Friday, January 23, 2015

The 60th Annual Arrowhead Regional Biennial

A very long road took me to Duluth, Minnesota. That is why it's especially gratifying to at last (in print at least) begin giving back to my new home, and to be able to call merited attention to the work of people who've become friends, advisors, and allies in realizing positive change. To say that devastating personal losses are an opportunity to build our resilience is kind of a tired cliché for anyone mired in them. But I can now vouch, having come through another side of grief, that there's some truth in this bromide. Art is a tonic for struggle, a way we leave our metaphorical and literal marks, and it is sustenance. Here's to all of us still striving. 

"Having an ever-changeable body of water like Lake Superior in your midst on a daily basis affects people, perhaps in particular those committed to making art. It  creates an awareness of matters that are tenuous, conditional, and frequently shifting.  The artworks chosen for the 60th Annual Arrowhead Regional Biennial demonstrate this cognizance in subtle, at times funny, sometimes sobering ways.  It is notable, the number of objects that have been torn into, abraded, and otherwise distressed. Their recurrence calls to mind the precarious balances artists negotiate -- between expression and income, prestige and self-regard, utility and uselessness." Link here:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Kip Praslowicz, "Lake Effect," B&W Magazine Issue 103

Though I'd hoped to be be looking back on this frigid trip from a sunny Spring vantage (nope: still Winter now 3 days from April), it's still fun to re-visit. Thanks again to Kip, Will & Wendy, The New Scenic, Rich Narum, Emily Norton, Gaelynn Lea Tressler, Alan Sparhawk, Chris Monroe, Kevin Kling, Fitger's forgiving staff, Big Bill Meier & Ami Stenseth, Roscoe's Pioneer Bar, and that generous nurse at St. Scholastica. 

"Like his art, Kip's hometown oscillates almost effortlessly between the grounded and the buoyant, the lofty and the low; after all- the distance from the manor to the dive is more proximal there, the divisions less stark. Again, I credit that grand horizonless lake- a thing to make one recurrently mindful of their relative significance, a great leveller of hierarchies, and one hell of a view." Full article here

Friday, July 26, 2013

B&W Magazine Issue 99, October 2013

It must be mid-Autumn in California, because the profile of Alex Veledzimovich in the October 2013 issue of B&W Magazine is on newsstands now. It was a privilege to bring this highly original, photographer from Belarus to the attention of a wider audience. If what Alex considers "world dharma" has any suasion, his path should only become more brightly illuminated. 

 "...the theatrical elements of his work have moved from the margins to become more strongly foregrounded. Props are given 
greater prominence— a paper moon, a cardboard rocking horse, a doll, or wings made of cardstock— while his images’ themes are less escapist counterpoints like coupling, occupations or parenthood. Despite the more burdened postures of figures in these recent works, the grace notes they hold do not look to me like flags of surrender, and seem more like emblems of protest— asserting that no matter how we arrive at our individual entropy, we will carry a vestige of something not as jaded, something more uncritically hopeful, and engaged." Full text here.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Alex Veledzimovich, coming to B&W, October 2013

Covering Alex Veledzimovich for an upcoming issue of B&W Magazine presented one of those rare opportunities to merely bring a deserving artist the attention of a wider public:

"...There is a directorial mind at work here, one of an auteur who creates what could only superficially be taken for incidental while making highly deliberated artistic statements. Through their staged qualities, Alex’s works accomplish something beyond mere documentation. Werner Herzog once flogged Cinema Verité for confounding fact and truth, stating that “fact creates norms, and truth- illumination.” While ostensibly documenting mere facts, Alex’s most successful works reach that something more- illumination."

Monday, April 22, 2013

"Useless, useless" opening May 3rd, California Building

I am reluctant to share the origins of this exhibition, however, after so many of our contributors offered deeply personal, sometimes heart-rending stories of their relationship to our theme, I could only try to do likewise. I have stated before that "Useless, useless," the last words of Abraham Lincoln's assassin, came starkly to mind at a friend's memorial service last year. I saw how profoundly her one life had affected so many, and it staggered me to consider Booth's inability to recognize how a single hateful act had galvanized so many conflicts. I realized that "the better angels of our nature" have a comparable capacity to accomplish the opposite- resolution, even harmony. This much you know. What I have not shared so far are the griefs and joys that preceded me to this place.. full text here:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Osama Esid, B&W Magazine, 2013

It's astounding how what was true just several weeks ago can so radically alter, but life can be a capricious bitch/bastard; friendships are made and lost, groups cohere then fragment, love turns unexpectedly to acrimony. The only constant is constant change. This should be reassuring, but it seldom is. Still, the sense we make of our lives, and the lives of those around us at a given point in time doesn't lose its valency, or poignancy for having moved past us. We can only aspire to meet life stride for stride, and to keep our hearts and heads in step with its sometimes perilous transformations.

"It is this capacity to combine the rich cultural history Esid comes from with the prospects for self-invention promised here that distinguish his homebound body of work. The banality of the elements he chooses to photograph does nothing to diminish his pictures' effects. What could be a more engaging, challenging image of liberty than a Muslim-American man standing atop his motorcycle, flaunting a headless eagle? In this portrait with its seemingly simplistic pieces, he conveys abundant signifiers- mindless freedom and issues of self-representation while precariously perched on a perilous vehicle. Would that we all could see that the things that make the most potent meanings are often as close at hand as home." full text: here

Monday, March 4, 2013

Art in the Age of Algorithmical Reproduction, or "Tragically Hip(stamatic)"

This winter I've watched now former friends literally pour their souls into wet collodion plate printing, and in the course of watching I've significantly damaged my internal organs by huffing the technique's requisite ether, bromide, silver nitrate, and etc.. It seemed not incidental that at the same time Hipstamatic (what a conflicted neologism that is) deployed their "Tintype SnapPak" app, which affords iphone users vaguely credible approximations of the process which consumed my gizzards and associates. I threw up just a little bit reading some copywriter's hyperventilations that this filter would ""capture the true essence of your subject with haunting clarity (of) this ancient lens." My instinctive reaction is to be revolted by something which will give one's breakfast at Denny's the patina of a Matthew Brady, but I'm inclined to reassess after this season's ongoing consequences. After grousing on Facebook, a photographer I greatly admire relayed this article from the Guardian U.K. whose author raised this point; "One of the problems I have with creative photographic processes and smartphone photo filters is that they are nostalgic, and place the aesthetic over the content. They also seem to surrender a large part of the creative process to the camera program." In this I recognized my own struggle to avoid mediating my own images- to the degree that any digital photographer can. I try to ask whether an image would have the same valency if it weren't rendered in some atypical color, or 'enhanced' by some other means. In many ways though, my work is stymied by the current glut of artificiality- I find it difficult to articulate a sensible alternative. A recent New York Times op ed by Christy Wampole titled "How to Live Without Irony" tried to account for photographer's (and who isn't right now?) attraction to contrivances. She noted that "nostalgia cycles have become so short that we even try to inject the present moment with using certain digital filters to “pre-wash” photos with an aura of historicity." It is no longer enough to merely hold a moment- we require our every quotidian doing to appear sufficiently hip. To me, this belief that your life as it happens is somehow insufficient, and the consequent obsession to augment it somehow is just sad and ultimately vapid. But so also is clinging to fossilized constructs like 'truth,' or 'authenticity' that are themselves nostalgic and often outright dangerous depending on who is enforcing the definitions. The questions raised have so addled me that they've only served to rekindle my inclination to go live in a yurt on one of Ireland's Skelligs until all of this sorts itself out. app: here.