Monthly Archives: December 2008


MOCA, Los Angeles.
Martin Kippenberger, The Problem Perspective
Energetic, colorful and massive body of work by an artist whose career spanned an impressive but quick 20 years. The work ranges from simple line drawings, large-scale paintings both representational and abstract, to large installations while containing a seriously wide range of subject matter using humor, satire, historical reference, personal experience, lots of self reference,  and all-around acute technical craftsmanship.
The variety of medium, subject matter, and the overall expansive number of amazing works is quite refreshing.  
The greatest part of the exhibition (besides ALL OF THE COLOR….for a color junkie it was seriously satisfying) were the arrangement of hundreds of sketches running through each exhibition room Kippenberger would create at different hotels he would stay at.  Each of the pieces of paper the drawings were composed on still contained each Hotel’s Monogram!  The range of subject matter and the technical skill of the “sketches” is incredible, as you could actually see the wheels spinning in this man’s head right there on paper.  I have to admit it kicked me in the butt a bit to begin sketching again, and reminded me of the possibility, exercise, and beauty simple (or in this case not so simple) sketching holds!  So my mixed media class is going to be in for some serious sketching exercising this upcoming semester!!! wooohoooo!!

Kitt & Pinter

I’ve been to discombobulated to keep up posting over the break, but I couldn’t let the deaths of Eartha Kitt and Harold Pinter pass without at least a couple links.

Here are a couple choice Kitt performances (the first, “I Want To Be Evil,” was the tune that made me fall for her — the second, “Uska Dara” is in Turkish):

And here’s the first segment of a TV version of Pinter’s play “The Collection,” starring a quartet of terrific actors: Helen Mirren, Malcolm McDowell, Laurence Olivier and Alan Bates (you can get to the other parts if you click through to youtube):

Exhibits of note in San Francisco

I will be making a trip to S.F. over this winter break. Here are a few exhibits or venues of note that will receive my attention. The third image is a “light on paper” piece by Josephine Taylor titled Me Drinking Milk and Saliva at Catherine Clark (which is now in a new location on Minna St.). The Yerba Buena Center For the Arts has an exhibit that at least caught my attention. It is titled The Gatherers: Greening Our Urban Spheres. It could be awful or engaging-?
The Walter and McBean Gallery on the San Francisco Art Institute campus has an exhibit as well that I will check into. (See image with shovels- click for link to description.)


Lo-fi and Proud

Melissa Swanson, a student, has completed a couple shots for a “trailer” for an animated film (an animated film she doesn’t intend to actually complete). She’s using a melange of techniques — the backgrounds are woodcut prints, some of the animation is done in Flash and then printed out on transparencies, and then she’s shooting the transparencies against the backgrounds with a digital camera — then compiling the shots with QuickTime. She’s also started using paper cut-outs, and painting on the transparencies. You can sometimes see light reflections on the transparencies — Melissa’s been wondering if that’s problematic, or if it actually adds something worthwhile. I don’t think she intended the shots to look so lo-fi, but she seems to be developing an affection for its lo-fi qualities.

It reminded me of some animation I’d seen by Brent Green — he does stop-motion animation, drawing on transparencies whose edges you can clearly see — sometimes the light flares along their edges to pleasing effect. He doesn’t try to hide the seams of his process at all, and the layers of lo-fi attack accrete into a genuine aesthetic. Here are some excerpts of his short “Hadacol Christmas” — I particularly love the scene at the end of the clip, where Santa’s sleigh is held to the sky with flickering scotch tape, and a slurry of blurred snow makes the night look like a pulled-apart cotton-ball:

The full animated short can be found on youtube in two parts:;=related

More films can be found on his website, and he also has a DVD of his films for sale.

The Mutilation of Books for Artistic Ends

When Logan asked me if I might have any books he could have, that would ultimately be mutilated for the cause of art, my response was: “Of course not.” Nonetheless, he went on to find material for his piece “For I too shall receive my letter,” currently installed in the art building stairway.

Serendipitously, someone provided me a link to work from another artist who mutilates books, Brian Dettmer — though the mutilation takes the form of a kind of x-ray excavation. If books had minds of their own (not the minds lent them by their authors), they might cough up images like those produced by Dettmer, when caught up in scrambled indexical fever dreams.

“I Like Hats”

Here are pics of the final for Kat’s design class, taken by Alejandra Rubio. The final was a fashion show, with at least one element of clothing constructed out of recycled materials.

Duct tape helmet. The announcer said that while it may not effectively ward off blows to the head, it is waterproof.

The rope tie (which could perhaps double as a noose) can be swung around 180 degrees, to show off the rope bow tie on the other side.

The below can-scalloped dress made a nice tinkling sound as the model sashayed past.

A comfy-looking jacket made of quilts:

The whole outfit’s nice, but the mask really makes it:

Toiyabe Mountain Range Photography Excursion: Great Basin

This past Sunday the evening section of beginning photography made an excursion into the Great Basin. We ended up in the upper portion of the Toiyabe mountain range running south of the small rural town Austin. These mountains top out at over 10,000 ft. There are a number of mountain ranges in this area of central Nevada that catch a good deal of snow and are higher than portions of the Toiyabe range (although these ranges do not get quite as much as the Rubies in north-central Nevada). It is possible to travel for hours on gravel and dirt roads in this area and at times cross paths with few if any other travelers.

I did manage to get some video footage on the approach to the canyon we ended up in that I may be able to use. With my camera on the dash and the lense telephotographing the approach there is sense of being floated over the entrance rather than pulling the distance into the viewer. I slightly under-exposed the footage at this point, but i may be able to pull something out of it.

The students will be printing images from the excursion for their final prints.


Topffer article in The Comics Journal

I have a longish essay in the latest Comics Journal, #294, which is now out. The essay is on Rodolphe Topffer, one of the early pioneers of the comic strip; his work has been collected in English translation only recently. He’s one of my favorite artists, and in the article I try to get at some of his innovations — to quote myself:

From a superficial glance, his work might seem to share much in common with his predecessors; for centuries artists had been creating images in sequence, using captions to explain the storyline. Töpffer didn’t even push forward to adopt the last piece of the formal puzzle that would make his work unarguably “comics,” the leap into speech balloons (or at least not in his published work — he toyed with them in a notebook and then abandoned the approach). But there are two crucial differences in his method – differences that were in fact innovations – which keep his work feeling “modern,” functioning as stories rather than specimens of graphic history.

The primal innovation was the injection of speed into the graphic narrative, both in the execution of the drawings themselves, and in the time that exists between the images. He’s not drawing scenes, but moments. His images don’t languish in a buffer of time, adrift in temporality like islands at sea – they flow one after the other with a kind of ticking impatience. The sort of time he captures is unthinkable without the metronomic guillotine of the clock. There’s a bit of a conundrum in this, in that each image seems to have a lesser duration (each panel sticks in the eye less than the framed quasi-theatrical dioramas of a typical broadsheet) – and yet more images are needed to elaborate the full circumference of an event, to feed the impatience of time.

Töpffer’s other major innovation was his realization that the text and image need not support each other in a kind of explicatory unity (or redundancy), where one converges with the other toward a mutual vanishing point of agreed-upon meaning. Rather, text and image can exist on fundamentally parallel tracks, supporting each other in contradiction.

Text and image perform a dance of mutual commentary, not explanation. Two cohabitating modes of expression are yoked together in one singular medium, producing a habitat whose primary mode of meaning is divergence: in short, a universe defined by irony.

To find out why the rather pedestrian image below is one of my favorite panels in all of comics, you’ll have to read the whole article.

The issue also has, among other things, interviews with the cartoonists Jason and Mark Tatulli, and an excellent article by R. Fiore, reviewing two books on the censorship of comics in the 50s, which is online in its entirety.

Blip Festival 2008
Blip Festival 2008: The Promo from Richard Alexander Caraballo on Vimeo.

Blip Festival 2008 is currently going on in Brooklyn. From the website:

Highlighting the chipmusic phenomenon and its related disciplines, the festival aims to showcase emerging creative niches involving the use of legacy video game & home computer hardware as modern artistic instrumentation. Devices such as the Nintendo Entertainment System, Commodore 64, Atari ST, Nintendo Game Boy and others are repurposed into the service of original, low-res, high-impact electronic music and visuals — sidestepping game culture and instead exploring the technology’s untapped potential and distinctive intrinsic character.

Their Myspace page has selections of some of the music. And Weekend America had interviews with some of the musicians. Interestingly, a couple of the musicians talk about the raw and “dirty” quality they can get using the old videogame systems — a rawness that, you have to figure, derives more from a sense of aural nostalgia than from any analog ghosts in their digital machines.