Home » 2010 » March

Monthly Archives: March 2010



Shout! Factory is releasing a DVD of the legendary concert from the Santa Monica Civic ’64 — the “Teenage Awards Music International” or T.A.M.I. show — featuring Chuck Berry, the Stones, Beach Boys, Marvin Gaye, Supremes, Jan & Dean and James Brown…

other highlights include a Jan & Dean skateboard sequence, young Teri Garr (choreographed by Toni Basil) go-go dancing for Chuck Berry, and Brian Wilson in one of his last gigs with the Beach Boys…

more on the DVD from LA WEEKLY — and keep an eye out for showtimes on PBS…



this year’s Pritzker Prize is going  jointly to Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, partners in the acclaimed Tokyo firm SANAA and designers of the New Museum in NYC

the Rolex Learning Center, Switzerland

the oldest and richest of human inventions…

“…what really is questionable, and passé, is the implied ranking of art mediums and the leaving of some of them for dead. None of them ever really, ultimately have much of a monopoly on quality.”


Few modern myths about art have been as persistent or as annoying as the so-called death of painting. Unless, of course, it is the belief that abstract and representational painting are oil and water, never to meet as one.

The two notions are related. The Modernist insistence on the separation of representation and abstraction robbed painting of essential vitality. Both notions have their well-known advocates. And both, in my mind seem, well, very 20th century.

Pictorial communication — signs, symbols, images and colors on a flat surface — is one of the oldest and richest of human inventions, like writing or music. It started on rocks and the surfaces of clay pots and in the woven threads of textiles, then moved to walls, wood panels, copper and canvas. It now includes plasma screens, Photoshop and graphic novels. Even so, paint on a portable surface remains one of the most efficient and intimate means of self-expression.

As for representation and abstraction, historically and perceptually they have usually been inseparable. Paintings — like all art — tend to get and hold our attention through their abstract, or formal, energy. But even abstract paintings have representational qualities; the human brain cannot help but impart meaning to form.

There have been moments of dazzling balance between the representational and the abstract — for example, Byzantine mosaics; pre-Columbian and American Indian textiles and ceramics; Japanese screens; Mughal painting; and post-Impressionism.

Painting may be in a similar place right now, fomented mostly, but not always, by young painters who have emerged in the last decade. They feel freer to paint what they want than at any time since the 1930s, or maybe even the 1890s, when post-Impressionism was at its height.

In the late 19th century painting was being radically changed by a series of artistic explosions — the newly abstracted figuration of post-Impressionists from van Gogh to Ensor; the extremes of color favored by the Fauves, like the young Matisse, and German Expressionists, like Kirchner; the shattering of representational form by Cubism and Futurism; and finally the flowering of abstraction itself in the work of Malevich and Mondrian.

In the late 19th century painting was being radically changed by a series of artistic explosions — the newly abstracted figuration of post-Impressionists from van Gogh to Ensor; the extremes of color favored by the Fauves, like the young Matisse, and German Expressionists, like Kirchner; the shattering of representational form by Cubism and Futurism; and finally the flowering of abstraction itself in the work of Malevich and Mondrian.

By the 1970s, thanks largely to formalist critics like Clement Greenberg and Donald Judd, painting had been flattened and emptied of figures, subject matter and illusionistic space. It was also superseded, it seemed, by the explosion of post-Minimalism’s multiple mediums. But a kind of figure envy ensued: How could painters look at the figures in much of the video, body and performance art and not think, “I want a piece of that”? By the ’80s painting was creeping back, largely because painters like Sigmar Polke, David Salle and Julian Schnabel started pitting representation against abstraction, albeit self-consciously and often ironically.

But with each generation of painters, the authority of Greenberg and Judd pales while the history of the pictorial expands, revealing new possibilities for scholars, curators and artists alike. It seems noteworthy that Robert Rosenblum’s startling “1900: Art at the Crossroads,” a revisionist juxtaposition of modernist and academic painting, opened at the Guggenheim Museum exactly 10 years ago this fall.

Yet old habits die hard. No less a personage than Klaus Biesenbach, the Museum of Modern Art’s new chief curator at large, recently told The Art Newspaper that he preferred the phrase “contemporary practice” to “contemporary art” in order to include fashion, film, design and more. That doesn’t bode well for a phrase like “contemporary painting.”

But what really is questionable, and passé, is the implied ranking of art mediums and the leaving of some of them for dead. None of them ever really, ultimately have much of a monopoly on quality. And something else greatly reduces the chances of the death of painting: too many people — most obviously women — are just beginning to make their mark with the medium and are becoming active in its public dialogue.

(NY TIMES  3.28.10)

images by Doug Magnuson


genius is the fourth dimension…

Russian math man Dr. Grigory Perelman has solved the hundred year old “Poincaré Conjecture”…

rabbits are spheres…

according to Perelman’s solution, any object without a hole is a sphere — solid objects without holes are distinct from object with holes — and Massachusetts-based Clay Mathematics Institute wants to give him a million bucks for mathing it out… but he’s not taking the money, he’s a recluse and wants no part of their world — quoted as saying to a reporter through a closed apartment door “I’m not interested in money or fame.  I don’t want to have everybody looking at me…”  Russia’s Federation Council Chairman has appealed for Perelman to be left alone to make up his mind…

what is the “Poincaré Conjecture”?  one of the world’s most complex questions, and now — thanks to Perelman — it’s an actual theorem that will shape our understanding of the universe…  

formulated by Henri Poincaré in 1904, it says —

“If a 3-dimensional manifold is compact, has no boundary and is simply connected, then it is homeomorphic to a 3-dimensional sphere.”

…in essence, all three-dimensional blobs — humans, animals, intricately shaped objects that don’t have holes — are, in fact spheres…  thus, a cigar, a rabbit and a a sphere are all the same because they can be deformed into one another…  a bracelet, life preserver, and a doughnut are also the same because each has a hole — but they are not equivalent to a sphere…

Wikipedia breaks it down:

What’s a 3-dimensional sphere?

A one-dimensional sphere is a circle, which can be thought of as the set of points, (x, y), in two dimensions that satisfy the equation x2 + y2 = r2, where r is the radius.

A two-dimensional sphere is the surface of a globe, or the set of points, (x, y, z) in three dimensions that satisfy the equation x2 + y2 + z2 = r2.

a four-dimensional ball…

And a three-dimensional sphere is the set of points in four dimensions, (x, y, z, w), that satisfy the equation x2 + y2 + z2 + w2 = r2.

What’s a “manifold”?

A manifold is a surface created by taking another surface — for example, a piece of paper — and warping it. A cylinder is a manifold since it can be formed by attaching the two opposite sides of the paper to each other. The cylinder can be deformed into another manifold by attaching the two circles at each end of the cylinder, to get a torus (ie. donut).

What does “no boundary” mean?

We say a manifold has an edge or a boundary if one of the charts is not glued to another on all sides. One of the conditions in the Poincaré conjecture is that there be no edges, just like in the sphere and the torus.

What’s “compact” mean?

A compact manifold is bounded and does not extend to infinity. Both an infinitely long cylinder and an infinite plane are examples of manifolds which are not compact. In Poincaré’s conjecture it is required that the manifolds be compact. See compact space for an advanced definition.

What does “simply connected”?

A manifold is simply connected if any loop drawn on the space can be deformed to a point without leaving the manifold. Any line drawn on a simply connected manifold that starts and ends at the same point can be shrunk down to one point without any part of it leaving the manifold. A torus is not simply connected, since you can draw a loop going around the cylinder that you can’t contract to a point without taking it off. An example of a simply connected manifold is a sphere: if you try to wrap a lasso around a sphere it will slide off. An example of a manifold which is not simply connected is a torus. One can tie a lasso around a donut and catch hold of it. Nothing short of untying the lasso or cutting the donut will let it loose.

What’s “homeomorphic” mean?

Generally, two shapes are homeomorphic if you can deform one into the other without a break or discontinuity. A homeomorphism is a continuous function mapping points from one object to another. This means that if two points are close to each other in the first object, they will be close together when the points are mapped onto the second object. The surface of a square and the surface of a sphere are not homeomorphic, since the square has edges and the sphere doesn’t, so the mapping function has to jump somewhere, and at that point it won’t be continuous. For example, a 2-dimensional sphere is homeomorphic to the surface of a cube; similarly, a 3-dimensional sphere is homeomorphic to the 3-dimensional boundary of a 4-dimensional hypercube.


put it all together and… Poincaré..?

more on radical math here


a must see…


A Trojan horse. That’s how French filmmaker Jacques Audiard describes his attitude toward genre: It’s a vehicle for bringing in other concerns and an anchor to keep the audience grounded as the film explores richer, deeper ideas.

Since directing his first film a little more than 15 years ago, Audiard, 57, has made only five features. While “The Beat That My Heart Skipped”, Audiard’s remake of James Toback’s Fingers, overlaid the framework of a gangster flick onto an examination of family, masculinity and identity, his new film, “A Prophet” (Un Prophète) is Audiard’s fullest expression of that idea.

A bracing look at the changing cultural face of contemporary France (with obvious parallels to current life stateside), “A Prophet” is part prison picture, part sociological inquiry and all snappy entertainment. It sneaks in as one thing and reveals itself as another, taking the audience to an unexpected place of understanding and something near transcendence.

Favorably compared to “Goodfellas” and the crime films of Michael Mann and Francis Ford Coppola, at almost two-and-a-half hours, “A Prophet” is both fleet-footed and comprehensive, exhaustive and energized. Think of it as a marathon, run at the pace of a sprint.

(LA WEEKLY  3.6.10)

“A PROPHET” 2009 diected by Jacques Audiard

read the entire review here


sansculottes” — translated as “without knee breeches” — is a late 18th century French term describing working class revolutionaries who preferred long pants to the knee-length trousers in fashion at the time…


The art world is peculiarly suited to dramatize a problem, or at least a syndrome, of the present day: that of abominable wealth, by which I mean the effect of huge fortunes on people who don’t have them. The global tide of prosperity that rose in the past decade has, in receding, stranded most boats that aren’t ocean liners. This condition pertains with special poignance to a sphere in which the rich (collectors, patrons) and the relatively poor (artists, intellectuals) intermingle. The Greek billionaire Dakis Joannou, whose fabulous holdings of contemporary art are sampled in a controversial show with a remarkably icky title, “Skin Fruit,” at the New Museum, where he sits on the board of trustees, presents a handy target for intensifying discontent. So does the show’s curator, Jeff Koons, the foundational artist of Joannou’s collection and the creator of the boom era’s definitive art: perfectionist icons of lower-class taste—stainless-steel balloon animals, life-size pornographic statues, tinted rococo mirrors—that advertise the jolly democratic sentiments of their loaded buyers. (The several embodiments, since 1992, of “Puppy,” Koons’s forty-foot-tall Scottie dog in living flowers, amount to the “Mona Lisa” of a tinhorn Renaissance.) Objections to the event have centered on the perceived impropriety of a nonprofit museum’s boosting the prestige of a board member’s collection. I find the fuss touching at a time when big money, besides being just about the only money there is, brands the big-time art it buys—art that behaves, in economic terms, like a form of money itself. Even a lately chastened market pitches the exchange of hard and soft currencies—cash and symbolic capital—at levels beyond the reach of nearly every public institution. The New Museum is facing up to facts, I believe, with its ad-hoc dependence on Joannou. The deeper imbroglio of “Skin Fruit” is its incitement to populist animus: the show arrives on today’s downwardly mobile art scene like a bejewelled duchess at a party that—oops—turns out to be a barn dance.

Like its title—a play on “skin flute,” slang for penis—“Skin Fruit” seems determined to affront, disarmingly. It strives to be a knockout show of knockouts: big, strong works by artists of independent, raffish temperament, several of whom really are excellent and none of whom are shy. Nearly all of them either render or somehow refer to the figure, in key with the ruggedly humanist sentiments that Joannou has advanced through his Deste Foundation, in Athens, which produces exhibitions and publications on giddy, pop-philosophical themes. (Reprinted in the New Museum’s catalogue, an essay by the dealer Jeffrey Deitch, who has been the Deste’s curator and is now the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, trumpets “the end of nature” and “the end of truth.”) Joannou likes to invoke the heritage of classical Greece, though it’s not easy to imagine this show enchanting Praxiteles. There are fine works by Robert Gober, Charles Ray, Cindy Sherman, Franz West, and Cady Noland. The prevailing tone, however, is set by items that are longer on provocation than on transcendence: “What If the Phone Rings” (2003), by Urs Fischer, a blond nude in wax inset with burning wicks, which will melt her down during the course of the show; “Pazuzu” (2008), by Roberto Cuoghi, a robustly ugly, nearly twenty-foot-high statue of the unfriendly Assyrian and Babylonian demon; “Saddle” (2000), by Janine Antoni, a stiffened sheet of rawhide formed to the shape of a crawling woman; and “Mother/Child” (1993), by Kiki Smith, life-size wax figures of a woman mouthing one of her breasts and a man likewise attending to his erect penis. Two live-performance works scout the frontier between the sublime and the ridiculous. A sonorous-voiced museum guard, upon encountering a viewer, sings, twice, “This is propaganda, you know, you know,” and then speaks the work’s label: “Tino Sehgal, ‘This is Propaganda,’ 2002.” Elsewhere, a male model changes into a loincloth behind a screen and climbs a ladder to an oak cross, where he dangles for a spell as the crucified Jesus. That’s by the Polish artist Pawel Althamer. Claymation videos by Nathalie Djurberg, one of them depicting the amours of a girl and a tiger, aren’t very good, but they enhance the show’s vein of sexual whoop-de-doo.

The most understated sculpture on the premises is also the only one by Koons, a 1985 “One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank”: a basketball suspended in the exact middle of an aquarium filled with chemically treated water. In an oft told tale, this was Joannou’s first purchase for his mature collection, which he snapped up, in 1985, for less than three thousand dollars, at an obscure East Village gallery. It’s a ravishing piece, deft and subtle, which reminds us of Koons’s first-rate sculptural knack and conceptual economy. His gifts haven’t dimmed, on the evidence of his installation of “Skin Fruit.” He elegantly harmonizes aggressive works, each of which plainly would prefer to be the only one in the room. Imagine a kennel of alpha dogs.

But the artists whom Koons convenes suggest a palace guard for his eminence in the art world. Nothing if not politically alert, he has been at pains to represent feminists and persons of color. Kara Walker’s five big gouache drawings, from 1996, of the surreal iniquities of the slave-era South are terrifically accomplished. Works by the Anglo-African Chris Ofili—some of them in his notorious combination of cloisonné dots and elephant dung, and others in dreamy blue paint, charcoal, and aluminum foil—mark the occasion’s nearest approach to beauty. The impression of catholic taste dissembles Koons’s ambition, in the past twenty-five years, to trump the field of advanced art with his fusions of luxury and squalor. (He hit a high point in 2008, when he was given the run of Versailles for a retrospective that peeved many in France but, judging from photographs, was pretty dazzling.) Koons is famous for a public persona of relentlessly smiley, Amway-salesman unctuousness. But “Skin Fruit” makes clear to me that his deepest passion is anger, provoked by situations over which he has no control. The object of that anger, like the proverbial aim of standup comedians, is to “kill.”

Koons’s recourse to an air of collegiality and aesthetic assault is dictated by a distinct vulnerability in his position. His career and the plutocratic culture that it has adorned represent an epoch-making collusion of mega-collectors and leading artists, which has overridden the former gatekeeping roles of critics and curators and sidelined the traditional gallerists who work with artists on a long-term basis of mutual loyalty. With numbing regularity, newly hot artists have abandoned such nurture for gaudy, precarious deals with corporate-style dealers like Larry Gagosian, Pace-Wildenstein, and David Zwirner. In the boom era, buzz about the opportunistic exhibitions of such dealers and the latest sales figures from art fairs and auction houses were what passed for critical discourse. The situation mesmerized newcomers, by flashing promises of ascension to the starry feeding trough. Now that such promises can no longer be made, the posturing of “Skin Fruit”—roughly, noblesse oblige, laced with a left-libertarian raciness—cannot long deflect the mounting potency of class resentment. People are going to notice that the defensive elements, in this particular scrimmage of sensibilities, are members of the putatively vanguard aristocracy of wealth and social clout. The future of art, and the corresponding character of cultured society, seem bound to be determined by some smart, talented, as yet unidentified parties among the howling sansculottes.

(NEW YORKER  3.15.10)

“SKIN FRUIT” 3.3 – 6.6.10 at THE NEW MUSEUM, NYC…


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 32 other followers

%d bloggers like this: