Thursday, December 22, 2011
2012: Arizona Cactus Garden, Palo Alto, CASource de la LoueIlluminated HedgeWar Game Tree.

Monday, December 19, 2011

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Camera Obscura and Holograph Gallery, San Francisco, 1949
Via the Georgia Straight: Christopher Brayshaw's Into Thin Air is a Quiet Revelation

"As a bookseller, rock climber, and inveterate art viewer, Brayshaw has taken a number of road trips to and through the United States, and his photographs reflect his travels. Or perhaps, more precisely, they reveal the way he pokes around the un-picturesque margins of wherever he happens to be, whether it’s Los Angeles, Las Vegas, or Brooklyn. He brings the same sense of dislocation to his hometown Vancouver, focusing on what he described in a recent interview with the Straight as “the overlooked, the broken—the blind spots in late industrial capitalism."


"Brayshaw is fascinated, he said, with 'photographic seeing and the abstract configuration of space.' He revels in the small details and optical effects his camera captures: a huddle of dried leaves, crumpled paper, and cigarette butts on a sidewalk in La Cienega; the glittery haze created by deteriorating UV film on glass in Antique Dealer’s Window; the swirling play of colour and line on a desert stream viewed through a tangle of thin, bare branches in Arroyo.

From Jeff Wall to Stephen Waddell, a number of Vancouver photographers have influenced Brayshaw’s work. His shot of the Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California, for example, obviously and concertedly refers to a series of digitally montaged photos of the same subject by Scott McFarland. 'You test yourself against people you admire,' Brayshaw explained. Another print, Blind, recognizes the enormous impact Wall’s photography and writing have had on his understanding of the medium.

At the same time that his art quotes many of his contemporaries, Brayshaw resists terms like homage, satire, and even commentary. He does, however, reveal a great interest in the creative possibilities of appropriation. Brayshaw’s photos, it seems, function not as mimicry of those he admires but as an investigation of what it is they do: he immerses himself in certain subjects, locations, and framing devices. It’s a fascinating and heartfelt project."
Thursday, December 15, 2011

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Eddie Curtis ("With the 'CLASSY FUNKY SOUND' of the VELVET SUNRISE Orchestra & Chorus")
Sunday, December 11, 2011
On location, 11pm-2am

I know I'm not part of the life you had planned,
but I think once your body feels my hand
your mind will change
and your heart will lose its pain.

Saturday, December 10, 2011
"Book Description: published by the Fine Arts Gallery, The University of British Columbia, [Vancouver], 1970. Stapled Wraps. Book Condition: Very Good. First Edition. 4to - over 9¾" - 12" tall. 56 p. 125 ill. from photographs by the author. Text printed from typescript with marking pen cross-outs and ink annotations reproduced in facsimile. Ostensibly a manual on making landscape photographs, but actually a conceptual art piece and a parody of documentary photography, featuring banal roadscapes and views seen from the car window. Fragile, elusive publication, printed on highly acidic newsprint, with the original price, 25¢, printed in the lower right corner of the cover. Despite the poor quality of the paper, the contents are very good to fine. The booklet consists of 56 p., and includes text printed from [author's] typescript with his handwritten emendations in facsimile, numerous photographs from the car window distributed throughout, and a final 8 pages containing a reproduction of a contact sheet followed by a sequence of 38 photos of city streets and suburban landscapes. The lower outer corner of the cover (near the 25¢) is chipped; the same corner of the initial pages are also chipped, to a lesser extent, but with no loss of content."
"Later, when Ged thought back upon that night, he knew that had none touched him when he lay thus spirit-lost, had none called him back in some way, he might have been lost for good. It was only the dumb instinctive wisdom of the beast who licks his hurt companion to comfort him, and yet in that wisdom Ged saw something akin to his own power, something that went as deep as wizardry. From that time forth he believed that the wise man is one who never sets himself apart from other living things, whether they have speech or not, and in later years he strove long to learn what can be learned, in silence, from the eyes of animals, the flight of birds, the great slow gestures of trees."
Friday, December 09, 2011

The Laziest River - Behavior-era Tennant/Lowe smiling somewhere across the water.  Those tiny keyboard flourishes, the vibes at 2:55.  A sound like the thoughts in my head in the LA County Arboretum, stalking cactus.  For the longest time I thought (pace Tower of Sleep's recent poll) that Suicide Demo for Kara Walker was my favorite Kaputt track, but I might have been wrong.

Edit: the above is only 6 minutes of a 20 minute multi-part suite.  I might be the last person on earth to know about this vinyl-only sequence, but it's Xmas and we're opening a third store and I'm not sleeping much between the 18-20 hour retail days. My head feels like it's full of Pop Rocks. But my new night photograph keeps coming along, and this totally unafraid music really does sound like thinking.
"Am I [a] sensitive person? Sure, I am. I think it's better to be sensitive than to be insensitive. There are too many impolite, insensitive people in the world."
Sunday, December 04, 2011

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Kevin Schmidt, Aurora With Roman Candle, 2007

Off tonight to make (or more likely begin to make) a black and white night photograph, my first in a few years.

This review is poorly written Academese ("That said, Graham’s work is located, nonetheless, in a modern paradigm as an exercise in understanding representation within historical trajectories.") and some of the lightboxes look pretty thin compared to Aberdeen or the Freud/Judd sculptures.  Still: Smoke BreakThe Constant Reader!

(Image: Rodney Graham, The Constant Reader, 1949, 2011.  In 2011, a chichi antiques store occupies the premises, though there is a pretty good independent bookstore directly across the street)
ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Drew's Thesis, by Eryne

"Drew's Thesis, by Eryne. Once upon a time, there was this water and it was in a stream. Scientists looked at the water and wondered, 'How much sediment can this water move, if this water can move sediment?' Then Drew spent years and years of time, and looked at every cat picture on the internet to learn the answer. The answer is, 'It depends.'"

Brandon Lattu, dropping science:

"I’d advise artists to always consider their models of authenticity as both a realization of a point in social time and a constituent element of their construction of themselves as artists. Also, find something that you can make everyday, cheaply. I always shot a roll of pictures a day, processing them at Kmart, Bradlees, CVS, PhotoHut, Walmart, etc. From this, I got 10 years of images of the world for less than $5 a day from a period I couldn’t afford to produce much else. David Hammons made snowballs."

(Image: Brandon Lattu, Beacon, 1996, a photograph which made a deep impression on me when I first saw it at Margo Leavin in 1998.  The simultaneous beauty and futility of that gesture)

Ed Ruscha Recreations, by Eric Doeringer, whose recent Richard Prince photographs are also worth a look.  Doeringer's practice is firmly situated on the Sturtevant-Pettibone-Levine axis close to my heart, though the more familiar I become with his recreations of seminal works of Conceptual and photoconceptual art, the more it seems to me that his work is closer in spirit to Rauschenberg's "Erased De Kooning," that is to say, serious, un-ironic, and not strictly "appropriative" or concerned with the elimination/destruction of "aura."

The remade Ruschas are really good because of the tensions they elaborate between the Ruscha "originals" and Doeringer's recreations. Material differences: qualities of light; patterns of wear.  They must have been exhausting to make.
Thursday, December 01, 2011
Novelist and critic Michael Turner recently saw my photographs, and has some thoughts about them:

Currently at CSA Space is Into Thin Air, a selection of twelve digital photographs by Vancouver-based art writer, curator, photographer, bookseller and gallerist Christopher Brayshaw, taken between 2008 and 2011 in Vancouver, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York. The curator of the exhibition is Steven Tong, who likely had a hand in the sequencing of these works, a sequence I will follow in the writing of this review.

The first thing that comes to mind after viewing these pictures is the angle from which they are captured. In the first picture (Opuntia fiscus-indica, 2011), a cactus, like so many of those succulent fountains that greet us as we walk the streets of California’s largest city, stands at the edge of the sidewalk. From there, the photographer’s eye is drawn downwards (La Cienega, 2010), where curled leaves gather neatly at the base of the tree from which they have fallen and a ghost-like reflection dances in the shadows to the right. Following that, a garden of cacti (A Heterogeneity, 2011), where Latin nameplates, not fallen foliage, beckon at the base of these plants. Following that, the contents of a shop window (Antique Dealer's Window, Los Angeles, CA, 2010), after which the high-angle view is broken (In a Conservatory, 2011) by a dead-on view similar to the one that greeted us at the outset (Opuntia fiscus-indica). The difference here is that now, for the first time, the photographer is on the inside (of a glassed section of a building), looking out (past the cactus before him).

The sixth picture in the exhibition marks a shift in light, colour and subject. The photographer is still looking downwards, but this time on the outside looking in; in this instance, at a worker digging a hole, his back turned from the camera. Between the photographer and the worker is a gridded safety screen. After that, we are back in L.A., looking at the largest work in the show (Cosmopolitan Book Shop, Los Angeles, CA, 2010), a picture that hangs alone on the west wall, dividing the north and south walls of the gallery, and perhaps setting up an expectation for the second half of the exhibition. Or perhaps a review of what preceded it? Indeed, I see something of those curled leaves in the peeling letters of the book shop’s sign, a suggestion that the book shop, like many book shops these days, is headed for what might be its final winter. Like the hole-digging worker, and unlike the other pictures before it, the book shop is shot at some remove. But while the worker in the sixth picture is viewed with Waddellian admiration, there is something menacing about the book shop, where behind its counter sits a mean old man staring balefully at bursting shelves, with no signs of life between them.

Distance from the subject is both resumed and collapsed in the seventh picture (Blind, 2010). The focus here is not on what hangs in a smudged and dusty window but whatever is on the other side of the house that surrounds it, above which the sky is reduced to a small patch of blue and the house itself is a “blind” between photographer and subject, predator and prey. Are we disappointed, then, to find that the eighth picture (Coat Suspended from a Tree, 2008) is not worthy of such secrecy, that the union of a beige coat wedged neatly into the V of a tree looks as natural as the leaves at the base of the second picture, so natural in fact that it does not seem out of place and therefore hardly worth noticing? Of the tenth picture (Purity, 2011), a rain-soaked window sends us back to the grid between photographer and worker, and again we find the photographer on the inside looking out (or do we?). The eleventh picture (Surveillance Tower and Palm Tree, Livingston, CA, 2010) has the photographer outside once more, only this time he is looking up (for the first time in the exhibition) above a grassy knoll to a bright blue sky, before which stand traffic signs, light standards and a surveillance camera, all instances of social control, all aware of each other in this most constructivist of compositions. Of the final picture (Arroyo, 2010), the energy, though hidden, is gravitational: water pours out of a dusty mound into a creek hidden by brush. This work, to my mind, is the finest of the twelve pictures in the exhibition. A haunting composition, and a fitting end to an intriguing sequence.

What to make of this narrative? Given the photographer’s penchant for science-fiction, I am reminded of Philip K. Dick and his interest in the unraveling of the ordinary into the otherworldly, like that which lies on the other side of the aforementioned house (“Blind”). Maybe what “Ragle Gumm” sees (or thinks he sees) in Time Out of Joint (1959). Either way, after walking through Into Thin Air, I could only walk through it again.

But the artist is also an art critic, and this is significant too. Many of the pictures in this exhibition are reminiscent of the artists he has written on and curated. I mentioned Stephen Waddell in relation to the sixth picture (An Excavation), but that same picture also evokes an artist obsessed with holes and those who dig them: Jeff Wall. Cacti (specifically gardens) feature prominently in the work of Scott McFarland, while the coat in the tree looks like a "Roy Arden." Mike Grill also makes an appearance. But rather than see these works as derivative, what comes to my mind is not homage but a writer out for a walk with his camera, where the thoughts that occur to those who mull over what they write about are sometimes best expressed not in words but in pictures. I think Christopher Brayshaw – and curator Steven Tong – have reminded us of that with this thoughtful and worthwhile exhibition.
The Wrap-Up

Proud to have been a very small part of this, and to recognize some of those non-YVR faces and places.
A thoughtful letter from Stephen King to the NYT:

"Damaged, dangerous people like Lee Harvey Oswald are loaded guns; the combination of hatred and political extremism is the trigger."

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