Friday, January 30, 2009

Garry Nicholls and Sharon Horvath

These are three paintings by Sharon Horvath, who is one of the first painters I met in New York through Leslie Roberts and Robert Guillot, and may have been my first studio visit as well. I had met Garry after seeking him out as an interesting artist in the group show mentioned below and said he might like Sharon's work - one would have to be more familiar with both artists' oeuvre and works on paper and paintings from that time, but there is a symbolizing abstraction and animism both have in common and both are currently at Sideshow, and they have indeed met through the expanded art world circles.  (Perhaps I like being a bit of a yenta for artists despite having only been here twelve years.  Certainly part of the motivation for curating shows.)

Titles are:  Peaceable Kingdom 
                    (for Edward Hicks)

                     A Summer

                     Red Planet Copy

Tasmania, Garry Nichols and Sideshow

Just a very simple voyage from Hawaii down to Tasmania, the Australian artist Garry Nichols' main source of inspiration, and a reproduction of his piece from 2007 currently hanging in Sideshow, so that tomorrow I can start a small guided tour of the holiday show which is still up. This work follows very well from Ray Yoshida's to Joseph Yoakum's to my nearly forgotten tapa cloth drawing (until writing all this) and probably is a very good explanation why Garry's piece in the first holiday show at Sideshow I worked for in either 2001 or 2002 was one of the ones I kept revisiting while gallery sitting for hours wandering around the work on the walls.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

This is a drawing I did in 1981 on a napkin, on the counter, while sitting at the Tahiti Bar in the red light district in Honolulu, chatting with the owners Coby and Maureen, a dyke couple who met in Hawaii. Coby was a former stewardess on KLM - Royal Dutch Airlines and Maureen from North Carolina farming folk - she showed me around their farm on the dry and rural side of Oahu and I photographed all the goats and her milking them and the huge wooden press for making goat cheese. Sitting next to me, I was really digging the enormous bride of sumo wrestler sized drag queen in a mumu with a black beehive tall enough to match her Hawaiian queenliness (an actual Trivial Pursuit card - what state in the US had a King and Queen?), but as I had real difficulty understanding her dialect and had to get down this tapa cloth motif hanging behind the bar we didn't get much chance at a real conversation. I think she understood the intensity of my trying to draw with ballpoint on napkin in low lighting and it was all wonderful and marvellous, all of it.

I wish I could post some Ray Yoshida work so the tapa cloth, Joseph Yoakum and Ray Yoshida's oeuvre would all come together for anyone who is out there reading, but the internet is good for this for anyone interested in seeking out Yoshida. Just think, he came from Hawaii and had his formation in Chicago to work to bring his good news to the world - who does that remind you of currently?

Hawaii, Mountains and Yodelling

The past few days of this new forum have been a segue of thoughts and topics that remind me of my early formation in journalism combined interestingly with my stint as a disc jockey in the same period, and so I present the Yodelling compilation by the most excellent Bart Plantenga, who I learned and observed so much from in the days of Radio Libertaire in Montmartre in Paris - as only a several yearling DJ already a few years ago by the time I met him, I was a fascinated observer to the ways of his booth there, and a most grateful recipient of his ways of moving a dance floor by bringing in an entire sound system and critical massof vinyl to an enormous party I threw when I had the good fortune to sublet the architect Gaetano Pesce's spectacular Paris studio with two story windows and an apartment mezzanine. So in the spirit of Ray Yoshida and friends' "trash treasures" and by way of Joseph Yoakum and Hawaiian mountains, we will now segue into the Yodelling compilation by way of the cut "Hawaiian Cowboy" by the Ho'opi'i Brothers, who grew up on Maui, where the valley gave a natural echo, where the brothers went to sing as little boys. They combined traditional island chants, Christian hymns and paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) songs and perfected their unique leo ke'eki'e falsetto style.

Bart's introduction to the Rough Guide following the paragraph where he states "everything you have heard about yodelling is wrong" is worth citing here:

After twenty years as a free form radio DJ, I realize DJs have few kicks: first the segue, that magical convergence ogf strange musics at first intercourse; and second, obscurity which involves discarded gems, neglected musicians or disparaged musics. Yodelling supplies the above in abundance. The segue occurs when yodels are discovered in genres not commonly associated with the style [i.e. jazz, rap, techno], producing instants of delirious anomaly. Obscurity is inherent to yodelling, having been systematically trivialized for centuries by the bourgeois guardians of good taste.
[...]Yodelling is textless vocalizing and is most distinguishable from other vocalizations by its emphasis on the noise or break that occurs as the voice passes from bass or chest voice to head voice or falsetto - or vice versa. This gives it a unique voiceprint, which coincidentally (and perhaps mystically) mirrors mountainous topography.

Since this compilation also includes Ed Sanders of the Fugs and Shelley Hirsch, I have to recommend it, as a former music writer who knows both these New York scenes, acid folk and downtown music through friends and recordings and audience participation since my early twenties, and this is the perfect time to defend Gillian Welch who is also included. She was attacked by Robert Christgau for coming from LA and thereby being fake - guess he doesn't know anything about how things migrate,- like Jimmie Dale Gilmore auditioning dozens of pedal steel guitarists for his first tour following the release of Spinning Around the Sun, and proudly introducing a very young man from Sweden, who got the sound he was looking for just right, every night he performed. My mother and her first cousin Alberta sang Appalachian songs from where the family was from in Beech Fork and thus to my well trained ears Gillian is bringing it through pure and fine. Bart has also written a book entitled Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo: The Secret History of Yodelling Around the World (Routledge 2004) and is working on a second volume and a documentary, and still jockeying the discs at Wreck This Mess in Amsterdam at radio Patapoe. Le college de pataphysique and Oulipo will be on the shelf as cabarets in this cabinet of my curiosities so any rhyme with patapoe in this forum will be intentional.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ray Yoshida, Joseph Yoakum and Hawaii

The Joseph Yoakum painting posted here is from a small book devoted to his work published by Janet Fleisher Gallery in 1989 entitled Animistic Landscapes.

Following the section on Ray Yoshida in Russell Bowman's essay on Chicago from 
1945 - 1975 is the section I will cite below:

                                 The Discovery of Joseph Yoakum:

   Although Joseph Yoakum (1886 - 1972) seems first to have been noticed by Karl Wirsum, Jim Nutt, and Gladys Nilsson, Yoshida visited the Sherbyn Gallery in 1968 and was, like them, immediately taken with Yoakum's work. In turn Yoshida brought his younger friends Brown, Ramberg and Hanson, and thus began the Chicago Imagists' deep involvement with the art of Yoakum.
An untrained artist living on Chicago's South Side, Yoakum claimed to have been born on a Navaho reservation, to have traveled with the Ringling Brothers Circus, and to have taken up drawing late in life after having a dream he called a "spiritual unfoldment."
[...]When asked if the faces and profiles that often occur in Yoakum's geological forms were correlatives of the faces and profiles that appear in his own work, Yoshida replied, "yes there must be a connection."
[...]Above all it is the sense of animism pervading Yoakum's work that Yoshida seeks to achieve in his own. His interest in animism arose from stories he heard as a child in his native Hawaii, that frequently included spirits of places, particularly of mountains. interestingly Yoshida's first purchase of Yoakum's work, from the Sherbyn Gallery, was Mt. Mauna Kea in Volcanic Range in Central Hawaii County of Hawaii Islands.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ray Yoshida

On Wednesday, January 21, last week, the new York Times published Ken Johnson's obituary for the Chicago artist and art teacher from 1959 - 2000 at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago:

For further illumination, here is Russell Bowman's discussion of Ray Yoshida from "Looking to the Outside: Art in Chicago, 1945 through 1975" from the Parallel Visions catalogue (LACMA and Princeton University Press, 1992):

Although he has frequently been associated with the generation of artists that matured in the late 1960s - that is, the imagist generation - Ray Yoshida is actually closer to Westermann's generation and was, in fact, a teacher to many of the later imagists. Born in Hawaii in 1930, he began attending the Art Institute of Chicago in 1950 with such classmates as John Chamberlain, Robert Barnes, Jack Beal and Richard Estes. Although Yoshida saw Golub's work at a gallery exhibition during that period, most important for his appreciation of tribal, folk, and outsider art was the teaching of Katherine Blackshear. A number of artists have acknowledged that Blackshear's practice of taking drawing classes to the Field Museum of Natural History was important for them. Blackshear, who was a disciple of Helen Gardner and assisted her in an edition of the text for Art Through the Ages (which integrated Western and non-Western art in its broad historical scope), brought examples of African, Native American, Oriental, as well as folk and naive artists into her slide lectures. Yoshida particularly remembers seeing work by New York untrained painter Morris Hirshfield and Wisconsin carver Albert Zahn. Yoshida did not go to, nor did he know of, Dubuffet's lecture in 1951. By the time he began teaching painting at the School of the Art Institute in the late 1960s and had artists of the Imagist generation such as Roger Brown, Christina Ramberg, and Phil Hanson in his classes, he not only knew of Dubuffet's interest in untrained artists but also was following in Blackshear's footsteps by bringing outsider and art brut materials and publications to share with his students.

Interestingly both Yoshida's art and his appreciation of the work of outsiders were fueled by his friendship and frequent contact with students whom he had first inspired - Brown, Hamson, Ramberg, and others. It was with these friends that Yoshida would search Chicago's Maxwell Street flea markets, looking for what they called "trash treasures," that is, commercial catalogues, advertisements, toys, packaging, and anonymous handmade objects of all kinds (shell baskets, cigarette packages woven into purses or wrapped around coat hangers, dolls, lawn ornaments, button collections, and much more).

There ends Russell Bowman on Ray Yoshida and Chicago, who were so beautifully carrying on the tradition of Rimbaud when he wrote in the Alchemy of the Word:
  "For a long time I boasted that I was the master of all possible landscapes - and I thought the great figures of modern painting and poetry were laughable.
  "What I liked were: absurd paintings, pictures over doorways, stage sets, carnival backdrops, billboards, bright colored prints, old-fashioned literature, church Latin, erotic books full of misspellings, the kind of novels our grandmothers read, fairy tales, little children's books, old operas, silly old songs, the naive rhythms of country times."

Thank you Ray, Rimbaud and all our teachers of "trash treasures" :  in both the Wonder Cabinet of objects and the performed world of poetry, music, dance and theater in the Cabarets, coming down to us through time and through us in our endeavors.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Bacon wrote that we should examine 
        The Idols of the Tribe
        The Idols of the Cave
        The Idols of the Theater
        and The Idols of the Marketplace.

Since artists are often anachronistically at least trying to work from the first two - in an age that has been nearly completely subsumed into the last two - I have titled this Cabinet of Cabarets as an intended ongoing project for contemplating the Wonder Cabinet of Cabarets past, present, and future that artists participate in.  

I just got back from my first time ever in Los Angeles spending time with two good friends that work in a culture industry much more enormous and influential than ours, though intersecting in interesting ways with it, and watching the Golden Globes Ceremony reminded me that I had written an aphorism:  celebrities only have to be herded together to feel celebrated.

Thank you to Matt Magee for asking about the title, so that I could write this succinct explanation. 

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Michael Goldberg and Dan Christensen

I mentioned both of these artists as having shown at Sideshow, and in fact Richard Timperio talked to Michael Goldberg not a few days before he died to get the work on paper he had in the show last year.  The opening last year turned out to have a very memorial feeling with much discussion of these two painters and I am hoping to write a tribute to each later in this blog.

The next few postings will be artists currently in this year's holiday show pending some images to go with the discussion.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

When Richard Timperio gets a big Cheshire cat grin on his face and says its about UFA, that is - Unidentifiable Fine Art, it is becoming common knowledge in the expanded field of the New York art world that it is once again time for the largest and certainly most festive annual group show in any of our fair five boroughs. This is Sideshow’s ninth winter roundup in the location at 319 Bedford. Formerly titled Merry Peace and colloquially known as the Christmas show, the 2009 edition is titled It's A Wonderful Life. Several years ago the show opened in January for better continued viewing hours and the title was changed to War is Over, linking celebration of Christmases past with resistance to a past war that has increasingly obvious parallels with the present one. After War is Over...Again, we have a title reflecting the new optomism at just the same time of the election of our new president.
I’ll come back to the phrase Unidentifiable Fine Art now because it is actually
a good phrase for preparing a newcomer to walk into the gallery, which is a bit like walking into an encyclopedia of 30 years of contemporary artmaking. The only caveat is Rich's unabashed bias towards artists who still, even if metaphorically speaking, get their own fingernails dirty. There are artists as well known as Dorothea Rockburne, Larry Poons, Dan Christensen, Bill Jensen , Gary Stephan and Michael Goldberg; breakout neighborhood favorites who have had shows with Sideshow like Rosa Valado, Phong Bui, Rachel Youens, Chris Martin and Ken Butler; there are artists like Nick Carone, Paul Resika and Ronnie Landfield who have long term friends and a following not reflected in the vagaries of the press and media coverage distributed outwards from this city but who are very well considered by all the regulars
here, and personal discoveries waiting for anyone who wants to navigate this particular roadmap, now expanded to nearly 280 artists. (I will list some personal favorites, as someone who did quite a bit of gallery sitting for Sideshow in the last 6 years - a lot of time to notice where the eyes wander back to again and again sitting in a sensesurround of art objects: Fran Kornfeld’s small blue ballpoint scribbled bird’s nests, Gerald Jackson’s flowering from the center abstraction, Garry Nicholls’ down under symbolism & formal invention,and both Ann Walsh’s and Don Voisine’s clean constructions. This, of course, is only for starters. )
The Sideshow tradition as it is evolving under what really is Richard Timperio’s big tent, is inclusive and welcoming enough to temporarily baffle preconcieved tastes and sensibilities, which are precisely what most of us have to develop to live and work in the arts in New York - and then to negotiate each time we step out into this burgeoning, pluralist 20- new- exhibition- spaces- opening- a -year climate. It is a testament to Rich’s installation that hundreds of works hung salon style and sculptures making a maze of the floor space ends up so rewarding to meander through at all, never mind the impossibility of encompassing some kind of overarching sense of everything. It is actually quite a ride. And there is one thing I’ve learned over the past few years: it has disarmed alot of my notions of currency in contemporary art -and what Chelsea or Whitney Biennials would have you think are lost causes - how nice, a place where there aren’t trends, just movements.