Tuesday, February 28, 2012

California Dreamin'

It's always nice to escape from New York, particularly in February and head for warmer climes.  Southern California, always the other alternative, is in the midst of the gigantic mult/multi-venue Pacific Standard Time survey of California art. I was able to see one of its exhibitions at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (1951-1969) where Diebenkorn, Benjamin, Irwin, Lundeberg and Foulkes all looked very good.  It was my first time in Santa Barbara since the 1970s where I went as a pre-teen to Elgin Baylor/Gail Goodrich Lakers basketball camp. I was there the week Nixon resigned.  

In Los Angeles, the Culver City Galleries are where most of the action is these days and there was one work in particular which caught my eye from the Brian Bress solo show at Cherry and Martin.  It was a video piece but instead of a dark room asking for 15 minutes of your time with little promise of a payoff, it was instead a video in a framed box leaning on the wall. 
A one-minute loop of a beaded man spinning around in slow motion played.  It was amusing and smart without the agony that is most video art.  Over at Nye+Wright an exhibition of early Judy Chicago was up but I was too late to see the exhibition that had closed a week earlier Brian Will's excellent new mixed media abstractions that deploy thread in new ways. The gallery still had a few works of hiis hanging in the office and I hope to see more in person in the future. 
In Los Angeles proper and close to the edge of West Hollywood is Matthew Marks first expansion out of Chelsea.  It is the house that Ellsworth built--literally and figuratively.  It is a beautiful spare cube of a building built from scratch and placed in a residential neighborhood on North Grove Street.  
As I got out of my car I noticed John Waters leaving the gallery and going into his car--probably in town for the Academy Awards. I don't think he's a big Kelly fan. The installation of new paintings inside looked impressive but upon closer inspection these new two panel reliefs are not great Kelly's but better than most stuff out there.  In a couple of instances he introduces some new colors--a light, electric blue and a fluorescent orange. 
The next major event on my art agenda was the Richard Diebenkorn exhibition of his Ocean Park Series at the Orange County Museum of Art opening on February 26.  I went to the press preview on Saturday night and saw one of the most exciting museum shows in years.  I will have that review up by tomorrow afternoon.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Next Thursday I will finally get a chance to view Doug Wheeler's Infinity Room at David Zwirner in Chelsea up now thru February 25. The wait is apparently long so be prepared, but the reviews are off the charts.

UPDATE:  February 28, 2012:  After waiting in line and then in the gallery anteroom for nearly 2 hours, I finally saw the exhibition on February 16.  I forgot that I had seen one of the previous three iterations of Wheeler's infinity room.  It was in 1983 in Los Angeles, at the inaugural show at MOCA.  I think for whatever reason, the execution of the piece was much more seemless there than at Zwirner.  I could see some dark areas in the upper areas of the so-called Infinity room. 

The Men in Dresses Win Again

In the issue between the medievalists and the modernists concerning contraception, the Obama Administration appears to be capitulating to the medievalists.  On this issue the White House got spooked because a few of its reliable media allies like EJ Dionne, Mark Shields and Chris Matthews got their panties in a wad over a silly issue that comes down to tribalism and sentimentality.  These old-timers are still sentimental about their religion and their identity as Catholics.  Funny who the ones really tied to identity politics are.  

That these U.S. Catholic Bishops have been planning this campaign for months speaks volumes to the fact that the Roman Catholic church hierarchy is committed to joining forces with the right wing here in the United States.  They pay lip service to the social justice teachings of their purported leader while getting all worked up about what they always get worked up about--women's bodies, and gays. They obsess on these two things.  These privileged men who protected child molesters and protect obscene wealth get some kind of perverse pleasure in their assault on women and their rights.  

Obama should not give in to them.  Fight them.  Just like we fight the crazy Muslims, fight the crazy Christians with their hypocrisy.  This is not a theocracy.   The U.S. Catholic Bishops really know how to play the victim card.  They are  a disgrace.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Republican Reset?

It's tempting to say that Rick Santorum's surprising wins in last night's troika of GOP contests means the Republican nomination is up for grabs. The media certainly would hope so as would the Obama campaign.  However, Mitt Romney still has huge advantages over his rivals. The Republican campaigns (with the exceptions of Romney and Paul) have been seat of the pants, amateur hour productions.  

Newt Gingrich couldn't even get on Missouri's ballot last night and he won't be on Virginia's either.  You know, Virginia, that important swing state?  Santorum is not on the Virginia ballot either and just missed the Indiana ballot.  You know, Indiana, the state Obama stole from the Republicans in '08?  These candidates had over a year to organize a few people to get their names on the ballots in these states.  It is the amateur hour.  Winning campaigns are juggernauts.  Bush in '00 and '04 and Obama in '08.  Hillary Clinton may have been just as formidable a candidate as Obama but she had an arrogant ass-backwards campaign team that failed to organize in key caucus states but, hey at least Hillary was on all the ballots.

Santorum's biggest problem now is that barring a coronary episode Gingrich will be in it until the bitter end.  His other problem was evident last night.   On what should have been his biggest night so far he gave an impromptu, rambling speech.  He did dig out one great line calling himself the "conservative alternative to Barack Obama."  It only took about 10 months for that one.  

I wonder why Santorum has had to rely so much on sugar daddy Foster Friess (who was standing right behind the candidate on the stage in Misssouri).  Aren't there hundreds of thousands of evangelicals and conservative Catholics with $50 to spare for Rick? I mean, except for his Wall Street money in '07, Obama relied most heavily on the small donations from millions of NOT rich people.  Is the right in America exactly what its caricatured as--a top-down operation with the rich guys calling the shots?  Santorum did finally give his website address for donations during his speech.  Don't they hate Obama enough to give some money?  We certainly hated Bush/Cheney enough to give and give a lot.

How can Santorum get Gingrich out?  Perhaps they should make Arizona the semifinal of this election cycle on February 28.  It is a state in the far west with no ties to either man and it's Republican Party is to the right of  Robert Welch.  They have Jan Brewer the gin-soaked governor and grand dame of Tea Party America who promises to give the media plenty in terms of a sideshow.  If I were Santorum I would go camp out for the next two weeks in Arizona and finish off Gingrich there.  

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Kelley Letter: His Burial Wishes

(click to enlarge)
There is still no official cause of death in the Mike Kelley case.  Kelley admirers and friends  have created a poignant makeshift memorial in front of his house on Tipton Avenue. In the meantime, someone sent me an interesting document from a recent publication entitled Don Celender-11 Books (Public Collectors Study Center, Chicago, 2009).

The book contains various projects by the late Conceptual artist Don Celender.  One of the documents is a questionnaire sent out by Celender to various people on how they would like their dead bodies to be dealt with.  One such survey was filled out by Mike Kelley 16 years ago when he was 41.  

Kelley (who filled out the sheet by hand)  has two ideas for his demise:
1. "(To have) My body burnt and the ashes dumped into Bryce Canyon, Utah. No Marker."  He would then have his friends throw a party with the MC5's "Starship" playing as loud as possible.  He refers to this as his romantic version.  It's one that we could all relate to.  

2. The second option is a little more Kelley-esque.  He calls this the "political" version. "Remove all identifying marks from my body and dump it somewhere so the state is stuck with the cost of dealing with it." 

The document is on Macalester College letterhead where Celender was a professor. The Celender letter may or may not be what is ultimately done with Mike Kelley's remains since we don't know if he left a note indicating any such wishes. Yet, it does give us an indication of how he was thinking about death 16 years ago.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Loose Ends: Mike Kelley & Trulee Grace Hall

The young woman who reportedly caused Mike Kelley much anguish in his final months posted this on Facebook today. Takeaway line: "I had to leave him in order to protect myself, I hope you all will try to understand and forgive me."   (click on foto to enlarge)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mike Kelley Kills Himself

Mike Kelley died of an apparent suicide in his bathtub a few days ago in Southern California. He was perhaps the most influential artist to emerge in the 1980s.   His progeny spread far and wide especially in the 1990s when his brand of the art of the abject was celebrated all over the world.  My own take on Kelley's art was that it bore the same relationship to art-making as snuff films did to the world of cinema.  Except that Kelley's was a world of make believe gross out juvenilia with a patina of filth thrown in along with the punk guise of Darby Crash.  The collectors and curators ate it up.  Why own something slick and austere and beautiful when you can announce your own dark/alt side by owning a gen-yoo-ine Mike Kelley.  Are you a boring haute bourgeois hedge fund investor?  Not anymore, not with with that creepy looking Kelley doll with pus coming out of every orifice in the living room.  The guys at the office will think I'm positively edgy!  

His curios were inspired by many trips to the now defunct AMOK book store the former Los Angeles emporium for the study of the bizarre, ugly and the unsettling.  Kelley's work was a practiced detached engagement with these subjects but he ultimately could not avoid trivializing them.  He tried to make the muck cute; reveling in it while simultaneously dismissing it.  He was always superior to his subjects.

In the meantime, I look forward to seeing the wonderful art of that other Kelly in a few weeks when I will be in Los Angeles.  You know, the 88 year-old guy running around with an oxygen tank but still making achingly beautiful art with his spare language of color and form? The guy that the likes of Kelley in his black leather jacket have been launching spitballs at all his career from the back of the class.  Rest in peace Mike Kelley along with all those demons and all those spitballs.