Monday, June 21, 2010

3 bodies:




glenn branca at le poisson rouge, 2010
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photo by Lori Baily

Last weekend Michele and I saw
a screening of the musical performance film "135 Grand St., 1979", a set by the excellent Paranoid Critical Revolution, and a solo performance by Glenn Branca at Le Poisson Rouge in NY. The occasion was celebrating the film's release on DVD.

Branca: Glenn Branca played a guitar with two bodies, a single neck, and no head. The setup (pictured above) was such that the guitar body farthest from his picking hand (the one up where the head piece of the guitar usually is) was the one plugged into the amp. Up there was where the active pickups received whatever impulses came through. In between his active pick and the pickups at the far end, his left hand touched, muted and intervened, mainly with a glass slide. The sound he worked with was exclusively composed of everything but regular strummed guitar string vibrations: feedback, overtones, chiming and clinking. It was at times exquisite. The overall feeling of the performance was of an improvised something being alternately forced out or allowed to escape. The body language and attitude was clownish, staggering, ironic. The performance ended abruptly, he took off the guitar and did a sarcastic hip-shaking dance with his back to us. There is a perversity about this guitar as a physical object, a weirdness in its conjoined-twins shape, and what Branca does with it, that interests me. Maybe one could imagine that Branca made this thing just to get certain sounds, but there is a conceptual and sculptural gesture here. He has turned the guitar around against itself. The object doesn't know if it is coming or going. The part of it he touches and manipulates isn't the part the sound goes through-- is he distancing himself? Is he making room for some kind of inspiration or unknown thing to enter? It strikes me he is certainly finding a way of continuing to 'dance with the one that brought him'. He is wringing something out of the neck of this object. It is still the iconic convention, still a man on a stage thrashing around with an electric guitar, but he's an old man now, and the guitar has become freakish. He might be trying to coax a little more beauty out of the thing, or he might be trying to kill it.

The film: The performances on the film are mixed in terms of interest. A few came across as weak, slightly out-of-the-mainstream rock songs from that moment in time (boring), but the standouts were sublime. Rhys Chatham's solo performance was shattering, fantastic on every level, as performative gesture, as entrancing drone, as intelligent, even self-critical minimalist exploration of that primary iconic image of rock, a young man ecstatically hitting power chords on an electric guitar. In this case, it was the same, single chord for the duration of the entire piece. Branca was also excellent in the film, as were UT, and Youth in Asia (Taro Suzuki killed with his charismatic hysterics.) We had seen bits of this filmed document of the NY 'no wave' scene when it was screened as part of the "Pictures Generation" exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was good to see it in full. Even the low points had the charm of somebody's no-production-value home movie snapshot of the time, and the high points were incredibly high.



Paranoid Critical Revolution: Two women, an electric guitarist and a drummer, played a very exciting set. Viscerally powerful, musical, precise. Their wordless "songs" followed each other rapidly, no time or anything else was wasted. We will see them again.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

C'OD(e)R:

The Walking Test, acrylic, ink, colored pencil, graphite & collage, 30" x 22.5"
2010
John J. O'Connor
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Horror Crash, acrylic, colored pencil & graphite on paper, 75.5" x 58"
2010
John J. O'Connor
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C'OD(e)R, John O'Connor exhibition at Fleisher Ollman Gallery, Philadelphia
installation view
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Michele and I went to Philadelphia to be at the opening of John O'Connor's solo show at Fleisher/Ollman Gallery this week. Beautiful new work. We fell in love with the piece at top called "The Walking Test". It is a particularly exciting collision of O'Connor's highly articulated, meticulous, data-driven, linear drawing up against flowing, viscous, pushed-around paint. One of the things going on in his newer work seems to be an interesting and complicated dialogue between elements of numerical or graphical notation of flow, processes, change and chance (the kind of out-of-control charting or mapping he has long been known for) and intrusions or insertions of actual occasions of organically-shaped phenomena like loosely painted areas. In "The Walking Test", that phenomenal aspect is present in the smudged, smeared and full-bodied paint that forms the larger enclosing shape. The relation of the outer painted area to the inner, drawn form is one of a high degree of both consonance and dissonance spatially, texturally and coloristically. The two interpenetrating areas seem both inseparable and irreconcilable. That tension is reprised and heightened on close inspection by the way the outer paint perimeter's "random" contours against the black ground have been intricately redefined by precise, tiny drawn boundaries. This pairing or twinning of difference is born out in yet another way when considering O'Connor's statement about the process through which this piece developed: "My personal variation on the Turing Test. I tried to draw a shape in the center of the paper, with both hands, from top to bottom, with each hand simultaneously mimicking the other." In other instances of the entry of "natural" elements into the work, there were a number of John's new sculptures here. They use found tree branches as their basis, complex forms that already carry their own data, and receive complexities of O'Connor's thought in the form of added color and graphic symbols like letters and numbers.

links:
john j o'connor
fleisher-ollman gallery

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Equated:


as above, so below

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Friday, June 4, 2010

Perfect Mismatch:


perfect mismatch, Pierogi Gallery, May 28 - June 27, 2010
ken weathersby
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perfect mismatch, Pierogi Gallery, May 28 - June 27, 2010
ken weathersby
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perfect mismatch, Pierogi Gallery, May 28 - June 27, 2010
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perfect mismatch, Pierogi Gallery, May 28 - June 27, 2010
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perfect mismatch
, Pierogi Gallery, May 28 - June 27, 2010
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perfect mismatch, Pierogi Gallery, May 28 - June 27, 2010
click image to enlarge





perfect mismatch, Pierogi Gallery, May 28 - June 27, 2010
click image to enlarge