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Station to Station

Makers—In this life there are takers and there are makers. We’re here to celebrate the makers—the unsung heroes who make things with their hands — Levis Strauss Olaf Breuning, Smoke Bomb Performance, the setup and aftermath. Described as a nomadic “happening,” Station to Station, the brainchild of the L.A. based, multimedia artist Doug Aitken, is a richly compelling idea that consists of a collective of artists, musicians and performers traveling through the United States by train. In various cities across the country—Chicago, Pittsburg, Winslow, Minneapolis, New York City, Los Angeles—the group of traveling creatives disembark, team up with local artists, and together orchestrate a night of food, music, art and performance. Station to … [Read more...]

On Fragmentation

A Response to Geoffrey Farmer, The Surgeon and the Photographer, Curve Gallery, Barbican — Geoffrey Farmer's recent exhibition at the Barbican's Curve, The Surgeon and the Photographer, is nothing short of a visual cacophony. Following Barbican's previous installation based exhibitions of Random International's Rain Room and Celeste Boursier-Mougenot's guitar-playing sparrows, both whose effect places the viewer within a totality of experience, Farmer's expansive collage-scape achieves a new way to immerse us by breaking the aggregate of perception and environment. The foremost challenge of the exhibition regards the nature of focus itself, its profuse content contradicting our preconceived visual, focal sensibilities. The Surgeon and … [Read more...]

Aten Reign

James Turrell's Illuminated Vision, Guggenheim NYC, June 21–September 25, 2013 — James Turrell is arguably the most sublime manipulator of light and space the contemporary art world has ever known. This is an important and impressive summer for the 70-year-old artist, as retrospectives open simultaneously in L.A., Houston and New York City. His massive installation at the Guggenheim entitled Aten Reign (2013), promises to be the east coast’s summer blockbuster. It is the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in New York since the Whitney career retropective in 1980. An artist born into a Quaker family in Pasadena, California in the 1940s, Turrell belongs to a generation of west coast artists who were fascinated with light, and who … [Read more...]

Testament and Spectacle

George Catlin, American Indian Portraits National Portrait Gallery, London, March 7-June 23, 2013 — George Catlin, American Indian Portraits, recently on view The National Portrait Gallery, London, features a compact selection that while modest in numbers sought to present an expansive new overview for these remarkable works. While familiar to those in the United States where Catlin's 'Indian Gallery' is housed at the Smithsonian, these forthright portraits have not been seen in the UK since the 1840's. The Pennsylvanian born Catlin (1796-1872) was the premier chronicler of the fast disappearing Native American people in his time producing over 500 paintings of extraordinary depth. The showcase at the NPG achieved an inordinate … [Read more...]

Canvas and Sash – A Meet at the Met

Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Feb 26-May 27, 2013  — At first glance Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity, on view at the MET through May 27th, looks less interesting than it actually is. Just in case a large-scale exhibition of great Impressionist paintings doesn’t pander enough to the tastes of the general art going public, this exhibition pairs Impressionist painting with the actual gowns and accessories worn by their sitters. What could possibly be more appealing than a show that brings together the great lifestyle portraitists of the late 19th century and the bourgeoning reputation of modern Parisian fashion? While it sounds like a vacuous blockbuster, Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity … [Read more...]

Conceptual Threads

ANN HAMILTON: the event of a thread, Park Avenue Armory, Dec. 5, 2012 -Jan. 6, 2013 I will always remember Ann Hamilton as the keynote speaker at my graduation many years ago. Like most professors, from the vantage point of a student, she seemed larger than life. I remember listening to her intently, waiting to be inspired, until I realized that she wasn’t talking to us but around us, and she was discussing the idea of graduation rather than our graduation. She approached her speech in the same manner that she approaches her artwork: conceptually, not personally. Though it wasn’t the inspired imparting of wisdom I’d hoped it would be, it provided useful insight into the thought process of a smart, complex and obtuse … [Read more...]

The Murder of Crows

Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller: Drifting Off — Art historians, professors, and artists alike all say that the average amount of time a person spends viewing a work of art is about 10 seconds; I’ve since learned that this is a generous estimate. While I never find art to be particularly boring, even when I don’t like it visually, I vividly remember the first time I was expected to enjoy being bored by art. It was in a color photography class, I was seventeen, and the movie up for discussion was Baraka. Made in 1992, Baraka is a beautiful, non-narrative film by Ron Fricke. It is an arty flick that tries to capture the essence of humanity in an hour and thirty-six minutes of exquisite, time-lapse filmmaking. About half way … [Read more...]

The Anxiety of Originality

Made in L.A., 2012 Hammer Museum Biennial – Until the beginning of the 20th century, the education and subsequent “originality” of an artist  depended heavily on the practice of copying from the Masters. Even Cezanne and Matisse openly acknowledged their artistic debts. As epater le bourgeoisie became a requirement of serious Modernist art, however, significations of genius and inventiveness were tied less to technical mastery and more to unpredictability, novelty and eccentricity. Heavily dependent on a cult of individualism and its supposed position outside of mainstream culture, the myth of originality propelled the succession of Modernist movements with its serial overthrowing or “clean breaks” with tradition. The artist’s … [Read more...]

The Pearl

Exploring Portland’s Regional Arts District – Art doesn’t differ from city to state to country as much as I sometimes think it should, or wish that it did. Like most things in this highly technological decade of “sharing,” art has become a global form of expression, and galleries worldwide feel homogenized when it comes to the medium and aesthetic they promote. Looking at auction results you can surmise, as clearly as you could when the “hierarchy of genres” was taken seriously in the not too distant past, what that hierarchy is in today’s art market. Analyzing different artists shown across the U.S. can be a repetitious endeavor, as galleries make only the smallest of shifts in the artwork and the artists represented to appeal to the … [Read more...]

Disgust on Traction

Paul and Damon McCarthy’s Rebel Dabble Babble – I’m on Traction in downtown L.A. last month and I hear the sounds of domestic violence coming through the walls of a warehouse. Somebody’s yelling, getting slapped, cutlery is being broken. This is in the Arts District, where Los Angeles drops its ambivalence about being a city and develops some street culture. There’s a sign beside the door where the guttural cries seem to be coming from: The Box Gallery. Entering the building turns out to be the cultural equivalent of changing the bandage on a stranger’s hideous and possibly terminal infection, and yet, with my dying breath I would defend the artistic quality of the work that was on exhibit there.  What you would have seen … [Read more...]