Thursday, July 31, 2008

GIANT ZERO - Vincent Johnson's at Statesboro Bomb Plot

Los Angeles-based artist Vincent Johnson sent me a text about his Air Force experience in the ‘70s, an essay which was triggered by his recent visit to the Buckminster Fuller (father of the geodesic dome) show in New York. As you will see by clicking on the link this essay has a direct resonance with his past and current work. This Fall Vincent will be in a group show Atomic Afterimage at the Boston University Art Gallery. The artists in the show are Vincent Johnson, the late Bruce Conner, Richard Misrach, Robert Longo, Joy Garnett and Trevor Paglen. It opens on September 4th, and a catalog will be published (not sure how this essay relates but it's interesting to look at).

Vincent will be showing three new works, all made in 2008. They are 30x40 inch composite photographic Lightjet prints. Two of the work contains several images related to the Cold War. (ABomb), and (American Bomb Shelters). The third is of the bomb shelters and users of them, in the London Blitz.
This is the second time I have the pleasure to host Vincent here at FBC! and I'm enormously pleased he's contributing again here. How many artists do you know have been in the army doing top-secret work?

The pictures illustrating this post are courtesy of this site and that one.

"My name is Vincent Johnson. I was a member of the Detachment 3 (DET 3), First Combat Evaluation Group (1CEVG), Radar Bomb Scoring Unit, Statesboro, Georgia, from 1974-1977. Our unit was a part of Strategic Air Command. We were part of a consortium of units that included Electronic Ground Approach, Electronic Warfare, Ground Control Intercept, Ground Control Approach. Each of these military programs was overlapped by similar programs in the other American armed forces. I was eighteen when I joined the unit, by age nineteen I was a Sergeant. All of the members of my unit held a security clearance above Top Secret. I completed a six-week Basic Training, in the blazing bug-infested heat of summer of 1973, at Lackland Air Force Base, in San Antonio, Texas. I then trained for a solid year in a mobile ground radar operation and maintenance school, followed by a special Soviet-made T2A radar system program, both at Keesler Air Force Base, in Biloxi, Mississippi. Biloxi and San Antonio would be the only time I would actually live on a base. At Statesboro Bomb Plot, there was no base, only a remote facility with two huge geodesic domes and several military support trailers. We lived in apartments in town near Georgia Southern College.
When people would ask us about the work we did, or about the radomes, we would tell them that they were for collecting weather information. Our unit was responsible for training both United States Air Force and that of Canada, on how to engage the Soviet-made T2A radar system. We were "the enemy" that they had to evade to successfully pursue and engage their targets. The Soviet-made T2A system was radically different from the American radar program in which we were also trained upon. The American system employed a mono pulse "Beep - beep - beep", which tracked and locked onto an aircraft by continuously tracking it with radar pulses. The Soviet system, which was massive, and almost as tall as the six story radomes, used two separate units, one in each radome, which we called "Fox/Golf." The "Fox" was this gigantic radar unit, with a vast armature, which the airplane wing sized radar tracking bar East to West in a slow but steady sweeping motion. It provided information to computers for the Azimuth coordinates and flight information. "Golf" was similar in size, also in its own radome, but its tracking armature moved from North to South, again in a vast sweeping motion, to gather Elevation coordinates and flight information. The advantage of the Soviet system was its space window: It's "eye" could see 16 degrees of the sky, whereas the American mono pulse scan had a space window of only one degree, meaning that it could see only a small portion of what the Soviet system could see re: incoming aircraft. The Soviet T2A system also was linked to a ground-to-air rocket launching system. What would happen is the Azimuth and Elevation radar would send a tracking pulse to see if there were incoming aircrafts. It would lock onto the aircraft, and then send a second pulse, and then it would calculate the true airspeed of the craft, its altitude, etc., direction, and then its crew would launch into action, firing a rocket or more where it anticipated the aircraft would then be located. It was quite successful in what it was designed to do.

Other differences between the American and Soviet systems were the circular radarscope for the Americans, while the Soviet system used what was called a J-scope. The J-scope was rectangular, about 4 inches across and about twice as tall. It provided a greater capacity to distinguish low lying aircraft at the level of the "grass" - the noise that radars detect from there being permanent structures in its tracking eye. All of the training missions took place between 3AM and about 6AM. We would receive inbound traffic from the various Air Force bases on the East Coast. We would start work at midnight, and do maintenance runs and equipment tests, before setting up for the bombing runs. Out unit all wore sunglasses, even during crew briefings, and all of us had our caps turned backwards on our heads. One of the tests we did weekly was called an "Arc Light Jump Test." It was a three-man operation. One of our crew would take a plastic rod, which had a hook on one end, and cause a 20,000 volt of electricity to arc a short distance, by touching a metal cap on the radar's central gigantic vacuum tube. That brave soul would be standing on the corrugated metal platform, where all of our radar maintenance was performed. The second person would have what looked like a broomstick in his hand, to knock away the guy or the stick if he was suddenly electrocuted. The third guy was there for backup. Each of us would take turns doing the Arc Light Jump Test, to make it fair.

Only those of us with the appropriate security clearance and training entered the T2A system trailers. There were black leathery curtains covering the entrances to them, but not on any other part of the Bomb Plot. Our crew chief was regularly reporting to Strategic Air Command that someone on the site who was not in our unit was resetting the resistance pots on the analog computers, causing the entire system to be shut down for testing before being back in operation again. Fortunately the radomes were impervious to rain, heat, and any other natural weather occurrences, which made our jobs easier, since we could perform them during a torrential downpour in the Georgia night.

At 3.A.M Eastern Standard Time, Statesboro Bomb Plot would come to life.

"Statesboro Bomb Plot, Statesboro Bomb Plot, this is Beach Sky One Niner Five Niner, over."
"Ahh-Beach Sky One, this is Statesboro Bomb Plot."
"Statesboro Bomb Plot, this is Beach Sky One Niner Five Niner, calling in for targeting information, over."
"Beach Sky One Niner Five Niner, your targets tonight will be Alpha, Charlie, Delta and Foxtrot, at thirty-five thousand feet, evasive action with a combat break, you copy?"
"Yes, err-we copy: Alpha, Charlie, Delta and Foxtrot, thirty-five thousand feet, evasive action with a combat break."
"Roger that Beach Sky One, Roger that...."

What would happen next, is the B-52 bomber we were engaging for a bombing mission would climb to its appropriate elevation, and line itself up to be able to bomb drop on its given targets. Our unit would watch the bomber's progress as it entered the bomb box. As the bomber lined up and was ready to engage its first and succeeding targets, the words "GIANT ZERO" would be spoken by the pilot, which we heard over our radio.


What the phrase meant was that everything inside the bomb box, where the target was located, was now a GIANT ZERO. Total devastation. The B-52 would be accompanied by a couple of fierce and deadly F-series fighter jets. They would make their evasive action while being fired upon from the ground, they would make their combat break to separate themselves from the combat event, and would return to base.

After the initial engagement of the night, more aircrafts came through for their training missions. I also served as a Flight Information Recorder, for each bombing mission. One of the most interesting calculations I remember doing was determining the Coriolis Effect - that is - determining the wind effect of a dropped object from a moving craft in heavens at a certain speed and altitude. There were corrections made for this according to the ballistics used. Our standard was an MB4, 250-pound bomb. We actually dropped cement bombs on rented farmland in North Dakota for one of my specialized missions. We lived in motels during these three-month special duty tours. I remember thinking that North Dakota looked like the moon during winter.

Fortunately for myself, the Vietnam war ended while we were next in line to go to Ubon, Thailand, a massive military base with a full arsenal of American military technology. Our units would initially be based there, then would be sent out - without weapons - into far more dangerous areas - like those across the DMZ - that were better for radar bombing guidance. The only time another unit was called was when the previous unit had been devastated by enemy forces. Our radar vans were made of magnesium, so that when they were hit by rocket fire they would go up in flames. Those who weren't killed or made numb from guilt and changed their names, were likely to be overtaken by opium laced Thai-sticks and heroin. The entire base was surrounded by marijuana fields.

And lest I forget this: sometime the radar bomb scoring unit would be so high on drugs they would inadvertently call their own location in as one of the targets.


I enlisted, starting in Basic Training just two weeks out of high school, to get a G.I. Bill so that I could go to college and become well educated good American citizen.

This is Vincent Johnson in memory of those who served at Statesboro Bomb Plot, signing out...."

Vincent Johnson
Los Angeles
July 30, 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A New FBC! Stupid Poll, Hooray!

To celebrate FBC!'s first anniversary, I've decided to put up not one, but two new polls! That's right, two for the price of one, it means one's free! Aren't we fighting the recession here at FBC!
I was thinking, what if the Presidential Candidates decided to spend our taxes, on ahem, not the budget deficit (does anybody really believes none of them candidates will raise taxes? you naive right-wingers, go back to economics school, okay?) but on the Arts? I know I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one, imagine all the peo-ple (all together!) living life in pea-ce oh ooooh oh oh.
Oh, er, Sorry, I thought I as all alone for one moment.
Anyway, have fun and chose for the best art VP ever!

And while am at it, tomorrow or Friday I'll post artist Vince Johnson's essay about his Air Force days in a Soviet-designed geodesic dome during the Cold War. Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

FBC ! Turns One Today, Happy Birthday FBC!

Exactly a year ago, I started FBC ! literally by accident, a double accident in fact. About two weeks before FBC!’s unplanned birth, a very distracted driver saw fit to run a stop sign and race into three lanes to hit me, so desirable was I. My car was $1,900 damaged and my body a bit more incalculably, since I spent the next three months loaded with painkillers, unable to hold my head (who would have known it could be such a feat?), stand up, sit down, or lay down without being in blasted continuous pain. Not only I couldn’t read, listen to music or even watch TV, I was that brain-damaged (only figuratively, OK? Please don’t freak out) I couldn’t even think about anything beyond “if I take that damn pill maybe my head will stop spinning and that jello inside my cranium will stop trembling and sliding painfully inside”. But I had just bought a brand new MacBook , so during one of those miraculous 20 minutes pain-free breaks that seemed to happen every 4 or 5 days or so, out of boredom I Googled “blog”, ended up on the Blogger/Blogspot website, took the tour and Oopsie, what had I done? Frenchy But Chic! was born.

I had absolutely no idea what to blog about, since a) I couldn’t think and b) to type on said laptop, I had to adopt a very improbable position, laying on my bed with my upper body totally flat, and the laptop balanced at a precarious angle on my bent knees.
It was supposed to have been the Summer of Me. I had plans. I was to resume my curatorial freelance career with no less than 3 shows (2 groups shows, one solo) in preparation, and maybe on the side start to write a novel, but mostly do my own stuff and go swim every evening just because I really love it (now you know) and I wanted to get back into shape (ha! fat chance!). That bloody accident of course stopped all my best-laid plans dead in their tracks. It was a very boring Summer, as everybody was roaming the art paths of Europe to do the Documenta-Venice-Muenster trifecta, so I had no friends around*. And in case people had dropped by to keep me company I was too fucked up and too high on painkillers to be able to hold a decent conversation. So, life sucked, and my only distraction was blogging and that was it.

I really thought I was going to kill the blog once I was recovered and then go back to curating, thank you very much. Now, 246 posts later, I have to reconsider. It never occurred to my mind some people (save for a few close friends) would read it, being so used to nobody having a look at my catalogue essays or other art stuff. But you, my faithful, beloved readership, kept sending me kind emails and messages, to my absolute surprise. Who would have known so many people would be fascinated by what I was having for lunch? Or what I would say about, I don’t know, the economy, fashion icons, the WGA strike, conservation issues, Joseph Beuys. I was stunned to see some people were leaving comments. Incidentally it reinforced my intimate conviction that some people have absolutely no sense of humor whatsoever, or maybe the literacy rates are a bit lower than statistics show. But those don't constitute the bulk of my readership, thanks Duchamp God.
It was really heartwarming, and it is still, when I run into people who read the blog and kindly make comments about it. Now FBC! seems to have taken a life in its own, to the point that even my friends call me “Frenchy”. I’m very touched when someone tells me about cooking a recipe I’ve posted, and totally awed when they tell me it was really good. Goodness gracious, my recipes work!
I greatly enjoy when I receive emails about something I posted, usually about some art thing, and the person discusses some finer points with me. And I’m really moved when on one of my whiny days (you know, car stolen, whiplash pains coming back, family stuff) someone sends me a really sweet supportive email. You guys are awesome, and I want to thank you for your support, your continuous attention to my humble writings, and your patience with my vaguely-formulated rants on everything from Obama to the economy to that really bad book I’ve read. So I’m chugging along, until I’m done with my novel and then look for a job again, because my savings are still not eternal and they go diminishing faster than President Bush’s declining popularity.

The novel is taking center stage in my life right now, so I try to update the blog only once or twice a week with the regular Your Social Life post, about what to see in Los Angeles. Progressively the blog has become more and more focused on art, even though I clearly didn’t want to do that in the first place. I’m trying to balance it with food reviews, but I’ve abandoned the “Thanksgiving In [Insert Month Here]™ series. Not because I was running out of Worthies to celebrate, far from it, but because after a bad cold in January I missed the window of opportunity to write the one I’ve planned, followed by a second lost opportunity in February when my Civic, the one that sustained $1,900 in damages, was stolen. After that it looked weird to resume the series anew, but I may do some occasional posts here and there. I will post more art reviews when I’m done with the first draft of the novel, but right now I don’t go out at all, so no shows for me to review. But I’d accept reviews submitted by readers, if some of you are interested.

During FBC!’s first year you’ve learned I was an art scholar, a curator, that I loved food, I read a lot, I have adopted a moody, skittish cat called Pomme (Hi baby! Love ya!), that I had a Fellow Espresso Drinker as well as a Distinguished Literary Correspondent, that I sometimes go to openings, got a new car called Mam’zelle VaVaVoom (indeed, you named her in a poll) and that when it works I feel like a blonde with fake boobs and a spray tan, and when it doesn’t I’m pissed, and also that I have a vague crush on Daniel Craig (picture NSFW. if you missed that one, you’re blind) and that my favorite gallery in LA is, is, is? Susan V!
Quite a few readers were really interested in knowing where I got my polka-dotted tablecloth, the one you see on all my food photos: answer, the Carrefour supermarket chain in France, 9,90 Euros, alas out of stock. Some photography specialists (Hi Eve!) kindly commented on the quality of my pics, which is entirely due to my Canon Powershot SD 750, but I really don’t have any skills in that department. In fact I was so bad at taking pictures that the camera I have right now is my very first one. Now you know I’m writing a novel, and to answer a few email inquiries I’ve recently received, yes I do intend to go back to curating, sooner rather than later, possibly in LA if some generous institution offers me a job, or a decent spot with a decent fee. If the City of Portland offers the same, I may move there, do you hear me Portland? Portland, Oregon, not the one in Maine.
Failing that I’d love, love to curate a huge show at the Park Avenue Armory in NYC, if I get a decent budget. That place is magical. The kind of place where you would like Catherine Sullivan or Isaac Julien to shoot a video. For example.

Okay, enough with my life and my wish list. To go back to FBC! I’ve renounced to make it professional, because it’s a one-person blog and to try and get advertisement to support it I’d need to work with a team, including someone better than me at dealing with code, who could do a redesign, etc. In passing, I’ll get rid of the GoogleAdsense thing soonish, as it doesn’t bring in any cent (which was expected, I don’t click on those myself when I visit other sites), though I’m getting a very perverse kick of seeing what ads they match to my posts. Like each time I mention I may look for a job, I see “waitress jobs” appearing, or if I use the word “French” too many times I see ads for French manicures.
So I’ll keep FBC! amateurish, typos and all, which I blush about when I re-read my posts a few days later but I think it’s OK, it’s not as shocking as on the front page of the LA Times (RIP, LA Times, see what happens when a billionaire garden gnome shops for media). I just want to apologize to Andrew Berardini whose name I have consistently misspelled on those very pages, and he’s someone whose writings I like, so I feel like a complete dork. Sorry Mr. Berardini, may you get better readers than this clueless Frenchy, but keep on the good works nonetheless, you’re really brilliant.
I’ll try to think about more polls in the future, since you guys seem to really enjoy those, the latest one being very heated: you chose to name the entire class of curators the ArtsyFartsy Mindfucks, but 37% of you voted for that one, when the remainder was evenly divided between the ArtAdmins and The Curzillas. One lonely vote went to KissMyAssYouDramaQueenArtist, which makes me think I have a majority of artist readers and a few lone curators, you my poor battered, misunderstood brethren.
Before I finish, if you guys want to leave comments about the type of posts you’d like to see in the future (that is, after I’m finished with writing fiction), if you have suggestions about future polls, or if you would like to write something for FBC! yourself, drop me a line either at the blog address or in the comments section. And finally, my only regret with FBC! has to do with the template I chose last year: for some reasons I cannot post more than 5 photos with each post, and that’s really a hindrance when I have no time to review a show, but would love to show you pictures of it anyway.
Happy anniversary to you and me, my dear devoted, beloved readership, may you have a peaceful upcoming year!

* I would like to thank profusely my buddy Daniel C. who kindly came once a week to take me out to coffee, even though I couldn’t utter a coherent word, did my grocery shopping for me, took me to the doctor, regularly checked on me and generally speaking was the best, most reliable, understanding friend ever. Ditto Robin L. and Roger D. who came immediately to visit me after they learned of my sorry state of affairs.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Your Social Life - Special I Am In A Jam Edition!

You've noticed, dear beloved readers, that I have been a bit absent presently. If you follow my adventures regularly, you know I'm writing a novel. It's pretty intense, and I'm trying to be done with the first draft in the next couple of months or so, after which I'll be really looking for a job. All of this is a bit time-consuming, so I don't write as much on the blog as I would sometimes like to, but after 8 hours of writing fiction non-stop my brain is pretty fried. Hopefully we'll have a contribution by LA artist Vincent Johnson soon, about his time in the US Air Force during the Cold War, when he was working in a Soviet-designed geodesic dome. I'm totally looking forward to it, let me tell you! And in about 3 days FBC! will turn 1, yeepee! There will be an anniversary post, I promise.

Also, this nerdy occupation (writing a novel) requires that I don't go out that much, or it kills my concentration, ditto not picking up the phone or responding to email. Especially if you send me too many at once, but really it's phone conversations I'm eschewing. All in all, I'm not exactly MIA but you won't see me around at openings, so it's starting to get tough recommending options for you and Your Social Life.

So, if I were to go out this weekend, what would I do?

I'd totally go to Chinatown to attend the outdoor video screening curated by Andrew Bernardini, from 8.30 PM onwards, this Saturday on Chung King Road. All info can be obtained at Chung King Project
Aside from that, I don't know, I haven't looked yet what was going on, but I'm totally excited by next week collaboration between Machine Project and Fallen Fruit, where you can all participate and make jam. FBC! adores making jam, but has some doubt about what will come out of the project, if only because FBC! doesn't use pectin in her jams (tip: just use a lemon instead), and macerate her fruit in sugar for half a day at least before making her jam. But that's just me being pesky, because it sounds like lots of fun, whatever will come out of all that jam!
So bring your own fruit, preferably picked up from an expedition with Fallen Fruit, and make some fab' jam. My favorite jam/jelly/preserve flavors are, in descending order:

1. Violet Petal Jelly (I bring it back from France, yes)
2. Rose Petal Jelly (Westwood is your best bet to find it)
3. Wild blackberry preserve (not jelly).
4. Redcurrant jelly
5. Apple, Hard Cider and Calvados Jelly (made in Normandy, yeepee!)
6. Pomegranate jelly (I buy mine from Ha's Apple Farm)
7. A fabulous Italian bergamot preserve I've found at Surfas once, alas they don't carry it anymore. Boo hoo.

Of course you know about using real cane sugar to make your own jam, not that disgusting High Fructose Corn Syrup found in commercial brands, including the ones that look fancy. Anyway, it sounds all so exciting, I'm dying to go but it's likely I'll be too busy writing. Have a spoonful for me, will you? Thanks!

And something else that happens next week is the Freak Show Deluxe in Silverlake, at the Sacred Fools Theater in Silverlake. It's only $15, and I'm sure by now you're already seen Dark Knight, so there you go. Right now it's the only type of performance art I'm excited about, along with the LA Derby Dolls. And speaking about cool performance art, there's this thing on the BBC website today, how to disappear without a trace. It happens to hundreds of artists every year, but it may not be *intentional*. I'd love to see one day an artist project about artists who disappeared but never reappeared. I mean, not some kind of master thesis in a third-tier university Art History department, if you follow my drift.
OK, all for today, and this weekend there will be the anniversary post, the result from the latest poll, a new poll, and some other stuff. Have a good one!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Another Summer Poll! Thingerati of the World, Unite!

You seem to like polls, here at the FBC! readership headquarters. So I thought you may like this new one. How should we name the entire class of curators, you know, the way we speak of the Literati, the Intelligentsia, the Glitterati, the Fashionistas , the Trustafarians and other Bridezillas of the world?
Curatistas sounded a bit gender-oriented, but you have a few other options. Look at the bottom of the page. 6 days to vote, have fun!

I was not sure I could post a pic of The Curator character from World of Warcraft, so instead I put a pix of the show Legend at Chamarande.

Your Social Life At Home, Light

OK, so as I was saying the blog posting is going to be rather light. I'm deeply immersed in my writing, and I don't intend to show up at any opening for the time being, not go do gallery rounds for a while. So, if you have to go to an opening this week, I'd say stick with LAXart and the Kori Newkirk show. It looks tantalizing, from what I see on the webpage.
You can also catch up on shows mentioned within these pages over the last 2 weeks, to which I'd add the Lisa Lapinski "Focus" show at MoCA. It opened when I was flying in between Paris and LA, so I haven't seen it yet, but it is much more attractive to me than the Marlene Dumas one (a very overrated painter IMHO), not mentioning the Sterling Ruby one. His work was all over the place in NYC in March, and, hm, I think the less you see it the best it is. Some things shouldn't be over-hyped and overexposed. Same goes with Rachel Harrison, who was also all over NYC last Spring. Give me Carol Bove anytime over those two last ones, and long live to Lisa Lapinski!

So with Lisa and Kori (if I may, I don't know Kori personally) you have two interesting sculpture shows to look at, and to round it up nicely how about a nice group show?
Continuing at SMMOA is the "Puppet Show", closing in about 3 weeks, so plan ahead and don't miss it!

Like the Three Musketeers, this selection of 3 shows to go to need a 4th partner, and how could I not mention Tom Solomon new space (with Sister and , China Arts Objects). Tom who's my other most adored art dealer in LA, with Susan V, curates fabulous group shows. I'm curious to see that one.

Pix is a production still of Kori Newkirk lifted from the LAXart website.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Poll results are in!

So the last poll was the most successful so far (12 votes in, yay!), with the Norton Simon Museum getting 50% votes on the "coolest, in the air-conditioned sense, museum in LA to take refuge from the heat", followed by "My Local Target Store" (30%) the remaining 20% being scattered between SMMOA, The Hammer, LACMA and MOCA. The Getty didn't attract anybody, maybe because it's designed as a beach resort and no one mistakes it for a real museum? (just kidding!). Target rightfully belongs to the list, as you can get some Michael Graves, Philippe Stark and Karim Rashid-designed stuff there.
Also, the cross-section of FBC! readers who are otakus/geeks must be close to zero, as no one decided to vote for their Mom's basement.
All in all I'm glad the Norton Simon won as it is a really good museum and it tends to be neglected compared to the LA giants. It hosts the fabulous still life by Zurbaran, with the lemons, a painting that is worth the trip just for itself (but the rest of the collection is good!)

Aside from the poll, there's not much going on. I'm very busy buried in my non-blog writing. That's why I don't really pick up my phone (well, I've lost it yesterday anyway), nor answer email. Likewise, I won't show up at openings for a while and I'm not even sure I will go see some shows. I have a September deadline and after that I'll need a job ASAP. I may get some guest bloggers again, hopefully, so check that space one or twice a week.
I've been to the Lautner opening at the Hammer and I must thank Aimee Chang who told me to go see the "printed series" show as it was closing on Sunday. It was very good, the art stars of print all together: Goya, Durer, Callot, Piranese, Hokusai etc. with a few contemporary print series, the one by Mona Hatoum by far the best (but Chris Ofili, er...doesn't hold a wall, really). I'm very happy I got to see that show, and I'm sorry it closed already as I would have gone back to the Hammer just for it.
Lastly I'm adding stuff to my blog roll: Carol Es and Pablo de La Barra and Andrew Bernardini and of course Words Without Pictures. It will need to be seriously reorganized and maybe merged but it will wait a couple of months.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Allons Zenfants De La Patriiiiiieuh Le Jour de Gloare Est Tarrive!

Today it's Bastille Day, and I realize some of my faithful readers may have expected a special post. I apologize for not having done so really but
a) I had to go pick up my car from my mechanic, and it's far away and involves 3 bus rides. In short, it takes time away from the computer,
b) I'm trying to write lots of non-blog related things at the moment, plus preparing an interview with one of the greatest artists coming out of LA in the last decades (hi Edgar!) and I don't want to screw it up
c) unfortunately Bastille Day is also the anniversary of a very close relative death 3 years ago, and I don't feel like celebrating very much. Its getting easier with the passing of time, but I'm usually not very joyful around that time of the year (Thanksgiving being another one).

So I didn't compile any list of French stuff to do in LA, but I did swing by La Maison du Pain to get my lunch, and today they offer you a very cool thing: a blue, white and red ice cream sandwich made with macarons! I totally loved it, its quirky and fun, very sweet (sentimentally speaking) and refreshing with the weather we have. It's not very big so it's a perfect (I don't like food that's too big-portioned).

Also I see the poll is exciting your interest, though the count is a bit off (there's a discrepancy between the actual number of respondents, which is higher, and what is posted under the poll.) It has given me an idea for the next poll, so expect to see one in 3 or 4 days.
In the next few weeks there will be very light posting on the blog as I try to advance my novel. And look for jobs because, you know, my savings are not eternal, unlike hope and audacity, so I have to think about my not too far future. Blogging is fun, but takes a bit of time especially for a non-native English speaker. But there will be an anniversary poll at the end of the month, as FBC! is almost 1!

Meanwhile, happy Bastille Day for you, please indulge your inner French, listen to Serge Gainsbourg, Jane Birkin (she's an honorary French), Charles de Goal, Alain Bashung, Francoise Hardy, Jacques Dutronc, you can even read Houellebecq (I find him boring personally) or Regis Jauffret, look at Alain Sechas or Matthieu Laurette's work (hi! I love you guys!) and go get yourself some pastries at la Maison du Pain.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Frenchy Goes To A French Restaurant!

I always felt there were very few real French restaurants in LA, as they're usually too Californified. Each time I see a French restaurant that offers crabcakes or seared mahi-mahi I know right away it's been Californifusionified and I don't need to go to French restaurant for this, merci bien. Some of them are OK, like Little Next Door or Monsieur Marcel, but nothing to write home about ("Dear Mom, I've been to a French restaurant, they do steak frites for $44! plus tax and tip, they don't know what service compris means!").
But for the past few months there has been growing anticipation about the opening of Anisette, the new venture of Alain Giraud from Bastide fame. Where I've never eaten, but like everyone else I've been waiting for Anisette to open. Mostly because Alain Giraud, being a neighbor, also frequents my beloved Maison du Pain which I see as a sure indication of good taste (see how humble I am?).

Anyway, Sunday last week my houseguest took me there for dinner to my greatest delight. The decor is very Disneyfied, an LA interior decorator version of what a French brasserie looks like (the wallpaper is very un-French for example, but 19th century US, the drawer handles behind the bar are typically American, etc), but it's nevertheless beautiful and also feels comfy despite the very high ceilings. Nice tiled floor, dark wood everywhere, mirrors and balloon-globed chandeliers, dark red booths. The place was packed to the rafters ( at 7.30 PM on a Sunday evening of the 4th of July weekend, during recession times) so we ate at the bar. We had no difficulty finding 2 stools at the end, not too far from the waiters/busboys station.
I sat right in front of the beer tap so I could see they misspelled "Hoegaarden" but I'm probably the only person who notices that type of detail.
Unlike in restaurants back home, you can have the full menu while dining at the bar, and they give you your own fabric (not paper) tablecloth. Classy!

Our waitress/bartender was adorably sweet and trying very hard to recommend her favorite dishes. Also, my favorite LA waiter, Karl, was on hand. Karl is my favorite LA waiter because 1) he's from my hometown, and never in 20 years have I ever met another escapee from there and 2) He left Fraiche to come and work for Alain Giraud "as soon as I knew he was hiring", which shows how well-liked Giraud is among the LA French restaurant and bakery workers.
There were some other French waiters around, and Alain Giraud himself was buzzing around. He's easily recognizable if you are wondering, he's the most French-looking middle-aged gentleman ever, and he wears civvies (hell, he's the boss, he can!) not a chef outfit.

We shared a sweetbreads appetizer that was to die for. They come with a fabulous sauce (I'd surmise butter and veal stock), very tender sliced carrots and extremely fresh petite peas. The sweetbreads themselves were soft but slightly crunchy, very delicate and flavorful all at once. Clearly the best sweetbreads I had in a long, long time, breathtakingly well-prepared and satisfying. The portion is rather small, French-style, as an appetizer should be, but fear not! Gargantuan-stomached reader! The entrees are American -sized, so you won't starve.
The bread was good, though it wasn't a baguette but a combination of pain de campagne and olive bread.

The only deception of the evening came when our lovely waitress came desolately to tell me the Homard Thermidor had run out. Not surprising, since at $28 it's more than reasonably priced for a grilled Maine lobster. She tried very hard to win me over to the cod, but my heart was set on the moules frites, same as my dinner companion.
They came in a huge Staub cast-iron pot designed like a giant mussel, and a nice cornet of very good fries. Those are very good garlicky moules frites, but honestly it's hard to screw up such a simple dish.
Nevertheless they were very tasty and we ate every single one of them, then did the unthinkable in France (bad manners! don't try this in Paris!) we dunked our cornet of French fries in the broth and ate them drenched in an onion, wine, mussel broth, cream and garlic sauce that makes life worth living.

For dessert I got the Foret Noire, not to be confused with what passes for Black Forest Cake in the US. The chocolate cake was light and airy, as was the whipped cream and the chocolate mousse, (it's not supposed to be ganache or buttercream) and the cherries (griottes) were macerated in kirsch, which was also used to moist the cake. Such a perfect execution at Anisette, it made me feel like I was in Alsace.
My friend had the vacherin, which is the Anisette rendition, a Derrida-inspired, deconstructed idea of a vacherin (normally vacherin is made of ice cream encased in a meringue box-like crust with fresh fruit and whipped cream). The ice cream was lavender, very subtle yet intensely flavored, topped with whipped cream, tiny slivers of teardrop-shaped meringue, and strawberries.

For drinks I had a glass of a 2005 Graves (a white Bordeaux) and my friend a Hoegaarden on tap. I finished with an excellent decaf espresso that was neither watery nor tasted like burnt rubber. Excellent, really.
The service was very sweet and attentive, they paid attention to the pace of our eating to replenish our glasses, including the water, to take away the mussel shells, etc. I did have to ask again our waitress for the espresso to come at the same time as my dessert, so she flagged the busboy, but given how packed the place was it's really not a big deal. We never had to wait for long for anything. And as much as I said how adorable our waitress was, and that I was happy to see Karl who recognized me and came by to say hi, the service wasn't the in-your-face type of hovering clueless friendly actor you find so often in LA. Waiters at Anisette are clearly professionals, not people hating their day job, so that was nice.
Another great thing is despite the high ceilings and how very large the restaurant is, it wasn't noisy even though it was totally crowded. It's so rare to find a restaurant in LA (well, Santa Monica) where you can have a decent conversation without having to scream at the top of your lungs.
The one and only thing that was a bit off for me was that I found the food rather salty, but I almost never put any salt when I cook at home (to the point I'm starting to be turned off cheese as it's usually very salty).

No restaurant experience is complete without a visit to the Ladies Room, and the experience at Anisette is cinematic. Not that you feel like you're in an Almodovar movie (the only ones where characters use bathrooms ever) but because upstairs there was a "dame-pipi" (a bathroom attendant) to show you the door. She looked beautifully decayed, with flaming dyed red hair, in tired makeup, out of a 1970s movie, silently gesturing with an ample arm movement toward the stall that was available. It felt...beautiful. This woman could be in a Fassbinder movie, if Fassbinder was still alive.

So all in all, a great experience. Anisette is a brasserie, so the food is solid, extremely good and features very-well executed French classic.s It's not adventurous nor imaginative but plainly excellent. The place to celebrate a Bastille Day breakfast, and if I get my car back from the shop on Monday this is where you'll find me for a morning coffee next week.

Pix: Anisette's doorway, the kitchens, the bathroom floor, the dame-pipi, and a humongous lobster from the raw bar.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Don't Forget The Poll!

At the bottom of the page, our new Summer poll: what LA museum is the coolest? You have 5 more days to vote!
Meanwhile, I'm having car troubles again so I'm not sure whether I'll make it to any opening this weekend. Grumble, grumble...

Bruce Conner RIP - Devo "Mongoloid"

Bruce Conner passed away a couple of days ago. He had a show in LA last Summer at Michael Kohn gallery. In Europe he was mostly known as an experimental filmmaker, and his photos of the San Francisco punk scenes are not very well-known there.
He also made some punk rock videos, including the "Mongoloid" one for Devo. Hopefully if I haven't screwed up with code you should be able to watch it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Summer Is Here Part Deux

Summertime la la la la la... it's hot outside, we're feeling lazy, the artworld frenzy sucks, and we're hoping that when the recession starts to be fully felt there will be an art market crash, so the serious artists can be finally focused on. In passing, for those of you who have wondered why it hadn't happened yet, remember each time there's a stock market crash or a recession, the art market follows suit one to two years later, when all the investors who bought art start enduring too many losses elsewhere, need liquidity and start to try cashing in their quadruple-time (and many more) flipped masterpieces and go on inundating auction houses with their stock.

Anyway, it's not what you want to think about during Summer dear beloved FBC! readers.
I've decided first of all to come up with another idiotic poll: what LA museum has the best air-conditioning system to take refuge in during heatwaves? If this poll is successful next one would be open to international readers suggestion (FBC! spent the 2003 heatwave in Paris buried inside the Islamic Art department on the bench overlooking a magnificent Persian rug. I recommend it wholeheartedly).

What else do you need to occupy your Summer with? I suggest you reflect on the life and work of Senator Jessie Helms who blessedly left this Earth this weekend to pollute and contaminate Hell with his bigoted rhetoric. I know, we're not supposed to rejoice when people die. But hey, it's Jesse Helms! I suggest you read the vulgar prose recorded for posterity in Congressional Record, Washington DC, 18 May 1989, vol. 135, no. 64 (you cannot find it online). That the one where he refers to Andres Serrano as "a jerk" and "a bird" so if a Senator can address Congress and the President in such choice terms, I guess I can feel entitled to my own free speech and refer to the late Senator as "that old fascist asshole".

What else should you do this Summer? If you're in LA have a meal at Anisette, the new French brasserie that opened in Santa Monica recently. Review to come soon!
You can also read books, such as Artists Estates, Reputations In Trust. It's very instructive, first as a view into many art-historically half-forgotten secondary figures (Ferren, Ossorio for example) and also, for all artists alive, it's full of helpful tips and suggestions about what to do with their works after their passing. The US tax system is pretty horrible for visual artists, far more than it could be for a writer or musician for example, and the book is very good at explaining the pitfalls of trusts versus foundations versus wills versus no planning, depending on the degree of notoriety the artists has achieved. For each artist there's a small bio as well as the bios of the people running their estate.
I'm glad it also help make the record straights concerning artist widows. No they are not all greedy monsters here to deprive the art market, curators, collectors and youngish illuminated romantic artists of their perceived birthright as lovers of the artist works. They are family members who suffered in silence their spouses whims, irascible tempers, infidelity and such like to be subsequently whacked by enormous estate taxes, trying to figure out expensive inventories and catalogues raisonnes to be made while Uncle Sam took all the cash available that could have been used for the task. I don't envy any artist widow's task, let me tell you.

Now if you want some beautiful but less taxing reading, I'd recommend Tove Jansson's The Summer Book. Tove Jansson was the creator of the immortal Moomintroll series, a personal favorite of FBC! The Summer Book isn't a children book, but a delightful piece of poetry in prose where nothing much happen except some subdued, unspoken pain that provides the backbone to a slow ode to passing time. Beautiful.

Then you can trek to Altadena and get a gelato at Bulgarini (try the pistachio flavor) or go to La Maison du Pain on Pico and Ridgeley for a macaron to accompany your espresso. While doing so you can muse on the bizarre pairing of High Energy Construct and Solway Jones and their new gallery opening in Chinatown in September. The announcement for their first group show pairs established blue chip artworks by dead artists (probably some works on paper) with youngish artists for whom it may be their one and only ever proximity with Marcel Duchamp in print. It doesn't sound too promising nor interesting if you ask me. Like drinking hot chocolate while eating Roquefort cheese. It's likely FBC! will be somewhere else on that evening but I'm not even curious to go see that show.

Anyway check this space for more Summer stuff, er, like this Summer?

Summer in LA and Elsewhere!

I hope you had a great 4th of July weekend, dear faithful readers, and that unlike mine it was filled with art.
FBC! got an unexpected out-of-town guest and was therefore away from the computer, so no opportunities for me to write anything and let you know what was going on.

There's a slew of FBC! pals having shows up currently, or upcoming group shows going on. First of all, Roger Dickes who's also the curator of the Glendale College Gallery had a show opening 10 days ago in Eagle Rock. It's called Firmament Avenue and you can find all the details here. He's also in a group show but I don't have the info immediately handy.
Another old FBC! pal, Donald Morgan (see pix) had a sculpture show opening in Portland (Oregon), Hunters and Collectors (remember that band?) at Rocks Box last Saturday. In passing, FBC! says hello! to the vibrant Portland art community and its flagship blog, Portland Art.
Closer to us here in LA Nancy Popp and the lovely LA Art Girls are having an opening at Phantom Galleries on Thursday.

As it is the case every Summer in LA, there are way too many openings coming up during the next couple of months. You see in NYC they (galleries, collectors, curators, parasites, gawkers, Fitzgerald readers) all go up to the Hamptons (where they also open stuff up and have funny art fairs, but let's forget the Hamptons microcosmos one minute, OK?), in London they go abroad, in Paris they go to the country and the galleries in all those places just have some guest-curated Summer group shows, usually kinda mediocre as they are a slapdash juxtaposition of the gallery inventory and the curators' best friends.
So it doesn't feel like work and you don't feel obligated to go to every single bloody opening there is.

In LA, not such chance, so every weekend is spent in between the friendly stuff happening in NELA, the one-step-above shows in Chinatown, the trendy ones in Culver City, WeHo, etc and the blue chip ones on the West Side. The problem is, in LA you have to pollute the planet and drive to see all those things. Sure there are still some Summer group shows, but the practice isn't too widespread. So as an alternative, I suggest you forget going to every single one of them, but just follow FBC!'s selection of ONE to THREE shows every week AT BEST. They come in addition to the aforementioned FBC! pals shows, those one are mandatory.

So this weekend, it's super easy! There's:

1. Group show at Steve Turner curated by the gallery new director, legendary curator Carol Ann Klonarides (in passing the website still sucks). Steve Turner was my second-favorite LA gallery after Susan Vielmetter, so with Carol Ann at the helm it should be even more interesting.
2. The Architecture of John Lautner at the Hammer.
3. The LA Art Girls at Phantom Gallery! Check the website for the location.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Happy Canada Day, and a Boing Boing Cautionary Tale!

Happy Canada Day to my immense Canadian readership (Hi Daniel! Hi Julie! Hi Vish!) and to Jeff Wall who doesn't read me, but he's The Artworld Famous Canadian as well as an immense artist.
I have no idea what Canadians do on their national holidays - eat poutine, pour maple syrup over pancakes, drink Canadian beer, listen to Celine Dion Skinny Puppy, watch Keanu Reeves Pamela Anderson?
I know that some Canadians, even on their national holiday, they fight for free speech, against censorship, want free copyrights and all that, like the resident Canadian at Boing Boing.

[Note to my French readers: Boing Boing is the blog Liberation freely pilfers from when they put weird news on their front page. Shows the level of serious journalism they have at Libe nowadays].

Now the funny thing is there's some kind of internal "unpublishing" going on at Boing Boing over some totally incomprehensible matter (they erased the contributions of someone they don't like, the someone raised a stir, both parties pretend the other knows why/ah no I have no idea what's going on, and all that).

As most internet wars and debates, it's rather funny. Like, you know, being "de-friended" on Facebook or Myspace about something posted on a blog that had nothing to do with the "de-friender" (or is it "the un-friender"?). As far as pettiness goes it's amusing. I think.
Yours truly learned about that Boing Boing story last night by logging on the LAT website (in passing, Zell-decimated LAT, don't you have better news to inform readers about than bloggers wars? Even if it's the most famous blog in the English-speaking hemisphere?).

So far the comments at Boing Boing on the topics clock past 500, and it's only mid-afternoon! Whatever Boing Boing do it's their problem, but I don't think they handled the thing well. It looks like a personal issue, they don't explain exactly what, so everyone is dying to know, and they refuse to explain further by arguing they don't want to embarrass the person in question. It's nice, but since so far they are mostly embarrassing themselves, I think they should offer a bit more info (such as "she did something too unethical in this or that matter and we feel we no longer can endorse/support her work, and yes maybe we made a mistake by deleting her posts about a year ago") and maybe update their post rather than have moderators chime in a few times in the hundred comments posted below their vague explanaition.

So what's the real problem? Not so much the bickering, secrecy and bad handling of the matter. Everyone will have forgotten it in a couple of months anyway. The real problem is that after a certain level of success, it becomes impossible for any enterprise, however friendly and sympathetic it may be, to keep on existing by the same rules (or absence thereof) one previously obeyed in more amateurish times.
Yes, Web 2.0 has deeply upset the news landscape (and much more!), old/traditional media going through a horrid transition in the meantime.
Yes it's cool, everyone with/out credentials like yours truly can now publish and disseminate to the world at large whatever opinions, ideas, erroneous facts, myth, gossip, stories and beliefs they want. Without obeying any of Journalism 101 rules and guidelines, since blogs are initially just personal soapboxes. But you cannot have your cake and it eat, be proud of being a "citizen-journalist" (whatever that means) and disregard safeguards long-established for a reason.
When you do, you end up being the NYT and the Jayson Blair story, not that the NYT didn't recover from it. In their particular case, Boing Boing bloggers mishandled something that looks like a personal matter blown out of context; because they acted like a bunch of amateurish friends having a fight, and forgetting they acted in public while having that fight.

In the end it's not the bottom/the truth of the story that is so important, not whether Boing Boing bloggers were fair or not, honest or not, but how the way they acted made them look . It made them look as opaque, swift and vague as the corporations they routinely critique on their pages, a reminder that now the joyous time is over when Boing Boing was the cool debunker of censorship, valiantly fighting corporate greed it once was (and is still striving to be).
Boing Boing, It's time to grow up*.
Being a big blog with lots of advertisement, tons of readers, and linked everywhere brings in responsibility, I should think, even in dealing with a one-year-after-the-fact, attention-seeking other blogger fact. So get your act together, and even if it hurts like hell, publish a reasonable explanation, with more information and details, about why/how you did what you did, and be classy and elegant about it. Offer Violet Blue a right to respond on your pages.

*I couldn't resist writing this phrase. Try to pronounce it in Darth Vader's voice, you'll understand my bubbly delight!