Friday, April 24, 2009

Coming Soon On FBC!

Hello everybody,

first of all apologies for the light posting since March, as I was saying 2 car accidents in 2 weeks have been taking their toll and what with the doctor visits, finding a lawyer, my car not being repaired yet and all that, I'm not very able and fit these days. A bit better, but my back still hurts and my right shoulder/arm too, so typing and being in front of the computer are uneasy at best. Mostly I get exhausted incredibly fast, and I can't go anywhere (see car still at the shop) so my art sightings-and-writing are down to zero these days.

BUT I am very pleased to announce that in the next few weeks FBC! will have a new collaborator who's going to post some short fiction in this very space, and maybe sent in a few photos too. We're still ironing out a few things but very soon you will have the pleasure of discovering a brand new writer here. To celebrate this new upcoming collaboration, I'm posting a picture of a cake recipe I invented (with chestnut flour and cocoa powder) and also to mark my B-Day a little bit (it was Wednesday, if you really want to know) since I couldn't do much.

So stay tuned, and very soon you will be able to read quality fiction here! I'm so excited!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Stone Summer Theory Institute: "What Do Artists Know?"

Hi Everybody,

FBC! is briefly back to let you know about a week-long seminar c0-organized this September by James Elkins at the School of the Art Institute Of Chicago. I'm pasting the text below to give you and idea, with a link to the website so if you are interested you can apply. The cool thing is, while you're there you can go enjoy the art at the AIC, go visit the MCA and maybe the Renaissance Society as well!

"The Stone Summer Theory Institute is week-long school in contemporary art theory. It is held in Chicago, in September, at the School of the Art Institute. It will result in a series of books involving over 300 scholars.
The theme for this year is "What do artists know?" -- we will consider the principal theories of studio art education, including the First Year, the BFA, MFA, and PhD; and we will compare practices in different countries. The faculty include Sir Christopher Frayling, Stephan Schmidt-Wulffen (an authority on art teaching in Europe), and Roy Sorensen (a philosopher known for his work on paradoxes, thought experiments, and other things that involve models used to describe artists' knowledge).
The two co-organizers of this year's event are Frances Whitehead and James Elkins.
During the week, the faculty lead 27 hours of seminars. The seminars are closed to the public but open to 15 Fellows; the deadline for applications is June 15. Funds are available for travel and accommodation. To apply, please see the instructions on the website:

The public events (panel discussions, evening lectures, etc.) are all free to all School of the Art Institute faculty, staff, students, and alums."

[The picture above is a piece by Nathan Mabry I recently saw at Happy Lion.]

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Note on Comments

Just to let you know I've had to delete a wave of comments which were just spam left by casinos and gaming website. As it is time-consuming I've added a step where you have to type some "capcha" to be able to comment. If it doesn't deter future spammers, I will have to let only registered users to comment. Sorry.
As for the real Spam/Google Adsense stuff it's back temporarily, but if it doesn't bring in any money on the future (unlikely, people have to click on them for me to make $$$$) I'll disable it again.

Things That Shouldn't Be Overlooked

Juan Capistran, work in progress in the studio

Juan Capistran (in collaboration with someone else whose name I cannot recall), "Sub Lime" street art in Los Angeles

Juan Capistran, work in progress in the studio (Madness fans, you will recognize the image)

In between being hit by irresponsible LA drivers, I recently had the chance to meet with LA artist Juan Capistran, whose work I had seen at Phantom Sightings, and to have an embryonic correspondence with a couple scholars whose writing I actually admire.
After all I've said and written about curators vs. scholars, I must point out there are some scholars I actually read with pleasure, and they are not necessarily all Mod.Cont. or Crit.Studs. scholars. I initially wanted to devote a whole post to each of these people, but writing is a bit difficult right now, what with a sprained shoulder, wearing a neck brace and feeling a very sore and tender large spot at the back of my skull (my ears popped too, so I feel like I'm permanently under water, it's strange). Needless to say my concentration is rather down, so instead of lengthy writing extolling the virtues of all of them, I'm going to simply link to their respective websites and ask you to have a look at their writings or their art, and ponder what they do. Hopefully in the future I may have the opportunity to write in deep about them.

The first scholar I'd like to mention today is James Elkins, who teaches at the Art Institute of Chicago, which means he does have a daily contact with real art and real artists, in addition to developing a reflection about the act of writing the history of art and its consequences. He's just published a book he has edited about the new type of Ph. D. in studio art, and he is currently working on Chinese Contemporary Art. I'd be curious to read the fruit of his reflections on Chinese art, because so far I've mostly seen a lot of surface comments about the hotness of the Chinese art market and nothing more, excepting of course James Elaine's blog (Jamie please update it!). He's also a very, very nice person, from the few contacts I had with him via Facebook, and from what some of his former students (such as LA painter Will Fowler) have told me.

Then I had the pleasure of getting some very kind emails from another very nice person, Ivan Gaskell, who's better known as a 17th Century Dutch Art scholar (but not only!, following a mention I had made about missing his talk at the latest CAA conference. He's been so kind as to provide me with his essay (thanks again!) and letting me know about one of the Getty mysterious "closed" workshops in June, on the future of museums. He also happens to be a curator at Harvard's Fogg Art Museum and to have a really cool website where the homepage features a picture of signposts at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, where he must have spent lots of time when going to do research in the Netherlands.
His writings came to my attention I think after Didi-Huberman mentioned it to me and I've seen bits and pieces in scholarly journals (I have some vague recollections of seeing something in one publication of the Francine and Sterling Clark Institute, maybe one that also had some Mieke Bal's writing as well but maybe I'm just being utterly confused right now?). In any case I was very happy he emailed me, because I didn't know he had a website (check the part called "inchoate thoughts") where his publications are listed so it's a good starting point, and we had an interesting if short exchange about my post about curators vs scholars. He's both, the living proof there is no need to artificially dissociate the two occupations. And his interests are very varied and not confined to 17th Century Dutch art, so there's plenty of theoretical (but really well-written) thoughts for you critical studies mavens to discover and discuss at your next seminar.

Lastly, I had the pleasure of meeting with Juan Capistran for a very interesting studio visit. There's very little written about his work yet and it's a shame, because his art, while rooted in his LA experience (about immigration, poverty, housing, etc.), also integrates a reflection about the influence of the independent music of the last 3 decades and how it relates to the development of a certain type of social activism in art. But in a really smart way, where for example one material (felt) could both be a homage to Beuys and a reference to objects used by DJs and musicians alike. We had a great discussion about social activism vs. entertainment vs. art and how they can sometimes merge but shouldn't be confused with each other, about street art and commercial designers/entertainers posing as street artists (screw you, Shepard Fairey and Banksy!), about so-called artist-run spaces in LA and whether they act as either hotbeds of activist entertainment or springboard to blue chip-dom, about the immediacy of the musical experience as opposed to the more intellectual and laborious aesthetic one, etc.

But what I liked best about the visit was how coherent internally and intellectually his work is, situating itself at the juncture of contemporary indie* music and art history by referencing minimalism, Magritte or Beuys, etc. while being politically conscious without veering into propaganda. There's a real development in his work which he creates with a total disregard for the trends that are hot on the art market. I feel this is the type of artist who should already have had a solo exhibition, and I'm damned if I understand why no one has proposed him one yet? I can totally see Juan Capistran as a rising force in contemporary art and someone who could later influence a generation of younger artists. I mean, this guy is damn smart, his work his appealing and very well made, way above and beyond the artists who think "expressing themselves" is what it is all about. Quick, someone give him a show!

*I hate this term actually, as it can refer to everything from Kraftwerk to the Clash and lots of crap in the middle, but I'm not fit to think of a better name.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

MoMA To Declare Bankruptcy?

UPDATE: That was the April Fool's Day post, folks!

I briefly take some time, despite my raging headache and inability to hold my head up (I'm blogging from my bed with the laptop precariously perched on my knees), to let you know I have received the astonishing news, through separate and creditable sources, that following the Madoff debacle MoMA is in even direr straits that previously thought. A whopping number of Trustees have lost through their involvement with the ill-fated fund a combined estimated amount of $3.7 Billions, necessitating their imminent withdrawal from the Board. In addition, MoMA's endowment has endured a steep declined since November 2008, necessitating tough measures. Lay-offs are imminent, and bankruptcy is being hinted at, which would allow for MoMA to de-access up to 40% of its holdings (one of my sources referred to the collection as "stocks") without too much fuss, as Brandeis has already shown the way.

A last-minute attempt to get Eli Broad to prevent this unfortunate state of affairs has failed, Broad making no secret about having his hands full already in Los Angeles, and being slightly irritated about being perpetually taken for everybody's benefactor. Sources said he went as far as telling the Board "ask Lauder and Rockefeller, OK? I'm not the only billionaire left on the planet, am I?".

Previous discussions about raising the price of admission to the true cost at $75 were ditched, as the City , when approached, explained that if private institutions couldn't be expected to do a public service, where were we going? They were too busy making the MTA reforms palatable anyway, but if MoMA was to raise its admission tickets then the City would revoke its tax-exempt status.
It's really sad to contemplate such a fate for a museum that hasn't reached its first century yet, and if the rumors prove true then New York City will lose the jewel of its crown, one of its major touristic attraction as well. One of my sources was cautiously optimistic, saying that bankruptcy didn't necessarily mean closing the museum, and that a careful pruning of the collection, with a select choice of major AbEx and Pop Art pieces, would allow for a streamlined conduit of operations, provided that layoffs, a hiring freeze and a salary freeze for all personnel below the level of Senior Curator were to be implemented shortly. A Leroy Neiman retrospective curated by Thomas Kinkade is also envisioned, as the museum needs to host a blockbuster exhibition, while the design department has been asked to commission an exclusive edition of Beanie Babies from Jeff Koons.