Monday, March 15, 2010

Panter Era Begins Now

Pasadena City College is renowned for its lengthy tenure as one of the best community colleges in California, spawning ground for Dennis Cooper and Van Halen (as well as artists Betye Saar and Liz McGrath) and home to the mother of all swap meets. It also boasts a remarkably strong art department, whose faculty includes L.A. Weekly Annual Biennial "Some Paintings" alumni Robin Mitchell, Lynne Berman and Rebecca Morris, short-listers Brian Fahlstrom and Nick Taggert, 2009 COLA awardee David Dimichele, and Brian Tucker, PCC gallery director and curator of last fall's exhibit "Mantong and Protong," by dueling crackpots Richard Shaver and Stanislaw Szukalski.

Tucker's gallery is also the flash point for PCC's highly regarded but little-known Artist in Residence program — an annual weeklong intensive on-campus orgy of art-making, master classes and public lectures now in its 24th year. Previous honored guests include William Wegman, Faith Ringgold, Wayne Thiebaud, Alexis Smith and many other illustrious names from the pantheon of West Coast blue-chip cultural production.

This year's model has a slightly more complex pedigree, encompassing not only gallery and museum exhibitions, but award-winning TV set designs, genre-redefining comic books, commercial illustration (including album covers for Frank Zappa, Ralph Records, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bongwater and Silver Daggers), the revival of psychedelic light shows, and a decades-long trail of lo-fi, weird-ass experimental rock music including collaborations with Bay Area cult proto–post-punkers the Residents.

Whom could I be referring to but Gary Brad Panter, thrice Emmy-encrusted acid-punk Southern gentleman with perhaps the most restlessly inventive graphic line since Paul Klee. Panter was conspicuously absent from the recent Pee-wee Herman reunion tour ("I didn't end up working on the Pee-wee stage show. I wish Paul great success with the show. I've seen photos and the set will be close enough to make fans happy"), but conspicuously conspicuous as a recent featured speaker at the Hammer Museum in conjunction with Crumb's Book of Genesis show, where — in addition to his personal take on the history of 20th-century art — he doled out the best "advice to young artists" I've ever heard: "Smoke pot. Make art. Live long. Make friends. Eat some Mexican food. Listen to Dick El Demasiado's record. Then you'll be OK."

Read the rest of Residents Artist in Residence: Gary Panter Can't Stay Away from LA here

TONIGHT Monday March 15th 7 PM!!!

Public lecture by 2010 PCC Artist in Residence Gary Panter at the Pasadena City College Vosloh Forum

followed by
Reception for the artist: Monday, March 15, 8:30 – 9:30 PM at the Pasadena City College Art Gallery

Friday, March 12, 2010

... for at least two minutes...

Print media still has some usefulness! [from the 1951 comic If an A-Bomb Falls, online along with many other helpful educational graphic narratives at Ethan Persoff's website] Not to mention the Color Wheel of Destruction!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Satanic Beatniks in Space

"There seems to be a rising tide of regionalism in the L.A. art scene, or at least a renewed interest in examining the city's cultural history, maybe because — as recent funding threats to the Department of Cultural Affairs suggest — the past is more promising than the future. While proprietary nostalgia for the Ferus Gallery era seems to have reached an epidemic level (Go, McKenna!), institutional historicizing almost inevitably excises the spirit of the original milieu it's trying to document — especially so in the case of the anti-establishment insurrections of the Beats, Hippies and Punks.

It's rarer still to come across a documentary presentation that is not only faithful to the spirit of such subcultural topics, but incorporates and expands on the formal and conceptual underpinnings of the tradition in question. One such rarity is Mock Up on Mu, the recent feature-length experimental film by Bay Area archivist and auteur Craig Baldwin, which screened recently at the Echo Park Film Center, and which has just been released on DVD.

Mock Up on Mu
recounts (and embellishes) one of the juiciest and most unlikely bits of Angeleno mythology: Scientology honcho L. Ron Hubbard's collusion (as an undercover agent for Naval Intelligence, we are assured by both church spokespersons and Baldwin) with Jack Parsons — inventor of solid rocket fuel, founder of the Jet Propulsion Lab and Aerojet, and disciple of English occultist Aleister Crowley — to impregnate future Beat icon Marjorie Cameron with the antichrist ... or something. The original story is garbled enough, with Hubbard eventually fucking off with Parsons' girlfriend, yacht and bankroll, and Parsons subsequently marrying Cameron and blowing himself to smithereens while experimenting in his garage laboratory at his family's Pasadena mansion.

Or perhaps not. In Baldwin's hands, the future ain't what it used to be. The year is 2019 and both Hubbard and Parsons ("Though he looks 39, he's really 105 years old!") appear to have faked their own deaths, while Cameron has had her memory erased on Hubbard's moon base and is being prepped to go undercover and seduce key members of the American defense industry — including Parsons. And that's just the beginning! Baldwin tells the story with a combination of low-budget overdubbed live-action sequences and his signature barrage (as in 1991's conspiracy-theory overload Tribulation 99) of found and appropriated clips of movies, television and advertising, with a further layer of collaged dialogue and music.

The narrative architecture is a similar pastiche, incorporating philosophical and spiritual rants; science, history and philosophy lessons; flights of absurdism and fantasy; and numerous biographical sidebars pertaining to the principals — including Cameron's appearances in Kenneth Anger's Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and her seminal role as the artist whose drawing precipitated the obscenity bust of Wallace Berman's 1957 show at the Ferus Gallery.

Which, as we all know, triggered Berman's move to San Francisco and his hooking up with Bruce Conner, who taught Baldwin how to make dazzling, poetic cinematic collages out of found footage. Mere coincidence?..."

Read the rest of Locals Only: Changing the System From Within here

And read The Marvel: A Biography of Jack Parsons by Richard Carbonneau & Robin Simon (detail above) here.