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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fever Dream

Brittany passed along a link to a pretty amazing animated music video, posted below (though it's worth it to click through to youtube, and watch the thing in HD).

It's for the Ramona Falls tune "I Say Fever," and it was directed by Stefan Nadelman, through his company Tourist Pictures (his site is full of stuff worth looking at). It plays like an expansion of some sequences from Max Ernst's collage-novel Une Semaine de Bonté, with its splicing of an unruly bestiary into corsetted Victoriana, and its sinister birds. The video starts out well enough, but when the chorus kicks in, it really jumps to a higher level. The stroboscopic outbreak of color, and the way the stride of the characters syncs up to the suddenly-implacable beat, makes for some genuinely thrilling moments.

A nice selection of images from Une Semaine de Bonté can be found at Several pages from the Dover Edition of the book can also be found at Google Books. Of Ernst's collage-novels, I've always preferred La Femme 100 Têtes; Bonté has a thread of misogyny to it that I found of-putting last time I read it. There's some terror of womanly wiles in the "I Say Fever" video, but I end up being intrigued by the perfumed lady, with her expression of combined malice and rapture.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Pottery Sale: Continuing Thru Sunday

The Pottery Sale is currently underway, organized by the Clay Club. Lots of reasonably priced, thoroughly attractive pottery is on display -- so head on down to the back of the Patterson dining area, before someone else beats you to the great handcrafted holiday gift that's waiting for you. Or heck, don't get a gift, just treat yourself to the most aesthetically pleasing coffee mug you've ever hoisted. The last two days are Saturday and Sunday from 10 - 4; a portion of the proceeds will support the Clay Club's trip to NCECA, (the national ceramics conference), and other club activities.

Here's a peek at some of the wares:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wolverton's Apocalypse & Ware's Futurity

I've just had a couple pieces of writing published -- reviews of some interesting comics/books, by artists I admire. One is on a book of eccentric Bible Illustrations by Basil Wolverton, who made his name working on Mad Magazine and pulpy sci-fi and horror comics in the 40s and 50s.

It's up at The Comics Journal's new online site, here; The Comics Journal is moving into a much stronger online presence this month. They haven't had an "official launch" of the online version of their magazine yet, but there's already a good chunk of content up.

Here's a quote from the Wolverton article, describing his apocalyptic drawings, derived from the Book of Revelations:

Giant, luminous hailstones rain down to crush bloodied heads. Walking corpses with gaunt, ravaged faces stagger through rubbled wastelands. Mouths are reduced to organs fit only for yelling or screaming (oftentimes no teeth are shown, so the mouths are more like gaping wounds — some horrible hole driven into the face). The elements are in upheaval: flames leap higher than skyscrapers, the sea rises up in torsioned waterspouts, the sky ejects airplanes as though spitting watermelon seeds. There was always something toylike in Wolverton’s depiction of architecture, and in these vistas of destruction, the flimsiness of the skyline reads as a rebuke to man’s vanity. The listing skyscrapers look like shoeboxes, with equidistant little window-holes cut into them, being kicked over.

The other piece is appearing in issue #300 of the print version of The Comics Journal. It's a great issue: the bulk of it is taken up with interviews between younger and older generations of cartoonists. There's also some really sharp writing by R. Fiore and a great diagnosis of the ascendency of "Geek Culture" by Tom Crippen. I'm glad they were able to squeak in my review of Chris Ware's last book, Acme Novelty Library #19. Here's the first paragraph:

Part of the fun of Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library #19 is seeing him apply his style to a new mode. The first half is a science fiction adventure story, involving a desperate struggle for survival, a failed escape across inhospitable terrain, the murder of several dogs, and even a brief bout of auto-cannibalism. All this transpires on a faltering colony on Mars, and the arid setting allows Ware to maintain his usual formal distance without shortchanging the urgency of the plot. At its core, the story is one of abandonment – both intimate and infinite.

Issue #300 is currently only available in print, so to read the rest, you'll have to hit your local newsstand.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Some Events This Week: Rubio & Britten

The next several days feature some good Art Dept. events. First up is the reception for Alejandra Rubio's BFA show, "Unfiltered," at the Tahoe Gallery. It runs from 5-7, Thursday Dec. 3rd, with the artist talk starting at 5:15. It's been a pleasure to be on Alex's committee, and I'm really looking forward to seeing all the finished work. She gets extra points for having the entire gallery repainted to a nice neutral white.

Then, if you're speedy, you can zip right over to St. Patrick's Episcopal Church in Incline Village: at 7pm, the Sierra Nevada College Choir -- under the direction of Donna Axton -- will be performing a Holiday Concert, featuring work by Benjamin Britten. It's that's too much of a squeeze, they're also performing Saturday, Dec. 5th, at 7pm, and once again on Sunday, Dec. 6th, at 3pm, at the Squaw Valley Chapel. More info on the poster below, which you can click to enlarge.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Abbreviated Nut

Brittany Sterling staged a bit of the Nutcracker for the New Genres class (and a couple other classes too -- she basically closed down the third floor of the art building for a half hour as she set things up). She's been performing in the Reno Dance Company's production of the venerable Nut, and ported over some of the dancers to do the Waltz of the Flowers on the scuffed linoleum of the printmaking area.

It was all very intimate; no room for the ellipsis of any stage wings. A few stretches with pointe shoes poking out from under some sideline curtains, and they were off.

Off to the side, "offstage," Tchaikovsky's music had to compete with the noisy bodily imperatives of the dancers, breathing heavy and swigging bottled water. At one point, there was a brief collision, followed by a whispered "sorry," and one strip of the side curtains was taken down either by a curving arm or a whirling foot -- that bit of business might've been followed by a balletic expletive, I'm not sure.

Bonus pic: after the dancers were done, to the right, Lane was piecing together a big grid of a picture of the ebola virus. It was hard not to think of it as a floorplan for some of the interweaving waltz patterns.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Living Photograph (Chris With Teacup)

Living Photographs! Photography vs. video, which is better? You decide!
Hope everyone had a good turkey filled break, this will probably get you pumped for finals!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Local exhibit: Negative Spaces / Positive Places

Jeremy Stern's show, "Negative Spaces / Positive Places," is up at the Sierra Arts Gallery in downtown Reno. Stern, currently an MFA candidate at UNR, is presenting a series of modified maps. The modifications are mostly subtractions.

In A New USA: Intertate Highways as New State Borders, most of the place names are blotted out with correction fluid (one glaring exception: the Great Salt Lake is still labeled). The networks of interstate highways remain, now traversing anonymous territories (the white-out clumps up in mild relief, a topographical gloss). In other pieces, Stern has cut elements out of the maps, so that a dialogue is set up between the swiss-cheesed surfaces and the shadows that are projected behind them, onto the wall. Place-names have been meticulously excised (I'm assuming with an x-acto), the recognizable outlines of states or countries still held together by the circulatory networks of roads, now hanging like a multicolored lace, set against the latticework of its own monochrome shadow.

Some larger pieces are made of maps with more modest excisions, the maps then turned over so that their blank backs face the viewer -- who can still see glimpses of reflected bright map-colors through the windows of the cuts.

There's usually a certain melancholy to artworks that deliberately foreground erasures: an evocation of something lost, suppressed, irretrievable. But Stern's maps don't trade in melancholy -- in fact, the subtractions reach for a certain clarity. I wondered if the work was a reaction to information overload, the way our experience is buried in data. Probably because I'd recently seen Garnet Hertz's presentation on his OutRun project -- which in its prototype phase used data provided by Google Earth -- I began to think what it would be like to drive over the country using a GPS auto navigation system stripped of all road names and place names, orienting yourself via a network scrubbed clean of language. Would it allow you to situate yourself more profoundly in space, being aware of the overarching pattern of the streets, rather than "localizing" your consciousness from one street name to the next, narrowing your perceptions to the next left or right turn?

There was an article I came across a few weeks ago, that was partially about the ascendency of GPS navigation in shipping; one side-effect is that many mariners no longer know how to use a sextant. Besides being eminently useful, sextant navigation strikes me as being inherently poetic: in order to find your location on the globe, you look to the stars. You find out where you are, not just on the surface of the globe, but in relation to the wider galaxy, caught between the intersection of starlight and horizonline. What is lost, with GPS, is an orientation that is literally celestial. GPS data is more instant and more accurate, but it's also more shrunken, less eternal. Both GPS and the sextant allow you to say "You Are Here," but with GPS "Here" is a much smaller place.

Stern's maps seemed attuned to this sort of interplay between where you think you are and where you actually are -- where borders of habit and borders of infrastructure make their own negotiations. His fastidious cutting is devoted the strangeness of "Here."

(all photos taken by Anthony Alston)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Jeanne-Claude has Gone

Jeanne-Claude, Christo’s Collaborator on Environmental Canvas, Is Dead at 74

Published: November 19, 2009

"Jeanne-Claude, who collaborated with her husband, Christo, on dozens of environmental art projects, notably the wrapping of the Pont Neuf in Paris and the Reichstag in Berlin and the installation of 7,503 vinyl gates with saffron-colored nylon panels in Central Park, died Wednesday in Manhattan, where she lived. She was 74."

Read the article (including a wonderful slideshow) at the New York Times.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

JAPR Flickr slideshow

We've just uploaded our first photo set on Flickr: they're photos Logan Lape took of the work at Junior Art Portfolio Review. The photostream is hosted under "SNC Fine Arts." A slideshow of the set is embedded below: if you roll over, there's an option to watch the slideshow full screen.

Analysis of Symbolism in the Film Robot Monster

Babs' post on symbolism in "The Wizard of Oz" reminded me of a mild folly from my undergrad days. At some point during my senior year, I got hit right between the eyes with what felt like an epiphany. I can't put words to it now, but I was overcome by a sensation of everything in life suddenly making sense -- I was suffused with an intense feeling of clarity and calm.

It was a delicate feeling, prone to immediate erosion, but in the wake of it (in the penumbra of its afterglow, I guess), everything I saw on television or the movies, or read in a book, seemed to be telling the same, transparent story: the story of the soul's alienation, in its usual state of fragmented individuality, and the attempts of the soul to break the bonds of its idiotic solipsisms, to join up with a wider, more universal soul. Commercials, daffy duck cartoons, whatever passed in front of my eyes seemed to have all of their metaphorical machinery pointed at this essential narrative.

This epiphanic episode occurred just a few weeks before a presentation was scheduled for a capstone course at my school (World College West, sadly no longer in existence), in which the student was supposed to sum up their worldview. For my final presentation, I decided to give a summing up of my worldview through the lens of the movie "Robot Monster," a film famous for having one of the most incompetent monster suits ever committed to film -- an ape suit and diving helmet combo. Rumor has it that George Barrows, the guy inhabiting the outfit, was given the role because he owned his own ape costume, thereby saving a little costuming budget. A fair representation of the production values can be glimpsed in the trailer, below.

"Robot Monster" seemed particularly open to that master narrative of the soul's desires. I gave what I thought was a pretty good deconstruction of the symbolism of "Robot Monster," bringing in various philosophical concepts, like the notion of Plato's cave (the monster, who's named Ro-man, has his headquarters in a cave, where a sinister alien bubble machine squats in a corner, emitting a constant stream of sinister alien bubbles), and I think ranging across the Freudian unconscious and the reptilian back brain lurking behind the cerebrum, helped along by the stock footage of pet store lizards with spiky dorsal fins glued to their backs, growling in slo-mo, aspiring to dinosaurness.

I passed the class, though I think not by much. On my final evaluation, the Prof summed up his thoughts with a line that I think I can recall close to verbatim: "When Mr. Lanier is done with intellectual fingerpainting, he may be worth having a conversation with." The jury is still out on whether I'm done with intellectual fingerpainting.

Here is Ro-man in a philosophical mood himself, asking that eternal question: "At what point on the graph do 'must' and 'cannot' meet?"

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Random Art Department Pictures

Greg Fleishman chairs woo!
After Gregs art opening ping pong showdown at The Pub

Mixed Media Painting class checking out Greg Fleichmans show in the gallery...

New Genres Critique

Sculpture Class plaster project

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cyborgs, Dandelions, and the occasional circular saw made out of wood

We had a great turnout for the opening of the "Cyborgs and Dandelions" show yesterday. The student gallery club did a bang-up job, taking acres of artwork, and making it look elegant against the walls. The winners were, in first place, Karl Schwiesow, represented by a metal and wood sculpture called "Cube," and a sculpture of a saw built out of plywood. He's currently at Lake Tahoe Community College:

Second place went to Roger Walker, also from LTCC, with a suite of black and white photos:

And third place went to Jesyka Hayworth, yet another LTCC student, for her print "A Terrible Habit":

Unfortunately, I can't include pics of works by all the artists, just because the show is sufficiently full that, to include everybody, the blog post would run a fathom or two down the scrollbar. So to get a comprehensive view, you'll have to check it out yourself. What follows is an abbreviated taste:

Lastly, here are a couple unrelated bonus pics -- on the way back to my car after the show, I passed through Patterson Hall, and was surprised to find the far end of the dining hall engulfed by a giant grey inflatable. Someone told me an astronomy class was holding court inside there. I've yet to corroborate, but since I haven't heard rumor of any SNC collaborations with Christo, I'll take him at his word.