You are viewing coagula

Editor's Life Unedited
[Most Recent Entries] [Calendar View] [Friends]

Below are 12 journal entries, after skipping by the 12 most recent ones recorded in mat's LiveJournal:

    [ << Previous 12 -- Next 12 >> ]
    Friday, March 7th, 2014
    3:13 am
    INSIDERS ARE NOT OUTSIDERS - A 2014 Whitney Biennial Review
    Thirty years in the art world and I had never been to a Whitney Biennial. That was actually something worth bragging about and especially after having been to one I can unabashedly lament that I will never be able to say it again.

    The Whitney Biennial carries immense weight in the art world. There is almost nothing in visual art that exists as a gauge, a standard, a benchmark or just a simple "this is more advanced than that". No matter what artwork you are looking at, accomplished or ridiculous, there is always a nattering nabob who will remind you that any discussion of the work in terms of it being "good" or "bad" is taboo. One of the scant retorts available at all these days is to point out that the artist one is examining had been in a Whitney Biennial. To say "So What" to that is to risk a charge of philistinism. The fear of being asked "Are you the biggest idiot ever?" is too great - nobody can dismiss inclusion in the Whitney Biennial as anything but an accomplishment. In the land of the jaded snob, extending one's palm open near an artwork and saying "This artist was in the Whitney Biennial" is as close as it gets to being a bearded wizard uttering "Behold!".

    And yet trudging through a Biennial is a time-honored pulling back of the curtain hiding the Wizard of Oz. The art world respects the Whitney Biennial artists and the market-gain they receive from inclusion, but badmouthing each Biennial is as predictable a ritual as champagne on New Year's Eve; nobody can resist using critical pontification to masquerade their envy over not being included or not having their allies represented in a Whitney Biennial.

    The 2014 Whitney Biennial is a pile of unadulterated shit. There is supposed to be a celebration because a lot of Los Angeles artists have been included, and indeed the show is less New York-centric than ever before. But it is not a show that represents the Los Angeles art scene as much as it represents Los Angeles art school insiders (art schools in Los Angeles ARE the establishment, the bubble that protects what status quo there even is connecting L.A. to the internationalist "big art" conformity machine). But that is no surprise - the Biennial is the ultimate art world insider exhibit. It is just that this exhibit sees so many insiders pretending to be outsiders. The language of outsider art is present in about half of the artworks (the other 50% are my two least favorite branches of conceptualism: dry conceptualism and conceptualism masquerading as rotten formalism). One could call it an outsider art show except that it is the ultimate insiders navigating the art world ladder of success with outsider visual strategies.

    The trick to being an "insider outsider" is to make it look more obvious than a thrift store. There is macrame, knit sweaters, bric-a-brac chandeliers, sloppy ceramic and lots of wood scattered about the Whitney Biennial. There is an insidiousness lurking in the simpleton charm of this work. "Oh hey that looks funky..." is what the impulse thought of a viewer is when one encounters this work, but sadly, IT'S A TRAP! Most of this work has a tsk-tsk tongue-clicking pretention to being about something other than it is - you see, if the work were about interesting-looking art that incorporated an outsider aesthetic (or heaven forbid were made by a an actual art outsider), then it would be accessible and engaging - something that is not taken kindly in the cold art world climate of rarifying the shit out of every human experience into academic-objective "re-presentations" of phenomena. So this is never outsider-informed art, it is outsider-embellished stances, analyses and deconstructions. The Mike Kelley impulse to soul-killingly crush any joy out of the visual language of the non-elites was the most insidious twist to the worship of irony in the late twentieth century. It stands victorious (and resiliently unattacked) as the mainstream default approach to art-making practiced by the insiders atop the shit heap called contemporary art at fifteen years and counting into the twenty-first century.

    And speaking of Mike Kelley, the Laura Owens painting in this exhibit is so derivative of Mike that it reveals a new level of curatorial naiveté that has to be singled out. Owens is long out of ideas so you cannot shame the washed-up, but a curator's first job is to spot a cheat. Just nasty.

    The stark message about conceptual art in the 2014 Whitney Biennial is that the anything goes as long as it has an art history referent. Every time you turn around there is some terrible speck of nothing teetering on a curatorial insistence that it is art and justifying it by having some tepid construct about other art, artists, art criticism, art history or another construct unnamed by the academy as of yet but definitely involving the word art. The great Semiotext series is given a vast gallery for its archives and the curatorial impulse is to make its legacy as unappealing as a library trashcan - a feeble attempt at "artifying" the installation with silver wallpaper on one wall is a cowardly curatorial act of "Warholizing" an institution with no allegiance to something as presently mainstream as "The Factory". Even when they dumb it down, the Biennial makes sure to do it obtusely - the silver wall of Semiotext pages is not half the embarrassment as is the including of David Foster Wallace journals as "artworks" by the late author - most of them are exhibited closed or open to indecipherable pages, totally uninteresting after the connection with the author. Celebrity stands in here as a substitute for curatorial rigor, hiding behind the glamor of their names and nothing else.

    Amidst the hubbub there are plenty of forgettable paintings, installations, videos that would be elevated if they were simply relegated to YouTube and too much sculpture that vacillates between appearing to be a mainstream object performing an art function or an art object performing a functional function. The aesthetic of the day is either proto-minimalism with some clever twist to make it commentary or outsider integrity as an alias for downright sloppiness. And of course, no major art exhibit these days is incomplete with out the myriad twaddle taking place "outside the institution's walls". The Whitney brochure for the show was chock full of detritus that will be screening on inconvenient dates and times, almost as a reflex to ensure the Biennial can never really be experienced completely, and thus, can never be ripped apart in its entirety. Well fuck it, I cannot wait. This is a gargantuan turd that, if the art world need to be re-plumbed in its entirety to flush, so be it, call the god damned plumber immediately or just give up, set the whole institutional art world on fire and at least we can get some nice marshmallows out of the deal.

    There were four artworks in the show that made me think. Artworks that stayed with me... that made me take to google for all of twenty minutes to ponder.

    All four of these artworks had death, in one form or another, as their central theme. Some were weirdly, perhaps unintentionally, poetic but the curators made sure to kill as much of that potential as possible. The four pieces were:

    •The "art group" Public Collectors present a synopses of Malachi Ritscher, a musician and music-compiler who took his own life via self-immolation in Chicago in 2006 to protest the US war in Iraq.

    •The late Gretchen Bender had a 1988 artwork "People In Pain" completely refabricated as an artwork by Phillip Vanderhyden. The original artwork, exhibited in the 1989 museum show "A Forest of Signs" had totally disintegrated.

    •Joseph Grigely discovered a caché of personal effects from art critic Gregory Battock, hidden in a studio space for decades. Battock was murdered, stabbed to death on Christmas Day in 1980 while vacationing in Puerto Rico in a crime that was never solved. Battock had an interesting life and a career in the art world that intersected with many art world luminaries.

    •A "sub-curated" gallery presented a few paintings by the late Tony Greene. Richard Hawkins and Catherine Opie had been classmates of the artist in the early 1990s at graduate school. Greene passed away from AIDS complications years ago.

    Each of these has an unavoidably serious topic as the pretext for the art installation. Grigley and Public Collectors have scraps from their subjects arranged in vitrines. Whether by curatorial choice or necessity, the overall effect here is about as far from maudlin and sentimental as one gets when the subject is the dearly departed. Perhaps there are among us those who would like to be remembered through unsentimental museum wall text, but both of these subjects were screaming for a documentary film or even a coffee table book to better tell the story, to acquaint us, to celebrate a random human life with whom we might connect. Nope, the Whitney made sure to freeze dry all the passion and let didactic assumptions reign free.

    The Bender/Vanderhyden artwork was more complex. In her curatorial walk-thru on March 7, curator Michelle Grabner explained that the Whitney was resistant to crediting Vanderhyden; the institution houses its own restoration department and they never get credited as being artists. Grabner apparently fought the good fight and in doing so she has sent the message loud and clear to aspiring artists: be the foot-servants of those who showed in the museums a quarter century ago to cut in line on your way up the carer ladder. And on top of that, Bender's "People In Pain" is a snide, elitist thumping of popular culture and one of the ugliest large works of art ever executed.

    The paintings of Tony Greene, also almost a quarter-century old, were included by curator Stuart Comer. On his March 7 curators walk-thru he poignantly expressed that a generation of artists died and that their voices would never be heard and that it was important to include one from then who, absent that terrible plague, would conceivably be making art and engaged in the art community alongside all of the Biennial participants today. The amount of space devoted here is generous and the delicate paintings show a range, discipline and sensitivity way beyond almost any other artist in the entire show. The second greatest tragedy of Tony Greene's passing after his death itself is that had he lived he would certainly be omitted from a Biennial (and an art world) that privileges the smarmy over the poetic, the academic over the delicate and critical distance over beauty.

    So those are the choices - die or sell-out. Whether you're a painter or whether you're a sculptor, if you're staying alive with an earnestness, buddy you're nowhere by the look of the 2014 Whitney Biennial.
    Sunday, February 16th, 2014
    7:46 pm
    The God Damned Arts District
    It suddenly dawned on me, in February of 2014, that it had been in mid-February of 1995 that Bloom's General Store opened. It had actually opened a few weeks prior, along with Coffee Strippers and they blocked off the streets, put up a music stage and threw a grand opening party.

    So I posted a video of that magic night when Alberto made espressos on the back of his flame-throwing espresso rod - It was a large flatbed truck with a giant flame coming out of the rear and atop the bed sat Al, dressed as a fireman, sitting at a counter with an espresso machine, pulling espressos.

    This insane contraption stood as a symbol of what the whole neighborhood was becoming - a functional artwork that produced something. And that is what it is now - manifesting the vision of Joel Bloom, Alberto Miyares and a few people who were fed up by a legion of users sucking the blood out of Downtown Los Angeles...

    You see, by then the whole neighborhood had been home to hundreds of people for almost twenty years. A lot of them were drug refugees and others were artists, or at least people who called themselves artists. A lot of them look back on being there as a highlight. Lots of people in Los Angeles visited the neighborhood and the abandoned authenticity of the experience was something they took home with them. Maybe they spent the night there once and maybe they left after five years of developing and mastering a drug habit but they all took one thing from the neighborhood. They took ownership. How does an owner collect his rent on a neighborhood that he does not in fact have title to?

    Easy. Every time that neighborhood is brought up, the "owner" gets to insist that he was there when it mattered, that he was there when it was real, that he was there in its golden era and that we all must pay tribute to the fact that said golden era has long passed and that we never enjoyed it like the "owner" enjoyed it.

    So somehow my posting a video of a 1994 Traction Avenue street fair evolved into comments from people reciting lists of places that existed downtown prior to 1994, most of which were long gone by 1994. All of downtown LA was suddenly the arts district and a gaggle of proud parents were piping in about the good old days.

    The nostalgia wave on my FaceBook page implied that the Arts District had not began with the opening of Bloom's General Store. Yes there were places like the Brave Dog in Little Tokyo and Gorky's a mile and a half away in the garment district where young disaffected people would gather in downtown in the late 1970s and all of the '80s and the memory of these times rings as a benchmark of actually being in the world and living for most of these people, who are now old enough that the good days behind them way outnumber the good ones ahead of them.

    And so I took it as a kind of scolding, which perhaps it wasn't but it was. You see there was no bunch of whinier self-entitled white kids in the entire universe than the fucks who came to downtown LA in the late 1970s and all throughout the '80s to party. Now that isn't the worst thing in the world but the lack of self-awareness as they pissed on and shit on the neighborhood for their own pleasure is something that needs to be addressed.

    First and foremost, Downtown LA was shitty. It completely lacked amenities. The buildings were inhospitable to domesticity. It was the domicile of scary outsiders avoiding contact with people for scary reason. The artists who moved into these cheap neighborhoods were NOT the scary people. The egos of the first and second wave of people who settled the industrial part of Downtown east of Alameda now inscribes upon themselves an edginess and worldliness that was laughably absent in the present. "Slumming It" doesn't even scratch the surface. I wouldn't belabor the point if their wasn't the ever-present cackle of superiority rolling of their self-assured tongues that I would never understand what the present day arts district was like before my time.

    Well... I understand how it was enough to appreciate being there the day it was rescued from that gaggle of cheapskate life-stylers, hobbyists and parasites. There were always good, interesting, creative people east of Alameda. There were also mountains of complainers, takers, users, bastard lowlife backstabbing connivers and that motherfucker next to you as you pass the joint and he takes the biggest hit and nobody even knows who the fuck he is except that he is here all the time and never ever has his own shit to share. Lots of those types. An endless supply of those types.

    Hollywood was where the jarheads, the westsiders and the Valley types went for "edgy" back then. Downtown people were there because it was cheap, it was isolated or they had too many run ins with Hollywood and couldn't go back. So any time someone tells you they were downtown "when it was cool" or implies some sort of glory years, understand for your own complete knowledge of what is what that, yeah, they had a great time, downtown made for some uninhibited partying, but also that by them being there that they TOOK from the neighborhood. There was no GIVING. There was fun, amazing art, wild nights, crazy times, lots of sex and drugs and rock-n-roll but there was no community outside of a circle of friends who knew where to buy pot without driving to Hollywood or coke without driving to Mar Vista. Oh sure there were art studios galore and stabs at running art galleries and organizing exhibitions and there were little spots where people hung out and felt kinship, but all the while the neighborhood was shit, no community in any sense of manifesting as neighbors one relies upon - the folks who lived there put up with the people who hung out there just shitting on it more.

    And then the LA riots scared the shit out of everyone. May of 1992 began the whitest flight from many parts of Los Angeles. Downtown, untouched by the riots, was a symbol of "urban" to every scared bastard nearby and every rent-wiring parent abroad. The place cleaned out. The rents went down. The crackheads moved in even deeper. The car break-ins (always a problem that the glory years crowd never did anything about besides complain) were the definition of regularity. The folks who stayed were forced to actually care about it all.

    In 1993 George Rollins (a property owner who lived on his property) organized a neighborhood watch. The cars were not going to get broken into any more. Joel Bloom would call city hall on nuisances large and small. Alberto was like the new sheriff and wasn't always kind to the people who were parasiting off the neighborhood the most. And lots of people in the neighborhood understood the efforts and joined in. Plenty more just did their usual jackoff complaining but people for once told them to shut the fuck up. At his his underground club THE CLUBHOUSE Alberto had a sign that said RESPECT was earned not given. Every momma's boy who thought he was IT because he went downtown and was a radical artist by by virtue of the loft near where people sold drugs on the street was put on notice. You won't be accepted here if you aren't part of the solution.

    The solution was to not tolerate the sociopathy of crack cocaine smoking. Bloom knew every cracksmoker because who else buys a new lighter every day at the store. And he told everyone who smoked crack and we all knew who to watch out for and when the day came that the guy asked to borrow a hundred bucks when we all said no the puff of smoke was in another part of the city quite soon. None of this was erased in a day an not all of it left entirely, but the legendary tolerance of downtown, the place anyone could visit, shit on and leave smiling, those days were over. There were obstacles.

    Bloom's eventually moved into the Coffee Strippers storefront and Joel Bloom made sure to navigate city hall on behalf of the neighborhood. The trees got planted. And the Artist District thrives today, totally different from the days of the cracksmoking whiners and much different from the day the streets were blocked off by Bloom and Alberto to signal that a new era had begun. But anyone who says they were there before then but wasn't there then is just a user, not to be trusted.
    Friday, February 14th, 2014
    10:40 pm
    Richard Diebenkorn THE BERKELEY YEARS
    Diebenkorn "Berkley Years" at the Palm Springs Museum - amazing paintings.

    For a guy with such wicked shifts in subject the museum sure blended it all - maybe a little too fluid. Would have preferred more chronology in placement.

    He had three distinct phases in the years 1953-67:

    •He starts out, age 31, an abstract painter.
    •In '56 he switches to painterly figuration.
    •In '64 he sees Matisses in Russia and flattens out the pictures, definitely a predecessor to his Ocean Park series which he started in '67 when he left Berkly for SoCal.

    The early abstract paintings he ends up saying "oh, I guess they WERE landscapes after all" but they are quite distinct form his Berkeley landscapes.
    The show points out that Rothko and Still taught him and it wouldn't be to much a stretch to say his abstractions combined the bulbous blurs of 1940s Rothkos with the stark color areas of Still.

    Interesting to think that Pollock is ten years older than him on the other side of the country and is struggling with how to get out of the trap of the all over abstraction in the same year that Diebenkorn starts painting his pencils and ashtrays while Jackson just gets in his car and drives into oblivion.

    I know some old guys in the art world and, reminiscing, they all call him Dick Diebenkorn. It was another time.

    He had one of the great boozer cauliflower red noses and smoked even after heart surgery, died a month before his 71st birthday, that is how that generation rolled. He was an artist in WW2, secretly landed in Japan and sketched it for the army on preparation of an invasion. The bomb rendered those sketches useless. I wonder if they adorn some CIA mess hall at a listening station near Okinawa to this day...

    The '56-'63 landscapes, figures and still lifes that were his figurative phase differ from the abstractions not just in subject matter.
    These are austere paintings that pull back on improvisation to let the colors grab you. And it isn't really the colors themselves as much as the interplay of the colors. In this he truly synthesizes Rothko and Still but needs to ground the work in figuration to make the chroma symphony sing.

    After '64 the pictures flatten. The passages of color are larger swatches, standing more on their own. He is slowly hitting his stride. Matisse has corralled Still and Rothko and flattened The Dieb's compositions and loosened up his color.
    His last painting in Berkeley comes at the dawn of the Summer of Lover - it is of a seated woman and the direction he is going - towards Ocean Park in Southern California - is already apparent.

    We know how the story goes from there - he paints the most significant abstract paintings of the late 20th century. His BERKELEY YEARS were a great warmup...
    Monday, December 2nd, 2013
    1:01 am
    The Fast Times and Faster Prose of Craig Stephens
    Craig Stephens was a freelance writer emigré from Australia who looked like he might have been the byproduct of a good-looking groupie and Paul McCartney - and that was the first thing I said to him when I met him at Barbara's Bar at the Brewery in 99 or 2000 or ....well like everything whirling around Craig there was a blurry edge on everything, every night, dimly lit, late past 1 A.M., cocktail in hand, a girl way too good looking to be with a bum like him tugging at his waist, a friend or two running out for who knows what, an acquaintance running in to explain where the better party than this one was.

    He took the McCartney jab with a curious sizing-up of who the hell would say such a thing but also had a good laugh - I liked his thick skin, his ability to have shit shoveled up to his waist and to just crawl out of it and head to the next happy hour.

    That first night he didn't tip Howard the Bartender after dropping a hundred bucks or so on cocktails for him and three friends - a fat guy along for the ride who had never left home but was probably the guy they got a ride form and two hot girls grinding their teeth as they sneered about American culture with thick, rude Aussie accents that forced Craig to pull up close to me and apologizer "They're kinda like the Aussie equivalent of hillbillies, don't let it get you mad."

    Howard was enraged when he sees the credit card slip with no tip and walks out from behind the bar and starts to give the "Down Under" contingent a lecture on the custom of tipping. They play dumber than rocks but Howard had paid enough attention to the conversation to point out that Craig had been here two years and had to know the custom. Howard followed the crew to the parking lot, barking like a hyena and came back in broken like a chihuahua - all Craig had given him was that McCartneyesque smile and while it worked for the lines of aspiring actresses, supermodels, rock and roll frontwomen and art tart starlets, it made Howard grumpy when it was all he got for pushing a hundred bucks worth of the sauce that night.

    I brought up that story to Craig years later, he was a bit sheepish copping to it, but I told him a hustle here and there was often necessary. "Here and there? How about every day in this town!" and the expat angst was revealed from behind the smile, the journalistic detachment, the joint to take the edge off of the rent being due. He hustled gigs writing all sorts of stories, a pile of clippings that span a range of interests from the highest perches of art to the lowest dregs of cultural desperation. He was not a depraved soul but he traded in poking the glow around that soul to share with his readers what that light reflected.

    He wrote for anyone who paid about anything they cared to have covered and he blasted out the prose to make sure the customer was as satisfied as the reader had been intrigued. Like the hearts he broke, he burned it bright and then freelanced on down the road to follow the next perfect-bound piper.

    Craig died about a week ago. He had emailed me about some heart trouble. It sounded treatable, but apparently was much worse. On FaceBook they say his mother and sister are flying in from Australia today. Oh my deep condolences - but please know that your son lived five, maybe fifteen whole lifetimes in Los Angeles, he died an Aussie Angeleno aged 120, there were few corners of this part of the globe he didn't have a wild story best preserved as a polaroid about.

    I hope they find an organized assembly of what he wrote, it would be a diary of getting the 21st Century's Hollywood party started.
    Monday, November 11th, 2013
    4:22 pm
    2014 Art World Bootcamp
    If you aspire to be a successful, exhibiting artist in Los Angeles, perhaps it is time to get serious about that goal. It is time for you to understand the CULTURE of the Art World Itself.

    Start 2014 off right as the new year offers You ART WORLD BOOTCAMP...

    You are ready to:
    * Immerse yourself in the art scene
    * Focus your behavior
    * Expand your knowledge
    * Make great art

    The Art World operates under specific rules that go untaught. Learn these rules early and
    you will develop simple methods to make the way the game is played work for you.

    You can spend years learning these unspoken rules on your own, or you can attend Coagula's Art World Boot Camp and accelerate your comprehension of art, the art business and how the two will ultimately benefit you.

    In Six Saturday Mornings you will receive dozens of INSIGHTS including:
    * Ten Things Art Colleges Don't Want You to Know.
    * The phrase that will get every art dealer to return your phone call.
    * The four highest-impact career decisions every artist will make.
    * Understanding how ANYONE in the Art World can be put to work for you!

    This class is available IN PERSON only - there is no DVD, no website, I tell incriminating stories, pull the curtain back and name names, audio recording is not permitted - you will get the truth about the LA art world, but it is knowledge that will prove valuable in your pursuit of a successful exhibition career. Notes are provided.

    What this is NOT:
    This is not a class about how to sign a pretty little contract with a gallery and sell a painting to your rich uncle. This is the lay of the land of what you are up against in the art world and how to keep your eyes on the prize. You will not be burdened with a bunch of outdated xeroxes. I taught this class in 2006 - there have been radical changes to the art world since then and these are incorporated into every lesson. This is not a class about how to do everything on our own - Artists who are successfully exhibiting in Los Angeles have LOTS of people doing the heavy lifting for them. I taught this class in 2013 and a few things have already changed - just understanding these little things can help YOU spot changes in the art world.

    Registration is open now and limited to 25 participants - age 18 and up, please.

    Class is taught by Mat Gleason. Do you need my bio? I own an art gallery, I curate art shows, I am a published art critic and essayist. My name is my resumé, google it.

    Six weekend classes beginning January 4, 2014. Final class is February 22. Class meets at 11:00 AM on Saturday Mornings at Coagula Curatorial Gallery on Chung King Road in Chinatown. Class lasts 90 minutes. The class also includes two OPTIONAL critiques of your art - one arranged with the instructor and one with the entire class.

    The Class will cost you $350 - A few spots are still open. No refunds. Email me at 88gallery at GMAIL dot com with the subject BOOTCAMP if you are interested.
    Friday, November 1st, 2013
    1:57 am
    The Basic Big Problem With Much Art
    The biggest problem with much art these days is that it is either form or thought or identity. Most of the product that would fall in any of these camps is indulged with a lot of rhetoric. This baggage is basically just excuse-making. There is an excuse as to why the art is so shitty - it is some rhetoric as to why the art has barely mustered up enough of one (and only one) element and can rationalize stopping there.

    I am not saying this problem needs to be addressed. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think that this problem may in fact be a solution.

    There is a glut of people calling themselves artists. Other than spitting in their faces, slugging them in the stomach and then taking all of their parents' money away, there might not be any way to get rid of them quickly. But the solution might be to let them believe that this embryonic piss they are creating is of a caliber of quality approximating that achieved by the masterpieces of our time. Believing this, these deluded narcissistic assclowns can wander aimlessly in the art world - populating the openings, funding the schools, shaking hands, smiling, buying museum memberships and going to seminars - until they just disappear.

    Sure, on occasion, one of these thoroughly talentless anti-visionaries will get a show, maybe even a good review by a sleepwalking art writer and will seemingly be in a position that appears to be rising up through the ranks into that magic art world stratosphere we all seem to understand as an adult high school popularity contest. And that glimmer of possibility keeps the hack-one-liners going.

    FORM. The rhetoric cannot hide the fact that no matter how well they have mastered the formal elements, they haven't done diddly squat with those elements and are likely too timid to ever DO anything with them.

    THOUGHT. There are "purity" junkies in every field, from architecture to religion and art is no exception. Your intentions aren't shit. You can come up with convoluted analytics and propositions all day and all night but until you at least fetishize your ideas, they are not art. And you likely have to do something with them even after doing that.

    IDENTITY. Nobody will understand (or care about) your art if it is so steeped in specific issues that it ceases to become art and becomes a platter upon which those issues are served. If you don't care about that, understand how insignificant your efforts are. You probably cannot as you have no developmental consciousness beyond three paragraphs laughably superficial rhetoric about yourself (because you are inherently self-centered).
    Monday, October 28th, 2013
    12:56 am
    Lou Reed – Don’t Settle For Walking
    Lou Reed – Don’t Settle For Walking

    I was really into Lou Reed. In 1981 you couldn’t just download everything he had ever recorded. I would see him and the Velvet Underground referred to in punk zine interviews with bands when they would talk about their influences. This was exactly how I discovered Charles Bukowski and Lou Reed.

    Bukowski was difficult enough – few bookstores carried his books, but there was something out there. In 1983 I got a record store in Dubuque, Iowa to order The Velvet Underground and Nico with payment of $14 and change up front. I remember walking back as the first snow of the winter was falling – I was a California boy in college far from home buying an album by a band that I had never heard and walking a four mile round trip for the privilege.

    The album utterly changed my perception of what songs could be. It sounded so far ahead of its time seventeen years after its recording. It kinda still does. My whole year at Clarke College was spent acquiring Velvet Underground albums, books, all ordered from far away, and listening. Listening, listening, listening.

    Before I heard Lou Reed, music came in strict categories. After I heard him I realized “OH... there is an epic number of possibilities to make great art that defy pinheaded labels”. I understood Bob Dylan perfectly because the Velvet Underground made his output make sense. All art after that I have had to laugh at pissant tiny box categories that establishments demand. I never respected a dictionary or encyclopedia since.

    Consider the range of Lou Reed. Sure, David Bowie covers his rocking “White Light/White Heat” and there is no substitute for “I’m Waiting for The Man” but these were written and composed by the same guy who wrote “Candy Says”, and “I’ll Be Your Mirror”, let other people in his band sign them while he lingered on your “Pale Blue Eyes”. The breadth of just the songs listed above span radically different approaches and yet a Velvets album would pile them in with more and shift gears more smoothly than an Indy car driver.

    I listened to the Velvet Underground and some Lou Reed so much that those songs are in a way always going on in my head. Lou Reed to me was like a god of cool who was an impeccable arbiter of what was in and what was out. And the girls who could venture a thought in two parts of their cerebellum who had taste could hold on through his thrashings specifically because he soothed on that macho harsh with his melodies and vulnerable poetry.

    So then the weirdest thing that ever happened to me up to that point in my life happened. I’m in a living room in a small town in Minnesota with this girl, my girlfriend then and we are watching television and a commercial comes on and it has all sorts of shots of New York city and music that sounds like Lou’s “Walk on the Wild Side”.

    Well this is too much; I begin my 20 year-old pontificating about how the media was ripping off Lou Reed and how he was one guy would never sell out to an advertisement as he was the coolest man who had ever lived.

    So then just as I paused to pat myself on the back for being cool enough to express how cool Lou was, well, there was Lou, on a goddamned Vespa. “Hey!” he snarled at the camera, “Don’t settle for walking”.

    The sinking feeling – like when your team loses a big game – overwhelmed me and it was compounded by that girl howling with laughter, reveling in a moment of my humiliation. What the fuck had just happened.

    Lou Reed was too cool for that rigid boundary of art and commerce. And he probably needed the money. But he made me understand that selling out isn’t what I thought it was. He never sold out to his music, his muse, his art, his legacy. If you listen to enough of the sounds he produced on a guitar and the mesmerizing talk-singing he pulled off, you realize he could have sold out in a minute.

    That teenage lover of mine rubbed it in and it took a while to digest and I ended up the wiser for it – you can do whatever you want and if you are still you... well then, what’s the problem?

    Mighta been a year or two later, back in LA, the redhead in Hokah, MN a tragic memory and it was with a brunette at a trendy bar- as trendy as a suburb would allow, we are talking pink neon 1980s margarita on clear plastic tabletops with nonstop rock videos playing as the substitute jukebox. This girl is buying and so there I must sit, suffering through the slings and arrows of outrageous synthetic garbage when the synthesizer drivel is interrupted by a phone ringing. This is a generation before cellphones and there is just a loud phone ringing and people, the dweebs of the mainstream that I live to be different from in my twenty-something alcoholic desperation to break out of it all, these mulletted camaro dirvers and their sorority dates are looking around, irritated. Up on the video screen Lou Reed is standing in a phone booth – the phone just rings and rings. The song finally starts, “I Love You Suzanne”, his pop apogee, and a bit of order is restored to the suburban pseudo-debauchery but I enjoyed that kick to the shins he gave every blended strawberry-daquiri in that place with just sound. It was simple, it pissed everyone off and then it was a pop song – now that is great art.

    This video has edited out the "annoying" beginning of that video so you will just have to believe me.

    But the dark side has consequences and the one man to rage negatively against Lou was John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten who saw his friend Sid name himself after Reed’s rocker “Vicious”. One could not imagine the Sex Pistols without Lou Reed’s innovations, his breakthroughs, his art. But John pointed that Sid bought into the glamor of drugs and played around too terribly deep too quick to even know what was happening to him. Funny that John would be on the same conceptual dais as Tipper Gore but Lou never addressed the karma of making the scabies of a street junkie more fashionable than Versace. He was too loyal too his art to care about consequences, impact or body counts. Maybe we added the glamor and he was just warning us anyway.

    If they take my brain out of my body at death and hook it up to a machine to see what is in there, the four Velvet Underground Albums and VU would play incessantly, intertwined with most of my thoughts and perceptions before they just up and blew out the speakers of their contraption at some point. But not before the loop of that girlfriend howling in laughter arose - reliving the time he showed up on teevee to show me he was so far ahead of me that I better not settle for walking if I really ever wanted to be as cool as him.
    Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013
    1:13 am
    ...I Found Kim Dingle a Getaway Car...
    In case you thought running an art gallery was particularly glamorous...

    Kim and Her Crew

    Kim Dingle and her crew were at the gallery bright and early Sunday morning. Their purpose was to prepare the space for her exhibition that opens on Saturday. The first order of business was to paint the space. The gallery is a former Chinatown market and I had kept some elements of the old establishment. Kim needed to "un-retain" some of these elements. She brought in Augustine, a painter so busy that he could only do the job on his day off. She brought Edgar and Wa, two deaf employees from her restaurant FATTY'S. And of course she brought Aude (pronounced Odie), her partner.

    On Sunday they patched, painted, scrubbed, sanded and gave the place a major face lift. Two walls are now painted pink. Parts of walls that had not been painted since the building was built in 1949 - they got three coats of art world white. I deinstalled a pair of bathroom curtains that were hung new in the 1950s. They had a grey stripe in line with the decades-open window that was the history of L.A. smog.

    On Monday the work continued. L.A. Packing and crating came by to pick up a large Mark Dutcher painting that had sold and I could breathe easier. Having that around all this turmoil was making me skittish. I learned five ways to say "Valuable, precious painting" in sign language and was constantly making these gestures to the point where i was getting eyerolls from the duo.

    Taking Away The Big Painting To The Collector's House

    Then the landlord showed up with a plumber. He rented the upstairs to four kids in their 20s in July and the retail first floor to me in November. We are the first tenants the building has ever had. Family owned and operated since 1949. The plumbing ain't going to last much longer and Mister fixit came and looked around. When the landlord opened the basement, though, I seized the opportunity to go down and look around. How about a 1940s cash register for the show? The landlord had no problem lending it.

    I had to get Edgar to carry it up. I am useless in these situations. The doctors have said I can only lift eleven pounds. Everyone is running around, exerting themselves and I am just sitting there, watching the ants work, watching life go by. Going to the hospital last year really made me hear the ticking of that mortality clock. No matter how good the prognosis - and it is good - reminders that the merry-go-round stops pop up all the time. All I can do is see them as signs on the highway and open the sun roof. But still, to sit there and feel useless is grating. But come see the cash register in the show this Saturday, a small symbol that I was useful to the process of a major contemporary art installation.

    Tuesday the UPS guy dropped off some parts for Kim's installation at a neighbor's. I got there and picked up the box. Too heavy for me to carry and too far to do anything but start carrying it. Kim calls as I am huffing and puffing slow steps with the box on my way toward the gallery. She insists I halt and sends Edgar to find me. He brings a furniture dolly and takes the box at my side, lifts it up and is shocked and confused to find it lighter than a feather. I don't know sign language for "I had heart surgery in December" so I just point to my chest and make a sick face and he seems to get it.

    And so Edgar and Kim begin assembling the installation. It is a contraption of her wicked imagination - chopped and scattered baby crib parts haphazardly assembled into of all things, a wine bar. There is more work to be done in her studio and she leaves before traffic. I lock up and walk out - holding keys is about all I can contribute until there is art to be sold. I pass a film crew shooting a shoe commercial and stop to chat with Jody the Location Cop. She has a company that rents out Chinatown as a locale to filming crews. This stops runaway production that can annoy neighbors and also protects the crews from being shaken down by savvy locals. And Chinatown is nothing if it isn't brimming with savvy locals.

    Jody is talking with a furniture dealer about the need to water the plants on Chung King Road. This is the guy who yelled at me about a mural of a topless woman that hung outside my gallery. It was there for a month and a half and one guy voiced his offense by claiming that everyone on earth was offended by it. I just smile at confrontation. It takes way more to wake up the dragon. I do let them both know that I won't be watering any plants on the road, to Mister Furniture's disappointment. Since ideas for making the street more lively are being bandied about I let Jody know that I am interested in a kids ride being installed out in front of my gallery. Mister Furniture says "Oh no, those are bad" so now I am getting a ride put in one day soon for certain. I sold about $20,000 worth of art in the past three weeks but it is time to focus all my attention onto coin-operated children's rides. Hey, it is up to fifty cents per ride these days. Jody makes a call. She may not be the mayor of Chinatown but she is its rolodex; she may not even be Chinese, but she knows everyone. You hand fifty bucks to a rent-controlled impoverished Chinese grandmother a few times and the goodwill flows around town.

    Jody is talking to Tony, the guy who owns all the rides in the Gin Ling Plaza. We're in Chung King Plaza. It is kind of the ghetto plaza. All the security gates are pulled shut and it looks abandoned. Because it kind of is abandoned. Art galleries tend to be internal. The visitors who matter already know we are here and venture forth accordingly. The general public might stumble upon us but they stick mostly to Gin Ling and its tourist gift shops and restaurants. Gin Ling has the kiddie rides. I want a ride in front of my gallery to be antisocial to those who want to walk around Chinatown and tell others what to do, little emperors with no authority beyond their mouths. I also want it in the hopes that maybe Chung King Road would be a little more active. And of course, the irrationality of a kiddie ride in front of an art gallery is irresistible. You will find the pull of irrationality becomes the heartbeat of your existence if you stay in the art world long enough.

    Tony told Jody that two guys were in the central plaza cleaning and de-coining the rides. I sprinted over. I explained that Tony had sent me and that I wanted a ride. My landlord had shown me the building's external outlets and we had plugged a band and deejay in there for opening parties. But about a month ago he had told me that he had installed these himself to code in the 1970s specifically for kiddie rides. So within an hour of Dingle leaving I am watching the guy open his truck to show me the rides that he has available. No ID, no discussion of terms, I didn't even open the locked store, it was just "okay, have one" from the start. I just showed him where i wanted it and he showed me what he had in the truck to pick from. And right there was a pink jeep with yellow flowers.

    Available for Immediate Delivery

    Kim Dingle's art is about girls. Her iconic images are girls dressed in their Easter Sunday best beating the shit out of each other or out of something. To have a pink jeep kiddie ride installed outside of a gallery hosting a Kim Dingle solo show would seem to be an obvious art piece in and of itself. My fellow Chung King Road gallerist Tom Jancar asked me exactly that when he saw the crew with their oversized jackhammer finishing up the simple installation. A hole jackhammered in, a bolt glued into that, a giant locked chain attaching the kiddie ride to the bolt is fastened and then, finally, I am asked to sign a piece of paper.

    I dropped fifty cents in and watched the pink jeep bob up and down, empty, for a solid minute. Her show is called "Wine Bar For Children At Mister Ling's Market" (CLICK TO READ THE PRESS RELEASE). I am not sure of the narrative of this wild tale of little girls overtaking a wine bar, but I believe that if they need a getaway car, I had it installed this afternoon, in time for Saturday's opening.

    I texted Kim and she texted me back that my name oughtta be "Lucky". I was just glad that the case could finally be made to call me "Useful".

    Pink Jeep

    Saturday, July 27th, 2013
    10:41 am
    JJ CALE After Midnight
    JJ Cale has died at age 74 from a heart attack. USA TODAY SUMS UP HIS LIFE HERE.

    He wrote a lot of songs that were hits for a lot of people.

    I remember hearing Eric Clapton's version of AFTER MIDNIGHT on the radio when I was young. I was never allowed to stay up past midnight. The song, with what sounded like a wild party going on in the background, was the most intriguing thing to my young imagination - trying to picture the party where Eric and his band recorded this, mysterious women seemingly dancing on tabletops, my head swirled in visions of desires for things I didn't even know existed.

    There was no doubt in my mind that one day I would stay up After Midnight and go to that party. The urge to "find out what it is all about" produced a certainty and resolve inside that I shared with no one. But I pursued it when I got the chance. Intensely.

    Years later I heard JJ Cale's original version. By this time I had done plenty of staying up After Midnight. His version is not an advertisement for the glamour of staying up that late but an acknowledgement of that time of the night as a simple, pleasurable reality.

    It left me wondering... what if I had heard his version first - whether of not I would have burnt the candle at both ends deep in the nightlife of excess or if I would have appreciated it all some more. The difference between chugging whiskey and sipping bourbon.

    Rest In Peace to a musical genius whose work conveys an intuitive truth that his biggest fans might have left out of their versions.
    Wednesday, July 17th, 2013
    12:35 am
    Tim Youd Performs Charles Bukowski's POST OFFICE
    Artist Tim Youd is continuing his page turning performances all over the country. Dubbed "regional conceptualism," Youd performs the typing of notable works of literature in locales geographically related to either the author's life or the plot of the novel. Utilizing the same make and model typewriter used by the author in its original creation, Youd types the novel on a single page run through the machine over and over.

    Charles Bukowski's Post Office - A Performance

    Tim Youd will perform the entirety of Charles Bukowski's Post Office on an Underwood Champion typewriter in the parking lot of the Terminal Annex Post Office where Bukowski sorted mail for fourteen years.

    To commemorate the performance, the Coagula Curatorial gallery has created a limited edition print of Youd's self-portrait reading Bukowski's Post Office. During the performances there will be two ways to acquire a limited edition print:

    •via a Bukowski trivia raffle during the run of the performance
    •anyone who shows the artist their Bukowski tattoo during there performance will received a print on the spot.

    Terminal Annex Post Office Parking Lot
    900 N Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
    Wednesday, July 17th - Saturday, July 27th, 2013
    11am to 4pm, Daily

    One of the silkscreened+hand-painted monoprints available during the performance:


    Come see Bukowski's Post Office retyped at the site of the post office where Hank worked.
    Monday, July 1st, 2013
    11:41 pm
    Art World Bootcamp
    If you aspire to be a successful, exhibiting artist in Los Angeles, perhaps it is time to get serious about that goal. It is time for you to understand the CULTURE of the Art World Itself.

    This Summer Offers You ART WORLD BOOTCAMP...

    You are ready to:
    * Immerse yourself in the art scene
    * Focus your behavior
    * Expand your knowledge
    * Make great art

    The Art World operates under specific rules that go untaught. Learn these rules early and
    you will develop simple methods to make the way the game is played work for you.

    You can spend years learning these unspoken rules on your own, or you can attend Coagula's Art World Boot Camp and accelerate your comprehension of art, the art business and how the two will ultimately benefit you.

    In Six Saturday Mornings you will receive dozens of INSIGHTS including:
    * Ten Things Art Colleges Don't Want You to Know.
    * The phrase that will get every art dealer to return your phone call.
    * The four highest-impact career decisions every artist will make.
    * Understanding how ANYONE in the Art World can be put to work for you!

    This class is available IN PERSON only - there is no DVD, no Book, no website, I tell incriminating stories, pull the curtain back and name names, audio recording is not permitted - you will get the truth about the LA art world, but it is knowledge that will prove valuable in your pursuit of a successful exhibition career.

    What this is NOT:
    This is not a class about how to sign a pretty little contract with a gallery and sell a painting to your rich uncle. This is the lay of the land of what you are up against in the art world and how to keep your eyes on the prize. You will not be burdened with a bunch of outdated xeroxes. I taught this class in 2006 - there have been radical changes to the art world since then and these are incorporated into every lesson. This is not a class about how to do everything on our own - Artists who are successfully exhibiting in Los Angeles have lots of people doing the heavy lifting.

    Registration is open now and limited to 25 participants - age 18 and up, please.

    Class is taught by Mat Gleason. Do you need my bio? I own an art gallery, I curate art shows, I am a published art critic and essayist. My name is my resumé, google it.

    Six weekend classes beginning July 20. Final class is September 14. Class meets at 11:00 Am on Saturday Mornings at Coagula Curatorial Gallery on Chung King Road in Chinatown. Class lasts 90 minutes. The class also includes two OPTIONAL critiques of your art - one arranged with the instructor and one with the entire class.

    The Class will cost you $350 - but Early Registration cost is $300 - deadline for that price is July 10. Enroll today. Email me at 88gallery at GMAIL dot com with the subject BOOTCAMP if you are interested.
    Friday, June 28th, 2013
    11:58 pm
    I've got all these old magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, fliers, journals in my archives. I dreamt of having all these articles mentioning me when I was a kid. I saved it all. Boxes of yellowing paper, some slick glossies, lots of stuff.

    There are five or six boxes in the garage. And I just started throwing it all out. This was not an act of self-destruction, no, but I did have to "check" myself in regards to what I was doing. Why was I doing this? Well the main reason is we just don't have the space for boxes overflowing with print magazines. It is just hoarding trash at this point. That isn't a sign of defeat. That is not giving up on my youthful vision of establishing a legacy. It feels awkward to have lugged some of this shit around for three decades and to then just toss it this late in the game.

    But it dawned on me. If this vaunted dream of my youth is to mean anything, shouldn't it mean that it will be worth a researcher's time to track it all down? Either you are worth them doing the research on or all the articles you saved were just a form of flattery. So There it all goes, into the dumpster, you gotta roll the dice with or without the rationalizations.
[ << Previous 12 -- Next 12 >> ]
coagula art journal   About