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I'm posting this from Houston. I shipped myself down here inside the sarcophagus below, not anticipating that it would go directly into a glass case and I'd have to type by laptop-light. Actually, I'm lying, this picture was taken at the relatively new Museum of Fine Arts, one floor up from the imposing "donor wall," which features hundreds of names of wealthy Houstonians etched in granite. I'll have to redo this photo when I get back home; The Mac-based software I used to resize and "enhance" it left it a bit blurry. [UPDATE: I was able to tweak it a little more "on the road"--it's less fuzzy now.]
I'm on vacation, so I rented a brand new Mazda Protegé TM with air-conditioning and a working CD player. After 8 years of public transportation cattlecars back East I must say cruising up I-45 with German tech-house tick-ticking in the speakers was...so fine. I didn't even mind it when traffic slowed to a dead stop. I have a vague plan of going down to Padre Island, then up to the real ranch country west of the President's wimpy farm, then Dallas. We'll see what works out.
Of course I'd vote for a blender over the Bush Crime Family, but I can't really say I'm "for" Howard Dean. This WaPo editorial articulates a number of his positions: it's really disappointing that he wants to be Nixon to Bush's Johnson and keep the good fight going in Iraq and Afghanistan "now that we're there." Screw that. You'll never convince me that policing countries half a world away keeps us safer than competently monitoring known terrorists here at home. Why don't we try the latter, just for a change? I think what Dean's really saying is "me no buck capitalist juggernaut." Really inspiring.
|"Post-painterly abstraction" was Clement Greenberg's term for a kind of self-referential art that, by the 1960s, was becoming increasingly less rooted in the physical world of art-making materials. The then-new polymer paints made possible a kind of uninflected visual experience: color experienced as pure presence. The minimalists took this logic further than Greenberg was willing to go with an emphasis on found materials and processes: e.g., Dan Flavin's colored light bulbs. Extend the logic even more and art would be a series of Sol Lewitt-like commands to a piece of hardware such as a computer monitor, telling it to beam certain colors in certain configurations directly to a remote viewer's eyes.
And that's what Christopher (or Chris) Ashley is doing with his "html drawings," it seems to me: these aren't jpegs that can be right-clicked and saved but a series of instructions to your browser, telling it to draw tables in particular shapes and fill them in with hexadecimal colors (#0088bb, #00bbbb, #0077cc, #00CCCC, #0099cc, and #00dddddd in the piece above, for example). As you can see from Ashley's archive, some of the configurations get quite elaborate. I like the simplicity of Santa Cruz, Monterrey, Pacific Grove (reproduced here without permission by saving the html in "View/Source" on my toolbar, hope it's OK), but also the complexity of The Asian Influence in Drawing, I - XV and the super-baroque Hippie Dreams, I - XII, the latter of which also incorporates .gif files. One quibble: an aspect of a project like this ought to be that each viewer experiences the work as his/her browser interprets it, just as painters ultimately must lose control of the lighting conditions and surroundings in which their art is viewed. Ashley has said that certain pieces are best viewed on IE, which favors a proprietary format and kind of stunts the magic of a million possible readings (including "incorrect" readings) of the work.
Ashley also has a nice weblog here. This is my off-the-cuff take on his work, BTW, and may not jibe at all with his own theory; looking forward to exploring the site(s) and learning more.
American Splendor, the new movie about underground comix writer Harvey Pekar, is Crumb Lite. It's funny (funnier than the one Pekar comic I've read--#15), but the filmmakers have succeeded mainly in domesticating a talented crank. The actor who plays Harvey is smoother, dopier, more like a sitcom actor; the actress who plays his wife is fetching even with ironed hair and nerdygirl glasses. Think back to Crumb for a sec: the unstinting, voyeuristic interviews with the artist's damaged brothers, the excruciating footage of Crumb talking to an ex-girlfriend, the whole porn magazine/acid casualty vibe of a failed counterculture. That film took you to the edge. By contrast, the edgiest moment in Splendor is footage of the real Pekar appearing on Letterman. He's unkempt, he's unpredictable, he fights back.
The most compromised moment in the film is the restaging of Pekar's final appearance on Late Night, where he told off Dave and launched into a jeremiad against NBC's military-contractor owner, GE. As the movie sets it up, it's all explained as a byproduct of Harvey's personal problems. The scene is filmed with the camera behind his chair, looking out at the shocked reactions of the audience. His actual rant is sliced into bits and pieces, to "denote the passage of time" but also making it less intelligible. Worse, the scene is intercut with shots of Harvey's friends and co-workers watching their TVs at home in dismay. You can't help thinking this is how the infotainment world (indie film division) processes someone just a little too individualistic. They give him the world (this'll do more business than Crumb, I expect) but none-too-subtly muffle his voice.
In my spare moments I've been upgrading my online exhibition scrapbook, and just finished retooling the "Polygamy" and "Byte Size" pages (two shows with overlapping subject matter). I talked about the problematic "Polygamy" in an earlier post. [This post has been self-redacted. I decided it was giving too much away about the work.]
"Hug" emoticon: deviantART
(Kind of like John Simon only cuter.)
At long last, the Matthew Barney backlash has begun! I don't know about you, but about halfway down the Guggenheim ramp I started looking at my watch, and I don't wear a watch. I mean, the guy's had some good sculptural ideas (I like all the Cronenbergian organic stuff) but seriously needs an editor. He's enjoyed a miraculously bump-free ride since he got out of Yale--certainly the art world's never given him any serious whacks. Every new Cremaster release received a respectful magazine spread, no matter how slow-paced and taxing they were to watch. I heard through the grapevine that Barney was mad when Michael Bevilacqua started appropriating those silly orange-coiffured characters in his paintings. This is like Bush's recent complaint that the press was devoting too much attention to the California election and not enough to him, at least in terms of eliciting our sympathy. Anyway, back to the backlash. First, here's a PreReview of the Cremaster cycle, and as you may know, you don't get those published if you've actually seen the movies. Also, Michael Atkinson offers some amusing Suggestions for Future Cremasters in the Village Voice. Here's the prospectus for Cremaster 8:
Wearing a bronze jockstrap, an astronaut's helmet, and a coat of mango-peach latex paint, Barney scales Angkor Wat while the Green Bay Packers sit in an empty swimming pool, taking turns blowing up a used-car-lot balloon figure of Uncle Sam through a valve on its crotch. Cambodians slowly fill up the pool with cups of guacamole. By the time Barney finishes his climb and sings "If I Can't Sell It, I'll Keep Sittin' On It," the Packers are immersed.It's surprising a film critic finally took Barney on; most have been too intimidated by the aura of art to risk making fun of the movies as movies. I'm tempted to say Atkinson's is a philistine take on Barney, but he kind of captures the air of total indulgence that's so annoying. ("I know! I'll bring in the Rockettes and they can do a routine on the ramp, and it'll be like conflating art and showbiz, an' critiquing-patriarchy-but-not-really, and..." "Yes, Matthew, I'll call Rockefeller Center this afternoon [he'll bite my head off if I say it's stupid].") Also, I seriously doubt MB is "sittin' on" much of his art at this point. Or is that just the hype working its magic on me?
More exciting, barely-informed opinions have been posted recently at PreReview. Joe McKay does some detective work and tells us what happens in the The Lord of the Rings Part 3. Also predigested by Sally McKay, Matt King, yrs truly, and others are 2Fast2Furious, Freaky Friday, The Order, Kill Bill, The Cat in the Hat, Britney Spears movies, Tron 2.0, The Enforcer, The Annoying Guy, Crappy Kevin Costner Movie, That Pixar Fish Movie... Read up, it could save you a trip to the theatre.