Friday, June 5, 2009

They Were Greedy…Thank God They Were Greedy


An interesting-looking documentary on Herb Vogel, a postal clerk, and his wife Dorothy, a librarian, who amassed a legendary collection of minimalist and conceptual art, much of which they donated to the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.

(Read a quick review here from today's New York Times.)

Our Beautiful West Coast Thing

Images from RUINS IN PROCESS: Vancouver Art in the Sixties, a recently-launched digital archive of artwork, ephemera, and film.

Film stilll from What Happened Last Summer by Stan Fox

Landscape Manual by Jeff Wall

Robert Smithson in Vancouver: A Fragment of a Greater Fragment catalogue cover

Bilingual by Audrey Capal Dorey

A Portfolio of Piles by Ingrid Baxter / N.E. Thing Co. Ltd.

Poetry Front: ConcretePoetry

No Ow Now from USCO Hubbub by Gerd Stern

artscanada, June/July, 1971

Much, much more here.

Where is the Seattle version of this – is there one I don't know about? The Municipal Archives Flickr page is great and all, but damn.

Via Jen Graves , particularly on fire lately at SLOG.

Your Weekly Mr. Littlejeans

a.k.a. The Snuggler

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Close your eyes and press play

We are about to move into our new house this weekend after staying with my in-laws for an unmentionable amount of time, and although they are great (and gracious) it is definitely a moment whose time has come. I have been severely deprived of blasting my music and of access to my records, and despite some attempts early on to stake out a mini collection of records that I can play here in the house when no adults are home, it's been tough. Following is a list of some of the hodge-podge, random songs I have acquired from records bought over these long months – the eclectic but often rewarding list of songs I will forever associate with my time here in purgatory. It's sort of like if you were stranded on an island and there was a record store with only a dollar bin to choose from.

If you are interested in obtaining a copy please send check or money order for $5 to my attention, along with a self addressed and stamped envelope and one cassette tape or CD. Please allow 1-3 weeks for delivery :

0. Pacific Gas & Electric, "Constitutional Stand" intro, Pacific Gas & Electric LP

1. Grace Jones, "Nightclubbing", Nightclubbing LP

2. John Lennon with the Plastic Ono Band, "Cold Turkey", Shaved Fish LP

3. Queen, "Play the Game", The Game LP

4. Van Halen, "Mean Streets", Fair Warning LP

5. Busy Signal, "Unknown Numbers", 7"

6. The Clipse, "Ma I Don't Love Her", Lord Willin' LP

7. Chic, "Savoir Faire", C'est Chic LP

8. Jay-Z, "Dead Presidents", Dead Presidents 12"

9. War, "Slippin' Into Darkness", All Day Music LP

10. Dobie Gray, "Rocking Chair", Drift Away LP

11. Bad Company, "Shooting Star", Straight Shooter LP

12. The Rolling Stones, "Angie", Goats Head Soup LP

13. Sharon Jones w/ Ticklah, "How long do I have to wait for you?", 7"

I have included an image of the Pacific Gas & Electric album cover because if you look close, these guys are all sitting on a bed in a hotel smiling crazy at you with a couple guns on the bed in front of them. I love it....

Like parallelograms of light
On walls that we re-painted white

Emily's post on Robert Irwin reminded me of that line in this song, from the Weakerthans' excellent 2007 album Reunion Tour:

The Weakerthans Sun In An Empty Room mp3

The Weakerthans will be at Neumo's on July 18th with Jason Collett. More info at the band's website.


A Magazine #6

I was truly sorry to hear that after 11 years, Belgian designer Veronique Branquinho's fashion house is folding. No hope of a restructuring in this case; the company is headed for liquidation. I never made room in my closet – or budget – for any of her designs, but I always admired from afar the at times somewhat old-fashioned and always very romantic mix of light and dark, severe and sweet, that informed her aesthetic vision and particular brand of femininity. Branquinho will continue as artistic director for luxury leather-goods house Delvaux, and I'm sure there will be many more acts in her career as a designer, if she wishes (perhaps if Marco Zanini moves on from Rochas...?).

But for now, in appreciation of a very lovely view on the world, here are a few fashion spreads from A Magazine #6, guest-curated by Branquinho. (Editor-in-chief Kaat Debo advises enjoying the issue "on a cold winter evening, comfortably seated in front of the open fire, in the company of close friends, with a good bottle of wine and some favourite French songs playing in the background..." – it's exactly the wrong season for that, but many of Branquinho's designs seem perfect for dependably chilly Pacific coast summer nights, and it's always good to have something to look forward to, n'est-ce pas?)

All clothing Veronique Branquinho, collections 1998 – 2007
(masks by Serkan Cura and Romain Brau).

View Branquinho's past collections on, here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Way of Seeing

Robert Irwin, Varese scrim, 1973

I've been thinking about the artist Robert Irwin (whose recent show at Pace Wildenstein Strath wrote about here) a lot lately. Irwin is one of those artists for whom I have complete respect – even awe. He has steadfastly followed his artistic conscience wherever it's taken him, no matter the consequences. That conscience led him away from the canvas, and finally even away from his studio, which he dismantled, disposing of the contents in the early 1970s, with no clear idea of what would come next. What did ensue was a complete rejection of the idea of art as object, and the development of the concept of art as a process of perception, intended to deliver awareness of aspects of our environment that we would otherwise ignore.

Five views of Robert Irwin's Scrim veil – Black rectangle –
Natural light
, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1977

Irwin had a retrospective at the Whitney in NYC 32 years ago, in the late spring of 1977. Writing about the show in his fascinating biography of Irwin, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, author Lawrence Weschler explains:
Irwin used his museum pieces to raise questions that were then aimed at the surrounding world into which the major work had already broken out. Lovely as it was, Irwin's Whitney installation was primarily intended to function as a catalyst . . . . The great floating rectangle and the way it in turn brought out the modulation of the ceiling and the reticulation of the floor established the predominant theme of the grid; and just as many museum visitors experienced, as if for the first time, the hegemony of right angles within the room, so they were now invited to translate this reclaimed vision out into a city where the grid of clean horizontals and verticals is so pervasive as to have become almost invisible. Beyond that, the room seduced the sympathetic observer into a certain attitude of perception, a posture of heightened attention, and this heightened vision was in turn available for transposition into the world. Walking out of the musuem onto Madison Avenue, Sotheby Parke Bernet diagonally across the street looked different from the way it ever had before; both it and the look had been reclaimed.
The catalog for the Whitney retrospective included photographs of two on-site installations by Irwin, each followed by photographs of an unmediated environmental effect; for instance, a photo of Irwin's "Black plane – Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street" (in which Irwin painted black the square demarcated by the crosswalks at that intersection) was followed by a photo taken from a helicopter, titled "Black planes – Shadows, Park Avenue," in which, in Weschler's words, "Park Avenue is revealed as a succession of black building shadows and thin strips of intervening sunlight." Of the implication of these photographic juxtapositions, Weschler observes,
And that, of course, was just about as far as you could go on a particular line of aesthetic inquiry, for it implied not only the dematerialization of the art object, but the virtual evaporation of the artist's role qua artist. And Irwin was willing to say as much. Sitting there in the Whitney's coffee shop, Irwin pointed through the glass wall up at the play of shadows on a building facade across the street. "That the light strikes a certain wall at a particular time of day in a particular way and it's beautiful," he commented, "that, as far as I'm concerned, now fits all my criteria for art."
Weschler concludes, "at the terminus of Irwin's trajectory, when all nonessentials had been stripped away, came the core assertion that aesthetic perception itself was the pure subject of art. Art existed not in objects but in a way of seeing."

The cover of Irwin's 1977 Whitney Museum exhibition catalog

I think having Irwin on the brain lately has something to do with being back in the Northwest – not necessarily because Irwin is from the West Coast, but because there is so much more space here in which to see, and I'm consistently aware of my surroundings in a way that I wasn't on the East Coast (as beautiful as New York is). There have consequently been a few times lately when I've read a description of an artist's work as evoking or referencing this or the other natural feature or architectural idea, or causing one to think of x, y, or z thing in the physical world outside the gallery. And more than a few times my reaction has been not, 'oh, that's interesting,' but instead, 'well why isn't that thing that we're being asked to consider the real art object?' Of course, art often has the goal and effect of causing a viewer to look differently at people, objects, or surroundings. But Irwin bravely took this idea to places that no artist of whom I'm aware had gone before, and I think I have him to thank for this question.

Art critic Roberta Smith asserted in 1976: "Duchamp bluntly illustrated that any object could be art if so called. Irwin's work has been suggesting, with increasing insistence, that any situation is art, if so experienced." I think this is as good an explanation as any for why I've never felt a need for spiritual enlightenment that couldn't be satisfied by a walk in the woods or some time by the water (or even contemplating a manmade object as beautiful and strange as the Space Needle or Chrysler Building or as mundane as a crumbling barn in the middle of a green field). That's my church, and it's more than enough.

Drew Smith, untitled (Pacific Ocean)

Buy Seeing is Forgetting here (or borrow it from your local library), and watch a short documentary on Robert Irwin here.

Fire & Mussels

Some photos and thoughts from last weekend's trip, to my mom's house on Whidbey Island.

The first order of business was installing the firepit, which (long-time readers and attendees of the semi-annual Fire & Beer parties will remember) used to be in our backyard in Brooklyn. Emily ordered it several years ago from the same place that supplies fire rings to the national and state park campgrounds. The thing weighs like 200 pounds and it was kind of a pain to acquire; we were not about to leave it in New York. When we left, we dug it up and brought it with us across the country, and we've been waiting for some nice weather to install it at Whidbey.

Here it is in action Saturday night (pictured left to right are my aunt Shan, Emily, my mom, and my uncle Perry, who lives next door to my mom on Penn Cove). Most of the wood you pick up off the beach is cedar, which smells really good when it burns.

Walking on the beach the next day, we came across this Oystercatcher sitting on top of a mussel-covered rock. Penn Cove is not a big body of water, but (I mentioned this in passing previously) it's one of the largest producers of mussels in the entire country; when you order mussels in a restaurant, if they aren't from Brazil or somewhere, they're often from Penn Cove or the Canadian maritime province of Prince Edward Island. My impression is that they used to be considered kind of a trash shellfish, but they finally seem to be getting their due lately.

The office of Penn Cove Shellfish is at the end of this narrow dock just down the beach. The FedEx truck actually drives down the dock.

On the other side of the cove are all these mussel rafts (click the images to enlarge).

The mussels attach themselves to these discs (which sometimes wash up on the beach), and the workers go around to the rafts and haul them up.

(This photo is from Penn Cove Shellfish website.)

My uncle Perry is a painter (more on him later) and did a series depicting the mussel workers.

Huh. I thought I was going to post a bunch of photos but then I realized they were all about the firepit and mussels. I guess we might as well go with it. In closing, here's a mussel recipe I am making up on the spot, but which I guarantee would be good:

Mussels with Chorizo, Jalapeños and Tequila
- Half a stick of butter.
- A bunch of garlic, minced.
- Half a pound of chorizo.
- Six cans of Tecate or other Mexican beer.
- About a cup of sliced green onions
- A small can of sliced jalapeños with seeds. I recommend La Moreña but any canned jalapeños that also have carrots in them will work.
- Two shots of tequila. You can use the rail for this, i.e., don't waste your cabo wabo, dude.
- All the juice from one lime.
- About 40 mussels (maybe 1.5 lbs), scrubbed and de-bearded (which they should be already if you get them from a market).

How to cook it:
- Melt the butter in a large pot.
- Add the garlic (cook till it smells good and is golden).
- Add the chorizo (cook till brown).
- Add the green onions and the jalapeños.
- Add one can of beer.
- Salt the rim of the other can of beer; open it and put a slice of lime in it. Drink it. Pour out a lil' for me.
- Wait one minute and then add the tequila. You didn't drink it already did you? We don't drink the rail, we drink Hornitos. Stick to your beer and pay attention.
- Add the lime juice.
- Add the mussels and cover the pot. Let them steam for about 8 minutes or so, or until all the shells are open.
- Transfer the mussels to a large bowl without the sauce. Throw out all the mussels that have not opened.
- Pour the other stuff over the top of the mussels.
- Eat it.
- Have some good sourdough bread on hand to soak up the juice when you're done.
- Find the rest of that sixer and ride easy, bro. Summer is on the way.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Louise Bourgeois in a 1997 Helmut Lang advertisement

Bruce Weber: "Helmut Lang asked me to take a picture of Louise. I asked if it was important to show any objects or clothes, and he said 'No, but I made a little crown for her and maybe she'll wear it, maybe she won't.'"

There's no particular reason for this post, I'm just a fan. More

Monday, June 1, 2009

I just want to do a good job.

As some friends of Pacific Standard are aware, I left NYC last fall planning to put my career as a practicing attorney behind me. I love the law, but being a litigator is a grueling and stressful profession, and one that doesn't lend itself very well to family or sustained outside interests (or weekends off, for that matter).

When we got to Seattle I applied to the graduate program in library science at the University of Washington with the idea that becoming a law librarian would let me keep some of the aspects of being a lawyer that I love, but also let me have a life. It's a tough program to get into, so I wasn't holding my breath, but I'm thrilled that the school saw fit to accept me. I'll be starting classes at the end of September.

Honestly, I'm super nerdy and have secretly wanted to be a librarian for a long time...I think that ever since seeing Party Girl in the spring of 1995 I've been subconsciously trying to figure out how to make it happen. For anyone out there who hasn't seen this movie, add it to the Netflix queue immediately – you won't be sorry, I promise. It's a classic.

Thanks, Parker, for giving a girl a reason to dream.

More Party Girl clips here.

Ama Ama Oyster Bar review

Oysters are a destination food – savory little things that I find myself searching out every so often. Paired with some sparkly or white mineral wine as a way to start off a meal or start off a night, it takes so little to satisfy so much. I had heard good things about Ama Ama and decided to take a trip to West Seattle to learn more. After a few hours of wandering beautiful Lincoln Park we arrived at Ama Ama and settled in at the bar. Okay: the interior setup is overly styled in mid-century modern. I find it to be a mistake when restaurateurs theme-out their restaurants in search of a brand beyond the food. I'll take good food from a taco truck or a man wandering the streets with a cooler full of empanadas any day over a tiki bar. Along with the waitstaff in all black (who cares?!) I was a bit bored by the atmosphere. Until the food arrived. Four types of northwest oysters arrived in our dozen, along with a surprising and good variation of mignonette with ginger and yuzu sauce. After the oysters we went with some small plates: the Jerusalem artichoke bisque had big chunks of Dungeness crab in it, along with asparagus, chives and thyme. The lamb belly, the take on eggs benedict with duck eggs, morels, brioche and hollandaise, and the mussels baked in a paprika rub with lemon and harissa butter sauce all presented a wide variety of local foods and tasty, balanced combinations. Worth the trip, and worth a trip back to explore the other ends of the menu, which I imagine change with the seasonal offerings.