Monday, December 30, 2013

3 Works of Art That Didn't Suck in 2013

So, do you want the good news or the bad news first? Bad it is.

Art in 2013 was largely a dismal, maggoty pile of banal bullshit. Across the board, it was a dank sulfurous cloud of awful. Music? Pitchfork, Stereogum, and ack, Rolling Stone all compiled "Best of 2013" lists placing Vampire Weekend, Kanye, and Daft Punk as high water marks. A bloody nadir if ever I saw one. Cinema? The most acclaimed movies of recent years have left me yawning (and longing for John Waters' early work).

But it was in the visual arts that things got well and truly wretched. All the promise that the rise (and fusion) of lowbrow, pop surrealism, & street art held has been co-opted and boiled down to tchotchkes and sneakers. I know some of you, and for the most part I like you, but this Keane obsession must stop...and the bunnies...and that gawdam suicidal bear! I swear I've seen that fucking bear in nearly every high profile "urban" art gallery in Los Angeles. Dude, I'm glad you've found a way to make a living but do you have anything else to say? Anything at all?

Things weren't any better in the upper echelons either. "High Art" consisted of the usual oblique, esoteric nose-thumbing, or lamp shows. I stopped writing about art here because the only things compelling me to do so were venom and sadness. You have to do better. I do too. I know I'm not exempt.

Here's the good news though...when the walls are so crowded with repugnant garbage, the great stuff jumps out at you fast. I really wish this list was longer, but here are my three favorite works of art from 2013:

3) "American Nightmare" by Jason Andrew Hite

I'm not a huge fan of "preachy" art. I say this with tongue firmly in cheek. I make my fair share of preachy art. It matters how you do it though. No one goes to a gallery to be scolded. When I walked into Copro back in March and saw this piece, it was like hearing "California Uber Alles" for the first time. I was shaken to my core. I immediately grabbed Greg Escalante and said "Who made this?!" Greg, if you're reading, this may be the best thing you showed all year.

2) "I Don't Sing" by Brandi Read

Here's what I know about Brandi Read:

1) She seized my attention with a series of paintings of caryatids in April.
2) She's struggled harder than an artist of her caliber should have to, just to provide for her daughter.
3) That's her daughter in the above painting.

I don't want to even mention the gallery where this showed. The theme was just ridiculous. Google "Put A Bird On It" and you'll be amazed at how many galleries took Portlandia's satirical skit as a literal suggestion.
Brandi's response is everything I want art to be.

1) " a young Bessie Smith" by Hudson Marquez

Fine, call me a cheat. I do not care. This piece has been seen by very few people. It's never been exhibited in a gallery. It's in my home, I see it everyday. There are a number of reasons why I love this piece so much, but what it really boils down to is that I have immense affection for both Hudson and Bessie. Great art can be as simple as that...or this:

I have more good news, 2013 ends tomorrow and good riddance.

2014 is already showing quite a bit of promise though. I've had a sneek peek at a frighteningly good piece that Matjames Metson will show at the Fowler.

Also, on Jan 11th, "Two Johns and a Whore" opens at Coagula Curatorial. That show is curated by Lisa Derrick. I don't expect Lisa to show bunnies...or pull any punches.

So, Happy New Year! Give me something to write about.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Marked For Life #2: Mat Gleason

In the first installment of Marked For Life, I bemoaned how tattoos have devolved from substantive artistic marks of individuality to ready-made body decoration, lacking any personal import, spiritual meaning, or even thought. Los Angeles in particular is rife with people adorned with straight out of the parlor book tattoos. Bland hearts, roses, and sunbursts are everywhere, mere fashion accessory with zero utility. Barbed wire and tribal design flesh-feces are wrapped around the arms of meat heads who I doubt can claim any clan whatsoever. The Illustrated Man has become the ornamented dolt.

As I'm pulled from one art exhibit to another by forces I can't control, it's become clear that it is in those places where artistic types congregate that you will find original, intriguing, even meaningful permanent markings sported among the masses. I wanted to hear the stories behind those tattoos, so Marked for Life was born.

He may not be covered in ink, but I chose Mat Gleason, the evil genius behind Coagula Art Journal and Coagula Curatorial, for the second MFL. I chose Mat for a couple of reasons. One, he's the only person I've ever met who has a Frank Stella tattoo! Two, he's an interviewer's dream! He's one of those rare conversationalists who will do all the heavy lifting. All you have to do is press record. So, that's pretty much what I did...


So, in the beginning…what was your tattoo genesis?

First one was at a sailor tattoo parlor in San Diego. It’s a Frank Stella. It was based on this painting he did, aluminum painting, called Union Pacific. Frank Stella did his black paintings, and was really a scandal in the art world. One of the funny things about the black paintings is they really look like pin striping. Now the canvas has aged. It's yellowed. So, it was a really brilliant white popping out through the black, and the same with the aluminum series, which is basically just a silver color. So, the Union Pacific, what it was, was a shaped canvas. So, you could look at the black ones as having had an image. A lot of them had an image of an X, so it started and ended. So what he did with the aluminum series is he made the actual stretcher bars shaped, and so it followed the shape. I drew it freehand on graph paper for the guy, and he dug it. This guy had seen many a tattoo, nothing like tattooing now, but you know? Many a somebody had pulled into San Diego for their first tattoo. I didn’t bother explaining. He just thought it was a cool design. About two thirds of the way through, and he said ‘Are you Jewish?’ I said no, I was raised Catholic. There’s some Jewish in my family going way back, but we’re Irish Catholic. He said, ‘Oh, because this looks like a menorah.’ I was like, oh my God. It does! Now Union Pacific, when you see it has many more bars. He just did four and four. So, it was interesting.
But didn't you do that for a class project or something?
Well, I didn't really do the class project. I needed to blow the teacher away, so I just said look, I got this tattoo done as my art project…and it blew the guy away. He said you’re a terrible painter, but you think better than most artists. That’s how he described it. Everyone at Cal State LA, every one of my teachers there said ‘You’re not really a good painter, but you’re good at talking about art, and writing about art.’
What made you go to San Diego to get the Stella?
I was 23; a friend of mine was getting his master’s degree at UCSD. So, we got there before he was having his big party. We were just hanging out, and I said, ‘Fuck it! I’m going to do it.’ It was like forty bucks I think.
What came next?
So, my second tattoo was, I have a tattoo of Barney Rubble. What happened is I went to this Sunset Strip Tattoo, and the guy’s name was Basement Bob. They all had jail names back then. I went in and what I wanted was a Barnett Newman, and I wanted it under the Frank Stella. I wanted it the same size, I wanted a red square with an orange stripe in the middle, and I wanted no black ink. This girl I was going out with, her name was Maria; she was getting it for me as a birthday present. But she said, I’m not going to get you that. She said ‘You’re just going to end up with a bunch of paintings on your back! You’re going to put a square there, and another square there. No’, and for some reason I said --- (I was doing a lot of drugs then, drinking) --- well, if I can’t get a Barney Newman, I’ll get a Barney Rubble. So, the guy had a book of all the cartoon characters and there was Barney Rubble. It was forty bucks. I got a Barney Rubble. So, that was cool.
Then I met a guy at Cal State LA, where I was going to school and his name was Steve Oswald, and he was a jeweler. He made this amazing jewelry. I saw him one day. He was in the jewelry department. He was melting ---he had done a sculpture of a cherub that holds the globe in some mythology. It was an exquisite sculpture of a cherub turning his hand, with the globe starting to fall out, and his other hand he was giving the finger. It was amazing ---and he was melting it down to make a tattoo gun. He said, ‘I’m legally changing my name next week to Chester, and I’m going to be a tattooist.’ He was an exquisite classical drawer. So, he needed to work on somebody. He said I could get a free tattoo. Come on down to Sunset Strip Tattoo. I said ‘Wow. I was just there.’ So I went down and I brought the Velvet Underground cover of the Warhol banana, and I got a free tattoo. Then I thought, hell man, I’m going to get more free tattoos.
I was coming up with my own. I was making a lot of designs, what you would call now tribal tattoos, but I was just making these drawings. So then my fourth tattoo was this tribal design of my own, and what I wanted was ---I said, ‘Oh next week, I want to come back and I want you to do the same one, in a mirror image on the other side of the Stella’. Robert Benedetti was instructing Chester on tattooing. So, Chester would do some, and then Benedetti would do some. It would hurt more when Benedetti was doing it, but he knew what the fuck he was doing. Chester studied from the best in the fucking business. Benedetti says to me, he goes ‘Look, we don’t do symmetrical tattoos here. Symmetry is the most boring ---I love the piece on your back, in the center, that’s great ---but if you put one here, and you put one there, you’re going to say you put a star here, and then you’ve got to put a star there. No.’ He starts talking about art history, and the guy knew what the fuck was going on. He was a man of the world. He wasn’t one of those guys that only have a moronic tattoo sensibility. This guy was an artist. Like, he knew how to use a tattoo gun as a tool of art, to get different things out of it. This guy was a master fucking artist, and a pure craftsman. He had the line, ‘We’re like a brain surgeon. We don’t make mistakes.’ That was his attitude. So, he said, ‘Next week, why don’t you do a big arm piece. Do a design. Chester and I will do it.’ I thought ‘Wow! I’m going to get a big arm tattoo!’ I’m going in every week now. So, I was born in the year of the dragon, and it was the year of the dragon, 1988. This book had just come out, 100 Dragons and it was by Ed Hardy. At the time, this guy was the most underground fuckin’ artist of all time. Well, we know what’s happened to Ed Hardy now. So, it’s like ‘Oops!’ So, I got the outline of a big fucking dragon, picked from the book, on my left arm. I went to therapy years later, because I had heart surgery as a kid, and the heart’s on the left side. She said ‘You didn’t even know it, but that dragon was your protector.’ I went a couple weeks later and Chester and Benedetti did the color. That was my last one that I got with them. I might have overstayed my welcome. You know what? The girl, Maria, started getting tattoos from them too. She got a big back piece done. You know? We kind of maxed out our free tattoos there.
Years later, about the time I started Coagula, I was having a real ---and this was probably from people telling me I should write about art --- I was having a real resentful relationship with art at the time, and I got a picture of Calvin, from Calvin & Hobbes, picking his nose, in between the Frank Stella and the Andy Warhol. That was my last back piece, that whole stretch, from Warhol to Barney.  Oh, oh. And then one night we were drunk, I don’t even remember where this falls but we were really fucked up, and it was on tequila. If you don’t drink any beer, and you just drink tequila, it does have hallucinogenic properties and we had a bottle of India ink, and Maria did a Germs circle, the band the Germs…

(Before Mat gets any further in his explanation of the Germs iconic circle, I show him the one on my right arm, done with a homemade guitar-string gun.)
Okay yeah, I got a little one, on the back, with India ink and a needle. Those were crazy times. So then, in 1990-something, ‘94 or ’93, I sobered up and I got really into astrology, and I would go to the L.A. library every day. Instead of going to a bar for eight hours, I would go to the library, reading books, and I met this guy Bob Botero, who was an old hippie astrologer, and he gave me a chart reading. With my skeptical sense, I was very blown away by his ability to say things that were beyond what I consider to be random chance. You know the typical skeptic discussion of astrology is that it’s vague, but there were specific enough things that it kind of blew me away. So, I started reading astrology books. For a year and a half, I read almost 500 books on astrology. That sounds impressive but half of those were plagiarized from the others. In a year and half, I read a lot of books on it. You can tell me your birth date, I can calculate where the planets were, tell your fortune, and all that shit. I made a lot of money as an astrologer. I wrote horoscopes freelance, as a ghost writer for years. What happens when you get sober, what AA does is it gives you a spiritual experience. You have to have a spiritual transformation, or you can’t stay sober. So astrology was my spiritual transformation. Anyway, I got the tattoo of Jupiter. What I did was, I was working at Al’s Bar at the time, I was living upstairs and I was managing the American Hotel. They had a Xerox machine --- and there was this one picture of Jupiter, the symbol of Jupiter, which is good luck basically, as I read it in astrology --- so I Xeroxed it, and then I Xeroxed the Xerox, so it started to break up. I loved the fact that it was like a machine was --- like planets distort humans? --and here a machine was distorting the planet. So I fucking loved how it came out! I got that behind the dragon, but I don’t tell people ‘Oh this is Jupiter and I’m an astrologer’ - (here Mat makes the universal gesture for masturbation) –I just say it means good luck, and I made it this kind of pink color, I don’t know why. A lot of tattooists, hardcore tattooists, that’s their favorite tattoo of mine, because it’s so different.
The same tattooist --- that was a guy named Mike Horton, he was a good friend of mine. He was in a band called Supercollider. If you can find a Supercollider album, they were on Émigré Records. They were like Phillip Glass meets Joy Division. They were just one of the great unknown bands of EVER! You hear them, and --- someone should make a movie just to have this as the goddamned soundtrack! They were just really, really good. Mike was tattooing at the time, and he also did my Jackson Pollock.
Well, I had a book on Pollock with the Hans Namuth photos of him in the studio, and I really wanted a Pollock. Pollock’s my favorite artist, and I really wanted a Pollock tattoo. I looked at every fucking Pollock artwork. The catalog raisonne, they had a copy at the Cal State LA. I was at the library for weeks, and I would Xerox these. I spent so much money Xeroxing Pollocks, to try to find one that would translate as a tattoo.

Were you considering some of his early work?
Everything! I looked at everything! From paintings he did at Manual Arts High School to --- he had a great drawing, it’s in the Met. It’s called War. It’s the most amazing fucking drawing you’ll ever see. He went to a shrink, and he did a whole series of psycho-analytic drawings. I bought the book on Ebay, it was a rare book, for a hundred and five dollars, just to get the fucking book. I tried to find one fucking thing. But this is the brilliance of Jackson Fucking Pollock, is there wasn’t any single piece that could be a tattoo. He never let an image hold him. Here I am looking for this, and it was like I was doing a visual dissertation on him. To look then and to look now, like the most popular artist in the world right now is Shepard Fairey, and it’s the opposite. That black line holds him. It’s handcuffs. It’s so fucking brilliant! I loved Pollock even more, so I took the Hans Namuth photo of him, and had him (tattooed), with no art around it.
 I think the drip paintings were inevitable, like the Rothko color fields, somebody was bound to go there eventually. But do you think --- considering what Jackson did, and the impact it had --- do you think art has the potential to shock anymore?

You know, I don’t look at Pollock as a shocking artist, at all. If you read that famous Life magazine article, it’s actually mocking him, you know? The undertone of that is mocking.  It did certainly hero-icize him to a whole generation of people --- and the idea that splattered paint was art. Look, abstraction now, abstract painting? That’s classical painting now. The upper crust? That’s what they like. At one time it might have been radical and shocking, but I think there have been things historically that were quote unquote, “more shocking”. Like I think Warhol’s “more shocking” than Pollock, especially from a political sensibility. But Pollock to me, was like, I always just liked him --- but it really just dawned on me how great he was, that he was able to make an image, without an image. His imagination, and your imagination as the viewer, actually unified the picture. Not many people do that, and thing is, with Pollock, that’s every fucking painting! I went back to some self-portraits he did, as a kid ---oh, I tried to find one thing that could translate to tattooing, which is the most graphic of any graphic art there is. I just couldn’t find it, and I looked at everything that guy ever did. Like I said, I ended up with a goddamned doctorate.

 What are your thoughts on Krasner? I think she largely gets lost in the conversation about Pollock.


Lee Krasner was a good abstract painter. The interesting thing about Lee Krasner is she grew up reading Hebrew, which reads right to left, and I’ve seen time and time again, images of Lee Krasner paintings that were reversed. Take a slide of a Lee Krasner, and it’ll look better, to your eye and to my eye, when it’s reversed. It reads right to left. So what I’m saying in that regard, she is like every other abstract painter in that the painting is actually a composition of feelings, of ideas, of experience, of existence. It is to be almost read. Let me put it this way, is she greater than Pollock? No. Is she greater than Rothko? No. Is she greater that Clyfford Still? No. Is she greater than Robert Motherwell. Um, okay. Now were actually defining --- where does the water rise to? You know?
Alright, well, one of these days you’ll have to try and sell me on Rothko. I have a violent reaction his work.
Yeah, well Rothko ---you know, chicks love Rothko. That’s the secret to dating in the art world. Never date a woman who doesn’t like Rothko. That’s the secret to finding a good woman.
Okay, so what was the next tattoo, after Pollock?
Around that time, within a couple of years of the Pollock tattoo, I got a tattoo of the California Angels logo. My team changed its name from California Angels, changed the name to Anaheim Angels when Disney bought them, and there wasn’t a peep. Fast forward nine years and another owner, who bought it from Disney, changed the name to Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and people got furious! But I was the only one the first time around going ‘Hey man, they just took my childhood away from me.’ They made it up to me by winning the world championship, so I’ll always appreciate that. I got the tattoo. What I didn’t know, I found out years later, is they were actually talking about contracting the team, and they were going to get rid of two teams in baseball. One was going to be the Minnesota Twins and they were trying to figure out the other one. Up for grabs was the Angels, and the talk was they were going to contract the Angels and move the Oakland A’s to Southern California. It didn’t happen, but I was getting the tattoo at the time like it was going to happen, they were going to take my team and disappear it. You’ve got to have a team to understand it. That’s fucking bullshit!
So that’s the tattoo, it’s the state of California with a halo, with Orange County, where I grew up, in La Mirada, Fullerton. I remember this friend of mine, Jonas Olsson, he’s a soccer fan, artist, we’d talk about the difference between soccer and baseball. He says ‘Dodger Stadium is right by where you live?’ I said, ‘But I’m an Angels fan. I have to go Angels.’ He goes, ‘That’s fucking great, because I come from a little shit town in Sweden. Once in a while you’re little shit town team does well, and goes on a magical run. That’s when you got to put on that fucking jersey and say – I’m the guy from little shit team town! – you know?’ He totally understood. I took him to a game, and made him an Angels fan.
In the fall of 2000, I got a really great job that paid me more money than I ever had, writing astrology. I knew all about astrology, and all of a sudden I was making shitloads of money. I never had that much money in my life. The sad story is I developed an extreme gambling habit. I was going to Las Vegas every week. I would go to work, I’d fly to Vegas. It was crazy.

Were you sober then?
Oh yeah, I was sober, but that’s a manifestation of sobriety. But I had all this money, so I went to a tattoo parlor and got --- I wanted a sacred heart, like a traditional --- I have all these non-traditional tattoos. I wanted a sacred heart. Kim Durham is her name, I traded her advertising in Coagula for the tattoo, and she designed this heart. The flame is an M, you know, and I had this number sign, which I consider math to be the ultimate abstraction, the point where reality becomes abstract.
Are you into numerology as well?
No, no, but I tell you what, when the office I worked at closed, nobody had a hint of it. None of the psychics did. None of the tarot card readers did. None of the astrologers did. But the numerologist in New Jersey phoned and said ‘What’s going on over there today? The numbers are terrible.’ So, if you’re a numerologist, I always have to give them there cred. But I added the number sign as an abstraction, and I got the sign for Libra behind the dragon, in Packers colors, because Brett Favre is a Libra too. That was the last one.
Are you done then? Given another free tattoo opportunity, what would you get?
You know, the only tattoo that I never got, that I wanted, was a Morris Louis, one of the drip paintings coming in from each side? They’re called the Open Series, and the drips come in from the left and right. He died really young, and he made these amazing stained canvases, where the drips come down diagonally, and I wanted that on my back, from the left and right, BUT--- I went to see a cardiologist and when he saw my tattoos he shit his pants. He said ‘We tell everybody with your condition, who has heart surgery, because the scar tissue of the heart is so sensitive, not to get a tattoo.’ I said ‘but they sterilize the needles’. He says there’s an impurity in the ink, and it lodges in the heart, and then you die. So, I can’t get any more tattoos.
That seems like the perfect note to go out on. Thanks Mat!
Sure man, it was fun.

If you're in New York this weekend, swing by Coagula Curatorial's booth at the Pulse Art Fair and ask Mat some questions of your own.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Art World Domination of Rolnik/McIntosh: sneak peek of limited edition Old Skool print release

Daniel Rolnik and Ryan McIntosh are dangerous enough on their own, but now that they are combining their tireless forces, we should all tremble. Art world domination is close at hand. Oh sure, they seem all cute, and nice, and friendly but think about it. How could anybody work as hard and fast as these guys do, and still be so damn perky? It just ain't natural. I've suggested before that Rolnik, in particular, might be something other than a carbon based lifeform.

Seriously though, these crazy kids are onto something here, by teaming up to release limited edition old school screenprints by top tier artists such as Bob Dob, Gary Baseman, Gregory Siff, Christine Wu (just to name a few). They will be debuting the the initial fruits of their labors May 19, 2013 at the Venice Art Walk.

A couple of weeks ago, I got to visit Ryan at his super-secret lab to see some of the work in progress. I can tell you first hand that these prints are gorgeous. These are not inkjet posters hiding behind the charade that is 'giclee'. These are true works of art that the artists themselves had a personal hand in. They're real beauties!

Here's what Ryan had to say about it all:

So, you’re doing these old school, hand-pulled screen prints? No shortcuts?
Ryan McIntosh:

Yeah, that’s kind of the idea. With everyone’s prints, we’ve even sent the artists transparencies and had them do all the separations, by drawing out each layer – the traditional way that printmaking should be done. The exception is Christine Wu, because how she works is, she does her drawings really small, in a sketchbook. Then she scans them into the computer, and starts layering them up in Photoshop. Then she prints them out as big photocopies and transfers those onto her canvas, using some sort of chemical that removes the ink from the paper, and then she paints back into them. So that visual step is part of her painting process. So we actually did her transparency digitally, and then she came in and played around with all the different layers for the actual print, and for the background we did a traditional Rubylith mask.

So, basically what we’re trying to do is take screen-printing, and the printmaking process away from just being a thing that artists use to make reproductions. People think of screen-printing as like posters. Like ‘Oh, you’re making posters.’ No, we’re making real art. We want to make unique multiples, unlike anything that already exists.

Daniel & Ryan (under the name Intelectual Property Prints) will be unleashing prints from Eric Joyner, Daniel Edwards, Michael Sieben, Christine Wu, Bob Dob, Gary Baseman, Jason Shawn AlexanderRyan McIntosh, and Gregory Siff at the Venice Art Walk on May 19th, 2013. I'm told they may also have prints by Kozy n' Dan, and David Flores. They're keeping the prices affordable too, so don't you dare miss it!

Christine Wu

Christine Wu separations

Bob Dob print - edition of 40

Gregory Siff print

Eric Joyner's several shades of gray.

Ryan McIntosh laying out the multiple screens for Eric Joyner's print.

Eco-friendly green inks!


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Art Pick of the Week: Richard Serra at Gagosian

"Double Rift #6 by Richard Serra

Some six odd years ago, I had the single greatest day of my life. I hadn't expected it, of course. Those things just sort of unfold of their own accord. I spent that day in New York's Hudson Valley with the love of my life, and a very patient tour guide who took us to Storm King and Dia: Beacon, and let me roam free. On that day, art ran me through a gauntlet of emotions, as it's want to do (when it's at it's best). One day I will write a book about this, but on that day Agnes Martin made me weep openly, Andy Goldsworthy made me feel like I was five years old again, and Richard Serra took the wind right out of me. Walking through and around Serra's goliath "Space" work wasn't just interactive, or art as an experience, it was transformational. Something happened to you as you winded through the curvy spirals, running your hand along the oxidized metal womb. You came out a different person than you were when you entered. There was no one way to see it, no right way to encounter it. This was art that seized you, dominated you, and changed you. This is what Richard Serra does.

Tonight at the Gagosian, "Double Rifts", a collection of new Serra drawings, opens. It's a chance to see one of the great minds of our day, fleshing out ideas on paper. For us art hordes, it's an imperative.

"Double Rifts"
April 17 - June 1, 2013
Opening reception for the artist: Wednesday, April 17th, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm

456 North Camden Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
T. 310.271.9400 F. 310.271.9420
Hours: Tue-Sat 10-6

Note: The pictures below are NOT in the Gagosian show, but included here to give some perspective regarding the statements above. The Gagosian show consists of drawings on paper.
"Space". You had to see it to believe it.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Art Pick of the Week: "Laid Bare" - JAW Cooper at La Luz De Jesus

I don't really have to hard-sell you on this, right? I mean it's JAW Cooper. I've been pretty vocal about her for the past few years, and I can assure you that "Laid Bare" is her finest showing to date. Still, if you need more convincing, you can read my Cartwheel interview with her here:

Animal Style: A Conversation with Jaw Cooper

and my first mini-interview with her here:

5 Questions with JAW Cooper

"Laid Bare" opens tonight and runs through April 28, 2013

La Luz de Jesus
4633 Hollywood Blvd
Monday-Wednesday 11am-7pm; Thursday-Saturday 11am-9pm; Sunday noon-6pm

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Art Pick of the Week:Cartwheel Art Pop-up Show

So, this little blog has been in hibernation for most of the winter, for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that there isn't always an exhibit worth recommending. I don't want to send anybody to a show that's weak and/or half-assed. If I'm asking for a moment of your time, I better make it count. I owe you that much. Last night however, I was able to preview the "Cartwheel Street and Outsider Art Pop-Up Show" at Project Gallery. This show is the reason I do what I do. This is why I make art. This is why I write about art. The passion, the pure emotion, and raw honesty of the eight artists featured emanates off the walls, reaching out and embracing everyone standing anywhere near the work. These are hard-won artistic voices. They've undoubtedly suffered immeasurable pain and heartache. Were it not for creative outlets, there's no telling exactly how hollow our lives would be.

Full disclosure here, yes, I write for Cartwheel, but I assure you that holds no sway here. This is solely my soapbox, and I pull no punches here. If I recommend something, trust that I'm sincere about it.When I woke up this morning, I had no intention of writing this, but I just couldn't stop thinking about the art. From the Haitian influenced paintings of Lyle Carbajal and Scott Michael Ackerman, the dreamy assemblage altars and thrones of Evo Loveto the chaotic mixed media testaments of Greg Haberny, this show is all heart, no filler. Lydia Emily paints gorgeous, aching images on collaged newsprint, while Roy Gonzales keeps the Kustum Kulture Rick Griffin tradtion alive. The dark whimsy of RADICAL! and Corey Hagberg embody the invasion of art from the grimy streets to the snooty galleries. Having seen many of these pieces hanging at curator Cindy Schwarzstein's house, I wasn't expecting this show to move me so profoundly, but it did. I really can't over-sell this exhibit, not even a little bit. You only have four days to see it. Go now!

Cartwheel Street and Outsider Art Pop-Up Show
Opening reception tonight (3/21/2013) at 7pm
Show runs through March 24, 2013

Project Gallery
1553 N Cahuenga Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 462-1100

Untitled by Lyle Carbajal

Boat Ghosts by Scott Ackerman

The Beethoven by Evo Love

He Eats You by Greg Haberny

Carve (print) by Lydia Emily

Attack Of The Killer waves by Roy Gonzalez

Dying To Be The Life Of The Party by RADICAL!

Litmus Ghost by Corey Hagberg

Photos courtesy of CartwheelArt

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Missing Pieces of Hudson Marquez

At the 500 Club by Hudson Marquez

A few weeks ago I had the good fortune to sit down with the legendary Hudson Marquez to chat about the paintings in his new show "High Humidity" at La Luz De Jesus Gallery. The interview was published last week by Cartwheel Art. If you haven't done so yet, I urge you to read it now. Go ahead, I'll wait...

(tapping foot while you read Ike Turner Killed JFK: A Conversation With Hudson Marquez)

-Great stuff, right? Well, as these things usually go, the conversation had to be pared down for time, space, and other mundane considerations, leaving quite a bit of stellar Hudson-isms, and bits not part of the interview proper, just lingering on my laptop unread. I asked the kind folks at Cartwheel if I might be able to publish the missing pieces here, and lucky you, they said yes. So what we have here is a glorious impromptu story about Ray Johnson, a chat about Hudson's collection of Mammy dolls, a more in depth look into the plot against JFK, and a wonderfully lurid tale about the 500 Club. So let's get started!
Upon my arrival for our second session, Hudson went to the kitchen to brew us some coffee. While I waited, I snooped around the place, admiring his impressive collection of art, photographs, and various collectibles. Hudson returned to find me reading a framed letter he'd received from Ray Johnson, which prompted this:
"Do you know Ray Johnson? There's a movie called How To Draw A Bunny. Ray drew these bunnies and he sent these through the mail to people, and he sent mysterious little collages, and he painted on little things and stuck little things...very fey, very gay stuff. Every once in a while his gayness would be like- you know, he did a lot of little Michael Jackson drawings. But anybody who got one of these things was like 'Holy shit! I got a letter from Ray!'
Well, I corresponded with Ray, starting in the late sixties -um, because there's a book called - oh god, I have the book, it's around. It's a real rare art book. It's called something and the snake. It's collage, and some big time critic published this book with Ray's little prints in it, and I thought 'This is really weird shit!' but his address was in there. So we started corresponding. He'd send letters to you, to add something to, and send it to somebody else...and these letters would go around, you know? -to a lot of critics, and a lot of artists and a lot of people. Anyway, it's really hard to explain Ray. But he had a little thing he called the New York CorresponDANCE club. He was a real tastemaker, way ahead of his time, and he had this little circle of friends. Lucy Lippard, a big art critic, was one of them, and Warhol -Andy was another one - a few other people.
One of the biggest honors I ever had in my life was, I was in New York '74 or '75, I don't know, '76, I don't know -I had written Ray that I was going to be in New York. Nobody talked to Ray on the phone, he had no phone. Anyway Ray had a New York Correspondence meeting for me, was totally mysterious, he called it the Meeting Of The Correspondence Club, very strange -because I hadn't met Ray, it's all through the mail. People never met Ray, and um -except he was a known character -his shit's in the Museum of Modern Art, it's in the Whitney, it's in every fucking museum. He's had shows in small rooms at all the big museums -most people don't know who he is - and he didn't go to his own openings. Well Ray -I almost cry thinking about him -he told me to meet him, he called me and told me on Saturday to meet him on this corner -which is before Soho became UGH! - there were a few galleries there. I met him on this one corner -I wasn't quite sure what Ray looked like, and this kind of slight bald guy, blue jeans and a sweatshirt, came up to me and said 'Hudson, I'm Ray. Let's walk around.' We walked around -there's only galleries and a few restaurants -we walked around, people on the street stopped and said 'Hello Ray. How are you?' Every fucking person knew Ray, and they all stopped to say hello. Some people were too embarrassed to stop, they just stared at Ray, it was really weird. So, we walk around for awhile, and look at people. You know, act snarky and shit. Then we go to the OK Harris Gallery, which was a good gallery, and we go in the gallery and we look at the art, and I'm like -how long am I supposed to be with Ray? This is all a little strange, you know? What the fuck? So we go in the backroom of the gallery, where the gallery girl came out and said 'Oh Ray!' -and Ray says 'This is my friend Hudson Marquez, he's from Ant Farm and TVTV. He's a very important artist, you should know him. She says 'Oh hi Hudson, how are you?' She goes, 'We're about ready.' Went in the backroom, it's a huge backroom, and there was champagne and paper cups -good champagne -and a bunch of like, heavy New York people, with weird glasses and shit -very much New York, dykes, big bull-dykes -all expensively dressed, I mean shoes worth more than my car and shit, you know what I mean? -and Ray introduces me to everybody, and everybody has a joint, and it's like a little cocktail party. People are all interested in who Ray brought and blah-blah-blah. So, we talk -and I kind of know who some of these people are -like deep sea fish, they come up once in a while. This was big deep sea fish! -and I'm going 'This is really fucking great!' Ray has manipulated all these fucking people into doing something. Then Ray pulled out envelopes, and the whole room changed. It was like, silent -because not everybody was going to get one. Ray kind of walked around with the envelopes -and he gave one to me, and I put it in my pocket. Some of the people were horrified, they didn't get an envelope -and I realize, this is Ray's art. It's all these different fucking people, who want his favor for some reason -and because his art is so amorphic -you know, this is his art. This is a fucking performance piece he's doing -and this is the New York Correspondence School. I get the whole fucking deal now! This guy's deep. This is fucking great! None of this is documented. Only people can tell the story. It's not documented. It's wild. This guy is so fucking great! -and we drank the bottles of champagne -got pretty shitfaced, and gallery girl kept pouring, and people who didn't get envelopes kind of wandered off, they're out -but they're polite, 'Nice to meet you. I'm sure we'll blah-blah-blah. Here's my card.' They were very nice. They left and we all went to a restaurant, where Ray had a meal. One of the rich women paid for it. Then Ray and I walked around -we're drunk, and now espresso-ed up -and walked around for a while -that was it -only time I ever saw Ray. Yeah -then Ray dies -and there's a gallery in West Hollywood, the guy who represented Ray -and it's a good, first-class gallery. It was down a really weird, narrow side street, above Melrose near Doheny, around in there -a real narrow kind of opening between two buildings, went into a courtyard where this big gallery was. This guy -fucking, he had this show of Ray's, I couldn't fucking believe. I have a poster for it somewhere in there. Anyway, man -Ray, they found all these objects in Ray's studio. He'd taken old hammers, used tools, rocks, sticks and painted them -with acrylic paint or oil paint -I couldn't tell what it was, but the surface was flat, like an acrylic -he'd painted them gray, with a black stripe, or a white stripe -and it was like -they're fucking brilliant! I mean they look great. They're like -if you put this gray painted hammer on a coffee table, people would know this was high art. It just had that -this guy who owned the gallery, and he had lots and lots of Ray's collages and stuff -and I asked him 'You know, I was a friend of Ray's for a long time and this is really intensely private stuff on the walls.' I said, 'I hope that people get it.' He said to me, 'Who are you?' I said my name and he said 'I know who you are. I used to get mail from Ray that had your name on it.' -and we talked about Ray for a while, and I kind of got a strange, greedy vibe off of this guy -and the shit he had priced it at, you know? -and I'm wondering 'Who the fuck gets this money?' I've never heard of Ray having any kind of foundation set up. He doesn't have any heirs. -Wheatsman? I can't think of his name. I just got a bad vibe, that this guy owns all this shit. I got weirdness off of him."
At this point the coffee was ready. We both got up and discussed who would have the larger cup (Hudson), when I noticed just outside of the kitchen this Redd Foxx doll:

'Is that a Redd Foxx doll?!', I practically shouted.

"Yeah! I'll show you my Mammy doll collection. The Redd Foxx one -I'll show you. There's a mammy style doll called topsy turvy. I'll show you one. There's a white woman in a big long like Annie Belle dress, and if you turn it upside down (or inside out), it's a mammy. -and that Redd Foxx, in a weird way is a topsy turvy too. If you turn Redd around, he's on vacation (in a hawaiian shirt and shorts), and the other one, he's on stage (in a suit) with a microphone. These mammy's though, a lot of 'em are real old. Some of 'em are kind of new, but most of 'em are very old -with the original dresses."

"Then I've got a bunch on top of the fridge too."

"I started collecting all that black stuff in the sixties, salt and pepper shakers -and I've gone through a lot of 'em. A lot of them have been broken. Some were stolen from me in San Francisco. I don't know why. When I started buying it, it was not expensive. You know Warhol collected Mammy cookie jars? He had like hundreds of those things. -they weren't expensive. But then Whoopi Goldberg comes along, -a couple other people, Diana Ross, they decide this stuff is great -you know, they see the unintended artistic value of this as historical document, and they start buying it, and the prices went through the roof, overnight. I haven't really bought anything since."
At this point, fearing my time might run out (as it had in our first session), I steer the conversation back to discussing the new paintings in his La Luz show, starting with The Plot Against JFK, which suggests Ike Turner's involvement.

"You know, you talk about the Ike Turner one -um, I’m just a huge Ike Turner fan. I just love Ike. Ike was the real deal. He had some bad habits, you know. Isaac Hayes beat the shit out of his wife constantly too. I got nothing good to say about Ike being a good guy or anything, but as a musician…well, he’s great because he became a great symbol of black evil. He became the black devil, you know. Barry White was this kind of big black , cuddly teddy bear that people made fun of, but -you don’t fuck with Ike Turner! Now Tina became a big pop star and, I swear to God, she swore that she never wore the outfits that she actually wore as Tina Turner, even though there’s hours of film of her, shaking her ass. She says she never did that, She claims it never happened. Her name was Anna Mae Bullock from Nutbush, Tennessee. She claims that person never really existed, but that this man…this evil man did all this stuff. She didn’t say that he wrote the songs for her. She didn’t say that he arranged all the music, and choreographed the dances. Ike choreographed that shit. The Ikettes? Ike choreographed them. Ike rehearsed them, in his living room, day after day after day, and Ike was a mean boss. But anyway…I was thinking that Ike could have been involved in great conspiracies. Like, you know what? That fuckin' Ike, he probably planned the Kennedy assassination (laughs). So I’ve got Ike…and the other people in the picture, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Carlos Marcello, who was the mafia boss of the southeast. He probably did have Kennedy killed. So, there's a picture of Carlos there. It's another favorite character from New Orleans. He ran every whore, and gambling joint, and extortion racket from Atlanta to Dallas, he owned it, and he was so feared that -if you were Sam Giancana henchmen from Chicago, and you wanted to go to New Orleans with your wife -you had to get permission from Carlos to come, and he was -nobody really knew about him, and he wasn't at -the Apalachin meetings? There was a big thing in the fifties where the FBI -there was a huge meeting of all the mob bosses, in Apalachin, some big place. Every mob, every mafia head in the country was there, and the FBI raided the place. They arrested fifty people! Most of 'em were guys carrying guns, hanging around outside. But they got a bunch of New York and east coast mob bosses, and a west coast guy, and a Chicago guy. But Carlos wasn't there. One of Carlos' guys was there, because Carlos didn't like to travel -and Carlos didn't want his name around because it attracted attention. Also, Carlos wasn't a U.S. citizen. He was under a deportation order from the FBI, that they couldn't enforce. He lived ten miles from where I grew up, and he was in the country illegally, and the FBI helped him. They never enforced it. When Bobby Kennedy got in, he made the mafia top priority, you know? Carlos -the mob owned the French Quarter, all the strip clubs, all the antique stores, everything. Carlos went almost everyday to this oyster bar called Acme, where his bookies were and so on. He usually paid a visit to Acme when he came into New Orleans, from the little suburb where he lived. -and he's walking down the street, by himself, with fourteen cents in his pocket, and Bobby Kennedy had him snatched off the street, thrown into a car, driven to the Lakefront airport, put in a plane. and flown to Costa Rica or Guatemala and put out on the tarmac. This didn't go over real well. You know, it was a matter of respecting, you don't do that to anybody, you had no warrant. It's a completely fuck you gesture from the Kennedys. All these mobsters and his family went down to wherever he was, and they come back -then he flies back. They have so much fucking cash that he buys off the -he has no passport! He flies back! He gets to the New Orleans airport and the FBI guy is there, and photographers. Carlos gets off this chartered plane, and he's walking across the thing to the airport, and FBI guy comes up to arrest him? Carlos punched the guy, knocked him out, and continued to walk, and there he lived, in New Orleans forever! Nobody touched him. I mean, the FBI was on him 24 hours a day, wherever he went. But nobody touched him. He was not born in the United States. He was born on a boat coming from Sicily, so he never had a birth certificate, he wasn't a citizen. Carlos told lots of people that he was going to kill Bobby Kennedy. Now Bobby Kennedy never went anywhere near any of these people, and anyway the theory is, and I think it’s true, is that Carlos had him killed. There's an incredible book called "Mafia Kingfish" that's really great, and it's all about Marcello having him killed, and it's not some wild-eyed crazy motherfucker talking about how, you know, Dan Rather was part of the conspiracy or something -this wild shit that people come up with. -and I don't really care who killed Kenndy. I don't give a shit. I really don't care, but the characters involved, around the whole thing? -were fucking amazing.
I did a show at Zero One, called "Single Bullet Theory". It sold out. They were big drawings. They were all about -I had gone and read the Warren Commision Report, at the Beverly Hills library. I went every day and read this thing. It's fucking amazing! I mean, the evidence -the shit that they got from where Lee Harvey had lived, plus Lee lived in the French Quarter, and I knew two of the people who were involved in this thing. One was a gay -there was a movie made and Joe Pesci played the character, it was a guy who had alopecia, he haid no hair, no eyebrows, no nothing. He wore a bad rug, his name was David Ferrie. He was gay, he lived in the French Quarter, and he did cancer research at home. I swear to god, I'm not making this up, cancer research at home, and had a listing as a research scientist in the phonebook. He had no degrees! He was a very smart guy, but very gay, predator -and he had the Boy Scout troop in the French Quarter. Guess who was in the Boy Scout troop? Yeah, Lee Harvey Oswald, when he was fifteen, fourteen years old -and David Ferrie gave private plane lessons, flying lessons out of the Lakefront Airport. He used to get kids up over Lake Pontchartrain, put it on auto-pilot, then turn to the young boy who was taking flying lessons, and ask him he wanted to play with his puppy. That happened to my friend Bruce Thompson. They would stop taking lessons, but that was one of the ways he made a living. Then there was the cancer research he did, at his apartment in the French Quarter -which, I have no idea what that was about, but he did do that -and he flew to Dallas the day of the assassination, he was at the airport, waiting for somebody, and came back to New Orleans the same day, AND he worked for Carlos. Six months before the assassination he worked for Carlos, as a quote 'researcher'. Nobody knows what the fuck! These are the people who were involved in this circus that went on, you know? -and the Jack Ruby thing! I did all this research on Jack Ruby. Oh man, I have no idea what he had to do with any of this, but this guy was really strange. You know what was in his car, after they found his car, after he shot Oswald? His dog was in his car, a little daschund he took everywhere, and on the dashboard was a now ravaged deli-wrapped fresh liver -for the dog! He thought he was going to shoot him and come back to the car. So, he left his beloved dog there, and also this whole bag of amphetamine tablets in the glove compartment, and a gun permit for somebody that nobody knew. All this weird shit was in his car. They inventoried his car. When you read this stuff, you go 'Jeez! This is art man.' So, I just drew all of that stuff. Also the hookers who worked for him -I don't know if it's coincidence or what, but the girls who were stripping for Ruby, they came around the New Orleans clubs too, they ran a circuit that Carlos Marcello ran. These women all died within like a year of the assassination, and they weren't old. One hung herself with her toreador pants in a jail cell. Just the underworld of people who -there was a whole bunch of weird shit going on, and that guy Jim Garrison, the D.A. who arrested this poor man who had nothing to do with anything, but he was gay, and he was high profile, and he was a 'pervert'. He had a great job, he was head of public relations for the port of New Orleans. That meant that you just took people out to dinner. He had an unlimited expense account. His name just escapes me (Clay Shaw), but Garrison arrested him for killing Kennedy. Well, Garrison had something. It wasn't this guy that he arrested, but the crowd that this guy had around him (Clay), this guy Ferrie and a bunch of other strange motherfuckers, lowlifes -but you know, rough trade. Well, Garrison was a loudmouth moron, and he talked to reporters all the time. So the reporters kept writing about Clay, and kind of forced Garrison to go arrest this guy, and that was the end. Everybody shut up about everything. But Garrison -the fact that this loudmouth asshole, who ruined the music business in New Orleans, sent everybody fleeing -he was a reformist, closed all the bars, closed all these places, people stopped coming to record in New Orleans -Garrison was an asshole, and he had something, but nobody ever knew what it was. But (laughs) I'm sure Ike had something to do with it -that Ike was the mastermind behind it!"

The Plot Against JFK

Lastly we move from the JFK assassination to the infamous 500 Club:

"The 500 Club was a club in the French Quarter. It was called Luis Prima's 500 Club. But nobody ever paid attention to the Louis Prima thing because it was a mob operation that they put Louis' name on, because they owned him too -and Louis Prima didn't play at the 500 Club (laughs). But it was one of the two big feature dancer/stripper places -huge burlesque stars and strippers were there. When we were kids in the French Quarter, when we were thirteen and fourteen, they'd let us in. They thought we was cute. So, I got to see all those strippers -and after a while I was more interested, even as a fourteen year old with a permanent boner, more than watching these incredible women do a striptease act, but watching the crowd. The crowd was weird. People around it were just weird. I mean, I just -so weird. With tourists, they were drunk with their wives, who were horrified, screaming 'Take it off!', you know? There were French Quarter characters who came in, had a few drinks, say hello to a couple of the hookers , you know? Now, there were no hookers on the street in New Orleans, and even today, there's no hookers on the street. At the time, you found a hooker by going into one of these clubs, and they were called b-drinkers, bar drinkers. They sold little Joe Schlitz' for $10 a bottle -and when the guy got rowdy, the woman had got him a boner, started giving him a handjob and shit. Then she'd disappear, alright? The guy would go 'Hey! What happened?' , and he would complain that this woman -he'd just spent a hundred and fifty dollars and this woman just walked off. 'Wait a minute! There's something going on here!' -and these guys would come from the door and go, 'Oh yeah?' and they would take him to the front of the club, just inside the front doors, whip the shit out of him and take his wallet, throw him out in the street. You know, this is a guy from Sandusky, Ohio, a shoe salesman -he's standing drunk on a street in New Orleans with no wallet, when he realizes his wife is gonna find out about this. He's NOT going to go to the cops, and if he goes to the cops, the cops are all on the take in the French Quarter. He goes to the cops and the cops are all 'Really?! You must have done something', and nothing would ever happen, and that's how these places operated. They robbed everybody who came through the fucking door. One of the things we used to see on the French Quarter was, at about 4am, when things were tapering off between 4 and 5, you'd see drunk guys in suits on all four corners, an intersection on Bourbon Street -because the same dancer had come off stage, then come got drinks out of you, and put her hand on your dick, promised the guys she would meet them at 4am on this corner. She had four guys on four different corners waiting for her -and that's what was going on. So, I just love that side of the French Quarter, you know? -and I lived with a stripper in the French Quarter for a while. But seeing that stuff from behind the stage is pretty fucking great. the barkers were great too on the street, the guys who would get people to come in the clubs. They would open the door, and you would see somebody naked on stage, and they would close the door, you know? But the best line I ever heard from a barker was 'Come on in kids! Get the wrinkles out of your pants!'

And that folks is about as much of the interview as I can share without legal counsel present.
I would like to issue a great big display of gratitude to Cartwheel Art for allowing me to publish these little nuggets that did not appear in the formal interview, and of course to the incomparable Hudson Marquez!

Hudson's show "High Humidity" opens tomorrow (January 4th) at La Luz De Jesus. If you visit the site, don't get thrown by the year listed (you're probably still writing 2012 on shit too). The show runs through January 27, 2013

La Luz De Jesus Gallery
4633 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, Ca 90027

Open Monday-Wednesday 11am-7pm; Thursday-Saturday 11am-9pm; Sunday, noon-6pm