Thursday, August 31, 2006

His Friends Call Him Bill

We're past the Hirshorn but last Saturday's art excursion isn't over yet.

While at the newly renovated National Portrait Gallery/Smithsonian American Art Museum (it's a little too much like being in a gargantuan, brand new hotel lobby in Denver) I came across this green warehouse. I took a picture of it with my brownie. I'm going to show it to my friends Lee and Bill and maybe they'll suggest that I take a 4x5 down to the locale and take a picture of it with one of those. And I think that after I've done that I'll make a version of it- in miniature.

All joking, and jealousy aside William Christenberry's show is really good and even better because it's up until next summer, it's adjacent to the folk art galleries, and there's a little bit of all of his work. I like the small machine processed prints best.

Funny that the day I planned to post this Ataxia's also got a Christenberry post.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Jesper Just

Jesper Just, 'No Man is an Island II', 2004. Video still.
Courtesy of Perry Rubenstein Gallery

This is the last Hirshorn post- I promise.

About a year ago the Hirshorn initiated its Black Box series- a gallery on the lower level between the bathrooms and West of the lockers (which were unfortunately painted white and are no longer a 1970's rainbow of rectangles) that is devoted to contemporary video. Right now they're showing two pieces by Jesper Just, an artist from Copenhagen who "creates short films distinguished by their quirky scenarios and meticulous production techniques. His vignettes focus on juxtapositions: age versus youth, son versus father, loneliness versus detachment, macho camaraderie versus suppressed eroticism, connection versus ostracism, and bravado versus melancholy."* I'll buy that. The two videos are powerful- especially "No Man is an Island II"- it takes place in what is a very familiar locale to anyone who's paid attention to contemporary photography's preoccupation with Crewdson-esque fashion spreads but leads to something much, much more powerful. It's a little like having the guys from the movie Beautiful Girls perform at Club Silencio in Mulholland Drive- but better.

It's perfect.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


The trip to the Hirshorn continues...

There is an excellent installation by Jim Lambie on the ground floor. He has covered the entire floor w/ tape and there are a few sculptural pieces (that end up not being able to compete with the floor- the point I imagine, but maybe this happens b/c the space is so heavily trafficked that there couldn't be too much stuff there??), but overall the installation (part of the Hirshorns "Directions" series) is one of the best uses of that space I've ever seen.

From the Hirshorn's website:
Walking into one of Jim Lambie's Zobop striped taped floor pieces is like entering a giant painting. As part of our continuing efforts to give visitors opportunities to experience new works of art, Turner Prize finalist Lambie (b. Glasgow, Scotland,1964) has transformed the Hirshhorn's lobby into a vibrant, colorful, and immersive environment. The artist meticulously adheres vinyl tape to the floor in a geometric pattern that responds to the building's architecture. The floor is further enhanced by a group of sculptures-three new pieces made on site using existing elements and materials found in thrift stores, markets, and pawn shops throughout Washington.

Turns out Lambie is a DJ (a turntablist?)- this makes sense when you see the work. It is charged.

If you go here you can watch a time lapse video of the piece being made. Time lapse videos everywhere!

Upstairs, skulking around the permanent collection I got stuck on this Alex Katz painting that I've been looking at for years. I'm no fan of Katz (and am not going to track down all of the relevant info regarding it) but I am a fan of painters making paintings that are obviously derived from a photographs and damn! I love that floor...

Monday, August 28, 2006

Everyone Lives Beneath Their Own Heaven

Anselm Kiefer Sternenfall (Falling Stars), 1995, Oil on canvas,
90 1/2 x 67 inches (230 x 170 cm),

The Kimberly and I went to DC this past weekend to check out a number of exhibits, an aquatic park and to have Blue Crabs with my family on Saturday evening. I'm going to do a few posts and catch up on this here internet... I've missed writing and now that I finally got my monitor back (actually the old one couldn't be fixed and I was allocated a new one :)), and by this evening our DSL will be up and running again so this will become a regular habit again.

First we went to the Hirshorn to check out the Anselm Kiefer exhibit. I have long been a Kiefer devotee and honestly I feel a little embarrassed of how much I used to love his paintings- I do still love them but I guess that now I feel like I see them from a less vulnerable, less self-conscious, and less melodramatic point of view. I possess (what seems to me to be) sincere empathy for the inheritors of Germany's mid 20th Century history and think that aside from Wenders' Wings of Desire, no one other than Keifer does a better job at presenting the existential quagmire that is being a German of a certain age (I used to be enamored w/ Baselitz too and think that all of those inverted portraits are successful only when presented en masse). But this weekend, upon seeing this (chronological) survey I feel like once Kiefer started attaching the lead sculptures and sunflowers --sonnenblumen-- to his canvases, they get a bit schmaltzy- a bit like a bad-ass, poignant rock'n'roll band feeling like they need to doll themselves in make-up in order to come off as that much more evil. Keifer's sunflowers are like devil locks down the center of Glenn Danzig's forehead.

I write the above to offer some balance to what is still a deep respect for the many paintings and the obnoxiously large lead books that Kiefer has been occupying himself with. I think the biggest treat (and greatest surprise) for me was seeing the works on paper, like this one-- Winter Landscape from 1970. They are such a relief amdist all the bravado- so restrained, subtle (and small) compared to the monumentally manly and angst-ridden paintings.

I love how his canvases (and his drawings) all seem to be smoldering!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Me: Girl takes pic of herself every day for three years

Here's the video I mentioned before.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Bullet Points, a Picture of a Flower, and a Gaggle of Parentheses

I just returned from a whirlind trip to NYC (of course) to pick up artwork ("pieces", Travis) for the next exhibit at VACR. The exhibit is called Garden and I'll post about it as the Sept 7 opening nears.

Here's what I've been thinking about:

  • Being in NYC is kind of like being in the checkout line at Kroger (grocery store) - there is no surface on which to rest your eyes that is not employed as a space for selling you something. I buried my sizeable nose into Wendell Berry's Life is a Miracle for refuge and enjoyed my stay at the Leo House even though the requisite crucifix was missing (in fact, the room was very much "of the earth"- a country scene w/ a cottage and a shower curtain adorned with butterflies).
  • Speaking of butterflies, Nancy mentioned during dinner that the Corpse Flower at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has bloomed. I'm sorry I missed it. The flower gets its name from its scent, and it only blooms once every 10 years.
This cut-away shows the female flowers that are inside the body of the flower.
  • I like driving through midtown Manhattan an awful lot and will take it over driving the BQE or I-95 any day.
  • I cannot stand Williamsburg (Brooklyn)- there is a bathtub ring of anxious tags made by suburban ex-pats throughout the entire city. Fortunately there are no trees as the "hipsters" would have covered them as well. I think I'm on the side of the Hasids...

  • People who work in toll booths deserve our respect, smiles and kind words.
  • I'm going to buy a New Jersey Turnpike T-shirt regardless of whether irony died on Sept 11, 2001 or not.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Girl Takes Picture Of Herself Every Day For 3 Years

By the looks of her, and the dedication to the project (I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and believe this really does represent 3 years worth of images b/c I BELIEVE IN CONCEPTUAL ART) I'd say it's a woman who's been photographing herself for 3 years. The stills are animated- not unlike LTV, or the videos that Vik Muniz has made of his junk sculpture construction.

Go see this video on Love You in the Face --scroll down half a post and click play.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


No, this has nothing to do with a lesbian television network. It has to do with lobsters. I just finished reading The Lobsterman by Alec Wilkinson in the New Yorker (he had called to talk to me about writing the Goings on About Town section of the magazine and couldn't help making a plug for himself while we chatted). It's a good read about a fisherman / scientist named Ted Ames who won the MacArthur award this past year for work he has done regarding the Gulf of Maine, and the threatened Cod population. Importantly, a lot of his research was based on oral histories from older fishermen. For me- raised on Jello Biafra's hatred of specialists- this makes me very happy- unfortunately,Mr Wilkinson didn't spend much time talking about this distinction and how it may have affected Ames' having won the ($500,000) award.

Anyway, at the University of New Hampshire professor Winsor H. Watson III and his students have discovered, by making time-lapse videos of lobsters, that lobsters are much smarter than people who think about how smart lobsters are, thought. A bunch of the videos are online at the UNH site and I'd suggest watching : Video of larger lobster chasing away smaller lobsters entering the trap and chasing a smaller lobster out of the trap. It's both mine and Alec's favorite video on the site.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Langdon Graves at Chop Suey

This is long, long overdue and I started writing about Langdon's work on the 17th of June. Here's the first sentence that I wrote:

Richmond Va hipster darling of the under 30 set Langdon Graves is showing recent work from her first year of grad school at Parson's School of Design.

Clever as hell, yes? I imagine I'll be getting that call from the New Yorker telling me they need me to write their Goings on About Town section any moment now...

So, to finish what I never really began I'll say this: Langdon's work has been up at Chop Suey for an awfully long time for all of us (RVA'ers and non) to not have checked out the show at least three times (once for each month it's been up) and it is about to be de-installed this weekend so now is the time to go. I only have pictures of her sculptures here (hard to post about work when your site is all flash ah hem...) but Langdon is actually better know for her meticulous, and delicate drawings/paintings/assemblages, which act as metaphorical/allegorical portraits of hipster-ish people in post (and pre) compromised positions (what does that mean?- it means that they all look like something has either just happened or something is about to happen- see all of Philip Lorca DiCorcia and Gregory Crewdson images as examples). I love Langdon's drawings from this show- they are incredibly subtle and I would say restrained in the amount of info they give (clues abound but to what?) but I was more struck with the sculptures. Sure it looks as though she has moved to NYC and got bitten by the Barney bug, but nevertheless they are unexpected, playful (Frankenstein-ish plugs and switches, hot colors, and loopy, lumpy forms), and inventive. Look at the toothpicks used to make the skin-flap-in-space detail.

Skin-Flap-in-Space (detail) My title.

But mostly they compliment what is, overall, an unsettling relationship to the body- its systems and its processes. I walked away from this work wondering whether or not Langdon had been born with the back-half of her unrealized twin growing out of her side like some freak in a Joel Peter Witkin photograph, and then I thought of myself and all of the things that I work hard to keep under wraps. We all have our rashes, our scars, and our many imperfections that we spend our most private moments obsessing over. Obsess away Langdon, yours is a fruitful labor.


Monday, August 07, 2006

Me No Nagin

For the sake of educating Travis and George, here are the lyrics to Parliament's song Chocolate City (1975)- what I was referring to when I mentioned DC's Vanilla Suburbs.

And no, I have no apologies for my comments regrading that city of bureaucrats, nor do I have any about my feelings for the state of Israel, and I trust that readers can deduce that my anger towards is something other than reactionary. WRIR has been broadcasting some very brave, (outspoken) commentary about Israel and the US' (and ours- by way of our taxes and complacency) direct and dubious involvement in the displacement and death happening in Lebanon.

And now, those lyrics:
 "Chocolate City"
Uh, what's happening CC?
They still call it the White House
But that's a temporary condition, too.
Can you dig it, CC?

To each his reach
And if I don't cop, it ain't mine to have
But I'll be reachin' for ya
'Cause I love ya, CC.
Right on.

There's a lot of chocolate cities, around
We've got Newark, we've got Gary
Somebody told me we got L.A.
And we're working on Atlanta
But you're the capital, CC

Gainin' on ya!
Get down
Gainin' on ya!
Movin' in and on ya
Gainin' on ya!
Can't you feel my breath, heh
Gainin' on ya!
All up around your neck, heh heh

Hey, CC!
They say your jivin' game, it can't be changed
But on the positive side,
You're my piece of the rock
And I love you, CC.
Can you dig it?

Hey, uh, we didn't get our forty acres and a mule
But we did get you, CC, heh, yeah
Gainin' on ya
Movin' in and around ya
God bless CC and its vanilla suburbs

Gainin' on ya!
Gainin' on ya!
Gainin' on ya! (heh!)
Gainin' on ya!
Gainin' on ya!
What's happening, blood?
Gainin' on ya!
Gainin' on ya!
Gainin' on ya!

What's happening, black?
Brother black, blood even
Yeah-ahh, just funnin'

Gettin' down

Ah, blood to blood
Ah, players to ladies
The last percentage count was eighty
You don't need the bullet when you got the ballot
Are you up for the downstroke, CC?
Chocolate city
Are you with me out there?

And when they come to march on ya
Tell 'em to make sure they got their James Brown pass
And don't be surprised if Ali is in the White House
Reverend Ike, Secretary of the Treasure
Richard Pryor, Minister of Education
Stevie Wonder, Secretary of FINE arts
And Miss Aretha Franklin, the First Lady
Are you out there, CC?
A chocolate city is no dream
It's my piece of the rock and I dig you, CC
God bless Chocolate City and its (gainin' on ya!) vanilla suburbs
Can y'all get to that?
Gainin' on ya!
Gainin' on ya!
Easin' in
Gainin' on ya!
In yo' stuff
Gainin' on ya!
Huh, can't get enough
Gainin' on ya!
Gainin' on ya!
Be mo' funk, be mo' funk
Gainin' on ya!
Can we funk you too
Gainin' on ya!
Right on, chocolate city!

Yeah, get deep
Real deep
Be mo' funk
Mmmph, heh
Get deep
Unh, heh
Just got New York, I'm told

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Last Gig at 3122

As of last Sunday, the trio Kim, Todd and Michael, or the 3122 Crew (or was it Krew?) is no longer. Todd has moved to DC to attend grad school and to help DC be a much better place (I loathe the District of Columbia and all its vanilla suburbs and believe that most problems in this country - and maybe this world- stem directly from the mentality that the region breeds... further, I had always promised myself that I would live as far away as possible from the area where you are measured only by your job... but here I write from Richmond, VA, a mere 90 miles away), and the Kimberly and I have moved to the Northside- to the old city suburbs (planned community built in 1919, they are still considered a cooperative and our apt. is owned by the neighborhood assoc.) into a carriage house (thanks Travis for the euphemism). Our back yard is a park, our front yard is all trees, canoes, ivy and a couple of old folks. It's a liberal (I had progressive there but that is being too generous) neighborhood but we are uncomfortably close to the residence (and live above the studio) of a VCU big-whig with whom I had a less than favorable run-in (they call them critiques) while in grad school. The ego bruises deeply and takes an awful long time to heal.

Todd and I strolled around the empty 3122 and played the final gig while waiting for our landlord to come and check the place out and cut us our security deposit checks ON THE SPOT. A good landlord indeed (in fact he gave us the lead on the carriage house and lives in the neighborhood).

When we first moved in I photographed all of us in our empty rooms. I did the same the day we left. Now, If I didn't have to run and finish lighting the student/faculty show that I'm installing I'd take the time and find the old pics. Alas, that's not going to happen.

Hope you're well and yes, Kimberly took the picture of Todd and me.