Monday, August 30, 2010

Today, as the first in blog thingy's new series Awesome Sequels to Boring Old Person Movies, we'll feature the sequel to Martin Scorsese's epic 1995 crime drama "Casino", 1997's "Casino 2: Return to Lake Whanatakapee"! Everyone on the team is really excited about this new feature.

From IMDB:

Nick Santoro (Joe Pesci) and Ace Rothstein (played this time by Joey Travolta) are back! This time the two friends team up again after returning to their old summercamp as counselors, only to find that Camp Bumberpants is in trouble! The real-estate developer father (Eric Roberts) of one of the blue bloods from the rich kids camp across the lake wants to turn Bumberpants into a mall parking lot! The gang has to team up with nerds, dweebs, and the other 'uncool kids' and win the End of Summer Inter-Camp Olympics in order to save Bumberpants and make Lake Whanatakapee safe for all the outsider kids! Will they make it in time? And will they learn the secret of the old hermit in the woods (Eric Estrada) (who just might be Booger from the original Casino all grown up)?

Sorry about the image, it's the biggest version of the poster I could find online.

Wow, Hot and Telling at the Same Time

Check out Wonkette's awesome Glenn Beck Rally/Self-Hating-Gay-Man-Convention expose here.

Holy shit, this makes me want to have hot shame-filled hypocritical sexing, right now.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Playtime at Rotofugi

Whew. Tonight I was at a party for the opening not only of Chicago gallery/toy store/awesomeness repository Rotofugi's new location, but also the current show there: Playboy Redux. The show, which is in honor of Playboy's 50th anniversary, was orchestrated by Playboy Enterprises and the Warhol Museum, where it showed before coming to Chicago.

From Rotofugi's site:

Known at that time for her satin bunny suit, cotton tail and rabbit ears, the Playboy Bunny served cocktails and glamour in equal doses. Many luminaries once worked as Bunnies, including Deborah Harry, Gloria Steinem and Lauren Hutton. For Playboy Redux: Contemporary Artists Interpret the Iconic Playboy Bunny, artists were asked to create a new look for the Bunny, a veritable makeover to create the Bunny of the future.

So, first things first. Rotofugi's new location is amazing. It looks like social deviant art monkeys took over a nice Apple store and had their way with it. The size alone, compared to the cramped one-bedroom apartment style store they previously occupied on Chicago and Damen, blows you away. Add to that the fact that their gallery space is now integrated into the store environment and it makes for a perfect statement on the fusion of old-fashioned fine art, like painting and photography, and fashioned fine art, like graphic work, illustration, and DIY designable maquettes.

Now then, the show. It's pretty apparent that Playboy Enterprises had a hand in it, as this is not a collection of work you'd expect to see in an independent exhibition. The art doesn't really ask anything about the mid-century Playboy mentality, it's just fond reminiscing in the service of the Playboy look. This is the problem with a corporation/brand having a say in the curation of an art show about that brand's iconography and legacy, especially if those happen to be a controversial as Playboy's. I don't mean that the Playboy of today is controversial, it isn't. But the Playboy of the Playboy Clubs era--the period that inspired the show--that inheritance is probably still fair game for debate.

The press release quoted above notes that the list of bunny graduates include Gloria Steinem, which seems like somebody's little in-joke more than anything else. Steinem worked as a bunny in the New York club in 1963 as research for her article "I was a Playboy Bunny"... you can guess what she had to say about the experience. The Playboy Clubs were at best harmless and offensive, and more often misogynistic, patriarchal, and declassé. Obviously it's easy to forget about this, the casual disregard for women the clubs evidenced has been hopefully drowned by progress and is hard to recall, and artistically the colorful, retro, swingin' vibe that we associate with the time period helps to assuage what it's values really were. That's the real issue i take with the show's content, it's harmless fun jaunty work (most of it anyway), more pastiche of the period's aesthetics than content or commentary. It's a show that watches Mad Men and then says to you, "Wow, everybody back then really knew how to dress!"

There are exceptions. Some of the artists have taken the Playboy label and twisted it in unexpected ways, some of which reflect on Playboy and some on their own work. Rod Filbrandt's small goauche and ink drawing is so mindlessly energetic and positive that I can't help but think he's in on the joke. Isabel Samaras and Ain Cocke also deliver great pieces, neither of which ape the mid century Jetsons look, opting for the sort of paintings you could imagine Playboy purchasing for the offices, self aware cheesecake that looks more period but is also more self aware than most of the other works. Cocke's especially is an awesome gag that's made better by thinking only you and the painting are in on it. Brendan Fernandes's piece "Bunny Dearest" is probably the loneliest art in the exhibition. While everyone else indulges in pastel color and swirling pattern Fernandes's piece is all stark sparse black lines that are an incredibly refreshing break.

Tim Biskup has what is easily the most confrontational work in the show. While everyone else has chosen coquettish/sexy or graphic/grotesque, Biskup's is the only bunny that looks contemporary, self assured, and straight up pissed. This painting would be fine with leaving the club, locking the doors from the outside, and burning it down. Also, nestled in the back corner of the gallery is a Travis Lampe painting "Bump Mate" that quite simply represents what I think this show could have and should have been: titillating fun, and also gross and unsexy.

Lampe (left) and Biskup's (right) work

All in all it's worth seeing, if only for those few works and to remind yourself that art has a purpose. Allowing an opportunity to examine the meaning of a symbol like the Playboy Bunny to escape unscathed is a tremendous failing, and the show lacks a depth because of it. Still, Hef will have to kick it one of these days, smothered under a blanket of nubile (but disgusted) young flesh, and think of the show we'll have to look forward to then.

You can see all the work in the show here, but just nut up and see it in person.

The show runs through September 12th. Rotofugi is located at 2780 N Lincoln Avenue.

MCA is gunna get good

Paul Klein interviews Michael Darling, the new Head Curator at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, in the Huffington post:

Paul Klein: Here's another seemingly easy question: What is good art?

Michael Darling: I'm a really visual person. I can go in for things that are purely intellectually stimulating on the one hand, but, I think that oftentimes that does alienate the public, and my job is to get people excited about contemporary art. So I think it's got to have some real visual appeal and pizzazz. It's got to know what tradition it's coming out of and how it's contributing to that tradition, pushing it forward. That's something I really look for when I'm doing studio visits - to get a sense if people really know what they're doing. If they're picking up a paintbrush and slathering paint on a canvas, do they know why they're using canvas? Do they know why they're using red paint? Why they're using that size of brush? There's a level of awareness that's required, and I don't really give people much slack about that. I think they really need to know what the heck they're doing.

Read the full interview here

Also, from the West Collection's website, may I present: the single greatest thing ever done

Jonathan Schipper’s The Slow and Inevitable Death of American Muscle

Thursday, August 26, 2010

West Prize 2011 is underway

Above is 2010 West Prize winner Ryan Mclennan's piece 'Departure'


The West Collection is an art collection privately owned and administrated by Alfred P. West and his daughter Paige West. Recently in an effort to expand museum holdings/garner new talent/subsidize poor-creative-types the collection is holding an open call for new artists. The competition will award 10 artists (in acquisition funds for work) $10,000 each, with one grant winner also receiving $25,000 for a proposal probably presented via one kick-ass powerpoint presentation. This competition is, at two years running, incredibly new.

Actually in a way it is and it isn't.

Right off the bat, rich people collecting art isn't exactly new. Thank god it isn't, the wealthy have been and continue to be awesome lifelines for a lot of great artists who would otherwise be selling their bodies to get money to buy pencils (crack pencils). However, in an art environment with less and less significance attributed to "critical authority" it's the market that determines artistic merit. Meaning rich curators have the hugest say right now in determining what is "good art" and subsequently what art gets funded/seen. That means if moneyed collectors don't know what they're doing they can consecrate crap, shit-up the careers of promising artists, and destabilize market value. That's how it's not new.

Alfred (Al) West, founder and CEO of SEI Investment Co. is a self made billionaire. Billionaire. Daughter Paige is a full time art curator and author, with both studio and arts administration training, and apparently really is the force behind the collection. Meaning no disinterested-commodities-broker-hiring-art-buyers-to-diversify-their-investment-holdings-with-art type situation. Also, they stock their investment company's offices with artwork, and force the employees to deal with it/suck it. These are exactly the kind of rich, informed, engaged fucking lunatics you want at the helm of something like this. That's how it is new.

I'm not particularly nuts for all of the work that the Wests seem to be focused on, a lot of the 2-D work especially, which seems to be acutely aware of the amount of Whimsy and Idiosyncrasy that Contemporary Art has to have. This may just be a feature of the current self-fulfilling market for those sort of pieces. The sculpture, video, photography, and installation seem more on-point. The Art Blog has a great write-up of last years competition, they are as usual, spot on.

That having been said there's also clearly a point of view to the collection, they obviously know what they want. There's a lot of emphasis on the environment, of consumption (conspicuous and otherwise), on nature vs. city living, etc. Having perused the current entries I encourage all artists and artistically minded crazy people to apply. The rolls close Novermber 1st, 2010, and finalists are announced January 1st, 2011.

Enter the competition here

So tailor your work and get to it! Crazy prize money and glory await!

Still feel like this

There we go, not exactly a finished thing, but it's enough for a doodle.

I've been thinking a lot about what level of finish I should be posting on this. I think my site works (or will work whenever I get the damn thing done) as a repository of actually finished work, and this can just be process and lots of crap. I'll filter everything afterwards.

I need to do some writing. It would be really nice to have a portable laptop, as opposed to my current one; which at five years old is positively geriatric.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I'm begining to draw myself as an ethnic zombie

Right now I'm working on recoding my website. It is unpleasant.
It is made more unpleasant by knowing that I should just be using a gallery template. It is stupid to code a website. I do not like coding.

Also, after you spend enough time staring at a screen typing out nonsensical computer speak giberish you start thinking like a robot.

A robot designed for loneliness.

I sort of thought I'd squeeze out a boredom sketch tonight, but this is gonna have to get finished tomorrow.

Damn, I should put up some kind of drawing...

Honestly, I do not like this drawing. It's like I'm aping every overly precious fakey whimsical bullshit illustration I saw when I was at school.

Which wouldn't be a problem if I were a little better at it.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I just hope this shit works

According to conservative estimates I enjoy making up, there are an estimated 133,000,000 blogs currently online. Out of those 133,000,000 how many are updated regularly? Blog inactivity stands at about 66% (or did, according to some slightly older figures). Which means more than a significant few of those millions are languishing in blog hell, stranded in 2002, never updating, still displaying observations about how the upcoming invasion of Iraq is, "like, so totally bullshit."

I speak from experience about this, as I spent my college years abortively starting and subsequently abandoning art blogs. It's an easy problem to fall into. You start off well enough, everyday uploading a new photograph of a different Japanese tea set, or a painting of a banana, or if you went to art school, the words "banana" or "tea set" hand drawn on heavy wove cream paper in an approximation of Helvetica. But soon you miss a day, or two, or three, or you wake up one day and realize that somewhere out there still exists a blog you started six months ago and haven't updated in five. And at that point your tour of blog hell begins. You can't bring yourself to go back to contributing, ignoring the conspicuous near half a year gap in your posts, but you also can't bring yourself to put the poor animal out of its misery, shivering doe eyed thing that it is.
Telling yourself that you owe it to yourself and, and damnit, you owe it to the blog, you weakly carry on with a few self deprecating posts about your lateness, convinced that the dedicated few pulling for Bobspot.blogspot to get back on track watch with baited breath. Of course unless your weblog specializes in niche pornography this hope is almost certainly in vain. And so, one day, ashamed, bitter, tired, old, your dreams turned to sludge like a clichéd metaphor in a Mickey Spillane novel, hunched over a computer you once shared so many hopes and dreams with, you sever your online connection with the world of men, and retire to a small town where you get a job as a line chef and think wistfully on what might have been.

The truth is it is hard to maintain faith in an endeavor like that if you don't think anyone's watching, which is probably a rapidly aging concept in the internet age. That we are increasingly a world of digital hobbyists means our web personas are becoming the more effective way not just to communicate but to contribute to culture in meaningful ways. In five years (less probably, I just don't want to undershoot) the idea of abandoning a twitter feed or tumblr page will be akin to packing up everything and moving to Alberta without telling anyone, in that it'll be considered rude and only assholes trying to make statements will do it. So in a way, we are living in the last foreseeable golden age of avatar irresponsibility. It is still possible to ignore your social media obligations, because for all the bullshit about social media and p2p marketing in the internet age, these things are not social media obligations, not quite yet.

And so, in the likely case that this effort goes the way of the 66%, or that I find I can't stick with preaching to an audience that occasionally reaches skyward towards the single digits, I would like you (the internet) to know, that if it ever comes to it, an' my blog's real sick, then I'll be the one to take 'em out behind the barn, on accountin' I can't stand to see it suffer.

Why is this the introduction to a blog where I plan on posting cartoons of people I see on the bus picking their noses? Well, I do occasionally find nerd theory interesting, and besides, I think that personality on the web should be fun to work with, and acknowledging the type of relationship you expect (or hope) to have with a medium should really be your first step in exploring it. Also, I suppose I realized I was going to need to square my relationship with my digital past before trying blogs again.

And this seemed a better option than burying my last blog in the ol' pet cemetery over yonder.

Because sometimes dead is better.