From the Bad at Sports Archives: The Residents

November 28, 2011 · Print This Article

This week’s entry from the Bad at Sports archives is Richard Holland’s interview with Hardy Fox of the Cryptic Corporation, who acts as the agent of The Residents, an American art collective best known for avant-garde music and multimedia works.

“The definition of a band is generally thought of as a guitar player meets a drummer and they decide together…and gradually form a band. In this situation you have idea people who are not interested in one form of media over another. They’re more interested in what’s possible, idea wise, and to create projects. It’s a band not of musicians, it’s a band of idea people, and certainly one of the things they do is music, and they’ve always had the point of view that if the project calls for a band they’ll be a band, but they are still not a band in the traditional sense. They like to be thought of as a group…. The way it’s defined is that anyone who works on a project is a Resident. If there’s a tour and there’s a bus driver on the tour, then the bus driver is a Resident. They’re residents of that project…. The Residents like to stay fresh, they have to take each project as a whole new fresh project every time and a reinvention not only of who they are but of what is possible.”–Hardy Fox, Cryptic Corporation, agent of The Residents.




This Is Why Indiana Is The Shit

November 28, 2011 · Print This Article

Guest Post by Jeriah Hildwine

Stephanie and I took the Metra to Hammond, Indiana, where Linda Dorman and Tom Torluemke picked us up at the station, and brought us back to their place.  We ate pizza around their dining room table and then drank beer around a campfire in their backyard.  (Linda drank Coke, Tom O’Doul’s.)  Tom had built a perfect teepee fire, abashedly using compressed firestarters (which he called “cheating”) to light the fire.

 

Installation view of "Water" at Sidecar Gallery, featuring work by James Jankowiak, Tom Burtonwood, and Holly Holmes.

They took us to Sidecar Gallery to see “Water,” a show of work by Tom Burtonwood, Holly Holmes, and James Jankowiak.  Tom Burtonwood created a wallpaper of a computer-generated alphabet consisting of isomorphic perspective renderings of three-dimensional blocks (like Tetris pieces), each rendered in a different, simple pattern of marks.  It looked like a 1980s visualization of some kind of data set, but in fact represented an alphabet or code.  Apparently it incorporated QR codes which stored a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) for a website that would decode the alphabet for you…but, lacking a smartphone, we didn’t try it.  Burtonwood also created some small wooden sculptures that mimicked the form of the wallpaper.

Painting and wallpaper by James Jankowiak, sculpture by Tom Burtonwood.

James Jankowiak also created a wallpaper of sorts, covering several walls of the gallery with parallel strips of brightly colored plastic tape.  But his major works are small, square, incredibly precise paintings of minutely varying shades of color.  The works in this exhibition consisted of concentric circles.  In one, each circle was a slightly different shade of blue.  In another, a green torus vibrates electrically against a red field.  In a third, blues, browns, and whites alternate on a beige field.  One’s first thought is of course of sectioned Jawbreaker candies but a moment’s thought links them more closely with Josef Albers’ color studies.

Work by Tom Burtonwood at Sidecar Gallery.

Both Jankowiak’s and Burtonwood’s wallpapers served as backdrops for their own, and each other’s, small paintings and sculptures, turning the exhibition into more of a collaboration than a group show.  In the front room was one of Holly Holmes’ recent wooden sculptures, in which thin strips of wooden lathe are bent into a complex, looping form, like a diagram of the flight of a bumblebee, or a crazy zero-gravity roller-coaster.  I’ve seen a previous work of this type by Holmes, at Chicago Urban Arts Society, as part of Wood Worked, in which the material of the piece was left raw and unfinished.  In Water, it was painted in blue and white.  In each case the color and surface seemed an homage to the theme of the exhibition.

We had tickets for the 11:10pm South Shore Line Metra train home, but Sidecar was shutting down at 10pm, so instead of waiting around the train station in the cold for an hour after the show, Linda hooked us up with her friend Erik, who agreed to bring us back to Chicago.  But, he said, we had to make what he assured us would be a brief stop at a friend’s birthday party.  That’s how we ended up at Cisa Studio.

The birthday boy is this kid Flex, one of the guys who runs Cisa Studio in Hammond Indiana.  I call him a kid because he’s full of youthful energy, but in fact this is the eve of his 40th Birthday.  The vibe is like a house party or maybe like the office Christmas party for a tattoo parlor.  Erik introduces us as we walk in the door, and everybody is so nice, welcoming us with warm handshakes and cold beer.  The bathroom is immaculately clean, and the main space is stylishly decorated, with mood lighting and music befitting the occasion.  We meet Flex, see some of his work (a portrait, in spraypaint on canvas, very realistically executed), and then he shows us the backyard.

This involves three layers:  first, downstairs to an indoor, basement-like space where people gather to smoke around a big plywood table covered in drawings and graffiti writing.  A massive digital printer sits against one wall.  Signs advertise various services:  fine art paintings, signs, and airbrushed images for your motorcycle helmet, gas tank, leather jackets, and cars.  There’s a motorcycle helmet with an absolutely flawless airbrushed rendering of the comic book character Venom on it:  more of Flex’s work.

From there we moved into the garage, where a classic car sat, grind marks showing bare metal through the primer:  a work in progress, speaking of infinite potential.  In the back corner, a motorcycle sported a Minigun-type cluster of barrels emerging from its exhaust pipes.  I don’t know, but I imagine that they spin and belch fire when the motorcycle is running.  I sat there, spinning the barrels by hand, entranced.

Airbrushed motorcycle gas tank by Cisa Studio.

The backyard itself hosted a bench that had been airbrushed by some of Flex’s friends as part of a public art commission.  I looked around, and admired the facilities:  an absolutely gorgeous, spacious workspace.  What’s more, Flex told me, their rent is less than what Steph and I pay for our bedroom-and-a-half apartment in Ravenswood!  “This is why Indiana is the shit,” Flex explained.  It’s hard to argue with that.

We smoked cigarettes, talked to the Cisa crew, and drank more beer.  Then we were gathered, slowly and chaotically, into a rough herd, with the purpose of ambling down the alley to the studio’s exhibition space, a separate building a block down, to see Arte Muerte 2011, the 4th annual occurrence of this “Day Of The Dead” themed exhibition.  On the way I met the crew’s photographer, the most heavily-tattooed guy there, long-haired, with a rock-and-roll aesthetic that goes some way towards explaining his nickname, “Tommy Lee.”  To look at him you’d expect him to be biting the head off a bat or something, and turns out to be an incredibly sweet and super righteous dude.

Arte Muerte consisted of Day of the Dead altars and two-dimensional wall art, all encompassing themes of death, family, ancestry, tradition, ritual, and a Latino or Mexican cultural heritage.  The aesthetic of the work ranged from psychedelic and graffiti to Aztec and Maya glyphic writing, Catholic saints, and plenty of skulls.  What struck me most immediately about the show was that not a single thing in it felt ironic, exploitative, or appropriated:  there weren’t sculptures of altars, they weren’t about altars, they were genuine and sincere embodiments of this tradition.

After checking out the exhibition we made our way back to the studios where some of the guys were breakdancing, and we all did tequila shots in celebration of Flex’s birthday.  The Cisa studio crew talked to be about growing up together, and about how they hung out with Keith Haring when he was in Chicago.  They showed me a picture of them all, years ago, hanging out with Haring.  Erik mentioned working at Genesis Art Supply back in the day, and I asked him if he’d known Wesley Willis.  They guys all started telling stories about hanging out with him back in the day, of setting him up in the store to sit there and draw.  One of the guys proudly told me that Wesley had given him a drawing, which he still had.  Another had Willis’ old Casio keyboard from when he was growing up.

Invitation card for Erik DeBat's exhibition, "Risk & Reward."

Many hours, many stories, and many beers later, we were all feeling pretty ready to head out.  Another couple was catching a ride with us as well.  Erik DeBat, our ride, had made sure to moderate his consumption and was quite sober and fit to drive.  The rest of us were all pretty sauced, but I was still pretty lucid, and due to my long-leggedness our fellow passengers had afforded me the front seat, so I had much opportunity for conversation with Erik.  We talked about his work, and he gave me a copy of the catalog from a recent exhibition he’d had:  Risk & Reward, at The Renaissance Blackstone Hotel, in August of 2011.  I open it up, and I see this painting of The Hulk, and something looks familiar about it.  The catalog essay is by Tony Fitzpatrick and it all falls into place:  I’ve seen Erik’s work, and probably Erik himself, at Tony Fitzpatrick’s place.  He gave me a card for an upcoming exhibition (Recursion, at 2612 Space) featuring Erik’s work as well as James Jankowiak, Mario Gonzalez Jr., Victor Lopez, and William Weyna.  I wasn’t able to make it to that one, but he also told me that he’s got a show coming up at Firecat Projects, in May 2012.  I generally make it to all of the openings at Firecat, but I’m looking forward to this one in particular.

Jeriah Hildwine is an artist, educator, and art writer for ArtPulse, Art Talk Chicago and Chicago Art Magazine.  Jeriah lives and works in Chicago, with his wife Stephanie Burke.




How about a Holiday Movie

November 25, 2011 · Print This Article

With Thanksgiving behind us, it is now undeniably the “holiday” season. As the B@S Book Advocate, I at first planned to write about literary gifts for your artist friends. But then I realized there was no way I could read through enough books this month to give any kind of reasoned recommendation. After all, with the change in time and change in season, what I really wanted to do was curl up on the couch and watch a decent holiday movie. As I started making a list of these films, it became clear that all my favorite holiday films are about creative workers, with the notable exception Elf–unless, of course, you consider snowball fabrication and toy construction creative work. So here they are, three holiday films that will help you kill a chilly winter afternoon.

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)—We’ve all read those homekeeping magazines. You know, the ones that tell us how to make the perfect turkey, or decorate our homes so that they look like the inside of snow globe, and most likely we all fall short by comparison. Good thing for Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan), handsome military man, hospitalized after his boat has been sunk by the Germans, that lifestyle writer Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck) has a husband, a new baby, and lovely farm in Connecticut. When Lane’s publisher asks her to host Jones for Christmas, everyone’s a winner, right. Unfortunately for Elizabeth Lane, she isn’t any of things she’s been pretending. She’s a scrappy, single, struggling freelancer who lives in a tiny New York apartment. You can probably see where this is going…Lane must procure a husband, baby, and farm in Connecticut all by Christmas and still have time to fall for the hot guy. (Steer clear of the 1992 remake with Dyan Cannon, Kris Kristofferson, directed by Arnold Schwarzenegger.)

The Holiday (2006)–Life sucks when you’re a successful producer of film trailers and your boyfriend is a philandering jerk. This is the circumstance Amanda Woods (Cameron Diaz) finds herself in. Despite seeming to have it all, what she really wants is to get the heck out of Los Angeles. To rectify this situation, Amanda goes to a house swap site. And who is desperately waiting on the other side of the interwebs? Iris Simpkins (Kate Winslet), an editor at The Daily Telegraph with poor taste in men and a charming little cottage outside London. The great thing about Amanda and Iris’s houses is that they both come with sweet guys, Miles DuMont (Jack Black) and Graham Simpkins (Jude Law), who help make these women’s holiday a little more merry and bright. As an added bonus, you’ll learn all about how a classic romantic comedy is constructed from Amanda’s neighbor, old time Hollywood romance writer Arthur Abbott (Eli Wallach). The Holiday is by Nancy Meyers who also made It’s Complicated and Something’s Got to Give, which should immediately tell you if this is your kind of movie or not.

Home for the Holidays (1995)–Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter) has had a really bad day. After getting fired from her job as an art restorer at an unnamed, venerable Chicago art museum, she makes out with her boss. Kitt, Claudia’s teenage daughter (Claire Danes), drives her mom to the airport and as they arrive, announces to her mother that she plans on having sex for the first time while Claudia is back home visiting her own parents. On the plane Claudia, calls her brother Tommy (Robert Downey Jr.) and confesses all of her troubles to his answering machine. And this is all within the first ten minutes. Most of the story takes place on Thanksgiving day, when the family comes together and pretty much misunderstands each other for the next hour and a half. Claudia’s parents are aging and their adult children deal with it in their own ways. If there is a theme to this movie, that would be it–we all get older. There’s a romantic subplot in which Tommy brings a handsome young man (Dylan McDermott) to Thanksgiving and Claudia thinks he’s Tommy’s new boyfriend, when really he is a gift for her. Home for the Holidays delivers the kind of family arguments expected in this kind of holiday film, but does it in a way that somehow feels authentic. My favorite line in the whole film is shouted by Claudia’s sister, “I’m the only normal person in this family!” I mean, haven’t we all felt that way at one point. I hated Home for the Holidays the first time I saw it, but over the years it has become my favorite holiday movie. This ensemble cast also features Geraldine Chaplin, Anne Bancroft, Cynthia Stevenson, and Steve Guttenberg, and is directed by Jodie Foster, all favorites of mine.

So, here it is Black Friday. Take an afternoon and watch one or maybe all of these films. Beyond enviable jobs held by all four of the protagonists, what really binds these films together is the feeling they leave you with. Not just a happy ending, but that all in all, everything will be all right.




Vernacular Knowledge : An Interview with the Steel Yard

November 23, 2011 · Print This Article


 

During the last week of my time in Providence, I came across another arts organization called The Steel Yard. It is what it sounds like — an old industrial complex that has been taken over by an arts organization. In keeping with the land’s original tradition, The Steel Yard offers ceramics and metalworking classes that among others include welding, blacksmithing and jewelry making. As part of their annual fundraising, they host a yearly Iron Chef competition and an Iron Pour which (as you can imagine/see from above) involves a lot of flying sparks in the dark. (At such times — even looking at the video — I catch for a moment the wild Romance of light, its seeming mysticism, glowering in the dark. Imagine what it must have been like before the age of electricity!) The Steel Yard converted this all but abandoned property into a vibrant teaching ground for metalurgy — what stands out in my mind as another instance of Providence’s intriguing utilitarian edge. While it’s participants and administrators are focused on building a community in the present, they utilize the resources of an industrial, American past. I had a chance to ask Executive Director, Drake Patten, about the organization.

Iron Chef

Caroline Picard: I know the Steel Yard started in 2002, when the founders decided to buy an all but abandoned steel yard. How has the organization grown and changed over the last 10 years? Did you expect it to be what it was now at in its inception?

Drake Patten: The Yard is really an incredibly fortunate experiment: our founders had vision and guts and took a huge leap of faith when they bought the former PRovidence Steel and Iron complex (which was, BTW, a brownfield). Our beginnings and our growth have been intensely organic and I think also importantly quite authentic — but certainly becoming a non-profit and getting above the radar did change some aspects of the DIY attitude we began with. What was once folks bringing their own tools together to teach a de facto group of neighborhood kids or adults interested in making things has grown into a strong, serious force in the local creative economy. This comes from our public projects (one of a kind street amenities designed, sourced, fabricated in RI) our workforce training (18-24 year olds learning a high skill trade) and our open enrollment classes and summer camps for a range of ages. The connective tissue is how we strongly we believe in the importance of scale and the value of vernacular knowledge and tradition. And there is much to be said for the fact that the site (which the non-profit now owns and is almost mortgage free on) is now an award winning cleanup project….this was work we had to do but we did it in a way that also engaged lots of new ideas around storm water management and design theory around creative place making. So programmatically and site wise we are trying to model good practice as members of our community. As far as expectations go, I would say that our founders did expect the essence of what we have become — their vision set the mission and we are very on mission — but in many ways we have exceeded what any of us imagined and I think this is precisely because we have really embraced building this organization to be agile and responsive and true to PLACE.

Ceramics

CP: I don’t know if this is a fair observation or not, but I at least was surprised by how central youth programs seem to be in Providence arts organizations. Obviously, AS220 has one, but I have also talked to a number of different artists who take arts education very seriously. I was wondering if you could talk about your youth program and how it came about?

DP: Again, I think it was based on need and interest — and that has changed over time — we do much less with the youth population that AS220 and other colleague organizations than we used to: our original more traditional-ages  youth focus has really moved in to 18-24 year olds (who do not consider themselves youth) with the exception of our summer program Camp Metalhead (14-18) and special programs we run with some of our longer term partners. This is because we recognize that younger youth (for lack of a better term) are being served much more universally than this older group — and we have something unique to offer them — so we have carved out a very particular area of service where we really believe we can have a large impact. We are very conscious of duplication and competition; we would rather see those more strongly focused on youth service getting the limited funds out there and using us as a provider (if that works for them) than competing directly with those programs. We work in a really amazing place for youth service and just as we feel strongly about not doing what colleagues do (ie: not adding art forms that are are well done by others say at AS220 or Riverzedge) we don’t want to compete in service. We seek to partner and complement, not compete.

Iron Pour

CP: Another observation I had was about a general openness in Providence. There seems to be an emphasis on doing and in the process exercising an aesthetic experience through a celebratory spectacle. Here too, I am thinking about the Wooly Fair that you all host. How does the Steel Yard fit into that scene (if it does)? 

DP: We actually just serve as the host site for Wooly Fair so we cant take an ounce of credit for that (or other happenings that use our space). We actually are just the  site for Wooly Fair so I  don’t think think I can answer this in the way you might like….and honestly ,while we have amazing off the wall events that are Steel Yard events (Iron Chef, Iron Pour, etc) we are probably best described as the geek events -all of our signature events are educational (and certainly fun) but  really are (just like the mission ) all about making-appealing to the maker in all of us.

Welding

CP: Another thing that seems really interesting to me is how your particular organization is especially tied to Providence’s industrial history. It seems like you are appropriating a site that once was intrinsic to Providence’s identity. By occupying that site, you give it new purpose; I wonder what you think about Providence’s identity now? 

DP: First, we actually don’t think of ourselves as appropriating at all, or adaptive reusing. Just reusing. This goes back to that vernacular thing. Providence is still an industrial place. You can put as many high end lofts into old manufacturing complexes as you want to, but the bones here are about manufacturing and production. And it is still the best thing  we do. Small creative businesses to factory production — it is all here. I think the hangover effect of talking about what we used to be is a problem for us sometimes — who cares about what was! — let’s focus on what we are now because the creative energy of this region is palpable. There is a generation that is embracing the roots of innovation that built this state and I think that is not only great — but it’s also the only way to recharge RI. As I mentioned above, it comes back to scale I think — choosing and embracing the one that is right for the place you work and live and aiming for striking just that precise balance.




Don’t Miss: Panel on Chicago Art Criticism TONIGHT.

November 22, 2011 · Print This Article

Ah yes, it’s that time again! Time for another panel discussion on art criticism in Chicago. Luckily for y’all, this one is filled with great folks who really know their stuff. AND: it’s been organized in celebration of The Essential New Art Examiner, a compendium edited by our friends Kathryn Born and Terri Griffith of the best writings from the venerable Chicago-based art journal. Born and Griffith will appear on tonight’s panel, along with BAS’ fabulous pal and dapper man-about-town Abraham Ritchie (Chicago editor of ArtSlant), Lori Waxman (Tribune), Jason Foumberg (New City), Steve Ruiz (The Visualist) and Ann Wiens, former New Art Examiner editor, all of whom represent different yet equally vibrant aspects of the Chicago critical scene. The whole shebang is moderated by critic and SAIC faculty member James Yood. So there you have it! Go go go! The panel takes place tonight, Tuesday, November 22nd at  6-8 pm in the Second Floor Ballroom of the MacLean Center (112 S. Michigan Avenue). The full, official-like press release info follows below.

The panel discussion “Art Criticism in Chicago: Past, Present, Future” will occur 6-8 pm on Tuesday, November 22 in the Second Floor Ballroom of the MacLean Center (112 S. Michigan Avenue). Organized in memory of distinguished art critics Kathryn Hixson and Polly Ullrich (both SAIC faculty and alumna), this wide-ranging investigation into the challenges and triumphs in art writing in Chicago also honors the recent publication of The Essential New Art Examiner, a compendium of essays originally printed in the most significant Chicago-based art publication of its era (1973-2002).  The panel will move forward from that to assess the current state of art criticism in Chicago, both print- and web-based, and analyze the rapidly changing milieu for arts conversation in Chicago.

The panelists are Kathryn Born and Terri Griffith, editors of the “The Essential New Art Examiner”, Jason Foumberg of Newcity, Abraham Ritchie from ArtSlant: Chicago, Steve Ruiz from visualist, Lori Waxman from the Chicago Tribune, Ann Wiens, former editor of the NAE, and James Yood, moderator of the panel and former editor of the NAE.  (Griffith, Waxman, and Yood are members of the SAIC faculty, and Foumberg, Griffith, Ritchie, Waxman and Wiens are SAIC graduates.) The event is free and open to the public, and is supported with the assistance of Lisa Wainwright, Dean of Faculty, Paul Coffey, SAIC Vice Provost, and Candida Alvarez, Dean of Graduate Studies.