82 , January 26, 2007
Where I'm From: Nicole Caruth talks to Robert Pruitt
It’s not even February and I’m sitting back to consider what the new year has garnered. Other than a quickly abandoned New Year’s resolution, a recap of the last 30 or so days has yielded some noteworthy “firsts” in the black community. Swann Galleries announced the first major auction devoted entirely to African American art. Barack Obama broadcasted his likely bid for the 2008 presidential election in what some consider a real shot at becoming the nation’s first black president. Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy won their first Golden Globe awards for their roles in Dreamgirls. Oprah Winfrey opened her first school for girls in South Africa. James Brown, “the Godfather of Soul,” for the first time graced the Apollo stage in stillness in a postmortem farewell. And, finally, Robert Pruitt’s first solo museum exhibition opened at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston.
A native and current resident of Houston, Texas, Robert Pruitt’s career is flourishing. His witty sculptures and distinctive drawings have been included in recent and major group exhibitions such as Frequency at the Studio Museum in Harlem and, along with the fellows of the clever collective, Otabenga Jones, the 2006 Whitney Biennial. Pruitt and I chatted about his current exhibition, burgeoning career and his many influences from the sweeping diversity of Houston’s Third Ward to the broad history of Black visual culture.
Nicole Caruth: So your first solo museum exhibition is a very exciting moment in an artist’s career. Do you feel like it’s been a hard road to get to this point or did it seem to come with relative ease?
Robert Pruitt: I wouldn’t describe it as a “hard road.” No, maybe kind of a weird road, but not hard. I think that because of what my work is about and some of the things that I’m interested in; the art world is generally a weird place.
NC: [laughter] Yeah, that’s the truth.
RP: As far as moving upwards—I consider it moving upwards—I’m getting more exhibitions and some recognition and…I don’t know…I just think it’s kind of strange. I’m enjoying it, but it puts me in sort of a weird space.
As far as moving upwards, I consider it moving upwards, I’m getting more exhibitions and some recognition and…I don’t know…I just think it’s kind of strange. I’m enjoying it, but it puts me in sort of a weird space.
NC: What have been some of the more memorable moments in the journey thus far?
RP: I guess the unexpected things like getting into the Whitney Biennial and how that came about. [Also] being able to do this along with friends of mine, speaking about Otabenga Jones, and being able to work with them alongside my own career.
NC: How did the Whitney Biennial come about?
RP: A couple of ways. I got an Artadia grant two years ago and Chrissie Isles, one of the curators at the Whitney [Museum of American Art], was also on the jury [for this grant] so she knew about my work, was looking for artists for the Biennial, and so she came by my studio. I say it was unexpected, because for me the Whitney has always been this [place] that was always really, really out of reach. I felt like it was this thing that was very far away. [Just] the fact that she came by the studio was nice. I never thought I would get in [to the Biennial] and then she called and said we want [Otabenga Jones] in the show. To me that was a big deal.
NC: It’s a huge deal. I think that even I was surprised to see you all there, happy though, but it definitely seemed like something out of the norm for the Whitney. How did you come to work with these other fellows in Otabenga Jones?
RP: We’ve known each other for maybe thirteen years. We went to undergraduate [school] together and met in a drawing class at Texas Southern University. We all kind of grew up on comic books and rap music a lot and so from that we just kind of bonded. We were all artists and doing exhibitions on our own and we would assist each other, you know giving each other rides, helping with stuff like that. In ‘02 we started to work together officially to see what kind of moves we could make as a real organization and we’ve been doing it ever since.
NC: What are some of the challenges and rewards, personally, of working with a collective? Let me back up. I think that there was a time when, and even still, the idea of a collective seemed to pose problems in art, because we tend to like to assign work to one person that we can focus on. So, has this attitude ever affected the way you work or how you’re received as a group?
RP: From the beginning, when [Otabenga Jones] first started discussing becoming a collective, one of the things that we wanted [to do] was to take out individuality, so that [work] couldn’t be assigned to one of us [or] one of us couldn’t be sought out. We wanted it to be vague about who made what, so I think that [because] we took care of that in the beginning, it hasn’t really come up [or at least] for us it hasn’t become a real issue. As far as challenges…[it’s] the challenge of working with a group. I mean, everyone knows about that... Especially with people that you’ve known for a long time, people that know all of your flaws or know all of your behavioral patterns and will call you on it. It’s interesting, because that same thing allows us to work together, so then you do understand people’s flaws and can better spend time working with them.
NC: I’ve read, quite a few times, quotes in which you’re pretty direct about remaining in Houston and being particularly interested in your community, the Third Ward, African and African American culture and the black experience. Do you see a disconnect between your interests as an artist and the current interests [or trends] of the larger art world?
RP: Yeah, it’s a little challenging, because I don’t think the art world has ever been really interested in those things. My neighborhood, my community, is not funding art museums, so I don’t believe that they would have any genuine interest in it. I feel [conflicted by] having all of these concerns and expressing them in a space that is sort of not about that or only makes room for it in an aesthetic sense. Do you get what I’m saying? They’re just two different spaces and I’m kind of straddling both of them.
NC: Right, and that kind of leads me to my next question, which is…well, two questions. One is when you’re creating work, do you think of your audience as being your community and the Third Ward? The second part of the question is, do you feel divided when you’re exhibiting in a New York art gallery, for instance, because you are [indeed] straddling two worlds…as I think we all do in many ways.
RP: What I’ve come to terms with is where I’m exhibiting my work right now is not the end product of how my work is seen. Eventually, I hope or I like to think that, as I start to amass a body of work over time that that starts to speaks louder than individual exhibitions. Once your work is put into books, magazines and things like that, then it starts to seep out into those other spaces. What I have been doing in some of these other spaces gives me a little more room to, ideally, one day do better things in my neighborhood. Right now I’m hoping that I’m building what will allow me to directly communicate with some of this world that I’m talking about.
NC: I have friends in Texas that have talked to me about the Third Ward before and I just read this article that was in the New York Times about Project Row Houses. So, for someone like me who has only been to Waco, Texas…
RP & NC: [laughter]
NC: Yeah, ‘cause, that’s where my family’s actually from…but describe the Third Ward to me. Take me on a mental walk through. Do you still live in that neighborhood?
RP: Yeah, I still live there. I’m here right now. One of the things that I really like about it, and I realized this a few years ago, is that it’s this fiscally disenfranchised kind of neighborhood, but it also has limbs that go way beyond that. For me, this neighborhood is a really good way to observe all of the different aspects of the black experience because all in one huge neighborhood you have these different levels of income, exposure, experience, just all kinds of things…It’s all one black community that’s been here for a number of years [and is] this really wide hue of black life and all these different perspectives [and] levels of money, education...
The neighborhood kind of runs North/South and at the northernmost end there’s a neighborhood called “the bottom” and it’s the poorest place and we have a lot of drug problems [there]. Not that that doesn’t exist in other parts of the neighborhood, but that’s kind of the hot spot for it. As you go further up the neighborhood, the architecture starts to change and the income levels start to change. From “the bottom” you go from little wooden, small shot gun-like homes (and Project Row Houses is maybe about a half mile up from that) and as you go further up you get one-story brick buildings and you go up a little further and you get two-story almost mansion-like spaces. Texas Southern University, which is a historically black college, is right in the middle of it. So, it’s a really good space to observe, for me, the black condition and all of its incarnations. When you’re thinking about solutions to some of the problems that I’m trying to pose in my work and some of the issues that I’m talking about, it’s a good place to begin, especially since this is where I’m from and a place that I can understand.
NC: Do you think that you’ll always remain there?
RP: Ummmm, right now I think I will. Right now this is where I want to be. All of the stuff that my work is about and all of the changes that I would like to see…I can’t see myself living anywhere else.
NC: As your acclaim continues to widen is it still just as essential to you, as it was earlier in your career, to “bridge the gap between African cultural traditions…and contemporary artmaking tactics,” especially for those people living in the Third Ward? (http://www.clementine-gallery.com/pruitt.html)
RP: I think it’s definitely, definitely essential to bridge that gap of Africa to myself, the people in my neighborhood, my friends and family and people in my environment. But these contemporary art making practices, for me, are important because that’s the world that I’m in. Plus contemporary artists use the same kind of tactics and language that a lot of media, television and movies [use]. We’re all using the same kind of language, equipment and forms, so I think it’s important that I mix all of that up when I’m trying to communicate to whomever. But, as far as bridging [those] gaps, I think it’s very important, at least for me and my community to bridge that gap, because it’s in that space that we start to recognize—and this has been going on since people were saying “black is beautiful”—but to recognize that oh, the cradle of civilization is there [in Africa] and your origin is [also] there, and that is really in opposition to what we’re taught about ourselves right now and to the images that we see on television.
You know, a friend of mine was just telling me the other day that people are using a new version of the bible and moving away from the King James version to something called the New Standard version [in which] they’ve taken out the references to things like Jesus having hair of wool and that kind of stuff. It’s like, man, they’re still doing that stuff—trying to erase our likeness out of history? It’s not something that I’ve seen [yet] for myself—a guy told me this, but I was blown away, like man, I can’t believe that! It’s the same old stuff, so I think looking back to the origin of man and such and finding yourself there can be very useful to us in “becoming” ourselves again. I think we’re a little bit lost in some of that…but it’s an example that we’re being erased out of these things. To me it’s an example of what we need to watch out for.
NC: In your exhibition at Clementine Gallery right now, Quiet as Kept, you’re talking about this notion of secrets and it seems that this undertone is there [as you address] the black experience becoming part of mainstream media and our loosening grasp on these things that are kind of inherent to who we are and to black culture. In your drawings and sculptures, you insert these kind of “keys” and [recognizable] cultural symbols, but I’m wondering if anyone has ever come to you and said “I really like what you’re doing, but I don’t get it?” Do people generally “get it?”
RP: I believe so. I’ve never had anybody talk to me that didn’t find something in [my work]. The fact that they come up to me normally means that they did find something in it. If they’re not [finding something in the work], maybe they’re not approaching me about it. I think that I work in a way that’s kind of straightforward. Even though I do try to make my work layered, I try to keep enough on the surface where most people can get something almost immediately. I think I put enough symbolism or recognizable objects. In fact when I make my sculptures, I always try to use [materials] of which everyone has some sort of understanding, like guns or a vacuum cleaner—all of the materials that I use are materials that everybody has used. I think my drawings are the same; they are drawings that everyone can recognize…in some sense.
NC: That came up as a question for me because when I saw the show [at Clementine Gallery] there’s the drawing of the man sitting in the rattan chair with the mask on [Shining Black Prince Medina] and I automatically associated the chair with Huey Newton and that chair is a very familiar piece of furniture, I think, in [African American] cultural history, but I was with a friend [for whom] it didn’t register in any way whatsoever. She just knew that she liked the drawing.
RP: That’s really interesting, because that drawing for me is all about that Huey Newton image and it’s one of those things that I, and maybe even you, forget—that the rest of the world doesn’t have the same vocabulary of images in their head. I look at images of the [Black] Panthers and that particular image is…it must be like an image of Santa Claus [for other people]. I mean, I’ve seen it so many times and it became sort of a symbol. It went beyond being a photo of this person and [the chair] became a symbol of a moment and a movement in history. Everybody doesn’t look at the Panthers in the same way and so it doesn’t register in the same way, and that chair becomes some sort of aesthetic thing. I was actually a little surprised that everyone didn’t look at that and automatically go to that space, but then it’s like oh, that’s right, I love this stuff, but not everyone else is aware of it.
NC: Which makes you think that maybe we [as black people] still have a few “secrets” or we still have a language that is not public?
RP: I think that right now we have something similar to [what you’re saying] and I think in my work I’m trying to say let’s retain some of that. As we create new forms and new images maybe keep in mind that we don’t need to share this [or that] with everyone.
NC: …I think, that’s one of the layers in your work; you insert these symbols and you’re talking about creating a new language, but visually you are creating a new language and there seems to be this seamless blend of past and present and generations, new and old. Is that seamlessness something that you’re reaching for?
RP: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I actually want to cross all of those different layers…I don’t know how to explain this…I want to reflect kind of the way that I’m experiencing things and I’m assuming, and you may be experiencing them the same way [that] you might hear a song or see something on television and you recognize where it’s from…man, this is confusing. I don’t know how to explain this part…
NC: Let me see. I’m thinking about hip hop today. No one makes their own music and it seems like everybody is sampling, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t know that something is a sample, because they don’t know music history or a certain area of music far enough back to know that that’s not really [an original] song and all that the rapper or whomever has done is put some different lyrics and added some kind of new beat to it. So, is that…
RP: Yeah, I think that may be what I’m talking about. The fact that hip hop samples 70s soul music and so that [music] also exists in 2006-2007. I don’t know if that’s a good way to describe it, but you’re exactly right. I mean even myself, I’ll hear a song and I don’t recognize that it’s a sampled song, I might recognize that it’s sampled, but I don’t recognize where [the original] comes from. You’d have to be a musicologist to always recognize where it’s from.
NC: Yes. I think [we’re talking about] this notion of a hybrid, but when we think of “hybrid” today we tend to think of one thing that doesn’t look like the other and those two things coming together, but your [notion of] hybridism is more of a continuum of history, traditions…and links between generations rather than these abrupt divides and that’s what you’re rendering.
RP: Yes. I have a drawing in the CAMH show of a woman and if you see these National Geographic-like images of African women and African people with large plates [that] cut a slit into their bottom lip and it looks like there’s a ceramic plate inside of it and you’ll see caricatures and cartoons of this stuff on Bugs Bunny and that kind of thing, but there are groups of people that actually do this. So, I did a drawing of a woman like that, but instead of the ceramic plate in her lip, I put a car rim in her lip. That drawing for me was directly trying to talk about that continuum of aesthetic impulse. I was thinking about when somebody takes their car and tricks it out and paints it these crazy candy colors and how expensive that is and then puts it on a car from 1980. You know, it’s kind of a weird thing to do and it looks strange to someone who’s not part of that culture. What that woman has done [with her lip] might look strange if you’re outside of that culture. I’m trying to make a connection between those two cultures and say, “Hey, we come from this.”
NC: And in the same way that someone might cover their whole grill with platinum, there’s a connection [to a cultural history].
RP: Exactly…I’m interested in how somebody with gold fronts or a platinum grill is [within] the same realm as adorning yourself in other ways that come out of history, so in that sense these [things are] highly reverential. But I [also] see it as a form of resistance. Once you start doing some of these things to yourself, you know it exes you out of certain parts of society or leadership. You know that you’re not going to become, say, the CEO of some huge energy company if you have gold fronts. It’s just not gonna happen. To me it’s about being resistant to dominant societal structures and I would say that that’s a high art form. To say “I refuse to follow these rules,” to say “I refuse to go into that space and I’m going to work my magic over here”…I’m amazed by that. I think it’s incredible.
NC: Do you ever do research [deep] into history or are you mostly drawing from history created in your lifetime or by [surrounding] generations?
RP: I use historical images [in which] I’m looking at African indigenous costuming and adornment methods [for example, but] most of the other things I bring in are contemporary and the stuff that I understand and that I grew up with—the platinum grills and that kind of thing. As far as researching other historical things, when I’m trying to create that continuum that you talked about, I’m looking at a lot of historical images for that other side of it. I wouldn’t call myself a “researcher,” but I do a little bit of research and am constantly researching images.
NC: Is there any particular reason that you use butcher paper as opposed to any other type of paper.
RP: I try to use materials that are cheap and easy to find. I also wanted to use a paper that did not reference the Western art world so much. I gave a talk for my opening at the CAMH and someone asked me the same sort of question. I said to them that I like the brown paper as a background because I’m drawing brown people and for me it brings about a different meaning, a different reference. It’s not saying that whiteness is the neutral [color] to put everything on top of. To me, it should probably be brown. There are more brown people in the world. If there’s going to be an assertion that white is neutral and should be the background for everything, than I’m going to say that it’s not, but a brown space is [neutral].
NC: So coming up soon you have this show at Artpace. Do you want to talk about your residency a bit?
RP: I don’t start the residency until January 16th and the exhibition is in March, and everything that I make during the residency is what I’ll be showing. I’ve been thinking about the idea of keeping secrets and keeping a sort of sacred and reverential space for these black ideas to flower and bloom, so I’m thinking about how to express that. I want to try out some different mediums that I haven’t worked with in a long time like photo[graphy], video, animation and those sorts of things. Right now, I’m brainstorming and haven’t really decided what I’m going to work on yet.
NC: And is there anything coming up for Otabenga Jones?
RP: We’re doing an exhibition in September 2007 with the Menil. They have a program where they invite artists to come into their archives and so we’ve been meeting with them, going through their archives and we’re going to do a project.
NC: That sounds exciting. Robert, thank you so much for your time!
Lucky Number Thirteen
A Short Introduction: This column has a relatively clear thematic framework. Every month I will discuss an object—something material and self-contained—that happens to have caught my attention. The objects I select cannot be things that I have sought out, and they must have relevance to people thinking about and making art in Austin, as well as to thinkers and makers at large, but the objects’ significance need not be overt. My hope is that the collection of physical stuff that develops in conjunction with this column will be more weird than serious, but I can’t guarantee that. “The whole point is not knowing what you’ll find.”
Books count as objects within the guidelines I’ve established, and the quotation above comes from the book that will be the subject of this month’s submission. Partly in honor of Okay Mountain’s spirited new programming No American Talent (see Claire Ruud’s review herein), I’ve decided to take another look at New American Talent (NAT) by considering the catalogue that accompanied the thirteenth incarnation of this exhibition. NAT 13 was a group show organized by Texas Fine Arts Association (now known as Arthouse) with artists selected by Robert Storr who, at the time, was Curator of the Department of Painting and Sculpture at MoMA. To provide some perspective, last summer’s NAT exhibition at Arthouse was the twenty-first in the series. Lucky number thirteen opened in Austin this time of year, nine years ago, in January 1998.
Nine years is an uncommon historical increment; but it’s one that makes me feel both close to and distanced from the happenings of NAT 13. When this exhibition opened, I was a college sophomore studying abroad in Russia—an American in search of linguistic talent. Nevertheless, familiar artists’ names and curatorial tendencies allow me to transport myself into the place and time of NAT 13 as if it were today. Hills Snyder’s work received an honorable mention from the jurors, and Chris Sauter contributed a witty multi-component sculpture of ink on wood titled, Plywood Suit (1996). Conrad Bakker, who Austinites will remember from his November 2005 exhibition at Lora Reynolds Gallery, contributed two sculptures including An Entrance (1996), a wooden painted sign bearing the letters EXIT as seen in reverse. There were also two works—Thédra Cullar-Ledford’s Five Thousand Trashy Romance Novels (1997), and John Salvest’s Smoke-Free (1996)—that seemed like they would have worked well in Over + Over: Passion for Process at Austin Museum of Art last summer. By spotting and supporting artists like Snyder, Sauter and Bakker, the Austin art community showed itself to be ahead of the curve, yet unconcerned with passing fads. Conversely, by presenting work in 2006 that looks like it could have been produced in 1996 under the guise of “contemporary art,” Austin lags.
Despite its condescending title, Storr’s essay, “Texas Shuffle,” contains more than its fair share of quotable passages. Referring to the exhibition as a “collective blind date for the sake of art,” is a nice way to excuse some of the inevitable awkwardness in a juried show with 66 works from 40 artists. Indeed, Storr got around that year: 1,534 artists from across the country submitted over 6,000 slides to the discerning juror.
As Storr described his method, the works he selected for NAT 13 were those that stuck in his memory without asserting an overly rigid formal structure or definitive identity. He rewarded, “the sense of individuality in flux—of something uniquely constituted but perceptually or conceptually variable—that captures and holds the viewer.” In hindsight, it appears that he kept his word. The sculptures and low-reliefs in the exhibition seem to shift between two or more equally proper states (even in reproduction). In the two-dimensional works, foreground and background are often easily transposed. Likewise, in works made of small, incremental units, the component parts and composite whole vie to hold the viewer’s eye.
The shifting qualities Storr preferred in art made circa 1997 are analogous to the situation developing between the New and the No versions of American Talent in Austin. The tension between bodies can often help a work congeal, and we seem to have those conditions developing between an established tradition and a maverick alternative. I look forward to the flux.
How I found this object I found this catalogue because it was lying horizontally across the top of a few large clothbound books and it fell into the space that opened when I pulled one of the bigger books off the shelf. The deep red and black colors of the catalogue’s textured paper cover made me look twice before putting it back.
David Lynch: Inland Empire
Following a brief introduction, David Lynch took the stage at the Paramount Theater with a big smile and a black coat and tie—something leftover from the Eraserhead wardrobe maybe—and assured us that despite what the lady just said, for no reason should any of us get up during the movie. “But the coffee is on me.” A woman named Christabel almost floated in from stage left like a vampire to perform a vocal improvisation. Lynch contributed a short reading of an ancient Hindu poem about spiders weaving webs and shit. The theater turned into a Lynch movie for about four minutes before he laid down his newest mindfuck, Inland Empire.
Three hours after Inland Empire begins, it ends; but the actual movie only lasts for maybe 5 minutes. By providing this information I have not spoiled anything. And this is not to say that nothing happens during the other 175 minutes, quite the opposite. Inland Empire succeeds on most levels that audiences have come to expect of his films. It terrifies, tickles and confounds even when the pacing, impeded at times by a limited variation of shots, slows to Bela Tarr-speed. Shot entirely on cheap Sony PD150 video cameras, the images and textures are amazing. After a beautifully realized prologue, Lynch introduces a crying woman rapt by television static. Here, Inland Empire begins its process of narrative meiosis, dividing time after time, movies into sitcom into reality. The characters themselves bifurcate, recombine and infiltrate each other’s stories all the while Inland descends further into an ontological investigation of the singular edit. When the mother narrative resurfaces, it wraps itself up almost immediately then sends us off with a screwball gag and a dance. Still, nothing makes itself conspicuous and everything fits. It kind of sounds like the same old story. Somehow it isn’t.
Of course, my cursory interpretation is neither here nor there. To paraphrase the most banal comment of the night (taking into account that someone asked, “What the fuck?” during the Q&A), Lynch’s films lend themselves to endless readings. The only observation of any certain gravity came from a sauced-up moviegoer sitting behind me, who, during a scene in which a prostitute lifted her t-shirt to boast her wealth of fleshy currency to a cadre of streetwalkers, thought aloud, “This is where David Lynch is all; David Lynch likes the titayAHs!”
As vulgar and obnoxious as he was, I have to concede his point. Others, too, caught on to such Lynchian tropes. One audience member seized his opportunity to call out his hero in front of his fellow acolytes: "Why do you quote yourself so often in your movies—certain thematic concerns, dialogue and even some shots seem to recur in multiple films." Lynch wanted specifics to substantiate this soft accusation and sounded like he might really have never considered this aspect of his films. The interrogator, to both Lynch’s and professional Q&A mediator, John Pierson’s, surprise, rattled off three solid examples of the filmmaker’s self-reflexivity: Sage figures who guide the protagonist and inform him/her of the rules governing their respective fantasy worlds; characters crossing over into other mediums; an aversion to heterosex…I can’t even tell if I am remembering these from the session or making them up right now. They are incontrovertible, nonetheless. Lynch remained poised as the crowd reticently participated in a group gotchya! and then replied in his mellifluous, yet nasal voice (worth its therapeutic weight in gold for a meditation guru from Pittsburgh), that everything the young man said was beautiful and that all he can say is that each movie grows from different ideas and seems brand new to him every time. He gets his ideas from ideas, they tell him what to do, he doesn’t set out to repeat anything intentionally.
To be fair, Lynch alludes to himself less than he does to other major Hollywood pictures of the Golden Era. Even in his homage to The Wizard of Oz and Sunset Blvd, two of the most apparent source materials for Inland, he re-imagines their significance, resituates them into his own hermetic symbology—accentuating the horrors of homesickness and Hollywood respectively—manipulating their iconic imagery to serve their archetypical purposes in his own story. Why a girl-on-girl embrace again reunites the narrative (see Mulholland Drive) and acts as a mechanism for character transfiguration remains unanswered. A fantasy solution to the messy problem of procreative sex? I didn’t get the chance to ask.
Other questions were standard Q&A fare: What’s the deal with the soundtrack? Yes, there will be a soundtrack. When is Lost Highway coming out on DVD? Whenever Universal realizes it’s important to fans and stops sitting on the completed product. Will Inland play in Austin ever again? Yes, in a few months at the Alamo Village. Why distribute the movie yourself? Well, it is me and my team, but it is because it is three hours long – “the kiss of death” for commercial film. What do you think about Laura Dern not winning an Oscar after you campaigned with a cow on the side of the road? That’s the way it goes. Are you successful? Well, I don’t make a lot of money but I feel like my ideas translate successfully to my films. Do you enjoy touring? Yes. Movies are on telephones now. Theater experiences like this are precious. Will you ever do another TV show since Twin Peaks was cancelled and the TV series of Mulholland Drive didn’t make it? No! Internet is the new TV. Support arthouse cinema.
Any other questions, of which there were only a few, Lynch answered with variations on a single fishing metaphor lifted from his new book, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity. Therein lay bits of wisdom collected during his 33-year dedication to consciousness understanding through meditation (twice a day, every day) to inspire would-be creative types to search within themselves, fish at the lake of their own souls, bait their ideas with desire. In describing his far out discipline, he held the microphone to his mouth, his free hand fluttering in gentle waves, repeating the words beautiful and shiny in succession, parenthetically as if slipping listlessly into his own private trance in front of God and everyone. He concluded with his utopic vision of a future in which children of all castes had access to consciousness education, where everyone, like Lynch himself, could be happy. An inspirational digression for his less-anguished fans, but for the cynical majority, there was still that free coffee in the lobby.
Dance with Shaun Gladwell
Sydney based artist Shaun Gladwell was invited to Tokyo to participate in the exhibition Wave Front: Australian Contemporary Art Scene at Tokyo Wonder Site. He asked me to assist him with the creation of his new work, Study for a Station of the Metro (After Ezra Pound), the sequel to Untitled, the work he made for the 2005 Yokohama Triennale. In Untitled, he followed several break dancers as they walked in shopping centers and subway stations, filming them from behind when they suddenly stopped and vigorously began breaking. For the new work, Shaun wanted the dancers to “baby freeze” amidst the busy traffic of moving people. “Baby freeze” is a technique in which the dancer supports her body with arms and head, and suspends the movement of her body, so that it appears to be frozen in time. The chosen location was the JR Shinjuku station in Tokyo. With an average of 220,000 passengers daily, Shinjuku is one of the busiest train stations in Japan. Since we had too little time before the show’s opening and had no official support from the organizer of the exhibition, we decided to do a guerrilla shooting.
We were able to gather several dancers quickly. Some we worked with during Untitled; others were participating for the first time. When we explained the details to the dancers, one of them reacted badly to the idea of shooting in a public space without permission to film. She commented, “The artist tells us that he would take all the responsibility, but I don’t believe so. If we get into trouble, we who speak Japanese will suffer, not him.” This reaction was quite surprising and disappointing to me. Doesn’t the excitement of the street culture come from the thrill of sneaking past social rules? I, then, remembered the same dancer telling me that many Japanese kids learn to breakdance from watching videos from the USA. These dancers may be faithful to techniques, but lack the social and historical context that originally nurtured breakdancing.
We proposed to her an alternative location near the dancer hangout, or near a corporate building that officially permits dancers to practice in the evening. We hoped she would feel familiar and safe there, and she agreed. Shooting began after the business hours, on a Saturday, so absolutely nobody was around. It took only 20 minutes for a security guard to notice us. He took a coercive attitude and kept talking through a walkie-talkie, as if we were a terrorist group. We quickly relocated.
On the other hand, our filming at Shinjuku Station went unnoticed from the authorities. Security guards were on duty, but we were completely masked by the crowd of people. We did, however, get a lot of interruptions by drunks and curious bystanders. A man tried to touch a dancer’s foot and a few guys tried to pose for the camera. The best performer we met was a lambasted man, who was literally sleep-walking. He stood right in front of the camera and slept. When Shaun asked him (in English) to move, he put down his bag and flashed us a peace sign. Both guerilla actions, the filming and the breakdancing, did not stand out against the other crazy happenings at the stations.
The First Generation at Reina Sophia
On view through April 2
Sometimes guilt is the best motivator. It was for Berta Sichel, director of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (MNCARS)’s Audiovisual Department. For a national museum whose mandate is to show the world that Spain has great modern art and that they haven’t been falling asleep at the talent and taste wheel, they were doing an absolutely unexceptional job of collecting perhaps the most timely and certainly the most lively and alive art form of the last half-century: video art. First Generation: Art and the Moving Image, 1963-1986 (on view through April 2), the debut of MNCARS’s video art collection, pulls off a Carrie for the museum: it puts all those early bloomers and adopters in their place, and it fucking kills.
Ángel Borrego, exhibition designer for First Generation, deserves a gold star. Where most galleries and museums throw five hours or more of video art on a single monitor and call it a show (AMoA, I’m looking at you), Borrego’s philosophy of one monitor per tape really proves that video art needs space to breathe and shine. All sculptural installations have their own mini-gallery, most walls are covered in soft materials to make leaning more comfortable, and any tape requiring the audience’s undivided attention has a couch, chairs or a bench in front of its dedicated monitor.
Circumstance plays a big part in the success of First Generation. Sichel has been forced to really scrape the barrel for this show, unearthing and sometimes reincarnating tapes and installations that would certainly have been lost forever if not for MNCARS’s late arrival at the video art collection game. The results are mixed. Jaime Davidovich’s The Live Show (1978 to 1984), a public access art/dada/Fluxus show is a real lost gem. Davidovich, in his Dr. Videovich persona, explores race relations, art world politics and television as a medium with the earnestness and charm of a Montessori school teacher. Eugènia Balcells out-Paiks Nam June with her TV Weave (1985). The most awe-inspiring chill-out room in the world, TV Weave consists of a wall of television sets with the screens mostly blocked; only a few thin horizontal lines remain uncovered to create a meditative plane of dancing light, which, it turns out, is all that is needed to recognize an episode of The Simpsons or a Real Madrid soccer match.
It goes without saying that Nam June Paik’s ghost haunts the Reina Sofia’s halls and galleries. There’s no escaping his influence, his style, his shadow. Joan Logue’s Nam June Paik: Freight Elevator (1979), a portrait of a day in Paik’s life based on his comings and goings on the elevator they shared, introduces the show. Paik is our guide, a Virgil to lead us through the murky mess of video art’s early days.
However, First Generation makes a point of giving credit where credit is due by reminding us that Paik wasn’t working in a vacuum. Wolf Vostell and his work are painfully under-recognized in the creation myth of video art. Vostell was the straight man to Paik’s exuberance and exoticism, the Sparta to Paik’s Athens. His 6 TV Dé-coll/age (1963), an installation with six prepared black-and-white television sets and office furniture, as well as his treatment and commentary on television images in Sun In Your Head (1963), clearly shows that Vostell is engaged in a much more elegant use of the medium than Paik’s medium-as-message early output.
But First Generation is not all hits and underground classics. The worst-of list includes such luminaries as Ana Mendieta, represented here with the utterly banal Untitled (Blood Sign #2/Body Tracks) (1974), a minute and a half of footage in which she paints a crescent shape with her arms, Bruce Nauman’s Tony Sinking into the Floor, Face Up and Face Down (1973), a tape so uninteresting not even youtube.com would play it, Three Relationship Studies (1970) by Vito Acconci, an artist whose work seems to have an appeal expiration date of five minutes after production and VALIE EXPORT’s op-art homage Adjungierte Dislokationen III (1978) performance documentation, a piece that loses all charm if VALIE isn’t there.
Despite some blatant tokenism, First Generation: Art and the Moving Image, 1963-1986 is an enormous success for Berta Sichel and the MNCARS. The links established by the show and brought to the fore between Fluxus, Minimalism, Earth Art, Performance, Feminism, immigration and technology are not always obvious, but the grace with which Sichel highlights them and the easy-handed pedagogy of her curatorial practice is laudable, the stuff of audiovisual department legend.
Seth Alverson: Ghost Survivor of the Final Plague at Art Palace
On view through February 17
The press release found on Art Palace’s website, authored by Seth Alverson, highlights the more important aspects of his mythical growth from an infant raised in a cave by blood and fire to a mature wizard-artist who subsists on the breathe of wolves and the breast milk of his thirteen wives. This mythology does not stop at the press office, however, but follows through into the real world of his art, where he presides as a Creator who threatens to “bend the universe into a tail-eating serpent; where fire will cook fire until the least fixed thing will penetrate all things and all future events will be indistinguishable from the worst that time has to offer.” From the looks Ghost Survivor of the Final Plague, it may have already happened.
Upon entering the gallery, a startling painting, at least double the size of most of his other drawings, begins the Ghosts’s apocalyptic, world-bending narrative. A destructive force has demolished the home, revealing the mountain top of a very possible prehistoric landscape living just beyond the rubble. The two people inside appear dead, one’s face buried in the floor boards, the other limp in an antique chair. On the other side of the room, directly opposite Return of Prehistory, a giant wooly mammoth has demolished an entire town and shows no signs of distress in The New Ouroboros, despite the war still ensnared in its beautiful hair. Alverson leaves no clear clues as to whether or not he employed this mammoth as his physical agent of world-bending, but it certainly caused a lot of damage.
The red waters in The Sea Beneath a Sky of Coffins is the Ballast for Evolution, part 1 and 2, crash against rocks under a sky clouded by “ghosts of ontology” and provide a baleful living-space for tusked creatures who resemble giant squids almost as much as mammoths and serve as a painful reminder of the creator’s scorn. In Plague of Constant Recurrence, Alverson finds his lone human agent, a wondering swordsmen whose stolid countenance never evolved, contemplating the waters of cruel evolution. Foundering under the immense pressure of moral exigencies in times of mortal crisis, he snapped, killing everyone around in The Plateau of Fertility, leaving brains to leak out of fallen helmets. Among the murdered bodies, he ravages a woman, squeezing her huge, milky breast while she claws at his braided hair. We can’t see her face or his chest, their hair covers any giveaways of differentiation. Never has a breast reminded me so much of a penis.
Hanging one drawing away, Plateau of Futility gives us a menagerie of prehistoric beasts copulating in poses that wouldn’t be out of place in an elementary science text…were they pictured alone instead of copulating. Each beast is identical to the partner in its respective species and underpins the serpent-eating-its-tail, world-bending quality of Alverson’s plague.
Despair resonates throughout the blight of Ghost in all creatures save the proud Pterodactyl, the only character who delivers any proof of positive reproduction. Perched on a gnarled tree branch in Coincidence, the pterodactyl watches over his eggs. Below him, a dumbstruck mammoth waits below with mangled tusks and a sacrificial goat sulks patiently in the background. The pterodactyl is the first creature we see after the destruction in Return to Prehistory. Perhaps his constancy should offer hope during the time of plague. But, it might just be a coincidence.
Don’t miss the Goat Whores in the other room!
Benito Laren: Laren Nos Visita/Laren Visits Us at Okay Mountain
Closed January 20
Laren Nos Visita/Laren Visits Us, the Argentine artist Benito Laren’s show at Okay Mountain, is a humorous riff on packaging in which both the artist and his art are made available for the consuming public. Laren uses playful, bright colors and simplified geometric figures reminiscent of the graphics in early 80s computer games. Cute characters like puppies and kittens are everywhere; they decorate cell phones and locket-sized picture frames and attend solitary female figures in paintings on glass. The artist’s signature line of perfumes, Colonization, is displayed on a shelf near the door along with a stack of advertising cards. In the advertisement, Laren has replaced the perfume bottle’s stopper with an image of his head. El Avenito Nos Visita Proyection, an animated video that uses the same elementary yet snappy graphic style, dominates the show. The video follows an adorable four-legged creature on his adventures through outer-space, the earth and the ocean. In one scene, the creature enters a stadium labeled Show de Laren, where Laren’s face flashes furiously on the screen long enough to incite our discomfort. Throughout, El Avenito’s graphics tap into the hypnotic effect of Nintendo’s first Super Mario Brothers and the endearing charm of Sanrio’s Hello Kitty.
Unfortunately, while Okay Mountain’s show is fun and lighthearted, the exhibition would have been more powerful if it had flirted more with the artistic persona the artist has created: Benito Laren is a pseudonym. Laren consistently appears in wigs and shades and in interviews he tells clever stories about his creative process. (My favorite: Laren always works while channel surfing with the TV on mute and music playing, otherwise he gets bored.) In light of his performance of the megalomaniac “artist,” Laren’s works become clever props instead of hackneyed recapitulations of pop art’s obeisance to commercialism. His self-absorption becomes ironic instead of grim. Would that the installation had blown up his persona with more conviction!
In Austin, Laren Nos Vista has particular resonance as a complement to the Blanton’s permanent collection of Arte Light works. Benito Laren was an important figure within this group of artists who worked in Buenos Aires during the 90s. The scope of Laren’s work in the exhibition—from perfume to cell phones to paintings to video—and more importantly, Laren’s parodic persona, brings the Arte Light scene in Buenos Aires during the 90s to life.
Laren Nos Visita is an appropriate kickoff to Okay Mountain’s three exhibition series, No American Talent. (The series’ title is a crack at Arthouse’s New American Talent.) Dark Matter: New Work from Japan and Basim Magdy from Egypt are to follow.
Claire Ruud is a master’s student studying art history at the University of Texas in Austin.
Anselm Kiefer: Heaven and Earth at SFMoMA
Through January 21
Anselm Kiefer: Heaven and Earth is the German artist’s first major American show in two decades. Michael Auping, Chief Curator at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, organized it as a selective retrospective that illustrates Kiefer’s career-long obsession with interrelationships between experiences of earth and ideas of heaven.
Two works in an initial gallery space present Kiefer’s contrasting mediums of painting and sculpture and introduce the work’s principal images: earth, sky and book. Falling Stars (Sternenfall) (1995), a large oil painting, depicts the artist lying prone and half-dressed on a parched earthen foreground; above him a night sky milky with stars dominates the upper three-quarters of the vertical picture space. Opposite this work stands the lead sculpture Book with Wings (Buch mit Flügeln) (1992-94), a large winged book that rests open on a reading stand. The matte wings, whose careful crafting delineates each layer of metal feathers, stretch open to their full span; the spread occupies more than 17 feet of horizontal space.
Most of the 25 mixed-media and oil paintings in the show do not depict the human figure, as Falling Stars does, but are wall-scale, expressionist landscapes that draw from a neutral palette of browns, blacks, yellows, greys and whites. In the signature Kiefer landscapes, fallow fields sweep along the foreground, plowing toward an exaggerated vanishing point that hovers under an indeterminate horizon. Thickly-laid impasto dramatizes deep earthen furrows above which wind, debris, smoke, storm clouds or fire sculpts textured skies. On most painted surfaces Kiefer scatters seeds, glass, sand or straw; on others, he suspends ceramic shards, stones, slabs of lead, cages and dried plants from lengths of wire. Kiefer’s landscape is a monochromatic and tangible universe of mud and stars, where terrestrial, celestial, intellectual and spiritual worlds overlap and combine.
Though paintings outnumber sculptures by nearly four to one, the most outstanding work here is the sculpture, in particular several large pieces whose subject is the book. Book with Wings is instantly recognizable as Kiefer’s work—it belongs to the Fort Worth Modern, whose new Tadao Ando building includes a dedicated rotunda niche for the piece, underscoring the work’s iconic status—but other sculpture offers more depth and nuance on repeat viewings. Of note is Meteroites (Meteroriten) (1998/2005), a 12-foot high open bookcase whose contents, lead books and meteorite fragments, stuff the thick steel shelves, while several meteorite forms are scattered on the floor. The leaden books balance, splay and spill over their shelves, each one offering a conceptual weight that suggests the responsibility inherent in the human need to harness nature into fixed and ordered hierarchies like knowledge, science, war, time, literature, history, even art. In this piece Kiefer shatters these categories by catapulting meteorites into their symbolic representations: books on shelves.
Hands down, the stand-out work in the show is Secret Life of Plants (2001), a sculptural tome of lead whose single pages measure more than six by five feet. The massive book fans open and back upon itself 360 degrees in reverse so that its pages splay outward into a cylindrical fan whose perimeter inscribes a circle on the floor. Each lead sheaf represents a cosmos in itself, a universe of painted stars selectively labeled with their NASA identification numbers arranged in diagonal patterns.
At the Fort Worth venue, the distinct pleasure of the show was walking continuously around this sculpture, peering into and contemplating the universes Kiefer created on each page, marveling at the shadows cast by corners beginning to bow down under their own weight. It is an absolute puzzle, then, why at the SFMOMA this work is installed against a corner and cannot be experienced in the round. The gallery size is not the problem, as walls are configured to provide enormous open spaces. The only sculpture the SFMOMA’s exhibition does permit viewers to experience in the round is a work far inferior to the book sculptures, a conceptually transparent lead warplane hung with a small glass lantern filled with ash. Placing the plane in a corner might actually have improved it by molding the space around it into its own angular shape. In a more open space, the experience of walking around the book would have benefited viewers with a fuller experience of the piece.
One of 25 works missing from the SFMOMA venue that appeared in the originating Fort Worth exhibition is 20 Years of Solitude (20 Jahre Einsamkeit) (1971-91), a sculptural installation of five industrial wood palettes stacked with lead roof tiles Kiefer bought when the Cologne Cathedral’s roof, damaged in World War II, was dismantled and the age-old tiles were replaced. Atop each stack of lead sheets Kiefer placed a blank paper book, open and splattered with the artist’s semen. This gesture of seeding is consistent conceptually (if unique methodologically) with other of Kiefer’s works in the show, in which actual seeds and symbolic reproduction feature.
It may appear that Kiefer’s work studies a human desire to rise above the limits of its own being—what the show’s thesis promotes as “the basic human instinct to reach for transcendence”—but I don’t think so. Kiefer’s visual argument, which we can infer in part from the heft of his leaden materials and their ponderous relationship to gravity, pulls viewers down to earth. His art grounds us squarely. It does not capture the release sought from what Kiefer calls the illusions of history and religion, but binds itself to the weight of realities the human being cannot escape. Kiefer’s reality is the human mark: it traces our movements—physical, intellectual, metaphysical, spiritual—and this heavy art shows us we cannot erase it.
Zombies and Mummies Should Be Friends!
Sending up the style of a children’s book (does anyone remember the rather vapid Frog and Toad), Olia Lialina’s web project Zombie and Mummy chronicles the adventures of best friends Zombie and Mummy. Zombie and Mummy evidently lead busy lives; in one episode they attempt to start a hip-hop band, and in another they visit Moscow. In every instance, all of Zombie and Mummy’s actions are thwarted because well, they’re the undead, and frankly they don’t understand the customs of the living. Want to be more like Zombie and Mummy? Follow our tips, and you will be able to live the glamorous life of the undead.
January New Museum Store Library Service HOTLIST
If you are stumped for some quality art-related reading, visit the New Museum Store Library Service HOTLIST which provides a new listing of books each month, none of which will ever be The DaVinci Code or anything even remotely similar.
Smiley Cross: Hills Snyder
Valentine's Day is looming people, and the perfect solution to the age old gift dilemma is a Smiley Cross created by San Antonio artist Hills Snyder.
Hudson (Show) Room: Jesse Amado
Opening Reception: Thursday, February 8, 6:30-8:30 pm
Gallery walk-thru, 7:00 pm
Influenced by the legacies of both minimalism and conceptualism, Jesse Amado creates work that resists a single medium classification, yet consistently raises interesting questions about the nature of desire, beauty and language. This exhibition contains both new and historical pieces, allowing the viewer to see the full arc of Amado’s career to date.
Join Artpace for the opening reception of works exploring the structure of cinema and ever-changing messages about desire by San Antonio and New York-based artist Jesse Amado. Gallery walk-thru with the artist at 7pm. On view in the Hudson (Show) Room through April 22.
Covering yourself in head-to-toe mummy bandages makes an excellent outfit in which to attend the following openings…
No American Talent II: Dark Matter: New Work from Japan
Opening Reception: Saturday, January 27, 7-10:00 pm
Astrophysicists refer to the terra incognita of the universe as "dark
matter," that which can not be directly observed but exerts a force on
everything around it. Okay Mountain is proud to present the works of
six young artists from Tokyo, Japan, whose work seems shaped by a similar
underlying tension. Nobuhiro Ishihara, Akino Kondoh, Ginjiro Mawatari,
Ryo Mizuno, Genrou Miyake, and Daisuke Nagaoka share a sensibility that
combines humor, mystery and an odd melancholy unique to the megapolis of Tokyo. For several of these artists, it is their first time to exhibit in the United States.
William Eggleston: Cadillac
Lora Reynolds Gallery
Opening Reception: Saturday, February 3, 6-8pm; Artist talk, 6:30 pm
In 1976, the Museum of Modern Art went out on a limb and presented its first exhibition of color photography which was created by William Eggleston. Since that time, Eggleston has built a resume that includes almost every prestigious art institution in the United States. For this exhibition, Lora Reynolds Gallery will present 13 photographs from Cadillac; a series created between 1966-1971 that languished in his studio until 1999 unprinted.
Judy Pfaff: . . . all of the above
Opening Reception: Thursday, February 1, 5:30 - 7:30 pm
Remarks by Judy Pfaff in Rice Gallery at 6 pm.
Rice Gallery has commissioned pioneer of installation art, Judy Pfaff, to create a new installation. Internationally recognized Pfaff works intuitively, improvising on-site and creating work that is specific to a particular space. Pfaff, whose work also includes sculpture, painting, drawing and printmaking, is often described as an artist whose work seeks to make painting more sculptural and sculpture more painterly. In 2004, Pfaff was named a MacArthur Fellow and joined the illustrious roster of recipients of what is colloquially known as the “genius grant.” Also don’t miss the Gallery Talk and Luncheon for this exhibition on February 2 at 12:00 pm, given by the director Kimberly Davenport.
Sam Gilliam: A Retrospective
Contemporary Art Museum, Houston
Opening Reception: Friday, January 26, 9:00-11:00 pm
Sam Gilliam: A Retrospective highlights the evolution of Sam Gilliam’s career through approximately 40 works from 1967 to the present. The exhibition includes his revolutionary draped paintings as well as his 40 years of innovative uses of space, color and light in complex multimedia work ranging from conventionally shaped paintings with beveled edges to multi-dimensional installations and sculpture. Gilliam’s evocative use of color and his expansive vision have assured his place as one of the most important abstractionists of the late 20th century.
Opening Reception: Friday, January 26, 6:30-10 pm
Live performance of Left Wing, Right Wing, Chicken Wing by Jason Hedges.
Curated by Miami-based mega-collector Dennis Scholl, this exhibition features a bevy of new artists from Miami including: Natalia Benedetti, Jason Hedges, Tao Rey and Michael Vasquez. In each case, the artists have created work that prompts the viewer to stop and take a second reading, to circle around and digest the message, to reason out the back-story to each piece, hence the title.
WindowWorks: Randy Wallace: Unsettlement
On view: February 8-April 29
San Antonio-based Randy Wallace's conceptually driven performances and interactive sculptures utilize play to discomforting ends. Unsettlement, a charming yet foreboding cabin, will project both promise and warning by drawing on the frightening side of fairy tales
Adopt the bulging eye stare of a zombie to look engaged at the following events…
6th Annual Wish! Auction
Dallas Center for Contemporary Art
Saturday, February 3, 7-11:00 pm
Auction Tickets: $ 100/$80 for members; Table for six: $700/$600 for members
Go play mega-collector for the evening by bidding on works by over a 100 emerging artists.
Friday, January 26 and Saturday, 27, 8:00 pm
$8 general admission
This charged performance infuses jazz, poetry, hip hop and acoustic music with a Generation X twist. Narrated by artistic director E. Christopher Cornell, She Speaks features Khalilah Ali, Kelly Love Jones and Renita Walls and forges a new image of women in hip hop. Leaving behind old stereotypes, the performers weave a vibrant, edgy story of contemporary women.
Little City Downtown Cafe
Saturday, January 27, doors at 7:30pm; music at 8:00 pm
Suggested donation $8-$12
Sparked by a recent connection and ensuing conversations with Austin musicians, the Mexican avant-garde percussionist Emilio Tamzez is coming to Austin. His performance Friday will include a solo set and a duo set with Austin percussionist Chris Cogburn.
Free Gallery Talk: Norton Batkin on Bruce Nauman
Saturday, January 27, 1:00 pm
Norton Batkin, The Dean of Graduate Studies, Director of the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, will give an hour long presentation on Bruce Nauman, video and performance artist extraordinaire. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of Nauman, a trip to upstate New York to see the monolith that is Dia: Beacon always proves interesting.
AIT ARTIST'S TALK #27
Radioactive Sushi for Traitors and Super Lottery Session by Riiko Sakkinen
Twin Bldg. Daikanyama A502, Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0033
Should you miraculously find yourself in Tokyo, go check out this inventively titled artist talk by former testite site artist Riiko Sakkinen (who is getting to be as ubiquitous as Harrell Fletcher).
ART 1.120—University of Texas, Austin
Tuesday, February 6, 5:00 pm
Don’t miss this opportunity to see acclaimed artist, curator and writer Charles Gaines. Associated with a group of post-Minimalist artists in the 1960s and 1970s, Gaines was represented by the venerable Leo Castelli and was included in the 1975 Whitney Biennial. Gaines consequently moved to California and he is currently a professor at Cal Arts. In 1993, Gaines organized the Theater of Refusal: Black Art and Mainstream Criticism, an exhibition that illuminated the ways in which the mainstream press effectively marginalized African American artists and proposed an alternative critical model.
Show & Tell : A digital slide jam
Women and Their Work
February 6, 7 –9 pm (Re-scheduled due to the ice storm)
Come hear artists Justin Goldwater, Andrew Long, Deborah Roberts and Michael Sieben talk about their work.
Creativity and Collaboration: An Evening with Philip Glass
Moores Opera House: University of Houston, Entrance 16 off Cullen Boulevard
Monday, February 19th, 6:30 pm
Admission is free but seating is limited
From that eerie soundtrack from The Hours to the score of Shirin Neshat’s film Passage, the music of composer Philip Glass has thoroughly permeated contemporary culture. During this multi-media presentation, Glass will present film and also perform live at the piano.
Opportunities: Jobs, Calls for Entry and Grants
Even the undead need to eat so remember to apply for the following opportunities…
Assistant Curator Position: San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, San Jose, CA
San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is a non-profit visual art gallery located in downtown San Jose. Now in its 26th year, the ICA is a leading contemporary arts venue in California, presenting work of emerging and established artists in all media. The ICA's new facility, which will open to the public in June 2007, will include nearly 4,000 square feet of exhibition space as well as a printmaking studio for individual and group workshops, and up to 4 single-person residencies throughout the year. The exhibition program includes up to 22 exhibitions annually, including rear-projection video work in the front windows after dark. Educational programming includes Talking Art, an ongoing series of panel discussions focusing on topics of interest to the working artistic community, and artist workshops and lectures. The ICA is governed by a 16-person volunteer Board of Directors and managed by a five-person full-time staff and a number of part-time employees, as well as a corps of volunteers. Qualifications: Excellent knowledge of contemporary art, with experience in the Bay Area art community a plus. Excellent written and verbal communication skills with strong organizational and planning background. Proven ability to prioritize and meet deadlines and coordinate multiple exhibitions simultaneously. Able to work well with artists, staff and board. Minimum BA degree in Art or Art History, MA or MFA preferred. Minimum 3 years relevant art museum or gallery curatorial experience. Salary range dependent on experience. Please submit cover letter, resume, reference and writing sample to: Assistant Curator Search, San Jose ICA, 560 South First Street, San Jose, CA 95113
2007-2008 Research Fellowship: Harry Ransom Center
The Harry Ransom Center, one of the world's foremost institutions for research in literature and the arts, announces its 2007-2008 Research Fellowship Program. Approximately 40 fellowships are awarded annually by the Ransom Center to support scholarly research projects in all areas of the humanities. Priority, however, will be given to those proposals that concentrate on the Center's collections and that require substantial on-site use of them. This year's special topic will be "In Times of War." We encourage applications from scholars investigating the transatlantic cultural exchange of ideas, in particular, but not exclusively those affected by times of war. We hope to foster inquiry into the nature of the cultural and intellectual dialog between Europe and the United States. Special consideration will be given to research proposals that address any of these cultures. Application deadline February 1st; please see website for complete listing of available fellowships and application requirements.
Seeking Art History Expert to Host Cable TV Series
Normally ...might be good doesn’t post Craig’s List ads (let’s face it, 50 percent of your work day is spent perusing CL), but this was too good to ignore. Here’s the description: This series will be a modern twist on the popular Sister Wendy series that ran on PBS. Our host will bring art appreciation to the masses using a fresh and unique narrative. Our aim is to demystify art and tell some really fun stories at the same time. Our host should be an art historian but have the sensibility of the "Croc Hunter" or Alton Brown from Food Network's "Good Eats"....likeable, charismatic, somewhat kooky or whacky in his or her 30's or 40's with an appeal to middle America. Our host will visit some of the most iconic museums in the world, and shed light on the familiar and not-so-familiar. He or she will bring masterpieces to life, making them accessible, fun and entertaining. From Mona Lisa's smug smile to a Dali melted clock, to Rothko's rectangles of color, our host sets out to see what makes art, indeed, "art". If this is you or you know someone who fits the bill please send an email (including resume and photo) to email@example.com.
Call for Entries: 25th Annual HCP Membership Exhibition
The Houston Center for Photography
The Houston Center for Photography (HCP) announces the 25th Annual HCP Membership Exhibition call for entries. Anne Wilkes Tucker, the Gus and Lyndall Wortham Curator of Photography at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, will jury the show. Exhibition dates at HCP are June 8th – July 22nd, 2007. The competition is open to all artists engaged in photographic and lens-based work. Any photographic process is acceptable as long as it is original, has been made within the last two years and has not been exhibited in a previous HCP Members’ Exhibition. Submission Deadline: February 16th, 2007.
The Voices Off Fringe Festival
As an experimental photographic working area, the Arles Fringe Festival promotes various artistic practices. Every year, the Fringe Festival Prize awards one photographer for his contemporary artwork (1525 Euros grant - approx. $1,850). Photographers, as well as artists using photography, communities, schools and organizations are invited to show their work. The main selective criterion remains the expression of an original artistic vision. Deadline for submission: January 31, 2007.
The Holocaust Memorial of San Antonio: Call for Entries
The Holocaust Memorial of San Antonio is seeking applications from artists for a design of an eternal light to be placed on top of an existing stone monument that is situated on an exterior, second level patio. Although the currently existing monument cannot be changed, applicants may suggest some enhancements that could improve the appearance of the area surrounding the monument and further integrate it into its environment. Open to all artists, designers and architects. Each entry must include a scale drawing with description of suggested medium. Multiple entries will be accepted. All entries must be labeled and mailed to: Holocaust Memorial of San Antonio, 12500 NW Military Highway, San Antonio, TX 78231. Entry Deadline: February 23, 2007. A prize of $2,500 will be awarded to the finalist. If the artist can fabricate his/her design, an additional sum will be awarded. Contact cohenm@JFSATX.org for complete information.
Brooking Paper on Creativity in Museums
This annual writing competition aims to reinforce awareness of creative, innovative accomplishments that produce new ways of thinking and seeing within the museum field; education, collections, finance, exhibitions, community relations, staff structure, leadership and everything in between. Previously published pieces will not be accepted. Papers should be approximately 2,500 words and can describe examples of creativity, innovation and imagination in any aspect of museum operations. The first-prize paper will be published in the May/June 2007 Museum News and the first-prize winner will receive $500 and travel expenses to the AAM Annual Meeting in Chicago, May 13-17. Two honorable mentions will also be awarded. All three winning papers will be available at www.aam-us.org beginning in May 2007. Museum professionals and volunteers inside and outside the United States are eligible to enter. The entry deadline has been extended to March 1.
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