Friday, September 28, 2012

Wildlife Art Contest Winners

"WeHo’s Plummer Park was most recently on my radar because last fall the Audubon Society – the nature conservationist group named in honor of the seminal American wildlife artist – was being ousted from their headquarters there after 75 years. This weekend, the park plays host to a somewhat different strain of wildlife art, in the form of the Tom of Finland Foundation’s annual Erotic Art Fair, now in its 17th year.

 The TOFF was founded in 1984 by Durk Dehner and Touko Laaksonen — AKA Tom of Finland, the iconic illustrator of homoerotic fetishism whose impact on gay culture began in the 50’s. Tom’s influence eventually expanded to include significant mainstream art world acceptance and, arguably, a hand in reconfiguring our entire society’s understanding of the visual symbolism of masculinity.

 It’s hard not to compare this weekend’s TOFF Erotic Art Fair with the mainstream Art Platform Fair happening simultaneously over in Santa Monica. Both extravaganzas share the same template in essence – a weekend-long popup marketplace where various purveyors of collectable artifacts try to outdo each other, punctuated by some serious partying. So far, so good.

 But the mainstream art world where Art Platform operates — as it has evolved over the last few decades, at least — is in many ways a closeted, hypocritical version of the openly libidinous aesthetics of the Erotic Art community. Having officially disavowed aesthetic pleasure (and pretty much all other qualitative criteria) sometime around 1970, The Art World has since had to pursue its sensual pleasures on the QT, devising elaborate post-structural theoretical excuses for moony figurative paintings of half-naked young’uns or Mapplethorpe’s photo of a whip handle in a butthole. It ain’t rocket science, people!..."

Read the rest of Seeking Art that Stimulates? here, on the newly launched WEHOville webzine.

Find more info on the TOFF Erotic Art Fair here.

Image: Rob Clarke's accordion-playing merman

Chinatown Autumn Moon Artmageddon

Tomorrow, after the no doubt spectacular debut of the rescheduled-back-to-Saturday-afternoon Mannlicher Carcano Radio Hour, I will be heading east to Chinatown for two separate but equally cool happenings during the citywide Artmageddon as well as the Autumn Moon Festival - the first being the opening of The Small Loop Show curated by China Adams for the Fellows of Contemporary Art.

 The Small Loop Show is a miniaturized recurrence of the acclaimed Loop Show at Beacon Arts last winter, and features sculpture, painting, video, and collage by Miyoshi Barosh, Christian Cummings, Amy Drezner, Mark Dutcher, myself, Anne Hieronymus, Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor, Robert Larson, John Luckett, Nuttaphol Ma, Stephen McCabe, Dane Picard, William Ransom, Don Suggs, Christine Wertheim, Alexis Zoto, and China Adams.

My contribution is a tiny new chapter from my ongoing experimental collage graphic novel The Cryogenic Angel, entitled A Wandering Menstrual Eye. Here are the first two verses - you'll have to come to the show to see how it turns out. The Small Loop Show opens in the FOCA Exhibition Space located at 970 N Broadway, Suite 208 (on the second floor of the dilapidated Mandarin Plaza) Saturday, September 29th, 2012 at 6pm and runs through November 24th 2012.

 Simultaneously, I will be presenting my legendary Moldy Slide Show for the first time in several years, as part of Translucent Travels: An Evening of Slide Show Travelogues at Automata on Chung King Road. The Moldy Slides were extracted, cleaned and painstakingly sorted from a cache of thousands found in one of many dumpster-loads of material purged from the home of a bona fide hoarder in Edendale after torrential rains sogged his hoard a few years back. One is also on view as a giant backlit transparency in the Illumination group show at The Prospectus at the PDC.

The slideshow is constantly evolving, but this iteration will include the classic soundtrack featuring Christian Cummings, possibly playing live musical saw. Other presenters include Ursula Brookbank, Moira MacDonald, Julianna (JP) Parr, and Sara Velas plus Don Suggs' Picture Machine on view in the gallery window. Don Wildman of the Travel Channel is the guest Master of Ceremonies, and attendees are invited to bring their own 35mm slides for projection. Everything happens Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 8 PM. Tickets are $10, seating is limited. See the Automata site for further details.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pretty Damn Cool

Carl Berg threw together the Illumination show for his "The Prospectus" space at the Pacific Design Center in a few days, and he didn't have time to assemble the elaborately rickety funhouse environment he had in mind for this collection of large-scale backlit transparencies, but it turned out pretty awesome nevertheless. I finally got to see one of my Moldy Slides in the large format I'd envisioned for them - this is Luray Caverns 1: Washington Column (2012)

The front gallery is taken up by a remarkable small group of photos taken by former Hog Farm anesthesiologist Andy Romanoff, documenting Nicholas Ray at the Chateau Marmont in 1973, working on his experimental collaborative film We Can't Go Home Again. Coincidentally, Lee Lynch caught a screening of the newly restored version of this while in Marseilles last winter for the Murder of Hi Good premiere, and it's been making the rounds in LA since.

Speaking of revisionist westerns, there was a fairly interesting experiment in that genre in Paul Young's adjacent video gallery Young Projects. American Night by the Berlin-based Julian Rosefeldt had several excellent postmodern punchlines and some hypnotic pastoral passages, but it's no Hi Good. Of course it didn't help that two idiot art chicks sat through 3/4 of it nattering at full volume about their stupid career ambitions. Haven't they heard of texting?!

 Of more interest was the walk-through video installation 1967 by Nadia Hironaka and Matthew Suib, which contained multiple references to Expo 67, a topic close to my heart. I wonder how many other viewers caught the looped sample from the Bobby Gimby's insidious centennial children's chorus novelty single Canada. Or the metastasizing geometrics of Habitat 67 (seen lower left, above)? Then I saw this in the parking lot:

The Pacific Design Center 
8687 Melrose Avenue (at San Vicente Boulevard) 
W. Hollywood, CA 90069 

NOTE: Open Tues-Fri ONLY! 

Andy Romanoff: Nicholas Ray at the Chateau Marmont and Illumination (also includes Petra Schilder, Johannes Spalt, Mazin Sami and Paul Silkowski) through November 2, 2012 
1967 up through Nov 1 
American Night through Oct 27

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Oh the Humanities! II: Quetzalcoatl Rising

"When the curator John Pohl was a teenager building props and sets for the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, he also became obsessed with a very unlikely “storyboard”—the Codex Zouche-Nuttall, a fifteenth-century manuscript in the southern Mexican Mixtec pictographic language that was still in use at the time of the Spanish conquest. One of a handful of pre-Columbian codices to survive the book-burning policies of the Catholic Church, the Codex Nuttall is a remarkable thirty-foot-long, double-sided deer hide accordion scroll covered with intricate, beautiful paintings that tell the adventures of the eleventh-century Oaxaca warrior-king, Lord Eight Deer Jaguar-Claw. Unlike the then-lost Classic Mayan script, which used syllabic glyphs to represent the phonetics of spoken language, Mixtec is almost entirely pictorial, resulting in a relatively intelligible graphic narrative.

Moving to Los Angeles in the early seventies, Pohl embarked on a unique interdisciplinary education combining archaeology and animation. “I saw it,” he recalls “as the basis for an ideal collaboration between the ancient painter and the contemporary filmmaker. The more I learned about animation, the more I began to detect certain principles in form and design that matched the composition of painted books utilized by the pre-Columbian Mexican civilizations. The emphasis on shortened bodies with enlarged heads and hands, once dismissed by art historians as primitive in design, were exactly what made the earliest Disney characters so effective at communicating basic human emotions cross-culturally, and from longer distances, which made it perfect for courtly settings. So, I started animating these things from the Dover facsimile publication back in the seventies.”

From this idiosyncratic starting point, Pohl has gone on to become one of the most respected scholars of the Postclassic period of Mesoamerican history, the era between the still mysterious collapse of the Classic Mayan empire around 900 CE and the rise to power of the Aztecs and the arrival of the Spanish in the 1500s. But the Codex Nuttall has remained a central obsession. “Unlike many of my colleagues, who were deciphering Mayan writing, I was more interested in why people don’t write. So, I became a specialist in this late Postclassic system, and I’ve spent the thirty-five years of my career not only deciphering this, but actually going out and finding the actual places.”

Pohl’s Nuttall obsession reached a pinnacle recently, when the British Museum agreed to lend the precious manuscript for the first time, as the pivotal artifact in Children of the Plumed Serpent: The Legacy of Quetzalcoatl in Ancient Mexico—an extraordinary exhibit cocurated by Pohl with Victoria Lyall and the late Virginia Fields of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where it debuted in April before traveling to the Dallas Museum of Art in July.

What loosened the Brits’ grip was the specificity of Children of the Plumed Serpent, which was organized, in part, as an alternative to the many surveys of pre-Columbian art and culture that focus on Classic Mayan or conquest-era Aztec periods, ignoring the six centuries in between. During that period, a visually rich but much less centralized culture flourished around the unifying legendary figure of Quetzalcoatl.

Quetzalcoatl is the feathered serpent god who, in human form, was said to have been the king of Tula, a real city north of Mexico City, which—also known as Tollan—served as a sort of Eden in Postclassic mythology. After a rival deity gets him drunk and he commits incest with his sister, Quetzalcoatl is banished and wanders through southern Mexico, where he spreads innovative agricultural and artistic technologies and becomes the patron of many small, independent Nahua, Mixtec, and Zapotec kingdoms in the region in and around modern Oaxaca..."

Read the rest of Artists Rule here.

Images: Feathered Serpent with the Year 1 Reed AD 1200-1521, Mexico Basalt 8 1⁄4 x 17 5/16 in.; Codex Nuttall 15th–16th century, Mexico, Western Oaxaca Deerskin gesso and pigments, 44 11/16 x 7 1/2 x 9 1/4 in.; Codex Selden AD 1556-1560, Mexico, Western Oaxaca Deerskin, gesso and pigments 20 leaves, 10 7/8 x 10 7/8 in.; Relación Geográfica Map of Teozacoalco AD 1580 Mexico, Oaxaca, 56 x 69 11/16 in!; Turquoise-mosaic Disk AD 1300-1521, Mexico Turquoise and wood, 15 3/8 in. (diam.); Turquoise-mosaic Disk AD 900-1200, Mexico, Yucatán, Chichén Itzá Wood and turquoise, 9 5/8 x 3⁄4 in. (diam.); Solar Disk AD 1530-1650, Mexico, Puebla, Tepeaca Stone, 9 1/16 x 43 5/16 in.; Skull with Turquoise Mosaic 1400-1521, Mexico, Western Oaxaca or Puebla Human skull with turquoise, jadeite and shell, 6 1⁄2 x 6 x 8 in.; Turquoise-mosaic Shield AD 1100-1521, Mexico, Puebla, Acatlan Wood, stone, tree resin, and turquoise, 12 13/16 x 12 3/4 x 13/16 in.; Turquoise-mosaic Disk AD 900-1200, Mexico, Hidalgo, Tula Turquoise, pyrite and wood, 13 5/16 x 7/8 in. (diam.)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Cabeza Debacle Narrowly Avoided!

Having divided my Saturday between the Anarchist Book Fair and the opening of the Doug Harvey UCI Invitational 2012 (part of Curatorial Exchange at the Irvine Fine Arts Center - more on that later) I tried to tardy-crash the imported ham orgy at Machine Projects, but was thwarted by locked doors and shaded windows. Peering through a gap, I glimpsed a room full of naked men (including hot indie star David Nordstrom, if I'm not mistaken, and some one who looked suspiciously like former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove) redolent with Jamón ibérico-induced Itis, backs turned to the miniature Bohemian Grove idol, allegedly watching a 1972 biopic on the adventures of shipwrecked conquistador Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca who was enslaved by meso-american tribes but freed himself by learning Shamanism. I rattled the door, but it was as if there was no one there, so powerful was the fancy-ham trance. Denied! What epoch-making conspiracies were hatched that night? What a gathering, gentlemen! What a gathering indeed!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Cagey Bandwagoneering

"Oops, wrong Cage!" -- Just realized today is John Cage's hundredth birthday and everyone's all over it so I figured I'd UL part of the "Elegy for John Cage" I composed and recorded as Audio Artist in Residence at Video Pool over the summer of 1993. The entire piece was 64 minutes long, in 8 sections, and - once the library of potential audio sources and actions was in place - assembled using the I Ching. This is the first section.