Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sparks - The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman

The tickets for the Sparks operetta "The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman", featuring Ann Magnuson and Guy Maddin, just went on sale this morning at 10 AM. Tickets are only $18, they're going to go FAST, and I can't see a better way to spend your June 25 evening.

The Dustaphonics - Tura Satana

A bit before the weekend, FBC! discovered a London-based band called The Dustaphonics, and really, really liked them.  They're not going to tour the US yet because, as they say, they need to build a fan base here before this happens. So I'm doing my best to start it by showing you their homage to Tura Satana (of Russ Meyer fame) who left us I think last year (?). Please befriend them on Facebook and listen to their music. Very retro, but with TONS of energy!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

And What If You're House-Bound This Weekend?

If that calamity was to befall you, I'd suggest you check this really great website for the exhibition The Mourners at LACMA because you can see every single statue from every angle. It's beautiful and it will make you want to see the show as soon as you can. And you can prepare for the exhibition by reading all the information about the tomb, the sculpture, etc. It's up until July 31st.

credits for the picture and the website here.

Your Social Life On Memorial Day Weekend

America is getting ready to barbecue this holiday weekend, and hopefully will also remember its veterans. But if you thought there was going to be a dearth of art openings,  fear not, intrepid reader! For a few art events are actually happening.
Starting tonight with openings at the Pacific Design Center where anotheryearinla presents some new paintings by Joe Amrhein, from 5 PM on, whereas Diamond Dust, curated by Janet Levy, opens at See Line Gallery. On Saturday, Steve Turner Gallery has two artists' new shows, Alida Cervantes and Isaac Resnikoff.

Still on Saturday night, or early on Sunday since it starts at Midnight, Actual Size presents 12:12 Song, a series of sound and musical events to which participants are "encouraged to bring their own instruments and sleeping bags", with breakfast served at 8 AM.
Still on Sunday, a discussion about painting will be held at the Mandrake Bar from 7 PM, part of a series organized by LA painters Rebecca Morris and Mari Eastman. All the information you need can be found here.

And, continuing at Overduin and Kite and up until the end of June, don't miss the Rose-Colored Room with  Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Jutta Koether , Lisa Lapinski and Dianna Molzan.

Lastly, if you are in Westwood, go see the really beautiful Paul Thek retrospective. It is the real art event of the Spring in Los Angeles, not The Clock

Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Your Social Life After The Rapture!

As you may know, at least if you live in the US, the Rapture is supposed to happen this coming Saturday, whoozah! I say, if you live in the US, because curiously, no mention of the phenomenon has arisen abroad, and I do read a ton of foreign media. Apparently they don't have the same Christians overseas, so Jesus does discriminate after all, even though his message was supposed to be one of brotherly love for all*. It's all very puzzling, if you ask me, but I can't wait for Sunday morning to come and go out to count out all the enraptured Christian who will have disappeared. I kinda want to take care of their material goods while they are away, and possibly recycle their assets to buy myself a plane ticket and attend John Cale's French tour in October. I'm sure Jesus would approve.

Meanwhile, while up to 20% of the US population will vanish on Saturday, thus solving our national unemployment problem and a whole load of other issues, life continues for us heathens, with a bunch of very exciting things.

Starting with many galleries in Culver City having openings, with Angles, Blum & Poe, China Art Objects, LAXart and François Ghebaly joining in the post-Rapture exhibitions. On Saturday evening, the event FBC! has been waiting for is finally arriving with the Paul Thek retrospective opening at the Hammer. Paul Thek was truly an underdog during his life (gay, post-Catholic if I remember correctly), and his work was virtually ignored until Mike Kelley wrote about him in the 1990s, then European art spaces organized retrospectives, and finally US institutions followed suit as they always do, and voilà, here we are. Can't wait. Just wishing they had used something a bit less harmless than "the diver" as the title/image for the show. Just look up that relic-style arm above, isn't that appropriate for a post-Rapture exhibition?

These galleries and institutions are all familiar to you, faithful readers, but do you know the Vincent Price Art Museum? I bet you don't, and it's a shame. It sits in East Los Angeles and was founded by the actor Vincent Prince and his wife, and it's reopening tomorrow Friday after a renovation that has been going on for a while.They do a fantastic job with under-privileged youth who would otherwise not really access museums. And, it's been founded by Vincent Price, how rad is that?
Another institution that is a bit under the radar is the Craft And Folk Art Museum (CAFAM), and it's really a place you should visit because it is conveniently located across from LACMA and the Page Museum, and it has an opening this Saturday, too, from 6 to 9 PM.

Something else that can occupy your post-Rapture weekend, after which you can go loot take care of the assets left at enraptured Christians homes, if you can locate them, is music. So, if art isn't what you intend to spend the Rapture weekend with, fear not!
Because something called the Silver Lake Jubilee is taking place, too. I have no idea what this is, except that many local bands are playing. It costs only $5, far less than a lifetime of Christians alms given to so-called Christian non-profit churches, and instead of draining our deficit-laden collective finances with Christian tax breaks, these $5 will go a long way toward a musical and pleasurable weekend. I'm linking to their Facebook events page because I'm told their website isn't live yet.

*I did read the New Testament, admittedly a while ago, but I don't remember anything about discriminating within Christiandom. I mean, if Jesus was OK with hookers, I don't see why he wouldn't be OK with gay people, non-white folks and the like. And I don't see why some Christians would be enraptured while others, non-American ones, wouldn't.

Paul Thek
Warrior's Arm
From the series Technological Reliquaries. Wax, paint, leather, metal, wood, resin, and Plexiglas. 9 x 39 x 9 in. (24.1 x 99.1 x 24.1 cm)Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; The Henry L. Hillman Fund, Mr. and Mrs. James H. Rich Fund, Carnegie Mellon Art Gallery Fund, A.W. Mellon Acquisition Endowment Fund, and Tillie and Alexander C. Speyer Fund for Contemporary Art, 2010.3. © The Estate of George Paul Thek; courtesy of Alexander and Bonin, New York. Photograph by Jason Mandella.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Beat The Clock And Go Back In Time With The Mourners

Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say. (Edgar in King Lear).

This morning at 11 AM, LACMA has started the projection of The Clock, its recent acquisition of a Christian Marclay video that was all the hype in NYC a few weeks back. It's free, the projection lasts 24 hours, and you can drop it pretty much anytime you want. Since last week, the event has been hyped all over LA, to the point that some of my acquaintances who aren't into contemporary art were planning to go see it (hi, Mike!).
As Los Angeles still cannot cope with its inferiority complex toward New York City, the hype has been repeated all over the various local media outlets and social networks over the weekend, prompting us not to miss it.  Or else... what?

As you may know, The Clock is a montage of various film and television snippets all depicting images or representations of time passing by, by the minute, for a total duration of 24 hours, starting from 11 AM onwards.
Hence, when the movie projection commences, the viewers are perfectly in sync with the film and can see the time passing by minute by minute, whether there's a watch, a clock, or simply a character telling what time it is.
In terms of technique, The Clock is a brilliant display of editing mastery and obsessive research.  Each minute is illustrated by however many seconds of one or several movies make use of the temporal duration that says "it is 11.30", that is, if there are several snippets that tell the viewer "it is 11.30" they will be edited to altogether last the 60 seconds that constitute that 30th minute.
The movies excerpts don't focus on Western cinema only, thank God (or more likely, thank Christian Marclay), and are sometimes repeated when part of their plot revolves around a specific period of time passing by.

Before I went this morning I was somewhat prejudiced against the concept of The Clock, because the whole idea of taking samples from Pop culture and stretching them to 24 hours sounded so much like what Douglas Gordon would have made around 1993. Big yawn. For the record, I am not a big fan of Gordon whom I think is a wildly uneven artist, not himself a stranger to being over-hyped, and whose work is, for me, much more interesting when it veers away from video and cinema.
Christian Marclay, on another hand, interested me more as a sound and music artist making  installations  - I really like his telephone pieces  - and so his new venture into the representation of time in popular culture might have been a good way for him to jump from being a solid artist to becoming a  significant one. Because these times are very devoid of significant artists, I feel.

The concept of duration  and the passing of time through film pieces has been stretched to death with experimental movies of the late 1960s and early 1970s (just think about Andy Warhol and Michael Snow) so I didn't really see what The Clock could add to it, but I was  open to being pleasantly surprised. Maybe the sampling and editing would be incredibly meaningful, maybe there would be some big reveal about Cinema With A Big C, etc.

Instead, complete boredom. The first few minutes makes you realize how good the editing is, what a clever technical feat is being played, but after that it becomes a gimmick and as such excruciatingly boring. Time does stretch and every single occurrence that tells you "it's 11.08", "oh my, it must be about 11.15", etc., etc. makes you want to get the hell out of here.
There isn't any phenomenological epiphany through the movie that makes you experience the concept of "duration", just a mundane experience of boredom. You start noticing that indeed, British actors do know how to act, unlike their US counterparts, but alas it is only 11.23 and how long this thing is supposed to last already?
Oh yes, I can see how stereotypical the representation of women is into all these snippets, didn't I know this already? Damn, only 11.24. By 11.25 what you really notice is how freezing it is in the Bing Theater, while you have some vague recognition of the plot of the snippet being played.  Oh, time as a narrative device. How clever. Bet you've never thought of that one. 11.27 and  on screen someone's set to die soonish. Incredible. I feel time passing by! Dammit, I totally needed a movie to remind me of, say (and totally randomly) being bored to death in math class when I was 13 and how loooooooong the minutes were. The problem is, boring can be fabulous if it grates. If it changes your perception of things. If it makes you reconsider everything else made in the artistic field in a new light.

Sitting through the entire projection of Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz is boring and grating and challenging and groundbreaking (yes I've done it). Watching 8 hours of the light slowly (very slowly) changing on the Empire State Building in Warhol's Empire is boring and infuriatingly beautiful (yes, I've done that too). Getting dizzy through the 3 hours that make Snow's La Région Centrale is incredibly boring and mind-boggling and earth-shattering (and yes, I've done that too. Twice). Sitting though The Clock is as boring as watching daytime television. It's not because it's experienced daily by millions of people that it will change your world whatsoever.

The audience, judging from the enthusiastic blurts I've seen on Twitter, is purely there to challenge itself about how long it can stay watching the movie (I've seen breathless tweets such as "5 hours!"), an endearing feeling I guess, while others were really into small details about the sets, the costumes, laughing about how cell phones looked like in 1980s movies, etc. Someone tweeted about "time, art and film merged together", as if, say, Warhol had never done that, or anybody else for that matter.
My feeling was that most people who went to see The Clock didn't know jack shit about video art, experimental movies, contemporary art and so forth. Which is OK, and I don't resent the audience for its lack of culture. In that respect, I just want to be clear that I'm all for museums attracting all types of new people with not very good artworks if needed, if they serve as a gateway to harder drugs, so if the same people who came today end up sitting at weekends festivals at the Anthology Film Archives in New York, bless LACMA and its new 500K purchase.
Unfortunately, The Clock is nowhere in the league of landmark contemporary art films that might be shown at AFA, such as Michael Snow's La Région Centrale.  Chris Marker's La Jetée it ain't. Nor Andy Warhol's EmpireThe Clock isn't a masterpiece, but one of those middlebrow crowd-pleasers that isn't challenging and won't change the course of art history.

And that would be perfectly OK and appropriate and even fabulous if only LACMA had decided to couple the showing of its new toy with a real, week-long festival about experimental film and video. Instead of jumping on the opportunity to actually educate its public of ladies-who-lunch and donors by showing that, yes, The Clock could be seen in this tradition and even though it is not the masterpiece of the genre, at least it benefits from its history, and it's not entirely cut-off from the Hollywood tradition; LACMA decided to stay in the bland, safe, neutral zone where middlebrow art is only about entertainment and hype.
And that is the problem with hyping up The Clock as the latest great thing to happen at LACMA, instead of educating its audience.
It's a missed opportunity, and one that makes the likelihood of acquiring real masterpieces and meaningful works of art that are actually groundbreaking less and less possible. In that regard, LACMA more or less places itself in the same category as sanitized contemporary media. There is nothing challenging or courageous or even historical about acquiring The Clock or any artwork that is so deliberately easy on its audience.

In short, The Clock is one of these brilliantly superficial piece of work that has no meaningful depth to it, unless you count some undergrad "questioning of the concept of time" as an interesting problematic in an artwork made in 2011. In that case, I advise you to look for a good history of experimental cinema and video art and plow through it, and I guaranty you will have some phenomenological epiphany, once you get to see the movies in real life.  And if "brilliantly superficial  piece of work that has no meaningful depth to it" is your way of life, I suggest you start reading Bret Easton Ellis pronto. He invented the genre almost 30 years ago. And maybe in that way it is only fitting Marclay's piece would end up in Los Angeles, but is it really LACMA's role to reinforce cultural stereotypes like this?

A note on the presentation: I've been wondering why LACMA chose to do a projection between a Monday and a Tuesday, when a weekend would have been much more appropriate for working people to get a chance to see it, the whole 24 hours of it if they want to, if, as the PR wants us to believe, The Clock isn't to be missed. I haven't checked if The Clock is supposed to "happen" between a Monday and a Tuesday, so maybe that is the reason.
If no, my guess isn't that they wanted unemployed layabouts, ladies who lunch and homeless people to communally and democratically enjoy art together, but that paying the guards and AV people overtime is more expensive on the weekend.
That, or maybe the real film programs were already decided months in advance and that was the only slot available.
Speaking of which, this is a great movie week at LACMA with the Terrence Malick retrospective, and tomorrow afternoon's showing of Orson Welles' Magnificent Ambersons. I highly recommend you go watch these, if you like cinema.

If you indeed pop by LACMA to experience The Clock - and I think you should, so you can see for yourself what I'm talking about - I strongly recommend that you go next door to the Bing to see a gem of a beautiful little exhibition, The Mourners. Unlike The Clock, this show is unlikely to be repeated again any time soon, and unlike The Clock it will make you feel pure beauty in the depiction of the ultimate human experience, death.
The Mourners shows medieval sculptures from the 14th/15th century coming from the Chartreuse de Champmol in Dijon, France, home to the Dukes of Bourgogne, then the most powerful aristocratic family in Europe. As such, they hired the best artists to create their tombstones, and used Claus Sluter to carve the magnificent sculptures of small pallbearers and mourners crying and grieving, that were used to support the tomb slab itself.

 Sluter, one of only a handful of medieval sculptors whose name has survived the passing of time, has created a type of sculpture that is a horizontal slab without a pedestal, with a negative space in between the ground (where the body is buried) and the tombstone, while the mourners act as graceful supporting beams*. Each one of the sculpture is individualized, and has a different expression.  What you see in this small show is the complete series of mourners (without the rest of the architectural structure, which remains in France), displayed in the same sequence as in the original sculpture.
 The display is very sober and restrained, as befits a subject such as death and mourning, with a beautiful lighting that really helps magnifying the expressions of the mourners.

If you go see the show, and I really, really recommend you do, I advise to pick up the catalog too. It's an excellent scholarly one including great comparisons with other types of medieval sculptures and tombstones of the time, and the images are top notch. Every single mourner is represented, so you get a chance to remember their extraordinary look without having to buy a plane ticket to Dijon to see them again. Well, I guess you can do that, too.

I really wish LACMA would advertise the Mourners exhibition and spend some PR money on it, because if you really want to experience what the passing of time means in term of  duration (of art), death and, yes, resurrection through art, you will be much more likely to have a transcendental experience with a 700 year-old sculpture that is incomplete to boot, than with the lukewarm 24 hour compilation of  Pop culture's greatest hits that is The Clock.

*if you go see the show and browse through the catalog in the adjoining room, you will understand the architectural and sculptural structure better.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Cold Cave at Space 15Twenty

Yesterday, FBC! had the good fortune to be invited to Cold Cave's free concert at Space 15Twenty (thanks, Jeff and Mimi!), a band I knew nothing about because 1) I'm old, 2) I'm old and 3) I'm old. Musically I've been caught in a time warp between 1965 (birth of the Velvet Underground) and the early 1990s (birth of that crapshit thing "grunge" and the moment when electronica invaded the airwaves in Europe. I like synths, but I like sexy bad boy rockers with electric guitars even more).

So I went there last night out of curiosity, and I had tons of fun, though I'm not sure it was the kind of fun the band would like their audience to experience. The music is heavily influenced by OMD, the lyrics, I can't tell because it was impossible to make out any words (sound engineer, Pro Tools guy, you need to improve). Nothing innovative musically, but it was fun because these guys take themselves way too seriously, so there's some inadvertent situation comedy  for an old fart like me to enjoy.

The singer had a really bad haircut AND greasy hair and obviously believes himself to be the reincarnation of Ian Curtis. He seemed pretty high (hint, young people: being high doesn't make you look more intense, just high), and so was the most amusing member of the band, the demented keyboard player bobbing his head in sync to the music.  That dude was a mad mix between Bez of Happy Monday fame and the Tears For Fears guys, and as an added bonus was crouching on his keyboards like Schroeder in the Peanuts comics. He was robotically dancing and he and the lead singer were doing a little homoerotic number by hugging each other on stage,it looked so cute to this fag hag. The only musician who wasn't high and who was cute physically was the drummer, who drummed in a totally straightforward way. Hey, it's not like everybody can be Michael Jerome Moore!

Looking at them, I could see a really funny future little novella, with keyboard dude wanting to take the band into a heavy dance direction while singer dude sticking to his Joy Divisions fantasies, and the band imploding mid-way through a grueling North American tour. Groupies in tears, Williamsburgers on Prozac, etc.  Yes, I've read too many rock'n'roll stories.

The audience was really adorable, with a special mention to the kid bobbing his head totally out of sync, with his eyes closed, right next to the girl with the Aladdin Sane tattoo. Coolest kid was the gay one in the white trench coat, closely followed by the Berliner S&M kid with a Erich von Stroheim haircut. What I really like about the hipsters in SoCal is that their population isn't overwhelmingly white, unlike the Brooklyn types, so there is a genuine mix of working-class Latinos, Asian kids and some pasty faces that seem to work out really well.

All in all a really fun event, though I don't think I'm going to spend money on Cold Cave's recordings any time soon. But I'd be happy to follow the career of Keyboard Dude, if he has one. Anybody out there can tell me his name?

Your Social Life, Wishing Stevie Wonder A Happy Birthday!

Howdy, readers!

Blogger was down for about 48 hours, hence the lateness of our weekly installment detailing the fabulous social life you will enjoy this weekend.
There are about 3 things yours truly really recommend this weekend, starting with the annual garden party and fundraiser for Los Angeles avant-garde publisher Les Figues Press. $15 at the door, a hat fashion show(yay!) and artist Stephanie Taylor is MC-ing. All the info you need here.

In the strictly visual department,  both David Kordansky and Las Cienegas Project have an opening this Saturday. Heather Cook caught my attention last year during a group show at Kordansky, so I'm looking forward to her solo exhibition there. As for LCP, I really like their programming and their space, so don't miss the show!

I've missed the opening of 91 92 93 at the MAK on Wednesday, and exhibition featuring Andrea Fraser, Simon Leung and Lincoln Tobier. I'd love to link to something specific on the website of the MAK but the show is strangely absent of their current/upcoming exhibition tab. Please someone at the MAK fix this, and I guess if you guys want to see the show, you'd better call the MAK for specifics.

Also, today is Stevie Wonder's birthday, so you superstitious people forget this is Friday the 13th and rock your stereo with some wonderful music from the Master Blaster!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Your Social Life Is Baaaaaack And So Is PRINCE

Howdy, readers! Whatever is left of you after I abandoned you to meet other deadlines and then go on a vacation in NYC and Philadelphia. Also, I crossed the Delaware where Washington did. Not being American, my feeling was "oh, that is indeed a large river. Who made that mediocre painting, by the way? You know the one".

I came back from this trip really liking the Arts Museum in Philadelphia, though I'd like their photography policy to be a bit less confusing. I went for the Duchamp and really adored their Modern collection (Brancusi, Mondrian, Jasper Johns, Barnett Newman, etc.)
In NYC I was  very dubious about the Picasso show and the "Malevitch will help us sell lottsa secondary market pieces, whoozah!" exhibition at different outposts of the Gagosian empire.
Picasso show was boring, but then being French I've seen craploads of Picassos in my life and I'm of the school who thinks his  output is more quantitative than  qualitative. The "Malevich " show had very few Malevichs in it, methinks they would be better inside museums than headed to some hedge funder's ugly Connecticut McMansion, and if the pieces in it by the likes of Richard Serra, Charlie Ray, Barnett Newman, etc. were all fantastic, the whole thing hardly constituted "an exhibition". It was really a commercial display and nothing else.

Hands down, my two favorite art things in NYC were the Richard Paul show at Theodore Art (and I'm not saying this because Stephanie is a friend) and the group show Proofs and Refutations at David Zwirner. It had a slightly funky look that was such a relief after all the sanitized things shown in Chelsea nowadays.

Most underwhelming show was Chris Marker  - who should definitively stick to filmmaking, and I'm a huge fan -  at Peter Blum. Overall, nothing exciting at all in NYC, though I passed the Glenn Ligon and the Lynda Benglis shows because they're both coming to LA and they're coming to museums that have a far better exhibition space than the Whitney and the New Museum, respectively.
One show I really enjoyed was the Africa Project at the Museum of Art and Design.

I also indulged my records-buying new addiction in Brooklyn, so if you are ever in the Greenpoint area, my new found loves are Permanent Records and Film Noir, which isn't exactly a record store but has several bins of very carefully selected vinyls on the floor. If you like Wombleton in LA, you will like Film Noir. Also very good selection at the local flea market on Sunday, which I will let you Google yourself because I can't remember the exact location.

And with this, let's go without a transition to what you're going to do with Your Social Life this weekend in Los Angeles.
Since I just got back I hardly paid any attention to what was going on, so let's focus first on the fundraiser for Outpost. A bunch of my real-life friends and favorite artists such as Edgar Arcenaux, Taft Green, Euan MacDonald, Mary Weatherford, Nancy Popp etc. have donated works. Tickets are only $20, it's between 5 and 7 PM  and everything is indicated if you click the above link.

Max Maslansky is opening at EGHQ on Saturday in Culver City. Yours truly is planning to re-enact the Entente Cordiale and meet the delightful Emma Gray, whom I only know network-socially™ ( a new adverb you will thank me I've coined when it makes it into the OED). Totally looking forward to the show.
Also on Saturday, I understand there will be a sound performance at Las Cienegas, only a stone throw away from EGHQ.

Also a sound-based video (well, it's more complicated than that, but there are lots of  experimental musicians  in it and some live DJ-ing planned) by SASSAS founder Cindy Bernard at LACMA on Saturday night, from 8 PM on. Scroll down the link for ticket info, etc.

That's pretty much it for this weekend, but before I sign off let me remind you that PRINCE is doing his 21-day residency at the Forum in Inglewood and if you've never seen him, it would be a crime to miss it! I'm going tomorrow and it seems a large contingent of the LA art world is heading that way too.