Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Body Politics: Three 600 Block Shows and one at the Venture Compound.

Real controversies in art are rare. Earlier this year in Saint Petersburg, a contrived teapot tempest arose involving Mssrs Coolidge, Mize, the 600 block property mgr and the City. It was a divisive and extremely corrosive issue involving painting a pair of breasts on the wall behind BL. The City's position on bare breasts is inconsistent and selectively enforced. Last Sunday I was on Beach Drive and there was a life-size duratrans image of a naked woman behind Ceviche, and just a few feet down the block, bare-breasted mannequins clearly visible in storefront windows. I watched as families with wee children walked by both without blinking an eye. The bare breasted image behind Blue Lucy (BL) was at least otherwise clothed, and faced an alley with next to no pedestrian traffic. Frankly, what's at Ceviche "pushes the boundaries" of public nudity in public art much further than the SC boob job.

Coolidge continued his crusade and made signed stickers, which are plastered all over the City, apparently of the same boobs as a form of ersatz protest -- and getting attention. 

Only a month or so ago, Coolidge painted yet another pair of breasts on the James Oleson Horse sculpture out in front of The Dazzio Experience. The property mgr, tired of these antics, threatened Derek Donnelly, in whose studio SC hung out, with not having his lease renewed. Derek decided he wanted to remain and painted over the breasts himself. The Oleson Gallery held a show, Blackout in solidarity or sympathy with BL. That is the political background to these three shows.

In a culture where The Spectacle has dominated, like an ever-spiraling, never-ending performance of Bolero, shock value becomes... valueless. Last year this was made painfully evident at the local level with the Abnormality  show at Fire Station Number Three, which was frightfully normal and managed to unwittingly subvert itself and its theme. Read my review of that show here: [Link]. If you missed it, it's being repeated again this Halloween. We can see anything on the web, from the most salacious porn to people degraded and injured in every way. The only things we don't see very often are innovation, individuation, non-sentimental feeling and that rarest quality of all, unusual intelligence. The BL show, according to Megan Voeller, was about "pushing boundaries". In the entire evening, there were only a very few pieces that came close to doing that. Most of the pieces were monosemic, lacking in dimension(s) and depth. This is not to say that these three shows weren't good, thoroughly enjoyable shows that should be seen. 

[This is where the Deal With It review would have appeared, but no pictures were allowed. Just read an FB post from SC saying "next week" for pictures and showing the topless model, the very reason given for the ban on pictures. This game playing with the few reviewers in the city is a shame, because the artists in the show deserved far better than this. One artist has suggested I "paint with words", but at a thousand words per image, I apologize, but I do not have that kind of time. If the issue was the modesty/privacy of the topless model, BL should have allowed for a preview for media to take pictures of the work before she arrived/disrobed. I guess BL couldn't deal with it themselves.]

At Deal With It, there was an outstanding piece by "Monty Cantsin", a pseudonym for one of the best artists in the area, that cannot go unmentioned. Two baby jumpers, one reading "Good enough to Fuck but Not To Marry" and the other said something about "Grandma Wanted me Dead" (this is from memory, I could be off.). Blunt, poignantly powerful, somewhat monosemic, but universally relevant and brilliantly recontextualized stuff about one of the oldest stories in the world. The clothing hung from a board and agonizingly twisted barbed wire, all immaculately composed and crafted.

 The James Oleson Gallery itself was one of the biggest boundary-pushes of the evening on the 600 Block. John Taormina along with his crew, James, Jaycee and Justin transformed the space into a renovated, refreshing and professional look that would not be out of place in a small gallery anywhere. Congratulations! Here are some highlights from their Blackout show.

 Justin Wagher's drawing "I Said No Pictures", a conceptual self-referential drawing of a female nude. Of course, it proved ironically synchronous to the censorship at another show. The breasts seem to be an hommage a' Coolidge.

Saori Murphy, "She's"

One of the standout works of the evening, was Saori's "She's". A figure of a woman on a gridded background, a segmented something in her mouth and a door-like frame around her heart. The look on her face seems to me one of disappointment, dysfunction, and shock. Interesting bulge out of her left cheek. A friend of mine bought this an instant before I would have...and tried to borrow money from me to pay for it!

Cassandra Wahuhi, "So You Want To Fuck Me Now?"

Humor was part of a few of the works in these two shows. Cassandra Wahuhi's "So you Want to Fuck Me Now?"  On a drawing of a female nude lying like a Maja are representations of a penis and a vagina. Both have repulsive cheesy secretions coming out around them, not to mention what appear to be cicada bugs coming out of them. There's wry humor in this.

Not all of the works were dramatically in your face. J. Christopher had several color photographs of nudes taken inside the old YMCA building that transcended the visual eye-shock meme well. The quality of light, classic poses and design elements served to distance these prints from "ruin porn".

 The show at Saint Paint was entirely different, much more in line with the gallery's usual vision.

Saint Paint Gallery, "Sorry, We're Open" show wall.

Moy Loera's "Please", a tryptich comprised of an anxious face, an abstract panel composed of blue and white hexagons, and a third with the title. It may sound incongrous, but look at it for a while and the three panels congeal. Moy will be having a one-man show soon at Rhino Gallery.

 Chainsaw Chuck Majewski had "Bucket Lisp", an original, in the show. It is a beautifully crafted S&M image depicting a variation on water torture.

Laura Spencer had a painting in the show titled "Corvadacea" of three crows on branches that was beautiful.

When Mindy Solomon left, one of the biggest voids created was in provocateurship. The heirs to this crown appear to dwell at the other end of town, in a small industrial building on Fairfield, close to 28th street at The Venture Compound. They are fearless, not even slightly afraid to do face plants on a regular basis, and they do so in an almost Dada-esque manner.

 They take big risks, fail a majority of the time, but when they connect, it is that rare art experience that sucks the breath out of you and you willingly yield every gasp. Jesse Vance, Brad Kokay and Sarah Beth Newmark are the Hearts of Darkness of this City. One of their biggest secrets is out in the open: They gleefully mock themselves. Like comedians, this self-effacing humor enables them to deal with taboos and touchy subjects beautifully. The tribal, primal, ecstatic experience is to be found there, and that ceaseless questioning and conceptual churning of the basic questions about what art is, how it is shown, lines between artists/viewers, elitism, Nature and Grace. They infuse everything they do with an intensely human and refreshingly egalitarian quality. It is that quality that makes their space unlike any other in this city. For them, the present is wide open.

 I arrived late at the Free Film Festival. There were no limos, red carpet, hollywood types, hype and pretentious wanna-be's, velvet ropes or hordes of papparazi. Only several short movies, most made with near-zero budgets. The place was packed, and unlike the big Festival in this city, a beautiful and primal saturday matinee aura prevailed.  The following review is by Art Taco Correspondent Malcom Johnson.

"Variety was the word at the Florida Free Film Fest hald at the Venture Compound in St. Petersburg on Saturday, August 24, 2013 at 9 pm.
      Beginning 15 days earlier, an individual or team started creating an original 10-minute film from scratch.There were six films presented at the Premiere.
      'Dump Odyssey' was a stop-motion film made using toy figures. 'Inside' was actually outside in a backyard, but through electronics created by hacking on a digital camera, there were 'false colors' and other manipulations that made it 'other worldly'.  The original electronic music also helped greatly.  'The Tale of Walt Millen' was a medical mystery with a surprise ending.  'Witchcraft Today' recieved the designation of 'worst film' (in a 'good way'). 'The Haunted Stroller' had a 'Skunk Ape baby' and Spanish speaking paranormal investigators. 'Found In The Basement' was really shot in a basement. You could'nt find a living dead thing in a basement could you?
      Besides the Audience Choice Award voted by paper ballot, internationally known film festival director and judge Margaret Murray discussed her take on the films.
      Thanks to the sponsor, Mr. Orsini, it was free to submit films and free to attend the Premiere. For some people, this was the first time that they had tried making a film and it looks like there will be even more filmakers submitting films for next year.".  --- Malcom Johnson
 Ongoing was the Venture Compound's Ultraviolence show, which is very different from what the usual sensationalist title would lead one to expect. The human body politic here is a world apart from that of the two aforementioned shows.. Yes, over the top, sanguine, visceral, passionate and... human. Not like specimens on a slide under a microscope. Here are a few samples from the show...Kudos go to Britney Smith Bradley Kokay Jesse Vance Jim Grinaker and Sara Beth Newmark.

Work by Ben Sellers

Collage and individual images by Rest in Satin License

Work by Austin Rushnell.

Work by Jesse Vance

It was a great evening for the arts in Saint Petersburg. The variety of work, themes, presentation and gallery experiences speak well to the state of the arts in this city.

--- Luis

1 comment:

  1. As Always~ Year after Year ~ Thank you. You may never see another post from me again... But I Luv Ur Stuff... ll_nyte_magik_ll@hotmailcom