Monday, March 07, 2005

Art Speaks

at the met museum
photo by Gregg Chadwick

"In ads, displays, altars, graphic design, fashion, magazines, signage, architecture, television, movies, web sites, on and on we’re being addressed and coddled and seduced and terrorized and we can't talk about it because we don’t have words for it. Visual "language" is a one way communication."
-David Byrne, entry from
  • david byrne's tour journal

  • I was at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles yesterday and was struck by the tortured language used in the wall labels. As soon as the text moved from historical information - artist, date, place, and provenance- the thoughts grew murky. Some of it is art historical posturing. But part of the difficulty is the lack of a contemporary vocabulary that engages visual communication as well as verbal communication. Yes, we are bombarded with visual stimulii. But the typical response from art critics such as Kenneth Baker, who writes for the San Francisco Chronicle, is to declare that this visual white noise makes certain types of communication impossible for visual artists. That what we are left with is a palimpsest of earlier images. And all we can do is pick through the tattered and effaced clues to search for meaning.

    Contemporary artists can and do use visual language to communicate. We have not given all of this power away to advertising agencies. At times we too, "coddle,terrorize, or seduce." But we also can create a visual field that communicates an idea such as peace or contemplation without verbal clues. This visual communication is powerful,almost shamanistic, and quite wondrous to watch.

    David Byrne is correct in stating that we don't have words for visual language. But, just as importantly, we do not use our sophisticated visual sensors to receive this communication. As an audience, many of us have not developed the slow and careful process of looking deeply at art. In museums and galleries we race by, gobbling up wall label after wall label, without taking the time to stop and let the artwork speak to us.

    One painting spoke more forcefully than any other, yesterday, at the Getty. A Jackson Pollock work from the late '40's, on loan from the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown L.A. hung in a room dedicated to the Impressionists. Pollock's enamel and aluminum paint glittered next to a Monet. I sat and watched as the work stopped people in their tracks. A young girl grabbed her father's arm as he took her close to the painting's surface, almost into it. They spoke quietly and looked. And after a while, the girl stepped back and gently swung her arm in ovals miming the drip of wet paint onto a canvas on a floor.

    Saturday, March 05, 2005

    Temple of the Mind- Upcoming Exhibition

    temple of the mind (for montien boonma)
    gregg chadwick
    temple of the mind
    (for montien boonma)
    60"x28" oil on linen 2005

    Ordinary men hate solitude.
    But the master makes use of it,
    embracing his aloneness,realizing
    he is one with the whole universe.
    Lao-Tzu, Tao-te-Ching

    I am currently gathering a group of paintings together for my next exhibition which opens on May 6th, 2005 at the
    Art Rental & Sales Gallery, Los Angeles County Museum of Art,
    5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036.
    The opening reception will run from 6:30-8:30 and will be held in the Leo S. Bing Center, Lower Level at LACMA.

    These new paintings are appreciations of the deep mystery of life and acknowledge the connection that exists between all existence.

    The exhibition will run from May 6th through June 9th.
    The gallery is open 11am - 4 pm
    Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday

    Closed Sunday, Monday and Wednesday.
    Phone: 323-857-6500

    Stolen Thai Crown?

    thai crownjpg

    An international art incident seems to be brewing this week complete with gold, royalty, theft, smuggling and muck-raking journalism. A gold crown on loan from the Philadelphia Museum of Art as part of
  • "The Kingdom of Siam" exhibition, currently at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, appears to have been looted from a crypt in the historical city of Ayutthaya in 1957. It entered the Philadelphia Museum of Art's collection in 1982. After Jom Patch, from the Thai network ITV, reported last week that the crown might have been looted in the '50's from a sacred chamber at the Buddhist temple of Wat Ratchaburana at Ayutthaya, a furor erupted in Thailand.

    From Jesse Hamlin at the San Francisco Chronicle-
    "I am kind of brokenhearted,'' says Forrest McGill, the museum's chief curator, a Thai art scholar who wrote his doctoral dissertation at the University of Michigan on the kingdom of Ayutthaya. "A group of American and Thai scholars has been working together on this for years, produced a major scholarly catalog and an exhibition of material that has hardly ever been seen before. And we can't get the focus on that because, for now at least, the focus seems to be on this one object.''

    Not to worry Forrest- the exhibition continues and the news stories on the crown will focus more attention on the exhibition than it would have received otherwise. The important thing is to use your knowledge of the Ayutthaya artifacts and the initial looting of the site to help trace the path of this one object from Thailand, to a mysterious art dealer named Klejman who acquired the piece in 1965, to Sotheby's from which the Philadelphia Museum acquired the work in 1982.

    Pattaratorn Chirapravati, a California professor and co-curator of the exhibition told ITV that the crown " was probably taken out of Thailand when Wat Ratchaburana was broken into." An interesting note: Pattaratorn is related to the Thai royal family - the great-great-granddaughter of King Chulalongkorn of Thailand.

    There is a precedent for the return of historical artifacts to Thailand- In 1988, the Art Institute of Chicago repatriated a 1,000-year-old stone carving of a Hindu god, which had vanished from northeastern Thailand in the 1960s and later was displayed at the museum. This theft triggered a surge of nationalist sentiment, including lyrics in a hit song by a Thai pop singer decrying the loss and the reluctance of the Art Institute to return the sculpture.

    I was encouraged that in a written statement provided to the press, Philadelphia Museum of Art director Anne d'Harnoncourt took responsibility, "We take the issue of provenance very seriously and would of course be ready to explore any questions about the history of the object with the appropriate Thai officials.''
  • Friday, March 04, 2005

    Monterey Art Museum Benefit - March 5th

    Gregg Chadwick
    Of Sleep and Skies
    33"x20" monotype 1999

    To be auctioned on Saturday, March 5th at the Monterey Museum of Art Benefit
  • MARCH 5

    Art Lovers' Benefit. 6-10 p.m. Saturday, March 5 at the Highlands Inn, Carmel. Food, entertainment and music. A live art auction will benefit the Monterey Museum of Art's educational programs. Tickets are $125 per person. Auction artwork may be previewed and absentee bids can be placed until Feb. 28. The art is in the Buck Gallery at the Monterey Museum of Art, 559 Pacific St., Monterey. Information: 372-5477, ext. 66.
  • Collapse by Jared Diamond


    Jared Diamond's new book, "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" will prove to be as influential for this generation as Rachel Carson's, "Silent Spring" was to the embryonic environmental movement of the early 1960's. In "Collapse", Jared Diamond, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Guns, Germs, and Steel" examines the downfall of some of history's greatest civilizations This is an important book and President Bush better be reading it right now. Unlike most books of the moment, Diamond's "Collapse" is brilliantly written and persuasively argued. Diamond takes an unstinting look at the failures of past societies - from the deforestation and eventually depopulation of Easter Island to the vanishing civilizations of the Anasazi and the Maya and the doomed Viking colony on Greenland. Jared argues that,"environmental damage, climate change, rapid population growth, and unwise political choices were all factors in the demise of these societies, but other societies found solutions and persisted. Similar problems face us today and have already brought disaster to Rwanda and Haiti, even as China and Australia are trying to cope in innovative ways." In one of the book's most chilling sections, Diamond lists the countries around the globe with the most environmental degradation -coupled with unbearable population density- and then ticks off the same as contemporary global trouble spots. Rwanda, Haiti, Iraq and Afghanistan all make the list. Jared argues that change is needed to prevent the future demise of our 21st Century civilizations and that hard, political and cultural choices lay ahead. Jared teaches at UCLA and, lately, whenever I am in the student store on campus, I stop to look at the area devoted to his work and I think of this book's major question,” how can our world best avoid committing ecological suicide?"

    Coming Soon: Opens- May 1, 2005
    The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County presents "Collapse?"
    this exhibition will draw on ideas from Jared Diamond's "Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed".
  • "Collapse?" at The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
  • To Never Forget: Faces of the Fallen Now at Syracuse University

    The exhibition "To Never Forget: Faces of the Fallen" organized by Chester Arnold at the College of Marin has now traveled to Syracuse University.

    faces of the fallen
    Photo by Ashley McDowell

    More than 1,400 paintings of U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq since March 2003 line the first floor wall of Syracuse University's Shaffer Art Building.

    The initial “Faces of the Fallen” originated when Chester Arnold at the College of Marin was moved by a story in The New York Times on U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. Faculty and students at the college painted, drew and produced more than 1, 100 portraits of soldiers killed since the war began.

    Stephen Zaima, professor of painting in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, arranged to bring the exhibit to Syracuse University. Students, faculty, staff and Syracuse community members will paint an additional 350 portraits of soldiers who have died since the exhibit began at the College of Marin in November 2004.

    All of the portraits in the exhibition will eventually be given to the families of the soldiers depicted.

    Hours for the exhibit are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; and weekends 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Paid parking is available in Comstock Avenue lots. For more information, contact the Studio Arts department at (315) 443-4613 or

    The exhibition which runs March 3-April 1 is free and open to the public.

    For me, the blank grey panels placed to mark individuals whose images were unavailable remind me of Gerhard Richter's work and give the entire collection an even more poignant presence.

    Wednesday, March 02, 2005

    The Kingdom of Siam

    Currently at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco is the exhibition- THE KINGDOM OF SIAM: THE ART OF CENTRAL THAILAND, 1350-1800

    The Kingdom of Siam

    The exhibition is the first to focus on art from Thailand’s lost kingdom of Ayutthaya, and the first exhibition of classical art from Thailand shown in the United States in more than thirty years. This exhibition is rich in spiritual and artistic inspiration.
    The works are exhibited in chronological order, and according to the curators (classical Thai art authority Dr. Forrest McGill, the Asian Art Museum’s Chief Curator and Wattis Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art and M. L. Pattaratorn Chirapravati, Assistant Professor of Asian Art, California State University, Sacramento): three major themes are explored: the development of a distinct national culture; cosmopolitanism and the importance of trade; and art as an instrument of royal power.

    On the day I visited, the galleries housing the traveling exhibition were crowded, yet hushed. Two Thai monks gazed reverently at the objects on display. The saffron color of their robes added a taste of Siam to the grey San Francisco afternoon.

    asian art museum

    More than neighboring kingdoms, including perpetual rival Burma, Ayutthaya was cosmopolitan and outward–looking. The 1600s and early 1700s were a period of great prosperity and cultural accomplishment, but in 1767 Burmese armies destroyed the capital. These conflicts were dramatized in the recent Thai blockbuster- "Suriyothai", which can be described as a sort of Thai "Gone With the Wind". The human suffering was great, and the loss of artworks and records incalculable. As one peers into the open cavity in the huge Buddha head in the lobby, its original sculpted flame crown torn off by time or battle, the costs of this warfare become clear. In our present era, with forces battling over territory and ideology in Iraq, the calm, internal gaze of the one who became awake provides hope for an alternate path.
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