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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...]

A Conversation with John Duncan_Part Two

This interview is the Second Part of a two part post that reviews the work of John Duncan                    Part One: A Conversation with John Duncan: Prologue – Aram Yardumian: You have several times said you were primarily interested in finding ways to tap into the ‘inner self’ and to ‘wake up’. What is the ‘inner self’? Or rather, in what terms do you come to this concept? And what is it to ‘wake up’—do you mean this physiologically, mentally, metaphorically? John Duncan: Interesting question. What is the ‘inner self’? There is a moment in out-of-body experiences when you are aware of the physical body, the ‘self’ that perceives it from a certain distance – and another … [Read more...]

A Conversation with John Duncan: Prologue

Related Post: A Conversation with John Duncan_Part Two It was Nietzsche who predicted the arts and sciences would merge into a single practice capable of opening new vistas to the world. The techne of science and the raw Dionysian energy of art together would render obsolete both theology—that caked residue under the toilet bowl of metaphysics—and the equally tendentious religiosity of Positivism. Whether Nietzsche envisioned specific technologies adapted by one and made suitable for the other, or more generally a reinforced mindset we cannot say. After all, art and science, from Euclid to Catherine Wagner, have always reacted with each other to produce a permanent art. Perhaps he meant a form of rational empiricism forged not by … [Read more...]

Double-Take, The Whitney Biennial 2012

Looking back on the work of Tom Thayer, Moyra Davey, Elaine Reichek and Werner Herzog – The Whitney Biennial, March 1–May 27, 2012, a group show of about fifty plus artists amply fills all five floors of the Whitney Museum of American Art. The exhibition is notorious for being one of the most anticipated and important group shows, while at the same time feeling like one of the most meaningless. The Biennial, turning from annual to biennial in 1973, is still seen as a truthful indicator of the state of the art world, the mood of contemporary artists, and the preoccupations of the society that surrounds them. The show has a kind of trend-setting prestige and greatly appeals to young artists, perhaps because the exhibition is supposed to … [Read more...]

When Art Had Heart

L.A. Raw—Abject Expressionism in Los Angeles 1945-1980  – As part of the massive near year long Pacific Standard Time series of exhibitions exploring the post-World War II Los Angeles art scene, curator Michael Duncan’s survey L.A. Raw - Abject Expressionism in Los Angeles 1945-1980, from Rico Lebrun to Paul McCartney at the Pasadena Museum of California Art stands out as the most memorable and powerful—and least publicized—of all the PST offerings. An in-depth investigation of notable and less familiar artists of that period who were driven by “introspection and angst” to make “socially relevant art ,“ the exhibition raises as many questions about the current state of art in the face of equally compelling issues. In his … [Read more...]