Archive for December, 2009

Glimpses of the New Year

Posted in Art, Artists, Criticism, Studio Work, Technique with tags , , , , , , , , , on 22 December, 2009 by endlessslug

I decided to post a couple of very low res pictures of some of the new work I’ve been doing over the past few months.  None of these works are finished, but they’re far enough along that the content should be identifiable.  I tend to work on new drawings and paintings over months to years at a time, so there is no expected time of completion.  Sometimes I don’t even feel like working on a project any further either, so what you see here might be all that will happen.  I hope to continue on these, however.

New Organic Geometrics (2009)

First, this is a return to my organic-geometrics.  I still can make a pretty nice pile o’ floating blocks.  It’s been about six years or so since I really did one of these and it’s nice to see I still have it. Now, if only people cared enough for these to buy them, I’d make a mint.  As one of my old art teachers once said (and I paraphrase), “the shapes, textures, compositions, colors, and techniques are all fantastic, but there is no energy.  If anything, these blocks are an attack on energy.”  He was very correct.  I hope to one day figure out the energy aspect of the work and make these floating shapes exciting and meaningful to the viewer.  At the moment, I think of them more lately as if Rothko made forms.  These are for contemplation, not for shock.  Are they about anything? No – as Francis Bacon once said, painting shouldn’t be “about” anything.  Not that I entirely agree with that, but I think I know what he meant… (there’s a painting joke there somewhere).

You may notice the faded color around the edges – this is only because the final layers of color have not yet been added.  The final step in this process is more color and a bit more water.  I’m waiting to do it though, I don’t quite know why.  Oh, incidentally, this is a soft pastel drawing on arches watercolor paper.  I add some white charcoal for a blending mechanism and spray with water.  Delightful.

Portraint (Unfinished)

Portraint (underpainting)

Second, is a new portrait.  This is intended as an underpainting of the final portrait, thus the blues and reds, but I’ve stopped painting on it at the moment.  I may re-start it.  This is oil paint on hardboard but I was experimenting with oil mediums and the surface is a bit uneven.  This does not show up in the photo, but if you were to touch the surface, you would feel it.  I let it dry a bit so I could work adequately back on top of it, but I waited too long and it pretty much dried completely.  So, this one is pretty much done as is.  If anything, I might hit it with some other material like soft pastel, but that rarely works.  This portrait was also painted from a photo of a model which I hate doing, but once you’ve painted real models, you can usually work from the photos later.  You must always remember, however, that you’re painting a painting, not painting a photo.  The photo should only help remind you of small details your mind may have missed.

"Come, Join the Dance" (2009)

Lastly is this monster of a painting.  I won’t even bother explaining this, but it should be obvious that it is very much incomplete at the moment.  I just wanted to give a small example of where I’m heading with work now.  I started working on this back in October, and have taken a small hiatus from it.  I used walnut and poppy oils on it and some of it is actually still wet after about 1.2 months of a break from it.  I ran out of steam working on it and hope to be renewed in the coming year to finish this thing.  It’s a large separation from what I usually do (see above), and it came out (so far) rather successfully, I think.  Comments from viewers are always appreciated, whether pro or con.

And that’s a few new things for a new year to come.

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The Depths of Douchebaggery

Posted in Pop-culture, Social Science, Video Games with tags , , , , , , , on 15 December, 2009 by endlessslug

Check this out folks:

The Bags Arcade Experience

The Bags Arcade Experience

Do you see what I see?  Look again; look three times!

I was in Ed Debevic’s a few weeks ago and stumbled upon this disgrace of humanity: A stand-up arcade machine simulating the game of bags.  I use the word “game” loosely.  In an age where classic arcades are dusting away into nothingness, I was shocked to find a new machine, then punched in the face with this new machine’s subject matter.

For those of you unfamiliar with “bags”, the game is a college-town phenomena whereby you throw bean bags into holes.  We’ve all played this game at family gatherings at one time or another, and it’s surely safer than lawn jarts, but the college fratties a few years ago side-armed this game for their own drunken devices.   In the college town I live in, you could not drive a block without seeing a great sea of bags boards and douchebags standing outside with beers, acting older than they were, girls nowhere in sight (except those fugly ones that can’t help but hang out with boys n’ beer), and trying very hard to be “the best” bags game on the block.  The game was sort of designed as a means to socialize – something to do when you are drinking with friends.  It sounds somewhat like a fine idea as some sort of activity instead of just standing around, but in practice (thank you anthropology), socialization rarely happens except with good friends.  Instead, you find that classic suburban subtle conspicuous consumption.  You can actually show off your friends to the neighbors and your social prowess, thus intrinsic sexuality, by simply grilling some burgers, drinking beers, and standing on either sides of the sidewalk throwing bags.

Of course, no phenomenon goes untouched in capitalist world right?  The next year, local folks’ yards were covered in locally constructed bags boards and bags as a means to make a few bucks from the incoming second-rungers who needed quick bags boards before anyone else.  I have no idea how economically beneficial this act was.  I can only assume it did not work out as planned as we rarely see any of these yard sales anymore.  But then again, these folks who tried to make and sell the boards were just hopping on a fad – a really poorly thought out and ultimately shallow fad.  Besides, they missed the point: you were supposed to make your own boards.  Making a bags board is an easy thing – any amateur idiot with a hammer and five-minutes to spend at lowes can build a set.

So we come now back to the arcade machine.

I scream this: What the shit?.  Seriously? No, no, SERIOUSLY?  What undergrad with a business degree and a friend in computer science came up with this disaster?  I can’t believe this thing actually makes any money at all except from really young kids who don’t know any better or by sheer novelty.  Is this one of those “it’s so bad, I just have to play it once…” sort of games?  Needless to say, I did not play it.  I actually couldn’t even stand in front of it for more than about 20 seconds.  I had to send a friend of mine back in with my cellphone to take a quick pic of it since I couldn’t even look at it again.  I should point out that the machine looks like a modified Golden Tee game, which it probably is.

But have we come to this?  Here is my analysis of what this machine means:

1. We have now decided to video-game every aspect of reality.  I just used “video-game” as a transitive verb and I don’t know if that is cool or not.

2. We have run out of so many ideas that now even the simplest games in the history of the world need to be created just to keep game designers in business, mostly from novelty games like this one.  It’s a downward spiral – we play games, want new ones, but are so distracted by our current games that we are not getting the life experience necessary to construct a reason to make new games, thus down we go making games based on this limited perspective to be even more limited, furthering the limitations set by the original anti-precedent…. and so on.

3.  Douchebags are flourishing.  This “nerds are cool” phase in contemporary US society must end soon.  I believe that when we legitimize nerd-dom, the folks who are usually maintaining the social power in social circles cannot maintain their hold without a slight ‘give’ of credibility in nerdiness.  Essentially, in order to be socially superior or even equal, I must confess to some sort of secret geek thing I do, thus again setting that anti-precedent to damage that status-quo.  The more it gets damaged, the more we’ll keep seeing douchebags appear.  Guys, girls, get on up!

4. People still take the easy way out.  This was the best idea for an arcade game you had? Seriously?  Why not tag? Jarts? Horseshoes? Yo Gabba Gabba scream-singing? Putting your clothes on in the morning? Standing? Channel-surfing?  Staring Contest? Even Facebook games have more of a challenge than Bags.

Well anyway, this post was a bit ranty.  But I had to share this with someone.

========= UPDATE!=========

Dateline 12/31/09

I have received numerous emails from folks – some I know, some I don’t – informing me of other sightings of these horrendous machines all across the United States!  Happiness overtakes me with a knowledge that my eyes and mind are not alone in worrying about the state of the contemporary world, be it in art or otherwise.  People have been sending me images of these “games” as well.  I thought I would share one…

Bags at Fattys

This photo is of a bags machine at a bar.  Thanks to Hepcat for sending me the pic.  I enjoy waking up to pain when I check my email.

-slug

Bejart Vs. Tori Amos: War of Postmodernisms

Posted in Contemorary Art, Criticism, Dance, Modernists, Pop-culture, Social Science, Technique, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 12 December, 2009 by endlessslug

Did you like what I did there?  I’m using a postmodern style of titling to set up a discourse on postmodernism in the contemporary arts.  I even used the word “discourse” in the previous sentence – very postmodern.  In fact, this manner of writing, whereby I talk directly to you, the reader, is exactly one of the many problems with the postmodern movement: a lack of consistency and structure, and a shift in attachment to works from a universal general detachment to a directly personal, seemingly identity-building attachment between artist and reader with the work forming only a momentary adhesive.  Some readers, you perhaps, will find the way I am writing right now to be invasive, irritating, and downright insulting.  Other readers, you perhaps (which you?), will find the way I am writing right now to be caring, direct, connecting, and unpretentious – a place where you too can speak with me, not against or under me.  Writers, painters, choreographers, dancers, actors, sculptors, and so on, work in this direct style now for a number of reasons, one of which we’ll highlight here:  Fear in a consumerist production society.

Tori Amos performed a live Facebook concert Friday afternoon.  It was amazing.  I am only going to discuss the postmodernisms within her work though, not the concert itself.  I was alerted to the finite differences between Tori’s older music, newer music, and newest music by a colleague of mine who is a much bigger fan of Tori’s ensemble than I.  But I agree – Tori’s music has always been exactly what postmodernism is supposed to be: a break from tradition (such as modernism), with a firm base of tradition (structure), with an attempt to create new things for a mass audience but at a personal level for individual audience members (postmodernism).  Postmodernism, then, is not simply a movement, but a dialogue still continuing from what the modernists were doing.  The postmodernist ought to struggle to discover new ways of doing old things in a way which is meaningful and not simply done to do it, or not in an anti-meaning sort of way (cf Beatniks).  In a contemporary, globalizing, mass-media, consumerist sort of world, we strive to find things which have lasting meaning to us, but we ought to find those things which could have meaning to others as well.  My grandmother’s freezer has been working fantastically since the 1940s.  It’s not really an antique, but people today would classify it as old or antique anyway.  Instead of taking the freezer one day, most of my family will probably just want to throw it out and get a new one or sell it.  This is unfortunate as the freezer is huge and works like a charm.  There’s no need to replace the thing and lots of people in my family have memories attached to it.  In fact, I would claim that if any family had a freezer like this (a huge trunk-type freezer you could fit a small cow in whole), you would also have memories and meaning instantly created.  This need to replace with the new is a salient cultural feature of suburban Americans, but where does this behavior lead?  An inability to ascribe meaning to things due to the fleeting feelings attached to purchased consumer goods.  Essentially, if the thing does not strike a personal chord with me, there’s no point in the thing’s existence.  We’ve reversed meaning!  We are our own Emperors and Empresses needing our decrees to be followed by the rest; self-made monarchies of absolutism.  It’s no wonder personal prosperity theologies are so dangerously dominant here…

I’ve been watching OVAT lately again.  This past week and all next week they’re doing a “Battle of the Nutcrackers” fan-choice contest.  The whole idea that contests allow fans to vote is ridiculous anyway.  Fans vote on what they’re given, and what they’re given dictates what the fans will enjoy, so having a fan-choice is simply a reaffirmation for the creators of the pop-culture non-sense.  Always remember, they care nothing for you, only your money.  Anyway, the week started off well with the Bolshoi Ballet classical production of the Nutcracker.  Critically speaking, there were some small faults that I blame on postmodern dancers, but all in all it was fantastic.  Last night was the Bejart Nutcracker.  I was excited for another rendition of the ballet, so I sat patiently and waited.  I was instantly punched in the nuts.  Apparently, Bejart used the Nutcracker (or selected aspects of it) to tell his own life story consisting of an estranged pseudo-sexual relationship with his mother, his own sex and gender identity problems, and his genius-ness of dance choreography.  Directly, this is utter bullshit.  This is what we tend to find as postmodernism today: entirely self-interested diarrhea of word and art, self-aggrandizing – making our personal monarchy public.  Bejart himself even appears in the ballet on a giant black and white monitor over the stage, narrating his life as the dancers dance parts of the Nutcracker.  Bejart has taken a classical work – which works quite well still, see the Bolshoi – and turned it into a tool and medium to talk about himself in a grandiose way.  What an asshole!  My criticism: Had this nutjob simply used some of his contemporary symbolism to add a modern depth or alteration to the ballet, it could be tolerated, possibly enjoyed.  Less is more!  Who was the audience for this? I can only guess 1,500 community college students believing that this is somehow fine art.  Did we forget what that “fine” part of fine art is for?  Refinement!  After a few millennia of dance, you would think this wouldn’t be a problem, but there it is.  When did we, as a world-wide culture, begin to care one bit about one person’s struggle of life?  That statement might make me sound heartless, but as an artist, I can say nothing else.  Mr. Bejart, art isn’t about you, no one cares.  You need to produce art that is about my experience, his experience, her experience – something which folks can relate to.  Having dance-sex with your mother, supported by two drag-queen Faustian angel-fairies on a public stage is art only as a criticism attacking other post-modern art which tries to do the same thing but less well.  If the point of Bejart’s work is to criticize postmodernism, then it is brilliant although needs to be more clear that this is the intent.  Thus, I believe the guy is serious and therefore fails.  I was ashamed for the dancers while watching this mess.  I can’t blame the dancers, they need jobs, but I’d like to know how many went home later and cried.

Due to my crap training in writing, I can’t help but to write also in a rant-style postmodern method.  Although I do know it when I see it.  Luckily, this blog was never designed as a completely professional publication so I can break my structure a bit and rant.  At least I know when I can and can not.  Tori, do a Nutcracker.

Painting Review: Jackie Tileston

Posted in Artists, Contemorary Art, Criticism, Technique with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 7 December, 2009 by endlessslug

Finally, I made it to the gallery district for a night of professional reviews!  Unfortunately, my companion and I made it only as far as two galleries before the night ended.  We will have to wait for Spring to hit a good round of exhibitions.

Initial reactions:  Zg gallery has once again successfully endeavored to demonstrate to the public that any kid who doodles in the margins of their notebooks claiming that no one understands their artistic inner-self is somehow entitled to a gallery show after they’ve completed some sort of inane grad school.  To quote from Graham Norton, “It’s a bit shit, isn’t it.”  The polished turd is still a turd.

Harsh? Not really.  As a former student of the academic arts, I rarely can handle art such as this.  Jackie Tileston is the artist; here are a few examples of her work – apologies on the quality of the images as they are from my cellphone camera:

Jackie Tileston, "Great Highest..."

Jackie Tileston, "Great Highest Cavern Mystery Numinous Treasure Subtle Scripture (On Extinguishing and Conveying the Five Refinements and Reviving the Corpse"

There are also photographs, but for this review (and my own sanity) I will restrict myself to the paintings and works on paper.

Seeing exhibits like this makes me wonder if people ever partake in peer reviews anymore, and secondly, if those peer reviews are actually criticisms or simply undergrad ego-fluffers and popularity contests.  Because what we have here is someone who has fallen through – or rather – kicked, punched, and whined their way through to the gallery world without either listening to anyone’s advice, without caring about art and its history, or from some sort of private art world of the elite where no criticism was allowed.   This whole postmodern “freedom of expression” movement is utter crap and Tileston’s paintings are an excellent index of the problem:

I walked into the gallery and thoroughly did not care.

Jackie Tileston, "Floating World #4"

It might be because I do not follow “this sort of art”, it might be that I am missing some sort of diachronic narrative of which these paintings are an important piece, or it might be that I “really need to know the artist” to understand or care about the work.  But once again I fall back on 5000 years of art history and retort with: I shouldn’t have to.  The philosophical approach: I ought to be able to enter a gallery and immediately get a feeling for the point of the work.  Paintings are a means to convey a communication about an experience the artist understands that we may have shared and the artist cannot convey this complex dialog in any other way.  Speaking, singing, poetry, literary discourse, music, dance, etc. are all means to convey a complex idea where no other way was able – each has its own limitations, which is why its best to learn about a number of them, if you are an artist.  The contemporary world of fine art has refined art to such a degree, that art has become so personal that it can no longer link people from a shared experience as it once did.  People believe, falsely, that they are somehow so unique from one another that one cannot possibly know what another is “going through”.  Painters, writers, composers, and choreographers used to be masters of observation.  These people used to be able to take thousands of empirical data points from their experiences and realize that their experiences are not actually that unique at all, and that communicating these experiences in the arts created a certain form of catharsis for not only the artist, but for all viewers as well.  As we age, we move through taste.  Taste, meaning, our understanding of a subject matter and how it not only reacts to our own aesthetic needs and desires, but how such subject matters affect others – the feeling of closeness to other humans in a shared, esoteric manner.  I can stand next to a Monet haystack and when another person stands there with me, we both share an experience that the two of us have had and Monet has had – although the specifics are certainly very different, it’s the feeling of the experience and what it leaves us with that matters.  So here is my little thesis: your tastes are not necessarily your own and as an artist, our job is to collect taste data and construct a conversation about life as a human in a matter by which not only our generation and culture understands, but also humans over time.  Paint not for now, but for someone 500 years from now.  It is possible, any museum can demonstrate this gift.

Jackie Tileston, "The Transcendent to Superintends Reality..."

With Tileston’s paintings, few positive things can be said.  I do enjoy her materials – linen canvas, with what appears to be a size used, but no clear evidence of a chalk ground.  She has a nice eye for color contrasts and general composition, but she really should push it more.  I get the feeling that although part of the painting is very busy with line and color, that Tileston has not explored complete canvas coverage.  The paintings seem very mannerist – they are all basically the same thing, the same process, and this process is boring. The line work is of course full of energy, but it’s a fleeting energy, one I feel is lost as soon as I look away.  There seems to be no pre-thought into the forms that will appear; simply paint of different types and some cut-outs thrown on to an otherwise nicely stretched linen canvas, hoping for a happy accident.  Her titles too, also happy accidents.  The painting I was going to focus on most of all is entitled: “Great Highest Cavern Mystery Numinous Treasure Subtle Scripture (On Extinguishing and Conveying the Five Refinements and Reviving the Corpse”.  Seriously?  I remember art students trying to pass off titles like this in painting courses back in college.  It’s fun to randomly select meaningless words for a painting right?  My only hope is that the titles are supposed to explain to the viewer that the artist is well aware of her confusing disasters on the canvas by reflecting the confusion and randomness in the title.  But I believe it was intended as serious.

Jackie Tileston, "Paradise Unfound"

Here are the Endless Slug’s suggestions for Jackie Tileston:

1. The big-small, random images and lines are dated and done to death.  Walk into any college art class and you’ll see at least 8% of the students are doing exactly what you’re doing.  I do have to say that your paintings are far more sophisticated, finished, and professional, however.  But this is the whole problem – the idea was old when you started and you’ve just simply learned how to make crap look professional. I’d find a different subject matter for the paintings.

2. Finish a ground once in a while.  The raw linen look works in some cases, but to have 30% or more of every canvas just demonstrates that you do not know how to paint.  These paintings I would consider ‘drawings on canvas with paint.’  Throw a chalk ground down and paint it linen colored if you like the color, but my instinct tells me that you prefer the linen-look since you probably found it accidentally and realized that the public is easily fooled.

3.  Randomizing titles is just immature for a painter.  Again, there may be a point to it but that point ought to be clearer to the viewer.  As I see it, these paintings look unfinished and half-assed.  When I then look at the title – which I need to for some sort of clue as to why this is on the wall – the title simple reinforces my instinct that these are all very half-assed and attempting to act the part of decorative contemporary art so that some upper-middle class homeowner/businessman or woman, untrained in the arts will purchase it and put it somewhere in their foyer in their new house in the cookie-cutter subdivision far west of [city].

In conclusion and as always, I urge people reading this review to physically get off your butt and head over to the Zg gallery to see the work.  Why would I send you to a gallery which I believe is housing such horrible work?  Because you should take what I have said and go apply it to the work.  You might not agree and could teach me something, but mostly, you will be seeing art as it should be seen – on a wall, hoping to speak with you some day.