Monday, November 26, 2012

A Garden of Salt

 Floating Garden, 2012, 33'x26', installation of Morton's table salt, Motoi Yamamoto, © Laband Art Gallery
275 pounds of Morton’s table salt was used by Japanese artist Motoi Yamamoto to produce his new site-specific work “Floating Garden,” currently installed at the Laband Art Gallery through December 8, 2012.  The delicate lace-like work required approximately 102 hours of labor; the salt was laid out with the use of minimal tools such as a plastic motor oil bottle, a funnel, a sieve and a plastic cup. A time-lapse video of the production of “Floating Garden” can be viewed by clicking here.  The salt scape covers much of the gallery’s floor space with a perimeter walkway left for viewers to access a number of wall works and a viewing platform.  The elevated viewing platform allows for an aerial perspective of “Floating Garden.” Yamamoto’s connection to his primary material, salt, developed while mourning the loss of his sister.  In the Japanese culture, salt is symbolically used for rituals of purification and mourning.  Yamamoto produces salt labyrinths as both a healing exercise and to evoke memories of his sister.  A number of wall works bookend the floor installation.  Half of the wall works are produced of pencil, acrylic color and wood and consist of delicate spiral drawings which mimic some of the labyrinthine patterns found in the floor based salt scape.  An opposing wall holds each drawing’s negative form printed on Japanese paper.  As with many of Yamamoto’s salt scapes, the conclusion of each work resides in a collaboration with the public, wherein guests are invited to collect salt form the work and return it to the sea.  On Saturday, December 8, 2012 at 1pm viewers are invited to gather salt crystals from “Floating Garden.”  A group will travel together from the Laband Art Gallery to Playa del Rey to return the salt to the Pacific Ocean.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mear One Takes a Stand Against the GMO Man

  As Californians voted down proposition 37, street artist Mear One (a.k.a. Kalen Ockerman) stands up against the production of genetically modified organism with the completion of his newest mural in the parking lot of Wood Café at Washington and Inglewood Boulevards in Los Angeles.  The mural was produced in collaboration with Vyal One, Werc, Griffin One and Ernest Doty.  The use of overly saturated colors mimics that which is unnatural and toxic within genetically modified food.  Mear One literally represents GMO with “the man” juxtaposed near a family standing amongst their own homegrown garden and in resistance to the omnipresent hypnotic GMO man.  And just who is that GMO man?  Numerous food industry companies that spent millions of dollars in advertising to successfully persuade 53% of voters to vote “no” on 37 including: Monsanto ($8,112,069), DuPont ($5,400,000), Pepsi ($2,145,400), BASF ($2,000,000), Bayer ($2,000,000), DOW ($2,000,000), Syngenta ($2,000,000), Coca-Cola ($1,690,500), Nestle ($1,461,600), and ConAgra Foods ($1,176,700). 

Consider enjoying a meal free of genetically engineered food at Wood Café where seasonal, local and organic rustic fare is served for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Wood’s friendly and efficient staff will complement your meal.   View a video of the production of Mear One’s mural by clicking here.  Continue the fight to label genetically engineered foods and remain informed at the Yes on 37 Right to Know Blog.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Forbidden Pleasures

Forbidden Pleasures from the series Cheap Thrills, 11" x 14", vintage cibachrome, © Jo Ann Callis

Viewing a work by Jo Ann Callis can be jolting.  Callis refuses to allow her viewer to be lost in a world of mundane domesticity.  Callis points to the sensational within the home where fowl fly from enflamed dinner plates, and goldfish swim amongst green beans in the kitchen sink.  Many of Callis' constructed images from the late 70's through the early 90's rely on the use of food or the space of the kitchen and dining room.

In "Man at a Table, after David Evans," the white on white floral patterned tablecloth stained red from what appears to be a wine spill engulfing half of the table covering, brings to mind virginity and the wedding gown. Within the image, a man sits with his back to the table choosing to face the wall instead.  Like many of the human subjects included in Callis' works, he maintains anonymity. Callis seems to insist on revealing very little about the human characters that inhabit these uncanny spaces. In "Black Tablecloth," the male and female seated subjects remain anonymous yet their body language juxtaposed with two breakfast bowls, one full and one empty, communicates volumes as to their interior emotional states. 

Other works such as “Forbidden Pleasures,” entirely lack the physical presence of humans yet continue to call attention to gender and the body.  The anthropomorphic pie holes, donut rounds and side by side cream puffs topped with cherries, placed upon household fabrics with textures, folds and creases allow one to practically feel the phallic and yonic objects oscillating between the desirable and the grotesque.  Although Callis’ staging of imagery is quite controlled, the work continues to allow viewers their own space.  “Dish Trick” connotes numerous narrative possibilities around the division of household labor, domestic spats and desires, and illusions of all kinds. 

Selections from Callis’ “Forbidden Pleasures” were recently included in the exhibition “Nine X Nine In Color” at the Rose Gallery.  Jo Ann Callis teaches at California Institute of the Arts including a class entitled “Art & Food.”
  Salt, Pepper, Fire, 1980, 22 1/2 " x 17 1/2", Dye transfer print, © Jo Ann Callis

Goldfish and String Beans, 1980, 17 1/4" x 22 3/4", Dye transfer print, © Jo Ann Callis
Man at Table, after David Evans, 1977, 14 1/8" x 17 5/6", Chromogenic print, © Jo Ann Callis
Black Tablecloth, 1979, 16 3/4" x 21 1/4", Dye transfer print, © Jo Ann Callis
Dish Trick, 1985, 29 15/16" x 40 1/16", Cibachrome print, © Jo Ann Callis

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cindy's Taste

Untitled #150, 1985, Chromogenic color print, 49 1/2" X 66 3/4"
A breast full of milk, a brown bag full of spilled groceries, a cluster of grapes, a cup full of party punch and a kitchen towel full of spring onions are amongst the props used by Cindy Sherman within her many photographic portraits.  For over 35 years Sherman has been exploring the female archetype by transforming herself into numerous subjects.  Sherman is both the photographer and model; however, the works are not intended as self-portraits.  Through her duality of model and photographer, Sherman calls attention to the often-problematic power dynamic between the photographer and subject.

A selection of the early film stills plays with the construction of identity in the domestic space of the kitchen, where groceries like Morton’s salt and eggs may symbolize ideas of loyalty, purification or fertility. The subjects, referencing generic types of cinematic characters, gaze out of the frame seemingly returning the gaze of a secondary subject whom the viewer is unable to see.  The subject’s body disappears entirely in “Untitled 175” and “Untitled 182,” appearing to be reduced to a landscape of body fluids amongst a broken plate, spoon, brownies, popcorn and other baked goods.  A pair of sunglasses offers a faint reflection of a pig snouted woman baring witness to the abject scene.

Unlike the pre packaged or manufactured food used in early works, Sherman turns to grapes and mother’s milk to reference Old Master paintings in “Untitled 216”, “Untitled 224” and “Untitled 225.” The use of food as props, once again, contributes to the subject’s assigned class while simultaneously suggesting ideas of nourishment, purity and life. The portraits become uncanny as they fluctuate between the familiar and the grotesque.  In playing with the representation between painter and model, Sherman masquerades as a man as seen in “Untitled 224.”   Sherman’s play on gender continues to shift through the series of clown portraits.  The bottle of pink soda pop grasped by the clown of “Untitled 415” stands in as both phallus and possible irresistible treat to be desired by an unsuspecting child.

Sherman’s vanity portraits of 2007 and 2008 suggest the failed actress or model longing for youth.  The use of the plastic cup connotes a festive atmosphere often associated with the college party.  In particular, the red plastic party cup is a tool often used by under aged drinkers in hopes of disguising their alcoholic beverage of choice.  The subjects in Sherman’s works “Untitled # 461” and “Untitled #463” both appear well beyond their college years and the legal drinking age, which contributes to their desperation.  In the 2010 work “Untitled,” Sherman produced a pigment print on PhotoTex adhesive fabric, which is installed directly onto the wall.  Sherman masquerades as an exhausted rural farmer appearing in an uneasy psychological state while half-heartedly displaying her crop of recently harvested spring onions.  Although Sherman’s practice is clearly not about the exploration of food and drink, it is of interest to note her use of the edible to depict ideas about identity, social class or one’s place within history.  Cindy Sherman’s retrospective is on view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art through October 8, 2012.

 Untitled Film Still # 3, 1977, Gelatin silver print, 7 1/16" x 9 7/16"

 Untitled Film Still # 10, 1978, Gelatin silver print, 7 5/16" x 9 7/16"

 Untitled # 70, 1980, Chromogenic color print, 16" X 23 15/16"

Untitled #132, 1984, Chromogenic color print, 67" X 47"

 Untitled #175, 1987, Chromogenic color print, 46 7/8" X 71 1/2"

Untitled #182, 1987, Chromogenic color print, 7' 5 1/2" X 59 1/2"

 Untitled #216, 1989, Chromogenic color print, 7' 3 1/8" X 56 1/8"

 Untitled #224, 1990, Chromogenic color print, 48" X 38"

 Untitled #225, 1990, Chromogenic color print, 48" X 33"

 Untitled #415, 2004, Chromogenic color print, 68" X 44 1/2"

 Untitled #461, 2007 - 08, Chromogenic color print, 60 1/2 " X 48"

 Untitled #463, 2007 - 08, Chromogenic color print, 68 5/8 " X 72"

 Untitled , 2010, Pigment print on PhotoTex adhesive fabric,dimensions variable

Monday, September 24, 2012

Hot Mamma Ties Oversized Apron Knot

Hot Mamma Apron, 2012, 64" x 62" x 3",  Crocheted Plastic 
Hot Mamma Mitt, 2012, 15" x 16" x 3", Crocheted Plastic  
Consider a moment cooking in the kitchen when your apron begins to grow beyond your body and starts to consume you, the cook.  Artist Darlyn Susan Yee suggests such a moment in her new works “Hot Mamma Apron” and “Big Daddy Apron.”  Each work is crocheted from flagging or surveyor’s tape found at a local independent hardware store.  The act of crocheting, the choice of materials and the selection of a garish color palate all point one’s attention to common gender assumptions.  Yee states, “I selected the color combinations to further exaggerate size and to explore gender issues.  Girls play with fashion dolls that often have lots of bright pinks in their wardrobes.  In reality, pink is a difficult color for a woman to wear and be taken seriously.  With “Hot Mamma Apron” and “Hot Mamma Mitt”, I juxtapose the frivolous feminine pink with the impact of plastic fluorescent flagging tape most often used in the male-dominated field of construction.  “Big Daddy Mitt” and “Big Daddy Apron” are a whimsical take on blue is for boys. Men tend to select very functional aprons, and they are usually for the ritual of the backyard barbecue.  The bold contrast of yellow pocket and trim emphasizes the no-frills functionality.  That is, if the apron and mitt were human-sized... and wouldn’t melt during use while cooking.”

In considering both the apron and mitt as essential tools within the kitchen, one wonders about Yee’s selection of tools used in cooking up her works.   Yee explains, “Working with plastics can be challenging. Some of my crochet hooks are straight from the yarn stores. However, I especially like the custom hand-carved wooden hooks that I have made and acquired over the years. Plastic glides much better on the wood, particularly during the warmer weather we’ve had lately. Gloves during muggy weather can keep the plastic from sticking to the fingers. The static cling in very dry weather makes the plastic want to stick to itself like food wrap!”

Darlyn Susan Yee’s current exhibition “Re: Fashion” is currently on view at TAG Gallery through September 29, 2012.
Big Daddy Apron, 2012, 59" x 60" x 3", Crocheted Plastic 
Big Daddy Mitt, 2012, 17" x 16" x 3", Crocheted Plastic

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Sweet Stench of Cake

An interview with Ana Rodriguez

Describe your practice.

My work deals with toxicity, chemicals, pattern and food. I’m especially interested in artificial colors; there is something so unsettling about these colors yet they appear so yummy. I often use floral patterns and floral elements as talismans.  I was recently in the cleaning isle, amongst the air fresheners, and I thought about how nasty it smells when someone takes a dump and uses vanilla, coconut, cinnamon or floral air freshener to cover up the stench.  This is relevant to my work because I grew up in Maywood and currently live in the City of Commerce.  Both are industrial cities where a variety of odors fill the atmosphere such as the Farmer John rendering plant, Mojave Spices, Sara Lee bakery and numerous chemical plants. 
Your work triggers a viewer’s senses beyond the mere visual. How do you engage other senses such as smell or touch?

I think it’s inevitable to think of smell when someone looks at my work, especially when there are so many cake and candy like colors juxtaposed with the colors of feces or vomit.

What materials do you use?

Molding paste, acrylic and oil paint for the paintings. For the cakes I use lace, ribbon, fake fruit, gesso, house paint, and acrylic mediums.  Once, I used gum paste flowers and candy but the ants ate the work.  There was actually nothing left, it was amazing, I’m glad the ants enjoyed it.

Has anyone ever tried to eat your artwork?

During graduate school I participated in an open studio event.  In my studio, I set up a table with approximately twenty cakes.  Most of the cakes were artworks; however, I baked five real cakes to include amongst the art.  Visitors were free to cut a slice of cake.  A woman began cutting into a chocolate cake.  She looked straight at me seeking my approval, I ignored her and watched as she applied force to the knife at which point she figured out the cake wasn’t real.   She laughed and asked if it was fake, I said yes and then she asked which cakes were real because she wanted cake!!!!  I also tricked a lot of kids that day; they weren’t very happy with me.  I enjoy getting people excited about a particular cake they desire, then I stop them and tell them, “No.  Sorry today you get coconut with pineapple and you’re gonna love it!”

What artists do you find engaging?

Some of my favorite artists include: Orlan, Guillermo Gomez Pena and Annetta  Kapon.  I am also influenced by cooking shows, I can watch cooking shows all day long especially when people eat a ton of food in thirty minutes and appear as if they are going to pass out.  I love Jacque Pepin, Andreas Viestad, the Japanese Iron chef, and a Japanese food show called Dotchi.

Do you find any parallels between cooking or baking and art production?

Definitely,  preparation time and presentation.  Unfortunately, I don’t get to eat my paintings, but that will change in the future as I am currently in the process of making edible paintings for openings.

In a recent CHUNK and CRUMB interview artist Michelle Wiener listed you as an artist she finds inspirational. She stated the following about your work, “Ana Rodriguez inspires me with her faux cake sculptures, because they also speak to the facade and fabrication of desire. The sculptures appear beautiful, but then fall apart upon further examination- the frosting of paint is smeared, chipped, and dusty and lacks that certain gloss.” Do you have a response to her comment?

I think Michelle nailed it when she mentioned desire.  I hope that each viewer brings his or her personal interpretation to my work.  The cake engages the viewer which often results in the viewer being willing to enter a deeper conversation about painting.

How does your work address femininity, gender politics or domesticity?

I explore domesticity through my use of pattern.  Femininity is the glue of my work and I like to question contemporary notions of femininity.   I was raised in a traditional family where getting married, having children and cooking and serving food was an expectation.  Additionally, I was repeatedly told by my father about the importance of preserving my virginity.  I was not allowed to go out at night as this was viewed as an activity reserved for prostitutes.

In what ways did your cultural, domestic or urban upbringing affect your practice?

As I mentioned before, growing up in Maywood was challenging because it often smelled like a massive diarrhea attack outside. These odors shaped my work and I have since researched the factories I grew up around in order to familiarize  myself with what I smelled; for example sulfur smells like pecans.

My mom is a seamstress and always made my sister and me dresses. These dresses were over the top with excessive lace.  Our daily dresses looked as if we were on our way to first communion.  The tacky looking puffy fabric and pink color made us feel like we were walking candy.  My mom had no sense of style so there were many elements in our dresses that did not fit well together.    

If we were to visit your studio today what would we see? What works are in progress?

I’m currently working on two large paintings and ten drawings. There is a lot of paint on the floor because I have been painting with my hands and things are getting messy.  I also keep two collections in my studio, a cabinet full of two hundred Barbies that I’ve owned since I was fourteen, and I also have an extensive collection of fake food. 

Do you intend to promote or question notions of pleasure and self-indulgence through the decadence of your work?

I definitely like questioning desire, excess, toxicity and indulgence.  Have you ever seen those websites where overweight women are paid to eat?  Some of the women can eat one whole cake in a sitting.  This really grosses some people out and brings pleasure to others; I intend for my work to provoke something similar in my viewer.

Ana Rodriguez will exhibit new works in the upcoming “Abject Deco” exhibition at Zask Gallery from September 22 – October 20, 2012.  Take a drive through Maywood with Ana Rodriguez by clicking here.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Landscape of the Dining Table

2012 Tablescaping best in show winner from the "Bring on the Books" category  "Gone With the Wind" set by Bonnie Overman of Hacienda Heights

Perhaps you do not fancy fried fair food.  No need to worry, the county fairy offers a bountiful range of all things gastronomic including wine, beer and olive oil tastings, Daisy’s Education Barn (a cow milking parlor) and the Culinary Styles Contests.  Fair competitors can strut their culinary style in over 30 competitions including: sugar art, the perfect reception cake, all American Pie contest, Shelton’s Leftover turkey main dish contest, the almost homemade contest and tablescaping.   

The 2012 tablescaping competition includes four subcategories: Celebrate Invention, Design on a Dime, Bring on the Books and Imagination, where in participants set a dinner table 40” x 60” in size for at least two guests for first course dining only; with glasses and utensils for all courses.  Entitling the competition, “Tablescaping”, as opposed to the simple title of “Table Setting” is interesting to note.  The term tablescaping brings attention to the suffix “scape,” referring to form, a scene, or specific type of space like landscape, a space much wider, vaster and more monumental than the domestic dining table. And monumental tablescaping is, so monumental in fact the 2001 Tablescaping competition is the subject of artist Judy Fiskin’s 2003 video “50 Ways to Set theTable.”  The 28 minute documentary explores the annual table setting competition, including the highly subjective process of two judges evaluating and awarding the tables set in six categories: Valentine, Magic, Sports, Lion King, Vineyard and Country Christmas.  In an opening scene, the judges declare a string of decorative beads as detracting from elegance due to the fact that the craft beads do not hang straight.  This dialogue juxtaposed with a detail of the two sets of judges shoes, both far from elegant, more sensible in fact, including a pair of orthopedic work boots reveals the humor consistent throughout Fiskin’s practice.  The more opinionative of the two female judge's goes on to suggest the beads used should have been long strands of Jackie Kennedy pearls.  The Jackie Kennedy reference and attempts at Emily Post perfection shifts the viewer’s sense of time to previous decades of domestic perfection.  In our contemporary era of the decline of formal white table cloths and fine dining, it is utter fascination to view a subculture preoccupied with fetishistic, elaborate, over the top table settings. Through her exploration of domestic crafts, Fiskin comingles high and low culture, revealing numerous commonalities such as the critic.  Perhaps the most revealing point in the film occurs when the two judges can’t agree on which table should be awarded best in show. A judge confronts the camera operator seeking a third opinion.  The camera shifts with unease as the other judge carries on, dismissing any opportunity for the camera operator to comment.  The interaction, a Brechtian moment, simultaneously reveals the transparent view of each party on either end of the camera.

The diner-less tables sitting within the convention showroom lit with industrial fluorescents reveal a kind of sadness.  The melancholy of it all would likely be lifted were the works to become utilitarian.  Perhaps a brave fair goer might sit at this year’s best in show table with a plate full of fair grilled BBQ.  Others inspired by their newfound table setting etiquette, may ask themselves just what will I serve at my “Design on a Dime” inspired banquette?  Consider consulting both the LA County Master Food Preservers for food preservation demos on the Culinary Styles Stage and the LA County Master Gardner’s at Fairview Gardens. 

Judy Fiskin’s solo exhibition "The End of Photography and Selected Photographs" will be on view at Greenberg Van Doren Gallery in New York from September 12 - October 27, 2012.