Friday, December 28, 2012

The KrossD List: 5 Best Art Exhibits of 2012

'Tis the time of year when I usually cull together unsolicited lists of my favorite things of said year, music, movies, books and the like. 2012 however, provided such an unexpected bombardment of personal upheaval (the best sort of upheaval, mind you), that I have only been able to focus on the "art" type of art. It's been a great year for that. Therefore I present to you my list of the five best Los Angeles exhibits of the year (and links to my reasons why). Cheers to you all!

5) "Image Not Available" - Rero at Fabien Castanier Gallery

4) "Narcolandia" - Group show at Coagula Curatorial

3) "Zero Gravity" - Nicola Verlato at Merry Karnowsky Gallery

2) "Method Attic" - Matjames Metson at Coagula Curatorial

(drum roll please)

1) "Make It Dark" - Mecedes Helnwein at Merry Karnowsky Gallery

Honorable mentions:
"Art is a MiXTAPE" at Lebasse Projects
"Ice Loves Rococo" - Van Arno at CHG Circa
"Interviews" at Curio by AFN
 KrossD at Gallery 3 (hey, it's my list. I'll do what I want.)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Art Pick of the Week: Mercedes Helnwein at Merry Karnowsky

So, Mercedes Helnwein's "Make It Dark" at Merry Karnowsky Gallery opened a couple weeks ago, but what with the giving of thanks and the blah blah blah, I'm a bit behind schedule. DON'T MISS IT though, because (spoiler alert) it's my favorite show of the year! It runs through December.

You can read my Cartwheel review here.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

5 Questions (and then some) with Mat Gleason

Mat Gleason is a smart guy. Just ask him, he’ll tell you himself. I’ll broach no argument there. Upon witnessing the ubiquitous insurgence of punk rock zines of the eighties and nineties he asked himself an obvious question, why has no one done this for art? His answer became Coagula Art Journal, which debuted in 1992 with corrosive, acerbic, well written essays that exposed the ugly underbelly of the art world. While the moneyed galleries, museums, curators, and collectors tried their best to ignore him, Gleason’s art journal became wildly popular with art patrons, and artists themselves. The success of Coagula Art Journal, 20 years running now, has afforded him the opportunity to open his own gallery, Coagula Curatorial. Since his gallery opened in April 2012, he’s shown the likes of Gronk, Karen Finley, Tim Youd, Llyn Foulkes, Leigh Salgado, Matjames Metson and Germs, just to name a few. And he’s still making people nervous.
Gleason took a short break from preparing a trip to Florida (where Coagula will have the largest booth at Miami Project), to sit down and answer 5 questions from me. It turned into ten…

1)   You recently spent about a week in a hospital bed. How’s your heart? What’s going on?

“(laughs) Hey, under federal hypo requirements, you can’t ask that. No, you know what; I was born with a heart issue. I was raised in a hospital. So, when I was eight, I was already past the existential crisis of living on borrowed time, but a lot of complications show up with these surgeries later in life. I was drinking quadruple espressos, and they were like no, no, no! Now they have counseling for kids. A lot of people who had what I had would do two lines of coke and drop dead. So, you know, the fact that I’m alive…I really just dodged a lot of bullets, like cultural bullets. So now, we have a more aware culture. I was just there yesterday and the doctor was telling me that kids with my condition, or similar conditions, they have a camp, where they basically explain to them you really have to be responsible for your own behavior. You cannot smoke, you cannot drink. If you do it a lot, it will exacerbate your problem. So, it’s something I’ve lived with my whole life. If I drop dead tomorrow, I’ve already won the lottery.”

2)   Who will you have at the Miami Project and what do you have planned for the Coagula booth?

“We’re taking seven artists, including Karen Finley, who’s really well-known internationally, performance artist. She’s going to be doing a performance, in the booth, called “SEXT Me If You Can”, working with the idea of sexting as a new form of exhibitionism. For $500.00, I give you Karen Finley’s phone number, and you get a code, so you can only do this once, and you sext her, whatever you want to show her. In the booth in Miami, she’s going to be making paintings, and your painting was sold to you. So, you bought her phone number, and you bought the painting that you want her to make. She will make it as part of her performance. Totally anonymous.
(We’re taking) Llyn Foulkes, we have access right now to his complete pigment prints, some his greatest paintings, signed numbered editions. So that’s a big coup. Leigh Salgado, great artist. Vito Lorusso, who is in the gallery now, showing with Leigh, and then we are taking Matjames Metson, whose an assemblage artist, a great salvager. He makes just amazing stuff out of salvaged material. Abel Alejandre. Abel’s great, he’s one of our better selling artists actually. We did really well with his show here, very popular, but still very sophisticated stuff. There’s nothing cheap about his work. Tim Youd, he was the show that opened our gallery.”
3)   Are you going to be venturing across the causeway to Basel?

“I don’t know how busy I’ll be. You know what, I hope not, because that means things will be rocking in our booth, but if I’m like, ‘oh yeah, I think I’m gonna head over there now, nothing’s happening here’...that’s a very bad sign.”
4)    In 1999 you named Karen Finley Artist of the Decade. You didn’t award  that crown in the aughts, did you?
“Um, I wrote some article. I don’t even remember what it was for, but I named Robert Williams as the artist of the decade, but I write so much that I couldn’t tell you specifically what I wrote that for.

The big thing this decade is, how is the street art going to shake out? Where is that going’? I mean it’s getting pretty cheesy, pretty fast. That to me is the most interesting thing. That’s really going to determine the direction this decade takes. But, at the beginning of the sixties, there was no Pop art. Something could show up. You never know.”

5)   What should an artist do to gain your attention? What do you look for in an artist and/or art work?

“Honesty, Integrity in the work, as a person of course.  I’m much more interested in art that is…real. Not realistic, REAL. Like, ‘this is real art. This announces itself as art.’ There are so many trends of people making things that try to ‘oh, I want to find the line between art and design, or I want to find the line between art and crime or something’…whatever. I don’t. I want to find ART. The people out on the periphery, well, it’s a false periphery. You know, conceptually we describe it this way. The more ART something is, that’s where the actual edge is, and it is a true art experience. I don’t like words like pure, but I like words like TRUE. Purity is a gauge of the physical, but I like art that goes beyond just having a material presence.”
6)   Your Art World Habits video series is brilliant. What do you consider the single biggest mistake artists make?

“Oh, the single biggest mistake artists make is to think that they can just skate by with a limited signature style, and only a few artworks. That’s the biggest fallacy. People get very comfortable. Comfort, you know what? THAT’S the biggest mistake an artist can make, comfort. Once I drank with Charles Bukowski, and he said that he preferred alcohol over pot, because pot makes you feel satisfied, and satisfaction is the enemy of art.”

7)   Despite a somewhat notorious reputation among the art hierarchy, you have the respect of actual artists and, I imagine, you pretty much get the ones you want.  Are there any artists you really long to show at Coagula, but haven’t been able to get?

“You know, actually, the artists that I want to show, a lot of them are top-dollar artists, for example. I don’t want to say any names, but you know…once an artist has any power, they cut people off as quickly as a gallery. You know, you have to, you have to. These artists that start doing favors for everybody get fucked. So, I’ve approached people, but I’m smart enough to say ‘how big will I have to get for you to show with me?’  I know the game, you know, and they respect that, and they respect that they’re being asked. But I know how the game is played, and I’m not against that. I’m against people not knowing it, or hoarding that information on how the game is played. People want to pretend that it’s always the best art. No, it’s the wealthiest people and the most connected people. You definitely have to cut in line. It didn’t just happen, you know. You bought a publicist, and you worked it, you know?”
8)    Would you ever open a gallery in NY?

“I don’t like New York. I used to not be allowed in a lot of galleries in New York. Nah, I’m pretty much the opposite of New York. I mean, look, yeah, if you hit the jackpot. That’s always a doable proposition in the art world, and that’s fine. If an opportunity came up that made sense…actually, I’d do it if it helped the artists out, and I was able to make some money or something. That’d be cool. That’d be fun.”

9)   Last time I saw you, we talked a bit about our mutual love of Bob Dylan? Do you have one particular Dylan song that you return to time and time again, or a favorite line of his?

“Whenever I travel, like bus, train, plane…oh my god, I’ve been doing this since 1985, 1986? As the vehicle I’m in starts to leave, I listen to ‘Visions Of Johanna*", and I don’t know why. What I will tell you about Bob Dylan…well, I was not a good student. Not to be arrogant, but I was a kid who always felt I was smarter than most of my teachers, and I was proven correct many times. I was proven incorrect sometimes too, in embarrassing and humiliating experiences, which I accepted because if you dish it out, you gotta take it. So, the way education is structured in America, it didn’t work for me. The only time it ever worked for me was when I was in grade school with nuns, and then it was like God was telling you that you had to do something, and in the absoluteness of the nun, I was able to learn. I didn’t learn anything in a school after the nuns. I was just a kid that couldn’t pay attention, didn’t pay attention, and was smarter than everybody. I got kicked out of high school. I got kicked out of a couple colleges, so, whatever. I might have flushed away an opportunity to have done something different with my life. If I wanted to go to Harvard, my dad would’ve paid for Harvard, you know. My dad paid for Cal State LA and I fucked around at Cal State, but I did learn how to do a newspaper, which started Coagula, so I actually did learn, before getting kicked out. I started out as an art major, and ended up doing Coagula. But the thing about Bob Dylan, and I learned this intuitively, I didn’t articulate it until years later, was we have the western way of teaching. You sit there with forty people, and the teacher lectures, okay? But there’s other ways to learn. When I first heard Dylan, I was into punk, and then when I heard Dylan, I said ‘oh this is the guy!’ Then I listened to everything he did, inside, outside, upside down, for years and years and years. What I was able to articulate early on…I used to say ‘well, Bob’s my professor. He’s better than any school teacher.’ That’s actually the rabbinical method, but the problem with the rabbinical method is it’s perverted into the guru, and the guru has a stigma of people mindlessly following the guru, the leader…who takes them on their life quest. I don’t want to say spiritual quest, much more how to actually live, you know. So, I’m a rabbinical learner, so I know everything Dylan’s ever done, every song he’s ever sung. And Leonard Cohen, you know…Cohen, he mentions rabbis in his songs and stuff. But it’s a way to learn. Just follow one person, and get as much from the thing they do, and not…see the problem with gurus is, what happens is the guru ends up banging the hot chick in the group of people following him, you know? So, I don’t care about Bob Dylan the man. But the art, what he is preaching, and I consider him to be preaching, it’s an absolute blueprint on how to transform yourself, and live. So, you mention Dylan, and that’s a very important part of my life. That’s my school.”
10)   Before Coagula, you had planned to be an artist, but you don’t paint anymore. Why not?

“I was an art major at Cal State LA. I was terrible. Oh no, no, no, because my art is my writing, and my persona. That’s my art. So, that’s my creative gesture, and the thing that I do to live on and to live bigger than one can encounter all the people you can encounter through your art. I wanted to be a painter. I ego identified with being an artist. You know, 'I’m going to be an artist', and I had a studio, and I had a bunch of canvases that I bought at the canvas store, and I made paintings that I thought were supposed to be…you know, I could tell you why it was historically important, and where I fit in, in this…but it was a painful break, but it was growing up too. But that was me, I was already happier with my writing. People would always respond to my writing. Always. It’s the responding to your art, you know, if they never responded to my writing, maybe I would have worked harder or differently at the art. When I say most art sucks, I was making art and I couldn’t get my hand to do what my mind and my eye had envisioned…and that’s all I ask of people.”

Thanks Mat!

Coagula Curatorial
977 Chung King Road
Los Angeles, California 90012
The gallery is open Wednesday thru Saturday, Noon – 5 PM...and you should really go!

*KrossD note to persnickety assholes: Yes, the link to "Visions Of Johanna" is a wildly different version of the song than the one on Blonde On Blonde. It's still pretty great, and if you don't know the original, than stop reading this blog and go do your homework. I'm just kidding, you should tell your mom about me!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Art Pick of the Week: Isabel Samaras at Varnish Fine Art

Yes Angelenos, I'm picking a show in San Francisco. But hey, it's really not that far away, and who wouldn't want to spend half a dozen hours driving up the lovely I-5? Okay, forget I said that, hop on a plane. It's the incomparable Isabel Samaras after all! This show features a slew of new work alongside a batch of old favorites, which provides gallery-goers the opportunity to glimpse the span of her impressive career so far.

I've made no secret of my adoration of this artist, so it's really a no brainer choice for me. I had the honor of talking to her about the show (and other stuff) last week for Cartwheel. You can read the interview here.

'Making a Better Yesterday Today'
opens Nov. 3, 2012 and runs through Dec. 15, 2012

Varnish Fine Art
16 Jessie Street, #C120
San Francisco, CA 94105

photos courtesy of Isabel Samras and Varnish Fine Art

Friday, October 26, 2012

Art Pick of the Week: Leigh Salgado at Coagula Curatorial

Leigh Salgado's "free form cut paper" sculptures (?), paintings (?), assemblage (?), um...let's say indefinable works of art have to be seen to be believed. Even then, you probably won't believe it, but no other artist has ever explored anatomical themes or feminist concepts quite like Salgado. Don't even start with me about Judy Chicago, this is something else entirely. At least I think it is, but I have a "why" chromosome.

At any rate, trust me when I tell you that "New Work" at Coagula Curatorial will surely be the best art bet in Los Angeles tomorrow night. Oh, did I forget to mention Llyn Foulkes, and Vito Lorusso? Yeah, you're gonna want to see this!

This exhibit will run October 27 thru November 24.
The gallery is open Wednesday thru Saturday, Noon - 5 PM

Coagula Curatorial
977 Chung King Road
Los Angeles CA 90012
(424) 2-COAGULA

Photo courtesy of Coagula Curatorial & Leigh Salgado

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Art Pick of the Week: Van Arno at CHG Circa

The lurid, blasphemous, utterly gorgeous work of Van Arno continues to amaze me. His latest solo show, Ice Loves Rococo, is on view at CHG Circa in Culver City through October 27th.

You can read my full review at Cartwheel.

CHG Circa
8530-A Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
310 287 2345

photo by Keith Ross Dugas

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Art Pick of the Week: Interviews at Curio by AFN

"Interviews" at Curio by AFN is a group show curated by Daniel Rolnik. It is a transmogrifying, weird and wonderful show that is full of surprises and head-spinning turns. You can read my Cartwheel report here...

“Interviews” runs through October 26th, 2012

CURIO Studio & Collection
324 Sunset Ave. Venice, California 90291

Phone & Text:  323) 382-6533
open Thursday- Saturday 12-6pm, or by appointment

Luis Arevalo

photos by Keith Ross Dugas

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Art Pick of the Week: Narcolandia at Coagula Curatorial

Narcolandia at Coagula Curatorial is bloody brilliant! You can read my review for Cartwheel here:

Narcolandia runs through Sept. 22, 2012.
Coagula Curatorial
977 Chung King Road
Los Angeles CA 90012

The gallery is open Wednesday thru Saturday, Noon - 5 PM and by appointment.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Art Pick of the Week: Rero

"Image Not Available" - Rero at Fabien Castanier Gallery

September 8 – October 7
Opening Reception | Saturday, September 8th, 7-10pm
Special Preview | Thursday, September 6th, 7-9pm

Keep an eye on Cartwheel in the next couple of days for my review of this outstanding show!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Art Pick Of The WeeK

I'm having a crazy week. How 'bout you? Well, this is gonna be short & sweet, but this week's pick is "FREESTYLE" at Fabien Castanier Gallery in Studio City. Just go! But if you require more of a catalyst, check out my article for Cartwheel.

Trust me!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

An Open Letter To Gallery Owners

Dear Gallery Owners, Curators, and Collectors,

  First of all, I want to thank you for what you do. Even if monetary benefit is your primary motivational thrust, without art the heartbeat of our culture stops cold and our humanity withers on a rotted vine. So, what you do has value. I know this. Do you sense a "but" approaching? have to know how hard the life of an artist is. For every Mark Ryden, Shepard Fairey, Ron English, and Damien Hirst selling their work for 6 and 7 figures, there's hundreds (if not thousands) of incredibly talented artists toiling away in dingy rented rooms, sweltering storage units, and cramped garages, utterly devoted to their craft...and you're ignoring them. If they are lucky enough to actually get a show at some small gallery, they often end up selling work that they spent months creating for around 800 bucks, then you take half of that?! Do the math, and take a moment to appreciate it's bleakness. Then consider that most of these folks have no other income. They have no health insurance. They have no 401K. No stocks, no bonds, no holdings.

  So, why do they do it? Do they crave fame and fortune? Do they thirst for art world celebrity? Nope. They do it because they can't help themselves. They do it because it's embedded in their genetic makeup. A lot of them are driven by demons they are trying to exorcise. This is a devastatingly brutal world for sensitive souls to dwell in, and they've found that making art is the only way they can cope with it. But don't get me wrong, they are not weak. They are the strongest among us. They are vigilant, steadfast survivalists. In the face of harsh adversity, they persevere. They torture themselves. They work in anonymity, agonizing over details. They often destroy the work and start all over again. Every single day of their lives, they get up and make art. No matter what! They do it out of an innate passion.

 There was a time in our history, when the wealthiest families would provide financial backing, for life, to artists they believed in, and we are ALL the better for it. Sadly, we don't really do that anymore. So, it's fallen on you, the gallery owners, the curators, the collectors to give a public face to the private struggles of deserving artists. I'm urging you to step out of your comfort zone and take a risk on some art warriors who are maybe untested, or just under-appreciated. No, I'm not talking about myself. You can keep ignoring me. It's fine. What I'm saying is, there are giants all around us, if you'd just open your eyes a little wider. I'm asking that, even though you're "booked through next year", "not accepting submissions", or the dpi is the "wrong size", that a couple times a week you just open a couple of them anyway. Take a look at the blood and the sweat and the tears that are offered up to you. Don't be so dismissive. Those envelopes and emails are filled with heartaches and pain. For a lot of these artists, it's all they will ever know. You wield the power to not only write the next chapter in art history, but to elevate our discourse, shake up the hierarchical order, inspire deeper thought, and maybe save a life or two. Don't waste that power by playing it safe!

  Everyday I see exceptional artists selling their work for next to nothing, just to get a bill paid, fill a prescription,or get a tooth pulled. Like mice on a wheel, they all but give their art away so they can get more supplies, just to make more art. Vicious fucking cycle! Artists like Jennifer J. Jelenski, William Wray, Bonni Reid, Matjames Metson, Joe C. Rock, Gustavo Rimada, and Paul Chatem (just to name a few) scan the entire landscape of artistic possibility. They should be household names. There should be lavish Taschen books of their art on our coffee tables. They shouldn't be struggling for our attention. A struggle can be good for an artist. It can motivate. But for artists like these, the struggle should be a little easier. If art is not only transcendent, and clearly wrenched out of pain, but also illuminated by the propulsive waves of the divine, to NOT show that is damn near an act of violence.

  I understand how bad the economy is, and I understand you're not running a charity. I have a suggestion though. Go ahead and have your big Shag show. Have a Mr. Brainwash circus! Do your Rydenfest. Sell the holy fuck out of those shows! Then, every other month, let your gallery give voice to some lesser known names. Open one of those submission envelopes that you usually toss in the bin, and take a bloody chance on someone. Let the success of the marquee artists keep the door open for the next guy. Hell, I'll curate it for you. My rates are very reasonable.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Art Pick(s) Of The Week

Let's get this out of the way right of the bat, YES, I have a dog in this race. Gallery 3 is celebrating it's first year run in Reno with a group show, in which I have a few pieces.

In addition to a few selections from my solo show back in March, Gallery 3 will also be unveiling a new piece,  "Territorial Pissings".

But hey, ANY show with Chad Sweet, Rowland1964, and Joe C. Rock in it, is going to be worth your time! The show runs from August 10th to September 27th.

Elsewhere, for Angelenos who can't venture out to the Pacific Northwest, there's a sublime group show at Lebasse Projects (Chinatown) curated by Jessicka Addams & Brian Wakil. MiXTAPE LA features the likes of Tara McPherson, Camille Rose Garcia, Mark Ryden, Gary Baseman, France Bean Cobain, Fairuza Balk, and Lindsey Way just to name a few, all bringing art to bear on favorite songs they have each chosen. You can read my review at Cartwheel. This show is open selectively August 4th - 28th.

For a twisted look inside the Disney mythos, there's also Rodolfo Loaiza's "DISASTERLAND" at La Luz De Jesus Gallery running August 3rd - 26th. My Cartwheel review of that will be forthcoming.

Then on Saturday, August 11th,  a duo show featuring the stunning work of Nicola Verlato, and Vonn Sumner opens at Merry Karnowsky Gallery and runs through September 1st.

So, don't tell me there's nothing to do. I won't hear of it!

Friday, July 6, 2012

5 (MORE) Questions With RON ENGLISH

One of the limitations of the 5 Question interview format, is that it doesn't allow for a lot of give and take. You have to try to cover as much ground as you can in only five attempts. It's a challenge that I welcome, but it inevitably leaves me with regret. Sometimes the answers just end up raising more questions. Such was the case with the Ron English chat we had back in March. He mentioned working with Chris Brown on a toy project. The release of said toy has caused some controversy, and even led some of his artistic peers to cry "sell out" and "hypocrite".

Look...Ron English didn't have to talk about this with me, or anyone for that matter. But he has, and I can't help but respect him for it. Here's how it went:

1) Back in March, you mentioned collaborating with Chris Brown. Now, even Rihanna has recently worked with him, but somehow I'm more surprised that you did. Tara McPherson (who you gave a shout-out to in the same blog) has been frequently tweeting her disappointment. Frank Kozik has joined in as well. Did you have any reservations about working with someone who has come to exemplify domestic violence?

Ron: When I was young I might have stolen a car or something like that but I was allowed a second chance and I believe I took advantage of that and my life since then has been pretty positive.Had I continued that behavior I would not have expected continued forgiveness nor would I be so forgiving of anyone who continued such antisocial behavior. I do intend to start tweeting this week, as much as I loath the inconvenience. I can't let Frank have the last word. (my tag is ronenglishart)

 2) Since we last talked, Thomas Kinkade and Leroy Neiman have passed away. Both of whom made vast sums of money by mass-marketing their "brand" of "art". Do you think it's possible for an artist to be hugely successful and still retain a modicum of integrity...or is success the art?

 Ron: Thomas Kinkade painted what people wanted to see; I paint what I want people to see. Both approaches have their own integrity, or if you prefer, lack of integrity. I'm put off by people who judge art by its price tag and also by those who equate poverty with integrity.

3) You've been sued by Disney, King Features, and KISS. Yet you've NEVER lost a lawsuit?! Who is your lawyer?
Ron: I think I have a great lawyer, but he's doesn't have to be great because his client hasn't broken any copyright laws.

  4) What was the last billboard you did? And are the billboard companies still unwilling to sell you space?
Ron: I did one in London over the weekend but they built the billboard for me at the London Pleasure Gardens and I painted it, no billboard company was involved. My obsession with billboards has dissipated to some extent.

 5) Are you Banksy?

Ron: I thought you were Banksy!

Thanks Ron. I hope I didn't put you off with the questions . I'm pretty sure I'm destined to a life of poverty, but I know that doesn't mean I have integrity.

Ron: Having art sell for a lot of money or not at all does not affect the quality of the art whatsoever. That's all I was saying. I'd rather be poor with my own sense of integrity than a rich prostitute.

'Nuff said!

Monday, June 18, 2012


I will, for the rest of my days, be plagued and pricked by the thorns of a particular decision I made regarding Jennifer J. Jelenski. In August of 2008, my wife and I went to the "Cream Of The Crop" show at La Luz de Jesus. My better half was drawn to the work of JAW Cooper. I was pulled toward Jennifer J. Jelenski's paintings. One, in particular, I coveted, called "Teething Ring".

We admired both women's work, but after much discussion, we ultimately brought home a few JAW Cooper pieces. Leaving "Teething Ring" on the wall, to be purchased (I would find out later) by Morgan Spurlock. As much as I love Jessica Cooper's work, I still think about "Teething Ring"...with more than just a tinge of regret.

I've kept an eye out for Jelenski ever since. Fortuitously, La Luz seems to have embraced her with open arms. She has been featured in several group shows there, and was even selected to be in the stunning La Luz de Jesus 25 retrospective (show and book).

Jelenski's art seems to exist in the clouds, which is not to say a rarefied air, but rather a fluffy white bed of comfort. Inviting, yet mysterious and distant. The titles often raise more questions then they answer: "Purple Monkey Dishwasher", "Honey & Rutting Victrola". Her creatures may be armed and wrathful, but they are also pretty damn cuddly. She seems to constantly be playing two sides against each other. Not lowbrow, and not quite pop surrealism, yet both at once. Her paintings are complex, in a simple way. Chaotic, but orderly. Cute, and menacing. Fun, yet deadly serious. This is art obsessed with BALANCE. I'm a huge fan!

Jennifer J. Jelenski is an intensely private person, so I'm thrilled and honored that she would agree to do this (infrequent) feature on my humble little blog. Here's what she had to say:

1) Your images are often assembled in the shape of a Mandala, and seem to draw a lot of inspiration from Hindu art, and I know you practice yoga.What can you tell me about the bats, bunnies, and monkeys?

Jennifer: "Tibetan Art from the 12th -17th century is a tremendous source of inspiration for me.
This art shares stories. My hope is to bring people closer to finding these stories for themselves.
The animals I work with are meant to be cute. Endearing warm fuzzies invoke a very similar feeling as compassion.
Many people believe we naturally can not be compassionate and that work must be done to enable ones self to become compassionate.
My hope is to trick folks into unlocking this super power!
Yoga is a physical expression of my creativity, prayer in motion, as well as a great way to balance such a sedentary lifestyle."

 2) One of the astounding things about your work, for me, is that you paint complex, intricate fields of color that are bordered by head-scratchingly clean, and consistent line-weights.How on Earth do you achieve that crisp line?

Jennifer: "Thank you!!
A few things I do to achieve such a look are:
Never work wet on wet.
Wear jeweler's glasses while working.
I give my paintings plenty of time to dry.
Apply many many layers of paint.
Use sandpaper to remove any offending textures.
And I use the best tools I can afford and replace worn out tools often.
(I go through 4 dozen brushes or more a year)"

3) How long do you typically work on a sketch, before you're ready to paint, and (sneaking in an extra question) are you brand loyal with paint?

Jennifer: "I may work a drawing or idea for months.
They all start out small.
As a composition develops, I'll draw it over and over.
Until I feel it's problems are resolved to the best of my ability.

I use mostly Golden acrylics.
After an image is drawn onto a canvas, I'll mix my pallet.
Then pour the mixed colors into wee plastic pots.
The colors stay fresh for a year this way.
While I'm working I put a few brushes full of the mixed color into an Ink pot.
Mix this with a bit of gel medium, GAC, and water to begin painting.
I want a lite, creamy texture that is never runny or pasty."

4) I ask everyone this.What are you listening to while you work?

Jennifer: "My tunes!!!!!
Currently I listen to:
Lots of
Biosphere. Lots of Lustmord.
Atticus Ross, Book of Eli sound track
Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo sound track

My most recent fixation,
Ambient Metal!
For this genre I like:
Jakob, Subsets of Set
Jakob, Cale:DrewJakob, SolaceIsis, Panopticon (love the track 'In Fiction')
Pelican, What We All Come To Need (#1 fave tune of the moment, The Creeper)"

 5) You seem to be a big kid at heart.What's your favorite children's novel?

Jennifer: "I'm an avid reader, but I haven't read any children's books in a very long time.
Stories that I adored when I was young and still do today would be:
Benjamin Bunny, Beatrix Potter
The Hobbit, J.R.Tolkien

Keith, Thank you so much for this opportunity to share with your readers."

No...Thank You Jennifer!

Jennifer J. Jelenski is primarily self-taught. She is a former doll-maker, tattoo and make-up artist. While she steadfastly refuses to dwell on the past, she has begrudgingly permitted me to say that she has shown her art at Rosemary's Billy Goat Odditorium, Blue Rooster, The Hive, and Cannibal Flower, in addition to La Luz de Jesus Gallery. She has exhibited alongside such luminaries as Gary Baseman, Matjames Metson, Clayton Brothers, Nathan Ota, Chris Mars, Isabel Samaras and others...and fiercely held her own !

I will keep you all posted on any future Jelenski shows.


All images courtesy of Jennifer J. Jelenski

Saturday, March 10, 2012

5 Questions with RON ENGLISH

I have to confess, I'm guilty. I've surrendered my cash (and health) to just about all the monsters that Ron English relentlessly wages art war on. I haven't been to a McDonald's in years, but when I drive by one I can still taste the Quarter Pounder With Cheese, and the oily fries. I own a few Disney movies on Blu-Ray. I smoke. When I was thirteen, I was a card carrying member of the KISS ARMY. Guilty as sin.

Having said that, I'm also aware enough to see the blistering truth in English's work. As far as I'm concerned, he's one of the most important artists working today. I assume anyone reading this blog already knows who Ron English is. He's among the finest guerilla artists of our time. His solo show "Seasons In Superbia" at the Corey Helford Gallery was the best exhibit I saw last year. He was just immortalized on The Simpsons for chrissakes! So, you can imagine my excitement when he answered the phone and agreed to do "5 Questions". Here's the thing though, if you had a chance to ask Goya five questions, it wouldn't be enough. You'd immediately want five more, and five more after that...and on and on. So I may have to start a new "5 More Questions" feature soon.

At any rate, here's how it went:

1) Your transition from photographer to "hyper-realist" painter seemed to happen effortlessly, and at lightning speed. Was there much of a learning curve, or were you able to hone your painting skills without much struggle?
Ron: Someone once told me that if you can draw, you can paint. I had been drawing photorealistic pieces on cardboard and staging them as environments in my photographs. I thought painting would be easy. The first painting I ever made, I sold. It was of Saint Basel's Cathedral. I was eight. A teacher bought it to show her students what an eight year old could do. But as far as New York Art World level painting, I really wasn't on terra firma until I was around 30 years old, four years after I began my quest to become a painter. I still struggle.

2) Have Disney and/or McDonald's ever tried to hire you?
Ron: I did art for The ESPN Zone in NYC. It was a series of 30 paintings that were mash-ups of art history and sports history. I also did a colab Stitch figure with Disney and a colab Mad Hatter figure. I brought 40 clowns to lunch at McDonald's, but they didn't try to hire me then or ever. Do you have any contacts at McDonald's? I was just thinking my little fat Ronalds would go good in Happy Meals. I'm sure they would be all about that.

3) Are you a KISS fan, or do you consider them emblematic of the insidious culture of branding?
Ron: Well, they probably merched out better than any band since The Beatles. Actually they probably have more merch than The Beatles ever dreamed of and you can bet your bottom dollar Gene gets his fair share of the profits. If I were a young band I would study my Kisstory.  It's really hard to make money off your music these days and having a lot of collectable merch available could help a lot. Personally I love little collectable chotchkies and would be pretty stoked if a band I love like MSI released little characters of themselves designed by an artist like Tara McPherson or Jeremy Fish. That would be cool, right?  I have a toy coming out with Chris Brown and a bust with Slash this year. I would love to do something with The Apples in Stereo or The Dandy Warhols. I have a band too, The Electric Illuminati. Maybe I should listen to my own advice and do an EI toy!

4) There was a painting in SEASONS IN SUPERBIA that had a tiny little Warhol skull framed and hanging inside a doll house. There were these little white blotches across it. It's really been bugging me. Was that an accident...or am I missing your intent?
Ron: It is supposed to be reflections from lit windows in another building. Probably too confusing.

5) Assuming you have an iPod, what song has the highest play count?
Ron: The Eels' "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues".

Thanks Ron!
All photos taken at The Corey Helford Gallery by KrossD