Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Latest Poll Results

So, our latest poll was about deciding how to name the new genre of trashy novel/chick lit for guys. Boy, was it animated! 7 of you, meaning what probably constitutes my entire readership voted, but there was no clear winner, between "Lad-Lit" (my own personal favorite, I think it sounds vaguely like some new porn lingo), "Boy-Boy 'Ture" (fun, though it sounds vaguely gay and we do not want to exclude the few stray heteros wandering on this blog) and "real men don't eat at the Ivy" which is very long, and in fact I was thinking about the London Ivy, though the BH outpost would qualify too.

Anyway, if you have some new suggestion send them here at FBC! In the meantime I'm going to scratch my head about the next poll. Since it seems our writers-in-arms cousins are going to be on strike soon (Hi Annie, Jonathan and Mike! Let me know if you need cheap soup recipes!) maybe they can help me out with a new poll idea, with all the free time they will have when not picketing the networks/studios.

The picture above is by Florence Trocmé , found on her blog.

Debout Les Damnés De La Terre!

If you, like me, live in Los Angeles, you cannot escape the daily headlines about the upcoming-or-not WGA strike. For those of you who don’t live here, the looming strike concerns all the screenplay and TV writers around, whose collective contract is set to expire tonight, thus ensuring a Happy Halloween to our brothers and sisters the slaves working in the Other Cultural Industry. My understanding (which is very vague, sorry to my 3 non-art readers-cum-writers Annie, Jonathan and Mike) is our cultural workers-comrades-in-arms cousins have been screwed at the previous negotiations, and this time their union (the WGA) is hell-bent on striking if the studios and networks and other Powers That Be on the other side of the bargaining table don’t make tiny, tiny compromises to their humongous profits, so the people who come up with your daily entertainment ideas are not starving.

It seems the bone of contention is reality TV (you know, these shows were supposedly *normal* but often apparently deeply retarded people utter *natural*, *non-scripted* dialogues in between poor singing, dancing, house-flipping, cat-petting and other decorating activities), and residuals.
For my art readers, let’s assume residuals are akin to royalties, because I am not sure myself what it is and how our friends get those, if they do. Writers have been screwed on residuals in the past and for apparently as long as The Other Cultural Industry beached on our sunny California shores. So now our cousins-in-arms are trying to get residuals on the stuff they created, you know all this content that ends up on YouTube, DailyMotion, and the new one with the silly name.
Now, given how thin my 3 non-art writers-readers friends are, I assume they, and by extension all the writers in this town, already don’t get enough to eat, and if they are to go on strike tomorrow, I can’t imagine how they will NOT starve. I’ll post more cheap soups and pasta recipes for them if the strike happens, so at least they can make whatever pennies they still have left last as long as they can. I’m all for solidarity with people screwed up in any type of cultural industries.

I‘m also all for a swift resolution of the contract issues because:

a) I don’t want my friends to end up looking like ordinary anorexic Benetton models
b) it seems lots of other Industry-related services and businesses would suffer, therefore we would all in the end see some bad fallout (how many visual artists works on production design, special effects, etc.)
c) TV and movie programs coming up during and immediately after the strike will more than likely be über-mediocre. There’s so much Canadian-Australian-Brit content that can be imported, or worse even more silly reality-shows. On Craigslist they are trying to hire cats to do reality TV. As much as I love my Pomme, I can’t imagine something sillier and more yawn-inducing to watch.
d) I’m looking for a job myself, and if a recession comes (how much lower can the Feds go with interest rates?) I cannot fathom how I could compete with all these super-smart people also looking for a job outside of their branch. I don't enjoy starving myself, even though I could do with a bit of a width reduction. I don't want to resort to silly reality shows to feed my cat either!

Though, now that I think of it, maybe we could start an advice business on how to survive in times of economic depression? What do you think, Annie, Jonathan and Mike? There’s a market, with all the real estate agents and mortgage lenders out of jobs around, maybe there’s an idea. I know ! We could produce a reality show on poor writers, ex-mortgage lenders, chic Frenchies and former real-estate agents growing potatoes on their balconies, creating a giant cooperative/commune to roommate in with our various pets and share survival tips! I’ll do the cooking, if someone else doe the cleaning!

Also, in solidarity with our writers-comrades-cousins the artworld should go on strike too. Because, you know, come to think of it, we don’t have residuals either. Not. At. All. I’m not even thinking of curators and critics whose work is more often than not plagiarized, ripped off and underpaid 3 years after being completed, but of the artists.

Imagine yourself, my dear artist reader. You’re in your early to mid- 30s, struggling to make ends meet, slaving away as an assistant to someone more established, teaching with no benefits, or doing part-time graphic design, working your a.. off in your studio that’s little more than a rented a converted garage in sweltering Highland Park. That is, assuming you’re not a trust fund baby, because if you are I may respect your work but you’ve already lost my sympathy. Go ask Daddy for the rent money, OK?

Anyway, back to our friend, the poor deserving artist. You make this great artworks, and ta da, stroke of good luck! You get a show. Your new but savvy art dealer gets some smart collectors to buy your things while you’re young, and cheap, and those $4,000 to $6,000 a piece seem like a lot to you. There are maybe a dozen works, and lucky you! They are sold out, and you’ll get 50% of the sale money (minus the 10 to 15% discount the smart supportive-of-your-work new collectors always ask for and get) ! Life seems good.

Except, except, 3 or 4 years from now, you will have attained a reasonable degree of success. Your work will sell in the $10,000 to $15,000 range, the same collectors regularly buy a piece or two at your shows, some of your stuff may end up in regional museums’ collections, you may have had a few good reviews already in either Frieze or Artforum. The market is starting to heat up, like it does every decade or so. You regret you didn’t keep at least ONE work from your first show, but hey, you so desperately needed the money at the time, what with your car that broke down, some health-related issues (couldn’t afford health insurance) and your rent was increasing.
And then suddenly, wow, first real museum show! In a highly visible institution! Or, even better, an appearance at the Whitney Biennial, or the Venice one (more prestigious!), in one of the places that count. For your career. Never mind art history, this can wait for after your death.

Now the market is absolutely crazy, and somehow your work starts to appear at auctions, that edgy Phillips de Pury in the beginning, then maybe at Christie’s London First Open, around the time of the Frieze art fair. And then, that first painting that was sold to that oh-so-dedicated and oh-so-savvy collector, is flipped there and then (hic et nunc, to use pedantic Barthesian Latin).
Low estimate, $50,000. Your art dealer should try to go buy it, but he has too many fishes to fry what with his hot stable of young artists, besides he privately thinks it’s good prices are out of control, it gives him a good reason to raise them the next time he sells a piece of yours.
Shocker! At the auction, the painting goes for $95,000, over the $70,000 high estimate.

And what do you get out of this fantastic surge in value from $4,000 to $95,000 ? Nothing, nada, rien de rien, macache, walou. Rien du tout!
Why is that? Because, because visuals artists are not unionized, are not informed of the intricacies of copyright laws, and no one speaks for them. Certainly, my non-art readers are going to ask me, there are enough artists (yes, probably about between 60,000 and 100,000 of them in the United States, if you include everyone who has at least a part-time practice) to create a union?
Yep, but the majority is self-employed and therefore cannot strike against themselves. What could be done? Well, organizing would be a smart start. Something art schools could participate in, for example, rather than release into the wild a bunch ill-prepared youngsters only armed with rudiments of critical theory but no political, business or administrative training. CAA (not that one, this one) would be a good platform to get the debate going, and I have a feeling those universities that have both famous art schools and law schools (Yale, anyone ?) should set up a think thank. For a start. Then let's revive the Art Workers Coalition!

Of course to start regulating the unregulated, a certain dose of government wouldn’t hurt. What better way to involve Uncle Sam than include a tax proposal. Say, a 3% to 5% residual on the added value (I’ll let you do the math, I suck at it) after (the various) resale(s) should go back to the artists. Maybe a non-profit set up by CAA and the Artist Pension Trust could be in charge of the redistribution.
The added value, that is, the final $95,000 minus the $4,000 of the initial price minus the commission/buyer premium.
The residuals could be taxed at about 20% and still the artist would get something for his early pains, and Uncle Sam could redirect these taxes, say, to a universal health care system that could benefit our artists friends as well as everybody else.
Almost every single art worker I know doesn’t have health insurance, and art dealers and auction houses don’t set up a general fund for them, thank you very much.
Of course our friendly art dealers, auctioneers, appraisers and auction house owners such as French billionaire Francois Pinault would cry misery and explain how it would *hurt the business*, blah-blah-blah.
That’s true, they would get 3% to 5% less. But you know, they’ll make up for it on the buyer’s premium, and the buyer being amongst the 0,1% assholes rich people who owns 20% of the planet’s total assets, well I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel sorry for them. Not really. Plus, we’re pretty sure they will bargain for only 3% anyway.

How do we start fighting for the cause? Well, let me tell you my artist friends. If tomorrow our writer cousins find themselves on strike, let’s go on strike ourselves. Miami Basel is only in a month, and your various shipping deadlines are approaching. Just. Don’t. Deliver.The. Artworks.
Simple, no? Everyone stops making, showing, selling works for a couple of months. Postpone your museum shows. Un-suscribe to Artforum or whatever else -you’ll be able to buy coffee instead!
Don’t show up at openings. You’re going to tell me, yes, but maybe then all the green artists who don’t have galleries yet are going to be acting like strike breakers, etc.
Well, maybe, though I don’t know how dealers are going to be able to do it that fast, and there are only so many ill-conceived group shows you can curate at the last minute. And given how generally liberal-leaning the artworld is, it’s hard to imagine how museums, curators, and even collectors will dare openly do business until the strike issues are solved.
And, I have to confess, my little Frenchy self gets homesick sometimes, and it does include street demonstrations. Please?

Tomorrow, let’s show solidarity with our WGA-cousins! Let’s chant “C’est la lutte finaaaaaale, groupons nous dès demaiiiiinnnnnnnnnn l’Internationaaa-aaale sera le genre humain!”

Thanksgiving In October!

It’s that time of the month again -no, not the one when your boyfriend makes stupid sexist remarks about this being that time of the month again- the time of the month when my devoted readership gets to discover the Thanksgiving In [Insert Month Here]™. It’s October and I figure I should post it on Halloween day, just to confuse everyone.
Anyway, after La Maison du Pain, my Distinguished Literary Correspondent and Mariah C. I’ve decided to devote this month’s installment to my very old friend, Alexis V. Alexis is French, and like all French people named Alexis, he is male, so if you wonder why I refer to him as« he » all the time, for once it is not the result of a flagrant oversight of copy-editing (but don’t worry, all the other typos are, as usual).

Alexis and I met years ago while attending school, in a venerable institution that at the time offered the only contemporary art history classes in France, and was also home to a Museum Studies graduate program which we duly attended together, after finishing the undergraduate thingy.
Now my memories of these early years are very murky, and I don’t recall much of it. I think at the time Alexis and I didn’t really hang out together, and when we met it was probably with loads of other people. I was also attending another school in addition to our common one, and I think so did Alexis, which meant both of us skipped lots of classes and were in the same classroom only for the huge amphitheater lectures.
So I didn’t really know Alexis, except I was vaguely aware both of us chose the same artist for our respective Master theses, and we were fairly critical of our program when we occasionally met at parties. In Museum Studies, you see, there’s no talk about the art itself but only about the way you handle it, and it was geared more towards archeological artifacts than contemporary art.
We were both well aware of Robert Smithson’s appropriation of Nabokov’s quote: “the future is the obsolete in reverse”, but considering contemporary art as future archeology was a meager consolation during our excruciatingly boring classes: “a great museum, it’s a cafeteria, a few restrooms, plenty of audioguides, not too much sitting or the crowds become too dense. It’s better to show only reproductions so the art doesn’t degrade, and keep the original in climate-controlled storage”.

Class outings were spent looking at wall labels, lighting implements, particle accelerators, how to make sure the blind people/vision-impaired were not forgotten when putting together visual displays (I kid you not) and other essential topics.
I remember going to a field trip to some archeological digs where we were ushered to a classroom and lectured on how the acidity of the soiled made for bad preservation of the swords buried under the hill of a famous Gallic defeat. But it was great for porcini ‘shrooms growth, and there were some fairly impressive toadstools there too, something I discovered when I decided to skip class to wander in the forest.and I never, never found my way back home, boo hoo
Anyway, most of the classes failed to make an impression on me, and since I had some hands-on experience in museums before, everything at school felt rather redundant, so I skipped too many classes to really get to know Alexis. Missed opportunities…

Then Alexis and I got similar and parallel professional experiences. We both went abroad to work, curated our first shows, published essays, and came back to France at the end of the 1990s. At some party I went to, someone mentioned Alexis and how he wanted to meet again. Alas, being plagued with a really bad memory for names* I didn’t have the foggiest notion who this Alexis person was, especially since the acquaintance who mentioned him couldn’t tell me at which school we had been together. Then Alexis and I met again at another party and ta da! I could totally place him, and it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, as they say.

Of all curators I’ve met over the years, Alexis is one of the few who has a comprehensive vision about his practice. It is firmly anchored in questioning the existence, meaning and function of the exhibition space itself, without blaming it (Institutional Critique-like) for all the ills of contemporary art. Alexis always has a very fine-tuned approach to the history of the particular space he is going to work with/in, and he deeply questions modes of display, curatorial choices, and all the everyday compromises people working inside the institutions have to deal and content with.
He’s also a very collaborative art worker, co-founder with the lovely Eva Svennung of Toasting Agency, a curating platform that exists as a legal and administrative structure (non-profit like) to set up publications as well as exhibitions, and open to outside projects.
I know, it all sounds very serious, and his work is serious, but Alexis in person is one of the most hilariously funny guy I know in the whole universe, always bursting with ideas, open to lots of suggestions, while remaining elegantly critical of all the brouhaha and white noise that passes for the daily going-ons of the artworld.

He’s always one of the first persons I call when I get back home, however jet-lagged I may be, because I know every one of our coffee breaks or evening drinks encounters will be exhilarating, exciting and mind-blowing. Alexis always encouraged me to get crazy in my writings or my curating projects and he practiced what he preached by publishing some of my most outrageous stuff, something I find a bit masochistic given I’m always 6,000+ words over my limit and 3 months past my deadline. At least.
He’s been a very patient, long-suffering editor who allowed me to find in Pacemaker an outlet for my mad review of a show on porphyry at the Louvre, with an atrocious Latin title.

Not only this but Alexis kept me afloat financially when I was in dire straits, by commissioning translations and essays that probably could have been done cheaper and better elsewhere. In addition to being a great friend, and by this I mean someone who is there for you, doesn’t judge people’s idiosyncrasies (indeed, he encourages those), Alexis is a curator I deeply admire.
I’m rather reactive and instinctive in my curatorial practice myself, whereas Alexis is deeply analytic, but always in a fun way. He’s very good at including avant-garde fashion designers where you don’t expect them, or,say, underground fiction writers. He has worked with his fab’ partner Nadia L. on scenography (and on producing a beautiful offspring, Max) when he co-curated the Voyage Interieur show with Alex Farquharson. When asked to co-curate the IX Baltic Triennial in Vilnius a few years back, he and his co-curators decided to call it Black Market World (BMW), and they really questioned what it meant to be among the umpteenth regularly occurring contemporary art biennials/festivals/events, set in a Baltic state that had just joined the European Union, all of this done in a fun, exciting way.
The catalogue was gorgeous, like most of the publications Alexis has been working on. I love when I run into Alexis and he shows me one of his recent published endeavors. Whatever the format and the content it is always cleverly designed and more often than not uses gorgeous typeface and paper (BTW, you famous, fashionable and ethereal NYC artist who borrowed my copy of Le Voyage Interieur, I want it back. Thanks).

Alexis is a bit obsessed with alternative mode of viewings and display, so with Toasting Agency he curated a show in a driving school. French driving education includes a theoretical exam (yep, we’re French, we like our theory) for which you view slides (maybe they do Powerpoint now?) and write down questions and answers in the dark, something very much akin to traditional art history classes. He’s been preparing a publication in the form of a fashion shoot at Portmeirion, the *Village* in the Prisoner series, and a Luna Park project (I think in Spain). One of Toasting Agency's past show was at a hair salon in Paris, where artists were commissioned to propose “This Month’s Haircut”, and real client were encouraged to try them. Haircuts ranged from commercial logos died and cut on your scalp to Clyde-inspired hairdos (as in Clyde, the Clint Eastwood monkey), or to seat under a real Van Der Graff generator. Fun, fun, fun!

Alexis is not naïve either, and when invited with a bunch of youngish French curators to show in a Big And Unnamed But Very Recognizable Parisian Institution, he thought about it and saw that:

a) it was going to be another pretext for the said institution to pretend to be open and generous when in fact they were just trying to co-opt, swallow and tame rebellion into their fold
b) it was going to be a cacophony of several curators choosing several artists and the thing was never going to look like *a show*
c) I’m sure he also realized they were lots of other super important and interesting issues involved which I am not smart enough to even begin considering.

So Alexis decided to go against the grain by commissioning Mrzyk and Moriceau to do a kilometer-long wall drawing which in effect ended up by not only unifying the entire space (the other curators should have thanked him for this) but by also giving Alexis’ choice prominence in contrast to everything else in the show (and I’m sure they are NOT thanking him for this).

Anyway, I miss Alexis here in LA, where there isn’t much of a critical AND fun discourse going on.
[Typical LA art day: “did you see blah-blah-blah at [insert Chinatown or Culver City gallery here] last week, oh so-and-so have signed up with Blum & Poe, where will you eat after the Hammer opening? Hip Person is opening a new gallery space. Culver City is almost over, oh, but everybody thought so about Chinatown 4 years ago, etc”. Yawn.]

Alexis has been a huge inspiration for many of the things I’ve done, a great friend, and shall I say it again? A very, very patient editor. I cannot resist saying yes each time he asks me to write something, even when I KNOW I will have trouble to find the time (also discounting the many unforeseen instances of "when shit happens" which I seem to attract like Britney Spears the paparazzis. No, I do not know how to spell "paparazzis").
I should kick my own butt when I accept, and I always feel guilty each time, but hey, Alexis there should be a downside for being so cool. Thanks for being so great. You can’t complain if people always agree to work with you. Can’t wait to hear bout your next and new projects, and please send me your corrections, I didn’t check anything, as usual on FBC! Happy Thanksgiving in October! I hope to see you around Christmas time.

* I still do, so please don’t be offended if I look startled when you say hi to me. Please be kind and re-introduce yourself; and if you could be even more generous and retell the circumstances of our acquaintance I will eternally bless your good manners. I am not offended if you don’t remember me either or mispronounce my name, as it happens I mispronounce all non-French names, after all.

Picture above is a drawing my Mrzyk and Moriceau, I don't have the date.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Julie Lequin Totally Deserves To Be Your Neighbor Or at Least Cubicle Mate

A while ago I posted a couple of "fake" New Yorker cartoons by Mark A. Rodriguez, which are in fact a conceptual art project*. Those had been forwarded to me by a common friend of Julie Lequin, who advised I asked Julie to see her work.
I diligently complied (I totally trust Da Best Curator In Town's advice) and Julie forwarded me links to two older videos she had made. I clicked on them and truly enjoyed them, first of all because it's refreshing to see video (as opposed to, say, narrative figurative painting), then because they were hilariously funny and did remind me slightly of an artist I adore, Michael Smith.

I love the self-deprecating irony of the artist as procrastinator, and the speech/accent reduction lesson is a) very Hollywood and b)something I totally relate to as a French-speaking expat. I'll be able to pronounce "th" when my US friends will be able to pronounce "r" and "u" correctly (not to mention when they stop pronouncing "t" as a "d").
What I like in Julie's work is how it doesn't take itself too seriously. After seeing her work I can't imagine Julie uttering statements such as " After MY death, I want museums to show MY WORK only the way I WANT" and "The Museum owes ME this because I AM the artist". I've heard this in real life and I really wonder how people can say this without feeling ridiculous and pompous. Seriously folks, being artists doesn't dispense you from being human, even if you are very, very successful, as in *straight-out-of-grad-school-successful*. It's not an excuse for behaving like self-absorbed egomaniacs. Honest.

Julie is also publishing a book that's coming up soon, the one she's speaking about in the second video. You can see some pictures above.
Her work is a first-person narrative of what it's like to be a young artist trying to make work in a new adopted country and having to contend with post-graduate school realities. And visa and job issues.
After seeing the two videos I'm sure you will share my enthusiasm for Julie's work. She so totally deserves to be your neighbor, or even your cubicle mate, and to instill a much-needed dose of pragmatic humor in the overblown LA art egoslandscape.
But there's a catch. Julie is French Canadian and right now, she needs a part-time job so she can stay here in LA and extend her visa. So if you guys can help her by letting her be your office or studio assistant, please drop me a line and I'll forward it to her. It would be a pity if she had to go back to Canada and couldn't share her work with us. Come on you guys, don't let Canada get her back!

* The complete series is intended as a groundbreaking new feature of Artforum, to introduce funny pages in the print edition. The idea would be to curate funny pages with other artists once the initial series had run its course. If someone at Artforum listens, please drop me a line and I'll forward to Mark.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Things To Check Out Now

So the pinched nerve isn't showing any sign of unpinching itself by the sheer magic of laying flat on my bed for what was the duration of the entire weekend. I kind of foresaw that when the doctor told me to try this, but I couldn't really bend myself enough in the kind of suitable shape that's amenable to driving or even, more simply, get inside a car and get treatment NOW. Who knew folding one midget body would be so painful?
Anyway, I'll be busing my chic and diminutive Frenchy self to the chiropractor tomorrow Monday (on buses, you can STAND UP, yay!) and in the meantime, since typing is a bit difficult, I'll advise you to go see the Bruce Conner show at Michael Kohn (the movie is great) and the drawing show at Steve Turner, which is very, very good. Their website isn't updated unfortunately, but I can only urge you to go see it. If the chiropractor releases that nerve from its iron grip I'll write a review, but I'm late on the Thanksgiving In October post. I have a few pictures of both shows but will post them later as getting my camera now would mean some unnecessary acrobatics; and my lower back in its present state wouldn't thank me for attempting those.

Also, it is art too: Max Eider, one of the founding members with Pat Fish of my all time favorite band The Jazz Butcher [Conspiracy sometimes added here, and even once the Sirkorsky From Hell] has a new solo album out. Check all the info here.
Max Eider is also a Sex Engine! I'd love, love a re-release of the JBC albums Bath of Bacon and Fishcotheque, say for my B-Day?

I haven't seen the Murakami show at the the Geffen obviously. Paul, I think this obsession with Murakami is a little bit too much, really, but I'll check the show out as soon as I can move. And yes, that Vuitton store is tacky, and only shows how fashion has come full circle, it's the 1980s again and Vuitton is going to become vulgar all over again. Couldn't wait, save for the Marc Jacobs shoes, those patterns have always been atrocious, if you ask me.

Also, Andy Ouchi had an opening at China Art Objects on Saturday, ditto couldn't move.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Coming Up On A Blog Near You

Hello my devoted readership,

apologies for very light posting, I'm suffering from excruciating lower back pain. So unless I find a way to type standing up, you will have to wait for the post on Julie Lequin's work, the reviews of the Bruce Conner show at Michael Kohn and the drawing show at Steve Turner, the Thanksgiving in October post and the Revenge of The art Widows one. Check this space after the weekend, thanks!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The World Is On Fire

There is an end of the world atmosphere over LA today, the sky concealed by a dirty orangey layer of smoke. A fine layer of what is a powdery concoction of dust, ashes, pollens and soot covers the cars. The air is bad, bad, bad, and even though I live far from the fires the feeling of being encircled is claustrophobic. People are driving slowly, and no one is lingering outside.
Please go to the LA Times front page for all the information you need and click here for the San Diego Tribune.
The MCASD is closed. Meanwhile, I don't know where David Geffen houses his Postawr art collection, but I sure hope his Jasper Johns Target With Plaster Casts and the rest of his collection are safe.
Meanwhile, the economy (and the afferent art market) are not doing very well, and there's every possibility of a WGA strike happening, so all in all it's a depressing time in LA.

Painting above is Joseph Wright of Derby, one of his volcanoes explosion. I don't have the credit line.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Portugal Invades Belgium!

Even though the Belgians don't seem to care for their own country as a concept, to the extent that their king is not called King of Belgium but King of the Belgians, the rest of Europe does! We like Belgium so much that the seat of the European Union is located there. One particularity of the EU is its attempts at democracy (ha!) by rotating its Council Presidency every six months so each of the 27 countries of the Union has a go at presiding. It's not much fun, obviously, but some countries try to take advantage to promote something else than their farm subsidies or their failed attempts at deregulating railway companies.
So does Portugal which for its 6 months presidency is presenting a contemporary art exhibition.

I'm thrilled one of the artists represented is José Carlos Teixeira, an artist who used to live in Los Angeles. I met him last year at the UCLA open studio and really liked his work, which was much more mature than everything else in that batch.
José is a video artist whose work is in part politically oriented (but not always), very well-crafted technically. I wish I could link to one of his video because it is difficult to explain what he does, but if you are in the vicinity of Brussels I can only encourage you to go see his work. José will be in LA in November, and hopefully it will be possible to see his work in town.
If you want to know more about his Brussels show, drop me a line and I'll e-you the press release. Above are stills from one of his work.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Flog

A few weeks ago I ran into someone (Hi David!) who mentioned the Flog. I confessed my ignorance of another French woman blogging here in LA, and quickly went to have a look.
So I absolutely don't know either Frette personally or her gallery space (something I will remedy soon), but we seem to know the same people.
Her blog is very professional and clean-looking, unlike mine, and I admire her left-side calendar thingy.
I don't think I'll ever get to such a high standard of updating!
Anyway, please have a look at the Flog, and don't forget the opening at Angles tonight with Dana Duff and the poetry reading in Glendale!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Horror! NYT Home & Garden section ignores Bourdieu!!!!

I don't know about you, but today's news have been horribly depressing, with the suicide bombings in Pakistan, the precipitated decline of the economy (stock market down, etc. etc.) the incomprehensible Ellen de Generes/doggy drama (my Euro friends, don't try to understand that one, please stay safely focused on the Sarko-split) and to make you shudder even more there's an imminent release of a new Celine Dion album (I kid you not, dear reader, prepare the fallout shelter!).

So, in need of zen-like distraction I gazed on the NYT front page yesterday and stumbled upon this.
Oh. My. Duchamp God. Can taste be taught? Can class distinctions be taught? You bet they can! They are! Because, you know, taste is pretty much what this is all about: class distinctions. No need to read the entire Bourdieu oeuvre to ascertain it. It's a bit of shocker for a supposedly classless society, I know (let me reassure you: it's way worse in France and I'm not even speaking about England).
Anyway, it was mildly funny to read that article, as the taste of the decorator the writer was referring to seems very "United Arab Emirates-circa 1970s-less the gold and diamonds" to me, but with that typical American fear of bright colors added, something I associate with Pottery Barn, West Elm and other Crate and Barrel home decors. You know, as in good taste dark green (in French that color's precise tone is described as caca d'oie, goose shit, and it is generally associated with the military), good taste burgundy which, after the incomprehensible success of that pretentious movie Sideways should be renamed "Pinot Noir", the boring omnipresent plush beige carpets, the dark brown , sorry I meant good taste chocolate furniture, and above all the massiveness of said furniture.
On the other end of the spectrum there's also the designated, mid-century Modern, good taste: spare, bright, spacious with some retro would-be-ironical details scattered here and there, to mingle with Eames-era, Hermann Miller, Danish furniture (dovetails! dovetails everywhere!).

In between, for the rest of us, the underpaid, over-educated Trader Joes' grocery shopping cultural slaves workers, there's IKEA (thanks the Swedes for their fabrics!) and thrift stores.

I've always been fascinated by the reality shows on HGTV where some staple guns-totting, cheap IKEA frames-brandishing decorators/designers invade some hapless normal people's territory, SWAT-style, and redo their space in a way that's often totally atrocious. Furniture disposed in unpractical! but! dramatic! angles!
I always thought these shows should be called Home Invasions and should feature some John Carpenter or early Sam Raimi-style stories. Like the designers shoving down a pail of *Pinot Noir* paint down the throat of the owner of the house, the woman who stated at the beginning they could do anything but use *Burgundy* color as she hated it. And found her entire living room painted and decorated some shades of Volnay, after the designer decided to make her "like that Pommard color, it is not exactly *Burgundy* after all".

I've attempted a HGTV-style thing in my own bathroom to try to make it more bathroom-y (one can always hope) by hanging cheapo super-stereotypical Frenchy postcards in even more cheapo IKEA frames, in a very gracious "star"/clockwise movement that should land me my 5 seconds of fame on the said network.
Pictured above. Boring, no? Bland, seen a zillion times, but I haven't found enough classical Greek porn art reproductions to enliven my wall. I can't find a Duchamp readymade repro that's big enough, sadly.

To go back to my topic, I'm always been flabbergasted by how uncomfortable people can be with their own taste and how they fear others are going to judge them on, say, the shape of their sideboard or the choice of the posters they tack on their walls. The result is everyone (that is, everyone who has enough money to seemingly care and show off) is following one designated model, without really expressing themselves.
America, Land of the Free, Home of the Conformists.
Not that the French fare any better, mind you, our bourgeois models are just a tiny bit less dark in tones, but full of white drapes/muslin/Louis XV antiques or at least the Plexiglas Philippe Stark take on them, but they are still very bourgeois. The French disease, in a way, is too much good taste, it's killing us slowly with some 7th arrondissement *appartements bourgeois*, understated (always, always understated) antiques tastefully mixed in with a couple pieces found at Sentou, but no color please, we're French. No beige, but white and whitish gray are welcome, though if we have to add a touch of class maybe a bit of blue would be alright, and we like la récup.

It's a bit sad because as I was saying above, in both countries it's all about class distinctions, not about being comfortable in our own shells, and at least here in America, the super-rich are not necessarily possessed of good taste themselves, if there's such a thing anyway. Any of the fundraisers (yes, you, you know who you are) who read me know how boring the houses of the super-rich are. Because they have bigger houses they need bigger/more spectacular stuff in it and it becomes quickly *spectacularly* overwhelming.
A couple Barcelona chairs around (hey, me too I can pull a Noah Charney if I want to!), a Donald Judd stack in a corner, some beige-y shag rug on the floor, and voilà, your Palm Springs second home, complete with a gigantic Roy Lichtenstein somewhere, please no books around, those are messy, maybe some non-threatening Jorge Pardo furniture by the swimming pool and if I want to be VERY daring maybe one Andrea Gursky photo somewhere.

Why is it so complicated to be ourselves? Is it so important what our neighbors are going to think about our place? I'm pretty sure mine would recoil with horror if they were to set foot in here (maybe I should just show them the bathroom?).
I know my own Mom would have that look of stricken consternation on her face she ordinarily reserves to the announcement of national disasters.
My cat seems to like it, luckily, except maybe the couch she's been attacking savagely, but so far she seems OK.

Anyway, art history (yes! what a subtle transition! I'm so proud of myself!) and more accurately historiography of the discipline really has shown that the dominant taste of one period will determine what will end up in the museums, with geographical variations, but that the present dominant taste will also determine changes in the way historical art is perceived. There's the classical story of Vermeer, not being as famous as Van Dyck or Rubens in his own time but now more widely acclaimed, or Georges de La Tour who was so totally forgotten after his death that until the early 20th century his work was confused with Velazquez's. Which explains why some things end up in storage for too long, or why there are some deaccession blunders.

More recently, we can go and look at the way MoMA shaped the taste of this country in terms of modern and contemporary art, and how it is far and large still a very New York-centric story that is told in most large contemporary art private collections all over, and even in West Coast museums. When they stop importing NY curators and directors is when art history will be told in a more interesting context here in LA.
It is to the credit of artists like Mike Kelley, Jim Shaw, Paul McCarthy, Raymond Pettibon, Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Cady Noland et alii that they have introduced bad taste in contemporary art, not so much in the guise of mass-media visual stereotypes but rather by using vernacular culture tropes.
And by showing how these are often the ONLY type of art found in most of this country. They came early and sometimes had to struggle to show they were not romanticizing vernacular culture either, and sometimes they literally had to mimic high culture displays (I'm thinking Haim Steinbach here) to get the message across.
But did it really get across? Most of the artists quoted above (with the exception of Jeff Koons) were not big market contenders in the 1980s when they started showing, but exploded during the market depressions of the 1990s. However they succeeded in Europe first (most notably Germany), before being finally spectacularly co-opted on the market at very recent auctions.

Did the taste of money make these artists in the first place? With the exception of Koons, no, and in the case of Koons it could be argued he strong-armed his art on the money/market/dominant taste of the 1980s.
They made themselves in the first place, by NOT trying to fit in what was then the dominant taste of the market (crappy painters of the 00s, look at crappy painters of the 1980s to have a look at your future). Eventually, they succeeded to the extent that when Artforum did 2 special issues on the 1980s, no crappy painter of the era was in, but all the others (and Robert Gober and Bertrand Lavier and Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, etc.) were in.
We've just witnessed the erasing of 1980s the market craze in contemporary art history (and horrendously expensive storage space crowded with duds of the era)*.

So, all in all, dear readers, feel comfortable in your own skins and enjoy the cosiness, over-the-topness, spare emtyness, warm messiness of your own home, your own taste, and feel happy. I believe that's what Duchamp was referring to when he said he wasn't interested in good or bad taste but in the absence of taste.
You would hate to live in the house of Saatchi anyway, regardless of the excellence of Nigella cooking. Plus, she lets her hair hang in the sauce, eeeeeewwwwwwwwww.

*there's much about the market, etc. on Tyler Green's MAN and his comments about Jerry Saltz (whom I always found overrated as a critic but he's a nice guy), but since this blog isn't about instant reactiveness and the going on on the artworld, I'll let you read it on our own.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Schadenfreude, Schadenfreude

Here at FBC! we love longish German words that are impossible to pronounce!
There's no real equivalent in French for Schadenfreude, except maybe the street French "Bien fait pour sa gueule!".
Which I'm gleefully applying to our beloved douchebag of a president Sarkozy Premier -I like that *douchebag* word, which French people cannot understand, douche meaning shower. And what you've been using it for has been dismissed as a health hazard for the last 30 years, so no one would really understand the meaning back home.

Anyway, back to that maniac of a French President!
Cecilia, the wife he's been comparing to Jackie O. (as if) is divorcing him! She's been dragging her feet for a while, left him for another guy a while ago before reuniting for the PR operation known as an election campaign, and now finally she filed for divorce.
Since Mobutu SeSe Sarko is all about PR, no real action (his record as Minister of Interior, and prior to that Minister of Economy was abysmal), it will be interesting to see how his spin doctors are working on that one.

No pivture so far as Blogger can't upload them today. Too bad, I had found a really atrocious one of Sarko and Cecilia.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Your Social Life

I'm copying below the invite I've just received from my friend Joseph, the editor of Area Sneaks to which yours truly is going to contribute a piece one of these days. In passing I apologize to Joseph who has been the most patient editor ever. Joseph, I swear you will have it one day, but for the moment it really looks like muck!

Anyway, go see it, after maybe swinging by Steve Turner gallery where Edgar Arceneaux and Vince Johnson apparently are in a group show. It will be tight with the group show including Dana Duff opening at Angles, so please drive safely and responsively!

Please join us for a special backyard evening of poetry, food and conversation on Saturday, October 20, as we welcome poet and visual artist Demosthenes Agrafiotis, all the way from Athens, Greece.

Also reading will be local favorite Deborah Meadows.

Saturday, October 20

1305 Romulus Dr.
Glendale, CA

Demosthenes Agrafiotis is an artist, poet, photographer, editor and sociologist based in Athens, Greece. Agrafiotis is the author of over 13 books of poetry, including a collaboration with Jerome Rothenberg, An Oracle for Delphi (Membrane Press, 1995). Between 1980 and 1990 he edited the Athens-based art & literary journal Clinamen, which featured translations of several influential American poets into Greek for the first time. His first book to appear in English, Chinese Notebook, is currently being translated by John and Angelos Sakkis.

Deborah Meadows teaches in the Liberal Studies department at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Her works of poetry include: involutia (Shearsman Press, UK, 2007), The Draped Universe (Belladonna* Books, 2007), Thin Gloves (Green Integer, 2006), Representing Absence (Green Integer, 2004), Itinerant Men (Krupskaya, 2004), and two chapbooks, Growing Still (Tinfish Press, 2005) and "The 60's and 70's: from The Theory of Subjectivity in Moby-Dick" (Tinfish Press, 2003). Her Electronic Poetry Center author page is located:

Why is it Frenchy BUT Chic?

Hello my devoted readership,

Over the past few weeks I've been doing my official coming out as FBC! at a couple of openings (not too many, I'm still in social reclusion) and a recurring question has been: why is it called Frenchy BUT chic? It should be "Frenchy AND Chic!"
So once and for all, beloved readers, cherished fans of mine, here's the explanation.

Way back when this little Frenchy was living in a boring, sleepy town of Northwest France, before Internet ever existed in the collective consciousness, the only escapism available to bored teenagers there was through independent/underground music.
Alas, in the early 1980s French music was, to say the least, hum, something not to be overtly proud of. So like everyone else I was mostly listening to Brit imports (US stuff didn't really reached our shores) and reading lots of music magazines.
The lack of quality French music was universally deplored in their Gallic pages - along with the sad quality of the French national football team, why French movies were not more popular, and why French art doesn't export that well abroad.
You see, dear readers, French people usually have a problem with, simply put, being French.

To remedy this sorry state of affairs there was a recurrent feature in one of these magazines, aptly titled "Frenchy but chic", where were listed the upcoming records, tours and other apparitions of independent French bands such as La Souris Deglinguee, Marquis de Sade, Telephone, Starshooter, Stinky Toys, Kas Produkt, Taxi Girl and many more.
The column title itself was lifted from the New Rose-produced eponymous Frenchy But Chic album, I think (pictured above).
Anyway, all of this obviously happened before Sofia Coppola dated French musicians and before JUSTICE or Air played the Hollywood Bowl, and I was going to forget Daft Punk too. And Vanity Fair featuring Serge Gainsbourg in its latest issues.

Anyway, when looking for a name for this blog I thought it would be an apt one, what with all the French-bashing that is still recurrent in the US mainstream media. And the art media too, since French art is usually derided in there.
[In passing, I remember Rosalind Krauss in one of these boring October roundtable being all worked-up because she felt French museums mostly displayed French contemporary art. Just in case, you know, US museums were not mostly showing US art themselves, right?]

So here you are, the story of Frenchy But Chic! in a nutshell.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day, and bloggers the world over are supposed to post something about the environment. I have absolutely no idea what to say, except express a few wishes, so here they are:

. Dear Mayor Antonio, I really like your idea of a million trees all over LA. My question is, where will the water come from?

. While I'm at it, I'm all for recycling but if we had less packaging to begin with we wouldn't need to recycle so many things. Like bulky hard plastic packages for tiny items, for example anything you'd buy at Office Depot (ink cartridges, etc.)

. In many European countries (Ireland, France) plastic bags are starting to be phased out. You have to buy them at the store if you want some, or you bring your own large bags. It's working pretty well, and I thonk it's a great idea. After all, how were people doing before the invention of plastic bags? They were totally able to bring their groceries back home.

. Computers, cell phone, Ipods and other electronic items: it would be convenient to simply bring them at any store and they'd recycle them for you.

. And it should be possible to repair anything rather than make stuff disposable. Toasters, stereos, coffee makes and so forth.

. And I don't get why in California where it's so sunny there are not many more solar panels everywhere. Public building should lead: schools, post offices, DMV, etc all lighted and possibly heated with solar energy.

. Also why aren't there any real shutters affixed on windows here, the Mediterranean way? You close them in the morning before going to work and when you get back home in the evening, your house is cool enough without having to use the air.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Upcoming Poll

So it seems you guys haven't been very enthusiastic about saving Belgium. It's really sad. In passing, I'm going to post an entry about Jose Tixeira's show in Brussels in the next couple of days.
Anyway, I've been puzzled to see that only 2 people responded to the poll, but for some reason 3 answers are listed, each accounting for 50% of the polled readers, which is mathematically impossible. Curiously no one wanted to save Belgian beer.

Anyway, I think the next poll will be about the equivalent of chick-lit for males. Stay tuned!


Since the beginning of this blog I’ve seemed to only be reading crappy books, so I’ve decided to regularly devote a column to my unfortunate reads, under the title: Today I Saved You [insert amount here] (+Tax)!
I figure, with all the money I’m saving you, you all of my (15? 20? You’re becoming too many for me to count) devoted readers will be able to band together and buy me a nice B-Day present. Like this, for example, or even this. You can send it to me on Thanksgiving Day, since there won’t be a Thanksgiving in [Insert Month Here]™ in November (I wonder why???) but instead a My Extremely Belated B-Day in November! My B-Day for real is in the Spring, but I didn’t celebrate this year so if you really, truly love me, and I know you do (right???) then you can invite me to your Thanksgiving celebration and make it my B-Day! That is, if you celebrate with your friends. I don’t do very well with families, as a rule.

Anyway, recently I’ve wasted $25 (+tax) on Noah Charney’s The Art Thief, which would have been more aptly titled the Time Waster.
Full disclaimer: I’ve picked this entirely on my own while idly browsing at my local bookstore, so please don’t try to misdirect the blame toward my Distinguished Literary Correspondent, he has nothing to do with this mistake. We’ve been speaking about music lately rather than books, but I realize I need his advice pronto if I don’t want to sink money into too many more tree-killers. (Mike, seriously, let me know what you’ve been reading or I’ll have to resort to get the Alan Greenspan. Better yet, please write a book. Please?).

It’s my fault really, for being such a sucker for art-related light fiction. Each time I fall into the same trap, thinking I will have a good fluff moment, and I end up fulminating about how badly plotted or written my picks are.
I stayed clear of Dan Brown for example but unfortunately picked Danielle Ganek – who, in retrospect, gains some extra points for at least making her characters likable, if not very deep.
I picked up the Art Thief mostly because of my memories of Iain Pears’ art theft stories, set in Italy, with his delightful characters Flavia, Jonathan and Bottando. Most of his plots are well-crafted, you cannot help but like his characters and his art history is generally flawless. Unfortunately, Pears fancied himself a more serious novelist and ended up publishing rather boring, if very well-made, historical books, trying too hard to reiterate Umberto Ecco’s successes.

It’s usually problematic when publishers try to ride on the success of some international bestsellers such as the aforementioned Da Vinci Code, and churn derivative products by the dozen. Somehow, I should have known the minute I picked Charney's book how bad it was going to be: a poorly-designed burgundy and gilt-embossed cover with a cheesy 19th century frame that shows a bit of a Caravaggio (David, from David and the Head of Goliath or whatever it is called in English), and on the back cover a picture of the author himself, wearing an unhappy combination of discordant various blue hues, sporting a 1950s mafioso haircut, and holding a painting with his bare hands, paint side rubbing on his clothes. Ouch! Fully disqualified to ever work in a museum in any capacity. I mean, no question the said picture must be a dud, but nonetheless you do not handle paintings like this. Ever.
Many details in the book itself shows the author to be fairly ignorant of standard museum procedures, and quite scary when discussing conservation issues. I mean, even if it’s a fictional, fake Malevich painting we’re speaking of, cutting some canvas from the stretcher bars in order to steal the work WILL damage the painting.

So, fully discredited as an art professional, the dude may still have stood a chance at being a writer, if and only if someone at Simon & Schuster had bothered to edit the thing. Alas, no such luck. I suppose the fact that Charney attended the Courtauld and Cambridge U. seemed a gage of quality to some hapless publisher who knows nothing about art history, but reading the book kind of challenges claims to the quality of the schooling delivered at these highly reputable institutions*.
One very annoying thing throughout the book is the professorial tone adopted by all art professionals depicted in the story. It’s rather irritating as it gives a *Art History 101* (later referred as AH101) feeling to the book, but a very dated, iconological *Art History 101*. Very Panofskian, already totally obsolete when I was an art history student myself, 15 years ago.
Charney doesn’t even bother to be accurate, a quality we should somehow expect from a Cambridge U. Ph.D. student (seriously, how did he get in there?). I mean, if one of his characters has to take his students on a tour to London’s National Gallery, maybe the author should at least bother to get Jan van Eyck’s Giovanni Arnolfini and His Wife’s title right. No, it is not called The Marriage Contract, even though received iconology determined that what’s the painting is supposed to be. As a good art historian he should know this particular interpretation may even be challenged in the future. I don’t know what kind of tuition the fictional students in his book are supposed to pay, but I feel they should be entitled to a complete refund if they are subjected to such obsolete art history.

By the same token, Charney’s interpretations of Malevich remain at wikipedia-level**, and the way he describes Malevich’s and Suprematism’s fame in the book smacks of someone who never bothered to study his Modern courses seriously. Charney’s “Iconoclast” interpretation of Malevich is part of an extremely complicated story that includes a Caravaggio’s Annunciation stolen from a Roman church, a painting that resurfaces in the narrative some 150 pages later, after being obscured by an increasingly and unnecessarily complicated plot involving fake Malevich monochromes, several insufferable lectures by various characters including the would-be-hero-turned-art-detective who’s in fact an insurance investigator-cum-lecturer, more or less, pretending to make a living “on the lecture circuit”. Ha! And me, I’m making money out of the outpouring of art love lavished by my zillion readers. Very credible.

The problem with the book is it’s trying very hard to include some art historical mystery à la Da Vinci Code, but fails to be gripping precisely because of the lecturing tone adopted by the main character, and by many of the various other protagonists. It only succeeds in being pontificating, a tendency alas aggravated by all the class comments. The author is at pains to explain in a couple of occasions how his posh characters sometimes mingle with low class people and how these yet-unrefined-but-nonetheless-absent-from-the-narrative-persons are the most intelligent ever, not that we doubt this statement in itself, but it is totally unnecessary in the story and serves only to validate the authors good opinion of himself.

There are many other annoying aspects of the book that could have been avoided if someone had bothered to edit it. After all it’s hardly unexpected a 27-year old would-be-hero would master the craft of novel-writing naturally. Case in point: the book is peppered with French and Italian bits of dialogue. I’ve nothing against it, but:
a) what happened to the convention of using italics for foreign words? It serves a function, really.
b) The use of foreign languages is a contradiction with the supposed retarded level of the reader, who needs AH101 to be explained throughout the book even though AH101 has no bearing on the narrative.
c) and therefore they should be translated, or if the author wants to assume that, on the contrary, his readers are fluent in both languages, then please get a French or Italian-speaking editor to check accuracy and consistency of the languages supposedly fluently spoken by the main characters.

As for the French part of the plot it is strangely unfinished, half-abandoned to its own devices, 90% of them not relevant to the story. It seems to this French reader most of that part only serves as a demonstration of Charney’s mastery of a few French bad words, such as *Merde* or *Putain*, but not in a way any living French person would use them nowadays, as they are inserted in sentences that are so formal and so 1930s –sounding you would think they come straight out of the Berlitz manuals.
I mean, I’m deeply aware of my own very limited English skills and I feel rather bad about the non-copy-edited aspect of FBC!, but in doing so I’m joining the cohorts of Web 2.0 everyday users, I’m not publishing a book with a serious and reputable house. If I were to publish a novel I’d like a copy-editor, please (and if it ever happens, it’s OK if Charney wants to skewer me on his website, c’est de bonne guerre.)

Anyway, to go back to the book and its annoying traits: the cheesy lifestyle-class-envy –comments could have been avoided. Why do museum offices chairs have to be “Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chairs” for God Sake? On breaking into a suspect apartment (who, incidentally, is a French aristocrat and therefore unlikely to destroy the interior of his hôtel particulier to transform it into a bland modern loft), some Armagnac negociant/police sidekick is envious to see a Viking range. Note to Noah Charney: if you want to make it Frenchier, switch it to La Cornue, it would work better.
Likewise, Charney’s masculine fashion sense seems to be fixated on “ironed-crisp, cuff-linked sleeves" which appear at least half a dozen times on various male characters in the story. Suits are well-cut, unless they belong to some poor devil of a policeman, all of whom made to look slightly ridiculous, in case they would compete with the dashing Gabriel Coffin, hero of the book.
Here I should insert the spoiler alert, just in case you feel like wasting $25 (+tax) anyway : a major problem with the book is how transparent it is, despite the complexity of the plot. By the first 25 pages you’ve already guessed the hero is also the thief, if only because of the repeat assertions about the honor and aristocracy of art theft (as if), how the good thief was saved, the various affirmations of admiration expressed throughout the book about the audacity of the theft, etc.

The slightly touching thing about the book (aside from the fact that the author genuinely likes historical art, if he doesn’t understand anything post 1900) is how badly Charney wants to create a hero, in a little boy-famous explorer- great athlete-gentleman robber-Great Houdini-magical way : a male character who’s good-looking, smart, well-educated, gets a sexy woman/art thief who’s an exotic Italian on top of it, creates incredibly sophisticated plots and can literally do everything, from painting fakes to speaking a dozen languages fluently, etc. It’s a very nerdy type of hero admittedly, and it reeks of trashy romance novel for boys. In doing so Charney joins Dana Vachon in the new genre of light *lad-lit* (for lack of a better word corresponding to chick-lit). In Charney’s *lad-lit* world couples wake up mercifully free of morning bad breath, routinely eat at “the world best restaurant” (The London Ivy? Pleeeaaase), where former child prodigies/chess players can spot a fake artwork the minute they see it (thus displaying a complete disregard for scholarly integrity) and live in a world where “good taste” is paramount, if standardized, boring and predictable (see Viking range, ironed-crisp, cuff-linked sleeves, aristocrat-envy, modernist lofts and Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chairs above).
A little bit like going on a pilgrimage to DIA or Marfa and thinking art has stopped there forever: sanitized, clean, accepted, massive and silent.

The sad thing about it is how Coffin echoes the image the real life Charney projects: look at his website, interviews and projects and you will see how it’s all about showing off and trying to impress, from the blurb about him on the book cover to the wikipedia entry. I’m sorry for Charney if he feels so insecure he has to list all the schools he has enrolled at and the Ph. D. programs he has signed up for, but for the moment, as an art historian he has published zilch (which is totally normal for a 27-years old, so no worries, but no need to splatter his schooling all over the internet either). His art crime-fighting agency sounds all jolly good, and all very childish. I’d like to feel some empathy for the little boy who’s trying so hard, but all the self-promotion is too terribly off-putting.

So as promised, today I’ve saved you $25 (+tax). Don’t forget me this Thanksgiving!

* The Courtauld is pretty solid in some areas but it seems to have slipped a bit in the last few years, as opposed to what it was up to the late 1980s.
** There’s a wikipedia entry for Charney which tends to show him as a lightweight (how can you be taken seriously as an art historian if you haven’t finished your Ph.D or even published a couple of scholarly articles?) and also seems to have been written by Charney himself since the entry posters don’t seem to exist in wikipedia’s users realm. This thing is such a joke. I think I’m going to add an entry about myself explaining how I’ve curated non-existent Biennials and written the definitive books about contemporary art at the beginning of the 21st century.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Macaron-intensive week

I've been feeling a bit blue lately, largely because of a badass allergy that wouldn't be such a big deal if it didn't give me some horrible headaches, and also because France just lost to La Perfide Albion, a.k.a Les Rosbifs in the Rugby World Cup Semi-Finals. OK, in real life I don't care about rugby really, the guys are too mastodontically beefy for my taste, and I don't understand the rules of the game. The only thing I like about it is how it makes American Football look like a pastime for sissies.

Anyway, to fight the mild seasonal depression I went on an intensive macaron search with my friend Robin. Robin is a macaron convert and her standard so far are the macarons from Pain de Sucre, a great pastry store located on Rue Rambuteau in Paris (behind the Pompidou Center, en route to Yvon Lambert, Perrotin and Marian Goodman galleries). Robin has a very poetic way of describing her food which makes me think she would be a good restaurant critic, and she's very thorough and dedicated in her pastries quest. She has tried ALL of Los Angeles hotels afternoon teas, for example. She's also very thin, and confessed to me she didn't work out so I'd like to borrow her metabolism too.

So Robin and I had an appointment to go try Paulette Macarons in Beverly Hills, which recently opened. I've raved before about my one chocolate macaron from La Maison du Pain, so I wanted to see how Paulette would compare, and try Paulette's different flavors. Plus Paulette is a deliciously retro name, or ringard as we would unflatteringly say in France.
Robin and I previously agreed that Boule was not even in the competing league (dry, dry, dry, with a dusty feel and a bland filling and cloyingly sweet)*. We stopped for Robin to have a late lunch at this La Provence store (located in a BH mini-mall) where we spotted macarons. We chose 1 pistachio and 1 orange. Ewwwww. Bottom of the bottom drawer. They were: doughy, dry-ish, way too sweet and the fillings/flavorings were so artificial the orange one tasted like Tang, really. In passing, Robin said the sandwich and soup were very good, and I had a bite of their very decent baguette, so I guess if you go to La Provence, stick to their savory items and you should be fine.

Anyway, off to Paulette we go, on Charleville at the corner with Beverly Drive. The store looks very clinical, laboratory-like with perfectly round colorful macarons aligned in impeccable rows. The store is not particularly warm or inviting. Two French dudes were speaking loudly in a corner (deux mecs français taillaient une bavette super fort dans un coin). No visible seating, so it's really a to go place, but you don't really want to hang out in a white pill box anyway.
I chose a 8-macarons sampler with: Chocolate, Peach, New Orleans Praline, Dragée, Raspberry, Pistachio, Lemon, Vanilla, all pictured above in the IKEA oval plate.
I was deeply suspicious of two things: the flawlessly rotundity of the cookie, the obviously artificial colors, and the thickness of the macarons.
And I was right to be suspicious, as the cookie part for each and all macarons was too doughy, and above all infuriatingly too sweet. Way too much, as in donut-glazed-sweet, when your gums feel like bathing in a pool of sugar for hours afterward. As with any pastry, when there's too much sugar it tends to overwhelm and flatten any flavor, and I suppose it came out of necessity at Paulette since most flavors tasted either bland or strongly artificial. The chocolate filling was too cakey for example, on the dry side, very bourratif as we say (too filling, in a heartburn-inducing way). Lemon tasted very artificial too, in a strident, cringing loudness that was very disagreeable. The only two macarons that were OK were New Orleans Praline and Dragée, but they tasted almost identical, just plain almond.

I was really disappointed as I was looking forward to a regular macaron source, since my usual pastries purveyor La Maison du Pain don't make macarons on a daily basis, or so I thought. You see Carmen and Josephine are perfectionist and they refuse to sell anything until they consider they are good at baking said item. If I'm lucky I'll walk in on a day when they've been practicing on their macarons skills and I'll get a sample, like a fabulous lemon one recently: the filling was pure lemon curd, and the biscuit part (*biscuit* means cookie in French) was this perfectly fresh and tender slice of ground almond heaven.

This morning was such a lucky day, as a plate of a dozen macarons was eying me seductively on the counter! They had about 6 lemon ones, 1 chocolate (I snatched it! Yay!), a few raspberry and one blackberry which I egotistically snatched too. Carly was desolate they had already sold the last pistachio one as she knows it's my favorite flavor. I took my two little treasures home (pictured incomprehensibly upside-down on the retro, squarish plate above), feeling a bit sad Robin wasn't with me to sample them today. I was a bit apprehensive, in case the chocolate one wasn't going to live up to my memory of the one I had before. I shouldn't even have worried one second about it!
To use Robin's description of what an über-perfect, out of this world, heavenly macaron should be, my chocolate beauty from LMDP was an explosion of a creamy, fresh burst of strong yet smooth chocolate ganache hidden in between 2 layers of the most vulnerable,tender and fresh almond biscuit.
The blackberry one also lived up to my expectations, with a thick and fruity but not too sweet spread in the middle. The best part of the macaron is really that moment when you bite into the cookie and encounter the contrast between the delicate almond biscuit part which is only slightly crunchy and the moist, flavorful filling. Just think about them as you would think about real beauty: it's all inside! If the Paulette ones are flawlessly circular they are also spectacularly bland and boring, without ANY personality. You can look at them but consumption will ultimately prove deceiving, artificial and even disagreeable. Perfect packaging, phony character.
Beware of spectacular beauties gentlemen, and spend some time with us normal-looking ladies, there are huge rewards for you at the end!**

La Maison du Pain, hands down the best macarons of my entire little Frenchy life.
Merci, Carmen and Josephine.

*also, what annoys me about Boule is their desire to look French and use fake French words. You either sell ice cream, or you are a glacier, but not a *glacerie* which doesn't exist in French (or only as an old-fashioned way of designating a glazier shop).
**Plus, I don't want to sound disparaging but most of you on the male side of the species are also very ordinary-looking so why do you waste your time pining for vulgar and unattainable blonde sticks you won't ever get is a complete mystery to me...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Your Social Life, At Home And Abroad

After a lovely lunch with our friendly neighborhood programmer, during which I discovered Sheherazad does have zlabyia for dessert - yay! soooo sweet Aimee couldn't detect the rose water, as it was masked by tons of honey syrup -
I unfortunately had to leave Westwood too fast to really see the Francis Alÿs show. But I did peak at the Jamie Isenstein installation and was lucky to be in when she was performing. She kindly agreed to have her picture taken and to let me publish it on the blog. Here it is! Jamie is giving an artist talk at the Hammer on November 10. Go see her!
So instead of wasting your time hanging out at openings* in the next few weeks, go to the Hammer enjoy art, and there's also an upcoming lecture on Nov. 29 by artist Glenn Ligon.

Who, incidentally has a show at the MUDAM in Luxembourg (did you see this fab' smooth transition? Aren't I a crafty non-native writer, if a chic little Frenchy? Thanks for the applause! really you are too kind). It opens on October 12 so you just have the time to hop on a plane on your way back from the Frieze Art Fair, that is if you decide to skip the upcoming London auctions.

Which you should, because:
- a) you don't want to witness another instance of former-Soviet block mobsters pumping up the prices of undeserving painters (Peter Doig more expensive than Gerhard Richter? Really????)
- b) it's impossible to gastronomically survive more than 3 days in London, gastropubs and Britishified curry joints notwithstanding. But you can bring me back loose tea from Fortnum & Mason, and possibly cookies from Duchy Originals. I live under the delusion Prince Charles himself bakes those with his aristocratic white hands. I know, I know, from a man who needs a valet to lay toothpaste on his toothbrush it is unlikely, but I like this particular delusion.
c) Luxembourg is really an adorable (in real estate parlance: tiny) cute country**. Food is very good there and people are very nice, warm and friendly. They also have a funny-looking Royal Family, much better than the Windsor if you ask me***. They have cool scandals too! (I'll let you dig this one yourself, just for fun)
AND you can also have fun before the opening and go to the Casino-Luxembourg which despite its name isn't a gambling house but an exhibition space where they currently show Wim Delvoye's Cloaca (Hi Enrico!).

After Luxembourg you can have fun going to the FIAC art fair in Paris. Because it is not as exposed as Frieze or Basel, if you are a collector you actually have a good chance to find great pieces by international artists, many of them being represented by French galleries such as Praz-Delavallade, Chantal Crousel or Yvon Lambert. Plus you get to go shopping and to have decent food in Paris (hint: DO NOT RELY ON CHOWHOUND's French Board. It sucks. Ask your friendly French art dealers, curators and critics instead).

On your way back home, what would be better than stopping in Boston? Not only you get to avoid NYC poseurs but you can go to an awesome reception on October 20th at the MIT List Visual Center with two exhibitions featuring mostly video art from the Pamela and Richard Kramlich collection. You will get to mingle with the likes of Daniel Birnbaum (one of the best art critics of the moment), Caroline A. Jones whom I do not know either personally or in writing but whose selection is interesting, and the always awesome Bill Arning! (Hi Bill! Come to LA soon!).

For those of you who are currently in the Midwest, I would like to recommend the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art where the lovely Jane Simon is curator of exhibitions (Hi Jane!Not sure you read the blog). Go visit the museum, and check their website: it's a very dynamic place. It's not far from Chicago where Dominic Molon has just opened his Sympathy For The Devil show at the MCA (Hi Dominic! Hope all went well).

And here at home, opening soon at a museum near you (in a couple of weeks really), Murakami at the Geffen. He's really too overexposed so it will be interesting to see if a large-scale exhibition shows his work to survive the hype. Or not.

Et voilà, your entire social life of the next two weeks laid out before your eyes, no need to even think about it. Merci qui? Merci Frenchy!

*c'est vrai quoi, you could have twice as much fun hanging out somewhere else with the people you truly like, rather than bumping into fresh-faced arrogant art students who can't distinguish Jessica Stockholder from Jason Rhoades.
** Something I always found delightful in Luxembourg: they have underground trash elevators! I kid you not, they put their trash in these cubicles that disappear into the ground and are lifted at street level when the trash collection comes. Awesome!
***No, the funny-attired guy in the middle isn't Grandpa Luxembourg nor Santa, despite being German.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Very light posting this week

Apologies in advance for this week's very light posting, while I'm trying to recover from either a light sinus infection or a ginormous allergy case.
Here's a picture of a La Maison du Pain sampler to help you patient until I post the Revenge of The Widows and the Today I Saved you $25 + tax posts.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Aïd-el-Fitr October 11-13.

For all my Muslim readers (back home mostly, I'm not sure I know any Muslim here?), this week will be the end of the Ramadan with the Aïd-el-Fitr holiday coming up on October 11.
In anticipation of the celebration I'm linking to this great blog with North African recipes with a creative twist. FYI, my dear Anglo readers, North African cuisine is not limited to "Morrocan": do you know that Harissa mainly comes from Tunisia, Couscous (the dish, not the semolina kind) is from Algeria (as well as Chorba and Loubia) and Tagines are from Morocco?

Here's another link to a site of Algerian recipes, and to a blog where recipes comes from the Algiers region. The latter takes forever to load but is well worth the wait.
Here are a few links for Tunisian recipes, and to depart from the Aïd-el-Fitr holiday here's a link to Jewish Tunisian Recipes. There's a rich Sephardi tradition in Tunisia and the food is fabulous. This one is all videos.

I'm sorry all these sites are in French but I'm sure those of you who had to endure High School French can figure them out. As for the ingredients, you can find feuilles de brick as well as blanched almond meal at Surfas (don't substitute filo), and many of the other ingredients (orange blossom water, rose water, etc.) in Westwood at Persian grocery stores. They also sometimes carry pistachios from Iran, the best on the planet (not Sicilian, mind you, even less the California variety: Iranian are darker and more flavorful).
As for Merguez, I gave up, as there's nothing in LA that's anywhere close to the real deal. For fine grain couscous Monsieur Marcel sometimes carry it.
One of my favorite pastries aside from Cornes de Gazelles (super easy to make) are zlabias, surprisingly there are some Indian pastries that look and taste exactly the same. You can sometimes find them at India Sweets and Spices. A word of caution: zlabias are super-sweet, so you want to eat only one with many, many glasses of (unsweetened) mint tea.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Les Bleus Defeat the All Blacks

Incredible! So France is going to the Rugby World Cup semi-finals, again Les Rosbifs a.f.a Perfide Albion, the Brits.
Defeating the All Blacks is a little bit like defeating Brazil during the Football World Cup (no, it is not called *soccer* you suckers). Of course one of our best players can still screw up like Zizou if we reach the finals, but that's amazing. I'm sure there must be lots of partying back home now. Allez Les Bleus!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Mark A. Rodriguez NYer cartoons

A few days ago I've been sent some cartoons in the New Yorker style by Mark. A. Rodriguez. I liked them so much I contacted the artist to ask if I could add them to my blog and he kindly agreed to let me post 2 of them. These are part of a larger project he is not finished yet so I'm very thankful he let me have them.
Please demonstrate your good manners and respect for the artist by refraining from posting elsewhere.

I particularly like the reference to Steve Kaltenbach (please also see here) in the first cartoon, and the Charles Ray one will be familiar to LA art people.

Thanks to Julie Lequin and Rita Gonzalez for signaling these to my attention and helping me get in touch with Mark.