March 31, 2011

Notes on Looking

I've been meaning to post this for a long time now, about Geoff Tuck's (and David Richards) Notes on Looking. Geoff publishes THE BEST news blog, based in Los Angeles, better than any publication online or off, magazine, newspaper, anything. I highly recommend signing up for his weekly email newsletter. He's a lively writer, a pleasure to read. Here is his blurb in Notes on Looking's About section:

Notes on Looking is a weblog about contemporary art in Los Angeles. In this journal I share my thoughts on the work I see and offer images and hyperlinks to gallery websites, artist?s websites, interviews, pertinent online historical documents, videos, and music.

A constant theme of Notes is my love of Los Angeles? seasons, geographies, neighborhoods, freeways and interchanges, sidewalks and storefronts. Notes is grounded in the city of Los Angeles and of course in my own experience of the city. My debt to Reyner Banham?s Four Ecologies and Carey McWilliams? An Island on the Land is apparent. A life spent making sense of the world with the help of writers who focus on Los Angeles has taught me to value as particular to LA much of what I see in it, especially its art and music.

Notes on Looking is a guide to the city?s visual arts exhibitions and musical events and also offers you tools to approach and question an artist?s or curator?s ideas. This journal shares my perspective on culture-making in Los Angeles and ? using the developing resource of the Internet ? offers you a way to do your own research.

Welcome to Notes on Looking, I look forward to your conversation.

Geoff Tuck, the most trusted name in Los Angeles contemporary art.

Artist. Word tiger. Writer of thought-provoking, insightful and enthusiastic essays, introductions and interviews. Commission me to elucidate and contextualize your work and your practice for a reading audience.

Highly Recommended.

Posted by Dennis at 6:53 AM | Comments (0)

March 30, 2011

Working Title/BRAC Questionnaire

Kris Chatterson, Vince Contarino and Jon Lutz are pulling the catalogue for the show that they have curated, Working Title at the Bronx River Art Center. They have put two questions for each artist to respond to. I hope that I haven't sung too long of an aria:

* What role, if any, do the various non-studio activities/interests like writing, music, teaching, traveling have in what you make? How is this reflected in your work?
I started blogging in 2003 at a moment when my wife and I moved to Texas from California to suss out a job opportunity that she had at the time. The prospect of leaving our network of friends, and in particular my circle of artist cohorts, in Los Angeles was daunting and establishing a weblog was a way to keep in touch by providing a virtual studio visit for them. Our time in Texas was short, and we had moved on to Spain and back to Los Angeles, eventually bouncing back and forth between the latter two locations. Rolling stones and moss. I have been fortunate to have a small network of gallery representation around the world and I felt that an online diary would help reduce the problem of distance by giving them a virtual portal into my studio anytime they might need it. Weblogging is a way for me to accumulate moss as I travel so.

One of the concrete ways that blogging has been reflected in my work is as a solution to the problem of titles. There are moments when a title comes to mind early in the creation of artwork, but in general this is few and far between. Most often, artwork - painting - emerges gradually for me. It is more important for me to initially know how to enter a painting than to finish it, to be changed and challenged somehow during the making of the work. In fact, such a premature notion of an endgame is something I consider to be folly, by and large. Accordingly, a title is best for me when it arises as the work comes to completion, a revelation. If nothing comes concretely with the last stroke of the painting, I usually resort to divining the title from the correspondent temporal frame in the blog, much like a dowser finds water with a diving rod. Much more often than not, a title will jump out to me in its glory with a full array of poetic associations, and with much delight I assign the moniker forthwith. There is something wonderful I find about a hyperlinked title.

The weblog is also an index to the visual referents in my paintings, however oblique and imperfect it might be in this regard. There have been times when I have tried to bring this correspondence more directly to bear in the artwork, but admittedly this has been few and far between thus far. My ambition remains to stream the online world and the plastic world of painting both ways, as I poke around for elbow room here and there. There is something about the open set of the internet and the closed set of painting that interests me, the ironic twists (for example: the finitude of painting and its capacity to yield multitudes; the apparently open set of disembodied bytes and its popular denial as an art form in it's own right...) one seems to serve the other in ways that I continually find fascinating.

* How is your work influenced by art history? Is it more important for you to extend previous conversations or attempt to invent new ones?

I believe that a young artist has a responsibility to assess received knowledge and determine whether if he or she must either advocate it, modify it or overturn it with a new paradigm. The essential question for our time is: is a new paradigm possible? As of this moment, I don't have a complete and ready answer to this question. But I suspect that it will involve a synthesis of the antithetical binary themes of the previous eras. I predict that Both/And will become much more important than Either/Or... or better, we will fuse both aspects (Both/And plus Either/Or) into one.

You can't invent a new conversation without extending, distending, dismembering and digesting the previous one. Now, some might say that while our art dialogue seems singular, it is fact plural and countless. Perhaps so. Of course, one could be simply satisfied with a walkabout, a blessed state of being lost, to joyously abandon oneself in a wilderness. One can be lost in a forest of multitudes and one can also determine an orientation, draw a map, and plot a course. In terms of a conversation - an activity that implies the presence of an interlocutor - a digression can be a delight and an effort that is purely an invention of "new ones" (conversations) is in danger of pointless non sequitur.

I went to grad school in the late 80's, graduating in '91. Those years were the high water mark of Critical Theory and late stage "Postmodernism". My impression at the time was that such fruit was well past the height of its ripeness, my apprehensions were fortified by historical events such as the collapse of the Soviet Union/Berlin Wall, and I responded by flaunting the prohibitions against painting, rejecting the "death of the author", critiquing Francis Fukuyama's "End of History and the Last Man" and formulating a critical conception of postmodernism and what it might mean to succeed it with another worldview.

Imagine my surprise when art in the early 90's operated en passant in theoretical terms! Overnight, the term "postmodernism" was verboten in conversation casual or otherwise. No one wanted to talk about it at all. Painting raged in the studios of art schools all over the country but there was a noticeable lack of concern as to why it had been in the doghouse for 30 years or so previously. The Cheshire cat of postmodernity had faded but the smile, and there were precious few who wanted to admit that it still floated aloft above us, haunting an art dialog that seemed to have blithely lost its moorings by and large.

Of course, I have a dog in this fight. My view is that postmodernity describes an era whose seeded in the birth of modernity, germinated with Duchamp, sprouted with Pop, grew through Minimalism, fruited with Sol LeWitt and spread out in a river delta of art forms and practices that have tried to touch everyday life with conceptual means, all in a brilliant contravention to the previous generation of high modernists who attempted to touch G-d through material means. Every epoch begins with an imaginative reengineering of the assumptions of the previous one. How does one square the circle once again? How can one revolt on revolution without becoming reactionary, while preserving the integrity of dissent? We now live in the delta phase as the river water fans out, mixing with sediment as it had coursed down from the mountain streams, slow and slower, now stinking and fetid. I believe that we are in a historical phase of evaporation into the clouds and the lucky artists among us will levitate and form sweet dew drops from pine needles on the mountain tops.
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March 28, 2011


Saucer Eyed


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March 27, 2011

Fear Monger


When I mention in conversation that I will be showing work in Kyoto next September, the usual response is a concern for my safety. "Japan.. radiation... are you scared?" While I am gratified by the kind consideration, I am also apprehensive about media hype that distorts our news and consequently our worldview. Three disasters played out in train in Japan: the earthquake, the tsunami, and the catastrophic failures of Japan's nuclear industry. Living in Southern California, I've had my share, from family and friends, of overblown concern for life in EQ territory. But we who live here are sanguine about this, after you've experienced the tenth temblor, you can begin to take the measure of the difference between reality and hype in contemporary culture. Unfortunately, the true tragedy is the gargantuan loss of life from the tsunami, and this has been obscured in the news by the reactor problem and now Libya. Remember too, the good news that Fukushima survived an earthquake one richter order of magnitude larger than what it was designed for. Imagine what things would have been like if it was reduced to rubble in the temblor and the debris distributed by the tsunami. Yes, there is a huge difference between scientific reality and mediated pop cultural ballyhoo and we should all know the difference. The chart above should work well as a tonic to this monumental misconception, please click to enlarge and enlighten.

I was going to sing an opera in this post with an archive of links concerning the overblown concerns about nuclear power... but then, the chart above does the job quite elegantly.

I believe that if you are serious about the environment, you will defend nuclear power. Yes, bad things have happen and they will continue to happen. But we learn with each mishap, we have built better reactors since Fukushima was built and we will build better reactors with what we will learn from Fukushima. Now, I believe in the prospect of alternate energy solutions, but all existing solutions fall far short of their capacity to provide the energy we need in terms of the fundamentals of science. The energy yield of so-called "sustainable" alternate energy (windmills, terrestrial solar, etc.) is currently pathetic compared to oil.

It might be important to include here the caveat that I am a supporter of space based solar power, usually considered too pie-in-the-sky, sci-fi for most people. I consider this solution to be linked to another seemingly pie-in-the-sky technological leap, the proposition of a space elevator, and this combination could be seen as a one-two punch to my credibility. But once we cross the technology barrier (carbon nanotubes, for example) - and we will be there very soon - there will be no limit to the area of solar collection panels that we can install in space to harvest energy that can be beamed to earth. In technological terms, it is far more credible than president Kennedy's announcement to land on the moon, many moons ago. Besides, at this historical juncture, we could use a dream come true of this kind.

Posted by Dennis at 1:40 PM | Comments (0)

Fencing geek

I love fencing. It's the only sport I have engaged in enough to play unselfconsciously. I picked it up while I was in the Navy, buying equipment in Singapore and practicing with shipmates on the hangar deck of my ship. I took classes in college and continued after my undergrad years in Los Angeles at the fabled West Side Fencing Center once located in the Helms Bakery Building in Culver City. Fencing is an obscure sport in the USA, but Westside was a hive of activity filled with a wide spectrum of characters from actors to accountants to geeks to Olympic athletes.

This is a pretty decent series of videos on YouTube, the European Men's Foil Team Final in 2007. I of course recommend watching all nine or so in the series. But I would be pleased if you would give this one a try at least. Fencing is hard to capture in popular media, hard to explain, it has action that is so fast that it's hard to see what actually happens, and if you track the parry and riposte, it's not always clear who has the right to score. This presentation does a good job explicating the action with slow motion and informed analysis... the Brit accent and reserve serves the action well. But I can imagine a new kind of presentation that could bring in more backstory and a better, more creative explication of the sport and the people dedicated to it, something like a cross between reality TV and a 1st & Ten (graphics system).

Here are some things to look out for when you watch a fencing match:
-Right of Way. Fencing evolved when gunpowder made armor (and broadswords) obsolete, sword fighting evolved to dueling and with the invention of the mask, fencing became an independent sport in its own right. A reflection of its history in combat and in the protocol of dueling, an extended arm establishes the right of way for fencers. Simultaneous lunges with extended arms would result in a double suicide, and this absurdity paints a defining limiting function in the sport of fencing. If a weapon is extended toward you, you have a responsibility to defend yourself. A parry gives the right to counter attack, the riposte. And the extended arm of your opponenet's riposte must be parried before you return to the attack. All judges are fiercely looking for who has the right of way, and this is not always absolutely clear to the novice as it is to the veteran fencer.

-Distance. A fencer who controls distance - the inch beyond your opponent's lunge - controls the attack, and a controlled attack ultimately delivers the hit to the opponent's torso.

-Pattern Disruption. Every fencer has a characteristic style, a particular orchestration of approach and rhythm which can be simple to complex. All martial arts are about misdirection (a feint) where the combatants establish and observe rhythms and seek to disrupt the pattern set by the opponent. Some fencers keep perfect form with the point of the sword fixed on a line to the heart, some relax their arm thus inviting an attack, some play by beating the opponent's blade in order to analyze for unconscious habit and routine, some push and close distance, some invite attack by always giving distance away, all combatants conceal vulnerabilities and position themselves to set strength against weakness. In all of this and more is the pleasure of all martial art from chess (to football- a stretch?) to actual combat. Like all sports, the effort to best another's personal best is the thrill we seek. I hope you can get a glimpse of it here.

Posted by Dennis at 9:23 AM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2011

Working Title: BRAC

Kris Chatterson and Vince Contarino, of Progress Report were gents to invite me to participate in this exhibition (here's a big shout out to Doug Melini and Pam Jorden who are in the show with me too). Here is the press release:

Bronx River Art Center (BRAC) is pleased to present The Working Title, a 32-artist group survey of recent abstraction organized by Progress Report, opening on March 25, 2011. The exhibition, which runs until April 29, 2011, is the third in a series hosted in our temporary location, "On the Block", at 305 E 140 St. #1A, Bronx, NY, while we undergo a seven-million dollar renovation to our West Farms facility.
The name of the exhibition refers to the changing classification, description, or title that is given to abstraction. By nature, abstraction resists tradition and categorization transforming itself into a highly visual moving target. These artists employ abstraction as a means to investigate different approaches to materials, systems, media and content. Rather than following a pre-established doctrine of romantic sentimentality, most of the works elicit an air of experimentation, familiarity, and an overall sense of purpose.

The Working Title brings together different perspectives on abstraction in conversation with each other. Minimalism, post-modern, geometric, gestural, formal, color filed, video and process-driven works occupying the same room, creating unpredictable relationships through contrasting approaches.

Having direct access to technology has become an important tool for artists to share and discuss their practice, making connections on a regional and global level. The collective stance and attitudes on making art are less defensive than they used to be, opening up conversations with the past by seeking out and elaborating on previous approaches that may have been marginalized or forgotten.
The Working Title is less about seizing the moment, but more of a selection of current voices that use abstraction as a starting point to create work that expands the trajectory of what is possible.
Posted by Dennis at 9:55 AM | Comments (0)

corpus callosum


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March 21, 2011

Like a Shroud of Turin

Here are a few pics of two recent paintings taken with a Panorama 360 App. Distortions are a feature, not a bug in this software. So I thought I'd share them with you:



Posted by Dennis at 8:23 PM | Comments (0)

March 19, 2011

Henry Taylor Opens at Blum & Poe

From Blum & Poe's press release:

Blum & Poe is very pleased to present its first solo exhibition of paintings and sculpture by Los Angeles-based artist Henry Taylor.

In Henry Taylor's work, the line between art and life is often indistinguishable; freely commingling intensely personal figurative paintings with totemic assemblage sculpture. Taylor has developed a unique visual dialect wedded to the downtown-Los Angeles community he calls home, addressing his subjects with the ease of an insider and the hand of an outsider. Taylor's nuanced portraits shed a sentimental light on near and dear friends, family members, lovers and heroes, both dead and alive, real and imagined. They are non-hierarchical, generous and democratic likenesses of the people most central to his life and thought, with equal emphasis placed on a portrait of his niece and nephew in relaxed pose or larger than life statuesque representations of Serena Williams or Jackie Robinson. An acute documentarian of his community, Taylor fits squarely into the lineage of painter as social observer, channeling amongst others, Alice Neel, Toulouse Lautrec and John Singer Sargent.

Taylor's paintings and sculptures are often constructed in a frenetic manner with partial gestures, half-phrases or incomplete figures painted on surfaces as varied as cigarette packs, cereal and beer boxes or suitcases. These objects, prior to Taylor's intervention, were left for dead on street corners and in dumpsters, but when salvaged by the artist, become fair game, to be used as integrated components in sculptures or as alternative surfaces to stretched canvas for painting. Most recently Taylor has begun collecting emptied Clorox bleach bottles, which when spray painted black and inverted on broomsticks take the form of African tribal masks or dancing statues. Propped on constructed bases of plywood and held together by whatever means necessary, these figures come to life, defined both by their unique handmade construction and shabby materiality. They exist as accumulations of found objects intimately linked to their surroundings, repurposed and breathed with life by their maker.

Taylor's vernacular is the street. His studio practice is deeply informed by its sights and sounds, and most notably by its people; those who move freely between Taylor's life and studio, often only long enough to have their portrait painted once. These personalities, along with the historical figures who find their way into Taylor's work, are rendered with a dignity and soul, befitting their place within Taylor's world.

Henry Taylor (b. 1958, Oxnard, CA) has been honored with solo museum exhibitions at The Studio Museum in Harlem, NY, 2007, the Santa Monica Art Museum, Santa Monica, CA, 2008 and will be included in the forthcoming exhibition, Human Nature: Contemporary art from the Collection, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA. Taylor has been included in such group exhibitions as Red Eye, 2006 and 30 Americans, 2008 at the Rubell Family Collection, Miami, FL, and At Home/Not at Home: Works from the Collection of Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg, 2010, curated by Matthew Higgs at the Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY. Henry Taylor received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from California Institute of the Arts and lives and works in downtown Los Angeles.
Posted by Dennis at 11:15 AM | Comments (0)

March 15, 2011

Henry Next Door

Neighbor, painter, friend, Henry Taylor is gearing up for his show this week at Blum & Poe Gallery in Culver City. Here are a few shots of the show prep at his ChinaTown studio. (Pictured below in order of appearance: Sean Cassidy, Adam Janes and Fransisco, El Mago de Huesos.)

One last one here.

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March 11, 2011



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A Shout Out to Joanne Greenbaum

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Words Fail


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March 10, 2011

Red Pill

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March 9, 2011

Revolver: New York


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March 8, 2011

Unt/tled at the Armory Art Fair NYC 2011

Andrew Hahn and Ry Rocklen at Joel Mesler and Carol Cohen's Unt/tled booth at the Armory Art Fair 2011 at pier 92 in New York City.

Andrew Hahn's paint/ink on canvas, an edition of linocut evolved silk screens and Ry Rocklen's triangular tiles made of pennies, head's up. I know these guys too well, I have such an affection for all of them that I fear a mewling, over-the-top adoring blogpost might erupt in any minute. So with this minimal tip of the hat, I indicate to you a small sense of what went on, aided with two links from the press that provides a few gritty details as they are wont, those horse race tendencies of the art business press:

Bargains Were the New Bling at the Armory Show's VIP Opening, With Affordable Works Joining Blue-Chip Art for Lively Sales

Adam Sender Buys $2,000 Pictures; $4.5 Million Giacometti Sells

("Good Luck". Linocut/Penny Press above, by Andrew Hahn.)



Another image here.

And a close up of Ry's floor (of which is notable to me -on some level, don't know what- that they are sold by the hexagon):
Posted by Dennis at 6:37 PM | Comments (0)

March 1, 2011

Tarzan is Coming

Old friend Henry Taylor has a studio next door to mine, and working next to him is endlessly stimulating, inspiring, hilarious, profound even. I've been careful not to exploit him with blogpost reports however tempting it would be to set up a site called "Do You Know What I Mean?" and milk him for wisdom on a regular basis. And trust me, Henry Taylor is one wise dude.

Henry has a show coming next month at Blum & Poe, and while I've been minding my manners with blogpost publication, I promise to convey a full measure of the Henry Taylor experience as his show date nears.

Friend, artist, ChinaTown local, Sean Cassidy sent me a short video of Henry's patois as he putters in his studio in ChinaTown and I thought that both Sean and Henry wouldn't mind it too much if I loaded it up on YouTube and embedded it here to share with you all in this blog. Enjoy. More to come.

PostScript: I like the shot of the model at the beginning, with Henry and his dust pan rising up, shattering the scale like Gulliver. The model is of his upcoming show at Blum & Poe... but don't fix on its' design. I predict that all bets are off once he gets the art materials into the room for the install.

Posted by Dennis at 4:48 AM | Comments (0)