Saturday, September 26, 2009

RANT-ing and Raving -- but Still Here, Still Looking, Still Listening

25-26 September 2009

I’m big on preambles, as anyone who has ever dipped into this blog knows – but I’m not even sure at this point who, or if ANYONE will be reading this – so I’ll keep this one brief. Every once in a while – and lately, oh let’s face it, MONTHS – awol goes, uh, AWOL. Well, maybe that’s not quite the way to put it. It’s more like – awol goes OVER THE EDGE. The last few months – really the last year – have been like that; and – well, do I really need to explain it? I don’t think so -- but I’ll try to sum up. It’s called LIFE; and it’s a bloody messy business. There’s the economy that’s foreground and background to all of this. There’s the tapestry of emotional turbulence interwoven throughout, but perhaps more dramatically over the past year or so. There’s politics – of the public forum, naturally -- always troubling; of the private, professional and workplace spheres (and the art world, too – but where to comment, intervene? I’m not about to jump into that unless I have my facts in order); and then, quite simply, the demands of working and making a living in this kind of environment. And there’s the stream of practical obstacles, private tribulations and everyday disasters that clutter everyone’s life.

I fall ASLEEP. Okay? It's bloody EXHAUSTING. (And here’s a shout-out: anyone want the part-time job of helping me get up in the morning? I need an assistant for this, no kidding.) So sue me – or better yet, come work for me.

Okay – Thursday night (the 24th): very hot-town-summer-in-the-city. Except, of course, it was fall. Dressed autumnally (fawn wool crepe, Ferragamo, matching suede court shoes), running late from the Black Glass Ellipse of the Flynt Publications Building, I made my way to the International Klein Blue Whale of Pacific Design Center (parking a nightmare), headed towards melt-down of course – but what a way to go. My first PLANNED stop was RANT, a group show curated by Dan Callis and Ryan Callis (brothers? Husband and wife (Ryan I think can be a girl’s name)?) – I know nothing about either of them as artists, and if their own work is any indication, I don’t have much interest for the moment in learning anything more. (I WOULD have liked to know SOMEthing about them, artistically, curatorially; but there was no printed information available at the show – or for that matter a checklist of the work, artist bios (some of whom are well enough known – e.g., Phoebe Unwin, Monique Prieto, Mark Dutcher, Alex Couwenberg), or curatorial statement – not that I really need one. I’m assuming that the title will more or less telegraph what the emphasis is supposed to be.) Touching on that last parenthetical point, I’m not sure if the show quite reached that fevered pitch, but for at least a few of the artists, you could see it moving in that direction, some more idiosyncratically than others. (Monique Prieto’s work, needless to say, fit RIGHT IN – hey, I mean that in a good way, sort of.) And for the rest – well, it added up to enough visual (maybe aural, too) cacophony to get you revved up to that point, more or less.

And I needed to be revved up – I had no idea to what extent. A good part of the third floor (and parts of other floors above and below) is now given over to art gallery space leased cheaply to any number of galleries and independent kunsthalle-type ventures (e.g., Lucas Reiner and John Millais’s space just kitty-corner from the “RANT” space) -- a by-product of the imploded economy and collapsing real estate market both. Most, if not all of them were either opening shows or just open for the spill-over crowds/business. There was a LOT to see.

I confess that my first draw to RANT was my friend, Mark Dutcher’s new work – which continues to evolve in a number of new directions – most interestingly, at least recently, sculptural – painted, of course – Mark’s commitment to painting is firmly manifest, as any of his friends would tell you. But I think sculpture has become much more than simply a digression for Mark. What will be interesting in the future will be the way he ‘brings it all back home’ to the ‘two-dimensional’ painted work. He is working out problems in both structure and ‘narrative’, if you will (or perhaps more simply ‘incidental’ – I’ll elaborate at some point on). The sculptures – painted mostly in primaries – reds, blues, yellows – were vertical, allusive to the figure mostly in terms of their human scale, segmented in separate rectangular and oblong wooden blocks – a cross between a kind of Giacometti-esque David Smith and a Jenga set (does anybody besides ME remember (and MISS!) Jenga – those little odd, notched pieces of balsa-wood that you stacked and stacked and stacked until some klutz (ME!) would knock them over? A great game to play while drinking cocktails or just before sex). Many of them were topped off with what functioned almost as miniature platforms for further incident – smaller elements arrayed across the tops (capitals? – or other architectural influence).

I have to break off – YES, I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THINKING. Just forget about it. Please. I’ll be back. I promise. It’ll be a few hours. HELLO! – it’s L.A. – it takes a while to get around this bloody town. (Oh, by the way, Paige – would you mind sending a car? My Volvo is having, uh, circulation issues. And it better be a Lincoln Town Car. Oh yeah, did I tell you the driver needs to be cute? S/He does. Preferably someone with a first name of either Jimmy or Cindy. Preferably Latino/Mexican -- black hair, chiseled features, beautiful, smoked-mirror-smouldering eyes -- someone presentable and .... Well ... my Volvo isn't the only thing that needs servicing.) (I do go on, don't I?) My first stop is the Circus of Books where Kristin Calabrese and Joshua Aster have curated a show of “itty bitty paintings” that, knowing what those two are capable of, is likely to be GENIUS. (ps – more about Josh Aster, later, too.)

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