometimes singing along with his piano, sometimes hovering low over the keys, sometimes playing with eyes closed and head flung back. The control-room audience was entranced, and even the air conditioning engineer began to develop a fondness for Bach. Even at record playbacks Glenn was in perpetual motion, conducted rhapsodically, did a veritable ballet to the music. For sustenance he munched arrowroot biscuits, drank skimmed milk, frowned on the recording crew?s Hero sandwiches.

But check this site out, amazing!

"...Library and Archives Canada, which is the official repository for the archives of the late concert pianist, Glenn Gould."

This is where I found these snippets from Gould's statement concerning the Variations (first, a couple of paragraphs from the middle):

Nothing could better demonstrate the aloof carriage of the Aria, than the precipitous outburst of Variation 1 which abruptly curtails the preceeding tranquillity. Such aggression is scarcely the attitude we associate with prefatory variations, which customarily embark with unfledged dependence on the theme, simulating the pose of their precursor and functioning with a modest opinion of their present capacity but a thorough optimism for future prospects.

With Variation 2 we have the first instance of the confluence of these juxtaposed qualities -- that curious hybrid of clement composure and cogent command which typifies the virile ego of the Goldberg...

No flagrant jargon here, technical talk for the sake of precision as far as I can tell. Here, his finale:

It is in a short music which observes neither end nor beginning, music with neither real climax nor real resolution, yet music in which there exists a fundamental coordinating intelligence which we labelled "ego". It has, then, unity through intuitive perception, unity born of craft and scrutiny, mellowed by mastery achieved, and revealed to us here, as so rarely in art, in the vision of subconscious design exulting upon a pinnacle of potency.

-- Glenn Gould

Amd there is this, from his advice to a graduating class (sooo much good stuff there to select from):


Somehow, I cannot help thinking of something that happened to me when I was thirteen or fourteen. I haven't forgotten that I prohibited myself anecdotes for tonight. But this one does seem to me to bear on what we've been discussing, and since I have always felt it to have been a determining moment in my own reaction to music, and since anyway I am growing old and nostalgic, you will have to hear me out. I happened to be practising at the piano one day -- I clearly recall, not that it matters, that it was a fugue by Mozart, K. 394, for those of you who play it too -- and suddenly a vacuum cleaner started up just beside the instrument. Well, the result was that in the louder passages, this luminously diatonic music in which Mozart deliberately imitates the technique of Sebastian Bach became surrounded with a halo of vibrato, rather the effect that you might get if you sang in the bathtub with both ears full of water and shook your head from side to side all at once. And in the softer passages I couldn't hear any sound that I was making at all. I could feel, of course -- I could sense the tactile relation with the keyboard, which is replete with its own kind of acoustical associations, and I could imagine what I was doing, but I couldn't actually hear it. But the strange thing was that all of it suddenly sounded better than it had without the vacuum cleaner, and those parts which I couldn't actually hear sounded best of all. Well, for years thereafter, and still today, if I am in a great hurry to acquire an imprint of some new score on my mind, I simulate the effect of the vacuum cleaner by placing some totally contrary noises as close to the instrument as I can. It doesn't matter what noise, really -- TV Westerns, Beatles records; anything loud will suffice -- because what I managed to learn through the accidental coming together of Mozart and the vacuum cleaner was that the inner ear of the imagination is very much more powerful a stimulant than is any amount of outward observation.

Oh yes, check out the recordings by Gould (the first one are in his words) at this link! Hours of outtakes, a treasure of a link.


Oh yes, the lullaby?

"For this model..., we are indebted to Count Keyserlingk, formerly Russian envoy to the court of the Elector of Saxony, who frequently resided in Leipzig, and brought with him Goldberg, who has been mentioned above, to have him instructed by Bach in music. The Count was often sickly, and then had sleepless nights. At these times Goldberg, who lived in the house with him, had to pass the night in an adjoining room to play something to him when he could not sleep. The Count once said to Bach that he should like to have some clavier pieces for his Goldberg, which should be of such a soft and somewhat lively character that he might be a little cheered up by them in his sleepless nights. Bach thought he could best fulfil this wish by variations, which, on account of the constant sameness of the fundamental harmony, he had hitherto considered as an ungrateful task. But as at this time all his works were models of art, these variations also became such under his hand. This is, indeed, the only model of the kind that he has left us. The Count thereafter called them nothing but his variations. He was never weary of hearing them; and for a long time, when the sleepless nights came, he used to say: "Dear Goldberg, do play me one of my variations." Bach was, perhaps, never so well rewarded for any work as for this: the Count made him a present of a golden goblet, filled with a hundred Louis d'ors. But their worth as a work of art would not have been paid if the present had been a thousand times as great."

(can't stop posting on this topic)
Check out this site for a skeleton's key to the variations.

Posted by Dennis at 12:35 AM | Comments (0)

January 25, 2005

Down

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Flu. Three days now.

Posted by Dennis at 10:27 PM | Comments (0)

January 24, 2005

Nicked (Ahora)

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There was a flu virus spreading about here in Tossa in the past couple of months. It got to a lot of people. We thought we had beat the rap, but thanks to all the handshaking at the Perigrino festivities, it seems I've taken a few viral passengers on board. A Viral anti immuno spam biological Blacklist library update. It's light, but it's there, enough to make work an uphill push for a few days.

Aching bones, muscles.
Relatively dry sinus.
Deep cough.
Difficult sleep.

?Pobrecito!

(Hopefully, Steph won't catch it too.)

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Oh yea, we're getting a drop in temperatures as a storm system descends further south. Temps to be below zero centigrade.

...and we'll be out tomorrow in Girona for dinner.

Posted by Dennis at 3:58 PM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2005

Tugging Strings

Andrew Rice writes in the Nation about what happened with the World Trade Center in the aftermath of 9-11:

The string was tugged, and The Guy picked Libeskind's design.

So there it is: The commission for arguably the most important architectural project in the history of New York was decided in a phone conversation between the governor and his old law school chum.

Posted by Dennis at 7:23 PM | Comments (0)

THAT EIGHTIES SHOW

Peter Schjeldahl sums up the decade of my formal education in art in his New Yorker column, a review of East Village USA,? at the New Museum:



The contemporary art world of the early eighties blew apart into four main fragments, of which the East Village was one. The others were a defensive establishment of older artists, a fashionable confederacy of neo-expressionists, and a gang of theory-mongering Duchampians. All surfed waves of new money. Eventually, even the fragments disintegrated, becoming the sluggish mishmash that has prevailed in art ever since. The East Village contributed the novelty of a New York avant-garde that forsook global perspectives to party locally. (As such, it was a franchise of similar slum Babylons in European cities.) It was directly opposed by a craze in academe for moralizing discourses?deconstructionist, Marxist, Freudian, feminist. Delectable tensions surfaced between these sensibilities. A leading exegete of theory on the scene, Craig Owens, hatched the keenest critique of East Village art, in one word: ?Puerilism.? (Why the slur?s victims didn?t promptly embrace it, on the model of ?Fauvism,? I don?t know; maybe they lacked ready access to a dictionary.) Such starchy acuity from one who was himself young points to the split personality of a generation: part hellbent on polymorphous perversity, part hankering for the majesty of erudite age.

In the beginning of that decade, I was in architecture school. I remember going to ACE Gallery's "Art and Architecture in the 20th Century" book store on Melrose and buying KunstForum magazine, checking out the NeoEx in Europe.

When we arrived in LA after undergraduate school, the whole NeoEx thing was done and even though it was worldwide phenom, it had only lightly toasted the West Coast, unlike the burnt toast of the East Village. MOCA LA was being born and as I was apprenticing in architecture offices, the counter movement of moralizing discourses that Schjeldahl referred to were surging forward.

By the time I had won my license, I was in grad school and critical theory had run it's course... except few around me seemed to understand that the party was over. Or maybe few cared and went about their own business. I've always maintained that the fall of the Berlin wall was a watershed event for our world of art too.

Critical theory had run out of gas, but this is different from the discourse at large. It sought to define criticality absolutely and it failed.

(That's good!)

And things did change, but not in the way I had anticipated. Instead of a rigorous critical assessment not only of the 80's but of the entire PostModern era, what happened was that young artists declined to speak of the recent past at all. The 80's was then, this is now. Using the term "PostModern" was verboten, a silent proscription. Artists instead focused on their enthusiasms, to hell with technical talk. The preferred discourse at the studio level among artists was childlike. Theory became tighter, more select and a ratcheted up demmand for rigor selected only the strong who floated above the fray, close to the institutions.

That was fine and good... but it seemed as if we were tiptoeing past the kings we should have instead killed. People went on and painted again... not unlike the way NeoEx burst forth, an efflorescence of painting. Perhaps these kings, now professors and chairs of university departments, critics and curators... the elders, were too strong for us then. Maybe it was smart to change the subject, to focus on your hands as babies do when gaze at their hands when they are overwhelmed (these were the days of Adult Babies, remember them?).

It was a bluff, perhaps an unconscious generational strategem. But now the ante is very high. And I am seeing signs of this overdue critical project, in art blogs no less. More of this in a later blogpost.

Posted by Dennis at 7:15 PM | Comments (0)

Tossed up on the Beach

Everyday I despam, seeing random snippets and spam drek. There are hundreds of them.

Advertizing, essentially.

Some of it nasty, some mundane and once in a while, interesting because they feel compelled to scribe something closer to the university, kind of like high brow toilet stall graffitti. (A second thought: You mean that the nasty and mundane aren't interesting?)

Like reading a fortune cookie, one sometimes catches your eye. Today's spam sez:


If biologists have ignored self organization, it is not because self ordering is not pervasive and profound. It is because we biologists have yet to understand how to think about systems governed simultaneously by two sources of order, Yet who seeing the snowflake, who seeing simple lipid molecules cast adrift in water forming themselves into cell like hollow lipid vesicles, who seeing the potential for the crystallization of life in swarms of reacting molecules, who seeing the stunning order for free in networks linking tens upon tens of thousands of variables, can fail to entertain a central thought, if ever we are to attain a final theory in biology, we will surely, surely have to understand the commingling of self organization
and selection.


Hmmm. A final theory. I don't like that, but the question goes to the nature of life. What is it? We might find out in our time, and I don't think an answer, especially a scientific one, would make finite the things we find precious about life.

Posted by Dennis at 5:39 PM | Comments (0)

Green Lantern

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I've been thinking of a certain work on paper done just before we left for Spain.

I hauled up the images into my screensaver.

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I have to let this rest on it's back for a few days, sorry for the oblique angle.

Green.

Stephanie has been spotting green for over a year now. Rowney Georgian makes a yellow green that has always attracted my attention. A little obnoxous, the sharp yellow in it gives off an electric feel like a shock when you mishandle wires in some appliance. I curb this effect with some white and then I dirty it a little. I mixed it a month ago, and the huge lump sat in the studio until I alighted on this project.

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Looking at the screensaver, I tried to gleen what had attracted me to that work on paper, I tried to avoid simply making a copy. But the schema is strong.

A green background that's a little dirty, made by rags, the result of a scrape off, a previously aborted attempt. A slightly altered green was remixed adn thrown onto the surface. The ballistics renders a reliable form: sent into flight from a swing of a loaded pallette knife, a globule spins about several centers of gravity as a tail, a tendril of paint trails behind to the launching tool, to my hand.

This dynamic form then hits the surface of the painting (a picture plane, literally) and the final miliseconds of ballistic form imprints itself onto the surface. Tadpoles, heads and tails.

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I scoop out the heads with improvised stiff paper cut with my trusty shears. Disposable pallette knives. I keep it cartesian to let you know that I know and that I was there. As the scoop ends, a fillip licks the paint into a tongue. A ball of color, this time a compliment, goes into the breech and I comb the top with another shard of paper until it's flat.

Repeat.

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The big turning point was a turn away from my preconceptions. Looking at the screensaver, I had relied on the schema a great deal. And with that schema was a brown flourish that figured the field, resolving the effort. Needing a bed to work this... flourish (I don't like that term particulary, but it is a useful handle for now) had to wait. And in waiting, I increasingly questioned the need for it.


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Late into the experience, the bed was getting rich and my hestitations more firm. At the eleventh hour, I decided to get some sleep instead of finish this painting off (fortunately, these colors dry very slowly). As I left the studio, I realised that small moves might be better than large flourishes. Small moves would conserve the virtues of all this greeness.

Posted by Dennis at 2:35 AM | Comments (0)

Peregrino

So it was a slow Friday. I was catching up on some lost sleep, sealing the new panel at times, blogging and surfing along the way. I got to pick up some slack on the have-to-do's: varnishing the new coffee table with Stephanie, going out to the market, the laundry (in Catalan: "bugaderia"), stuff like that.

Moving slow.

Sometime in the afternoon, Kiko calls. Do we want to go with him on the Peregrino? Men only.

Stephanie will have to rendevous with Kiko's wife, Teresa at Bar Josep.

Sure, Kiko! ?Como no?

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So Kiko comes by, dressed well in an trenchcoat and sweater, slacks and good shoes. I've got my grubby studio clothes on, but I throw a good coat over and pull on a ball cap (which I think ID's me as a Yanqui, no one else wears such a thing) and off we go. He's carrying a big candle, a shillelagh, which is given to me to carry in the procession.

We stopped by Mark's house. A young man, Mark was in a terrible car accident three years ago and he has recovered only part of his health as a result, which can be seen in a limp and slight speech impediment. Amiable, a perpetual smile, chatty. His mother Carmen was mopping the kitchen and we have a cortado as we wait for Mark to get ready to go out. Nice place, interesting to see the way the locals feather their nests.

As we depart, they grab their own candles stashed inside the keyboard of a piano, wicks blackened from previous years. All the while, Mark is speaking in English learned from listening to music, hablabing non stop. "It doesn't rain in Southern California" Random Pop non sequitors. Giggles. We head out into the streets for a pit stop at Bar Josep.

I describe Mark because his attitude to life was so impressive to me. He would talk of his enthusiams, watching sports until four am, young lad stuff. His nonstop stream of consciousness music lyric English joking chatter revealed someone who has seen the edge, mangled. Anything else, every day thereafter was gravy.

Kiko:


See you later...

Mark:


...alligator.

This, in thick Iberian accents and then they would cut up, laughing.

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The streets are filling up with people, families and men with candles in hand, We stage ourselves at Plaza Espa?a in the center of the newer-old town. I'm seeing and greeting many familiar faces: the owner of restaruant, Can Curry, the family of Joan and Rosa, an British lad who works on the party boats there, the owner of the local gallery. I start to get the low down on this whole event.

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It seems that at the time of the Black Plague, there was a visit of a ship's crew, several of whom were succumbing to the Bubonic Plague.

Top of a Google:

Estimated population of Europe from 1000 to 1352. 1000 38 million 1100 48 million 1200 59 million 1300 70 million 1347 75 million 1352 50 million

25 million people died in just under five years between 1347 and 1352.

One third of the population.

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The thing was, this was happening in a hush. Everybody was silent except for the ocassional whisper. You could hear the shuffling of feet and the crazy horns of the band (Medieval Catalu?an music a really whacked out sound, hard to describe and deserving of its' own blogpost) as they play an ocassional song. The hush would be broken by a priest's incantation.

Silence.

Behind the pilgrims, we fell in, candles dripping wax onto the street. We filed our way past the little chapel, up towards the walls of the old town. We stop halfway there and wait for the statue of Sanit Sebastian to be ferried by. A vocallist sang what sounded Medieval Catalan songs. Some people around me ould sang along softly, usually fathers with sons.

I link to Bococcio's Decameron:

at the beginning of the spring of that year, that horrible plague began with its dolorous effects in a most awe-inspiring manner, as I will tell you. And it did not behave as it did in the Orient, where if blood began to rush out the nose it was a manifest sign of inevitable death; but rather it began with swellings in the groin and armpit, in both men and women, some of which were as big as apples and some of which were shaped like eggs, some were small and others were large; the common people called these swellings gavoccioli. From these two parts of the body, the fatal gavaccioli would begin to spread and within a short while would appear over the entire body in various spots; the disease at this point began to take on the qualities of a deadly sickness, and the body would be covered with dark and livid spots, which would appear in great numbers on the arms, the thighs, and other parts of the body; some were large and widely spaced while some were small and bunched together. And just like the gavaciolli earlier, these were certain indications of coming death.

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(Here comes St. Sebastian.)

Scroll further down the page, you can see the psychological effect this (epidemiological) disaster wrought:

Because of all these things, and many others that were similar or even worse, diverse fears and imaginings were born in those left alive, and all of them took recourse to the most cruel precaution: to avoid and run away from the sick and their things; by doing this, each person believed they could preserve their health. Others were of the opinion that they should live moderately and guard against all excess; by this means they would avoid infection. Having withdrawn, living separate from everybody else, they settled down and locked themselves in, where no sick person or any other living person could come, they ate small amounts of food and drank the most delicate wines and avoided all luxury, refraining from speech with outsiders, refusing news of the dead or the sick or anything else, and diverting themselves with music or whatever else was pleasant. Others, who disagreed with this, affirmed that drinking beer, enjoying oneself, and going around singing and ruckus-raising and satisfying all one's appetites whenever possible and laughing at the whole bloody thing was the best medicine; and these people put into practice what they heartily advised to others: day and night, going from tavern to tavern, drinking without moderation or measure, and many times going from house to house drinking up a storm and only listening to and talking about pleasing things. These parties were easy to find because everyone behaved as if they were going to die soon, so they cared nothing about themselves nor their belongings; as a result, most houses became common property, and any stranger passing by could enter and use the house as if he were its master. But for all their bestial living, these people always ran away from the sick. With so much affliction and misery, all reverence for the laws, both of God and of man, fell apart and dissolved, because the ministers and executors of the laws were either dead or ill like everyone else, or were left with so few officials that they were unable to do their duties; as a result, everyone was free to do whatever they pleased. Many other people steered a middle course between these two extremes, neither restricting their diet like the first group, nor indulging so liberally in drinking and other forms of dissolution like the second group, but simply not going beyond their needs or satisfying their appetite beyond the necessary, and, instead of locking themselves away, these people walked about freely, holding in their hands a posy of flowers, or fragrant herbs, or diverse exotic spices, which sometimes they pressed to their nostrils, believing it would comfort the brain with smells of that sort because the stink of corpses, sick bodies, and medicines polluted the air all about the city. Others held a more cruel opinion, one that in the end probably guaranteed their safety, saying that there was no better or more effective medicine against the disease than to run away from it; convinced by this argument, and caring for no-one but themselves, huge numbers of men and women abandoned their rightful city, their rightful homes, their relatives and their parents and their things, and sought out the countryside, as if the wrath of God would punish the iniquities of men with this plague based on where they happened to be, as if the wrath of God was aroused against only those who unfortunately found themselves within the city walls, or as if the whole of the population of the city would be exterminated in its final hour.

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The town, Tossa, freaked out and people fled into the countryside. Now, I heard several versions of the story. In one account, one of the escaping townspeople saw a vision, an instruction to return to Tossa. They were to recover the statue of a saint that would be found behind an altar and then hang a skin of a lamb in the widow of a high tower and wait for a sign for what to do next. (Or somesuchthing, accounts vary, shoulders would shrug.)

This person, a woman, did as she was instructed and in time, saw a darkening of the skin in the particular direction of the town of Santa Coloma. (?) It was decided that a pilgrimage to this town and back is just what the everlasting doctor ordered.

And they have been at this ever since, a 650 year reverberation.

This is an petition for absolution perhaps, a deliverance from hardship. Pilgrims walk 40 kilometers and back, some barefooted. No one talks of details.. of what seem to be heartbreak stories.

Discretion.

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The air was blurred with smoke and candle soot.

Now what's up with Saint Sebastian?

I google:

Sebastian was named captain in the praetorian guards by Emperor Diocletian, as did Emperor Maximian when Diocletian went to the East. Neither knew that Sebastian was a Christian. When it was discovered during Maximian's persecution of the Christians that Sebastian was indeed a Christian, he was ordered executed. He was shot with arrows and left for dead, but when the widow of St. Castulus went to recover his body, she found he was still alive and nursed him back to health. Soon after, Sebastian intercepted the Emperor, denounced him for his cruelty to Christians, and was beaten to death on the Emperor's orders.

Saint Sebastian was venerated at Milan as early as the time of St. Ambrose and was buried on the Appian Way. He is patron of archers, athletes, and soldiers, and is appealed to for protection against plagues.

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We resumed the movement alongside St. Sebastian, the walls of the Villa Vella lit by these great bonfire lamps fixed high onto the castle walls.

And finally, we round the corner of our house before we arrive at the church. I caught both our neighbor's eyes and winked to them both.

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Afterwards, beers and sandwiches at Bar Josep, tons of people. We take a few people to the studio to see the work in progress, talk of art in another language sometimes funny, always hard. We finish at El Pirata, Cuban music. It was a long night with more stories to tell... but not now.

We returned home by 3:30am, an early night.

Posted by Dennis at 2:26 AM | Comments (0)

January 21, 2005

Ahora

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Finished another smaller painting, very green.

Not much sleep in the past few days, went to bed at 4 am this morning. A story to tell about it, but later. Head hurts, need sleep. (Personal pronouns neurons are first to go.)

Ramon came by with the next large panel. Glasses of brandy. We reviewed the work orders for the next few weeks, especially the specs on the travelling frames. He will prepare an estimate.

Stretched, glued, stapled and primed the panel. Two more coats to go. Tomorrow will be like a vacation as a result, waiting for matt medium to dry.

More words after a little sleep.

Promise.

Posted by Dennis at 12:08 AM | Comments (2)

January 20, 2005

John Millei

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(John has a new dog, her name is Eva.)

One of the cool things you could do in Los Angeles if you are a painter is to drop by john Millei's studio and see what he's been up to. Such time spent is guaranteed to charge you up in your own garret.

He recently sent a few pics of his recent work. Let's jet down West Adams, South of the Santa Monica 10 Freeway, right before you get to the Blum and Poe part of town... you know, near the Helms Bakery Building... and get an eyefull:

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Even though Los Angeles' forces of gentrification are edging in to this part of town, John's studio neighborhood is not on Starbuck's shortlist. Just finding the place will test your nerve. Junkies might hit you up for a dollar onthe way in.

Once inside the blue painted steel security gates, you are in a tough as nails real life working studio, a place that thoroughly tested as a site for serious painting for many years now.

Abundance, John is a horn of plenty, working in series and with multiple series at once... and he works big.

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His ideas are solid and coherent and he works each series as a site to test his ideas. By ideas, I mean conjectures, questions, investigations that are embodied in pigment.

I can see the remnants of his "For Surfing" paintings, the undulating forms. And what is new to me is these new angular canvases. John hasn't dropped the explanatory narrative on me about these yet (really, it's better to do this in the presence of the work), but I see Piranesi, Sant'Elia, Coop Himmelblau... architecture.

By working thinly in layers that dry fast, he can deploy in large scales, several projects at once. Here, you can see the transparent fields of white glazes sending huge chunks of the composition into a deep background, editing and reconfiguring. Reconfiguring, a better term than compostion.

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I was going to mention Lydia Dona's work in that my feeling (emphasis on that term) is that John has taken her pretentions toward... the mechanistic (a problematic term, but useful as an arrow pointing toward what I see as what might possibly be the subject of her work) and embodied it into the forms and materiality of painting.

Instead of picturing machines, John mechanised black pigment.


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?Pero, cuidado eh? I don't mean to denigrate Ms. Dona's project, she is formidable enough to withstand my flea bite. But she does enjoy the appellation as a conceptualist. Such a designation requires a test.

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The cool thing about John is that he is an autodidact. He taught himself. (He also teaches at two universities in Southern California: ArtCenter and Claremont, so please let that abrade any suspicions of anti-academia.) The first attributes of this kind of background that I notice is that an art conversation with John will not traffic in fashionable terminology or second hand ideas. His thoughts are tailored and specific and hard won, not ready to wear. John looks at paintings in a way that is deeper than your standard issue MFA industry product.

He has a personal and detailed knowledge of Giotto's Procession Frescos, for example. A conversation with him about this is inuanced and personal. Moreover, you might be lucky enough to visit his place in Hancock Park and check out his mini pocket studio (a spare bedroom), wherein he traffics these Giotto thoughts in pigments and medium:
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Posted by Dennis at 11:48 PM | Comments (2)

January 18, 2005

Prosthesis

Someday soon, I'll be able to make blogposts in my head:

In June, a surgeon had implanted a tiny sensor into Nagle?s brain, making him the first human subject in an experiment that Brown professors and alumni hope will make patients like Nagle begin to regain their ability to manipulate the physical world around them. The implanted sensor picks up the electrical signals from Nagle?s brain that would normally command parts of his body to move. The signals, instead of proceeding to Nagle?s damaged spinal cord, are collected and sent through wires and fiber-optic cable to hardware and software that translate them into computer-driven movement.

More:

A few weeks after the implantation surgery, researchers, including Henry Merritt Wriston Professor John Donoghue ?79 PhD, who chairs Brown?s neuroscience department, told Nagle to relax and to think about moving his hand to the left and to the right. What came next was a thrill. The scientists could see on a computer screen that when Nagle imagined moving, he not only activated neurons in his primary motor cortex; he did so with ease. With no training or practice, Nagle could transform his mental intentions into an action the scientists could observe. ?That,? says Donoghue, ?completely blew me out of my chair.?

In a matter of weeks, Nagle was guiding the cursor. As he sat in the Massachusetts rehabilitation center that serves as his home, he moved quickly from manipulating the cursor to controlling the channels and the volume on his television set. Soon he could play simple video games, scroll through simulated e-mail messages, and draw a crude circle on a screen. By last fall he was able to open and close a prosthetic hand?all by imagining the movement of a cursor.

Over just a few months, operating the system became so intuitive that Nagle has at times whistled a tune or carried on a conversation as he moved the cursor. This was particularly important because it told researchers that unlike existing systems aimed at helping quadriplegics manipulate the world around them, such as technology that responds to voice commands, Donoghue?s implanted device does not require single-focus concentration.

Posted by Dennis at 9:24 AM | Comments (3)

January 17, 2005

Cold

How cold is it here?

While the overnight lows are nearly the same as Los Angeles and the SoCal daily highs are balmy, compared to Catalunya...

...you can see your breath as we sit in our living room, day and especially night.

Posted by Dennis at 6:47 PM | Comments (0)

Big

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Small painting, big monads.

How big is big?

Why big?

My old friend Gary asked me in a previous comment:

sometimes when I see the "blow-up" version of the paintings, I wonder if you ever try to paint the blow-up version to start with.

Scale.

I've been thinking about scale for a while now. It goes back to my early architecture days when I realized how cities have been governed by a transformed inhabitant, the prothesis augmented citizen (people in cars), and that the intimate human scale of older cities was nearly accidental. And more significantly, I realized that we face the question as to whether we can direct the course of our future or whether our inventions direct us instead (I write this not as a Luddite but as a wary enthusiast). Had I stayed the course in architecture ...which was not my sole intention by the way... (I still keep my licence, so that is and will always be an open option) the next step would have been to determine the consequences of this point of view in the approach to the design of individual buildings. (I imagine an arc connecting Rem Koolhaas with Ted Smith with Leon Krier.)

Later, I chose the closed set of painting over the open set of new genre art (anything goes, the world is on your pallette) because I could detect the twist of irony in the diminished harvest of the open set and I could not have abandoned the hope formed in my childhood for a new horizon in the closed set of sticky colors on a surface stretched flat. It was the early 90's and painting (in the affirmative, not in negation as most painters had done previously -my assessment) simply was a major challenge, the question of scale in painting was not yet on my radar.

At the mid 90's, I had realized that this wet into wet -paint as color, line and mass was a deep well and worthy of my complete attention. Most of my paintings then were of the size of an embrace. As time went on, mild calls for larger works were coming from various important people in my life. And as time went on, I realized to the contrary that there are qualities in these paintings that are intimate... they came from the radius of movement of fingers and wrist. Moreover, I was learning about the nature of paint, a small attraction force of volume-to-surface that you can feel in the stickiness of pallette knife to canvas, the physics of whips and peaks and strings formed from controlled flings, the finitude of a loaded brush carving into waves of pigment.

This learning curve also alerted me to how the properties of paint as material act in scale, that I wouldn't get the same forms if I scaled up the size of my tools tambien. For example, I use shards of paper to peel up fractal patterns of paint (recalling Earnst's decalcomania) and printing this onto the surface, I then flatten the peaks down, reinforcing the graphic quality. The heaviness of the paper stock and the length are important issues in delivering the desired forms.
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I could use larger, industrial sizes... I could use light gauge sheet metal instead of paper. I would need assitants and larger surfaces to prepare the bed of paint and I began to imagine hydraulic robotic arms in the studio. Robocop as painter. But paint would act differently in these conditions and it's anybody's guess as to what these forms would be like (eh... If I had teh capacity to do this, I would likely find virtures in the new jumbo dabs no doubt). One could not test this without bank and bone crushing effort... it would also outstrip the scale of my little economy. The deliberate facts of intimacy began to become clearer to me then.

There was an issue with paint as mass and how it behaves as it dries. I knew that there is an upper limit somewhere. The paint I use compacts a bit as it dries, I tested bits here and there and found that over time, the paint dries from the surface to the interior, eventually drying like a cookie. Colors affect the drying process, and the darker ones tended to wrinkle when in a mass. Some of these changes I am willing to tolerate, some not. Painting after all is the most fugitive of the artforms, none really survived deep antiquity (hell, I have to survive the shallow contemporary!). Painting alla prima is a way to shortcut the elaborate approaches of traditional technique, but it has it's own problems. Strategies such as painting on canvas stretched over rigid panels adn keeping the mass down are good precautions enough. Painting with larger, deeper masses would bring a host of new conservation problems... and would introduce the open set into my project. If I would move into that direction, I might as well rip open the set and leave painting altogether.

One of the first deliberate investigations in the direction of scale was a group of paintings sent to a show in my gallery in New York, Nicole Klagsbrun. I began by cropping the work in one of my catalogs. I cut one up, and soon I had shards of images on my table. I saw in the cropping, a focus and intesification and I wondered if there was a way to paint this directly. Soon after, my attention drifted to collage and I was making what are essentially maquettes. Instead of cropping down, I was cropping up... assembling repeatable shards until I got the density I wanted.
(...for some reason, I can't load images of these paintings... ?que lastima!)

Just before we left Los Angeles, I had painted long horizontal paintings. It was a way to paint large (4 meters horizontally) and yet small (80 centimeters vertically). I chose to rush across the surface with trowelled pigments and punctuate this movement with the then newly invented pillow-tools and vertical cuts that slowed the horizontal movement down and provided a way to mask the joints (it came apart into three segments). I knew that the slather had AbEx roots and I had hoped that the punctuations would be cause enough for a pause in that judgement. (However, one judgement from Europe was an uncomfortable association with Art Informel... the European aspect of what was known in NYC as AbEx... our artworld is still in the trall of the open set and thus fears what the open set rejected.... this needs a separate post.)
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I came away from these paintings with a heightened regard for the problems of translating the intimacy of my little paintings into larger scaled works. Maybe it is because I am born half and half... I tend to think in two directions simultaneously... but my mind went towards problem solving the large while realizing the importance of the small domain.
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The paintings in Texas began breaking away from the drywall knife, the tool that began nearly all the preceeding work. This tool delivered a uniform bed of paint, a starting point, the wet surface upon which the loaded brush would spend itself (this was the manner in which the initial epiphany occurred to me). But this tool also had it's limits. There was a limit to how big a surface I could create uniformly with a 12 inch blade. So I looked for other ways to start, alternatives to the priming field.

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In Spain, I used the pillows to push areas of paint onto the surface as a starting manuever. It was a liberating feeling. I could go omnidirectionally. I could use different colors and tones. More importantly, I realized that I could use a fresco technique and work on parts of the canvas at a time, unlike the trowel which committed me to the entire surface at the onset. I could in theory start a large canvas and complete it piecemeal (as it is, a painting consumes me for a week at a time, and since the paint is drying, I am agitated until I am done before it dries).
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I painted all summer before I fully exploited this potential, exploring the ramifications of this new approach. Along the way, I discovered that in addition to pushing on pillows of paint, I could take it off, flattening the surface, thus keeping the overall mass down.
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The show in Z?rich represents for me a capsule example of a fruitful The last three paintings worked out a combination of lessons learned that summer (I number them sequentially), a sort of codification. Thick and flat, marbled and solid, strings and fractal prints and lines and planes and spiney balls.
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I was good to go for larger work. An interlude of works on paper and some panels for a group show gave me a pause and a moment to examine the other hand. And then, I took on the two larger paintings that will go into the K?ln show in March. The thing is, this peicemeal "fresco" strategy is good in theory, but it's a beast in practice. One large painting, sectioned into five or six parts, will take me a month to do! If I wanted to paint bigger,faster... industrial dimensions are required. I'm happy I've taken on the last two paintings of course. But in the next larger panel (Ramon promises a delivery tomorrow) I think I'll be using the scalability (the ability to go large) of the flat areas to wrestle with the span of the canvas.
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...well, that takes us up to this moment. And there's another panel which the same size as the last painting. I was planning a similar approach as before (chocolate paintings).. but now I've been thinking about this detail:
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...in technicolor.

And to answer Gary question more directly: Why don't I paint the blow up?

-Well, I already did. And I have a foto to prove it.

Posted by Dennis at 6:26 PM | Comments (0)

January 16, 2005

News from home

Checking into Dan's Iconoduel, I read more of what Mat Gleason dropped in his blog a month or so ago, some such fuss stirred up in UCLA. This blurb, snipped from Iconoduel, snipped from art.blogging.la, snipped from ArtNews:

Last week a rumor shot through the California art world. Artists Chris Burden and Nancy Rubins (his wife) had resigned their positions as teachers in UCLA's art department after an art student loaded a gun and fired it during an art performance in class. Apparently, Burden wanted the student to be reprimanded, but the university administration demurred, leading to the resignations. Both the artists and the school are mum on the matter. Burden, of course, is known for a 1971 performance piece, Shoot, in which he had himself shot in the arm with a .22 rifle.

I've waited sixteen years to read these (Dan Iconoduel's) words in the artworld at large:

How bourgeois is the derivative radical?

Sixteen years ago, visiting artists were dropping off thick bricks of Derrida that no one understood, the author was dead and painting was still impossible. Then as the Berlin Wall came down, I had hoped that a general reassessment would ensue, a fire of reflection and "where are we now, where are we going?".

No dice.

Choirs aren't soul searchers as a rule.

(Oh, and be sure to read the comments at Art.blogging.LA. Good stuff there.)

A second thought:

If it was a simple act of loading a firearm and firing it in class, this is a trivial story... which would make the ensuing drama all the more pathetic.

If it was indeed a public act of suicide... we are dealing with issues of mental health and this person needs some attention and care. Immediately.

Posted by Dennis at 8:37 PM | Comments (0)

Sailor Story

Once upon a time, I was a sailor in the Seventh Fleet. Once in a while (long whiles, three, in my time), we were called in to make a resue. In those times, everybody's attitude changed from a generally nonchalant professionalism into a joy in being serious, getting the job done smartly.

...somebody needs your help.

These guys must be having a blast right now.


A sailor writes home:
(PowerLine exerpts an email from the USS Abraham Lincoln)

As is always the case, it is the personal contact that you have with the people you see in these situations that leave the biggest impression, and I will relate three events from my flight today. ?I was leading a flight of two helicopters that each had 2,000 pounds worth of chocolate milk on board. This cargo was going to an orphanage in the town of Lamno, about 25 miles southeast of Banda Aceh. ?As we landed, the children poured out of the orphanage and lined the soccer field that we landed on. ?The teachers from the orphanage immediately formed a line to help us offload our cargo. ?Once the offload was complete and we began to take off, several of the children rushed under the helos in order to have the rotor wash send them tumbling along the ground. ?The joy on their faces at such a simple pleasure after what they had just endured brought a smile to my face, and I was happy if, even for a moment, I was able to make them forget the catastrophe they had witnessed... ?

This wouldn't be complete without me saying a word about the dedication of the service members from not only the US, but from all over the area who are working to alleviate the suffering. ?Every morning we take 80 volunteers from the carrier to stand all day at the soccer field next to the airport in Banda Aceh that we are using as a landing field and load helicopters. ?The heat and humidity can be stunning, but they labor all day and not only do not complain, but seem to be almost joyous as they work. ?Today I saw not only our sailors, but also soldiers from the Australian Army labor all day to ensure that the work gets done. ?Additionally, the Aussies have sent a team of air traffic controllers to the airport at Banda Aceh, bringing a bit of order to the chaos that had existed previously and would undoubtedly have led to an aircraft mishap.

Posted by Dennis at 6:33 PM | Comments (0)

January 15, 2005

Descanso

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I've got this painting parked on it's back. It's a thick one, monads (the spiney things) are as big as baby fists, about as big as I ever want to get.

I've got an idea of how to shoot this painting, lemme tool around a bit. The exegesis to follow soon.

Here's another low angle detail:

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Posted by Dennis at 11:21 PM | Comments (0)

Barcelona Street

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The first half of the day was in the Tapies Foundation, the afternoon I spent assisting Stephanie research the SoutEast section of the old city (Barri Gotic) of Barcelona, a.k.a. "El Borne". Here are some street pics for you...

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And here, some street gaffitti:

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This is an ad, not art... commercial art. Nice stencil work.

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Oh yes, young nihilists... the sistem, the sistem!
(An 80 year old Anarchist probably sprayed this)

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There's a completeness in the rendering of street graffitti, is this recent?

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This becomes more noticable after the Tapies Foundation visit.

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I just liked this.

Posted by Dennis at 11:13 PM | Comments (0)

Butterfingers!

Aaaaaaaawwwwwwwwww!

I lost all the pics taken at the Tapies Foundation! I stripped my camera down for the trip to Barcelona, taking off the lens cap and strap. In tryng to get street wise ( the theory being that a strapless camera would be harder to steal), was pulling my Olympus out of my jacket, cleaning up pics on the run and turning it on and off in my pocket. I must have cleared my memory without knowing it.

(...happens all the time)

I may not have any pics of T?pies' paintings, but I have a pic of...

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?Tapas!

Well, it kind of looks like a T?pies artwork!

Earthy, particular Catalan earth, fruit of the rich soil of this regiion (I imagine these potatoes are from Catalunya, maybe they're imported from Chilie?). Lavish rich and saucy. Direct and simple, earnest and elemental.

...buttery.

And better with some good table wine and buttifara.

Joking aside, I've got a few things to tell you about my take on the work of Antoni T?pies, more later. Right now, I'm checking out the Foundation catalog and a text from a lecture there in '97 by Richard Wollheim.
Wollheim.jpg

ps: Is it me, or does this cover resemble a Campbell's Soup can?

...naaaahhhh.

Posted by Dennis at 10:54 PM | Comments (0)

Yesterday

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Just returned from a day trip to Barcelona.

Pics in a jiffy.

Posted by Dennis at 9:02 PM | Comments (1)

January 14, 2005

Light and Dark Rings

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Credit.: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute


Cool.

Posted by Dennis at 9:58 PM | Comments (0)

Doug Henders

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A few years ago, Kevin O'Sullivan (friend, screenwriter in LA) visited my studio in ChinaTown Los Angeles wherein he introduced Doug Henders (artist, New York). Great visit, nice guy, Doug. As they left, I wondered lightly if we would ever meet again one day, our art world is soooo big nowadays.

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It was a nice surprise to meet up in the comments section of this blog! As you might surmise, I love a studio visits (I think it is the purest and most privileged art experience to have) and until I get to New York someday soon, these jpegs will have to substitute.

Pencils. That's what comes to mind. And colors associated with pencils: Ticonderoga yellow, Pink Pearl red (ok, you might not see this... just let me fly!). Erasures, adjustments. To paint this way, you have to watch the edges where one color meets another... hard work that requires attention and consistency, precision with the last touch of the brush. And camouflage that dissolves the figure. An arrow towards abstraction. A datum in the world and a lean into the mind.

I should stop right there. Three jpegs provoking more than 70 words is pure temerity.

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Doug had his opening in K?ln a month ago, a city we both enjoy for the community of artists there:

The show just opened the 10th of December through January. One of the artists that shows in the gallery, his brother owns Dos Equis!

Dos Equis is the bar that Mark and Frances took me to over the holidays. A little squeeze bar in the front, a nondescript side door led us down two meandering hallways into a big internal room open to the outside only by skylights, crowded with tables packed with artists. According to my kind guides, K?ln is the kind of town where artists from all art worlds mix (my favorite phrase: "There are many art worlds."). This is wonderful... because back where I come from, there's no mixing going on. Artists keep to small circles, for what I once thought was due to the organization of the city: people only socialize with as many people they can bar-b-que for in their back yards or chat with in their cars as they speed down a freeway. But I'll bet that the reasons for the amiability of the community in K?ln are deeper than that.

If you mention the community you may want to add A-11 which is cocktail bar and Bar Tobac, which is a french restaurant. These are 2 venerable artworld hangouts (owned by a collector-friend).
Posted by Dennis at 8:14 PM | Comments (1)

January 13, 2005

Ahora

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...in progress.

Posted by Dennis at 5:11 PM | Comments (0)

Let's Go for a Walk

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I have this tendency to stay in the studio a long time, troglodyte that I am. So today, we break out for a walk, this time to the North end of the beach. A beautiful day as you can see, the water is clear.

I want to put a wetsuit on my wish list.

I pan the camera down:

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I promise myself to snorkle these waters more this coming summer.

Back to the studio...

Posted by Dennis at 5:10 PM | Comments (0)

Lunchtime Castellano Lessons

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It was good not to have a television in our lives for so long, but to assist our language training, we hooked up an antenna and now we puzzle out the meaning of Spanish television.

Lunchtime, we watch this delightful cooking show on Telecinco, a Basque cook by the name of Karlos Argui?ano.

Happy cooks are successful cooks, and this guy likes to sing as he goes about his business. In this particular show (pic), he is preparing a Salsa Americana (for a fish dish, a fish called Rape... the kind that has this monsterous head and a delicious body), but it's no salsa we have seen before. In this recipie, he chopped up live crab and prawns (poor things, heads and all), simmered it all in a soup in flitered out the chunky parts afterwards.

A half hour and we decode all the new words... the Castellano lessons continue.

I don't think we'll be chopping up the crabs anytime soon.

Posted by Dennis at 2:10 PM | Comments (0)

I Wish I Wish

Late night, knocking about. Testing paint.

Playing music, "IWish I Wish My Baby Was Born", on repeat... long night.

I-Wish-I-Wish1.jpg


I wish, I wish my baby was born
And sittin' on its papa's knee
And me, poor girl
And me, poor girl, were dead and gone
And the green grass growin' o'er my feet
I ain't ahead, nor never will be
Till the sweet apple grows
On a sour apple tree

I-Wish-I-Wish2.jpg


But still I hope the time will come
When you and I shall be as one


I-Wish-I-Wish3.jpg


I wish I wish my love had died
And sent his soul to wander free
Then we might (need our ribbons five) meet where ravens fly
Let our poor body rest in peace


I-Wish-I-Wish4.jpg


The owl, the owl
Is a lonely bird
It chills my heart
With dread and terror
That someone's blood
There on his wing
That someone's blood
There on his feather

I-Wish-I-Wish5.jpg
(Scraped, this painting will exist only in these jpegs.)

Posted by Dennis at 1:51 AM | Comments (0)

January 12, 2005

Bells, Tolling

4 people died in Tossa yesterday. From what I gather, all natural causes. Unusual here, for the number.

This morning, mourning bells are ringing.

One of the people is Ramon's (our carpenter and friend) friend. You can see his hands playing dominos in the pics at an earlier post.

He's the one with a brandy and a cortado and a full ashtray. He was 76.

Posted by Dennis at 9:54 AM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2005

Admin: Stuff Coming Soon

Just a note to all:

My sticky note is fat fat fat with info and stuff to blog and I'll be releasing it in bits as I process them for proper blog fitness.

There might be stuff a few beats off time (an xmas nativity scene for example), but if it wasn't good I would purge it.

Stay tuned, if you please!

Posted by Dennis at 10:58 PM | Comments (0)

Trees and the Forest

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I've been thinking about how my work pivots so much on details, and how scale (bigger paintings) stresses this issue so. For example, witness how the overall pics drop the information we can see in these detail images.

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The only comfort that I can take is that it takes both detail and overall shots to simulate what the unassisted eye can see*1. But the art world traffics in mediated images. If my paintings require a you-are-there situation to be effective...

I've got a problem, don't I?

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This foto frames one solution. By throwing down marbled paint and scooping it up again, I can have an avenue that opens towards flatness (Greenbergian visuality? Wasn't the deal with him is that his ideas tended toward a disembodied*2 visuality*3 and the large scale that it caters to?

Hmmmm. Interesting. Fat (thickness, mass, materiality) points toward small scale, intimacy. Thin (flat) points toward big scale, mass communication. Is this correct?

I'm still chewing on it.

*1 The issue of prosthesis is very interesting to me, how we augment and overcome the limits of our human bodies with tools to extend our capabilities... this here laptop, for example. Cars, eyeglasses, canes, laser pointing devices...

*2 ...and that this (paintings becoming distilled into two dimensional objects and then into visual principals) anticipated, set up the scene for the conceptualized disembodiement of ensuing PostModernity?

Where's Fran Colpitt when you need her?

Oh yea, she's teaching in Texas.

(Fran knows alot about Clem.)

*3 Didn't I read this in Libby Lumpkin's "Deep Design"?

Posted by Dennis at 10:31 PM | Comments (0)

The Illmatic's Back!

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It's been a year since Kim Jong Ill has posted in his blog. And lo! He's returned with a few more posts.

Check it out:

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I would love to find the back story on this writer. I think he's/she's supercool.

Posted by Dennis at 9:31 PM | Comments (0)

Progress Report

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Well, it's been a while since we visited thejob site. Unfortunately the patriarch of the family has passed away in the meantime and the children for which this construction was intended have determined that a new design should be undertaken... this much we understand.

We thought a whole new design was in the works, and since Tossa is reviewing its' urban design standards, we figured that they would come roaring back in a few months with a bigger, more complex design. But bigger isn't better and here, a smaller volume is easier to heat in the winter. Some of the coolest houses are tiny and very, very cosey.

But from what we can see, it's a good guess that they booted to recovering what they have built so far. An enlarged terrace to the rear will bring the massing down to a better scale. I still wonder about the lack of windows in the two floors below. At least there is still a possiblity that they will build in windows to cascade southern light down a staircase volume and into the living room below.

Posted by Dennis at 12:33 PM | Comments (0)

January 10, 2005

Making Plans

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The ground rush is breathtaking as I work up for the show in K?ln.

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This painting, two by three meters. I was tracking on a strategy that I've been grooving on since the show in Z?rich: working the paint on in patches, painting more like a fresco muralist, a piece at a time. This is the first big test of scale.

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So I pull out my architectural drawing program and model Andr?'s gallery. I want to plan the installation with him.

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Andr?, this is the first pass, not even a designed scheme yet. I wanted to throw in the paintings in scale into the modeled space, Aachner Strasse 65. I wanted to see how big these things were.

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I'm working on a couple of smaller panels and I will meet with my carpenter Ramon to build the rest as I go, now week for week until the art handlers arrive.

Hey, what if we all wear pink capri pants and light violet t-shirts to the opening?

Posted by Dennis at 11:46 PM | Comments (4)

January 9, 2005

3 Kings Day

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The sixth of January is Three Kings Day. The kids here get a double dose of gifts, the families are so robust and expressive.

Kiko called us up and suggested that we watch the procession and have a few beers along the way (Bar Josep and Bar Savoy of course). ?Como no?

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Posted by Dennis at 11:04 AM | Comments (0)

Penny Aphorism

Life's a field of flowers

A blogpost is... can be... like a flower.


Update:
OK.

I blogged this at a bouyant moment.

Not all of my moments are like this. One moment specifically, life was a little wispy and something like a shadow loomed overhead. Another time, an anonymous fear made the phrase "chilled my bones" extremely vivid, my stomach writhed. An artist, in the midswing of my career, a youth spent on curiousity, heedless of the cautionary advice of family, hurtling towards... who knows where?

But I remember a scene in the HBO series "Band of Brothers", where the main character made a point to shave in the midst of hell. He shaved to keep it together, to help his fellow soldiers cling to the seemingly vanished normal life. I think it's important to cling to... positivity as long as humanly possible, or perhaps to at least iterate the form of the positive even when the spirit seems to have flown.

There's alot that is not blogged: inside art business, bad behaviour by artworld predators, intimate personal life, much else. Sure that stuff is there, and maybe it will make good material for a late in life memior. But for now, this blog will go on shaving in the foxhole. For you... and mainly for me.

Because no matter how shitty life can be, there are without a doubt moments, many of them, that are like a beautiful sun dappled field of wild flowers. I don't ever want to forget this, even when the shadow looms.

Posted by Dennis at 1:09 AM | Comments (0)

January 8, 2005

Admin 2005

As the work heats up in the studio (the date for the K?ln show is set for the beginning of March), I'm eliminating comment spam now and then between strokes (slow load up time, the anti spam software is pretty new)... and this is eating blog energy. There's a ton of cool things to blog (and much I can't really write about -now- for assorted reasons) but hold on for when the dike breaks.

At the moment: 16,000 plus spam comments, down from well over 50,000 when I started. I hope this works, the spam is a bummer... nasty stuff.

UPDATE: The test will be if the maintenance is as difficult as the clean up. The next resort is to try to eliminate the comments, and if I do that, I will plaster my contact info on the margins here. The last resort....

Posted by Dennis at 10:26 PM | Comments (0)

January 7, 2005

Check This Out

One of the cool things about the recent flurry of blog talk in the mags and online is to discover new bloggers to add to my bookmarks:

Dan at IconoDuel

He begins with this in a recent post:

I recently digested SAIC art history smarty James Elkins' What Happened to Art Criticism? from Prickly Paradigm Press, a problematic and at times messy essay (but one that is also thought provoking and often dead right). Of particular interest to me was Elkins' refutation of several proposed solutions to contemporary art criticism's woes.

It was worth reading to the end of his blogpost, this finale:

So it appears that, if I can hazard a bit of commentary at the end here, the attractiveness of detached description extends to the critique of criticism (and, for that matter, to that critical criticism's wholesale regurgitation on some jerk's weblog).

This seems wholly appropriate as, at a point in the ebb and flow of the history of a discourse at which we encounter the sort of knowing self-awareness that now characterizes our discourse (by virtue of triumphs both theoretical and historical), the reserved, descriptive passivity of the reception history has become normative and virtually inescapable. Equally inevitable is the paralyzation of judgment that follows, where we anticipate our judgments' failings even before we utter a word.

Likewise for contemporary art where, in the shadow of a "golden age" and as aware of our predecessors' faults as we are of our own, only a hubristic fool would aspire to the heights they once eyed. The way "out" is not to be found through more theorization or through critical refinement. Self-conscious theorization is precisely what led us here. (Not to be too fatalistic.)

Pretty good stuff.

So I go immediately to Dan's first blogpost, and again there is too much, too good to snip a paragraph from, so I once more jump to his final paragraph (which is an injustice since there are twelve excellent ones that preceeded it. But here goes:


And indeed my interests are ultimately bound to the aesthetic, something which I might define provisionally as that portion of our experience of image, text and world alike which is sensuous in the most positive sense of the word, deep in the flesh of feeling and whose objects are those dense and inexhaustible texts which are neither separable from context nor reducible to it, amenable to exegeses but always exceeding description. The aesthetic experience is that mode (or portion) of all thought and feeling to which experience itself is fundamental. It is in fact at the very heart of experience and is what allows one to hear the continuing echoes of "a voice unutterable, and very mournful, but inarticulate, insomuch that it seemed to have come from the Light"?that voice of the Light heard at the birth of the divine Logos. And it is left to us to give that word Flesh.

Posted by Dennis at 3:18 PM | Comments (0)

January 5, 2005

Tilting, Windmills

The wager of the artist, this blog, that wilderness feeling....

I found this today in my favorite site, emphasis mine:

As the forerunner of antiheroes and superheroes, Don Quixote, with his flawed aspirations, may not subdue giants or imaginary enemies like the Knight of the Wood, but he continues to conquer hearts, precisely because he is so ridiculous, inhabiting a universe of his own concoction. He is the ultimate symbol of freedom, a self-made man championing his beliefs against all odds. His is also a story about reaching beyond one's own confinements, a lesson on how to turn poverty and the imagination into assets, and a romance that reaches beyond class and faith.

Some authors are so influential that their names have been turned into adjectives: Dantean, Proustian, Hemingway-esque. But how many literary characters have undergone a similar fate? "Quixotic," "quixotism," and "quixotry," according to the Oxford English Dictionary, are all related to "Quixote," "an enthusiastic visionary person like Don Quixote, inspired by lofty and chivalrous but false or unrealizable ideals."

To be an underdog, to be a fool content with one's delusions, is that what modernity is about? Or is it the impulse to pursue those delusions into action?"

UPDATE:
I've just bumped into this, via InstaPundit's Tsunami Memorial Blog Mela, a link to a roundup of Indain blogs:

I am fascinated by the parrallels that I see between Don Quixote and the character of Mulla Nasrudddin, or Nasruddin Hodja, from Central Asian, Turkish and South Asian folklore... so it's going to be about that, too.

a connection between the wandering Mulla Nasruddin, both wise and foolish, and the wandering knight Don Quixote (ditto)... impossible?

well,
think about it.
recalcitrant horses and donkeys are a constant motif in both narratives, though one is a canonical novel from sixteenth century, Christian Spain, and the other(s) is/are a collection of folk tales and legends from Central Asia and the Middle East, mutating since the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

Posted by Dennis at 12:55 PM | Comments (0)

January 4, 2005

Admin 2005

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There's a new sheriff in town.

Dean has installed the fix for me and I'm poised to go to the next level in blogger anti comment spam security.

As I erase the comment spam, I might get a real comment now and then, sorry about that. And I'm likely to find a few lost in the weeds. I'll get to you all soon!

Soon, we'll be as clean as the driven snow.

Posted by Dennis at 2:27 PM | Comments (0)

January 3, 2005

Paper Work

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Painting on paper is a good way to restart the studio.

I'm thinking about the coffee-brown paintings of yore.

As with most of my work, I fall in love with the first mark, and I hate to molest it with subsequent marks. So the whole thing becomes a "pick up sticks" game in reverse order.

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The marvel of eyesight is clear to me when I have to use multiple far and close-up foto images to approximate the you-are-there experience.

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Posted by Dennis at 9:55 PM | Comments (2)

2005, the first eight hours

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Well, there it all is, in a picture.

That was a memorable night, new years eve 2005.

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The major feature of new years here is the gobbling up of grapes, once for each of the twelve gongs of the bell that ring at the stroke of midnight.

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Kiko invited us to dine that night with his family at a local restaurant, "Campini". We were delighted to go.

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Baby cuttlefish, sauteed; sliced salmon cooked in lemon; lobster sliced in half; Rape chunks; everything in a brown suce; baby clams; lots of wine and champaign, chocolate icecream and pitted apricots. Conversation dived back and forth between English and Castellano. Teresa is from Andalusia and she is gracious and indulgent when she talks with us.

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As the midnight hour approached, the toys come out of the party favor bags. We were advised to wait until four bells to pop the grapes. A simple and earthy ritual; practical and direct and pretty for it all. Cuban cigars and desert and toasts and many jokes. Handshakes and kisses between tables. We learn that we must rendevous at Bar San Antoni. So we go, fully expecting to see the dawn with this crew.

The bar has another level, something more than a mezzanine and less than a second floor. I sat at the bar while people wriggled around me to music spun by the owner, Joan. They love rock and roll here, people. Love it, and they identify it with Yankees. They joke about us as Yankees (Yanquis?), and are careful to defuse any negative connotation with the use of the label. I continue to downplay differences, to emphasise that we share more in common than otherwise. Everyone we've met here seem to agree by and large.

So the night was proceeding apace and sometime after three in the morning, I feel a thwap! on the top of my head. The force of the blow jerks my skull down as my gaze pivots involuntarily from the horizon line to the floor. My primitive Limbic brain understands that the threat was a falling glass or bottle from the floor above. I felt moisture trickling down my face. Thinking it was beer or something, I wipe it away and I see blood on my hands. Stephanie was in front of me, her eyes widening; "Are you alright?"

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I reached for a cocktail napkin and press it to my head. It was soaked through in seconds. (The pic above is a later compress.) I felt ok otherwise, no bells ringing, no shards sticking out. But I wasn't sure. I headed outside, the doors were close by as I pressed napkins to my head. Kiko and Stephanie swarmed me, eyes agog: "Are you ok?" I had thought so, but who knows? "Should we call the police?" No. "Should we go to a doctor?" I didn't want to. I wanted to assess the damage first.

By then, I start to feel my body go into shock. I'm a wussie when it comes to the sight of my own blood. I wanted to lay down for a second and this wasn't the place. I stumble forward and make it halfway down the block and my Limbic brain persuades me to take a seat right there in the street. Down I go. Back and I assume the position flat on the ground. Only for a few seconds, I swear. It's like pressing restart on your computer. My body had to do a system test.

Stephanie was astraddle but I get up abruptly and with Kiko, the three of us head for his house nearby, one on each side of me. By this time, I'm joking: "What's my name?" We get to Kiko's couch and out comes the lamp as we assess the damage. Lite. A few cuts but really, it was small. Head wounds tend to bleed alot. No stiches necessary.

"Can you see my brains?" "Can you see how I feel about you?" "Take a picture, Stephanie! For blogging's sake, get a close up!"

Kiko resolves: "We must go back. You must be brave, Dennis!"

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And yes, we went back.

And yes, I was brave.

We went back to San Antoni and joked about it all. I met my assailant. It was the boyfriend of Kiko's niece. He foolishly placed the glass atop the rail to dance. They were both mortified and they apologised profusely. I showed the bar owners the damage, their eyes wide. Drinks were free.

Interesting, that the fear of lawsuit is not to be found here.

I got to talk to Nacho, but I'm not always sure that we are communicating. Nacho is in the motorcycle business, racing and selling parts. He lives in terms of speed. He speaks in what seems like poetic terms, and I am always trying to figure out if he is indeed poetic or he is merely flamboyant in translation (transliteration) of Castellano into English:

"Emotion..." Yes, emotion. "...and sensation..." Yes, Nacho, sensation. "...must be one!"

Ah yes, but of course Nacho!

I like Nacho.

We avoid going to the disco, Tu Rai. And we succeed in the party-on-till-the-breaka-breaka-dawn challenge. Except that the sunrise wasn't until 8:30. Within an hour, that's close enough.

Happy New Years, Everybody!

Posted by Dennis at 9:38 PM | Comments (0)