Archive for July, 2010

Incandescent, In a Sense

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Today marks the release of Dean & Britta’s 13 Most Beautiful… Songs for Andy Warhol Screen Tests.  It’s the fourth LP from Dean & Britta, the longtime collaborators who, now a married union, were once half of Luna.  The deluxe CD follows last year’s multimedia DVD of 13 Most Beautiful, which documents, commemorates, and distributes the international series of live performances at which Dean & Britta – and band – performed thirteen songs under a 20-foot projection of the thirteen screen tests they selected from the hundreds available.

Richard Avedon, "Andy Warhol & Members of The Factory, NYC, October 30, 1969" (1969) truncated w/ Dean & Britta modification

The Andy Warhol Museum commissioned the project with assistance from the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and offered up its archives for research.

After premiering 13 Most Beautiful at the Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts in 2008, Dean & Britta toured prestigious art institutions including the Walker Art Center, the Wexner Center, Mass MoCA, the ICA in Boston, and the MCA in Chicago – and that’s just within the U.S.  “It’s been a fantastic collaboration,” says the enthusiastic curator behind the concept, Ben Harrison, Associate Curator of Performance at The Warhol.

This ongoing project loosely coincides with Dennis Hopper’s posthumous retrospective at Deitch/MoCA and Conrad Ventur’s recent update to the Screen Tests at Momenta Art.  Then again, that’s no big deal, because there is always a new exhibition, film (new Basquiat doc), book (Arthur Danto), album (Lou Reed’s Berlin Live at St. Ann’s), death (Callie Angel), or auction record (AW’s Self-Portrait: Eyes Closed) to add to the expanded world of Warhol.  Warhol is always vital and always in circulation.

Still, the broad institutional support indicates that the project has compelling elements at its conception.  Many of the host institutions booked the performance “sight unseen.”  One compelling element is public demand: all of the shows in the tour have sold out, and the upcoming CMJ show in New York will be the 50th instantiation of 13 Most Beautiful.

The new album breaks with the sequence of the live performance, and also mingles the remixes with the originals.  Purists might frown on this, but then 13 Most Beautiful is a sovereign album, not a score: “The songs/tracks were made for the Screen Tests, so we had to rethink it in terms of a listening experience on its own, whether you’ve seen the show or not,” says Britta Phillips by email.

A bigger problem is that if you haven’t seen the live performance, you might not know which songs correspond to which visuals.  How do we know that Eyes in My Smoke is about Ingrid Superstar?

(UPDATE 8/4/10: “We have included thumbnail photos of all the Screen Test subjects inside the CD along with the title of their track in order to take care of that,” says Britta. I was working with the digital download album, not the hard copy. Thanks, Britta!)

In some cases, we have eponymous or allusive titles, such as International Velvet Theme or Herringbone Tweed, respectively – the latter refers to Dennis Hopper’s jacket.

If only a tailor could fix this RIP...

Or you might also catch clues linking songs to subjects.  Along with the sound of dreary rain, Incandescent Innocent samples Mozart’s Coronation Mass, a riddle requiring Pat Hackett’s POPism for its solution: “After his bath, Freddy put Mozart’s Coronation Mass on the hi-fi… As the record got to the ‘Sanctus,’ he danced out the open window with a leap so huge he was carried halfway down the block onto Cornelia Street five stories below.”

Yves Klein, "Leap Into the Void" (1960)

This revelation is an example of precisely why the aforementioned problem invites a very satisfying solution.  When you do venture to uncover (just do a Google!) which song goes with which superstar, you are rewarded with an abstract and musically erudite interpretation of that person, rather than hairball gossip and amphetamine-eroded hearsay.  (Those formats worked for Warhol, but they don’t work for history.)  “Cue taut, hazy, often narcoleptic Velvetsy strains that Wareham has historically carried into newly expressive spheres, heavy on reverb and echo to mirror the spellbound, chemically imbalanced staes and twitches of the subjects,” writes Martin Aston for MOJO.  “Mirror” is the keyword to describe the relation between song and Screen.  “The songs are meant to evoke some feeling, some kind of aura about the people, not to tell their stories,” according to Harrison.

And these interpretations seem to directly confront the artists.  How do you write a song about Lou Reed?  Even harder: how do you write, record, and perform a song about the image of Lou Reed wrapping his lips around a Coca-Cola bottle?

The daunting challenge to take on a songwriter of Lou Reed’s towering stature, especially when he is your most acknowledged influence, will only invite inevitable comparisons of the author with his subject.  Even though Luna opened for the VU’s reunion tour, and even though Sterling Morrison played on a few of the Luna records, Dean Wareham defers to homage, rather than being dwarfed by the still-living legend Lou, and smartly covers an obscure single that the VU never even recorded in the studio, I’m Not a Young Man Anymore.

 

Warhol, "Green Coca Cola," 1962

Another meaningful cover, accompanying Nico’s screen test, is a cover of Bob Dylan’s I’ll Keep it with Mine, which Dylan wrote for Nico, who performed a version on her Chelsea Girl album.  Here, vocalist Britta insulates herself from Nico’s pros and cons with a layer of auto-tune.

Marisol, "Paris Review" (1967)

Insulation means a lot in the realm of Warhol, someone who wanted to be a machine, wore a silver wig, rarely touched people, didn’t visit his mother in the hospital, and abided by a cosmologically pervasive “surface.”  Insulating him from the outside world, the Factory kept Warhol in a perpetual slumber party with kindred outsiders and freaks.  Hence, Dean & Britta mostly committed to the Factory regulars when selecting the Screen Tests they’d put to music.  Alhough Warhol would choose reels at random when screening for public audiences, Dean & Britta probably realized that they could synthesize a portrait of the Factory itself.  The Factory has been heavily documented, but Dean & Britta capitalize in extraordinary ways on the time-based contingency of the Screen Tests, shining a light and re-animating them in ways unavailable to the latest coffee-table sarcophagus of photos.

“They are so much like portraits to be recorded at regular speed and then projected in slow motion.  You look and think that they are still photos, but then a tear wells up and rolls down a cheek and the image comes to life, in dramatic slow motion,” notes Ben Harrison.  “That is the genius of the Screen Tests.”

Oh, Me So Horn

Friday, July 16th, 2010

The Roni Horn Nebula! Iceland, the crossroads of culture!

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So many connections. Icelandic band Sigur Rós called in old friend (flame?) Ryan McGinley to do their album cover art when other Icelander Olafur Eliasson didn’t come through. Both artists had shows at PS1.

Sigur Rós album cover by Ryan McGinley
Sigur Rós album cover by Ryan McGinley

Ryan had a show at the Whitney, just like the equally handsome Roni Horn, who called her show “aka,” quite close to “Takka Takka,” an older album by the aforementioned band. One H and two O’s in “Roni Horn,” who takes photos of H2O, a material familiar to Eliasson. There’s even room for Björk.

Jet Set, Knows Stars

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

My Two Jeffs
My Two Jeffs

Will Jeffrey Deitch become the new director of L.A. MOCA?  Rumor has it that he is among the finalists for the position.  Lisa Phillips is another.  The official announcement comes Monday.  Who will win?  No one knows!  (Hungry hungry hippos!)

Does that badge say
Does that badge say

Some sources have noted how unusual it is for a museum to hire the director of a commercial art gallery, as museums usually hire academics and curators.  But L.A. is no stranger to this:  the late  Walter Hopps, who co-founded the Ferus Gallery in L.A., later took on museum jobs.

...and when he gets here...
...and when he gets here...

From his Wikipedia page:

“In 1957 he founded the Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles in partnership with Ed Kienholz, leaving in 1962 to become the director of the Pasadena Museum of Art, now Norton Simon Museum, where he mounted the first museum retrospectives of Kurt Schwitters, Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp, as well as the first overview of American Pop Art, New Painting of Common Objects. His unconventional administrative skills led to him being fired in 1967. [2] He then became the director of the Washington Gallery of Modern Art”

...he's gonna be pissed!
...he's gonna be pissed!

P.S. The Ferus comes back for more pretty soon, at least for a short while.

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Urquhart of Stone

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Re: Sean Landers:

Abject diva worship-ism?
Abject diva worship-ism?

How about Donald Urquhart, who had a show at White Columns not so long ago, and who is about the same age as Sean Landers?  Both are subculture spokespeople, which maybe makes them later turn into preservationists; and both get into self-conscious reckoning of their own predicaments; and both demonstrate how a painting, being handcrafted, is inextricably attached to the absurd person making it, and therefore, just as foresaken and thus, doomed to fail (more than likely).

Me Against the World

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Will the Real Sean Landers

Sunday, July 4th, 2010
But is Sean Landers really a slacker?http://www.frieze.com/issue/review/sean_landers1  The daisy chain of slackers in the Richard Linklater film are determined to withdraw, to sit it out, to pass.  They are immobilized by the repetition and interchangeability of themselves and the world around them, where they find only morbid indifference.  Hence, the script swipes Joyce: “If he had smiled why would he have smiled? To reflect that each one who enters imagines himself to be the first to enter whereas he is always the last term of a preceding series even if the first term of a succeeding one, each imagining himself to be first, last, only and alone whereas he is neither first nor last nor only nor alone in a series originating in and repeated to infinity.
And when the world stirs from its frozen disregard, it responds with hostility.  In Slacker, men will traumatize women, women will fuck over men, war is inevitable, travel is dangerous.  Everyone else just trades in his soul for work in one assembly line or another, either for Ford Motors or for Subway sandwiches. “Every single commodity you produce is a piece of your own death.”
Sean Landers, on the other hand, gets in the ring and wants to participate.
“My original idea was to make conceptual art entertaining, sloppy, emotional, human and funny. Over the years I got so far out on this conceptual limb that I went around full circle until I was a traditional artist again. I tried to be ironic about it but eventually became sincere. Now I�m a happy victim of my own charade. I figure that it’s better to be a sucker who makes something than a wise guy who is too cautious to make anything at all.” http://www.absolutearts.com/artsnews/2004/08/30/32319.html
His world still hasn’t acknowledged its greatest living artist, him.  It is the bouncer not letting the rockstar into the hotspot nightclub.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdcsJakmUfY  Through his prolific output of paintings, drawings, writing, sculptures, and videos, his rants, diatribes, and ramblings have  produced a cacophonous echo chamber of fanatic opprobrium.  The razor-edged tool he uses to relay his chronic skepticism works more like a boomerang than a frisbee.  He has devalued the world around him – “us” – for neglecting his genius, but then defames that same genius with the fervor of a chimp grooming Pigpen.
He is both the Garry Kasparov of self-flagellation and the Wile E. Coyote of grandiose delusions.   In either mode, he is not a representative of the shambling black hole of slackerhood, which absorbs and then annihilates everything in its orbit.
He is the hyperactive narcissist who presaged status updates, tweeting about shopping.  This is the chief reason we should get a Sean Landers retrospective.  His text-based work is primary, but we can’t banish the oddball paintings that disappointed many of his fans in 1999, who hoped to see more writing.  Those absurd demi-Disneys are proof of the outlandish extremes required to distract Sean Landers from himself, just the way you can cover your ears and hum to drown out unsavory news from a friend.  The videos recently exhibited at Friedrich Petzel are like the solitary soliloquies we find on youtube, with overopinionated brats pontificating about trivia.
Our celeb-obsessed TV/magazine culture is another reason.  Celebutard heiresses and movie stars are safely nestled within layers of publicists and handlers paid to speak for and protect them.  We don’t get the real person, we just get the branded icon.  Sean Landers, however, takes us into the tumultuous interior of a culturemaker, resulting in TMI-related embarrassment and unease.
His text-based paintings elbow their way in between Mel Bochner, Ed Ruscha, Tracey Emin, and early John Baldessari, helping to escort in Cary Leibowitz and David Shrigley.  Maybe even Josh Smith.  Connect his thought-webs with the maps of Mark Lombardi and Beth Campbell.  His figurative paintings are Currin, Condo, and Weird Al.  A ten-minute jam session will stir up kindred sculptors all over the place.
Which NYC museum could take it?  MoMA might be too square.  And he’s too funny for the Whitney, right?  New Museum seems close, but maybe too close since Sean Landers bought his loft from the estate of Marcia Tucker, the museum’s founder (who once curated a show on Bad Paintinghttp://www.newmuseum.org/exhibitions/26_.  Spiraling toward the heavens, the ramps of the Guggenheim would herald the advent of the self-identified greatest artist of all time, and the sense of infinitude when combing through his endless volumes of legal-pad works –
while mimicking the downward spiral of too much introspection,
P.S. Another quote from Slacker: “Because I mean, like it’s some sort of spiritual hell to parody yourself at the hight of your ridiculousness.  So the guy’s got to get up every day, get as fat as he was, and just make fun of himself all day long.  isn’t that a killer job – don’t you think that’s what all old people do…once they get over twenty-eight?
“To those human beings in whom I have a stake, I wish suffering, being forsaken, sickness, maltreatment, humiliation–I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, and the misery of the vanquished: I have no pity for them because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not–that one endures.”

Is the impresario of Slacker art really a slacker?

Rob Pruitt,
Rob Pruitt,

The daisy chain of slackers in the Richard Linklater film are determined to withdraw, to sit it out, to pass.  “Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy,” they chant.

Sean Landers,
Sean Landers,

The slackers in Slacker are immobilized by the repetition and interchangeability of themselves and the world around them, where they find only morbid indifference.  Hence, the script swipes Joyce: “If he had smiled why would he have smiled? To reflect that each one who enters imagines himself to be the first to enter whereas he is always the last term of a preceding series even if the first term of a succeeding one, each imagining himself to be first, last, only and alone whereas he is neither first nor last nor only nor alone in a series originating in and repeated to infinity.”

And when the world stirs from its icy disregard, it responds with hostility.  In Slacker, society entails that men will traumatize women, women will “fuck you over,” travel is dangerous, and war is so inevitable that activists can’t keep up with their protest graffiti.  Everyone else just trades in his soul for work in one assembly line or another, even just to make Subway sandwiches. “Every single commodity you produce is a piece of your own death,” hisses the creepy chainsmoker straight out of prison.

Alex Barry,
Alex Barry,
Sean Landers, on the other hand, gets in the ring and wants to be heard!

Sean Landers,
Sean Landers,

“My original idea was to make conceptual art entertaining, sloppy, emotional, human and funny. Over the years I got so far out on this conceptual limb that I went around full circle until I was a traditional artist again. I tried to be ironic about it but eventually became sincere. Now I’m a happy victim of my own charade. I figure that it’s better to be a sucker who makes something than a wise guy who is too cautious to make anything at all.”

His world still hasn’t acknowledged its greatest living artist, him.  It is as frustrating as the bouncer not letting the rock star into the hotspot nightclub.   Through his prolific output of paintings, drawings, writing, sculptures, and videos, Sean Landers has vented his rants, diatribes, and ramblings.  The result is a cacophonous echo chamber of fanatic opprobrium.  The razor-edged tool he uses to relay his chronic skepticism works more like a boomerang than a frisbee.  He has devalued the world around him – “us” – for neglecting his genius, but then defames that same genius with the fervor of a chimp grooming Pigpen.

He is both the Garry Kasparov of self-flagellation and the Wile E. Coyote of grandiose delusions.   In either mode, he is not a representative of the shambling black hole of slackerhood, which absorbs and then annihilates everything in its orbit.
For one thing, his early persona is too insane to be a slacker.  Slackers are well-educated suburbanites all too familiar with reality – it bites.  And the later Sean Landers, more neurotic and terrified of what’s at stake, is too career-oriented to be a slacker.

Eponymous
Eponymous
But he IS the hyperactive narcissist who presaged status updates, tweeting about shopping, and editing your profile via iPhone.  This is the chief reason we should get a Sean Landers Museum retrospective.  St. Louis gets one, so why doesn’t New York?  His abundant text-based work is primary, but we can’t banish the oddball paintings that bummed out, man, some of his fans in 1997, who hoped to see more writing.

(l-r) Currin, Landers, Condo
(l-r) Currin, Landers, Condo
Those absurd demi-Disneys are proof of the outlandish extremes required to distract Sean Landers from himself, just the way you can cover your ears and hum to drown out unsavory news from a friend.  The 90s videos at Friedrich Petzel in 2008 are like the solitary soliloquies we find on youtube, where overopinionated emo-geeks pontificate to their webcams all night.

Compare to Josh Smith
Compare to Josh Smith
Second: he invented the text cloud, which topographically arranges the relevances of key words and thoughts.

Landers is
Landers is
Finally, our celeb-obsessed TV/magazine culture is starving for a look inside.  Celebutard heiresses and movie stars are safely nestled within layers of publicists and handlers paid to speak for and protect them.  We don’t get the real person, we just get the branded icon.  And that only happens when the star has a movie or album coming out.  Sean Landers, however, takes us into the tumultuous interior of a culturemaker, resulting in TMI-related embarrassment and uneasy grimaces.  A PR maven would freak out!

Landers tops Bochner
Landers tops Bochner
His text-based paintings elbow their way in between Mel Bochner, Ed Ruscha, Tracey Emin, and early John Baldessari (“I will not make any more boring paintings”), helping to escort in Cary Leibowitz and David Shrigley.  Maybe even Josh Smith.  Connect his thought-webs with the maps of Mark Lombardi and Beth Campbell.  His figurative paintings are Currin, Condo, Saul, and Weird Al.  A ten-minute jam session will stir up kindred sculptors all over the place.

Tim Noble & Sue Webster (l) VS. Sean Landers (r)
Tim Noble & Sue Webster (l) VS. Sean Landers (r)
Which NYC museum could take it?  MoMA might be too square.  And he’s too funny for the Whitney, right?

Candles: Urs Fischer in
Candles: Urs Fischer in

New Museum seems close, but maybe too close since Sean Landers bought his loft from the estate of Marcia Tucker, the museum’s founder (who once curated a show on Bad Painting).  Spiraling toward the heavens, the ramps of the Guggenheim would herald the advent of the self-identified greatest artist of all time, and the sense of infinitude when combing through his endless volumes of legal-pad works – while mimicking the downward spiral of too much introspection.

P.S. Another quote from Slacker: “Because I mean, like it’s some sort of spiritual hell to parody yourself at the hight of your ridiculousness.  So the guy’s got to get up every day, get as fat as he was, and just make fun of himself all day long.  isn’t that a killer job – don’t you think that’s what all old people do…once they get over twenty-eight?”

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