Los Angeles

Alex Da Corte: A Season in He’ll at Art + Practice

There is a scene early on in Lamberto Bava’s 1986 low-budget Italo-horror schlock fest Demons 2: A sinister figure is seen limping down a hallway. He enters a room, picks up a knife that is covered in what looks like blood, and wipes it on his soiled apron. The camera then reveals the source of the gory substance: a jar of syrup that has been knocked over. The man is identified as a baker and goes about decorating a cake for a woman’s birthday party. The scene of once-impending terror is defused with a comedic twist. This mix of dread and absurdist humor provides an appropriate framework for viewing Alex Da Corte’s immersive theatrical installation A Season in He’ll at Art + Practice.

Alex Da Corte, A Season in He'll, installation view. Courtesy of Art + Practice, Los Angeles. Photo by Joshua White.

Alex Da Corte. A Season in He’ll; installation view. Courtesy of Art + Practice, Los Angeles. Photo by Joshua White.

Upon entering the gallery, it is clear that the viewer is not in a conventional white cube. Da Corte has created a phantasmagorical wonderland, transforming the space through tile flooring, painted walls, and colored lights, while also incorporating olfactory elements with rose, sage, and clove-scented misters. The exhibition takes its title from Arthur Rimbaud’s 1873 prose poem A Season in Hell, which describes the young author’s drug-fueled descent into madness after the dissolution of his tempestuous affair with fellow poet Paul Verlaine. Rimbaud has provided inspiration to a long line of cultural and countercultural figures, from the Surrealists to the ’70s East Village punks like Patti Smith and Richard Hell (who took his stage name from the same Rimbaud poem). Da Corte is drawn to Rimbaud’s work, not only for the way it breaks with conventional reality, but also for its frank and uncompromising descriptions of queerness.

The first object encountered in the installation is a large black cone rising up from a flat circular disc: a witch’s hat blown up to the size of absurdity, referencing both lighthearted escapist fantasy as well as the historical trauma of persecution. A large vintage photograph mounted on the wall continues this sense of ambiguity, capturing a weeping young woman being consoled by a shaggy haired figure. What at first appears as the aftermath of a tragedy is actually a wedding photo—tears of joy rather than tears of pain. A neon sign spelling out “night” with twinkling stars hangs on the wall—a direct, if somewhat cryptic, quotation from Demons 2, where an identical version oddly graces the protagonists’ apartment wall. But viewers need not be familiar with the reference to get the allusion to “the witching hour,” the nocturnal period when occult and supernatural powers are at their peak.

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From the Archives

From the Archives – Help Desk: Self-Promotion

This week’s Help Desk art-advice column looks back to a question from a “feral” artist and provides some strategies for self-promoting an exhibition. Got a question for our Help Desk? Submit your queries anonymously here

I’m an artist in [redacted city] and I just got a solo show at a little gallery. I have no idea how to promote it. I didn’t go to art school and I’m sort of feral, as in I don’t have a huge group of people to invite. I’m lost on how to market the show. I’ve made a list of some galleries and thought I would send them invitations, but where do I start?

Andy Warhol, People on the Street, ca. 1980. © Andy Warhol. Gift of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. RISD Museum, Providence, RI.

Andy Warhol. People on the Street, ca. 1980. Gift of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. RISD Museum, Providence, RI.

Congratulations! Marketing a show isn’t hard—it’s all about being organized and targeting the right people—and I’m happy to help. The first thing you need to do is read my 2013 column on writing a basic press release (and pay attention to the initial comment below the article, because it adds a good point that I forgot to mention). Once you’re done reading, draft your press release, have a few people give you some feedback, and revise accordingly.

Once the press release is done, you’ll need one to three images of the work that will be in the exhibition. The artwork should be well lit, in focus, and photographed against a white background. There shouldn’t be anything else in the frame; if you’re unfamiliar with the basics of documenting artwork, this four-minute video will be very helpful.

Now figure out to whom you will send the release and images. Your idea of making a list of galleries is perfect—and before you hit “send,” I want you to take a long, hard look at that list. Blasting a lot of strangers has rarely worked to anyone’s advantage, so ask yourself: Do these galleries exhibit work like yours? Are they likely to be interested? If yes, you’re cleared for takeoff. If no, take them off the list. And if you still honestly feel there’s some compelling reason to contact them, make sure you’re sending the email with a personal note above the text of the press release: “I know you only represent artists from China, but I love your gallery and have been inspired by the work I’ve seen there over the last three years. I would be honored if you came to see my show.” (And since emailing galleries is a little like sending an application, read these tips on thinking strategically.)

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Washington, D.C.

Why Museums Should Be a Safe Space to Discuss Why #BlackLivesMatter

Today, from our friends at Smithsonian Magazine, we bring you Menachem Wecker’s piece on the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture’s panel  “History, Rebellion, and Reconciliation.” The symposium “proved even timelier than organizers could have possible imagined,” taking place less than a week after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. In the wake of seemingly endless tragedy, the Museum of African American History and other museums (most recently, the New Museum) have served as sites of support and discourse for black communities and #BlackLivesMatter allies.  This article was originally published on April 29, 2015.

blacklivesmatter

The deputy director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture had a problem. At the April 25 symposium “History, Rebellion, and Reconciliation,” her panel was a no-show. A law professor and two writers were late and had yet to appear.

So to fill the gap, Kinshasha Holman Conwill called upon “Brother Ellis” and with some heavy coaxing, she convinced Rex Ellis, the museum’s director of curatorial affairs, to sing a duet—a rendition of Bernice Johnson Reagon’s “Ella’s Song.”

“We, who believe in freedom, cannot rest until it comes,” they sang. “Until the killing of a black man, a black woman’s son, is as important as the killing of a white man, a white woman’s son.”

That move, in many ways, defined the spirit of the day-long symposium. The event featured speakers that ranged from the award-winning director Ava DuVernay (Selma) to the Pittsburgh-based emcee and community activist Jasiri X, and pastor Osagyefo Sekou to Black Alliance for Just Immigration executive director Opal Tometi.

Read the full article here.

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Shotgun Reviews

Lou Beach: End of Days at Jack Fischer Gallery

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Maria Porges reviews Lou Beach: End of Days at Jack Fischer Gallery’s Minnesota Street Project location in San Francisco.

Lou Beach. Poltroons on Parade (Pigeon! Pigeon! Pigeon!), 2016; collage; 33 x 26 inches. Courtesy of the Artist and Jack Fischer Gallery. Photo: Lou Beach.

Lou Beach. Poltroons on Parade (Pigeon! Pigeon! Pigeon!), 2016; collage; 33 x 26 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Jack Fischer Gallery. Photo: Lou Beach.

In Lou Beach: End of Days at Jack Fischer Gallery’s Minnesota Street Project location in San Francisco, a selection of twenty-three recent collages by the artist provides a deeply satisfying experience of the inventive, funny, and sometimes slightly disturbing world of the Los Angeles artist’s unconscious. For many pieces, Beach begins with a patinaed background image: a vintage lithograph of a seaside sunset, a country road in autumn, or, as in Poltroons on Parade (Pigeon! Pigeon! Pigeon!) (2016), a sunny view of ancient Roman buildings. Beach transforms these bland scenes by adding strange and hilarious figures that can be truthfully described as animal, vegetable, and mineral, built out of what must be a massive collection of paper ephemera and then sometimes enhanced with drawing or painting. Titles provide some clues as to the actions taking place, but to a certain extent, it is up to the viewer’s own id and superego to fill in the blanks.

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Oakland

Boom: The Art of Resistance at Random Parts

Impeccably curated by artist–organizer Leslie Dreyer at Random Parts gallery, Boom: The Art of Resistance is an exhibition that does not advertise its impact, and it could be mistaken for “scrappy” if one ignored the precision of the show and the assumptions jammed into that word. Installed in the small storefront/apartment space in Oakland, a few of the show’s works are in the well-used kitchen, where gallery co-director Juan Carlos Quintana cooks his meals and lives his life. A visit to the show might easily segue into a hangout, a drink, or a party. It begs the question: What kinds of conversations can be had in what kinds of kitchens?

Boom: The Art of Resistance outdoor installation. Painted tent made by Dreyer and Zeph Fishlyn for Coalition on Homelessness' Tackle Homelessness/Superbowl action. 2016; Banners below made by Dreyer for Oakland's Fight for $15 march bridging the issues of low wages, real estate speculation and displacement.

Boom: The Art of Resistance. Outdoor installation: painted tent by Leslie Dreyer and Zeph Fishlyn for Coalition on Homelessness’ Tackle Homelessness/Superbowl action, 2016; banner by Leslie Dreyer for Oakland’s Fight for $15 march to address the issues of low wages, real-estate speculation, and displacement.

Such a gathering would occur in view of a 2001 documentary film—Boom: The Sound of Eviction, from which the show adopts the leading, econ-onomonopoetic part of its name—playing on a loop on a side table. The older Boom is a detailed account of the socioeconomic effects of the first major dot-com explosion of 1998–2001. The footage is grainier than today’s HD video, and the cars are a bit less streamlined, but the story remains uncannily the same. The influx of a global network of tech industry workers has incentivized evictions on a mass scale—around 1,000 a month, recently, by some accounts—under many different guises and justifications.

Random Parts is located in the East Lake neighborhood, east of Interstate 880 and just north of Fruitvale. It’s a neighborhood poised for the sort of “transformation” that tends to divide people into “dread” and “desire” camps according to their respective historically conditioned levels of access to capital. The waterfront is just beginning to witness the construction of Brooklyn Basin, the largest real-estate development project in the history of the East Bay. What sorts of kitchen conversations will this development, with its high-rise condos and boutique retail, make possible, and what others will it make impossible?

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Montreal

Joan Jonas: From Away at DHC ART

As psycho-historian, I try to diagnose the schizophrenia of Western civilization from its images, in an autobiographical reflex. (Joan Jonas, The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things)

Joan Jonas’ retrospective exhibition From Away occupies two buildings at DHC/ART in Montreal. Arriving at the basement’s miniature cinema felt like entering a cauldron of the Jonasian universe, and moving up and down in the tightly vertical first building is like inhabiting a literal corpus of Jonas’ oeuvre. In the second building, a more traditional set of gallery spaces shows a field of dreams: installations, objects, drawings, paintings, and snippets of Jonas’ recent performance at the Venice Biennale.

Installation view, Joan Jonas: From Away, 2016, DHC/ART. Joan Jonas, They Come to us Without a Word (Wind), 2015. Multimedia Installation (site-specific adaptation). Originally commissioned for the U.S. Pavilion of the 56th Venice Biennale by the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Courtesy of The Kramlich Collection, San Francisco. © DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art. Photo: Richard-Max Tremblay.

Joan Jonas. They Come to Us Without a Word (Wind), 2015; multimedia installation (site-specific adaptation); installation view, Joan Jonas: From Away, 2016, at DHC/ART. Originally commissioned for the U.S. Pavilion of the 56th Venice Biennale by the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Courtesy of the Kramlich Collection, San Francisco. © DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art. Photo: Richard-Max Tremblay.

The central motif is a diaphanous fan. Think of a poised hand sturdily holding a fan, moving with intention and gravitas, the fan fanning away—and from away, so to speak. One might imagine the fan’s literal and metaphoric textures: brittle, translucent, spectral. In From Away, the diaphanous fan exists as a metaphoric cipher and temporal emblem, appearing in the form of always-moving bodies, translucent billowing fabrics, and passing poetic stories in the video-projection performances. From Away maps Jonas’ continuity in building and perfecting a mis en abyme technique, from the 1970s to the present, using mirrors, video, a video-monitor playback of live action, and drawings. Inherent to Jonas’ technique is her refusal to confront her subjects head on, and recurring elements that add to her “ideas of the diaphanous and the opaque” are “the motifs of wind, wand, water, mirrors and crystals.” [1,2]

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Letter from the Editor

Last week, Deadline reported that the New York Times discontinued regional coverage of the arts. Significantly, in her August 6 column, NYT Public Editor Liz Spayd asked, “Why should a newsroom that just announced lofty international ambitions spend resources covering news of no interest to readers in Beijing and London?” Below the surface of this question lies the implication that cultural events happening in smaller cities and towns—basically anything below a certain caliber of cache and sophistication—are uninteresting to those who live in the so-called centers of culture. Extending this line of thinking, we arrive at the notion that only big cities (and the people living and working in them) produce ideas that are worth talking about.

Romare Bearden. The Block II, 1972; collage of various papers with foil, paint, ink, graphite, and surface abrasion on seventeen fiberboard and plywood panels. © Romare Bearden Foundation

Romare Bearden. The Block II, 1972; collage of various papers with foil, paint, ink, graphite, and surface abrasion on seventeen fiberboard and plywood panels. © Romare Bearden Foundation

I’m dead set against that notion. Daily Serving exists because we believe that strong, thoughtful critical writing, regardless of where it is coming from or how small an area it is addressing, has the potential to be relevant to everyone. It’s the reason that my first major decision as editor was to adopt a program of “Shotgun Reviews”—anyone, anywhere in the world can publish an exhibition review with us. Instead of formulating a policy that location is what makes an artwork important, we trust our writers—and our readers—to bring their attention to projects and events that are happening in both large cities and small towns. Certainly our writers cover exhibitions in Shanghai, Los Angeles, London, and Berlin, but we also attend to what’s happening in places that aren’t signaled by large stars on a map: Wichita, Cleveland, Dhaka, Birmingham.

It’s not just a democratic impulse that drives us, but also a spirit of discovery and participation. Art is often reflective of the social and political circumstances that surround it, and an essay on artistic practices in one location brings visibility to an issue that might be of shared concern to citizens halfway around the planet; we may have as much to learn about ways of seeing and confronting the world from an artist in Jaipur as from one living in New York City. And that spirit of understanding is why, in addition to the contributions made by our own writers around the globe, we often circulate articles from other sources. Many excellent, locally focused arts blogs exist, and we amplify their work by excerpting and republishing it here. Approached from these perspectives, the regional is the very opposite of the provincial.

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