Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Three Closed Art Shows and a CD

If I were an on-the-ball sort of person I'd have gotten this posted in time so that my online readers might avail themselves of the 3 day window of opportunity between publication and the deinstallation of the shows. But I am not an on-the-ball sort of person. At least as far as getting things posted in time so that my online readers might avail themselves of 3 day windows of opportunity between publication and the deinstallation of shows is concerned. I suppose I'm on the ball in other ways. And you can still get the Pere Ubu CD.

"Roy Dowell’s timing is seriously out of wack. For more than three decades, as the art world has careened from poststudio praxis to neo-expressionist painting and back again, L.A.-based painter/collagist Dowell has been steadfastly mining a creative vein whose most conspicuous antecedents are the abstract-formalist vocabularies of early Modernism. A midcareer survey at Margo Leavin Gallery in 2006 demonstrated how much internal evolution had occurred within those parameters, absorbing and translating stylistic elements as universal as fragmented billboard advertising and as personal as the (reciprocal) influence of his longtime partner Lari Pittman. Chair of Otis’ graduate school for the past 20 years, Dowell is about as far inside the L.A. art world as you can get, and I have heard his elegant collages dismissed as “too safe” — the privileged, solipsistic exploration of an anachronistic aesthetic bubble, irrelevant no matter how gorgeous they might be...

The adjacent project room holds a group of works that verge even closer to outsider territory, while deploying an inventory of pictographic symbols that fuse the archetypal and anecdotal realms. Drawing on an extended sojourn in northern Sweden, mixed-media trickster Jeffrey Vallance has appropriated the shamanistic object-making traditions of the indigenous Saami people in the form of a reindeer-skin “Troll-drum” decorated with a complex system of stick figures and abstract patterns, and supplemented by five elaborate preliminary drawings and interpretive legends...

A similar finesse characterizes Brian Tucker’s curatorial pairing of two of 20th-century America’s most intriguing artistic eccentrics at Pasadena City College’sart gallery as part of the biannual citywide Art + Ideas Festival. This year’s theme is “Origins,” and both Polish-born sculptor Stanislaw Szukalski and Pennsylvania native (and extraterrestrial-research pioneer) Richard Shaver are abundantly qualified for inclusion...

Oppositional eccentricity as a creative strategy doesn’t seem to work in the art world anymore — Dowell’s sumptuous compositional exercises ruffle more insider feathers than whatever rehashed nonprovocations pass for novelty this week. Vallance and Tucker succeed on the basis of their ability to insinuate otherness without making overt threats. It’s been more than a century since Alfred Jarry was able to scandalize Bohemian Paris by opening his play Ubu Roi with the nonsense poop-word “Merdre!” It’s almost 35 years since namesake experimental garage band Pere Ubu set out to bring some dissemblance of Jarry’s absurdist science of ’pataphysics into the nascent mass medium of punk rock, and only now are they getting around to directly addressing the absinthe-addled dwarf’s literary legacy..."

Click here to read the rest of Outside In: Two crackpots, a couple of borderline cases and one regular sort of fellow.

The shows online: Vallance & Dowell; Shaver & Szukalski

Purchase or download Long Live Pere Ubu here.

Images: Dowell Untitled (#978); Vallance Lapp Magic Drum; Szukalski Plaster Binder Spines (detail); Shaver Rock Painting cover for 'The Hidden World'; Quay Brothers & Pere Ubu March of Greed

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