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tom moody

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More artist web pages: Some stalwart art types are still troubled that digital painter Claire Corey's work is "just abstraction" (i.e., no hidden messages saying "smash the state"), but that's like saying Stravinsky is just a composer. Scott Hug included one of her paintings in the second issue of K48 with a handwritten prescription for Ritalin on the page opposite, because the work is so psychedelified. Claire had a show recently at the Aldrich Museum--here are a couple of installation shots. (And I have to say that Bonnie Collura sculpture in the foreground looks intriguingly abject. The poor woman got trashed recently by Roberta Smith in the Times, after a lot of too-early hype, as if to say, with a diabolical laugh, "We made you; we can unmake you.")

The artist web pages highlighted here the past few weeks are very smooth and professional looking, but of course work can be presented "badly" and reflect a certain personality or attitude. For example, I really like this dirt style page by British artist Jon Davey. Check out his photos of "réadymades," and many good links.

Oh, yes, and speaking of Claire Corey again, I redesigned the page documenting the exhibit we were in at the Aldrich in 2000 called "Ink Jet" (with Matt Chansky), adding more pictures. This groundbreaking event left press, curators, and even our fellow artists largely speechless. ("Is this good?" "We don't know." mumble mumble.)

- tom moody 3-09-2003 7:21 pm [link] [5 comments]

Man Machine

Die Mensch Maschine, 2003, jpeg

- tom moody 3-09-2003 6:53 pm [link] [3 comments]

Bush vs. Zeon Pigs. I missed the press conference, but a friend reports that GWB looked like John Gill on the original Star Trek series, "kept drugged by his Jacobin lieutenants while they recreated the Third Reich." The difference, though, was that Gill was actually a good, albeit doped up guy, who was sequestered in a locked studio and never interacted with the press, and here, from what it sounds like, the reporters had rifles pointed at them from off camera to keep them on script (with the occasional token "hard question" for credibility). This inspired a daydream where one of those gutless bastards actually stood up and said, at the beginning of the Q&A:

"Excuse me, Mr. President, but you didn't let Helen Thomas ask the first question. That's been something of a tradition here for six Presidencies, and all of us feel as a matter of protocol you should do it. Otherwise you'll get no more questions from us tonight." (Murmured assent from press corps.)

If this person wasn't immediately felled by an Ekosian bullet, the Boy Emperor would be forced to deal on camera with this unexpected revolt, and we might get to see him in a full blown alcoholic rage. The press conference would be a disaster, Bush's poll numbers would plummet, the troops would be recalled...

And then I woke up.

- tom moody 3-09-2003 8:47 am [link] [7 comments]

Last night (March 6) I attended PSYCH-OUT 2K3 at Anthology Film Archives, which was part of the New York Underground Film Festival. Here's the blurb from the organizers, followed by my notes:

BEIGE and Seth Price Collective present:

Cartoons & consumer electronics in the 70s and 80s were bigger and trashier than ever and they had freaked kids out to the point of a whole generation got A.D.D. so now they are older and freak every person else out using this same old throw-away trash shit culture mind warp reversal....MESSY. You're either with us or against us.... Never fess.

PSYCH-OUT 2K3 = one night only live performance freak out featuring live music/video by the Extreme Animalz / PAPER RAD crew, NAUTICAL ALMANAC, and LOVID

In between bands there are videos by Leif GOLDBERG and Matt BRINKMAN, Forcefield (from the archives), Devin FLYNN, MUMBLEBOY, Ray Sweeten, Andy PULS, Seth PRICE/Michael SMITH WEB INFANTILISM, Billy Grant and Joe Grillo, US Military Games and anon. Commodore n64 video HACKERZ. MTV circa 1990,
... LAME.

That's LoVid in my underexposed photo at the top of the post, with Kyle Lapidus standing on the right wearing a video monitor cap and Tali Hinkis, also capped, disappearing into the murk on the left. They video-projected sizzling static patterns made in real time with a sound interface that disturbs the raster scan in the guts of the TV; these minimal-but-eye-assaulting patterns towered behind them on a fifteen foot screen. Nautical Almanac and Extreme Animalz also played live, with prerecorded video accompaniment. Extreme Animalz (logo above right) is an offshoot of PAPER RAD, out of Providence RI: to get a flavor of their visual presentation, check out the dense psychedelic jungle of blinking gifs on this home page (while you're there, be sure to look at the cartoons). Nautical Almanac's video was more performance based, with the two masked artists doing eccentric body art type things (e.g., trying to climb into a cabinet wearing a leg brace) inside a ruined building at night. Think Paul McCarthy meets the Blair Witch Project. Their music, which I described here, is intense, bleeding-edge noize that synched well with the frenetic video.

In between acts a variety of short vids rolled: a lot of high-speed, insanely pigmented hallucinations, as promised, heavy on recycled/mutated kid imagery: Ronald McDonald on acid, My Little Pony in slo-mo, and some butt-awful karaoke footage. Other highlights included video art legend Michael Smith in full-on diaper mode destroying a birthday cake and blowing on a noisemaker till he got bored, an Army training film defaced with an 8-bit "PSYCH-OUT 2K3" logo (right on), and Devin Flynn's manic vision of everything in the world competing with everything else. One video really stood out, enough that I want to describe it in a separate post: a ten minute work called Assassins Ride, by Forcefield, another Providence collective which has apparently broken up recently in the (disgusted?) wake of the Whitney/Artforum/NYTimes' drive to turn them into stars. In this eerie piece, three masked figures in overcoats stand around a trash barrel fire, unmoving, while an industrial/tech score pulses. The fire flares erratically, and every so often the screen fills with glowing green light, as if some weird energy is breaking through From Beyond. The mood is hypnotic and unsettling. More later, but above is a frame I snapped off my TV at home, after I picked up a copy of the tape.

[More (or rather, better) images from this event, taken by Aya Kanai, are here.]

- tom moody 3-07-2003 8:10 pm [link] [5 comments]

- tom moody 3-07-2003 1:50 am [link] [5 comments]

I gave Richard Prince a hard time in that last post--yeah, really threw a spanner in his career path--but I like his work, just not those upstate NY photos. The framed celebrity pics and collectibles in a recent Barbara Gladstone show (hmm, a lot of black and white there) were smart and hilarious. Also, he has a great "cranky man" interview in the March 2003 Artforum. Here are some excerpts:
Did you feel a kinship to the artists in the "Pictures" show?

I've never said this before, but Doug Crimp actually asked me to be in that show. I read his essay and told him it was for shit, that it sounded like Roland Barthes. We haven't spoken since.


Do you think the critics [in the '80s] understood what you were doing?

I wasn't aware that there was much critical writing in the '80s about my work. I think people were more focused on David Salle, Schnabel, Fischl, Cindy Sherman, Jenny Holzer.

Well, I remember one person gushing about your work's "complete eventlessness."

That sounds like cartoon language. Kind of like when Susan Sontag describes taking a photograph as a "soft murder."

- tom moody 3-05-2003 9:02 am [link] [add a comment]


Make the rounds of the Armory show in NYC this weekend and you'll see hundreds of color photographs, or "c-prints." The art world loves color photography--it's becoming almost as ubiquitous as painting and sculpture--and it might surprise you to learn that it's all because of one man, an eccentric Southern photographer named William Eggleston.

At least that's what critic Jim Lewis argues, in a recent profile in the online magazine Slate. Lewis claims that Eggleston's “breakthrough,” all-color show at MOMA in 1976 was an "annunciation of the coming of color," paving the way for ready acceptance of chromatics in “new art photographers” such as Nan Goldin, Mitch Epstein, Richard Prince, and Andreas Gursky. Without a trace of irony (I'm pretty sure), he dubs Eggleston "The Father of Color Photography."

This pronouncement is just irritating, for a couple of reasons. First, it overlooks major developments around the time of Eggleston's show that were also bringing color to the fore, in favor of the tired "great men" view of history. Second, the four successors mentioned are completely unrelated to one another conceptually; the pictures Lewis chooses to illustrate his argument show surface similarities but ultimately do a disservice to the meanings of the artists.

Of course, Lewis immediately hedges by saying that “ready acceptance” means only acceptance of color and not acceptance of the four artists’ work itself. Nevertheless, it's hard not to keep them in mind, because they're the only concrete examples he gives of why the photo world's expansion to color might be important (other than generally explaining that the move was long overdue). By emphasizing the “vernacular” side of Eggleston's work, Lewis seems to be building a connection to, in particular, Epstein (for the sometime banality of his subject matter) and Goldin (for the snapshot casualness of her style). But apart from considering the good or bad taste of color snapshots, he doesn't really tell us how artists are using the full spectrum in the wake of Eggleston.

Art after Art Photography.

Lewis’ phrase "new art photographers" glosses over a not-so-old schism in the world of Museum-collected photography, between “art photography“ and what might roughly be called “artists with cameras,” a distinction outlined in Abigail Solomon-Godeau‘s famous essay “Photography after Art Photography.“ Almost exclusively shot in black and white and practiced by the likes of Walker Evans, Robert Frank, and Lee Friedlander, art photography was firmly ensconced in the museum in the ‘60s and ‘70s under the stewardship of MOMA curator John Szarkowski; it emphasized darkroom practice and objective standards of quality in photos.

The "conceptual photography" of Prince, Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons, and others, however, emerged from the world of painting, sculpture, and video. These artists used photos to document a performance, advance a theory, or critique the mass media, and didn't much give a damn about photographic values (including the old prohibition on color). In addition to this generation change in America, developments in European contemporary art gradually came to light in the late ‘70s: Gilbert & George, for example, used vivid colors in their photopastiches at least as early as 1975, and the conceptualist Jan Dibbets had no qualms about color in his images of tilted landscapes and car hoods. And finally, as Lewis mentions, color printing technology was vastly improving during this period.

Thus, while Szarkowski may have taken a big leap vis a vis older art photographers by giving Eggleston a one-person museum exhibit in ‘76, other trends were fast making that radicality a non-issue. The Europeans and young Americans weren’t invited into the tea circle of art photography because William Eggleston opened the door: instead, they found their own critical advocates, and after a few years of publicity and sales, they simply took over the show--and color came along with them.

Everybody's an artist.

Photography now is actually a mishmash of the art and conceptualist camps: the "snapshot aesthetic" of artists such as Wolfgang Tillmans and Richard Billingham rubs shoulders with anal retentive compositions by Gursky and the ultra-stagy Gregory Crewdson (and the latter's former students). All of the above now just call themselves artists, and the term "art photography" is in disrepute as the domain of camera club perfectionists.

Of the practitioners invoked/not invoked by Lewis as Eggleston successors, only Epstein might be called an old school “art photographer” lineally descended from Eggleston (although he claims Gary Winogrand as a mentor). Gursky’s work springs from the Euro-conceptual tradition of his teachers Bernd and Hilla Becher; Goldin’s ‘80s photography was verite involvement in the lives of a group of boho friends in New York’s East Village (seen as performative, post-Sherman); Prince was an American “appropriator” (see rephotographed cowboys below). While all of them may ultimately have emerged at the end of their careers as photographers Szarkowsi would probably love, that’s not how they started out.

Eggleston certainly had some influence on the current generation as a poetic formalist, but Lewis keeps emphasizing the (apparently) casual, snapshot side of his work--“garish” color, “bad” lighting, “banal” subject matter. I put all these terms in quotes because Eggleston isn’t really that casual. When I think of him the images that pop into my head are his tributes to "found color"--painted stripes on walls, product displays in Southern grocery stores, and that outrageous red ceiling (above)--revealing the exacting eye of a color field painter. David Byrne's curated selection of Eggleston photos for the 1986 True Stories book likewise included only this type of photo and none of the Diane Arbus-like images of odd southern characters.

Regardless of the subject matter, Eggleston's "snapshots" of the rural South are very carefully put together. Hilton Kramer couldn't see that in 1976, but he was famously wrong about many artists. Eggleston's "mistakes," such as the overexposed tree Lewis mentions, or non-sequiturs, such as the boy lying incongruously on a garage floor, occur within pictures that precisely balance chromatics, shape, composition, and so forth. Lewis discusses such formal strategies (turning the "perceived vices" of color into virtues, balancing shallowness and depth, creating "odd spirals") but without identifying them explicitly as such. You get the feeling Lewis mainly has Goldin in mind when discussing Eggleston’s casualness, but that’s inapposite because her early work was genuinely rushed, capturing the heat of the moment.

Eggleston had help.

As for the “great man” thesis: Lewis creates the impression that Eggleston traveled to NY with a box of slides under his arm and the most powerful photography curator there had the perceptiveness to immediately give him a show. According to an Art on Paper article, Eggleston befriended photographers Friedlander, Arbus, and Winogrand in the '60s, all of whom were Szarkowsi's "New York School" proteges. Szarkowski may indeed have been "immediately" impressed by Eggleston's work, but having the support of his circle couldn't have hurt. Also, Washington, DC artist William Christenberry plugged Eggleston to curator Walter Hopps, who wanted to do an Eggleston show but dropped it when he found out about Szarkowski's. In any case, Eggleston made his famous trip to NY in 1967 but it took Szarkowski nine years finally to give him a show.

I would argue that Eggleston truly is an art photographer, in the old Szarkowsian sense, and if he seems contemporary at all now it’s because artists that were once threatening have grown more traditional. This is especially true of Prince, who started his career sardonically rephotographing Marlboro ads, but has been taking some pretty tame pictures of his upstate New York environs lately. Calling Eggleston the Father of Color Photography is annoyingly patriarchal, and ignores what Brian Eno calls "scenius"--a kind of collective innovation that includes changes in technology and the efforts of many lesser-known people working in the field. The story of the brilliant outsider coming to the big city and cutting through all the bullshit is very American, but in this case the photo world's tectonic shifts are the more interesting tale. Maybe Eggleston isn’t as dismissable as Martha Rosler once said he was (she saw his promotion by MOMA as a Kodak-inspired plot to sell home color darkroom equipment), but his conservative brand of difficulty makes him an ideal patron saint for backsliders.

Afterthoughts. It may well be that William Eggleston's "breakthrough" enabled photo departments to collect color photos for the first time, but this is really a minor achievement, important only within the rigid, internecine structure of the contemporary art museum, since color photography *was* being collected a few doors down the hall, in the painting department. Thus, what he really did was give photographers who wanted to use color permission to do something, a handful of years early, that artists were already doing. But to be important, we expect artists to rewrite the rules of the game, not just a few intramural regulations.

If I had to pick a "great man" it would probably be Prince, for finally, belatedly extending the logic of Duchamp and Pop art to photography (and being a malicious wit). The reason breaking the color barrier was important was that at last photography could be as permeable to the everyday (commercial, media-defined) world as painting had become under Warhol. More than a color progenitor, it might be interesting to think of Eggleston as a proto-appropriator, photographing banal commercial subject matter in a landscape setting before Prince et al came along and just removed the setting. But that's a stretch--I still think Eggleston is mainly an art photographer, whose principal contribution is injecting the poetry of color field painting into mechanically produced images.

- tom moody 3-05-2003 8:51 am [link] [add a comment]

Eva pilots Asuka and Shinji working at home to improve their sync ratios, in the
Japanese TV series Neon Genesis Evangelion (1994-5).

Mario Lopez and Danny Bonaduce playing Dance Dance Revolution on the set
of The Other Half TV series, as Dick Clark looks on (ca. 2001).

- tom moody 3-03-2003 6:45 pm [link] [2 comments]