September 12, 2009
“Hold Your Mud, LA” – reviewed by Michele Jaquis
I went to art school in the mid nineties and my circle of friends involved a range of artists and musicians who collaborated regularly. Someone would create a painting or an installation that would become the score for several musicians to improvise from. We were influenced by the art of the 60’s and 70’s, most of which we only read about in books and magazines.
When I was planning to move to Los Angeles almost ten years ago, I began researching local artists, schools and arts organizations. At the time there were four women who’s names I kept coming across and subsequently mixing up: Linda Burnham, abstract painter and then chair of the fine arts department at Otis College of Art and Design, Linda Frye Burnham, writer and co-founder of 18th Street Art Center and Highways Performance Space, Barbara Smith, feminist writer and activist (who doesn’t even live in California), and Barbara T. Smith, feminist and performance artist.
Nine and a half years later two Otis grad students, Nathalie Sanchez and Paige Tighe, invited me to Highways at 18th Street to see “Hold Your Mud, LA” a performance by Smith (the one with the T.) And when Paige asked me to write about it for her blog, I remembered that I first came across Smith’s work in a back issue of High Performance magazine, while preparing for my job interview to teach at Otis. I realized that although I knew she was an important artist from the 60’s, I had never seen any of her work in person, until last weekend.
In Los Angeles, I feel a bit disconnected from performance and experimental music in particular, and it was wonderful to again be inside that space where the visual and aural interact and unfold while the audience experiences it along side the performers. The black box theater at Highways was arranged so that the audience and musicians were intermingled – stage line broken. The piece opened with an intense, ethereal drone of the largest singing bowl I’ve seen, which looked like it was made of milk glass. Entering stage-right, was Smith, along with Nathalie and Paige, all sweeping the floor with palm fronds, as if to clear the psyche or spirit of the space we were in. Once that was settled, and the three had poured buckets of water into a sand box, Smith in her long, black house-dress, escorted a thin but well built, naked man (Mike M. Mollett) across the floor and eased him into the box full of mud. I couldn’t help but smile at the feminist interpretation of Yves Klein’s 1960 performance, “Anthropometries de L’Epoque bleue,” in which he orchestrated nude women to paint with their bodies while a small chamber orchestra played for a well-dressed audience.
In this case, the man covered himself in mud, sometimes as if he was at a Palm Springs spa, other times as if he was a kid at the beach. Beyond the fact that the title seemed mostly related to his presence, it was hard to decipher the connection between the “mud man” and the rest of the piece. For close to an hour he continued to writhe in the mud occasionally changing the shape of his body through sculpted forms added to his chest, limbs or genitals. All the while the musicians, who’s instruments ranged from electric guitar, percussions and tuba, to ting shaw, sruti box, and didjeridoo, gazed at a projected sequence of black and white slides (or jpgs of scanned slides, if you need me to be precise). Each slide presented an image of Los Angeles palm trees and/or power lines, while the red light from Smith’s laser pointer messily traced each image as if making a gesture drawing. Right away I made the connection that the images were the score and the pages on the music stands probably gave each musician detailed instructions on how to respond to the numbered images. However, it wasn’t until much later that I realized Smith’s gesture drawing was really her conducting effort to keep all eleven musicians in time. Once I mentally replaced her laser pointer with a baton, instead of a piece of vine charcoal, I no longer wished she had been more precise in her tracing of the power lines. Eventually the instruments became more interesting than the images, and I found myself particularly fascinated by the collapsible Tibetan horn, played by Jack Haer, and the unique shape of the cora, played by Linda Albertano and the sounds from the hammered dulcimer played by Kate Johnson.
In the end my husband (Jeremy Quinn) and I left before the Q & A, but during the ride home on the 10 freeway, we understood Smith’s fascination with power lines and electrical towers and why she had been so interested in Jeremy’s 2005 installation, The Hollow Men.
–Michele Jaquis is an artist and educator residing in LA—she is part of Rise Industries–their blog is http://www.facebook.com/l/64fc5;riseindustries.org—
September 12, 2009
what do you think about this idea in terms of public practice art?
September 2, 2009
i don’t know what i think of this….but i want to talk about it.
August 30, 2009
I know I have done a lot of Highways stuff. But this guy is a dancer I am going to check out!
September 4 + 5
DIE MUTHAFUCKAH DIE!!!
A night of performance for the perpetually brokenhearted. Jackie Onassis, mass suicide, and karaoke team up with Tina Turner and collected love letters in a failed attempt at acceptance of love’s relentless persistence and the inescapable reality of constant death.
Conceived and directed by Los Angeles based performance artist Gregory Barnett, Die Muthafuckah Die!!! features an army of dancers, actors, strippers, and sex workers who exist in a world where intimacy and pain are inextricably linked, the characters surviving in purgatory with hopes of eventual fulfillment. Featured pieces include, “I Scream So Loud You’d Think My Hymen Was Intact”, “Suite Like A Sucker (sucker like an idiot)”, and “I Love The Way You Keep Your Eyes Closed During Sex.”
Performed by Gregory Barnett, Cricket, Angela Drown, Krys Fox, Laura Fuller, Kathleen Minogue Keagy, Glenn Kessler, Justin Streichman, and Meg Wolfe. Opening the evening are two solo performances; “Hermes Grotto” by Michael Lucid, and new work by the phenomenal Marnie Castor.
Fri + Sat 8:30pm $20/$15
August 27, 2009
I can’t say I am not biased on this one! I am in it! But I will need someone to review it. Anyone that wants to review 18th Street events are welcome to do so!
Whimsical somnambulence, care-free chaos, terrifying madness & lyric ecstasy, as we sit enveloped by sound. Barbara Smith and her cohorts have gathered to perform a symphony based off a score made of black and white photographs of palm trees and power lines taken from an moving car by her in the 1970’s.
Literally structured by the images, the musicians will play a piece which cannot be imagined until you hear and see it while Mike Mollett as the spirit of L.A., plays in the mud.
Fri + Sat 8:30pm $20/$15
All proceeds benefit Highways.
August 27, 2009
Review: 1440 Frames
August 13, 2009
Those that ventured off the Downtown Art Walk path and found themselves in the modestly sized Federal Art Project gallery stood lined up along the sidewalls to view the eleven-minute looped digital projection of eleven artists’ one-minute 35mm silent films, including such artists as Michelle Jaquis, Harry Gamboa Jr., and Vincent Valdez. Similar to cinema style viewing, with the exclusion of audience seating, the 1440 Frames exhibition is presented on a solitary wide-screen at the rear of the dimly lit space.
Opposite to the entrance, five unframed 11x 8½ inch color photographs serve as documentation of selected film shoots. Though only half of the exhibiting artists were featured in photo format, the inclusion of such colorful perspective depicting over-the-cameraperson’s-shoulder shots reference the justification of the overall curation as well as unification of the ten video artists; all utilizing the same camera equipment and gallery-turned-studio.
Michelle Jaquis’s Until I Can Speak My Mind arouses an uncomfortable sensation among viewers, nothing short of gagging, reminiscent of a diluted Paul McCarthy video. Jaquis’s earnest passport style headshot undeniable overpowers the screen, even though she rarely shows direct eye contact with the viewer, as she chews an increasing amount of pink bubble gum. After each segment she spits the glutinous chewing gum provoking a gag reflex that defeats the purpose of a childhood favorite candy and is converted into a nauseating self-censoring substance, which still speaks truth for women today without heavy feminist overtones.
Jaquis is not the only artist that performs in her own work. Harry Gamboa Jr. stages an isolated action on film he titles as Confetti Fetish. Adjacent to a blank white wall with industrial-like saturated white light, stoic Gamboa proceeds to unfold a Los Angeles Times newspaper and shred it into halves. Tossing strips of newspaper on the floor, sarcastically eludes to the notion of confetti which functions less as a celebratory gesture than it does as the recent deterioration of new paper companies, thereby equating the means of knowledge and distribution of information as worthless trash.
Even if all artists had one week notice to prepare their short film and each artist had only one take to perform and edit, in-camera, the compilation appears less of a race against the clock challenge than pre-selected productions of accomplished Los Angeles based contemporary video artists.
August 19, 2009
The Revolution Will… and Mal Ojo Productions present:
Footprints on the Asphalt and other films
A film screening and discussion with filmmaker, Elias Serna.
Wednesday, August, 26th, 2009 7:30 pm -9:30pm
In the Project Room, Studio #2 in the 1629 Building at 18th St.
18th St. Arts Complex
1639 18th St., Santa Monica, CA 90404
Originally an MFA thesis film (UCLA), Footprints on the Asphalt, (Elias Serna, 44min. 2002). surveys political causes over three recent decades. Featuring interviews with activists, scholars and artists, the film guides us through Chicano/Latino /creative positions on issues such as Vietnam, policing, the war in Central America, Chicano Stuidies, Affirmative Action, Proposition 187, the Zapatista rebellion and media criminalization. Raza activism, the film suggests, has left “footprints on the asphalt” text of history, by reclaiming public space and leaving reminders of how agency is enacted in unconventional yet creative ways.
Reel Polemic: The Visual Rhetoric of Medium Cool, Year of the Pig and 3rd Cinema, (Elias Serna, 12min, 2009) A documentary film essay that explores political violence in 1960’s film.
Decolonize (Elias Serna, 4 min., 2008) Music video for the band, Aztlan Underground.
This program is organized by Sandra de la Loza as part of her project, The Revolution Will… that she is producing during her artist residency at 18th St. Arts Complex.
Also, if you didn’t get to check out or hear, her installation at the opening, it is open for view M-F from 11am-5pm until September 26th.
August 17, 2009
This blog is dedicated to discovering the grey areas of art here in LA and the surrounding area!
And if interest grows to discovering grey area art all over the world!
So go out and experience that art that just doesn’t seem to fit designated categories! Document it! write about it!
Either send your review as a comment link to this post! Or if you want to be more organized…send it to me at Greyareaartist@gmail.com
and you’ll get your very own post!
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