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July 27, 2005

Burn Baby Burn

Leave it to the Brits to turn a dull aesthetic parlo(u)r game into an exercise in fantasy iconoclasm [via MAN]:

Frankly, we're not convinced that asking for a list of favourite paintings is really that much fun. Niceness is boring, we reckon. So we want to know which paintings you hate. Really, really loathe. Can't stand. Want to maim. Burn. Yes, that's right.

Down in the comments, though, a submission from one 'Malcolm' is what caught my eye:

I quite want to burn a lot of the things that Saatchi collects. Does anyone know where he keeps them?

Oh, the understated charm of that dry British wit.

(And, for what it's worth, Constable kinda rocks, though I'm not going to push it.)

"Burn Baby Burn"
Posted by Dan at 02:48 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (6)

July 23, 2005

'Now, I'm going to haul ass to Lollapalooza...'

...where it'll be hot, hot, hot.

Maybe, unlike last weekend, the hipsters will opt to leave the denim at home.

(Posting will remain light.)

"'Now, I'm going to haul ass to Lollapalooza...'"
Posted by Dan at 11:55 AM | Referenced URL's | Comments (4)

July 18, 2005

Art Fair Fallout

I stopped looking out for news on the art fair front after the big weekend hit back in May (though somewhere I still have a half-written post on NOVA I ought to spew out one of these days...). So I can't say how long this has been out there but, via a post to the Other Group, I see that—their seven-year contract at Navy Pier and "participants' enthusiasm" notwithstanding—Chicago Contemporary & Classic looks to be officially throwing in the towel.

Given barely even tepid support from local galleries, totally anemic attendence (by all accounts) and generally dismal reviews all around, this is entirely unsurprising. And, really, it just wasn't a great show.

They do leave the door open for a return in the event of finding new dates at a new location, but it doesn't appear that they expect any such news to be terribly imminent:

The directors wish to thank everyone who supported Chicago Contemporary & Classic from April 29–May 2, 2005. In spite of the show's success and the participants' enthusiasm, our supporters have advised us to suspend production of the second edition of CC&C. We had hoped to find ourselves in a scenario where two shows could co-exist and collaborate where necessary, but the galleries have made it clear that only one show should take place at a time. We sought a different time of year that would work for everyone involved, but, unfortunately, no other dates are currently available.
We are researching other venues in other locations, so please contact us if you wish to be apprised of any new developments.

To be fair to CC&C, this spring didn't exactly present ideal conditions for launching a new fair in Chicago. Though treading water themselves (Thomas Blackman has called this year's fair a mere "prototype" for its future), Art Chicago still had the clear leg up in terms of location and track record (such that it is).

And you may recall that late April/early May wasn't really Thomas Blackman Associates' top choice in dates either. They had originally hoped to hold their revamped fair mid-summer, but had to settle for the icy side of spring for lack of available dates. (Staging it in Grant Park at the height of festival season is bound to be the sort of thing that requires the 'support' of some civic sponsor, not to mention a bit of lead time.)

Both fairs, then, were held as the spring auction season was getting ready to launch out east and, although some expected the prospect of all-out war to garner Chicago a surfeit of art world attention, it looked to me like the weekend passed almost without notice.

CC&C also felt the squeeze on the antiques side of things (and their promised antiques component barely materialized in the end), facing competition from the Chicago Antiques Fair down the road at the Merchandise Mart, while a major concurrent antiques fair on the west coast was the stated reason for Leslie Hindman's parting ways with the production.

Ultimately, should Pfingsten Publishing try to mount a revival of CC&C at a new location, in 2007 or whenever, more power to them. But here's hoping that 2005 will at least prove to have been the final nail in the coffin of McPier's plans for an art fair in the tourist circus that Navy Pier has become.

"Art Fair Fallout"
Posted by Dan at 07:30 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (4)

July 17, 2005

Meet Me Where the Sweat Descends

Had I known weeks ago that I'd have the day off yesterday, I might've spent the afternoon in the sweet shade of Union Park at day one of Pitchfork's Intonation Festival instead of sweating myself into a torpor in my steel oven on wheels, driving around to a handful of Saturday galleries.

Festival highlight Les Savy Fav plays tonight, however, and I've got my Sunday pass in hand, so all should be fabulous.

Until later, friends...

Update, 10:58pm: Such sticky fun, I had to take a cold shower.

Update, 12:00pm: Tom Skilling says, hottest day since '99.

Update 8/9: All you Googlers, check this post...

"Meet Me Where the Sweat Descends"
Posted by Dan at 03:56 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (0)

July 15, 2005

Borf is Dead, Man, Miss Him Miss Him: or A city under siege

And, lo, a mighty cheer went up from the citizenry of the District...

Dennis Butler of the D.C. Department of Public Works said the Borf tag prompted almost daily phone calls to the city call center. "He's just all over the inner city," Butler said.
"Citizens are ecstatic about him being caught," Groomes said.

* * *

Chief Clancy Wiggum: Well it's no secret. Our city is under siege by a graffiti vandal known as El Barto. Police artists have a composite sketch of the culprit. If anyone has any information, please contact us immediately.
Bart: [seeing the grizzled police sketch on TV] Cool man!

* * *

Peepers on the Roosevelt Bridge
He said he liked listening to people talk about the Borf phenomenon. One time, he was in a computer lab when the women behind him started Googling "Borf." It made him feel quite powerful.
"I feel like Batman or something," he said.
If you've seen Borf's graffiti—the stencil of the little girl who holds a sign saying "Grownups are Obsolete" or the impish face that appears throughout the city—you, too, might be wondering what Borf's message is. Once upon a time, Borf said, he was "just, like, some liberal, like anybody," but then he started reading, and found out he really wanted to be an anarchist. He decided he doesn't believe in the state, capitalism, private property, globalization. Most of all, he doesn't believe in adulthood, which he considers "boring" and "selling out."
"Growing up is giving up," he said. "I think some band said it."
Borf recently turned 18, a fact he revealed with hesitation because "I'm against age. It's just another way of dividing people."
Borf considers himself a crusader for youth; he drew inspiration from the children's author Shel Silverstein and from something called situationism, an obscure avant-garde movement popularized in 1960s France.
Over time, there was so much of his graffiti, a Borf backlash emerged. Borf said he's not responsible for graffiti saying "Borf is gay," and he certainly didn't write "Borf hates God" on a church. In February, a 27-year-old man was arrested for writing anti-Borf graffiti on the back of a sign in Logan Circle. He got as far as "Borf is a do-" before the police caught up with him.

Oh, but they'll be sleeping well on the banks of the Potomac tonight, haunted no longer by the dastard's horrible, grinning visage.

'I lift my lamp beside the golden door!'

[via DC Art News]

Update... It had to happen: 'Free Borf' at CafePress [via DCist, with the early scoop]

More: Visual Resistance (on the spot), Visual Resistance (in the archives), Kriston Capps, J.T. Kirkland, MetaFilter, "Attn: leftist artfags"... plus, an early 'Free Borf' sighting

"Borf is Dead, Man, Miss Him Miss Him: or A city under siege"
Posted by Dan at 11:10 AM | Referenced URL's | Comments (1)

July 13, 2005

Such Bloggy Hotness

Over at Anna Conti's place: all but guaranteed to trigger a vanity art blog link-around (indeed it's already begun).

"Such Bloggy Hotness"
Posted by Dan at 03:33 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (0)

July 12, 2005

While I Was Out, Fall Guy Edition

While I was out, former Chicagoan and current Brooklynite Kerry Skarbakka raised an inadvertent ruckus with a public performance and photo shoot that involved him jumping repeatedly from the roof of the MCA.

Cynthia made mention of the event in advance, and I might've made a trek down to witness the doings myself if it weren't for a damned job that keeps me far from the Mag Mile during regular working hours.

Even without me, though, it seems Skarbakka and friends went ahead with their plans. A harness was rigged; photos were shot; a public spectacle was deployed. Then the New York Daily News vultures descended with a fistful of concocted outrage, capitalizing on 9/11 grief for the sake of some impact headlines.

Here's a dose of Chicago's own Neil Steinberg, wanking his ernest schtick all over the pages of that paragon of integrity:

To be frank, that people will naturally be aghast at his artwork isn't what I find really gross about Skarbakka. I can't do what I do and condemn a guy for offending the public, no matter how cavalierly. What really astounds me is the falseness of what he claims to be doing.
"The work is about control and lack of control," he said. Which is where we find the sickening lie. Because Skarbakka never loses control of the situation the way the 9/11 victims did. Just the opposite, he is creating a charade and passing it off as something genuine.
It is like putting on pale makeup and a hospital gown and pretending that you've touched upon the essence of being gravely ill. Not only does it not approach the reality of being sick, it misses by so much it ends up mocking those who are. Skarbakka aping something that is all too real for too many would be bad if he did it without any artistic pretense. But by pretending he is capturing a higher truth, he ridicules the fallen. Were he sincere, he'd go off the roof without a harness. But he isn't. Which also adds to the offense to those who think and feel for others.
That's why performance art is invariably so lousy—it spits in the face of honest human reaction, all those trust fund frauds locking themselves in a bathroom and claiming it is in solidarity with actual prisoners who don't have Guggenheim fellowships.

(I'll try to ignore for the moment, though it's a minor obsession of mine, the familiar iconoclastic tone in the suggestion of art's inadequacy in the face of life, so that I can suggest that you probably don't want to get Neil started on Marlon Brando. After all, that phony wasn't even a real longshoreman, let alone the aging patriarch of a Sicilian crime syndicate. And Olivier? I hear that fucker had never even been to Denmark. Color me impressed, though, that Steinberg has clearly witnessed enough performance art in his time to offer an honest assessment of its invariable lousiness. Would that we were all so cultured.)

The heart of the News' coverage, though, is to be found here, sensitive title, scare quotes and all:

But some people who lost loved ones in the terror attacks told The News they were disgusted by the very idea of Skarbakka's "art" project.
"What kind of sick individual is he?" asked Rosemarie Giallombardo of Midwood, Brooklyn, who lost her son, Paul Salvio, on 9/11. "Tell him to go jump off the Empire State Building and see how it feels. He's an artist? Go paint a bowl of fruit or something."

Does Adam Lisberg have these folks on speed dial, or did he have to consult the Rolodex? Here he offers yet more balanced reporting, including even more scare quotes, not to mention this outright misrepresentation:

The horrible sight of people leaping to their deaths from the burning World Trade Centers was the catalyst for his art project, he said...

Skarbakka's personal statement on the matter attempts to set the record straight:

I began working with issues of mortality and demise well before September 11, 2001 documenting my mother’s death from cancer—as well as mountain climbing, martial arts, landscape photography, and film stunts, all of which have influenced my images.
In the past few years I have fallen from trees, porches, bridges, train trestles, stairways, ladders, roofs, mountains, volcanoes, water towers, fences, and billboards—without anyone ever mistaking my work for a representation of our national tragedy.
Like my other works, my most recent photo shoot was never intended to mimic the tragic events of September 11th. The images shown in the news coverage are not my images and the quotes attributed to me are not my words. I feel terrible that these misrepresentations have upset so many and I believe my work can speak honestly for itself.

[Update: Kerry offers some stronger words in response to some comments in this Gothamist thread: "... It was a response to the our world that had changed so dramatically that day and many days later. It is about the futility of war and our inablility to do much about it. It is about being late on your bills and feeling so frusturated at the all the other things that are out of control. Let that be your guide to what I was trying to say. I never once said the work was to represent or imitate 9-11, not once and will never. The newspapers made that up..."]

Really, amidst the immediate fallout of this cooked-up scandal, photographer Brian Ulrich had already said pretty much all that needs saying about the Daily News' conduct:

As always the thing people miss here is the irresponsible way the media, specifically the NY Daily News, went to lengths to exploit the grief of a national tragedy. Sensatonal headlines sell, and slamming a performance and work by an artist which few actually witnessed or have seen the work, i'm sure gave a nice boost to the GDP. In addition the political careers of a few. I can see it now:
'Mr. Bloomberg, an artist made a performance mocking the events of 9-11, care to comment?'
and later 'Governor Patacki, Mr. Bloomberg says this guys a chump, care to weigh in?'
Makes me think how defenseless anyone is from a becoming tomorrows headline. Whether an artist or the Runaway Bride, how can one deal with the weight and barrage of phone calls, not to mention the long line of insults and threats? Several of which showed up here on a previous post on Kerry. Not one intelligent response or criticism, just the usual 4th-grade line of name calling.

(By the way... everyone is aware of Brian's blog aren't they? I know it's been mentioned over here, all around here and now, of course, right here... so, no excuses, folks.)

Well, today Brian points to an op-ed on the subject by Chicago Reader art critic Fred Camper in New York Newsday. Fred takes the fight to the politicians, drawing out some comparisons and implications along the way:

While Skarbakka's photo shoot in Chicago was a public performance, its purpose was to produce more photographs in his series, this time framed to include spectators as well. The documentary pictures and videos that appeared in the media were the work of reporters, not Skarbakka, whose own artworks from the Chicago event are not yet finished.
None of the critics who excoriated him could have seen the art they condemned, and it seems likely that some have never seen any of his photos.
So the question might be asked of the politicians: Are you not trying to win cheap points by mischaracterizing work you haven't seen?
The whole sad affair recalls Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's admission that he had never seen a Chris Ofili painting, showing the Virgin Mary but including elephant dung, that he attacked. In the traveling exhibition that included it at the Brooklyn Museum, one could see dung being used as decorative adornments in many Ofili works, establishing that in his art dung had no implications of defilement. But "dung" together with "Virgin Mary" makes for outrage-generating sound bites—not unlike the statements this time of Bloomberg and Pataki.
On June 24 the Daily News gave the politicians another shot in the art war, going after The Drawing Center, an excellent SoHo exhibition space not especially known for political art, by describing some extreme-sounding pieces shown there and quoting 9/11 survivors referring to them as "offensive," "America-bashing" and "truly the most vulgar thing I have ever seen in my entire life." The point was that such works don't belong being displayed at Ground Zero, where The Drawing Center is scheduled to move.
Pataki responded, "We will not tolerate anything on that site that denigrates America." To some self-described patriots, any criticism of America amounts to denigration. But no contemporary art space could ban all political criticism and retain credibility. Raising questions about the status quo has been one of the great missions of all forms of art for centuries.

* * *

I think I ought to be upfront about something: I first read about this brouhaha in the Sun-Times, Neil Steinberg's home paper. (I believe the article I read was a localized version of the Daily News' take, pulled off the wire, or however they work it.)

I assure you, this is not something I make a habit of. Really, the only time I ever find myself with a copy of "the bright one" in my hands is when I go in for my quarterly haircut (hence my perusal of it back in June) or when I find an abandoned copy on the Red Line and feel like checking some sports scores.

Why the harsh words for the paper? Perhaps it's just a disdain for the tabloid format or a complementary bit of broadsheet fetishism that keeps me loyal to the Republican paper in town (a ridiculously strained endorsement of Bush this past fall notwithstanding).

But I suppose it could be something else...

Quite frankly, I only prattle on like this because I simply can't resist sharing the following delightful comparison of the two papers' takes on the arts courtesy of the Reader's Michael Miner. From early 2004:

Give 'Em What They Want
When James Cuno accepted his new position in Chicago, the Tribune ran its story on page one January 22 and headlined it "Rising star chosen to lead Art Institute." The Sun-Times ran its story on page four the same day and headlined it "Art Institute's new leader says he's no stuffy snob." Presumably both papers know their readers.
The second paragraph of the Tribune story told us that Cuno was getting "a second chance at realizing a long-held vision." The second paragraph of the Sun-Times story told us that Cuno is a "baseball nut."
The Tribune story then explained that two years ago, when Cuno was director of Harvard's art museums, plans to add a new building designed by Renzo Piano fell through. The Sun-Times story then explained that when Cuno left Harvard two years ago staffers printed up Jim "Bash" Cuno baseball cards that showed him wearing a Boston Red Sox uniform. "He ate it up," said a colleague.
The Tribune story had more to say about the Piano building Cuno had been unable to put up along the Charles River and the Piano wing the Art Institute plans to begin building this fall. The Tribune story didn't mention baseball. The Sun-Times story had more to say about the Red Sox and Cubs baseball games that Cuno plans to watch this summer. The Sun-Times story didn't mention Renzo Piano.
The Tribune reported that Cuno has called the Art Institute "the greatest municipal art museum in America." The Sun-Times reported that Cuno "has certainly hit the big leagues."

"While I Was Out, Fall Guy Edition"
Posted by Dan at 09:21 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (0)

July 11, 2005

Giving You the Business

From the Tribune business desk...

Lincolnshire art festival producers Amdur Productions get some ink in this "Trends" article on artists who ride the circuit. I'm thinking we might have different ideas of "high-end":

"They treat it as their own private art gallery," Amdur said, with semipermanent walls and flooring. They furnish it with tables and chairs and floral arrangements," she said.
Many have portable booths professionally designed with special lighting, shelving and angled walls.
It can be a good investment, Amdur said, because unlike galleries that take a cut of the action, art festivals provide a 100 percent return on sales, minus the booth fee.
Amdur, who also runs a festival boot camp to help new artists market their art effectively, encourages artists to dress well and approach customers.
"When you go to a high-end gallery, someone's going to approach you. Successful artists take an active role in selling their work," she said.

Oh, the crazy fantasies they cook up in those northwest suburbs!

Plus... It seems Illinois is drafting up even more hot tax deals for Hollywood. How about getting the visual arts a seat on that sweet state scrilla wagon? What do we need to do to convince Rod the Bod and Dick the Lesser that video installations are the new engine of the millennium economy, and institutional critique the revenue cash cow they've been searching for? (Or maybe Emil's our man.)

Finally, from the business technology page at the Sun-Times...

Smart advice for idiots and teenagers:

Some also speculate that more scandalous blog entries—especially those about partying and dating exploits—will have ramifications down the road.

Yeah, sexy ramifications.

"Giving You the Business"
Posted by Dan at 08:54 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (1)

July 8, 2005

Live, Late

No, this isn't particularly art-related; consider it sort of a "since I've been gone" post.

Two weekends ago I jetted off to Denver for my older brother's bachelor party weekend. It was built around a pair of Widespread Panic shows up at Red Rocks (certainly not my scene, but they did rock, especially night two—and there's really no denying the virtues of good Southern rock). We rented a bus for transport to and from the shows and camped it out in a hotel downtown (the same hotel, as it turned out, as the band itself). That hotel, in the wake of Saturday's show, is the setting for today's riveting tale. And don't worry: though the evening's libations were most decidedly adult, aside from a smattering of gratuitous expletives, this shit's pretty much G-rated...

Around 3 am on Sunday morning, we're going strong in someone's hotel room, and there's a knock at the door.

"I'm a musician. Someone asked me to play a private show."

The guy sported a shaved head and stylish cargo vest, showing off his guns as it were. It seemed like it could've been a cheesy set-up to some fine bachelorette party fun, but what business this gentleman had at our doorstep, I couldn't fathom.

So, who the hell hired a musician?

Well, as it should happen, nobody. Someone from our cheerful retinue, however, (whose sobriety I wouldn't vouch for)—we'll call him "Brett"—had taken it upon himself to heckle a guitar-toting stranger in the hallway. And said stranger either took Brett's apparent requests for "a private show" far too seriously or just figured he had the perfect way to shut us the hell up.

"Whenever someone asks me to play, I always like to play them a song or two. Can I come in?" (Or something to that effect.)

The confusion must've registered on my face, but his next words kind of cleared the air: "You know the band Live?"

And it hit me: the bald head, the raging unibrow... This mysterious stranger, prowling the halls of Hotel Monaco, guitar in tow, so late on a Saturday night/Sunday morning, was none other than Ed Kowalczyk (honestly, we had to ask him his name). I suppose I didn't recognize him sans the bare chest and weird braid.

He came in and, pulling his top shelf acoustic out of its case, played us a quick unplugged set of "Lightning Crashes" and "Shit Towne." All through his first tune he had to endure sporadic, drunken cries of "Holy shit... this is the real guy!" (Not to mention a few heckles throughout from a fellow who didn't care much for his vest, and who'd have probably rather heard "some Stones, man"). And then he was off (though not before offering my brother his congratulations).

A postscript: as if just to finish off our rock star night (Live is apparently huge in Holland, by the way), an hour or so later found us partying with one of the guys from Panic (John "JoJo" Hermann, their keyboardist).

Now I'm thinking about looking into Ted Nugent for the rehearsal dinner. For what it's worth, it looks like Colorado's bow-hunting season will be under way by August, so if you're going to be in the vicinity of the Vail Valley, Ted...

(Lord knows, we really don't want to have to settle for Frampton or Kenny Loggins.)

"Live, Late"
Posted by Dan at 07:16 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (3)

July 5, 2005

Memo to Britart

'British Painting Still Rocks'

If you have to tell the world that you "still rock," as a rule, you very likely don't.

Related: Brent still rocks

"Memo to Britart"
Posted by Dan at 04:55 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (2)