Public Art in Los Angeles Gets Crapped On, Too

October 26, 2009 · Print This Article

You know, after giving it some serious thought, I think I’m coming to the surprising conclusion that newspaper articles about public art and the public’s reaction to it are my new favorite genre of art news. There’s just so much to chuckle over. Last week, a pair of articles in the L.A. Times told of skeptical police reaction to a recently-installed sculpture outside the L.A.P.D.’s new headquarters.  On October 21st, Times columnist Steve Lopez, who has a direct view of this building from his office window, confessed his bemusement at the piece, which is titled “animaline.” But Lopez’s reaction was minor compared to the distaste expressed by outgoing police chief William J. Bratton. Writes Lopez,

The cast-bronze sculptures consist of six large black blobs, with two tall, skinny structures on either side. I wasn’t sure what to make of them, so I went straight to the top: It looks like “some kind of cow splat,” said Police Chief William J. Bratton, who sounded as if he were personally insulted by the installation. Bratton said he first drove past the work and later walked back to see whether “it’s as ugly up close as it is when you’re driving by.”The answer was yes, and he sounded mad enough to have the artist arrested.

Bratton said he was not alone in his opinion; it was the talk of cops and staffers who already have moved into the new police administration building. “I don’t think anybody can figure out” what the shapes are supposed to be, Bratton said. “Bisons and hippos maybe. I haven’t the faintest idea what the two tallest things are on either side.” Nor does he understand what any of this has to do with police administration, if anything. “I don’t get it,” he said. “It’s just a shame.” Myself, I didn’t see animals when I first looked at the sculptures. Peering down from my third-floor window, I thought they were giant molars. Not a good idea, I thought, to have a bunch of knocked out teeth on the grounds of the cop shop.

When I went outside for a closer look, I realized the molars were actually the torsos of animals with large rumps. Were the cops trying to tell me and my colleagues what they think of The Times, giving us a bunch of derrieres to look at? Not clear. But the animal on the northern end looked like a pig that had been knocked on its side. You have to wonder how that’s going to sit with the LAPD brass.

The same day, the Times published a more detailed story (by Yvonne Villarreal)  on the L.A.P.D.’s new art collection, this one containing a tit-for-tat response to Bratton’s quotes by artist Peter Shelton, who was commissioned by The Department of Public Affairs to make the sculpture.

“I’d like to think he’d leave his post more graciously,” Shelton said in response to Bratton’s comments as he did the finishing touches on the pieces Wednesday afternoon. “He doesn’t need to bad-mouth something intended to be enjoyed by the city.  I’m disappointed he thinks he’s an art expert.”

Shelton, of course, is a highly regarded L.A.-based sculptor who is represented by L.A. Louvre and has shown internationally, blah blah blah, facts I only mention in order to point out that even the so-called “good” artists make work that gets shit on sometimes. It’s outdoor sculpture, after all, and there are just as many birds in Los Angeles as there are anywhere else. I hope J. Seward Johnson takes some small comfort in that.

Peter Shelton, "animalisme"

Peter Shelton, "animaline"

UPDATE: Last week the L.A. Times’ chief art critic Christopher Knight reviewed Peter Shelton’s new public sculpture series, titled  “sixbeaststwomonkeys.” That review placed Shelton’s sculpture, designed for placement near the new police headquarters downtown, in in a larger historical context with respect to public art in L.A. as well as nationally. Knight also recalled the furor caused in 1955 by a sculpture by Bernard Rosenthal (1914-2009) for the just-built Parker Center, the L.A.P.D.’s former headquarters.

In 5 Days Everything Changes

October 26, 2009 · Print This Article

BaS-cinemascope In 5 more days Bad at Sports enters it’s next chapter and in anticipation of that we wanted to make things better and easier for everyone.

One way was to put our podcasts in Dolby 5.1 surround sound but after hearing Duncan sing the “Art Reviews” song in virtual surround they stopped returning our calls.

Then we thought about doing the news in 16:9 widescreen but it broke Richard’s Iphone and only Brad Pitt looks good in widescreen (and there has been enough said about him to last a lifetime) so we ditched that idea.

So in the end among the many additions that are coming starting November 1st, the first of which is our new font for the site Helvetica LT Condensed.

Many already have it on their systems but if you don’t you can search for it online easily. See Bad at Sports as it was meant to be seen and we will keep working to bring you the best Art interviews & coverage for free as we have for over four years.

Maybe we can bring Hans Laube’s Smell-O-Vison back? Then again maybe not? How much Turpentine, Rope, Printers Ink, & BO can you take for 60 minutes?

In 7 Days Everything Changes

October 24, 2009 · Print This Article

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Chicago Art Map Launches!

October 23, 2009 · Print This Article

Picture 34

When I first moved to Chicago, shortly after the initial shock and depression wore off (KIDDING…just kidding…mostly), I set about exploring what Chicago’s gallery scene had to offer. Because so much exists off the proverbial beaten track, and I moved here with nary an art friend to show me around, there was a short time during which I thought River North was it when it came to art galleries in Chicago. Now, to be sure, there is much to love in River North, but we all know there is far more to Chicago art than one neighborhood’s offerings.

But there’s never been a book or newspaper or website that clearly maps it all out for you. Until now. Chicago Art Map is the brainchild of local artist/writers/fellow BaS team members Kathryn Born and Stephanie Burke, who’ve been slaving away under cover of night for months and months getting this extraordinary tool ready for public beta launch. Not only is the interactive Art Map literally a map that enables you to see what’s happening art-wise in Chicago by searching according to venue type (i.e. alternative or apartment gallery vs. commercial spaces, along with museums and art centers), neighborhood, and even genre (like 20th Century masters, outsider art, painting or furniture/decorative), it’s a magazine too.

A magazine that already has numerous feature articles online and a boatload of reviews, many of which first appeared on Art Talk Chicago. It’s an exciting new development on a number of levels, and as with all new launches they could use your help with working out the bugs. Go on over, click around, use the map to help plan your art weekend, and send Kathryn and Stephanie your kudos and constructive feedback; I know they’ll appreciate it. Have a great weekend everybody.

Picture 32

Jen Gillespie | Clowns

October 23, 2009 · Print This Article

Bad at Sports is pleased to present our second guest blogger this week, Jen Gillespie. Jen is a local Chicago artist. She enjoys a thirsty mind with a taste for critical theory, diagrammatic oversimplification of narrative, heartstrings, and the uses for Lacanian psychoanalysis in explaining identity relationships. She also likes how the harmonium sounds like the accordion in such a way as to cause a physical experience of the synonym in the root terms: accord and harmony. If you have yet to check out guest blogger Damien James be sure to see his preview of the Chicago Humanities Festival.


John Wayne Gacy - Pogo the Clown

With Halloween nearly upon us, I am often thinking of costumes and lately most disruptively of clowns. I’ve been surprised how readily my mind keeps returning to clowns. How they have figure into costumes for hundreds of years that we know of and are still a prominent if somewhat nostalgic theme in entertainment and fantasy. Clowns have been on my mind since coming across an installation of clowns in an unlikely shop window. Though I don’t suffer to any degree from coulrophobia, I can’t seem to shake the image of terrible clowns in torn-up designer clothing.

The Marc Jacobs Halloween window display is haunting my thoughts. I first saw this window display on a recent walk down Damen Ave., in the Bucktown neighborhood, where Marc Jacobs Chicago is located. Occupying the whole front corner of the store are 7 of the most decrepit yet best dressed clowns I’ve ever seen seeming to mill about a dilapidated carnival ground, a partial Ferris wheel painting completes the setting. None of the clowns in the display are friendly or silly or even sweetly sad, these clowns are the scary kind the ones we make horror films about and read biographies of John Wayne Gacy to better understand. They are truly creepy. Choosing to dress-up mannequins to seem as people dressing up as designer clad clowns is a fantastic, seemingly self-conscious, nod to self-reflexivity from a place of authority in fashion and retail capitalism. Though window displays don’t usually rank in my visual and intellectual experience this one sparked a little curiosity into some of the examples of artists using clowns in their work.


Marc Jacobs Chicago 1714 N Damen Ave

Though the place for clowns in art is often right next to the velvet paintings and kitsch collectibles. Clown Torture a video installation by Bruce Nauman, in the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing, where the clown is not something that comforts or entertains but berates himself from all angles at loud volume obsessively repeating and correcting jokes. In 2003 Cindy Sherman started using clowns in her portraits, they are eerie images with extremely saturated colors. Sherman posing as an elaborate clown in each image, it is much the same as her other work with portraiture and in many ways a surprising continuation of her previous themes rather than the startling change it at first seems when, as the viewer I was first confronted with these antagonizing yet bright, almost playful images. That same year, 2003, the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh devoted an entire exhibition to clown paintings from the collections of Diane Keaton and Robert Berman.  Between them they have amassed thousands of clown paintings that typify this genre. The show met with mixed reviews and I have not been able to find an instance of its duplication. Since 2003 there are fewer major instance of clowns being used in contemporary art, but to my mind the Marc Jacobs window installation supplies a fantastically creepy visual experience. If you have not been past the Marc Jacobs window I highly suggest the field-trip.