Monday, January 29, 2007

Later, after the opening...

It is as encouraging as it is astounding to me, to think that Fernando Botero, infamously known and grown rich for painting a universe of happy but innocuous fat people has given the world such strong, terrible and important images as those we saw hanging tonight in room 190 at the Doe Library at UC Berkeley.

I would say not since Guernica.

But Botero’s work hits my heart and stomach harder than Picasso’s cool system of black and white lines. I love Pablo, make no mistake, but we’ve moved on now, and Fernando Botero shows us images of blood and shit and pain and the dogs of war in those human and animal shapes and colors we see and feel and fear and know, truly know as... figurative reality.

Or something close.

Botero grabs those images back from the camera and the video screen, pulls them back from the monitor, back from unopened YouTube news clips and he puts them back up on the wall, that wall in the gallery, the museum, the study, the living room; Botero puts them back in the book where page after page of reproduction get turned while Mamma screams into the pillow for her child not quite dead, still not talking.

Botero’s 43 paintings and drawings should, and probably will be seen by the whole world, but so will the oral, written and photographic evidence of torture be seen and read; the practices of a misguided nation, our own, falsely at war, and unforgivably lost in desperate cruelty at a common prison outside Baghdad called Abu Ghraib.

I would say not since Francisco Goya.

The knowledgeable, the institutions and the market seem to want a home for Botero’s paintings. So of course does Fernando Botero. I think at least one or two should be obtained by whoever collects these things and they should be owned by the United States of America and hung in the White House.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Spectacle in Your Mind

Tales of the d'Issac-Spango Family from 2005 can be found here. They've also been added to the links. Thanks to Mary Camp for saving and sending them to my dislocated files.

Friday, January 26, 2007

X'd Uptown Gallery

The Uptown Nightclub contracts.

It's hoped "postponement" is a euphemism, but for now "Proceedural difficulties" have killed the Uptown Gallery and Obi Kaufmann's show. It's too bad, it would've been good. Art ain't easy.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Uptown Gallery

The Uptown Nightclub expands.
Obi Kaufmann's website is Page One.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Sea

Recuerdos de Santa Catalina, 2007, acrylic on canvas, electronically amplified.

You say you have been told our coastal waters are not a sea; yet from between the Point Firman Light and Wayfarers Chapel at Portuguese Bend my eyes detect great romance and mystery looking at the Channel Islands, something Cabrillo might have felt, if not Homer…something from the inside of the ocean …Balboa’s Pacific, something that says sea, our sea, where the lovely Chumash chaparral and the shell bank of clams and abalone live in a dolphin’s pool a short swim away.

Then again, Cabrillo may have felt little romance dieing on Santa Catalina, or San Miguel, or Santa Rosa Island in January of 1543. And the clams and abalone have gone on to the past tense as well.

It is a cold January up and down the coast this year. Look beyond the undrawn oilrigs. Blanket your flowery plants.

Here’s how Richard Henry Dana saw it during a warmer winter in 1833…

We had a fine breeze to take us through the Canal, as they call this bay of forty miles long by ten wide. The breeze died away at night, and we were becalmed all day on Sunday, about halfway between Santa Barbara and Point Conception. Sunday night we had a light, fair wind, which set us up again; and having a fine sea-breeze on the first part of Monday we had the prospect of passing, without any trouble, Point Conception, --the Cape Horn of California, where, the sailors say, it begins to blow the first of January, and blows until the last of December.
We had been below but a short time, before we had the usual premonitions of a coming gale, --seas washing over the whole forward part of the vessel, and her bows beating against them with a force and sound like the driving of piles. The watch, too, seemed very busy trampling about decks, and singing out at the ropes. A sailor can tell, by the sound, what sail is coming in; and, in a short time, we heard the top-gallant-sails come in, one after another, and then the flying jib. This seemed to ease her a good deal, and we were fast going off to the land of Nod, when--bang, bang, bang--on the scuttle, and “All hands, reef topsails, ahoy!” started us out of our berths; and, it not being very cold weather, we had nothing extra to put on, and were soon on deck.
I shall never forget the fineness of the sight. It was a clear, and rather a chilly night; the stars were twinkling with an intense brightness, and as far as the eye could reach there was not a cloud to be seen.
The horizon met the sea in a defined line. A painter could not have painted so clear a sky. There was not a speck upon it.
I read Dana with a glass of wine and hear this in my head.
(I cannot be held responsible for Elliot Lurie's unbuttoned tail-tied shirt or 1970's fashions generally, nor can I determine if he is channeling Joan Baez or Tiny Tim, but the song is a favorite. Here are the Chili Peppers doing their version.)

Brandy, 2005, acrylic on canvas, 36x36 inches, from the collection of the artist.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Redondo Beach

A friend wonders what Redondo Beach is like and I reply:

Redondo is very sweet, but not quite as quaint as you imagine.

Yes, it is an affluent suburb of Greater Los Angeles. It is on the South Bay, at the south end of Santa Monica Bay, and it sits comfortably between Hermosa Beach to the north and Palos Verdes to the south. It is beachy, the balmy sunsets are grand, and the pounding of the surf is a lullaby at the end of the day. There're still surf shops and there’re lots of palm trees.

(These drawings of are from a note book made last year.)

But Starbucks and Botox clinics along Pacific Coast Highway have replaced the incense shops and used bookstores you imagine. There is no real central downtown to Redondo Beach, there never was. Neighborhood corner stores still exit. Old Tony's is a great old style Italian restaurant on the Pier. Thai, Korean and Mexican restaurants are mixed with laundromats and Pilates studios at strip malls built during every decade of the last century. The Whole Foods on PCH sells organic range fed turkey to beach bunnies from the sixties while intensely earnest and tattooed young clerks swipe credit cards and ask if everything was found all right in the aisles, across the generations. I rather love it.

Amazing and hideously wonderful mid-century apartment buildings stand along the esplanade interspersed with smaller Cape Cod, Craftsman or Monterey Colonials, one family or duplexed, or triplexed. Tiled balconets held up by baroque columnated piers overhang driveways. The lots are small and sandy; there are usually another set of buildings behind those facing the street. Lots and lots of blazing bouganvillea; all the exotic botanic wonders of the Southland are abundant.

Yards are high maintenance, kept trim and special; the sound of mowers and blowers and whackers is constant. The sound of the Spanish, or the Mexican or the Aztlan, or whatever it is the gardeners speak like flocks of birds is musical while they take breaks at the tail of their trucks and smile at the little dog I get to walk twice a day. Lots of urban dogs on leashes, nice dogs.

Lots of Yuppies, lots of retired people too. One old couple uses an electric funicular to ride up and down the steps to their house. Redondo is all built on dunes and soft bluffs.

Redondo Beach from the Pier, looking South to Palos Verdes, 2004, 11x14 inches.

From the collection of Janice Pober and Brian Higgins.

My dad and I day-sailed out of King Harbor in Redondo when I was a boy and we lived in Manhattan Beach, the beach town just north of Hermosa. All these towns are connected by PCH; there is no separation between them, no banlieu as it were, it is all one beach town with varying degrees of desirability; the closer to the ocean, the more desirable. The urbanization of coastal Southern California runs in a similar fashion from Santa Barbara to San Diego.

Here, and here, are other watercolors made on the beach near the Redondo Pier in June of 2004.

On the twice daily walks with little Coco this Winter we sometimes passed a favorite spot. Maybe next time we'll go in.

Contemplating Spring

Portrait of the artist's sister as Persephone, 2006, watercolor on paper, 9x11 inches.

Orange tree with ladder, 1995, acrylic on canvas, 9x12 inches.
From the collection of Katherine Quinn Richardson.
Jacob would fly from the top of his ladder at the sweetness of this years mandarins. We will wait a month for marmalade.