Monday, September 10, 2007

Summer's twilight; The Night of 100 Openings

9 September 2007

It was the night of 100 openings. If we count Thursday, Friday and today, it was probably the week-end of 500 openings. Okay, I’m exaggerating – but it sure feels that way. The L.A. Opera – with Fidelio (I am dying to see it) and a one-night only performance of the Verdi Requiem (uh – make that one afternoon only, if I’m hearing this right – I’m listening to it on the radio – hmmm…); a slew of theatre openings; the usual raft of concerts and club dates; and, according to one maven’s count, exactly 85 art openings. I think I’d call that a full lid. (And I think Curb Your Enthusiasm starts up again tonight. Right?) Oh, and by the way, that show/movie/exhibition/exposition/dance/concert/recital/club date/record release/event you were going to catch before it ended its summer-whatever run (you know which one(s))? It’s closed, baby. Look – you needed that week-end at the beach. Or the hospital. Whatever.

I got a giggle from Fearless Leader’s editorial letter in the artillery just out. Setting aside the perennial (or bi/quint/dec-ennial) summer fairs, festivals, and international exhibitions – which for the most part take us either some (more often that not, absolutely magical) location in Europe or resort location elsewhere – which we have half a chance of turning into something of a vacation (however illusory that seems to be for most Americans), summer used to be the slow season, with August all but dead except for late summer movie releases, blow-out rock concerts, and (in L.A.) the Hollywood Bowl (that’s Mostly Mozart/Tanglewood/etc. for the rest of us). But not anymore. I’ll admit August (in L.A.) was a little slower – and the last couple weeks gave me some much needed breathing room (if you discount that killer heat wave that all but did me in). But that’s about it. Hey – they don’t call it Arts & Leisure for nothing. I’m thinking we need a moratorium on art production at least one month out of the year; otherwise it’s going to take a global village to resuscitate me for the next season (assuming I make it through this one). I mean – my therapist is out of town, and I have a stack of unread books next to my bed. Leave me the fuck alone already! will ya?

She asked rhetorically. I guess that’s what I miss – the summer stuff. I actually haven’t been to the Hollywood Bowl this summer. I haven’t been to Dodger Stadium. I only just finished a Vidal novel I started years ago – which makes me want to dip into Mailer (go figure). (Coincidentally, did you notice Norris Church Mailer’s new novel in the Review today? She uses the Mailer name now. It was just Norris Church when she was painting. Well. A guilty pleasure? Maybe I’ll stick to Norman. Or maybe not.) Want to know what I’m reading now? Daphne Du Maurier (House on the Strand) and Colette (La Chatte). And there are literally twenty more I’m dying to read/finish.

Okay it’s officially a rant. Where was I? Bergamot Station, to begin with. Or I should say, circling the perimeter of the entire old railroad yard neighborhood looking for a parking place. I GAVE UP. It’s never happened before. I always found SOMETHING (at least) on the other side of Cloverfield. Not yesterday. I really wanted to look at the Francesca Gabbiani collages at Patrick Painter, the Brad Spence show at Shoshana Wayne, as well as the shows at Felsen, Faure, Heller, etc.; but they’ll have to wait. By that time, it was too late to nip over to Christopher Grimes for the Kellndorfer photography, which I probably should have run to from fette’s gallery Friday night. I had already made the painful decision to forego the Ann Hamilton/Joan Simon (both of whom I admire tremendously) conversation at the Hammer (WHY did they have to schedule it on that night – OF ALL NIGHTS??)

I overheard fette chatting with Robert Berman Friday night (he brought Sophie, his completely charming pug, with him) and wondered if there might be something to the group show there, as well. But it will just have to wait along with the rest. I was already feeling over-extended – which was one reason I decided to skip Suzanne Vielmetter and Kim Light. With any luck, I’ll follow up during the week (it’s a bee-line down La Cienega from the Flynt Building). But I still hadn’t SEEN ANYTHING. It was back to Wilshire Boulevard. I figure the only reason the mob was more or less penetrable at 6150 was because it was entirely impenetrable at Bergamot.

After the Gabbiani and Kellndorfer shows in Santa Monica, the Jessica Stockholder show at 1301PE was a priority. She’s one of the most brilliant assemblage artists around; and my fleeting taste of something new of hers at one of the New York fairs this past winter (Armory – the Mitchell-Innes space) whetted my appetite for whatever she had coming next. The title was intriguing, too (or have I just been spending too much time in the Flynt Building?): Sex In the Office (the announcement image: a braided raffia or wicker urn, two yellow sponge brushes (the kind used on toilet bowls), a bright orange traffic cone, one wastebasket poured into another, etc.) – but in fact, if you examined the list, you noticed the actual Sex In the Office was another piece altogether and far more elaborate (unless it was still a work in progress when the photograph was taken). I almost thought one of the pieces – on the order of Rauschenberg combines, but far more elaborate (even towering), aggressively extemporaneous in an almost Dada/Schwitters/Merzbau manner (which tends to cancel out the more passive, random Tuttle-esqe aspects which she clearly has some affinity for) – was that sculpture I saw in New York – juxtaposed rectangles of Plexiglas (it looked like a Tele-Promp-Ter screen) and carpet swatches mounted onto a plant stand. But that sculpture had a more distinctly figurative silhouette. This was more explicitly abstract, a play on frames, screens and squares, projection, tactility (sheer tackiness, too). Aluminum frames were a common element in at least three of the sculptures – as if to underscore some notion of what this kind of sculpture might be: a picture, conceit, exploded out of its frame, screen – randomly, messily, carrying along anything in its path. The use of color was interesting, too – now bright primary synthetics, now deliberately drab, the dead colors of dead objects (e.g., a pale yellow lamp shade over a banana palm leaf lamp base (or plant stand) collapsing into some box-like construction, the whole mounted onto a nightstand with fluted legs. Lights and mostly plastic mechanical parts (e.g., refrigeration or air-conditioning) appeared elsewhere. There were only five pieces; yet I longed for more space. However they may have been curated/coordinated to work with each other, I felt they needed a more ample surround space, even isolation, to be taken at their full measure. Two of Stockholder’s Pace Edition monoprints were hung in the office.

(Oh yeah – that was the Requiem performance – just in case any of us were thinking about cruising over to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion – offered, in part, as a memorial to Luciano Pavarotti. Domingo conducted – fitting tribute to one of the unique and unforgettable voices of the last century.)

I hopped over to Karyn Lovegrove to check out a show of Benjamin Butler – New Trees. Same as the old trees. And then it was back downstairs. . . . Alright. I guess the thumbnail description I kept overhearing was “Pattern and Decoration.” But it’s misapplied here; Butler’s work is much more willfully abstracted – which is a good thing. (Interestingly, Kim MacConnel, who falls more comfortably within this category, was also opening a show Saturday evening at Rosamund Felsen.). Almost ritually abstracted. The schematic, quasi-iconic or symbolic ‘flowing-fountain’/’weeping-willow’ configurations could have been taken from a 19th century hymnal or devotional text. (They reminded me a bit of Shaker motives.). The palette reinforces the works’ ‘faded text’ aspect – the paint thinly staining the canvas in pale vegetal colors that manage to hold their pale integrity counterpointed against the vibratile, modish basket-weave grid of acid and neon colors undulating through the dominant motif – both surface and backdrop. Sounds clever and it is – maybe too clever by half. Less ‘pattern and decoration, ‘ I think, than the old Arts and Crafts – or maybe something Duncan Grant would have adored – or even painted. Call Liberty of London, I think, walking downstairs. Or William Morris – we’re in L.A. for chrissakes.

ACME was showing new work by Allison Miller. Another kind of abstraction altogether, but I'll get to it in a few. I pause to take in L.A.'s magic hour -- for me that's when it's starting to cool down.

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