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HOT COMMODITIES Four
Spring 2001
By Scott Speh

We'll start with art this time - First up, the SOHO scene

JAMES ENSOR
The Drawing Center
The best freakin' show I've seen in a long time! A must-see! Take your friends!
I feel like those obsequious movie critics who sell blurbs for ads for shitty movies - except that I mean it, dammit! This show is the bomb.
My first drawing instructor was a very proper, old school emeritus printmaking professor who was highly influential in my undergrad work. Deep into my junior year, I showed him some etchings and he said, while patting his heart, that my work was "naughty" and told me to look at Ensor. Talk about naughty! I can't decide which was my favorite piece - the hilariously grotesque "Doctrinaire Nourishment" with Popes, Kings, Academics and Military Leaders perched on top of the city walls, shitting into the mouths of the fetid masses. Or "My Portrait in 1960" from 1888, a skeleton slumped against a wall. Or "Burlesque Figures" where one character has a beak for a nose. This Belgian expressionist's drawings and etchings eschew sentimentality even when depicting his parents - one drawing is of his father on his deathbed and another of his mother is titled "My Mother or Sloth." Go see it - you have until mid-June.

JEFFREY VALLANCE
Lehman Maupin
Vallance sees evil clowns in the Shroud of Turin and blames Satan, thus saving him condemnation in the eyes of the Catholic League. He also saw Richard Nixon in the eyes of the Virgin. He's funny - whether he means to be or not.

BRAD KALHAMMER
Deitch
If Basquiat and DeKooning had a Native American love child...large and lucious and Neo-Neo-Expressionist, Kahlhammer can fuckin' paint. See Michelle Grabner's review in this month's New Art Examiner for a more congent analysis.

THE CHELSEA GIRLS AND BOYS:

DENNIS HOLLINGWORTH
Nicole Klagsbrun
I guess you could call me a painter. I used to do these maximalist, chunky, and funky abstract paintings - layering geometric shapes with screen-printed ben-day dots, electrical tape, spackle, spray foam and a host of other shit. So at this time I was invested in the "Idea of Painting" and kept a mental list of "important painters" who could really paint. Today, I couldn't give a shit about the "idea of painting" and "important painting shows" like "Painting at the Edge of the World" currently on view at the Walker in Minnneapolis don't excite me anymore. I did like the Kevin Appels (so tastefully decadent) and the Haluk Akakce (kooky) and the guy who does the site-specific wall installations (geometricky) but most everything else left me kind of flat. One of my faves, Laura Owens, had two incredibly bad paintings. Usually her work teeters on the edge of bad and brilliant and I love this tension. Here she falls into the bad abyss.
This tangent is a roundabout way of saying I still pay attention to Dennis Hollingswoth's work, even if he is no longer an influence on my current direction. The Voice said his work looked like cheesy hotel art at first - this is part of the appeal. Like Owens he toes that bad/good line. Plus he can paint in the old romantic sense of pushing colored mud around a canvas. But it's not all intuition and action painting - he does have a strategy, a formula if you will, that gives the work a sort of steely logic keeps me from yawning. In addition to the historical technique, alla prima, a wet into wet impasto type application, he uses a number of signature techniques - he calls some of them monads, bulldozers, flings and pillows - that sees him pulling starburst-like strings from globs of pint, squeezing pigment straight from the tube - then carvng a flat edge off the top of these ribbons, and trowelling and exising geometrics shapes. I'm a sucker for straight from the tube pure color and juxtaposing high key and putrid, ugly color.

PHILIPPE PARRENO
Friedrich Petzel
Very Fench, very arch but with a palpable sense of ennui (i'm a sucker for ennui too - I've been playing the Replacements "Can't Hardly Wait" and the Smashing Pumpkins "1979" back to back all week - brings tears to my eye). What you see is carpeted gallery floor with what appears to be a shadow cast on it. Except that there is no window. The carpet is colored in the shape of the shadow - neat! The next room has a video projection of a tree littered with plastic bags in front of a far-off housing development. Booming from the speakers is a crunky Angus Young guitar riff. I have no idea what it all means but it made me all wistful and stuff.

RITA McBRIDE
Alexander & Bonin
Shiny greenish-grey minimalist sculptures cast from video games or ATMs. I told the desk jockey "that that one ATM wasn't working." She didn't think I was funny.

I'm visiting Chelsea this coming weekend, so stay tuned for more reports - looking forward to Sean Landers and Elsworth Kelly. Hope to get uptown to see Inka Essenhigh as well.

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lets go to the POP CULTURE

IDLEWILD
1000 years
Indie rock is back! I'm not talking about the distribution method, but the sound. This disc sounds like it's straight from 1985. R.E.M. mixed with Husker Du filtered thru the mean streets of Scotland. The lyrics can get a little precious - musing on post-modernism, Gertrude Stein and cynicism, but the attitude is pure.

COUNTRY MUSIC
David Letterman was bitching mightily about the Country Music Awards aired on CBS recently - his beef is that it wasn't country music, what with the fire, camouflage, and the three chicks from Venus. "That ain't country music" he said a couple hundred of times to Paul. "How about George Jones, Johnny Cash, Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Emmylou Harris" he ranted off the top of his head. After the break, his crack production staff produced clips from many of those same artists performing on the show. T'was a beautiful moment - Letterman crystalized many of the complaints about country music and especially county radio that music critics have been shouting about for years. On a national stage. Let's hope someone was listening. Lately I've been listening to a newly remastered "Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash. Now that's country (and rock and pop.)

STILL CAN'T SEE NOTHING COMING
(Regan Books/Harper Collins)

Daniel Grey Marshall
A description of this book sounds incredibly depressing - a coming of age story about a high school dropout whose father beats him and whose beloved sister commits suicide. He tries to cope with his two buddies by drowning himself in drinking and drugs. And it is incredibly depressing. But also absorbing, gripping and human, told in a tender voice full of insecurities and passions. Dan starting writing this book when he was 15! I read it in a week - record time for me and fiction.

GREATEST HITS
Motley Crue, Whitesnake, Journey
I got all these awesome discs from a new record club. I had exhausted all the crap I could from BMG a couple of years ago, but I couldn't resist this company's offer. The Crue disc starts off with two crappy new songs (new circa 1998) and the best songs are buried at the very end - "Too Young to Fall in Love," "Looks that Kill" and a horrid, tinny remix of "Shout at the Devil" - WHY, why would they do that? Whitesnake only made one good album - the classic "Whitesnake" with those old chestnuts "Still of the Night," "Is This Love?" and "Here I Go Again." On the Greatest Hits, they also felt the need to thow in a remix - they replace the awesome "Here I Go Again" with a cheesy radio edit full of cheesy synths and keyboards. WHY, why would they do that? I should've just bought "Whitesnake" but I can't find it on disc - the rest of their Hits package pretty much sucks. Now Journey did it right - 14 classics of over-emoting weepy power ballads and pompous rockers - it's the perfect party album. Only the most ardent (and hard-hearted) indie purist can deny the power of these songs. It's a perfect album - there's absolutely no need to own any other Journey album. "Open Arms," "Don't Stop Believin'," "Faithfully," "Seperate Ways," and the classic "Lovin' Touchin', Squeeeeeezin' each other." Rock on, you fair knights of magical rock!

THE PRACTICE
ABC
Did you see the bogus product placement for David E. Kelley's "Boston Public" on last night's episode? A witness testified that she saw the perp get home just before 8pm on a Monday. She was so certain of the time because was waiting for her dog to finish his "business" so she could go in side and watch "Boston Public." Cheeeeesy. And why were all the Practice cast members sitting in the front row at the funeral? Shouldn't the family have been there? Tacky. And the montage for the dead lawyer who was a minor character. Utter crap. And Lara Flynn - eat something.

MightyBigTv.com.
the worldwide web
If you miss an episode of one of your favorite shows, like say, Dawson's Creek, go to this site. Strenuously detailed recaps that are really fucking funny.

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and a couple more art notes

NEW ART EXAMINER
I thoroughly enjoyed Nick Frank's article on Michael Banicki in the New New Art Exminer. He shed some welcome light into his sometimes inscrutable (visually anyway) paintings. Wish I had better things to say about New NAE. Sure, I like the new design, typeface and the lush color but as a whole I found it's new mission to cover the Midwest (this is new?) to be a tad hyperbolic and back-slapping. As much as I love David Robbin's writing (much more than I like his often inscrutable art), I found his essay a little off-putting. Maybe it's because I'm one of those midwesterners who've forsaken their homeland for the bright lights and big city, but not all of us chump NYC artists are suck-up careerists - I'm doing the same shit I'd be doing in Madison. Sometimes location is irrelevant. Plus you don't need a car here. And I found the review section hilarious, after all the cheerleading for midwest artists, a majority of the non-Chicago shows that were reviewed featured bi-coastal and international types, not our beloved midwestern brothers and sisters. But to NAE's credit, they've found they needed to carve a niche, create a brand identity. I hope they highlight more midwestern artists rather than the art stars who happen to be showing in midwest venues. Of course, I hope the midwest galleries and art schools can continue to pony up the ad revenue month after month, cause the NYC galleries sure ain't gonna advertise here anymore.

PIPILOTTI RIST and CHARLES LONG
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
A double video projection over which Rist sings, er, screams "Wicked Game" the Chris Isaak song. The images are compelling enough but it's the singing that gets me. She imbues the song withan emotional depth that Issac probably didn't know it had. It's positioned in close range to Charles Long's pink play-doh piece, you know the one with the headphones playing the Stereolab. I forsook the Frenchies while playing with the pink goo to listen to the Rist piece. I wrote "Matt sucks" in the goo. Matt didn't think it was very funny.

HEY LOOK - WE GOT A LETTER
You too, can send a letter - letter to that idiot Scott


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HC12
Valentine's Day 2002
Way too much info on my TV watching habits, plus Daniell Tegeder, Brad Tucker and art in Boston and much, much more...

HC11
Best of 2001
Moulin Rouge, Mulholland Drive, Missy Elliot, Jay-Z, James Ensor, Wayne Thiebaud, Radiohead, System of a Down redux

HC10
Thanksgiving from Hawaii
Serra, Pardo, Katz, Coen Brothers all suck. Grabner, Sienna, Prekop, Jay-Z all rock

HC9
Early Fall 2001
The Onion, Rodney Graham, Jim Lambie, Larry King, Music Movie Sundays, sucking up to Jerry Saltz and stuff...

HC8
Early Fall 2001
Skinny actresses, Fall Previews, Hair metal (again), and some other crap...

HC7
Late-Summer 2001
Chicago Art, Radiohead, Tony Kornheiser, another David E. Kelley rip and more...

HC6
Summer 2001
Wane Thiebaud, Printmaking, movies, more summer shows and more...

HC5
Summer 2001
Summer Shows, Paul McCarthy, Me, My Sister and more...

HC4
Spring 2001
James Ensor, Ennui, Journey, New Art Examiner and more...

HC3
Late Winter 2001
Dawson's Creek, Jessica Stockholder, David Salle, Albums of the Year and more...

HC2
Early Winter 2000
riffs on rock-Roll Singles, the West Wing, Bernard Frieze and more...

HC1
Fall 2000
The dirt on Damien Hirst, Jibangus, Cable TV and more...

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