Counterfeit Commonality

1. Wonder and Awe

2. Doubt

3. Forsakenness; retreat to self.

Karl Jaspers talked at me about this.

Monday, December 28, 2009

More Holla. Less Daze.

Xmas with a small portion of the family. I wanted to shoot some of my father's guns but constant freezing rain prevented the redneck reconnection ceremony.

For pop: One bottle of Butterscotch Schnapps
For mama: One handmade bag, one pot of poinsettias.
For big sissy and man of matrimony: One grocery gift card
Plus hugs and kisses for all.

I grew up in that one house for 18 years and then one or two more. It looks smaller every time I return. There were eight of us in it for so many years.

Pictures of people I haven't met: My little sister's husband and his family. My older brother's twins. Scattered Americans just playing our role.

Pictures of a past of which I have so little idea.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


I've not been to Space Gallery a lot in my years here. It's a very nice space for art nestled in the cultural district Downtown. They've showcased a generously wide selection of disciplines.

I think the show there now is the best I've seen so far. It's a collection of works contributed by artists whom are also gallery workers in the city. Those people you see there, they're usually making their own work, too.

And it's good. A happy proportion of it. Quite good.

I went twice; once for the first opening and then again this past first Friday for the Gallery Crawl. It still felt good. Andy Warhol's weight bench still felt pretty boring. Scorched rugs no longer meant a good indication of STD, they mean pretty clever and nicely executed portrait shots.

It was a good mix of media and ideas. But all of them pretty neat and clean. Where's the mess? It was spilling out of Chris Beauregard's sound piece. It was one of the best in the show by far. It was also on two mixed media pieces neatly framed on a wall.

But mess does not equal success. I can't believe I just said that. Strike that. Mess does not guarantee a competent mess. But the collages and the sounds were competent messes. They both invited chance and metamorphoses into the doors and then cut off their fat and flung it out the window. To the street with you, excess. Like dressing a kill. Why keep useless shit? I guess that's how I relate to works like this. No plan. Just a primer.

But some of the other pieces I liked I could never stomach actually doing. Nicole Rosato's cut maps are nice. It seems like a schtick at first because they're portrait busts of figures created by carefully cutting the tangled lines of colored road maps. All veiny. But they're small and lovely and seem like they talk about place and identity. What good is something if it doesn't teeter on the edge of failure? Especially corny failure. She presents well and it doesn't feel like she has settled on this manifestation of her ideas.

Around the partition was a piece that also went with a geographic feel. It was a construction set low on top of which was a sculpted material made of some sort of muslin or light cloth shaped into the terrain of the land into which Pittsburgh's three rivers gouge and converge. But all clean white with twinkling lights and glowing as though the industrial revolution never touched us. Or maybe as though the landscape were bleached and bruised instead of blackened.

There was filler, too.

There was a figurative painting I liked, too. Kate somebody. It looked like something that would crash and burn like the fodder we painters have to slog through in undergrad and for years after as we learn to push paint around looking for that homunculus or graphic or other. But this one was strong. Kind of like a meal at which Munch and Soutine were talking and then some obscure Neo Expressionist from 1983 listening in had too much wine and got courage and tried to touch their boy parts. How else should we talk about the cycle?

There's also a swing with twenty five or thirty feet of chain arcing up in suspended motion in the corner. It's old and weathered-looking which can be a death mark but not always. I admit I fell for it because it reminds me of Richard Hughes. I fell for him at the last Carnegie International. Simple things in front of us that somehow, when arranged, confront us with the entanglement of the human condition, our impending rot, unsettling weirdness.

The swing didn't get that far, but it's a nice form. It vacillates in that wimpy way lacking the impeccable craftsmanship of Richard Hughes but also not willing to (forgive me) swing to the other side and be dangerous mess. It looks fun to goers and therefore gets attention but the most shallow kind most of the time unfortunately.

Beauregard's amplifier on a pedestal with distorting filters fed through it was presented as it was. No fussing really. And what for? Those gutteral sounds churning out of it were like blood-soaked velvet. Who fucking cares about the vessel? The attention to the presentational vessel is evident in it's understatement. It helps to make the piece matter; it's oozing quality just needed a framework off of which to reverberate.

Those collage pieces are great. So lovingly eviscerated over and over again. They had a rare candor to them. Remember that shit? No one does. It comes up sometimes but it's called mysteriousness or naivety by most and sincerity by others. I miss it too often.

Other things that night were alright. It was the first time in a while I'd had a big bloody burger from Tessarro's. I've been sliding back organically toward a more vegetarian diet. But I don't care about eschewing meat. I like the way blood tastes but it's heavy in the stomach anymore.

Plus Rob and Jen are good company. Jen is amiable and easy to please and Rob is grouchy. I love them both.

Yorke Youth Ponders the Ecosystem

Thom Yorke is Dennis Mitchell in Disney's Dennis and Mr. Wilson Save the Polar Ice Caps. Begins May 8th in theaters everywhere.

Monday, December 7, 2009

You Can't Take it With You, and Leaving it at the Crossover Will be Humiliating

Unblurred on Penn Avenue is always a crap shoot. Most of the time just crap. No A's for effort. Here and there some of it manages something memorable.

But it isn't as though Shadyside or Downtown gallery spaces capture an audience in any meaningful way either. I know so many people that live here and bemoan the apathy and dullness. They're the same ones that settle in and talk love on this town and it's football heroes and the grit that's really just industrial waste and Penndot fuck ups and not character.

But I love people here. Gems end up anywhere. Gems for anyone.

The Unblurred art walk on Penn Ave is usually a grim reminder that people need to be shaken up and that I should just go. No one wants it. But I'm happy enough for anyone that gets enough out of what's here. When personal dissatisfaction outweighs compassion you're just a prick.

I've been contributing to my friend's space at the corner of Penn and Millvale in Garfield. Carolyn Wenning. Her space was the first at which I showed work here in Pittsburgh some years ago. She's a firecracker. She looks like a cuter gay Nancy Spero. Her work is much more somber than her personality. Something of somnambulant wandering. Lacquered blurry photos on heavy wooden panels sometimes with piles and slashes of thick tar and paint surrounding it. Like a little glowing tv monitor just freshly unearthed.

Her friend Derek Sober contributed to our last show. I thought his telephone and actual little tv monitors were someone else I showed with a while back. They were interesting for a little bit, the novelty of old timey phones with tiny screens built in that talked at you about loss and yearning. But kind of corny.

Only two or three doors up is Modern Formations. My friend Jen owns and operates that one. It's been an area mainstay and frankly one of the best galleries in the city. She's been ready to throw in the towel a number of times but stuck with it.

Her show this month is two fellows. One of them won a show at her annual Salon in which he garnered enough votes for the pieces he submitted. Heavy lacquer again. Something seems to not work with lacquer. It's too easy and lazy to me most of the time. It just lays on a candy shell for some false dimension both visually and conceptually. But I liked what he had in the show. Collage cityscapes. Kind of poppy a la local superhero Burton Morriss but minus the shitty aspect. Grimy Pittsburgh instead of Morriss's tidy boring soft jazz version of Pop Art. Corporate coffee house rubbish whereas this guy's are more like elevated local coffee house.

They had somewhat mysterious words plugged into a number of them, too. That usually falls flat, but it had a little something to it here. I like the one that said "Mable" coming from a thought bubble of what looks like the last moments of a drowning girl. It's sad and funny and not a little confounding. Actually I recall the girl in water looking despondent but seeing the photo of the piece again it seems she's a pilot in the dome of a single engine craft. Pining for her lover? Still sad and funny. A little dreamy, too.

There's something about isolation in vastness that appeals to me. Being obviously obliterated by elements instead of swallowed by routine. That's why I made the Elephant Island series. Not everyone sees death as part of their destiny. What a shame.