Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bicoastal Gazing through the Winter Solstice

18 - 20 December 2009

As the Copenhagen climate talks wrap, the next Artillery gets ready to go to press, and everyone who isn’t shopping is heading off to snowy slopes, family reunions or other holiday destinations, it’s back to Global Warming Endless Summer L.A. (even as snow blankets New York and Washington, D.C.) – though I notice a few clouds in the sky as I write this. (Missing New York a bit lately.)

Speaking of L.A. in N.Y., I didn’t blog it (because I was enmeshed in hard print deadlines), but Kim Light, who’s been taking a New York sabbatical the last few months (geez – I think everyone in L.A. needs one), jetting back into town for a show now and again, hosted a group show in her New York digs somewhere on East 57th (I think near Second Avenue), featuring, among others, Anthony Goicolea and Ryan McGinley, as well as Bruce LaBruce (whose work has become quite tedious in recent shows), Dean Sameshima, -- and can you tell which way this is going yet? If you’re guessing correctly, you’ll be surprised at the title of this curated, one-night only, show: Youthful Gazes. Obviously the title should have been something like “One-Night Stand in Boyland.” All male; all vaguely (or not so vaguely) homoerotic. What? There are no youthful WOMEN??? Or would they have had to be LESBIAN??? (No problem with that, frankly – there are plenty of great artists who happen to be lesbian; but – setting aside my own proclivities for fairness’ sake – aren’t there a few interesting hetero girls who might qualify as youthful?) Or is there something wrong with the way women GAZE at things?

That said – I would have gone to have a look, natch, if I had been in town; but obviously I wasn’t, so I asked a pal who was around the corner at some auction (Bonham’s, I think) to stroll a few blocks east over to Kim Light’s NYC Box and have a look. I warned Big Dem (he’s a big bicoastal Democratic Party fundraiser as well as a sometime collector) that the line-up looked a bit heavy on the homoerotics for his particular tastes, but, like any smart collector, he’s always game for good work. I wasn’t particularly surprised that he singled out Anthony Goicolea’s Sleeping – a photographed (C-print) sleeping male figure infinity-mirrored to the end of its dormitory via photoshop-multiplication, mounted on aluminum and laminated, as the stand-out of the show. He described the video by Dean Sameshima, Boys In My Bedroom, as “a homoerotic wish list of segments from popular television shows, “ which he found interesting – but not exactly his thrill. I thought the Ryan McGinley looked interesting from what I could scan of it (but then I sort of like Ryan McGinley). While he was there, he spoke with an art critic from a New York publication, who expressed the opinion that the work on view was “not up to the usual standard” of any of the exhibiting artists.

I looked over the press release and found it very perplexing. Just how exactly is “the gaze in contemporary art practice” or the “interconnection of the viewer and the subject” being reevaluated in these pieces? I mean, to some extent, you would think that would be implicit in making contemporary art of any kind. Or, more precisely – what’s new or particularly “youthful” about this reevaluation? I’m not going to critique the press release paragraph by paragraph; but – just one more example – much as I like the Goicolea piece (and his work to date generally), I don’t really see that his piece here brings “into question” “the role of the gaze” “as a gender specific term, which defines traditional power relations between men and women.” And – really – should it? Once upon a time, yeah, sure – it did have something to do with the “traditional” power relations between men and women. But in 2009?? Would you really call it “gender-specific” in 2009? Or even 1979?? I don’t think so. And anyway – if this is being called “into question” – why aren’t we seeing some re-definition of this power relationship or gender specificity? We’re not. We just happen to be looking at images of men. So? Uh, like this has never happened before? Gee, tell that to Caravaggio or say, Leonardo or Michelangelo, or Raphael – or I COULD GO ON. Okay, enough said.

I want to talk about some movies – but first I have to go out to look at one. So I’ll break off here for now. More to chat about – mostly politics; but it will wait. Winter solstice – though you’d never know it here. Beautiful all the same. It’s been a nice – fine art-free – week-end here in Los Angeles.