July 26, 2011



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Nautical Maneuvers

We declined an offer from friends to sail to Ibiza, my studio exacts its price. Aside from the shotgun blast to my calendar on the lead up to the show in Palma, it would be a brain dialating experience right at the moment where the focus of a diamond seems more appropriate.

After five years on a cruiser in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, I've never been particularly eager to become a speck on the horizon again. That speck so long ago was nuclear powered, this time it's a biggish sail boat. That's serious stuff. Dangerous. Wonderful. Approach with caution.

Anyway, I've referenced tacking in terms of sailing as a metaphor of an artist who navigates a world ordinated by a north pole of abstraction and a south pole of representation. Planting another flag of discovery on them seem less interesting to me than exploring the globe in between.

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Phil and Erin in Tossa

Phil Wagner and Erin Trefry visited us in Tossa last week. Much fun was had together, of course (insert a pleased emoticon).

We all have roots together in LA's Chinatown. Phil has been a huge influence for me, we've had studios across from each other for many years. Erin and I share an affinity for the materiality of paint. Check out their links, great artists, great friends.

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July 19, 2011



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Sing, Heavenly Muse!

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July 11, 2011

The Full Story.

The Mountain from TSO Photography on Vimeo.

This video expresses some of the feelings I have had during our snorkel excursions here off Cap Tossa. (Check out the backstory, there's a Spanish angle to it, by the way.) While swimming, we can see the huge blue cataract of the Mediterranean. We see the carpet of flora continuing on the hillsides after they plunge into the water. We see the abundance of nature and the nakedness of predator and prey. It is humbling indeed. While the soothing music does resonate with the theme and the dilation into an ecstasy of nature is compelling, there is another side of nature, this video and the recent blogposts featuring shots from my Intova camera only show half of the story.

The other half is charged and tinged with danger. Our excursions off the coast is safe and secure to be sure. But when the waves are active, and you are struggling to fix on a single location on the rocks amid the froth of bubbles and foam, soothing music doesn't come to mind. You have to simultaneously fight the waves and go with them as well... all the while dodging the knife edged mussels and spiny sea urchins. The video bookended below is one I chose off the top of my head to represent that other extent: danger, discord, struggle, defiance, tenacity, independence, pride, anger, determination. Not order, harmony, the grain of life, a dissolution or surrender to G-d (or an otherwise denominated higher authority of your choosing). This is the center of gravity of contemporary art itself. Or to refine the thought: contemporary art is an account of the history of movement and counter movements, each movement begun as a kernel, grown with adherents, antithetical anomalies gather until (I note echos of Hegel and Kuhn here) the paradigm is broken and reformed by a counter movement. Repeatedly.

There is a great category we call art, known throughout the world and common between all civilizations. And another which may or may not be as equally great, a subcategory we call contemporary art, the art world known via art schools, art museums and art press. One extent maps nicely on one and the other extent maps nicely on the other. The claim to greatness from the latter hinges on the legitimacy of its claim on posterity. Homer, for example.

The actual experience off the rocks in the Mediterranean here is a blend of both dimensions, integrated seamlessly, ironic, charged with tension. I can only here indicate it with facets, the challenge is to show it integrally.

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July 10, 2011

Snorkel: Costa Brava

As you might be able to tell, I'm quite taken by the flora and fauna where the Mediterranean laps the Costa Brava. I've got to figure out how to stabilize the camera somehow, get some better close ups and identify what I am seeing there.

This is a good start.



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Bucear (con tubo): Colinas





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Snorkel: Horizons




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July 6, 2011



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July 5, 2011

Cy Twombly


The great Cy Twombly has died.

A snip from the NYTimes:
The critical low point probably came after a 1964 exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York that was widely panned. The artist and writer Donald Judd, who was hostile toward painting in general, was especially damning even so, calling the show a fiasco. ?There are a few drips and splatters and an occasional pencil line,? he wrote in a review. ?There isn?t anything to these paintings.?

A snip from Wikipedia:

Phaedrus incident

In 2007, an exhibition of Twombly's paintings, Blooming, a Scattering of Blossoms and Other Things, and other works on paper from gallerist Yvon Lambert's collection was displayed from June to September in Avignon (France), at the Lambert Foundation (H?tel de Caumont). On July 19, 2007, police arrested Cambodian-French artist Rindy Sam after she kissed one panel of Twombly's triptych Phaedrus. The panel, an all-white canvas, was smudged by Sam's red lipstick. She was tried in a court in Avignon for "voluntary degradation of a work of art".

Sam defended her gesture to the court: "J'ai fait juste un bisou. C'est un geste d'amour, quand je l'ai embrass?, je n'ai pas r?fl?chi, je pensais que l'artiste, il aurait compris... Ce geste ?tait un acte artistique provoqu? par le pouvoir de l'art" ("It was just a kiss, a loving gesture. I kissed it without thinking; I thought the artist would understand.... It was an artistic act provoked by the power of Art").

The prosecution, calling it "A sort of cannibalism, or parasitism", while admitting that Sam is "visibly not conscious of what she has done", asked that she be fined ?4500, compelled to an assorted penalty, and to attend citizenship classes. The art work, which is worth an estimated $2 million, was on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Avignon. In November 2007 Sam was convicted and ordered to pay ?1,000 to the painting's owner, ?500 to the Avignon gallery that showed it, and 1? to the painter.

(Emphasis mine. And here we have with two snips, the twin extents of a low regard that resulted in valorization and a high regard that resulted in defacement.)

(Photo by Robert Rauchenberg, Via.)

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Paintings 2010

This is a presentation of paintings from 2010 (in progress). Sizes of the following images are relative.

Click on a thumbnail for enlarged images of each painting, a simulation of the far and close read of an artwork.


Seems to Tremble Instead

Que Vive a Cabalo

Spill the Wine

Chandelier Mosque

lil' (phat) Saucer-Eyed

Binary Test Site (Factum)

Tu Vu? Fa' L'Americano
50"x63", 127x160cm

Strife is Justice
50"x63", 127x160cm

No Sabe Lo Que Hace
63?x50? , 160x127cm

lil' Saucer-Eyed"
30?x72?,? 76x182cm

lil' Leonids
36?x30?,? 91.5x76cm

Once Was
36?x30?, 91.5x76cm

Binary Test Site
63?x50? , 160x127cm

Tan Lejos
63?x50? , 160x127cm

To Be Like it Once Was
63?x50? , 160x127cm

Some Hidden Grace
63?x50? , 160x127cm

Todo es Igual
32?x24?, 81x61cm

All There Is

Shall I?
32?x24?, 81x61cm

So Long
32?x24?, 81x61cm

32?x24?, 81x61cm

So Far
32?x24?, 81x61cm

The Sake Of
32?x24?, 81x61cm

For (the sake of)
32?x24?, 81x61cm

63?x71?, 160x180 cm

Behold, My Swarthy Face

Penny Aphorisms
48?x42? 121x106cm

Posted by Dennis at 5:26 AM | Comments (0)

July 4, 2011


A few more notes on a downturn:

The following videos and links broadly tell a story of collusion of government and private enterprise at the expense of the general public. No one comes out smelling good here, neither the government of either party, or of the public at large who repeatedly and alternately voted in the bastards who created this mess in the first place.

What relevance does this have for artists in general? We artists have been taught very little about a world that is driven at its broad base by private enterprise. We are generally attribute low value to the world of commerce, never do we qualify it among the nobler categories of thought. We usually keep such topics on the down low, as practical survival chatter, not fit for the high adventure of aesthetics, theory or philosophy despite the existence of ideas such as emergent order, fungibility and negotiation of value. But consider that without the private marketplace, there wouldn't exist the refined infrastructure of museums (who provide the sine qua non of value), non-profit exhibition spaces (who regularly auction donated art work in relation to market value), art schools (who capriciously promise occupational success in various ways subtle and overt), and the art press of multiple levels (who actively gauge value in the marketplace). For example, it has long been fashionable to deride the art fair phenomenon, but without this periodic congregation, as venerable as the ancient caravan trading routes and souks, many if not all galleries around the world would not be able to survive without a road show that can source markets outside of the limits of their immediate neighborhood.

Indeed the flight of capital, first from exploded stock bubbles, then from exploded real estate bubbles, has found a perfect if not an extremely narrow home in the investment world of fine art, one that can be precisely characterized as a lawless, unregulated wild west. I had once heard the art world regarded by an insider as "legal insider trading", and when I have recounted this line in polite art company, I have never heard dissent. All you have to do is master the skill of jumping the kind of line that would get you into an elite night club and your investment can make the kind of returns that could only be dreamed of in the fevered night sweat of Wall Street and Washington.

And what relevance does this have for the weblog of this artist in particular? Earlier I wrote in a blogpost entitled Agony and Ecstasy:

Maybe the extents of set and drift, of north and south, of windward and leeward, of ecstasy and anxiety, of influence and originality are unavoidable in life. Maybe we shouldn't worry so much about how one should win over the other, and instead consider what kind of course we plot, of what kind of oscillation we vibrate at. Maybe the argument should be about the virtue or vice of wild swings versus tight fluctuations about a mean... and what might lie in between?
If you are confused as to what ideology I adhere to, rest assured that I believe that the purity of a pole is a thing of the past. But if you desire not to drift aimlessly, blown by the winds, it best to chart the direction and location of what usually amounts to polar extremes. We all need navigational aids. If an artist is to forever to be modern, to reconcile the things that one makes with the life one is living, then we have to begin to digest the extents of right and left, of the private and public realm, of the nature of these curious and frightening times that we are tantalizingly blessed to witness.

There exists one theme that unites the story of the contemporary art world, Fannie Mae and the Spanish real estate crisis: rampant speculation. Let's be real here: "buy low and sell high" does exist in our art world, the extent of which is open for speculation... philosophical speculation. Therefore, it behooves the humble artist to get as much an orientation in this strange world as one can.

Let us commence the videos:

Gretchen Morgenson on NPR:
Morgenson and co-author Joshua Rosner have written a book about the origins of the financial meltdown. In Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon, Morgenson and Rosner describe how regulators failed to control greed and recklessness on Wall Street.

Or take a look at any or several of these video interviews, all extremely interesting.


Well said: "How Spain Became Espanishtan" by Alex Sal?:
Plenty of books about the Spanish economy have been published in recent years: on the black market, multinationals, the financial system, the effect of the global recession and much, much more. Many of these are scientific studies, and most of them are on the dry side. But fortunately, if you want a punchy, fact-based look at Spain?s current mess, you can find it in the shape of a comic book called Espa?ist?n by Aleix Sal?.


If you aren't familiar with the polar extents of Friedrich August Hayek and John Maynard Keynes, here are two or three videos that do a great job in illustrating their different characteristics. To be sure, the authors John Papola and Russ Roberts are biased toward Hayek, but they do a decent job in honestly characterizing Keynes' argument along the way.

Fight of the Century: Keynes vs. Hayek Round Two

Here is the C-Span interview with John Papola and Russ Roberts.

Also recommended, economics podcasts for daily life. Hosted by Russ Roberts at EconTalk.

Posted by Dennis at 7:31 PM | Comments (0)

July 3, 2011

Apropos of Ai Weiwei

Take note of this item in the news:

North Korean Capital Locked Down Because of Anti-Government Graffiti

Adrian Chen ? Anti-Kim Jong Il graffiti was found on the wall of a college in Pyongyang. Of course, the government couldn't just wash it off. They locked down the entire capital to hunt for the culprit

The graffiti, found June 24th on a wall at Pyongyang Railroad College reportedly called Kim Jong Il "a dictator who starved people to death." Not exactly Banksy, but it gets the point across.

The easiest thing would have been to erase the graffiti, then maybe demolish the wall for traitorous behavior. But instead, authorities launched a three-day investigation, cutting off the city and erecting checkpoints for all passersby.

NK Daily talked to a Chinese trader about the investigation:

According to the trader, the authorities launched the search for the person responsible via a joint investigation team including the National Security Agency and People's Safety Ministry, specifically targeting students and people from other provinces. They established road blocks on the roads linking Pyongyang Station and West Pyongyang Station, Pyongyang-Pyongsung, Pyongyang-Wonsan and Pyongyang-Kanri, then began questioning all passers' by.

Reporting the latest, he said, "The investigation unit has now narrowed down the investigation to the Railroad College's own students, and has blocked the movement of people between provinces in order to stop the spread of rumors. It seems they are dealing with it severely since it happened in Pyongyang not in the provinces."

You hear that, American street artists? You guys have it easy. Go tag Pyongyang. Dare you.

This is a Gawker news item in its entirety. I wanted to puke when I read the Banksey reference.... but then Adrian Chen's last sentence saved it for me.

Context like that should complicate our view of this, as good as I admit it is:

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July 1, 2011

Free Ai Weiwei

..."free but silenced"?

Big Brother would be proud.


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