Thursday, December 12, 2013

California Education

Chris Burden: A Tale of Two Cities, 1981, at the retrospective Extreme Measures, New Museum.

At UCLA in the late '70s, Chris Burden taught Performance I and Graduate Seminar. He was an exciting teacher, and took students around LA--Miracle Mile, Topanga Canyon--to see artists in their studios and important exhibitions, such as the Michelangelo Pistoletto show. He took us to visit Bob White's studio, where Burden was staying for a time. In a small dark bedroom above a narrow bed, a constellation of glow-in-the-dark ships and planes hovered overhead.
Three years later he first made this work, A Tale of Two Cities, with 5,000 toys.

Darts launch over the city. So much of Burden's work is about circumstance and chance, creating structures meant to work.
All The Submarines of the United States of America, 1987. The installation brochure tells us that, "This piece includes...625 submarines, which represent all the submarines in the US fleet at the time it was made." A friend whose father served on a sub found its name and immediately connected with the work. Extreme Measures exhibits some seminal Burdens: the steel flywheel, a dangling Porsche 914, and documentary films of metal being dropped from cranes, the Volkswagen performance, the electrical cords in water performance, the glass shards performance, and the rolling name credits placing Burden with other art luminaries on prime time television--works he showed in class and that formed the core of my education as an artist, whether I used the information or not.

In the mid-80s, Mike Kelley, Roy Dowell, Carole Caroompas and Eugene Sturman taught Senior Thesis and Studio at the old Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design campus on MacArthur Park. This birdhouse by Kelley at PS.1/MoMA ( Link to show ) was made when he was a grad at Cal Arts. At Otis/Parsons, he'd been out of school five or six years and was marginally older than many of his students. He was a passionate teacher. It took years to realize the depth of his influence.

He is an amazing filmmaker. Kelley's films stun perception at the core.

Visual characterizations of individuals under social pressure sear the psyche. They go straight past analytical thought, which is surprising, given Kelley's ability to cogitate.

Work inspired by Sister Corita Kent's seriagraph prints and social messages. Let's Talk About Disobeying!

What really moves me in this work is the visual accuracy of emotional attachment,  exactly how a kid retains information.

Plenty of commentary on ways social institutions shape, and tame, perceptions through the tensions between desire and discipline.

Kelley's knack for disturbing images in nascent form, with hints of Cindy Sherman's work.

The iconic, More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid, first shown at Rosamund Felsen.

Houses for pets.One of my favorite works in the show. Interesting with the birdhouses, and the later project to purchase his childhood home, unfulfilled at the time of his death.
Potential inhabitants of little houses.

The 1980s sound pieces.

Empathy Displacements. A stuffed toy peeks out from a square cut into the box. That, with Let's Talk About Disobeying, prompted hysterical laughter whereas at one time I would have considered them cruel.

I did used to think this work was mean. It remains discomfitting but there is an empathy that makes it humorous.

Kelley doll drawing. He was not big on "noodling" paint. He got to the point.

The artist among other ciphers of projection.

Earlier drawings.

Scatological drawings, possibly from the Plato's Cave show.

Encrusted painting. As the works accumulate, one sees classifications emerge--and the desire to classify, control, and survey.

First saw this installation at the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, 1987.

Sentiments of lawlessness by great thinkers paired with a Wayne Gacy clown painting. Here, a detail.

Kelley expressed impatience with process for process's sake."Why do you noodle so much," he'd ask.

Stuffed animal meteorites with rocket-ship-desigs emit fruit-flavored scents.

To sanitize sticky attachments, perhaps,

But behind every facade is what one loves in rawest form.

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