Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Politics and art, together again.

As I am about to leave town for some much-needed art-viewing, I am impressed by the political things being posted by friends and colleagues on-line.

A brief sampling from tonight:

Chicago-based critic Dan Wang's current Facebook pic--fantastic!

Image of an action by the Overhead Light Brigade, whose members traveled around Wisconsin, getting their message out despite the cold and abuse.

But the most important, sobering image that gets back to brass tacks?

So here you go, stats to refute the idiocy and divisiveness aimed at the Country's leader.

So as I head to Europe I look forward to hearing about someone else's politics because ours are depressing and mind-numblingly small. I look forward to seeing politicized art at Documenta and Manifesta, art that tackles the issues of today, issues other generations had explored and exploded--and perhaps artists will, again,  bring me some solace in this wacky world.

PS. Wisconsin--why have you failed us?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Proving the spring

Al photos courtesy the author.

The simple goal of this post is to prove that St. Louis has the best springtime landscape ever, anywhere.

A range of colors and shapes.

Upright habit, cascading habit.

Pinkish purple, purple pink, whitish yellow, yellowy orange.

We've got it all.

Dense and open, closed and pop-y.

And I'm allergic to every single one.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Armory Rush

Forrest Bess at the Whitney Biennial. All photos courtesy the author.

This Bess photo is a bit skewed because I had to snake around the clutch of folks crowding in on each of the works in this Bob Gober-curated show, the best part of the Biennial. Call me jaded: the objects were not as interesting as the performative gestures. Performa has done a great job pushing NY's museums into recognizing one of the most powerful motivating genres of the post-war period (a little late though, huh?)

Leonard Peltier, Horse Nation, 2011.

Paint-by-number? Native Nations activist / political prisoner Leonard Peltier's work was included in another artist's installation. Irregardless (yes, it's a legal word, look it up) of what the installation was, there was something sad and fierce about this work against the feigned faux works around it (except the Bess). The political bent of the Whitney was coming out--thank goodness. In the arts we've learned that being polite doesn't get us anything--look at how arts councils and tax deductions are being used as a punching bag at the state and federal levels--perhaps it's time to loot and burn, take no prisoners?

Kai Althoff.

I read the labels, I swear! Why did nothing stick? I liked the materials, scale and scope of this. It's an image for you to enjoy.

John Miller, Suburban Past Time, 2012.

John Miller at Metro Pictures investing the middlebrow culture of Middle America. Funny, biting, but you don't almost don't need art to point out the artifice of suburban lives, the tragedy writes itself!

Pae White at The Independents.

One of the best mobiles by Pae--the top of each element was mylar, reflecting the color materials above it. Glorious confusion and movement.

Why do fairs not put names / titles up? I see why galleries at The Independents don't--the space is too wacky, like a tricked out high school gym. There was energy, a crush and some excellent works. Bingo!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Beginning of Modern America

photo courtesy the author.

I'm reading Charles C. Mann's book 1491 (thanks to Sanjay Jain, who sent it to me after a very interesting discussion about an up-coming program at Laumeier).

This book is opening up my worldview about the dense, complex web of cultures that existed in the Americas before, during and after first contact. I'm just now reading about Atawallpa, the last Inka leader, whose empire was larger than that of China, the Ottomans and Russia at the time.

While Mann's ideas differ slightly from those of Jared Diamond, I am still shocked that I only heard of Atawallpa two years ago!

The first chapter of the book talked about the People of the Dawnland, Native Nations living on the Eastern seaboard who fought off snooping Europeans for decades, if not centuries. One false move, however, spelled the demise of the Dawnland peoples--due primarily to smallpox and other diseases, but finished off by guns and steel.

The image above is from Cook's baking store in West Allis, Wisconsin. The current story about the first Thanksgiving is not what we were taught in school--sadly, however, the axe seems the constant theme of the white invasion of the United States. No matter that Native Americans helped the Puritans survive, violence fueled by religious discrimination was never far behind a momentary detente.

What I love about the arts is that artists are constantly pushing at the boundaries of knowledge through their asking questions--and this type of tome--1491--fuels some of the most compelling artistic research in today's global cultural dialogue.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Photo by the author.

I am part of the 2011-2012 Focus St. Louis program, Leadership St. Louis [LSL]. (Thanks to Susan Barrett for sponsoring me in this great program!)

This weekend's topic was race--perfect timing given today is the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

Because of my generation's focus on multiculturalism in the arts, I have always been committed to foregrounding artists from diverse backgrounds, sexual orientation, etc... I suspect I have been most successful in looking for gender equality for obvious reasons, but that's no excuse, I can always work harder.

Perhaps it's from being from Canada, where being polite and non-confrontational are values I picked up, I've always felt uncomfortable with talking about certain issues, particularly race, except with Kevin and some other dear friends. At yesterday's LSL meeting all kinds of uncomfortable questions were asked and, as usual, I got a bit weepy at the injustice that still exists in our American culture (let's not get started on other parts of the world, shall we, and how sexism predominates in virtually every country since time immemorial!)

One exercise we did was add beads of different colors to a cup in response to answers. Most of the questions were based on working in a very big office (who is your boss, your direct supervisor, your work mentor, is technically one bead for me, and I only allowed each person one bead). The questions were less about our personal lives, but this is the diverse pool I came away with.

I got to participate in a real conversation about race in America with my smart African American, Asian and white colleagues in the LSL program, and a barrier has been broken for me. I'm planning on attending the MLK day event at Wash U tonight--not the best location, but it's the one I can attend.

This year I promise to be more broad in how I investigate issues of race and gender in my work.