HOT COMMODITIES Seven
By Scott Speh
Hey, somebody besides Claudine, Scott, Derrick, Tony, Lauren and Curtis is actually reading this crap. Big props to Tom Moody. Check out his amazing rave and then check out the rest of his website: - he has a refreshingly straightforward, and a little subversive, attitude toward using the computer in his art.
Went back to Wisconsin recently and had the quintessential Madison weekend - the Farmer's Market, The Terrace, great beer, Devils Lake (hiking, swimming, sunning, learning Russian), brats, Jolly Bob's, plus Leslee, Sid, Hillary, Curtis, Kelly, Blair and Larissa, that fucker Ethan. Tom and Heather were AWOL, those bastards. Madison is a fab place to spend a sultry summer weekend.
I was also holed up in Chicago earlier last week for work. Made it out to some galleries on Saturday and Sunday but mostly enjoyed the free cable at SAIC's dorm. Got my VH1, MTV, MTV2, Comedy Central on.
What do I enjoy about Chicago:
Gino's Pizza - Chicago's best stuffed pizza
Goose Island beer
The wonderful staff at Houston's Restaurant
Revisiting the print edition of the Onion
Paul and Monica
Less fashion pressure than NYC (I'm much less self-conscious about my shoes here)
John Neff, Pedro Velez, David Kaiser, Michelle and Brad - Chicago artists who exemplify a true spirit of generosity in their endeavors and attitudes.
What don't I like:
That my brother got transferred two weeks ago
The fucking humidity - 2pm Sunday, a Bay Area fog-like haze comes rolling in off the lake. You can't even see the beach from Lake Show Drive
Having to actually work
The radio - the hip-hop stations don't represent like Hot 97's blazing hip-hop and r&b. Too many ballads and slow jams. We need some mo' jeep beats. The AM dial is a little better with ESPN radio (see my riff on Tony Kornheiser below)
The Chicago Tribune - I read this paper daily for ten years when I lived in Ohio and Madison. It recently went thru a radical redesign - it's neu-moderne style looks chintzy and cheesy. And maybe I'm jaded by the Times Arts section, but this Sunday's Arts & Leisure section in the Trib was so devoid of passable content and the design so drecky that I think this once great paper has turned into the Cincinnati Enquirer, not a good thing.
What have I seen?
Wicker Park (actually Dogpatch)
This show of 4 painters and one collaborative painting team was ostensibly about still-lifes, except that some works veered more to the abstract and others were primarily figurative. But all the works did stay "still" and the imagery was placid. What intrigued me the most was how dry the paint was, and I mean dry in the visual sense. No glazing, linseed oil, stand oil, varnish - no shine or sheen. I liked Keiler Sensenbrenner's chalky paintings of dogs and one of a woman standing in a driveway on a suburban street. These works have an insouciant, laid back, almost "so what" attitude about them despite the seemingly painstaking craft, a nicely incongruous mix when properly balanced. Also arresting, in a slowing down of time and space sort of way, was Ashkeim/Melsom's Radio, a tiny, impeccably observed painting of the type of ancient transistor radio sitting in the back of your dad's garage. This painting is small, perhaps 8"x10" but it has an impossible monumentality - the radio is just a black square on a gray floor and white wall with an antennae jutting across the top half of the image - simple but it looms like the lone stereo speaker in the Replacement's mid-80's video "Bastards of Young."
Danielle Tedeger's paints these funky sort-of-geometric abstractions, compositionally related to Paul Henry Ramirez's concentric blobs of enamel linked by wispy linear elements. She plots out chippy computer looking designs using a cheap software and then re-articulates the image in paint. No, not like Monica Prieto's boring, flatly painted blobs, but concentric squares and linear elements rather crudely rendered - certainly not in the hard-edged taped off world of L.A. painting. She probably uses tape, but not very well on purpose. They look like they were actually painted by a human. A potentially trite project - hey, I'm using a computer too! - that wins by keeping it real. Sam Prekop's grey, abstract city-esque-scapes were handsome too.
A great Kirsten Stoltman video - tight shot of her singing along to song while driving along a dreary interstate that perfectly captures the laconic, mundane joys of singing in your car. They are also replaying a Bruce Nauman video seen this spring at Dia, the one where he builds a fucking fence. He is now mocking us. Supposedly we'll watch any old damn thing this "living legend" will foist on us. Fuck you Bruce. Jana Sterbak has a hilarious text piece describing how the existence of Beuy's felt suits bothered her, especially in relationship to her own wearable works, so she describes to the reader how she transmogrifies into a moth and attempts to eat all 100 of the suits Beuys sold to public and private collections, often "disrupted by misguided conservation efforts."
Mostly mediocre, middle of the road painting with one modest exception - Pamela Fraser's morbidly humorous "5 Necks/5 Necks and Mountain" - both sections features five bloody stumps that I guess could pass for necks, each wearing a brightly colored t-shirt.
A terribly uninteresting technology show - Alan Rath lite. Cory Arcangel and Paul Davis' project was semi-interesting. They hacked Nintendo cartridges and game consoles to play black and white, pixelly geometric patterns on old TV's. The images were fairly compelling but the installation was overly precious with the Nintendo box innards strewn all over the floor and pedestals. And the Jason Salavon video wasn't working - major faux pas for a tech show! Too bad too because his work is sometimes interesting, or at least it was when he was in school. His pieces in Bitstreams were unremarkable.
Some edgy work tucked in the corner of a horribly vapid vanity space. Miller uses collage, crude printmaking techniques, expressionistic drawing and painting to conjure up some terrifying images (especially the ones with collaged dental plates) and some aggressively wanton images replete with cocks galore.
WMVP 1000AM Chicago
This might be a mortal sin, mentioning that I listen to sports talk radio in an arts criticism column. That just isn't done - art writers just don't listen to sports talk radio. Well I do. Tough. But Tony isn't your normal sports schlock host - he's more of a general humorist - kvetching and whiny, an uber-complaining mensch. Plus you won't hear last night's sports stars on his show - he hates he blather you get from athletes and coaches. He won't allow them on his show - he puts only sportswriters and the occasional ESPN analyst on the air. But he truly excels when he doesn't talk about sports at all. One morning he went on an inspired rave about watching a musical on PBS the night before. This same day his show aired for the first time on a Phoenix affiliate - he took callers on air (another rarity) from Phoenix, most of whom berated him for not talking about sports. He chided these chiselheads for not having a life - "Go outside, read a book, go to a play - sports is not the be-all-and-end-all of existence. If sports is your entire life, I feel sorry for you." Basically kissing off this new market. His in-studio cronies, Andy Pollan, producer Denis Horgan, Kevin, Phil the Showkiller and the Duke Dan Davis add a freewheeling dose of cultured and educated humor to the sports talk format. New York City depressingly doesn't have an ESPN affiliate so I often tether myself to the computer from 10am-1pm EST to listen and laugh online. ESPN radio online
Grant Park, Chicago
The easy thing to do, as I did in Hot Commodities 1, is to call Radiohead arty and pretentious. An easier thing to do is to call them a great rock and roll band. I marveled at the way they transformed the difficult, wispy, technology-infused songs from their last two albums into full-fledged arena rock songs without sacrificing and edge or integrity. The setting was incredible as well - an open, green field, the imposing Chicago skyline to the left, Lake Michigan to the right. Plus they had a stellar sound system - every song, lyric, minor utterance was crystal crisp. Standout songs - the fuzz base driven National Anthem and Idioteque, a fully rocking Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box, Thom Yorke's mugging for the camera during the piano driven songs and the crowd approved guitar solos on Paranoid Android. I wish they had played The Bends and High and Dry but hey, you can't get everything you want. The video projections were gorgeous - luminous black and white images with artful edits and dissolves that generously added intimacy to the 25,000+ throng. Drummer Phil Selway held the disparate elements - transistor radios, toy pianos, analog synthesizers, moogs etc. - together with his insistent drumming, much like Steve Shelley from Sonic Youth used to do with that once great band, before they devolved into their horrid art-jazz crap. Remember when they used to rock? Be sure to check out Radiohead's incredible website, where you can watch free videos!
Bad Movie Club update
Rushin and Lidz show their contempt for movies that strive for importance where directors foist platitudes on the unwashed masses. "To be really bad, a film should be pretentious and sententious." 3 movies particularly caught their ire - Grand Canyon - "The Passion Players join hearts and hands at the edge of the Grand Canyon, and stare slack-jawed into the yawning void. (So, alas, does the audience.)," Pay It Forward (BMC member Hannah saw this abomination on the plane from London and can attest to it's horridness - "an utterly manipulative, dishonest and in the end, cruel movie" - Lidz and Rushin call it "a Springtime-for- Hitlerish collision of bad acting, bad direction and bad badinage") and A.I. , about whom the authors ask, "Is this the worst movie ever made?" They quote an un-named movie executive's rules, which are handy: "Locate the exit nearest you, she says, before screening any film directed by big-name male actors or Brian De Palma, any film that features Robin Williams in a beard, any film scored by John Williams, any film starring Juliette Binoche or Kevin Costner, any film that features Robin Williams clean-shaven, any film directed by a woman and proud of it, any film that features Robin Williams in a yarmulke and any film positively reviewed by anyone associated with National Public Radio."
Not necessarily a bad movie
There was a hilarious article in this Sunday's Times about bad movies by Steve Rushin and Franz Lidz, that fit timely into our gang's continuing bad movie explorations, which this week led us to the theaters to see the Planet of the Apes, which was everything a bad movie should be, except I was hoping for some hot ape-on-human action, at the very least some hot ape-on-ape action. Rushin and Lidz used a slightly different bad movie criteria than we do: Our rules are the bad movie must include an A-list actor, for example the entire oeuvre of Julia Roberts (BMC member Claudine reports to secretly liking America Sweethearts) or the post Leaving Las Vegas work of Nick Cage. If no A-list actor appears, specific genres and sub-genres will work: cheerleaders, planetary destruction, romantic comedies, etc, or huge-grossing movies, where a film like Scary Movie applies, as it's the highest grossing R-rated movie ever.
I watched Philadelphia (for the third time) on TBS the other night - it flirts close to portentousness (and dishonesty) but Jonathan Demme is a fairly reliable director and it's sins are elided by the fact that it was the first major Hollywood film to tackle AIDS. And Denzel's and Hanks' performances were sublime. What makes the movie for me, where I always tear up, is the ending. At the wake the mourners hug, grieve and watch home videos of the deceased as a youth while an impossibly sad Neil Young song plays on the soundtrack. I defy you not to cry as, you hardhearted bastard.
Larry Clark, director
Another Larry Clark teen porn fest, a perv's delight chock-a-ful of naked and near-naked lithe teen bodies - it perfectly captured the trashiness of Floridian youth. And no, this isn't a new trend. Floridian youth have been trashy scum since I've been visiting family for the past 20 years. Something to do with all that sunshine and humidity. Bakes their brains.
One more David E. Kelley rip, at least until the new fall season: on a rerun of Boston Public Monday the fat, female wrestler dies during the state finals match. Yes a typical D.E.K. manipulation, but what's worse is the similarity to The Practice's season finale: a funeral, gospel songs, and a montage. Please...help...me...stop...gagging. Yes another montage about a minor character. Good god man, get some new ideas. He also recycled a tourette's story line from his days as a writer at L.A. Law this season with the Anne Heche character on Ally McBeal. Even worse, he played it for laughs. He's shameless. Of course, why do I continue to watch? One observation on Ally McBeal: wouldn't this show be light years better without the titular character?
Best Singles - Mid Year
This is just an accounting exercise for me, so I remember them for the end of the year issue. Feel free to suggest others.
Get Ur Freak On - Missy Elliot
Baby Put It On Me - Jah Rule
Survivor - Destiny's Child
Jaded - Aerosmith
Ride Wit Me - Nelly
Hashpipe - Weezer
Smooth Criminal - Alien Ant Farm
One More Time - Daft Punk
Yellow - Coldplay
It's a bit much.
I just got a email from a supposed friend that read "Why are you so much more fun in text?" I dunno. You tell me.
I'm now doing uploading this column from a PC. Why can't software designers come up with a FTP program as simple as Fetch. And I miss simpletext too. PCs suck.
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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...
Best of 2001
Moulin Rouge, Mulholland Drive, Missy Elliot, Jay-Z, James Ensor, Wayne Thiebaud, Radiohead, System of a Down redux
Thanksgiving from Hawaii
Serra, Pardo, Katz, Coen Brothers all suck. Grabner, Sienna, Prekop, Jay-Z all rock
Early Fall 2001
The Onion, Rodney Graham, Jim Lambie, Larry King, Music Movie Sundays, sucking up to Jerry Saltz and stuff...
Early Fall 2001
Skinny actresses, Fall Previews, Hair metal (again), and some other crap...
Chicago Art, Radiohead, Tony Kornheiser, another David E. Kelley rip and more...
Wane Thiebaud, Printmaking, movies, more summer shows and more...
Summer Shows, Paul McCarthy, Me, My Sister and more...
James Ensor, Ennui, Journey, New Art Examiner and more...
Late Winter 2001
Dawson's Creek, Jessica Stockholder, David Salle, Albums of the Year and more...
Early Winter 2000
riffs on rock-Roll Singles, the West Wing, Bernard Frieze and more...
The dirt on Damien Hirst, Jibangus, Cable TV and more...
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Barry's Brother's Football Picks