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A quick overview of three shows I saw today:
Most embarrassing is probably Sean Landers at Andrea Rosen. A film critic said recently "You know a movie's in trouble when it includes a scene with one or more characters tied to a chair"; you could say the same about artists riffing on art history. Landers is doing big dumb Picasso paintings, with smeary impastos and monotonous cloisonne outlines around every facet and figure. I talked to a few of Landers' Yale-ophilic defenders, and they're justifying the show as "Sean coming to terms with the fact that he'll never be the biggest." Yuck. One thing it proves for sure, that's how much George Condo hurt his career by moving to Paris in the late '80s. If he'd stayed in New York those seven or eight years, channeling Picasso in show after show (as he did in Europe), even someone as oblivious as Landers would know how thoroughly "done" this strategy is.
I've been on the fence about Steve di Benedetto's work the past couple of shows; it's seemed overworked and fussy, not sure enough of what it's about. The new work at Baumgartner is good, though. Just when you think a painting couldn't get any more dense with organic, barnacle-like detail, suddenly a section opens up with a dynamic starburst or taut abstract fugue. The primordial octopus-from-another-dimension, which I felt he was hiding in earlier paintings, here unfurls its tentacles defiantly. The paintings nicely balance the gothic decrepitude of Ivan Albright with the futuristic energy of Matta, without being an overt homage to either.
Last, Rita McBride's show at Alexander & Bonin--at the opposite end of the form/content/materiality spectrum from di Benedetto's--is also top-notch. Very clean, mint green, geometric-looking sculptures are based on the exact outlines of arcade video games. No signage, no joysticks, just the stripped-down, squared-off essence of Xevious, Libble Rabble, and Ms. Pac Man (or so I imagine). I could see a recent UCLA graduate doing this sort of thing poorly, but McBride is a whiz with materials. The consoles, built entirely of porcelain-coated steel, have the blank-but-comforting surfaces of '50s refrigerators. The rest of the show--featuring other minimalist-type works modeled on awnings, HVAC vents, and parking garages--is good, but the video games really stand out.
New York painter Kara Hammond has a new show opening April 18 and running through May 16, 2001 at Joseph Rickards Gallery, 1045 Madison Avenue (between 79th/80th). She made her debut at Bronwyn Keenan Gallery a few years ago, and is known for her weirdly calm depictions of obsolete space technology, strip malls, and views from suburban freeways. The sense of charged emptiness in her paintings recalls Stanley Kubrick's cinematography: the image below could be Georgia O'Keeffe and Charles Sheeler trysting in the Pod Bay. This 4 x 4 foot, oil-on-wood piece is called Space Station, it's dated 2001, and remember you saw it here before it got reproduced in Time Out!
From a recent essay by William Gibson on Japan (and more particularly Anglo-Japanese cross-pollination, since the article's for The Guardian):
"I like to watch the Japanese in Portobello market. Some are there for the crowd, sightseeing, but others are there on specific, narrow-bandwidth, obsessional missions, hunting British military watches or Victorian corkscrews or Dinky Toys or Bakelite napkin rings. The dealers' eyes still brighten at the sight of a tight shoal of Japanese, significantly sans cameras, sweeping determinedly in with a translator in tow. A legacy from the affluent days of the bubble, perhaps, but still the Japanese are likely to buy, should they spot that one particular object of otaku desire. Not an impulse-buy, but the snapping of a trap set long ago, with great deliberation.
"The otaku, the passionate obsessive, the information age's embodiment of the connoisseur, more concerned with the accumulation of data than of objects, seems a natural crossover figure in today's interface of British and Japanese cultures. I see it in the eyes of the Portobello dealers, and in the eyes of the Japanese collectors: a perfectly calm train-spotter frenzy, murderous and sublime. Understanding otaku-hood, I think, is one of the keys to understanding the culture of the web. There is something profoundly post-national about it, extra-geographic. We are all curators, in the post-modern world, whether we want to be or not."
Dallas-based painter John Pomara has a show up right now at Inman Gallery in Houston, which has been getting some attention. Seems Pomara's former student Tad Griffin got known in Houston for a style and conceptual line somewhat similar to his, and the scene's so intimate that the idea of two artists mining the same vein makes people uncomfortable. Bill Davenport's review appears here, and my reply is here. Below is a jpeg of Pipeline, 2000, oil enamel on aluminum, 30 x 24 inches.
I just added an essay on the artist Michael Rodriguez to my website. Michael shows his work at Feature gallery and last year had a show of paintings at Miami-Dade Community College (he lives in New York, but originally hails from that part of the country). My essay and the images on the site are from the catalog published by the college. As you can see from what I wrote, and the reproductions (a detail of one of his acrylic-on-canvas paintings is below), we have some overlapping concerns as artists; more to the point, we have balls.
"There are no drum-machines, only rhythm synthesizers programming new intensities from white noise, frequencies, waveforms, altering sampled drum sounds into unrecognizable pitches. The drum-machine has never sounded like drums because it isn't percussion: it's electronic current, synthetic percussion, syncussion. The sampler is at first termed an 'emulator,' as if it does nothing but imitate existing sounds. Calling the rhythm synthesizer a drum-machine is yet one more example of [r]earview hearing. Every time decelerated media writes about snares, hihats, kickdrums, it faithfully hears backwards. Electro [e.g., Mantronix, Cybotron, Kraftwerk, Drexciya] ignores this vain hope of emulating drums, and instead programs rhythms from electricity, rhythmatic intensities which are unrecognizable as drums. There are no snares--just waveforms being altered. There are no bass drums---just attack velocities."
Excerpt from More Brilliant than the Sun, 1998, by Kodwo Eshun.
Once again I felt compelled to question Slate's coverage of Pollock. There were some interesting entries in "the Fray" in response to Michael Brus's recent essay on the film. (And some not so interesting--I managed to get myself involved in a mini-flame war with a really abusive older guy who's still fighting the art battles of the '50s.)
My friend and former college roommate Mark Mellon has been getting quite a few stories published lately. He took fiction writing courses at the University of Virginia with John Casey (An American Romance, Spartina), although he's never been particularly interested in writing Casey's brand of mainstream "literary" fiction. Mark writes stories that could be characterized as "intellectual pulp fiction," torquing up the raw material of war stories or science fiction with his own unique mix of anger, violence, and erudition. I'm posting his bio, to give an idea what he's up to, but also to give the "lay of the land" for an emerging writer at the turn of the millennium.
"Mark Mellon is a novelist who supports his family by working as an attorney for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. His life has been checkered, with past experience as a mover, lifeguard/swimming instructor, door-to-door salesman, carpenter's helper, Russian translator, soldier, phone solicitor, collections counselor, and teacher. He has had the following short stories published: 'Harry's Car,' in issue no. 1 of Retard magazine; 'Trophy of the Hunt' in issue no. 32 of Aberrations science fiction magazine; 'Conversations With an Old Man' in issue 2, vol. 2 of Chasm magazine; 'The List of Caliban Cade' in the Jan. 1999 issue of Gothic.Net, an Internet e-zine; 'Where Will We Bury Them All?,' in the July 1999 issue of the e-zine Of Ages Past (this last story will appear in 2001 in an anthology, Twilight Antiquity, put out by Dark Star Publications); and 'The Old Man and the Sea Ate Me' and 'Partisans,' in issues 3 and 6, respectively, of Gauntlet! The Magazine of Heroic Tales. Three other stories have been accepted for magazine publication: 'That Summer on the Moon" (by Albedo One, an Irish science fiction magazine), 'Viva La BigAss' (by Terra Incognita), and 'The Brave Little Cockroach' (by Anthrolations, the Magazine of Anthropomorphic Dramatic Fiction). Mark has also written two novels, The Empire of the Green, and Hammer and Skull (respectively a science fiction novel and a novel about World War II) and a fantasy novella: Escape From Byzantium."