Friday, December 11, 2009

Pre-Roundup Thoughts

Lately I have spent an enormous time at my job, with my girlfriend, reading great writers and trying to re-enter the world of my own fiction. I have been working on a new novel, contemplating the idea of writing a screenplay about a legendary jazz musician and trying to find subjects to write non-fiction about for a larger audience.

It is precarious to be in my early thirties now. I used to look at thirty year olds as full blown adults, but now I know that dreams are always these metaphysical ideals that we are constantly reaching for. I have a job that many people dream of having or at least think would be very cool to have. I am not sure I can agree. I want to write sprawling fiction through the eyes of my twenty-one year old self, with the control and understanding I have now. Only, my eyes see things differently.

On criticism:
It is easy to criticize things, art, film, music, politics, athletes, etc... I do it, you do it, everyone does. But, when we critique something we need to truly believe in our critiques for them to be affective. This is to say, you need to have strong feelings, the skill to execute your ideas and the information to back it up. Not liking something isn't enough. I do not like Brett Easton Ellis, but I respect his work, he is neither lazy nor unoriginal hence I can not criticize him, in fact, I celebrate him.

On creating art:
A very good friend of mine makes art, shows art and is celebrated for it. If he were never to sell another painting he will have this moment in time. He has captured an audience and they are talking about him. I am very proud of him and the conversations we've accumulated over the last ten years have all found themselves in his work today. To say I am not jealous, would be a lie. He has control over his craft, like a sniper marine with his rifle, he takes aim at an idea and nails the target every time.

And this leads to what the purpose of art is. Painting a picture, telling a story, writing a song, it seems that it is all the same thing at the heart, getting something across, something you need to remove from yourself, nail to a post and let the world see. I need to remember that more. That's the reason I started writing. Observing, seeing the cracks in the foundation and filling them with ideas.

I do not know why I just decided to post this idea rant. But in summary, I want to be a better person in terms of my art and appreciating other people's art. The books I read, movies I see, songs I hear and art I look at, I want to celebrate not just the finished product, but the process, the motivation, the furnace that burns and heats the moment.

~ Craig A. Platt

Sunday, September 20, 2009

L.A. Art "Scene" Roundup 9.12.09

Los Angeles Gallery Roundup 9.12.09

It seemed like this weekend was the kickoff of the Fall Art Season in Los Angeles, so I decided to head out with my acid tipped pen to see what all the buzz was about. I recognize that I have stayed West of Chinatown thus far, and I promise to rectify that situation.

As the date approached I began assessing life in Los Angeles and how the art here reflects upon it. Rarely do I see an unattractive person in Los Angeles and when I do they undoubtedly have an attractive person in tow. Without fail I always overhear a person talking about this or that person who sold a script or starred in some pilot, an introduction already in the works. To sum things up, life is perfect in Los Angeles and everyone is on the up and up. To compare this to New York is silly. New York is the home of the beats and the abstracts, people proud of their calloused hands and working class backgrounds, people who saw the angelic in the destitute and depressed. Los Angeles aesthetic is look poor live rich. Hence the skinny jeans, scraggly beards mixed with Mercedes, iPhone, Blackberry and three hour lunches on platinum cards.

So why should the art be any different than the people, fleeting. This is just an idea mind you, but the Los Angeles art scene seems to focus on the beautiful and the vapid. All sweet sticky paintings that’d look good over your sunstained bed while you make love to unreal blond you met at Bar Marmont the night before. I am not complaining, this is the art you’d hang at vacation homes in Laguna, Palm Springs or Santa Barbara. But, what is marching into museums and history here? And if it is, who got their daddy to buy it and donate it.

Anyhoo, here we go with the roundup, more thoughts on all this later. Decided on a quick crawl this week as work had been crazy and I wasn’t in the mood for a marathon. The idea was to go through West Hollywood and straight to Culver City. Do the galleries fast, get out and go to Father’s Office for libations and burgers. The mission was accomplished and if you followed me on Twitter ( you know it wasn’t a horror show like last time. Though there are a few galleries that I will challenge to do better.

September 12 – October 17, 2009

Nothing like light boxes of pretty and somewhat over photoshopped photography, wi
th words no less. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all for words, hell I type them nightly, but when you put words in your art you can really lose your audience fast. The press release states that, “Doug Aitken's new light boxes combine image and text in a collision that creates a rupture in which alternate connections are presented.” I say, phooey. These are the perfect example of a Los Angeles art. Aesthetically there isn’t much to complain about, the art is good looking, the artist is skilled, but there is little to no commentary. Photos of Vegas in it’s raw form don’t even feel like an exposition on the seedy underbelly, it feels like a ripoff of some hip California bands album cover. Regen Projects continues to let me down showing cheesy LA art filled with meaningless words and lame art. Lightboxes might be the single most annoying idea for photography. If it isn’t a one sheet for the next kids movie keep it out of a lightbox please. This show was boring, pretty and boring, like a blind date with a beauty from Iowa moved to Los Angeles to make it as an actress but working at a sports bar to pay the bills and waiting for someone to discover her.

M + B
Andrew Bush: Vector Portraits
September 12 – October 15
M + B’s clean space and dreamy west coast photos are rewarding to the viewer for what they are, sensuous views of the Left Coast lifestyle. Bush’s subjects are all driving cars in the beautiful west coast sunshine. As a child of a family of car enthusiasts I appreciate the Americana of it. That he doesn’t capture the entire car and chooses to photograph the driver’s side from back window to side mirror allowing you to complete the car as you like only adds to it. This is the type of eye candy that I expect in Los Angeles and would never complain about seeing. It’s Hockney’s Los Angeles in photo, people driving to those Los Angeles homes to lay beside pools, drink fruity beverages and discuss four picture deals and minorities on their way to the country club where they’ll be caddying and serving Arnold Palmers to those very same dealmakers. It’s Manifest Destiny on Kodak Paper. Go see this work for a little glimpse into the left coast lifestyle, stay for the California dreamin’.

Sandow Birk: American Qur’an
September 8 – October 30

The first stop in Culver City was Koplin Del Oro for Sandow Birks controversial sh
ow, which should come as no surprise to the Los Angeles Art Gallery goer, was anything but controversial. American images confronted with a Muslim font style and basic feeling. This work , if you took the time to read it might say something interesting, but the whole idea of an artist born and raised in Detroit, Michigan and educated in Los Angeles choosing this subject matter, “An ongoing project to transcribe the entire Koran according to Islamic traditions and illuminate the text with scenes from contemporary American life.” Simply put, the Koran and contemporary American life have very little to do with each other. Another example of an American grabbing onto a hot American topic and trying to appropriate it as a commodity that will help in being controversial while saying little and making some money off the heat. The price point was high and the art was boring. This show looked good from outside but quickly became a bore.

James Everett Stanl ey: Let It Burn
September 12 - October 31, 2009
The last time I visited Kinkead Contemporary it was offering the tired insider Artist photography of hip artist hell that makes me vomit in my mouth and spit it on the floor. This time they were presenting James Everett Stanley’s portraits painted to reflect the destruction happening all around us. They are, “subjects transfixed by the after-effects of destruction and loss.” This is a subject a native New Yorker can really get behind. And you know what, they were the first truly memorable thing I’d looked at in a while. The portraits did fall short on a few walls, but the direction was right and it was a nice reprieve from Sandow Birk’s over-worked, over wrought work. Everett’s playful imagery of the end of the world was reflection on the “scenes” inability to grasp that their even is a world outside of the thirty-mile zone. Still, the playfulness suggested slightly that the artist was as clueless as the members of the scene and in that sense it fell slightly short. To say it nicely, the art lacked an angst or anger that would’ve helped enormously in putting it over the edge. In summary thought, these works are totally worthwhile and should be looked at.

LeBasse Projects
Edwin Ushiro: Softly Encompassing the Womb
Ryuichi Ogino: Idealistically Hypocritical 3
September 12, 2009

LeBasse is a solid visit for the dreamer. The art is affordable
and typical eastern in nature. Those dreamy Anime type landscapes where women float lazily in the lavender gloom that leave you wishing you could disappear into some early summer sunset floating along the waters of thought. These paintings are not reinventing the ways we see canvas, but they are a nice escape from an art scene that is obviously trying very hard. The couple I brought along even bought a reasonably priced study on graph paper. Ryuichi Ogino is an analytical painter trying to interpret entertainment as a medium that can never attain the categorization of art, if it has value then it is inevitably whimsical and poppy and not worth it’s seriousness. Edwin Ushiro’s dreamy suburban images of couples, kids and lost souls dangling rebelliously in the sunwashed early evening are like a strong drink of gin. You lose yourself in the mindbending colors and hope that the ledge isn’t too far off or perhaps you may drown in their dreaminess. All in all a good show and firm reminder that adults can still maintain their imagination.

Angelika J. Trojinarski: After the Gold Rush
September 12 – October 10, 2009
Let’s start by saying this is the first opportunity this critic has had to say he’s reviewing and artist from Dusseldorf, and wow is that a fun word to say. Unfortunately the art lacked a firm commitment to the subject matter. It felt propagated on one bad idea. The releases explained that, “variegated decay and abandonment are the protagonist of Trojanarski’s work.” This Dusseldorf has a weird way of showing it, slow to materialize abstracts and plays on the old abandoned west, it felt like a show lost on it’s own ideas. An idea of an America past it’s prime, lost in itself. The unfortunate thing about this show is the America on display isn’t the American the artist is referring to. This artist shows with Saatchi and is probably much richer than I am, but still, at least I can stay on subject.

Brian Besse: The Royal Box
This video installation of ironic hipster artist singing and cracking inside jokes that passers by pretend to understand is a continued trend that must be stopped. Just because it seems cool, e.g. you do not understand it, doesn’t mean you should smile, nudge your pal, and pretend it’s the greatest thing since Kraft Mac and Cheese. It’s described in the press releases as an, “Unapologetic exploration of human nature, relationships and desires.” This was not what was on display in the work. But, of course, maybe I have no idea what I am talking about and this was brilliant. Probably not, but if it helps you sleep at night, then sure.


MALONEY FINE ARTS PRESENT: Malick Sidibé Photographs: 1962-2008

These photos speak for themselves. Very fun to look at. The photographer appro
aches his subject with the eye of a person appreciating every bit of joy, bravado, machismo, celebration or loss in the image and the subject. I really enjoyed these photographs in their primitive and slightly overexposed glory. Every one who stepped into the gallery gravitated to some image and moved closer to the image as if there were something hidden, as if they got close enough they could enter into the image. Very wornderful.

Claire Oswalt: Peril in Perfection
September 12 - October 31, 2009
These sculptural drawings by New York based artist (of course I would like it) capture people at the moment of violence. Working in the medium is wood and graphite on paper. While these works didn’t feel as if they have achieved what they’d set out for, they were very good. There were several striking elements to the work, that they are set off from the canvas, that they not only depict violence, but also cast a violent shadow make them doubly haunting. Claire Oswalt has captured something so grotesque and added an element of campy humor to boot, so that the expressions on these people’s faces reveal the ridiculousness of the moment, a drunken argument perhaps? A misunderstanding in the high school parking lot? A love lost? These questions along with figures that seem to be puppets, seem to be able to be moved at any moment, create a piece of art that is like us, ever changing. This was a good opening and definitely worth a look.

Song Kun: Seeking the Recluse but Not Meeting
September 12 - October 31, 2009

This show felt incredibly strange. The paintings all based in a gray fog of people lost in moments
of reflections. While technically the art seemed worked to perfection, the detachment was haunting and almost inhuman. It’s as if the artist had taken all the blood and life out of the subjects and turned them into a mannequins floating in life. Song Kun’s undeniably a gifted artist, but his works detachment from real life makes the paintings into ghosts on the wall, almost afraid to approach them you use caution and with your guard up it becomes hard to appreciate the work. This is a show I would actually like to go see again before it comes down, it’s haunting beauty like an uneasy moment revisited in your memory. Like a character from Haruki Murakami, anonymous and searching for something lost, while being lost at the same time.

Debbie Han: Hybrid Graces
September 12 - October 31, 2009
I don’t have much to say about this show except that for whatever reason, I got a kick out of it. Thrown in between all these contemporary works the study of these classical Greek style sculptures made me laugh and I enjoyed it for that. Definitely worth a look to make you imagine what art was like back when people wore togas.

Group Photography Exhibition
David Burdeny, Irene Imfeld, John Mann, Paula McCartney and Stephen Galloway
September 12 - October 31, 2009
Without sounding too condescending and realizing that there have been a lot of words already in this roundup, I will simply state that the JK Gallery’s Group Photography Exhibit lacked originality. I went in, I went out. I felt no contempt for the show, nor did I see it as anything different than looking at a bunch of pictures on a friends Facebook profile. I am done, the real rant is about to follow.

Kenny Scharf: Barberadise
September 12, 2009 — October 31, 2009

Now Honor Fraser and I just don’t seem to get along. While I appreciated som
e of the work in the galleries last show, the Emma Gray curated Bitch is the New Black, which seemed to be overstuffed with art and a bit of a scene. This new show took it to a whole new level, leaving me reeling and wondering how this artists blacklight poster paintings of popular Sunday Morning cartoons found its way into a gallery which makes claims at being a serious art space. I am all for a commentary about pop culture and while I know Scharf is a bit of a heavy hitter hanging in major museums. I do not see the point of this work, nor did I enjoy it. Too much of the art world seems to be one opinion maker influencing the way we spend our Sundays in the future, pretending to appreciate something hanging in a museum and telling our children it’s art. Well, I for one do not want to live in a world where I would have to explain the paintings from Kenny Scharf in this show. Again, wall candy. But, I think Honor Fraser might be the reason my New York friends thing Los Angeles’s art scene is just one big, gaudy, infantile joke. It was the last show of the night and left me wondering what the hell is going on out here. I had to retreat to the comfort of red meat and sudsy beer.

In summary
To summarize tonight, I think Los Angeles is all about the “look.” You go into an audition out here and you have to stand out to make an impression. And maybe this is the art imitating life, the art being so concerned with making an impression that it forgets what it’s supposed to say once the person consumes all there is to see on the surface. Next stop will be Chinatown where hopefully I find some more work worth really thinking about.

Craig A. Platt

Tuesday, July 28, 2009



There are many reasons to keep a blog. Dreams of movie deals and TV show running; coffee table books and cable news analyst-ing seem to be a very prevalent ones. There are the Diablo Cody’s of the world who sold their stripping journals and then wrote screenplays so sticky sweet that Oscar landed in her overused lap. The rules of journalism don’t seem to apply here, so the first person is acceptable. This is an opportunity for your host, me, to keep writing and to write about another facet of creativity, something I am none too good at, but understand that aspiration towards greatness. Which is why it comes with such difficulty to point out the considerable amount of slothfulness in the art world, and when I say art world I am specifically talking about my own environs, Los Angeles.

The goal is to continue to go out into this Los Angeles “Art Scene” and try to both be critical and to insert myself into it. To make friends, share ideas, discuss books and art and music and all of that highfalutin stuff we’ve all read about that took place in the 40’s – 70’s. You know, salon discussion of Descartes and Warhol, of the meaning of paint on canvas, word on page, sex on screen and drugs in blood. But, What I am finding thus far, and perhaps it is the way it was then, it seems more a fashion show, a gathering of the cool kids to admire their new hats and skinny jeans (I realize the skinny jean comment is as useful as a mother joke at this point, but still). This isn’t a diatribe designed to condemn the art scene, nor is it meant to discourage people from going out to look at art, celebrate artists and buy paintings. It is two fold, one, if you go to galleries you should actually stop to look at the art while not speaking to someone else about your own personal projects and where you’ll be showing next, second, don’t pretend that bad art is good just because it’s a scene and people are pretending it’s good because the “scene” is good. This is all abstraction, isn’t it, not making sense? Well, it does when you think about it in the context of what I just experienced at the last roundup. Onward.

And so, as we venture out towards the galleries of West Hollywood, Mid-Wilshire, Culver City and Santa Monica we ask several questions. Has technology ruined any chance we may have towards a useful and productive artistic community? Have the kids today missed the point? Why do we make art and why is it so important to some of us? Is a crappy digital photo of a hipster pregnant, pissing in the woods art?

Oh man, I can see this may be a two part-er already.

And to tell the truth, which is hard to do, most of the art I saw was so confusing and all over the place it reminded me of reading an US Weekly written in Russian over someone’s shoulder in a train station while tripping on mushrooms and drinking a screw top bottle of port wine in 120 degree heat. But alas, away we go.

All of the LA Art Blogs were stammering at the prospects of all these amazing openings on the weekend of July 10 – 12. I am going to disclose to you the places I have gone to find art:;;;;; and the nice people at LeBasse Projects and Charlie James Gallery.


REGEN PROJECTS 633 North Almont Drive, Los Angeles California 90069

I had gone to Regen Project once before, Manfred Pernice, and to be honest the installation was some silly play on prefab furniture, it barely filled half of half the gallery and it felt pretty silly. A gallerist friend insisted that Regen was a good gallery and an “important” one. But after going the second time and seeing Lawrence Weiner’s “Placed On The Tip Of A Wave.” One wall had the slogan “PLACED ON A POINT NOT QUITE AT THE POINT.” In fact, the art was not so clever slogans like this plastered up on the walls. The middle of the space left empty for wandering chucklers. I don’t know Weiner’s work, but this was laughable. I did not feel the least bit interested nor did I do that thing I do when I see a carefully crafted work of art, nor did this conceptual art make me think anything other than, this isn’t as clever as everyone here is pretending it is. Maybe it was the simple stenciling and the lack of thought directed at the slogans, but the entire show was off putting and gave off the uneasy feeling of waiting in an emergency room for the doctor to tell you bad news. Regen Projects; you’ve let me down twice now. Shape it up.

6150 Wilshire Boulevard, Spaces 1 & 2, Los Angeles, CA 90048

Aaron Morse & Bill Jensen showing paintings. To start, this gallery is a great space in a horrible location. Housed in a complex with a few other galleries, ACME is the face of it, the largest and closest to the street, facing Wilshire Boulevard. It’s a more upscale crowd drinking Grolsch out of swing top bottles. The main room was filled with Morse’s paintings that cleverly chart the course of man from fishing with spears to riding on enormous Titanic style cruise ships. Morse’s work was clever and extremely accessible. Each painting was well thought out and held little surprises hidden in the color and texture. They did not make up a very compelling or original topic, evolution of man has been done for eons, but it was pleasing and well worked art.

Bill Jensen, as I have been told, is a real painters painter. Maybe that’s a good thing and he should be rewarded for his longevity. But 54 k may be a reasonable price for a an abstract by a big name in the art world, but these feel a little less than earth shaking. You’re in fact supporting the work of a painter’s painter who has really stuck it out and continued to make art well into his sixties. I liked the work, but I wouldn’t buy it. But, hopefully, he lives in some beautiful home with a sexy open-minded wife and a studio overlooking a gorgeous creek with purple sunsets. Hopefully he’s developed a respectable drinking habit, eats well and sports a good beer gut while still having a muscular physique. Because, in fact, that’s what we expect from our ruggedly individualistic abstract painters, the lifestyle we longed for. Us fans of the abstract got into it all as much for the freedom of the art as we did for the cowboys making those paintings. Keep in mind that I am not making fun of this school of art; in fact it is one of my favorites. However, the future of abstraction should not be the past. Bill Jensen’s paintings were great, completely hang-able, but slightly overpriced. Acme, you’re doing a good job, been there twice this summer and I’ve liked what I’ve seen.

Now we enter into the meat and potatoes of the openings. The really confusing stuff, the “LA art scene” Mecca of the night filled with clever art, bad art, good art, rock bands playing and art shows taking a back seat to the “scene. “ There were the rich, the poor, the rich disguised as the poor, the art fanatic, the scenester, the hipster; the normal dudes just out to see art. I wish it was a little grittier here in LA, but it just feels like Beverly Hills comes down off the hills and slums it for a night every month or so. The crowds were out in full force to swill the free booze, nod there heads at the bad art and most importantly to talk to each other about themselves.

And this is where the questions mentioned earlier start coming into play. A lot of the art here looks cooler on the blogs and web calendars than it does in person. It’s strange to think that art can hold more power when it’s reproduced digitally, but that seems to be the case with the CULVER CITY galleries. Also, the internet’s opinion makers christen kings of art without so much as a single critical word (see: Hence, walking into these places and appreciating the art seems to be secondary to saying you were there and then commenting on twitter or some blog about how the “whole world” was there and now we have to go back and take a closer look. I have news for you, save the time. The art wasn’t so good and neither was the crowd. Okay, okay, rant over.

The truth is some of the art was good, but the galleries don’t have any restraint allowing artists that are unable to edit themselves to run ramshackle into the spaces covering floor and wall with an inordinate amount of art. This takes the focus off the good stuff because there is so much mediocre art. Also, you don’t have to have something to say to be part of the art community, but, and this is something I learned a while back, if you’re going to celebrate the “ordinary” you must find a way to make it “extraordinary.”

Again: ONWARD!
2712 South La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, Ca 90034

Bellows and Whispers: Claude Collins-Stracensky, Mari Eastman, Erik Frydenborg, Noah Sheldon & Torbjorn Vejvi
July 11 - August 8, 2009

The goal of the show: “The Large and Small Effects of Structure, Its Presence and Absence brings together the work of five artists interested in abstraction.”

Blah blah babety blah blach. This mish mosh of a show was the first stop on my Culver City tour and while these art-school grads are technically skilled artists it’s hard to find the soul in any of the too clever art. There was too much art to spend an inordinate amount of time on the stuff we here at artbystander didn’t like, but suffice to say this fell into the mediocre and too clever for it’s own good category. It wasn’t the worst we saw, but it also wasn’t the best.

2680 South La Cienega, Los Angeles, CA 90034

Nadia Hironaka & Matthew Suib’s Black Hole (Web), 2009 is a video and music installation that stood out as both original and traditional. With roots in abstraction the film and accompanying music holds a powerful fist and pounds it into your eyes. After leaving Cherry And Martin worried that I would have to endure a similar Culver City experience as I did last time, L I G H T B O X did the impossible and surprised me. I did not watch the entire thing yet I can clearly recall how I was struck by the freshness of the art. It both looked and felt compelling. The score felt thought out like a William Kentridge piece and the video felt French, smart and under control with total purpose. It was a really nice surprise. I intend to go back and watch in it’s entirety, the room was swelteringly hot and the crowd walking in and out was distracting, but there was no one in the room who could speak, everyone’s eyes and ears were fully set towards the art at hand. This was the first great work I have seen since starting out here. It’s a combination of video focused on nourish scenes and percussive music. The press release describes it as so…
Installed in a pitch-black room and projected onto a black screen, Black Hole presents an obscured sense of confinement and isolation. The environment introduces a sequence of shadowy interior images that rest on the threshold of visibility, and the projection itself appears to hover in space. Occasional breaks of light momentarily orient viewers to the projected image and its surroundings, but the illumination is fleeting. Bright images dissolve back to dark interiors and their accompanying sense of anxiety and disorientation. A surround-soundtrack of hypnotic buzz and martial percussion adds to the sense of confusion.

2642 South La Cienega, Los Angeles, CA 90034

‘LAUGH IT OFF’ GROUP SHOW Curated by Jane Scott, Girl Wonder Inc. Including works by Oscar Cueto, Archie Scott Gobber, James Gobel, Laurie Hogan, William Powhida, Robb Putnam, Kammy Roulner, Lezley Saar and Fletcher Smith

This is a show that is best explained in pictures. Mostly good, with a little bad, all whimsical takes on contemporary art and art collectors. I am only going to focus on the successful and to continue being hypocritical, will only show photos this time around:


LA STYLE III group show
Not worth very many words so referring to the twitter account:
Low grade graffiti art, unoriginal and bright, and that's just the first wall, the backroom is better though. Todd Williams oil on aluminum is worthwhile and rather decent. This gallery had too little going on it for the amount it had hanging on the wall.

JK GALLERY 2632 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90034
Jaclyn Mednicov and Elizabeth Gahan
This show consisted of pretty art school paintings and drawing, not strong enough to move a pile of salt One piece I kind of like, the rest, eh. Reminds my friend of the front of a trapper keeper. This is that art school problem, these talented kids go out and know how to make art, people reward them for being good, but never teach them how to make art that is more content and less aesthetic. The work was visually pleasing and well crafted, but the people in the gallery were much more interested in the stimulating conversation than they were about the art. As a footnote, the staff at JK was some of the nicest on the strip, showing off the work and open to discussion. The artists both have promise, they just need to dig a little deeper and find some truth in what they are trying. Sex with model is only fun the first ten times or so, then you wish she’d stop doing her makeup and read some William Faulkner, you know? Although, looking at the two slides above, the dreaminess, the simple craftmanship, it makes you forget about criticism for a second, like shutting the fuck up and enjoying a sunset.

2622 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, California 90034

BITCH IS THE NEW BLACK Curated by Emma Gray

This is where my anger starts bubbling like a soda can shaken and then thrown around until it explodes. I am sure there was some good art hanging in Honor Fraser, but honestly there was too much spectacle, too much mediocre art and too much “scene” to really make a difference. The show was not only over packed with under-worked art, it was over packed with people talking and drinking and stepping on the art and posing for photos and laughing and smiling and showing off new suspenders and moustaches and all that, the only thing they weren’t doing was looking at the art. Because if they did they would’ve realized that some of the “art” on display was, a bunch of blue jeans tied together, a wagon wheel broken on the floor, a gray crutch (yes, not a typo) standing in the middle of the space, an enormous tie-dyed shirt with “LEAVE ME ALONE” stenciled on it and a couple of overly photo shopped hipster photographs. One was a pregnant woman peeing in the woods, what feminist freedom, really, taking back the female form like never before, you truly should be applauded. The second a woman’s unshaved vagina being spray painted red. I am ready to teach a graduate level course on that brilliant piece. In fact, every where you looked in Honor Fraser there was art set to quench the thirst of people looking for that little niche of slightly off kilter hipster kitsch that feels just out there enough to be different but at the same time attainably real and free as to make these liberal adult-baby species feel as if they are really living the bohemian lifestyle while under their safety blankies.

All that being said, it’s nice to see a show of all women artists being curated, definitely not enough of that around. But, perhaps the enthusiasm for the subject may have caused a little loss in judgment when hanging the show. Less is always more.

Man, that sounds bitter doesn’t it. Honestly, there were some interesting works of art in the space, but there was so much art and so many pieces, that in my humble opinion lacked luster, that it was hard to find and discern the good stuff. But still, all the blogs were abuzz with this show, naming it THE show to see, especially Try Harder Art, which never offers anything but nice words about all the art it goes and photographs regardless of the blogs title. In fact, like those hipster photographers from the early 2000’s who blindly celebrated the partying on the LES of Manhattan, it seems like TryHarder’s one goal is to photograph the people looking at the art in hopes of getting a book deal and throwing another shitty and pointless coffee table book at this self-masturbatory community of people who pretend to be humble.

To be honest, it was hard to recover from seeing this show. It made me angry and it made me want to go home throw on some music and drink! It made me want to drink and act like a derelict just home from a stint in prison. Fighting everything I laid eyes on. This is the example of people not getting it. They continue to foster this notion that the art world can be like a backstage party at a Rolling Stones concert. They’re missing the point in a huge way. The cool kids want to be cool, they don’t want to be good, but they want you to think they’re good and all their friends will pretend they’re good until we buy it. I ain’t buying it!

Taking a moment to catch my breath here, it’ll all be all right; it’ll all be all right, SERENITY NOW.

All the other galleries after Honor Fraser will be written about later or maybe never. Here is the list of the rest of the shows and my general impression. After this I am going to pour myself rum and listen to some Bob Dylan.

ANGSTROM GALLERY 2622 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles CA 90034 Peter Macapia – SKULLCRACKER
Skull cracker was some good intricate stuff, art under control, looked like snakeskins were molded into strange prehistoric bridges. Very interesting and a great offset to Honor Fraser’s complete disregard for control or craft.

CONSTANT GALLERY 2673 S La Cienega, Los Angeles, CA 90034 DESERT SEXY
Desert Sexy won me over. Felt like a David Lynch film written by Oliver Stone. No pretension, just art hanging and installed. A band called Yawing Man or something and a lot of people laughing and looking at the art like their life depended on it. I really enjoyed this show for it’s amateurish nature.



Bergamot Arts Complex, 2525 Michigan Ave T5, Santa Monica, CA 90404 MONSTER?
Monster? Cool takes on monsters. Very comic and playful and affordable. The art was fun and comic bookish, much more graphic designer and less fine art. Not sure what I would buy, but any thing at Bergamot station is always a pleasure. The jazz band out front was a nice touch.

IN CONCLUSION (of sorts)
Eeek, is it over? I hope this whole thing hasn’t been too grueling. It was a long tour. Three full hours and a lot of art to then swallow, digest and reconsider. I think that my view of this LA Art Scene is starting to form an avenue of hopefulness. If there is even a little bit of good then that always outweighs the negative. But, there is also this feeling that I really haven’t figured out why people go to these openings. And what is the effect of the digital age on art. These are some topics I think need to be wrestled with in the future.

The important thing to remember is that people are still making art and others are going to look at it, talk about and photograph it. They post to blogs and twitter and facebook and they share their ideas and feelings about this. Some are even passionate to the degree that they comment, fight it out with typed words and insist that their opinion is the right one or even more interestingly, are desperate for the exchange even if it’s through cyberspace. But, I think it’s important to consider how this influences the way we look at and the way we think about art and particular artists. Is something as good as it looks when a photographer singles it out on a blog and fills the shots with “cool looking” people or are we being influenced as if it were a carefully written and produced advertisement, like a cool cowboy smoking a Marlboro?

I want the art to speak for itself I guess. I want it to be unique, not ikea. I want it to make a push, feel dangerous and move forward in a fresh way.

~ Craig A. Platt

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Gallery Roundup -- 20 June 2009

Let's begin with introductions...
Age: 32

BA, Communication
MFA, English Literature, Creative Writing

Hometown: New York City

Current Residence: Los Angeles

Level of Sentimentality: Medium

Feel free to skip down to the actual roundup and reviews, but in case you as a reader are curious just who in the world this blogger is, well keep reading.

Welcome to the first installment in what I hope with be a bi-monthly round-up of that thing some people would describe as art and others might describe as a gigantic waste of time. A lot of people have been telling me the art scene in LA is the best art scene in America right now and I must admit I have my doubts. But, in an effort to keep my mind limber, and not succumb to Lou Gehrig's disease before I turn forty, I've decided to write about the art I see and the books I choose to read. Occasionally I will cover a film or an album too, but hopefully only when they are truly groundbreaking. Why am I doing this? Why the hell not, right?

Now, I'll openly admit that I am an outsider in the art world, but it shouldn't all be about being an insider, right? What I mean to say is that an individual should be able to walk into any gallery and have an impression, there are no rights or wrongs, but there is good and bad taste. Right now I will not be rating according to any scale, I am certainly open to suggestions though.

In the words of the horse track: AND WE'RE OFF!


The roundup began with a few drinks at home while writing THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES Book Review, then scouring the web for a reliable resource fon the galleries I should hit up. As mentioned, this is a learning process and having surfed for a good forty minutes without much luck I wandered into ArtSlant: It gave me a brief description of each opening, a single slide that was meant to represent the show and the hours of operation. It was as informative as it needed to be except for the warning that most of I would see would be, well, not good.

After reading through the guide for the weekend I selected four shows to hit along with the hope that other galleries on the main La Cienega strip of Culver City would be open. All openings had open bars and my partner in crime (my roommate) were locked and loaded for a night of fine art appreciation, laughter and maybe, just maybe, some inspiration.

So, without further adieu, the quest will begin to insert myself into the L.A. art scene like a star quarterback into the head cheerleader. Be careful you say? Danger is my middle name when it comes to the written word. The mission is to honestly and articulately express appreciation or disappointment of and in the contemporary artists and art scene of the day.


Stop 1: Kinkead Contemporary, 6029 Washington Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90232 Heather Cantrell - A Study in Portraiture: Act 1
June 20 - July 18, 2009

Located on Washington Boulevard Kinkead Contemporary is a small space to begin with. But, with the front space set up with two backdrops, camera on tri-pod in the middle of the room and a shelving installation filled with photography "props," it felt rather claustrophobic. Entering the space to hipsters with curly moustaches standing around joking around about this or that and art revelers talking amongst themselves and ignoring the art, it was obvious right away that this was a show that did not demand attention. After doing a quick walk-through, cutting through compelling conversations about baby's needs and smart filmmakers who are a "personal friend," we checked out the bio and purpose of the show.

A Study in Portraiture deals with the subversion and altering of identity through portraiture and how those issues manifest themselves through Heather Cantrell's exploration of tribes and subcultures, specifically those of the art world.

Obviously the art world is a tribe, just like the Hebrews. And, of course, nothing explores that like posing people up in front of backdrops they think are clever and allowing them to play dress up like some damned eight year old that doesn't invite the whole class to the birthday party. The show was, put simply, an insiders show meant to assert importance to a group of people who need that type of positive reinforcement.

It was essentially a boring photo exhibit. An elaborate photo booth at a hip Williamsburg or Culver City Bar. Doing one last pass to finish the Tecate and trying to figure out if there is deeper meaning here that one might miss, I went and checked the artists statement again: The resulting photographic image represents this in one captured moment with all its beautiful ambiguity and intrigue - it is a 'play-still.'

This show was neither "ambiguous" nor "intriguing." Instead it was a year book that no one wants to sign.

Stop 2: LeBasse Project, 6023 Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232
Seasonal Change: Group Exhibition
artists including Tessar Lo, Nate Frizzell, Joe Black, Alexandros Vasmoulakis, Thomas Doyle, James Roper, Morgan Slade, Edwin Ushiro, Rebecca Urias, Meryl Donoghue and Michael Steele.

In direct contrast to Kinkeade Contemporary LeBasse Project seemed to be deadset on filling the eyes with such sweet art that it'll give you a bit of a stomach ache, but the kind of stomach ache you revel in. Walking the gallery and feasting on all the eye candy, not every painter was a hit, but the overall feeling was that the gallerists have a vision for the kind of work they want to show and there opinion of the collector is that they'll want to hang the work somewhere that will catch the eye of the observer. The group show features artists who will be participating in upcoming shows.

Beau Basse was there himself and was happy to talk about the current climate in the art world, the works that he felt truly passionate about and the state of art in Los Angeles. The work covered the precious, the grotesque and the ultra cool. Riffs on anime, photography and good old fashioned irony. This was by far the best show of the night and if there were a rating system in place, LeBasse would score high.

There were several highlights of the show. Two in particular really stuck with me. Both could be considered really good guy art. The first one was a reminder of all that is great about the reckless. James Roper's Exit Vehicle series. The pieces are intricately drawn cars at the moment of impact into some immovable force. The result is an explosion of water color. Only 12" x 17" the work packs a mighty wallop. While probably satisfying only the masculine eye, there is something incredibly vulnerable about the detail in the art. What is omitted is almost as interesting as what is on the page. There is no trace of humanity. Only machine in black and white; impact in a rainbow of colors announcing the beauty and texture of the accident. While Roper may not be for everyone his simplistic and clearly stated vision is one that grasps you and forces that smile you get when art is both expertly crafted and cleverly conceived.

The second highlight of the show is Morgan Slade's Tiger Balm. Photography that is printed enormously and then manipulated. This art makes Roper's look like the sensitive little brother afraid of getting to second base. Largely rendered women that we assume are beautiful, their figures are at least, with masks of large and dangerous animals covering most of their head. In the series we never see the woman's face, nor do we see her nude body. But, we see enough. Provocatively painted and adorned afterward, the work simply jumps from the frame and makes you wish you lived in a world where women had as much attitude and swagger as they do in Morgan Slade's work. Again, this is guy art. But, make no mistake.

LeBasse Projects has their shit together. They're showing art. Not some conception of how art should be poignant and "out there," or simple and without talent, but with an MFA pedigree. There were a few clunkers in there. Jack Long's Sustaining felt like a dated 1960's album cover and in a small room to the side there were works that felt minor and more suited for the bottom of a skateboard then on the wall of a gallery. But overall, LeBasse was the hit of the night.

Stop 3: George Billis Gallery, 2716 La Cienega Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90034
Terry Thompson, Johnny Robertson, Michael Owen

The only thing more upsetting than this show was that no other galleries were open. This was the second time I entered into George Billis Gallery and it was the second time I was unimpressed. It might be the last time I go, but I am sucker for the hope that someone will finally get it right after getting it wrong for such a prolonged amount of time. Billis' show is the perfect example of the slides they use to advertise online being a complete lie when representing what the show acrually has to offer. On Artslant the images looked cool, quirky and worth a look. In person they were worthless, boring and made me want to drown all the acrylic and oil at the bottom of the Pacific so no one could ever paint again. I'd like to think that this is the gallerists and their neighbors fault for allowing them to show that art in this neighborhood. It was neither contemporary, interesting or well rendered.

On my live feed from twitter I made four tweets about this show. Let's make them the last thing I say about the show:

George Billis, culver city from TinyTwitter

Just fell asleep on my feet. This show is a mush of pop culture boredown and bad renderings of palm trees. Rum calls from TinyTwitter

Seriously, the George Billis show was bad. Drinking at mandrake before heading to silverlake for one last opening. from TinyTwitter

In the words of Forrest Gump: And that's all I have to say about that.

Stop 4: Azteca Gallery, 2148 Sunset Boulevard - in Echo Park, Los Angeles, California 90026
Arte de Eros

This show was interesting for the scene. The work was earthy and Latin American. The space was more pleasing than the work. An old store front, possibly a shoe repair shop. The gallerist used a cubby system along one wall to store his hats. The art was all for sale as prints and was reasonably priced and would look good in any southwestern type store or santa fe styled house. The most distracting thing about it was that every piece was accompanied by a note card with the title and a description of what was being represented through the loosely figurative work. This was not only distracting, but the writing was overly sentimental and made the work more boring than it actually was. This was the point of overload for the evening and my viewing partner and I escaped to CitySip for wine and reflection.

In conclusion it was a mediocre first outing. There was no work that haunted or chased us into the next gallery and once the wine was poured we did not feel compelled to reflect on what we'd seen. The art seemed to be without "question." Good art is fun to look at, great art makes you question existence.

My final thought was that the artists we'd seen had mastered their technical skills, but were still lacking that extra push. Whether they lack belief or conviction is hard to tell, but something was missing by God and that missing piece made the night less memorable.

As I mentioned, this blog is a work in progress, but the night was a success. Art was viewed, opinions were made as were friends. Los Angeles I look forward to seeing the best you have to offer.

~ Craig A. Platt

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Friday, June 19, 2009



Art has gone crazy, boys, I said, and they said: it’s always been crazy

Life is unpredictable. Everyone dies. No one will remember you. This is, of course, an oversimplification of sorts, but is the main theme that is intricately woven through the confessional style of this monumental work of trickery and literary mastery. The Savage Detectives is a sprawling Latin American novel by Roberto Bolaño that seeks to both ostracize the author and his form of literature/poetry while at the same time striving to re-re-redefine Latin American literature and the definition of being an artist as a whole.

It would prove to be an impossible undertaking to summarize this novel, a work that is divided into three parts, the first and third being the daily journals of aspiring Visceral Realist Poet Juan Garcia Madero and the second section (the meat and the potatoes of the novel) a five-hundred page series of interviews with people who have at some point in life come into contact and been affected by either the leaders of the poetic movement Visceral Realism Arturo Bolano or Ulises Lima.

We begin with a simple sentence from Madero, an invitation to join the Visceral Realists, an invitation we would be foolish not to accept. Madero is a young and brilliant boy with sexual and poetic prowess. A boy who is both confident and insecure, lost in the sea of Mexican identity. He finds himself torn between the bourgeoisie wishes of his family, notably not his parents, and the visceral realists, a band of young Mexicans living the bohemian lifestyle and searching for a greater truth than any Latin American magical realism can offer. The great enemy is of course Octavio Paz, possibly the only well known poet from Mexico and statesman of Latin American Literature.

Madero is the reader’s introduction to our two literary heroes and dominant figures throughout the story, Arturo Bolano and Ulises Lima. These two young men are the mysterious figures with limitless power, though few have read a word they have written, a power they wield over a group of young artists in search of a larger purpose. The fact that Bolano and Lima seem to be petty criminals constantly failing to launch any poetry magazine off the ground seems to only enhance their legend as men ahead of their time. One could try to describe every character and intricacy of this novel, but that person would only be feeding into the goal of this work.

Bolano and Lima eventually leave Mexico City, Visceral Realism and any permanent life behind, choosing to be itinerant for the rest of their lives. Visceral Realism was never really alive, not according to those who had involved themselves in the movement, though eventually it will be studied, if not by waves of people, at least by one academician who finds meaning in what he is able to learn regarding an undocumented literary movement that can only cobble together a handful of published poems. In fact, to academia Bolano and Lima do not exist and if they do, it is only to those who are interviewed about the subject, the fact that they have published little to nothing renders them meaningless to history. This poses the first major question of the work, how do we define success and if success is the personal barometer to personal artistic satisfaction. Or better stated, does any of it matter if that’s the kind of thing you’re interested in, success? And is success better appreciated alone or within a greater context of your peers.

Visceral Realism is dead, said Requena, we should forget about it and make something new. A Mexican section of surrealism, I murmured. I need something to drink, I said.

This question of whether it is even possible to be an original at this juncture of literary and artistic history, this is another topic Bolaño as author is dealing with through an oral history. The second section of the book, the challenging and important section, is a series of interviews with figures that are important to the lives of both Bolano the character and Lima. From old guard poets to thuggish Austrians, Bolano and Lima have traveled the world from the late 70’s to the mid-90’s and confronted, contemplate and inserted themselves in. Israel, Africa, France, Spain, England, Mexico, Chile, Panama, Nicaragua, these men have worked and lived everywhere. They have mooched and made friends. They have lurched, lived and loved, to a point that they can say that their living has been their art. The world a canvas and the interactions they have had their brushes. They scantily have a dime to spend or a bed to lay in, but they always seem to have a hope, all be it one that lies far away, that at some point greatness will arrive.

While Bolano and Lima are quick to criticize art, people, cities, governments, jobs and cliché bourgeoisie life, what Bolaño is really doing here is reminding us that everyone is a unique being and it's the journey they take that influences their place in history (of course that history is essentially the history of one).

Loneliness, love, death, sex, lies, art, family, literature, intellect, paintings, poems, pranks, privilege, penis, pussy, hunger strikes, hallucination, birth, murder, equality, discrimination, damnation, visceral realism. A series of catalogs chronicling lives tied in one tight bale of hay for a few short years and then thrown in the back of a truck and driven through the world to be strewn apart. The book is enormously entertaining, gigantically cerebral and sentimental.

…the search for a place to live and a place to work was the common fate of all mankind.

After finally finishing the book you flip back through the pages fondly remembering little sections that you’ve forgotten.

At the time I thought it was a sad story, not because of the story itself, but because of the way he told it.

In a generation of writers groomed by creative writing programs Bolaño reminds us that what literature and art really needs are people on the ground, living and grinding through this world, seeing the ugly side, remembering the unfortunate events and ruminating over them for decades. Most importantly, and the reason this novel is brimming with greatness, is that literature, art in general, is about being the great trickster mirror man, reflecting the worlds most grotesque, farcical, comedic, sweet, melancholy and bitter moments into some series of words, brushstrokes, horn blows or sculpted stone that remind us of the simplicity of that complexity. That through the complex undertaking that is art, specifically literature, we can see the pure simplicity and joy that life as a human really has to offer. Bolaño is reminding us that literature can be a colossal force of nature blowing through us and sparking our imaginations through a rough and tumble realism.

You have to live your life, that's all there is to it. A drunk I met the other day on my way out of the bar La Mala Senda told me so. Literature is crap.

~Craig A. Platt