Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Life Is Cheap

With a little more than a week to go until Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture is removed from Tacoma Art Museum, I felt an urgency to convey the impressions of this very important exhibit of artwork before the images fade from easy reference.

First, we begin with the censorship of an artwork. A censorship which inflamed lifestyle and cultural circles when while exhibiting at The Smithsonian, Hide/Seek was targeted by the Catholic League and several members of Congress, which is always an enigma, the misunderstanding of art by laypeople who have the power to dictate content. We've seen it before, the usual case of finding a political football (a well made piece of art) too tantalizing to lose possession of, a political object transubstantiated from an art object. Jesse Helms and The Catholic League screeched for the removal of a video by David Wojnarowicz (pronounced voy-nah-ROH-vitch). The Smithsonian pulled a bullfighter and let the cape fly, failing to back up the exhibit when the time was right to defend the organizers and artists participating. Looking harder at Wojnarowicz' artwork critically, we see Mexico City fire eaters, amputees and other images which bring to our awareness the inhumane allegory of HIV/AIDS and how apocalyptically this disavowed virus ravaged the gay community. To my mind, Mr. Wojnarowicz is painting a picture of how cheap life is, to the public at large being kept unaware of the HIV/AIDS atrocity, a government policy that denied HIV/AIDSfor years. His finger points to those deniers. He attempts to bring to our collective attention how it all went down. Wojnarovich's video the victim of one more punitive cheap shot with the screeching of the Catholic League and those certain congressional dis-members. My take. I've pasted the salient chronology of the controversy that surrounded Hide/Seek's initial exhibition below.

Next, I must explain that I have been infatuated with the woman-child beauty of Edie Sedgwick for many years. My opportunities to commune with her likeness as a work of art has been confined to disappointingly few times Andrieu Warhola's artwork has been exhibited in the Pacific Northwest. Exactly twice to be precise, first, during Marisa Sanchez' love fear pleasure lust pain glamour death — Andy Warhol Media Works in 2010 at Seattle Art Museum and now; Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture at Tacoma Art Museum. It was plain to all who attended and witnessed both exhibits, that I was nearly worshipping the tragic figure by undertaking an audience with Edie Sedgwick, in public, and whatever the cost to my image. I viewed both filmic portraits, as Mr. Warhola coined them, but which are popularly known as screen tests very thoroughly, at least an hour for each viewing. With relish. Build memories of her inescapable appeal. Ms. Sedgwick, sadly, died of a very treatable disease. A loss to those who knew her, and my condolences all round.
Which brings me to the enigmatic Romaine Brooks, Self Portrait, a well-made oil painting which conveys the strength and power of it's subject, the wealthy socialite Romaine Brooks. Her kingly attire, including a fine top hat and cane, sheath Ms. Brooks in armor. Her gaze is resolute at the viewer. She is the king. We are the subject. This is a woman who will dominate her environment. The entire picture is done with a study in value toward the melancholy end of the gray scale. The landscape behind her is hauntingly familiar, as the song goes, reminiscent of some setting overlooking Puget Sound in keeping with the epoch of the composition. Gray Puget Sound or Nantucket something. But a hyptnotic attraction to this woman and her seething power. I believe I looked at this painting for about a half hour. Ask the docents at Tacoma Art Museum. A long, long look.

The conclusion to my summation of the exhibit Hide/Seekrests with Ventriloquist, by Jasper Johns. The painting is by the great Jasper Johns, who once wrote me a reply to my inquiry for him to lecture at Form/Space Atelier “Paul, I don't do lectures. Best, Jasper Johns” on the postcard verso of a Thomas Eakins painting (Eakins is also included in Hide/Seek). The time frame for his execution of Ventriloquist, created perhaps for my hero, Johns, the opportunity to create a therapeutic artwork, as was theorized by the curator of Hide/Seek, Jonathan Katz, in a lecture I attended on the subject of the exhibit. I have to believe the very bright and insightful Mr. Katz might of course be accurate in his reading of Ventriloquist which is to say, nothing further need be said. To me, the making of a work of art is often the admixture of component thought processes, and even if my mark making begins at a small number of these component thought processes, the potential for proliferation and multiplication of thought processes will inevitably happen. To varnish the topcoat, Johns might have begun to paint his way out of sadness and bitter feelings, but as masterpieces will, prolonged study reveals Mr. Johns eventual victory through artistic reconciliation which happens. Happens.

Synopsis courtesy Wikipedia:

In November 2010, after consultation with Gallery director Martin Sullivan and co-curator David C. Ward but not with co-curator Jonathan David Katz,[10] G. Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, removed an edited version of footage used in Wojnarowicz's short silent film A Fire in My Belly (available online) from the exhibit "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture" at the National Portrait Gallery after complaints from the Catholic League, Minority Leader John Boehner, Rep. Eric Cantor and the possibility of reduced federal funding for the Smithsonian.[11] The video contains a scene with a crucifix covered in ants.[12][13][14][15] William Donohue of the Catholic League claimed the work was "hate speech", against Catholics.[16][17][18][19][20][21] Gay historian Jonathan Ned Katz wrote:

In 1989 Senator Jesse Helms demonized Robert Mapplethorpe's sexuality, and by extension, his art, and with little effort pulled a cowering art world to its knees. His weapon was threatening to disrupt the already pitiful federal support for the arts. and once again, that same weapon is being brandished, and once again we cower.[10]

Response from Clough and Smithsonian

Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough later in interview states that although he stands by his decision, it "might have been made too quickly"[11] and he describes making the decision was "painful."[22] Clough mentions that because of heated controversy surrounding the footage and the possibility that it might "spiral out of control", the Smithsonian might be in the end forced to shut-down the entire "Hide/Seek" exhibition, and its "something he didn’t want to happen."[22] The "Hide/Seek" exhibition "examines representations of homosexuality in American portraiture", and Clough states "The funders and people who were upset by the decision, and I respect that, still have an appreciation that this exhibition is up. We were willing to take this topic on when others were not, and people appreciate that."[11]

I think it was very important to cut off the dialogue that was headed towards, in essence, hijacking the exhibit away from us and putting it into the context of religious desecration. This continues to be a powerful exhibit about the contributions of gay and lesbian artists. It was not about religious iconography and it was not about desecration. When you look at the news cycles that take over, their [the show's critics'] megaphones are this big [making a broad gesture] and our megaphone is this big [a small gesture]. We don't control that. And when it gets out of control, you can't get it back.
—-G. Wayne Clough[23]

Clough states "But looking back, sure, I wish I had taken more time. We have a lot of friends who felt left out. We needed to spend more time letting our friends know where this was going. I regret that."[11]
Response from artists

The curator David C. Ward said: "It is not anti-religion or sacrilegious. It is a powerful use of imagery".[10]

In response, The Andy Warhol Foundation, which had provided a $100,000 grant to the exhibition, announced that it would not fund future Smithsonian projects, while several institutions, including SFMOMA and Tate Modern, scheduled showings of the removed work.[24][25]

On December 2, 2010, protesters against the censorship marched from the Transformer Gallery,[26][27][28] to the National Portrait Gallery. The art work was projected on the building.[29][30][31] On December 5, Michael Blasenstein and Michael Dax Iacovone were detained and barred from the gallery for holding leaflets.[32][33] On December 9, National Portrait Gallery Commissioner James T. Bartlett resigned in protest.[34] The artist A. A. Bronson sought to withdraw his art from the exhibit, with support from the lending institution, the National Gallery of Canada,[35] unsuccessfully as of December 20.[36] The curators appeared at a forum at the New York Public Library.[37][38][39] A protest was held from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum.[40][41][42] On December 15, a panel discussion was held at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.[43] On December 20, a panel discussion was held at the Washington, D.C. Jewish Community Center.[44][45][46] On January 20, 2011, the Center of Study of Political Graphics held a protest at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.[47] Secretary Clough issued a statement standing by the decision, spoke at a Town Hall Los Angeles meeting,[48][49] and appeared at a public forum in April 26–27, 2011.[50][51][52][53] Several curators within the Smithsonian criticized the decision, as did critics, with Newsweek arts critic Blake Gopnik going so far as to call the complaints "gay bashing" and not a legitimate public controversy.[54]

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Great Grandfather's Gardner, Mass Contributions

Gardner, Massachusetts was a stopping point from Vaasa, Finland, birthplace of my Great-Grandfather Johan Emil Kuniholm, enroute Seattle. He and Carlson built the First Lutheran Church 

late in the nineteenth century.  By the time Johan left Gardner, it was the furniture capitol of the world, no less than twenty furniture factories.  Johan brought his wicker furniture skill to Seattle in 1890, opening the shop Queen Anne Reed Art Furniture at 315 McGraw.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Justin Mata "Wheels Wallpaper" at Rare Medium

Pictured above: Justin Mata, Wheels Wallpaper, 2012, gel medium transfer. Rare Medium Gallery, at 1321 East Pine, is located on the meridian of my near-daily travel to my home. The gallery is currently exhibiting collective member Justin Mata's Wheels Wallpaper, a series of gel medium transfers of motorcar hubcaps and wheel images. Exhibiting with Mata is Cory Verellen's prints of umbrellas. The imagery of this show was to me today associative two things in the largest sense, and as usual for art experiences, many smaller things. Mata's sculptural transfers, using an exhibit system that produces a time-based effect on the gel transfers, drooping them like so many Dali watches, or the gloopy-gloppys that I made from elmer's glue on the palm of my childhood hand. The choice of a hubcap started me on my own hubcap flashback of last summer in the Klamath National Forest, when I was searching for hubcaps for the raw material for an exhibit I was selected for, at the Kentucky Museum Of Art And Craft, Louisville. I found my lode in the tiny hamlet of Etna, California, in knee high grass behind a decades-abandoned filling station. Salvation arrived when I found a complete set of four Chevy New Process truck hubcaps waiting for me to liberate them, which I did, I painted a swine face on two, one of which was exhibited at The Kentucky Museum. The second associative reaction to the Rare Medium exhibit was in response to Mr. Verellen's umbrella images. I was transported back to the filmic portrait (commonly referred to as Screen Test) of Andriew Warhola's Edie Sedgwick, which I had worshipped brazenly at The Tacoma Art Museum as part of Hide/Seek over the course of repeated visits. I have been fascinated with the tragic story of Edie Sedgwick and quite possibly hopelessly infatuated with her charming beauty. In Warhola's portrait, Ms. Sedgwick is wearing a scarf over her hair that is embellished with -wait for it- umbrellas. The proximity of Rare Medium to my home is fortunate. If one can make the distance traveled, it is well worth a visit. Good times.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Gurs Zyklus On The Boards

Trimpin continues to harvest originality in immense quantities and new frontiers of discipline with Gurs Zyklus, recently finishing it's run at On The Boards, Seattle. Gurs Zyklus narrates the experiences of an eight-year-old Trimpin's discovery of a sequestered Jewish cemetery on the borders of Germany and France. Performative intervening in an installation of sound-sculpture, new media and live mark-making and more attempt to define Gur Zyklus, though those acquainted with the creative means of Herr Trimpin are comfortable eschewing discipline descriptions. As a small example from Gurs Zyklus, trees which surrounded the cemetery are asked to provide an archival record of the place by means of algorythmic interpretation of their bark. Of the three vocalists which provide theatrical breadth to Gurs Zyklus, Lucia Neare, was familiar as a soloist for a Paul Kuniholm Pauper-directed Fremont Arts Council Solstice Pageant. A sold-out run of Gurs Zyklus was viewed by influential members of the Seattle art community such as Anne Foulke, Pam McClusky, Robert Wade, Brendan Kiley, Bethany Jean Clement and Nancy Guppy.
Herr Trimpin lectured on his art and process at Form/Space Atelier in October of 2007, and has remained a confidante of the gallery and it's curator. He most recently consulted on the creation of Paul Kuniholm Pauper's Cardboard Commandments 2010, advising for engineering of the coin-op mechanism of the Tenth Northwest Biennial-selected artwork created by Paul Kuniholm Pauper.

Glossodelic Attractors

The massive Gary Hill retrospective Glossodelic Attractors exhibiting at The Henry Art Gallery, plays notes in my own arpeggios, if nothing more than titularly. Glossolalia, commonly known as speaking in tongues, is one of the ways I have described my performative artwork, doing so publicly on the 4culture website since 2004. If Gary Hill and I have acquainted a similar zeitgeist, I would feel thoroughly honored. But the possibility is inconceivably remote. Glossodelic Attractors will exhibit several of over two dozen of Gary Hill's work, adding and removing art through the exhibit duration. I am in hopes Hill's pacifying Cloverleaf and Henry permanent collection object Wall Piece will see face time, for no other reason than to please my own person.
I do shamelessly worship at the feet of the esteemed Gary Hill. I have held, and will forever consider Mr. Hill a brilliant artist. In describing a global summation of Mr. Hill's process, I feel he works on a canvas of the mind; his own, and when he gives us his creative expressions, the canvas of our minds.

Donald Young, Seattle Gallerist

Donald Young, Seattle and Chicago gallerist, passed away recently. Mr. Young's gallery presence first at 2107 3rd Avenue and later at 1103 Pike Street have yet to be eclipsed by a regional gallery, in terms of presentation of the critical elite of contemporary artists. Mr. Young, perhaps more significantly known parenthetically as a gallerist in Chicago, first establshing a gallery partnership with Rhona Hoffman in the Chicago gallery Young Hoffman (1976-1983). In 1999, Mr. Young moved his gallery back to Chicago. Between, the two Seattle incarnations of Donald Young Gallery brought Seattle an as yet unmatched stable of artists to the awareness of the unwitting populace. Mr. Young established his gallery in Seattle to raise a family in a mild, magical environment. Foot traffic from the average Seattle citizen did not figure in Young's business plan. Mr. Young's collectors, prefiguring the proliferation of art fairs, jet-setted to his gallery, which could have been sited it in the Yukon, if there were an airstrip of sufficient size. Importantly for myself, making a few trips in person while in my formative artistic development to the Seattle editions of Donald Young Gallery was seminal, acting as an adjunct to viewings and art experiences at cultural institutions such as museums. After hearing from my sister's boyfriend of Donald Young's Third Avenue gallery (the address was, sadly, omitted by Bad At Sports in his obituary), I visited Donald Young Gallery to see John Baldessari, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Jeff Koons, Richard Serra and, of course, Gary Hill. And many others. I followed Mr. Young's programming to 1103 Pike and have been following the creative expressions of Young-represented artists since. I felt compelled to write this short report as a means to assuage the lingering grief I feel regarding the death of Donald Young. My condolences to his family and friends.