Monday, October 5, 2020

TABLE OF CONTENTS

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Vito Acconci [USA]
"Becoming a Fan of Vito Acconci" (on Acconci's 2017 death and our short friendship) by Douglas Messerli
Terry Allen [USA]
"Tall Tales" (on his LA Louver Gallery show, The Exact Moment It Happens in the West: Stories, 
      Pictures and Songs fromt he ‘60s ‘til Now) by Douglas Messerli 
Carlos Almaraz [b. Mexico / USA]
"Seeking Identity" (on Playing with Fire: Painting by Carlos Almaraz) by Douglas Messerli
Eleanor Antin [USA]
"Magnificent Obsessions" (on Antin's book An Artist's Life by Eleanora Antinova) by Douglas Messerli
"On Credit" (on Antin's performance Before the Revolution) by Douglas Messerli
"Reclaiming the Past" (on Antin's Historical Takes) by Douglas Messerli
"Lives and Portraits" (on Antin's What time is it? at Diane Rosenstein) by Douglas Messerli
Arakawa and Madeline Gins [USA]
"Architectural Delusions" (on the death of Madeline Gins) by Douglas Messerli
Bahc Yiso [Korea]
"Happy Happy" (on Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea) by Douglas Messerli
Morton Bartlett [USA]
"Games of Life" (essay on Bartlett) by Douglas Messerli
Beckmann, Max [Germany]
"Art as Voyeurism" (on New Objectivity at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
George Henry Boughton [USA]
"The Age of Wonderment" (on the Hudson River School painters) by Douglas Messerli
Geta Bratescu [Romania]
"Expression, Discovery, and Invention" (on Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now") by Douglas Messerli
Andre Breton [France]
"Expression, Discovery, and Invention" (on Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now") by Douglas Messerli
Charles Burchfield [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Chris Burden [USA]
"The Sculpture That Flies" (on Burden's Ode to Santos Dumont) by Douglas Messerli
"A Shot in the Arm, Fast Cars, and Urban Light" (on the death of Chris Burden) by Douglas Messerli
Enrique Castrejon [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Marc Chagall [Russia/France]
"Stage Struck: Marc Chagall's Theatrical Designs" (on Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage) by Douglas       Messerli [link] 
Cho Jeong-Hwa [Korea]
"Happy Happy" (on Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea) by Douglas Messerli
William Christenberry [USA]
"A Homespun American Proust" (on Christenberry's work) by Douglas Messerli
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Thomas Cole [USA]
"The Age of Wonderment" (on the Hudson River School painters) by Douglas Messerli
Stuart Davis [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Richard Deacon [England]
"A Sculpture of the Small Writ Large" (on Deacon and Sui Jianguo) by Douglas Messerli
George Deem [USA]
"Altering Time" (on Deem's book and life) by Douglas Messerli
Charles Demuth [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Alejandro Diaz [USA]
"Unusual Appearances in Unexpected Places" (on Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Lecia Dole-Recio [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Otto Dix [Germany]
"Art as Voyeurism" (on New Objectivity at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Ascher B. Durand [USA]
"The Age of Wonderment" (on the Hudson River School painters) by Douglas Messerli
William Eggleston [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Merion Estes [USA]
"Pattern Recognition: Merion Estes Brings New Life to an Old World" by Douglas Messerli [link]
"Stubborn Beauty" (on Estes' show Unnatural Disasters) by Douglas Messerli
Walker Evans [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Sam Falls [USA]
"Expression, Discovery, and Invention" (on Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now") by Douglas Messerli
Lyonel Feiniger [USA/Germany]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Carlee Fernandez [USA]
"Unusual Appearances in Unexpected Places" (on Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Christina Fernandez [USA]
"Unusual Appearances in Unexpected Places" (on Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Francesca Gabbiano [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Charles Garabedian [USA]
"Geometry Moon" (on Garabedian's "re:Generation") by Douglas Messerli
"The Moment Before They Became History" (on Barabedian's "Sacrifice for the Fleet") by Douglas  
     Messerli
Frank Gehry [Canada/USA]
"How Should a Building Look?" (on the Frank Gehry show at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Régis François Gignoux [France, lived USA]
"The Age of Wonderment" (on the Hudson River School painters) by Douglas Messerli
Gimhongsok [Korea]
"Happy Happy" (on Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea) by Douglas Messerli
Ken Gonzales-Day [USA]
"Unusual Appearances in Unexpected Places" (on Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Tm Gratkowski [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Margaret Griffith [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Gronk [USA]
"Painting Theater" (on Gronk's Theater of Paint show) by Douglas Messerli
"Unusual Appearances in Unexpected Places" (on Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Carl Grossberg [Germany]
"Art as Voyeurism" (on New Objectivity" at LAMCA) by Douglas Messerli
George Grosz [Germany]
"Art as Voyeurism" (on New Objectivity" at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Kurt Gunter [Germany]
"Art as Voyeurism" (on New Objectivity" at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
James Hampton [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Ira Joel Haber [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Marsden Hartley [USA]
"How I Got It: Marsden Hartley's Portraits of Love" (on Hartley's Berlin paintings) by Douglas Messerli
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Thomas Heatherwick [England] and Heatherwick Studio
"Imagining the Ordinary: Heatherwick Studio at Hammer Museum" by Douglas Messerli
Michael Heizer [USA]
"Rock of Ages" (on Heizer's Levitated Mass) by Douglas Messerli
Thomas Hill [USA]
"The Age of Wonderment" (on the Hudson River School painters) by Douglas Messerli
David Hockney [England/USA]
"Happy Birthday, Mr. Hockney: Self-portraits and Photographs" (on a Hockney celebration at the
     Getty Museum) by Douglas Messerli
"Inside Art: Changing Perspective" (on Hockney's "Painting and Photographer" at LA Louver, by     
    Douglas Messerli
Jenny Holzer [USA]
"The Feminist Scent" (on Eau de Cologne at Spurth Magers, Los Angeles) by Douglas Messerli
Edward Hopper [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Channa Horwitz [USA]
"Statement by the Artist"
Pierre Huyghe [France]
"Through a Glass Darkly" (on Huyghe's retrospective at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Alison Saar [USA]
"Bitter Earth" (on Saar's show, "Topsy Turvy" at LA Louver) by Douglas Messerli
Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Susamu Ito [USA]
"Pocketful of Miracles" (On Ito's photography show at the Japanese American National Museum in
     Los Angeles) by Douglas Messerli
Margaret Keane [USA]
"Identity Theft" ("Keane on Film," Tim Burton's Big Eyes and Keane) by Douglas Messerli
Klaus Kertess [USA]
"Believing in the New" (Kertess obituary) by Douglas Messerli
Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz
"Pounding the Television Screen" (on Kienholz Televisions) by Douglas Messerli
Soo Kim [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Phyllis Kind [USA]
"Giving the Gallery Its Due: On the Death of Phyllis Kind," by Douglas Messerli
KIMsooja [Korea]
"Happy Happy" (on Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea) by Douglas Messerli
Barbara Kruger [USA]
"The Feminist Scent" (on Eau de Cologne at Spurth Magers, Los Angeles) by Douglas Messerli
Christopher Grant La Farge [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art," by Douglas Messerli
John La Farge [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Louise Lawler [USA]
"The Feminist Scent" (on Eau de Cologne at Spurth Magers, Los Angeles) by Douglas Messerli
Jacob Lawrence [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Abram Lerner [USA]
"A Quiet Realist" (on Lerner's death) by Douglas Messerli
Wyndham Lewis [England]
"Vorticist Lewis / Vorticist Pound" (on Lewis and Pound's Vorticist movement) by Douglas Messerli
Roy Lichtenstein [USA]
"Expression, Discovery, and Invention" (on Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now") by Douglas Messerli
"Tuten Gives Us a Look Inside His Old Friend Roy Lichtenstein's Studio" (interview with Tommaso Speretta) by Frederick Tuten [link]
Sandra de la Loza [USA]
"Unusual Appearances in Unexpected Places" (on Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Anna Maria Maiolano (Italy/Brazil)
"Walking on Eggs" (on the Anna Maria Maiolano show at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angles) by Douglas Messerli
Vivian Maier [USA]
"God's Spy" (on Finding Vivian Maier and her photography) by Douglas Messerli
John McLaughlin [USA]
"The Gift to Be Simple" (on John McLaughlin Paintings: Total Abstraction at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli [link]
Robert Mapplethorpe [USA]
"Robert Mapplethorpe: Beauty, Power, and Sex from the Outside (on Mapplethorpe's The Perfect   
      Medium) by Douglas Messerli
Agnes Martin
"Moving Forward While Being Asked to Stand Back" (on Agnes Martin at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Enrique Martínez Celaya [b. Cuba / USA]
"Interview with Lita Barrie"
"The Vast Chasm of Life" (on Lone Star installation by Martínez Celaya) by Douglas Messerli
Michael C. McMillen [USA]
"Elsewhere" (on Outpost show by McMillen at LA Louver) by Douglas Messerli
Henri Michaux [France]
"Expression, Discovery, and Invention" (on Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now") by Douglas Messerli
Louisa Davis Minot [USA]
"The Age of Wonderment" (on the Hudson River School painters) by Douglas Messerli
László Moholy-Nagy [Hungary]
"Proliferation of Wonders" (on Maoholy-Nagy: Future Present at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Jim Morphesis [USA]
"Trouble in Paradise" (on Morphesis' exhibition Wounds of Existence) by Douglas Messerli
Julio Cesar Morales [USA]
"Unusual Appearances in Unexpected Places" (on Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Ed Moses [USA]
"A Different Kind of Light" (on Ed Moses: Drawings from the 1960s and 70s) by Douglas Messerli
Grandma Moses [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Lee Mullican [USA]
"Dreamer of the Cosmos" (on the Mullican show at LACMA, "The Abundant Harvest of the Sun" by Douglas Messerli
Matt Mullican [USA]
"Expression, Discovery, and Invention" (on Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now") by Douglas Messerli
Chris Natrop [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Rebecca Niederlander [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Chris Oatey [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Ruben Ochoa [USA]
"Expression, Discovery, and Invention" (on Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now") by Douglas Messerli
"Unusual Appearances in Unexpected Places" (on Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Echiko Ohira [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Minoru Ohiro [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Georgia O'Keffe [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Claes Oldenburg [born Sweden, USA]
"These Things" (on the Oldenberg show at the Walker Center) by Douglas Messerli
Catherine Opie [USA]
"Lives and Portraits" (on Opie's Portraits at the Hammer Museum) by Douglas Messerli
Nam June Paik [b. Korea / USA]
"What Are You Thinking Buddha?" (on a memorial tribute to Nam June Paik) by Douglas Messerli
Gordon Parks [USA]
"When Gordon Parks Photographed the Live of a Brazilian Boy and Sparked Debate" (on the Flavio photographs at the Getty Museum of Art) by Douglas Messerli [link]
Roland Penrose [England]
"Expression, Discovery, and Invention" (on Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now") by Douglas Messerli
Ezra Pound [USA]
"Vorticist Lewis / Vorticist Pound" (on Lewis and Pound's Vorticist movement) by Douglas Messerli
Phranc [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Herbert Ploberger [Germany]
"Art as Voyeurism" (on New Objectivity at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Astrid Preston [USA]
"Pixelation Breathes Life into Landscape Painting" (on "Upside Down World") by Lita Barrie
Noah Purifoy [USA]
"No Contest" (on LACMA show Noah Purifoy: Junk Dada) by Douglas Messerli
Robert Rauschenberg [USA]
"Screwing Things Up" (on Rauschenberg's death) by Douglas Messerli
Roland Reiss [USA]
"The Fiction of Flowers" (on Reiss' Floral Paintings and Miniatures) by Douglas Messerli
Rejlander [Sweden/England]
"At the Core" (on the Getty Museum show Reljander: Artist Photographer) by Douglas Messerli
Rembrandt van Rijn (the Netherlands)
"The Rembrandt Variations" (on Rembrandt: A Decade of Brilliance [1648-1658]) by Douglas Messerli
Marco Rios [USA]
"Unusual Appearances in Unexpected Places" (on Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Larry Rivers [USA]
"In the Mood" (on Rivers' career and his biography) by Douglas Messerli
Steve Roden [USA]
"Secret Abstractions" (on Roden's "A Year without Painting") by Douglas Messerli
"When the Body Becomes a City" (on Roden's "ragpicker" show) by Douglas Messerli
Frank Romero [USA]
"Reimagined Landscape: Frank Romero's Los Angeles" (on Romero's show Dreamland) by 
     Douglas  Messerli [link]
August Sander [Germany]
"Art as Voyeurism" (on New Objectivity at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
George Scholtz [Germany]
"Art as Voyerusim" (on New Objectivity at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia [USA]
"Exploring New Forms of Artistic Expression" (on Segoiva's show at CB1 in Los Angeles), by
      Douglas Messerli
Christian Shad [Germany]
"Art as Voyeurism" (on New Objectivity at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Cindy Sherman [USA]
"The Feminist Scent" (on Eau de Cologne at Spurth Magers, Los Angeles) by Douglas Messerli
Susan Sironi [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Joseph Stella (b. Italy/USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Paul Strand [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Do Ho Suh [Korea]
"Expression, Discovery, and Invention" (on Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now") by Douglas Messerli
"Happy Happy" (on Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea) by Douglas Messerli
Sui Jianguo [China]
A Sculpture of the Small Writ Large (on Sui and Richard Deacon) by Douglas Messerli
Don Suggs [USA]
"Natural History" ("Thermal Paintings and Paradise Prints" show) by Douglas Messerli
Tam Van Tran [USA]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks) by Douglas Messerli
Rosemarie Trockel [Germany]
"The Feminist Scent" (on Eau de Cologne at Spurth Magers, Los Angeles) by Douglas Messerli
James Turrell [USA]
"Beyond Light" (essay on Turrell's LACMA retrospective) by Douglas Messerli
Kent Twitchell [USA]
"Kent Twitchell’s Magnanimous Monumental Portrait of Ed Ruscha: An Iconic Landmark of L.A.’s Historic Downtown Art District" by Lita Barrie
Patssi Valdez [USA]
"Unusual Appearances in Unexpected Places" (on Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
Carl Van Vechten [USA]
"The Camera Turned Upon the Wild Beasts" (on Van Vechten's photography) by Douglas Messerli
"Just Jolly" (on the homoerotic photography of Van Vechten) by Douglas Messerli
Grant Wood [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Tom Wudl [USA]
"Illuminated Flowers" (on art by Tom Wudl) by Douglas Messerli
Andrew Wyeth [USA]
"The Iconography of the Church in Modernist American Art" by Douglas Messerli
Peter Zumthor [Switzerland]
"Architectural Dreams--and Nightmares" (on Zumthor and other architects planning for Los Angeles structures) by Douglas Messerli

GROUP SHOWS
"The Age of Wonderment" (on the Hudson River School painters) by Douglas Messerli
"Architectural Dreams--and Nightmares" (on Zumthor and other architects planning for Los Angeles structures) by Douglas Messerli
"Art as Voyeurism" (New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Repblic, 1919-1933 at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
"Building Art" (on Building Material: Process and Form in Brazilian Art") by Douglas Messerli
"Expression, Discovery, and Invention" (on Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1960 to Now") by Douglas Messerli
"Faith in the Arts" (on Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College: 1933-1957) by Douglas Messerli
"The Feminist Scent" (on Eau de Cologne at Spurth Magers, Los Angeles) by Douglas Messerli
"Full House: Artists from Latin America Imagine Home" (on Home--So Different, So Appealing) by Douglas Messerli [link]
"Happy Happy" (on Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea) by Douglas Messerli
"Roman Fantasies" (on Pompeii and the Roman Villa: Art and Culture Around the Bay of Naples) by Douglas Messerli
"The Science of Pleasures of What We See," (on LACMA's show "3D: Double Vision") by Douglas 
     Messerli [link]
"Soaring off the Surface" (on Paperworks at the Folk & Craft Museum, Los Angeles) by Douglas Messerli
"Unusual Appearances in Unexpected Places" (on Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement at LACMA) by Douglas Messerli
"When 'Outliers' and 'Ousiders' Are No Longer Useful Categories of Art" (on Outliers and American Vanguard Art) by Douglas Messerli

Douglas Messerli | "A Man of Many Masks" (on Elsa Flores Almaraz and Richard Montoya's film Carlos Almaraz: Playing with Fire)

 

a man of many masks

Elsa Flores Almaraz and Richard Montoya (writers and directors) Carlos Almaraz: Playing with Fire / 2019

In reviewing the LGBTQ documentary Carlos Almaraz: Playing with Fire offered for the first time yesterday on Netflix, it’s hard to get past the fact that I am good friends with the major director, Almaraz’s wife Elsa Flores Almaraz and with several figures who appear in the film, including Cheech Marin, Los Angeles County Museum of Art director Michael Govan, and Dan Guerrero, as well as being acquainted with several others including John Valadez and Jane Livingston. Perhaps even more importantly, I am married to Howard N. Fox, the curator of the LACMA show Playing with Fire: The Paintings of Carlos Almaraz which occasioned the documentary and who appears throughout the film, including being the first voice you hear during this film’s 1 hour and 22 minutes run.

    I lived through the several years it took Howard to mount the art show and saw several earlier versions of the documentary as Elsa and Richard Montoya were struggling to complete it. If I was asked, accordingly, to answer whether or not I could be objective about the review I am about to write I’d have to admit that that would be impossible to know. I saw the love, caring, and worrying that went into the exhibition and the film from the very first moment Cheech and his wife invited LACMA’s Govan and his wife, then Curator of Contemporary Art Franklin Sirmans and his wife,  and Howard and me to dinner where the museum director lured Howard out of retirement to curate the show. 

     The only thing I could say that might mitigate my utterly unobjective viewpoint is that, unlike Howard, I never met the artist who is the subject of his wife’s and friends’ celebration of his life. Yet we have to ask in this case what precisely was that life?  Carlos, always fascinated by the many masks that every individual daily displays, would never have allowed a single adorative viewpoint to express his more than complex manner of living. 

      After a quick arc of his childhood travels from his birth in Mexico City to his family’s move to Chicago where he lived in a community that was highly diverse, to their eventual settlement in Los Angeles, where the young boy found himself within a large Spanish speaking community of people from Mexico and Central and South America that in its every vastness and linguistic differences was highly separated from the rest of the fabric of the sprawling city, the film focuses in on Carlos the precociously charming kid.

     Early on, the young Carlos entered a newspaper-clipping competition for drawing and soon after was visited at his home by executives from the Walt Disney Studios interested in hiring him—he was age 9 at the time—later, as a young man, becoming the kind of person everyone who met him wanted to be around—in New York City he was described as having gone AWOL for two days after knocking on Robert Rauschenberg’s studio door.

     Yet even then he was also a man of extremes, a kind of haunted being, particularly in his early days, when he seriously embraced many different identities in an attempt to discover and satisfy his numerous passions. A short time after he and his friend Dan Guerrero left their Los Angeles homes to discover life in New York, Carlos explored his sexuality so radically that even his gay friend admits he was startled by some of the sexual events in which Carlos described himself as participating.

    The New York scene into which the two friends had descended, while obviously agreeable to the would-be actor and later theatrical agent Guerrero, was, in its conceptual and minimalist sensibilities of the mid-to late sixties (Carlos was in the City from 1965 to 1970) the polar opposite of the gifts of this, one might almost argue, romantic young artist. And in a world of primarily all-white males who controlled not only galleries and the museums but defined most of the artists themselves, a brown face, as the film describes it, was something difficult for the scene to assimilate. While he might be sought after as a sexual partner, his agitated and colorful grid compositions seemed to be statements in contradiction.

      Depressed by the reception he received and, perhaps, by the sometimes hostile and violent sexual scene he inhabited, Carlos begin to drink heavily, and by the time he returned to Los Angeles was a full-fledged alcoholic at age 29 who, after one night of drinking, was so psychotically disturbed and physically near-death that he was hospitalized for several weeks, at one point hearing the last rites being read over his body.

      When Howard first begin doing research on Carlos Almaraz’s work, he has startled by the fact that what had been written, whether by academics or journalists made utterly no mention of his homosexuality. He feared that perhaps Elsa was holding back some of the truths about Carlos’ life to accord with her and Carlos’ deep love and commitment to each other. In fact, when Howard asked her about this, Elsa openly laughed and said that she too had wondered about the omission, insisting that she welcomed a fuller evaluation of all aspects of her husband’s complex life.* Neither this film (nor Howard’s show), although both representing the artist in a positive way, could at all be described as a hagiography.

     Even when he was “reborn” after his near-death experience, Carlos took directions that no one might have expected. With Frank Romero, Robert de la Rocha, and Gilbert Luján (the group later adding Judithe Hernández), Carlos became one of the Chicano art collective Los Four, which brought their collectively-conceived notion of art and Chicano art in general into public attention, particularly when Jane Livingston (then a curator at LACMA) organized a show centering on their work, which was the first larger gathering of Chicano art in a major US museum. attracting many viewers who had never before felt welcome in a museum setting.

      Yet the group was fairly short-lived because of divisions between members, particularly regarding the difference between defining themselves as part of a group or from an individual perspective. Carlos, moreover, increasingly moved on to explore different political values. In one short period, Elsa somewhat humorously notes, Carlos was a Maoist, a Marxist, and a Trotskyite at one time. He traveled to Cuba, but didn’t like what he saw there.

       More important, only a year after his hospitalization, the artist became deeply involved with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers, painting large banners not only for that union’s conventions but for Luis Valdez’s Teatro Campesino, which brought plays into the worker’s fields.

       So conflicted were Carlos’ many activities that artist and gallery friends both argued that he must sacrifice some of his political work to devote time to his own painting. When he successfully did that, painting the first of what might almost be described as autobiographical representations of unexpected relationships between the individual and fate in his famous works depicting car crashes, some friends saw the move as a kind of abandonment of his political and social commitments.

       These beloved works, however, revealed another side of his passion, as, along with his “Echo Park Series” paintings, Carlos committed himself slathering paint so thickly upon the canvas as if, as Fox puts it, he were painting with butter, that one can only recognize the act as a sensual representation of something akin to pouring out one’s blood and guts upon the canvas, pulling and pushing color and paint across the surface in a manner that might almost remind us of a more realist-inclined Jackson Pollack. As the film suggests, of the abstract expressionists only Pollack remained of deep interest to Carlos.

      Carlos had also long been exploring his sexuality through women instead of simply with  men, eventually falling in love with Elsa Flores, in 1981 marrying her. In 1983 the couple had a daughter, Maya. Friends note how perfect they appeared to be for each other, allowing both of them as artists to create new works in the most joyful of an atmosphere Carlos had perhaps ever experienced.

      In the mid-1980s he and Elsa co-organized a remarkably successful show of his art at the Jan Turner Gallery in Los Angeles, allowing Carlos  to return on a short visit to New York, now with noted works and sales in his portfolio. 

      As Guerrero noted, observing the couple’s pleasure in each other’s company and the way they lovingly related to their beloved baby, it became clear that Carlos had now found what he had always been looking for.

      A brief mention that as a child he had been sexually abused by his uncle and a priest, is not to suggest that those acts were necessarily the cause of his homosexuality, but that they had, as Elsa has argued elsewhere, severe repercussions regarding his earlier sexual relationships with males.

      And now that Carlos was experiencing what might be described as his halcyon days, that had awarded him love and joys of family life and a new explosion of artistic expression, almost like one of the several car crashes he had painted, his own life seemed to be ready to be consumed by fate. For, as the 1980s came to a close Carlos discovered that he had contracted the then still misunderstood virus, AIDS.

     Fortunately, when tested, Elsa and Maya were both free of the disease. But, in order to protect their daughter, whose friends they were afraid might be fearful of house visits where it openly known, they kept the fact of his illness secret from most of their friends.

      Close friends and relatives knew he was extremely sick, but didn’t in these early days of AIDS truly comprehend the cause. For his part, Carlos painted more intensely that he ever had, producing works that, in my estimation, were some of the most narratively complex and theatrically conceived of his entire career.

       At first Carlos felt, Elsa states, a great deal of guilt, a feeling that because he had been a “sinner” he had suddenly lost all the joys he had finally been awarded, as if he were somehow being punished for his sexual activities. Yet, in the end, she assures us he was able to realize that his sexual desires were no sin and what had happened to him was not a punishment. “I’m so glad he was able to get there and not leave this earth feeling resentment or incomplete,” she confides. The artist died in 1989.

       In the final few moments of this powerful cinematic work, we see the opening of the Carlos Almaraz exhibition at LACMA in August 2017, the camera tracking us through the museum doors into various galleries both empty and filled with opening week celebrators, as if 28-years later this significant Los Angeles artist was finally coming home to where some of his earliest art had been shown. And in that sense, the documentary ends with a kind of uplifting message that suggests it simply took the art world a few decades to catch up with what Carlos had long been expressing so clearly in his art.

      Along with a large catalogue of pop-music accompanying the images, and the stunning use of his flip-books and fascination with cinematic animation, I’d argue that this was the best artist-based documentary in many years, made even more fascinating by its LGBTQ links. 

*I would also posit the idea that in the earliest days of his art it was still exceedingly difficult for anyone to bring up the issues of homosexual and bisexual behavior. What’s more, as Almaraz increasingly became associated with the Chicano movement, critics and friends alike played down the sexuality of the artists while centering their observations about the political and social contexts. The same thing happened to several black artists and writers of the Harlem Movement, notably Langston Hughes, whose estate still resists any mention of Hughes’ gay sexuality.

 Los Angeles, October 2, 2020

Reprinted from World Cinema Review and My Queer Cinema blog (October 2020).

Friday, August 23, 2019

ART Là-bas: A Short Statement


ART Là-bas



In French Là-bas means not only "down there" (as in a kind of hell), but "over there," "out there," "back there," "yonder." ART Là-bas, edited by Douglas Messerli, will include my essays (and others' works) on art in the U.S. and throughout the world as shown "over there," "back there," and even, if necessary, "down there."


Although this blog will primarily feature essays by me, I invite any interested art writer to send reviews, notes, essays, and commentary on art of any kind, from which I will select suitable essays to post. The copyright for such works will be protected in the name of ART Là-bas, but will revert to the author one month after its original publication.


Suggestions and responses are also welcome, but will be edited for appropriate content.


Douglas Messerli, Editor



All material (c) copyright 2019 by ART Là-bas and the authors.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Douglas Messerli | "Tall Tales" (review of his LA Louver gallery show "The Exact Moment It Happens in the West: Stories, Pictures and Songs from the '60s 'til Now")


tall tales

Terry Allen The Exact Moment It Happens in the West: Stories, Pictures and Songs from the ‘60s ‘til Now / L.A. Louver gallery / I attended a walk-through of the show Thursday, July 18, 2019

Terry Allen’s art is a wild jumble of drawings, paintings, stories, videos, musical albums, radio plays, sculptural figures, live performance, and other works on paper, through the years narratively woven together in large and sprawling groups, represented by what one might describe as symbolic objects in this large retrospective show, The Exact Moment It Happens in the West, at LA Louver Gallery in Los Angeles. As the title of the show suggests, Allen is an intensely “western” artist, beginning with his “Cowboy and the Stranger” series (1969), and moving into his important recording album Juarez (1975), most of the early works relating to his upbringing in Lubbock, Texas, despite his birth in Wichita, Kansas.
        Allen’s work is all about the stories that collect around his works; as he himself observed: “I realized what I really wanted to do was tell stories.”
        Yet Allen’s stories, expressed in so many mediums, are anything but simple story-telling. Even with the limited images and objects displayed in this show, the LA Louver presentation make us realize that his narrative is anything but the standard notion of fiction and moves, instead, into a kind of wry experimentalism that might easily be labeled as inscrutable and even obscurant.
     
While some of the later works from the “Memwars” series (2018-19) such as “The Exact Moment,’ seem visually to create a kind washed-out nostalgia for the western myths that permeate so much of his work, earlier pieces such as the fascinating “Stet Eline (Juarez)” from 1969-75 appear as far more surreal-like collages, with clouds, brain and other organ-like images, and a stream filled with fish and seemingly concrete blocks delimiting their natural movements. A bit like a film-clip out of Dali movie (on the left side and top we perceive the kind of notation, “1 2   3 45” consigned to the frames of earlier motion pictures. But put together it is difficult to create a coherent story or tale in viewing this work. With Allen, the perceiver needs to take in a wide collection of his images, interrelating and mentally combining them, taking the parts and collage-like making of them through mental gymnastics into a whole.
       But then that is not only the challenge of Allen’s art, but its marvel. The stories this artist tells are not gentle fables, but fabulous legends which the viewer and listener must put together to tell the true tale.
       Allen further challenges us by employing so many personal aspects of his life as in the series of “Ring” (1976-80), which explores his marital strife with his long-supportive wife Jo Harvey Allen, ending in a small mock-up of a wrestling ring where two puppets play out the brutal dissonance between the two, which, at times, of course, might be represented as coital intercourse.

      Another of his series, “Anterabbit/Bleeder” is loosely based on a childhood friend, a hemophiliac evangelist/gambler.
      Allen’s large body of work titled “Youth in Asia” (1983-93) represents his memories of numerous friends who served in Vietnam, having been betrayed by the US government or simply destroyed in the process. After numerous paintings, photographs, and sculptures, he closed this series with a music album Amerasia and a radio play, Torso Hell.
       This artist’s work, even in its vastness, let alone its often private and personal allusions, is clearly a tough bone, at times, on which to gnaw. One might have to follow Allen through his entire life and the art through its many manifestations to come to understand him and gain a true enthusiasm for them. I realized that if only I had the time to return again and again to his art, I might realize his true significance. I must admit that first meeting him during a show at another area museum years earlier, I was not impressed. But this time I was. And I think Christina Carlos, who helped bring this show into existence, has done an excellent job in revealing this sometimes rogue artist’s vast output.
      This show lasts through December, and I most certainly will attempt to see it once more before it disappears. I believe that you could visit Allen’s work time after time without knowing fully how to read its narrative. But isn’t that what great fiction is all about?

Los Angeles, July 28, 2019
Reprinted from Art Là-bas (August 2019).

Monday, June 3, 2019

Douglas Messerli | "At the Core" (on the Getty Museum of Art show Reljander: Artist Photographer)


at the core
by Douglas Messerli

Reljander: Artist Photographer / curated by Lori Pauli, Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum of Art / I visited this show with Howard N. Fox and Pablo Capra on May 21, 2019

One of the very best photography shows of the year in Los Angeles was the large Getty exhibition showing of the Swedish born, London-based photographer, who went under his last name only, Rejlander (1813-1875).
      While most of the early photographers attempted to reproduce reality in their photographs, reminding us of the naturalistic focus of early photography and film and carrying on to even today’s “selfie” portraits, Rejlander, using intense studio techniques—costumes, poses, and carefully lit close-ups of his subject’s hands, feet, and facial expressions—created a highly artful sense of photos that remind us today of such various artists as Eleanor Antin, Cindy Sherman, and numerous others. Indeed, the Getty also has accompanied the Rejlander exhibit with a small showing of what it describes as an “Encore: Reenactment in Contemporary Photography,” including the work of Eileen Cowin, Christina Fernadez, Samuel Fosso, Yasumasa Morimua, Yinko Shonibare CBE, Gillian Wearing, and Qui Zhijie  that really might be truly fascinating if it were reconceived to show the large numbers of photographers who really worked with the kind of “artistic” repositioning of the genre from natural and realistic presentation to the manipulation of what the viewer is actually perceiving.
      Rejlander was, in fact, a master of making us believe that the images we saw, mostly recreated in his studio and processed through basically theatrical techniques—the photographer, we are told, actually directed his subjects—constantly on the move—who he had often found on the streets or through casual encounters, insisting on positioning them, carefully lighting them, and spinning around them as a kind of theatrical director to help them arrive at the positions in which he might shoot them. In a true sense, this photographer was like an early studio director, forcing his still-lives to play out stories that would later be seen in early and later cinema productions.
      Although the curator, Lori Pauli, doesn’t precisely say this in her highly intelligent wall commentary of the show, one might almost argue that was a kind of early film director who hadn’t yet found the proper medium in which to present his artistic aspirations.
       Stealing young boys and girls from the streets, this artist froze them into positions that they may, in fact, have experienced in street life: poverty, destitution, despair, and isolation from the society in which they existed, while also offering them up gentle myths of daily family life; yet the worlds he created for them, factual or imagined, were of his own making. He was so clever in his ability to demonstrate their various psychological attitudes, that Charles Darwin, a friend and subject of several of Rejlander’s photos, used his “emotional” portraits to demonstrate his own scientific views of human emotions.

       If today we might well mock him for the tricks of his photography, the melodramatic presentations, some straight out of Dickens, we need only to recall the works of Diane Arbus, presented always as actual societal “discoveries,” but actually representing carefully sought-out situations to fit into the frame of her own slightly perverse and societal concerns.
     If Sherman, perhaps, is a bit more honest in using her own body as the subject of her cinema-like fantasies, is it really that is not so very much different from William Wegman’s clever and charming in-studio portraits of dogs, just as artificially conceived as Rejlander’s street urchins and the beautiful women who posed for him?
      Indeed, it is possible that Rejlander’s work, as studio-based as it was, might have had an effect on social concerns almost as deeply as did someone like Jacob Riss, Lewis Hine, Walker Evans, and Doreatha Lange. Their work may have been more “honest”—after all they went into the streets and child labor shops and shot what they saw there—whereas Rejlander made up just such scenes. But I dare to ask whether or not his wonderful “Poor Jo” might not have pulled on the heart strings of its 1870s viewers as strongly as the social realists of the early 20th century?
     Could a scene of a seemingly destitute worker, sitting up through the night next to his wife and daughter not have an important effect on his Victorian audience?
     
And then, there are is numerous nude scenes, imagined orgies—or, at least debauchery—and visions of sexuality long before his contemporaries were able to even admit to them. Rejlander was not a voyeur; he made them up, but in so doing expressed and obvious titillated what every Victorian knew was just below the surface, suggesting a bit of what Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) revealed in his own photographs of young girls—yet with a far greater abandonment that Eleanor Antin satirizes in her large-scale photographic studies. These photographs have something in common with the Baroque and painterly images of the late 18th and early 19th century artists, which take us into another time outside of the world in which Oscar G. Rejlander existed.
      In the end, this large photographic exhibit has to be seen rather than simply talked about, so erratic and broad was the artist’s vision.
Like many things in the 19th century, it was stuffed with historical sentimentality, but also challenged the very boundaries of the studio art in which he created it.
     Unlike some of the pieces in the adjunct show that accompanies his work—although I was delighted by my introduction to it—Rejlander’s art was not simply about gender, or family, or identity, but encompassed a broad view of the human comedy; even if it was all imaginary, created through his own camera and artistic techniques, it spoke to the core of human existence.

Los Angeles, May 27, 2019

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Channa Horwitz | Statement by the Artist


The statement and the photographs were first published in Sun and Moon : A Journal of Literature and Art in 1976.


Channa Horwitz
Statement by the Artist

I have created a visual philosophy by working with deductive logic. I had a need to control and compose time as I had controlled and composed two dimensional drawings and paintings. To do this, I chose a graph as the basis for the visual description of time. I gave the graph a value: one inch became one beat or pulse in time. Using this graph, I made compositions that depicted rhythm visually.
            To compose the visual rhythms, I chose to use eight units. I gave each of the eight units a number, a count equal to its number, and a color. Number one had a duration of one count and was green, number two had a duration of two counts and was blue, etc., on to eight which had a duration of eight counts, and was colored yellow green. I then named these eight units “energies”. With eight energies, each having a duration equal to its number, I made compositions using the same logic. Whatever motion appears in time on the graph is based on the same linear logic. I chose to use a circular sequence for the basis of my logical system for motion. Visually, I accomplished this by having my rhythm follow a count of 2-3-4-5-6-7-8-1-2... or 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, etc. I then thought of these choices or limitations as rules for a game. By limiting my choices to the least number, and questioning each game, I created a separate world of visual rhythm that grew in strength. The more I questioned, the further I was brought in my search for meaning, artistic truth, and for a meaning of freedom.
            I experience freedom through the limitations and structure I place on my work. It would appear that limitation and structure are the opposite of freedom. I have found them to be synonymous with freedom, and the basis of freedom.
            As I see the world, it appears to have grown and evolved through a series of chances. My life and how it evolves appears to be determined by chance; but in reality, it is a structure directed and determined by my desires, both conscious and unconscious. The theory behind my work is that if structure plays out long enough, it will appear to be chance. It won’t be chance, it will only appear to be chance. My life flows as all things in the universe flow, in a cyclical or circular manner. It is as in Lobachevskian geometry, the continuum meets itself in space. The beginning and ending are only one step away from each other. There is no beginning and ending... in the universe. To live for all time, is to live now. My life's duration is all time. I create and control my life out of my desires.
            As controller-creator of my life work, I create compositions that are based on the cycle-circle of a never ending count. Earlier works showed this count or time horizontally, one inch for each beat. To achieve my compositions, I used motion in the form of eight energies (1/8 inch squares) which moved in a circularly sequential, numbered, logical manner. I created visual compositions by playing different number games. After creating a large body of compositions using one inch of time and eight squares depicting motion, I became curious about the possibilities of expanding the one inch of time in a vertical direction, and thereby creating space for the energies to grow. This brought about the expanded energy from eight 1/8 inch squares to eight one inch squares. Each energy grew by 1/8 inch until it became one inch. I then decided to allow the energies to expand even farther in space. To do this I expanded the composition to four levels in space. I then had four levels in space vertically and eight energies in time horizontally with which I could compose.
            After completing this body of work (some pieces were up to sixteen feet), I questioned it. Having a desire to become more complex in my next compositions, I realized that the complexity of the work required miniaturization. I proceeded to reduce the work down to its essence, and to add four more levels. Each energy appeared one per inch horizontally and each level of space appeared one per inch vertically.
            After completing the first drawing in the series, I decided that the completed drawing was the front slice of a volume and that I would slice into this volume eight times front to back, eight times top to bottom, and eight times left to middle. Each drawing would be one step away from the previous drawing; the last drawing one step from the first.
            In doing the next series of drawings called Variations and Inversions on a Rhythm, I started with numbers logically arrived at through eight previously completed drawings. In the first drawing of the set I carried those previously determined numbers forward onto one drawing. On each subsequent drawing I varied all segments of the first drawing by one count. By varying the work in this way, I arrived at the first set of 64 drawings. The set exists because of the possibilities of variations with the numbers.
            The structure of the rhythm within the drawings is the result of a split. The split being that of a primary and secondary motion.
            The primary rhythm is arrived at through the use of the logical number sequence.
            The secondary rhythm is arrived at through the use of an inversion, where a different line on each successive drawing is inverted one space.
            In the first series of drawings this inversion shifts one space back on a different line on each successive drawing, resulting in 64 drawings.
            In the second series of drawings the inversion of one space back is retained on each line on each drawing and one additional inversion is added in each successive drawing, resulting in 64 drawings.
            In the third series of drawings the inversion manifests itself in a reversed direction of one space on each successive line of each successive drawing resulting in 112 drawings.
            The investigation of my original concept has brought me into unknown territory. With each question I search for a visual answer. In this way I have strengthened my original concept and have travelled further into the unknown.

Channa Horwitz
Hidden Hills, California
January, 1976

           reated a separate world of visual rhythm that grew in strength. The more I questioned, the further I was brought in my search for meaning, artistic truth, and for a meaning of freedom.
            I experience freedom through the limitations and structure I place on my work. It would appear that limitation and structure are the opposite of freedom. I have found them to be synonymous with freedom, and the basis of freedom.
            As I see the world, it appears to have grown and evolved through a series of chances. My life and how it evolves appears to be determined by chance; but in reality, it is a structure directed and determined by my desires, both conscious and unconscious. The theory behind my work is that if structure plays out long enough, it will appear to be chance. It won’t be chance, it will only appear to be chance. My life flows as all things in the universe flow, in a cyclical or circular manner. It is as in Lobachevskian geometry, the continuum meets itself in space. The beginning and ending are only one step away from each other. There is no beginning and ending... in the universe. To live for all time, is to live now. My life's duration is all time. I create and control my life out of my desires.
            As controller-creator of my life work, I create compositions that are based on the cycle-circle of a never ending count. Earlier works showed this count or time horizontally, one inch for each beat. To achieve my compositions, I used motion in the form of eight energies (1/8 inch squares) which moved in a circularly sequential, numbered, logical manner. I created visual compositions by playing different number games. After creating a large body of compositions using one inch of time and eight squares depicting motion, I became curious about the possibilities of expanding the one inch of time in a vertical direction, and thereby creating space for the energies to grow. This brought about the expanded energy from eight 1/8 inch squares to eight one inch squares. Each energy grew by 1/8 inch until it became one inch. I then decided to allow the energies to expand even farther in space. To do this I expanded the composition to four levels in space. I then had four levels in space vertically and eight energies in time horizontally with which I could compose.
            After completing this body of work (some pieces were up to sixteen feet), I questioned it. Having a desire to become more complex in my next compositions, I realized that the complexity of the work required miniaturization. I proceeded to reduce the work down to its essence, and to add four more levels. Each energy appeared one per inch horizontally and each level of space appeared one per inch vertically.
            After completing the first drawing in the series, I decided that the completed drawing was the front slice of a volume and that I would slice into this volume eight times front to back, eight times top to bottom, and eight times left to middle. Each drawing would be one step away from the previous drawing; the last drawing one step from the first.
            In doing the next series of drawings called Variations and Inversions on a Rhythm, I started with numbers logically arrived at through eight previously completed drawings. In the first drawing of the set I carried those previously determined numbers forward onto one drawing. On each subsequent drawing I varied all segments of the first drawing by one count. By varying the work in this way, I arrived at the first set of 64 drawings. The set exists because of the possibilities of variations with the numbers.
            The structure of the rhythm within the drawings is the result of a split. The split being that of a primary and secondary motion.
            The primary rhythm is arrived at through the use of the logical number sequence.
            The secondary rhythm is arrived at through the use of an inversion, where a different line on each successive drawing is inverted one space.
            In the first series of drawings this inversion shifts one space back on a different line on each successive drawing, resulting in 64 drawings.
            In the second series of drawings the inversion of one space back is retained on each line on each drawing and one additional inversion is added in each successive drawing, resulting in 64 drawings.
            In the third series of drawings the inversion manifests itself in a reversed direction of one space on each successive line of each successive drawing resulting in 112 drawings.
            The investigation of my original concept has brought me into unknown territory. With each question I search for a visual answer. In this way I have strengthened my original concept and have travelled further into the unknown.

Channa Horwitz
Hidden Hills, California
January, 1976