The Wisconsin Triennial and the Value of Context

December 11, 2013 · Print This Article

Jalapeno jerky: check

Jalapeno jerky: check

I’m still in the process of attending all those shows I recommended in my Wisconsin fall preview a few months ago. It’s difficult for even the most dedicated art nerd to cover a state as large as Wisconsin. Because of this I’ve picked up the habit of turning my art excursions into comprehensive road trip experiences with an ever-evolving set of rituals: check the weather; load the podcasts; fill the travel mug with coffee; plug address into the GPS; pick up the jalapeno flavored beef jerky and two bottles of Dr. Pepper from the Speedway convenience store.

My most recent performance came en route to the Wisconsin Triennial at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA.), when I listened to a podcast on medieval history from iTunes U and scorched my mouth on jerky – I think I forged a permanent association between a swollen, stingy tongue and Pepin the Short. I pulled into Madison on the one-year anniversary of seeing Leo Villareal’s sensational show there last year and I hoped to match the pleasure again on that afternoon.

I immediately recognized the work of Madison local Derrick Buisch in the first floor gallery of the Overture Center, where MMoCA is housed. His wall grid of small paintings quickly goes from quirky illustration to chewy examination of the relationships between painting, graphics, gesture and text. The piece, called “77 Monsters”, forces one to consider the subtle differences between seeing, looking, and reading. Adjacent to this, an eccentric construction by artist Paul Sacaridiz’s complements Buisch’s 2-D work nicely. It has the same formal sensibility as Buisch’s, only in three-dimensions and with a touch of Vladimir Tatlin.


Derrick Buisch,"77 Monsters", 2012 to 2013. Oil, enamel, acrylic, and spray-paint on canvas panels. 96 x 152 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee.

Derrick Buisch,”77 Monsters”, 2012 to 2013. Oil, enamel, acrylic, and spray-paint on canvas panels. 96 x 152 inches


On the third floor, home to the majority of the show, I was especially moved by a video installation by Madison artist Chele Isaac, titled “The End of Angels”. The surreal, dreamy work is reminiscent of Janet Cardiff’s and George Bures Miller’s moodiest dioramas. Around the corner, Justin Bitner’s sculptural installation aroused my suspicion of sculpture made of tube televisions, though he sidestepped the oft-overdetermined application of the tube as a nostalgic bauble, or a naked symbol of media overload, by using its hissing analog snow as the soundtrack for a video of crashing waves. A rare and interesting use of television as a sonic rather than visual medium.

Nearby three photographs of hunting shelters by artist Jason Vaughn cheekily bring together the dissonant languages high-modernism and Wisconsin hunting culture. His photographic treatment of the structures gives them a personal, even sentimental feel, but his compositional framing of the them suggests something more monumental. The location of the work struck me as a superb curatorial counterpoint to Vaughn’s growling TV sets which could be faintly heard on the other side of an enclosure.


Jason Vaughn, "Endeavor, WI", 2013. Archival pigment print. 40 x 50 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Jason Vaughn, “Endeavor, WI”, 2013. Archival pigment print. 40 x 50 inches


I was asked to leave at closing by an attendant while I stared transfixed into a light box photograph of a cinder cone volcano (?) by Stephen Hilyard, wondering if and to what degree the image was digitally altered. I still don’t know for sure.

I think one could do worse that to be prodded out of a museum satisfied but still looking for answers.


Two weeks later, I was checking the weather for Milwaukee on my iPhone. “Two degrees,” said Siri in her tinny voice. I laughed smugly as I read the gauge on my rented Dodge Caliber. 82 degrees. Schadenfreude. I was heading to Miami Beach, and the yearly spectacle of the art fairs.

Art fairs in Miami have proliferated like Tribbles over the past decade. There are too many now to see over the entire week. One could spend days at the main Basel fair alone. I spent three hours there and can’t tell you now if the images in my head are from this year’s fair or last’s …or from a visit to a museum prior to that. I spent hours at five other fairs as well, but I lost steam as each booth and tent passed. There’s not enough space here to describe the full scope of the Miami circus, and plenty of others are taking on that task for me anyway. It’s enough to say though that one couldn’t have a great art experience under the conditions in Miami anymore than one could have a deep philosophical conversation at their own wedding reception: it’s too fast, too disjunctive. The mind turns into a dispatcher of information rather than a feeler or processor of it.



Another ABMB, another Yayoi Kusama


Eventually, the absurd undertakings in plastic surgery take over and you start planning your trip the beach.

Which is where I lived out the final hours of my short trip.


When I was a kid, I lived in with my family in a pine forest in Window Rock, Arizona for a while. It was isolated and deprived of modern commercial pleasures. On the weekend we’d drive to Albuquerque and I would ritually indulge in the travel luxury of a bag of pine nuts sold to us from the side of the road. Albuquerque was a two hour drive, and if I extricated 11 nuts from their shell with my teeth during that time, I was lucky.

Now I can get a grocery sack-full of shelled pine nuts at Costco for 6 bucks. And I hate them. I don’t even like them on salads.

I don’t care what all the idealist critics say about the autonomy of art. Bullshit. Context and ritual matters.

Seeing. Movies.

December 11, 2013 · Print This Article

Guest post by David Carl. 

This by way of introduction: we enjoy answering the question, “What’s your favorite . . .” (fill in the blank here), because it give us a chance to talk about ourselves, and to tell others who we are by ostensibly talking about someone or something else (a favorite book, movie, author, artist, band, album, etc.). By telling others what we like, we try to tell them who we are. Perhaps it is even a manifestation of our higher impulse to obey the Delphic Oracle’s injunction to strive for greater self-knowledge, for how often do we turn to art precisely to learn, not about the work in question, but from the work about ourselves and the world around us?

For those of us who care about art, literature, film, (“culture” as they used to call it), nothing says “who we are” more than the books we read, the movies we watch, the music we listen to . . . So when someone asked me recently who my favorite movie directors were, I responded with enthusiasm, despite the fact that the answer I gave was accompanied by the kind of unsubstantiated generalizations that generally drive me crazy when I hear other people spouting them:

J P Melville 

Jean-Pierre Melville, for his unfailing portrayal of “cool” in cinema.


Michelangelo Antonioni, for his relentless depictions of post-Marxist “alienation,” not among the working class, but among the wealthy and privileged bourgeoisie of post-war Italy.

David Lynch 

David Lynch, for just being plain weird in the most provocative ways.

Cool, alienated, weird. What else do we want from the movies?

It also occurred to me that Melville, Antonioni, and Lynch are all deeply western filmmakers, obsessed with a uniquely western response to the struggle between good and evil as a kind of spiritual crisis. Melville’s heroes are often criminals, but they live by a code (like the bushido code of the samurai evoked in Melville’s 1967 Le samouraï) which allows them to live with a sense of honor and distinguish right from wrong, even in the moral gray of the criminal underworld. Friendship, loyalty, courage—these are the virtues of Melville’s heroes, and these qualities add up to a certain “cool” that he may derive from American actors like Bogart, Dean, and Brando, but to which he gives a uniquely French twist (different from the kind of “cool” we saw developed by later American actors like Steve McQueen and Paul Newman). It is within this sense of “cool” that Melville explores his own sense of spirituality, in the context of a kind of warrior ethic that is simultaneously an aesthetics of style. In Melville’s hero the ethical and the aesthetic are gracefully blended in the notion of cool.

Alain Delon 

Antonioni’s characters, on the other hand, although not criminals, are far less heroic; and while they occupy eminently aesthetic surroundings, they are wholly unethical—not because they are evil, but because they are weak. Melville’s three virtues—friendship, loyalty, and courage—are wholly lacking in Antonioni’s world. These characters are too close to pathetic to be tragic, but they are not contemptible because they are often too much like we are, and even in the fantasy world of the movies we find it difficult to hate ourselves. They are living through a kind of modern crisis from which all the heroics have been drained, and what is left behind is lush, indulgent, stylish and visually gorgeous, but spiritually bereft. It is in their response to this sense of bereavement that Antonioni’s characters regain a kind of antiheroic charm, especially in the case of the female leads played by Monica Vitti in the four films she did with him between 1960 and 1964. Anything that can still be affirmed against this backdrop of modernity takes on a new significance.

Monica Vitti 

Finally, with Lynch, cool and despair join hands to occupy a landscape that is alien in direct proportion to how familiar it seems on the surface. Unreal things happen in familiar places (our homes, our neighborhoods, inside our own heads), proving that these landscapes are not so familiar after all. What we thought was the comfortably familiar is revealed as concealing dark, hidden corners. These may be the corners of our own imaginations, which tend to run away with themselves, at least if Lynch has anything to do with it. But here too there is a kind of spiritual struggle going on; and a struggle between good and evil that is very real for Lynch, even if it is a rather narrowly conceived western (it would be Manichean if it didn’t keep doubling in on itself and implicating his films’ various heroes with a sense of their own moral ambiguity) sense of good and evil. The devil, last seen in the works of Milton, Goethe and Dostoevsky, is still alive and well in the films of Melville, Antonioni, and Lynch. He is still charming, still tempting, and still leaves a wake of despair that demands some sort of spiritual response from those he encounters. For filmmakers, with all the resources of the visual at their disposal, these responses, no matter how ethically grounded, must always be aesthetic as well.


All this may or may not be true, but it isn’t really what I want to say about these directors, or how I’d like to write about their films. These comments are marked by the kind of unsubstantiated generalizations that one expects to hear at cocktail parties (at least the kinds of cocktail parties I’m always hoping to be invited to—as long as they’re serving good whiskey along with the small talk), but they are not really the stuff of careful observation of the visual details that makes watching great cinema a great pleasure. What I would like to be able to do is discipline myself to greater acts of seeing. I’d like to see more, when I look at a movie, in the hope that great movies would reciprocally teach me to see more when I look away from them.  


Also by way of introduction: I’m sure its curmudgeonly of me to admit I’m uncomfortable with the word “blog”—not because it makes me feel old, but because I am old, and it makes me feel like I should be doing something to compensate for that fact, rather than merely sitting back and enjoying it as the result of the long and laborious process of having stayed alive long enough to earn the dubious title. Instead of “blog” I prefer the old-fashioned word “essay,” which is more dignified, more accurate etymologically, and more representative of something that someone has labored over and taken time and care with. Whether or not someone has something to say, they should say it thoughtfully. “Blog” sounds like a particularly unpleasant body function. Something that happens to you when you’ve put down too much ambrosia salad on a hot 4th of July afternoon after drinking flat beer and eating some baked beans that weren’t quite right to begin with. An essay, on the other hand, is the record of an earnest attempt, the written vestige of an effort that calls on you to try your very best, no matter how embarrassing the results, or how inadequate to the hopes and ambitions we brought to them.

Any essay that is not, on one level, a failure, is an essay that stopped too soon, when we were still feeling safe and secure in our own thinking. Often the failure is where things get interesting, where risks are taken and uncertainty and insecurity allowed to crawl out from under the rock we’d like to hide them beneath. A “blog” on the other hand, sounds like what it too often is: a spewing forth of whatever comes to mind without thought or reflection, without the care of craft or the craft of care. (This, for the record, is neither a blog nor an essay, but merely a rant. An inferior but satisfying form of literary production much older than the blog and not nearly so interesting as the essay.)

And this idea of the interesting failure is germane to the movies as well. One distinguishing characteristic of a great movie director (and perhaps this is true of great artists in any area of production) is that there is as much to learn from their failures as from their successes. Along with their masterpieces, Antonioni, Melville, and Lynch all made bad movies; but they are bad movies I’ve learned a lot from watching and thinking about. There is such a thing as a provocative failure. (Who was it that said, “I would rather be a successful failure than a failed success”? I think it might have been a character in one of my novels, but perhaps it was the author consoling himself after the completed project.) Merely competent directors are capable of making good movies, but their bad ones will be devoid of interest.

There is such a thing as a “merely bad” work of art, one that is not even interesting in the way it fails. I care most about the work of those directors who not only risk going wrong, but actually precipitate themselves into the breach, knowing that the only alternative is to remain perpetually on the safe side of what they are comfortable and familiar with (what they are “good at”). The comfortable and familiar being antithetical to art however we choose to define it.

Next time: some thoughts about seeing in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather.

David Carl is a member of the teaching faculty at St. John’s College in Santa Fe and a co-founder of the St. John’s College Film Institute. He is the Director of the College’s Graduate Institute, a Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Cultural Artifacts, teaches for The Curious Oyster (a private adult education project committed to Contemplation, Conversation and Conviviality) and has written several books, including Heraclitus in Sacramento, Fragments, Meditations on Initiating the Apocalypse, and Further Adventures in the Unsubconscious. He watches movies in his living room in Santa Fe, NM.




EDITION #21 – Art Basel Miami Beach Recap

December 10, 2013 · Print This Article

What’s the T? does Art Basel Miami Beach

Time for the annual pilgrimage of sun seeking art enthusiasts and their accompanying art advisors, handlers and the like to the city of Miami Beach. The fairs are numerous, spilling over onto the sand and the mainland. This year, my eighth year watching my hometown transform into an art circus, I decided to let the wind blow me where it may. As long as you’re doing something it can’t be that bad. In this special edition of What’s the T? we’re serving recap realness and some Miami T for Chicago’s inquiring minds and wannabe snowbirds alike.

Woke up to the news that Miami B-listers Christian Slater and his girlfriend, Brittany Lopez, tied the knot on Monday. We heard that Slater courted Lopez at her former job at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami. Basel Tov!

Why wait until the weekend to party? Even though the “big fair,” at the convention center doesn’t open until Wednesday, there are just not enough party hours in the day. By the time we saw Locust Project’s exhibition by Nicholas Hlobo in their main space and Frances Trombly in the project room it was time. So we begin. Tuesday night marked the opening of Design Miami, the sister fair to Art Basel in Miami as well as in Switzerland.

Design Miami’s sandy tent

Always a classy, champagne’d out affair, this year was no different. It was a pleasure to see Chicago design galleries, Volume (showing Jonathan Munecke) and Casati Gallery (showing David Salkin). Trending this year at DM were lamps that look like floating jars, gigantic sand hills, e-cigs (which appeared to be trending everywhere, I think it’s New York’s fault). In attendance were a number of notables, including 2016 Olympic sailing hopeful, Sarah Newberry and artist, Emmett Moore; another celebrity here; Primary Projects’ Nick Cindric and Robins Collection Curator and Director of Cultural Programming for the Design District, Tiffany Chestler; Bleeding Palm’s Ronnie Riviera (who made a hilarious Basel Death Clock Site); and Locust Project’s Amanda Sanfilippo with artist, Justin Long. We even ran into our favorites, LVL3’s Vincent Uribe and Anna Mort, dressed impeccably as always.

Kiwi & Patti

Bleeding Palm’s Ronnie Riviera

sarah new

Sarah Newberry & Emmett Moore

tiff and nick

Tiffany Chestler & Nick Cindric

amanda and justin

Amanda Sanfilippo & Justin Long

It’s imperative at Basel to never to stop moving and as our party guru says, always leave the party before it gets old, so before too long we were off the island and en route to the Rubell Collection’s annual shindig at their museum caliber space in Wynwood. Unsurprisingly, the Rubell’s used the occasion (as they do every year) to feature their daughter, Jennifer Rubell’s, excessive food “installations.” One year it was a wall of old fashioned doughnuts, then there was the year with the honey falling out of the sky.

pie seesaw

So much egg custard.

This year, Jennifer busted out none other than the tiny-pie seesaw. A monstrously long but narrow white table, completely covered in miniature egg custard pies, slowing moved up and down, while waiters brought around bite sized versions of every other desert option possible on silver platters. There was, of course, a copious amount of alcohol (if you’re paying for drinks during ABMB then something is wrong), Perrier (totes trending and in three flavors), macaroni and cheese in martini glasses (don’t ask me), and fried rice in takeout containers. The party was totally banging, but the tiny custard pies were awful. Among the many illustrious guests were Siebren Versteeg and his new gallerist, Miami’s Brook Dorsch; artists, Patricia Hernandez and Christina Farah.

Kiwi & Patti

Patricia Hernandez & Christina Farah


Kizzy, Dorsch & Versteeg

On our way out we couldn’t resist stopping at the old Perrotin space down the street from the Rubells, The house/ gallery, now Galerie Eva Presenhuber, is simply gorg—classic design and a super sweet back yard, but the party was lame and we weren’t really feeling it.

Disappointed by the quality of the pie and weary of mixing vodka and sugary deserts, it was time for a cheeseburger interlude before moving onto the last stop of the night, Rat Bastard’s fifth annual Anti-Art Becomes Art Show at the only British pub in all of Little Haiti, Churchill’s. We finally got a chance to see Chris Corsano, the wunderkind solo percussionist hailing from Massachusetts.

Chris Cursano

Chris Corsano at Churchills

In the list of things I wish I made it to but couldn’t was the TM Sister’s beachside performance at the Untitled fair on Monday and Tuesday night. Also not spotted was Kevin Arrow, though we kept seeing his Kenny Scarf paint-bombed Honda Element driving through Little Haiti.

Another day, another art “experience.” We ditched the vernissage (sorry Sly) for the opening of Autumn Casey’s new curatorial venture, Space Mountain, right next to GucciVitton in North Miami. Being a NMB girl myself, I couldn’t be more excited that great galleries are moving north. Space Mountain’s first show, Big Deal, featured 12 ladies and a drag queen, all born in Miami. Needless to say, it was a big deal. Loved the zebra corner piece by Renata Rojo and the drawn over coasters by Beatriz Monteavaro. We spotted the Hartmann’s; and Miami It-girls, Serena Dominguez and Sarah Attias working it in overalls, side boob and Pikachu really hard. Outside the exhibition there was a serendipitous pop-up bar serving seasonal gourmet cocktails with cider and lattes.

Work by Renata Rojo. Photo by Autumn Casey

Space Mountain

Serena Dominguez and Sarah Attias

After some chill times and good vibes at Space Mountain it was time to head to Mana Wynwood for the Kendrick Lamar with Miami fave and all around sweetheart DJ, DZA. After much confusion and a bunch of naked ladies painted by Vanessa Beecroft and Kanye West (I’ll save you the suspense, Yeezus was a no-show), we found ourselves on a couch in the VIP section popping bottles and waiting for Kendrick. Waiting for Lamar took for-ev-er. Though the event started around 9 or 10 PM, Kendrick Lamar didn’t grace the stage until almost two in the morning. The only thing that made the waiting bearable was DZA’s super danceable sets in between each set.

If we did anything after Kendrick Lamar, it probably shouldn’t be repeated here anyway.

Thursday already? NADA VIP opening was obvi a must. It’s the only fair worth going to, in my opinion. The booths were looking fresh as always and the Midwest was repping hard with great booths from Scott Reeder’s American Apparel shirts in the lobby to Shane Campbell, our boys at the Green Gallery, and Midway Contemporary Art from Minneapolis. Locust Projects, Miami’s premiere non-profit gallery space had a booth right next to Midway with items priced to sell, including an edition of hip art historical hats from artist and yacht boy, Justin Long.


David Lewis MIA

Booths with no art were definitely trending at NADA. One booth just featured a copy machine spitting out invitations for another exhibition and we heard gallerist David Lewis’ sickness led to his empty booth, featuring an advertisement and email address. As far as booths that actually had art inside of them go: NYC’s The Hole booth was only half unpacked, with burned work by Kaspar Sonne and gigantic pours by Holton Rower suspended inside of plywood shipping crates. We were also stoked to see those sweet little Alain Biltereyst we loved at Devening on view with Jack Hanley gallery. John Rippenhoff at Green tipped us off to the mini XYZ collective booth, where we about died over the purple eggs and collages by soshiro matsubara.


The Hole


Anya Kielar at Rachel Uffner

Anya Kielar’s large scale screen prints at Rachel Uffner’s booth looked like cyanotypes and were just gorgeous. Could have lived without the gigantic beer cooler piece that everyone seemed to love, but I am still regretting not pouring myself a pina colada at San Juan’s Roberto Paradise Gallery, who were also showing work by Jose Lerma and Tyson Reeder. Lerma’s mirrors were irresistible to Luis Gispert as well, we ran into the artist checking out the booth. Another Miami native, I was also stoked to see his work at Rhona’s booth in the main fair.

Juni Figueroa at Roberto Paradise

Luis Gispert

Luis Gispert in front of Jose Lerma’s work at Roberto Paradise

Also spotted! Dan Gunn, but not that Dan Gunn, and a super preggers Lisa Cooley. She was really working that bump!

Dan Gunn

They knew about the real Dan Gunn. Were not amused.


Hugo Montoya in the bass car.

By the time I mad it outside to the deep bass van outside of the fair I was ready to move on. Though the booths looked awesome, we were disappointed at the lack of chill on-going pool party outside. Just one medianoche from downstairs and we were out.

Chris Ingalls

Nailed it, Chris.

The official PAMM opening took place to much fanfare and back rubbing from the Miami community. It’s as if no one even noticed that the museum is still a construction site. Later that night Cop City Chill Pillars, great band and old friends from West Palm, played at Churchills to a small yet enthusiastic crowd.


Cop City Chill Pillars

Friday morning is made for collector brunches. Some pastries at the Craig Robins collection followed by the best coffee at the de la Cruz Collection building. Oh, and I guess the art was OK, too. As per usual, the Miami collectors were ping-ponging off each other, with both collections prominently featuring Sterling Ruby and Wade Guyton. We were also surprised to see some new stuff, like Hugh Scott-Douglas (who at the ripe age of 25 was all over Basel and NADA) and a massive Rob Pruitt installation on the third floor of the de la Cruz.

Pruitt at DLC

Rob Pruitt faces at the de la Cruz Collection

Rich people and their handlers abounded. We’re pretty sure we spotted Klaus Biesenbach chatting it up with the fiery Rosa de la Cruz through an impressive Dan Colen basketball backboard sculpture.


Biesenbach through the Dan Colen.

After sneaking in a quick lunch at Michael’s Genuine (where we saw many of the collectors getting turned away by the 2 hr wait), it was back to the beach for some lounging at the Mondrian’s Friends with You pool installation on the bay. By the time we saw the sun setting under FWY’s gigantic inflatables we were ready for what was yet to come.

Friends with you at the Mondrian.

Sunset at the Mondrian.

Youth Code at Gramps.

In a scene out of a sleezy Miami Vice episode, we slinked into the Kettle One/ Gigi’s party in Wynwood using just a name in order to pregrame for the Youth Code show at Gramps. Not only was the LA duo pretty hot, their set was awesome and way under appreciated by the too cool crowd at Gramps. Right after the YC set we bounced back to Churchills just in time to catch Wolf Eyes at Andrew McLees’ Look Alive two day music fest. The crowd was super NYC and super enthusiastic, though I thought the Wolf Eyes set was incredibly boring. Why are they famous again?

Saturday already!? We were almost at the finish line. What’s the T? spent Saturday getting back to our roots at the Bad at Sports bathroom recording booth. We jumped on the mic with Duncan McKenzie, Brian Andrews, Patricia Maloney during their interview of Miami’s the end/ SPRING BREAK’s Patricia Hernandez and Domingto Castillo. We mostly talked about boats, German cinema and 9/11. If it sounds confusing, that’s because it was. Without Richard Holland around there was no one to keep the jokes on schedule. I’m looking forward to hearing the cacophony posted on the podcast.

Domingo Castillo eating a banana with b@s

Otherwise, we thought the Dimensions Variable booth, featuring work by Frances Trombly and Martin Oppel amongst others was maybe the only thing worth seeing at PULSE aside from the chill hammocks outside of the Ice Palace.


Work by Frances Trombly.


Work by Martin Oppel.

DV booth

Dimensions Variable booth at Pulse.

After wrapping up the interview, we headed to the #followmeto (have you seen this thing? It’s ridiculous!) party at The Versace Mansion. Yes, that Versace Mansion. Shout out to our girl Linling at Inside Hook for hooking it up. The party was awesome and someone even jumped in the heavily mosaicked pool before the night was over! It was totally tripped out.


Since we were already on the beach, we decided to hit up Sandbar for the NADA party. Usually a choice against our better judgment, the Fade to Mind takeover was pretty rad. We ran into our Midway Contemporary pal, Nathan Coutts, along with most of the other NADA exhibitors and too many NYC snowbirds to count. More than anywhere else I had been last week, this party was on the internet. Check out born-to-blog Adam Katzman’s piece in the Miami New Times about the evening.

Loathe to let the evening end before 5AM, we made our way over to a warehouse on 71st street to catch Jelly, a star-studded trio featuring the Kerr brothers and Rainer Davies. As soon as we got there ran into Bhakti Baxter taking a disco nap and as soon as the show was over we had to turn in too.

We survived all the way until Sunday! We took our sweet time waking up and heading down to the convention center in order to say our final goodbyes to ABMB. Not really giving a fuck about the convention center, we checked out a few of the booths that we knew would be sweet (Rhona’s, Metro Pictures, Two Palms, Hauser & Wirth, Blum & Poe, etc). Mostly, we were there for the NOVA section, featuring galleries like Spinello Projects (which we heard sold out) and 80M2 Livia Benavides from Lima, Peru.

HSD at B&P

Too many first names: Hugh Scott Douglas at Blum & Poe

Work by Luis Gispert at Rhona Hoffman

Walking through the fair we saw a bunch of art handlers we knew ready to pounce when the public finally left, but we also ran into old friend and Curious City producer, Logan Jaffe with her sisters, Hunter and Chandler. Hot ladies with dude names? Yes please. We also wanted to check out the “pop-up” bar by Jim Drain and Naomi Fisher in between booths N26 and 27. The bar, Paradise Working Title, was staging Club Nutz on Saturday afternoon with Brian Cooper and members of the audience trying to make stiff Basel goers laugh. Artist, Malcom Stuart, was on the mic ripping a few as well. There was also a stripping magician and blood. That’s all I’m gonna say.

The Jaffe Sisters. So lindos!

Club Nutz at ABMB.

Jim Drain inside Paradise Working Title on Sunday.

After the fair and some sushi on Lincoln Road, we headed over to the misleadingly titled Babes of Bushwick party on Collins Ave. They called it “Pool Party,” yet there was no pool. Very disappointing. I thought the Sandbar party was on the internet, but this party was the internet proper. Still a good time though and we ran into some choice Miamian’s and our generous SF B@S bureau. We also ogled over our new BFF Malcom Stuart’s collection for Joyrich. Seriously, though.

Malcom Stuart’s collection for Joyrich.

With just a couple of hours of Basel remaining we headed back to the mainland and Gramps for the tail end of the Black Cobra BBQ. Straight from the Gramps to Miami International Airport and back into the tundra. Hello Chicago.

Shout out to Radz for picking out the two biggest trends of Basel: #ecigs and #purses. Thanks Miami!

Weeks in Review

December 9, 2013 · Print This Article


Blogness! It’s  rolling out — some great contributions over the last few weeks, as you can see from the following compilation. Some great podcast action too, with  EXPO  panel  Josh Baer (Baer Fax), Forrest Nash  (Contemporary Art Daily), and Paddy Johnson (Art F City), and this week’s conversations with Takeshi Murata and Robert Beatty.


Continuing his series about video games, Paul King writes about the sparse, enigmatic 140:

When  140 begins, you’re dropped into near silence. A single tone plays: low and bassy, it seems to emanate from the flat, monochromatic setting of the world. Your avatar is a lone recognizable shape: an unmoving square. Move to the left or right and transform into a circle; or jump into the air, turning briefly into a triangle before landing. 140’s protagonist-shape is instantly familiar, because it’s derived from a universal visual language. Those gentle geometric shapes are the stuff of childhood learning, the foundational building blocks of concepts such as color recognition, addition, and geometry. The square, rectangle, and triangle are a mark of simplicity, their functions instantly recognizable in motion. What’s wonderful about 140 is that every component of the game is at its most basic, most recognizable. The colors are just as sparse as the landscape, a single-color expanse that’s all right angles save for the occasional circle. Whatever origin the game’s character came from, the world came with it.

Maria with (n)IMBY Keepsakes at Our Lady of Guadalupe, 2012. Photo: Jenny Polak

Maria with (n)IMBY Keepsakes at Our Lady of Guadalupe, 2012. Photo: Jenny Polak

Juliana Driever talks to the NYC-based artist, Jenny Polak, who’s work, “ brings human scale to the urgent politics of immigration in the US.” When asked about the relationship between her art and activism, Polak replies:

Chicago was the first place I came to when I first arrived in the US, and the first thing I saw as I was driven from the airport was a huge demonstration about some art. (It was about “What is the Proper Way to Display a US Flag?” – the work of my husband-to-be, Dread Scott.) This added tantalizingly to my sense that in the US art could influence public opinion, which I had given up hope of in England. My activism for a time was kind of separate from my art, but I was saved by the experiences of collaborating with Repo-History and the poster collective Resistant Strains on a few projects. Plus I had had a kid, and started working for architects and there wasn’t time anymore; then it was suddenly clear to me that those things (kid, architecture) were the sources and the connections I needed for a new activist art combo. I drew on my architecture background and my immigrant activist network and made a web project (HardPlace) for which detainees from across the country supplied sketches of what they knew of their invisible prisons, (photos being forbidden) and I traced them into strange digital 3D models where you could find a few tidbits of info that cumulatively conveyed an idea of the terrifying Kafkaesque system that was proliferating since the 1996 laws had passed. The Lower East Side Tenement Museum funded the project so that I felt able to team up with web designer Lauren Gill to deliver a project that got quite a lot of attention on the predicament of detainees and the dangerous direction US immigration policy was headed in – it was launched soon after 9/11 and detention was taking on a new definition in the public imaginary and in abusive reality. 

Adjunct, 2013

Adjunct, 2013

Portland Correspondent, Sarah Margolis-Pineo, talks to Anna Gray and Ryan Wilson. Margolis-Pineo begins evocatively, “I first met Anna Gray + Ryan Wilson Paulsen as they were carting a tank of helium into the desert,” and the interview goes on from there. At one point, Gray says:

And the systems and ethics around work, especially in this country, are really detrimental and limiting. We titled that banner Working Towards Non-Work, as we are trying to find a vocabulary for working and artistic activity that isn’t about productive ends, but about positively reproductive ones. There’s a lot expected of artists at this point in terms of levels of productivity in academia, in shaping the quirk and brand of a city, in participating nationally or internationally as a creative contributor, and in maintaining an exhibition and/or studio practice. How are other artists managing this workload, which by its very design seems to prevent the best work from being made?


Reflections of Samarkand courtesy of Jeriah Hildwine:

I should say now that I have never been to Samarkand (in present-day Uzbekistan), and that my views of it have been shaped almost entirely by its mythical role in Clive Barker’s novelGalilee. A quick bit of slacker research, though, reveals the essential nature of that city to match Barker’s description pretty well. Situated on the Silk Road, Samarkand was a city of wonders, the ultimate crossroads, a center of commerce as well as of art and culture. People came from thousands of miles to experience the wonders of the city itself, but more so, to meet and trade with one another.

Don Baum

Britton Bertran talks money, art and relevancy:

The art economy in Chicago – specific to the visual art market – is busted.  It doesn’t work and hasn’t worked for a long time.  Yes, this a provincial observation as we are in a global society, but ask any commercial gallery owner in Chicago that’s not one of the Mighty 5, and they’ll tell you the same.  Yes, more and more people who aren’t in Chicago are paying attention to us as a viable location.  Chicago is a place that has artists who make (and made) great work and some non-Chicagoans are even buying art from here (good luck in Miami y’all!).  But when it comes to a localized presence, we are somewhere near the bottom of the attention totem pole.  Where would you place visual art on the Chicago matrix of culture that includes Theater, Music, Dance, and yes, Food?


Alyssa Martinez interviewed Bad at Sports’ comics correspondent, Sara Drake, about her shadow puppet collective, PUPHouse. Drake, at one point offers the following:

When I was small, my dad always used to say, “What makes a good animal, a good animal?” This was meant to be soothing after some brutal animal world fact on television, a pet death, watching viruses destroy human cells on bring your daughter to work day, etc. It meant, what ensures that animal survives? Is being brutal or dark, something that a human animal might consider bad, a part of what defines that animal?  “What makes a good human, good at being human?” This is how I move around in the world ad. infinitum.


August Evans considers  surrealism David Lynch, Maya Deren and others :

Any attempt to place the weight of genre upon an artists’ movement like Surrealism presents problems, considering the aims of the first (and possibly only) surrealists were to explode the bourgeois order. Indeed, these initial surrealist films achieved something very unique, specific, and particular to the artists’ movement out of which they emerged. Toby Sussman deems these early films “the pinnacle of the Surrealist films…the representation of the total passion of a human event pushed beyond previously known limits…resulting in a beautiful new world of images existing somewhere between the amorphous intractability of dreams and the cold acceptance of everyday consciousness”.

Tatyana Tenenbaum, Archeology/Archiving, 2011. Photo by Andy Vernon-Jones.

Tatyana Tenenbaum, Archeology/Archiving, 2011. Photo by Andy Vernon-Jones.

Hannah Verrill posted her lat installment in the Process Notes series. Here Verrill talks to Tatyana Tenenbaum, who offered a note from her performance, Private Country:

Techno-Minimalism… TuneYards and Gang Gang Dance.  Moving out of the “new complexity” (or, as my 78-year old composition professor would say, “the new stupidity.”) Moving towards audience immersion, sensory experience, spectacle as visceral sensation—where spectacle departs from tried-and-true convention—where it began as something primal, something essential to the human experience, ritual as catharsis, religious ritual, art as ritual/ and /or / religion.  Contemporary pop counter culture as ritual. || None of this writing is suitable for an audience but perhaps I will try to articulate it further. || WHERE FORM MEETS  – – – } FUNCTION, and this becomes aesthetic.  Everything dependent.  Everything related.  Everything a choice.  Proliferation of media means theater becomes one-dimensional in the conventional sense.  Prosceniums are officially flat, not adapted to a world that frequents the 3-D movie theater.  Antiquated.  Dull, irrelevant?  Or just self-conscious in their flatness?  


Stephanie Burke’s TOP 5!


We closed out with an interview between LAMPO and the Post Family. When asked how LAMPO got stared, Alex Fenchel answers:

When I started things in ‘97 I had no special expertise in music. I was a fan. I’d been listening to weird stuff since high school and going to shows since college. I liked that moment of discovery, especially live, with other people around and the artists there. I wanted to make that happen. I had no background producing events, and I learned as I went along. In retrospect, the lack of experience was helpful. I didn’t know what I was getting into or why I shouldn’t do it. But I wasn’t a complete fawn. I had spent some time around art museums through a couple of internships. I began thinking as much or more about the artists, rather than just the audience, recognizing that Lampo could offer extra support for their work. And I believed producing beautiful design would help make each project special. Alisa and I first met when Lampo was just about a year old. So, design was almost always integral to the idea.




Reading Lampo: An Interview with Andrew Fenchel and Alisa Wolfson

December 6, 2013 · Print This Article


Guest post by Alex Fuller

Chicago’s Lampo is a nonprofit organization that has been presenting experimental music and intermedia projects since 1997. Over that time, Lampo also has maintained a strong focus on design in its printed promotional materials. Running through January 17, the Post Family is showing a mini-survey of Lampo design work, drawn from the sound organization’s 15-year archive. The Post Family’s Alex Fuller speaks with Andrew Fenchel and Alisa Wolfson from Lampo:

Alex Fuller: How did Lampo get started?

Andrew Fenchel:  When I started things in ‘97 I had no special expertise in music. I was a fan. I’d been listening to weird stuff since high school and going to shows since college. I liked that moment of discovery, especially live, with other people around and the artists there. I wanted to make that happen. I had no background producing events, and I learned as I went along. In retrospect, the lack of experience was helpful. I didn’t know what I was getting into or why I shouldn’t do it. But I wasn’t a complete fawn. I had spent some time around art museums through a couple of internships. I began thinking as much or more about the artists, rather than just the audience, recognizing that Lampo could offer extra support for their work. And I believed producing beautiful design would help make each project special. Alisa and I first met when Lampo was just about a year old. So, design was almost always integral to the idea.


Fuller: Much of the sound you present is electronic. Why was print appropriate for the design work vs. digital?

Fenchel: Most of the things we’ve produced have a practical function. Posters and postcards are promotional. Program notes are educational. From the beginning Alisa and I also talked about a secondary idea, considering the stuff as artifact. Print is what is left over. It extends the identity of the organization and documents the work. But beyond that, I also had something sort of poetic in mind. That might not be the right word. I’m very interested in the relationship between the live experience, the memory of that experience, and the tangible printed remains. We brought that present and past idea into our design. Like any time-based event that happens and then is over and done, there is the act of reading the words on the poster, and then later an understanding that now it has been read, or red — a color we use a lot. It was kind of a private joke.

Alisa Wolfson: Graphic design is something I do for work. Like Andy said, we met when Lampo was just starting. So, we began our relationship looking at and talking about design and ephemera. We wanted to make things for Lampo and felt a responsibility to the artists to do that. We also both love Fluxus and were inspired by its focus on live performance and dedication to capturing the moment through print. And, print it was and will be. It’s the family business

Fuller: How do you curate the Lampo program?

Fenchel: Lampo is structured as a series of select programs, to keep things special for the artists and the audience. I try to create relationships between events, within and across seasons, but I’m not interested in being didactic about those connections. They’re not secret, but I prefer to be suggestive and not say more. My goal is to keep the program varied but linked. It’s a fun challenge, like a puzzle. What is most important to me is that we work with artists who will be able to take advantage of the invitation, and whatever resources and energy we can offer, to do something they might not otherwise be able to do.


Fuller: Has the graphic identity changed over time? 

Wolfson: I remember doing some early weird type experiments to try to make a proper Lampo logo. They all felt manufactured and over designed. Then we started working with Helvetica. For the system and look, we both agreed a tight set of guidelines would help us create authentic pieces that would be true to our idea of Lampo. We wanted something matter-of-fact. We never wanted to mimic sound through visuals. Instead, we started with a limited set of elements, and we continue to work with these in different variations, as we also add new ones or evolve them.

The poster dimensions were determined by how many we could efficiently make on a standard press sheet. The skinny proportion of those posters became a standard we still use in other pieces. Silkscreen was practical and appealing because it was fast and had a really beautiful, tactile quality. To get saturated fields of color, we had to leave a small border around the poster edge. That border then carried through to other pieces, even when not required by the printing technique. We stuck with Helvetica. Type was often all caps, centered, not fussy. The palette was limited too. Andy loves word play. As he mentioned, different shades of red dominated early on, a wink to “reading” in the past tense. Later we expanded to oranges, browns and blues — colors we saw on bricked up Chicago buildings against a perfect Midwest sky.

These days we’ve moved away from silkscreen. We have added plaid as a formal element, an everyday reference to math and pattern. And we introduced a new Lampo Folio series, where we produce large-format booklets to document certain past events that have a more visual component. The way we continue to cycle elements in and out and add new ones is something like the way the Lampo program is curated, too.

Fuller:  The show celebrates more than 15 years of beautiful graphic design and challenging sound art. What was the experience like unearthing your archives?

Wolfson: It was fun and strange and exciting. I feel like I’m such a different person now, but it’s great to see everything together as a group, and really cool to realize what we’ve done. I know we both look forward to doing more.


“Reading Lampo” is on view at the Post Family, 1821 W. Hubbard, through January 17. Visit and for more information. This Saturday, December 7, the Lampo fall season continues with a performance by ex-Emeralds member Steve Hauschildt at the Graham Foundation. 

Alex Fuller is one of seven partners in the studio/gallery/blog called The Post Family, founder of 5 x 7 publishing and a Design Director at the Leo Burnett Dept. of Design.

All photos courtesy of Mike Schwartz.