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Friday, October 10, 2008

Obama, Figure of Action

posted by on October 10 at 7:56 AM

By Seattle artist Mike Leavitt.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

An Art Quiz from Michael James Hawk, Beacon Hill

posted by on October 9 at 2:00 PM

This arrived in my inbox yesterday. Test yourself.

Here is Edward S. Curtis' Apache Gaun Dancers (1906):


Forget that you know who Curtis is. Just view the image for what it is. Adjectivally, the image seems: historical, indigenous, well composed, pastoral, anthropological, ethnic, ritualistic, natural (not too posed or art-directed).

Stare at it, integrate your own adjectival list into feeling. There is a Beauty that becomes undeniable.

This is an incredible shot [so good as to be "not credible"]. That it is credible, though, is the stuff that takes one's breath away.

Curtis was known as a humanist (obviously). Curtis' genius was just not technical, but communicative: he was legendary in putting his subjects at ease and getting their true natures to become revealed before the first shot was taken.

But I wonder - who is the Artist here?

A. Is it Curtis, who framed the Reality, and captured It? B. Is it Curtis and his technical team that produced the first Print in Boston [the Processors of the Negatives]? C. Is it Curtis and his technical team as well as the humanists that sponsored the art, and marketed the art [call this "The" Team]? D. Is it the single Audience Member - the Gazer - that connects with the art emotionally? Does the Work even exist if it is not experienced by someone other than Curtis? E. Is it the Apache Gaun Dancer troupe itself, the Subject, that is the True Beauty, whereby Curtis is only a Voyeur, a photo-journalist, nothing more? Are they the "Walking Art?" F. All of the Above [is this kind of umbrella answer even plausible]? An ancillary Quiz:

A. Is photo-graph-y an Art [realistically]? YES / NO B. Is the Voyeuristic document part and parcel of using one's eyes to gaze into a subject matter that we could not otherwise do in our Society [that is, to stare for long periods at a human subject would be Rude to the subject's sense of Individualistic Space and would reveal too our Curious/Voyeuristic/Obsessive nature]? YES / NO C. Is all Art in some sense Voyeuristic - that is, it is there to be stared at, naked, as a "mental" document of an Artist's mind and brain processes [inferring that we want to make a judgment about the Artist's symptomolgy as a member of our tribe]? YES / NO When you answer these short quizzes, rationally, you may begin to learn of your own Real Expectations of Art.

Forthcoming: extending this notion into the Sensual-Erotic Mission of Art.

yours, michael james hawk, beacon hill

The Mona Lisa Problem and Other Notes on Display

posted by on October 9 at 12:45 PM

Jonathan Jones eviscerates as "snotty frauds" the French protesters of the upcoming Picasso blockbuster at the Louvre. He says the Louvre does have a problem with its visitors, but it's not Picasso's fault, it's all because of the Mona Lisa.


He has a point. The extreme fetishization of a single object in any museum—a place where all objects are already plenty fetishized—is a crazy little micro-situation that amps up all the bad habits museums naturally encourage, especially the encrustation of art and the shallowness of touristic looking.

Is there anything at SAM that draws the same strangling devotion? I can't think of anything now, but will some of those promised gifts announced last year eventually amp up the ogling? Is this something the curators are already talking about, and how will they deal with it?

I'm curious to see. SAM's curators tend to be thoughtful about display—look at the porcelain room and the art-into-life African displays, for instance. Yesterday I had cause to think about this again. I dropped by the studio of artist John Grade and ran into artist Alex Schweder (a 2007 Stranger Genius who's now spending most of his time in Berlin), too. The two artists told me that they're exhibition-designing curator Barbara Brotherton's huge upcoming show of Salish art and culture at SAM.

From what they said, it sounds like the design of the exhibition itself is a story worth telling. It involves the universal problem of "translating" a non-European culture in an inherently European house: the museum.

Grade said that along the way of collecting video about some of the objects, he once unknowingly referred to a garment as "it"—when in fact this garment has its own gender, its own history, its own very distinct life story. The Salish woman who wears the garment had to perform a ritual song with it in order to restore the situation.

Another problem with a museum exhibition of objects not made for public display is that some are too sacred to be shown at all. For those, Grade and Schweder, working with curator Brotherton, came up with a solution: Some of the cases in the show will simply be empty. They will have sound components that refer to what's missing, but the exhibition lights will fall on blank space instead of objects.

The more I think about it, the meaning of this Salish show may lie just as much in the way it's presented as in the stuff itself. We'll soon see.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

In/Visible Is Up: Alec Soth at the Sorrento Hotel

posted by on October 8 at 4:24 PM

Gus's Pawn Shop from the series NIAGARA by Alec Soth

Alec Soth is a particular sort of wandering American storyteller, a lyrical documentarian. When people talk about his photographs, they bring up names like Robert Frank, like Flannery O'Connor, like Mark Twain, even.

Recently Soth was in Seattle, receiving an award from the Photographic Center Northwest and staying at the Sorrento Hotel on First Hill. I met him just after he arrived, and he was already a little out of sorts. He had lost his wallet. Then he found it, I don't know how, he left me in the lobby during that part, and when he came back we ordered Diet Cokes and went upstairs to sit down and talk. He didn't have a camera with him, or was it that he didn't really feel like shooting? He was crotchety and smart and evasive and funny and open all at the same time. Something about him was resistant to the interview process (in a good way), even though he talked plenty. I think you'll see what I mean. You'll also hear him reveal what he's working on, which involves hiding out. It also involves making art about the election process while trying like hell not to be political.

Click here to listen.

Also, he wholeheartedly agrees with Ed Schad's take on my take on nostalgia and sentimentality when it comes to art. (Me, too. Not my take, I mean, but Ed's take on my take.)

Want Art?

posted by on October 8 at 10:35 AM

There's an art lending library in West Seattle! They bring the stuff right to your house. So cool. It debuted in May, and you can check it out again Thursday night!

Artists will donate pieces that community members can check out for up to 2 months and display in their homes. The only requirement is that if you check one out, you take a photo of it on display in your home, and provide a writeup afterward about what it meant to have the piece in your home.

Here's a video of how it works, from West Seattle blog.


(Thanks, Ingrid!)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Pictures for Women

posted by on October 7 at 1:00 PM

Vancouver Art Gallery is having its first solo exhibition of Jeff Wall's photographs in almost 20 years this fall—the show opens later this month. Now you really have no excuse not to go up to Vancouver in the next two months.

Here's his early masterpiece Picture for Women from 1979, based on Manet's classic painting Bar at the Folies-Bergere.


And while I'm still all misty-eyed and worked up from the revolutionary spirit I experienced at WACK! last week (full review coming out tomorrow), here's a great read by Jerry Saltz on Martha Rosler, and why what I'm feeling is wrong and dumb.

Currently Hanging

posted by on October 7 at 11:46 AM

Claudia Fitch's Gothic Character Study (2008), graphite on paper, 24 by 36 inches

At Greg Kucera Gallery. (Gallery site here.)

This creepy drawing of chairs with undulating backs and a mural where nothing has a head reminds me of the interior set design of a Vincent Price horror movie in which everything is revealed at the end to have been just a play. No deaths really happened, nobody actually got hurt. I watched this at an early age, and I think it instilled in me the idea that anything might at any moment be uncovered as false and harmless. Maybe this is partly why I'm failing to become worked up by the dire news about the economy, which is making me numb.

The Henry Has a New Web Site!

posted by on October 7 at 8:59 AM

I'm excited. Very excited. Images from the collection will be online. The site launched this morning.


I only had five minutes to check the site just now because I've got an interview at 9, and I had several annoyances. First off, one of the exhibitions currently up (Rauschenberg's "Booster") has no images with it. ??

I had to sign an agreement telling me not to violate the copyright of the collections images. This is a first for me on a museum web site. Necessary??

The font is annoying.

On the front page, the images are laying over the titles of the shows so that I can only read them partially. Is it my browser??

I realize this is only a beginning, but...

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Gallery of Winkers

posted by on October 6 at 4:31 PM

Courtesy of The Guardian following fast on the heels of last Thursday's Winkgate.

One of the Cutest Things in Modern Times

posted by on October 6 at 10:31 AM

A new blog (by former Seattle resident Ari Cohen, now based in NY) devoted to street photos of the fashionable older set. It's called Advanced Style, and it is amazing.




No More McLeod Residence—At Least in Its Current Location

posted by on October 6 at 10:19 AM

Read the whole story on the McLeod blog. This is really sad, considering how terrific and strange that old building is, and how central it was to the identity of McLeod Residence. At the same time, if these guys can so thoroughly make a space their own, maybe they can do it somewhere else, too. I'm rooting for them.

From their announcement:

The greatest blessing and curse of McLeod Residence has always been the building and space it exists in. On the one hand, it's unlike any other space around, in a truly magnificent way. And yet on the other hand, it simply wasn't originally built to the specifications required to do the kinds of things we wanted to do. Trying to reconcile the two has been a struggle from the very beginning.

We've always tried to maintain a positive "one day at a time" attitude about this, and have managed to wiggle our way through some very fortunate milestones in our permitting and licensing situation... for example getting a liquor license and a temporary certificate of occupancy. Everyone at the city has been EXTREMELY kind and helpful and would never shut us down if they didn't have to. Nobody is really to blame, there is no big bad wolf in the city who is trying to hurt us.

However, at this point, it looks like we've reached the end of our options, and will have to vacate our space and find a new tenant to take it over for us. It breaks our hearts a thousand different ways to do this, but also feel like we can turn a difficult situation into one that makes us stronger.

I've got a deadline right now, but is anyone reading from McLeod Residence who can explain exactly what happened? Commenters want to know...

Soon-to-Be Hanging

posted by on October 6 at 10:00 AM

Josh Keyes's Reservation III (2008), acrylic on panel, 18 by 24 inches

At OKOK, opening Saturday. (Gallery site here.)

Friday, October 3, 2008


posted by on October 3 at 4:00 PM

Rivet Magazine, which has produced several very good issues in the last couple years, is closing down. I do not know if this is indicative of the death of print or not, but it is still sad.

Tomorrow night at 7:30 pm, Rivet is having a final party and an art auction at Grey Gallery. Here are some the artists who have contributed to the art auction:

Gala Bent, Chelcie Blackmun, Jamey Braden, Ethan Cameron, Celeste Cooning, Tammy Vince Cruz, Diana Falchuk, Nick Greene, Shaun Kardinal, Wade Liostro, Allison Manch, Emily Pothast, Kristen Ramirez, Yanka Sabat, MichaelVincent Santos, Specsone, Laura Wright

I'm certainly no Jen Graves—which is a nice way of saying my opinion on visual art is virtually worthless—but I do like some of the artists on that list. It costs ten bucks to get into the auction, and there will be a Last Dance-themed party after the auction at 9 pm. It should be sad, but it's definitely worth your time. It's a real shame that Rivet is fading away.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Currently Pasted...

posted by on October 2 at 4:00 PM a metal box on the streets of Los Angeles.


(Via The Hot Blog.)

WACK! and Seattle Art Museum

posted by on October 2 at 3:00 PM

Curious about why the huge historical feminist exhibition "WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution" chose Vancouver, B.C., as the Northwest stop on its U.S. tour (it opened in L.A., went to N.Y. and D.C., and opens in Vancouver Saturday) instead of, say, Seattle, I called Seattle Art Museum chief curator Chiyo Ishikawa.

SAM had a chance to take "WACK!," Ishikawa said. The exhibition was offered to SAM. But SAM already had its own show of Salish art scheduled. The Salish show had been bumped twice already, first to make way for an exhibition of Spanish art a few years ago, and then for the museum's expansion. "WACK!" got pushed out by a traffic jam.

That's a drag considering that SAM just expanded its building precisely in order to solve its perennial traffic-jam problem, especially in order to take important shows like "WACK!" Regardless of whether "WACK!" turns out to be a great show, it is a landmark in the history of art, and an amazing catalyst to talk about everything from race to gender to international relations smack in the middle of an election year. This is Seattle's loss.

Artists Evicted from Magnuson Park

posted by on October 2 at 2:00 PM

Twenty-four artists who rent studios from the city at Magnuson Park in Sand Point will have to move, after the City Council this week adopted an ordinance to allow a developer to take over the building where they work in a long-term (30-year-plus) lease.

The artists want to stay at Magnuson Park, the old Naval station where the city says the buildings are crumbling and uninhabitable without major upgrades—upgrades this developer is willing to do.

But the artists say they're trying to work out a development plan of their own for another building in the park, and the city sounds closed to that idea. City spokeswoman Dewey Potter said she'd provide more details in a forthcoming email, but today she said the artists will definitely not be able to stay in Magnuson Park. That's news to the artists.

Artists renting at Building 11, a humble and creaky building but one that's drenched with perfect studio light from the large windows overlooking the waterfront, include Claudia Fitch, Francisco Guerrero, Eugene Parnell, Juliana Heyne, Carolyn Law, Carolle Rose, Liz Bruno, Nancy Loughlin, Tom Collicott, and Anne Hayden Stevens. They opened their studios for the building's first open house this past Saturday, but got the bad news Tuesday. They say the developer plans to put in an Ivar's and a Kidd Valley, and to turn the converted studios into expensive offices.

More as I hear from various sources.


posted by on October 2 at 1:00 PM

Solid-gold Kate Moss statue unveiled at British Museum.


And another one by the same sculptor, Marc Quinn.


Quinn sculpts people with physical disabilities. The Moss series is an extension of this work.

Into the Great Vagina

posted by on October 2 at 1:00 PM

I'm going in.

And then later today, you're going in. Oh, yes. Meet you back here for LADYSLOG.


Mary Temple and the Doubting Zone

posted by on October 2 at 11:00 AM


Mary Temple spent weeks at Western Bridge making a huge painting that opened to the public last weekend. (The image above is from an earlier, similar installation on the East Coast.)

The painting is extremely quiet. It is white paint on white walls, and depending on the light, it can almost disappear entirely. It is painted to fool you into believing, at least for moment, that it's not there. When you walk in, it looks like there's nothing in the room at all, just the shadows and light beaming in from the windows of the building. This is what Temple calls "the doubting zone." She has her reasons for sending you there.

Listen to her explain.

The painting will be up for a year.

Currently Hanging

posted by on October 2 at 10:00 AM

James Martin's Zoo Lion (1995), gouache on paper, 16 by 23 inches

At the Wright Exhibition Space.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

That Was Fast

posted by on October 1 at 2:20 PM

Alice Wheeler's next show at Greg Kucera Gallery—tentative title "Women Are Beautiful"—is scheduled for August 2009.

Jeffry Mitchell for Obama

posted by on October 1 at 2:09 PM


And other ceramic artists, too.

I Wish Sol LeWitt Had Been Alive to See This

posted by on October 1 at 10:37 AM

From a newly dug-up second-century housing complex in Italy.


Here's the LeWitt wall drawing SAM owns (it used to be in the lobby).

Here's images and a cool time-lapse video of the huge LeWitt wall-drawing retrospective currently being built at MASS MoCA (and opening in November).

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

And the Betty Bowen Winner Is...

posted by on September 30 at 3:50 PM

Isaac Layman!

Here he is in Middleman, twisting the John Baldessari trick of the artist telling you what to look at:


Layman is a totally deserving artist. From the list of finalists the committee was considering—Layman, Wynne Greenwood, Eric Elliott, Alexis Pike, and Nicholas Nyland—I'd have chosen Greenwood myself (um), but Layman's art can also be a sincere sensation. This Box Spring and Apple Tree video, for instance, was as dreamy as a young Balzac hero.


This is one of my favorite Laymans. The shadow around the shirt is real but the rest of the marks are drawn on the shirt itself, so that this is a photograph of a folded shirt with a drawing of a folded shirt on it.


As for Greenwood and Elliott, they won $2,500 each in secondary awards. (More Elliott here.)

Beats Me

posted by on September 30 at 1:00 PM

What's Kenneth Callahan, Paul Horiuchi, Dennis Evans, Mark Tobey, Richard Gilkey, and Sherrie Wolf got to do with Damien Hirst?

Beats me, but his Last Supper prints are showing at their gallery, Woodside/Braseth, opening Thursday.


Alice Wheeler ≠ Nirvana

posted by on September 30 at 12:31 PM

This is the last straw. Up right now at the dealer's choice show at Wright Exhibition Space in South Lake Union is a photograph by Alice Wheeler of Kurt Cobain wearing sunglasses.

I'm thrilled that Wheeler was selected for the show, because her photographs are electric and strange. The way they use color, movement, and voyeurism? Every one of them is alive.


Wheeler has plenty of subjects, not just the one. Here are a few.

Girl with Orange Hair, Hempfest

What Women See at Night

Yellow Cityscape

She's represented by Greg Kucera Gallery but hasn't had a show there since 2003. I just called there; she's not on the schedule for 2009.

Say it with me: WE WANT ALICE!

Palin Abortion in Seattle

posted by on September 30 at 10:59 AM

Michelle Malkin and her followers are worked up about this Warholesque Greenwood-area stencil, Gurldoggie points out:


Would You Like A Portable Confessional Unit?

posted by on September 30 at 10:47 AM

Maybe, in these desperate times, you have something you need to get off your chest. Maybe you just need a place to hide out and mutter to yourself for the next four years in the case that McCain is elected president.

Well, here's the device for you: a portable confessional unit made and once operated by the artist trio PDL, now selling on eBay for $100.

Here's how it works:

As an arty aside, here's an essay that just came out this month on the wave of "service aesthetics"artists performing straight-up services—sweeping contemporary art. I especially like the author's distinction between the more group-y "relational aesthetics," in which the artist tries to disappear into some constructed collective body, and, say Mark Bradford's performance of a hair salon called Shop at the 2002 Art Basel Miami Beach. Bradford says:

I wasn’t trying to educate and enlighten with some critical discourse. It’s just that I was formerly a hairdresser, and it’s the same hands I use in my art practice as the hands I used as a hairdresser, so I wanted to bridge the contemporary art world and the service industry. It was about moving across cultural borders, class borders, work borders, aesthetic borders to offer something for free that people enjoyed. The piece was successful because the service we were providing was authentic and good.

'There Were All Those Mattresses, and Much More Many Mattresses'

posted by on September 30 at 10:00 AM

I just got in the mail the catalog for "WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution," the huge survey exhibition that's opening Saturday at Vancouver Art Gallery. This is the biggest historical show looking at feminist art from 1965 to '80 ever, and it opened last year at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, then traveled to D.C. and New York before coming to Vancouver. I'm going to head up for the press preview this week.

If you're curious, here's a video collage introduction to the show, slightly cheesy but incorporating some good interviews and images from the MOCA install:

Some of the non-academic stuff happening in conjunction with the show sounds great: A talk in the exhibition on November 18 "on AIDS and the power of grandmothers"; a mother-daughter dance workshop on October 25 or November 29; and, on October 26, a sex educator explaining to kids ages 5 and up why there are so many naked ladies on the wall. (There also, of course, is an entire conference October 4-5 featuring feminist heavy-hitters Griselda Pollock, Abigail Solomon-Godeau, Suzy Lake, Faith Wilding, ORLAN, Harmony Hammond, Mary Kelly, Lorraine O'Grady, Mary Beth Edelson, and others.)

Currently Hanging

posted by on September 30 at 9:00 AM

Edwin Longsden Long's Love’s Labour Lost (1885), oil on canvas, 67 1/2 by 92 inches (courtesy of the Dahesh Museum of Art)

At the Frye. (Museum site here.)

Want to zoom in on that tiny spotted goat looking up at this bored pubescent, or, you know, the monkey playing with kittens near the doorway at the back of the room? Click here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

What Is Happening in That Tower?

posted by on September 29 at 11:10 AM

Two weeks ago, when Washington Mutual was slipping, I called Seattle Art Museum and asked to talk to the director, Mimi Gates, about the museum's longstanding and much-publicized relationship with the bank. After all, they share a building.

Gates didn't even think it important enough to get on the phone. A museum spokesperson said simply that everything was fine, that there were safeguards built into the relationship for just such a scenario, and that if WaMu was bailed out, the new tenant would simply assume the role that WaMu played in paying rent to the museum.

Fast-forward to last Thursday, when WaMu was seized and its S&L side sold to JPMorgan Chase.

What's going to happen next we don't really know yet. Will JPMorgan Chase operate WaMu's business from the WaMu Center tower or will the place be subject to a tenant who can negotiate to pay far less in a weak real-estate market? So far, nobody's talking, but something will have to shake out soon.

Friday, September 26, 2008


posted by on September 26 at 12:52 PM

If you need an LED processor and you are a person anywhere in the world, I am sorry.

The world is out of LED processors right now.

This I heard from a man who needs them to finish an artwork at Harborview Medical Center, where the new building at Ninth and Jefferson is having an art opening next Thursday.


I Rather Liked This Tower

posted by on September 26 at 11:40 AM

Especially for a corporate tower: pretty good. I especially liked its thin skin and small parts. It was light. Everything about it was waferly, not too hard or too thick, just flying upward. Now when I look at it I think about the evacuation of the regular-folks side of the business, the part that dealt in things like single, thin, waferly dollar bills. The building looks like stacks of bills to me. I think about them all just flying away.

(Image from here.)

The other thing that is remarkable about this photograph, besides the way it depicts what now feels like the irresponsible airiness of the building, is that the old Washington Mutual Tower is reflected on its side. That old 1980s building is a hefty thing, stocky and packed with heavy-handed references to history. It's not a good building. But it has the sort of reassuring sturdiness I wish I could believe in again when it comes to banking. That was always an illusion, I guess. The new building was, unfortunately, more honest.


posted by on September 26 at 11:09 AM

Nicolai Ourousoff says Brad Cloepfil has become part of the aggressive sanitation crew in New York City.

Meanwhile in Seattle, the building Cloepfil adapted—Robert Venturi's pomo-deco Seattle Art Museum; these impossible collage projects make Cloepfil seem like a glutton for punishment!—is attached to the WaMu tower (designed by other architects), where a certain cleaning-out of its own is taking place...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

How to Spell Lollypops, and Other Huxtablisms

posted by on September 25 at 4:11 PM


The Los Angeles Times this week inaugurated its blog Culture Monster, and in today's entry by architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne, he contends not only with Brad Cloepfil's renovated "lollypop" building in Columbus Circle—but also with Ada Louise Huxtable's 1964 monument of criticism, written on the occasion of the original Columbus Circle building by Edward Durell Stone.

Huxtable has yet to weigh in on the new building in the Wall Street Journal...

Have There Been Any Great Artists from Alaska?

posted by on September 25 at 3:29 PM

I was about to say no, there's no Alaskan whose artistic contribution to the world could offset the freak show that is Sarah Palin (the woman makes Katie Couric look like Sam Spade!).

Who're the candidates?

The guy who did this? (Eustace Ziegler)

This self-proclaimed "most popular" artist of Alaska? (Rie Muñoz)

No, they do not do it. But then I remembered walking up Jackson Street the other night and doing a double-take at a slab of something pink and glowing in a storefront window. It was Stonington Gallery, specializing in native art and especially the glorious Haida and Tlingit traditions. The traditions aren't exactly associated in my mind with the statehood of Alaska, so I was going to disqualify them on that count. But I suppose Alaska-the-land (if not Alaska-the-state) at least deserves credit for helping to inspire and sustain those artists.

And anyway, contemporary Eskimo carvers can be pretty freaking amazing. Check out this narwhal on a killer-whale tooth base by Paul Rookook:


The guy who made that seems like a badass. Like maybe he even has some foreign-policy experience. Paul Rookook for VP?

Currently Hanging

posted by on September 25 at 1:05 PM

Hugo Ludeña's Gilberto Y Efrein (2003), chromogenic print, 16 by 24 inches

At Greg Kucera Gallery. (Gallery site here. The show closes Saturday!)

There's nothing much special about this photograph, which is exactly why I like it. It portends a world in which gay marriage is so normal as to be barely noticeable.

At the Hideout: Buy Art (for Obama), Vote for Arne (for the Future of Poetry)

posted by on September 25 at 12:33 PM

Greg Lundgren, the guy who invented Vital 5 Productions, who makes gravestones out of glass, and who owns the art bar with an art vending machine and the best Greyhounds in town, the Hideout, does not like politics. But the situation is so dire he's making an exception.

From now until October 30, 40 percent of all the proceeds of any work of art you buy at the Hideout will go to the Obama/Biden campaign. The Hideout walls are covered in modestly priced great stuff by local artists. Or 100 percent of proceeds from sales of The Vital 5 Cookbook (which is serious fun and only 25 bucks) will go to the campaign.

Here's the glorious art vending machine at the Hideout (from here). (I think the Obama deal applies to the art on the walls, but it could include the machine, too—or you could probably talk Greg into it if you're passionate enough.)


And in another election universe, from Greg's mass email this morning:

And while I am writing about elections...

Vital 5 Productions was asked to nominate a Northwest poet for this years Poet Populist Award. It took us about .01 seconds to raise our hand and point to Arne Pihl. For those of you who know Arne, it is an easy choice to make. He is an amazing poet and writer, publishing books like Deck Hand Arm, Girls, Girls, Girls, and Montana, with a very hefty stack of loose leaf paper waiting to be published. If you don't know much about Arne's work, he writes about commercial fishing, professional drinking, a whole lot of women trouble, and some deep thoughts about why men are so screwed up. He is the working man's poet and he deserves a big round of applause. We ask that you check out his work (there is one poem posted on the website and all three of his books are at the Hideout) and VOTE FOR ARNE online at:

Well, okay, but Paul Constant disagrees. He wanted Geologic.

Plain Dealing? I Don't Think So: A Tough Critic Silenced in Cleveland

posted by on September 25 at 8:57 AM

Donald Rosenberg, the Cleveland Plain Dealer classical music critic who has been covering the venerable Cleveland Orchestra for 28 years, has been removed from his beat.

Removing a critic from his beat after 28 years is tantamount to firing him. He's been reassigned to general "arts and entertainment reporter" and the paper is refusing to explain itself, though in Rosenberg's account, he was called into the editor's office and summarily "reassigned" after she accused him of "attacking" the orchestra.

It's true that Rosenberg was deeply critical of the orchestra's current conductor, Franz Welser-Möst.

It's also true that the editor who fired Rosenberg has been at the helm of the paper a single year—and the publisher is on the board of trustees of the orchestra.


Stop, stop, stop.

Just about every critic worth anything has a long list of people lining up at the editor or publisher's door requesting their removal.

In this case, even the orchestra's executive director tells the New York Times: "I’ve never read anything in a Rosenberg review that was nonmusical." He says he didn't ask for Rosenberg's removal.

Probably he didn't have to. When the publisher is on the board of the orchestra, the critic is the one on the outside from the beginning.

I can't describe how wrong this is.

Welser-Möst has received mixed reviews from other critics as well. On tour in Europe, he gets good response. In New York, so-so. But these reviews are from critics who don't have to listen to his work every single week. What is a critic supposed to do when he believes, as Rosenberg told the New York Times, that "this is a case of an extraordinary orchestra with an ordinary conductor"? Be quiet about it? Who's best serving the city, the organization, and the art form then?

Repeated criticisms of the same subject by the same critic can begin to sound shrill. Readers often begin to accuse critics of having ulterior motivations. Critics have to watch out for this—and judging by Rosenberg's writings, he stayed well on the safe side of this dynamic.

But what is a critic to do when he or she disagrees with the artistic philosophy or doubts the abilities of a conductor, or a museum director, or the head of a theater?

The last time I was in a situation not unlike Rosenberg's (before his "reassignment," that is), a colleague who has been in the business far longer than I have pointed out: Editors and publishers don't mind if you write that this concert was boring and that concert was boring. But if you string it together into institutional critique—hey, everything that director does is boring, and wait, that's keeping the institution back—then you, the critic, are seen as "on the attack."

I fear that something like this happened to Don Rosenberg, when he was simply trying to do his job.

At this moment, I'm just glad I don't work for the Plain Dealer. The paper has embarrassed itself and its city.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

In/Visible Is Up: Wade Kavanaugh on Making the Regrade Reappear

posted by on September 24 at 1:58 PM

There was a moment in the influential California artist Robert Irwin's artistic life—documented in Lawrence Weschler's classic book Seeing Is Forgetting the Thing One Sees (my love letter to the 25-year-old book here; the new 25th-anniversary special edition can be pre-ordered in hardback for $31.50 here or in paperback for $16.47 here)—when Irwin realized he was looking around.

He was painting one or two thin lines across a canvas, and kept moving them up or down just slightly until they felt absolutely right. It could take weeks to get one line in the right place. And then, when they were perfect, he realized he had another dilemma: they were only perfect in his studio, where they were made. The placements of the lines depended on the room around them, not just the white space of the rest of the canvas. Irwin realized that, for him, art doesn't stand alone. He was making art in relation to what was around it.

Well, once you start bringing architecture or space into the experience of art, you might as well bring in time, too. That's the idea behind New York-based artist Wade Kavanaugh's new installation at Suyama Space, in which the bumps of land that were leveled off in the Denny Regrade at the turn of the 20th century reappear in rough, ghostly form indoors.


The bricks that make up the mounds are handmade from scraps of salvaged drywall layered together like wafers. The choice of drywall makes it as if the artist is imagining the walls of the gallery deconstructing into the shape of the former land on the site.

The rough, sandblasted surfaces of the bricks—there are 10,000 of them, according to the artist—and their subtle spectrum of color due to the original uses of the pieces of drywall make the piece visually engrossing, especially when seen from slightly above, on the staircase adjoining the gallery.

Unfortunately, Kavanaugh had to deal with several egresses from the room (four exit doors, two bathroom doors, and a fire escape, if you can believe it), so there are too many paths through the land forms, and the movement aspect of the experience feels unresolved.

Before you head down there (the show's up through December 12), listen to Kavanaugh talk about the genesis of his idea, what the colors tell you, and what he does with all this material when he's finished.

Take it away, Wade.