A person who appears to be ambling aimlessly, but is secretly in search of adventure.


News about artists I like

An artist I like a lot Stella Lai is opening a show in Beijing at the end of September called "Fat Children Ruined My Life" at the F2 Gallery. If you happen to be in L.A. on Saturday, September 6, from 11 AM to 4 PM, you can preview Stella's newest work before she ships it off to China by stopping in at her open studio located at 742 N Broadway (2nd Floor).

How did I learn about Stella Lai's work? A couple years ago, I was meandering haphazardly around one of the art fairs in New York when a colorful, detailed piece of art at the Nathan Larramendy Gallery booth caught my eye. I stopped to ask Nathan a few questions about the work and learned that Stella paints Asian women who lighten their skin, color their hair, and do surgical procedures to make themselves appear more western looking. I liked it! Then I learned that Stella was a good friend of and had shown with another one of my favorite artists iona rozeal brown! Iona's work merges Japanese and African-American hip-hop culture and references Japanese kids who paint their skin browner so they can resemble their favorite hip-hop artists. Sold!

Jessica Lange interviews Iona in the June/July 2008 issue of New American Paintings.


Tonight: Improvapalooza

If anyone's in town and needs a giggle tonight, check out Improvapalooza @ The Source

When: Saturday 8.30 from 5PM-12AM (doors open at 4:30)
Where: Source | 1835 14 St NW
How much: $10 at the door


Picturing Politics reviewed

Matt Ravenstahl, right, slaps Jefferson Pinder repeatedly in their effective video "Passive Resistance," which is steeped in racial politics. (By Jefferson Pinder)

Eh. You can't get great reviews all the time. But just getting noticed is important too! Today's Washington Post gallery review slaps down (sorry Matt and Jefferson) Picturing Politics 2008: Artists Speak to Power at the Arlington Art Center. You really ought to see this exhibition. Sure a couple pieces hit you over the head (sorry again guys) with some left-leaning politics, but I don't think those particular works are meant to be subtle. It's not exactly a subtle year for politics. But much of the show is complex, humorous, raw, poetic. See here for more about the exhibit and, most importantly, check it out and decide for yourself.

Another review from John James Anderson.

Tonight: Performance art at Project 4 Gallery

I saw this performance last week and really recommend you stop by tonight to see it performed again!

J.J. McCracken
Living Sculpture

August 21 - September 11
Friday, August 29
7:30 pm
@ Project 4 Gallery
903 U Street, NW

Car art!

Art meets politics again. I love these bumper stickers designed by artists for a car art contest sponsored by Infectious. Mostly support for Obama. Yay Obama!


Taffety Punks at the Kennedy Center

Taffety Punk Theatre Company
“The Rape of Lucrece”
by William Shakespeare

Monday, September 1
8:00 pm
Kennedy Center, Family Theatre

Featuring company members: Lise Bruneau, Kimberly Gilbert and Marcus Kyd.
Music and live sound design by Sean Peoples.


Public art is back

A great article by Roberta Smith in Sunday's New York Times about the resurgence of great public art, of which we need a lot more.

A few works that she especially likes:
Some recent successes have included Rachel Whiteread’s 1993 “House,” a concrete cast of the interior of a London terrace house; Mark Wallinger’s 1999 “Ecce Homo,” a life-size figure of Jesus crowned with thorns, hands bound, standing amid the din of Trafalgar Square in London; Takashi Murakami’s wicked aluminum and platinum leaf Buddha shown in the atrium of the IBM Building in New York in the spring; and Anish Kapoor’s abstract “Cloud Gate,” nicknamed the Bean, at Millennium Park in Chicago. Freely mixing elements of Pop, Minimalism, conceptual art and realism, these pieces also often benefit from new technologies and materials that make them dynamic and provocative.
Smith seems particularly enamored with one of my favorite artists:

No one has been more important to the revival of public art than Jeff Koons, contemporary sculpture’s genius lightweight, whose up-and-down, hellbent-on-perfection career is the subject of an illuminating if rather crowded survey at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. It was Mr. Koons’s giant “Puppy” — a West Highland terrier covered with dirt, planted densely with flowers and first shown 16 years ago — that broadcast most loudly and clearly that public sculpture was neither an exhausted form nor necessarily a dumbed-down one.

“Puppy” was well placed and well timed. It stood in the courtyard of a handsome, mustard-colored Baroque palace that framed it perfectly. It was June 1992, and a few miles away, in the German city of Kassel, the international megashow “Documenta 9” was opening. Scores of art-world denizens made the short schlep to Arolsen to see what Mr. Koons was up to.

What they found was a shocking simplicity, accessibility and pleasure. “Puppy” was intensely lovable, triggering a laugh-out-loud delight that expanded your sense of the human capacity for joy. It was a familiar, sentimental cliché revived with an extravagant purity, not with enduring materials like marble or bronze but with nature at its most colorful and fragile. The flowery semblance of fur made “Puppy” almost living flesh, like us.

Peter Wynn Thompson for The New York Times


AAC show featured in the Express

Arlington Art Center's next show "Picturing Politics" features some of my favorite DC-based artists: Alberto and Victoria Gaitan, Lisa Blas, Mary Coble, Jefferson Pinder. Really great demonstration of how art and politics go together. Glad this show is already getting some excellent, well-deserved press.


See you Monday!

Giant beach toys on the beach in Rimini. So cute! See more here.


Save the Date: Way Down In New Orleans

A fundraiser to support The New Orleans Kid Camera Project, an organization created to address the psychological and emotional impact of Hurricane Katrina on children returning home to New Orleans. Please come! It's going to be a great party, plus you get to preview Civilian's next show Way Down In New Orleans.

Thursday, September 4
7 - 10 pm
@ Civilian Art Projects
406 7th Street, NW
$30 in advance
$40 at the door

Graffiti activists detained by Chinese

Using light technology developed by Graffiti Research Lab (GRL) to create non-destructive graffiti, five pro-Tibet activists displayed a "Free Tibet" banner in Beijing's Olympic Park. They were detained after 20 seconds and their whereabouts are unknown. James Powderly, free speech activist and co-founder of the Graffiti Research Lab, was also detained in Beijing soon after. This incident is a wonderful example of how graffiti continues to be used as a creative means for political expression.

Not to get all political, but I wonder what would happen if five young Chinese activists came to the U.S. and unfurled a graffiti light banner during the Superbowl that protested the American invasion and occupation of Iraq.

As reported on BoingBoing:
"The Chinese government is desperate to turn the world's attention away from its abuses in Tibet as the Olympics take place, but the creativity and determination of Tibetans and their supporters has once again ensured that Tibetan voices are heard and seen in Beijing despite the massive security clampdown," said Tenzin Dorjee, Deputy Director of Students for a Free Tibet. "The Chinese leadership must realize that the only way it can make the issue of Tibet disappear is to acknowledge the demands of the Tibetan people and work with them to bring an end to China's occupation of Tibet."


Roller derby meets opera!

Holy Cow! This is brilliant. Why didn't I think of this??


with The Rocky Mountain Roller Girls & Opera Colorado
Thursday, August 14

The Lab at Belmar presents our first outdoor Mixed Taste with a live Roller Derby and Opera in Belmar Plaza (directly behind The Lab). Roller Derby is an all-women’s contact sport played on roller skates on a circular track at lightning speeds. Verismo Opera, meaning realism in Italian, is characterized by realistic, often violent depictions of everyday life and has been popularized by the operas Madame Butterfly, La Boheme and Carmen.

Save the Date - 48 Hours For Burma


Arty stuff this week . . .

J.J. McCracken
Living Sculpture
August 21 - September 11


Thursday, August 21
7:00pm and 8:15 pm

Friday, August 29
7:30 pm

@ Project 4 Gallery
903 U Street, NW

Phillips After Five
Thursday, August 21
5 - 8:30 pm
@ The Phillips Collection
21st and Q

Meet the Artists
Saturday, August 23
5 - 7 pm
@ Pyramid Atlantic
8230 Georgia Avenue
Silver Spring

Photos For a Dentist's Office
Ross T. Wolcott
Saturday, August 23
8 pm
@ 1435 Girard


Been away

Been hanging out at my mom's place with my niece and nephew and cousins. I think I am mostly caught up on sleep.


Madonna portrait by Banksy

Is Banksy becoming less relevant? Guy Ritchie has commissioned him to make a portrait of Madonna for her 5oth birthday.

Del Rivero reviewed

A nice review in today's Washington Post of the Elena del Rivero installation at the Corcoran. The artist takes papers that fluttered into her NYC Financial District apartment on 9/11 and weaves them into a muslin cascade that documents the lives of others who lived and worked around the World Trade Center. In the review, Jessica concludes, "Del Rivera [sic] reminds us that on that day in 2001, private lives became public facts." Her conclusion struck me in light of my post yesterday about another artist, Tracy Emin, whose private life is a public unfurling that leaves little to the imagination.


Art in Costa Rica

No Se Vende Mi Alma, Arte Publico, Mural de Xavier y Wilson, Del cine Magaly 100 metros al norte, Barrio La California, San Jose

A couple months ago, I was hanging out at Comet Ping Pong one night when I met Wilson McCray, an American artist living and teaching in Costa Rica. He recently sent me some nifty images of murals he's done in San Jose. Neat!


Celebrity culture

Thank god C-Monster is back from vacation. She alerted loyal readers to this less than glowing review of a Tracy Emin show at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art. The writer's conclusion piqued my interest:
What gives her work its consequence is what she unwittingly reveals of the world we inhabit. There, celebrity is more important than real achievement, self-revelation more gripping than anything created by talent and a considerable imagination. For the artist herself, the chief purpose of art is as a means of achieving fame. God help us.
I like Tracy Emins' work more than this art critic, but I think he's pretty astute in his cultural observations.


Arty stuff this week . . .

Phillips After Five
Thursday, August 14
5 - 8:30 pm
@ The Phillips Collection
21st and Q

'Scapes - The Art League's Annual International Landscape Show
August 6 - September 1

Opening Reception:
Thursday, August 14
6:30 – 8:00 pm
@ The Art League
105 North Union Street

Song for Europe
Mark Cameron Boyd
with John James Anderson's Four Letter Words in TXT MSG

Saturday, August 16
5 - 7 pm
@ The Athenaeum
201 Prince Street

"Made in China"
Work by Dana Ellyn and Matt Sesow
August 16 - September 20

Saturday, August 16
6 - 9 pm
@ Longview Gallery
1302 9th Street, NW

ArtSpace Summer 2008 Community Exhibition
Saturday August 16
6:00 - 8:00 PM
614 S Street, NW

A program of performance and video reveling in
Sincere parody, mischievous tact and subversive play

Sunday, August 17
@ Lubber Run Amphitheater

8pm Live Performance:
Anna Whitehead and Michelle Posadas:
"consuming culture: a story of halves and have-nots"

This is almost a potluck performance so bring food to share!

8:30pm Videos:
- Samantha Cornwell: "Dirt Woman"
- Thyra Heder: "Left Right" and "Shark Attack"
- Hilary Leewong "Francesca attempts Vegan Atkins"
- Dan Plaza: "New Town" ~animation created for this event~
- Judy Tsai & Charlie Wright: "Mikan Bouya"
- Anna Rosen: one short
- Emily Geanacopoulos: "TV Family"
- Maple Rabbit: two videos

D J TRON to a/v finish it off.


Terrace concert

I was hanging out with Yoko K on Friday to talk about a big (way cool!) event we plan to do in September (more on that soon!) when she mentioned that her musical collaborative Aphrodizia would be rehearsing the next afternoon. So on a whim, I invited them to rehearse on my terrace and asked some random people over for grilling and music. Gorgeous night, beautiful music, and delicious Korean bbq! A perfect summer evening.


Sculpture in Foggy Bottom

The Foggy Bottom Association has organized a wonderful sculpture exhibit in their cute neighborhood and I really recommend it! It's a fabulous public art project that has been a great community building endeavor. They've placed 12 sculptures in the front lawns of various homes around the neighborhood and you can take a self-guided tour anytime or an artist-led tour on the second Saturday of each month at 11 AM. The Pink Line Project was delighted to support yesterday's tour led by light artist Craig Kraft and Pink Line Project champion and collector Veronica Jackson.


Policy hits Sweden!

The Policy Trunk Show went international . . . sort of. Swedish Scene, an on-line magazine for ex-pat Swedes, reported on the event and here's what they had to say:

PHILIPPA HUGHES är på god väg att bli ”all the buzz” inom Washingtons konstscen, som utvecklas mer och mer men ännu har en lång väg att gå. Den ena Philippa-intervjun avlöser den andra. Vid torsdagens Policy Brand trunkshow och lanseringsfest för designern Billy Colbert, och sponsrad av Philippas organisation The Pink Line Project, fanns förutom ett flertal fotografer också en reporter från The Washington Post på plats. The Pink Line Project stödjer duktiga konstnärer, som bidrar till att Washingtons konstscen utvecklas och blir mer framstående. The Washington Post kommer, för övrigt, att rapportera om lokala personligheter under 40 inom konstområdet. Philippas spektakulära hem – ett tvåvåningarsloft på Church Street i centrala Washington -- med sina moderna – och värdefulla -- konstverk och futuristiska möbler har täckt omslaget på The Washington Post Magazine och ett antal konsttidskrifter. Hon har medverkat i och hennes konstevenemang har funnits på sidorna i sådana ansedda tidskrifter som Washington Life Magazine, DC Magazine och The Washingtonian. Hon syns också i kändisspalterna som en deltagare vid olika konstevenemang och vernissager. Ett annat av hennes projekt är en organisation för unga entreprenörer. För alltid när Philippa deltar sker det med ett antal reportrar i ledband…


More on valuing art

More on how to value art in a new book called The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art by Don Thompson. Felix Salmon writes a thorough review of the book here.

You know when you see a pile of candy in the corner of a museum gallery and you wonder how that is art and you think to yourself, "I could have done that?" My stock reply is that you didn't do that. You didn't even think to do that. And you ask, "Why would anyone pay money for a pile of candy in the corner?" Here's the answer to that question:
The buyer isn't buying the fortune cookies themselves but rather ownership of the work: the moral right to recreate the sculpture made from them and exhibit it as a genuine Gonzales-Torres, and the ability to resell the sculpture at a future date. When you buy a Gonzales-Torres, you buy the (largely conceptual) art, not the stuff it's made from.

Disappointingly, Thompson seems a little too happy skitting along the surface of this central paradox of art economics: that while (most of the time) it is an object which is bought and sold, the dollar value lies in the art, not the object. If a painting formerly attributed to Rembrandt turns out to be executed by a minor follower, the object doesn't change but its value plunges. It's no different with a pile of candy: whether or not it's a genuine Gonzales-Torres makes an enormous difference to its value. Thompson is happy conjuring up an art collector's friends "staring open-mouthed and gasping: 'You paid what for the candy?'", but he never points out that they might as well ask the same question about an object made of oil paint on canvas which would be equally worthless without the requisite authority.
Here's an interesting thought on being an artist patron rather than just buying so-so art:
More to the point, an investor with $50,000 to spend on one artist has a choice: she can either buy a middling work from a middling artist at a middling dealer, or she can directly support an artist outside the gallery system entirely, buying pieces as necessary, maybe giving her a couple of thousand dollars to live on now and then, possibly helping out with studio space, that sort of thing. That kind of relationship is generally far more rewarding for the benefactor, and might well enable the artist to stay outside the gallery system for long enough that she has the time to develop a real artistic voice before being thrust blinking into the art-world spotlight. For the collector, the non-financial returns are much higher, while the financial returns can be equally large: what's not to like?
Being a patron allows you the opportunity to establish a relationship with an artist, which has great value to me.


Pics from Policy Trunk Show

Some fun pics taken by Ilya Dreyvitser of the Policy Brand Trunk Show last week. It was a huge success for Billy Colbert! Yay! If you missed this one, there will be more....

One question remains: why the hell am I wearing the headphones as if I know the first thing about being a DJ? (Loved DJ Anish's sound!)

Ranking great art

Economist David Galenson has taken a statistical approach to determining which are the greatest works of art in history. He counted the number of times works of art appeared in textbooks between 1990 and 2005 and Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon came out on top.

Applying economic theories to the process of valuing art makes a lot of sense to me. Art can be quantified to some degree and I think collectors can make more informed decisions when buying art if they educate themselves on these kinds of measures. But at some point, the value of art goes far beyond dispassionate economic principles and is really about actualizing a good idea.
The frequency of an illustration doesn’t seem to me to really explain what makes an idea good. Somewhere along the line you’ve got to find answers to why it’s so interesting.


Arty stuff this week . . .

Turning the Page: Surface Tension
A Virtual Exhibition curated by Jessica Granda and Lexi Kirsch
James W. Bailey
Michael Fitts
Kevin Kepple
Cleve Overton

Opening reception:
Thursday, August 5
5 - 7 pm
2023 Massachusetts Avenue, NW

eight photographers
four 2-person, 2-week exhibitions

Peter Van Agtmael
Alison Brady
Alexandra Catiere
Jessica Dimmock
Kyoko Hamada
Tema Stauffer
Ryoko Suzuki
Shen Wei

Third Two-Person Segment opens
Saturday, August 9 (through August 22)


Video Smack 2
Kika Nicolela
Jemima Burrill
How to Make a Baby

Friday, August 8
8 -10 pm
@ Randall Scott Gallery
1326 14th Street, NW

Quart Bag: A Community Art Show
August 8 - 16

Opening Reception:
Friday, August 8
7 - 9 pm
@ Civlian Art Projects
406 7th Street, NW 3rd floor

Totally Femme
Michele Cormier, Teresa Roberts Logan, Paula Lantz, Janathel Shaw, and Dina Volkova
August 6 – September 6

Opening Reception:
Friday, August 8
6- 8:30 pm
@ Touchstone Gallery
406 7th Street, NW

Arts in Foggy Bottom:
Tour of the outdoor sculpture exhibit
A conversation with artist Craig Kraft and collector Veronica Jackson

Saturday, August 9
11 AM
Meet at corner of New Hampshire and Eye Street, NW

Joe McKenna

Saturday, August 9
8 pm to midnight
@ GallAerie
1644 Newton Street, NW


Chic geek

Last month, DC Magazine did a really nice piece on one of my absolute favorite people in DC (maybe in the world!), "chic geek" David Fogel. There are millions of reasons I adore this man. Seriously. Here's just one:
"I like do-gooders and people who live for something bigger than themselves," he says, under the watchful gaze of a heroic Obama poster by graphic designer Shepard Fairey. "I'm not interested in what's next in a material sense. I'm much more interested in social change, and I want to be in the front of that line."
David has opened a shared work environment in Silver Spring called Space 88 that is a "mission-driven for-profit business focused on cultivating creative infrastructure." If you're looking for affordable office space to share with super creative people who can inspire you, give him a call.

Goya street art

I love this riff on a great Goya that appeared in the Freedom Tunnel, an Amtrak tunnel running underneath Manhattan’s Riverside Park. As Hrag Vartanian reports, not only is this piece of street art an excellent work of social commentary (the tunnel was once filled with homeless shantytowns), but it also turns an ugly space into a "unique urban art museum."

Cougar terrorizes Maryland campus

A 40-pound house cat resembling a cougar (not this kind) terrorized the University of Maryland campus over the weekend.


What's a flâneur?

Andrew Henderson/The New York Times

From an article in the New York Times about "expansionist entertainers" who throw dinner parties on the sidewalk:
"He is captivated and inspired, he said, by the persona of the 19th-century flâneur — "the voyeuristic stroller," as Susan Sontag wrote in a 1977 essay, "who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes." Being a flâneur, Mr. Tsao said, "is all about taking in the world we've been given; we want to embrace it and engage with it."
The Arcades Project explains flaneur a little more:

The flâneur is the link between routine perambulation, in which a person is only half-awake, making his way from point A to point B, and the moments of chiasmic epiphany that one reads of in Wordsworth or Joyce.
Can't remember where I got this from:
Perhaps the most accomplished Flaneur was Gerard De Nerval who minced the streets of 19th century Paris with a live lobster on a ribbon.

When asked why he did this he replied...

"Because it does not bark and it knows the secrets of the sea".

From Other Voices, the (e)Journal of Cultural Critcism
"There was the pedestrian who wedged himself into the crowd, but there was also the flâneur who demanded elbow room and was unwilling to forego the life of the gentleman of leisure. His leisurely appearance as a personality is his protest against the division of labour which makes people into specialists. it was also his protest against their industriousness. Around 1840 it was briefly fashionable to take turtles for a walk in the arcades. The flâneurs liked to have the turtles set the pace for them."

"The street becomes a dwelling for the flâneur; he is as much at home among the facades of houses as a citizen is in his four walls. To him the shiny, enamelled signs of businesses are at least as good a wall ornament as an oil painting is to the bourgeois in his salon. The walls are the desk against which he presses his notebooks; news-stands are his libraries and the terraces of cafés are the balconies from which he looks down on his household after his work is done."

To walk is to vegetate,to stroll is to live. —Balzac


Women artists in China

Natalie Behring for The New York Times

An article from the New York Times about the difficulty of being a woman artist in China.

Contemporary art in China is a man’s world. While the art market, all but nonexistent in 1989, has become a powerhouse industry and produced a pantheon of multimillionaire artist-celebrities, there are no women in that pantheon.

. . .

Critics have noted affinities in her art to the “women’s work” aesthetic of certain Western feminists. Ms. Lin, who lived in New York City during the late 1980s, would not disagree. And she acknowledges that women are treated like second-class citizens in China — like “inactive thinkers,” as she puts it. Yet she is cautious about applying the term feminist to herself or her work. Why? The concept is too Western. It is too vague. China is not ready for feminism. China has its own brand of feminism. You hear variations on these reasons often, just as you do in the West.