Thursday, March 31, 2011

First Dispatch from ARATALAND! Opening

Since I was still installing the finishing touches on ARATALAND! at 9:30 PM on Saturday, I only managed to snap two photos during the course of the evening. No worries, though, there was some one documenting all the proceedings and the results are forthcoming. In the meantime, the two I got worked out nice: behold Beacon Arts director Renee Fox trying out her new desk (this is the actual clearance -- NOT POSED!) and Artillery Magazine Svengali Tulsa Kinney demanding a more editorial portion of wine from the beleaguered bartender. Things get awful dark at the top of the art world pyramid!

Saturday, March 26, 2011


3 AM -- the Artist tests his relational game theory environment "Rollers". It's like curling, but not much. Come out tonight and try your hand. High score wins a free meal at IHOP!

ARATALAND! A Mid-Career Survey of Artworks by Michael Arata
Curated by Doug Harvey
Saturday March 26th, 2011
7 - 10 PM

Beacon Arts Building
808 N. La Brea Ave., Inglewood, CA 90302.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

ARATALAND! Installathon Plus

What is... The Flock?!! Find out Saturday, March 26, 2011 at the Beacon Arts Building... IF YOU DARE!

Been spending plenty time down there myself with the construction of ARATALAND! -- here is the visionary imagineer himself posed in front of one of his architectonic Monet Haystack sculptures.

Trained professional nurses will be on stand-by alert prepared to treat anyone who collapses in abject terror on March 26th when they come face-to-face with... THE FLOCK!!!

Since I was installing anyway, I sat in on the panel discussion for David Pagel's excellent show "Pieceable Kingdom" (today was the last day) -- which was pretty normal until I noticed these helper entities who seemed to be feeding Pagel his lines. Officer Barbrady, I call Shenanigans!


Friday, March 18, 2011

Last Chance for Splendidness!

"Few artists maintain their balance as elegantly and consistently as Phyllis Green. And I’m not just referring to gravity and its discontents – though Green’s always-inventive engagement with this oft-disregarded central pillar of sculptural practice also sets her work apart from the herd. The balancing act to which I refer consists of operating simultaneously in a multiplicity of universes which are often deemed entirely discrete – if not mutually exclusive. Figuration VS abstraction, surface decoration VS truth-to-materials, frivolity VS gravitas, sociopolitical observation VS aesthetic formalism – these are some of the received polarities whose borderlines function as highwires to Green’s exquisite bodily surrogates.

This manifest skepticism towards falling in with one camp or another stems partly from Green’s training and on-again off-again involvement with ceramics. As anyone familiar with the course of contemporary western art is aware, the role of clay in the canon of high art has been a more turbulent and contentious issue than that of performance art or photography, oscillating from centrality to outer darkness according to prevailing academic, curatorial and critical biases. Sculptors working with fired and glazed mud – when not adopting a position of radical ahistoricim - have had to develop sharp instincts to avoid being ghettoized as hippy craftspersons.

Often the result has been work that deliberately throws itself at the mercy of the opposite camp by overtly mocking the conventions and vocabulary of traditional ceramics – decorative figurines engaged in post-modern orgies, soup tureens painted with political atrocities, that sort of thing. Phyllis Green’s oeuvre has avoided such abject literalist groveling while playfully challenging assumptions from either side of the fence, creating – for example -- surfaces that read like elaborate psychedelic glazes which are, in fact, built up from thin layers of tinted industrial polymer cement then sanded to a glass-like and fractally decorative surface, or biomorphic forms that look thrown or pinched but are constructed from lumber, chickenwire, and similar building contractor materials. But probably the most significant ongoing reference to ceramic fundamentals in Green’s work is her complex and ongoing exploration of the archetypal Vessel...."

Read the rest of Woman on Wire: Phyllis Green’s Fabulous Stunt Doubles in the bee-yoo-tiful catalog available from OTIS.

And go see her show today or tomorrow! Last chance, mudheads!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Department of Fine Rats

If there is a single image that symbolizes the outsider status of "Lowbrow" art (in spite of the movement's transformation into a marketing side-stream for illustration professionals) it's the iconic figure of Rat Fink — the grotesquely oozing, drooling, contorted cartoon rodent that served as the corporate mascot and alter-ego of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, 1960s custom-car designer and figurehead of a marketing empire that encompassed plastic model kits, silk-screened tee-shirts, decals, and other mass-produced artforms. Rat Fink is to the Juxtapoz set what Duchamp's "Fountain" is to Modernism — in more ways than one, as it turns out.

As I wrote in my 2003 essay "Brother Rat Fink and the Eruption of the Grotesque in Popular Culture" (published in Doug Nason and Greg Escalante's "Rat Fink: The Art of Big Daddy Roth, Last Gasp"): "It's virtually impossible to assess the full formative impact of Rat Fink on the generation of Americans that was to make up the counterculture.... Rat Fink and the other hot-rod weirdos entered the pop vernacular with a speed and depth of penetration unthinkable to the captains of the advertising industry. My own first exposure to the character was in the form of a sketch by another kid at school. It was Rat Fink all right, and widely recognized and appreciated, but it was a copy of a copy of a copy; its authorship and Kustom Kulture provenance lost to us. Only its iconic resonance held our attention and fired our imagination."

Now it appears that this authorial indeterminacy was closer to the mark than many realized. In a new book from Last Gasp, the family of an obscure but influential Los Angeles graphic designer makes a convincing claim that Don "Monté" Montéverde — not Roth — was the author of the quintessential Lowbrow mascot. Bill Selby's "Monté: King of the Monster Age Decal" tracks the career of the UPS driver turned decal designer, whose rough-hewn monsters, devils, aliens, and fork-skewered eyeballs ("Pass the Mustard," 1959) were an enormously influential and previously unacknowledged element in the postwar rise of the pop-culture grotesque...

Read the rest of I Smell a Rat! here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

...and Perversities Yet to Come.

For Immediate Release: February 28, 2011

Beacon Arts Presents
A Mid-Career Survey of Artworks by Michael Arata
Curated by Doug Harvey

Saturday, March 26, 2011 – Sunday, May 22, 2011
- With Additional Exhibition Events on 4/10 & 4/30 -

LOS ANGELES, CA — Beacon Arts continues its Critics-as-Curators series with Arataland! A Mid-Career Survey of Artworks by Michael Arata curated by art critic Doug Harvey, opening Saturday, March 26, 2011. Arataland! will be the first museum-scale retrospective devoted exclusively to the work of this important Los Angeles artist, and the first monographic exhibit hosted by the Beacon Arts Building during its inaugural Critics-as-Curators series. Drawing on three decades of sculpture, painting, drawing, photography, installation and performance work, Arataland! will transform the Beacon Arts Building into a theme park exploring the complex and idiosyncratic vision – darkly humorous, playfully erotic, conceptually quirky, and often confrontational – that animates Arata’s oeuvre.

The exhibit will run for eight weeks closing on Sunday, May 22, 2011 with a Critics-as-Curators panel discussion from 1:00 to 4:00pm. Beacon Arts is located at 808 N. La Brea Ave., Inglewood, CA 90302. For additional information please call 310-621-5416 or visit as well as on the BAB facebook page.

Arataland! A Mid-Career Survey of Artworks by Michael Arata will kick-off on March 26th with an opening reception from 7:00 to 10:00pm. Join the artist for the unveiling of a new mural on the side of the Beacon Arts Building – a large rendition of a piece from Arata’s Pet Spaces series. Additional special events include “Deconstructing Arataland” an exhibition walkthrough and conversation with Michael Arata and Curator Doug Harvey on Sunday, April 10th starting at 1:00pm. At the end of the month on Saturday, April 30th, or Walpurgisnacht (a Northern European pagan renewal ritual), join the gallery for “One Night Stand: Walpurgisnacht” from 7:00 to 10:00pm. Like one of Arata's famous One Night Stands – his series of one-night guerrilla exhibitions held in motel rooms dating to the late 1990s – the evening will center around a hot dog/drawing exchange, whereby guests can create a drawing in exchange for a hot dog in a bun branded with Arata’s signature. A 60-page catalog, containing a map of Arataland! will also be published in conjunction with the exhibit and will be for sale at the gallery. All Arataland! events are free.

A native of Northern California, Michael Arata has been active in the Los Angeles art scene since relocating here in the early 1980s. His restlessly creative mind has led him from prescient large-scale site-specific installations addressing ecological sustainability, through elaborate arrays of sculptural works detailing the biological life cycle of angels (including the “larval” stage) to elegiac paintings of the hairstyles of unidentified possible victims of an LA serial killer, and interactive game sculptures conflating minimalist formal aesthetics with the impregnation of flamenco dancers and lawn bowling.

With Duchampian wit and impressive formal chops, Arata has amassed a formidable body of work, consistently undermining the sweetness of his primary-hued entities with dark – but deeply humanistic – undertones; balancing confrontational statements on politics, religion, bestiality, and poop with an open, playful and unaffected relational agenda; and layering his always entertaining pop discourse between enigmatic, personal symbolic systems often deriving from scientific or historical sources. Entertainment being the key word – Arata’s work may alternate between endearing, outrageous, brain-tickling, and laugh-out-loud funny, but it is never, ever boring. – Doug Harvey

Of Perversities Past

I've been so swamped I haven't been able to link to my already-online activities -- couple of reviews need regurgitating. But first, I just realized I never plugged this show and I don't even know if it's still up... it isn't, damn. But check it out online: Narratives of the Perverse II, a rowdy, crowded group show which had one of my recent Flash Fudds (comic collages I began doing at age 11). I don't have a photo of it, but here's the detail Jancar Gallery put up on their website.

There were lots of great works included -- paintings by the always reliable Charles Karubian, Judith Linhares, and Dani Tull; a video homage to Courbet's L’Origine du Monde (1866, below) by Micol Hebron (I walked in at the designer sunglasses sequence, and LOLed); and Roger Herman's father's documents proving his Aryan status in Nazi Germany. It's a something-for-everyone kind of affair. If you ask nice at the gallery, maybe they'll show you that video.