Saturday, June 30, 2007

ZOOM at Arena1 - Santa Monica Airport

Images by (left to right): Christian Nold, Lordy Rodriguez, Nina Katchadourian, and Joyce Kozloff.

ARENA 1 is pleased to announce the opening of a group exhibition of work exploring space and meaning through the various devices of "mapping." Working in the USA, Britain and Australia, all 19 artists in the show employ maps as resource material, not as an exploration of actual geography or the time/space continuum but rather as a matter of charting, subverting or deconstructing the very idea of mapping as a representation of the world. The artists themselves are as varied in their approach to this process as the number of directions by which we can transverse any physical position in space. Each has plotted a uniquely personal route that is fanciful, interpretive or politically driven to re-form the map of the imagination. Like the telephoto function, ZOOM +/- references a familiar orientation, then moves quickly to a point of abstraction in the artists' paintings, photographs, collages, sculptures and computer generated mappings.

For Australian artist Louisa Bufardeci “all statistical systems, linguistic systems, information systems, all systems compel and repulse me…Their artificial relationship between form and content compels me to pull them apart, twist them around, recode them and re-present them in ways that question their original form of representation and their assumptions.” Works from her “Governing Values” series utilize statistics from the CIA, the World Bank and other official fact gathering agencies with countries taking their position and size according to x and y variables such as inflation rate and life expectancy for example, to map the world’s agriculture production.

British artist Christian Nold recently completed a project at Southern Exposure as part of his on-going “Emotion Map” series which has taken him around the globe. In it he asks volunteers to use a Bio Mapping device and go for a walk in their town. The device measures the wearer's Galvanic Skin Response (GSR), which is an indicator of emotional arousal as well as their geographical location. The information is downloaded into his computer and re-produced as a map. “Emotion Maps” from San Francisco, Greenwich and Newham are shown here.

Nina Katchadourian works in video, sound, photography, paper and sculpture. She was born in Finland and lives most of the year in NYC. “Finland’s Longest Road”, is the entire length of highway E75 cut from an atlas coiled up and placed in a Petri dish where its diminutive size makes it look like an experiment. “Genealogy of the Supermarket” is a c-print of an installation she created of framed product labels mounted on striking red wallpaper. The chart “interrelates people who appear on common products in the grocery store and organizes them so that they appear to be members of one large family.”

Joyce Kozloff’s collages combine hand-drawn copies of historical battle maps with downsized, cut-out color photocopies of various warriors, all armed to the teeth. A feminist and activist, Kozloff “suggests Freud had it exactly wrong: what he should have asked is, what do boys want?” Her answer seems to be “the universality, across time and geography, of willed carnage. Kozloff's sources range from Goya and Manet to Tintin and Warhammer, but she relied most of all on drawings made by her son when he was a child.” (Nancy Princenthal, Art in America)

Ken Buhler, Sarah Trigg and Mary Hambleton are painters. Buhler’s focus on the minutiae of veins and highways in coral reefs results in richly painted images with allusions to maps radiant physical space and ability to hold and reveal multiple levels of information (including the non-visible). Trigg’s paintings project the spiritual and physical tensions between technologized culture and the natural landscape and Hambleton’s abstractions look like mappings of the heavens or molecules, with scale shifts from micro to macro. Also cosmic in outlook is the work of John Noestheden, whose crystal laden works on paper reference the patterns found in star formations as modeled in the charts and star maps that are constructed in an attempt to understand and make sense of the universe.

London-born Matthew Picton concentrates on the spaces between the cracks in his adopted state of Oregon. A blue spidery web of reinforced Dura-Lar hangs airily on a wall, belying its humble origins as the map of the cracks in a Medford alleyway. Robert Walden, from NYC, says his “Ontological Road Maps” are “a picture of time. Each drawing reveals the time it takes to make a road map and then each finished drawing actually represents that time. All along, there is a literal play on mapping. Each drawing represents a process (of mapmaking, of creating roads) and a place (a representation of existence that can be either real or imagined).” Lordy Rodriguez reconfigures the United States according to his personal experience and private fantasies using the formal conventions of maps to organize his bright, translucent colored work.

Several artists employ actual maps in their work. Doug Beube, Jeff Woodbury, Matthew Cusick and TOFU all have work based on cut up, cut out, sanded, and otherwise manipulated atlases, charts and other “mapping” tools.

Linda Ekstrom’s altered maps render the landscape and its locations as unidentifiable. Each ephemeral form has been created by cutting away the land masses on the map, leaving only the pathways of travel. “The Camps Against the Book” is an altered book with glass beads mapping out the Nazi internment and death camps from WW II.

Janice Caswell’s drawings and installations represent mental maps, an investigation of the mind's peculiar ways of organizing memories. She attempts “to trace the edges of recalled experience, plotting the movement of bodies and consciousness through time and space.”

David Brody and Douglas Henderson's computer animation and sound work, "Disobey This Command!" will be shown for the first time at ARENA 1 Gallery. Brody is a visual artist who makes paintings, wall drawings, and computer animations. Douglas Henderson is a composer whose current work is focused on multi-channel electroacoustic compositions, sound-producing sculptural installations, and scores for modern dance. Brody and Henderson, who met in New York, have long recognized certain affinities in their work, including an interest in "visual music." For Disobey, Henderson composed a sound score which responds to Brody's recursive, fractal-like visual structure.

ARENA 1 is an exhibition space founded by Santa Monica Art Studios directors Yossi Govrin and Sherry Frumkin. Based in an historic hangar at the Santa Monica Airport, ARENA 1 invites internationally known as well as newly established curators to develop innovative and compelling exhibitions.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Jesse Malin's "Broken Radio"

The role of the artist according to Jesse Malin is to put you "right there in a time and place so you can smell it."

Ryan Adams once said of his close buddy. "He's a kick-ass storyteller," the wonder boy remarked when he had just finished producing Jesse's first album. "Jesse's songs are so good they hurt my feelings. He doesn't just sound like he's singing the songs. He sounds like he IS that person."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

''To say it is an insult is absurd.''

"The idea that it is some kind of calculated insult is an absurdity. The real insult - to the intelligence and decency of 'the world's 1.5 billion Muslims', for whom people such as Mohammed Ejaz ul-Haq presume to speak - comes from the ignorance and paranoia of leaders who feel so threatened by a novelist that they'll call for him to be killed."
-Hari Kunzru (author of Transmission & The Impressionist)

The noted author of The Satanic Verses, Haroun and the Sea of Stories,Midnight's Children and The Ground Beneath Her Feet has been knighted by the Queen of England and the newly minted Sir Salman has again become a lightning rod for criticism from extreme and irrational voices. Heinrich Heine's line from, "Almansor", is once again a call for constant vigilance:

"Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings."
("Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen.")
—Heinrich Heine, from his play Almansor (1821)

As an artist, a dreamer.and a creator: I stand in solidarity with Salman Rushdie and against those who would attempt to silence any true creative voice. Salman Rushdie is a man of incredible bravery. To stand alone with a pen (or word processor)against those with guns and bombs is not foolishness but instead necessity.

Salman Rushdie and his wife Padma Lakshmi

Monday, June 18, 2007

Monet's "Waterloo Bridge, Temps Couvert" Sells at Christie's for $35.6 million

Claude Monet (1840-1926)
"Waterloo Bridge, Temps Couvert"
25½" x 39 1/8" oil on canvas 1904

"I adore London, it is a mass, an ensemble, and it is so simple. What I like most of all in London is the fog. How could English painters of the nineteenth century have painted its houses brick by brick? Those fellows painted bricks that they didn't see, that they couldn't see... I so love London! But I only like it in the winter... It is the fog that gives it its marvellous breadth. Its regular, massive blocks become grandiose in this mysterious cloak."(Monet, quoted in J. House, ""Monet's London: Artists' Reflections on the Thames" 1859-1914).

The painting is one in a series of views from the Savoy Hotel that Monet painted in London in the years before World War I.
The High Museum presented a fascinating exhibit on Monet in London almost twenty years ago. The catalogue written by Grace Seiberling is well worth finding.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Manet's "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère" Graces the Getty

Édouard Manet
A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (detail) 1882
Oil on canvas
37 13/16 x 51 3/16 in.
The Samuel Courtauld Trust, Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery, London

Manet's magnificent and mysterious "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère" graces the Getty Museum in Brentwood until September 9th, 2007. Normally housed at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London in the imposing Somerset House, we are fortunate to be able to view the painting in Los Angeles.

Manet's "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère" is painted in rich buttery strokes of oil paint. The physicality of the pigment gives tangible visual weight to a scene which combines the still presence of the barmaid with the flickering mystery of the mirror behind the bar.

The Getty has placed the work in a room with a mirror on the opposite wall to help spur a dialogue between viewer and painting. We are asked a series of provacative questions on the Getty's webpage on Manet's "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère" at the Getty:

• How are we to characterize the barmaid's expression?
• What is the nature of the viewer's relationship to the barmaid?
• What is happening between the barmaid and the man reflected in the mirror?
• If we see the man's reflection in the mirror, why isn't his figure also visible in front of the bar?
• Why is there no indication in the mirror of the balcony walkway on which we imagine the man, or ourselves, to be standing?
• Why are the reflections of the figures and still life objects displaced so far to the right?

The Getty has placed the work in a room with a mirror on the opposite wall to help spur a dialogue between viewer and painting.

Few paintings have influenced my artistic process more than Manet's "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère". While studying in London I spent hours in front of the work, hoping if I gazed at the painting long enough that it would divulge its secrets.

The Getty seems to sum up my own thoughts on the work:
"The more one reflects on Manet's painting, the more difficult it becomes to project a straightforward narrative onto it, and the more conscious and uncertain we become of our position as spectators. At once invoking and undermining the traditional notion of painting-as-mirror, Manet's work becomes a profound interrogation of the act of looking itself."

If you can't find me in my studio this summer, look for me at the Getty still gazing at Manet's "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère" in a rich process of discovery and inspiration.

More at:
Manet's "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère" at the Getty
The Courtauld Collection Audiofile on Manet's "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère"

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Listening to RB Morris' New Album- Empire

Listen to a clip from RB Morris'"Empire"

Download RB Morris' New Album "Empire" at Digstation

RB Morris has a new album out which is available as a download from Digstation. As I mentioned last year after his gig at the Getty, RB's new song "Empire" is a musical poem of political and personal hubris for our times. In early 2008 - RB Morris, Phil Cousineau and I will be leading a workshop on creativity at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur. Details to follow.

Last year I wrote that Lucinda Williams has called him the "greatest unknown songwriter in the country." Recently at the Edinburgh Castle in San Francisco, I heard RB Morris play the greatest unreleased song in the country - his post September 11th lament - "Empire ". "Empire" is a heartbreaking look at America today. It would fit right in on Neil Young's "Living With War", Pearl Jam's new album, The Dixie Chicks' new collection, Springsteen's current tour and Michael McDermott's glorious new album "Noise From Words" which is also available as a download: Download Michael McDermott's New Album "Noise From Words" at OLI

RB Morris has been described as a "hillbilly beatnik hailing from Knoxville, Tennessee, and a celebrated poet, playwright, and singer-songwriter. His songs reflect a range of musical styles from blues and country to improvisation and spoken word, but what holds them together and gives them their signature is a provocative wit and a sense of melancholy. Morris's rhythmic wordplay turns these contrary tendencies into the best of friends."

RB Morris - photo by Gregg Chadwick

Saturday, June 02, 2007

For the White Book on Matisse’s Table by the Dahlias, Peaches, Water Glass

For the White Book on Matisse’s Table by the Dahlias, Peaches, Water Glass

There are two kinds of love
and we’ve known both.
Two kinds of love:
the one that thrills
and one that satisfies.
Thrilling love compresses time
it speeds your heart.
The satisfying kind turns
days to summers
looks to lives.
They are two kinds, two courses
one cycle short
one long
neither engendering
the other
flowing separate
or discordant.

Not partial to a party
my thrilling lover
may satisfy tomorrow
my satisfying love
may suddenly thrill.
We want to weave them
but always fail
for they are of
such unequal lengths
to not be
They are played
and what we can
is tune ourselves
to each rhythm
to love each way
to thrill
to satisfy.

- Kent Chadwick