Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Vortex

My parents sent me a Transformers birthday card.  So now you know a little something about me. So I've given the Panter books a look see.  Its good to have touchstones -- art and artists that you know your identifying with, totally consciously.  Nothing is created in a vacuum. Back when I lived in Santa Ana, me and my pal JJ got caught in a Gary Panter / Jonathan Lethem / Philip K. Dick vortex.  Everywhere we went, it seemed everything was pointing towards the work of those three fellows, to the point where we met them (well, Panter and Lethem) during the fabled Masters of American Comics show back in November of '05.  They both are big PKD devotees; Panter interviewed him for Slash magazine back in the day, and Lethem has admitted his influence so much he wrote the introduction to a recent Dick collection.  I was already a Panter and PKD fan, JJ already a Lethem fan -- to find out we were living in the town where Dick lived his last days began to weird us out.  An old Houston artist friend of mine, Mark Flood, told us we were in a vortex, half jokingly, and we knew.  I began to wander about Santa Ana, trying to figure out where Dick used to live.  I tried to make it a point to let everyone in that town know that he lived and died there.  Cal State Fullerton, where I was attending grad school has his original manuscripts archived at their library.  Add to that our friend Bob had a connection to the missing PKD robot head that was making news at the time.  

The new issue of Jonathan Lethem's latest work, the comic book Omega the Unknown, sports a Gary Panter drawn cover.  Now I am in LA, where down by the Nokia Theatre, video billboards begin the visual future for the town envisioned in the Dick-adapted Blade Runner.  It goes on and on.

I seem to be in some Euro-art-comics vortex now.  But that's a whole other post. But it's not hard to see the connections............

Friday, April 25, 2008

Save the Taco Truck

So the man is trying to shut down the taco trucks in LA.  The one behind my building makes the deadliest breakfast burrito in the galaxy.  There ain't a thing about it that's Mexican except the tortilla.  I have seen the dude unwrap a Kraft American single and put it in the thing.  It's delicious.  But more than one a week is a death wish.  But what a way to go.  But this post is only partially about the Great Taco Truck Skirmish of '08.  Its about Gary Panter.  I just got his new two-volume slipcased monograph (published by the fantastic Picturebox, Inc) in the mail today.  I had to go to teach soon afterwards so I only got to glimpse it.  Much like taco trucks, I identify Panter's work with Los Angeles, him being part of Slash magazine and knowing PKD, his Paul Rubens connection, and try not to look at Jimbo: Adventures Paradise and tell me that's not LA.  I have a particular affinity with him being from Texas, like me.  I've met the man a few times, and can do a decent impression of him.  He sounds Californian.  He lives and works in Brooklyn, now.  I'm sure I'll have more to gush about him once I have some Glenlivet and give the new monograph a once over, but for now, I just wanted to give a 'fuckin' a' to taco trucks and Panter.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Time-Life Greatest Hits of Contemporary Art

So I walk to MOCA, here in LA, almost every weekend.  Right up that bitchin' hill on Grand Ave.  I'm a member, and I loves to walk around the City of Angels (d√©rive as a clever Frenchman once called it), despite what Dale Bozzio sings about the city. The current show, "Collecting Collections" , has drawn comparisons to the current current artstravaganza at LACMA, the new Broad Contemporary Art Museum, or the "Bee-kam" as the kids are calling it. The Broad has a broad survey of what I have been describing as the Time-Life Greatest Hits of Contemporary Art.  Big, brand name stuff, inside and out (though some of it is already on its way out), it has school field trip written all over it.  In comparison, the MOCA show is like a really great, long, mix CD by your friend who's a little more into the music scene, but isn't trying to show you how hip he or she is by including anything too obscure or weird or current. BCAM has the chart toppers; MOCA the great album tracks. BCAM has the Beatles and the Sex Pistols; MOCA has the Zombies and the Buzzcocks.  Two different kinds of awesome.

 A clunky metaphor at best, but as an art fan it bears thinking about, the hierarchy of art and its relative greatness and influence.  It’s hits, its pioneers, and how it all fits together.  I write this as a call to artists and art fans, to those who talk and discuss art the way music fans talk about music and the way film people talk about film.  I’m such a sucker for the presence of artworks, its difficult for me to find serious fault in either show.  The Guerilla Girls have a legitimate gripe about the BCAM, though Cindy Sherman’s single giant room presence is a highlight among highlights.  The MOCA show is more ‘with-it’ by comparison, and ideally younger artists should probably find more fault with the BCAM’s established pantheon.  It is their piss and vinegar that hydrates the fertile soil of the art to come.



Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Commit to Making a Masterpiece Every Time

Nobody cares.  Paint on anything.  Turn anything into sculpture.  Record everything.  Do anything.  Mix oil and acrylic.  Mix acrylic and poop.  All art has one of two destinies -- the museum or the dumpster.  You can imagine the pie chart for that stat; its something like Pac-Man with his lips only slightly and seductively parted, on what would be his back, the yellow part representing the percentage of art that is dumpster bound.  Paint over the old shit, cannibalize the materials.  There is not much more liberatingly sobering than to look at was once hot with the aura of art and realize it has been reverted back to virgin potentiality again -- wood, canvas, what have you -- MATERIALS -- materials you don't have to buy. Know this.  Let the cancer of practicality grow in your brain.  You have nothing to lose.  You are an artist. 

But there is more.  Since you have nothing to lose you should maximize your gains and with each dumpster-destined piece EMBRACE THE DELUSION of your greatness as a mediator of culture and COMMIT TO MAKING A MASTERPIECE EVERY TIME.  Absurd?  Yes.  As is the entire endeavor of art making (and life itself, according to the existentialists).  Yes it's all experimentation, its all a process, one's greatest work is always ahead of them -- these practical, logical metaphors will never leave the reptilian part of your brain where all those practical things live.  But why apply a practical method to an absurd endeavor? Lead with the front of your brain and COMMIT TO MAKING A MASTERPIECE EVERY TIME.  

It's crazy, I know.  I tell my students its better to go too far than not go far enough; isn't it an indicator of intelligence to be able to hold and understand two contradictory thoughts in one's head at a time?  It is an impossible goal, an ideal, neo-platonic nonsense.  But like world peace, true originality or communism, it is a Sisyphusean task worth pointing towards, maximized only by the absurd delusion of it accomplishment.  Are not all works of art FAILED ATTEMPTS AT THE IMPOSSIBLE?  We are charged with the task of making poetry manifest -- of trying to hold the light of the moon between our fingers -- an impossible task whose attempts are left behind as telling documents of creation, frustration, exhaustion, contemplation and action.  

So that's what I think.  Right now, anyways.  First blog post ever.  There's no way I can be right about all of that.  What do you think?