Francis Bacon, Fried

June 8, 2009 · Print This Article

francis-bacon-1Looks like Francis Bacon is getting singed by the art press. The recently-opened Francis Bacon retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has critics seriously reconsidering this painter’s legacy. Some excerpts, and links:

Jerry Saltz, New York Magazine: “…the Metropolitan’s retrospective, like most Bacon shows, makes it clear that he kept working his theme until it became a gimmick. The calculated pictorial repetitiousness and lack of formal development wear thin. Except for a number of fabulous portrait heads and the astounding Jet of Water—made in 1988, just four years before his death, featuring an enormous streak of blue paint across an interior—Bacon’s formula had grown stagnant by 1965.”

Roberta Smith, New York Times: “The stately if cursory survey of Bacon’s paintings that opened Wednesday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art suggests a more lasting pertinence: Bacon’s depiction of the love that until a few decades ago dared not say its name, much less demand the right to marry. Bacon convincingly painted men having sex and sometimes making love. Whether this makes him a great painter, it certainly secures him a place in the history of both painting and art. He emphatically turned the male gaze toward males.”

Peter Schjeldahl, New Yorker, (online access to the June 1st issue is paid only); here’s an excerpt from the summary they make available: “Vamped with an eclectic mix of Expressionist tactics and decorative longueurs, Bacon now looks more prophetic than the Abstract Expressionists do about subsequent developments in art, starting with Pop and continuing through the so-called Pictures Generation. The key is his pioneering use of photographs and printed sources for his subject matter. While Bacon’s work is routinely celebrated as an authentic reactive to the horrors and the dislocations of the Second World War, it can come off as a pageant of hangovers and refractory lovers. Bacon’s striking formal innovations, in handlings of pictorial space, include swiftly limned cubical enclosures and evocations of proscenium stages, in which painted figures leap to the eye. His paintings, despite their extraordinary visual drama, thus lack a de Kooningesque sense of scale, which knits marks to the shape of the canvas and relates that shape to the viewer’s body.”

Sebastian Smee, Boston Globe: “…a lot of his work, with its teasing arrows and ashtrays, its syringes and swastikas, seems coyly involved in games of storytelling, and his drawing frequently feels flatly descriptive – exactly like illustration. Despite all that, I remember well the effect Bacon’s work first had on me, as well as its impact on several friends who have gone on to become artists. His paintings combined abject violence with a kind of immaculate beauty in ways that teenage boys are probably predestined to find alluring. I may be fussier in my mind about what succeeds and what doesn’t now, but I remain in awe of that early union of Bacon’s imagery and my own teenage hunger for maximum impact.”

And Jed Perl really hated it: “Bacon, who died in 1992 at the age of eighty-two, may well be the greatest exemplar of a wrongheaded tradition that we have ever seen. He had a knack for adapting all the wrong elements from all the right artists. He zeroed in on those moments when Van Gogh and Picasso were pushing their glorious anarchic energy to the brink of incoherence. This would have been fine, except that Bacon willfully ignored their ordering intelligence, preferring to sacrifice pictorial sensibility to literary sensationalism. What Bacon produced are not paintings, at least not satisfying ones. They are little more than rectangles of canvas inscribed with noirish graffiti: angst for dummies.”

If you’re in Chicago and want to see work by Francis Bacon, the Art Institute has one painting by Bacon on view in the Modern Wing: Figure with Meat, from 1964.

Friday’s Links Roundup

June 5, 2009 · Print This Article

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In this week’s roundup we look at a video of crash test dummies (do you remember that horrible band? I know Richard does), the Venice Biennale, and some Nazi zombies, just to name a few. I don’t know about you guys but I’m going on vacay next week. Anyone know anything good to do in Denver?

  • OMG. Død snø looks like it’s going to kick some serious Nazi zombie ass.
  • Art Observed has a great links roundup to get you (not) in the mood for the Venice Biennale.
  • Former BAS guest Francesco Bonami is guest blogging over at The Moment.
  • Old GM crash test video from the 60’s are positively terrifying. I laughed so hard at work I think I scared my coworkers and am thankful I grew up in the 80s. Seat belts people.
  • Chicago Tribune had a papercraft tribute to Sen. Roland Burris.
  • Google introduced the Wave. I watched an hour of the hour and twenty min demo and then asked myself why I had watched it for that long.
  • This week I hit a new personal low when I Google image searched “ Maru the Cat” and found an image of myself on the second page.
  • Everyone went crazy for The Beatles Rockband intro. And yes I think it does live up to all the hype. Well at least the first half, I am not a big Yellow Submarine fan.
  • The Seeker told us about James Felix McKenney’s AUTOMATONS.
  • Gary Hustwit’s new Documentary Objectified starts tonight at the Gene Siskel Film Center.
  • Seriously WTF?!

“Ferris Bueller” at BelieveInn

June 4, 2009 · Print This Article

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I recently had a chance to check out part of  BelieveInn’s “Out of Towners” lineup, their current show, Ferris Bueller, featuring work from Porous Walker, with Gabe Levinson and Timothy Pigott. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was, coincidentally, the first (and probably the last) film I ever enjoyed on LaserDisc.

San Francisco–based Porous Walker said that he wanted  to bring to life parts of the film “that were never seen.” When I asked him why this film in particular, he said “Because it’s a great film, that’s all, simple.  And because I knew Camerons house was going on the market so I hoped the two could somehow mesh and help promote.” Artists with heart, that is what I like to see.

The BelieveInn space is the lower half of a house set back from the street. Three of the walls (and the ceiling) of the tiny immaculate front room was filled with Walker’s drawings, which are pretty damn funny caricatures of naked women with sagging breasts and hair clips, and naked men with either very large, or very small, penises. Clean in form and raunchy in content, the illustrations are like the jokes that come right after fart jokes but before you find your dads Playboy. And who doesn’t think about the cashiers at Trader Joe’s without their clothes on, really?


Gabe Levinson and Timothy Pigott’s work was orderly installed on one wall, adding a nice grid counterbalance to the rest of the room. Pigott’s portraits of “Characters Not in the Movie”, consisted of head shot sketches of dweeby men referencing different details of the film. Levinson’s piece, “Dudes Thinking About Dudes”, were depictions of just that, kind of a one liner homo joke framed in construction paper.

Overall, the show feels like an articulate, very naughty boy’s bedroom, and can pretty much be summed up in Levinson’s paper plane installation instructions: 1) Tear out a page 2)Make a paper airplane 3)Aim it at someone’s head 4) Don’t apologize.

I missed the opening of this show, but I’m planning on catching the closing on June 21st from 1-4 pm.

BAS + Gallery Crawl

June 4, 2009 · Print This Article

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photo credit, Lewis Toby, copyright 2008.

I am really stoked to announce that Stephanie Burke will be posting her top picks for shows each week on BAS. All of us at BAS have followed her Gallery Crawl for some time now. For more info and to view the entire gallery crawl each week check out Stephanie’s site. Thanks again to Lauren for letting us know what is going on around town until now, you can still see what she is up to with weekly reviews.

“Stephanie Burke (Nevada City, CA 1984) is a Chicago-based artist and educator. She recently received her MFA in Photography from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Recent exhibitions have included her MFA Thesis Exhibition at SAIC, the Rockford Midwestern at the Rockford Art Museum, and That’s What She Said in association with Version09. She maintains a weekly listing of Chicago art events at thegallerycrawlandsomuchmore.blogspot.com.”

The Swimming Cities of Serenissima

June 3, 2009 · Print This Article

Huck Finn crashes the Venice Biennale: a habitable floating sculpture designed by the NY-based artist SWOON.

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From the project’s website:

“The Swimming Cities of Serenissima is a fleet of three intricately hand crafted vessels that will navigate the Adriatic Sea from the Litoral region of Slovenia to Venice, Italy in May of 2009. Designed by the visual artist SWOON, the floating sculptures are descendants of the Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea (Hudson River, 2008) and the Miss Rockaway Armada (Mississippi River, 2006 and 2007).

SWOON’s boats are inspired by dense urban cityscapes and thickly intertwined mangrove swamps from her Florida youth. The Swimming Cities of Serenissima are built from salvaged materials, including modified Mercedes car motors with long-tail propellers. The boats’ crew is made up of 30 collaborating artists from the United States.

As the Swimming Cities move toward Venice, the crew will collect and install keepsakes in an ark-like cabinet of wonders that will be on display on the boats when they arrive. Once in Venice, the boats and crew will offer intimate performances that incorporate music, shadow puppetry, and story.

The vessels are imagined as a hybrid between boats and bits of land broken off and headed out to sea. Watching them approach the shore is like seeing a floating city in the distance, as improbable as Venice itself. To the real life crew, the boats are a place of refuge – both a home and a way of moving through the world. To those who encounter the boats for the first time, they are a reminder that anything that can be imagined can be built.”

You can follow their progress here and here.

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