Archive for the essays on artists Category

Not the Same Old Song and Dance: Recent Encounters with Karen Adelman and Flora Wiegmann

Posted in essays on artists, historical notes, reviews and commentary on February 15, 2011 by Carol Cheh

Flora Wiegmann performing Wandering (Detail)
at Orange County Museum of Art

On Superbowl Sunday afternoon, February 6, I went to OCMA to catch a Sunday Salon on performative practices, which featured talks with California Biennial artists Micha Cárdenas, Carlee Fernandez, Flora Wiegmann, and David Wilson. I was most struck by Wiegmann’s talk, in which she discussed the evolution of her practice while standing in front of her filmed work, Wandering (Still). The artist comes from a dance background, graduating from Columbia College with a BA in Dance, and practiced as a member of several different dance companies. She eventually grew bored with the repertoire-based world of professional dance, however, and found herself increasingly drawn to the more experimental aspects of the visual arts.

In 2003, she and Drew Heitzler collaborated to open Champion Fine Art, a two-year series of artist-curated shows with spaces in Brooklyn and Culver City. Champion Fine Art ended the year I moved to LA (2005), but its legacy lives on, as I often hear about the great shows that were organized in the Culver City space, and what a great gathering spot it was for artists. At the Brooklyn space, Wiegmann and fellow dancer Felicia Ballos created the De-Installation Series, nine dances that responded to artworks installed in the gallery, on the eve of their de-installation. Most of the artworks would be removed for the performance, but on occasion, some would remain. This series, which has since been recreated for galleries in New York and France, pretty much marked the beginning of Wiegmann’s current practice, which in her own words, “usurps the practice of visual artists… to broaden the platform for dance by making works on film, site-specific dances, endurance pieces, and collaborative performance projects.”

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Bob and Bob: Two Wild and Crazy Guys

Posted in essays on artists, historical notes on August 29, 2010 by Carol Cheh

Bob and Bob, 1976.
All images courtesy of the artists.

For the last several months, I’ve been doing a bit of volunteer work for the research phase of Los Angeles Goes Live, LACE’s big Getty-funded project exploring the origins of Southern California performance art between the seminal years of 1970–83. In the process of conducting oral history interviews for the project, I was introduced to the work of several important artists from that period, including Dark Bob and Light Bob. Bob and Bob (not their real names, although they prefer to operate solely as such, even today) had an intense period of collaboration in the 1970s and 80s that produced numerous significant works, including drawings, paintings, videos, and performance pieces. In spite of the quality of their oeuvre, however, they remain largely unknown to the current generation of artists and art aficionados—one of those inequities of art history that is begging to be corrected.

As a duo, they adopted the persona of a couple of “idiots, innocents… just in from the Midwest,” all the better to freely stumble and bumble through the sprawling wilderness of this big city, pushing up against social boundaries and evincing a touching sense of earnest humanity along the way. They maintained their studio in Beverly Hills, of all places, and from that home base, they engaged in an ongoing series of spontaneous street actions that included sleeping or sunbathing in front of the Gucci store; barging into all doors marked “Private” or “Do Not Enter”; and dining in expensive restaurants only to discover that they had no money to pay the tab. One of these comedic actions, Rodeo Beach (1976), was the only work of Bob and Bob to be mentioned in the catalog for the Pompidou’s landmark 2006 survey, Los Angeles: Birth of an Art Capital 1955–1985 (it was not included in the actual exhibition).

Rodeo Beach, 1976

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See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me: Reflections on CamLab

Posted in essays on artists on February 15, 2010 by Carol Cheh

Gentle Extended Performance, 2008 and ongoing,
photo by Neal Bashor

CamLab is a collaborative effort founded in 2005 by the artists Anna Mayer and Jemima Wyman, who were both graduate students at Cal Arts at the time. I have been a huge fan of their fun, visually stimulating, and formally provocative work since coming across them at an open studios event. Looking back now over the work they’ve produced in the last five years, I continue to be struck by its richness and capacity to engage the viewer.

In 2006, CamLab participated in a small show I organized around the theme of optical art. Their contributions included a video piece entitled Cameltooth Curtain (2005), in which a female figure wearing polyester houndstooth pants was filmed from the waist down, opening and closing her legs. When her legs were open, you could see a shot of the same crotch from the ground up. All the while, endlessly repeating houndstooth patterns reverberated behind her. This video was paired with a drawing called Houndstooth Cameltoe (2005), which rendered a woman’s torso and genital area in houndstooth fabric. All curvy and graphic, the drawing had a computer-generated precision, as though it had been created in AutoCAD. Together, these two cheeky works (which were their first project as a duo) formed a multi-layered cultural pun—sly and humorous, subtly critiquing gender perceptions and dynamics in our culture. At the same time, they also celebrated the act of seeing, offering genuinely interesting formal studies.

Houndstooth Cameltoe, 2005, ink on paper, 18” x 24”, image courtesy of CamLab

Cameltooth Curtain, 2005, DVD, 5:30 minutes looped, image courtesy of CamLab

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