Monday, June 18, 2007

Promises and Prodigies; art vs. speculation

Okay -- as promised -- back postings:

1 June 2007

I half expected New Image to be closed when I got there (I got bogged down with traffic and errands between downtown and Hollywood) and unless I have a date with Target or some thrift store in the vicinity, it always seems my chances of getting to the gallery are almost nil. Then again – I always seem to find parking when I’m there which, let’s face it, is nothing short of a miracle in that neighborhood. I just missed Sean Cassidy’s show, which just closed – which KILLS me; and as I park the car, I immediately think – ‘it’s cursed – I’m going to miss this opening – and probably the show – too.’ The gallery is open, though, when I walk in. But some guys are rushing out and it looks as if they’re either trying to close the gallery or in the middle of installing the show for TOMORROW’s opening. (Should’ve checked Fette’s Flog – never fails.) Marsea’s still here, though, and I walk back to say hello before I leave. “I guess I came too early. For some reason, I thought the opening was this evening.” “It is – stick around. Or come back in an hour.” It’s barely controlled chaos here – there are at least a dozen people running around, some installing, some tinkering with electronics, some keyboarding – and two of her artists – the Date Farmers – putting a few finishing touches on some of their work; but this (as far as I’ve been able to tell) is Marsea Goldberg’s natural habitat. It’s an irresistible invite under any circumstances; Marsea is such a trip. I knew it was going to be a group show, but I had no idea of the scope. The show, Brodeo, is fairly crammed with work. I also wasn’t aware that it was going to be such a boys club – as the title more or less directly implies. Still, in spite of what seems to be a prevailing “skate” aesthetic, it’s a pretty diverse bunch. Marsea seems to be really excited about Evan Hecox and someone (I’m not 100 percent sure that this is simply one individual; Marsea works (enthusiastically) with art collectives) called Skullphone whose electronics take over a separate project space at the gallery. It’s hard to make any assessment in the gloom of the room, especially as it’s still being installed; but Texaco’s Pegasus makes a Day-of-the-Dead flight over the proceedings. (Maybe there is life after the Met.) I’m drawn to some very streamlined Japanese influenced graphic design, which Marsea identifies as Cody Hudson. As I turn to observe an artist putting the finishing touches on a pictorial construction that makes me think of retablos, Marsea introduces me to Armando Lerma and Carlos Ramirez (who’s working on the retablo) as The Date Farmers – an allusion to their agrarian background – they’re from Coachella; and they still work mostly well east of Los Angeles. It’s easy to understand – and see. It’s no accident that the installation piece looks like a retablo. In addition to the influences of rural and desert environs and Mexican-American gang culture, the influence of their parents’ Catholicism is inescapable, even if the iconography has partially morphed into something reflecting rural and desert environs and Mexican-American gang culture. “You should interview them,” she nudges; and we exchange telephone numbers.

2 June 2007

Roberts & Tilton are showing a wunderkind from Cincinnati named Jimmy Baker, whose virtuosity is amply borne out in separate sequences of images (and soundscapes – via iPods) all related under the slightly cautionary banner, Rapture. There are notes (uh-oh) – but right now I’m more enraptured by the nosh and excellent wine presided over beneficently by the L.A. art world’s favorite caterer/collector (and mine), Tom Peters. The images are brilliant in every sense; they’re all about the light – and whether painting or photography, the placement (I want to say, deployment) and execution are flawless. It’s hard to say whether there’s a strategy here. Baker certainly has a coherent world view; but, however well-installed (and it does function to some extent as an installation), and whether cast in a fictive/speculative context or ‘space’ or within the physical/contemporary actuality, it’s a bit of a stretch to compress that simultaneously historical, contemporary and future/speculative view into a single gallery installation. At best, what we’re given is a fragment, or a series of fragmentary views into several possibly related, but contingent, realities. Consider: two contrasting sequences of portraits; landscape photographs (or more precisely landscapes with figures, the iPod soundscapes, which are intended more or less explicitly to have a connective function here; two landscape photographs of a different order – they appear to be aerial or perhaps satellite shots – of arctic snowscapes, ostensibly the North and South Poles; and two automobile doors – from an apparently battle-scarred Chevrolet Suburban – there are bullet holes across the lower portion of the door panels. The doors are set at angles, as if opening upon the crystalline landscapes in the photographs (or closing on the gloom of the dusky portraits). The darker (literally and figuratively) portraits – hermetic fellows in a progressively devolving state – are bathed in a Georges de la Tour light (goddess knows they need to bathe in something). The otherwise pristine landscapes in turn are littered incongruously with abandoned appliances or vehicles – or simply men with rifles.

So what’s this “John Titor” business (I’m going over this stuff, as you might gather, several days after the fact)? I looked up the reference on-line. It appears to be based on a rather elaborate science fiction scenario hoax, the instigator/protagonist of which is one “John Titor,” who gives no verification or clue as to his real identity or authorial status, except to say that “John Titor is a real name.” The Wikipedia entry is fairly comprehensive – and alarming. It is a scary scenario – although the notion of an American “civil war between the red and blue states, and the eventual loss of 3 billion people from the planet is appealing. The salutary effect of population decline, however, might, “Titor” posits, be offset by the devastation of various intervening civil and global wars, including the devastation of most American urban centers. In the Titor scenario, Omaha, Nebraska is the only American city left more or less intact. That would certainly constitute, in my book, the end of civilization.

Reading on, the article discloses the involvement of an “entertainment lawyer” (no shit), one Lawrence (or Larry) Haber, based in Florida, who has met with Titor representatives from the “John Titor Foundation.” I’d love to see more work by Baker, who’s obviously some kind of prodigy. But as far as the Titor/”Rapture” business goes, the ‘gig,’ as they say, appears to be ‘up.’


No comments: