Wednesday, April 29, 2009

All well and good, but where's Margaret Keane?

I have a Big-Eye painting in this crazy omnibus show at the Green Gallery in Milwaukee that Kristin Calabrese and Josh Aster put together - all the pieces had to be 11 X 11 or smaller. I realized mine was oversized so I sawed it down and folded it over, securing with monofilament. I forgot to take a picture but here is a surveillance style-rendering enhanced from the official group photo on Facebook. It's part of the Pre-rotted series, and called Processional Mecca. The show's called "Lovable Like Orphaned Kitties and Bastard Children" and opens May 9th.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Video Art Out of Africa

"A couple of weeks ago, the eminent journal Science announced the confirmation of the earliest known human footprints heretofore discovered. Preserved between layers of volcanic ash, the 1.5-million-year-old tracks were shown by laser-scanning analysis to have been made by truly upright citizens (not like those knuckle-dragging Australopitheci).

It should come as no surprise that the footprints were found in East Africa, in the country now known as Kenya; the same neck of the woods where Mitochondrial Eve — the original common female ancestor of every human alive today — is thought to have trod some 150,000 years back.

And it was just a little farther down the coast, in Blombos Cave on the Southern Cape coast of South Africa, that archaeologists in the early 1990s discovered two ochre engraved plaques that had been inscribed with abstract geometric designs approximately 75,000 years ago — predating the cave paintings at Lascaux by a healthy 60 millennia: arguably our species’ oldest objets d’art.

Now let’s look at the headlines ... hmmm ... “Kenyan Police Accused of Widespread Killings” ... “15,000 Flee Southern Darfur” ... “President of Guinea-Bissau Assassinated” ... “Zimbabwe Cholera Epidemic Worsening. ... ”

Seeded with land mines, depleted of natural resources, riddled with plague, political corruption, poverty and starvation; her social structures pulverized to a jittery, explosive subatomic mush, awash in imported toxic waste, homogenized global urban culture and IMF debt, Africa is as much our future as it is our past.

The curators at the Fowler Museum know this — at least it seems so, going by their track record, with shows like 2003’s “A Saint in the City: Sufi Arts of Urban Senegal,” which traced the proliferation and mutation of a single image of Sufi saint Amadou Bamba across almost every surface of Dakar, and last year’s “Inscribing Meaning: Writing and Graphic Systems in African Art” — far and away the most compelling recent L.A. exhibit on the relationship between language and art. Both epitomize the Fowler’s ongoing commitment to representing the artistic practices of the non-Anglo world, Africa in particular, in all their complex vitality: balanced between ancient local traditions, contemporary international Art World strategies, and coping mechanisms for the coming apocalypse.

Of course, in the short term, it is the middle ground that is of greatest interest to the artists, curators and other players engaged in the effort to shift some capital away from Damien Hirst, Richard Prince and (South African–born) Marlene Dumas and into the grass-roots art economies of Dakar, Johannesburg and Lagos — or at least generate some art stars to compete on Charles Saatchi’s playing field."

Images: Muxima Alfredo Jaar 2005

Read the rest of Digital Roots: Continental Rifts at Fowler Museum here

And here's the Fowler's webpage about the shows.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

None of the Above

"Toward the end of Membrane Lane, Charles Irvin’s faux conspiracy documentary on the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (an organization that champions people claiming to have been falsely accused of child sexual abuse), there’s a particularly startling non sequitur. In the midst of the relatively straightforward montage of appropriated news footage and sequences in which the camo fatigues–sporting narrator/artist explains his conspiratorial flow charts, there is a jump cut to a strangely familiar image, which takes a second to place — a shot of the “foaming brush” in one of those DIY car washes, leaning upright against the generic tile wall, oozing globs of white soap. Then, just as you realize the footage is reversed, and the brush is sucking the foam up from the gutter back into its infinite milky reservoir, the rebunking of the Satanic abuse debunkers continues, leaving you with that distinctive “Wait! What the fuck was that, and how did it get in here?” sensation.

This sort of conceptual embolism seems to be the curatorial premise of Nine Lives: Visionary Artists from L.A., the current museum omnibus exhibit where Irvin’s DayGlo-primitivist cartoon paintings — and video — can currently be experienced. Nine Lives is something of a curatorial coming-out party for Hammer adjunct curator Ali Subotnick, whose genealogy as co-founder/director of prank Chelsea nonspace Wrong Gallery and occasional high-end journal Charley (both in collaboration with fellow critic/curator Massimiliano Gioni and eminent Vaffanculist Maurizio Cattelan) should have pushed her to the front of the schedule of exhibitions a couple years ago.

Tellingly, Nine Lives is more reminiscent of one of these prior joint efforts than it is of the Hammer’s string of previous regional survey shows (Snapshot, Thing, East of Eden) with which it is publicly equated. The most recent Charley (No. 5) is a treasure chest of idiosyncratic visual genius (if not the corresponding data — none of the artworks is dated or identified, and most of the essays are cribbed from Wikipedia), compiling the work of diverse outsiders like Jess, Noah Purifoy, Ree Morton, Forrest Bess, Christopher Knowles and more than 100 other remarkable figures from the margins of the contemporary art-historical canon.

Nine Lives shifts the focus to living artists working in Los Angeles but keeps the quirk factor — and its attendant awkwardness in terms of art-world acceptability — cranked to 11. Foremost among these are two of L.A.’s elder statesmen of quirk: Llyn Foulkes and Jeffrey Vallance. Foulkes is a remarkable painter, whose half-century of work seamlessly integrates Abstract Expressionism, West Coast Assemblage and Pop alongside his darkly personal political ruminations and signature obsession with exaggerated pictorial relief effects, with his carved-out Disney figures and post-Apocalyptic landscapes verging on the dimensionality of dioramas. Great as it is to see such a stellar selection of his work in one place (particularly his epic The Last Frontier, last seen briefly in the back of Patty Faure’s gallery), one hopes it doesn’t function in lieu of the overdue full retrospective Foulkes and the L.A. art community deserve."

Read the rest of Peripheral Visions: Nine of L.A.’S Square Pegs Get Hammered here.

Lisa Anne Auerbach Never Forget (front) 2007
Victoria Reynolds Flight of the Reindeer 2003
Charles Irvin Untitled 2008
Llyn Foulkes Deliverance 2007 (This piece was supposed to be in Some Paintings, BTW)
Lisa Anne Auerbach Never Forget (back) 2007