Thursday, December 31, 2009

"Or Maybe Two for Flinching."

That's the missing final line that came to me in the middle of the night after the deadline for my summation of the last decade of art. So if you read it, just tag that onto the end there, OK?

"Was that really a decade that just sputtered by? Granted, everyone was numbed to the teeth for a couple of years after 9/11, but aren’t decades supposed to be demarcated by some sort of discernible content, like techno music, the civil rights movement or cocaine abuse? What can the Zeros claim? The Jonas Brothers? Avatar? Devendra Banhart? The emergence of graphic novels as a viable literary genre? Good TV? Gay marriage?

These are all more or less wonderful things, but uniformly retro, cobbled together from surefire crowd-pleasers and reconfigured for today’s a-go-go cyber lifestyle. Where’s the surprise, the indication that something new is afoot — something that might signal a sea change in our culture’s disastrous path of self-destructive materialism, or at least save us from drowning in reassuring pabulum? When I see “The ’00s,” I think “the ooze” — and wonder how to scrape it off.

In many ways, the art produced since 9/11 has been a sort of collective cultural shudder, as figure and ground have flipped, and artifacts that were supposed to embody the pinnacle of Western society’s enlightened evolution have been revealed as flimsy props in the most elaborate theater of denial in history.

When German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen notoriously (and career-endingly) described the attack on the World Trade Center as “the greatest work of art there has ever been,” he was putting his finger not only on a truth about transdimensional mythological entities manifesting in “so-called” reality but also on the sore spot — rubbed raw by the fundamental incompatibility of its cohabitants — where Art and Politics tussle. It’s an open, unmentionable wound in our collective self-image, the bullet hole in Chris Burden’s arm, where art history vanished, never to be heard from again.

Burden’s signature 1971 piece, Shoot, where he had a friend puncture his arm with a .22 shot from a rifle 13 feet away (not to mention just more than a year later, when Burden fired a pistol at an airliner taking off from LAX) quite literally embodies the question of how much responsibility an artist must take for the destruction and violence inherent in creativity.

Put another way, when modernism erased the boundary between art and life, it also erased the boundary between art and death, and death has been the elephant in the room ever since. Or to put it yet another way, how the hell do you top that? Kill yourself? Shoot someone else? Better to pretend it never happened and keep rotating the merchandise..."

Read the rest of There Go the Zeros here.

Image: View of the last functioning oil well tapping the LA City oil field, Alvarado St, CLUI Bus Tour of the Urban Oilscape of Los Angeles, Dec 18 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Up Came Oil! Part 1: Beverly Hills High

I almost didn't make the most recent Center for Land Use Interpretation bus tour, as I forgot to get a ticket (and they sold out in 7 minutes!) -- which would have been ominous, as I am the only person (other than CLUI operatives) to have participated in every one of these remarkable public land art whatever the hell they are. Luckily, my WEEKLY editor Tom couldn't use his ticket, and I slipped in under the wire. As usual I took scores of pictures and recorded hours of audio. Unfortunately, my digital voice recorder fell into the toilet at the MJT while I was vodkafying with Mistah D, and it seems to have drowned. But I still have the pictures; Behold!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Castings from the Wormhole

I do so much shit I never blog about. I'm just going to look through my photos from the last year and see what turns up. Okay, this is hardly breaking news like Brittany Courtney's tranquilizer overdose, but here we do see evidence of some kind of interdimensional interspecies striped-on-striped sexual contact occurring as our then-brand new whippet puppy Chloe appears to be anally probing a prison troll from some bad DMT parallel universe. "Escape from Terrence McKenna Regional Correctional Facility!"

Some post-climactic melancholia or sophomore slump appears to have set in at this point. Could our ambassadors of transdimensional congress have faltered in their negotiations?

Butt like Billy Joel says "Don't forget that Second Wind" - And it looks like it's breaking now! Round Three signals a return to form - Greco-Roman fundamentals!

A jilted forest spirit looks on as our besotted diplomatic packet-badgers revel in the peace that surpasseth all understanding, lulling in the waves and Morpheus goofin on their eyebrows.

The morning after: What was I thinking? Never again! Until that wormhole to the Universe Next Door starts itchin' once more!

Photo shoot in January 2009 at Elysian Park before the coyotes took it over!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Once and Future Sister Aimee

Here are a few images of the works included in Sister Aimee: The Art Show, bracketed by an image of the first installation (at WLAC, above) and the collaborative process at work in the creation of one of the large collages of paintings from the live model. Oh, and the Foursquare flag was sewn by Lisa Marr for the EPFC musical.

The second image is Jean Copes' solo work, while the following three are collaborative pieces whose primary contributors are Shawn Doster, Louis Caiazza,and Young Summers respectively.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ventriloquism for Dummies

Our thanks to all who made it out to the CCCP-SCC's first thematic public screening in two years, Uncanny My Ass: Penetrating the Performative Object, another SRO triumph of cinematic bricollage, which, while not actually turning a fiscal profit, generated dividends of simulacral capital in a wide array of plausibility streams. Although the public library has sadly disposed of the copy of Understanding Dianetics with the crucial e-meter sequence taped over with Lonely Goatherd sequence from The Sound of Music
Uncle Don, who died on the curling rink of a heart attack ten days earlier, and whose memorial service was being held simultaneous to Uncanny My Ass.

In addition to a wide variety of recovered media - cable access broadcasts, ventriloquism instruction video, a montage of Hollywood demonic vent-dummies tropes, and a 9-minute youtube video of an expert 1st FC 100% Guitar Hero performance of Master of Puppets (Please don't sue me again Lars!), the show featured the near-premiere of Marnie Weber's Sea of Silence introduced by the artist (as well as inspirational footage from Possum Trot) and a live performance by cable access legend David Liebe Hart, pictured below.

I'll try and get a full accounting of the event up on my website soon, and have already started a playlist on youtube that includes some of the material from the show, as well as works that were not include in the final iteration. The surfacing of several remarkable puppet videos may necessitate a sequel or updated version in the near future.

When Gravity Fails

Thank God we still have Negativity to pull us through!

I just cut this out of The Golden Book Encyclopedia Book 7: Ghosts to Houseplants. Click to enlarge. Nothing is safe when gravity fails -- whales, monkeys, native huts, churches, bunches of bananas; as well as trains, boats, and automobiles. Planes and rocketships seem to remain a matter for conjecture, although there appears to be a sputnik hovering over the elephant's butt. Gravity-jamming Soviet sons of bitches!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Serial Color

"Since his first solo shows at various L.A. project spaces in the late ’90s, Sean Duffy has produced a series of quirky, interdisciplinary bodies of work that address the ways in which masculinity is constructed in contemporary visual culture, and how these constructions are used to define the boundaries between high art and popular culture, industrial design and craft. Those first shows consisted largely of Duffy’s re-creations of scenes from the original Star Trek — utilizing materials such as collaged fun-fur under clear upholstery vinyl — with Captain Kirk positioned as a superironic absentee role model for the slacker generation.

Since signing on with Susanne Vielmetter in 2001, Duffy’s subsequent reinterpretive icon-tweakings have included an array of high modernist furniture (most notably George Nelson’s Marshmallow Sofa, subjected to repeated affectionate indignities), the Who, and most of the post-painterly abstractionists — not to mention less specifically identified (though often local) contemporary art peers with whose work Duffy continually engages — the design appropriation of Jorge Pardo and Jim Isserman, the record-sleeve art of Dave Muller and Kevin Sullivan, among innumerable other props and citations. Above all else, Duffy’s practice consists of shuffling the decks of his personal and shared cultural referents, inviting all comers to sit in on the game.

This was perhaps made most explicit in The Grove, Duffy’s 2007 installation at Cal State L.A.’s Luckman Gallery, consisting of bins of thrift-store vinyl to be played on 18 separate turntables connected to 360 dangling speakers by a jungle of wires — an anarchist audio-collage playground, which is simultaneously nostalgic and utopian, a rhizomatic usurpation of the traditional hetero-patriarchal infrastructure of DJ culture, and arguably a lowbrow rendition of one of stablemate Steve Roden’s sound art installations.

For “Can’t Stop It” — his latest show and the last for anyone in Vielmetter’s current Washington Boulevard space before the gallery relocates four blocks west — Duffy has continued on the recent downward spiral that has taken him from the heights of immaculate high-design showroom riffs through the post-apocalyptic cargo-cult office space deconstruction of his 2006 show “Temporary Worker” into the dirty boy’s world of the shop, the basement and the garage...

A slightly darker take on pop seriality and gender can be found in Michael Arata’s latest group of paintings, collectively titled “Remember,” on view at Kristi Engle Gallery in Highland Park. Arata, whose work often hinges on outrageous humor or (as with his wall-creeping modular contribution to the “Some Paintings” L.A. Weekly Biennial) playful interactivity, has shifted into a more solemn — though hardly less edgy — mode, appropriating the images of 54 anonymous women whose photos were found in the apartment of L.A.-based serial killer William Bradford in 1984. Bradford had lured several other women to desert campsites with the promise of producing fashion photography portfolios, then raped, strangled and mutilated them. The 54, all photographed by Bradford, were understandably seen as further possible victims. In 2006, the LAPD finally released the photos on the Internet, leading to some identifications — and attracting the attention of Arata."

Read the rest of Signs of Intelligent Life here.

Duffy (Can't Stop It, (detail) 2009) Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects through Dec 23

Arata (Remember , (detail) 2009) Kristi Engle Gallery through Jan 9

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Portfolio's Recent Triumph

Today is a year to the day we got our whippet puppies Chloe & Portfolio -- the Sunday after the big Eukenuba dog show in Long Beach. Portfolio went Thursday and Friday, and won Best of Winners (The dog judged as best between the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch) on Thursday (The Dog Hair'n Eggnog Classic, to be precise), acquiring his second point towards finishing his Championship. Unfortunately, the rain logistics meant that I couldn't attend and document (though there should be a professional show photo coming). But I have a few recent other dog events to catch up on, so here are some images (and more to follow):

I should point out that that is the generally triumphant Chloe in the top photo. These snaps are all from the San Luis Obispo Kennel Club show in Paso Robles in November.

Nigel's Big Butt Bang

So much to catch up on. Also I wanted to buck this less-postings-every-year trend so that entails 10 new posts before the new year. "Vow... locked in!" Here's our version of intelligent design, our local creation myth: the universe cast forth from ye olde whippet butt. From Nigel's recent modeling gig, more to follow. Thanks to Jack Chick, cosmological consultant.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bring it Off! I mean On!

Here, then, is my now previously forthcoming look back at the best non-gallery "art" of the year; a shopping list, as it were, of things I mostly already got for free, although I paid cash money for a few of them, and haven't yet received a copy of the Jung book (hint hint).

"I’ve been looking around at all these Top 10 Art Books of 2009 lists, and geez, it’s no wonder everyone thinks art is so boring and stuffy. The upside is that if some rich, misguided relative actually buys you the $600 six-volume edition of Van Gogh’s complete letters the cognoscenti are drooling over, you can return it and buy everything on my list, with enough left over for a bag of weed and six hours of Thai massage.

Speaking of a bag of weed, those who routinely flipped by their L.A. public-access cable channel between 1996 and the untimely demise of the medium in January of this year at some point probably stumbled incredulously upon The Threee Geniuses, a transcendently self-indulgent orgy of cheap video wipes, stroboscopic edits, trashy glam psychedelia and incoherent studio actions, all mashed up in real time, usually to the equally fragmentary soundscapes created by the Venemous Invisible Amanda, aka Don Bolles. Augmenting the titular genii (Dan Kapelovitz, Jon Shere and Tim “Mr. X” Wilson) were an array of talents ranging from cable-access luminaries like Francine Dancer and David Liebe Hart to noted schizophrenic street people Andy Dick and Ariel Pink. Titled The Re-Death of Psychedelia the 3Gs’ new compilation DVD proves the show was as physically difficult to watch as it always seemed, and perhaps the most challenging and inventive structuralist video art of the new millennium. If it ain’t headache-, nausea- and seizure-inducing, it ain’t avant-garde!"

Read the rest of Dreaming of a Day-Glo Xmas: Doug Harvey’s mostly psychedelic shopping list here.

Also on the list:

Dear Andy Kaufman, I Hate Your Guts!
Tales Designed to Thrizzle
Xavier: Renegade Angel
Abstract Comics: The Anthology
You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation!
Supermen!: The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941
Ultraviolet: 69 Classic Blacklight Posters from the Aquarian Age and Beyond
The Red Book: Liber Novus by Carl Jung

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Storm Passing

The founder of one of the coolest independent ethno/world music labels ever "Original Music" joined the heavenly gamelan a couple of weeks ago.

John Storm Roberts, World-Music Scholar, Dies at 73
By Margalit Fox, NYTImes
Published: December 10, 2009

John Storm Roberts, an English-born writer, record producer and independent scholar whose work explored the rich, varied and often surprising ways in which the popular music of Africa and Latin America informed that of the United States, died on Nov. 29 in Kingston, N.Y. He was 73 and lived in Kingston.

The cause was complications of a blood clot, his wife, Anne Needham, said.

Long before the term was bandied about, Mr. Roberts was listening to, seeking out and reporting on what is now called world music. He wrote several seminal books on the subject for a general readership, most notably “Black Music of Two Worlds” (Praeger, 1972) and “The Latin Tinge: The Impact of Latin American Music on the United States” (Oxford University, 1979).

“Black Music of Two Worlds” examines the cross-pollination — in both directions — between Africa and the Americas, from the influence of African music on jazz, blues, salsa and samba to the popularity in Nigeria and Zaire of American artists like James Brown and Jimi Hendrix.

John Anthony Storm Roberts was born in London on Feb. 24, 1936. His father, an accountant who often traveled abroad on business, brought him records that were then scarcely available in England: jazz and blues from the United States, Brazilian music by way of Portugal and much else. By the time he was in his early teens, John was irretrievably mesmerized by the sounds that leapt from his turntable.

A polyglot who came to speak more than half a dozen languages, including Swahili, Mr. Roberts received a bachelor’s degree in modern languages from Oxford University. In the mid-1960s he spent several years in Kenya as a reporter and editor on The East African Standard, a regional newspaper. Returning to London, he was a radio producer with the BBC World Service.

Mr. Roberts moved to the United States in 1970, becoming an editor on the periodical Africa Report. He was later a freelance journalist, contributing articles on world music to The Village Voice and other publications.

In the early 1980s, Mr. Roberts cofounded Original Music, a mail-order company that distributed world-music books and records. In those pre-Internet days, Americans outside big cities found these almost as hard to come by as young Mr. Roberts had in postwar England.

In business for nearly two decades, Original Music also released many well-received albums of its own. Among them are “The Sound of Kinshasa,” featuring Zairian guitar music; “Africa Dances,” an anthology of music from more than a dozen countries; and “Songs the Swahili Sing,” devoted to the music of Kenya, an aural kaleidoscope of African, Arab and Indian sounds.

In choosing what to release on the Original Music label, Mr. Roberts did not disdain modern, popular numbers: by his lights, a song simply had to be good. This distinguished him from musicological purists who, in ceaseless quest for the authentic, recorded only material seemingly untouched by modernity.

In an interview with The Los Angeles Times in 1987, Mr. Roberts illuminated his selection process.

“I don’t care how esoteric it is, but it’s got to be terrific,” he said. “Not this ‘you-can’t-hear-it-and-it’s-terribly-performed-but-it’s-really-very-interesting-because-it’s-the-only-winkle-gathering-song-to-come-out-of-southeastern-Sussex’ attitude.”

Read the complete NYTimes obit here.

Download the awesome OMCD Street Music of Java here. This was one of my earliest posts on this blog, which just turned 3.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sister Aimee: The Art Show -- Opening Tonight!

A collaborative painting project by the students of Doug Harvey's WLAC Painting Workshop

Participating artists include: Louis Caiazza, Imari Capers, Tifarrah Clarke-Waite, Ashley Cooley, Jean Copes, Shawn Doster, Ed Fahlsing, Doug Harvey, Josh Hoorfar, Natalie Hoorfar, David Huynh, Laurelyn Johnson, Tracy Jones, Philip Kung, George Lopez, Jasmine Lozano, Mika Ogawa, Bert Ramirez, Young Summers, Antje Thober-Gujardo, Jada Vernon, Aubrey Whitlock.

PLUS 'Sister Aimee: The Musical' - a new film by the Echo Park Film Center Youth Filmmaking Class

West Los Angeles College Art Gallery
4800 Freshman Dr.
(Just south of Overland & Jefferson)
Culver City, CA 90230

Opening Tuesday Dec 08. 6 - 10 PM
On view during gallery hours Dec 08 - 11 (and maybe longer)

Note: THIS EXHIBIT WILL BE REMOUNTED in the Glendale/Eagle Rock vicinity in the near future, so if you miss the WLAC event, keep an eye peeled for the do over.

Images: Sister Aimee Crosses Over into Pure Abstraction, Ed Fahlsing; The Foursquare Bridal Call Baby Blossom, Aubrey Whitlock & Tracy Jones

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

If You Can Call That an Anecdote

Instead of cueing up in Netflix heaven to systematically explore the best in art house cinema and documentary film-making from across the history of the medium, I have been purchasing these ridiculously low-priced box-sets of highly compressed, poorly transferred "public domain" movies and working my way through them. I wish I could blog about every weird 70's made-for-TV family drug redemption drama or dubbed Italian Star Wars rip-off I come across, but there's just so many, and just so much time.

But this one generated an odd coincidental anecdote, so I'll tell it. The movie, contained on the Box Office Gold 50 Movie Pack (from Mill Creek Entertainment, no less), is called Eliza's Horoscope, and I had never heard of it. Included due to an early star turn by "Tom" Lee Jones, the movie is a bewildering late-hippie country-girl-meets-big-bad-world story, set in 1975 Montreal. Chock full of gratuitous Fellini-esque gewgaws and a puzzling sideplot concerning American Indian activists blowing up a bridge, the film's most interesting formal element was the use of occasional stuttering edits that mimicked certain recursive temporal structures with which I have some familiarity. With a very surprising guest spot by Richard Manuel of The Band, and credits that listed one man as the writer, director, producer, and editor, Eliza's Horoscope intrigued me enough that I stayed awake to do some internet research.

It turns out this was the only feature film made by Gordon Sheppard (the son of the president of IBM Canada) who had previously been married to the first Playboy playmate of the Year, and directed a half hour documentary on Hef. I found one site containing his reminiscences about the making of Eliza's Horoscope. And, though Sheppard recently died of prostate cancer, he still has his own extensive website featuring his photography, other writings, and excerpts and reviews of his last major project, a non-fiction novel about the suicide of Hubert Aquin, a famous Quebec separatist man of letters. The first odd coincidence is that the name of the novel is HA! which has been my signature/art brand logo for some 25 years now.

It turns out that Sheppard was quite unhappy with the pirate copies of his magnum opus floating around, particularly because of the "experimental" jump cut edits, which turned out to have been randomly generated glitches from a sloppy transfer! The other weird coincidence is that the score, by one Elmo Peeler, contains obvious homages to various modern composers -- I even commented to M.A. on the nice fake Satie. Then the next day, Transparency Records madman Michael Sheppard stopped by to drop off some promo materials for his latest enthusiasm -- Italian pianist/composer Alessandra Celletti, whose own work frequently mimics that of the same vexing amphibian. Sheppard/fake Satie:Sheppard/fake Satie. It's 11:11 all over again! Fearful Symmetry... of the Mind!

Anyway, Celletti does real Satie as well, and the piano music of Gurdjieff, her own ambient works and strange pop songs in English, and has been collaborating most recently with Hans-Joachim Roedelius of Cluster. This Saturday (Dec 5), the two are performing at Zipper Hall at 200 Grand Street in downtown LA, next to MOCA Tickets are $20 and available exclusively from Amoeba Records. If Elmo Peeler shows up to jam, melons will explode.