Culture: August 2004 Archives

little red convertible, dusk, Williamsburg Bridge

Barry and I had the delightful experience of being whisked to Williamsburg for an opening at Schroeder Romero Gallery on Wednesday evening in our friends' bright red open car, but the unfamiliar luxury of the carriage subtracted nothing from our experience of the political or aesthetic power of the show curated by Marc Lepson. The title of the exhibition, referencing the notorious post 9/11 warning delivered by former Bush press secretary Ari Fleisher, is "Watch What We Say."

Many of these provocative and very beautiful works are documented on the gallery's own site or that of Joy Garnet (who has two pieces in the show) but I managed to capture a couple of detail or installation shots which may still be useful to the curious.

William Pope L. Bill is Upset 1955-2004 (2004) mixed media 12" x 11"

Christopher Knowles Alert Paintings (2003) acrylic on canvas; five parts 4' x 10' installed [installation view]

Joy Garnett Smoke (2003) oil on canvas 54" x 60"

Carrie Moyer Psychogeographic Landscape v.2 (2004) acrylic on canvas 84" x 72" [detail]

Dread Scott Beloved (2003) silkscreenon paper 22" x 17"

One scene in the play we saw last night accounted for what I'll say was the scariest evening I've ever spent in a theatre. While I think it's generally billed as comedy (well maybe political satire) don't underestimate its seriousness. Yes it's hysterically funny and the players are really impressive, but there's much, much more in store for the brave souls who make it to a venue revealed (eventually) only to those who reserve tickets. Performances run through next Saturday.

I don't come across too many playwrights working with the kind of political material I find inside my own head. Barry writes, "I love a play where "moderate" is an insult."

Many, many thanks to the anonymous crew responsible.

Even when I try to just do a "culture" post these days I often find I have to add it to the "political" category as well. But it's a sign of our dangerous times, and if I have a complaint, it's about the times, not the signs.

Last night we visited the oddly festive, and certainly very social, opening of "amBUSH!" at the Van Brunt Gallery, recently installed on Washington Street in the former meat market district below 14th Street.

Historical note:

The clean, well-lit space occupies almost the exact site of the legendary 1970's-80's gay sex club, the Mineshaft.

In a routine which has become familiar in Bloomberg's New York, while we were with the crowd inside we were suddenly joined by several uniformed police (we seem to have a surfeit of these in the last few years, and especially this summer, but at least they weren't carrying assault rifles this time) who were very concerned about guests sipping wine outside the packed rooms and obstructing free passage on the sidewalk.

I never saw the police there on my rare visits around twenty-five years ago, but if they ever did make an appearance then, it would not have been the wine or the sidewalk which attracted their interest. On the other hand, decades ago there wouldn't have been a dozen miniature cameras documenting cops while they talked to the proprietor of the establishment. We love cameras.

The sensual goodies available last night, and available continuing through September 18th, were of a special kind. One of the show notices had announced, "The message of this exhibition is simple: Bush must go!" Some 36 artists exhibited twice as many angry works, with varying kinds and degrees of success, none of them leaving any doubts about their passion or commitment. For visitors who won't be satisfied with a passive political role even inside an art gallery, there are a number of participatory stations throughout the show. Raise some creative hell, or just tell the White House what you think.


Some time after 8 o'clock an additional dimension was supplied by a musical and video performance, "TERRORVISION," created and performed by Bill Jones & Ben Neill.

First screened/performed at Exit Art, Spring 2004, it consists of four linked computers--a "Power Book band"--that merge Neill's three-belled, computer interfaced mutantrumpet, keyboards, and other instruments with live MIDI controlled digital video. They play the moving pictures to create "video remixes" breathing life into real-time and recorded video. Expect everything from deep ambient soundscapes to funky electronic breakbeats.


Elise Engler showed a pencil-drawing quintych, "Wrapped in the Flag," begun last year, which now represents 1087 dead soldiers in Iraq, although it's unfortunately a continuing work.


Guy Richards Smit included "You Can't Kill Us, Man, We're Already Dead," in a statement still obvious to only a few Americans.


Associated Artists for Propaganda Research, with their installation, "The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One)," may be the most incendiary contribution. Phew.


David Humphrey's cardboard sign, "Bush is Offensive," might be considered in arguable taste in some circles, but it will be eminently practical in others, especially this week and into the next: It's equipped with a convenient handle.

Santiago Cucullu Barricades from All D&D, Haiti, Prague that Fall, Fermin Salvochea (2003) Contact paper on wall.

Even a week after returning from the West Coast I'm still finding pieces of paper reminding me of things I wanted to write about. One of them is the wonderful wall installation we spotted on our way out of Los Angeles's Hammer Museum after visiting the exhibition, "Made In Mexico."

Although not on the scaffold at the time, Santiago Cucullu was still in the midst of installing a large temporary mural (not the work shown above) at the top of the main staircase, assembled from large sheets of all kinds of contact paper. I first noticed it when coming from behind the installation. I spotted a single section of cerulean blue hologram paper on the corner of a wall. I'm sucker for those papers, which give the uncanny impression you're looking into three dimensions and this one was gorgeous. But even incomplete as it was, Cucullu's piece was of course far more breathtaking. In its early form I assumed it was totally abstract. In fact, like much of his work it reads as both abstract and representational.

An excerpt from notes on the Museum's site:

Cucullu’s mural-scale drawing for the Hammer Museum is perhaps his most ambitious and freewheeling contact paper work to date. Its source imagery is almost comically disparate: some comes from the archives of the Federación Libertaria de Argentina (FLA), an anarchist library in Buenos Aires; other parts reference a drawing the artist made while in school (and subsequently lost) that depicted a pair of Doc Martens with the imagined name Dusty Springfield Rhoades written across the top; and still other fragments allude to Dusty Rhodes, a real-life reporter from Springfield, Illinois, whose name the artist came across coincidentally while listening to a radio report about a police officer dismissed from her force. Cucullu presents everything as a tangle of images on a nearly flat picture plane, which can lead almost to the point of visual abstraction—making it hard to see the trees for the forest, so to speak—but also calls to mind pre-Renaissance religious paintings, which often set down multiple narratives in a single space on a single canvas.

[image from the Hammer Museum and courtesy of Julia Friedman Gallery]

Leon Golub Disappear You acrylic on linen 77" x 165.9"

An artist who created "heroic-scale figures," but also a man of heroic-scale human commitment, Leon Golub died on Sunday. Holland Cotter memorializes him in today's NYTimes.

Leon Golub, an American painter of expressionistic, heroic-scale figures that reflect dire modern political conditions, died on Sunday in Manhattan. He was 82 and lived in Manhattan.

. . . .

His [work] was firmly rooted in a critically engaged version of Western humanism and in the tradition of history painting.

His subject was Man with a capital M - as a symbol of social and spiritual ambition, often irrational and destructive, depicted in paintings of monumental scale.

The work won't disappear.

Leon Golub Dream Song Oil stick and ink on Bristol 10" x 8"

[images from artnet]

Ed Ruscha Other color lithograph 11 1/4” x 14 3/4”

While in Los Angeles last week we stopped at the West Hollywood workshop and galleries of Gemini G.E.L. (Graphic Editions Limited). Ok, to be honest, the draw had been the building itself, whose interest had been touted by an artist friend of ours; we didn't know about the galleries, and hadn't really expected to get inside. In fact, we were really welcomed, and graciously invited to walk about the exhibition spaces on our own.

Gemini has collaborated with famous artists nationwide in a great portfolio of first-rate prints, "Artists Coming Together," to help ACT (America Coming Together) defeat Bush and elect Democrats in federal, state and local elections in November. The prints are available, for those with pockets ample enough, individually or as a series. Here's more information.

Back to the building. It's less than two blocks from the Schindler House, and shows curious references to that structure, which was erected more than half a century earlier. The architecture is that of Frank Gehry, but it's the really good Gehry, the one whose early modest originality excited an entire world now so eager for duplicates of Bilbao flamboyance. These are a couple of almost abstract images of the Gemini shelter's 1976 shapes and textures:



[travel tip from Dennis Kane]


Seen on West 3rd in Hollywood last week.


Schindler House, view at the driveway entrance of part of a very tall and dense copse of bamboo which runs along the front sidewalk (the pleasant sounds of a large, creaking wooden ship are heard when the wind blows)

Utopia. The house was built in 1922, and the grounds followed. The compound was an incredibly original creation and it almost totally baffled contemporaries. The people who built it and made it a happy place for themselves and their friends are long gone, and while no one has succeeded them in their residency, the Schindler Studio-Residence in West Hollywood has never failed to attract admirers, visitors and guests.

The original furniture is in storage, so as I tried to evoke the functions of the interior and exterior spaces in my reverential self-guided tour of this beautifully quirky place I had the odd impression I was walking through the remains of the palace of a sage or nobleman in a culture not yet discovered by the West. Actually that wouldn't be far from the truth.

Schindler House, view of the north wing from the walk leading to the architect's studio (the taller, white building is a neighboring apartment house)

Schindler House, view from the north wing of its private terrace and the plantings beyond, including the tall hedge shielding the walk to the architect's studio

Last year the NYTimes published an article about an important fight in which the foundation maintaining the house is currently involved, and it included this homage to Schindler's art on Kings Road:

Schindler was born in Vienna in 1887 and came of age amid the intellectual ferment that produced Sigmund Freud, Gustav Klimt and Arnold Schoenberg. He emigrated to the United States in 1914 and soon was working for Frank Lloyd Wright.

Several years later, Wright sent him to Los Angeles to supervise a project, the Hollyhock House, built for Aline Barndsall, an oil heiress. He decided to stay and open his own architectural practice.

In 1922, Schindler built his famous home, designing it, in the words of the British historian and critic Reyner Banham, ''as if there had never been houses before.''

Even today it is striking in its simplicity and originality. Glass, concrete and redwood are the principal materials. There are few doors, just sliding panels inspired by Japanese houses. Rather than bedrooms, there are canvas ''sleeping porches'' on the roof. Furniture is sleek and angular, and the boundary between indoors and outdoors is blurred.

What went on inside the house while Schindler and his wife lived there was at least as remarkable as the house itself.

Both were social and political radicals, and they turned their home into a salon for artists and all manner of utopians, from Communists to theosophists to vegetarians. Guests and tenants included the photographer Edward Weston, the composer John Cage and the novelist Theodore Dreiser.

Schindler died in 1953, and his wife continued to occupy the house until her death in 1977.

She established Friends of the Schindler House to preserve the property, and in 1994 the group received an injection of cash after arranging a partnership with the Museum of Applied and Contemporary Art in Vienna, of which [Peter] Noever is the director. Since then, the house has been used for concerts, exhibitions and cultural events.

(Because of structural deterioration at the Schindler House, the World Monuments Fund placed it on its list of 100 most endangered sites in 2002.)

See also this earlier post and the link there.

Schindler House, high, tight-foliage "hedge" bordering the entrance drive

Irwin3.JPGGetty Center, corner of zigzag pedestrian path through Central Garden

Los Angeles doesn't disappoint a visitor from the North, and for this pilgrim its charms always begin with the flora, even if much of what has become identified with the region is imported or artificially maintained. In fact, the boldness of both its humblest and most fabled gardeners must regularly surprise even Angelenos themselves. The "hedge" shown above is little over an inch deep, and is actually a vine attached to a cement wall. The 30-inch metal retaining wall in the image below it allows delighted visitors to literally walk through a large hillside lawn.

The most striking aspect of these two disciplined geometric creations may be that they are found in a hybrid environment. In both cases the larger gardens are a delicious combination of minimalism and wild abandon. For some of the gardens attached to Rudolf M. Schindler's Studio-House, see the next post; for flowers in Robert Irwin's inventions at the Getty, see the images which will go up over the next week or so.

Meier's ramp

Irwin's ramp

The overall design of the Getty Center is that of Richard Meier, but Robert Irwin was commissioned to create its Central Garden. Both jobs cried out for gently-sloping walking ramps, but each man arrived at an elegant solution appropriate to his own creation. Together they approach or surround a cultural temple atop a beautiful sun-drenched acropolis.

Terence Koh detail of Do not doubt the dangerousness of my butterfly song (Silver) (2004) Custom metal vitrine, speakers, ipod with unique song sung by artist, paint, male argyrophorus argenteus butterfly, broken mirror, star dust, 45 " long, 18" wide, 61" tall. Unique

This work is part of the artist's two great current shows, but they close today; my apologies to many people for posting this so late, especially since I've been so impressed with both the work of Koh and, at our remove, that of his gallery, Peres Projects. We visited the space in Chung King Road for the first time just one week ago.

We're home!

Since we only had a dial-up connection in the hotel room, I didn't try to post everything I wanted to while we were in Los Angeles. This item, and perhaps a few others to follow, will make up for some of this blog's relative "silence" of the past week.

We wanted to get out of the man-made environment for a day and get into the desert, so we left Wilshire Boulevard and drove northeast, eventually passing through the current greater-L.A. frontier around its fabled Victorville, soon after making a pit stop in the newly-created settlement of Summit Heights (where the mall was complete even if the tract homes were not). Beyond this new asphalt camp the (unpeopled) wilderness began. Going through open country baking in 105-degree heat (convertible top up, AC cranked), we turned back after Barstow, but well before approaching Needles, and drove back across the top of Edwards Air Force Base.

We had seen real and re-created ghost towns, but the two images below are descriptions of a special case, the community of Boron, which Barry called a "Sam Shepard town." We both thought it was pretty cool, if a bit of a commute from Manhattan. A special touch was provided by the excellent 80's rock coming from the white-painted repair garage with the "...troom" sign (the chamber indicated was of course the reason we had ended up there for this serendipity).

Historical note: The 20 Mule Team Rd. marker refers to the fact that this street was once the route, established in the 1880's, of the 20 mule teams which hauled borax from the borax Works in Death Valley and Amargosa to the railhead at Mojave (30 miles west of Boron).




The collection is spotty in its quality, but it shows beautifully. The architecture is a great pleasure, yet not revolutionary or breathtaking. Ah, but the gardens are an absolute, unqualified delight, all thanks to Robert Irwin and the uncredited gardeners who work their wizardry on the grounds of the Getty Museum.

Lots more garden images (including real flowers!) will follow over the next week or so.

untitled (palms in the blue)

These wonderful creatures could easily turn me into an animist. These palms were waving above the high terrace of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art this afternoon.

But, at least on the surface, the current featured exhibition, "Beyond Geometry: Experiments in Form 1940s−70s," could hardly be more removed from these beautiful sentinals outside. It's a stunning show, even if I somehow missed the argument of its curatorial premise.

trucker hat.JPG

The poster was spotted on West Third Street in Hollywood this evening.

Thanks, guys.


In a combination which this northerner found unlikely (and accordingly so very spectacular), these bougainvillea and morning glories were entwined on the side of the drive to the Charles Eames house in Pacific Palisades this afternoon.

[thanks to Mary Baine for the tip which made the trip possible]

untitled (Chung King Road) 2004

The very pedestrian Chung King Road is the site of six or eight of the most exciting galleries in Los Angeles, but it's also still part of Chinatown.

This page is an archive of entries in the Culture category from August 2004.

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