View current page
...more recent posts
My photos from the United for Peace & Justice march welcoming the Republicans to NY. The huge throng started at 14th Street and moved north, filing past Madison Square Garden, where everyone did the requisite jeering. A spirited and orderly event, at least what I saw of it. A lot of cops standing around uselessly. I haven't read any reports since I got to the computer to process these pictures; I hope nothing ugly happened.
UPDATE: I just made the mistake of looking at Slate, the Microsoft-funded online journal, where man on the street correspondent Bryan Curtis follows what he and his headline writer call "the lefties" up Seventh Avenue. He makes the protest sound very silly and quaint, but of course no one can demand more balance from the magazine since there was no parade of hundreds of thousands of "righties."
The Suspended Disbelief Puppet Theater performed tonight (Aug. 28) at Pete's Candy Store in Brooklyn. Interesting mix of dense, decrepit, Gothic ornamentalism in the puppetry and sets (think the Brothers Quay, Poe, Ivan Albright) and hip, urbane references in the songs and dialogue: Bogie and Bacall's sexually-loaded banter about horse racing from The Big Sleep; the inimitable Mrs. Miller singing "These Boots Are Made for Walking," and a bizarre novelty record by Melvin Van Peebles called "Eyes on the Rabbit" played for maximum pathos. Rose Csorba did the puppeteering, Jim Thomson of Plasmodium provided the voices and the found/treated sound, and Sarah White and Steve Ingham sang White's lovely songs on acoustic guitars between acts.
Normally Robert Christgau's writing is so unclear, but he really nails the the new Ramones documentary in the Voice. The movie's great, the only thing I still wonder is where in the world their sound came from. The film explains how intense it was for the bland mid-70s, but not why they made the particular choices they did: short, hard uncomplicated loud songs with "morbid" themes. Performance art is mentioned in the film (and by Christgau) as an analogy, but we still don't know why 4 guys from Queens who liked the Stooges and the Dolls invented this form of high-energy minimalism. They weren't from the arty set like the Talking Heads; in fact the most fascinating person in the film is Johnny, who is a Bush and Nixon-loving Republican (and who, we also learn, kept the band honed, driven, and together as a unit for 20 years). Where did his sense of style and the vision of the group come from, given that he's so non-reflective? This is not to slight the other members' contributions, but they all seem to agree at the end of the day that Johnny was the Nazi behind the Bop.
Check out Tyson the skateboarding bulldog, the canine personification of joy. [via] Be sure watch the videos: the March 2003 clip is especially good.
I did this drawing 20 years ago, when the Republican convention came to Dallas, where I was living at the time. It was published in BWANA-ART, a Dallas zine. I seem to be cursed to live in cities where Republicans flock to crown scary idiots.
A few fleeting reminiscences of convention '84: (1) Dallas still had two papers then, and the coverage in the Dallas Times Herald by John Bloom (AKA Joe Bob Briggs) and Molly Ivins was some of the best newspaper writing I've ever read. (2) A few orange haired punks went on a rampage downtown--meaning yelling and handing out some leaflets. The whole city (a place of insurance companies, Christian sales motivators, repressed non-whites, and tit bars) was scandalized. I'm sure those kids did hard time. (3) The co-op gallery where I was showing hosted a political exhibit, "Left/Right: The Political Show." Sculptor Greg Metz (a former classmate of Texas ex-pats Gary Panter and Georgeann Deen) made an ambitious sculptural tableau called Reagan's Temple of Doom, with a fanged Gipper rising from a toilet in a funnel cloud. A reporter and a photographer from Time came to look at the show--handsome blowdried dudes in tight designer jeans--but snuck out the back door, leaving us artists standing there like fools.
A recent poll cited in the New York Times says 53% of New Yorkers fear a terrorist attack during the convention. Well, score one for Tom Ridge and the Fear Machine. What I'm most afraid of is that New York police will forget who they're paid to protect and start busting heads of average citizens fed up with three years of Republican kleptocracy, lies about 9/11, and bloody war. Protest is a right, not a privilege as Mayor Bloomberg would have it. The presence of riot gear and heavy handed crowd control tactics during the anti-Iraq war marches of 2003, which I witnessed firsthand, make me concerned that repression will lead to violence, as opposed to the other way around. In the February 2003 march, the police used barricades to keep people confined to the wide avenues and off the cross streets--which was fine unless you wanted to get across town from the West Side to 1st Avenue, where the rally was, which tens of thousands did. Bloomberg's tactic was to make the crowd give up and disperse by creating an impossible, exhausting maze of barricades. I wanted to scream at the cops who wouldn't let us walk on the cross streets--I mean, this was not a gang of criminals or anarchists here, just people who wanted to go to the rally. I found myself imagining a flash mob suddenly appearing and (non-violently) restraining them, through sheer force of numbers, allowing everyone penned in on the Avenue to exercise their constitutional right to walk the shortest distance between two points.
ryan-gfx (skip intro if there is one)
Death to the Fascist Insect That Preys on the Life of the People
The larger issues percolating around the 2004 Whitney Biennial were (A) whether the "quest for the adolescent" theme identified by the curators was real (as opposed to a thesis in search of evidence), and (B) if real, the extent to which the retreat into infantilism was (i) a response to the current pervasive terror-talk and war, (ii) a reaction to 20 years of verbal theory and no fun in art, or (iii) widespread, simultaneous opting out of participation in an art historical lineage in favor of private (outsider-ish) worlds. The pervasiveness of what Roberta Smith calls "the bedroom shows" and the rise of collectives of 20-something artists documented by Holland Cotter suggests that the trend is real. Militating against that conclusion, however, is anecdotal evidence that the curators were scouting for "young artists" out in the field, and may have skewed the survey in favor of "stuff young artists do." But then previous generations of "young artists" made ultraserious, high-toned work in their 20s, as opposed to wacky, pop-culture-driven room-filling jamborees: think Frank Stella, Gordon Matta-Clark, Eva Hesse, even Cindy Sherman & Robert Longo.
So, if we accept that this is a legitimate sociocultural trend, why the regression into the visual equivalent of baby talk? Perhaps it depends on which preschool we're talking about. The Whitney curators may very well have skimmed the most non-threatening and apolitical work out of the youthpool, while contemporaneous shows in Brooklyn and elsewhere show a "worried generation" mingling concerns about military, labor, environment, and culture-war issues with a faux-unengaged, faux-juvenile stance. Not precisely Dadaists waiting out WWI in Zurich, because overt references to current events are mixed in. I'm intrigued by James Wagner's reporting and pictures from a show I missed in DUMBO (Brooklyn) called "Death to the Fascist Insect That Preys on the Life of the People." The title is from the Symbionese Liberation Army (last invoked in the artworld in the early 90s "nihilistic" scatter art of Cady Noland), but here the grimness of Cinque De Freeze's social indictment is completely belied by the artwork on view: toys, stuffed animals, stickers, buttons, and crude thumbtacked drawings resembling an end-of-the-semester children's art show.
Based on James' photos and descriptions and what I know about some of the artists, the show looked to be an entertaining but tough-minded mix of influences: the Kenny Scharf Jetsons East Village blacklight funhouse thing, Basquiat "drawerly" cartooning, graffiti, the late 80s/early 90s slacker style, and, through manipulation of Saturday Morning sugar cereal advertising tropes, even the hardnosed, political "pictures" art of Levine, Goldstein, Prince, etc. The use of websites to document shows and present stand-alone pieces (by TAG Projects, who did the "Insect" show, but also BEIGE, Paper Rad, etc.) makes this a new animal, though. These are just the beginnings of a theory (and sorry it's so ponderous--just trying to get the thoughts down), but suddenly there's a lot of good work out there, and I'm excited by the role websites and bloggers like James are playing in documenting it, before it reaches the cooled down, institutional phase of magazine coverage and curatorial co-opting.
Noah Lyon, from "Death to the Fascist Insect..." Photo by James Wagner.