Wednesday, March 3, 2021

It Was Thirty Years Ago Today

Thirty-years ago today Rodney King stepped from his car after a car chase and, without provocation, was beaten by four LAPD officers. Unbeknownst to the police, the beating was videotaped by George Holliday who, after attempting to give the tape to the police (as evidence of police brutality), gave it to a local TV station, who aired it. The rest is history.

In July 2020 it was announced that the Sony Video8 Handycam CCD-F77 Holliday used to tape the beating was going to auction. Bidding would start at $225, 000.

Here is the Nate D. Sanders Auctions description.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Got Provenance?

The artwork is inaccurate. Like Ahab, Trump can only be defeated by that which he is symptomatic of. It is also irrelevant: like most everything else these days, the artwork is simply a means to an end. What is for sale here is the new means (blockchains), the new currency (crypto) and the new product (provenance).

"Follow the money," said Deep Throat to Woodward, and that, not surprisingly, was a shadowy path that led to a paranoid U.S. President and "his" administration. But this new path, lit up like the hallways of Lucas's THX 1138 (1971). No more galleries or auction houses, no more state dollars, no more objects; what matters is where you, the buyer, are in relation to the transaction history of a given commodity (artwork): the closer you are to its source, the wiser you appear relative to that commodity's increased value. "History has just been made," packaged and sold -- as provenance.

Is this finance's version of relational aesthetics? As Julian Stallabrass reminded us in Art Incorporated (2004), the art world doesn't parallel the business world -- it is the business world ("The art world is bound to the economy as tightly as Ahab to the white whale").

Monday, March 1, 2021


New paintings by Damian Moppett at Catriona Jeffries Gallery. Entitled Vignettes, the exhibition features ten figurative paintings drawn from photographs by Edward Striechen, Dorothea Lange, Andre Kertész and Moppett himself. Which photos correspond to which paintings is unclear to me, nor is knowing what goes where important in the overall scheme of things. Each painting is an event at the mercy of narrative, which is where we, the viewer(s), come in.

Among the ghoulish party scenes, Cheeveresque swimmers and still-lifes (two of irises, one of folded tea towels) is Little Blonde Head (2020) (see above).

Despite the singularity implied in the title, there are two figures in Little Blonde Head. On the left, the eponymous head whose profile resembles a figure in a painting (below) by one of the exhibition's two painter influences, Philip Guston (the other is Van Gogh). On the right, full-faced, a local collector who has -- or who has had -- a number of Moppett's works in his collection.

The question of what to make of Little Blonde Head is determined by what you bring to it. If you are familiar with the story behind Guston's Friend -- to M.F. (1978) (that it was made after Guston's friend Morton Feldman blanked him at a gathering after Guston, a noted abstract expressionist painter, returned to figuration in 1967), then that knowledge has bearing on the narrative. If you don't recognize the figure on the right -- that (as I have learned) has bearing, too.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

A Unit of One

"Jiang Qing was an extraordinary person. She believed in nothing except the power of her will to shape reality."
                       -- Adam Curtis, Can't Get You Out of My Head (2021)

Saturday, February 27, 2021

A Poem by Wanda Colman (1946-2013)


FEBRUARY 11th, 1990

                          for Dennis Brutus

This year the leaves turn red green black
freedom colors each leaf
each stitch of grass. I am amazed
at my sweet harvest. The prison door has opened
and a nation’s heart is released. I am full
having spent my greediness in a ritual of joy.

photo: Rod Bradley

Friday, February 26, 2021

Against the Grain (1974)

Opening old boxes and finding books I never knew I had. Against the Grain: the Woodcuts of Antonio Frasconi (1974), a selection of portraits (Sitting Bull above) by the great carver printer. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Years (2008, trans. 2017) 2

"One might almost say they are posing for a photo that will not stop being taken." (112)

There are no proper chapters in Annie Ernaux's The Years, only spaces that fall into place after a run of paragraphs. Instead of numerical, bold-titled chapter breaks to set off her sections, Ernaux uses descriptions of photographs and, in the early 1970s, 8mm films (see quote above) her husband shot ("It is always he who does the filming").