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Friday, April 29, 2011

The Art of Howl

I'm co-curating a show at the Cartoon Art Museum, opening May 14 and running through the summer. The show, called The Art of Howl, has been a great opportunity to re-connect with a couple of folks who have been important in my own artistic development: Eric Drooker, who kindly blurbed my first graphic novel and has been a friend and artistic resource/inspiration ever since, and John Hays, who was crucial in shepherding my web cartoon Romanov into the world. I owe a debt of gratitude to both of these guys, and am glad to have the occasion to toot the horn for their recent work.

In addition, the show allows me to tip that hat to some "art heroes" who I've admired but never met: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, whose documentary The Times of Harvey Milk is an exemplar of socially committed historiography, and of course Allen Ginsberg himself.

And while there are no paintings or even doodles by James Franco featured in the show, I'd like to think it offers at least a small extension of his project to establish all reality as an emanata of the all-encompassing Francoverse.

I'll have a small bit of my own work in the show (for past posts on my involvement with Howl, click here) -- what follows is the official press release:

The Art of Howl at the Cartoon Art Museum
655 Mission St. San Francisco, CA 94105
May 14 – September 11
Opening Reception Thursday, May 19, 7:00-9:00pm

Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's film, Howl, produced by Werc Werk Works, opened the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Featuring James Franco as the beat poet Allen Ginsberg, the film took an experimental approach to documenting the creation and performance of Ginsberg's revolutionary poem, "Howl"– as well as the obscenity trial that followed when, after undercover policemen purchased copies of Howl and Other Poems from City Lights Bookstore, the state tried to suppress its publication. The film blends glimpses of Ginsberg's personal life, recreations of the obscenity trial, and animated sequences that accompany Franco's performance of the poem, riffing on its ideas and images.

The Art of Howl gives a revealing look behind the scenes at the creative process of turning poetry into animation. The film directors enlisted Eric Drooker to design the animation; Drooker, a graphic novelist and painter, was friends with Ginsberg and had collaborated with him on the book Illuminated Poems. John Hays, a San Francisco-based animation veteran, directed the sequences, which were animated by The Monk Studios in Thailand.

Translating Ginsberg's incendiary, oracular, stream-of-consciousness language into moving images was a unique challenge. The animation, like the poem, conjures a world of outcasts, "deviants," outlaws, poets and prophets digging for scraps of connection and enlightenment under the shadow of "Moloch" – the overpowering industrial cityscape that demands submission, conformity, and ultimately annihilation.

This multimedia exhibit includes character design drawings, animation keyframes and concept art, photos by Allen Ginsberg, storyboards, animatics, and images from Drooker's graphic novel version of the poem. The Cartoon Art Museum is pleased to present this animated interpretation of a piece of literary history – just a couple miles from City Lights Bookstore, the launching-pad for Ginsberg's poetic career, and through their victory at the Howl trial, a historic ground zero for freedom of expression.

Curated by Andrew Farago, Eric Drooker and Chris Lanier

Telling Pictures: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman have been  making non-fiction and feature films together since 1987 when they founded Telling Pictures, a San Francisco production company. Their films have played in movie theaters, at festivals, and on television throughout the world. Between them they have received two Academy Awards, five Emmy Awards, three Peabodys, as well as Guggenheim and Rockefeller Fellowships. Their films together include Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt (Academy Award, Feature Documentary, 1989), Where Are We? (Sundance Documentary Competition, 1991), The Celluloid Closet (Emmy Award for directing, Peabody, duPont-Columbia Awards, 1995), and Paragraph 175 (Sundance Film Festival jury award for directing, 2000). Their website is

Werc Werk Works
Werc Werk Works is an independent film production and finance company dedicated to the production and financing of high caliber, story-driven films with wide appeal. Recently released films include Howl starring James Franco, and the multiple Spirit Award nominated Life During Wartime. Upcoming releases include The Convincer and the new Lawrence Kasdan film Darling Companion. Werc Werk Works is also co-producer of the Béla Tarr film The Turin Horse that was recently awarded the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. Their website is

The Monk Studios
The Monk Studios is a boutique Visual Effects and Animation Studio, located in Thailand. The philosophy of the company is to focus on producing world-class imagery using highly skilled artists and cutting edge technology. The company produces high quality Visual Effects (VFX) and Animation for both feature films and commercials in the Asian and Western markets.

Eric Drooker
Eric Drooker is a painter and graphic novelist, born and raised on Manhattan Island. He's the award-winning author of Flood! A Novel in Pictures, and Blood Song. His paintings appear on covers of The New Yorker, and hang in numerous collections. His website is

John Hays
John Hays is an award-winning animation producer and director, having worked at ILM, Colossal Pictures, Lucasfilm, and co-founded W!LDBRAIN Studios. His projects range from Howl to Yo Gabba Gabba, and a recently completed animated dream sequence in Lawrence Kasdan’s new film Darling Companion.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Logan's BFA show, "Connective Laboratory," was strung along a horizon line - actual and metaphorical. On one wall were three photos - waterscape, desertscape, and architecturescape - the horizon line in each aligned with the others, connecting them on a level across the blankness of the wall. The contrast between upper and lower spaces - water and sky, wood and floor - was sharply defined in the flanking photos, but the middle one (taken, I assume, on the playa at black rock) was smudged and ambiguous, the border erased by a scrim of airborne sand. At the other end of the gallery was another smeary horizon, a square light array with a diffusion material in front of the lights, the bottom and top halves changing color every now and again, in response to data being collected in the gallery.

And the data being collected itself? Noise and temperature levels, both given a spike when people interacted with the two pieces in the center of the room: a pair of miniature tetherball courts, which you could operate sort of like a foosball table or pinball machine, using paddles to whack the ball on its spiral gyre around the pole, clockwise or counterclockwise crossing the horizonline marking the side of Player A and Player B. One tetherball table was completely human-powered, each player given a thin, rotatable slat that could slide closer or further from the pole; the other table's sliding paddles were pneumatically powered, the press of a red joystick button thwacking them forward, both players' paddles drawing from a common tank of air. People were especially eager to try the pneumatic one, probably due to the allure of technology and power, but the other was more fun to play - more easy to manipulate, and not prone to breakdown (Logan has a screwdriver on hand, and had to fiddle with the pneumatic table a few times during the opening).

In two dimensions, a horizon can be cleanly cut - in three, it invites ambiguity - it's not really the point of contact between earth and sky, it's an appearance of contact, a contingent relationship between viewer and vanishing point. In a show called "Connective Laboratory," it begs the point of connection. What is a "genuine" connection? What gets exchanged at a point of contact? In connection, what is merely apparent, and what is actual? And how dependent is that distinction upon the way contact is mediated - through play, through competition, through observation (both spectatorial and scientific), through winding and unwinding spirals, through pneumatics?

If that seems like a long series of question marks, it's because there's a genuine open-endedness in Logan's enterprise- his "Laboratory" was truly (if not rigorously) an experiment, a set of parameters with a non-prescribed outcome. The one thing that was a prescribed outcome, I think, was linked to the obvious desire for people to have a good time - to participate, and not just ruminate.

In the Q&A, there was much discussion about the context and depth of the work, probably best summed up by someone asking Logan if the show would still work if it were installed at Rookie's (a local watering-hole). To which he replied absolutely not - for the work to function, it had to be in an atmosphere that encouraged awareness - perhaps even (I'm extrapolating here) a bit of self-consciousness. Part of the appeal was one of transposition - Logan was asked "Now that you've brought a party to a gallery, would it interest you to bring art to a party?" - but for Logan, the draw of "situational aesthetics" required more than place-swapping. He explained the art-apparatus in the gallery as an assertion of himself, extending his role and personality beyond that of a host. For me, the most fertile part of the work was the fraught and not entirely resolved interface between invitation and experimentation. The notion that the audience becomes the artwork is relatively old hat by now - not passe, but an accepted and respected modality, one that could even be said to have developed its own traditions. Logan invited us to be the work, and to have a good time being it besides - but I most enjoyed the itch of the asterisk he placed there - that being the artwork also entailed being a specimen. The figurative pedestal was also a figurative petri dish.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Just a reminder that Jenna Bache's BFA show has its opening reception tonight at the Tahoe Gallery, from 5-7pm -- I don't think I'm giving anything away with these few snapshots of the work being tweaked through its install process. Instead, I hope you wonder what the heck you're actually looking at in these pics, and it will further entice you to attend, to figure that out.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Some SNC alums are putting together a publication, and they're asking for submissions:

Extra Extra is a curated public collaborative: a creative laboratory for “all the Extra Extra stuff.” Extra Extra is quarterly publication whose core is an interdisciplinary approach to contemporary culture: production, art, music, new medias, science, literature, entrepreneurship and all systems thinking participating in imaginative dreaming.

Spring Issue Submissions Due Sunday April 24th 2011

Step One: Fold a regular 8 1/2” piece of paper in half, creating a tall rectangle. You can use 1 or up to 3 pages. Place the folded papers within themselves to make a mini booklet. Creating up to 12 workable surfaces, total. It is highly suggested to put the author(s) name and the title of the piece on the first page.

More info/ details here:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

French Film Festival starts tonight on campus

Sierra Nevada College is hosting The Tournées Festival, featuring contemporary French cinema April 6th-9th, 2011. The Festival is hosted by SNC's language program and made possible with the support of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and the French Ministry of Culture. Community sponsors have also added to the French theme with wine tastings, receptions, and discounted dinners for the event. French cultural games, door prizes, and lively discussions will accompany each screening. The films will be free to all students and the public is encouraged to attend for a suggested $10 donation, which will support future programming.

Click on the poster above to see a larger version with readable film titles & time. More info here:

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pictures at a Junior Portfolio Review: Spring 2011

Despite the fact that the campus was closed two Fridays ago, Junior Art Portfolio went on. Because the Art Department is tough. And crazy. Here are some pics:

A partial list of topics broached:
Why dancers dance
Surrendering to airplanes
The appeal of Fibonacci numbers
Whether a Rod Stewart album in a thrift store will be missed by anyone
The humor and the horror of uselessness