CalArts names new art studio building after John Baldessari
Artist John Baldessari has had a long association with the California Institute of the Arts, where he was a professor of art for nearly two decades. On Friday, the school announced that it is naming a new art studio building on campus in honor of the 82-year-old artist.
The John Baldessari Art Studio Building, which has already opened, cost $3.1 million to build and features approximately 7,000 square feet of space -- much of it used as studio space for art students and faculty.
CalArts paid for the construction using internal funds, according to a spokeswoman. However, the school is launching a $5 million-plus fundraising campaign that is intended to cover that cost, as well as to fund a scholarship. Read more.
Mike Kelley at MoMA PS1 – California performance and installation art connection
Joining the hipster crowd on a Sunday at PS1, San Francisco artist Lani Asher and I encounter Mike Kelley’s provocative, disturbing childhood themes in a cheerful, kid-friendly setting, circumnavigating strollers, toddlers and babies being lifted to see. Most of the kids giggle and enjoy the spectacle, dazzled by the bright colors, dark spaces, catchy music and fuzzy toys. Shocking video images of fake porn and defecation, sighs, swoons, and screams don’t seem to faze them although the adults periodically turn away.
The most powerful work at PS1 is Horizontal Tracking Shot of Cross Section of Trauma Rooms, as it features private binge-watching (you sit in a corner behind a picket fence of colored panels and are conditioned to expect a carefully measured shock). Sitting in front of the three TVs ensures that you’ll get a certain jolt in a measured space of time, and recalls watching all three doors in “Let’s Make a Deal” right before the prize or dud is unveiled. Kelley’s clock-like audio syncs perfectly with colored rectangles that pass laterally across the screen, and then, at regular intervals, found Youtube footage. Clips of children crying or being tormented appear for one beat, just long enough to grab my attention and upset or unseat me. My shock is the payoff and I feel implicated in the children’s torment through my anticipation.
Lani and I climb the stairs to the second floor, arriving at Day is Done (2004-2005), Kelley’s most ambitious installation. His massive, multimedia, multi-narrative piece seduces, bores and entertains, generating an overlapping and confused sensory immersion. The kids love the chaos and pick up the beat, the collective noise level rises, and I can’t budge from in front of Extra Curricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #2. Three “train-dancers” and the Devil mesmerize me thanks to Kelley’s superb music synced with video and his framing and editing. Yet my attention is also attracted toward zombies and vampires punching the clock in the office next door, Extra Curricular…#3 through #7 and the operatic drama in a Fresno ranch house, Extra Curricula…#8. A guard scolds a mom for trying to wheel her stroller through a pathway made from a toilet stall, part of the Devil Barber scenario Extra Curricular…#25. Lani and I note that there are probably four times as many guards at PS1 as usual, all hired to protect Kelley’s subversive art. Kelley would be amused that they are safeguarding “the banal” and “the taboo,” and that they play their roles in uniform. Read more.
Parametric smackdown: Patrik Schumacher and Reinhold Martin debate at CalArts conference
CalArts two-day symposium on “The Politics of Parametricism” opened last Friday with a conversation between Reinhold Martin, associate professor at Columbia University’s GSAPP, and Patrik Schumacher, partner at Zaha Hadid Architects. Their debate, while at times tending more towards dysfunctional improv theater than academic discussion, revolved around the relationship between architecture and politics -- generally speaking, Martin sees the two as indelibly linked, while Schumacher idealizes their explicit separation. Their debate didn’t concern the visual aesthetics of parametric design, so much as argue about its utility in political systems.
As an event presented by CalArts’ MA Aesthetics & Politics program, the Martin-Schumacher debate did not explicitly discuss individual architecture projects, but tended more on the side of critical architectural theory. To introduce their debate, both Martin and Schumacher presented papers on their approach to parametric design, which I will try my darndest to make accessible. Martin took an intellectual historical angle, relating parametricism to linguistic theory and our construction of grammatical systems that determine “right” and “wrong” communication. Considering design based on the grammar of scripted parameters, the aesthetic outcome is simply an expression of that procedure, what Martin referred to as the “performativity of procedure”. The power to have a written code dictate the aesthetic terms of the architecture completely, and come to wholly define the architecture, is to Martin a “legitimation of power”. So if politics can generally be understood as a network of power systems, then parametricism is certainly in the political pocket.
Schumacher, who coined the term parametricism and has certainly taken flak for it before, took a much more divisive approach to defining the genre. He saw politics as best left to the “professionals”, and certainly not appropriate for architectural intervention, which could only make things worse. Because architecture has no power to affect political realities, it can only reinforce hegemony and can’t be counted on to resolve anything. When architecture is allowed to float on the whims of a liberal democracy, it produces a “garbage spill” of varied forms and styles within a city, leading to a dissonant and illegible, “white noise” urbanism. To fix this, Schumacher argues for a “private planning” city-building system: a free-market-driven collaboration between private development corporations and architects. These collaborators can then consistently apply their parametric designs to the city texture, increasing order and therefore, legibility. Read more.
A massive five-ton wheel set the stage for the world premiere of Joel Agee’s new translation of the Aeschylus classic, Prometheus Bound. Directed by Travis Preston, the production was produced by CalArts Center for New Performance in association with Trans Arts, and seen in the outdoor amphitheatre at The Getty Villa in Malibu, CA, September 5 to 28.
Prometheus, punished by Zeus to remain chained to a mountaintop for stealing fire from Mount Olympus, is, in this case, chained to the kinetic wheel that measures 23.5' in diameter and sits on a base with a footprint of 20'x14'. “The wheel was built at LA ProPoint’s scenic shop in sections, brought into our modular theatre on the CalArts campus, which can handle a 35' height, and assembled there, as the LA ProPoint shop doesn’t have the height,” explains production manager Gary Kechely.
Last July, the wheel was moved to The Getty Villa in sections and assembled on site, using a 90-ton crane that had to reach 110' to swing all the components over the villa. “First and foremost, we looked at what the space had to offer and the logistics of making it work within the construct of The Getty,” says Kechely. “One of the unusual challenges was a black marble stage floor. You can’t fasten anything into it, and it has a level of fragility especially in light of something as big and heavy as the wheel.” Read more.
Lou Danziger once offered these words of advice: “Work. Think. Feel.” Work: “No matter how brilliant, talented, exceptional and wonderful the student may be, without work there is nothing but potential and talk.” Think: “Design is a problem-solving activity. Thinking is the application of intelligence to arrive at the appropriate solution to the problem.” Feel: “Work without feeling, intuition, and spontaneity is devoid of humanity.
”I wrote this in 1998, the year Danziger received the AIGA Medal for his half century as a graphic designer, design consultant, educator, and one of America’s late Modern practitioners—the generation that came immediately after his heroes, Paul Rand, Alvin Lustig, Will Burtin and others. (See more of his legacy here.)
Danziger, born November 17, 1923, in the Bronx, New York, stood on the shoulders of pioneer Modernists, yet extended the reach of Modernism through his own achievements. Although Danziger is reluctant to be tied to any dogma, insisting, “No matter what I do, I want to do it well,” his design exemplifies the diversity of Modernism and his teaching promotes the diversity of design. Danziger is a “designer’s designer and an educator’s educator,” states Katherine McCoy, former co-chair of Cranbrook Academy, about the man for whom designing and teaching are two distinct but decidedly unified disciplines. Indeed, he has significantly affected many design genres—including advertising, corporate work, and the design of books, periodicals, museum catalogs and exhibitions—and influenced the hundreds of students who attended his classes at Chouinard, CalArts, Harvard University, and the Art Center College of Design. Danziger lived the modern life, from his studio (designed by Frank Gehry) to his every spoken word. Read more.
Julia Holter – “A sense of mystery is very important to me, in all my things
Julia Holter’s work is like something you dreamt of once, with snatches of classical composition, speckles of electronic music and quixotic vocals. Her three records, Tragedy (2011), Ekstasis (2012) and this year’s Loud City Song, burst with a sense of epic living and dreaming, with each record a kind of musical exploration of love. Classically trained, Holter left CalArts a confident musician, a multi-instrumentalist with a vision, an unusual, nuanced voice in a noisy, cluttered world.
Much of Loud City Song is about that noise and clutter, and how in this period, less interesting information – advertising and gossip, for example – are presented in louder terms.
“You mean that superficial things are louder than important things? Yeah. I agree that a lot of things are loud these days. I guess people were probably saying the same thing during the industrial revolution. We have to adjust to the noise of our time. I love the city and its noise, but the noise these days isn’t even always audible – it’s just loud in a metaphorical way. There’s advertising everywhere because we are always on our phones and looking at the internet and seeing ads all over the place, even if they are technically silent.” Read more.
Yung Jake, Video Prankster and Meta-Rapper, Turns the Hustle into Art
More plugged-in than your average Tumblr-rapper, recent CalArts graduate and hip-hop enthusiast Yung Jake makes music that treats the clichés of digital culture — social-media shares, blog mentions, and video plays — like art instead of just conduits to promoting it. His single "E.m-bed.de/d," for example, opens up a flurry of pop-up windows on your computer, featuring different parts of the same video, with rocketing YouTube view-counts and glowing "endorsements" from @justinbieber, Terry Richardson, Pitchfork, and even my own site, Art F City.
So, is there a relationship between the aspirational money-power-respect tone of contemporary hip-hop and the desire for Facebook likes? Maybe, but Yung Jake’s interest seems to lie simply in creating popular music through his own worldview. “All rap is self-reflexive,” the artist says via text message — oh yeah, he only does interviews via text messages. “When you rap ur saying 'I’m a rapper and this is a rap and I’m gonna tell you something to a beat in the form of a rap. And I’m good at rapping and these are other things I’m doing with my life.'"
It’s hard to imagine any music more reflective of this than Datamosh, an essentially content-free rap video in which Yung Jake digitally erodes the pixels that render his image while rapping about the, by now well-worn, digital-art technique. If it’s about anything, it’s about itself. Read more.
Lari Pittman: From a Late Western Impaerium at Regen Projects
Considered one of the most talented painters to emerge in L.A., Lari Pittman's complicated pictures reflect his rigorous training at Cal Arts in the l970's when the priority was post-studio, post conceptual art. Pittman himself talked at the Hammer Museum last week and made the distinction that his medium isn't paint, it is painting. That is, he is concerned with the long history of painting as a platform for conveying an individual point of view, returning painting to its polemical status. That is abundantly clear in what he calls "flying carpet" paintings at Regen Projects. They are history paintings with all the polymorphous diversity of contemporary life.
There are three paintings hanging together in the biggest gallery, each is 30-feet-long and ten-feet-high. Each has a single dominant color: red,green or blue. The predominantly blue canvas titled "Flying Carpet with a Waning Moon over a Violent Nation" is dominated by five powerful lenses trained on a distant target, the moon as it fades from full to crescent in successive stages. The view is a little blurry so you have to concentrate your focus, as though really looking though the site of a rifle which, in fact, each lens happens to be. These graphically dark circles are interspersed with hanging nooses, one of which holds a letter in strange illegible text. The anachronistic background of this ominous content is a feathery pattern of blue with red swirls. Or are they wounds?
All of this work -- dozens of smaller paintings and works on paper -- was completed since last Easter. Significant because shortly before that time, Pittman underwent an emergency operation to repair an intestinal rupture that was the result of being shot by a burglar at his home back in 1985. The pain brought back memories of the original incident and no small amount of irritation at the inability of this country to pass reasonable gun control laws. Pittman's work is not autobiographical but it is personal. Throughout his career, he has composed declarative paintings that reflect his beliefs and obsessions. Despite the complexity of his work, he does not make preparatory drawings but does write a list of the conditions affecting a painting like temperature, geography and smell. Such notions are structured together as patterns, graphics, floral motifs, decorative flourishes and shockingly erotic displays. Read more.
At an early age, Eric Johnson was shaped by his father's mastery in automotive body work to his bravado in pool, archery, marksmanship, and even poker. From his father, Eric learned how to use and make tools and achieve a craftsmanship in a wide variety of materials. As a young man, Eric was a promising pitcher and fencer. However, Eric's life took a dramatic turn when in his early twenties, while on vacation in Hawaii, he fell from a cliff and severely injured his neck. After rehabilitation, Eric eventually returned to making and studying art. Attending CalArts and UCIrvine, Eric mentored under significant west coast artists such as Craig Kauffman, Tony DeLap, and John Paul Jones. Eric lives with daily physical pain that he finds, is best eased, by making art not alone, but surrounded by friends and artists. Mentoring others in his studio eventually led to the community project "The Maize." These days Eric is working on a large-scale project and finalizing a six-year body of work dealing with the systems of binary stars and human relationships.
The photos below are of a piece called "The Maize." The piece stands 14 feet and is 8 feet in diameter. It consists of 378 individual, kernel-like pieces that were made over a three-year period that I called The Maize Project. I began the work in 2005 and it was first shown in 2008 at the Torrance Art Museum, Southern California.
The reason the work was a "project" was due to the way it was made. Over the three-year period of its construction, my family and I hosted what we called Pour Parties at my studio in San Pedro. At these parties, folks from all walks of life (from children, local friends and neighbors, to well-known artists like De Wain Valentine and Craig Kauffman) were invited to make a kernel. Read more.
Review: Morton Subotnick updates cosmic 'Silver Apples' at REDCAT
Equal part handcrafted, computer-aided sensory hallucination and concert, composer Morton Subotnick and visual artist Lillevan's performance at REDCAT, "From 'Silver Apples of the Moon' to 'A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur IV: Lucy,'" offered a mesmerizing reminder of the distances that both electronic music and video art have traveled over the last half-century.
The pair offered Subotnick's remix/reinterpretation of his influential recordings starting with "Silver Apples on the Moon," the landmark 1966-67 composition created for home stereo, and ending with "A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur" in 1978, all built with the aid of important early electronic devices, the most prominent of which was inventor Donald Buchla's "Buchla Box."
The set on Tuesday was, to be base, a total trip, featuring tones and visuals crafted for getting lost inside the head and experiencing a whole other reality. Read more.