Friday, April 29, 2011

working memos as fragments of gold...

"the noises must become music"

"be sure of having used to the full all is communicated by immobility and silence."

"your film - let people feel the soul and the heart there, but let it be made like a work of hands"

"no intellectual or cerebral mechanism. simply a mechanism."

"not to use two violins when one is enough"

"images like modulations in music"

"practice the precept: find without seeking"

"to translate the invisible wind by the water it sculpts in passing."

"make visible what, without you, might never have been seen"

" how to hide from oneself the fact that it all ends up on a rectangle of white fabric hung on a wall? (see your film as a surface to cover)"

ten from robert bresson's notes on the cinematographer

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Monday, April 25, 2011


guest posting all week on four for the day: here


Sunday, April 24, 2011

better than an easter egg...














robert breer is one of my heroes, another thinker worker in a variety of mediums, two of which i am quite fond of - his films and his "floats". pictured above is documentation of breer's floats that were part of numerous exhibitions, but most importantly seen here as part of EAT's pepsi pavilion for expo 70 (some links: here, and here ).

below the images of expo 70, are a few pages from a 1970 brochure of breer's show at gallery bonino, which was made up of 93 miniature versions of breer's larger float sculpture.

the bottom pics are of one of my most coveted objects, one of breer's small floats, as sold by MOMA as some kind of toy or open "edition". i've never seen any other mention of the MOMA toy (unfortunately mine does not work!), but much about it can be gleaned from breer's short statement in the bonino catalog:

"in 1966, i made three small self-propelled dome shaped sculptures. these later served as models for the group of 6ft. high sculptures sent to expo '70 as part of the EAT (experiments in art and technology) project for pepsi co. inc. a large edition of a 4" high working scale model has been produced in japan and will be imported here.

in the meantime, i have taken 93 of these units and changed each one into the individual pieces that make up this exhibition."

clearly the moma float is one of the japanese imports breer spoke about as the toy was manufactured by bandai - the famous japanese model and toy manufacturer. the box lid mentions how the battery powered toy was supposed to move: "the float is mechanically engineered to move slowly in starting. it also turns direction upon bumping into another object - after a pause of several seconds."

the floats were most likely sold around 1970, but i have no idea how many were made...

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

last dance...

only a few more days to see my exhibition "stone's throw" at susanne vielmetter LA projects. this coming saturday, the 23rd, is the last day of the show.
gallery hours are 11-6.

images, location, etc. susanne vielmetter LA projects: click here pick: click here


Monday, April 18, 2011

some seemingly incompatible loves...

eastman johnson, woman reading, 1874

morgan russell, still life synchromy with nude in yellow, 1913

diego rivera, the hands of dr. moore, 1940

frantisek kupka, blue space, 1912

arthur dove, formation 1, 1943

arthur b davies, shy as a rabbit, 1900

milton avery, pool in the mountains,

last week i went down to san diego to give a talk related to my survey show, which is up at the sdsu art gallery. when i was just starting to make abstract paintings, circa 1984, i was pretty smitten with the work of howard hodgkin - particularly as his smaller works seemed humbler than a lot of the large scale painting going on at the time. the san diego art museum is currently exhibition a small show of paintings by hodgkin from the past 10 years, and since i'd totally lost interest in his work by 1986, i figured it might be worthwhile to drive to san diego a bit early, so i could spend some time with hodgkin's recent work... to see how relevant it might feel to me after stepping away from it for so many years.

while i will probably end up writing a post on hodgkin's work in the future, the best part of my day was wandering through the museum's permanent collection which i don't believe i'd seen in at least 10 years. as i wandered through the gallery, i ended up spending the most time with the 7 paintings pictured above... which left me wondering about their compatibility and their relationship not only to each other, but also in the type of images/objects i tend to respond to... especially since 3 are more or less abstract (2 non-objective), 3 are somewhat narrative (and relatively tightly rendered), and one - the milton avery - a landscape that hovers somewhere in between.

anyone who knows my work will not be surprised at the magnetic pull of the dove and the kupka. dove was the first abstract artist to really suggest to me the possibilities of making abstract paintings, and formation 1 is stellar - probably the best dove painting in southern california, and one of my favorites for how the shapes fit together and the feeling of motion. the first time i saw kupka's work in person was in lacma's seminal exhibition 'the spiritual in art: abstract painting' in 1986. the show changed my perception of what an abstract painting could be, and as an undergrad seeking alternatives to making artworks as academic discourse, kupka's cosmic interests seemed outsider-ish enough that they felt kind of rebellious (of course, it was sort of a quiet rebellion... like robert walser's writings or the recordings of moondog on a ny street corner).

i suppose if i am looking at degrees of abstraction, the next pair of images would be the russell and the avery. both have recognizable elements - something i tend to have less of an interest in - in relation to abstract painting; but russell's use of color reminded me of an off register comic book page, and the crude approach to color-as-science floored me. the painting reminded me of a pair of glasses i had as a kid that made all light look like rainbows. while clearly cubist-ically influenced, russell seems to be riffing off cezanne more than picasso, the color making still life quite woozy. russell's cosmic-ness is less grounded in kupka's spiritual quest, seeming more a product of conversing with goethe's color theories and the futurists sense of the culture of the machine and modernity, and from across the room russell's painting seems a mechanical mishap...

like most of avery's paintings, i am always floored by his ability to use flatness, soft fuzzy images, and his unbelievable use of color. everyone talks about matisse's use of color, yet folks rarely mention avery's. like matisse, avery was so great at integrating flat and dimensional images into a single composition... and both were able to make works with a feeling of lightness that never seems "thin." while the imagery in this landscape is not one of avery's most inventive, the sequence of yellow, blue, green, gray kills me. since i mentioned walser already, i might as well say that this landscape of avery's also reminds me of the kind of landscape some of walser's stories might take place... particularly the beginning of "the walk". like walser's shorter pieces, avery's paintings are deceptive... looking relatively simple on the outside, but feeling utterly complex once you are immersed.

the two most "realistic" paintings in terms of imagery, seem disconnected from the everyday - at least as i know it. 26 years separate eastman johnson's woman reading (1874) and arthur b. davies' shy as a rabbit (1900) - and the distance between the subjects and the rendering of the subjects in each painting are revealing. johnson's highly refined image of a woman reading a book with a sailboat in the background is no less stylized than davies' crude nude and rabbit - but between the two there is certainly a tension between the refined and the funky.

i've always been partial to the kind of quiet emotion of a painting like johnson's - he might not paint like vermeer or freidrich, but he does manage to capture an "inscape" through the picturing of an "outscape." i don't believe i've ever seen an american painting looking so dutch, and i think what i respond to more than anything else is the feeling of narrative (something i generally never look for in a painting), suggesting an atmosphere reflective of jacobsen's niels lhyne or the earlier romantic scenes of jack london's martin eden. perhaps it is the relationship of johnson's imagery to the mood of certain literature i respond to, rather than its relationship to painting that draws me towards it.

davies' painting is closer to a folk artist or a sunday painter. the woman is stiff, awkwardly pasted upon the surface. the rabbit looks flat and fake, and the landscape is as clumsy as it is beautiful. i think i responded so strongly to this painting because it was surrounded by works fueled by studied technique, and in such a context davies' painting stuck out like a sore thumb... and thus, it felt a bit more "real"... and a bit more as if it were wrought from necessity. it feels like a bedtime story, a folk song, a passion play.

the strangest painting in the museum is most certainly by diego rivera - a "portrait" called "the hands of dr. moore" from 1940. it's one of the more surrealist paintings i have seen by rivera. its tree on a small island can also be read as veins and tendons, feeling like a cruder salvador dali. this small painting floored me with its combined ability to attract and repel. images in paintings from the 1940's are rarely as difficult to look at or reconcile, but rivera's mix of humility, crudeness, pain, surgery, tending, trees, blood, cosmos, etc. is quite stunning from both across the room and just inches away. avery and davies' paintings seem strange because of their embrace of a kind of crudeness - seeming at first glances unrefined and awkward; but rivera's painting is unsettling in a totally different way. it is one of those things you don't really want to look at but can't help but stare at it in total fascination.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

recent finds of stringed strangeness...



three string related recent finds - all three photographs circa 1910, i know nothing about any of the subjects other than the weirdness that is visible in each of them.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

it was 50 years ago today...



on the 50th anniversary of gagarin's space flight, here are 2 different souvenir 7" records of gagarin's transmission from space... you can listen to the recording by clicking here.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

when cats play banjos and squeeze boxes...



photograph from england, circa 1900.

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Friday, April 08, 2011

when horse names sounded like jazz tunes...

moon rage
count cool
khal me later
miss ruby
stepping jewel
sickle jimmy
our merhf
flying squirrel
little pidgie
spy fleet
pert heels
sir gabe
four by five
marsh's turk
spee damion
arch miss
wind wings
peace rumor
alf a mo
heel flame
skippy toubo
priam's owl
don't dream
my urchin
blue trumpeter
smart apple
noble bell
breezing bebe
royal's last
tiger jay
rustic lore
valentine boy
rush me

a sampling of horse names from a 1954 golden gate fields horse racing program...

Friday, April 01, 2011

more sound and landscape...

... hardly any of his music came to him as music. everything started with a mood, an impression, something he's seen or heard which he then translated into music. driving out of florida, they'd heard an invisible bird call out, so perfect and beautiful you could have sworn you'd seen it silhouetted against the the sun streaking red across the horizon. as always, they didn't have time to stop, so duke made a note of the sound and used it later as the basis of "sunset and the mocking bird," "lightning bugs and frogs," came from the time they'd been heading out of cincinnati and had come across tall trees backlit by a ping-pong moon. lighting bugs flashed in the air and all around was the baritone croak of frogs... in demascus duke had woken up to an earthquake roar of cars, as if all the rush-hour traffic of the world had become snarled up in this one city; still not fully awake he'd found himself trying to orchestrate it. the light in bombay, the sky drifting over the arabian sea, a filth storm in ceylon - wherever he was, however tired, he'd not it down without pausing to consider its significance, confident he'd discover its musical potential later...
... he'd reached the point where virtually everything he encountered found its way into his music - a personal geography of the earth, an orchestral biography of the colors, sounds, smells, food and people - everything that he had felt, touched and seen... it was like being a word writer in sound - and what he was working on was a huge musical fiction that was always being added to and which was ultimately about itself...

from geoff dyer's "but beautiful (a book about jazz)" - here, a fictional account of duke ellington's writing process...

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