Friday, February 27, 2009

Deutschland Deutschland

"I wonder what Syd Barrett was doing on July 21, 1990, whilst his former Pink Floyd bandmate Roger Waters was cranking the bombast to 11 in Berlin by supersizing that already bloated paean to bilious self-pity known as The Wall and conflating it with the decommissioning — six months prior — of the “anti-Fascist protective rampart” that had divided the German capital and stood as a symbol of Yankee/Soviet stalemate for the previous quarter century. Probably painting.

After his death in 2006, it was revealed that Syd had spent much of his three-decade withdrawal from show business making art, which he sometimes photographed before painting over or destroying. The question that nags me is this: Which is the greater creative act, micromanaging a spectacular but rehashed postmodern Gesamtkunstwerk for half a million people (and millions more via live satellite TV — and all ostensibly for charity!), or daubing away in a Cambridge cellar on a canvas that will probably never see the light of day?

What brings this to mind is Art of Two Germanys: Cold War Cultures, an ambitious and treasure-laden exhibit now happily displacing Damien Hirst (among others) from the second floor of LACMA’s BCAM building. It isn’t just the superficial Berlin Wall reference that summons the mighty Floyd, but the jostling polarities at play, that between hubristic historical importance and unrecorded humility as artistic motivators, and of the almost cosmic narrative of good and evil that drove Cold War politics — and tried to oblige Art into choosing a side.

Completing curator Stephanie Barron’s exceptional historical trilogy that began with 1991’s Degenerate Art: The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany and continued with ’97’s Exiles and Emigres: The Flight of European Artists from Hitler, Two Germanys adheres to this übernarrative closely, albeit in a subtly nuanced and richly detailed way. Beginning with Richard Peter Sr.’s claustrophobic, horizonless documentary photographs of the charred rubble (and citizens) of Dresden, the exhibit winds in a chronological circuit through the schizophrenic era of reconstruction toward the conceptual terminus of reunification. Shell-shocked attempts to assimilate the recent carnage with the tools of Modernism provide the first of many painterly gems, with the luminous biomorphic abstractions of Willi Baumeister, who chose to remain in Third Reich Germany, working in secret after being classified as degenerate.

The bifurcating streams of Communist Party–sanctioned Socialist Realism and laissez faire expressions of the Westside “economic miracle” afford glimpses into summarily disparaged modes of narrative figuration and prescient op/kinetic gizmoism respectively, while the first stirrings of anticonsumerist skepticism that blossomed in the “Capitalist Realism” of Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke are traced to the 1950s typewriter and sewing-machine portraits of Konrad Klapheck. A tableful of Dresdenite Herman Glöckner’s constructivist models — assembled in secret from tiny bits of trash to evade the disapproving eye of the East German Socialist Unity Party — provides a hauntingly poetic riposte to both official programs of aesthetic progress, while looking eerily contemporary — like something from last month’s grad-school open studios."

Read the rest of Divided We Stand: Art of Two Germanys here

Roger (Syd) Barrett Untitled, 1963, Pencil and oil on board (not in the show, Dummkopf!)
Willi Baumeister Gravour Faust – Scherzo, 1952, Oil and pencil on cardboard (also not in the show, but one I particularly like)
Various models by Herman Glöckner, c. 1960
Sigmar Polke, Object Kartoffelhaus (Potato House Object), 1967

Monday, February 23, 2009

Give Me Equulibrium or Give Me Horse Tranquilizers

If anyone's in the vicinity of the City of Brea, or passing through, this is the last week to check out Out of School, a show that gathers together a disparate group of works created by people who teach in SoCal art schools - including myself, Caroline Clerc, Roger Herman, Linda Day, and many others. My piece is a combination of two previously exhibited horse head sculptures, both of which will be entering private collections after this show. L: Precious Nuggets: St. Sebastian Annie Edson Taylor Queen of the Night, 2007 R: St. Sebastian Ann Coulter Daniel Radcliffe Mandelbrot Set, 2008

The City of Brea Gallery is located in the Brea Civic & Cultural Center at 1 Civic Center Circle, Plaza Level. Gallery hours are Wednesday - Sunday, 12 to 5 p.m., closed Monday, Tuesday and holidays. Admission is $2 and Brea residents are free.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Zlotnickmania 2-Nite!

Tonight is the opening of Intuitive Eye - LA Valley College's show of works from Diana Zlotnick's collection, which includes some of my work. I'll also be participating in the panel discussion. LAVC is just at the intersection of the 110 and 134 freeways.

Dennis Reed writes "A nonlinear thinker, Diana does not progress logically in even steps from one thing to the next. Rather she leaps, propelled by her inventive intuition and instinct. They have served her well. She has built a unique and enviable collection that includes early works by important artists: Andy Warhol, George Herms, Wallace Berman, and Richard Pettibone, to name but a few.

Her engagement with art is passionate and engulfing. Although she buys art from galleries, she prefers a more direct link to artists. She focuses on those whose careers are just emerging. She often visits their studios and befriends them, being among the first to buy their work. I have heard artists comment, years later, that Diana provided badly needed money and encouragement to continue working when they most needed it.

When she brings home new art, it is not placed carefully over the couch - I don't think she even owns a couch! The rooms in her house, even the bathrooms, are small exhibition spaces with rotating shows. New purchases join older works, so that a newly made piece, the paint barely dry, might hang next to vintage works acquired long ago by now veteran artists such as Andy Warhol, Edward Kienholz, or Lynn Foukles. She has been collecting since 1954, after all, when one of her first acquisitions was a John Altoon painting purchased from Walter Hopps at the now legendary Ferus Gallery. The work in this exhibition is but a small sampling of her extensive holdings."

Reception & Discussion with the Collector
7 pm, Wednesday, February 18, 2009

February 18 - March 26, 2009
Monday through Thursday
11 am until 2 pm and 6 pm until 9 pm

Images: Above: Don Bachardy, Portrait of Diana, 1982, acrylic on paper; Below:Doug Harvey, Precious Nuggets: The Happy Place, 2007, Mixed Media on found foam (Photo by Josh White)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Puppy Excursions

At the moment, Chloe's enrolled in a class which requires submission of weekly photodocumentation of her ongoing integration into the larger human social world. Above we see her shopping in For Pets Only on Hilhurst, sporting her newly purchased ultra-attractive pink raincoat - just too short enough! Portfolio, whose testosterone levels continue to surge to new heights on a daily basis, prefers more rugged leisure activities, as evidenced by this snap of him on a recent whitewater rafting trip to Arizona. Next port: Westminster!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Splitting at the Seems

Tonight, Thursday Feb 12th, is the night for LA's monthly Downtown Art Walk which this time includes the closing reception for Larry Pearsall's Beneath the Seam at the Downtown Art Center Gallery from 6 - 9 PM.

"There’s an abandoned warehouse near the heart of Ice Dirt Town, where a bald, bearded and extremely tall pedophile named Bon lords over a harem of barely teenage boys — Lapito, Alex, Day Day, Billy, Ralph, Kevin; amputees Earl (left arm), Fakebein (right arm) and Marleytom (right leg), and about a dozen others. The boys don’t seem to realize they’re being abused. In fact, the few times we see them out of their ubiquitous denim overalls — being tickled or posing for a snapshot — they remain chastely clad in shorts and socks. But the cats see all. The Applebaycats, led by Blato, creep through the broken heating ducts of the abandoned warehouse: observing, commenting and envisioning a better time. A time beyond Bon.

This is the underlying scenario for one of the most compelling exhibits of narrative-based art in recent memory, a tour de force titled “Beneath the Seams,” currently on view at the recently opened DAC Gallery on Main Street at the edge of downtown’s gallery row. Artist Larry Pearsall is soft-spoken but happy to talk about his work and the avowedly fictional world it depicts. “The cats can’t do much. Except this one called the police on Bon. He was the last one to call the police, and that’s when the police came,” recounts the artist. “Bon goes to jail. Him and Molly and Brures. And they were after Balisha and her boyfriend, Reggie.” Balisha leads a contingent of slightly older, mostly African-American teens, who seem to sometimes provide the boys’ escape from Bon’s predations — and sometimes participate in them.

It’s hard to get a clear picture about the exact chain of events, or the specific roles each character plays, because Pearsall unfolds his story in discrete achronological fragments: single-frame tableaux rendered in a flat, jagged cartoon style as acrylic paintings on paper or canvas (as well as sculptures not included in this show) that jump discontinuously between settings, times and characters. Moreover, the almost 100 works included in “Beneath the Seams” are only a fraction of the completed chapters comprising a complex epic that shows no indication of reaching completion anytime soon. Which is probably why writer/director/producer Obie Scott Wade thinks Pearsall’s work is perfect for an Adult Swim–style animated series.

“I fell in love with the notion of animating Larry’s brilliant work because he paints as if God were holding a gun to his head and he cannot tell a lie,” asserts Wade, whose résumé includes Baby Looney Tunes and a transgender version of Shazam!, called Shezow. Citing Persepolis and Waltz With Bashir, Wade believes that “if handled properly, animation is the perfect medium to deal with hypersensitive subject matter. Larry is painting a singular universe populated with fully realized characters dealing with some very grimy issues.”

Read the rest of On the Seamy Side: Larry Pearsall's Avant-Garde Graphic Narrative here

Friday, February 6, 2009

Retroactive Puppy Cuteness Megadose

Sorry for the lack of posts, been too busy battening down the hatches (it's actually raining in LA) and getting rid of art. I'll try and knock out some quick mostly photo posts to catch y'all up on important developments hereabouts. First things first, for those with a Portfolio jones, here are two shots from the cover photo shoot for his forthcoming psychedelic solo LP "Is This Real Life? Why Is This Happening to Me? Is This Gonna Be Forever?" (I also just realized that Portfolio could be seen to be inside the blue cylinder in my recent Mad Gregs post. What does this mean?) plus an array of attractive combinations of Nigel, Chloe, Portfolio, and various soft pieces of furniture. But let's start with Chloe's courageous expedition to the bowels of Baller Hardware, and the strange creatures she encountered there...

Whippet Good!