Thursday, September 23, 2010

Catching "Up" with steve roden

Things have been hectic - not least as regards Chloe's nether regions which have been in estrus, necessitating constant supervision -- and precipitating mental craziness in Portfolio. Nevertheless we did manage to load them all up and drive 99% of the way to Pomona for steve roden and Ginny Bishton's openings at the Pomona College Museum of Art before the left rear tire on the Accord shredded and we had to spend the evening at the Glendora Walmart Lube & Tire Express instead. So I had a few pieces in the recent LA Weekly Art Issue, the largest of which is a piece on none other than steve roden, and it goes a little something like this...

"Until I finally saw them standing next to each other at a barbecue a couple of years back, I always had a suspicion that Steve Roden and Tim Hawkinson might be the same person. This in spite of the fact that I've known both personally for a couple of decades, and they bear almost no physical resemblance to one another. I couldn't completely rule out the possibility that some alien with the hyperdimensional equivalent of a fun-house mirror was pulling a fast one. Come to think of it, he could have been using some doppelgänger beam at that barbecue. The theory may bear further scrutiny.

OK, here are the facts: Tim and Steve both live in Pasadena and have weird-ass record collections with frequent overlaps. I mean weird-ass like Vachel Lindsay reciting "The Mysterious Cat" in 1931, just before committing suicide — and it doesn't get much more weird-ass than that. Each one's work is a personal and idiosyncratic exploration of systems — systems of construction, of communication, of cognition. Both invent and build their own musical instruments. They have identical birthmarks on the left buttock in the shape of Léon Theremin's right profile. (That last item is unconfirmed.)

What's certain is that they are two of the most unschmoozy artists I've ever encountered. They're happy to talk about their work, but shun the spotlight in favor of long hours in the studio — hours that are fantastically productive in both their cases. In spite of this, they seem to be everywhere ... well, almost everywhere. For a long time, Hawkinson was the most egregious example of the L.A. museumscape's "prophet without honor in his own land" syndrome. The lightbulb should have gone off in 1996 when Jay Belloli — the recently retired director of Pasadena's Armory Center for the Arts — curated "Tim Hawkinson: Ali Ikmnostw," but it wasn't until almost 10 years later when the Whitney came sniffing around that Howard Fox was able to persuade LACMA to do the right thing (the 2005 retrospective "Tim Hawkinson").

Now Belloli's left the Armory, Fox is free of LACMA and Steve Roden — who has been perennially jamming out stellar solo shows of his gorgeous painterly puzzles for Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects since 2003, while gaining international acclaim for his experimental music and sound art installations — is a front-runner for the most-egregious-prophet award. (Don't get me started on Jim Shaw and Jeffrey Vallance!) So what's the upshot? Fox curating "Steve Roden: In Between, a 20-Year Survey" at Pasadena's Armory Center for the Arts! Mere coincidence?"

Read the rest of Unfinished Symphony: steve roden shifts into overdrive here.

See steve roden: in between, a 20 year survey at The Armory in Pasadena through january 9th

See steve roden: when words become forms at the Pomona College Museum of Art through december 19 (and Project Series 41: Ginny Bishton through October 17)

Images: transmission 11/60 (stellar regions) 2002; bowrain 2010, installation; fall after moons fall after... 2008

Note: I'm not sure if steve's actually caught "Up" but he should, and so should you.

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