Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Interview originally appeared in We Don’t Owe You A Thing #1 a fanzine about art and hardcore.
Tim Davis received a BA from Bard College and an MFA from Yale University. He has shown nationally and internationally at museums like the Tate Modern, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of Art. He has published two books of Poetry with Edge Books and Figures Press. He is currently playing in Cuddle Magic, when not making visual art and teaching at Bard.
Am I crazy or did you see DOA when you were younger? Any memories of it?
I saw M.D.C. (Millions of Dead Cops) for sure around 1984 in Greenfield, MA. There was a place called Guiding Star Grange, not much more than a barn, and I saw bands like Cancerous Growth and Seige. I admit that I showed up at these gigs wearing an oxford shirt and the same sort of tweed cap I favor today, looking entirely out of place among shaved heads and green mohawks. I thought of the music as being essentially comedic. I loved "God Damn Motherfucking Son of a Bitch" by Bad Posture, and other songs from "Not So Quiet on the Western Front," the double album of West Coast hardcore I bought in 9th grade in downtown Amherst at one of the many record stores there. I didn't feel the political or social rage in the music as much as I heard potty humor and goofy truncated forms. It wasn't that far removed for me from Frank Zappa, whom I worshiped. I wasn't a punk, but a listener with wide tastes who continues to love music with a bit of a sense of humor.
What role has music played in your visual art?
Here's the Tim's music story. I started out as a poet, and always wrote more like a musician than an essayist in that I was prone to strange, disjunct formal experiments, and never felt I had much to say per se. But I have a little brother, Ben Davis, who is 17 years younger than I am, and who has always been a musician since day one. We started writing songs together when he was around 3 and I used to bang out chords on the piano while he improvised lyrics and sang perfectly on key. Since he went to New England Conservatory, the roles have been reversed, and I've been writing the words his songs for his band, Cuddle Magic. They are an incredible group of very very talented musicians who make a kind of complex orchestral folk music that is gorgeous and supremely musical. That channeled my poetic energies for the first time into something people could actually understand and enjoy, and that synced up with my feelings about photography, which never stray far from the feeling that photography is for clarity and directness, despite what the curators are telling us these days.
Over the last three years, I've been playing a lot of music myself, mostly in a hootenanny format at the local pub here in Tivoli called the Black Swan. At the same time, I bought a digital camera and found that I couldn't make a decent still, but that its video capabilities were astounding, so I've travelled around the world building up a store house of found images, not much more than mobile versions of my still photographs. I then started writing my own songs and testing them out at the pub, and found the process startlingly enriching. So, (whew) now I have recorded and album of the songs with Cuddle Magic and others, including my father, forming the band, and I am in the process of putting together music videos from all that footage. That's a mouthful.
Also are you playing out ? How did that get started and what does it sound like? Is it on the internet? And when are you gonna play downstate?
I’m working up to playing out, but for now I see the videos and the album as being the work, and it’s work I really like. It’s as generous and varying and vivid and real as anything I’ve done, and I hope adds up to my Gesamtkunstwerk or somesuch thing. The album and eventual show are called “It’s OK To Hate Yourself,” and its musical influences include Vic Chesnutt, Elvis Costello, Big Star, Jorge Ben, Beatlesy things, and, yes, my youthful hardcore flirtations, particularly on a hard driving song about disgusting animals that happen to mate for life, called “Vulture Sex”.
How has living upstate, teaching full-time, having a child and in general having an adult life affected your art?
The main answer to this question is that I’ve always hungered for the proper form to express what I am foraging for intellectually RIGHT NOW. That’s why I’m always swiveling between poetry, essay writing, photography, video and now songwriting. I’ve always made exactly what I want to make and paid no attention to how it fits in the wide scope of any kind of “career.” Which is I why I don’t have much of a “career.” So, teaching, living upstate, and now, fathering, are all delirious worm food and I’m the worm.
And a follow-up, how much of Upstate Olympics was a response to moving out of the city and having more of an adult life?
I always found myself driving through the Holland Tunnel or over the George Washington Bridge to go make art. New York City always, for the almost twenty years I lived there, felt embarrassingly useless to address. If I knew about it, it must have already been over long ago. It’s so SEEN. The minute you leave the grey region I call Robert Moseslandia, you can find your own way, your own vision. I started the Upstate New York Olympics on my 40th birthday, hungry to just go make art with no agenda and no precedents. So I walked out into the landscape with a digital camera, came across a huge tire dump, and filmed myself making and then executing an obstacle course. From there it felt like any other body of work I’d made: a thing to search for in the landscape, though it definitely tapped into another part of my being that hadn’t gotten much exercise before, the part that loves sports and games.
What are you listening to these days?
I have a group of friends up here who collect vinyl records. It’s called TULiP (Tivoli Underground Listening Party), and as its grown in intensity and scope, most of my music listening has gone into periods that favored vinyl. So these days, I’m back into a big jazz phase. I play Art Tatum and James P. Johnson for my son almost every morning. He’s named “Bix” BTW, after Bix Beiderbecke. Duke Ellington, Lee Konitz, Lennie Tristano. About as far from MDC as you can get.
If you’ve been to Camel Art Space, now Parallel Art Space, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with Rob de Oude’s detailed, graphic and downright illusionary paintings. Having personally spent lots of time at both galleries, I’ve developed a healthy affection for the obsessive nature of de Oude’s paintings, an aspect of his work that always made me suspect that he has more than a passing relationship with OCD and / or control issues. Despite the overwhelming rigor of his dense line work, the paintings continue to have a liveliness, due to his unabashed love of color.
With that said, over the last four years de Oude has been ridiculously prolific, and every time I’ve stopped by Parallel or gone to his exhibitions, there is a little part of me that worries that I am going to grow bored with his unwavering love of lines. But then you find yourself alone at an opening in front of one of de Oude’s paintings, noticing that the red horizontal lines seem to be popping. The next thing you know, you’re polling strangers in your general proximity to ask if it’s just you or do the red horizontal lines pop more than the others? And then you find yourself thinking through the colors of the other horizontal lines and then the background colors and then the spacing of the lines and the layering of the paint. Needless to say, I find myself still very much enjoying his paintings.
At their best, they are more than formal abstractions of gimmicky optical illusions. Instead, this is a real-time education in optics that becomes both energizing and punishing as the lines, with a little concentration from the viewer, start to move and undulate. It sounds like a carnival trick, but his knack for colors that are both muted and pulsating makes the work endlessly engaging.
I was walking along Bedford from the L to meet my family for dinner and spotted Gary Peterson about a half a block in front of me about. I have met Peterson very briefly once or twice, and I am pretty sure he doesn’t know who I am, but I like his paintings a great deal, as they tend to rise above the glut of graphic abstraction that overwhelms Bushwick. So I kept walking to dinner / stalking Gary Peterson, until he ducked into a gallery. As I was running a little early, I popped in and found myself at the opening of Dana Gordon and John Mendelsohn at Sideshow. The show had an unsurprising abundance of graphic abstraction, the kind of thing that is tasteful but rarely memorable. Wouldn’t have been better if it was Gary Peterson’s paintings.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Well, if we are seeing the death of Chelsea, as it devolves into a home for yard sales for museum-level art (see Basquiat at Gagosian), then it has been nice to see the healthy amount of photography in Bushwick over the last month. Especially when quality galleries like Robert Henry give a solo show to a photographer and the work is not terrible. Which isn’t the best way to start the review. I like Dudis’ work and its long multi-paneled images that form one complete view of logs in the woods. The pictures are well made, the fragmenting of the objects into multi-panels is instructive and effective, highlighting the enjoyable formal attributes of the logs and branches in the woods. Even turning a decaying Birch (?) log into a wonderful play of silver and gold. But as skilled and pleasant as the work is, a part of me finds the photographs a tad too formal. Still it’s clearly an issue of taste not quality, and I am more than happy to see photographers having solo shows in Bushwick.
As much as the show at Robert Henry might be too formal for my liking, Wessel Castle is a little too artistic (in the pejorative) for my liking. But again, the presence of two different photography shows at 56 Bogart seems like a real tipping point for photography finding a foot hold in Bushwick, and I am psyched. Now, don’t get me wrong. I very much like the photographs in the show. They do a good job of highlighting the absurdities of the random signs and objects seen along the long stretches of well-traveled road between populated destinations in the more spread-out parts of our country. The pictures often abstract these oddities into attractive but perplexing markers of humanity and culture.
There is a wonderful artist book on sale at the gallery that reprints many of the pictures form the show on colored paper, even further abstracting, highlighting and disorienting these common road-trip scenes. My issue comes more with the sculptural aspect of the show, where an image is displayed in an upside down plastic storage bin or framed in what appears to be a protective wrapping of some sort. Others are stacked on shelves like the art on sale at Ikea. There might a conceptual explanation for all of this, but none of it was apparent from being in the space. Nor did the sculptural gestures seem to interact effectively with the actual pictures. It all seemed like a step too far. That said, I loved that they created their own prints of Tyvek logo and warped the wall behind the desk in them, something I would have loved to see cover the entire space. But still, two maybe not perfect but certainly quality shows of photography at the Bogart building at the same time seems like a good thing going forward for photography.
Not to completely beat a dead horse, but it’s hard not to notice, with two quality photograph shows on either side of Fuchs Projects, how unfortunate the Fuchs space is being run. Nothing like a large solo show dedicated to the namesake of the gallery to establish yourself as respectable. I am coming to grips with the fact that this is what Fuchs Projects is, and expecting more is silly, but it is so painful that the only Bushwick Gallery dedicated to photography is again doing a large show of what I am assuming is the owner’s work. Oh, and the gallery’s website notes that since August of last year this marks his 6th show in the space, not a good record for 8 months of existing.
I don’t remember having a strong feeling on the “Eigengrau” work. It’s not bad, it just didn’t strike my fancy one way or the other. But I did dig on Krystosek’s black gold and maybe black felt (?) sculptures that look like the kind of thing that would serve as the inspiration or even mock up of some high-end couturier fashion, like a more audacious Steve McQueen dress. Just don’t think you can go all that wrong with well-constructed gold objects.
To a painting layman like me, there seem to be two large movements in painting in the greater Bushwick scene, graphic abstraction and what Loren Munk might call crappy paintings. Both feel a tad retrograde, reveling in the last time abstraction was in vogue in the late 70’s and early 80’s, right before and after painting died. There are certainly people doing both at a high level that has breathed new life into two stale constructs, but generally graphic abstraction feels safe, in that it is almost always attractive and for the most part succeeds solely on the quality of color use. I tend to find crappy paintings more interesting or at least, the more challenging of the two. By crappy paintings, I mean paintings that often have a conceptual limitation built into their creation (even if it is only a lack of studio space), combined with engaging with the materiality of the paint that is so sculptural in nature that it often results in surfaces that are more physically engaging then visually attractive. Both strands of painting seem to show up in almost every group show in Bushwick, one clean and precise, the other opulent and rushed, but both celebrating the left-for-dead land of abstract painting.
Mike Olin, on first pass, rises above the herd. His paintings feel rushed, chaotic, and involve a lot of muddied colors that I think might place them in the class of crappy paintings (a term I in no way mean disparagingly), but the glimpses of figurative gestures and the detritus sprinkled into the paint hint at a process that is very calculated, almost downright sneaky. It takes a second to get past the clutter in the work that seems to owe more to artistic romanticism of Pollock and de Kooning than to more recent process-based art. When you see through the haze of brushwork and find the repeating representation of eyeglasses or thick pieces of literal pieces of glass in the paint that start to form a little narrative. Aided by the occasional vandalized baseball card inserted into the paint, I found it hard not to image Olin as a child, saddled with glasses and lack of coordination.
But once I started reading into the Gustonesque hints of narration in the painting I noticed the 3-D glasses casually placed next to the image list. Sure enough, with the aid of the glasses, the paintings are very much in 3-D or, as was explained to me, they’re just normal paintings but 3-D glasses tend to make lots of abstract paintings look 3-D. But I digress. Olin’s work in 3-D becomes a whole other beast, where the wisps of inky black go from marring a cream backdrop to floating like smoke over an endless white abyss. The 3-D starts to overcome the dumbness of your eyes and their tendency to see abstract paintings as flattened out on the canvas, as opposed to seeing them as windows into an infinite space. Oh, and word is, the closing will involve black lights, no, seriously.
Eh, what do I know from painting? Leaver seems a lot more conservative, by a couple hundred years or so, than the already mildly conservative painting McKenzie normally shows. They look like Corot-era landscapes with a little bit of falloff in the skies, to create a bit of abstraction or give the appearance of a work in progress, I guess contemporizes the work a little bit, but either way, I have a hard time getting past the muddy green palate.
Went into the show on a whim on my way to brunch, mostly because there was a photograph in the window, and usually that is enough to get me in the door. Immediately spotted some Elad Lassry knockoff work and then an Eggleston rip-off with some impressive sculptures like a cement-filled Abercrombie and Fitch bag and a wood carving on top of an orange Nike shoebox. Wasn’t until I got home that I read the image list and realized the Eggleston knockoff was just an Eggleston, unfortunately the Elad Lassry knockoff work is just Antoine Catala. .
Now I said as much nice stuff about Adam Parker Smith as I feel comfortable with over his show earlier this year at Store Front, but God damn, this is good. If you missed all the to-do, it’s a group show of works by friends of Adam Parker Smith that he stole from them during studio visits over the previous year. Being its 88 pieces, all on a scale that you can fit into a bag, it’s hard not see the show as just a large conceptual art piece by Smith other the artists as passive collaborators. But it’s still a show of a who’s who of the Bushwick art scene, Matthew Mahler, Gary Peterson, Lauren Portada, Michael Scoggins, Colette Robbins, Amy Lincoln, Scott Teplin, and Andrea Bergart, all stolen for the show, rad. My only issue with the whole thing is that no one who had work stolen seems to have put up much of a stink. You’d think there’d at least be a complaint or two about feeling violated or how it compromised the intent of the work or even how they spent the last year scouring their studio for a piece for a group show. But silence. All the articles have been, “Oh shucks. That’s cool, Adam Parker Smith being Adam Parker Smith,” the show rankling no feathers seems to take some the edge off, of what on paper seemed pretty ballsy. When I went back to the show, there was a gallery worker hovering over the show pretty closely. I do like the idea that people might try to steal their work back. And to blatantly rip off Tom Marquet’s premise, this leaves Adam Parker Smith with very little room for a follow-up, short of him stealing his friends’ identities and ruining their credit ratings, which again I am not against. It would make a hell of a group show for next summer, titled Like Me Now?
As a piece on its own, the show does highlight the process of curating, which starts with an artist whose work you like and who is willing to give you access and then finding work that you can get that fits your idea, or in the case of Adam Parker Smith, his bag / overcoat. I also imagine a lot of these studio visits ending with the artist going to the bathroom and being weirded out that Smith had left without saying goodbye. And for work he could steal, there are some prime pieces like Mike Olin’s vandalized baseball cards, Brent Birnbaum’s limited edition Gagosian hats, which even at $100 a pop I still considered buying, and two excellent Deborah Brown pieces, that for her work is just the right amount of abstract. But the highlight for me was Alex Gingrow’s sketchbook / Rosetta stone of possible quotes to make work from. So to Adam Parker Smith, hurrah! I look forward to more work so I can write more critically and come off as the feigning sycophant for his work.
So it seems that Zwirner has some real faith in Ruff’s selling potential, as the gallery releases the first in a series of 3-D reprintings of his entire back catalog. In the press release, they announce they are starting with pictures with dramatic foregrounds and will continue to re-release his entire opus to make it available to clients who demand only the highest quality of viewing experiences.
Original written but never published piece for We Don’t Owe You A Thing #2 a fanzine about art and hardcore.
The review is part of an ongoing project Jacob has been doing about a barely fictionalized group skinheads.
By Jacob Rhodes
The review is part of an ongoing project Jacob has been doing about a barely fictionalized group skinheads.
BLEACH SPLATTERED BOOT BOIS "Wreath Bois of Oi-cient Times" 7”
A-side boasts the title track loud and proud "Wrrrrrreath Bois! of Oi Oi Oi Oi Oi Oi Oi-cient Times" This is BSBB doing what they do best: Sing-a-long anthems for the sewing circle lads. You stomp your Trad boots and prick your scared thumbs to this minute and a half melody, which praises the first Hard Candys and how far the Candy Skin cult has come under their Seamsters' hammer. From bleaching our own Ball-Gaggers to weaving our own denim. You've come a long way Lads! When it ends your heart is charged and you're ready to sit down and sew your next uniform, but "Oxblood Eyes and Denim Cheeks" starts up with the old factory bell and you're out from behind your Singer and back on the dance floor. This one tells the cautionary tale of a Fresh Wrap whose uniform isn't up to standard and is soon cornered by a group of particularly vicious Candys who tongue lash him until he's out of tears and blue in the face. Next time he'll check his reflection 20 times before leaving the house for the pub: A good lesson for any Fresh Wrap!
B-side is a new direction with a minute long intro/meditation with angular guitars and experimental drums. What The Fuck! I know two of the members of BSBB are part of the original Hard Candys and they have connections with the zine this is printed in, but this borders on Hippie-Jazz Shit! To much time with their instruments in hand and not enough with a needle and thread! Finally the BOIS snap out of it and bash out a driving 4-chord chorus. Maybe this is some kind of complementary color or fabric theory. Like letting your eyes drift up the cold London fog grey of a Trads' Freddy only to find a Jamaican sunset pink double piping on the tips of the collar and sleeve. But, I don't know. I'm going back to Side A.
By Jacob Rhodes