Monday, September 29, 2014

Beware Wet Paint at ICA, Bone Daddies Ramen Bar, Columbia Road Flower Market

Parker Ito in Beware Wet Paint at ICA (photo by me)

Beware Wet Paint at ICA

ICA, aka, Institute of Contemporary Arts in London has a show on view entitled Beware Wet Paint, featuring about one work each of the artists, Korakrit ArunanondchaiIsabelle CornaroJeff ElrodNikolas GambaroffParker ItoDavid OstrowskiPamela RosenkranzNed Vena, and Christopher Wool.  The concept of the exhibition is to show how these artists use painting in singular ways while also having wider practices. It also distinguishes linage amongst peers, recent groundbreakers (specifically Christopher Wool) and bonafide heavy hitters like Duchamp.  Oh wait, did you say Duchamp? Him and a bragging bill of other names are included in the short press release.  These names include; Richard Prince, Richard Hamilton,  Jan Verwoert and yes, Duchamp. The press release is only 200 words long.

I am going on about this press release because this is evidence to a larger symptom in this show and in others I have seen in London.  There is such a curatorial concentration and pedigree here that it seems to be a total reliance on that merit (or the history of that merit) alone.

For instance, in this show it is truly a plopping down of one work by a trending artist amongst other trending artists. It feels like a carpet sample, a showroom of fancy cars, a display that is not about space, time, material in any sort of relationship to a whole (the show) but more fixed on the focus of one artist and having a sampler piece of their art.  I don’t know who organized this show, it leaves no official accountancy for this so I’m going to assume that is was the “Creative” department’s overseeing.  Whoever it was, I think that they did a lax job of a potentially ripe concept.  The selection of artists is great on paper together, the concept as a general (albeit too vague) sounds great on paper. What seems to have been forgotten is that exhibitions, curation, works in a room together are not just about being good on paper.

Who gives two craps about how fancy, brainy, smart, deep, theory driven, names inserted for validation a show is if the actual show feels like a somber funeral room where the works inside are just waiting to die or just getting further dehydrated of any content? Well, I don’t and I’m sorry ICA and London but I want to see some sizzle as well as institutional and academic smarts the next time I come into an exhibition room.

Bone Daddies Spicy Miso Ramen (photo by me)

Bone Daddies Ramen Bar

This hip joint located in Soho…Stop. Just. Stop. So the proceeding sentence just about sums it up. You know how this place is going to feel like, smell like and you are just curious to know what it tastes like.  Well I did just that thing because I went to the Japan Matsuri festival this past Saturday (sorta cute, sorta boring), and I was planning on eating some ramen at one of their stands but people love Japanese things and people love waiting in line for food so I had to scoot out of there to fix my ramen craving. So I walk about and I find this ramen place across from the Supreme store and I think, ‘this will not end well,’ but proceeded anyways because by that point it was 3:00 or as they like to say here 15:00 and I hadn’t eaten since breakfast.  I sat down, it took a while to get any service, and then when a waiter came by I ordered the Spicy Miso Ramen. I’m Korean so spicy ramen and me are very close friends. Anyways it comes, it is very attractive looking, the broth is nice but could use some more punch.  Then I start investigating further.

It has a nice piece of pork, some general veg filler like bamboo shoots and bean sprouts and it has those amazing orange yolked eggs that are just the ‘normal’ eggs in London town. So it looks good, the broth is passable but then you get to the noodles. THE NOODLES! The noodles are no good. They are good, but they are not how ramen noodles should be.  They are stringy, yellow and lack that wave that helps the broth and oils to stick onto them with each bite.

I ate the ramen because I was ravenous and it wasn’t the worst thing to eat but here’s a word of advice. Just because something may look good, it does not mean it tastes good. This is doubly true when it is trying so hard to be cool.

Columbia Road Flower Market (photo by me)

Columbia Road Flower Market

This is the best place ever!!! So, I exaggerate but seriously this was such a great way to spend a Sunday. It is a short walk from the Hoxton Overground (yes I am getting much better at using this thing), it is a small strip of a few blocks but it is probably one of my more intense and fun flower market experiences I have had.  I went late, it closes at 3:00 and I went there around 2:00. 

As you walk closer to it you know it because there are streams of people holding bunches of flowers in blue plastic bags.  Then you see it, not the flowers and plants but the mass of people.  The set up is on a street that is very narrow. Two cars would not easily be able to pass each other. On either side of the street are small stands and they are brimming with amazing blooms and plants.  The sellers are either good looking young things that probably don’t know much about what they are selling or they are the true hawkers with a voice that booms and a ready tip of what to do with what you are buying.

The variety on display was fabulous. Native plants, lots of small shrubs and delicate things along with hardy winter enduring plants were piled high.  Each stand had some focus; loose stems, orchids, potted plants but there was variety within each and it felt more like a continuous line of lush living things then some other markets I have been too.

It was also packed with bodies and they were all buying one thing or another.  Whether it was a student or a granny or a couple with kids in tow, everyone was buying flowers and there was the excitement or purchase and the marvel of something newly discovered that made the almost unbearable density of bodies mildly exhilarating.

This buying and body density frenzy was probably due to the must-sell-now slashing of prices but even the starting prices seemed more then fair for what you received.  At the end of my trip I purchased a potted orchid and some pink anthuriums for my lovely host in London.  I don’t have a room of mine own yet, (soon!) and after coming to this market it makes me even more excited about when I do because I can fill it with all of these amazing plants and flowers.

Monday, September 22, 2014

London, First Impressions

Hi there.  For those of you that don’t know, I’m in London.  I’ve been here for less then a week but it feels like a lifetime.  Since I have been here it’s like I have been on vacation, because of circumstances and settings.  But soon, I’ll be a full-fledged visa certified resident going to school here for the next year.  Why am I going to school at my advanced age? Haaaa! Gawd only knows.  But that aside for the moment I want to squeeze in this post because hell hath no fury like a Monday with YaYaYa.

Frankly dears, I am pooppppppppeeeed.  You know that feeling when you are acting like a tourist and squeezing in everything and then some to your days and nights?!  I can barely stand or keep my eyes open.  This is in advance of the I don’t know what is about to come next in this post.  So bare with me, next week I promise I will be chop full of thoughtful London insights.  For now, I give you a very dashed off list of some first impressions.  And remember what they say about first impressions…

Art – Fabulous! All the museums are actually free which is just amaze and they have sooo many of them and it’s England which like took over everywhere so there is a lot of things from all those places they took over.  They are spread out so it’s a one venue a day type of thing.  I have to say, I was a bit disappointed with the Tate Modern.  I did NOT like the way they exhibit/install/curate their collections.  I have to give it some more time to think about exactly why that is.  They have a Malevich retro on view (which you have to pay 14 pounds for) and I have to admit it sort of confirmed my blasé feeling forward him and all that.  But anyways. Art yes, so much and so excited to see more in the big and small scales.

Food – I have yet to eat fish and chips, bangers and mash, and a motley crew of blood things and I am in no rush to and that darlings is perfectly fine.  London is super amaze cosmopolitan and has sooo many various ethnic groups and they rep hard with their cuisine.  It is sort of different then how it is in NYC, it feels very private, openly secret, there is less faux melting pot like there is in the city.  The best meal I have had was at a Persian restaurant called Kish off the Maida Vale stop. AMAAAZE! I also went to some NYTimes reviewed places and they were good but Kish gets it #1 even if it will take over an hour away from where I will end up living.  Sadness but I will definitely trek out to eat their incredible food.

Underground – OMG I really really really do not like London’s underground, overground, busses, etc.  DIE, DIE, DIE. I will never complain about NYC subway/bus systems ever again.  London’s underground is claustrophobic, dirty ass fabric, knees touching knees close, no AC, hot underground vent air, bullet penis shuttle feel. Smelly, things always stuck or delayed or not working. Is either really fast, which is great, or very slow which is like soul sucking.  I truly hate it.  And it’s expensive! And you still end up having to walk like twenty mins to where you wanna go. DIE!

Style – London people dress well, better in some ways then in NYC but in this weird generic “cool” way which is like annoying.  Girls are cute, boys are very cute. People are cute.  They seem a bit to catalog but meh, they are trying.  Maybe that’s what I don’t like about it.  They look great but it’s like they tried to look great.  NYC bebes be like, and what, I eat a bagel and I’m not even sure what shoes I got on.  Sorta love that vibe more. Meh.

Accents – Kewt but sorta almost over it (it’s been less then a week!) sigh.

Money – Yo but seriously people, it is WAYYY more expensive in London then in NYC.  Like omgawd what?  Cheap rents, living in the ass far part of  the city, are around $1,200-$1,700.  There are all these taxes like council tax and stuff.  Plus, even broke bitches have a cleaner so that’s like another $40 a month and then that stupid train which is like $3.50-$4.00 per ride! And the a coffee is like $2.50.  And everything is in pounds so your like, ah that’s not too bad 1.5 pounds for a small cup of coffee but man the exchange is 1.67 to the $1 so like 400 pounds is like close to 800 dollars! Scary. Imma just eat those amazing orange yolk eggs they sell off the shelf for every meal.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

Maybe It’s Time For Some Deep Thoughts

Ryan McGinely, "YEARBOOK" at Team Gallery, NYC

I was walking around the Lower East Side and Soho the other day catching up on some shows whose openings I happened to miss. Some things I saw were charming and “good.” Others were quickly forgettable and then some were just in a category of familiar disbelief. The familiar comes from having seen something not exactly like what is on view but the feeling of it being something so easy, so pat, so well…familiar. The disbelief is that feeling upon seeing it and just taking a breath to calm disdain and quickly trying to accept that this is how things are and this is how things will be.

One show that really hit this combo of familiar disbelief was the Ryan McGinely show at Team’s Grand Street location. Entitled, “YEARBOOK,” this show consists of over 500, (count ‘em 500), nudes of youths in various shades of mostly white to sometimes brown, and all of them undeniably young and ‘cool.’  The photos are printed and pasted on all the walls and ceilings of the space.  It is basically wallpaper and this is the thing that had me so defeated when looking at it.  I often say the word “wallpaper” to describe ineffectual, unmeaning, just background, blank, and undistinguishing ambience that is resultant of a failure of some effort. Whether it be art, music, commentary, pop culture, or even a person, “wallpaper” for me is definitely a pejorative.

Anyways, back to McGinely’s show. This is an utter wallpaper of a show not only in how it actually was installed but the content.  Who cares about vague coolness? Who cares about distracted gaze? Who cares about a coterie? (PS “coterie” is possibly one of my top 10 words I hate).  Who cares? No one.  But god damn it, it’s right there in its glory and people know that it is all done and over with but man, we keep looking and we keep having to see it.

Why is this happening? Internet, money, New York City death trap, Sotheby’s, MFAs, cultural butt-hole, one-percenters, Beyonce, James Franco, and wadda wadda wadda.  We could go on and on about why this is happening.  I can’t grasp it, nor do I want to in some ways but here is where the challenge lies. 

So much of everything, and especially in the art world is just noise.  I feel like I am having the same conversation, over and over again, about the art world, the art market, money, fame, access, gallery structures, vultures, flippers, spinners, PR agents, whose leaving this, whose joining this, whose funding this, and whose broke.  Maybe I keep having these same conversations because people know that I’m so ‘over-it’ regarding the art world and they feel they have a ready partner in the venting.  They do.  Please people, keep venting away but I have to pause and speak about this challenge that comes from all this vapidity caused angst.

It’s time we all get real and chill out and take some time (TIME!) to have some deep thoughts.  I know that ‘discourse’ and the blah-de blah of Structuralist, Postmodern, dialectic, blabedeblah is like so puh-lease in impulse but let’s be honest people, things have gotten real basic and stupid in culture and most definitely in the art world and those who participate in it.  

There has been an anti-academic tip going on for a decade or so, and rightly so because that was just too expensive, too white, too male and too boring to endure. But now there is a prevalence of flippancy, it’s ‘anti-‘ this or that but nothing that is significantly new, regenerative, or progressive. Everyone can be an artist, being an artist or an art professional is a definite career path for many now. Making work, talking about work, looking at work, buying work, curating work is based on access to influence and riding the wave at just the right moment.  Is this new? No. Does it still suck? Yes.

I guess the only thing I am saying is that I’m really not sure why a lot of the art I’m looking at and seeing out there for the past few years feels so vacant, easy, cool, and is so white noise wall papery.  Yes, of course there are moments of sheer amazing art and brain razzle-dazzle, and this is why I even hold onto a string of giving one crap about contemporary art still but there is a problem.  I think that we should really collectively have it be a goal to chill out, slow it down just a little bit, even if for a little while and just think.  Think and talk and think and talk and think and maybe not talk. There is something off, maybe it’s just me that’s off, (probably), maybe that’s why I’m questing for some golden fleece of illusioned remedy for my problem with art but all I know is that things just feel too contingent on some made up status quo.

Just to confirm my ego on this trend, I also came across this article by the astute, smart, yet not frivolous writer, Alex Ross of The New Yorker. In his short essay entitled, The Naysayers, Walter Benjamin,Theodor Adorno, and the critique of pop culture, he goes through a lot of the clichés of being a theory thinker, and the tacky baggage of that cultural signification.  He also presses into some of the foresight, prophetic and possibly necessary theories and ways of thinking by Benjamin and Adorno and how it relates to the fast food culture of today.  I highly recommend this read to give any who may need it, that extra strength to not feel totally ridiculous highlighting some Adorno.

And here I will leave you with just that. One of my highlights from Adorno’s Minima Moralia, 1951:

One of the motifs of cultural critique since time immemorial is that of the lie: that culture produces the illusion of society worthy of human beings, which does not exist; that it conceals the material conditions on which everything human is constructed; and that by seeking to console and assuage; it ends up preserving the bad economic determinacy of everyday existence: This is the nothing of culture as ideology.

Monday, September 8, 2014

LES Openings: Andy Coolquitt, Heather Guertin, Eternal September, Darja Bajagić

Andy Coolquitt, ruby44 From ga Age Over 60 Gender Female 
How often do you shop at jcpenney? FrequentlyRecommends this product? 
No (detail), 2013, Fabric, metal, electric cable, and lightbulbs

Andy Coolquitt: somebody place - Lisa Cooley

A new collection of works by the agreeable Coolquitt that seems a bit over placed but still has the quirky, nice guy quality that makes his work so easy to digest.  Less color, more textures and a general sense of quick experimentation of material to form were refreshing to see although this drive for variety gave the show an all over feeling that may have been better served if edited more carefully.  If you like Coolquitt, this is a safe bet and if you really-really like Coolquitt, this may seem a bit too vague. Perhaps this is just an excising of possibilities though and the next time there will be more focus to allow that tender subtly of his work to shine through.

Heather Guertin, Development - Brennen & Griffin

Guertin’s first solo show at this gallery is uniform in scale and has a feeling of direct reference to abstract paintings’ past.  Darker in hue and more opaque then previous works this new series is lacking in a luster that makes Guertin’s brush and use of color so exciting.  Use of eye forms were distracting to this viewer but perhaps that’s just a simple matter of taste.  Linked in video from her upcoming book, “Not Yet Titles, Cambodia” displaying typing of text from this novel seemed disconnected and perhaps unnecessary.  Guertin is a painters painter and she proves that every effort at it is accumulative, a process and there is an appreciated beauty in that alone even if the current product seems distracted.

Eternal September, Bradley Kronz, Jason Matthew Lee, Mary Ann Aitken, Oto Gillen, Valerie Keane - Tomorrow
This new space is doing some of the same that usually occurs at small new spaces in the Lower East Side but it was still a nice show to peak into and to measure the future vibe of this gallery.  This group show, with a conceptually wide theme, had all the things of success, bright lights, and heavy emphasis on the monochrome, mostly in the black, white, and beige variety.  This was the only show seen last night though that had me asking, “who’s work is that?” to a pair of lovely paper, collage, minor assemblaged works by Bradley Kronz.  They were very nice indeed. That being said, there is something to look forward to in Tomorrow’s upcoming shows, even a little bit of surprise and visual freshness is better then none.

Darja Bajagić, C6ld C6mf6rt - Room East

A solo exhibition of this intriguing artist who has a love it or hate it aesthetic that incorporates found, often times pornographic, images with a system of bounding forms, in this case  it is black squares and rectangles to create hidden narrativized possibilities.  There is a calculated coolness in these works that may possibly haze over actual content but it is true to say that these look very different then what most art being made currently looks like, and that is something to chew over.  There is a crudeness to the material uses that doesn’t seem to be by choice and that seems slightly unforgivable in the case of Bajagić’s possibilities to meet her potential.  Someone give this artist a large budget and then let’s see what she can really do.  

Monday, September 1, 2014

Excerpt From This Book I Will Probably Never Publish

Just remembered that it’s a Monday and Mondays are my blog days so yeah, oops.  So in lieu of anything thought up on the spur of a moment, I will share with you something that is probably very embarrassing for all of us. 

It is an excerpt from a book/novella, that I have been stabbing at for about a year or so with many months of me just pretending it doesn’t exist.

I feel like sharing it with you all because I am at the moment making a concerted effort to edit it and every time I read it I karate chop it down by many words and have a general glazed over ugg expression while I re-read it.

In all likelihood I’ll be too chicken shit to ever actually present it to any living soul let alone to have it published but hey, who knows, maybe in a moment of drunken delusion I will press send to this or that literary connected person.

Enough self-deprecation for the moment though, I give the below with only the sheer determination to not have to make a substantial effort at a post on this hot Labor Day.

P.S. It’s fiction ya’ll

(Excerpt from Searching for Something/(LA, Mexico City) working title)

Evan has a few books in his bookcase. I look at them for the first time since I have been in his apartment. I have felt very vulnerable all day. I pick out a few that look interesting. I start to read one of these books. It is Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s, Reveries of the Solitary Walker, I think this is a fitting title for my situation. Me being in LA and spending almost every day alone. The translation and introduction is by Peter France. His introduction is informative and sharply written. Those are the types of introductions that I like. They reveal the translator to be competent and dedicated but also having form. Peter writes about Rousseau’s beliefs and biography. He writes about how Rousseau thought a person living in society is unable to be their natural self and that solitude is the only place one can truly be oneself. I think of this and feel better about my current situation. The situation of not having any purpose. Of self-exile. Of wanting to escape New York and the life I have there without fully understanding why. It makes me feel not as absurd. It makes me feel like I am in good company. In the company of Rousseau. This makes me feel better. This imagined similarity of conflict of being. This feeling happens sometimes. A lot of the times perhaps. People come across things by other people and it confirms things that they feel or understand in an instinctual sort of way. This makes people feel less alone. It makes them feel like they are a part of and know something bigger and greater. Affirmation of this makes people feel authorized of their feelings and their way of being. When this happens to me, I feel affirmed. I feel authorized. I feel unique and at level to the person more famous, smarter, more cherished then me. I also feel immediate distrust and a slight revulsion because a thing like this, an affirmation of something that was once a private or untapped thought or feeling, then seems common. Reveries of the Solitary Walker was written in 1776-78. Nothing has changed. Evan underlined and made notes in the book. I never underline books. It makes me feel like the words are being battered somehow. It is interesting to see other people’s underlines and notes though. A tiny window into their brain as you read what they were reading. He bracketed an excerpt from Peter’s introduction from a passage of Rousseau’s Emile:

Dragged along contrary roads by nature and by men, forced to divide ourselves between these different impulses, we follow a path of compromise which leads us to neither our goals. So we are tossed about as long as we live, and we die without having been able to reconcile ourselves with ourselves and without serving either ourselves or other people. 

Evan wrote Terrific after the word people.