Saturday, September 12, 2009

Taking A Much Needed Break.

Dear Readers:

Thank you so much for your support and interest in my blog. Running a site like this is more work than it would seem on a prima facie level. Hours of research and writing, not to mention plenty of one-on-one time with the art and artists, makes TMITF the success that it is. What started out as an [therapeutic] experiment of sorts has evolved into something truly magical and life altering for me. THANK YOU!!!

As many of you may know, I have recently been accepted into the M.A. program at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) and will be working toward a degree in Aesthetics and Politics. This degree will allow me to better synthesize and hone my critical and theoretical outlook on art, culture and the various egos that navigate its stormy seas. Due to the level of rigor and time that needs to be invested in a program like this, I will not be able to contribute as frequently as I would like. However, please keep your e-mails and suggestions coming, as I still plan on contributing stories as time permits.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Guess Who's in the September Issue of AD???


Q: Why should you pick up the September 2009 issue of
Architectural Digest?

A: Because I made it into the "AD Letters" section (page 28)!

I authored a letter to the editor regarding an AD article on Brazilian architect Marcos Bertoldi from July 2009. You can read the original article here, but my claim to fame is in the print version only.

Osmar and Maria Cristina Casagrande Bertoldiand residence
Curitiba, Brazil
Architect: Marcos Bertoldi

Thursday, July 23, 2009

TMITF on break until August...

Dear Readers:

I'm taking a mini-vacation from blogging for a bit. I have a lot of stuff going on right now and need time to regroup. I will be back soon, so no need to fret!!! In the meantime, please drop me a line at if you have any comments or need to get a hold of me.

See you in August!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Julius Shulman Dies at 98.

Farewell "Uncle Julius"

While in New York this past weekend, I was deeply saddened to hear the news of Julius Shulman's passing. Known to many in his field as "Uncle Julius," Shulman had a long and prestigious career -- which spanned more than eight decades -- as a photographer of some of the world's greatest architectural gems, many of which were located right here in L.A.

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, 1965
A.C. Martin Partners
Photography: Julius Shulman

Commonly referred to by many as an architectural photographer, Julius Shulman never seemed content with carrying such a moniker. "I'm not an architectural photographer. I hate it when people call me that," Shulman told me back in 2007 when he invited me over for a snort of scotch at his Rafael Soriano-designed home and studio. "I don't just shoot photos of buildings. I shoot photos of buildings interacting within their respective surroundings. I'm an environmental photographer."

When I returned this afternoon to L.A. I was anxious to re-read Julius' contribution to Barbara Isenberg's book State of the Arts (if you don't have this book, you must get it!) After re-reading it three times, this excerpt felt like a great way to end this post. It clearly illustrated one of Julius' many admirable traits -- confidence.

"Every photograph I ever took came out. I never had any second or third exposure or revisits to a site. In sixty-four years of photography, I've never had a remake. I never was told by an architect to go back to and do it over again. Never. As a matter of fact, people began to call me "One-Shot Shulman," because I took one negative of each picture and that was enough. I knew it would come out."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Happy Birthday to ME!

Piece of cake, anyone???

Wayne Thiebaud
Around the Cake, 1962
Oil on canvas
Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence, Kansas
Gift of Ralph T. Coe in memory of Helen F. Spencer

Tomorrow is my birthday and I will be out of town celebrating. However, I will be back early next week to review the Judith Bernstein exhibition at The Box in Chinatown (VERY exciting!!!) If you happen to have a copy of Art in America from June/July 2008, there was a fantastic writeup about her work.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy the Theibaud painting (above) in honor of moi.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

INCOGNITO @ SMMoA this Saturday

Things Aren't Always As They Seem

SMMoA's INCOGNITO logo designed by John Baldessari.

Just when you thought you were too old to play hide-and-go-seek -- peek-a-boo, there's SMMoA! The Santa Monica Museum of Art will present their 5th annual INCOGNITO exhibition and benefit sale this Saturday, May 2nd, beginning at 7 p.m. sharp (get there early if you want to grab a good spot in line).

For those who have never attended before, you're in for quite an experience. The mood is very much like Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving), only this time artists, dealers and collectors are the ones who are elbowing each other for all the bargains. The show is comprised of more than 650, 8 x 10 in. works which were generously donated by numerous artists working in a wide array of styles. There are no museum labels indicating which artist created which piece, so buyer beware! For only $300 per work (plus tax), you could end up with a killer work by notables John Baldessari, Mark Bradford, Kristin Calabrese, Exene Cervenka (BTW, I LOVE the band "X"!), Alexandra Grant, Leonard Nimoy, Ed Ruscha or Jennifer Steinkamp, among others. Are you enough of a connoisseur to recognize who's who? Come down this Saturday night and find out! Admission to the event is $100 per person($135 at the door). But, please, remember that all sales are final! If you'r still on the fence, check out the video from last year's event here.

INCOGNITO will take place at the Santa Monica Museum of Art on May 2nd, 2009; 2525 Michigan Avenue, Santa Monica; Begins at 7 p.m., but line up may start earlier; Admission tickets are $100 per person ($135 at the door); Works of art are $300 each (plus tax).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The People vs. Louis Vuitton and MoCA

Honest Oversight or Intentional Scam?

Takashi Murakami's "limited edition" prints, similar to the works above, sold at MoCA for $6,000 a pop.

LATer Mike Boehm reported today on the ongoing dispute between luxury goods retailer Louis Vuitton, the beleaguered Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) and would-be entrepreneurial print collector Clint Arthur. Mr. Arthur alleges that Louis Vuitton and MoCA failed to adhere to the Fine Print Act which, among other things, legally defines what constitutes a fine [art] print and how it should be sold to consumers. According to the act, the State of California defines it as follows:

"Fine print" or "print" means a multiple produced by, but not limited to, engraving, etching, woodcutting, lithography, and serigraphy, and means multiples produced or developed from photographic negatives, or any combination thereof.

That seems pretty legit and straight forward to me. So far, so good. The legal jargon continues with defining limited edition:

"Limited edition" means fine art multiples produced from a master, all of which are the same image and bear numbers or other markings to denote the limited production thereof to a stated maximum number of multiples, or are otherwise held out as limited to a maximum number of multiples.

Uh-oh, I think we have finally run into a problem here. Since the works in question were admittedly created from scraps of left over material from the Murakami-designed Louis Vuitton handbags, I think that this evidence alone proves that Louis Vuitton incorrectly marketed the prints a limited edition.

Usually, limited edition prints of this ilk are printed according to specific guidelines and standards set forth by the artist and a master printer. In consultation with the artist, the master printer will go through several print proof runs in order to achieve the correct color(s) and registration (a fancy print term which means precise color or image alignment) needed to print the edition. Once the desired look is achieved, the master printer will designate that specific print as the bon à tirer, or "good print" in French. The bon à tirer serves as the printer's template (master print) for the rest of the edition. If there is no bon à tirer, then the print is most likely not a true limited edition -- case closed! I'm eager to see how the judge will rule on this, but I guess we'll have to wait until this summer to find out.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures

DISCLAIMER: This article references my employer, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). The views expressed on this blog are solely my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of LACMA, LACMA's leadership, LACMA's Board, or LACMA's staff. Furthermore, the views posted on this blog have not been influenced in any way by the aforementioned parties.

"Mmm, Chocolate Lion Tower...aaaaahhhh" (In my best Homer Simpson voice)

Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures installation view at LACMA. Dieter Roth's Chocolate Lion Tower is to the left.

The Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures closes at LACMA on April 19th, so make sure to check it out ASAP! The show is intellectually stimulating (and dense), both in subject matter and artistic tradition. It will definitely leave you with a greater appreciation for and understanding of late mid-century German avante-garde artists working in front of and behind the iron curtain. Selections include works by Joseph Beuys, Hans Haake, Raffael Rheinsberg, Gerhard Richter, Dieter Roth, Sigmar Polke and others. All were scions of twentieth century image making in Germany, and successful at taking visual polemics to an whole new level.

My favorite work from the exhibition was Dieter Roth's Chocolate Lion Tower, 1968-69. I think that this work conclusively proves that it's okay to play with your food so long as it's in the name of art. Known for incorporating food stuffs into his compositions, Roth's art is tasteful, both, literally and figuratively! The work itself is a recreation of the original from the late sixties. Made entirely of chocolate, the cast sculpture of pint-sized lions stacked on top of one another is meant to slowly decay as the show travels from venue to venue. Roth's medium selection seems to view art through the lens of a perishable object rather than a cherished keepsake. Notions of value and materiality are simultaneously exalted and excoriated. In a recent exhibition-related lecture at LACMA, this piece was specifically sited by contemporary artist Paul McCarthy as a direct influence on his 2007 Chocolate Factory installation in New York City, where he tuned a gallery space into a fully functioning confectionery.

This show might be of great interest to people who were far too young to understand the politics of the Cold War, as well as practicing artists with an affinity for conceptual art. This is one history lesson that should not be missed.

Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures through April 19, 2009 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles; Phone: (323) 857-6000; LACMA closed on Wednesdays, open Fridays 12:00-9:00 p.m., all other days 12:00-8:00 p.m.; Admission $12.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

UPDATE: Tonight's Kehinde Wiley Talk SOLD OUT!

High Art, High Demand.

I noticed that tonight's 7:00 p.m Kenide Wiley lecture at the Getty Center is SOLD OUT. Apparently, there will be a standby line so you may just be in luck...but get there early!!! Otherwise, go to the opening reception at Roberts & Tilton on Saturday, April 4th from 6-8:00 p.m.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Keepin' It Real With Kehinde

He Can Paint and Make a Statement

Kehinde Wiley
Randerson Romualdo Cordeiro, 2008 (from The World Stage: Brazil)
Oil on canvas, 48 x 36 in.
Courtesy of Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

If you have plans next Thursday, April 2nd, say 7 p.m.-ish, break them! Artist Kehinde Wiley will speak at the Getty Center about his work and his upcoming exhibition, The World Stage: Brazil, at Roberts & Tilton in Culver City. Wiley has been one of those artists that I have admired for several years now. His fresh approach to painting and dynamic use of historical references makes him one of the brightest and most innovative artists out there.

(Above) Jacques Louis-David's Bonaparte Crossing the Alps at Grand-Saint-Bernar, 1801

After receiving his M.F.A. from Yale in 2001, Wiley made a name for himself by painting large-scale canvases of young African-American males reenacting religious and classical portrait poses of centuries past (you know, the ones that were only reserved for the rich, powerful and obnoxiously white.) His artistic repertoire also includes some notable Hip Hop sitters, including Ice T, LL Cool J and Grandmaster Flash. Empowered by the medium of the masters along with a skilled hand, Wiley invites the models to come by his studio and flip through various art history books that he has collected through the years. The models are then instructed to pick their favorite paintings and poses, thereby allowing them to envision themselves in a specific scenario or environment that they feel coincides with their individual personalities. And then Wiley takes care of the rest. He sets up a mesmerizing dialogue between himself, the [historical] artist, as well as the sitter. The end result is portraiture with vivid personality, buttressed with contemporary elegance and class that is befitting of Hip Hop royalty. Even if the subject matter does not strike you, the self-evident triumph of technique will. Trust me, these works will blow your mind!

(Above) Kehinde Wiley's Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps, 2005

Kehinde Wiley, The World Stage: Brazil, April 4 – May 30, 2009 at Roberts & Tilton, 5801 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Phone: (323) 549-0223; Opening Reception Saturday, April 4th, 6 – 8p.m.

Kehinde Wiley on His Art and Its Influences lecture Thursday, April 2, 2009, at the Getty Center, Harold M. Williams Auditorium, 1200 Getty Center Dr. Los Angeles, CA; Phone: (310) 440-7300; Admission: Free; reservations required.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

View Not So Clear From the Top Of The Hill

Critical Seeing...

Mike Boehm's article in today's L.A. Times seemed to be a fair piece of reporting that clearly outlined the complexities of the Getty as an organization, not to mention the low morale and lack of support the staff has for Jim Wood. On a somewhat disturbing note, I found some of Mr. Wood's comments quite outrageous. Specifically, the one alluding to calls for a reduction in his compensation. According to The Times, Mr Wood implied that the Getty's problems were "too big to be solved by such 'piecemeal' measures." Say, what?!?! Is it just me, or has he [and Trust leadership] clearly not been paying attention? To my recollection, the comments on the Silence Dogetty blog have never alluded to the fact that a reduction in Mr. Wood's compensation would alleviate all of the Getty's financial woes. What it has alluded to is the fact that there are no easy answers to this complex financial dilemma. It also mentioned that Mr. Wood could do wonders for staff morale by just cutting his own salary -- he doesn't have to wait to hear from the Board, in May, on that one. Furthermore, doing so would not mean that he was somehow caving into the petty demands of the majority of the staff, but rather recognizing that these changes are real and should affect everyone, including senior leadership -- again, just re-stating the obvious.

View of the West Pavilion at the Getty Center.

So what's next for the Getty? Well, it appears that the Getty Trust will continue their silent routine at least until the end of May, when the Board makes a final determination on the budget. In the meantime, the dismayed staff will most likely keep the pressure on The Trust via the Silence Dogetty blog. From a purely observational standpoint it would seem that in recent months online activity of this ilk, coupled with internal pressures, has led to the premature departure of some prominent arts leaders in L.A. Namely, Jeremy Strick (MoCA -- and Richard Koshalek (Art Center College of Design -- At this pivotal juncture, all eyes are on Mr. Wood and how he will play this one out.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Art Reviews Coming to a Blog Near You...

Question: When Is TMITF Going to Review Gallery Shows Again?

Answer: SOON!

It's tough working a 9-5 job and still have enough energy to go out and review a show on the weekend. Thanks for all of the concerned e-mails flooding my mailbox at YES, I will be reviewing more shows in the next couple of weeks. Thank you to ALL of the gallery directors who are constantly reminding me that I need to visit them and write about their emerging talent. I don't want to make any promises, but I think the end of March will be a good month to visit this site more frequently than usual. In the meantime, please check out my Twitter feeds on the right-hand side-bar. I do update that with everyday links to news items that I find newsworthy...and some that are just plain interesting!!!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Good Governance, Bad Governance.

Finally, Museum Leadership You Can Believe In!

The High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia.

In not-so-stunning, but all-too-real announcements, two museums are implementing interim cost-cutting provisions in an effort to curtail the severity of their recent recession-driven endowment losses. The High Museum in Atlanta and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore have announced staff reductions, pay cuts, as well as furloughs.

The High Museum will cut their staff levels by 7%. Furthermore, the High's director, Michael Shapiro, will accept a pay cut of 7%, while other director-level employees will see their pay decrease by 6%. The rest of the staff will take a 5% pay cut. Similarly, the Walters will cut seven members of its staff and impose a salary and limited hiring freeze, in addition to staff furloughs. Museum director Gary Vikan will take one month of unpaid leave just before the museum's fiscal year ends on June 30th, in an effort to further reduce costs.

Taking these kinds of actions are inevitable given the grave circumstances of the current economic downturn. I believe that museums should, as a rule, continually strive to reduce wasteful spending when possible. Indeed, streamlining your operations a bit to make sure that you don't have five people doing the same exact thing is a smart move. But trimming waste, especially in tough economic times, is also a two-way street as clearly evidenced by the strong leadership at the High and Walters. Their plan outlines the sobering reality of the times, but also makes sure that the staff is cognizant that everyone is affected by the changes, even the upper echelons. This kind of strategy does wonders for employee morale and serves as a great model for other museums.

Conversely, poor and misguided leadership believes that they should somehow be completely immune to the budget cutting process altogether. If you want to see a good example of unwavering institutional waste at its best, please click here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The J. Paul Getty (Mis)Trust?

MoCA Mobilization Bug Has Apparently Caught On at the Getty

There's no doubt that times have been tough at art institutions throughout the country. Everyone is scrambling to hold on to every penny in order to continue with their exhibitions and programing schedules in order to avoid sinking into a financial abyss.

It's been almost a year since I left the Getty Trust under bitter sweet circumstances. Sweet, due to the talented and mission-driven colleagues who had a deep sense of commitment and obligation toward making the Getty a top-notch arts institution. Bitter, due to the abrasive, selfish and short-sided leadership of a selected few at the top of the food chain who share similar character traits with those "financial wizards" who brought Wall Street to its knees last November.

I was planning on writing an open letter to the Getty's CEO and President, James N. Wood, addressing some concerns that I had about the Getty's future, but apparently someone beat me to the punch. And did a WAY better job at it! Under the nom de plume, Silence Dogetty, some person(s) have taken brave and bold steps in attempting to right that which is obviously wrong at the Getty. Read the post here. Join the Facebook page here.

Without re-hashing what was posted on Silence Dogetty's blog, the biggest issue I had with Mr. Wood was the compensation aspect. In this turbulent economic climate, for the CEO of a nonprofit to propose a budget cut of 20-25% and not even think of adjusting his own $728,000 yearly salary is, in my opinion, absolutely preposterous and disgraceful to say the least. Moreover, the fact that The Trust subsidises his living accommodation expenses to the tune of a $20,000 per month housing allowance, indicates that there is a sever governance flaw that was clearly overlooked post-Munitz . Thank goodness for the Internet and the empowerment it gives regular individuals to organize!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Nasher Sculpture Center Appoints New Director

Obama Ain't Got Nothin' on the Nasher Sculpture Center

As a rule, I try my best not to report arts-related conjecture, unless it is substantiated by relevant and related facts, which would point me to come to a solid and well-informed conclusion. However, I feel that I should, at the very least, comment on the MoCA situation, especially given the fact that the short-term financial side has been resolved and I can finally make sense of the facts, rather than just speculating on an outcome.

Recent History 101

Many Americans, including myself, believe that Timothy F. Geithner was a poor selection, as President Obama's pick for Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. The mere idea of appointing a tax evader to run and oversea the Internal Revenue Service is like calling 911 because your house is on fire, only to have the arsonist sent to the site instead of an actual firefighter. Sure, Geitner made "an honest mistake" by not forking over almost $34,000 in owed taxes to the Federal government, but at least he was forced to pay the government back every penny. Given the present state of the economy, that's just the kind of leadership we need to run the IRS, right? I'll let you be the judge of that.

Well, in an all too similar move, the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas announced today that they have hired former MoCA director Jeremy Strick as
the Center's new director -- yes, no joke! Given what we now know about MoCA and his stewardship of that institution over the past nine years or so, one would surmise that Mr. Strick's executive headhunter would have had a difficult time placing him anywhere? I guess I was wrong.

So, as a resident (and avid museum goer) of Los Angeles, how should I feel after hearing such news? Disgusted? Angry? Hurt? Or, perhaps, all of the above? Yes, I'd probably select all of the above. It seems so unfair that unchecked power and outright failure should be rewarded with a six-figure salary and directorship at another museum. The job losses, which were announce almost in lockstep with Strick's appointment to the Nasher Sculpture Center, compounded with the measly $6 million MoCA endowment will, indeed, seal Mr. Strick's legacy. I think that many good, competent employees will now have a very difficult time finding employment in this malnourished economy, as a direct result of his financial incompetence and lack of concern for the institution he led. For me, it seems like 2009 will, undeniably, be quite a year in politics and the art world. It's turning out to be a year where greed and poor leadership continues to flourish and be rewarded. And loyalty, hard work and dedication, continues get the shaft. I don't know how the vetting process for the director of the Nasher was conducted, but I can tell you that after reading about Mr. Strick in the L.A. and N.Y. Times, he would have not been at the top of my list.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

January is L.A. Arts Month

Los Angeles, "...the Venice of the 21st century."
-- Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

At a press conference held this morning at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, along with a cadre of civic and arts-minded leaders, designated the month of January as "L.A. Arts Month." When I learned about this announcement, I did a double-take. I thought to myself, 'Hmm, where have I seen and experienced such an event before?' And then, like the 'pop' of a champagne cork on New Year's Eve, it hit me! Back in February of 2007, the mayor hosted a similar conference at the Getty Center where he designated March as "Creative L.A." month. The initiative, which exalted the various creative enclaves of this city -- from art to entertainment to science -- delivered a lot of excitement and fan fair on the day it was announced, but now it is all but extinct. I don't even think that there's a website devoted to it anymore (or was there ever?) But there is still an old press release on the Town Hall Los Angeles website -- read it here.

So, where exactly did "Creative L.A." month go? Did anyone celebrate it last year and will it be celebrated this coming March? My hunch is that it was nothing more than one of those politically motivated and meticulously calculated photo-ops, rather than a serious manifesto lauding the importance of L.A.'s creative industries. I think that designating one month of awareness, whether it be for the arts or any other program, over a long period of time, greatly diminishes the spirit of the cause which you are trying to promote. That's not to say that assigning a specific day or month to draw attention to an important cause is bad, but rather an inefficient way of promoting, interpreting and infusing the visual and non-visual arts as a natural phenomenon and integral part of our daily lives. Arts awareness should be designated a year-round initiative, as should Black history, AIDS and cancer awareness, or any other noteworthy cause which, under the present guidelines, gets 31 days or less to make its case.

If Mayor Villaraigosa is truly genuine about his commitment toward promoting the arts in this city, and I most certainly would like to give him the benefit of the doubt, then why is he declaring "L.A. Arts Month" in the last year of his first term? One can't help but question the prioritization of this administration and whether or not it has a truly genuine commitment to the arts? It seems more like a well-calculated public relations move to bolster votes for the upcoming general election in May, rather than a passionate plea to populate L.A's cultural destinations. Sure ticket giveaways and free radio airtime is great. However, art appreciation should be more than just a gimmick to increase attendance and stimulate revenue. It should be treated as a valuable lesson in understanding the diversity of thoughts and ideas through visual and non-visual means -- a process that takes way more than a month, if you want it to really be effective.