Monthly Archives: October 2009

Last week of Faculty Show

This weekend is the final stretch of the faculty show, at the Reference Gallery on the third floor of Prim Library. I enjoyed the panel a couple weeks back. The faculty work is all over the map, I think in a good way: Mary’s self-cannibalized prints, that look like distorted 50s childcare manuals; Russell’s video clips and his large-format photo of two airplane models, seemingly caught in the act of mating; Rick’s senseless solar-powered machinery, with their canaries stranded in their metaphorical coal mines; Sheri’s multi-textured ceramic grid and her fanciful zoological abbreviation; Pan’s collaged bas-relief characters; Kat’s decorative handgun patterns; Stacey’s origami-like pinhole camera; Erika’s swirling painting (seemingly part microbe and part solar flare); Donna’s monoprints (it’s nice to be unaware that the music Prof can also kick out some monoprints, and then be pleasantly surprised); my own video loops with their audio tracks about eternity. It’d be hard to suss out any orthodoxy from that mess.

What I liked best about the panel was hearing the other Profs talk about how their teaching and art practice bounce off each other. Teaching certainly isn’t for every artist (and there’s nothing worse than a teacher who’s reluctantly putting up with teaching just as a way to float their art), but for those who enjoy both modes, it’s an extremely gratifying feedback loop.

Artist Talk & Reception Tonight: Gregg Fleishman

Gregg Fleishman is giving a talk during the reception for his new show in the Tahoe Gallery, titled “Cubism.” Below is the info, from the press release:

Please join the Tahoe Gallery in welcoming Gregg Fleishman to the Tahoe Area:

*Reception and Artist Talk: Tomorrow! Oct. 29, 2009.

*Artist Talk: 5:15pm in rm. 320 Prim Library 3rd Floor.
*Followed by a reception with light refreshments and food.

Fleishman’s work deals not only with aesthetic value, but also issues of geometry, and sustainability. This show is a great visual representation of what can happen when interdisciplinary concerns are combined. Below is a brief background on Gregg Fleishman. He has had an amazing career visible in the body of work shown on our campus.

Gregg Fleishman is an architect, designer, artist and inventor whose work is largely informed by geometry and functionality. In 1970 Fleishman earned an architectural degree at the University of Southern California that boasted a ground breaking and innovative program at the time, where he studied with Konrad Wachsmann, famous for his structures illustrated in his book The Turning Point of Building including the prefabricated house developed with Walter Gropius.

Fleishman’s acclaimed innovative architectural structures express both modern and futuristic aesthetics and have been featured in articles by the Los Angeles Times (2006, 2004, 2003, 1999, 1997, 1992, 1989, 1985), the San Francisco Chronicle (2006, 2005), the New York Times (2000) and the Wall Street Journal (2006). His SCULPT C H A I R S are included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art (NY), Yale University Art Gallery, and the Art Institute of Chicago. Recent custom projects include designing a stage for the East Bay Arts Alliance in Oakland and hardscape design at Pacifica Community Charter School in Los Angeles. 2006 exhibitions include “SCULPT C H A I R S ” at the Museo del Patrimonio Industriale sponsored by the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Bologna, Italy; The “Structural Language of Gregg Fleishman” curated by Nathan Shapira at the Pacific Design Center, West Hollywood; and the Southern California Home Show at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Largely influenced by his early work experience in the construction industry, Fleishman’s mission is to continue developing ways to make building easier.

ETEK L.A. Trip, 2009: Day 2

I’ll write this up in more detail later, but here are a few quick hits from yesterday’s tour. First, it was The Post Group, where we learned how a degree in Medieval Art History and Painting is actually quite helpful when you’re trying to digitally add hair to an actor with a receding hairline, and got a peek into a small foley room, where the sound of feet stepping across a floor is performed by a man precisely stamping with one foot in a high heel:

Then it was on to Digital Domain, where we got to walk through the Frank Gehry-designed conference room, informally dubbed “the whale.” We found out that a good portion of Brad Pitt’s performance in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” was actually a computer-generated facsimile of Brad Pitt’s head, superimposed on the bodies of various older actors. We also got to see the trailer they developed for “TR2N,” the upcoming sequel for “Tron,” projected in 3D.

After that, it was Rhythm & Hues, which now has a policy of not allowing descriptions of the tour on blogs and facebook and such. I’ll have to keep mum on that, but if you want a taste, you can always go to my blog post on the trip from last year.

We wrapped up the day in a Frank Gehry-designed structure on a much larger scale — the Disney Concert Hall. CalArts has a theater in the building where we saw “Mosca and the Meaning of Life,” a combination of live performance and animation, a collaboration between Christine Panushka and Alberto Araiza. The meaning of life was not, in fact, disclosed in the performance, but it was worth the effort nonetheless.

Dance & projection at UC East Bay

Last week, Kristin and I went down to UC East Bay, to present a piece Kristin has been choreographing with some UNR students, and a projection of some animation/dance work we’d done in the past. It was presented to a couple classes, one taught by Eric Kupers and one by Kimiko Guthrie (outside of teaching, they’re the artistic directors of Dandelion Dancetheater. They had a successful run of a show in New York last summer, even snagging a review in the NY Times, which was one of the summer’s little thrills — it was nice to see pictures of folks I’d worked with, reproduced in an official capacity under that stately “New York Times” header font.)

Babs put together a portable “nest,” derived from the one she constructed out behind the art building, that was used as a piece of sculptural stage-setting. The dancers were Mandy Albert, Nicole da Roza, Teryn Jackson, and Daniel Miller. Nicole also edited together a projection of stills, taken from prior performances and in staged settings, which added to the dreamy atmosphere of the thing; the title of the live piece was “Dreaming in Black and White.”

We got some good questions from Eric’s class, kicking around the differences between projected work and live performance. Here are a few pics; a few of them have bigger versions, and look the better for it, so click on through for the full effect.

ETEK L.A. Trip, 2009: Day 1

The first day of the ETEK L.A. trip tends to be somewhat shambolic, a bit of a random tour of Los Angeles sights before getting down to the weekday business of visiting studios and production houses. This Sunday was no exception, starting off with a delay as they changed the tire on our airplane before letting us board. The delay gave me ample time to sketch out a couple of other stranded passengers on my iPhone.

But eventually, we were up in the air, crossing the sierras before dipping into the brown paste of LA smog. I slept through most of it; Sarah took the pic below.

After some breakfast/lunch off Wilshire Boulevard, we hit the LaBrea Tar Pits.

Much of the displays seem a bit old-fashioned; the animatronic animals, like the small mammoth, or the saber-tooth tiger locked in a perpetual dinner interruptus with a giant sloth, have shuddery stalling movements, as if they’re constantly second-guessing themselves, and you can hear faint clickings under their fur. And the large mural that you see on entrance is quite hyerbolic in its insistence on carniverous drama. Check out this sabertooth tiger, who looks not just hungry but also clinically insane:

But those sorts of details constitute part of the offbeat charm of the site. There’s something inherently comical/horrible about the sort of image that is emblematic of the rich fossil finds at LaBrea: the vision of a dead horse, with a dead sabertooth tiger glued on top of it, and then some enormous vultures stuck on top of the tiger, all sinking together into the tar under the accumulated weight of the food chain. It has the ridiculous momentum of those children’s songs that build on an ever-expanding chain of misfortune: she swallowed the cow, to catch the dog, she swallowed the dog, to catch the cat, she swallowed the cat, to catch the bird…

There’s an impressively fastidious painting of the prehistoric LaBrea area by Mark Hallett included with the displays. Although it doesn’t offer much relief from the carnivorous round. There’s one fox, sleeping placidly in the hollow of a felled tree trunk, but other than that, it’s nature “red in tooth and claw,” with a pretty robin proffered only to spill its guts to a hawk, and even the lowly earthworm unspared, wriggling in the maw of a mole.

I think the most interesting part of the museum is the scientific “fishbowl,” where you can watch excavators at work behind glass, removing the fossils from their cement of excess rock. Peeking at the dry-erase boards posted for the edification of us spectators outside the bowl, you learn that the excavators like to give the exhumed skeletons names like “Zed,” “Fluffy” and “Conan.” They’re also eager to expand their contact beyond the fishbowl — a URL was posted for The Excavatrix, “the semi-official blog of the excavators and excavatrices at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, CA,” at which you can find stories of long-dead gastropods, and dragonflies stuck together with asphalt.

From there it was a quick hop to LACMA (we didn’t even have to leave the parking lot — a smooth continuity from asphalt to tar to art). There’s an exhibit called Heroes and Villains: The Battle for Good in India’s Comics currently up, which seemed promising. As the blurb has it:

This exhibition examines the legacy of India’s divine heroes and heroines in contemporary South Asian culture through the comic book genre.

The exhibit had some nice work, especially some pages by Mukesh Singh and Abhishek Singh (the latter employing a dynamically loose inking style that you can get a hint of in the black and white reproduction below). I wish more work had been on display — it was more of a sampler plate than a full-course meal. The image directly below, showing Durga defeating the demon Mahisha (as he assumes the form of a buffalo), isn’t included in the LACMA show, but it’s similar to another piece representing the same story, dating to the mid 1700s, which is in the show. The way Durga’s multiple arms seem to be a form of animaton, in the way that speed-lines or superimpositions can suggest frantic or rapid movement, formed a tenuous but suggestive link between 18th-century illustration and 21st-century comics.

For me, the highlight at LACMA was probably the roomful of Giacomettis (the pic below isn’t from LACMA’s collection, but the head is similar to one of the heads on display there). The surfaces of his figures are so whittled at, so chipped away (as if an excavator has scraped his way to bone, then kept scraping), that the light falls and scatters over them, not like an illumination, but like a thin tissue of spiderweb, torn against the ridges of substantive fact.

And then we drove down Hollywood Boulevard — and after that finally corkscrewing up into the Hollywood Hills, ultimately (after a few involutions and wrong turns, and a bit of GPS consulting via iPhone) looping up Mulholland Drive, getting close enough to the HOLLYWOOD sign that we could make out the vultures wheeling in the blue air directly above it.

(The last two pics were snapped by Sarah)

Between Wonder

Today was the last day that Megan DeArmond’s show “Between Wonder” was up. Here are a few pics if you missed it, or if you want to refresh your memory.

In her talk, DeArmond referenced the “Finish Fetish” artists that were working out of LA in the 60s; using synthetic materials like plastics, they made handmade objects that appeared machine-made. And indeed her rabbits (chosen as a totem because of their role, in Lewis Carroll and elsewhere, as a creature that navigates between the worlds of fantasy and reality) look like they could’ve rolled out of a toy factory in Taiwan.

Or at least they look that way at first glance. I wouldn’t say the rabbits work their cuteness in a subversive manner, exactly, but there’s something idiosyncratic about their expressions. They’re not quite as solicitous in their faces as toys usually are. There’s something internal about the adventures they’re having. There’s a flickering hint of an inner life, apart from what might be imposed on them as playthings.

The forms modeled on acorns looked, to me, like vacuum-sealed containers. The seed as a prototype tupperware. Rather than containing the genesis of an oak, I could imagine popping one open to find a jello-mold. The bits of fruit and marshmallows suspended in the jello would be made of translucent resin.

DeArmond also flagged the “Superflat” movement as a source of inspiration (in her case, she said, without the layering of psychosexual disfunction — though I do think there’s a common thread of infantalization). Her work does seem to speak to a modern experience of childhood, where the all the stand-ins for the adult world, the dolls and trucks and shrunken habitats, are fashioned from plastic. Our childhood among the polymers.

Bisque Pic

Victoria, Aurora and Heppy were prepping their work for a bisque firing, and asked if there was anyone around with a camera, because they thought it looked good, assembled in the kiln. Here’s the pic (click to make it bigger):

It actually made me a little hungry. Looked like an elaborate meal, attractively prepared.

Racecars & Ghosts

The centerpiece of Russell’s show is a slotcar racetrack, four lanes, with handmade racecars set to the conductive grooves (under the front of each car, there’s a keel-like tongue that fits the slotted groove, bracketed by two brushy extrusions of copper, like a slightly frayed galvanic mustache).

The track, in its broad loops, takes up most of the gallery space. The racers, even the youngest ones, tower over the tracks, enthusiastic colossi. There was a solid contingent of kids at the reception, bogarting the cars.

There’s a kind of zen to the vicarious drive. The trick is not to overspeed the curves: the contact between copper mustache and arcing strip is easily thrown by centrifugal force, the car then stalling at an awkward angle, followed by calls across the racetrack for adjustment and repair. Then the hands of the colossi reach down, intervening in the fates of the cars, setting them back on their way.

I ended up focusing not on the whole race but on my particular groove or curve, the other racers forming a kind of peripheral distraction, feeling a slight anxious hitch in concentration during the blackout turns where I couldn’t see my car.

Here are some wooden molds for the cars.

The pit crew (numbering one) at work with, lamp, glue, tweezers and tecate:

The Silverland Gallery is located at St. Mary’s Art Center. It had been a hospital, mainly servicing injured miners. Now it hosts art workshops and retreats. It has a wonderful Victorian atmosphere, and its current furniture accomodates both church pews and castoff plush chairs from casinos.

Here’s a relief of Father Monogue, who supervised the building of the hospital: it was run by the Sisters of Charity.

Any building with that much illness and death in its history is bound to accumulate ghost stories. Kath informed me that some ghost hunting show had filmed in the building a few weeks before. She was told, by the caretaker of the building, that there have been sightings on the road out of town, of a man with an overcoat and hat. He lurches into the road, and people jump the brakes, certain they’ve hit him: when they get out of the car, there’s no sign of anyone. She wasn’t looking forward to the drive home. When she got into her car and turned the key in the ignition, her front and rear wipers sprung into action, though she swears she left them off.

Out beyond the front porch, you could see Virginia City’s mountainside illuminated “V” — foreshortened, it looked less less like a letter and more like a pipe, a garish homage to Magritte.

Sometime after midnight, on the porch, Russell mentioned that the only way he’d been able to interface with the history of the building — the suffering and death that had transpired between the walls — was through a sort of play. The attention you pay to your track, your route, winnowing out all other distractions, is related to the kind of selfishness that takes over when you’re suffering towards death. Russell didn’t use the word “selfish” in an accusatory way — just as a measure of fact. The way the pinioned mind focuses on bodily particulars, and the insistent silhouettte of mortality, undeterred and finally undeferrable.

Some stayed overnight. The Art Center was a small communal arc for a night, afloat above the abandoned mines of Virginia City. I had no ghosts to report, though Kristin was creeped out by the print of a clown that was hanging in our room – he had the kind of eyes that seem to follow you. But thankfully his eyes went out with the lights.

The next morning, there was a breakfast of pancakes, eggs and bacon. I surveyed the gallery aftermath.

I have to take the below pic as grossly exaggerated evidence of racing tallies. No one really seemed to be keeping track. Three laps seemed to tax the outer limits of attention.

I got a look at the saddest room of the upstairs: the still-barred window, the bedframe like bars themselves, a harsh rectangle meant to delimit the sleeping posture of a “lunatic” (or as the plaque by the front door more gently put it, the “mentally disturbed”). Some play had gone on, just down the hall, but the proximity to the bars made it not quite a joke. Or at least not an excusively jolly one.