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tom moody

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Here, Let Me Give Your Career a Try.

New York residents may remember an ostentatious and obnoxious ad campaign around 1997 for an artist calling himself Amano. In a move normally used by fashion retailers, entire subway cars were plastered with ads for his first solo show in New York. Over amorphous backgrounds hovered pretentious and faux-mystical slogans: "paint your lunch/THINK LIKE AMANO," "mistrust certain flowers/THINK LIKE AMANO," "refuse to wear your glasses/THINK LIKE AMANO," and so forth. I'm not sure where the show was, but the campaign had "West Broadway" written all over it. I don't know anyone who saw the exhibit. [Update: a friend saw it and said it was in the Puck Building.]

Well, Amano's back, and now he's at Leo Koenig, which shows a number of good artists (Jeff Elrod, Lisa Ruyter, Michael Phelan, etc). Turns out he's a Japanese animation guy making a career change, or trying to, anyway. The work is fine--a kind of Asian Pop version of the flat affectless modernist-style painting that is becoming Koenig's specialty--but the claims the press release makes for his career are a bit of a stretch: that he is "a creator" of Speed Racer and Final Fantasy, and that he "creat[ed] such characters as Hutch the Honeybee, Tekkaman, and G-Force."

Most of that isn't true, but the New York Times bought the hype and stretched it even further. Here's today's listing:

"YOSHITAKA AMANO, Leo Koenig, 249 Centre Street, Lower Manhattan, (212) 334-9255 (through Aug. 3). A superstar of Japanese anime, Mr. Amano is the creator of "Speed Racer," "G-Force" and "Final Fantasy." This show features glossy, cartoon portraits of androgynous young action heroes and a near mural-size painting crammed with every "Final Fantasy" character. Best is a series of brush and ink paintings on paper, each representing a different emotionally excited human eye (Johnson)." [And suggesting an un-arty Raymond Pettibon, I might add.]

Here are the slightly less inflated facts of Amano's career. According to Clements & McCarthy's Anime Encyclopedia, he was a teenage prodigy who lent his design talents to many major anime productions (both film and TV), beginning in the late '60s/early'70s. His first job was with Tatsunoko Productions, at age fifteen. He may very well have worked on Speed Racer, but is not listed in the encyclopedia as one of the series' creators. G-Force first aired in 1972, but according to Clements and McCarthy, only the 1979 Japanese sequel Gatchaman II featured Amano's design work. Hutch the Honeybee premiered in 1970, but Amano did design work solely on the 1974 followup series, called New Hutch. The encyclopedia's entry for Final Fantasy discusses an anime based loosely on the popular game, and the barely-related 2001 film, but Amano isn't mentioned in connection with either (in all likelihood he only worked on the game). Tekkaman, 1975, is actually the only anime cited by the gallery for which Amano was the primary designer, according to this fairly exhaustive reference work.

None of this should matter: Amano's work will stand or fall based on what he's doing now, in the West, and not on his previous career in another artistic ecosystem. Pumping up the resume is an attempt to create mystique for the work--the myth of the genius, from the mysterious East, and all that (not to mention tapping into boomer/Gen X kid's-show nostalgia). We'd be a lot better served by understanding, first, what makes good anime (what role does the designer play, exactly, as distinguished from the director, the writer, or the animator?), and second, how does work produced in that genre transcend its context to speak to the Western gallery world? There's a lot of confusion out there right now: Takashi Murakami, for example, has endeared himself to American curators by appropriating anime and other Japanese design conventions; his is a highly commercial enterprise sold as "Japanese contemporary art," even though Japan itself has no real tradition of the solitary, metacritical, artist. At least Amano has roots in a legitimate cultural sweatshop. Just a little of that is necessary to give his work street cred, though--he doesn't have to be the Japanese Walt Disney.

Update: For the Lisa Ruyter referred to in this post see Francis Ruyter.

- tom moody 7-13-2002 1:31 am [link] [7 comments]

Those drawings I did of the Shell girls now appear on the inside of the CD booklet for their new maxi-single, available through More pictures of the duo are here. Sorry about the f**ing popups.

- tom moody 7-09-2002 7:03 am [link] [19 comments]

Tom Moody Product Box Installation 2002

Speaking of product packaging (see two posts back), in the early-to-mid-'90s I was painting directly on product boxes. I did a whole series of "molecules on consumer packaging" and exhibited a few here and there. An example, using Alpen cereal boxes, which I was eating at the time--the cereal, not the boxes--is here.

Tom Moody Product Box Installation 2002

The polaroids in this post show some more recent efforts, using digital molecules on paper, and glue, instead of paint. The products are a milk bottle, clear packaging for shower curtain rings, and a granola box. The smaller photo shows the same configuration with molecular spheres and struts added; they're printed on heavyweight paper and affixed to the wall with map pins.

For my next piece, I'm going to recreate this buckyball I painted in '93 as a wall-installation. The dimensions will be 6-8 feet high.

- tom moody 7-09-2002 6:38 am [link] [5 comments]

Tom Moody Clones 2002

- tom moody 7-09-2002 6:32 am [link] [5 comments]

The 19th Century romantics used to talk about art "aspiring to the condition of music"; certainly this urge still existed by the time Kandinsky and his circle came along. By the 1970s, though, art had acquired a heavy additional burden that I suppose could be called "signification." The representational art of yesteryear (history painting, say) has been replaced by an underlying, not always obvious narrative about some social or political condition that bothers the artist. I've written about this before. The job of the writer or the curator then becomes decoding the artist's exact political meaning and passing this narrative on to others. The "Tempo" show, which opened a couple of weeks ago at MOMA's new Queens facility, is a good example. The galleries are filled with objects, more or less interesting, on the theme of "Time," and in the exhibition brochure, the curator gives a line or two to what each object means. In all likelihood, if the curator hadn't been able to come up with that soundbite, the piece wouldn't have been in the show.

How is it that music continues to escape this requirement of signification? If Simon Reynolds writes about a house track, he doesn't judge it a failure it if doesn't contain a sped-up sample of, say, George Bush uttering the words "axis of evil." If it did contain that sample, he might note it, but the track is going to stand or fall on the basis of other criteria. For certain he's not going to say, as many curators do about art pieces, that it's "merely formal" if it doesn't have the sample. These days, I'm more and more interested in work that critics would condemn as merely formal. At least I can be reasonably sure that it won't contain some puerile, easily decodable political sentiment.

Another example: a few years ago I took a pair of German dealers on a tour of some New York studios. All of the work was dumb, in-your-face, latter day Op art, but with some material or perceptual hook that made it not so dumb. The dealers looked at the floor most of the time and seemed really embarrassed. Later, on the subway, they showed me pictures of art they'd exhibited in their gallery. I remember one piece consisted of pharmaceutical boxes that had been stuck to cylindrical columns in the gallery with green stripes wrapping the columns at the exact level of the boxes. The piece had a nice postminimal vibe and wasn't far off the things I'd been showing them, but for them the pharm packaging was the absolutely necessary "axis of evil" sample. All it took was one "political" element to validate the work (though they never explained why those particular drug boxes were "political"). I couldn't resist saying: "I think these pieces would be great without the drug packaging," which got me surly looks.

- tom moody 7-08-2002 9:48 pm [link] [10 comments]

Techno Diary, Installment 3.

Here's a list of music I picked up today at Throb, an excellent dance disc shop in Manhattan specializing in electro and tech-house tracks:

Drexciya Grava 4 2LP. Electro, begat by Kraftwerk and Afrika Bambaataa and New Order and still thriving in the digital age, is dance music at its most defiantly synthetic (as Kodwo Eshun puts it, "there are no snares--just waveforms being altered. There are no bass drums---just attack velocities"), and Drexciya is the Detroit variety at its most beautiful and pure. The following may be the world's wordiest sample: "Use the star chart to fix the celestial navigation point and from there you should be able to plot a path back to earth using rudimentary astronomical guideposts." (From the track "Astronomical Guidepost.") Amazingly, the Drexciyans make this sound incredibly funky.

DJ Assault Jefferson Ave CD. Not as hard-sounding or vital as the singles in Belle Isle Tech. A kind of studio concept album, with skits, like a potty-mouthed 3 Ft High and Rising. The sexual imagination on display is strictly Vivid Video, and the misogyny wears thin, but there are nice melodies sprinkled throughout.

Herbert Bodily Functions CD. More lovely vocals from Dani Siciliano. I'm indifferent to Herbert's clicks and coughs and clattering dishes as percussion, but they don't ruin his music for me either. I like 1998's Around the House better as a whole, but both that and this one are worth owning.

Ultrasound, Hospital Records compilation CD. Jazz hooks intertwined with drum-and-bass beats in this 1997 collection of UK artists: predominantly tracks by London Electricity and The Peter Nice Trio (how could anyone dislike something called "The Peter Nice Trio"?). I go back and forth on this stuff: when it sounds like fuzak (or has flutes) I hate it, but when it's a nervous, staccato, techy retake of Canterbury-style riffs from the early '70s (Soft Machine, Hatfields, Caravan) (which is often), I'm on board.

Volumes C-D, G-H of Berlin 2001 Compilation Bpitch Control label (2LPs). Speaking of electro, here's some great Berlin variants. Favorite tracks so far: White Dolemite "Nice Acid (2001)," Toktok "Sekker," Barbara Morgenstern "Dr. Mr." (the latter with Michael Nyman-esque strings--most odd).

Marin-Go-Round. Derek Marin "Inhale/Wanna Get Wit" EP. Marin works at Throb and also djs. He's got the tech-house thang down cold. Not sure if Lap Dance Records (with graphic of dancer losing bikini bottom) is the right look/label/image for sounds this lofty. Platonik "Don't Look" EP. Marin again, on Intrinsic Design, a label whose previous releases include the "Galactic Schematix" EP by Entity (aka Lucas James Rodenbush aka EBE). This is total class. Here's what, out of the UK, had to say about the disc: "This torrid tech houser comes from Derek Marin under the Platonik moniker. Here are three bonafide stompers that will fire up your dance floor in a hurry. "Don't Look", "Skeptic (Was It Good For You?)" and my personal favorite, "Friction" should be included in ANY dj's set. Deep, dark and tribal...doesn't come any better." Clock Punchers "In-Just" EP. Marin and dj/fellow Throbster Carter Reece remix tracks. I really like Reece's contribution. Very minimal; kind of simple and mysterious at the same time. it makes me think a bit of Trike's "Country 3000" but with a lot more pep.

[Addendum: Here's a review I found (cached) from the "starbass" website describing the Clockpunchers disc--I love this writing.]

carter reece and derek Marin (known for his work as platonik and modest d on the plastic city, intrinsic design, red menace, and a touch of class labels) drop their latest release supplying three cuts of potent tribal tech-house. the ep kicks off with a full-sided mix that works a driving progressive house edge as resonant percussion and bass-driven atmospherics intertwine to form a building, flexing groove echoed with hypnotic vocal snippets in a heavy 4/4 flow. the b-side kicks off on a morphing liquid tech-house tip rippling with dubby fx and tuned log-drum percussion, finishing with a slick minimal thumper building up a focused percussive format and layers of radiant loop manipulation.

Please note that future posts about electronic dance music will appear at my newly-created weblog technodiary.

- tom moody 7-07-2002 6:10 am [link] [8 comments]

I'm pleased to announce that I made the La Femme Nikita fan page! (Scroll down.) I drew that image freehand, on a computer at work, while looking at a poster I found lying on a Metro North luggage rack and dragged back to my cube. I wasn't trying for a likeness, just a "pretty face." The hair's kind of stringy--I think of her more as a hippie/flower child with larger-than-life Nordic features. Lots of people, especially women, can't stand that series of portraits. The fact that I showed them under the name "Polygamy" didn't help. In my own defense, I came up with that name after reading an interview with Camille Paglia. She and whoever she was talking to were defending polygamy on the grounds, basically, that it keeps men off the streets, and keeps older women in a family unit so they don't have to a join a First Wives' Club. Hey, they said it, not me! So I started thinking about the male predilection for serial affection, and our society's current obsession with child-models, and applied it to the portraits of women I was doing at the time. The art world is a fairly tolerant place, but I think I hit some taboos. You're supposed to put clear brackets around work that says "this is a critique," and I didn't. The fact that the images drew a reaction strikes me as significant, but they've created a lot of difficulty and misunderstanding in the short run.

- tom moody 7-06-2002 7:43 am [link] [5 comments]

A short refresher on how our system of government works. The country belongs to its citizens. The citizens elect representatives (Congress) to perform chores necessary to the common good. One of the powers given to Congress by our Constitution is the ability to declare war. The President can only implement, not usurp, this power.

So what is this we're reading today about plans for a full-scale invasion of Iraq, devised by the executive branch? Looks like Bush Jr. and his henchmen have it all mapped out: first they leak that the CIA has a license to kill Saddam, anytime, anywhere. The most likely point of entry for these trained killers would be with the inspection team going in to Iraq to look for nukes and germs. So of course Saddam refuses to allow the team into the country. Jr. says "Aha! He must be hiding weapons of mass destruction!" Polls show most Americans think this is bad--even though 10 years of sanctions and bombing have reduced the country to a fraction of its former power. Then Jr. goes before Congress and requests the necessary authorization and funds to start a war. Meanwhile, those of us who never once get called by a pollster and receive back only form letters from our elected representatives watch 200,000 citizens go off to die or be gassed. And why? (1) So Jr. won't be embarrassed anymore that his Dad didn't "finish the job" 11 years ago in Iraq and (2) so Jr.'s buds in the oil business will benefit from the extraction of Iraqi oil, once it becomes available from the new client government.

Are we really such big suckers? Or is it that we want the oil, too, so we can keep playing with all our toys? If it's the latter, maybe we shouldn't get our BVDs in a twist when a skyscraper or two gets toppled by the enemies such activities inevitably create. What's the loss of a few thousand people when millions continue to enjoy videos, nice cars, and gourmet meals? If this logic sounds repugnant, then perhaps the best thing to do is: start looking for other sources of energy (cultivating Russian and other non-Middle East/non-Caspian sources in the short term), and demand that Congress pull the plug on these ill-considered invasion plans. Oh yeah, and quit funding the military occupation of Palestine.

- tom moody 7-06-2002 1:17 am [link] [15 comments]