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Monday, August 31, 2009

Local Event: Short... But Sweet

Roger Lee has a new show with a reception this Friday, Sept. 4, at the Ethos Gallery in Truckee. I'm actually not sure what the duration of the show is, I just know it's not for long -- hence the title, "Short... but Sweet." The reception goes from 4pm-7pm. Click on the image above for a larger version.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Local Event: Art Lecture Tonight at Sheppard Gallery

There's a lecture for a newly-opened show at the Sheppard Gallery tonight. The press release follows:

Planes of Consistency: Dean Burton, Thom Heileson, Tamara Scronce

*Catalogue available designed by Thom Heileson

Opening/Lecture: Thursday August 27, 2009
Lecture 5:30 - 6:30 pm, Reception 6:30 - 8 pm
Exhibition Run: August 24 - Sept. 25, 2009

Please join us for Sheppard Fine Arts Gallery's first exhibition of the 2009-10 Season! Planes of Consistency is a three-person exhibition between Nevada photographer Dean Burton, Seattle video/photographic artist Thom Heileson, and University of Nevada, Reno professor and interdisciplinary sculptor, Tamara Scronce. Artworks include multi-media sculpture, photography and video. The theme was inspired by a philosophical dialogue between Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, in which they explored the rhizomatic nature of human experience as represented by intersecting lines connecting time, history, intellect, and aliveness. Both philosophers and the three artists examine ways of understanding and visualizing the more remote and abstract elements of our experiences. Burton, Heileson, and Scronce uniquely use repetition, cropping, and editing in a way that undermines presumed context. Context is traditionally understood by surroundings and in relationship to other details, events, or information. Instead, the artists remove that structure in such a way that we are forced to endure the limbo of their content's existence and come to deeper levels of familiarity. Please join us in the gallery at 5:30pm on opening night to hear the artists talk about their work.

Gallery located in Church Fine Arts Building, North Virginia St, two buildings south of Lawlor Events Center
Gallery hours: Mon - Thur 11am - 5pm, Fri 11am - 2pm, and by appointment
Free parking in Whalen Parking Lot after 5pm, East side of North Virginia St, One building south of Lawlor Events Center. Gallery is not responsible for parking tickets regardless of circumstance.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

R. R. Smith

Here are a few images from the Pete Froslie show now up in the Tahoe Gallery.

There's an intriguing mix of the sentimental and the grotesque. In the latter camp are the mechanized latex homunculi above, their bald heads and exposed organs all bathed in bloody red light, moving up and down like pistons, the extraneous strips of latex at their bases jiggling like flayed skin...

There's a wooden map frosted with splinters, a foggy portrait of an aging gentleman (R. R. Smith, I presume) composed of tiny smiley-face stickers...

A wall laden with biographical scraps clipped from the life of Bob Smith -- who, from the evidence at hand, was (or is) a musician and actor, and who spent some time in the military.

If you linger to read the clippings, you can savor the locutions of a bygone era. A review of a play Smith was involved in, performed at the Reno Little Theater, complains of the "dismal" parameters of the story, while politely complimenting the actors for weathering such subject-matter.

There is a video projected on the wall, which starts off in a static suburban sort of lull...

Until something terrible happens...

And judging from the below photo, something fairly awful happened in the recent past, as well...

A peep-hole opens up on a scene of some extreme yet obscure violence.

These aren't all the details of the show, but they give a taste of the overall effect -- an exploded scrapbook, with the intentionally enshrined memories interpolated with the messy entrails of an unspecified trauma. There's a mix of forthright disclosure and guarded obtuseness. The tone is at once affectionate, comical and discomfiting. Check it out for yourself. I know I'll be circling back to it while it's up -- and will probably have more to say after the Artist's Talk, on Sept. 24.

Collecting with an intent towards response

The Collect & Respond "bulletin board" on the third floor of Prim Library has been collecting...

I'm not sure if it's responding yet...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Art of Picking a Lock

I showed this interview with Lucas Murgida in my Advanced Studio class:

Lucas Murgida at 667 Shotwell from Chris Sollars on Vimeo.

Part of the function of the class is to get people comfortable talking about their work. While an artist doesn't need to be able to talk about their work to make good work, it's certainly a useful skill. One big stumbling block is that many students, I think, equate talking about their work with betraying their work. Or at the very least, converting their work into a kind of linguistic flatulence. Everything that's solid melts into air. Artspeak wafts in nebulous little puffs of verbiage, unmoored from earth, from sense, from art -- even sometimes from grammar.

The appeal, to me, of the way Murgida talks about his work is how concrete he is. He's picked* something very tangible -- a vocation, namely locksmithing -- and plumbed it for its metaphors. So ideas have objective correlatives. He doesn't skimp on "ideas," it's just that the ideas flow naturally from events and actions. He's one of those conceptual artists whose artwork seems to be equally composed of the art activity itself, and the tale that's related afterward: as if the function of art is to live out a good story to tell. At which point talking about your art is just storytelling.

The other reason for showing it to the class -- which is intended to provide some professional tools for the students, to help them maintain their art practice after leaving school -- is the neat transubstantiation between work and life Murgida performs. Unless they're working in some "art industry," like advertising or game design, most artists are going to end up balancing the work that pays the bills with the work they want to be doing independently, outside of any immediate compensation. Through an act of choice, and repeated acts of attention, Murgida hasn't acquired a day job to subsidize his art practice: he's turned his day job into his art practice. It's a big leap, but it makes me think of the novels of John Berger -- who's always seemed to have a sensitivity towards the types of work his characters do, understanding how the particulars of one's employment often shape the way you look at the world. It would seem to be a fairly obvious insight: that a person's work often provides the raw materials for a person's worldview. But contemporary culture is so alienated from the notion of sensible work, that the employment of fictional characters is often backgrounded as an afterthought or a purgatory, attached to -- but distinct from -- the "real life" that's being lived off the clock.

Here's a friend, Steve Lambert (whose own work is full of the same sort of genial-yet-sharp humor that Murgida uses), talking about his experience going through a Murgida workshop:

Thanks to Joseph del Pesco for leading me, link-wise, to Murgida's work.

*no pun intended

Monday, August 24, 2009

This week in SNC Art Events (Aug 24)

There are two main art events on campus this week, both starting today.

One is the opening of a new exhibition “R.R. Smith.” -- works by artist Pete Froslie. There will be a lecture and closing reception on Sept. 24th.

(image from Pete Froslie's site)

The second is the opening of "Collect... Respond!" -- hosted by the SNC Gallery Club. The little xerox flyer I was handed has the following message on one side:

Collect and Respond. You are invited to do just that: Collect & Respond. Monday, August 24th is the start of a community-wide collaboration. A bulletin board is located in the "reference Gallery" in Prim Library. This will be a space to map our community's thoughts/activities and provide opportunity to respond to others.

On the reverse there's a John Berger quote:

“Adults and children sometimes have boards in their bedrooms or living-rooms on which they pin pieces of paper: letters, snapshots, reproductions of paintings, newspaper cuttings, original drawings, postcards. On each board all the images belong to the same language and all are more or less equal within it, because they have been chosen in a highly personal way to match and express the experience of the room’s inhabitant. Logically, these boards should replace museums.”
- Ways of Seeing, John Berger

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Can you build a room inside of a room? "R.R. Smith" Installation!

I have to admit...I had my doubts..building a room in a one day?...but with many hours of physical man labor they pulled it off. And let's face it...I was probably more in the way than anything! haha

So....Here are some recent shots of Artist Pete Froslie and his crew..including Steve, Brother-Nick and Nick, and Dad. (I told them I would make sure their names made it into the show somehow.) It was great seeing them work together, obviously long-time friends/family and I am totally impressed at the results. Tomorrow the festivities will continue......

Come by the show "R.R. Smith" which runs from Aug. 24-Sept.25 with Closing Reception/artist lecture on Sept. 24th.

See more of Frosie's work at

Friday, August 21, 2009

"Print Your Pet" with Mary Kenny at Brickletown, Truckee, CA

A satisfied customer!

Some of the "Crafternooners" hard at work transferring their pet images to blocks to be printed.
Another satisfied really have a pet Ostrich?

One of the stars of "Crafternoon".....Tulip!

The star of the show.....our very own....Mary Kenny!

This is part of an ongoing Brickletown event that will happen on specific afternoons this fall. "Crafternoons" is brought to you by the members of the Brickletown square in Truckee, CA. Please stay tuned for more announcements for specific activities including....sewing afternoons, book-making, and other fun options. This is an exciting way to get to know the Truckee community, and learn new creative outlets.

Kat Hutter, Tahoe & Guns

I don't know if Kat's being shy or just busy, but she got a nice write-up in Moonshine Ink this week.

From the article:

... it wasn’t until graduate work at Clemson that Hutter’s signature style today developed. A lot of thinking in the studio drew her eye to the objects around her: tape, paint cans and other artist supplies. She began experimenting with symbols and repetition through stenciling. “For me, that’s where things started clicking,” Hutter says. “I was looking for this big idea about why I paint, but instead found myself drawn to banal, everyday items.”

To read the full article, click here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Everything is Terrible is Terrible

The singing babies have been shuffled around...

SINGING BABIES! from Everything Is Terrible on Vimeo.

After taking a bit of a break from blogging over the summer, I thought I'd try to pick up the thread by starting with a summer disappointment. It came as a minor bummer that, early this August, Everything Is Terrible had their youtube channel shut down. The bummer is a minor one because, this being the internet, many of the banned videos are already available elsewhere -- but it still qualifies as a bummer because it's indicative of the anti-"fair use" climate that has grown at youtube since their purchase by Google.

Everything is Terrible (or EIT from here out) hosted videos that had been spliced together from the detritus of "ephemeral video" that still circulates in thrift stores and videostore cast-off bins -- exercise videos, children's programming, instructional videos, inept PSAs, crackpot religious propaganda, D-List science fiction and action movies, and so on. Sometimes the footage is remixed and distorted, sometimes it's simply whittled down to its absurd essence -- a "Body Flex" video, for instance, reduced to a series of convulsive breathing exercises and facial grimaces, turning the quest for aerobic beauty into a wheezy exorcism ritual. The "Singing Babies" video posted above layers some video effects on top of the original footage towards the end, but it's really impossible to top the horrific atmosphere of the untouched video itself. It seems to have been conceived as a scientific demonstration that the Clutch Cargo Effect is even worse when applied to living human beings. Cute always has a touch of the demonic, but yeesh.

The EIT channel reminded me of screenings at The Primal Plunge, a great bookstore and comic shop I frequented when I lived near Boston; occasionally, they'd set up a projector in the hallway just outside their door, and a film collector would screen old hygiene and driver's ed films, to the combined delight & horror of the audience, suddenly awash in the comically alien values of a bygone era. That sort of ephemera is always good for a swift kick of camp, but beyond that, I savored the slightly vertiginous undertow of cultural attrition, and the modest tragedy of misplaced earnestness.

In San Francisco, both Oddball Film + Video and the Prelinger Library are terrific archives of ephemeral films (Oddball sometimes has screenings from its collection, and the Prelinger hosts several of its films online, as well as providing a portal for "mashups" made from the hosted films).

EIT certainly weren't the first to start digging into the trash as connoisseurs of awful, stalking the VHS phantom zone rather than spools of celluloid, but they distinguish themselves with their excellent bad taste. I personally think most, and perhaps even all, of what they produce should be protected under "fair use" -- especially taken collectively, their videos amount to punchy and impolite cultural critique. That doesn't mean there's no legal risk involved, and they're certainly aware that their appropriation exists in a grey area. A compilation DVD they've made is for sale for a 1 cent donation (plus about 20 bucks for shipping) -- a pricing structure that seems to be arranged to ward off allegations of profiting from piracy. Some of the artists who contribute to EIT have given a few interviews, but they use fake names (noms de plume? noms de keyboard?) like Ghoul Skool and Future Shlock, giving themselves the same cloak of anonymity that vidders use.

The thing that, apparently, brought the EIT channel down was a video they titled "Hippie Weirdo Yoga Farmers," which featured clips from a children's yoga exercise tape, hosted by "Yogi Okey-Dokey" (and his pal, "Rasta Rooster"). The EIT edit of the tape came to the attention of the makers of "Yogi Okey Dokey," who requested to youtube that the video be removed, as they owned the rights the footage. Youtube, rather than pulling the single video, closed out the entire EIT channel. Fans of EIT began insulting the "Yogi Okey-Dokey" folks online, and then EIT tried to pour water on the flames with a conciliatory blog post. Clearly, they'd rather duck and weave than take their project to the "faire use" mat.

Here are a couple of my favorite examples of EIT videos (now hosted on Vimeo rather than youtube):

"Vitamix -- Catch the Vision" -- in which the mantralike repetition of the phrase "dust mite feces" helps induce us into a state where the Art of the Hustle crashes against the reefs of the cuecard slip and the the involuntary facial expression:

Vitamix - Catch the vision! from Everything Is Terrible on Vimeo.

"Two-minute Scanner Cop II" -- an exercise in "subtractive editing," which can probably be traced back to Joseph Cornell's "Rose Hobart," where Cornell excavated a mysterious and strange poem-film from the B-List action movie "East of Borneo." Here, they cut everything out of "Scanner Cop II" except the scanner cop "scanning" (which is to say, vibrating and willing his forehead veins into glistening prominence). EIT isn't chasing poetry here, but beyond the laughs that prolonged vibration is apt to provoke, actor Daniel Quinn's intense commitment leaves me both abashed and abject.

2-Minute Scanner Cop II from Everything Is Terrible on Vimeo.

Unfortunately, a video called "Worst Prop Comedian Ever," which might've been my favorite, seems to have disappeared down the "terms of use violation" sinkhole. Featuring a man with a bag over his head and two white paper hands affixed to his lapels, he attempts to guide his audience past their fear of public speaking through a "comedy" routine, but instead crosses the line where "motivational speaker" produces only the motivation to stick one's head in an oven. I have rarely had the urge to laugh uproariously and to die of depression in such quick, alternating succession.

The Onion AV Club, in their review of the EIT DVD (and the appropriation documentary "Rip!") said:

...both Everything Is Terrible! and Rip! have a lot to say in their separate ways about what kind of collage-art gets singled out and sued, and what kind doesn’t. Artists who use something popular, owned by a company with deep pockets, are likely to get in trouble, especially if the new work contains an element of sarcasm or critique. But if they stick with artifacts nobody cares about, like old “edutainment” programs, then they can fiddle away, largely undisturbed. Either way, the best way to avoid getting picked on is to keep a low profile.

EIT would like to dwell in the same dustbin of history (or maybe "dustbin of marginalia" -- where they reign as emperors of toenail clippings) that contains the off-the-radar junk they cannibalize. It remains to be seen if "off the radar" is really a place that can be found on the web. Or if the web is, in effect, all radar.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"STUDIO DRIVE-BY" video clips of Miami Artists in their studios

Check out this site with great footage of young, hip Miami Artists in their studios.
The series is called "Studio Drive-By."

In each video the film crew asks the artists..."Why do you do this.. " and "What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?" Ever wonder how REAL people actually answer that?? Click here to find out....