F ing Good Art
Number Ten
April 2002

We only edit for content.

Index: The fucking Whitney Biennial rides once again; Valentine's Day in Wisconsin; Santiago Cucullu talks about turds and The World Cup; System of a Down, Heavy Metal, and Alix Lambert at Sara Meltzer; Gary Simmons vs Jose Morales; Richard Serra's Elipses at Gagosian; Jesse Chapman's Telephone Pole Atom Bomb at Boom and JAM; Doug Aitken's Diamond Sea; Simparch and Kevin Drumm at the Renaissance Society.

Archived at http://spaces.org/fga/

"Body that lay before me, in lasting death. Entombed in abcess, To rot and lie stinking in the earth."
Slayer, 1988

The Whitney Biennial
By Scott Speh

What could I possibly say about the Biennial that Saltz, Smith and Schjeldahl (respectively [villagevoice.com] and [nytimes.com] and well, the New Yorker evidently doesn't archive past articles on their web site) haven't already said? Not that I put myself in their league but I concur with their consensus is that it's boring and bland. The Biennial is always the show everyone loves to hate except that this year no one hates it. They all feel sad for it. This line of criticism is more damning than a expletive-laden rant for at least a show that inspires an expletive-laden rant is inspiring on some level. The current Biennial inspires merely a shrug. There's some nice stuff but (shrug), there's some bad stuff but (shrug). This show is ridiculously difficult for me to review for I operate on the rave-and-rant system. Since I'm beholden to no larger public like Saltz et al, I'm free to choose who and what to critique on my obscure website (http://www.artic.edu/~sspeh) and I opt for the extremes, so damn that Pedro Velez for making me review this infernal show.

Where to start - good or bad? Let's go bad first and then try to end on a positive note. Again nothing is so terribly bad as to engender some withering bon mot, unlike Julian Schnabel's current unbelievably horrific show at the Go-Go-Gagosian, who, although he's the biggest easy target in the art world, continues to prove he is the world's worst painter, possibly the worst painter of all time. In the uber-kunsthalle that is the Chelsea Gagosian, Schnabel is showing ten elephantine canvases all with the same ugly, ham-fisted image - a portrait of a young, honey-haired girl with a violent band of purple obscuring her eyes. Not only is the image offensive, the paint handling is even more offensive. Who the fuck is going to buy these things? What a waste of canvas and paint! We could build a modest refugee village with the materials with the materials in this show. But anyway, I digress. The worst stuff in the Biennial is the Destroy All Monsters paintings about Detroit. DAM is a band started by Mike Kelley, Jim Shaw and a couple of lesser lights that came of age in late-'60s Detroit. These larger banner paintings, painted in Social Realist mural style, are populated with period Detroit icons like Iggy and the Stooges, Alice Cooper, the MC5 etc and the sum total of the works seem to say, "Detroit was really cool. Seriously dude, it was cool!" Seems like boosterism or worse, anthropology and there's too much anthropology in this show and it ain't interesting: Janice Gordon photos of white males in a mosh pit - we've been seeing these kind of photos in Spin for 10 years now, who fucking cares? Ari Marcopolous photos and videos of snowboarders - again Mountain Dew drinkers have seen this kind of shit in scores of Xtreme sports magazines and videos; Sanford Biggers and Jennifer Zackin had a mildly interesting video installation comparing and contrasting their respective middle-class Black and Jewish upbringings, but it's no more enlightening than an article in Harpers or the New Yorker; and finally Chan Choa's photos of Burmese rebels was photojournalism, maybe they would work better in Time or Life? Seriously, why are the above works considered art? I know why - I'm sorry to interject this ages-old argument into this review. But other media outlets do this stuff better - where do artists get the hubris that they can transcend the techniques of other disciplines? Dilettantism at it's worst.

The painting simply sucks. Over the past 10 to 15 years, painting's, especially abstract painting's, resurgence has been ignored in the Whitney Biennials and in most of the international art festivals. Just of the top of my head, I wonder where are Laura Owens, Ingrid Callame, Monique Prieto, Linda Besemer, Steve Charles, Diana Cooper, Jennifer Reeves, James Hyde, Kevin Appel, Tom Moody, Aaron Parazette, Dave Muller, Carl Fudge, Clare Corey, Michelle Grabner, Ryan Humphrey, Caren Goldman, Dennis Hollingsworth, Rebecca Morris, Tad Griffin, Jay Davis, Giles Lyon, Tim Gardner, Julia Fish, Steve DiBenedetto, Steve Hurd, Michael Bevilacqua, Matthew Benedict, Jessica Stockholder, James Sienna, Bruce Pearson, George Stoll, Karen Kilimnik, David Reed, Enrique Chagoya, Fred Tomaselli, Kerry James Marshal, Elizabeth Cooper, Chris Finley, Glen Ligon. OK, that wasn't just off the top of my head. And maybe some of these artists have been in past biennials and maybe some of them don't need the career boost of the Biennial, but couldn't a couple or three of these types of painters have been included? Museum curators and international art festival curator's antipathy towards painting must be addressed. Galleries, critics, collectors, magazines and the viewing public seem to be okay with painting. Why do these dogmatic curators have such a chip on their shoulder? More of the fall-out from the pat acceptance of conceptual art in the academy - these overly ideological motherfuckers have drained the VISUAL from visual arts. And it's just bullshit.

The sucky painters in the Biennial include Outtara Watts "outsider Schnabels," John Zurier's wan Ryman imitations and some other stuff too bland to even remember. Decent paintings include two (only two!) Vija Celmin's spider webs, Arturo Herrera's elegant Robert Morris by way of Disney cut felt wall hanging, Chemi Rosado Seijo's photos of his project where he painted mountain village houses to match the color of the surrounding vegetation and Lauretta Vinciarelli sublime watercolors fronting like photo-real mixtures of architecture and Rothko paintings. The best two sculptors in the show, Rachel Harrison and Evan Holloway, seem to have as much to do with painting as sculpture. I love Harrison's clumsy and winsome conglomerations. She mixes Stockholder, Charles Long, Warhol and John Waters in understated, quirky constructions celebrating abstraction and scandal-ridden celebs like Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor. Modest and evocative. Holloway's handsome twig sculpture mines gray in three dimensions and he paints psychedelic patterns on the underside of an elegant piece of found wood.

What else? Tim Hawkinson, one of my faves, is poorly represented here. The Forcefield installation resembles a Parliament-Funkadelic concert. the Peter Sarkisian video installation is beyond bad. Christian Jankowski's video is long but actually worth it and truly interesting. Jeremy Blake is a striking visualist hampered here by some narrative hoo-ha. Chris Ware's stuff is handsome but probably more effective when sitting in your easy chair at home. The stuff in Central Park was cool if inconsequential: Roxy Paine's aluminum tree is neato and so are Brian Tolle's scattered splashes in the Lake near the bow bridge. I didn't seek out Kiki Smith's stuff because I just don't need that crap in my life but Keith Edmier's memorials to his grandfather were surprisingly moving. I liked Hirsh Perlman's scary-funhouse pinhole photos of his terrifying sculptures and Omar Fast's video installation, Glendive Foley - handsome, understated and funny but inscrutable without reading the wall text.

The single most striking work in the show is Robert Lazzarini's distorted phone booth - an amazing feat of technology (CAD) and labor (he distorted the booth by hand). I've debated with others and myself whether or not this is just a neat gimmick. One thing we all can agree on - you can't believe your eyes. I liken it to Andrew W.K.'s new album "I Get Wet" an album that Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield remarked "you can't believe your ears!" Loud, fast hook-laden metal that mixes non-aggro metal with ultra-cheesy keyboards played at triple speed and songs concerning partying, killing, fucking and partying. In fact, there are three songs with party in the title. It's so totally AWESOME and exhilarating but leaves you a little empty after the last song, like coming down off not just a caffeine high, but a caffeine, sugar and goofball binge. Lazzarini's sculpture does similar things with your visual sensibilities but I don't find it as effective as Andrew W.K.'s achievement. W.K.'s form and content mesh perfectly (check out the back photo - those jeans have never been washed). Lazzarini can mess with your vision, but ultimately one might ask, "Why a phone booth?" I dunno.

Also - I did not look at any of the internet stuff. I surf at home not in a fucking museum. Interactive art - ugh. And I didn't sit through any of the film program. Experimental film - ugh. And it must be noted that the Whitney is an ugly bunker of a building with ugly galleries with low ceiling. The lighting is dim and unflattering and the organization of the Biennial is piss-poor - claustrophobic and insular. Connections can rarely be made.

The Whitney Biennial
by Shane Aslan Selzer

So Pedro asked me to write something about the Whitney and all I could think was what's there to talk about. It's the show everyone loves to hate, we hype it up and then knock it down like dominos year after year. All the whining gets a little hard to take, especially as we continue to flock to the tired Biennial format, shuffling through the floors of the Whitney searching for what's never there, and knowing that we won't find it. If you think the Biennial is about regionalism then Los Angeles got the shaft this year. If you think the Biennial is about art then you're probably disappointed on a regular basis. That's not to say that there isn't any to be found. Here's my list:

  1. Margaret Kilgallen's installation is the most human thing I've seen in ages. It has delightful moments, old soap bars spilling out of a makeshift-shack-condo, a dilapidated-carnival-feeling that washes over you in the Tenderloin any night of the week. My only regret is that the installation is surrounded by a bunch of exoticized youth culture crap that undermines the maturity of the Kilgallen piece.

  2. Trenton Doyle Hancock --looks really good this year, his psychological narrative has evolved through layers of intricate text and canvas, intertwined to produce a magical effect that leads your eye on a twisted and sometimes profound passage through time and space,...but hey, wasn't he in the last Biennial, straight out of grad school style?

  3. Conor McGrady -- these drawings are great, haunting and disturbing with a straight forward seductive quality that I'm a sucker for.

  4. Javier Cambre -- displacement and re contextualization are at the core here but he pulls it off cleanly, maybe too cleanly, the piece demands that you think about site and yet is plopped in an awkward room that feels like the middle passage between Lauretta Vinciarelli's sleepy light studies and Evan Holloway's room (which could be called LA Land).

I'm not going to bother slamming the Whitney, and I'm not going to continue to state the obvious. Go see it or don't. But if you do go, make sure you see Damin Ortega at D'Amelio Terras, Brice Dellsperger at Team and Yinka Shonibare at the Studio Museum in Harlem. In other words, there's a lot of good work to see but it's certainly not all contained in inside the Whitney.

System of a Down, Heavy Metal and Alix Lambert

System of a Down is a neo-Metal band that owes a lot to Racer X, King Diamond's Mercyful Fate, and Progressive rock. The mix works in their favor because they have a sense of humor about it. The band tries to be poetic in their brand of Metal, eg., "eating seeds as a past time activity - the toxicity of our city." The video, directed by their bassist, focuses on the band's live performance in an enclosed space. The edits follow the drastic, fast paced, rhythmical changes in the song. Filmed in color with a heavy hand on dramatic tones, the photography reminds me of Spike Lee's Clockers -- It has that bright, celestial shine to it. In the last climatic scene the band seems to land in the middle of a mosh pit while all hell breaks loose. Fans, dressed in black, scream to the camera while the lead singer chants some undecipherable words, then the camera jolts upward and takes the viewer into outer space. The video is so good that it makes SOAD look like smart musicians working hard to make sense of a stupid concept. Metal in general triumphs in making something pretty stupid or easy look bigger than life and meaningful. And that is the great thing about Metal. It is based on a passionate response.

Alix Lambert, like any Metal god, brings feeling to conceptual practice. In the Flight series, exhibited at Sara Meltzer in NYC, Lambert displays a collection of personal documents, photographs and objects that follow her short lived obsession with flying. Like any actor, Lambert immerses herself in sub cultures, in this case the popular desire of flying. Lambert attended NASA flight school and attained a pilot's license, there are some documents that prove the fact. The photos are more direct . Some are of a runaway at night, another one is a burial ground of old abandoned planes. They are not fancy or artsy and that is a good thing. A group of glass airplanes, kind of kitsch or even straight out of a tourist gift shop, sit close to the floor on a shelf. There is something light about this show, something enigmatic yet meaningful. Maybe its because Lambert taps closely to a popular desire that's so easy to understand. I don't really know if Lambert flew the GoodYear blimp, as it says in the press release, and to be honest I don't care. Most of the show isn't clear and there are no explanatory labels on the walls. The whole thing seems like a compulsive narrative, it feels like a lie. And as I said before I couldn't care less because Lambert fucking rocks.

-- Pedro Velez

Type A at Ten-in-One,
NYC

The photos are not so interesting but the video is rather poignant. At times this group's work is tad too macho for me but in this video they explore ideas of working together and failure. Two video screens sit next to one another - the boys try to climb a rope that's been flung over a handball wall. Quickly you realize the screens depict both sides of the wall at the same time: they are trying to climb the wall at the same, using their weights as a counterbalance. The first dude reaches the top while the other struggles. He gets close but can't fling himself onto the top, even with the passionate assistance from his partner. Ultimately he crashes to the ground and the video starts over. The video becomes a kind of a Sisyphean fable extolling the virtues of teamwork and process. One of the more successful videos I've seen in awhile.

-- Scott Speh

Letter to Richard Serra

To Richard Serra I owe an apology. For years I have assumed his work to be primarily an exercise in which he used large amounts of heavy primary materials to overthrow public spaces. He may have indeed done so, but then again he may not have; I wasn't there, and I based my understanding of his work entirely on what I read about it. Shortly before the winter holidays, I went to the Gagosian on my lunch break and was utterly awed by the impossibly, worryingly, engulfing sloping walls of his two torqued ellipses. If seen from above, which they are not except in photographs, both immense structures reveal themselves as giant metal spirals which give on to wide open spaces at their center. But from the ground they are experienced moment by moment, curve by curve, wall joint by wall joint. While I was walking through it, the structure was everything. At no point until I reached the center did I have a 360 degree understanding of the heavy, metal space I was enclosed in; I hadn't even realized it was a single spiral. Walking towards the center, the towering walls curved in overhead and I could only hope they would open back up again. The corridor turned and turned and I could only hope that it would end somewhere uplifting, which it did. The experience was phenomenological, and it is not possible for you to understand any more than my own particular experience by reading this short paragraph.

-- Lori Waxman

"I've been looking so long at these pictures of you that I almost believe that they're real. I've been living so long with my pictures of you that I almost believe that the pictures are all I can feel."
The Cure, 1989

Quiver at Commonwealth Gallery,
Wisconsin

"Quiver", a Valentine's Day event, featured conceptual painting and a spectacular, sculptural gelatin buffet by Madison artists Diane Doersch and Abby Shotwell. The evening required the guests to unravel the mysteries of a seemingly easy and fun night in the Commonwealth Gallery.

Upon entering, I was struck by the quantity and beauty of the refreshment table. Surely there must have been 75 different Jell-O dishes. All were distinct in the color and shape they took on. Fortunately, the guests were digging in to the fruity treats, so I knew that it was consumable and not just art.

Encountering the paintings took detective work. It recalled the mysterious "I Love You" valentine in second grade. Giggling as I snooped around with a friend, we discovered the rubbery pink filled holes in the wall. Of course we needed to know more. So, as good detectives, we started touching every one of them, plus the red glistening craters in the concrete floor.

As the evening wore on, little bits of info filtered into the crowd. The generosity on behalf of Diane and Abby was commendable - they didn't have to let us in on their secrets. Diane painted the floor and walls with a subtle light pattern. The design framed Abbys red gelatin craters. The holes in the walls were filled with pink toothpaste. The gigantic red, swirling, bubbling color field was watered-down strawberry Jell-O. I'd say it was a success -- I caught a 4-year-old licking the painting!

-- Amy Park Saxe

Jesse Chapman Telephone Pole Atom Bomb
at BOOM and JAM

Its a cliche, but painting, when compared to other mediums, at times seems so limited and played-out. Thankfully, Chapman's work makes us realize that the static canvas still has so many possibilities. And like any good painter, Chapman addresses the canvas as a window and is concerned with picture-making in a pretty traditional sense.

The best work to be seen was at J.A.M. where there were two sets of paintings: one, with an ambiguous stylization of what seemed to be telephone poles or lightening rods, on a sap-green washed background. Branches on the poles protrude irregularly and in one place become repeated--like a DNA pattern or an angled tree. In the other painting, what seems like blue water, butts up against concrete-grey land punctuated by an atomic explosion -- an awkward focal-point similar to the repeated cluster of branches in the other series. These new paintings are much more sophisticated than Chapman's earlier work -- he makes his technical abilities more apparent through his drawing, color, and the finicky way in which the paint is applied.

With the intentional looseness of a good Milton Avery and the restrained expressionism of pattern in a Vuillard, Chapman portrays a peculiar and weird narrative. This characteristic weirdness was more apparent at Boom in a group of paintings that included a melting snowflake, a computerized-looking face image, a painting of a finger and one of a cave, among other things. One might think this element of strangeness could be enough to put these paintings in the realm of all the random, flaccid, self-conscious work being made by pothead male artists which is so trendy today. But Chapman takes cryptic, perhaps personal, subject matter and makes it clear and relevant in a painstakingly finished form.

-- Rachel Roske

Santiago Cucullu is Clean and Legitimate

Interview by Jay Heikes

Jay Heikes: Are you making myths or using them as a starting point?

Santiago Cucullu: I don't think that myth is the right word, maybe just the idea of a myth. For example, the idea for Turd of the Ancients: Coprolite Deluxe comes from an aside. The T.O.A. is essentially a magic petrified turd. It is constantly being uncovered, but even a geologist cannot see its emerald nature. If found this incredible poop could save humanity from itself, but its natural unpleasantness denies it fruition. As a myth, it's formless, and any of the forms it tries to take on immediately get subverted into another form. Some of the links include: Big Foot (the possibility of the existence of a humanoid/spirit "missing link," the hairy man also known as Rugaru and Unk-cegi); Jesus' neighborhood and the fundamentalist push towards Jerusalem; and the 1978 World Cup match. Myths are things that intervene between us and the big beautiful world, that act as scrims and distract us so that we can see from a different position. I don't think I'm trying to invent a personal myth. I see it more as playing with elements that make up myself, trying to mix them up and become another sort of me. And also to have that other me infect the world.

Jay Heikes: I enjoy the way I start to think seriously about T.O.A. and then lose it. You could say a million intelligent words but turd seems to cut right through it. It is sincere, though, and I like that the shit continuously, as you say, gets subverted -- it can be simplified into good and evil and their sometimes hapless coexistence. How do you imagine one would pick up the petrified turd?

Santiago Cucullu: The first thing is to recognize that it's a fossil and that it may be human. It's a piece of rock, so it's been dried up for centuries, but it can be reconstituted. That's how paleontologists study coprolites. It's harder to tell if it's an actual human turd, but one can generally identify what constitutes the feces, i.e. herbivore or carnivore. Examining coprolites from Anastazi ruins has led to the theory that some in the community indulged in cannibalism. A lot of people liked the idea that maybe they were peace-loving farmers who mysteriously disappeared. I never bought that though. They were a civilization that had existed for at least five centuries. I think they had the Turd, and then it got stolen and then everything went to Hell.

Jay Heikes: Your work uses a formal eloquence to tie together many reference points, resulting in something like an orgy of Siamese twins. Is the 'poofy' form of the turd and its symbolic content, that of embodying a number of things in one essence, an important part of T.O.A?

Santiago Cucullu: No, the form is secondary. Like the turd itself, it will almost surely be overlooked. The forms are recognizable only if one is looking for something specific. To me, it's necessary that the final images become independent of the fiction that generates them. In this way, there is a distance between what something is and how it is perceived. This gap gives the work a degree of openness that can sustain it outside its original context or installation. This is important because a lot of the work gets further compounded by photographic documentation.

Jay Heikes: Can you talk about the 1978 World Cup and how it adds to the project?

Santiago Cucullu: My father took me to see a satellite broadcast of the 1978 World Cup victory by Argentina when I was nine and living in D.C. I remember being completely enthralled with the final game. The tension during the match was super heavy and everyone erupted at the end. Argentina at the time was at the tail end of a military dictatorship headed by General Jorge Rafael Videla. In the quarterfinals against Peru, the Argentine team had to win by a margin of four goals. It wasnt an impossible situation, just improbable. The game started with a strong attack by Argentina; 21 minutes into the match a combination between Larose and Kempes landed the ball in the net. Then, in the final moments of the first half, a header by Tarantini. Within the first five minutes of the second half two more goals, one by Houseman and the other by Kempes. The 6-0 route of Peru was complete, ensuring a confrontation with Holland for the World Cup title. There has been suspicion over the game ever since. The Peruvian goalkeeper Ramon Quiroga was an Argentine-born Peruvian national. It was a very strong team, one of the best, but within the mechanics of the military government, and the need to appease a population that was being slowly torn apart by clandestine civil war, the climate for a staged outcome was strong. The words uttered by General Videla after the victory were: "I believe it is possible to affirm that beyond the World Cup championship and the clean and legitimate victory of our team, the people of the republic have authentically expressed a variable collective of lives." My Godmother Eugenia told me that this guy was a drunk. You know, a professional.

Jay Heikes: The way truth is inevitably created becomes an issue. After seeing a misprint in which your show was called "Turd of the Ages" -- I was drawn to how non-possessive the mistake was. The word "ages" signaled a turd that could be studied, much like a time capsule, by future generations. Whereas the word "ancients" seems much more about worship and ownership. Do you think the T.O.A. title is just as moldable as the work itself and will almost always take on other meanings?

Santiago Cucullu: Well, when I started the project I had juxtaposed "Turd of the Ancients" with an Osip Mandelstam quote about the clumsy nature in which language has been passed down through time. After seeing the misprint, I thought it made sense because that's a part of its nature, to be misunderstood. Different possibilities for what T.O.A. could represent started coming into play: Touch of Autumn, Town of Amityville, Tons of Action, Tuff Orchestrates Attitude, Totally On Afterwards, etc.

Doug Aitken's Diamond Sea

I have been thinking about Doug Aitken's piece Diamond Sea that was playing a few months back at the MCA. Diamond Sea it's a tightly edited, though long montage of the Namibian desert. It lacks a specific narrative. The scenes are beautiful, almost hypnotic, with a palpable roughness. For a few weeks I found myself wandering over just to sit and watch on my lunch breaks. There was something about it I liked; it had a sense of time that stuck in my brain. But it was pretty much out of my mind until last week.

In a last minute decision at the urging of a coworker, I caught the lecture from noted theorist Frederic Jameson. Slightly under two hours, the talk was held in the vaulted faux-gothic hall of the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. Presented by group called Critical Inquiry, it carried with it the rigmarole and academic pretense expected from a lecture so ambitiously titled "The End of Temporality." The speech was cram-packed with Deleuze and Borge references. And of course it was filled with specialist language and reference of the sort that I just plain couldn't understand. Even giving him the benefit of the doubt, I still left wondering if the tumult of ideas in my head was actually inspired by the content of the talk, or was the result of a focused boredom born of my struggle to pay attention

Despite my ignorance, I think I got the gist. After expressing the difference between stylistic and economic/aesthetic postmodernism (an area so wrought with annoying semantics, I try desperately to stay away from it), Jameson made a series of apt but somewhat uninteresting observations about globalism. He continued by making his broad commentary about a sort of content-less, endless immediacy in modern life, blah, blah: the end of temporality. Then interestingly he concluded by illustrating his point with the movie "Speed." Keanu Reeves and his hurdling bus fitting perfectly his ideas about a culture constantly running to catch up. And it was a wonderfully great example, starting out as a criticism, ending as an endorsement; he noted how the film ultimately redeems itself with its pure economy of means. This illustration predictably spurred a flurry of questions from the previously impassive audience. One woman making the maddening suggestion that "a more appropriate example might by an "independent" film like "Run Lola Run."

I couldn't help but think of Doug Aitken. His installation seemed to get right at the notions of presence, time, and memory that Jameson was struggling to define. Aitken's work is contemplative without being transcendent, deftly stuck in-between the slow immediacy of the real world in the present and the speed of thought and memory. Francesco Bonami, wrote of his work "Aitken creates space that is like a perpetual editing suite in which the viewer must mentally cut and paste until it feels right, or good, or maybe bad." With this kind of editing, the viewer's completion of the work seems absolutely fitting to this postmodernism of Jameson's thesis. Mediated through the artist, the viewer makes connections and misconnections, ever-changed by memory and the fragments of information the viewer brings to the work. Piecing together found bits of economics, Africa, sunny beaches, and corroding metal, the viewer runs to stay up with the slow but restless scenes.

Thinking about Aitken in these terms, got my heart pumping a little faster. I'm a bit of a romantic (or pretentious, ivory-tower jerk) but I like the idea of an "international art conversation." And I was excited by what seemed to be a healthy strain of it alive, working itself out in this work. I thought of many other artists, curators, writers and architects engaged in the same sort of investigation: Stan Douglas, Olafur Eliasson, Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Siebren Versteeg , Jack Sloss, Rem Koolhaas, Jens Haaning and Pierre Huyge. I felt a growing sense of connection as an artist, not only with this marginalized segment of society represented in the audience at this lecture, but to a larger society-- a society struggling to catch up with it's ideas and memories while still living in the immediate.

-- Ben Gill

"we wanna have fun and we wanna get wasted"
Andrew W.K. 2001

Spec : An acoustic collaboration between Simparch and Kevin Drumm
The Renaissance Society

Spec consists of a drop ceiling arched to form a long semicircular vault. The structure looks like a hallway from Star Trek or some other generic sci-fi film. Inside is very clean and white. A series of speakers make the space acoustic viable no matter where the viewer stands. Kind of like carrying headphones. Outside the viewer can have some fun looking at the structure's skeleton because the construction materials are visible, the thing looks like Quonset Hut or a hangar. The whole object/space is 10 feet height, 20 feet wide and 72 feet long. It includes a 72 feet long bench that bisects the interior space and is referred to by Hamza Walker in the catalogue essay as, "the world's longest subwoofer." The bench, stripped thin birch wood, acts like one beautiful platform that reminds me too much of Jorge Pardo. Spec, as a sculptural and architectural entity, is successful. It also works as a site within a site --think of viewers having lunch, reading a book, playing cards or just having sex on the long bench. But that "site within site" experience is the same I get when going to the movies at the multiplex, the Circus or a McDonalds in Canada. Spec's intent is to create site specifity by means of making the space inside the hut neutral. The good thing is that the viewer can read a book or take a nap in the bench and feel transported into a space other than the Renaissance hall. The bad thing is that Spec tries too hard to make the guest react to Kevin Drumm's soundtrack.

The soundtrack is one of those intricate electronica music compositions that are so trendy now with graduate students. Kevin Drum has collaged diverse sounds, (lifted in site), to produce an entire composition. A cliche of details better accomplished in Dario Argento's movie soundtracks, Brian Eno or Tortoise. For curators in academia those kind of intricate experiments in electronica are useful to accommodate anecdotes in essays devoted to how hard the artist works at his detailed craft and how cool it is that musicians can be artists too. This leads me to believe that the damn issue of High art vs Low art has never been put to rest and Drum's composition reflects the dirt under the rug. How does Drumm's composition relate to the common man? How does it relate to popular taste? Why not play some Salsa music inside the hut? Why not play a mixed selection that includes Price, N'Sync and Garrison Keillor's Variety show? Why does it need to be some artsy fartsy musical composition?

Drumm's collaborative effort with Simparch lacks generosity. The score is not meditative but an illustration of the space inside Spec. The piece fails because the audio composition forces the viewer back into an elitist space where a specific experience is mandated rather than opened up. In this sense Spec seems intended as a space for Kevin Drumm's music (art) instead of an all around experience that could further the ideas of site specificity, installation art and post- minimalism.

If Minimalism has moved to everyday life why try to take it back to the white cube, why try to tarnish its reputation. Why not let it run its course and disappear in society. Think of James Turrel's crater project which hopefully will be enjoyed by the masses. Or think of the success of IKEA. Spec seems to be moving backward, and instead of commenting on history it wants to turn into a time machine and go back to the better times when Robert Morris was king or Donald Judd was prince.

-- Pedro Velez

Gary Simmons vs. Jose Morales

If you go to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago you'll be able to see the Gary Simmon's show curated by Thelma Golden. The show is really blurry. You'll see a lot of erased drawings, some on paper others in murals and chalkboards. You'll see a faint sky drawing, and of course, the necessary "socially conscious" hillbilly sculptures of two menacing red necks. I know the sculpture thing sounds totally out of place but it is in the show. My best guess is that the museum needs to make clear to the tourists that Simmons is a socially conscious artist and not just some average, elegant and white male painter. I guess too much erasing blurs the line between relevant work or decorative work.

If you go to El Barrio in NYC there is an artist, much older than Simmons: his name is Jose Morales. Just like Simmons, Morales work carries some weight in the political/racial side. There is something about Puerto Rican society in exile, crime, and high school education in El Barrio. Besides the tired political rhetoric, Morales also has some pretty disturbing work about sex. The imagery in these sex drawings could be described as Bacon in bed with Elizabeth Peyton. Morales is a much better painter and even a much better draftsman than Simmons. And when it comes to erasing, Morales had a show in the nineties titled, "Pintura / borradura" (Painting and Erasure). The comparison seems pretty even because both make politically/decorative charged erasure work. The difference lies in the fact that Morales can't do the Hip-Hop thing. He doesn't wear Adidas and I don't think he knows anything about working like a DJ either. Morales is not a neo nothing and I guess is he doesn't hang out with Thelma Golden. But I'll put my head in a blender to see a Morales vs Simmons show. Guess who wins and who gets the respect.

-- Pedro Velez


For a hard copy of this issue send a self adressed, business size envelope to:

Pedro Velez at:
1707 W.Division apt. 2-R,
Chicago, IL. 60622

FGA is assembled and distributed as a service to you by a collection of artist / critic / curators including: BenGill, Pedro Velez, Shane Selzer, Jay Heikes, Amy Park Saxe, Scott Speh, Rachel Roske, Lori Waxman.


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