Friday, January 30, 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015

"Zombie Formalism"

Articles that "coin" phrases often concern the relationship between art and the market.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Rose (2014)

For his Artnet News "Daily Pic" (entitled "Monique Mouton Paints Painting's Death"), Blake Gopnik gives us this:

I don't believe that painting is dead. I do believe that every substantial painting has to acknowledge–visually­–the pathogens threatening it: Its painfully close ties to the .01%; its long-time ownership by guys wielding big hairy sticks; a vast, overshadowing history of past excellence; a vast, overshadowing present of gross mediocrity (the worst mall art is almost all painted). The second I saw Monique Mouton's picture called “Rose", now in a group show at Wallspace in New York, it struck me as wearing its symptoms with pride. A classic, Greenbergian shaped canvas, ultimate symbol of painting-for-painting's-sake, becomes the bearer of clutching, bloody hand prints, as though the medium has been shot and is trying to keep from bleeding out.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Crackers on Commercial

Hard to believe that bluegrass was once the punk rock of its day. The only thing that distinguished it from whatever else was on offer at the Grand Ole Opry was the speed of its delivery, which is to say fast.

As to bluegrass's cross-cultural appeal, check out Robert Altman's Nashville (1975), the scene where country singer Tommy Brown, his wife and friends, do their best to sit through a bluegrass song.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Crows on Commercial

Every day at dusk crows travel southeast across the city to somewhere deep in Burnaby. Usually their flight pattern follows the railway line that begins (or ends) at Main and Terminal, but on this day they converged a little north of there.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


This morning, while waking up to the radio, I heard a traffic report that had Commercial Drive closed to motor vehicles between Charles and Kitchener Streets due to fire.

Because I was in need of groceries, and because I sit on the board of the People's Co-op Bookstore (located between Charles and Kitchener), I decided to pick up my produce on Commercial, and make sure our bookstore was okay.

As it turns out, the bookstore was fine, but Beckwoman's across the street is not. No damage to the businesses on either side of Beckwoman's, nor to Ms. Beck(wo)man (who was standing outside the shop consoling patrons), only to Beckwoman's.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

"They Are Hostile Nations"

In Margaret Atwood's poem "They Are Hostile Nations" (from her 1971 collection Power Politics) gender relations are likened to warring countries.

Re-reading the poem today, all sorts of things come to mind. When Atwood writes "Put down the target of me/ you guard inside your binoculars," I am reminded of surveillance videos like the one above, but also of the red dot "(your vulnerable/ sections marked in red)" [0:35-0:41] that certain commercial gallerists place beside a work sold during the course of an exhibition.




In view of the fading animals
the proliferation of sewers and fears   
the sea clogging, the air
nearing extinction

we should be kind, we should
take warning, we should forgive each other

Instead we are opposite, we   
touch as though attacking,

the gifts we bring
even in good faith maybe   
warp in our hands to
implements, to manoeuvres


Put down the target of me
you guard inside your binoculars,   
in turn I will surrender

this aerial photograph   
(your vulnerable
sections marked in red)   
I have found so useful

See, we are alone in
the dormant field, the snow
that cannot be eaten or captured


Here there are no armies   
here there is no money

It is cold and getting colder,

We need each others’
breathing, warmth, surviving   
is the only war
we can afford, stay

walking with me, there is almost   
time / if we can only   
make it as far as

the (possibly) last summer

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


The image above is neither that of an abstract painting nor a collage but of a poorly conserved upside-down photograph of the Basque town of Guernica after it was turned upside-down by German bombers in 1937.

The scene below [0:04-0:30] has the filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard at a European arts conference handing out and holding up a photograph of a destroyed city. When he asks the audience where it was taken, members reply, "Stalingrad…Beirut, Sarajevo, Hiroshima," before Godard tells them Richmond, Virginia, at the end of the America Civil War (1860-1865).

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Le Drapeau Noir (1937)

René Magritte's most noteworthy "flag" painting is Le Drapeu Noir (1937), which the artist realized after 28 German planes bombed the Spanish Republican town of Guernica, killing between 250 and 1,600 people.

In a 1946 letter to André Breton, Magritte said that his painting "gave a foretaste of the terror which would come from flying machines, and I am not proud of it."

Looking at Magritte's "flags" today, I see neither flags nor planes but drones.

Monday, January 19, 2015

White Pelican

Yesterday I dropped by People's Co-op Bookstore to see what's new in used books. The two titles I left with are a 2005 "corrected" reissue of Roy Kiyooka's Transcanada Letters (1966-1975) and the first issue of White Pelican (Winter, 1971), which features an interview with Kiyooka, but also two of his letters: one to Phyllis Webb, the other to Charlotte Townsend, before she and her future husband hyphenated their last names to Townsend-Gault.

Below is the opening of Kiyooka's letter to Charlotte:

FROM EXPO '70, & ALL …
9/ 10/ 69

Dear Charlotte

.  .  .  . my sculpture is a flag wavering in my mind's eye.
its a Magritte flag fluttering at half-mast on a windless day!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"the furniture of the eye -- and of the mind"

I have yet to see a Vincent Price film where the actor did not play a scary character, from The Masque of Red Death (1964) to Journey Into Fear (1975). But Price was more than an actor -- he was also an art collector.

In this company training film, Price introduces Sears, Roebuck & Company sales staff to the Vincent Price Collection of Fine Art, a selection of "original" paintings and prints chosen by the actor/collector himself.

The tour begins at 6:18, when Price introduces us to a Hiroshige wood cut. Later, and without a whiff of menace, he does the same with a Goya.

Friday, January 16, 2015

"a lively dialogue"

"Like many postmodern artists, MacLeod also frames her subjects in the context of modernist art history, especially the male-dominated realm of high abstraction. In an act of both paradox and provocation, she has chosen art by men only for her VAG collection show, Cock and Bull, spotlighting institutional gender bias. Equally provocatively, she has integrated the VAG works into the installation of her own art so that a lively dialogue exists between them."
-- Robin Laurence, Georgia Straight, March 19, 2014

Thursday, January 15, 2015

"the action or process of understanding, as opposed to imagination"

"Conceived as a collaboration between artists and friends, The Intellection of Lady Spider House began when Farmer acquired an inventory of props and objects that had been used in various spook house attractions over the years in and around Vancouver and asked artists to respond to them. The title, while paying homage to American artist Bruce Conner’s 1959 assemblage entitled Spider Lady House, might also be understood as a metaphor for Farmer’s often obsessive web-like process of collecting and reclassification of materials into idiosyncratic systems. "

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A small room inside a bay window. A single bed, a table and chair, and a sink. I could manage something larger, with more conveniences, but I could never match the view.

Atop the pile of books at my bedside is an 8.5" x 5.5" perfect-bound issue of Frank: An International Journal of Contemporary Writing & Art . The journal was founded in Boston in 1983 and was edited and published in Paris by David Applefield, who was profiled by Elizabeth Venant in a September 21, 1986 issue of the L.A. Times, entitled "The Third Wave: Paris' Expatriate Literary Scene." The issue in my possession (Number 4, Summer-Autumn, 1985) was purchased at the People's Co-op Bookstore, where I found it in the "Twoonie Bin."

There are a number of readable pieces in my issue of Frank , one of which is a first publication of William S. Burroughs's  "Ten Years and a Billion Dollars," where the late author facetiously asks for time and money to undertake research on "Word," language, and its viral implications.

Here is the fifth paragraph of his fifteen paragraph essay:

William Randolph Hearst had two house rules at San Simeon: one, everybody staying in Mr. Hearst's house must appear at dinner no matter what condition he or she is in. That's very understandable -- otherwise people would be goofing off in their rooms, imitating his mannerisms, and he would lose control of the situation. It's the old Army game of Roll Call. And number two: nobody may mention the word DEATH in Mr. Hearst's presence. There is a very good magical reason for that rule: Mr. Hearst was playing Death. Playing Death means you must always be able to affect others, but they may never be allowed to affect you. Someone comes down to dinner in a skeleton suit, the old man could lose his position.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Art Collectors

"People always ask us, 'How do you begin?' It's frightening to begin. You don't want to make a mistake; you don't want to look foolish; you don't want to be wasteful. The advice is to begin."

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Art Patrons

A painting that once hung in Udai Saddam Hussein's wing at the Baghdad presidential palace.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Art Critics

Fundamentally indisposed to satire.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Opening Night

For Mainstreeters Jeanette Reinhardt, Annastacia McDonald, Carol Hackett and Deborah Fong, S.S. also stood for "sewing and swimming" dates.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


The system of Vancouver's Mountain View Cemetery, now 118 years old.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Mountain View Cemetery

Mainstreeter Kenneth Fletcher (1954-1978) is buried at Mountain View Cemetery, between Fraser and Main Streets. Early in our Mainstreeter documentary, Charles Rea (1:14) talks about playing in the downtown high-rises as they were being built, while Marlene MacGregor (2:44) speaks of the cemetery as "our playground." The photo above can be found at the Paul Wong Projects website.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Mainstreeters: Taking Advantage, 1972-1982 Website

The website for Mainstreeters: Taking Advantage, 1972-1982 is now up. Thank you Karlene Harvey for your design and Archer Pechawis for your construction.

The website includes still and moving images, texts and a chaptered version of the documentary that Allison Collins and I made with Krista Lomax, who recorded and edited our interviews with Mainstreeters Deborah Fong, Marlene MacGregor, Charles Rea, Jeannette Reinhardt and Paul Wong.

The exhibition opens this Thursday (6pm-9pm) at Satellite Gallery, 560 Seymour Street, 2nd Floor. For those interested in attending the Belkin Gallery's Tom Burrows exhibition (which also opens that night), a shuttle bus will be available.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

What Goats Are Saying About Captivity

Fences are one thing. It is those gathered outside them that complete the problem.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Chamois Goats

A drove of chamois goats escape an avalanche at Roc de la Pêche in the French Alps.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Planetarium (1959)

Marvellous against the gold glints of the beige wall … And the wall itself … How effective … You'd think it was skin … It's as soft as chamois …