tom moody

Archive for the ‘art – others’ Category

frank zappa "weasels" trivia



From a web page called eclectic obsessions:

Frank Zappa recruited artist Neon Park to create a subversive image based on
a cover story from the September 1956 issue of Man's Life, (a Men's adventure
magazine). After showing Neon a copy of the magazine, Zappa inquired, "This
is it. What can you do that's worse than this?" Neon's answer was to craft a
parody of an advertisement for Schick brand electric razor based on the
"Weasels Ripped My Flesh" theme. The record company released
the album despite its reservations about the album cover.

This is an iconic '60s/'70s LP cover, subversive because it gives a disgusting and disturbing spin to bland and hopeful Eisenhower-era advertising, and because one did not expect to witness self-mutilating "cutting" behavior while shopping the pop music bin. The genius of the image is taking an actual slogan and context from the "repressed" side of the '50s -- a homoerotic painting of a bare-chested man being attacked by wild animals -- weasels no less -- and grafting it onto a safe image of a man shaving with a newfangled device from America's flying car future. A double irony is that the weasels illustration was on the cover of the magazine (albeit back-of-the-rack) while the shaver is barely glanced at commercial fodder from the inside.

One might wonder about the fate of such an image today. In its day, it needed gatekeepers who felt uncomfortable about it but ultimately approved it, and it needed a distribution scheme, in particular, cardboard record sleeves shipped to stores across the country, including discount centers in small towns dependent on the "coasts" for culture. It needed an authoritarian structure to push back against, and it needed to be able to "slip through the gates." Now it might garner a few hundred tumblr notes, depending on who was releasing it, and it might help improve an LP's click-through or download visibility, but without a hot button topic such as racism or sexism it has nothing to rebel against. It's merely disgusting and disturbing (and well-painted).

- tom moody

April 16th, 2014 at 10:32 am

Posted in art - others

new romantic meaning not romantic


Knowing that Sara Ludy has been included in Eyebeam's upcoming The New Romantics exhibition, let's take a look at her website. This work is romantic in the sense that Mies Van Der Rohe, Lionel Feininger, Gerhard Richter, and David Cronenberg are romantic, which is to say, it's not romantic at all. If anything, the work turns a clinical and classical eye on clichés of romanticism: open, airy spaces, model communities in the exurbs, travels through psychedelic inner worlds. The persistent vibe is one of authorial distance and analysis: even the found internet junk, such as 3D advertising from the retail and real estate sectors, has a calm, measured feel. This could be construed as "new romantic" only if the term "new" means "anti-" or "not."

A couple of examples. Ludy describes Pan GIFs as "a series of animated gifs displayed as tiled backgrounds. Each gif is composed of two photographs that alternate with a linear transition, creating a repetition which both embraces and attempts to break the mundanity of everyday landscapes and architectures." By means of a simple, sweeping left-to-right pan one photo gradually eclipses a second, different-angle view of the same subject (a forest, a wall with cast shadow, a plant in a planter). While the scan is occurring a clear reading of both images breaks down. Because the GIF is "tiled" the scanning movement repeats across the entire screen, providing a view rather like an insect's compound eye. This causes a single predominant color or texture momentarily to colonize the screen. The lurch into a de-familiarizing zone of pure form is a classical technique, even though the underlying images may be romantic ones of gardens and hillsides. But even the disrupted tropes aren't that romantic: they seem to have been chosen for a vibe of sterile alienation.

Or consider the 2011 video Transom: "a space portrait of Market Station in Leesburg, VA," where "historic buildings were uprooted and relocated to form [a] commercial complex in the 1980s." Instead of the usual tear-downs of historic structures to make way for a new office/retail complex, the Leesburg project rehabbed some old buildings and moved them to the complex, so that "a railroad freight station, a log house, two barns and two gristmills" (per Wikipedia) can now lead a zombie existence as the site of "high-tech and legal offices, retail shops, and restaurants." Ludy's virtual walk-through of the vintage architecture strips out its real-world textures, reducing it to the cold, angled planes of 3D modeling. Like the Pan GIFs, a series of slow wipes prevents our getting any real sense of the physical presence of these "old time" buildings. The drone-y background sounds make this feel like a tour of Chamber of Commerce hell. Visually seductive, severe, cerebral, the work comments on a romantic ideal of a vanishing America rather than embodying it.

- tom moody

April 10th, 2014 at 9:50 am

Posted in art - others

more new romantics


It's not sporting to criticize an exhibition in advance, without seeing it, based on the premise alone, unless it's called The New Romantics and you like some of the artists and shudder to see them branded that way. Hence the present upchucks of sarcasm.

Of the following only three can be held accountable for the newromanticization of their work, and those are the ones who organized the show (in bold): Mark Beasley, Tim Berrensheim, Alexandra Gorczynski, Ryan Whittier Hale, Claudia Hart, Jeremiah Johnson, Brookhart Jonquil, Sophie Kahn, Alex M. Lee, Sara Ludy, Shane Mecklenburger, Jonathan Monaghan, Mikey McParlane and Michael Mallis, Brenna Murphy, Nicholas O’Brien, Jaakko Pallasvuo, Jon Rafman, Nicolas Sassoon, Jasper Spicero, Kate Steciw, Katie Torn, Krist Wood, ATOM-r (Mark Jeffrey and Judd Morrissey), Zach Blas, Ann Hirsch, Miao Jiaxin, Mikey McParlane, and Vincent Tiley.

Will the show convince us that any of the artists are participating in the tradition of Kaspar David Friedrich, Wagner, The Arts and Crafts Movement, Gary Numan, and "Bela Lugosi's Dead?" Do we need to be reassured that this or that chiptune musician or Google Street View appropriator is actually working in the Romantic tradition? Can anyone making art, music, and videos with Apple products ever truly be called romantic, given what we know about Steve Jobs and Foxconn's dark Satanic mills? (Microsoft users are automatically disqualified. But what about Linux -- can a nerd be romantic?) Is a cyberpunk author romantic, or a realist about present conditions? Are glitch artists romantic merely because they dismantle? Are we talking here about romantic in the sense of "feeling romantic when you sip coffee and talk to the barrista at Starbucks"? If not, why not?

hat tip Jules Laplace, a romantic fellow, for the coffee GIF that paired so well with Eyebeam's New Romantics logo.

- tom moody

April 7th, 2014 at 7:05 am

atomic watch (doesn't tell time)


hat tips GucciSoFLosy for template and Aram Bartholl for the concept of an exhibition on smart watches. See this show [PDF].

Other smart watches made with template:


Motorcycle (3D Hologram version)

Net art smart watch that tells time

- tom moody

March 13th, 2014 at 9:12 am

engine noise


The engine is a detail of an Olivier Mosset cell phone photo; the noise came from a GIF posted by pfifferking.

- tom moody

March 12th, 2014 at 12:22 pm

algo-critics vs the New York Sally Ross


Above is a painting by Sally Ross, who shows in New York City, as recently as a 2010 Gallery Lelong group show, which featured the top image (found on a blog via Google images). I met the artist briefly in the 1990s and have seen and admired her work here in the NY metro area. She specializes in carefully-painted surrealistic still lifes, often where the subject is cartoonishly thickened, such as the above flowers. Her stroke and sensibility is similar to that of her brother in real life, Alexander Ross, painter of intricate green biomorphic blobscapes.


Christie's sold the smaller image above and apparently misidentifies New York's Sally Ross as a different Sally Ross, from Melbourne, Australia, who has won the Google Images battle decisively. It wouldn't be an understatement to say that the Melbourne Ross annihilates the New York Ross on Google, to such a degree that Christie's uses the tag "Australia" to identify the New York Sally Ross's painting. Yet the provenance for the Christie's image was Feature Gallery, NYC, and there are no New York shows on the Melbourne Sally Ross's resume. Also, 1969, the birthdate Christie's gives the New York Ross, is on the Melbourne Ross's resume. 'twould be an amazing coincidence if both artists had the same birth year.

Apropos of this post on recommendation engine-uity, it's what happens when you let Silicon Valley's bots make cultural determinations -- the better artist can be eclipsed even in the tastemakers' auction spaces.

- tom moody

February 18th, 2014 at 11:14 am

Posted in art - others

stephen westfall: spot the breakthrough



Am pretty well out of painting crit these days (life moves on except in this stodgy realm) but people keep posting links to NYC's equivalent of the medieval stonecutter's guild and its bible of sacred words. One of these is "breakthrough" and John Yau abuses hell out of it in this Hyperallergic review (or Hyperallergenic, as Salon once mistyped it).
Stephen Westfall has been making and exhibiting crisp, polished geometric-style paintings for three decades now. He bounces back and forth between iconic centralized images that could almost be corporate logos and more "allover" patterns where the eye is kept moving around a field. His most recent show contained both types, as likely will his next one, and the one after that. So it's spurious and ahistorical for Yau to take one of the "field" ones in a single show and pronounce it a breakthrough, with full late Greenberg orotundity.
If Westfall had a creative breakthrough it was when he went from whatever he was doing to the styles of paintings he's doing now, which was probably the mid-'80s.
Another kind of breakthrough would be if he left this groove and started doing something performative, or with computers. Or smartphone art.
Give it a rest, John Yau. Please don't ever write that "breakthrough" review again.

- tom moody

February 5th, 2014 at 4:48 pm

thoughts on a jpeg, or rather, painting


Rhizome's Michael Connor reviewed the above jpeg, which refers to an acrylic-on-canvas work by Austin Lee at New York's Postmasters Gallery, and tagged the post "Internet-Aware Painting."* He noted the history of "blurry image" art including Richter and Ruff (although those are two very different concepts) and compared the style to MSPaint but we're not getting at the real issues here, which are "why paint if the jpeg is adequate?" or "what is the gallery adding to this process?" So this annotation was appended (which they needed like a hole in the head):

On an initial skim of this post I thought, "Magda Sawon is showing MSPaint?" and then realized you were making an analogy and that this is just another acrylic painting that pops online. We will have to wait for our New York galleries to develop a connoisseurship of widely available paint programs.
But seriously, let's talk about this jpeg some more (haven't seen the original). One actually probably could do this in MSPaint -- there's some of that granulation in the "spray" -- if you then treated the image with the popular "Gaussian blur" effect in Photoshop. The subject matter of the pop-eyed, no-forehead idiot who looks to have been painted by a feral child recalls a very early George Condo, in a good way.
Sadly, we're not at the point where an artist could just make an image like this and post the jpeg. You have to go through the tedious business of painting it on canvas and finding a gallery willing to promote it, which includes photographing it, converting the photo to jpeg, and sending it out with a press kit.
All of which is to say, thanks, Michael, for discussing this work in the context of "internet aware art," meaning art made with an idea to how it will look online as opposed to the humdrum concept of "art based on the internet." The ambiguity is resolved in this case with your tag Internet-Aware Painting. That's kind of a subtle, stealth critique and a validation of your need not to own the underlying artwork -- you have a perfectly good jpeg.

See also: New Dumb Little Painting Timeline

Update: Am told that Austin Lee's paintings are large in scale -- good, great. (Other new dumb little painters also worked large -- it's smallness in spirit we're talking about here. Scale is certainly one of those reasons to get off the internet and go see work -- just please don't say "MSPaint" when the gallery doesn't show MSPaint or "garish netart colors" as a way to sexy up a well-established art form.

*Just to be clear, the post is titled something else -- "internet-aware painting" is only a tag at the bottom. It's that molehill we're scaling here, with full climbing gear.

- tom moody

February 3rd, 2014 at 6:54 am

Posted in art - others



crashtxt, the twitter account, appears to be mostly the net art legend, jimpunk, but I haven't determined yet how much it's him, how much it's interactive, and what the relationship is between it and his other twitter account, llllll__lllllll

Short review: creative, fairly relentless use of unicode icons as a kind of latter-day ASCII art, veering between chaotic expressionism and tight renderings of cool skulls. On the hacking vs defaults continuum it comes closer to "Being and critiquing The People by using the tools made by The Man" than "Empowering The People by subverting The Man's power." Mostly it's jimpunk being jimpunk, but we're supposed to say it's all about the mix and avoid any suggestion that his art might be, gasp, gag, hermetic.

An article in the gaming journal Kill Screen didn't help much at all: the author started out with the fusty dichotomy of art-in-museums-you-aren't-supposed-to-touch vs wacky contemporary art where YOU are also the artist. She also uses the late '90s term throughout. And apparently never doped out why jimpunk wasn't replying to her emails in complete English sentences similar to her own.

Unlike ASCII, which can be made on a typewriter, unicode depends on how well your operating system, browser, and or appliance can read it, so you may see a lot of posts like this one:


crashtxt also features screenshots of unicode arrangements, as well as screenshots of glitched versions of this and that. The twitpic at the top of this post is a screenshot saved directly from the site -- no idea how it's done or what the back story is, but it's an exquisite, or perhaps exq=.s.te image (despite being fuzzed out).

Addendum: As long as we're name-checking ASCII, let's also mention as precedent, the venerable, annoying "wingdings" or "webdings." On the crashtxt readability issue, here's a screenshot from Jules Laplace, who evidently can't see the unicode at all.

- tom moody

January 31st, 2014 at 6:36 am

Posted in art - others

from the vault: The Art Guys, Jets

A review I wrote for Art Papers when I lived in Texas, never submitted, then reworked for my blog in 2007. When I blogged I thought I didn't have a photo but belatedly realized it was in their 1995 catalog from the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, The Art Guys Think Twice. So here is the review again, with the photo I never had from the Dallas Museum, where I viewed the installation in '91 (the inset photo is as it appears in the book, to show what's otherwise difficult to see on the video monitors).


Jets, by The Art Guys
Dallas Museum of Art, November-December 1991

The main concourse of the Dallas Museum of Art ascends in a series of broad, gently sloping ramps, creating spaces reminiscent of airport architecture. Appropriately, that's where the Art Guys placed their installation Jets during the 1991 Dallas Video Festival.

Sixteen TV monitors fanned across the ceiling over the ramps, linked by black cables to a neat bank of VCRs on the wall. Each monitor faced down with its back securely bolted to the ceiling--or so we hoped. The screens glowed pale blue, green, or violet, the ambient colors of footage taped from the sky at different times and places, and intermittently roared to life as an airplane passed across the screen.

The artists phased the tapes so at a given time some screens showed empty sky and others tracked commercial aircraft landing or taking off in wobbly, hand held fields of view. The random distribution of the zooming images along the corridor kept the viewer off guard: as you followed the progress of one jet, another would loom unexpectedly behind you.

The network of cables crawling across the ceiling and down the wall to a controlling ganglion could emblematize the global transportation and communication systems on which we are so dependent, while the fragility of the systems could be felt in the nervous-making Damoclean placement of the monitors. That's one level of interpretation.

Yet sitting beneath them for a few minutes revealed something a hurried passerby might have missed: their curious kinship to natural phenomena. The random lightening and darkening of screens and the antiphonal whining of the jets became paradoxically calming, like stars blinking or insects chittering in the breeze. Thus do our daily threats become reassuring background texture.

Have written about the Art Guys (Michael Galbreth and Jack Massing) a number of times (recently here).

- tom moody

January 23rd, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Posted in art - others