Tuesday, May 29, 2012


CIMG0227, originally uploaded by levenj.

This gem was at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts: http://www.artsmia.org/viewer/detail.php?v=12&id=1655

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The WASP: Make Art (part III)

Now imagine the Internet.  And imagine Anton Vidolke.  E-flux and the French theorist and curator Nicolas Bourriaud – “The contemporary work of art does not position itself as the termination point of the ‘creative process’ (a ‘finished product to be contemplated) but as a site of navigation, a portal, a generator of activities.”

That’s what we do in museums, right?  We have an obligation to promote this state as culture workers?

Modern Painter’s article on Vidokle (not this article) goes on to claim, “…the contemporary transformations of influence through social networks -  a truly distributed collective --   and the concept of he commons, in which no single person has control over resources and production but shares them among peers.”  And isn’t this what we are beholden to do with our collections on-line and all the more now on-site?

Vidokle says, “It’s kind of a dream that e-flux could evolve into some sort of structure like this, because really what the Factory produced were social relations, which produced this extraordinary artistic output…there was already this idea in the Russian avant-garde that life itself could produce art – in fact that unalienated life becomes so full of beauty that everything you do is in a sense an art work already.  I’m not under the illusion that I could do that, transform society.  But still this is interesting, and the Factory produced a lot of really interesting stuff.”

And let’s not forget the Factory as a distributed network produced The Velvet Underground.  Interview magazine.  A design esthetic that has had a profound influence on world culture.  Probably birthed MTV and the mass distribution of art, and a sense that all our lives have the potential for art -- or celebrity as Warhol saw it -- which cannot really be disentangled from life in his worldview.  But I am very much of the “Warhol is all” camp.

So what is the greatest challenge to access – in my mind – it is the funding.  How do we get all this paid for in the early part of the 21st century, in a museum industry that’s over built and highly competitive.  But in my world this is not a challenge.  It’s an opportunity.

America’s cultural funding model has historically been based on private philanthropy. Jefferson, Frick, Smithson.  Getty.  Weisman.  Right?  And we gotta figure out how to keep it going for the new and the now.  The Gen X, Y and millennials that will keep it funded, and take the time to rein in what we do, measure against what matters.  There is likely to be a little more attrition, folks.  Museums are over-built as an industry. We gotta make it matter like the veneration of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.  And we gotta make it fun, even when it's pretentious.  It is the pleasure principle, is this the way to simplify? Right now, as Brian Eno points out:
Why is it that all of us here – presumably members of the arts community – probably know more about the currents of thought in contemporary science than those in contemporary art? Why have the sciences yielded great explainers like Richard Dawkins and Stephen Gould, while the arts routinely produce some of the loosest thinking and worst writing known to history? 
- Back in 1995, Brian Eno’s opening speech at Turner Prize award ceremony

And it is our job to make or work feel like Rock and Roll to them now.  Like when I get on my plane and I feel the Jim Morrison....reminding me of the earliest part of my life, so it resonates and feels like it will be important to others.

It can be popular.  Though it need not be.  Sometimes it's just necessary.  It just need to be sustainable unto its  purpose and context.

Let me tell you about Texas Radio and The Big Beat. Comes out of the Virginia swamps cool and slow with a back beat narrow and hard to master...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Greil Marcus in LA Review of Books - "possibly the longest interview in the history of the internet"

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Can't wait to dig into this!! Thanks for sharing Daniel Schifrin http://lareviewofbooks.org/article.php?id=591 Los Angeles Review of Books - Simon Reynolds interviews Greil Marcus lareviewofbooks.org Like · · Share Ryyan LeBllanc likes this.

Timothy B Buckwalter it is possibly the longest interview in the history of the internet. Seriously. Yesterday at 2:11pm

James G. Leventhal whoa...you know it's going to be long when it begins" "Let's start with your name..." Yesterday at 2:29pm · Like · 1

Timothy B Buckwalter Yep. And then it goes on for miles about his name. Yesterday at 2:47pm · Unlike · 1

James G. Leventhal ‎Gravity Goldberg whoops, it ends up California Dreaming would have been the tie in for Greil Marcus ;) GM: My wife always says I'm a California Jew, meaning I'm not Jewish at all. I didn't know any Yiddish. I have non-Jewish friends in New York who knew far more Yiddish than I do. I was born in San Francisco, my mother was born in Portland. Before that her family was in Hawaii. So I come from a very Western family, and Jews in San Francisco have always been assimilated. Eastern family members would come over and say, "Where is the neighborhood?" They just didn't get it. I grew up in a Jewish family that had Christmas trees, we celebrated Christmas, it was a big-deal family gathering. But I'm Jewish, there's no question about that. I went to services, I went to high holidays, I had a bar mitzvah. It's a big part of my identity, no question. Yesterday at 8:56pm · Like

James G. Leventhal midway through...and now realize I have to read the interviewer's book http://www.amazon.com/Blissed-Out-Simon-Reynolds/dp/1852421991 Blissed Out www.amazon.com Mixing analysis with interviews, this study of rock music celebrates the "underg...See More 15 hours ago · Like

Timothy B Buckwalter If you are not super familiar with Post-punk, the best Reynolds book is Rip It Up. And I would loan you my copy, but I've already loaned to someone else (I forget who) and I don't have it anymore. It's a pretty straight forward history, so its a decent read. When he gets into analysis and essays, he begins to sound a but like Andy Rooney -- bemoaning how great the past was and sucky the present is. Which, obviously, it isn't. 12 hours ago · Like

James G. Leventhal wha?!?! "Andy and Jon studied under T.J. Clark, the great art historian, who later became a good friend of mine when he came to Berkeley and taught here for many years. But he was at Leeds when he taught some of the people in Gang of Four and the Mekons, and he had been a member of the Situationist group in the mid-sixties." 2 hours ago · Like

James G. Leventhal still throwing quotes at ya Timothy B Buckwalter "I hated Ronald Reagan. I hated him as governor of California, when he was a much meaner, crueler person in his public persona than he was as president. But he was a cold, evil bastard and I hated him. I hated what he did to this country and I hated what he stood for. And I couldn't bear to look at the country — to seriously, intellectually, grapple with it, critically — in those years." loving this!! Am I actually going to have to wait til Sunday to read more???

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The WASP: Make Art (part II)

The ethics of accessibility are wrapped up in the intersection of two facts – art, at its highest echelons, greatest, happens within a system; and art is popular and meaningful to everyone when given over to its most natural state, mediated to achieve universality.

Art within a system. It is esoteric. Or "What I admire most about Paul McCarthy." Difficult. Scatological. Squeezing ketchup like a child, and tossing about in a tub. He is, in fact, riffing off of extremely popular tools – video, street life, pornography.

Somehow McCarthy always strikes me as the ultimate “operator,” the Cal Arts professor, the deliberate charlatan. It’s important for me because the phrase, “Art happens with a system” were notes I took from a Swiss catalog from a brilliant exhibition entitled Lost Paradise. The Angel's Gaze.

The Angel’s Gaze (Juri Steiner). The catalog created or well “curated” a brilliant exhibition inspired by Paul Klee’s Angelus Novelus and the related Walter Benjamin essay written about the Klee work, about the “new angel,” looking ever backward at the horrors of history.

A Klee painting named «Angelus Novus» shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one perceives the angel of history. His face is towards the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one catastrophe, which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.
-  Walter Benjamin

McCarthy’s work for the exhibition was an oversized pile of what appeared to be fresh dog excrement.  It made the papers!:

Complex Shit, a giant inflatable dog turd, escaped from its moorings at the Zentrum Paul Klee last week and brought down a power line and broke a window before landing on the grounds of a children’s home 200 meters away, the Guardian reports. Although the unintended flight happened on July 31, details emerged only yesterday.

On the other hand Juri Steiner’s “art discourse happens with a system…” is nested, nested beautifully, within a broader rubric so well articulated in Lynne Conner in her writing about the history of performance and coupled within a must-read in our field Tepper’s Engaging Art: The Next Great Transformation of America's Cultural Life

The hierarchical idea of arts reception in which great art will automatically find its audience without mediation of any kind is behaviorally inaccurate… - Lynne Conner

Somehow, at some point, class and practice in America shifted art away from popular forms of reception. For the sake of propriety, people started to applaud. To applaud to keep them from participating. To contain heckling. To proscribe. To make quiet. In fact, to make certain people feel less welcome if they could not follow protocols.

Imagine Shakespeare. The Globe? Imagine The Doors...

...Imagine Duccio’s Maestà without popular reception? Without its first and foremost being paraded through the streets of Siena -- from the studio to the cathedral -- and before its eventual scattering to the western winds of distributed collections?


Thursday, May 10, 2012

The WASP: Make Art (part I)

I was on a plane out and there was this beautiful documentary about The Doors. A beautiful documentary, man. Mr Mojo Risin': The Story of L.A. Woman.


And, boy, it reminded me so hard about why I am in this. Why I am here. Why I keep on keeping on. And there’s art in there.

There’s a not-so-secret art. The art of Rimbaud. Back to the art of Baudelaire. Back to the Impressionists -- who spent more time painting brothels than any group of painters before them. Talk about your L.A. Woman.

Back to Edgar Allan Poe -- just as dense and heavy, faux philosophical, American, chauvinistic, expressive and dense as Poe.  Popular, enticing and sexy. Was Poe sexy? I mean why did they make all those Vincent Price movies?

Let me tell you about Texas Radio and The Big Beat.

And The Doors lead to Iggy and the Stooges, right? Echo and The Bunnymen. REM. U2.

Ray Manzarek borrows liberally from Chopin, equal as much as Kurt Weill and Howlin’ Wolf. Dionysian and Apollonian. Nietzsche and Disney.

“And the ancient Egyptians used to say, ‘If you say a man’s name he is alive. So I take the opportunity to say, ‘Jim Morrison,” Ray Manzarek says toward the end of the documentary.