Monday, December 31, 2012

Warehouse Art District Evening, 12/15/2012, Part II, Black Valley Coalition.

For its 1st Birthday, the Venture Compound (VC) had a block party that was shared on the same evening with the Black Valley Coalition and Zen Glass.

I've been hearing about the Black Valley Coalition coming to life, and about STOIC doing a mural there. This venue is literally across the street from Zen Glass. A few pictures...

A large STOIC skull on the wall.

Tye-dyed shirts for sale on the fence in backyard

Congratulations to the Black Valley for a good opening.

--- Luis

Warehouse Art District Evening, 12/15/2012, Part I: Zen Glass

For its 1st Birthday, the Venture Compound (VC) had a block party that was shared on the same evening with the Black Valley Coalition and Zen Glass.

Zen Glass celebrated their first kiln, which will enable them to make blown glass on a larger scale. The artists at ZG have been ready for this for a long time.

This little kiln keeps the blowpipes nice and toasty.

The Zen Glass Buddha

Zen Glass was decked out for Christmas, with a tree, cookies and lasagna on hand, and lots of glass.

Seen in the showroom.

Zen Glass Design drawing

Zen Glass, work station.

 Congratulations to Zen glass on their new kiln, and for a wonderful evening.

--- Luis

Sunday, December 30, 2012

First Night 2013


This New Year's Eve is the 20th anniversary Birthday Party For First Night. I was present at the first one, back when it was a homespun showcase of local culture and art spread out over a wide area. It still is that, albeit in a reduced fashion, now mostly concentrated in the parks along the waterside.
It runs from 7-11pm centered on North Straub Park.

Fisrt Night 2012, The Labyrinth

One of the highlights of this year will be the  Birthday Party Cake by Artist and Gallerist Jennifer Kosharek (misidentified multiple times as Jennifer Kucharik in press releases, PDFs, etc.). This outsized multilayered cake will be available to First Nighters to draw and add to. At the end of the evening, it will be lit on fire to celebrate First Night's Birthday.  Think of it as St. Pete's version of Zozobra [Link] or Burning Man [Link]. On the left is The Labyrinth from 2012,  a great geomantic pilgrimage to its axis, a great tree.

Burning Cake

On the left is a sneak preview of what a burning cake might look like, though sources tell me this one will be much better.

Dundu Dole

There will also be plenty of music, dances, participatory things, like burning secrets, wishes and regrets (a lot like toasting marshmallows, only quicker). On the left are the excellent Dundu Dole Dancers, who will be performing this year.

All of this happens on Dec. 31st, in St. Pete. One needs to get an admission button which sells for $10.00 each. They'll be available at Bay Walk or on the corner of 2nd Ave NE and Beach Drive. there's plenty of restaurants on Ocean Drive. Get there early to dodge parking problems, and be aware that it gets cold out by the water as the evening wears on so dress warmly, warmer than you think you'll need to. It's a great event.....alcohol free with plenty of things to do for children and adults.

--- Luis

Friday, December 28, 2012

Art Futures and Present: Tales of Two Cities.

It is that time again, where we throw knucklebones and yarrow stalks, squint into bowls of water and crystal balls, trying to make sense of the near past and future while the present inexorably slips through our hands. The prediction business is a thankless one, best artfully dodged while trying to cloak one's ramblings with the barely perceptible aura of wisdom both reflective and proactive.

Artist unknown

The proliferation of murals in St. Pete was one of the highlights of 2012. Nothing radical or exotic here. Other places, from sleepy Cortez, Florida to San Francisco recognized and capitalized culturally on the value and drawing power of the painted wall long ago, but finally, at least one town on one side of the Bay did. There were many painted walls before that, some legal murals, but mostly graffiti.

 As the Republican National Convention approached, both cities waged war on graffiti, covering up every piece they could find, (I documented as many as I could here. Google Art Taco Street Art) and engaging in ploys to catch the artists, which culminated in one ridiculous case that drew national attention in the paranoid, hysterical atmosphere generated by federal and local law enforcement at the time. At Art Basel some of the best street artists in the world converged on a yearly basis, drawing media and public attention, which local governments quickly learned to appreciate and adopt. Some of the St. Pete graffiti artists and muralists observed and/or participated in the works at Miami's Wynnwood district.

Chris Center at work in the WAD

In St. Pete, the trend started small, with landlords initially reluctant and the City far more resistant to the idea of murals. The legendary tug of war between the city and Dan Painter regarding the first Warehouse Arts District (WAD) mural, originally by Acud Akut and Chris Center ended up loosening the floodgates for the murals that followed.

Christian Thomas at work.

While everybody drops the big, well-known names like Tes One, BASK, Pale Horse etc., there are many others who deserve recognition for getting walls and painting them. Christian Thomas has probably painted the greatest number of murals in this wave. Other notables are Derek Donnelly, Sebastian Coolidge, Alan Hampton, Stoic, and several others, too numerous to list here, many with the generous consent of Gary, the property manager at the 600 block. Art Taco 2011 Arts Person of The Year Malcom Johnson prints and distributes a very complete list of the murals in one of his zines. Now even Tampa has started a series of murals in Ybor City. I believe there are six planned. Hopefully this trend will continue, with better funding for the artists. Several years ago I saw the alley between 7th and 6th Ave in Ybor as a potential Tampa version of Balmy or Clarion alleys, which are a tourist attraction full of murals in SF.

 The Warehouse Arts District (WAD) expanded during 2012, with Duncan McClellan Glass and Dan Painter drawing the lion's share of attention. Charlie Parker moved into the district this year. Duncan McClellan Glass added a new building, a large shop on the SW corner of the property with kilns added that will enable the production of blown glass and serve as part of the DMG School Program. Attendance is good on Second Saturdays, but the scene is still nascent, with a long way to go. Zen Glass, who recently added one kiln, are four or five blocks from DMG and Painter's Space. The question is whether the artists in the WAD can draw enough local traffic and web sales to survive.

During 2012, perhaps the unexpected brightest star in that firmament has been Jesse Vance's Venture Compound. Along with Brad Kokay and a literal handful of kamikazes, they have created a new niche in the WAD, one that is bringing excitement and an influx of new blood into the area to their small, progressive gallery space and powerhouse concerts, all on a shoestring budget. Most significantly, the Venture Compound recognizes the value of, and engages constantly in community building.

One does not have to be a Nostradamus to see what should be the next viable arts district in St. Pete. Central Ave. between say, around 20th to 28th St. The area has real foot traffic and borders on Kenwood. Craftsman House pioneered there. ARTpool moved in across from Haslam's and Nuance chose the area to open their St. Pete gallery. The St. Pete Opera did, too.

With a few notable exceptions, neither St Pete nor Tampa remotely measure up to most arts hotspots in terms of exhibits or art markets. Both are medium-sized, under-educated cities, unsurprisingly, with below national average household incomes. Great for emerging artists, but established ones need to market their work elsewhere. Some of the major gallerists, Mindy Solomon and Lori Johns (of C. Emerson Fine Arts) have been making successful inroads into art fairs.

Theo Wujcik, "John Cage"
Tampa has fewer art galleries than St. Pete. Tempus leads within an academic range, with Gallery 221 from HCC and the one in Ybor close behind with consistent quality shows out of proportion to their budgets and size. Clayton has its niche, Santaella and Hoffman Porges  are gaining momentum. Art in Tampa desperately needs more support, and not just from government, but from its people. There have been some good exhibits at the Creative Loafing Space, and David Audet's yearly guerrilla Cuban Sandwich Show was one of the highlights of 2012. The month-long cultural festival celebrates Tampa, its Art and history as no other does.

Jennifer Kosharek
In St. Pete, Jennifer Kosharek's Eve N Odd gallery continues to be a bright spot, consistently putting on very good shows in her tiny Crislip Arcade gallery, many from out of state, some international. Dysfunctional Grace has established a solid footprint in the community with its signature style. Derek Donnelly and his Saint Paint have not only evolved as a gallery from a vanity space into putting on shows, but it is the real-life social network hub/community center in the 600 block. On any given day one can find several talented artists there, as well as work being produced on site. The day Bill Correira AKA Woo died, it was Derek, Christian Thomas, Jennifer Kosharek and a few others who began the tribute mural.

What does 2013 hold in store for the arts? Will things be better or the arts? My 8-ball says "maybe". The future is in our hands. One resolution I recommend is to cross the Bay. It's not that far, gas has been worse, and there's a lot to see and experience on the not-so-distant shore. In 2012, the supporters of Ai Wei Wei used the phrase "Love The Future". This is a good saying to embrace. We care for the things and people we love.

--- Luis

This Year's End Weekend, 12/28-12/30

The Apocalypse was overrated. Could Christmas be any more commercialized? 2013 is almost here and this weekend would be thin gruel if it wasn't for museums and some continuing shows.


 Home for The Holidays, Jamex and Einar de La Torre @ Mindy Solomon Gallery (MSG) - These Mexican glass artists have been reviewed here before. Last seen at the MFA Glass show the brothers return to MSG (their conceptual "home"). Free admission. All at 124 2nd Ave NE. St Pete.

de la Torre Brothers Home for the Holidays


Invasive Species: Steven Kenny @ ARTicles - I am putting this up again because this is extraordinary work. The series on alleys in particular. Free admission. 1445 Central Ave. St Pete. Through January 2nd. I reviewed this here [Link]



Puer Aeternus @ 620 - Paintings by Adam Miguel Estevez returns to 620.. Free admission. Tues-Sat Noon-4 PM. 620 1st Ave. S St Pete.


Tampa Museum of Art - A great chance to see the Cartier-Bresson photography show which closes on Jan. 13th.. Admission $10.00 All at TMA, 120 Gasparilla Plaza. Tampa. I reviewed it here: [Link]


Amanecer en Matanzas 

Dorothea Lange and Mario Algaze at Florida Museum of Photographic Arts - Two great and indirectly related exhibits at FMoPA. My review of the Mario Algaze can be seen here [Link]
 Through Jan. 6th, at FMoPA.

Museum Location

The Cube at Rivergate Plaza
400 N. Ashley Drive
Cube 200
Tampa, Florida 33602


[straight from Venture Compound...]
Jen Sandwich – CITY OF DREAMS
Debut One-Woman Show
Opening Dec. 29th, 7pm, at The Venture Compound 2621 Fairfield Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL
SO how apropos that we now open up our home to Jen Sandwich, observer of scavenger birds, authoress of the fantasmatic meltfest zines Silent Choking Cornfield Death and Dirty, connoisseur of found letters and word magic, transformer of the cityscape, longtime Floridian gone gone to Oakland and student of our inevitable demise.  She has recently shown at 2227 Gallery in East Oakland and at Carbon Warehouse in Berkeley as part of the Special Delivery series put on by Endless Canvass.
CITY OF DREAMS the gallery show and installation will transform the ever so mundane pedestrian and petit-bourgeois interior of the Venture Compound into something otherworldly, made up of the detritus of contemporary urban (scumsucker) life, the bits and bobs and blobs transubstantiated into a tableaux morte/vivante, what others see as waste become beautiful and strange.  Jen will also be offering an array of zines and drawings reflecting a folksy somnambulism, a streets-and-gutters surreality to stand athwart the excesses of the nearby Dali and say “WELL OKAY MAYBE.” 
The December 29th opening of CITY OF DREAMS will be accompanied by music from: Ghost Hospital Haunted Echo Andrew Johnson Permanent Makeup Ironing. 

$5 Admission.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Henri Cartier-Bresson (HCB): The Man, The Image, The World, @ Tampa Museum of Art

Work by Eugene Atget

He began photographing early in life, trying to emulate his French countryman Eugene Atget [Link], whose equipment and technique dictated a view camera, tripod, lengthy exposures and posed subjects. Atget, whose imagery was used by the Surrealists, also connected in this way with Cartier-Bresson, who was distancing himself from the family business, turning to drawing and hanging around with artists.

Work by Martin Munkacsi

He read Conrad's Hearts of Darkness and went to Africa to hunt. While there, he was taking pictures with a Brownie he had been given. Eventually he tired of sport hunting, fell ill, eventually returning to France. He saw Munkacsi's dynamic and spontaneous 1929 picture titled "Black Boys on the Shore of Lake Tangayika" and was inspired to take up photography. In 1932 he got his first Leica, a big step up from the Brownie he had been using.
His style emerged almost fully formed. Called by others a "...fusion of action, feeling and composition", this unity was derived from HCB's dedication to Buddhism. HCB was one of a handful of photographers from the era who practiced this belief [Link], [Link], HCB was influenced by Eugen Herrigel's then-popular book, Zen in The Art of Archery, as in the quote below:

Works by Henri Cartier-Bresson
"Bow, arrow, goal and ego melt into one another. As soon as I take a bow and shoot, everything becomes so clear and straightforward and ridiculously simple."  --- HCB

“Fundamentally the marksman aimst at himself.”
Eugen Herrigel ~ Zen In The Art of Archery

HCB was a man of his time, a scion to a wealthy textile manufacturer, one who had fought during WWII against the Nazis and emerged first and foremost a humanist, Buddhist and Communist. He believed in the power of collectivism, which few dare say (so as to not offend corporate donors) was the driving force behind Magnum, the photographer's agency he helped found. Its mission was to take control of the photographs from media corporations (the interwebs of their day) and place it in the hands of emancipated creatives -- the photographers. 

This battle would rage into the 50's, specifically with Joseph McCarthy and the attack and destruction of the Photo-League, a debacle from which, it could be argued, photography did not recover for more than 3-to-5 decades. And nothing like the Photo-League exists to this day.

Magnum divided the world into quadrants, and HCB drew the Far East. Before that he had already traveled to Africa, Mexico, the US and several other places. 

Humanism and collectivism were broadly shared values among photographers at the time. HCB's humanism was not the drippy sentimentalism that characterized a lot of 1950's photography (as found in many photographs in Steichen's Family of Man), but a deep, reverent vision of mankind.What made HCB's different was what he called "the decisive moment". Think of it as the apex moment among many, like the big pearl in a necklace. The phrase was coined by one Cardinal Retz in the 17th century, who said: “There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment.”

HCB thought of it as: "To take photographs means to recognize—simultaneously and within a fraction of a second—both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning. It is putting one’s head, one’s eye, and one’s heart on the same axis."

Work by Henri Cartier-Bresson
HCB's photography of the Far East was the antidote to the Orientalism of Fenton, Frith and many others. There was no hint of the earlier expression of assumed Western superiority. As one looks through the images made by HCB, one sees that he had earned their trust or blended in, and treated them with the same dignity as his own countrymen and friends.

Henri Cartier-Bresson drawing
He considered himself a Surrealist, but he kept that close to his heart. At Magnum, what he did was considered Journalism, but he considered himself an observer of the human condition. In between all these travels, experiences and photographs, he was also involved in the cinema. Here is a list with brief descriptions [Link]. He also never stopped drawing.

He married a Javanese dancer, whom he later divorced, then a well-known French photographer, Martine Franck, who did some great documentary type work and memorable portraits of her husband.
He often referred to composition as "geometry", a word that comes from the Indo-European for "measure, see". 

This exhibit at the Tampa Museum of Art is a three-hundred and twenty print show, a retrospective that was done while HCB was alive and with his approval. It covers every aspect of his oeuvre, including his brilliant portraits.

Work by Henri Cartier-Bresson
His work, philosophies and style inspired generations of street photographers and photojournalists for six decades to this day. More important, it influenced people like Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, Diane Arbus, and too many others to list here to build on what he achieved, and develop it not slavishly, but in their own ways. 


I recommend this show without reservation, except to make sure you put enough money in the meter so you can give it enough time, and maybe take a break at the Sono cafe in between to think and talk with your companions about these excellent photographs, the times, mankind, philosophies and the man. We are very lucky to have this show here. See it at The Tampa Museum of Art, at 120 Gasparilla Plaza, adjacent to Curtis Hixon Park. The show runs through January 13th. 

 --- Luis

Monday, December 24, 2012

Woomorial Mural - Day Zero

These pictures are courtesy of Clint Thomas/OGO Studio. He took them on the evening of Woo's passing, after a gathering at Sake Bomb. Several artists gathered and poured their grief into their painting. This is in the same alley between Central and 1st Ave N. Bordering on 6th st that the completed mural now sits.

Photo Courtesy Clint Thomas/OGO Studio

Work by Derek Donnelly, Photo Courtesy Clint Thomas/OGO Studio

Photo Courtesy Clint Thomas

Photo Courtesy Clint Thomas

Photo Courtesy of Clint Thomas/OGO Studio

(All dumpsters were promptly repainted the next morning).

A special note of thanks to Clint Thomas/OGO Studio for the pictures.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Holidays

Now that the Apocalypse has lapsed and we slide towards 2013, I wanted to convey holiday well-wishes via a few pictures taken recently...all photographs by Luis/Art Taco

Homeless Santa? I found this futon set up in an alley. Someone was using it to sleep on. Note the Santa hat hanging from a pipe on the left.

Hoffman Porges Gallery Decorations

Baby in box at Sake Bomb

Ornament at Pale Horse window.

Zen Glass

Santa's Palace at the mall

Merry Christmas!