Sunday, March 25, 2007

Fire and Ice

25 March 2007

[By now everyone knows I’m in automobile limbo which in L.A. is hell which seems to be a constant in this writer’s life so what else is new so I’ll just get on with a few quick notes on the last couple of nights.]

23 March 2007

Yeah, yeah, yeah I’m on deadline and in crisis – so why not escape – at least for a minute or two, uh, hours – hey it’s L.A. where a minute is purchased only by a half-hour’s commute time – especially if I’ve already made a promise – as I did in February when, after a quick survey of the goods in David Kordansky’s space, I promised him I would check out his space in Chinatown. It seemed nothing short of amazing that I’d actually missed it in the course of many routine tours of the galleries along Hill, Chun King, Bernard, etc. Streets. Though it seems clear now why I consistently missed it – tucked away in that upper corner of Bernard, just barely fenced away from a freeway exit that you have to walk through a parking lot to get to – along with neighboring Daniel Hug – who I’d also seen on Pier 94. So here I am finally: so are a lot of other young, very chic-looking people. I feel like Stephen Prina (here on sabbatical from Cambridge) and I are the oldest people in the room. Mari Eastman also here. After a quick chat with Stephen (I’m curious what he might be working on here during sabbatical), I 360 the aggressively matte minimalism of Gaylen Gerber and, already feeling old and isolated, move on to David Kordansky who is showing Alan Michael, an artist from Glasgow (he’s exhibited in L.A. before – at Roberts & Tilton), who also takes an aggressively matte approach to the bright and shiny world of glass, steel, concrete and neon. I wouldn’t begin to attempt to pin him down – though the heart of his fascination appears to be with the chimera of transparency in both the physical world and language. It’s photorealistic painting – mostly Glasgow apparently, nowhere near London’s West End or New York’s Times Square – but seamlessly laid out in the most precise and driest brush and finished within an inch of its almost claustrophobically cropped life. The name of the show is “Decamp” – the word being the dominant motive of one of the paintings – and it may or may not apply thematically to the rest of the canvases. An adieu? Alan Michael has apparently decamped to London. The bright shiny world beckons.

I then shlepped over to Another Year In L.A. for an opening by Brooklyn artist Marta Edmiston. I knew nothing about her and would have probably skipped it if it were not an easy detour on the way home and if I weren’t so hungry for an hors d’oeuvre or something (David and Cathy frequently put out nosh in addition to the two-buck Chuck and I was game this evening). Instead I was gifted with that wonderful moment – preceded as if by a minimalist flourish that can promise either masterwork or folly (the show is called lol) – when you realize you’re surrounded by something important and amazing – not even straightforwardly evident on the surface of the work itself, but the cumulative resonance of which builds structurally, almost harmonically, like great music. The work itself – large graphic high-contrast enlargements of digital photographs – is compelling enough in its presence – but they’re images seemingly under pressure even in this expansive format – and they urge us on into the (refreshingly concise) documentation, the profiles, which build into a document-installation of great power. There’s more – and more and more – but I can’t go on here. Suffice it to say that Marta Edmiston will be seen in the national press in weeks and years to come.

24 March 2007

After a quick reconnaissance of Nicola Tyson’s show at Marc Foxx (Rodney and Lia facilitate most excellently), I stop in at Western Projects to take in Eric Freeman’s minimalist atmospherics and a much needed scotch and water before moving onto what is clearly the event of the evening, Parris Patton’s performance/process piece, Because I Can’t Be Beethoven, at Dangerous Curve – which, as well as I think I know down-downtown L.A., warehouse, industrial spaces, artists lofts and all – seems a bit of a trick to get to. Somehow in this alien vehicle and with no sense of direction, I get there, find a parking space (2 miracles in a row). The spectacle is visible from the street. But then what looks like a 12 foot by 12 foot block of ice encasing an old upright piano (it had to be positioned in this open square by crane) being attacked by one or two flame throwers and 3 men with pickaxes would be. A crowd of about 200 is thronged behind this amazing sight, milling about or seated on folding chairs or at a few tables for eating. There’s a bar inside one of the artists’ studios facing the open space and a couple of guys are doing brisk business at a sausage stand they’ve set up. People are chatting, shmoozing, eating, drinking, and taking many, many photographs. Cameras and digital devices of all varieties are flashing everywhere. Video and film cameras capture the proceedings – visible in close-up on a couple of monitors set back along with the sound mixing board. Beethoven’s complete piano oeuvre plays continuously over the sound system – a statement in itself, considering we’re still routinely showing up for Beethoven sonata cycles. Paige Wery, steadfast handmaiden to this event – I congratulate her on her success – circulates through the crowd with programs. Someone muses as to whether this is the most politically correct sort of art event in an era of global warming. Cathy Stone is here and offers her lucid commentary on Patton’s process art, wondering if it’s supposed to 'fail' – i.e., never quite get through to the piano (and then ritually burn it) at the appointed time – which is fast approaching (it’s been going on since early in the afternoon – and it’s now past 9 p.m.). The physicality of it is daunting – even with at least two well-muscled blokes flailing away at the thing (a fire marshal overseeing the entire proceeding). Parris himself, who takes frequent breaks, is clearly working past exhaustion. What everyone seems to agree upon is the primal power of the image: fire and ice. To say nothing of fire and ice holding, Houdini-like, its precious cargo of what is not merely a musical instrument – but, symbolically, Beethoven’s instrument, hence vehicle of sublime transport?? (I’m regretting the missed Brendel as I think about this.) I drive home to my cats and deadlines – and Beethoven – on the player as I write this – not Brendel, but Maurizio Pollini’s wonderfully lucid rendition of the D-minor “Tempest” Sonata. There’s fire and ice and there’s what lies beyond that.

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