Friday, December 31, 2010

People Who Died

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Harvey Pekar

Harvey Pekar was one of the first to see comics explicitly as art. His worldview was primarily literary, and he saw his comics as a kind of literature. I fell in love with his work in the early 1980s, and have treasured it since.

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Sigmar Polke

Polke had been doing groundbreaking work in Germany for well over a decade when he had his first American show in 1982. It was, by all accounts, an eyeopener. Polke imitators sprang up. It's hard to blame them--he was such a font of creativity, any number of artists could make careers feeding off his table scraps. He's an artist I've always dug.

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Al Williamson art (top) and Frank Frazetta (bottom)

Al Williamson and Frank Frazetta are two of the few remaining artists associated with the seminal E.C. Comics line of the 1950s. Both were extraordinarily skilled artists. Frazetta had a unique style that made him a favorite of metalheads for generations. I always thought Williamson was the more boring of the two. With a few exceptions--some of the work they did for E.C. Comics, Frazetta's work on L'il Abner, and some other adds and ends, these two artists dedicated their lives to illustrating fantasy kitsch. That was the thing about comics artist of their generation--they came along too early to see the field cracked open by the underground cartoonists of the 60s.

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Louise Bourgeois

Louis Bourgeois was the coolest old lady of her time. I want to be that productive and creative when I'm in my 80s and 90s. I'll leave the tributizing to Hennesy Youngman.

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Captain Beefheart

Captain Beefheart... I love you, you big dummy.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Year in Pan

There is one more day in the year, so I thought I'd look back at how this blog did in 2010. Over the course of 2010, I got a little more than 46,000 page views. Considering that there are blogs that get that many page views every day (and more), it's not too exciting. That works out to about 126 page views per day.

As you might expect, however, this hasn't been constant. From January to August, I got about 2570 page views a month. Then I discovered Reddit. I started posting my posts in appropriate Reddit forums, and my page views show up. After September, my average page views per month were about 6360 per month. Now this may be as good as it gets. After, my two main subjects, contemporary art in Houston and art comics, are not hugely popular. There's a reason Gawker covers celebrity gossip instead of contemporary art.

Reddit surprised me in another way--the posts people liked the most weren't necessarily what I would have guessed (although in retrospect, their popularity makes sense). Here are the ten most popular posts from 2010, based on page views.


Francesca Woodman Providence

Francesca Woodman, untitled, photograph, 1976
Francesca Woodman, untitled, photograph, 1976

1.The Woodmans: This post was about a film about the late photographer Francesca Woodman and her family. When I posted it up on Reddit, the number of people visiting Pan exploded.

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Andy Warhol, Dick Tracy, 1960

2. Where Does a Work of Art Get Its Value? This post was from September 2009, but when I posted a link to Reddit, it took off. That said, it is a post that readers often manage to find--the issues surrounding what makes a given piece of artwork valuable are always interesting.

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Tara Donovan, Bluff detail, buttons and glue, 2007

3. Lady Art at McClain. This is another one from last year (December 24, 2009). It's about an ill-conceived group show at the McClain Gallery, which is about the bluest of blue-chip galleries in Houston. Why is it popular? I don't know--I can't credit Reddit for this one. I will say one thing about it, though. I was really snarky--it's one of the few bad reviews I've written. And given the way people liked it, maybe I should write some more!

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Norman Lindsay, Visitors from the Moon, watercolor

4. Two Books by Norman Lindsay. This post was a review of a novel and a memoir by the eccentric Australian erotic artist, Norman Lindsay, with whom I became somewhat fascinated by over the course of 2010. Why is this post so popular? Well, I suppose it's that sex sells!

5. Every Painting in the Museum of Modern Art. I wish I could say that it is my writerly brilliance that brings readers to Pan, but this popular post demonstrates otherwise. It is essentially a repost of a video from New York Magazine.

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Michael Crowder, Du musée Sauvignons detail, glass, 2009

6. L'heure bleue d'Michael Crowder. This is another post from 2009 that somehow has remained popular throughout 2010. The gallery linked back to the review, which I presume drove some of the views. But really, I don't understand why this post--a review of a nice show by a Houston-area artist--should have been so much more popular than many other similar posts.

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E.C. Segar, Popeye daily strips

7. "I Yam What I Yam" On the other hand, I know exactly why this post is so popular. It's a post about how frequently E.C. Segar, the creator of Popeye, put Popeye in drag--and how comfortable Popeye seemed to be cross-dressing. It was a response to a post by Jeet Heer on his excellent blog Sans Everything. He mentioned my post on his blog, which sent some readers over. Apparently, someone at the popular liberal blog Alas! A Blog saw Heer's post and posted a link. Which was very nice. That said, I don't think that posting about cross-dressing comic strip characters would, in general, increase my readership. (This post appeared exactly one year ago today.)

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Martin Vaughn-James, The Cage cover, 1974

8. The Cage by Martin Vaughn-James. This one was from November, 2009. It, like many others, was given a new lease on life when I uploaded a link to Reddit. On the face of it, it seems strange that an avant garde graphic novel published in a small print run in 1975 should be of any interest to readers today. But it has a kind of mystique attached to it, and many contemporary readers and creators of art comics are extremely curious about it. It's an amazing work, and one that should be reprinted.

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Laurel Nakadate, Stay The Same Never Change film still

9. What I Saw When I Saw Stay the Same Never Change. I saw this Laurel Nakadate film during FotoFest. I hated it. I wrote a highly negative review and quoted some hilarious things Nakadate said about the film. Perhaps this is a signal that I should continue to write negative reviews. Or perhaps it just means that Nakadate remains a popular search engine subject (maybe for artsy people who like to see naked ladies--which would help explain the popularity of the Francesca Woodman post as well).

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still from Boogie Woogie

10. I Saw Boogie Woogie So You Don't Have To. This post is sort of a review of this movie set in the art world. And it is pretty negative, which strongly suggests a trend. BUT! It also has nudity--boobs to be precise--so that's another trend. That's what you people like--snarky negative reviews with naked boobs.

So that's it--the most viewed pages of the past year. Expect to see more crossdressing cartoon characters, more boobs, more bad reviews, more movie reviews, and more reposting of popular posts from other blogs. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Books I Got in Brooklyn--The End!

If you've followed along this far, you're probably wondering, when the hell is Robert going to be freaking done talking about the books he got at the Brooklyn Comics & Graphics Festival? Well, good news--this post is it! The last one until the next Festival. (If you are new to the party, you can catch up by reading this post and this post and this post and this post and this post and this post and this post and this post and this post and this post.) The last two books I will be reviewing are not comics. But The Oddly Compelling Art of Denis Kitchen is about a comics artist, at least, even if comics art is not what Denis Kitchen is best known for.

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Denis Kitchen, The Oddly Compelling Art of Denis Kitchen cover, 2010

Kitchen started off his career as an underground cartoonist and underground newspaper designer/editor/illustrator in the late 60s. Initially he was self-publishing, but like other reasonably-successful self-publishers, he quickly attracted others to his orbit and went from being a self-publisher to being a publisher of other people's work. His publishing company was called Kitchen Sink Press. I think you will find that in the history of publishing, becoming a publisher is the death knell for one's own creative work. It's too hard to successfully wear both hats--artist and impresario. So even though Kitchen had a highly enjoyable drawing style, as time went on he drew less and less.

At one point in the mid-90s (I think), comics writer Alan Moore suggested in print that Kitchen's art was actually really good and should be collected into a book. He even came up with the title. But Kitchen had been a publisher for so long that I think he felt something like this would be a vanity project. He always thought other people's work was better than his own. (In addition to being a publisher, he was and still is also an avid art collector.) But after a series of setbacks and bad publishing bets, Kitchen Sink Press folded in 1999 (after a 30 year run, which is well on the high side of the median life-span for small press publishers). He remained involved in publishing, working as an artists' agent and book packager. And finally Dark Horse Comics has published a book of his art. And it's kind of a revelation.

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Denis Kitchen, The Oddly Compelling Art of Denis Kitchen p. 157, "Fox River Patriot" cover, 1977

Kitchen was my employer for several years, but even I was surprised by most of this stuff. I knew he had been on the staff of an underground paper (the Milwaukee Bugle-American) but I didn't realize that it lasted eight years before folding in 1978. Kitchen also worked on a rural alternative paper, The Fox River Patriot, all while running Kitchen Sink Press. The covers and illustrations for these two papers make up a good portion of the book, and they are really great. Kitchen's drawing was whimsical and light-hearted--rather out-of-step with his underground comics peers (I'd put him closest to Willy Murphy and Kim Deitch, two other underground iconoclasts).

The Oddly Compelling Art of Denis Kitchen is a treasure trove.  Not only is it full of excellent art (Kitchen seems to have saved everything), the biographical essay by Charles Brownstein was full of hilarious details about Kitchen's life that I didn't know. (Not only was he a member of the Socialist Labor Party in the late '60s, he was by far the youngest member.) It is also well-annotated and beautifully designed. A long overdue book! Now maybe Kitchen will get back to the drawing board and start on volume two.


Shary Boyle is a Canadian artist. I'm not sure if she has ever done any comics, but she does seem to have links to the artier suburbs of that world--she has exhibited at Fumetto, the very artsy comics festival in Lucerne, and in her book, Witness My Shame: Bookworks and Drawings she thanks Megan Kelso. her drawings have a comics feel to them. That said, they are drawings. They don't have word balloons or stories really. Most of the work in this book was originally published in artists books.

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Shary Boyle, Witness My Shame cover, 2004

The thing about these drawings is that they are both funny and uncomfortable. I should qualify that. Uncomfortable if you're a guy. The first artists' book recreated, also called "Winess My Shame," is a series of clumsy pencil drawings of girls screwing up in public--some of the situations pretty fanciful, some all too real (a girl running away from a friend's house crying after having wet her pants).

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Shary Boyle, Witness My Shame p. 58, from "Schoolgirl Bullies", 1999

"Schoolgirl Bullies" feels pretty real, too, and there is something uncomfortable about seeing these evil faces on little girls. I'm scared of these girls. (Unlike many of my friends in both the art world and the comics world, I was never a victim of bullies as a kid--I was too big and strong for them to mess with, and I was an athlete. But if I had been 25 or 30 pounds lighter...)

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Shary Boyle, Witness My Shame p. 111, from "Horny", 2000

The drawings from "Horny" are hilarious, but again I have unease. Should I be looking at this stuff? Well, yeah. But only because it's awesome.

Boyle's current work seems to be mostly ceramic--really kitschy looking pieces made of slip (I think). They remind me a little of Bari Ziperstein's work. They look fantastic--I'd love to see them live and in person.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Top 10 Houston Art Shows

Hey, it's that time of year. This is my own highly idiosyncratic list. Basically, I went through all the shows I saw last year and gave them a rating from 1 to 10. If a show was above a five, I considered it for this list. I'm ranking them below from best, second best, and so on.

#1. Hand+Made at the CAMH. Great exhibit with a startling variety of performances and objects built around the idea of "craft"--which has been for so long a dirty word in contemporary art. But for me, some of my favorite artists in Houston come out of craft traditions.

#2. Barkley Hendricks at the CAMH. Super show of giant, full-figure portraits of African Americans. To me, it just defined cool. I really loved the Fela installation.

#3. James Drake at the Station Museum. Some of the best shows this year had to do with ideas of manhood or manliness. Drake really captured the stoic, mournful ideal.

#4. James Surls sculptures at Rice University. I have loved James Surls since they installed his sculpture in Market Square back in the 80s. I thought the temporary installation of sculptures at Rice was fantastic. He also had a nice show at Barbara Davis this year.

#5. Maurizio Cattelan at the Menil. Maurizio Cattelan does something kind of obvious in a way. He creates sculptures that seem as if they are three dimensional representations of some forgotten surrealist painter's paintings. The genius part of the Menil exhibit was to scatter them throughout the galleries (and on the roof), mixed in with work from the permanent collection.

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Patricia Cronin, Memorial to a Marriage, marble at "Because We Are".

#6. Because We Are at the Station Museum. This group show dealt with LGBT civil rights, which in the wake of the defeat of gay marriage in California and now with the Smithsonian Wojnarowicz episode (not to mention the repeal of DADT), feels like it was the right exhibit at the right time. It even included an unusually powerful Wojnarowicz, Untitled (One Day This Kid...). What made this better than the run-of-the-mill agitprop exhibit was that the art was visually powerful and highly personal, as in Patricia Cronin's sculpture.

#7. Peat Duggins at Art Palace. I found this exhibit to be be thought-provoking and very, very beautiful. It delved into the relationship of religion to nature without offering easy answers. Duggins seems to have created his own personal sort of shamanism.

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Andrea Dezsö, Sometimes in My Dreams I Fly detail, 2010

#8. Andrea Dezsö at the Rice gallery. Sometimes in My Dreams I Fly was the summer installation, which means the whole thing was behind glass. Dezsö created kind of a puppet-theater tableau of an alien, underground civilization. As a kid, I would have written stories about these people. As an adult, I visited it several times, charmed by her fertile imagination.

#9. Jeff Forster and Jillian Conrad at the Art League. Forster is a ceramicist who has embraced a kind of anti-craft approach. The deconstructed pieces in this show intrigued me. I felt the same about Jillian Conrad's sculptures made of construction site materials and glitter. The work of both these artists is challenging and interesting.

#10. Francis Giampietro at the Temporary Space. Another artist who dealt with masculinity as a subject this year was Francis Giampietro. I liked his heavy, somewhat dangerous assemblages, which reference body building and football.

Honorable mention:
Sarah Williams at McMurtrey Gallery
Joseph Cohen at Wade Wilson
Robert Pruitt at Hooks-Epstein
Wishing Well for Houston by Brian Piana, Aram Nagle and Heath Hayner at the Art League
Not the Family Jewels group show at Gallery 1764
Terry Suprean at the Temporary Space
Material and deStructure group show at Poissant Gallery
Ward Sanders at Hooks-Epstein
Are You There God? It's Me, Birdie group show at the Joannex
MFA Thesis show at the Blaffer Gallery
Daniel Heimbinder at the Joannex
The Big Show at Lawndale
Seth Alverson at Art Palace
Edward Lane McCarthy at Goldesberry Gallery
Boozefox at Lawndale
Tobiah Mundt at Lawndale
B-Sides at Fotofest
Poems and Pictures at the Museum of Printing History
It's Better to Regret Something You Have Done... group show at Art Palace
The New Black: Contemporary Concepts in Color and Abstraction at Williams Tower
Mark Greenwalt at Hooks-Epstein
Maria Smits at Lawndale

For commercial gallery of the year, I think I'm going to go with Art Palace, although I think Moody Gallery, Gallery 1724, Poissant Gallery and many more all had great shows, and I expect PG Contemporary to be a strong contender next year.

The choices are even harder when you go to non-profit spaces. Pretty much all of them had fantastic exhibits, performances, film presentations and more this year. But some special shoutouts to Lawndale and Box 13 and FotoFest for great years, and a special remembrance for The Temporary Space, which we always knew was going to go. A big salute to Keijiro Suzuki, whose curatorial energy was boundless.

I'm not the only one making a best-of list. Douglas Britt has his up at 29-95 (we overlap only on two shows). Has anyone else done one? Britt's is the only other one I have seen, so far...

Young Lions and New Character Parade

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Blaise Larmee, Young Lions cover, 2010

I know little about Blaise Larmee--he has left a trail of writings on the internet containing his thoughts about art. His name sounds kind of fake. Blaise (as in Blaise Pascal, author of Pensées --"Thoughts"?) Larmee (as in "l'Armée"--"The army")... Maybe it's a pseudonym, maybe not. As a thinker, well, he comes across like an undergraduate or recent graduate who is just discovering a bunch of new criticism and theory. He seems excited to be able to put together these new things he's read with his own ideas. His writing feels shallow, even callow, sometimes. His primary venue, Co-Mix, is relatively forgiving and nurturing--contentious, but contentious within a narrow range of argument. When he ventures outside of Co-Mix, as in his piece for The Comics Journal entitled "Trophy Economy," he gets shredded. But it's admirable what he's doing. He's working out a personal philosophy in public. Why he is willing to do this, I don't know. Maybe he is an exhibitionist. But one hopes the feedback he gets and arguments he encounters will help to both sharpen and broaden his thinking over time.

I see Young Lions the same way. It reads very precious, very self-centered. Its characters don't exist in the world. Indeed, the way Larmee draws them, they look like children. However, they are adults. Cody Campbell is a boy with rosy cheeks (is that supposed to be theatrical makeup, or a comics shorthand for actual rosy cheeks?). Alice is a dark-haired girl who is apparently used to a life of privilege. Wilson, slightly older, balding with glasses, the only one who doesn't appear to be a child, is the leader of this performance art trio. Their act is not successful until they meet Holly, who faints during one of their performances, giving it a level of excitement that they had not previously had. Holly, with long blond hair, is another child-person.

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Blaise Larmee, Young Lions p. 16, 2010

Now everything I've told you so far implies a fairly complex back-story. Who are these characters? How did they meet? Why have they started a performance group, and what are their goals? How do they live? Do they have day jobs? Trust funds? None of this is revealed or even hinted at in the story. Only Alice's contemptuous attitude towards being poor or living in a rural place imply a personal history.

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Blaise Larmee, Young Lions p. 48, 2010

I have a 19th century need to know this information. Stories can feel a little airy if they don't at least hint at the context the characters inhabit. But it would be churlish to demand it--fiction in the 20th century has proven that such context is not required. But in the case of Young Lions, it might have helped out. As it stands, the only motivation they show is a desire to improve their act by adding Holly. (Cody also seems attracted to Holly, but not very strongly.) They don't seem bored or affectless, but they likewise don't appear to be moving in any particular direction. We don't even really know what their performance consists of--only that Holly fainting (which wasn't a performance at all) seemed to have improved it quite a bit.

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Blaise Larmee, Young Lions p. 50, 2010

Larmee seems completely aware of all this. When they travel to a real place--Holly's childhood home in Florida--Alice expresses that she would like it better mediated through the experience of seeing it in a museum, decontextualized. (This issue is also a key part of Motel Art Improvement Service). The fact that they are drawn as children seems to remind us that they have no past, no experiences.

But so what? In the end, I just don't particularly care about these characters. That would be acceptable if there was something else to hang onto here. But there is not. The whole book, drawn in light pencil, seems ready to blow away with the slightest breeze. This is like a lot of Larmee's writings as well. His work, in all media, is tentative. And yet, he is putting it out there into the world. He spent a lot of money (admittedly a Xeric grant) to publish this book. Let's put it this way--if I feel tentative about something, I usually keep it inside. Whether through bravery or exhibitionism, Larmee is going to grow his art in public. I think it's worth following to see where it goes.

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Johnny Ryan, New Character Parade cover, 2010

In some ways, Johnny Ryan is the opposite of Blaise Larmee. He's earthy to Larmee's ethereal, he is unreflective and Larmee is constantly thinking about theory. But at the same time, neither artist is concerned with "realism". Neither one learned from Harvey Pekar.

In New Character Parade, Ryan creates a new character for every page. It comes off as sort of a game--what shocking or disgusting nonsequitur can he come up with. Many of his new characters are existing characters with some twist added: H&R Cockblock, Sherlock Homeless, Rasputin on a Dirt Bike, Judge Judy Dredd, Lesbian Spock, etc. Most are extremely crude, sexual, scatalogical, etc. Always drawn in his manic, relentlessly happy cartooning style, which takes the edge off.

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Johnny Ryan, New Character Parade "White Power Sluggo", 2008-10

Some of them take an obvious association (doesn't Sluggo look like a skinhead? doesn't Nancy's hair look like an afro?) and runs with it.

These are occasionally very funny, but reading a hundred or so at once is a bit tiring. New Character Parade is best in small doses.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Motel Art Improvement Service

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One of my favorite books from the Brooklyn Comics & Graphics Festival is one I have been waiting for since 2004, The Motel Art Improvement Service by Jason Little. This is the sequel to Shutterbug Follies. Both feature a young woman, Bee, as the protagonist and both could broadly be called crime thrillers. The first was a more-or-less straightforward thriller, the latter a bit more episodic and picaresque, like an Elmore Leonard or Charles Willeford novel filtered through an artsy hipster sensibility. But the thing that interested me most about both is that they center around the doings of artists.

Shutterbug Follies had three artist characters. One of them is a young artist with some creepy habits. The other two are much worse--one a murderer, the other a potential murderer. Then in Motel Art Improvement Service, the artist character is a thief and a drug-addict. OK, maybe Little has a thing against artists. But the weird thing is that each of these artists is, in his or her own way, really good. Furthermore, Little has them creating art that is interesting. It's always a problem when comics artists or filmmakers make artists their characters. The "art" almost always looks terrible. (Novelists have it comparatively easier--they can describe the art without having to show you the art.) Furthermore, the art in movies and comics never seems quite believable in terms of milieu. It doesn't ever seem like art you would actually see in a gallery. And when galleries or studios are depicted, they come off as artificial. Much of this is, I suppose, simply lack of familiarity. It's similar to the fact that so many superhero cartoonists can't draw people in suits, as Eddie Campbell observed.

The first thing Little gets right is the kind of art. Two of the artists in Shutterbug Follies are photographers, and one is an installation artist who makes stuff out of consumer items. In the past decade, photographic art and installation/assemblage art have been two of the dominant types of art in galleries, art spaces, and contemporary art museums. Cyrus, the artist character in Motel Art Improvement Service, is a painter--but his approach to painting is very conceptual and very site-specific.

OK, let's back up. Bee is not an art maven. She meets Cyrus completely by accident. At the beginning of a cross-country bike ride, she has an accident...

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Jason Little, Motel Art Improvement Service page 27

She is forced to spend several nights in a local motel. There, she observes the cleaning man, Cyrus, engaged in some very odd behavior. She finally figures it out. He is taking the bad motel paintings and customizing them. It seems a project a little like Wayne White. White takes cheap lithographs he finds at flea markets and thrift stores and paints on them, adding something (usually words rendered as objects in space) to the original. The difference between White and Cyrus is that White sells his work. These pieces end up in galleries and in the hands of collectors. Cyrus is returning the improved paintings to the motel walls, where he leaves them.

Bee and Cyrus become friends and when Cyrus has finished "improving" all the paintings in the motel where they met, it's time to move on down the road. This time, though, instead of going to a small-town motel, Cyrus leads Bee to a modern airport hotel in Newark. Cyrus gets a job there, and since Bee is bike-less, he helps her get a job as well. They share a room in an unremodeled part of the hotel.

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Jason Little, Motel Art Improvement Service page 60

Even though Bee has figured out his painting activities, she still hasn't deduced that Cyrus is a pill-head. While one reason he works in motels is that he can "improve" the paintings, the other reason is that he can steal prescription medicine from the guests. (Interestingly, misuse of prescription medicine was a major plot point in Shutterbug Follies as well.) Cyrus's hobby will feature into another subplot of the book, a slapstick encounter with a pair of college-age ecstasy manufacturers and a drug dealer on leave from the Army. But Cyrus's drug hobby is bound up with his art, as when he tells Bee how he came to start doing his bizarre art project.

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Jason Little, Motel Art Improvement Service page 93

Little employs one of comics' best tricks--the fact that there are at least two possible narratives at any given time, the visual narrative and the text narrative. Usually these are intertwined, but there is no reason they have to be. Cyrus is a proverbial unreliable narrator when speaking to Bee, but the images tell the truth about his life.

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Jason Little, Motel Art Improvement Service page 94

Little also plays a bit with the question of what is an image and what is real. Cyrus and Bee begin a sexual relationship (her first), and in this page, Cyrus sketches her nude.

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Jason Little, Motel Art Improvement Service page 102

Then later we see one of the motel paintings that Cyrus has altered--he has placed Bee's nude figure within the picture.

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Jason Little, Motel Art Improvement Service page 189

Cyrus's whole endeavor is based on the notion that the work he has altered will be back on the walls of motels, where random travelers will encounter it. It is a deeply uncommercial concept of art. He makes his living working in the motels, nit selling the art. Even if someone notices how strange and interesting the paintings are, they won't associate it with Cyrus. Since the 1960s, there have been numerous artists who have chosen to not make work that can be sold. Some even dropped out of art (in any visible sense) altogether. Some remained involved in art, but in decidedly uncommercial ways (Gordon Matta-Clark, for example). Cyrus explains why he won't engage the commercial art world when he encounters a gallerist who has been pursuing him across the country.

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Jason Little, Motel Art Improvement Service page 166

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Jason Little, Motel Art Improvement Service page 167

The problem for Cyrus is that if the market wants you, it's hard to not be a part of it. The dealer has been buying Cyrus's paintings from the motel owners. An exhibition will go ahead, with Cyrus's participation or without.

Motel Art Improvement Service is a silly, entertaining adventure. That Little has some interesting observations about art and artists is icing on the cake. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

This Has Always Cracked Me Up

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John Waters, Welcome to Marfa

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Photo Tour: William Earl Kofmehl III at Lombard-Freid Projects

I had never heard of William Earl Kofmehl when I walked by the Lombard-Freid Gallery, but when I looked in the window from the street and saw the sculpture below, I knew I had to go in.

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This exhibit is squirrel-oriented, and I fully approve. But it's much more bizarre than one artist's obsession with squirrels. To quote from the accompanying press release:
Adjacent to the bronze figure is a projected video displaying a conversation between the artist and Bernie Goetz, the infamous New York vigilante and prominent squirrel husbandrist who is remembered for his 1984 subway shooting.
Bernard Goetz, introduced to the artist by way of a mutual friend, becomes a particular source of inquiry and an indirect collaborator for Kofmehl’s exhibition. The Goetz incident, which epitomized New Yorkers’ frustrations with the high crime rates of the 1980s, provides a passage for Kofmehl into the New York City history.
"Squirrel husbandrist"? Anyway, here are some pictures from the exhibit. The giant squirrel looks like it's about 12 feet high, the figure on the park bench is life-size, and the embroidered panels are 10" x 8".

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Photo Tour: Faile at Perry Rubenstein Gallery

Faile is two people, Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller. The pair are street artists (I wonder if you are allowed to keep calling yourself a street artist when your art is being exhibited in a chi-chi Chelsea gallery?) who mainly do paste up posters. In this show, the images are dense visual collages with images repeated at various sizes in various configurations. If there is a motif that repeats in this show, it's the sexy girl--particularly two sexy girls kissing. I was a little surprised to see this frat-boy's delight straight out of Girls Gone Wild. It seems retrograde. That said, I like the overall visual assault of the work, the colors, and the staging in the gallery.

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Faile, Bedtime Stories, acrylic and silkscreen ink on wood in steel frame, 2010
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Faile, Sub Rosa, acrylic and silkscreen ink on wood in steel frame, 2010
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Faile, No Change, acrylic and silkscreen ink on wood in steel frame, 2010 
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Faile, Fashions Last Stand, acrylic and silkscreen ink on wood in steel frame, 2010 
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Faile, Faile Tower, acrylic and silkscreen ink on wood in steel frame, 2010 
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Faile, Faile Tower, acrylic and silkscreen ink on wood in steel frame, 2010 

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