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.

"Girl with Ball", I ventured?

"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.'"

robertdphillips.jpgRobert Phillips

michaelweselyseascape.jpgMichael Wesely

HiroshiSugimoto.jpgHiroshi Sugimoto
(Be sure to click around the Sugimoto website put up by the Hirshhorn for this exhibition. It includes some nice podcasts with the artist.)

La Jarra de la Leche

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?

Nelson Hancock's Kamchatka

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.

Kathryn Almanas

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...

Answers for foxhat13

June 5, 2007

Someone who calls himself foxhat13 emailed and asked:

"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.yangshaobin.jpg

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.

Rolling R's

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:

Greg Girard's Phantom Shanghai

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

Man Ray Archive

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?
Dada is.

Man Ray
July 8 1958"

The original handwritten note and an extensive archive of Man Ray images can be found at the Man Ray Trust.

Final Santa Fe Roundup

May 28, 2007

I was going to blog these all separately but it would take forever, so here are a few more portfolios I saw at Review Santa Fe that caught my eye:

BirthePiontek.jpgI've mentioned Birthe Piontek on this blog before. Meeting her in person and discovering her to be modest, sensitive and funny made me like the work all the more.

paulamccartney.jpgPaula McCartney showed a portfolio of fake birds in nature. Not sure if that description sounds appealing, but I assure you the prints had a touch of magic to them. She also handcrafts jewel-like artist's books.

feritkulas.jpgI noted the work of Ferit Kuyas before heading out to Santa Fe and his work did not disappoint. While his website is still down it's worth checking back in to look for his project on Chongqing. One of the things that came out of the review was a name change for the project. The working title was Double Happiness which was a deeply personal choice (his wife is from Chongqing), but during the course of one of the reviews he realized a more apt title would be City of Ambition riffing on Stieglitz... I like the new title and love the images from the project.

Daniel Traub was also showing work from China. His project called The City's Edge an especially relevant in a time where Chinese cities are growing at an almost unfathomable pace. Daniel lives in Shanghai and was just selected to be in Jen Bekman's spring Hot Shots show (full disclosure I was on this Hot Shot's Reviewer Panel)

rachelherman.jpgRachel Herman was another photographer with really beautiful prints. The web doesn't do them justice.

Sarah Wilson is a photographer for Texas Monthly which is known for it's deeply researched stories and sharp photography. Her photographic essay on the murder of James Byrd in Jasper Texas reveals the ripples and scars left by the events of that night nine years ago.

Finally I hope you visit the work of Kay Lynn Deveney who presented a project called The Day to Day Life of Albert Hastings, a Welshman she she met while in graduate school. For each of her photographs she had Mr. Hastings write a caption and the images were presented together with his text. A book of their collaboration will be available soon from Princeton Architectural Press.

Chronological List Of Maps I Carry In My Head

May 27, 2007

1. Map of a house in Houston on Langdon Lane. Includes three trees in the front yard and neighbor Jimmy's garage and backyard. Ends at the fence in the back. circa 1970.

2. Map of all the playgrounds in 75901. circa 1975

3. Map of a time capsule buried at 1430 Sleepy Hollow in Lufkin Texas. Problem with this map is calibrating 10 year old footsteps with adult footsteps. circa 1977

4. Map of the Whisper Islands, an imaginary set of islands that happen to float on the clouds off the coast of India. Islanders communicate between islands with balloons, kites, and model rockets. circa 1980.

5. Map of every road out of Burnet, Texas in a radius of 20 miles. Includes the road to Oatmeal, Texas. circa 1984.

6. Map of Macondo. circa 1986.

7. Map of the way to my brother's grave. circa 1990.

8. Map of all 5 ice cream shops in Shanghai. circa 1993.

9. Map of taco stands from Santa Monica to Glendale. circa 1998.

8. Map of all the major (and some minor) bus routes in Kham. circa 2001.

10. Map of "no-turn" routes (between our old house and a variety of destinations) in LA for my new wife who, while exceptional at most things, is directionally challenged. circa 2003.

11. Map of all the parks with playgrounds in 11201. present day

Shuli Hallak

May 24, 2007

One of the nice things about a portfolio review is that you get to look at a broad range of work outside of your own specific interests. I rarely seek out industrial or architectural photography, but at the review I got a chance to look at several excellent portfolios in this genre including the work of New York based Israeli photographer Shuli Hallak. She makes big powerful prints of the world's largest cargo ships and factories and so on... Ms. Hallak was also a pick in PDN's 30 emerging photographers for 2007. The portfolio worth checking out even if this isn't normally your kind of thing.

4 Snapshots of a City Kid in the Country

May 23, 2007

He wakes up, takes a walk with dad, sees 2 rabbits, 1 beaver, 2 deer, 4 ducks, and several fish...asks if we are in a zoo.

He marvels at the lack of cars on the roads. Creates a song called, "'No car street. No car day."

He stands and ponders the expanse of grass. For the New York City kid a few hundred feet of unpeopled grass is unheard of. City two year olds are constantly being told not to run, not to go too far, not to touch, to look both ways, et-cetera. Two year olds are of course programmed to run, so an endless swath of grass looks like pure freedom. He pauses as the exhilaration builds, laughs and takes off at high speed for the top of the hill. Unlike older kids, the two year old does not modulate his speed. He runs as fast as he can as far as he can. Reaching the top of the hill and seeing nothing but more grass on the other side he runs down. Soon he falls and rolls but falling on grass doesn't hurt. This is novel. In the city when you fall it stings. Not so here. Giggling uncontrollably he rolls around some more, springs up and runs up another hill.

He sees a sky full of stars for the first time in his life and gets very quiet. After a while he asks, "Daddy, stars take home?"

Olivier on photography...

May 22, 2007

"I am often accused of being a portrait photographer. A bit like accusing your reflection of being mirror. My people may be staring at the camera but they are not portraits. They are not staring at you, I am."

read the entire post on Olivier Laude's new blog...

Karolina Karlic

May 22, 2007


I'm back in New York and have nothing but good things to say about Review Santa Fe...

For the next few days I'll highlight work from photographers I met at the review...

First up, Karolina Karlic whose portfolio of images from Detroit was notable not only for the loving handling of her subject matter but also for her luscious prints. Karolina now lives in Minneapolis home to a strong community of smart young photographers.

Heading West

May 16, 2007

In a couple of hours I'm headed out to attend Review Santa Fe, so over the weekend posting will be sparse...

I've been so busy I haven't had much time to think about Santa Fe, but I'm sure things will click once I'm out there as I have a super list of people to meet. The reviewer lottery was most kind.

Here are just a few Santa Fe participants whose portfolios popped for me: Jeongmee Yoon, William Lamson, Caitlin Atkinson, Whitney Hubbs, Garie Waltzer, Derek Dudek, and Ferit Kuyas (whose website appears to be down right now)... of course there are many others.

Li Yu & Liu Bo

May 14, 2007

The other day I mentioned a photographer named Li Yu in passing and said his portfolio on the Beijing Fotofest site suffered from lack of explanation. Thomas Wain of Stoke-on-Kent, England who saw one of the photos on Tim Atherton's site wrote me asking if I knew of a web page that had those explanations (the images are recreations of scenes from local newspaper crime blotters)... indeed I do.

The portfolio is called 13 Months in the Year of the Dog and contains English translations. In describing the work Li Yu writes:

"A boy was riding a bicycle with a girl on the backseat in the street. Many passers-by accused them of violating the traffic rules, which forbade bikers to have anyone on the backseat. Instead of following their advice, the boy rode faster. All of a sudden, the girl shrieked in alarm. Her skirt was tangled up into the wheel and completely torn up. Soon the boy fell onto the ground with the bicycle while the girl stood aside, blushing and only appearing in her underwear. This was a news story I read in high school and it still remains vivid in my memory. The extremely critical writing of the reporter who wrote the story severely condemned certain uncivilized phenomena in the society and met the needs of his readers.

The year of 2006 was the year of the dog according to the Chinese lunar calendar. It consisted of 13 months and four Valentine's Days, totaling 385 days. In the same year, Liu Bo and I launched an art project entitled "13 Months in the Year of the Dog." We picked out two local news stories from newspapers in Wuhan, restaged the reported scenes, and shot large photographs of them. During this process, we brought our own imaginations and other everyday experiences such as the secondhand experiences we had obtained from films, TV and news photos into this project.

Our selection of the news stories was inspired by the early-mentioned news report. But nowadays, the magic power and literary value of news has far exceeded our anticipation and even films: deceit, murder, eroticism and violence…so striking and unimaginable. How can one decide whether these stories have truly happened or not simply relying on written words? Maybe it's not important, at least they have truly existed in the papers. But as for the readers, these stories are as eye-catching as the blushing girl in her torn-up skirt. That's the so-called media truth. The life of today is the history of tomorrow. Someone says that history is like a girl ready to be dressed up by anyone. Now, let's put the girl with the torn-up skirt back into another beautiful outfit."

Existential Air Conditioner Crisis

May 14, 2007

Almost a full year ago I delivered Royal Sovereign air conditioner (3 days out of warranty) to be repaired at a place called Buy Rite AC Service on Avenue Z in Brooklyn..... This wasn't just any AC it's the one I use to cool my attic office where I spent way too much of my time. Today it's 65 degrees F outside, 85 up here.... These are the excuses given for the machine not being ready...

14 days: We’re waiting for the part from Royal Sovereign.
28 days: The part came in but it’s the wrong one. We have to call again.
35 days: They never sent that part. Maybe you could call them, because they don't call me back.
49 days: Did you call them? They never sent that part.
57 days: I have to check on that part.
55 days: The part was shipped from China or some freakin' place. We're waiting for it.
91 days: The part is in the Royal Sovereign warehouse in Jersey.
102 days: We still don’t have the part.
185 days: We got the part, but we’re closing up shop for the winter, you know in the winter nobody needs an air conditioner repaired.
190 days. We’re not open for the spring yet. Call us next week.
197 days. I moved the air conditioner to my garage it was taking up space in the shop, it’s fixed but we have to test it.
204 days: It’s too cold to test the air conditioner.
285 days: It’s being tested now, the gages are on it.
289 days: We don't do repairs on Royal Sovereigns.
295 days: We’re going on break, call back after the holiday.
322 days. Yeah, there was a leak, the guys have to take it apart again, weld some pieces together and repressurize it. It’s being tested now, the gages, are on it.
324 days: The guy who knows about that is out, call back on Monday.
327 days: We had to take it apart again, it was a mother to take apart. We’re never taking this brand again. But it should be fixed soon.
328: days: It will be ready tomorrow. Give my your number.
330 days: I have no idea about that, you'll have to call back and talk to someone tomorrow.
337 days: You know I'm going to personally take this thing apart myself because it keeps losing gas.
340 days: The guys are at lunch around the corner... maybe you should call back...

and so it continues....

A Wander

May 14, 2007

Why is it that we dads, feel compelled to make home movies, even with crappy little digital cameras?

Luo Dan

May 10, 2007

I love this picture by Luo Dan of a performer waiting to go on stage... It was included in the photographer's portfolio for Fotofest Beijing. Luo Dan has a nice touch, many of his images are infused with quiet lyricism and hints of narrative that draw the viewer right into the work... The fotofest portfolio was a short selection of images from his project National Highway 318. (National Highway 318 is longest east-west highway in China stretching 3314 miles from Shanghai to Tibet ...) Many more images from the project can be found on Luo Dan's personal website. This is a link to the actual images.

The fotofestbeijing site is worth checking out on it's own for it's varied portfolios by Chinese photographers of all stripes. Some suffer from lack of explanation, for example I think it helps to know that Li Yu is recreating stories found in local crime blotters... but even without text there is plenty of food for thought here...

Haraboji's House

May 9, 2007


Jenn's grandfather turned 84 recently. He lives alone, but 4 of his 6 daughters are close by and at least one of them checks in daily. Since his wife died of cancer 4 years ago he makes vegetable juices. He uses lots of green peppers, tomatoes and carrots. "For good health."

Throughout his apartment you will find little newspaper clippings. Under the glass of the coffee table there's one that reads

Signs of Saltwater on Mars
Mars was once a warmer, wetter place, with flowing pools of saltwater, scientists reported. The findings provided new hints that life might have existed there...
Under the glass of a side table there's one about a flood in North Korea, and in the bathroom there's one about the disappearing bees. My favorite is an obituary of Lillian V. Oppenheimer. The headline reads"Lillian V. Oppenheimer, 93, Dies; Introduced Americans to Origami." He highlighted a quote from Oppenheimer in the article, "Why should the Japanese have all the fun?"

The picture he has taped on the wall near the phone was torn from a magazine. The image reminds him of his favorite daughter at that age. He has no pictures of her so young as she grew up during the war. The magazine image has been up on the wall for such a long time that he no longer thinks of it as someone else. "My daughter is beautiful," he always says.

Jessica Dimmock

May 7, 2007

Some of Jessica Dimmock's best photography is difficult to look at. Her photo essay on heroin addicts published last year in the New York Times Magazine (The 9th Floor) was as forceful as anything they've published in ages. Her website includes a complete set of images from that essay as well as essays on child workers in Zambia, a go-go dancer, and transvestites in Nepal amongst others. All are hard stories heartbreakingly well told..

The Stuff of Dreams

May 7, 2007

The guy next to me on the plane studied Sky Mall for almost the entire 6 hour flight back to New York... some excerpts:

"Walk with the stride of a champion. Walk taller and with more confidence than ever!"

"Our BBQ grill light shines so brightly it's like cooking in daylight!"

"The remote controlled robotic hammerhead shark is fun for the entire family!"

"Without a doubt the best pet staircase on the market."

"The children's atm bank will provide hours of fun for you and your kids."

"My Dad was speechless and got teary eyed... he won't stop talking about his BEST GIFT EVER! The photograph really looks like an original painting on authentic canvas."

"Purchase two globes and have a nuclear faceoff so you can eliminate your opponents."

"Our socks with toes are a hygienic alternative to bare feet."

"You will feel like you can keep up with the best of the World Famous Secret Agents when you are wearing the Gravity Defying Shoe."

"Finally, a decorative cat litter box."

"If God is indeed 'in the details', this incredible eagle sculpture speaks to the American spirit!"

"Forget about digging or tlling, toss in our seed ball in the yard to plant an entire garden."

"In 5 minutes you too can take pictures like Ansel Adams"

Michael Wesely

May 6, 2007

One of the many things I love about early photographs of seemingly empty street scenes is the slight blur that comes from the people who were passing by during the long exposures. Michael Wesely does modern versions of those long exposures taking the technique to the extreme sometimes leaving the shutters on his custom constructed cameras open for months or even years at a time. In the longest exposures people vanish completely, but the sun and moon leave streaks in the sky...

While his website features obtuse navigation and an extremely poorly coded javascript that occasionally hangs Safari and slows Firefox to a crawl, the site is still worth exploring for it's visually rich and thought provoking images which include still lives and motion studies in addition to the landscapes...

The image above was taken over two years during the reconstruction of Potsdamer Platz... (via Pruned)

related: PBS interview

Peter Garfield

May 5, 2007


I had a dream last night in which I looked out the window and kept seeing Peter Garfield's mobile homes flying through the air... Luckily a detailed Peter Garfield website exists with many of his flying house pictures as well as lots of behind the scenes info to fill my waking hours...

vaguely related: Dreams (an mp3)

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