3.29.2009

faithfull.



i don't really have the expertise to contextualize or articulate my experience of music in an intelligent way. if i did, i would have written a great deal after seeing performances by Kronos Quartet and The Books several weeks ago. The two nights of performances were... sublime; i was shaken to the core.


so it may seem odd that i intend to give pause and offer a light review of a recently released album in the US. Marianne Faithfull, of Rolling Stones + Mick Jagger fame, has created a record of covers entitled Easy Come, Easy Go. Faithfull is a medium of experience unto herself in my life; i have found her to fill in the gaps between other inspirations and stimuli. For example, she accompanied the quixotic androgyne Patrick Wolf on one of his songs in the album The Magic Position (and in fact, it was this song that brought his record into my sphere to begin with). Not long after, I became aware that she also portrayed Maria Teresa, Marie Antoinette's mother, Queen of Austria in Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette.


she also appears in the 2006 Paris, je t'aime. She is a fashion and cultural lodestone, an icon of infamy, persistence, addictions... she is the broken spirit, and this is present in whatever her voice is applied to. I should note that anything i write here will only be secondary to what Faithfull herself says in an interview in the current issue of Interview magazine. Plumbing her own motives for the songs collected in this project, Faithfull discusses one of the persistent issues in many artists' creative process- living, defining, and embedding one's life story into one's work. (and the implication is that we try to do this without being ostentatious in the process).



As I say, Easy Come, Easy Go is comprised of twelve covers. Faithfull explains her need for a break from writing in her music. It is also such a beautiful task to locate one's passions in other pieces. I imagine for a musician, singing a number of covers is similar to an artist being invited to curate an exhibition. Other art expresses the information on your behalf.
This album shines with a similar brilliance as Cat Power's Jukebox album from last year. Some of the choices are surprising, such as the opening track, a song by Dolly Parton ( ! ). A number of well known, accomplished guests join her on different tracks, and Faithfull's rendition of Smokey Robinson's "Ooh Baby Baby" would no doubt be a completely different creature without the accompaniment of Antony Hegarty. Together, they become a two-headed Nina Simone, crooning and elliciting woody, raked chirrups. Hearing Marianne Faithfull's offering of the Neko Case song "Hold On, Hold On," gives the lyrics new depth and leverage than I've ever fully appreciated: "It's the devil I love... and that's as funny as real love... and that's as real as true love." -sigh-


By far, the absolute charmer for me in this album is the cover of The Decemberists' "The Crane Wife 3." Again, the lyrics wrap easily around Faithfull's own biography so that the fable that is told seems less fantastic and unrealistic; absolutely possible. Accompanied by Nick Cave, this is a heartrending piece with expansive ache spilling out between voice and instruments.



and here is where I am least sufficient in praising this album. Many of the tracks have spacious interludes for guitar that sizzle with complexity and twang in the right spots. I could listen to just the instrumental interludes and feel a rapport with marianne faithfull's vocal effects.


i picked up this album at Shake It. When you hear it, we should talk about it more.

3.27.2009

meeting joan snyder.





last night i was invited to attend a reception for the painter Joan Snyder, whose exhibition of paintings from the past ten years is underway at Carl Solway Gallery. i felt honored to be there, especially when the artist spoke at length of the personal stories and stages of her life that compelled the paintings we have been seeing in Solway for the past several months. Closer to the opening of this exhibition, I reviewed the Snyder's paintings along with the other exhibitions also on view at Solway. The article appeared in City Beat, and you can read it here.






Snyder is certainly a painter within the lineage of abstract expressionism, but throughout her career, fugitive and collaged elements have found their way into the goopy, broiling scapes of oil paint she configures, usually at immense scales. i have long had a soft spot for the soft spots in some of her earlier paintings, such as those that were included in the behemoth exhibition WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution that travelled all over, but i was fortunate to be able to see at PS1. In these works, downy piles of flocking interrupt the fields of stains and slushy paint marks. The fuzzy texture surprised and delighted me, as if the suggestiveness of texture that painting affords was somehow alchemized into whole new physical properties.

In these paintings on view, Snyder has added herbs and plant matter onto the surface of the work. This was one of several facets of her work that were opened up to those of us in attendance through an impromptu artist's talk in the gallery space during the reception last night.

I was struck, as she spoke, by how these pieces, in her mind, evolved gradually. (I'm reluctant to say 'naturally,' although she might have. I just believe consistently in the construction of our self-views, art practices, etc etc.) There was no evident contrivance in her accounts (unlike my experience, for example, of Donald Sultan's explanations of his linoleum paintings on display at the CAC). The plant matter, for example, was introduced into the paintings during a time that her studio shared a building with a Chinese homeopathy business. When the woman running the shop decided that loose herbs were a less sanitary option for her patients compared to the available capsules, she offered the herbs to Snyder, who began embedding them in paint as a way to make what she described as "healing paintings." Eventually, she seemed to decide that the distinction between some artworks possessing some new age power more than art in general was marginal at best and began liberally incorporating them into the materials of her work.

A point she made that seemed to get noticeable reaction from those in attendance, though I'm not positive why, was that she will sometimes return to a painting, making changes and adjustments years after its supposed 'completion.' As she described this push-and-pull in her process over the long term, the rise in whispered exchanges and comments was audible, noticeable. Why was that such a radical notion for some?





Probably the most exciting element of the evening were several additional works on display, brought out and put onto easels and hung on extra wall space in the main galley of the first floor of the gallery. These prints and works on paper complimented the large scale paintings in the basic exhibition. Personally, more than the insights that an artist might offer about their own work (and Snyder's were compelling and personable), I learn so much from seeing how the habits, styles, and issues of an artist's work are translated into different media that they care about. The screen-prints and glitter-caked painting/drawings on paper subdued some of the torrents that are set loose in the larger oil works, but were still toothy and aggressive.
Actually, one was familiar to me, because several weeks ago, I had seen it awaiting a frame in Bill Renschler's frame shop upstairs from the gallery. I was struck by the piece's vulnerability, lying there on the table, a slightly warped, heavily painted sheet of paper. It occurred to me that Renschler and Krista Gregory (who run Aisle Gallery just outside the frame shop) are privy to levels of exposure in artworks that common viewers don't get to see. I can say that this piece was very different framed than unframed. The frame allowed its stormy qualities to gather and exude; it reinforced a notion that many many aesthetes have proclaimed, but I believe I read Lynda Benglis saying it, so it has stuck with her in my mind: context is everything.







Freakin' Weekend- march 27-29

first, a giant happy birthday to Sister in Second Hand Sequins. everything you see me attending this evening will be tinged with celebrations for her special day.




It's final friday, and several streets of over-the-rhine will be bustling with new exhibitions, parties, and sites for community building + socializing. i suggest you meet us there.

there could be any of the below:


Art Academy of Cincinnati presents their first of this season's senior thesis exhibitions. Horror Vacui features six artists: Anthony Birchfield, Jill Griffith, Kimberly Hart, Meghan Hicks, Aaron Kent and Alex Scherra. I stopped in yesterday to get a handle on what comprises the show.



In the lobby Convergys space, Kimberly Hart has interpreted cartoon creatures into a number of drawing projects. If Tamagotchi grew up in the punk scene and lunched on graffiti, Hart's work would be a logical result. At every turn, the 'cuteness' of the different figures is matched by rough, edgy marks. Installations of dense, maze-like images that have been cut out into complicated cloud shapes that have been floated across the back wall. Beside it, the same drawings have been put across a shower curtain. I'm still considering the implications of those characters being transferred onto a clear shower curtain. There is also a dense field of paintings on panels and other gathered surfaces that remind me of Barry McGee's wall installations.


Meghan Hicks, who is one of the founders of the nearby Creative Gallery on Main Street, has created two installations in the downstairs Chidlaw Gallery. These are dense with an air of decadence and disaster. In one of the two implied rooms, furniture and art supplied have been toppled across the floor, with piles of print outs of softcore porn and 'glam' amateur fashion shoots. The other room (pictured above) is hung densely with mirrors and a hanging fixtures that are both disco ball + chandelier. These rooms reminded me of early Karen Kilimnik installations and some of the tense psychologically charged interiors of Sandy Skoglund.


Anthony Birchfield has packed a collection of drawing projects into Pearlman Gallery alongside Kent's sculptures and Scherra's various painting projects. Birchfield's work was probably the surprise of the show for me. I've been familiar with his earlier work, oftentimes paintings of crowded, surreal scenes that possessed the idiosyncrasy of Bosch. By comparison, these pieces are stark and distilled. The drawings are mounted several inches from the walls. They are hung on, clamped into cases made from what appears to be sheets of plex and metal bolts. They are backlit so that the resulting images are composed of cross-hatched lumpy figures interacting with blocky forms created from the drawings being backlit. These little, abstract figures seem almost like claymation sketches: nondescript blobs with little appendages reaching and lifting. These scenarios are filled with pathos, tension, and tenderness. The number of these works may perhaps overcrowd, but I was very pleased with the simple beauty of the materials Birchfield employed.

AAC is located at 1212 Jackson Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202.
Closing Reception: Final Friday, March 27, 5:00 – 9:00 pm






Speaking of Creative Gallery, you may have heard that Jake Constantine's exhibition A Comma in the Sky has been extended for another month. You can read what i wrote about it here. Creative is at 13 15 Main Street.





Paul Coors notified me this week that he will be presenting new prints at Mark Patsfall's Clay Street Press this evening as part of their "Prints and More Prints" event. Coors' work will be for sale along with Terence Hammonds (who had a very successful exhibition at the Weston Gallery last year; i reviewed it here), along with some heavyweight names like Nam June Paik and Raymond Pettibon. Like the name of the gallery/press suggests, it is on cozy Clay Street at 1312 Clay, just next door to where Publico used to be. Tonight's opening is from 6-11 pm.





Lily Mulberry has announced the next exhibition at her 1305 Gallery on Main Street (1305 is the gallery's address as well). Since I haven't seen this work, I am going to let Lily's eloquent description of the work sell you on stopping by as it has me:

Camille Cier graduated two years ago from "Ecole de Conde" in Lyon, France, although she has been working on the series of photographs featured in this exhibition for four years. Cier started the project as a documentary about her cousin Alma when she was 13 years old. "Qui suis je?" (who am I?) is the question teenagers continually ask themselves on the road to adulthood, and "Chrysalide" is a series that focuses on one girl's tumultuous quest to find an answer.
As the series evolves we see Alma transition from a girl not yet ready to part with her childhood to a young woman with a sense of peace and identity related to her body and her perceptions. The photographs portray Alma as a character in a story we've all played a role in. Her individual struggles and triumphs come across in a third person narrative that lets each viewer see their own face, their own identity, and their own realizations mirrored and transposed. Camille Cier photographed Alma without giving her instructions or directing her actions, they simply "walked in the places we were discovering together, letting her mind go to her girl preoccupation, her world."







But if you want to know where i will be spending most of my evening, it will be with Sandy Eichert at the fundraising party she is hosting in the new Trideca Lofts on Vine Street. This is how i described the event in this week's City Beat:

"A fundraising party to benefit the Know Theatre takes place Friday in one of the new Trideca Lofts located at 13th and Vine streets. Sandy Eichert, the resplendent local arts socialite, is functioning as host for the evening. Suggested donation is $10, but all are encouraged to show support and solidarity in attendance.
The night will be filled with music and performances from some of the Know actors and will coincide with an open house party at Joseph Williams Home, a store on the ground level of the building. Raffle prizes from the theatre, City Cellars, the Taft Museum of Art and more will be at stake.
Stop by anytime between 6 and 11 pm. Guests can enter through the gate on Vine Street or through the home interiors store."


Eichert made this fun-filled flyer to accompany.


and that's only tonight. (^_^)






Saturday.

As Leapin Lizard Gallery redefines itself in our burgeoning economy, the ladies Godfroy, Lizz + Jill, have been focusing more on lively events like costume parties, drag shows, performance art concerts, and this weekend a craft fair called Craft Mafia. Cincinnati and the surrounding area is a hotbed of new, subversive, oftentimes punky crafters, many of whom will be gathered at 726 Main St in the MainStrasse Village in Covington this Saturday and Sunday from 11 to 6. If you've never been to Leapin Lizard, just taking in the eclectic, funky renovated church-cum-gallery is worth a visit.





Tomorrow night at semantics gallery will be the send off event for My Tiger, My Heart, the spectacular solo exhibition of my friend Eric Ruschman. The exhibition closes with Between Aging and Anti-aging, a night of short films and video pieces that Eric will be presenting in conjunction with the exhibition. Longtime sweet tokens like The Red Balloon alongside surprising, lesser known trifles. Per usual, the evening events at semantics will begin at 7 pm, and the artist estimates a running time until about 9:30, at which point, most of us will rush to OTR to wish our beloved Sarah Niblack farewell as she prepares to move across country to Aspen. A going away party will be in full swing at Grammers. You are welcome to bring whatever comfy blankets or pillows you'd like to feel at home in the gallery. We've been promised candy. semantics is at 1107 Harrison Avenue in the sweet hamlet of Brighton, a neighborhood just off Central Parkway before one gets to the Viaduct that heads out to the West Side.

But all of the bells and whistles of the evening aside, this is a memorable, tenderly fun exhibition of paintings and installations that you will kick yourself for missing if you've not yet seen it. If you can't make it to the evening event, remember that semantics has (mostly) regular gallery hours from 12-4 on saturdays.






there are a few more possibilities for the weekend that i'll let you know about if they become a little clearer in my sphere. hope to see you out!

3.21.2009

remind me of what we're hunting.

one of the small installation elements
that wind themselves up the two story lobby space
at Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church.

Tomorrow, following the normal service times at Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church, I will be speaking about my installation that has been on display since the beginning of February: A White Hunter, a white hunter is nearly crazy.

I expect to begin a discussion about the installation some time after 12:30 pm. The church is located at 103 William Howard Taft, with access to parking directly behind it by entering off of McMillan.


Here's what we initially released about the project:
Boxes of tissues, snapshot photographs, drawings on tissues in rosé champagne and graphite, and ‘doo-dad’ sculptures make up the installation that ascends the multi-level exhibition space at Mount Auburn. What is included in the installation acts as an elaboration and commentary on the spirit and structure of the space it occupies. This collection of objects deal in abstract ideas about the soul and a quiet sadness that always seems to underpin transcendence. Titled after a poem in Gertrude Stein’s collection Tender Buttons, the exhibition reflects the complicated and contradictory efforts at reaching the heart of a matter.

3.20.2009

if i was a shoe;



maybe i would be Creative Recreation's Turino Suede low top trainer.



3.17.2009

"there is no beyond painting."





Paige Williams
Remains Unconvinced
2009
Ink on Paper
18" x 15"



This week, a story that I wrote ran in City Beat about the two-person exhibition Almost Certain at Aisle Gallery. Unfortunately, due to constraints in length and some heavy editing outside of my control, I wasn’t left feeling like the world got as much from the interview I conducted with Paige Williams and Jeffrey Cortland Jones as I would have liked. So I am posting my original interview/review piece pre-editing here, along with lengthier portions of their own insights into the work.




Jeffrey Cortland Jones
Wilder
acrylic + resin on OSB panel




There Is No Beyond Painting
An interview with Jeff Cortland Jones and Paige Williams

By Matt Morris


There are few exhibition spaces in Cincinnati that are as dependable and consistent in the quality of the aesthetics they purport as Aisle Gallery, managed by Krista Gregory and Bill Renschler on the third floor of a complex on Findlay Street, shared with Carl Solway Gallery, the Country Club project space, and a range of artists’ studios. Aisle’s current exhibition, Almost Certain, which features two series of abstract paintings by Jeffrey Cortland Jones and Paige Williams, will not disappoint. It’s remarkable that this exhibition is the seventh these two painters have mounted together.

Matt Morris: Why do you make paintings?

Paige Williams: I think one of the reasons I paint is because I need the limits. Was it [Dave] Hickey that said ‘If everything is possible, then nothing is possible’? If I can do anything, then I don’t know what to do and I get freaked out. That’s what painting is; I like having limits to react against.

Jeff Cortland Jones: [Fiona Rae] talks about how painting is still there while installation is dead, photography is dead because these other things happen instantly, while painting is this process that you have to go through and go through. And to quote Chuck Close, ‘It’s always wrong before it’s right.’

MM: Am I assuming in advance that you would both describe yourselves as painters?

JCJ: I call myself a painter before I call myself an artist. I’m not an artist. We can start talking about Art with a capital ‘A’ versus art with a lowercase ‘a,’ and what that means. I introduce myself as a painter no matter what I’m making.

PW: “Painter” seems a little more humble too.

JCJ: Everything I produce is failure, because it’s not the absolute. I hope that I never get to the absolute.

MM: Paige, you said to me once that when you didn’t know what to do about a painting, you would describe it back to yourself.

PW: That’s how I figure out what it’s about. I just start describing it. I analyze them on a formal level, and then I recognize my daily stuff in the work, as opposed to putting it in the work. I think the trick is finding a way to make the work no matter what: when you’ve got angst, when you’re happy. But… I was just going to go back to the ‘why you paint’ thing. I think on the one hand, I’m too insecure to say that I’m looking for the perfect painting, because I know I’d never find it. That would be defeatist for me to have that kind of attitude. It’s a different kind of ego where I just like to make stuff and I get to say “I made this out of nothing.”


Even before they had met, Jones and Williams were running in the same circles; both are part of close-knit communities of artists with shared aesthetic concerns. Though, by their own admission, they don’t get together and catch up often, as Jones says, “We run these parallel lives.” When the three of us were able to meet at the gallery and discuss their work and the commonalities they share, both artists would relate their practices to their art educations in the area, the parenting of their small children, and their experiences as art professors (Williams teaches painting at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, while Jones teaches foundations classes at University of Dayton). With unassuming candor, they disarm cynicisms that abstract painting is detached from real life, instead presenting the direct relationships between the lives they are living and the products of their art careers.

From stunning local exhibitions at the Weston Gallery, the Art Academy and the Dayton Art Institute, Paige Williams’ paintings have the reputation of being colorful and awkward with designed minimalist leanings. So the biggest surprise in this body of paintings on paper is the near-total absence of color. The grids and blocks that have populated her paintings for some time are painted in even, flat layers of black, gray and silver, and framed with mattes that are the palest ice blue. For Williams, “The grids reference a lot of domestic things, like windows, doors, quilts, nets and ladders: things that are found in ‘the home.’” I wondered aloud if the bending, irregular lines in these grids made them more into “griddles,” in line with some of her references to home life. “They’re waffles?!? I make a lot of waffles,” she exclaimed back, looking around at the works. When asked about color and other tropes that had been in her paintings for a long time now absent, she explained, “I read Operating Instructions by Ann Lamott right after Max was born. It was about having a kid, but even more so, I think it relates to the artwork. She said that as kids grow up, the things you’ve loved about them in earlier stages don’t disappear, they just become incorporated into them. I think the same way about the things you work through in your work. It’s not like you get rid of it, it just gets incorporated as you move on.” I find this newest series to be wizened and gently grim, with a tension Williams intentionally creates between the shapes. To this, Jones added in admiration “Your work is so honest,” which seems to be the largest reason he continues to enjoy exhibiting alongside her.

For his part, Jeffrey Cortland Jones presents a series of paintings on OSB panel and a series of small transparent vellum works marked with black paint and installed ethereally across the entrance wall to the gallery space. I had heard that these were sections of Jones’ studio wall, cut out like a Gordon Matta-Clark piece and then worked over with layers of resin and acrylic painting. He confirmed this: “After my last big show, I looked at my studio wall and thought that it was the most beautiful, honest painting I had ever made. It was simply the accumulation of making paintings. So I ripped the wall down, took it to the woodshop, and cut it down into squares.” To which Williams added, “He’s way braver than I am. He’s gutsier than I am.”

MM: The paint on the front layer is from the wall?

JCJ: Yeah, these paintings are three layers: the painting already on the wall, the resin, and then the acrylic on top.

MM: Jeff, what kind of conversation do you want to have about the layering of paint and resin in these paintings?

JCJ: The resin is for multiple reasons. It’s to cover up a lot of the really bad paintings that goes one. It allows me to start a new painting without having to physically start over. I can go through and negate things and choose what I want to be seen. I can start creating physical, three-dimensional space on a two dimensional surface. I’m a big proponent of ‘versus’ in art. In painting: big vs. small, matte vs. shiny, thick vs. thin. The resin helps me get that really rough texture [from the wafer board] versus the smooth resin.

MM: That’s insane how that happens! That’s one of the things I get inside of in those. The information that I’m receiving optically is telling me this is a rough surface, but there is just enough information to create contrast and show that it’ would be smooth to the touch.

JCJ: Somebody asked, “When is a painting done?” And I said, “When I can touch it.”

PW: That’s awesome!

JCJ: The resin helps me touch it. It has a certain, velvety feel to it. I will tell you that the resin is a crutch. I have a love/hate relationship to it. It’s so easy to slap resin onto something.


Apart from clear admiration of each other’s painting projects, I wondered if there was more we could articulate about the consistency with which they contextualize one another’s work. Williams answered back, “We may be saying different things, but we’re using the same language. We don’t think about painting in terms of rules. I’ve tried to help make a community out of what I want my work to do. Jeff is so able to let the ego go when it comes to the work. There’s a humanness there. For me, it’s relationships and how we navigate our life on a day to day basis with what we encounter.”

As we finished up a nearly two hour conversation, I brought up Jeff’s installation of small works, asking if these were drawings or if they were somehow beyond painting. Engaged and defiant, he offered back, “There is no beyond painting.”



Aisle is located at 424 Findlay Street, Third Floor.
Almost Certain continues through March 27th.
Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 1-4 pm
and by appointment by calling 513-241-3403.



3.16.2009

spring cleaning and point zero.





Before I got all the way through the expanded edition of Lawrence Weschler’s Seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees: over thirty years of conversations with Robert Irwin, I only had a partial grasp on the significance of reading this work at this specific time in my life. Throughout the last few days in which I’ve been almost totally steeped in the singular influence of this text, I’ve often trotted down the hall to tell Eric Ruschman, who I live with, this or that quote that fits squarely into my sides of debates and discussions about art and life over the past six to eight months. As Weschler tells it, he met Irwin by jotting a note to him asking if he had ever read Merleau-Ponty. He speculates now that if he had sent that note even weeks earlier, Irwin would have disregarded it. It was timing.

My time now.
Is hitting the studio and house with serious spring cleaning with my roommate, so that the floors are soft and clean to walk on and the open windows and thrown back curtains flood the house with cool light and air, and the soundscape of the city around me—an endlessly soothing way of locating myself.
Is the amazement of organizing a survey of images for a website in the works- how ideas can be traced several years hence.
Is eyeing my closet and shelf of clothes, wanting fewer, wanting less filler, thinking about it the way I’ve been thinking about food. Which
is an a priori consideration about what is going into me. Increasingly plant based. Almost totally organic. This weekend, I made a barley risotto with lemon zest, new young asparagus, and toasted hazelnuts. It sang springtime.
Is the cat cajoling with more zestful and adventuresome readiness that the deeper grays of winter have inspired.

Is the crisis between the questions that arise and how I perform in response to them. The problem of time management and seeking solutions within my creative means to get deeper. For several weeks, my time in the studio has resulted in an increasing array of humble, fragile visual hints and traces that can be held in waiting until they can be utilized within installations at various galleries and other situations through the next year and a half. Likewise, I’ve produced this or that piece of writing for this or that publication. All is basically well, except for how clearly I recognize the current of my own thoughts continue to move in spite of my attention to a singular act. By the time the plaster sets or the oil paint is smudged, I am (a) downstream in a series of questions that spun off from the impetus for making the creative work in the first place, or (b) somewhat displaced in the sacrifice of time given to the endeavor itself, so as to lose my footing in my own running discourse. Often the latter is the case, leaving me without a firm grip on my words when I spend evenings out with friends. My offerings to my context is a dopey, post-intellectual kindness. Happily drifting beyond phenomenological junctures and a political effort to undermine the social conditioning surrounding gender, love, sex, and aesthetics. Not long ago, I would sketch out a rough to do list of how I might spend the next few hours; of late, I want to find the time to be only in thought, or only in love, holding hands, or only confronting the slightest traces of life-affirmation, jubilation, and inter-connectedness through visual/sensual means.


Today I’m sitting in that Cat Power piece where she performed for a meadow itself.


Grappling with Irwin’s ideas, his progresses and evolutions has driven a new permanently helpful point of reference into my own artistic and aesthetic considerations. Few others have so struck me. Only Cy Twombly and Richard Tuttle come to mind immediately, though I feel I would be remiss in not citing Lynda Benglis and Petah Coyne as other identifiers in my creative growth.

Irwin has been wildly original, striking out on paths that are as clearly unsound in their application to economics, renown, and venerable legacies as they have been awfully and astoundingly important at getting to a level of engagement with pure visual and perceptive experience that maybe no other visual artist has ever dared toward.

On Thursday, I will be moderating a discussion of the Irwin book, so I don’t want to dig in too directly into the specific contents of the book. But there are such moving bits of insight in areas of the chapters small enough as to be likely overlooked in the short conversation being offered at the Contemporary Art Center. In one such area, Weschler brings up his grandfather, Ernst Toch, the German-Austrian modernist composer:
You must listen without always wanting to compare with the musical basis you already have. You must imagine that you inherited from your ancestors different compartments in the musical part of your brain, just as you inherited any other physical or intellectual qualities. Now when you hear a piece from the pre-classis, classic, or romantic periods, the sounds fall without any trouble and agreeably into the already prepared compartments. But when music for which you have no prepared compartments strikes your ear, what happens? Either the music remains outside you or you force it with all your might into one of those compartments, although it does not fit. The compartment is either too long or too short, either too narrow or too wide, and that hurts you and you blame the music. But in reality you are to blame, because you force it into a compartment into which it does not fit, instead of calmly, passively, quietly, and without opposition, helping the music to build a new compartment for itself.

A further possibility here is that in gracefully allowing new terms of engagement to develop around the music, likewise, previously instated contexts for the perceiver may also be adjusted, so that a mutual adaptation towards clearer specificity emerges, one that is respectful and keenly attuned enough as to suggest love. For example, in a Barnett Newman painting, the ‘zips’ (vertical lines placed at intervals against monochrome applications of color) do not occupy total fields as much as the suggestion or invocation of the idea of the total field. One can activate this suggested experience further by nearing the piece: the intimacy causes a loss of the points of reference outside of the painting, so that all a viewer perceives optically takes place within the expanse of canvas. The context for the field—a gallery in MOMA, of a page of Greenbergian explanations of Abstract Expressionism’s existential drives—fall away and a sensational encounter with formal information sparks profundity. Nearness, intimacy, trust, closer inspection, scrutiny, tenderness, a romance with the specifics of someone’s (oops, something’s) information would allow a context to emerge that doesn’t depend of antiquate or unhelpful models.
If it seems like a rant, it might be. Change is in the seasons and in this afternoon with a now drowsy cat and a glass of iced tea.

3.11.2009

Bob Irwin and a Freakin' Week.

i'm sorry. i may have broken all of your trust in me from not writing here for a week's time. you are better than that and you deserve more. preparations for Eric's opening, a lot of extra time in the studio and long shifts at work have have demanded my attention. if you haven't yet read my article about stewart goldman's solo exhibition at the Cincinnati Art Museum, read it here.

and if you haven't explored our latest issue of Aeqai, check it out here.






in the not too distant past, in reaction to a series of personal crises, i admitted aloud an almost post-buddhist idea of wishing to cease to exist [corporeally]. i didn't mean this in any tragic, emotional way, as much as i was contemplating the possibility that important ideals that we hold about the psyche could be translated into an invisible presence. since hearing Lawrence Weschler's succinct and totally interesting presentation at the CAC last monday, I would say that few of my influences, artistic or otherwise, have come closer to this than Robert Irwin.




Since the lecture, I've been asked by the Contemporary Arts Center to lead a discussion of Weschler's book of interviews with Irwin. Next Thursday evening (march 19th) from 6-8 pm, member and non-members are invited to come hash through the ideas in this book. Many of the ideas feel much bigger than me, but I am looking forward to navigating some of it with you. More info about it here.



other than that, i had a friend recently ask me about twittering. if that is even the verb form of this even newer medium. it came up as we speculated whether more involved blog entries such as the ones i try to write here are becoming passe already. at the risk of overwhelming you, readers, after a bit of radio silence, i'm opting to give you a list form of recent interests, developments, and concerns:







Francisco Costa's minimal garments for Calvin Klein feel like worthy and relevant counterparts to the bodies that wear them. These aren't the only things in the crashing wave of Fall 2009's Ready-To-Wear lines that I'm engaged in, but they are the ones that keep cropping up in my dreams. Might I also recommend Comme des Garçons (if you want to know what i wish i could wear to work every day, scroll to the end of this collection where things get black and tailored, then layered with small sweaters), Alexander McQueen (these are CRAZY), and Isaac Mizrahi's show he called "Smile." I was disappointed with Viktor & Rolf (but would like to know what you think. maybe peter pans have to grow up?), but pleasantly surprised by Vera Wang's subtlety (she has a new boutique. she showed the collection there).


but more than any of the fashion lines themselves, the coverage of Beth Ditto doing the Paris shows has totally seduced me. Ditto is the freshest mouthpiece for every kind of fringe and exemplifies how the edges can come crashing into the center of attention. As lead singer of the band The Gossip, I actually first learned about her music in Paris at a store called Colette.
she is sculptural, soulish, powerful, bodacious, imitable. Agnes Deyn cites her as a main inspiration, and in turn, Deyn is the muse and inspiration for designers and dressers across the land. go fat girl, go!





a friend went to france. he came back telling me about Mathilde du Sordet, a French sculptor who makes post minimalist installations and in one referenced Harlequin (I've been incorporating traces of the Comedia del Arte into my installations for the past bit). He saw her work at Palais de Tokyo; I love it and at the same time I am jealous.







TONIGHT: the Kronos Quartet and the Books are performing at Memorial Hall as part of Music Now.


! !!!! ! ! !

If you don't yet have tickets for this, you can get them at the door. Doors open at 7 pm.

I will be attending both nights.


Then Friday is "This Season," in which my brother along with other dance students at OSU will present an evening of performances in Columbus. More on that here.





Madonna has the cover of W's March 2009 issue. The photo shoot by Steven Klein called "Blame It on Rio" twangs with smutty narrative, shame, indication, and defiance. In many many of the photographs, the star's face is turned away or hidden behind giant shades. A random nude model enters the scenario for a handful of pages. I think his reference to A-Rod is obvious and intentional. Suspense comes and goes like a hangover. But Madonna just keeps going.







and of course, we should all be outside taking walks and talking about camping.




For those of you not in Cincinnati, you may not have heard of the brutal murder of thirteen year old Esme Kenney. Her body was found on Sunday after she went missing from a jog. As part of my own process of decompression with this horrific news, I've been going through the blog that this young woman kept. You can read it here. She had a zest for life, a consistent love of musical theater and her family, and seems to be all of the good things classmates have said about her and more. I'm left speechless in my environ of aesthetics, looking for contexualizations and points of reference for tragedies and calls for justice.

3.05.2009

lindsey world (went global).




for a couple of years, i shared a studio with Lindsey Whittle, an amazing woman whose approach to making art blasts through easy categorization and unapologetically draws from pop culture, contemporary fashion, and an aesthetics of shape/color/composition that owe largely to Modernist and Abstract Expressionist sensibilities.

last year she moved to japan and, while teaching English to high school students, maintains an impressively active studio practice. Recently Lindsey sent images of new projects to various friends in the states, hoping to get feedback, suggestions, criticism.

later in the spring i have plans to curate her into an exhibition i am currently plotting. i've decided to dig around and place some of her new works into an art historical context, and attempt to describe my experience of them. this will allow her to receive my thoughts, but also to boast over the quality of this work, and to use it as another place for my note-making about this exhibition. i'll try to set up her work, giving a little back story and making connections between different projects; then i'll try to dig into some of the experiences one has with the work, artists that are brought up in her visual conversations, and a discussion of what this work does as art.

Whittle's degree in painting continues to stay evident in a lot of the drawings, collaged works, and painting-based projects that she makes. these are populated by irregular shapes in bright colors that bring up play as a mode of working in the studio. I like the term critical play, which suggests that experimentation, risk, and discovery are meant to happen during the use of materials, as well as during time considering the work, journalling, or however else artists deal in their ideas. working with children a great deal, and also collaborating with performance artists and doing projects in her own art that have elements of games, dress up, and fantasy has laced most of her work with a performative element, even if it is sometimes implied rather than enacted. the drawing directly above is enclosed in a plastic envelope, with many of the shapes free-floating so that they can be shaken around and played with. i find this hysterical in one sense, because it is a loony, pleasant retaliation to Hans Hofmann's pursuit of the perfect composition, believing that he could find "the right" placement for shapes and rectangles in his paintings.




the drawings are sometimes intended as preparatory work towards sculptures. this is just one of the several ways that i think Lindsey Whittle should be considered in the lineage of Louise Bourgeois, whose own Insomnia Drawings (a huge inspiration in my life) are implicitly involved in the sculptures and installations she produces. observe:

drawing...



then sculptures.




other things in common with Bourgeois is the abstraction + internalization of the figure, the fluid integration of personal interests and biography with art history and art problems, and the easy movement from medium to medium, however they serve an end goal. my friend creates bodies of work that become inhabitable conceptual spaces, populated with the objects that come about from her sculptures (this is also a very Bourgeois idea).





this yellow form is part of a new series of objects that are made from a lycra she's found in japan stuffed with other fabrics so that graphic and cultural information can be gleaned through the different holes in the exterior 'skin' of the work. for almost as long as i have known her, Whittle has made various versions of biomorphic sculptures. these are often made in fabric, but have also been made from cut out shapes of plywood and carpet, bulky polystyrene forms nearly as large as a refrigerator, and clunky bundles of black clothing that have been polyurethaned and (if i remember correctly?) soldered upon.

these biomorphs are almost always (in my mind) versions of bodies that are meant to be stripped of a lot of the defining details of human bodies while still aiming to get at the girth, sensuous curves, and appendages that make up the figure. there have been different situations where these sculptures have been worn (and what else is the extreme forms of haute couture if not wearable sculpture?), like here, where my twin brother was one of the dance performers wearing her objects:

even now, one of her most recent works constitute at least a garment, although subversions of how a garment is taken to be meant may be in question.

part of what i'm attracted to in these giant green pants is that they feel like they fuse aesthetics from east and west, along with something alien, referencing fashion avant gardes from the 1990s (and maybe a little earlier). The earliest I could find in the way of images of Comme des Garcons came from the 2000s, but it's safe to say that the ideas one can see in these garments come from precedents Rei Kawakubo established earlier on in her career:



More recently, additional fashion houses have gotten a little more gumption to distort, expound, or abstract the figure with the forms their clothing takes. These Balenciaga pieces from 2008 have always reminded me of Lindsey's art:

i think these are subtle, the shoulder and hips and the way parts of the garments fit together, but they have sculptural considerations that change the shape of the body, and i find that idea interesting.





While Lindsey Whittle's work operates in sutleties at times, she herself explained to me recently how she envisions her art projects being combinations of Saturday morning cartoons and the explosive sections of Handel's Messiah. She engages her loves of basic visual building blocks rampantly and passionately, generating compositions that are as beguilingly awkward as often as they are symphonic in their sense of celebration. Compare some of her sensibilities with this print by Lynda Benglis (like Warhol's blue images of Jackie, I believe Benglis to be an undercurrent through many of the expressive visual objects being made and appreciated today. Look for constant references to her work):





Like Benglis and Bourgeois (who have been gracefully paired often enough by Cheim & Read Gallery that represents them both), while her art sometimes gives deliberate reference to the body in pieces that are wearable and conjure dialogues about fashion, her sculptures and installation projects contain largely proportioned physical presence. In some cases like this early installation element from a performance piece she created (see below... and i hope she's not embarrassed that i am pulling up older words to reinforce some of my observations), Whittle steps away from direct use of fashion forms a little by creating this dresslike object that is abstracted and has received painting and collage:


I wish she (and I) could have seen the full exhibition of Franz West's work in Baltimore. His ideas, as people describe them, juggle with critical play, interactive body works, pushing sculptures into things one carries, wears, sits on like furniture, and responds to directly in one's own body rather than just conceptually. Am I crazy to bring a little of Joan Jonas up when I think about West? He is much more aestheticized, never abandoning the sensual pleasure of color, object-ness, textures played against one another. But, like Jonas, visual objects are pushed into performative territory



a new love in my life is a brilliant, non-American art magazine called Art World. In the current issue I just got, there is an involved piece about Franz West's 'serious play.' And this amazing sculpture:

I may continue adding to this post as things occur to me. To be sure, this artist friend of mine (who I am awaiting approval to use her name on the internet) deserves more and better critical dialogue than I am providing here. And yes, I am totally unobjective. But I hope this little pile of words and references builds some references, gives some ideas of how I see her work, and opens some ideas up for me, you and her.

3.03.2009

and the hairy ones shall dance there.



the chic sister of second-hand sequins called my attention to the newest issue of Vogue in which Sara Mower tracks down Julien D'ys in her story on page 462 called "the magic maker." It seemed a relevant follow up to the "Hair Affair" at the Cincinnati Art Museum last week that i wrote about here. Hair seems to be an important conversation in art beyond my personal interests.

D'ys is not well known, but indelibly alters our initial impressions of all sorts of fashion lines in the hairstyles he produces for runway shows and photo shoots in many of the fashion magazines. he has been a foundational inspiration ni my own use of hair and a cornerstone in what can be done with the material that not only calls up historical stylizations, but updates and reconsiders how they will meet the body and clothing. almost always he explodes the concepts of hair into full blown whimsy and lush, voluminous piles. i could kick myself now for not taking up the offer his manager, Francois Leroy (i look for excuses to say that name), made for me to meet up with them in Paris in 2007. I got shy at the idea of meeting a master.

i first became a fan when he did the wigs for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute exhibition AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion:


It was enough to inspire me to see what else this hair artist was up to, and i discovered how often he works directly with the likes of John Galliano, Madonna, and museum exhibitions around the world. A couple of other quick samples:



Encountering D'Ys' artistry only continued to feed some of the updated ideas of period pompadour wigs that came up in Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette. And also a wave of advertising from Juicy Couture (not by D'Ys):

these different points of using high piled wigs as a commentary and trend in contemporary fashion-cum-culture marks one of the rare incidents, now that i look back over several years, where i've felt compelled to get involved with the use and re-application of an image that makes its way through culture. At least from around 1997 when Petah Coyne did the hairworks you can see an image of in this post, this conversation seems to be staying relevant. As recently as Comme des Garcon's Spring 2009 Ready to Wear line, D'Ys was giving us these:



During her talk last week, Althea brought up how unknown and niche hairstylists are outside their field. Last night, Lawrence Weschler made a similar remark about muscle car detailers- this vast aesthetic field that is mostly totally unobserved by the art world. [if you are wondering why i am not giving you my notes from Weschler's talk, it is because it made a big impact on me and i'm still processing it]. If there is a main point to Mower's piece, it is the obscurity in which D'Ys operates, while he so dramatically influences our views of fashion, art history, and music videos. A reminder to take note of where all inspiration comes from as we are making and thinking about what's been made.


3.02.2009

the freakin' weekend (we just had)

for, um, years now, R. Kelly's jiving song "Ignition" has run through my head whenever we near the end of a week. Specifically when he pronounces with gusto "It's the freakin' weekend, baby/ I'm about to have me some fun" just before dissolving into bouncebouncebouncebounce... etc.

in the future, look through my posts labeled 'freakin' weekend' for a look into openings that will happen or have happened. when i can, i will try to give you a head's up for shows, openings, and events coming up that i've taken a shining to. and, like in this post, try to recap what i've seen after the fact.



this weekend, i had quite a bit of writing to do, namely completely the review i've written about Rebecca Seeman's exhibition that was recently on display at Pearlman Gallery at the Art Academy of Cincinnati.
You can read my thoughts about Stellar Attraction here. What I did get out to see was a preview of Jake Constantine's exhibition at Creative Gallery entitled "A Comma in the Sky." Then on the following day, just before heading over to the French film marathon at the Art Academy, I got to swing past the opening of exhibitions by Cheryl Dunn and Antonio Adams at Country Club. Saturday night was the closing of a two person exhibition at our own semantics that featured installations of drawings by Kim Burgas + Steve Kemple. Because these two are friends and because I help run that gallery, my comments can't be objective, but they are sincere and heartfelt. So read on.





detail of painting by Jake Constantine




Constantine has found a number of ways to employ painting to comment on a fascination with technology. That's oversimplifying it, because the work included in the exhibition draws on unidentified flying objects, and two large paintings of views looking out from within open boxes of cereal to create alien terrains for the viewer to implicate themselves into. Obsolescence comes up several times, as the VHS is the subject of at least one painting and a couple of odd little sculptures (the sculptures are two small caskets, each containing a VHS of a well known film from the 1990s). Constantine has found about half a dozen different ways to use painting techniques and panel constructions to comment on television technology (and presumably our relationships with it) throughout the space, making the work itself like a kind of laboratory of options.










i was totally surprised and impressed by Cheryl Dunn's exhibition. the photographs themselves are easy to place into a history of documentary photographers that capture fringe groups in the american experience. Diane Arbus and Nan Goldin spring to mind, along with Dash Snow and Ryan McGinley from a contemporary set of art stars who capture a full spread of the sexual and life-of-the-party antics of their groups of friends and subcultures they participate in. in Dunn's case, at least for this exhibition, were I to guess her targeted subject matter, I saw concert revelers, images that brought up issues of poverty and homelessness, and scenes from more rural American areas.





what captured my attention was the nonlinear, unexpected ways in which the photographs were displayed in the space. the series of framed prints became an aggregate of objects for an installation, sometimes hung from the ceiling with string, mounted on the posts throughout the gallery space, and hung at different heights on the walls. a repeated image of chain link fence, printed off in a salmon colored glow, repeats, unframed, throughout the installation, interrupting, covering, and drawing together areas of the work.

these are images of other installations Dunn has made with her photographs that should give you some idea of what i'm describing of her show at Country Club.


i was impressed.



My words will fail and ruin most of the uncanny, clever moments of painting, imagery, and social commentary that take place in Antonio Adams' paintings. I did not like his work any less than Dunn's, in fact, quite the opposite. I was enchanted with his busty, surly portraits of several of the women who work at ArtWorks, and most of all, with his giant painting made in collaboration with Brian Joiner that is filled with superheroic depictions of comic book characters (superman, iron man, invisible woman, etc.), world political leaders (adolf hitler, osama bin laden, fidel castro, sara palin...), and pop icons like Paris Hilton as the superhero "Pink Plaster Paris." Occasional figures one would recognize from Joiner's other artwork, such as his exhibition at the Weston in 2004. It's been described to me by several people as Adams' Guernica, but I am dubious about defining a thing's legacy and future. Rather, I am happy to speak directly to this work.





drawing by steve kemple



Saturday night was the closing reception of:

It Is Raining & It Might Be Raining Or It Could Be Raining Though It Might Be Raining Or Maybe Not But We Could Be Wrong We Don’t Know But This Much We Already Know*
*new work by Kim Burgas and Steve Kemple

The title reflected well the pile up of poetic fragments of small drawings and drawing on long, scrolls, like run-on sentences that wrapped their way around the walls of the front space at the semantics gallery.





Last year sometime, I had the idea to introduce these two artists and see what would happen in a gallery between their art. Both had been making intricate drawings in ink of abstract contour lines and geometries that erroded into philosophical suspense. Burgas' work was featured in the Coffee Emporium's (my other office) first forray into the Final Friday gallery walk in OTR. I wrote it up, and you can see those remarks HERE by scrolling down a bit and finding the heading Art: Coffee Emporium. In 2007 and 2008, while Kemple was making reference to Chinese scroll paintings, Burgas, after living in Yemen, was drawing similar inspiration from the drawings and paintings of the Middle Eastern Region. Both were building vocabularies of abstract forms in both drawing and in electronic music. Steve performs music as ∆. You can hear samples of his work here. Kim has also explored a musical identity that is strikingly related to the work Steve makes. Her music as Helobiousgnome can be listened to here.

So you see that, coming into this exhibition, their ideas were crashing into one another and overlapping in the most interesting ways. They took the proposition and flew, unwinding scrolls and leaflets of drawings across the walls, and in steve's case, a fluorescent painting directly onto the walls themselves. For the closing reception, the artists invited several local poets to give a series of readings along with Steve Kemple's recent bits of prose. You can read his recent writings at one of his blogs. Oh, here's one of them. I was another one of the readers and it was a pleasure to share several newish 'skit' poems that portray a series of Scenes that take place between the clowns Harlequin and Pierrot. The bulk of their lines are drawn from Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot. In preparing for the reading, I decided to act out both parts myself. The audience seemed responsive. Two other close friends- Nick Hill + Kirsten Johnson- read as well. Kirsten blew the rest of us away. Damn, she writes and reads well.


beyond that evening, we've been working like mad at the front end of Eric Ruschman's install in the gallery. remember, that opening is this saturday from 7 to 10 pm.

and tonight, is Lawrence Weschler's lecture "Divergent Voices, Convergent Visions" at the CAC. Starts at 6:30. After 5 pm on Mondays, the CAC is free, even for non-members, so stop in!