Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Portfolio and Friends Xmas!

Future hall-of-famer Winway's Portfolio of Sporting Field NW1 poses for his upcoming paper tole portrait by Hans Bellmer in the stately gardens of the Ross-Dutcher estate on this cool Los Angeles yule. Having no seasonal obligations, we wound up spending Christmas Day commingling our respective whippet (P, Nigel & Chloe) and miniature aussie (Guston & Arbus) herds, which - in combination with a flurry of neighborhood squirrels - made for a festive and energetic afternoon.

Friday, December 24, 2010

If Hans bellmer had taken up paper tole...

My last night on the town before this recent gout attack (and subsequent meteorological and vocational annoyances) was the UCLA Warner Grad Studios open house, which I haven't been to in awhile. The vibe sure has changed since back in the day, and even since the last time I made it out.

In spite of the whole LA Art World supposedly being in Miami, there were hundreds of obvious grown-up types wandering the labyrinthine warrens. And strangely, not much in the way of festivities -- no BBQ, no spectacular performance art or loud music, and only discreet bottles of wine and whiskey -- most of which I managed to sample over the course of the evening (which may have triggered the gout attack, come to think of it).

As usual there were a handful of standouts -- the extended single-shot street videography of former Jeff Wall assistant Owen Kydd, the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink abstract paintings on paper by the other Mike Kelly, and particularly the two new large scale scroll-saw photo collages by Sarah Cromarty, who was a featured artist in State of Emergence: Unsuspected Cracks in the Art World Infrastructure (The First Annual L.A. Weekly Biennial). Sarah says these works aren't finished (that's her holding up the sign that says "Not Done"), but I'd be thrilled to see something like this in any gallery or museum. Sorry for the crappy photos and lack of titles. Also that's a "Not Done" sign on the face of the top dude on the tree in the big square piece below.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Canned Hack

Sorry for the sudden dearth of postage -- you'd think being completely immobilized for two weeks from a gout attack in the left heel would prompt an outpouring of bloggity blah-blah but this has not been the case. I've been writing a bit, but mostly dealing with my abrupt discharge as lead art critic for the LA Weekly. I can't say I was too surprised -- between the general collapse of print media, the specific culture-wide assault on arts journalism, and the Village Voice Media's vendetta against pinko egghead hippies among its rank and file, I was surprised I lasted this long. Still, it could have been handled a little more professionally. If you haven't got the skinny, check out Jori Finkel's mop-up at the LA Times culturemonster blog. And I'll try and get back in the swing over the holidays.

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Project 42: M.A. Peers" Closes Sunday

"A generic purebred Black Labrador with a fluorescent orange “training dummy” in its mouth, blown up to three or four times lifesize, depicted on a meticulously constructed patchwork of stained and shredded floral-patterned upholstery scavenged from abandoned curbside sofas. An uncommissioned portrait of an arbitrary corporate cultural figure – say, Bill Taylor, the Co-Founding Editor of the dot-com futurist business magazine Fast Company – rendered in a style that references the language of contemporary international painting, the aesthetics of annual report graphic design, and the paranormal investigations chronicled on the Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell radio talk show. An enormous mosaic grid of hand painted monochrome square tiles which resolves – from about 25 feet away – into a 1950’s cookbook image of a red, heart-shaped cheesecake. A virstuosic knot of painterly abstraction that modulates into a hazy landscape, equating a mythical bottomless pit in rural Washington with the Forestay waterfall in Chexbres, Switzerland.

It would be hard to conjure a more disparate array of cultural signifiers, but these are just a cross-sample of the quixotic mash-ups that constitute the two decades-worth of painting that make up the singular oeuvre of LA-based painter M.A. Peers. It is an ironic testimony to Peers’ restless, constantly mutating signature that the most widespread notice her work has received (in spite of ongoing interest and support from west coat art critical community) has been for a group of paintings created through a provisional fictional persona and originally intended to be anonymous – her heroic, elaborately framed Soviet Realism - meets - Gainsborough portraits of five Russian space dogs commissioned in the early ‘00s by the Museum of Jurassic Technology.

Nevertheless, this very un-pin-down-ability has made Peers’ work continually surprising over the course of her career – sometimes deflecting attention from the deeper congruencies of formalist and conceptual experimentation – as well as idiosyncratic personal political engagements -- that permeate her work. To untangle these, it is illuminating to consider the work the artist was doing prior to her early-90’s attendance of UCLA’s grad program, as part of the legendary Student Bolshevik artist collective in Winnipeg, Canada.

Immediate precursors to the better-known Royal Art Lodge, Student Bolsheviks were a wild and wooly group of mostly-painters responding in an energetic but ambivalent fashion to the 80’s painting boom – though their activities also encompassed performance, sculpture and installation, experimental music, video, zines, and (particularly) guerilla exhibition. During this heady period Peers produced a series of large-scale abstract painting/collages (as well as a couple of sculptures and installations) made from domestic detritus like linoleum flooring, lampshades, upholstery, housepaint, tilework, carpeting, fur coats, shattered wine bottles, polyurethane, and assorted knick-knacks -- as well as the occasional application of traditional oil paint.

These little-known works (the subject of Peers’ first solo exhibit Recent Excavations), while formally indebted to earlier collagists like Rauschenberg and Schwitters, toyed equally with the joyous, ridiculous materiality of Schnabel’s plate paintings and the literal yet arbitrary sumptuousness of the Boyle Family’s painted fiberglass casts of random rectangles of the earth’s surface. Their most pronounced conceit, however, was the deliberate inversion of the conventional relationship between decoration and surface: often submerging fragments of flocked art-nouveau revival wallpaper (or whatever) under pools of liquid plastic while flirting shamelessly with potential feminist and anti-consumerist interpretations.

The ambiguities of narrative symbolism – and the negative space between real and official stories – are fundamental templates through all of Peers’ art. Yet as spatially, narratively and compositionally intricate as these early abstractions were, once relocated to LA Peers found herself needing to exaggerate the inherent schisms in picture-making, and undermine the facility at which she had arrived. Her next inversion rendered all these concerns the compressed ground to a surprising figure from her past – the American Kennel Club standardized purebred dog. “When [LA painter] Linda Day said I should paint the most embarrassing thing I could think of,” says Peers, “I thought of an Irish Setter.”

Read the rest of Guys & Dogs: M.A. Peers' Taxonomies of Aesthetic Power in "Project Series 42: M.A. Peers" published by the Pomona College Museum of Art, ISBN 978-0-9818955-8-1

Project 42 is on view through Sunday, Dec 19, 2010 and includes four previously unexhibited works, including three paintings on paper from the new conformation competition whippet portrait series.

Pomona College Museum of Art
333 N College Way
Claremont CA 91711

Images: Labrador with Dummy 1995; Bill Taylor, Co-Founding Editor Fast Company Magazine 2001-2001; Cheesecake 1994; Given: Mel's Hole 2008; Soviet space dog portraits (2005) installed at the V. Gloushka Space and Rocket Engineering Museum, Peter and Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg, Russia, 2009; Untitled 1990; Untitled 1991; Big Red 1992; Project 42: M.A. Peers catalog designed by Kimberly Varella/Dept of Graphic Sciences, 2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Outsider Xmas Vols 1 & 2 again and again and again

I was just thinking I should re-upload these two mixes of Outsider, novelty, celebrity Xmas weirdness when McNulty asked after them and lo and behold, after 3 years they're still up at Megaupload! Talk about your miracles. Makes me think about finishing Volume 3...

Download Outsider Xmas 1

Download Outsider Xmas 2

Tracklist in comments.

Pitywood Natividad

Walt Nordstrom at his uncle's birthday party, enjoying the hypnotic power of the decontextualized glowing pacifieresque faux candles of Taix. (Photo by Ms. Pity)