June 1, 2007
"Why? Who cares? Who doesn't care? Dada is dead. Or is Dada still alive? We cannot revive something alive just as we cannot revive anything that is dead.
Is Dada dead?
Is Dada alive?
July 8 1958"
The original handwritten note and an extensive archive of Man Ray images can be found at the Man Ray Trust.
June 1, 2007
It's not in hand yet, but I'm excited to have the new book Phantom Shanghai on order. The book is a record of Shanghai's vanishing historic architecture by Canadian photographer Greg Girard who has lived in the city for almost a decade. Magenta Magazine has a nice piece on the project which is available as a pdf download. From what I've seen so far, the images are imbued with a palpable melancholic beauty. Can't wait to see the rest of the book
June 1, 2007
A few longtime readers might remember that I started our #1 son with his rolling R lessons very early. Now it's time to begin with #2:
June 4, 2007
June 5, 2007
"Is your interest in emerging artists limited to photography or do you look at painters as well? If so do you have a couple of names for me. [clip...] Also I'm moving to New York August 15th. Do you have any tips on how to find good artists?"
The truth is that I don't keep up with the non-photography parts of the contemporary art scene as much as I'd like to. If you were to press me I might mention someone like Natalie Frank. Critics imply she can't help but give into her pre-raphaelite urges to make things visually lush, but that's exactly what I like about the work... the thumbnail on the top of this post is one of her paintings. It's titled War. These are best seen in person.
I also like many artists like Rachell Sumpter whose work has a lighter feel, but is witty, relevant, and sometimes happily subversive. The piece below is titled Baghdad Boogie.
And then there are artists like Yang Shaobin who has recently been making portraits of miners in China (he's not exactly an emerging artist but...) who I admire but never think I'd like to own one. That's how I decide if I really love something. The desire to possess is my ultimate approval stamp.
As for finding out about new artists the easiest thing to do is to wander around NY with a gallery guide, mark the galleries you like, get on their mailing lists and start going to shows. And then of course there are scores of art blogs. One of my favorites is paintersnyc (2 of the artists above were blogged on paintersnyc) . The artists highlighted usually have new shows and the blog always inspires fun comment threads.
I painted (badly but of course with great enthusiasm) when I was in my 20's and in my own life the collection of specific paintings that mean something to me is much larger than the collection of iconic photos with similar impact so perhaps I should pay more attention to painting... and yet I can't help shake the feeling that contemporary painting forms almost no imprint on culture at large, that the canon is ossified, and that what's left is artists making art for each other or to be hung above sofas in fancy apartments... My wife says that today everyone thinks of themselves as an artist or a potential artist which might be part of the problem.
The reason photography is so exciting is that the canon—especially the art photography canon—is still largely unwritten. Photography is a medium in it's infancy and its artists don't suffer the weight of history nearly so much as those who paint. Also, perhaps just perhaps, because it transforms easily into bits to be seen on computer screens photography has a chance of staying relevant in a world less interested in the work of people who do something as archaically wonderful as putting paint on canvas.
June 6, 2007
I'm a fan of the portfolios of Yale MFA student Kathryn Almanas... She mastering the hard trick of mixing images rooted in reality with imaginary tableauxs to create projects with emotional heft...
June 7, 2007
About a month ago I pointed to a set of photographs from Eastern Europe by my friend and gallerist Nelson Hancock. Now Nelson has put up a new set of images, this time for an upcoming exhibition called Kamchatka, Photographs from Russia's Far East. As he notes, "Most people in the US have only heard of Kamchaka because it was an important territory in the old board game Risk..." His portraits from the Kamchatka River valley both bridge the distance and add to the mystery of this far away place.
The show opens June 14.
June 11, 2007
On our kitchen table you'll find a porcelain pitcher. Right now it's full of small white flowers my wife bought at a deli down the street. The pitcher is a pretty but unremarkable object. The handle has a bit of art nouveau flourish. The finish you'll notice if you study it closely, is full of hairline cracks. The bottom is stamped with a royal looking insignia and below the words:
Royal Ironstone China
Wood and Son, England.
My great grandfather gave the pitcher as a gift to my great grandmother. Ignacio Perez was a major in Pancho Villa's army and never returned home from his excursions without gifts in hand. A set of 6 teacups was meant to be included with the pitcher but only one survived the hard riding over mountains and deserts. On his way home he had used the pitcher for coffee, but before arriving, he cleaned the thing, and wrapped it in nice paper before presenting it to his wife. My great grandmother, Mama Juela as she was known to all, was delighted by the gift and immediately deemed it 'La Jarra de la Leche' or 'the pitcher of the milk' and for years that's exactly what it was. Every morning one child would milk the cows, and boil the milk for the day. This was no trivial task as there was no refrigeration and fires were made from mesquite wood. After the milk was boiled, the curd was scraped, and then hot milk was poured into the pitcher where it would cool. On the rare occasions she had chocolate in house, Mama Juela would crumble some into the milk. She also liked to mix in a drop or two of honey. At Rancho Cascabel 22 people lived under one roof. There were 11 children, several adoptees, a few old maid sisters, and a ranch hand or two so Mama Juela rarely left the kitchen. The pitcher was being filled and emptied all day long.
When Mama Juela died the pitcher was one of the few things my grandmother took from the house.
By my childhood in the 70's milk was delivered daily to my grandmother's doorstep in small glass bottles with tin lids. I was given the task of boiling the milk and removing the curd. Normally we'd just pour the milk back in the bottles, but if there happed to be chocolate in the house we would take out the pitcher, pour in the warm milk, and drop in bits chocolate in watching them dissolve as we stirred. Otherwise the pitcher was only used for special occasions—Christmas dinners mainly. It was kept behind glass with along with porcelain figurines never removed from their shrinkwrap.
When my grandmother died it was my father who brought the pitcher home to his empty house, carrying it by hand on the plane back to Texas where it mainly sat unused on a shelf. A few years later I claimed it, driving it myself to California. When Jenn came into the picture, she started using the pitcher as to hold flowers.
My thought tonight is this: When I am gone will this thing, this ordinary pitcher, be one of the things my children will want to hold close or will too much time have passed for the memories contained in the thing to be read? Will they understand why the milk poured from this pitcher tastes so sweet?
June 12, 2007
When I was in college I interviewed Roy Lichtenstein for a paper and during the course of the interview we started talking about landscapes, specifically oceanscapes, "You know what picture of mine everybody loves, even people in Kansas?" he asked.
"Not even I like that one any more. No. The painting everyone loves isSun and Sea. Do you know why? Because everybody wishes they could live by the ocean and it's easy to put a picture of the ocean in any room in the house. [chuckles] My advice to new artists. 'Do you want to sell paintings? Paint the ocean.'"
June 13, 2007
Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2007 09:04:52 +0800
Subject: From the oil painting studio
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June 17, 2007
I don't know the exact circumstances of the telegram, but it's arrival was, in a way, the beginning of my story. It arrived near the end November. I picture it being delivered by hand because that's how telegrams are delivered in the movies. I picture it arriving on a cold and blustery day. Grey. But I don't know any of those facts. I do know the message was a short, just a few sentences informing my dad he had been drafted and was expected to report for a physical within the week. The war in Vietnam was ramping up and the government was drafting foreign doctors in huge numbers. The choice for those doctors was simple: serve in Vietnam or have your green card revoked. My dad had been in New York for 3 years, his residency was almost over and he could have gone home, but he was committed to living in the US and he was dating a local girl from Queens, a nurse. He was 25, she was 20.
Within days of the telegram my parents-to-be made a series of decisions. They would get married right away. He would go to Vietnam, but they would try get pregnant before he left in case he didn't make it home. It was the logic of love. By March they were married and by April they were living in Fort Benning Georgia where my dad underwent basic training. Doctors were admitted as captains, and married captains were given small bungalow apartments. The doctors were housed together and as so many were foreign green card holders they were nicknamed by their country of origin, so there was the Jamaican, the Greek, the Russian, the Italian and so on. My parents neighbors were the Italians. The Italians already had one year old child and the wife was certain the men wouldn't return. "Don't get pregnant," she told my mother, "it's bad enough we're both going to be 20 year old widows."
The 8 weeks of basic training passed quickly. In the final week before the men were scheduled to fly to San Francisco for the ocean passage to Danang, the army scheduled a dance. My mom went out and bought a polka dot dress just for that night. Arriving at the dance she discovered her Italian neighbor was wearing the same dress. They were both horrified and amused. Although they wouldn't know until later, both women got pregnant that night.
A week later the men were boarding one of those big miltary prop planes and the women having said their goodbyes were standing on the wet tarmac watching propellers cut the rain. It was dark and gloomy despite the military band and the peppy voices on the loudspeakers and my mom, feeling desperate, wrote a quick note. After much pleading she managed to get one of the crewmen to carry it onboard. My mom loved telling the story of how a stonefaced airman finally broke formation to take her quickly take envelope...
A few days later my mom was on a plane to Mexico where she waited out my father's tour of duty and gave birth to me. When he arrived back from the war I was 4 months old. Today with my own four month old, and many years older than my dad was then, the moment I always wonder about was the one where the plane broke through the clouds and cleared the rain. It was then that he opened that envelope my mom had sent him. The paper inside read simply, "Te amo."
June 19, 2007
Perhaps because I haven't had a good travel fix for my wanderlust lately I've been seeking out portfolios from photojournalists covering places I want to visit. Here are two that scratched my yen for a walkabout:
Magnum photographer Alex Webb's Istanbul City of a Hundred Names
Tamas Dezso's Romania portfolio...
June 20, 2007
A film following photographer Edward Burtynsky through the making of his recent project Manufactured Landscapes opens today in New York. This is director Jennifer Baichwal's second documentary covering a photographer. She also directed The True Meaning of Pictures on Shelby Lee Adams' Appalachia. The word invariably used to describe this film is haunting... and indeed it is. I look forward to seeing how she has covered Burtynsky.
June 20, 2007
A little life lesson:
Much to my dismay we've decided to sell our Mini Copper. It's been a super car, but with 2 car seats installed, it's crowded. I put an ad on craigslist. Nothing. I put another one on autotrader (spending $40! for the privilege). Nothing. The price was fair, the car is spotless with low mileage... hmm. Today I put a sign in the window of the car and before I arrived back to the house, I had 3 people ding me. All want test drives. Lesson learned.
June 22, 2007
Every blog that has anything to do with photography has mentioned the exhibition A New American Portrait opening today at the Jen Bekman Gallery. The opening will be packed so if you want to actually see the photographs, plan on arriving early or returning later in the week. This promises to be a killer show and perhaps one that surfs zeitgeist smartly enough to be an deemed an important one. Jen has mentioned she titled the show 'A New American Portrait' as opposed to 'The New America Portrait' because the natural limitations of her small gallery space placed certain constraints on the scope of the selection of images. My suggested remedy: expand the show into a book not bound by lack of wall space...
June 24, 2007
...a torn page from J.D. Salinger's Nine Stories with these lines circled:
This is the squalid, or moving part of the story, and the scene changes. The people change, too. I'm still around, but from here on in, for reasons I'm not at liberty to disclose, I've disguised myself so cunningly that even the cleverest reader will fail to recongize me.
June 26, 2007
I lived I don't know how many years alone but loneliness never touched me. I was happy eating at restaurants with my book, traveling far and wide on my single ticket, comfortable in silence.
Last week my family decamped for a couple of nights and the days since have been endless. The house is too still. I can hear myself think. I can't even sleep at a time in my life when sleep is the ultimate luxury. This is the state of things.
June 26, 2007
Laura Letinsky has gained art world fame for her evocative still lives, but of her projects Venus Inferred is still probably my favorite. She talks about these projects and others in this 2004 interview with mouth magazine.
June 28, 2007
There are some photographers whose work doesn't translate well to the web. Robbert Flick is one of them. His photographic murals are often 7 or 8 feet long and consist of hundreds of stills taken in sequence along specific roads. He's been making these kinds of images for a long time and moreso than many artists who work with a single idea his collages become more interesting over time because of the changes inherent in the landscapes he is traversing.
Flick presents several sections of his Along Central mural on his website. The photographs are in a format called MrSid which is optimized for very large images full of detail (MrSid often used with maps. Get the MrSid viewer here). After downloading the software and option clicking to save the various files to your hard drive you can zoom in and out of the murals down to the level of single frames... It's worth the effort if you're into this sort of thing.
Ghost Trajectories is a website going into more technical detail on Flick's murals. The information as it's presented reminds me of 19 century landscape surveys which often included maps with their photographs...
Flick is sometimes accused of ripping off Ruscha's Every Building on the Sunset Strip but that's unfair. Both sequential image making and mapping have a long traditions going back to the dawn of photography and Flick in returning over and over again to familiar terrain has built a body of work that has his unique signature..
June 29, 2007
I received an email the other day about a new exhibition from South African photographer Pieter Hugo and, as usual, it's provocative and inspiring work. Pieter is on my very short list of contemporary photographers whose work brings me back over and over again for repeated viewings. The new project is called Messina/Musina and was taken in an around a colonial town on the northern border of South Africa. The gallery site also points to an interview with Hugo about the project that will be included in a forthcoming book.
Update: Someone just emailed that Amy Stein wrote an almost identical entry to this one complete with the same title yesterday. Except that she one ups this post by noting she has one of Pieter's prints hanging in her house. So don't listen to me, listen to Amy who is doing great work of her own and delve into Pieter's portfolios!