Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Petition For MOCA

OK, full disclosure, FBC! generally doesn't believe in petitions, and doesn't sign them as a general principle. Rules are made to be broken, so my signature graces the petition to "save MOCA", which you can find here. So if you care about the museum, you can sign it and pass the url to your friends. I must say I'm a bit irritated my full mailing address was required to sign it, as I had no time and no imagination to make up a fake one.

Now this being said, feel free to make as much noise as possible to help the museum, and after it's saved thanks to Eli Broad, to many more generous donors to come and to viewers like you, please ask for accountability. I love MOCA, I love many of the exhibitions it has organized, I like all its curators, it has a great collection, but it needs better management, and that includes administrators as well as the Board of Trustees. You know, people who try to improve the financial situation of the institution way before it drowns in a dire, dire quagmire of near-bankruptcy. The 11th-hour cry for help, the waiting for the museum to be in desperate straits to finally, finally make the situation known, I find it intolerably nerve-wracking.

Meanwhile, sign the petition, make your voice heard, and support your local museums. All of them.

Belgium Invades Los Angeles!

And you thought MOCA was in trouble. Well, research Belgium a bit, and the whole MOCA situation will start looking like a piece of cake.
If you've been a follower of FBC! for a while you know how I like Belgium. I've even made my coming out on Facebook as a (former) closet Belgian. Belgians are usually warm and friendly people with a wicked sense of humor, and they sure know how to drink and to party.
You just wished they would get along better, in between the Walloons, the Flemish and the German-speaking minority (they do have the other usual minorities as well, in case you wonder).
Aside from the linguistic tricky problem, Belgium had produced great bands, great filmmakers (Chantal Akerman anyone?), one world-famous art historian (Thierry de Duve), cycling racers that put Lance Armstrong to shame ( a real cyclist does the Giro, La Vuelta, and the Tour de France, and let's not forget Paris-Roubaix), and of course Magritte and Broodthaers. For a country that's about the size of Maryland, it's a pretty good record, no?
So now that I whetted your appetite for all things Belgian, I recommend you go tonight to the Mandrake Bar watch a selection of Belgian videos, from 7 to 11 PM. It will be raining like crazy outside, so it's a good reason to go have a few drinks while getting culturally enlightened.

Imagine the fabulous conversation you will have at the Thanksgiving table! First explaining to Uncle Chester there is a country called Belgium somewhere (hint: it's in between France, the Netherlands and Germany) where, contrarily to what you'd expect they don't speak Belgian, then telling Grandma Edna you were watching videos by the likes of David Evrard at the Mandrake (that's when you have to tell your bachelor great-uncle Mo you're not speaking about Mandrake The Magician) ... then you get to explain the videos you've seen, and voilĂ ! Your entire Thanksgiving conversation taken care of! Merci qui? Merci Frenchy!

Pic of Mandrake the magician taken here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Great Los Angeles Walk Part III

From the writer's desk

The Crosswalk at Western
Bureau of Street Lighting

The hipster furniture store sidewalk display
Geometric Ironworks

The Great Los Angeles Walk Part II

You know you're in Silverlake when all the stores are still closed at 10 AM

Supra Obama Leader Of The Nation. Everybody took this picture!

Don't drink it! Le Beaujolais nouveau is always crappy. Taix restaurant, whose Frenchitude was diluted in the smog decades ago.

That's us, right? In Echo Park.

Chinatown "Gates". Hello hipster artsy-fartsy brethren!

The Great Los Angeles Walk 2008

The organizer of the Great LA Walk, Mike, with Eric the Wilshire specialist

Because there are other things in life than the MOCA crisis (more about this to come), and because FBC! knows that physical exercise is a good antidote to sadness, I joined the Great Los Angeles Walk organized by the folks over at Franklin Avenue. The group of 150 people who met at Union Station between 8 and 9 AM on Saturday morning was slated to walk up Cesar Chavez, Sunset Boulevard and then Santa Monica Boulevard all the way to the ocean.
I took the #33 bus at 7.15 AM at the corner of Venice and Vineyard, opposite World on Wheels and Midtown Lane, and was swiftly taken through a nice tour of downtown all the way to Union Station. I saw some nice architecture on the way, so hey, Mike over at Franklin Avenue! You could do Venice next year? I'd even settle for Washington. I could maybe even cheat a join the walk halfway through...

The abandoned old restaurant at Union Station

Being totally out of shape I knew I wouldn't make it till the end, so my more modest goal was to end somewhere between La Brea an Fairfax and then take a couple buses back home.
It was loads of fun! I love walking or taking the bus in Los Angeles and see the architecture, the people, street life and I got to meet some friendly people.
Many of the Saturday walkers work in the entertainment industry, so it was nice to be outside of the art world for a little while. Among the crowd were some serious hikers, all clad in professional gear, some totally out of shape people like me, some marathoners who in fact carried very little, and even a guy who wore PJs bottoms to the walk. I met "Walter" who had walked down Western all the way to San Pedro (it took him 2 days!) and Eric Lynxwiler who wrote a book about Whilshire, which I'm gonna devour the minute Amazon drops it on my doorstep. It was very well organized, we were all given some maps with every mile clearly marked with some indication of the landmark next to it, but it also felt very free and loose, not as if we had been marshaled into a competition or a tourist venture. I liked the vibe!

Union Station Waiting Room

It was fun to see what pictures people were taking, some were interested only in street signs and graffiti, some others like your truly in architecture, there were some serious foodies who sampled goodies all the way to the sea. All in all it was clean good fun, and I must say we made pretty good time. I started inadvertently at the head of the pack (they ended up at the Britannia pub in Santa Monica 2 hours before everybody, I gather), and then slowly regressed to the middle, until I reached La Brea and the Target store for a pit stop that proved my demise: I was totally unable to move after that. I stopped somewhere for an immemorable lunch, took a couple of buses back home, where I discovered a ping-pong sized blister on the sole of my left foot. Which explained a lot. I felt a bit sorry I didn't manage to go any further and missed the fun of sharing lunch and later dinner with the others, but clearly I was unfit. I went to bed at 6 PM that evening, got up at 6 AM on Sunday and was so sore I couldn't move whatsoever (hence explaining my absence from the MOCA meeting at the Geffen).

Union Station Front Entrance

The WPA Bridge over Venice Boulevard, from the #33 bus stop on Venice and Vineyard

So I'm totally ready to do it again next year, but I will train beforehand, and buy adequate hiking/running gear (and that include SOCKS) of the professional kind, not the cheapo stuff my unemployed self got at Target. Meanwhile, you can admire pictures of the walk on the flickr pool
My only regret is, aside from not making it to the Ocean, I was too shy to take pictures of people. Somewhere between Vermont and Western (I think), I saw a beautiful Filipino barber shop that looked out of the 1930s, and later on in Little Armenia a game parlor where retirees were busy socializing. Both were beautiful and I hope someone smarter than me took pictures of them.
If you want to join next year, remember this will be on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. I recommend a bit of training before, and good footwear!

(more pics to come)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

MOCA Crisis Reminder: 3 PM Meeting At the Geffen

For all of you who wish to show support for MOCA in this time of crisis, you're invited to show up at 3 PM at the Geffen. Please kindly pay the full admission fee, even if you are a member or ar otherwise entitled to free admittance as a professional.
The meeting organizers, artists Cindy Bernard and Diana Thater, would like to remind everybody this isn't a town hall meeting nor a Q&A to address grievances, neither are you asked to air proposals about the museum's future. It is a rally of support for the museum, so please don't make the meeting morph into a shouting match of confusing ideas, and follow the agenda set by the organizers.
Please note the agenda of the meeting below.
Lastly, FBC! is sorry she cannot attend, but I can hardly move today as a consequence of the Great LA Walk (it was awesome!), so it's physically impossible for me to be there. But I'll welcome anybody who want to report.
Thanks, and go support MOCA!


1. Welcome / Cindy Bernard and Diana Thater
2. Remarks / George Baker
3. A reading of an artist statement of support / Cindy Bernard and Diana Thater
4. Remarks / Representative from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs
5. Remarks / Richard Jackson
6. Comments from attendees
7. Walk through of “Index: Conceptualism in California from the Permanent Collection” / George Baker

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thanks, Updates And Corrections

FBC! is a bit frazzled right now, and grieving and really sad, and the result is I cannot remember everything or keep up with the current MOCA drama. So this post is here first of all to thank everybody who has sent me messages, some of them very touching. I've been stunned and moved to get supportive and sweet emails from total strangers as well as from all friends. It's been very helpful, so my heartfelt gratitude goes to all of you. Thank you so much.

Secondly, I received the invite way too late to post it on YSL, so here's the update: there's an opening at the Glendale College Gallery this Saturday. It's called Endless Summer and is curated by Alex Israel, in conjunction with the California Biennial. If you go, please say hi to Alex for me, and to the Gallery Director Roger Dickes as well.

Now, the corrections: I was saying on the precedent post regarding MOCA that I doubted Eli Broad would play Santa Claus, and I was wrong. He's ready to step in, as long as other people do it as well. If you read the (short) editorial he wrote for the LAT, it's pretty good (I'm happy he mentions the WACK! exhibition among the groundbreaking ones organized at MOCA). I like the bit where he says "This is not a one-philanthropist town". In effect, so far it is, but it stands to reason Broad should be weary of always been called to the rescue, and it's not normal that on a city where so many wealthy people live, so few of them contribute to the arts. Where are the movie stars who show up at MOCA's openings when it's time to take out their wallets?
In any case, please still show up at Sunday's meeting at the Geffen (3 PM) if you can. FBC! absolutely cannot make it, but I'd be happy to post or re-post accounts of the meeting. In passing, I'll be away from the computer for the next 48 hours, so it's better you either join the Facebook group mentioned in the preceding post, or check For Your Art (sign up for their email newsletter). Both are updated frequently.
Meanwhile, goodbye, let's reconnect after Thanksgiving. Thank you all.

The picture of the Roni Horn had been taken at MoMA, not at MOCA. Sorry.

Don't Ask What MOCA Can Do For You, Ask What YOU Can Do for MOCA

If you care about MOCA's fate - and you should - you can either join the Facebook group, or better yet go on Sunday afternoon to the talk at 3 PM at the Geffen. George Baker was originally scheduled to do a Q&A about conceptualism and has graciously accepted to donate his time to organize a discussion/discuss organization of what can be done. FBC! won't be able to go, but encourages you to do so and report.
Everyone seems to want for Santa Claus to step in and bailout the museum to avoid a merger with LACMA, which would be great if Santa existed (do you think Eli Broad looks like Santa? Er, no. David Geffen? Even less. The Resnicks maybe?). I hope that whoever would bail out the Museum will ask for fiscal responsibility and better management. And shake the Board of Trustees, and find another director, possibly. Meanwhile, let's do a Barack Obama-style grassroot campaign and ask for someone at the museum to post an account # where people could donate money. Maybe artists could donate artworks to do a live auction. Maybe Los Angeles art dealers could contribute to that general fund. Brady Westwater over at LA Cowboy wants the Getty to step in (why not?) and build a photography museum downtown in conjunction with MOCA (won't happen, methinks). Any ideas are welcome at this point, I guess. Anyway, whatever is done, let's support MOCA!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Your Social Life While MOCA Still Exists

So as I said yesterday the MOCA drama is taking front page and continuing. Christopher Knight In Shining Armour is reporting on it, and Tyler Green over at MAN is imagining all sorts of solutions. It's interesting to think about a concerted Getty-LACMA-Broad bailout, but I'm not sure that:
a) it's legally possible for the Getty to fork over some money for that purpose (it may well be, but I don't know anything about it),
b) LACMA sure doesn't have the money for acquiring the collection at its current value, and if it did it would be at such a discount you'd want to weep over the waste that happened
c) Eli Broad? really? it would be a great opportunity for him to actually act as the philanthropist he thinks he is, but hhhhmmm, somehow I don't see it happening, at least not in a way that would satisfy all parties involved.

The idea of MOCA ceding its collection for cash to bail itself out and become an exhibition-only space is lugubrious. If only because, when you want to stage large-scale exhibitions of international renown, you need your collection as currency to obtain loans. I'm sure if LACMA was to get into a shared-collection scheme with MOCA to bail them out, they would oblige in lending out (as collateral, so to speak), but what if it conflicts with their own loan exchanges? Unpractical at best.

In any case, if I were you I'd run over to MOCA this weekend to go see the Kippenberger retrospective, or the Louise Bourgeois one if you're inclined that way (being French, I've seen at least 3 Bourgeois retrospective sin my lifetime, so I'll give it a pass). I sure hope the museum's Dan Graham retrospective (initially scheduled to open at the Geffen, now at Grand Avenue) will still be held in February.
Whatever the fate that awaits MOCA, when everything will be said and done, someone should look at why and how the practice at dipping in the endowment while expanding staff and exploding budget had been allowed, and by whom. It's nice to blame the trustees, but the blame should be shouldered by the museum's administration as well.

Aside from giving MOCA a cautionary glance this weekend, there are lots of other options. First of all tomorrow evening is Groupshow Without Andre Butzer, an artist-curated exhibition filled with FBC! pals. 1711 N Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (enter at back on Baker Street). It starts at 8 PM and is a 2-day affair which I'll be unable to attend as I've got other obligations.
At exactly the same time tomorrow, if you're in Eagle Rock you can go attend LA Lit: Clouds at the beautiful Eagle Rock Center for The Arts. It's a two-day conference on everything literary and experimental in Los Angeles, and includes some performances by the likes of Teresa Carmody.
Saturday evening at Otis is the closing reception for When It's A Photograph, from 6 to 8 PM, with the likes of Marnie Weber (hi Marnie!), Paul Sietsema, James Welling, Doug Aitken, etc.
And Sunday evening, what are you guys doing? Phone banking for MOCA? Yup, that would be nice, but I have a feeling instead you're going to attend the opening of Sundays Gallery, with Michael Rashkow, Eli Langer and Rowan Wood.
Life goes on on Tuesday when, if in Van Nuys, you can attend Doug Harvey's Mouldy Slide Show from 8 to 9PM at Los Angeles Valley College. Click on the link for the exact info.
If you happen to be in London next week instead of celebrating Thanksgiving, I conjure you to go attend the opening of Sphinxx curated by FBC! special pal Alexis Vaillant, at Stuart Shave's Modern Art gallery.

FBC! will attend none of these. Not only because I'm still grieving, but also because I've signed up for this and I'm pretty sure I won't be in any sort of shape to attend and socialize at any art thing this weekend.
Lastly, there won't be any YSL next week, and I'm not sure I'll post anything anyway, but I'll be back for certain on the first week of December.

Pics: Doug Harvey's Mouldy Slide stolen from his blog.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

MOCA Is In Trouble And So Are We

I was not going to post anything today, as I'm still very sad and clearly, I don't care that much about what's going on in the world right now. But I've been reading the news, to try to think about something else, and bam! of course stuff happens in the art world every day.
Like all of you, I had a look at the NYT this morning and frankly, whether Eli Broad wants to litter the Los Angeles cityscape with yet another museum bearing his name is the least of my preoccupations today. Seriously, why the NYT bothers that much about Eli Broad, I wonder? Does the LAT routinely covers the coming and goings of the art-inclined billionaires back East? OK, they don't have any journalists anymore left at the LAT now, so I guess they have to resort to putting up useless blogs about doggie bling and whatnots on their website, but still, I've yet to see a series of articles stalking every art decision made by, say, Steve Cohen. Or, let's be bold, Francois Pinault in Europe.

Instead, the LAT finally, now, today, writes about the open secret everybody has known about in this town for the last several years: MOCA, like Detroit's Big Three, is now running out of cash. It's been operating in the negative for a while, and everybody knows that the museum has had a fundraising problem for a long, long time. There was a bit of a boring article this morning, and now Christopher Knight, our local Crusader For The Arts comes with a column admonishing MOCA's Trustees to get their checkbooks out. Which is nice, and I'm sure everybody is connecting the dots about Broad wanting to create yet another modern/contemporary art space in Los Angeles, as if the cultural landscape needed it. You know: MOCA, LACMA, the Hammer, SMMOA, oh cool, let's create another museum, we don't have enough to see around here.

Now like all art people in LA I'd be devastated if MOCA had to close its doors and go bankrupt. Unlike GM, MOCA cannot go to Congress to ask for a bailout, so it has to find different solutions. I understand the call for more money right now, urgently, and if I were to win the Mega-Millions tomorrow I'd gladly give some. I agree with Knight, the Trustees do have to step up to the plate and save the museum, ands its collections. It would be a shame for the collection to be sold off and dispersed, or merged with another institution that's already out of space. Clearly Los Angeles needs MOCA to stay on, if only to promote itself as a cultural haven for the tourist industry (it's killing me, how the city fails to promote the art and architecture here).

But if I were a Trustee I'd ask for a bit of fiscal responsibility as well. Does MOCA need an outpost at the Pacific Design Center? Can MOCA shave off some of its expenses? Now, having worked in countless big institutions myself, some of which had to go through budget freezes, hiring freezes, salary freezes and salary cuts, I understand how horrible it is for the personnel in place, and how it breeds poor employee morale.
But for the sake of the institution and the sake of the art it is duty-bound to preserve, these are necessary fiscal steps to take. Postponing some big shows, reducing some of the staff, extending the run of some exhibitions, freezing acquisitions, trimming off publications expenses and marketing executives salaries sounds like things that should be done.
Then as a putative Trustee I'd take a hard look at my board, and at my Director, and I would ask the Chairman and the Board to maybe, maybe go look and expand the board with more moneyed and more willing members. I'd ask for recruiting a kick-ass development team with outstanding fundraising abilities and a verifiable track record in the visual arts. Maybe I'd want to second the current director, who everyone likes as the true art person he is, with a charismatic President -cum-money person.

And if, through collective checkbook-opening, belt-tightening operations I'd manage to see MOCA collectively saved, I would try to give it back its shine and prestige by trying to redefine its position in a city that now hosts so many contemporary art spaces. No doubt half of the galleries in LA will close in the next couple of years, and that the art that will emerge from the area's art schoola will be a whole lots smarter, more interesting, more challenging than whatever the market has favored as "Los Angeles Art" for the last 5 or 6 years.
If LACMA is for families, the Hammer for cutting-edge artists, and SMMOA for the most innovative alternative shows (seriously, I love what they do, it's the smartest exhibition program around with OCMA) then maybe MOCA should stayon as the Blue Chip haven its collection determines it to be.
Blue Chip doesn't mean they have to go all Ab-Ex and Pop Art on us, as there's lots of wiggle room for conceptual art, European artists and whatever irreverent contemporary art as long as it's semi-historical. By which I mean, you know how American museums need the Europeans to validate, say, Smithson, Matta-Clark or Thek 15 years before curators dare show them here? Well, screw the 15 years validation period, and bring the European-made retrospectives here as well. MOCA could even pioneer the European model of co-curating between institutions, instead of circulating "take" shows that are ready-made elsewhere. Heck, they could even pay independent curators to organize shows. How do you think European institutions save on staff expenses? Of course it breeds a shitload of dubiously qualified freelance curators on the market, but on the other hand it brings on more diversity in the exhibition programs.

Lastly, I think it would behoove the region at large to have some kind of conference between the County, cities and cultural institutions, about the kind of cultural landscape it needs and can support. If you go to Paris, you have a gazillion institutions that opened over the last 30 years, all competing with each others because at some point, the need has been felt to open a new space to counteract the perceived conservatism of the reigning champion: the Musee D'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris saw the Pompidou Center which saw the Jeu de Paume which saw the Palais de Tokyo which saw Le Plateau open (and for the private side, the Cartier Foundation and La Maison Rouge).
Why the creation of so many art spaces? Because there's not enough turnover in institutions where curators and the rest of the personnel routinely stay in place for 15, 20 years.
You cannot eternally divert or contain resentment of the younger, more alternative, different art lovers who don't find a space in the institution which, to maintain itself and its financial base, has to morph into blue chip flagship sooner or later. Museums, whatever their sources of funding, have to attract enough of a broad audience to legitimate their existence (or they're dubbed elitist) while remaining trendy enough, intellectual enough, scholarly enough, or they risk becoming yet another annex of the Universal City Walk.
So the solution in Paris as in Los Angeles, has been to open new spaces as time went by and arts crowds became more demanding, instead of reforming the institutions from the inside.
The result is a bevy of spaces competing with each other for the same financial pie. It's cool for museum goers to have a large choice of options on the weekend, but maybe it would befit everybody to have a clearer definition of what museum does what, and hire the curators the more apt to accordingly develop the specificities needed at any given museum. A good museum director should be able to pick up curators who not only have the right qualifications and pedigree, but also the ones whose taste doesn't necessarily match the rest of the curatorial team's.
Taste, oopsie, I dropped the T-Bomb. You know, that thing you're not supposed to talk about at acquisition meetings. It's as dirty in the museum world as Janet Jackson's nipples on TV, and as prominently displayed under some transparent disguises (history, scholarship, bras).

It's very simple, really, this taste problem, and by saying so I'm reflecting conversations I had with non-contemporary art visitors, and people who are not your run-of-the-mill-artsy-fartsy-mindfucks. It's a bit boring when you travel and you see the same art everywhere in every museum you visit. Does every museum has to be like Marfa? Does every single space has to look like the Broad? Should every Modern collection reflect MoMA's pioneering spirit?
You know, its like when you go to Germany and every museum has a big Beuys installation, a series of large Warhols from the 1960s, some Gerhard Mertz, a Bruce Nauman here, a few Richter there, let's add a Paik somewhere and a bit of the Becher elsewhere. Granted, these can all be awesome, but after 5 museums you long for a tiny little unknown drawing, something you've never seen anywhere.
Now if museums were to recruit curators with a lot different tastes and a bit more curiosity, and let them experiment a little, maybe they would attract and develop a larger audience and a better fan base. It would justify all the public and private money that's sunk into them for the future generations to know what art looked like in the early 21st century, in all its diversity. It's all very well to blame modernism on Clement Greenberg, but it's a bit silly. It wouldn't have hurt MoMA's curators to travel a bit and look elsewhere.

Likewise, curators could start to think in terms of what they can bring to the city, to the institutions, and to the artists, rather than think in terms of what's best for their career. They could be a whole lot more intelligent in terms of not appropriating ideas from their colleagues and underlings if they knew they could develop their own without risking to spend the next 5 years uniquely relegated at menial tasks (deaccession anyone?). Hell, they could even give proper credit to people who work with them! In any case, if curators were more aware of their own taste and not trying to hide it behind critical theory and whatever scholarly material they've been stuffed with at colleges, they could be less insecure in letting others develop different ideas and show work that they don't like themselves, but that attracts a new audience capable of supporting the museums in times of crisis.

Will we see the artists, art students, writers, collectors, art dealers and curators of Los Angeles rally to support MoCA? I'm not sure about it, but if they do, and if the museum is saved from bankruptcy, I hope they will ask for a serious rethinking of the contemporary art landscape in the region.

Picture lifted from this site.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I've Lost My Grandfather Today

My beloved grandfather who, along with my grandmother, raised me, as departed this planet this morning. I miss him horribly.
He was radiating kindness to the point that pets were congregating around him wherever he would go visit. My Grandpa was the nicest person ever, someone who not only wasn't bigoted or racist, but who couldn't comprehend why and how other people could be so mean and nasty. I've never seen my Grandpa do anything stupid, ever, nor be angry or aggressive toward anybody or anything. He loved children and spent hours building tree houses and doll houses for us, insisting the Playmobil mansion he built for us out of an old cheese-ripening box would have electricity, for the little creatures to be able to switch on the light if they wanted. He was very poor but set aside a small portion of his paycheck every month to buy us a little bit of candy he would meticulously prepare in tiny, individual packets with our name on it. He was the most affectionate man, and was always beaming each time we would come visit, even if in later years he more often than not failed to recognize who exactly we were. It's true the Frenchybutchic family is very, very large, and he had many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, so it's not surprising he had trouble with our names, but he knew we were people he loved. He was very sweet to the nursing staff at the hospital, complimenting the women on their nice figures. The very last words he told me, back in June, were "we are so happy when we're all together".

Because he had lost his father early, he had to leave school at the age of 13 to train and be a mechanic, instead of setting up to be the potter he always wanted to be.
He worked in construction for 47 years, climbing in and out of vertiginous cranes in foul weather, driving and repairing bulldozers and other construction engines. If he had been able to attend high school and college he probably would have become an engineer. Instead he worked as much overtime as he could in the worst conditions ever to make sure he could feed his family, and never complained, ever. About anything.
He build and refurbished a lot of the furniture, build a fireplace in the tiny house he was finally able to acquire in his late forties, he laid down bathroom tiles, painted walls and installed wallpaper. He could fix appliances, big or small, and the plumbing. I've always felt like a complete dork because of my lack of manual skills, compared to everything he knew how to do. He taught me arc welding when I was 14, something I mightily enjoyed if only because we would cut the power in the entire neighborhood each time we set to do this (yes, Madame Gain, Madame Maeck, it was us. Sorry!), but aside from that I'm unable to drive a nail on a wall.
My grandpa was also the only person in my family who always encouraged me to do what I'm doing (that is, to be a parasitic artsy-fartsy instead of doing anything useful to society). He had suffered too much from not being able to be the creative person he was. After retirement he finally enjoyed to do the things he liked, and started to make some wood carvings.
We went to visit a museum together twice: once when I was a child to see a show of Japanese woodblock print at the local museum. He felt the occasion was solemn enough for him to wear a suit and a tie, and a hat. I also took him to the Brancusi retrospective at the Pompidou (in 1995 or 1996?), at which we had great fun. It was beautiful to see his sculptor and builder take on the work, instead of the boring respectful attitude most museum visitors felts obliged to adopt.
My Grandpa was also a devoted gardener who delighted in giving us children all the fraises des bois from the garden, and who religiously maintained the sorrel patch that fed us on so many evenings. If I feel like it I'll give you a recipe in his memory.
He loved flowers, jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, playing Scrabble, and despite leaving school so early had an impeccable sense of grammar and spelling. He read the local newspaper everyday from front to back. He also had a slight eccentric streak which tended to manifest itself in a very lousy but always sweet sense of humor, feigning to appear surprised, when stuck in traffic, at everybody else going to the same spot as he was. On other occasions when he would miss a turn and get lost, he never panicked and always pretended to be happy to serendipitously get an opportunity to "admire the landscape".
At some point after he got to retire, he decided to dig a basement-cum-wine-cellar-um-mushroom-bed under the garage floor, which he did. It was great fun to hear him pretend he would dig as far as the William the Conqueror castle's moat a few miles away. He laid bottles of our homemade hard cider in it, a bit of wine, and I'm not sure if he hasn't grown fungi in it, after all. He was the king of the hilariously bad pun, and the most affectionate man. In his entire life, my grandfather hasn't hurt a fly, and I don't think there are that many people about whom the same can be said. I love him. and I feel like dirt I cannot go to his funeral.
So FBC! readers, sorry if I'm not around much, and for my friends: please do not call me or show up at my door unannounced. Thank you.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Your Social Life - Post Migraine Edition

My dear, beloved readership, you have noticed how often I mention my migraines on FBC!
It's because for the past 7 weeks, I've been having migraines one day out of two. You add some post car-accident back pain to the mix, and you can understand why my posts have this grouchy, cranky tone (unless you've never been in constant pain, in which case I don't hold it against you, but I admonish you to be nicer to people around you who suffer physical ailments). Yesterday was one of those days, so after I was done with reviewing Oranges and Sardines, I couldn't look at the laptop screen anymore, nor read or watch anything, hence the lateness of today's YSL.

Anyway, there are basically two art-related things you gonna do this weekend, and the first one is starting tonight: at the Velaslavasay Panorama, you're going to a vaudeville night where artist extraordinaire Scoli Acosta is performing, along with John Fleck, Todd Gray, Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn, and Michael Sakamoto. The program is an offshot of the CCF, and everything is written on the jpeg above. If you like the Museum of Jurassic Technology, you're going to adore the Velaslavasay Panorama, which, in addition to being a mouthful (try saying it very fast: velaslavasay, velaslavasay, velaslavasay! FBC! isn't liable for the mispronunciation, misspelling or other trouble incurred while trying to figure out what a velaslavasay is) is a very cool place to visit, in a beautiful old theater. It's in West Adams, not too far from where I live actually, in a neighborhood that makes your realize how beautiful Los Angeles is.

Even closer to my place, basically 12 minutes form FBC! central, Machine Project is going to take over LACMA tomorrow with "A Field Guide To LACMA", 10 hours of performances and animation non-stop in the venerable institution that's starting to be shaken, not stirred, under the guidance of Michael Govan. There's something called Lasagna Cat, which Pomme is protesting mightily since, as everyone knows, it's sardines cats are into, not lasagna, Garfield notwithstanding (I've put that sentence here uniquely because I like that word, "notwithstanding". Now you know). While you're at LACMA, go have a look at the exhibitions,
You can also read an interview of tomorrow's event organizers here (and plenty of other interesting entries).

If you don't fancy a LACMA takover, you can attend Maeghan Reid's Solo Debut at Chung King Project, or just dash there after a few hours of performances at LACMA. There's also a Sarah Thornton book signing at MOCA at the Pacific Design Center at 3 PM AND a conversation between MoCA curator Bennett Simpson and FOCA Fellowship recipients Martin Kersels, Dorit Cypis and Julio Cesar Morales at exactly the same time but at Grand Avenue (you guys ever heard of a scheduling conflict? Man, I hate to have to disclose it to you. How inconvenient)

Anyway, have fun at all events, and be kind to your neighbor.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Oranges And Sardines At The Hammer

Last Saturday FBC! went out with fellow reclusive pal Kurt (hi Kurt!) to the opening of Oranges and Sardines, the last (?) show curated at the Hammer by Gary Garrels, who has left us to go up North in San Francisco. Our loss is their gain.
Luckily Kurt was as animated as I was by the desire to see the show, and really not into schmoozing, so we arrived unfashionably early and left in the same fashion (sorry for anybody who wanted to socialize with us, we were probbaly gone by the time you arrived)
Thus proceeding we got to enjoy looking at the artworks, rather than taking in the scene. And pray tell me, when was the last time you did see a show with beautiful artworks, rather than mindlessly socialize with fellow art people?
The principle of the show was very simple, and like all simple idea was pure genius: ask 6 living artists, all abstract painters, some of them veterans who has seen it all, the others hip and trendy youngish ones, to pick up one or two of their own work, to confront with a selection of other artists who influenced or informed their own work. It’s a little bit like the exhibition that curates itself, except of course Garrels did make a selection of the initial roster, and had to do all the legwork: finding the pieces, getting the loans, installing the work and make everybody happy.

You could argue with his initial selection (as a curator myself, I probably would had chosen an entirely different group of people, but I’m not going to split hairs, OK?) and ask questions about the wisdom of putting together some classic modernist masters alongside some yet-unproven contemporary painters.
Would Mark Grotjahn’s hold a wall next to Mondrian? Next to Ad Reinhardt? FBC! won’t give an answer to that . Instead, FBC! reveled at looking at a bunch of great work you don’t get to see together that often.
The overall feeling after leaving the exhibition was of having witnessed a very blue chip moment, and a testimony to Garrels’ clout as a curator. He had barely stayed 2 years at the Hammer and he’s been able to obtain fabulous loans that would cost another curator 5 or 6 years to negotiate, from the beautiful little Mondrian to FBC!’s absolute favorite in the planet, the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Untitled, (Go-Go Dancing Platform), chosen by Wade Guyton.

After almost 15 years in the artworld, FBC! must confess that sometimes, she doesn’t give a hoot about exhibition concepts, highfalutin takes on deconstructed subjects and political stances about the harsh world we’re living in. Instead I enjoy using my eyes to watch, look at, gaze, gorge on artworks so beautiful and so moving it makes the viewer fall on one’s knees and cry. And artworks like these are aplenty in Oranges and Sardines. Incidentally the title, (taken not from, as you would have it, say a Picasso from the synthetic Cubist period, but from a Frank O‘Hara poem) speaks volume about Garrels’ intent as a curator. Why I’m Not A Painter (the title of the O’Hara poem) could be taken literally as a statement of a curator’s profession: we’re here because we do not create, to help artists present their vision to the world, because we revel in the fragile moment of beauty we encounter through their work.

Anyway, it seems to me Garrels has wanted to offer everybody a good chunk of warm aesthetic pleasure, as well as making people think about the path artworks take to be created. There’s the art history we’re taught in books and at school, and there’s art history in the making, when what influenced an artist is not what the expected wisdom of Academia would like us to accept lock, stock and barrel (take that, Academia!).
Some artists in the show have made impeccable choices, the ones you would expect looking at their work, knowing where they’re coming from and the era when they started working. Christopher Wool’s for example are so conventional in that regard that the result of his selection is quite boring, except that the Dieter Roth pieces he selected strangely look like early Sigmar Polke. There’s a late Picasso that looks totally obvious compared to the Wool artwork, down to the gray palette, and a virtuoso Albert Oehlen that looks like all the Albert Oehlen on the planet. Oehlen is a great painter, and had he been fortunate to live in an imaginary time where no Martin Kippenberger had ever existed, he may have stood a better chance to be genius inventor, instead of being co-opted by the Blue Chipdom of auction houses. I find his work gorgeous, but not epoch-altering, if you catch my drift.
The rest of Wool’s selection is on the same level, good solid work but nothing that makes you weak at the knees.
Charline von Heyl’s room is the other one that is totally expected, and a bit of a failure in the sense that even though the work she does and the ones she selected differ from the rest of the exhibition by the organic “formless” bent they display, they look very weak compared to the rest of the show. I adore Paul Thek as much as the next person, but the one there is rather forgettable, ditto the Franz West and the Immendorff. But I’m glad she selected Carla Accardi.
As much as I didn’t care much for those two rooms, I’m nonetheless happy they existed if only because it shows, at least in my mind it does, that Garrels was respectful of the artists choices and didn’t try to impose his own vision on them. And on a personal level, I’m all for a bit of weak choices and failed artworks in exhibitions, if only to show to the public at large that artists all have their bad days, sometimes make bad artworks (even Leonardo had his fair share of ruined works, you know), and are no superheroes. I also like the fact that sometimes out of bad, failed artworks, another artist is going to find the one thing that will push him or her to create something entirely different that will turn gorgeous. It’s also the way art history is being made, by artists rehabilitating forgotten peers in their own work and making the dogmatic theoreticians re-think their convictions.

This could have been the perfect conclusion for the review, but being a contrarian Frenchy I cannot end this without mentioning what made me enjoy the show so much. The very first room of perfectly chosen works, the one selected by Grotjahn, was a perfect lesson in expected choices, down to the Cadere probably chosen as the one odd sculpture, but which, with the conceptual lineage and mathematical permutation of colors it display, makes perfect sense with the rigorous construction of Grotjahn’s painting, and obviously with the Mondrian as well. There’s everything from Sherrie Levine to John McLaughlin, the weakest works being the Paul Klee and the Clyfford Still, and as far as weak works go those were pretty good. I would kill, metaphorically speaking, for the Ad Reihnardt.
The exhibition would have been a success already with only those works, but this happy viewer was lead to the Wade Guyton-curated pieces right after, the one with the poignant and aforementioned Gonzalez-Torres. I do not know whether the go-go dancer is scheduled to show up, I sincerely do hope so.
I loved Guyton’s choices because they were not the most obvious, at least for me. I would have expected, say, Cady Noland (she’s not there), but not the giant Robert Morris vagina felt sculpture (House of the Vetti II, 1983), nor France’s very own Martin BarrĂ© (with Cadere, it’s 2 French artists in the same exhibition) whom I hope curators in this country are going to look at more closely.

With Amy Sillman you then would get to see a much, much better Guston than the one selected by Christopher Wool, a very touching Eva Hesse and a really gorgeous Chamberlain. There were some other interesting picks, such as Juan Mele, a minor artist but whose work makes sense when viewed as the same time as Sillman, and a Howard Hogkins so atrocious it actually becomes good (you have to see it in person to understand what I mean) and that made me wonder what Richard Jackson would think about it.

The very last selection was the one made by my favorite abstract painter, Mary Heilmann, the most eclectic choices of the exhibition. It included Joseph Beuys Felt Suit as well as an early Bruce Nauman (with whom Heilmann shared the same apparent, deceptive simplicity), a David Hockney (makes sense for his use of color) and a very good Francis Bacon, an artist you’d better see in single appearances rather than endure a whole retrospective of. I’m still pondering the Heilmann choices, which are emblematic of the exhibition at large.
Playful, engaging, sometimes puzzling, at other times totally obvious, opening paths of reflections about how art history (or art tout court) is made, exciting and curiosity-rousing, all very good reasons for you to go see the exhibition at the Hammer. You have until February 8, 2009 to do so.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Your Social Life Is Post Political: Bis Repetita Placent

I'm a bit disenfranchised from the current art discourse right now, as I'm busy writing, and freaked out about the job situation, and basking in the Obama election glow as well as bummed by Prop 8.
Consequently I tend to be a little bit absent-minded, and I forget things when I put up the regular YSL announcements. Such as the Nancy Popp-curated political video show at Sea and Space on Sunday, in conjunction with the Audacity of Desperation show. All the info is below. Nancy is a very good friend of mine, and I know she's bummed I cannot make it, so please give her a big hug for me, OK?

(And while I'm at it, I'd like to signal a rally in opposition of Prop. 8 tomorrow Saturday evening at the Sunset Junction in Silverlake (intersection of Sunset and Santa Monica, from 6 PM to 9 PM).)

Sunday November 9, 6-8pm

Violations and Obfuscations

A screening of video works curated by Nancy Popp that address the numerous political disasters, violations and obfuscations of the past eight years. Videos by Paul Chan, Hillary Mushkin, Nabawia El-Soudani, John Davis, Nancy Popp, Serena Wellen, Jessica Lawless, Von Edwards, Martha Rosler and Mark Boswell.

Sunday November 16, 2-5pm

"So now what?" or "HOLY F*%K! NOW WHAT?"

Whether it is Obama/Biden or McCain/Palin, immediately after the elections we're still in debt, looking for work, without universal health care, and occupying Iraq. Adam Overton and Nancy Popp facilitate conversation and activities that will lead to concrete actions to make change in our own communities.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Your Social Life - The Hangover Edition

If you live in California, you're probably doubly hangover'ed: you drank to celebrate Obama's victory, and you drank to drown your sorrows at the infamous Proposition 8 being passed. FBC! doesn't drink because of too many migraines (I've just read today it lowered my chances of getting breast cancer by 30%, cool, but for the time being it can be really annoying), but I'm bummed about Prop. 8. Which ought to be repelled ASAP, along with the Defense of Marriage Act (at Federal level).

[For all the straight people out there who don't see why gay and lesbian people should have the right to marry, here's the 1-minute FBC! lowdown: because no one should be denied the right to visit their loved ones at the hospital, no one should be deprived of living with their loved one if (s)he happens to have a different nationality (how many gay couples do I know who cannot live in the same country as their partner, a right straight people get when they marry), and because they should have the same rights as straight people where children are concerned, and their children should have exactly the same rights as children of straight people. Discrimination isn't pretty, based on whatever bogus religious or moral reasons people choose to explain away their crass, bigoted attitude. So California people, American people, my friends and neighbors, do whatever you can to reinstate the right to marry for gay and lesbian people. There are a few lawsuits being launched, and if they fail there's the possibility to put a new proposition on the ballot in 2010. Thanks for reading this]

If you don't know what to do to help repel Prop. 8, you can go to a few openings this weekend where, no doubt, you will run into some non-straight friends as well as straight ones in the know, and get organized. Which openings could you go to, my gay and lesbian-friendly brethren?
There's the one where you will see me for an exceptional FBC! outing, Oranges and Sardines at the Hammer, curated by SF-bound Gary Garrels. Basically he paired a few contemporary artists (painters) with other ones whose work influenced or informed theirs, and it looks really, really interesting, not only because there's FBC! fave Mary Heilmann, but because the roster of influencers is mouth-watering, from Yayoi Kusama, Andre Cadere, Ad Reinhardt and Eva Hesse to Bruce Nauman, Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Dieter Roth. And many mores! I have high hopes for this show, and I'd like to signal a 3PM talk on Sunday between Gary Garrels and some of the artists in the show. The show opens on Saturday, as well as an exhibition about the modern woodcut organized by the Grunwald Center in the same museum, curated by Allegra Pesenti who I do not know, but she curates really good prints and drawings shows.

Now the other event I would have gone to on Saturday, if it had been close by, is the Dave Muller Dance Party organized by Andrew Berardini at the Armory in Pasadena. It looks really, really cool but I don't have yet the magic faculty of ubiquity, unfortunately. Dave Muller is a fabulously good DJ, for those of you old enough to remember his Three Day Weekend events, and not only is the party free and open to the public, but there is free vodka as well! (drink responsibly and don't drive if you're tipsy). The party starts at 8 PM and will last until midnight, so it's conceivable to go from the Hammer to there, if you live on the East Side (unlike me). The Armory is located on 145 North Raymond, in Pasadena.

Aside from openings, if you happen to be in San Diego tomorrow night, FBC! gal pal Susan Silton is doing a performance at the MCASD (downtown, the Jacobs building) at 7 PM, tickets are $5-$7.

The pictures were totally "borrowed" from the Hammer and the Armory websites, please don't sue me!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


And congratulations to Barack Obama and Joe Biden!
FBC! broke a long reclusion to go watch the results at the Mandrake in Culver City, and it was fun and exciting. My pics suck because I didn't want to use my flash and blind people, but suffice to say there was dancing, free pizza, great drinks and cool people.

Meanwhile, at this hour (10.30 PM in LA) it looks like that horrible, homophobic proposition 8 might pass. It's horrible. FBC! sends her love to all her gay and lesbian friends and wish them the best. I'm sorry Calif. voters let you down, and I really hope in the future some counter-proposition will come to make you as married as the rest of us, I mean the straight people who are married (I'm not, married, that is). I'm off to bed, I cannot find my words anymore.

And let's all rejoice America has elected Obama, I'm proud of you America.

(in passing, for people who are looking for good, affordable food in CC: I had a very good dinner at Trattoria Brunelli, right around the corner on Washington, West of La Cienega. It's mom & pop good Italian food)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Night Special

Since you don't seem to be interested in the Mariachis for Obama poll, I thought I could introduce you to a moment of levity smack right in the middle of Election day.
Make history, elect Obama and No on proposition 8!