Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Few Things To Look Forward To In 2012

Among the many things to look forward to in 2012, aside from the incredibly shrinking, dwindling numbers of posts on FBC!, and  the upcoming mega-meta-recession-depression-explosion-implosion-end-of the world-we're-so fucked-and-maybe-the-plague-if-we're-lucky [just kidding. I wrote this to see if someone here was following], here are a few coming to my mind:

- some reflections on the Pacific Standard Times manifestations.  To whet your appetite, I'm globally positive about the whole shebang, but I haven't seen enough of the shows yet. Only concerns for me so far are: 1) quantity ain't quality  and 2) let's not rewrite too extensively art history as it didn't happen. I'm all for rediscovering some art/people, but there's a thin line between art, historical documentation, and social justice.

- This will likely be my very last year living in Los Angeles, for a while at least. So expect some non art-related, non-music related posts about what is so great about the city.

- We love old legends at FBC! and you know what? Next year, John Cale, Leonard Cohen and Scott Walker will all have a new album out. I just cannot wait. I also hope they will tour and preferably all play in Los Angeles while I still live here and can attend their shows.

- Speaking of touring: I'm told there are chances The Monochrome Set might tour the US next year, with dates in Los Angeles and New York. It depends on them getting their visas, which I hear are increasingly difficult and expensive for foreign musicians to get.  It's a shame because we're being deprived of great music, and it's not as if musicians were making much money outside of touring these days. I also hope that The Fall (whose new album Ersatz GB is out) could tour here, even though each time they did tour in the US some disaster ensued. Let's cross fingers that it won't be the case if they come play here in 2012.

- Second to almost last, but not least. The Beach Boys Smile box set (see picture above) is easily the greatest thing I've heard this year. It is otherworldly beautiful, such as that I cried when I first listened to it. If someone had told me one day I would be so moved by Pop Music I would have never believed it. If you used to think Pet Sounds was the best thing ever made, you won't believe how amazing Smile is. If you can't afford the box set, buy the double LP or the CDs now so you don't miss it in 2012. You won't regret it, and it would be a crying shame to miss it. You can buy it at Book Soup here in LA and I'm sure at most record stores, such as Amoeba (they did carry the John Cale Black Friday version of Extra Playful, worth calling them to see if they still have some copies).

- DID YOU HEAR THE SURVIVING BEACH BOYS WERE REUNITING NEXT YEAR WITH BRIAN WILSON??? They are. New album coming out (?) and new tour. This will likely be ruinous for us at the FBC! headquarters as I can foresee really expensive concert tickets (I'd think they would play the Hollywood Bowl, at least, if there's some logic left in this world), that plus all my favorite older musicians above, I can wave bye-bye to my savings.  This reunion could be really horrible or it could be truly great, but there's only one way to know, it's to see them play.

- And as a bonus, you know what's the truly greatest thing that will be happening in 2012? The Metallica- Lou Reed collaboration will be a thing of the past.

That's it for now, beloved and faithful readership. Have a great holiday season whatever the holiday you're celebrating, and a wonderful 2012. And, no matter what you do,  please don't hurt anybody.

Extra Playful - John Cale's Latest Effort Is Tons Of Fun

John Cale's EP Extra Playful has been out for a couple of months now, and in November the US has been graced with a Black Friday edition containing a couple of bonus tracks. Of course we had to procure one copy at the FBC! headquarters, with a bit of trepidation since I wasn't really fond of the new songs when I heard them live or on YouTube. Lesson learned, one shouldn't rely on live videos posted by concert attendees nor on one live iteration to judge music, but wait for the official recorded version to come out.

Extra Playful comes with 5 songs, Catastrofuk, Whaddya Mean By That, Hey Ray, Pile à l'Heure and Perfection, plus Bluetooth Swing and The Hanging if you managed to lay your hands on the Black Friday issue, which I STRONGLY recommend you do. With all 7 songs you almost get a full-length album, and one that augurs really well for Cale's upcoming 2012 LP.

The opening line of the fist song "it's catastrophic, how the money goes" will have a strong resonance for everybody but maybe the 1% . On the other hand,  "you can't take it when you go" is directly addressed to them, I guess - that is, if the 1% had musical taste. Judging by what they buy in art, I strongly doubt it's the case. It's a solid rocker that has lots of energy but lacks the subtlety and the elegance of Whaddya Mean, a very catchy song seemingly about love fights and subsequent sexual reconciliation. I really, but really disliked this last song when I heard it on stage, because I couldn't get over the opening lines "teach me how to love, teach me how to hate" which I found (and still find) incredibly weak.
But then all I had to do was wait for the chorus for the song to be stuck in my head for days on end. I find myself humming it to myself all the time now (but fear not, I only hum or sing when no one is around). You can watch the video clip below, but if I were you I'd just listen to the music without watching it because it's one of the most incredibly boring clips ever made, unlike Catastrofuk (scroll down to the bottom for the latter).  Catastrofuk  was directed by Cale's daughter and it's full of little visual inventions, lively and fun to watch. I hope in the future Cale will continue in this sympathetically nepotist trend and manage to get  his daughter to direct all his video clips. Whoever did the "Cale walking in a field with Instagram-like effects" below severely lacks imagination and should consider a career change in accounting or in the insurance business.

The next song on Extra Playful, Hey Ray, refers to the late Ray Johnson, an artist associated with Fluxus and credited with the invention of mail art. Aside from the postwar art reference that I would of course totally dig, it's a hell of a fun song, with back-up singers shouting out sentences variously related to the Cold War atmosphere "The Russians are coming" (to which Cale retorts "No they're not") or the British Invasion of the 60s (Cale: "not again!"), equating both menaces with the same level of bullshit. From what I've read on the Web it seems regular music critics who take themselves super seriously have trouble with this song, finding it "cringe-inducing" and labeling it "a lyrical misstep". To which I can only say: have you guys really listened to Loutallica? You want cringe-inducing, I give you Lady Gaga. Or Justin Bieber.

Apparently, if you're the unpredictable John Cale whose career has encompassed the musical avant-garde, the invention of alternative music, soundtrack composition, and pop jewels like Paris 1919 as well as the bleak masterpiece Music For A New Society, you're not allowed to have fun  even when you're almost 70, or else you're wont to disappoint  every normative, predictable music staff writer whose musical culture doesn't go back deeper than 5 years ago. Oh well, I guess one can't have everything.

The next song, Pile à l'Heure, was a bit disconcerting to me as it is sung in French,  with some electronic vocal effects that made the first couple of listen difficult to understand (someone told me it was via auto-tune. It's possible, I wouldn't know).
The title means "right on time" in colloquial French.  Cale had sung one super funny song in French before, Honi Soit on the eponymous album (hey, boring critics above, something tells me you never heard of this one. Or of Ski Patrol.), but unlike the perky Honi SoitPile à L'Heure is a rather melancholic if vigorous electronic ballad. Cale explained somewhere that this song came from a soundtrack he was composing for a movie about dressage. That's when the lyrics started making sense to me, with sentences about someone dancing on a saddle, etc. I heard it live in mid-October and really liked it better then, because the live drumming  and the vocals sounded much warmer than the beats on the record (speaking of, hi Michael!). The very last song on the regular version of the EP, Perfection, speaks about someone trying to be desperately perfect, an attitude that inevitably leads to failure. It's also very catchy in a subdued, plaintive way, with once again a very strong chorus. Cale may be 69 going on 70,  but vigorous and inventive are really apt adjectives to describe his music.

If you got the Black Friday edition there are two more songs on it, Bluetooth Swings for which I unfortunately have no use whatsoever as it is for me the one song that is generically a filler, as if Cale felt contractually obligated to deliver a bonus he doesn't really believed in because he might not have had enough time to work on it; and The Hanging. The Hanging, in my opinion, is the true  masterpiece of the EP, with some particularly chiseled lyrics  - which seem to mix a historical imagery of medieval battles, of the revolt of the oppressed, which could  been interpreted as Cale being bullied as a kid and fighting against it,  or as  the current mass movements of revolt in the Middle East and the West (or maybe I'm just imagining a ton of bullshit because I'm in pain and on meds right now. Who cares? I particularly enjoyed the "haemorrhaging history" part, and so should you).
There is a truly beautiful and magnificent trumpet throughout, which reminded me of the great trombone solo during Graham Greene when Cale played Royce Hall last year.
It's no accident that the two most beautiful songs (Whaddya Mean By That? and The Hanging) on Extra Playful seem to deal with personal history, or at least to be inspired by personal events elevated to something more general.  I can't get enough of The Hanging even though the chorus goes "enough's enough", and that trumpet, my God. When was the last time you heard someone being truly innovative with a trumpet in pop music or rock'n'roll? Anybody else is working with great horn sections, these days? Maybe Brian Wilson for the forthcoming Beach Boy record next year?

The EP would be well worth buying just for The Hanging and then Whaddya Mean? as they float well above all the otherwise very solid and catchy songs. If the upcoming album is in this vein, I can't wait for it to be out, and I also hope they'll put The Hanging on it for everybody to enjoy*.

* If anybody in the Cale entourage ever read this and could convince the man that doing some new versions/arrangements/orchestrations of Empty Bottles and The Biggest, Loudest, Hairiest Group Of All  on a record one day was a fantastic idea, you would do a great service to humanity. Or something like that.

A Is For Zebra - Charles White Elementary School

 Stripsody, cartoon onomatopeas sung by Cathy Berberian

This Fall in Los Angeles, there's the mammoth series of exhibitions organized under the aegis of the Getty for Pacific Standard Times (PST), and there are all the other shows loosely disarranged under the imaginary heading "life continues". A pretty remarkable one such show right now, A Is For Zebra, was organized by José-Luis Blondet for LACMA at  the Charles White Elementary School near McArthur Park.

 The exhibition is open to everybody but is really meant for the school children at CWE,  who were having a ball (and a great one at that!) during the opening. Where hot chocolate, cookies and ice cream sundaes were served, something LACMA should do at all their openings, I think (hint, hint).
How better to learn the joys of reading but to see how artists have been having fun with language and the alphabet, whether in videos, artist books, cartoon form, opera singing, experimental music, sculpture or installation?

Stephanie Taylor devised a charming story based on a character whose name is derived from 'Los Angeles", and which by sound association becomes some absurd anglophile narrative*. Her installation featured several objects associated with London, and a soundtrack that I unfortunately didn't manage to hear (they were many children having the fun of their life there!)

 One of the great things in the partnership of LAUSD & LACMA for the school is how works from the permanent collection are being brought to the school. Here's John Baldessari How To Teach A Plant The Alphabet. Proof that conceptual art doesn't have to be dreadfully dry, it can be fun and playful, too.

Because Charles White Elementary is located near McArthur Park, its students tend to be bilingual. A really fun thing in the show was that the didactics were printed in 2 colors, so to read them you had to wear a cool-looking pair of cardboard glasses with color-coded lenses, depending on whether you wanted to read them in English, Spanish, or both. Look how incredibly stylish these cute kids are wearing those glasses. It was really fun seeing kids alternating between 2 pairs of glasses to read both languages.

Stephanie Taylor in front of Mel Bochner's Language Is Not Transparent.
A Is For Zebra is a really fun show to take your children to if you have some, but even if you don't have any it's an interesting and intelligent exhibition to visit, with some incredible historical prints from LACMA's collection (Goya), in addition to the works shown above. And since the exhibition is meant for children to enjoy and have fun with, it's also not overwhelmingly dense. It's a nice alternative to the humongous PST shows if you wish to see some very good art but don't have the energy to tackle a gigantic museum historical exhibition.

*apologies for the picture being on its side. I have a new photo software that I don't master yet.

Mark Dutcher At Latned Astär

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure to see Mark Dutcher's very intelligent exhibition at Dental Rasta spelled backwards + umlaut (Latned Astär for those of you who, like me, would prefer if the place was really called Dental Rasta).  It's over now, so here are a few pictures for your viewing pleasure.

 Mark Dutcher likes his surfaces rough and doesn't care for the preciousness of framing or anything that makes painting too remote and untouchable for the viewer. Many of the paintings and drawings in the show were on cardboard,  in this instance stapled directly to the wall. You could see this as just a textural effect, or if you're me as a social commentary on where art is at its most alive, i.e. in artist-run spaces outside of the commercial arenas where 'social diary would want make you to believe things happen.

This is a frontal view of the first room. The large striped and layered piece in the back is made on cardboard packaging coming from Fine Art Stretcher Bars, on which are quite a few felt tip graffiti drawings and sentences made by artists Juan Capistran and Eamon Ore-Giron, so it's a collaborative piece, if you will, anchored in local Los Angeles art community practice. The layered humble material is here to counteract the outwardly minimalist aspect of the stripes, and the graffiti add a humorous take on Dutcher's careful meditation upon a modernist vocabulary that isn't so much quoted as simply dealt with a gritty series of painterly hand gestures.

Dutcher's work could at first glance seem deliberately abstract, but if you pay attention it rapidly emerges that he uses a lot of symbols, many of them with historical resonance such as the pink triangle the Nazis used to force homosexuals to wear,  and later on appropriated by Act-Up and the gay community during the heartbreaking years of the Aids epidemic.

While Dutcher was working on the paintings and drawings of his exhibition, he was listening to a lot of music, including Joy Division's Decades whose chorus "Where Have They Been?" served as a reminder of all the loved ones lost to the Aids epidemic.  Some of the lyrics are inscribed on the wax paintings like this one. I tried to take a close-up but it came out all blurry, so you have to trust me on that one.

This last painting gives you an idea about the way Dutcher is interested in creating surface and texture variation in his paintings. I particularly like this one because under the sophisticated, unified silver layer of glitter you see those crude symbols made I suppose with either cardboard of construction paper, and the contradiction of the two processes make the final object look like a very ancient, primitive archeological artifact or like an extraterrestrial, indecipherable object sent to us by an advanced life form.

Friday, November 18, 2011

We're Vaguely Baaaaaaaack

above, John Cale, Catastrofuk

Hello, beloved and cherished and thinning readership!

I hope you had a great time during FBC!'s latest hiatus. I've been asked yesterday what was going on with FBC! (Hi Jennifer!) to which I answered "nothing". Basically yours truly has been on a lot of deadlines over the last few months, then traveling a lot, then getting rather sick. The "meeting deadlines" and "traveling" were art-related, for some forthcoming publications, etc. but I in fact have seen very little art since the beginning of the Fall opening season in September. For one thing, I've missed all of the PST-related events here in Los Angeles, and I do intend to go see Under The Big Black Sun at MOCA, the shows at the Getty and LACMA, and also the Wallace Berman and Robert Heinecken shows before I travel again in late December. If I have the time I'll write some recension of the shows, but I am currently drowning in paperwork so we'll see.
I shouldn't even be writing this post, but I haven't written anything since mid-October and I'm starting to miss it. It's likely I won't resume any Your Social Life posts until early next year, if only because this blog is an unpaid labor of love and I'm starting to have trouble to keep up. I mean, I just have to turn my back 5 minutes and twenty new galleries pop up in LA (while a dozen other close or merge).

So,  I haven't seen much in Los Angeles recently except the opening yesterday at anotheryearinla, You Are Me which could be relabeled "Stephen Kaltenbach and friends". As you may know I am a HUGE fan of Kaltenbach's work, and the show last night was a mini-survey of sort of his early work, with other lovely works by, among others, Cathy Stone,  David Stone, Peter Coffin, Mark Rodriguez, etc.  I forgot to take my camera with me, so you'll have to trust me on that, but it is a lovely, lovely show of conceptual art that underscores the humor at play in Kaltenbach's work (and the others). Don't miss it!

Outside of LA the only art I've seen was at the Tate Modern where I had the luck to see the Gerhard Richter retrospective, as well as the very beautiful Tacita Dean film in the Hall of Turbines.
A Gerhard Richter retrospective looks like another Richter retrospective, that is a beautiful winner, but if you've seen a half dozen already like I've done, there won't be anything much new save for the white abstract paintings, which are as gorgeous as the gray ones. But, you know, he hasn't started making ugly, "Picasso-at-Vallauris-rediscovered-60-years-later"  vaguely figurative paintings, he's still the supra elegant Richter of old.
The Tacita Dean movie was very short, very beautiful, and also basking in nostalgia. Her struggle to find 16 mm film is well-documented, so I won't say much about that. The movie itself I thought was yearning for the golden age of experimental cinema, and even included the clichéed shot of a moving escalator. It was all about a descending movement (waterfalls, etc) and a little bit sad, with references to modernist images (I thought a bit about Rodchenko). What really struck me when I watched it was the very peaceful atmosphere inside the Hall of Turbines, and the very sweet,  smothered atmospheric quality of the acoustics therein. There's a certain softness to the way sounds don't reverberate much inside such an enormous  and crowded space, which made me think about how interesting it might be (or maybe too challenging?) for composers or musicians to stage something there. Maybe Tate Modern should commission some composers to do live events there? Have they done it already?

The other art I've seen was at the FIAC art fair in Paris, a fair I remembered as really provincial when I was living in France and which has come a long, long way since then. It is now very blue chip, with many NYC galleries (Metro Pictures, Paula Cooper, Chaim & Reid, etc), a few LA ones  like Marc Foxx, etc. I was delighted to see some Analia Sabans at my old friends Praz-Delavallade, and some beautiful Matthew Brannons at a Belgian gallery named after a Matta-Clark piece, Office Baroque. But, aside from this, it's just yet another art fair.

Outside of the art stuff, I also went to two concerts while I was away, and missed another one by The Monochrome Set, because the suburban venue that hosted it moved their gig back to midnight, knowing full well the last subway was at 1.15 AM, and yours truly had to get up at 5 AM to catch the Eurostar to London, so alas it was not meant to be. I'm very happy to hear that they will likely tour in NYC and LA next year, hopefully I won't be traveling when this happens.
The two concerts I went to were John Cale in my hometown, and Pat Fish at the 12 Bar Club in London. I was delighted that Cale played in my hometown, as you would imagine,  but after what happened there I'd be ready to bet he will never, ever play again in Caen.

The thing that first disappointed me was that the venue didn't advertize at all for the concert, no posters, no nothing, no more than one reminder on their Facebook page, not even on the morning of the concert. This, in a  (very provincial) city that boast  of an independent rock radio station (which didn't do much itself in terms of John Cale airplay before the concert, though I may be a bit unfair there because I didn't listen to much radio during the 4 days I was there). Cale played two sold-out dates in Paris in the following 2 weeks, and my hometown is only a 2 hours train ride from Paris, so a bit of advertisement wouldn't have hurt the venue.

Anyway,  in the afternoon before the concert I had the great pleasure of meeting Cale's drummer, the very talented Michael Jerome Moore, who's also a very cool guy in person. It was very gracious of him to spend an hour with me, when he could have had a nap instead, since Cale and his band had spent the night on their bus traveling to my hometown. It was also a bit surreal because Michael and I live in the same city, so it was strange meeting in the small town where I grew up. And where, in my youth,  could have never imagined Cale to play.

That evening, only 150 people had come to the concert. Before Cale and his band came onstage, the local contemporary art center had Guitar Drag projected in the adjoining room, a video by Christian Marclay that is far more superior, IMHO, to The Clock. I overheard a couple of dickheads saying "Oh, contemporary art is so lame, and it cost millions". Fuck you, dickheads, and shitty hometown, I know why I have left you forever.  You sure don't deserve John Cale.
Cale came on stage with his band, and despite the small audience proceeded to deliver an extraordinarily good gig, the second best of his I've seen (best one was Paris 1919 at Royce Hall last year) out of 4, with an incredibly varied set list that mixed old songs ("Big White Cloud", "Captain Hook") and the newest ones from his last EP, (available in the US on CD on Black Friday) as well as that charming and funny oddity, "Satellite Walk".
He seemed to have tons of fun on stage, told us he did, came back for an encore (Chorale, one hell of a beautiful song), and came back after the encore to inform us that while he was playing, someone had stolen his computer and phone from the dressing room. Apparently "someone" had forgotten to lock a back door, which, given the amount of security guards at the venue sounds like a load of bullshit to me, so my money's on a couple of assholes working at the venue taking advantage of their cushy, local-government-supported jobs to rob Cale blind and take off with his possessions (and his manager's). Of course the local police hasn't recovered anything, not a surprise given how they recruit their best and brightest in my home country (you don't need to even have finished middle school!).
I was so very sorry and still am that this is the way some goonies chose to welcome Cale in my hometown. May the Holy Mother of Belphégor punish them with anal cancer and much worse, and my most sincere apologies to Cale and his manager for what these people have done to them.

Later on, I missed The Monochrome Set in Paris, but was rewarded with the very lovely Pat Fish in London, who did a really good short solo gig,  playing some of his own songs,  some covers including one of Max Eider's, and played the song  I was listening to when my train was coming in St. Pancras that very morning, Shirley MacLaine. I owed the gentleman a beer, so I had the pleasure to meet him after his set. I was very shy, so apologies to Mr. Fish for my lame conversation, but really it was lovely to meet him. I recommend my wide and varied readership to hunt down some Jazz Butcher, Wilson and Pat Fish songs and better yet, buy his music and go see him play live whenever possible.

Lastly, this weekend in Los Angeles there are lots of openings, as usual, and I'll miss all of them because I'll be at the Great LA Walk trying to cover the almost 20 miles from downtown to the sea, as I do every year. If I weren't,  the one and only opening I'd attend tomorrow would be the Destroy All Monsters one, so if you go, please pass on my regards to Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw.
Have fun everybody, and thanks for following FBC!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I Survived Openingeddon In Culver City And All I Got Was This (Not) Lousy T-Shirt

Howdy readers!

I know it's been a while and this year has been spottier than usual in regard to FBC!'s posting  regularity. And it will keep on that way, as I've had a few more deadlines to meet, all of the writing kind, and a few more coming up, in addition to tons of travel.
 So, until early November at best there won't be too many "Your Social Life" postings even, also because we're very lucky in Los Angeles to finally have a series of shows (Pacific Standard Times) celebrating the dynamic visual arts output of our fair city, under the aegis of the Getty Center. You can learn all about it here for what's happening at the Getty itself and here for everything that happens elsewhere. I think there are about 800 exhibitions and events and the likelihood of anybody to see everything, save for the LAT art critics, is pretty low.  And the likelihood of my unpaid self to actually announcing them is even lower.

I only have one reservation about the whole enterprise, it's that the time frame chosen runs from 1945 to 1980, missing the crucial art historical period that comes after the rise of Cal Arts* as the premier international art school in the United States and marks the influence of its alumni on the international art scene, and therefore on international art history.
This being said, knowing that there are already hundreds of shows coming up, I cannot see how a 1980-2005 period would have made the  whole organization manageable, so I just hope that in about 5/7 years, there will be a "Pacific Standard Time II - 1980-2005" to show how Los Angeles saw how art production quality, as a whole, shifted from NYC to here (the market itself is still in NYC). Hint, hint.

One original thing about the Pacific Standard Times operation is that private, commercial galleries are associated with it  in addition to non-profits, and made an effort to show  artists active in LA during the time period considered. Last week marked the Fall openings extravaganza in Culver City, where  if you take aside the ridiculous starfucker events like  Kaws at Honor Fraser and Moby at Paul Kopeikin (and I have to say, Moby at least is a decent C+ artist whereas Kaws is an aberration who should stick to hip-hop or whatever else he does that makes him a D+ celebrity), some unusually strong shows were up, in no small part because of PST.
I wanted to take some pictures of the art, but there were too many people around, so I'm just going to report on the few things I managed to see.

- Shows I didn't manage to see: Richard Jackson at Kordansky, Matt Johnson at Blum & Poe, Joel Kyack at François Ghebaly. I need to go back to  see all of these.

- Show I wished I could like but was too folky for my taste: Betye Saar. The loveliest crowd was at Roberts & Tilton, I wished I could have stayed there forever.

- Shows I really liked but wish I could have seen  them without anybody in front of the art: John Outterbridge at LAXart, and the group show at the new Nye and Brown gallery.  I spotted a Chris Burden here, a Craig Kauffman there, a Peter Alexander elsewhere, and FBC!'s favorite LA artist Juan Capistran was in it, except his work was drowned by a live band playing in the gallery. Normally I love music, but that band within an already crowded group show was a bad idea in space management.

- Show I went to but didn't manage to see any artwork in, it was so crowded: at Cherry & Martin. I understand it is a reconstitution of a well-known 1970s (?) group show with maybe 17 out of the 19 (?) original artists, but there were so many people schmoozing around I didn't get to have a view of any artwork.

- Show whose  first 1/2 I liked but not the other 1/2: Eric Wesley at China Art Objects. In passing, CAO had the best Summer show in Culver City this year, with a lovely painting show that was almost blue chip, it was so strong.

- show by Charles Gaines I liked but wasn't his strongest to date, but I don't care because he's Charles Gaines: Charles Gaines at Vielmetter. Did I mention he's Charles Gaines? He's like John Cale in this regard, even his not-so-strong-for-Charles-Gaines-works are stronger than anybody else in general. If you don't like Charles Gaines' work, what can I say, except you should consider getting a brain and eyes transplant in the near future.

- the tightest, smartest, strongest show I've seen last weekend: Amir Zaki, John Divola and Judy Fiskin at Angles.  You should get yourself there, and if you have money, invest in any of those three artists. Also, if you love me, my birthday is in April and I could do nicely with a Judy Fiskin print, thank you.

- longest bathroom line ever at the Mandrake, with a steady stream of hot, surgically enhanced douchebaguettes™ waiting to either barf or do something else that morals reprove in the Ladies cubicle. The women who really needed to pee were lining up at the Gents bathroom, and I can confirm to you, incredulous readership, that the men's restroom at the Mandrake is totally gross. Maybe not always gross, but during Openingeddon it's, urgh.

- what makes me really angry at starfucker shows, aside from the fact that the art sucks: all the douchebags and douchebaguettes™ in Culver City last week were of the type that easily drops 5K on plastic surgery, $450 on shoes and $500 in designer jeans, and I'm not talking about what they drive (speaking of, it seems that Bentley is overtaking Porsche as the douchebag ride of choice this year). And yet they would never, ever buy a Judy Fiskin print that is 1/2 of their monthly plastic surgery budget, is beautiful, smart, and historical.
So this is why Los Angeles is not going to overtake NYC as the art market capital of the world anytime soon. Not because we don't have enough good artists (we have hundreds) nor good galleries (we have maybe a dozen good ones, an another dozen OK ones) but because here we don't have enough real, good collectors who take the time  to inform themselves and not buy into the hype. I don't care how pretty or hot or successful you are, if you can drop money on plastic surgery and/or a fancy ride, you can easily buy very good art by very good artists in very good galleries, instead of fueling the stupid celebrity culture that shows such as Kaws embody.

And that's all for last week.

Now this week is Openingeddon in Chinatown, where luckily there won't be any starfucker show so the douchebags and douchebaguettes quotient invading our local art galleries should be much lower.  Don't miss the show at Charlie James and there's also Alexis Smith at Tom Solomon.

Lastly, what about the lousy T-Shirt? Well, it's in fact a great-looking T-Shirt you can buy here. Mine arrived this morning and fits really well (it's slimming, actually, weirdly enough because it's made by American Apparel in a vertically blah-bah-blah in downtown LA), but it came with a small tear. So I'm going to pretend it's a homage to John Cale's influence on Punk rock and it's culture and wear it proudly, while waiting for his new 5-tracks EP to arrive through the mail soon.

(pic: from Domino Records website)

* Of course other art schools such as Otis, UCLA, Art Center College of Design, and more recently UCI and USC made Los Angeles the best city in the country to study art nowadays, but it's really Cal Arts in the late 1970s, early 1980s that made the rest of the world aware of this fact,

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Fall - Cab It Up

Howdy,  beloved readers!

I bet you were anxiously awaiting the next installment of our The Fall series, you know, to occupy agreeably the Summer? Like John Cale, it's hard to pick up a song as there are so many good ones (and let's be fair, a few duds, exactly like Cale). One of my favorite The Fall album is I Am Kurious Oranj, and I was hesitating between the quasi eponymous song, Kurious Oranj, and Cab It Up. Cab It Up won, if only because I believe I might have posted Kurious Oranj on the blog already maybe 2 years ago (?). I Am Kurious Oranj came out in 1988, about the same year as The Frenz Experiment, and is the result of a collaboration with avant-garde choreographer Michael Clark - another thing in common with John Cale who has written ballet music.
There's something hysterically energetic about Cab It Up,  uplifting even, so it's perfectly appropriate as a Sunday evening song to help you deal with tomorrow's bad case of the Mondays (you will just have to play the song again, duh).
Beloved readership, enjoy Mark E. Smith & band's genius, and Cab It Up!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Who Makes The Nazis? An Important Question Asked By The Fall

Howdy, beloved readership!

Yes. I know. I'm only here intermittently. What can I say? It's the Summer. The world is going batshit crazy (and that's the understatement of the week) and as you should have noticed by now, art isn't going to change it. If you seriously believe that art is going to change the world, I strongly suggest you go try and apply those world-changing art skills to abet the Tea Partiers of the universe, so to neutralize their noxious effects.*

Not that yours truly doesn't believe in the arts anymore, if you ask me, they are the only reason left for living.  So I'm going to try and swallow the art pill tonight to see a bunch of friends at the Beacon Arts Building and optimistically attend the opening of The Optimist Parking Lot.
And right after this, I'm going to something I was totally unaware of, Stan Ridgway and Michelle Shocked giving a free concert in Pershing Square, thanks to the generosity of the LA Parks & Recreation Department, and of taxpayers like you (and I). Yours truly is a big believer in the LA P&R Dept. that keeps our public swimming pools open(only $2 if you have a library card) and not only this, but if you contact them with a question, they get back to you within 24 hours. So I'm mightily pleased they have this series of free concerts in Pershing Square in the Summer, I only wish I had known about it sooner.

Who knows? Next year they may program Sparks or John Cale or the Melvins?
Meanwhile, I'm leaving you with the immense Mark E. Smith and the Fall, to ask yourself the question: who makes the nazis?

*If you understand what I meant by this sentence, you've just earned FBC!'s begrudging admiration.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Fall - Hit The North!

Let's continue our The Fall Summer series  with Hit The North! One of my favorite Fall songs, from 1987 (I think).
Not much more to say these days, I'm busy elsewhere AND the internet connection here at the FBC! Worldwide Headquarters keeps on breaking up.
So, enjoy your Summer and Hit The North!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Fall - Victoria and Leonard Cohen - Queen Victoria

Latest in our weekly summer music series, The Fall's cover of the Kinks classic, Victoria. The Kinks were certainly the greatest British band of the 1960s that ever was (not the Beatles, not the Rolling Stones, not the Who... tho I like all of them!) and it's pretty much foolproof for any band to cover them. The Fall's video is really fun, and their cover doesn't depart much from the original (below).

While I'm at it, and in a totally different register, here's another song about Queen Victoria, titled, strangely enough, Queen Victoria, by the great Leonard Cohen

It was  also covered by the no less great John Cale, but I can't find it on YouTube.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Happy Bastille Day - Le 14 Juillet

This being a French holiday and yours truly just about to have some champagne with a friend, FBC! won't give you suggestions about what to do or where to go on this Carmageddon weekend. Just wanted to let you know most Culver City galleries are having an opening while Regen Projects and Steve Turner are opening tonight. No linkage as I have no time for this today.

If you're stuck at home, I recommend you pre-order John Cale's next EP, out on August 8, and if you do I recommend you use Paypal rather than a regular credit card, it's a bit smoother that way. I'm glad Cale is now with Domino Records and I hope the LP will be out soon.

Check this space for a The Fall song soon, meanwhile, celebrate Bastille Day like the French do: get something nice to drink, some fromage, some saucisson, enjoy!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

It's Let's Lump Everything In A Post Day! The Fall, Your Social Life, And Rants.

Starting with our continuing tradition of posting monograph videos of 1 singer or  band every Summer, this week, Mark. E. Smith from The Fall shares his views about art*. His own views, not mine, but he's MARK E. SMITH for God's sake, so whatever he says is always wildly entertaining. Now, some LA concert promoter, please bring him and The Fall to play here soon, thanks.

Now, speaking of art, it has come to our attention (we are many people here at FBC!, I swear) that there was an Andy Warhol show opening at MOCA like, this week (the super short turnaround between de-installing and installing shows at MOCA nowadays is mind-boggling. I hope they still have preparators who know how to handle artworks according to standard museum procedures).
Obviously, the powers that be at our local museum haven't realized yet that there had already  been a Warhol retrospective at the same location in 2002. Now, yours truly and all my minions here at the FBC! headquarters deeply love Warhol's work, but we collectively feel that, er, there are a gazillion other artists who deserve a solo show at MOCA,  and that for example it might have been wiser to bring here the Mark Bradford retrospective. Or, not to cancel the Jack Goldstein one (kudos to OCMA for taking it on).
In any case, it's not very intelligent programming to show the same artist over and over at the same venue. Luckily they are also bringing in the Lynda Benglis show at the end of the month, but I'd love to see something original and intelligent originating from MOCA soon (as far as street art goes, the numerous FBC! staff feels it should stay there, otherwise, it's a sellout).

Fortunately there is still some cool art to be seen in Los Angeles, or in some cases to be heard, as with Musing and Some Rants (things I’ve wanted to talk about for 59 years) by David E. Stone, one of FBC!'s pal, at 323 Projects, which is a telephone gallery. You can attend the phone opening by calling (323) 843-4652 on Friday between 6 and 9 PM (how cool is that!) and then attend the exhibition 24/7 by calling the same number until August 5th. Still on Friday, and physically this time, you can go to the opening of  Super 8 The Exhibition at Christopher Grimes if you are on the Westside, from 7 to 9 PM. 
And on Friday and Saturday evening only you can go see a very rare play by Lincoln Tobier, "The Orchestra Pit Theory by Roger Ailes", at the MAK Center/Schindler House. I unfortunately can't attend and I'm pretty sad about it.

Saturday will be very busy as well, with the opening of a summer show of works on paper at ACME, a solo show at 1301 PE, and in Chinatown the event not to miss will be the opening of Taft Green  (Act Natural) and Scott Benzel (mal-dis-tri-bu-tion), two solo shows at Human Resources. Taft Green is a very old pal of FBC! and has been working on the pieces in the show for close to 3 years, and Scott Benzel has been involved a lot with making sound and music for Mike Kelley's pieces, so it's all in the family. Still in Chinatown, Jed Ochmanek has an opening at Young Art while Pepin Moore is celebrating its 1rst anniversary in the former space of China Art Objects with a performance by the collective OJO at 9 PM. You're kindly asked to bring a couple of paragraphs to read if you want to attend the performance.

That's pretty much it, and that's a lot of ground to cover for the weekend. And before I wish you a good one, let me launch another FBC! rant. 
We at the FBC! headquarters tend to use the Facebook "events" function quite a lot, and we've been lamenting the fact that 70% of the time, there's no website indicated for the event (and in the case of a commercial gallery, it looks rather unprofessional). Very often, the address of the exhibition or event isn't precised and in some cases, there's not even a mention of the city or the country where it's supposed to happen. I've been grumbling about it for a while, and one of my Facebook acquaintances has been also railing about it in regard to musicians/bands/concerts. 
Seriously folks, if you want people to come to your exhibitions, shows, plays, etc. make it a bit easier on your audience. It's nice to know where, when, how long, and in the cases of paying event, where and how to buy tickets. I'll swear you will have more attendance that way.

*special thanks to artist Julie Lequin for the Mark. E. Smith video.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Your Social Life In A Parking Lot

More precisely, if you go tonight to LAXart there will be the kickoff  of a year-long event curated by Warren Neidich and Elena Bajo, "Art In The Parking Space". Yours truly is going to another private art event tonight, or else I'd been there to see Anita Pace, Jonathan Monk and Pierre Bismuth performing.

Aside from this, I'm sure you are all aware it is 4th of July weekend and as such many galleries will be closed on Saturday, tho I hear Human Resources is having a party at Cottage Home on Saturday (3 to 7 PM), while tonight they are doing an additional screening of Jack Smith's Normal Love.

Next week, there will be a few more openings, while the week after seems confusing because of the incoming so-called "Carmageddon". I was blissfully unaware until 15 seconds ago that the term was referring to a "violent video-game" (idle question: are there some non violent video-games ?) before signifying the horror, the horror, the 3-day closure of Los Angeles' most hated freeway, the 405, between July 15-18.
It's going to make the life of Westsiders, Valleyites  and Orangists hellish, so I suggest to all of the people whining about it to buy a few books, some records, great food, and spend that weekend having a nice staycation, so the rest of us can enjoy our life on the surface streets of Los Angeles.
Anyhow, it is a bit confusing which galleries will stay open (I hear many of those in Culver City?) or closed (I think LA Louver, call them for info).

Meanwhile, as promised last week, here's the first installment of our musical monograph Summer series, which we  inaugurated last year with John Cale. Who, incidentally, has now an official website/tumblr so now there is a reliable way to be updated on his tours, upcoming releases, etc.
This Summer, it will be the year of The Fall, with their aptly titled L.A. to start the series. Here's to hopping they will come play here very soon!

Happy 4th, everybody!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Your Social Life, Bringing You Sparks! And Ann Magnuson and Guy Maddin!

Hello, hello, dear readers, it is a time of wonderment and joy in Los Angeles, as summer is finally upon us, for a long, long time that may stretch into fire season, and also because this Saturday, at 8.30 at the Ford, Sparks are having the world premiere of The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman, with no less than Guy Maddin giving stage directions to quite a few people, including veteran performance artist Ann Magnuson. And, yes, if you wondered, I was going to do a lame joke with Sparks/lighting up the stage/fire season soon upon us, but I'm too lazy for this. Or, more likely, it wasn't going to come out as a good joke. But I am totally fired up for the event, and in case there are some tickets left, they are only $18 so it would be a crime if you were to miss it.

In other visual arts-related news, longtime FBC! pal Peter Wu's exhibition at Galerie Anais is closing on June 30th, and there is an event on Saturday if I'm not mistaken.  And even if I am, go see the show!
Another show closing, one that has a "finissage" as they say is at Greene Park Gallery, tomorrow, for the exhibition Unfinished with the event "The Artist Is Not Present", organized by Warren Neidich. In case you wondered,  "finissage" is a bad French word (i.e. it doesn't really exist in French, we would say "la fin") that some European galleries started to use when having a closing event, in opposition to the French word for opening that does exist this time and that everybody uses in Europe, "vernissage" ("varnishing").  So this is a very laborious way to explain to you, readers who never studied French, that Greene Park Gallery is making a pun on the very title of its exhibition. And one on the Abramovic exhibition at MoMA last year.

Something that is opening this Saturday is the CalArts MFA show, at the Farley Building in Eagle Rock, where Mike Kelley and Michael Smith presented their joint exhibition last year. It's up only for 2 weeks, so if you can't attend the opening tomorrow, like me, make sure to go visit before July 10. A group show is also opening at Richard Telles, Six Pack.

And now, some blog-related news. FBC! is going to be a bit dormant this Summer, because, if you've been going gallery-hopping in Los Angeles recently, you have noticed that LA galleries have started importing a very East Coast habit, the *Summer Show*. It used to be that there was no hiatus around here at all, but these times are over. Instead, what's happening is many non-profit are having their fundraisers and gala, and auctions, etc. which replace openings for all the people involved.
Which doesn't mean there won't be any openings at all this Summer (there will be Taft Green at Human Resources on July 9th, for a start), just fewer than usual. So, I may announce them or not, or maybe I will just perpetuate the Summer tradition I had started last year when I posted some John Cale videos once a week. Incidentally, John Cale is in the studio right now, so hopefully there will be a (very good?) album soon.
I think this year I'm going to do a Summer of videos by The Fall, a band I have never seen live. I feel they *should* come play  in Los Angeles very soon.

Lastly, for those of you who would like to spend their summer working on their dream novel/novella/poetry, etc. and would like to try the first ever Not Otherwise Specified book contest organized by Les Figues Press, please read all the guidelines, write your masterpiece, and send it along with  $25 fee for a chance to have it published by a super rad press, make $1000 in passing and get a book of your choice from their Trench Art series.

And with this, dear readers, let me wish you a great weekend and a fantastic summer!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

RIP Virginia Fields

 Virginia Fields. Credit: LACMA (via the Los Angeles Times website)

I've just learned via a LACMA tweet and a LAT obituary that Virginia Fields, the lovely Senior Curator of Pre-Columbian Art at LACMA has passed away last night. She was truly a wonderful woman and I'm very saddened to hear of her passing. I hope there will be a memorial for her at LACMA and I'm sending my condolences to her family and colleagues.  Please go visit the Pre-Columbian galleries at LACMA soon and have a thought for her. She was a true lady.

Your Social Life - A Bit Neglected Recently

Jeff Cain, El Camino Real, 3 channel video installation, 2011, from the LACE website

While the entire art world and their uncle were cavorting in Europe to network in Venice and witness latter day Capitalism in action in Basel, yours truly was very busy neglecting the blog and meeting deadlines.
 Also going to the Harry Partch concert last week at REDCAT, which was immensely enjoyable, capped by the audience being let onstage to see and touch the instruments and talk to the musicians. My friend took pictures, so if he's OK to let me post them here, I'll do it shortly. I also went to a press preview of Miranda July's new movie, The Future, which I didn't enjoy at all* but you might, and I believe it's going to be previewed at MOCA soon.

Meanwhile, what's happening in Los Angeles this weekend, are you asking, faithful readers? Starting tonight, in about 2 hours, LACE presents two exhibitions, Speculative (with FBC! friendly acquaintance Jeff Cain), and Unfinished Paintings, another group show that includes the lovely Mark Dutcher. I can't go to the openings but will make sure to see the show. Starts at 8 PM tonight and the show will be up until August 28.

Saturday will be a busy day in Los Angeles, as in Santa Monica York Chang will show  his work with Second Life at 18th Street, and so will several artists as many events are scheduled for 18th Street Artnight. All information here.

Elsewhere in Los Angeles, if you are near Chinatown don't miss Rosha  Yaghmai at Tom Solomon, if near Culver City there's also an opening at Las Cienegas Projects. On the same evening, FBC! gal pal Nancy Popp will present her work at Kristi Engle, a gallery dangerously situated for me in Highland Park, a stone throw from my all-time favorite record store, Wombleton, whose owners I swear have pledged to make me bankrupt very soon. It's at 8 PM, be there or be square!
While I'm talking about record stores, let me salute the opening of Jacknife Records in Atwater Village. I haven't gone yet, but it's on my list. They don't have a website (yet), so here's their info: 3161 Glendale Boulevard, LA 90039, and they are open Tuesday to Sunday every day from noon to 8 PM, and to 10 PM on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Another remarkable store opening, this time downtown, is The Last Bookstore. On Spring street, open every day from 10 AM on, an occasion to browse real life used books, something much better than, uh, getting thumb cramps on your kindle, no?

*it has no story line, the acting is atrocious and it's neither quirky nor intelligent. All it made me want to do throughout is slap July's face and tell her to go see a doctor to get her thyroid checked and stop being such a drama queen. Sheesh, lady, you're not a poor little broken birds so sad on its tree, waiting to be rescued. I thought it was one of those whiny whitey project by people from Portland originally from Williamsburg originally from Iowa. Might appeal to this type of demographic, which I'm not part of.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sparks - The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman

The tickets for the Sparks operetta "The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman", featuring Ann Magnuson and Guy Maddin, just went on sale this morning at 10 AM. Tickets are only $18, they're going to go FAST, and I can't see a better way to spend your June 25 evening.

The Dustaphonics - Tura Satana

A bit before the weekend, FBC! discovered a London-based band called The Dustaphonics, and really, really liked them.  They're not going to tour the US yet because, as they say, they need to build a fan base here before this happens. So I'm doing my best to start it by showing you their homage to Tura Satana (of Russ Meyer fame) who left us I think last year (?). Please befriend them on Facebook and listen to their music. Very retro, but with TONS of energy!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

And What If You're House-Bound This Weekend?

If that calamity was to befall you, I'd suggest you check this really great website for the exhibition The Mourners at LACMA because you can see every single statue from every angle. It's beautiful and it will make you want to see the show as soon as you can. And you can prepare for the exhibition by reading all the information about the tomb, the sculpture, etc. It's up until July 31st.

credits for the picture and the website here.

Your Social Life On Memorial Day Weekend

America is getting ready to barbecue this holiday weekend, and hopefully will also remember its veterans. But if you thought there was going to be a dearth of art openings,  fear not, intrepid reader! For a few art events are actually happening.
Starting tonight with openings at the Pacific Design Center where anotheryearinla presents some new paintings by Joe Amrhein, from 5 PM on, whereas Diamond Dust, curated by Janet Levy, opens at See Line Gallery. On Saturday, Steve Turner Gallery has two artists' new shows, Alida Cervantes and Isaac Resnikoff.

Still on Saturday night, or early on Sunday since it starts at Midnight, Actual Size presents 12:12 Song, a series of sound and musical events to which participants are "encouraged to bring their own instruments and sleeping bags", with breakfast served at 8 AM.
Still on Sunday, a discussion about painting will be held at the Mandrake Bar from 7 PM, part of a series organized by LA painters Rebecca Morris and Mari Eastman. All the information you need can be found here.

And, continuing at Overduin and Kite and up until the end of June, don't miss the Rose-Colored Room with  Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Jutta Koether , Lisa Lapinski and Dianna Molzan.

Lastly, if you are in Westwood, go see the really beautiful Paul Thek retrospective. It is the real art event of the Spring in Los Angeles, not The Clock

Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Your Social Life After The Rapture!

As you may know, at least if you live in the US, the Rapture is supposed to happen this coming Saturday, whoozah! I say, if you live in the US, because curiously, no mention of the phenomenon has arisen abroad, and I do read a ton of foreign media. Apparently they don't have the same Christians overseas, so Jesus does discriminate after all, even though his message was supposed to be one of brotherly love for all*. It's all very puzzling, if you ask me, but I can't wait for Sunday morning to come and go out to count out all the enraptured Christian who will have disappeared. I kinda want to take care of their material goods while they are away, and possibly recycle their assets to buy myself a plane ticket and attend John Cale's French tour in October. I'm sure Jesus would approve.

Meanwhile, while up to 20% of the US population will vanish on Saturday, thus solving our national unemployment problem and a whole load of other issues, life continues for us heathens, with a bunch of very exciting things.

Starting with many galleries in Culver City having openings, with Angles, Blum & Poe, China Art Objects, LAXart and François Ghebaly joining in the post-Rapture exhibitions. On Saturday evening, the event FBC! has been waiting for is finally arriving with the Paul Thek retrospective opening at the Hammer. Paul Thek was truly an underdog during his life (gay, post-Catholic if I remember correctly), and his work was virtually ignored until Mike Kelley wrote about him in the 1990s, then European art spaces organized retrospectives, and finally US institutions followed suit as they always do, and voilà, here we are. Can't wait. Just wishing they had used something a bit less harmless than "the diver" as the title/image for the show. Just look up that relic-style arm above, isn't that appropriate for a post-Rapture exhibition?

These galleries and institutions are all familiar to you, faithful readers, but do you know the Vincent Price Art Museum? I bet you don't, and it's a shame. It sits in East Los Angeles and was founded by the actor Vincent Prince and his wife, and it's reopening tomorrow Friday after a renovation that has been going on for a while.They do a fantastic job with under-privileged youth who would otherwise not really access museums. And, it's been founded by Vincent Price, how rad is that?
Another institution that is a bit under the radar is the Craft And Folk Art Museum (CAFAM), and it's really a place you should visit because it is conveniently located across from LACMA and the Page Museum, and it has an opening this Saturday, too, from 6 to 9 PM.

Something else that can occupy your post-Rapture weekend, after which you can go loot take care of the assets left at enraptured Christians homes, if you can locate them, is music. So, if art isn't what you intend to spend the Rapture weekend with, fear not!
Because something called the Silver Lake Jubilee is taking place, too. I have no idea what this is, except that many local bands are playing. It costs only $5, far less than a lifetime of Christians alms given to so-called Christian non-profit churches, and instead of draining our deficit-laden collective finances with Christian tax breaks, these $5 will go a long way toward a musical and pleasurable weekend. I'm linking to their Facebook events page because I'm told their website isn't live yet.

*I did read the New Testament, admittedly a while ago, but I don't remember anything about discriminating within Christiandom. I mean, if Jesus was OK with hookers, I don't see why he wouldn't be OK with gay people, non-white folks and the like. And I don't see why some Christians would be enraptured while others, non-American ones, wouldn't.

Paul Thek
Warrior's Arm
From the series Technological Reliquaries. Wax, paint, leather, metal, wood, resin, and Plexiglas. 9 x 39 x 9 in. (24.1 x 99.1 x 24.1 cm)Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; The Henry L. Hillman Fund, Mr. and Mrs. James H. Rich Fund, Carnegie Mellon Art Gallery Fund, A.W. Mellon Acquisition Endowment Fund, and Tillie and Alexander C. Speyer Fund for Contemporary Art, 2010.3. © The Estate of George Paul Thek; courtesy of Alexander and Bonin, New York. Photograph by Jason Mandella.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Beat The Clock And Go Back In Time With The Mourners

Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say. (Edgar in King Lear).

This morning at 11 AM, LACMA has started the projection of The Clock, its recent acquisition of a Christian Marclay video that was all the hype in NYC a few weeks back. It's free, the projection lasts 24 hours, and you can drop it pretty much anytime you want. Since last week, the event has been hyped all over LA, to the point that some of my acquaintances who aren't into contemporary art were planning to go see it (hi, Mike!).
As Los Angeles still cannot cope with its inferiority complex toward New York City, the hype has been repeated all over the various local media outlets and social networks over the weekend, prompting us not to miss it.  Or else... what?

As you may know, The Clock is a montage of various film and television snippets all depicting images or representations of time passing by, by the minute, for a total duration of 24 hours, starting from 11 AM onwards.
Hence, when the movie projection commences, the viewers are perfectly in sync with the film and can see the time passing by minute by minute, whether there's a watch, a clock, or simply a character telling what time it is.
In terms of technique, The Clock is a brilliant display of editing mastery and obsessive research.  Each minute is illustrated by however many seconds of one or several movies make use of the temporal duration that says "it is 11.30", that is, if there are several snippets that tell the viewer "it is 11.30" they will be edited to altogether last the 60 seconds that constitute that 30th minute.
The movies excerpts don't focus on Western cinema only, thank God (or more likely, thank Christian Marclay), and are sometimes repeated when part of their plot revolves around a specific period of time passing by.

Before I went this morning I was somewhat prejudiced against the concept of The Clock, because the whole idea of taking samples from Pop culture and stretching them to 24 hours sounded so much like what Douglas Gordon would have made around 1993. Big yawn. For the record, I am not a big fan of Gordon whom I think is a wildly uneven artist, not himself a stranger to being over-hyped, and whose work is, for me, much more interesting when it veers away from video and cinema.
Christian Marclay, on another hand, interested me more as a sound and music artist making  installations  - I really like his telephone pieces  - and so his new venture into the representation of time in popular culture might have been a good way for him to jump from being a solid artist to becoming a  significant one. Because these times are very devoid of significant artists, I feel.

The concept of duration  and the passing of time through film pieces has been stretched to death with experimental movies of the late 1960s and early 1970s (just think about Andy Warhol and Michael Snow) so I didn't really see what The Clock could add to it, but I was  open to being pleasantly surprised. Maybe the sampling and editing would be incredibly meaningful, maybe there would be some big reveal about Cinema With A Big C, etc.

Instead, complete boredom. The first few minutes makes you realize how good the editing is, what a clever technical feat is being played, but after that it becomes a gimmick and as such excruciatingly boring. Time does stretch and every single occurrence that tells you "it's 11.08", "oh my, it must be about 11.15", etc., etc. makes you want to get the hell out of here.
There isn't any phenomenological epiphany through the movie that makes you experience the concept of "duration", just a mundane experience of boredom. You start noticing that indeed, British actors do know how to act, unlike their US counterparts, but alas it is only 11.23 and how long this thing is supposed to last already?
Oh yes, I can see how stereotypical the representation of women is into all these snippets, didn't I know this already? Damn, only 11.24. By 11.25 what you really notice is how freezing it is in the Bing Theater, while you have some vague recognition of the plot of the snippet being played.  Oh, time as a narrative device. How clever. Bet you've never thought of that one. 11.27 and  on screen someone's set to die soonish. Incredible. I feel time passing by! Dammit, I totally needed a movie to remind me of, say (and totally randomly) being bored to death in math class when I was 13 and how loooooooong the minutes were. The problem is, boring can be fabulous if it grates. If it changes your perception of things. If it makes you reconsider everything else made in the artistic field in a new light.

Sitting through the entire projection of Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz is boring and grating and challenging and groundbreaking (yes I've done it). Watching 8 hours of the light slowly (very slowly) changing on the Empire State Building in Warhol's Empire is boring and infuriatingly beautiful (yes, I've done that too). Getting dizzy through the 3 hours that make Snow's La Région Centrale is incredibly boring and mind-boggling and earth-shattering (and yes, I've done that too. Twice). Sitting though The Clock is as boring as watching daytime television. It's not because it's experienced daily by millions of people that it will change your world whatsoever.

The audience, judging from the enthusiastic blurts I've seen on Twitter, is purely there to challenge itself about how long it can stay watching the movie (I've seen breathless tweets such as "5 hours!"), an endearing feeling I guess, while others were really into small details about the sets, the costumes, laughing about how cell phones looked like in 1980s movies, etc. Someone tweeted about "time, art and film merged together", as if, say, Warhol had never done that, or anybody else for that matter.
My feeling was that most people who went to see The Clock didn't know jack shit about video art, experimental movies, contemporary art and so forth. Which is OK, and I don't resent the audience for its lack of culture. In that respect, I just want to be clear that I'm all for museums attracting all types of new people with not very good artworks if needed, if they serve as a gateway to harder drugs, so if the same people who came today end up sitting at weekends festivals at the Anthology Film Archives in New York, bless LACMA and its new 500K purchase.
Unfortunately, The Clock is nowhere in the league of landmark contemporary art films that might be shown at AFA, such as Michael Snow's La Région Centrale.  Chris Marker's La Jetée it ain't. Nor Andy Warhol's EmpireThe Clock isn't a masterpiece, but one of those middlebrow crowd-pleasers that isn't challenging and won't change the course of art history.

And that would be perfectly OK and appropriate and even fabulous if only LACMA had decided to couple the showing of its new toy with a real, week-long festival about experimental film and video. Instead of jumping on the opportunity to actually educate its public of ladies-who-lunch and donors by showing that, yes, The Clock could be seen in this tradition and even though it is not the masterpiece of the genre, at least it benefits from its history, and it's not entirely cut-off from the Hollywood tradition; LACMA decided to stay in the bland, safe, neutral zone where middlebrow art is only about entertainment and hype.
And that is the problem with hyping up The Clock as the latest great thing to happen at LACMA, instead of educating its audience.
It's a missed opportunity, and one that makes the likelihood of acquiring real masterpieces and meaningful works of art that are actually groundbreaking less and less possible. In that regard, LACMA more or less places itself in the same category as sanitized contemporary media. There is nothing challenging or courageous or even historical about acquiring The Clock or any artwork that is so deliberately easy on its audience.

In short, The Clock is one of these brilliantly superficial piece of work that has no meaningful depth to it, unless you count some undergrad "questioning of the concept of time" as an interesting problematic in an artwork made in 2011. In that case, I advise you to look for a good history of experimental cinema and video art and plow through it, and I guaranty you will have some phenomenological epiphany, once you get to see the movies in real life.  And if "brilliantly superficial  piece of work that has no meaningful depth to it" is your way of life, I suggest you start reading Bret Easton Ellis pronto. He invented the genre almost 30 years ago. And maybe in that way it is only fitting Marclay's piece would end up in Los Angeles, but is it really LACMA's role to reinforce cultural stereotypes like this?

A note on the presentation: I've been wondering why LACMA chose to do a projection between a Monday and a Tuesday, when a weekend would have been much more appropriate for working people to get a chance to see it, the whole 24 hours of it if they want to, if, as the PR wants us to believe, The Clock isn't to be missed. I haven't checked if The Clock is supposed to "happen" between a Monday and a Tuesday, so maybe that is the reason.
If no, my guess isn't that they wanted unemployed layabouts, ladies who lunch and homeless people to communally and democratically enjoy art together, but that paying the guards and AV people overtime is more expensive on the weekend.
That, or maybe the real film programs were already decided months in advance and that was the only slot available.
Speaking of which, this is a great movie week at LACMA with the Terrence Malick retrospective, and tomorrow afternoon's showing of Orson Welles' Magnificent Ambersons. I highly recommend you go watch these, if you like cinema.

If you indeed pop by LACMA to experience The Clock - and I think you should, so you can see for yourself what I'm talking about - I strongly recommend that you go next door to the Bing to see a gem of a beautiful little exhibition, The Mourners. Unlike The Clock, this show is unlikely to be repeated again any time soon, and unlike The Clock it will make you feel pure beauty in the depiction of the ultimate human experience, death.
The Mourners shows medieval sculptures from the 14th/15th century coming from the Chartreuse de Champmol in Dijon, France, home to the Dukes of Bourgogne, then the most powerful aristocratic family in Europe. As such, they hired the best artists to create their tombstones, and used Claus Sluter to carve the magnificent sculptures of small pallbearers and mourners crying and grieving, that were used to support the tomb slab itself.

 Sluter, one of only a handful of medieval sculptors whose name has survived the passing of time, has created a type of sculpture that is a horizontal slab without a pedestal, with a negative space in between the ground (where the body is buried) and the tombstone, while the mourners act as graceful supporting beams*. Each one of the sculpture is individualized, and has a different expression.  What you see in this small show is the complete series of mourners (without the rest of the architectural structure, which remains in France), displayed in the same sequence as in the original sculpture.
 The display is very sober and restrained, as befits a subject such as death and mourning, with a beautiful lighting that really helps magnifying the expressions of the mourners.

If you go see the show, and I really, really recommend you do, I advise to pick up the catalog too. It's an excellent scholarly one including great comparisons with other types of medieval sculptures and tombstones of the time, and the images are top notch. Every single mourner is represented, so you get a chance to remember their extraordinary look without having to buy a plane ticket to Dijon to see them again. Well, I guess you can do that, too.

I really wish LACMA would advertise the Mourners exhibition and spend some PR money on it, because if you really want to experience what the passing of time means in term of  duration (of art), death and, yes, resurrection through art, you will be much more likely to have a transcendental experience with a 700 year-old sculpture that is incomplete to boot, than with the lukewarm 24 hour compilation of  Pop culture's greatest hits that is The Clock.

*if you go see the show and browse through the catalog in the adjoining room, you will understand the architectural and sculptural structure better.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Cold Cave at Space 15Twenty

Yesterday, FBC! had the good fortune to be invited to Cold Cave's free concert at Space 15Twenty (thanks, Jeff and Mimi!), a band I knew nothing about because 1) I'm old, 2) I'm old and 3) I'm old. Musically I've been caught in a time warp between 1965 (birth of the Velvet Underground) and the early 1990s (birth of that crapshit thing "grunge" and the moment when electronica invaded the airwaves in Europe. I like synths, but I like sexy bad boy rockers with electric guitars even more).

So I went there last night out of curiosity, and I had tons of fun, though I'm not sure it was the kind of fun the band would like their audience to experience. The music is heavily influenced by OMD, the lyrics, I can't tell because it was impossible to make out any words (sound engineer, Pro Tools guy, you need to improve). Nothing innovative musically, but it was fun because these guys take themselves way too seriously, so there's some inadvertent situation comedy  for an old fart like me to enjoy.

The singer had a really bad haircut AND greasy hair and obviously believes himself to be the reincarnation of Ian Curtis. He seemed pretty high (hint, young people: being high doesn't make you look more intense, just high), and so was the most amusing member of the band, the demented keyboard player bobbing his head in sync to the music.  That dude was a mad mix between Bez of Happy Monday fame and the Tears For Fears guys, and as an added bonus was crouching on his keyboards like Schroeder in the Peanuts comics. He was robotically dancing and he and the lead singer were doing a little homoerotic number by hugging each other on stage,it looked so cute to this fag hag. The only musician who wasn't high and who was cute physically was the drummer, who drummed in a totally straightforward way. Hey, it's not like everybody can be Michael Jerome Moore!

Looking at them, I could see a really funny future little novella, with keyboard dude wanting to take the band into a heavy dance direction while singer dude sticking to his Joy Divisions fantasies, and the band imploding mid-way through a grueling North American tour. Groupies in tears, Williamsburgers on Prozac, etc.  Yes, I've read too many rock'n'roll stories.

The audience was really adorable, with a special mention to the kid bobbing his head totally out of sync, with his eyes closed, right next to the girl with the Aladdin Sane tattoo. Coolest kid was the gay one in the white trench coat, closely followed by the Berliner S&M kid with a Erich von Stroheim haircut. What I really like about the hipsters in SoCal is that their population isn't overwhelmingly white, unlike the Brooklyn types, so there is a genuine mix of working-class Latinos, Asian kids and some pasty faces that seem to work out really well.

All in all a really fun event, though I don't think I'm going to spend money on Cold Cave's recordings any time soon. But I'd be happy to follow the career of Keyboard Dude, if he has one. Anybody out there can tell me his name?

Your Social Life, Wishing Stevie Wonder A Happy Birthday!

Howdy, readers!

Blogger was down for about 48 hours, hence the lateness of our weekly installment detailing the fabulous social life you will enjoy this weekend.
There are about 3 things yours truly really recommend this weekend, starting with the annual garden party and fundraiser for Los Angeles avant-garde publisher Les Figues Press. $15 at the door, a hat fashion show(yay!) and artist Stephanie Taylor is MC-ing. All the info you need here.

In the strictly visual department,  both David Kordansky and Las Cienegas Project have an opening this Saturday. Heather Cook caught my attention last year during a group show at Kordansky, so I'm looking forward to her solo exhibition there. As for LCP, I really like their programming and their space, so don't miss the show!

I've missed the opening of 91 92 93 at the MAK on Wednesday, and exhibition featuring Andrea Fraser, Simon Leung and Lincoln Tobier. I'd love to link to something specific on the website of the MAK but the show is strangely absent of their current/upcoming exhibition tab. Please someone at the MAK fix this, and I guess if you guys want to see the show, you'd better call the MAK for specifics.

Also, today is Stevie Wonder's birthday, so you superstitious people forget this is Friday the 13th and rock your stereo with some wonderful music from the Master Blaster!