I never get sick of driving out to the Headlands Center in large part because I love being walloped with the natural beauty of its surrounding environs, and there was no better venue Thursday night to hear contemporary artists Jeremy Morgan, Mariele Neudecker, and Ned Kahn speak about the influence of landscape on their work. Morgan is a painter who creates large-scale canvases that evoke geological phenomena without being explicitly representational, and it was a revelation to hear he himself had been strongly influenced by classical Asian landscape painting as Morgan's work invites contemplation in a very similar way. He also confessed his perfect studio would be a cave with no natural light, a fact that Mariele Neudecker laughed she was horrified to learn.
Neudecker is currently in residence at the Headlands and had completely knocked me on my butt during summer open house with her life-size rubbings of Nike missiles from the nearby missile site, and she showed slides of those pieces as well as her earlier work including the tanks pictured here. One of her foremost interests is perspective, and she uses sculpture, photography, and film to cleverly distort reality for the viewer, often using landscape as a starting point. She's on the shortlist to be the next artist to present work on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, and I'm crossing my fingers that her piece is picked.
Last but definitely not least Ned Kahn spoke about his environmental sculptures, some of which I have been interacting with since I first visited the Exploratorium as a wee lass. He showed clips of buildings covered with a grids of lightweight aluminum shapes that ripple when the wind blows, a glass globe that forms its own weather patterns inside when you spin it, giant vortices of fog and mist. Kahn clearly remains inspired by the natural world, and I also appreciate the nifty feats of engineering he employs to create his installations. And even though he utilizes very different materials than Morgan and Neudecker, all three artists generate in their work exactly the sort of transcendent moments that a sublime landscape itself does.
That was the most fun I've had on the air in a long time thanks to Erin and all the awesome music he brought in. We were moving pretty rapidly playing tapes off his walkman and juggling 7-inches and such so information in the playlist is a little more sparse than it usually is. But hey at least I got all the band names in correct. Mostly.
This might be my last Sunday morning shift for a while, and I will also have my good friend Mr. Erin Allen in the studio with me hopefully picking out records and gabbing on the air and stuff. All kinds of reasons to tune in!
Date: Tuesday, August 24, 2010 Venue: Vibe Hive, Oakland Music:
Sunny Reaper - Awesome new trio featuring Shaggy from High Castle, Dave from American Splits, and Dalton from Base of Bass, playing good ol' distorted guitar rock. They only did four songs but I'm hoping to hear more and soon.
Hornet Leg - This duo was down from Portland and fronted by Chris Sutton of Dub Narcotic Sound System. Messy garage rock that takes its musical cues from the '60s and '70s.
Orca Team - Cute surf-inspired guitar pop. Another Portland act, and I do hope they enjoyed the exceptionally warm full moon night we were having.
Human Baggage - Local duo with one man on guitar, one woman on drums. Urgent and instantly appealing.
Fat Transfer - A lo-fi solo production involving live keyboard over cheesy taped beats, most interesting when some noise and grime crept into the recordings.
A sizable swath of the Bay Area underground music community turned out in force at the First Church of the Buzzard last Saturday for Save the F#@king World Fest, a massive benefit for Haiti. There were homemade burritos, delicious adult beverages, a raffle for gently-used electronics, and of course tons of great bands who all donated their time to the cause. The line-up included local faves like Grass Widow, Kreamy 'Lectric Santa, Gaze, Shannon and the Clams, Heule + Dryer, No Babies, Tastyville, Saything...and the list went on. You'll forgive me if I don't post my customary band-by-band breakdown this time; there were just so many of them. Somewhere in the middle of the show benefit co-organizer Ivy Jean gave a very moving presentation about the time she has spent in Haiti during the last year accompanied by a slideshow of her photographs. She had been planning a trip to the island nation before the earthquake happened, and she decided to follow through with it afterward even though she lost friends in the disaster. All of the proceeds from the show went to support two of the groups she works with there: Lakou, a queer arts organization, and student group MESS. It's almost trite to note that the crisis in Haiti is nowhere near over yet, but it really isn't. So it felt good to focus on the issues and raise some awareness and rock out too.
For years the San Francisco Arts Commission has been integral to bringing some really kick-ass work to SF, and to celebrate their gallery's 40th anniversary the SFAC gave a slew of local artists a lump sum and asked them to come up with something pertaining to the idea of a time capsule. The results are on display right now in the Now & When show in the SFAC Gallery, and much of the work is deeply affecting as it grapples with different ways of freezing a moment in time. In Guillermo Gómez-Peña's The Mex Files participants enter a small dimly-lit room and sit facing each other while listening to spoken-word recordings by the artist. When I took my turn the piece I heard encouraged the listener to break down borders and embrace the entire western hemisphere as parts of one body, and as the chair across from me sat empty I couldn't help but think about Gómez-Peña's saucy instructions that if you were visiting with your lover you should listen while kissing them. Relationships are even more explicitly explored in Ken Lo's Someone for Someone Forever and Ever in which Lo interviewed friends about past and current romances and then created small monuments of otherwise ordinary items that take on huge significance in the context of the participants' stories. I also thought Do Not Enter (Angus' Room) by Gay Outlaw and Bob Schmitz was a beautiful take on the time capsule concept, as they meticulously documented their nine-year-old son's possessions for the project and will seal their photos and sculptures away for 40 years for him to rediscover in middle age. Some of the work is just plain fun, like Margaret Tedesco and Matt Borruso's giant grid of sci-fi movie stills (pictured here) or Packard Jennings using his SFAC money to invite fellow conceptual artists to a lavish dinner during which they discussed how they would complete the assigned project (the whole thing is rigorously documented, of course). And if you visit the show be sure not to miss Taro Hattori's gorgeous cardboard construction Where Do Birds Go Off to Die in the window of 155 Grove Street, just around the corner from the gallery. I also loved Joseph del Pasco's genuine working lending library of hard-to-find art magazines, but the richest of all the artworks for me are the eight time capsules The San Francisco Bureau of Urban Secrets assembled out of archival photographs and footage of the Bay Area. All are available on the Bureau's blog, and I highly recommend spending some time with them. They capture some of the more ethereal reasons I am so fiercely attached to this particular geographical region, and they also poignantly reference the web of memories (both physical and intangible) contained within a city by its inhabitants and by the buildings, pavement, and parks themselves.
Date: Friday, August 20, 2010 Venue: 21 Grand, Oakland Music:
Common Eider, King Eider - CEKE have expanded into a four-piece since I saw them last and also recently released a fantastic LP (an Aquarius mailing list highlight!). They played one long composition Friday night, moving effortlessly from ambient drone to deafening guitar buzz, from sighing vocals to gorgeous instrumentation. I just sat there and blissed the fuck out.
WOOM - Having played together both as Fertile Crescent and as Flying, Sara and Eben have been getting some KALX love recently in their new incarnation as WOOM. They were pretty adorable live, mixing atypical beats with live guitar and male-female vocals. This was possibly their last local show as an Oakland band, as they're moving to Los Angeles soon.
Gentle - With members based in both Seattle and New York (including Semiautomatic's Akiko Carver) this was Gentle's first show, and though there were a couple slight falters overall they sounded really, really good. Heavy on the psychedelia and experimentation, just the way I like it.
A relatively new addition to my beloved Oakland art scene, Important Projects is a small gallery tucked into the second story of a home in residential Rockridge walking distance from BART. They're usually open by appointment only but were nice enough to hold open hours last Friday, so I swung by after work to see the current show by Michelle Ceja. The artist has transformed the exhibition space into an immersive environment utilizing little but dark paint, strips of lights around the ceiling, strategically placed mirrors, evocative objects (such as the chain you can just make out in the picture here), an ambient soundtrack, and a fan. Without telling any specific story these disparate components still combine to create a multi-sensory mood of fraught anticipation, the result of Ceja's investigations into the drawn-out tension and climactic moments that are the stock and trade of contemporary action movies. The experience of standing alone in her installation could be compared to the sometimes-isolating experience of seeing a film in a theater and plays with the idea of entering another world via that dimly-lit room. I even had a very strong visceral reaction when I first tried to step into Ceja's space. My instinctual brain registered the darkness and the sense of void, and I came to a dead stop in the doorway as my fear of heights kicked in hard. After a few panicked breaths my rational mind took over and recognized the trickery of lights and mirrors, even as my heart was still pounding, and only then was I able to enter and trust the floor to stay solid beneath my feet. Brilliant.