craig green



Craig Green

at 12345 here in Los Angeles

originally seen on Charlie Porter thanks to Matt Connors

March 24th, 2014
roe ethridge

Flounder, 2013
45 5/8 x 34 5/8 in (115.9 x 87.9 cm)

Through March 29, 2014

Andrew Kreps

March 22nd, 2014
Kelly Marie Conder


Opening Sunday March 23rd 2014
5-7 PM
2228 Cambridge Street
LA, California 90006

Reserve Ames

March 21st, 2014


March 20th, 2014
Stephen Prina


A screening of Prina’s Vinyl II (2000) is followed by a live solo concert by Prina. Vinyl II is a music film scored for string quartet, horn, and voice with interlaced visual arts references, from 17th-century devotional painting to Andy Warhol’s 1965 film Vinyl.

The Hammer

March 20th, 2014
Walter Benjamin’s Afterlife

The Chronicle Review
Published: March 17, 2014
By Eric Banks

“Fame comes in many sorts and sizes, from the one-week notoriety of the cover story to the splendor of an everlasting name.” When Hannah Arendt wrote this sentence 46 years ago in the pages of The New Yorker, she was reflecting on the newfound halo of attention atop one of the most versatile men of letters the 20th century had known, Walter Benjamin.

In Benjamin’s case, fame had proved an odd and unpredictable phenomenon—the writer had, by Arendt’s reckoning, been all but forgotten in the years leading up to his death, spent largely in France in flight from the Nazi war machine. And following his suicide in 1940 at age 48, in Portbou, Spain, his name had been kept alive by a small number of friends and colleagues, the kind of trickle of a readership that hardly suggested he would one day be counted among the most significant and far-ranging critics, essayists, and thinkers of the past 100 years—and one whose reach may still not be completely fathomed. As impressive as the Walter Benjamin comeback tale looked to Arendt in 1968, it pales in comparison to the renown attached to his name today.

We get several glimpses of Arendt in the new Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life, just published by Harvard University Press, an epic, 700-page-plus saga of his peripatetic life and his whirlwind of productivity, written by Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings. Most poignantly, Eiland and Jennings—two veterans of Benjamin studies—recount Benjamin’s beginning to take English lessons with Arendt and her husband, Heinrich Blücher (and working their way through Bacon’s “Antitheta” as an English-language primer) in preparation for what seemed their likeliest safe haven, the United States. Of course, Arendt and Blücher would establish themselves in a new land; Benjamin would never probe the experience of being what he called the “last European” in a new world. (The day after he committed suicide, after being threatened with deportation back to France by Spanish customs officials, Benjamin’s traveling companions were permitted to continue their journey.)

Yet the story of his afterlife runs through the United States—and more specifically through Cambridge, Mass., and the offices of Harvard University Press. While it was the Institute for Social Research—relocated to New York from Germany (via Geneva) before its eventual repatriation to Frankfurt after World War II—that was responsible for the stipend that kept Benjamin alive in exile in Paris after Hitler’s ascent to power, his posthumous story can’t be recounted without consideration of Harvard’s positively European approach to bringing to print the critic’s writing, and sustaining it over time. Any writer should be so lucky to have such a long commitment—and it’s one that younger readers, who may find it impossible to recall how obscure Benjamin’s reputation was not so long ago, may not appreciate in its scope.

“Paul de Man used to talk to me about him, for hours and hours,” says Harvard University Press’s executive editor, Lindsay Waters, whom Eiland and Jennings laud in the acknowledgments of Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life as the “godfather of this book.” “It was clear how much de Man’s reading of the Trauerspiel”— Benjamin’s Habilitation, whose inability to find an academic sponsor (the equivalent of being rejected by a dissertation committee) denied him the financial safety of a university home—”had liberated him as a thinker.” As a graduate student at the University of Chicago, where he earned his Ph.D. with a dissertation on the 15th-century poet Luigi Pulci, Waters overlapped with de Man during the latter’s term as a visiting professor, and the theorist sparked Waters’s interest not just in Benjamin but in a broad range of untranslated European cultural criticism and literary theory.

De Man would cast a long shadow over the 88-volume Theory and History of Literature series that Waters inaugurated in 1981 as an editor at the University of Minnesota Press, one of the staggering achievements of university publishing in the 1980s and 90s. But curiously, for all the series’s influence in shaping and reflecting the leviathan of “theory” on American campuses, Benjamin is a conspicuous absence among the wealth of titles. “He was like a planet that you can’t see all of at any time,” Waters says today. “In his lifetime, even his friends couldn’t see him.”

Waters, who moved to Harvard in 1984, has made up for lost time. He has done as much as possible to ensure that every inch of Planet Benjamin, craters and all, is visible. With Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life, he hopes as well to capture the path of his orbit. The book is a victory lap for the press, which since publishing the first volume of Benjamin’s collected writings, in 1996, has turned out more than 3,000 pages of the author’s work, in addition to packaging essays in thematic volumes (like a 2008 collection on media, which included Benjamin’s vastly cited essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” or, as it’s more frequently translated, in the version written later, “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility”).

Harvard has also brought into print Benjamin’s remarkable surrealist-inspired title A Berlin Childhood Around 1900, and his journal of drug experimentation, On Hashish, both translated by Eiland. The press had earlier published Benjamin’s correspondence with Adorno, who, as the writer’s literary executor, was responsible for the first collection of Benjamin’s writing to be published 15 years after his death—a two-volume edition of some of the writer’s better-known essays, works that reintroduced him to the world but scanted the fullness of his range and ambition. (Along with the collection of Benjamin’s lifelong correspondence with the great scholar of Jewish mysticism Gershom Scholem, published by Schocken in 1989, these epistolary volumes offered the best glimpse of Benjamin’s day-to-day existence before Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life, which also draws heavily on the writer’s letters to colleagues and acquaintances.)

Most magnificently, Harvard published more than a decade ago, and to great acclaim, Benjamin’s Arcades Project, the archaeology of 19th-century Paris that defies categorization and which Benjamin labored over at the Bibliothèque Nationale for the final decade of his life before fleeing Paris. He entrusted the unfinished, perhaps impossible to finish, work to Georges Bataille to hide in the library’s archives. If it is a pleasant mirage that all of Benjamin could one day be published, Harvard, and Waters, seem determined to continue in pursuit.

Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life marks a sense of impossible completeness—and a full circle—in another way. Waters was not alone in being unable to fathom just what was available in Benjamin’s depths when de Man introduced him to the writer. Most Germans too were limited in what they knew of him. Arendt’s 1968 introduction is remarkable at providing a hint of his riches while mentioning in only a fleeting manner his “arcades project” by name. (Its publication in German would have to await the two volumes that appeared in 1982.)

Benjamin had first been collected in English in the volume that Arendt introduced, Illuminations, published in 1968 by Harcourt, Brace & World, which contained Harry Zohn’s translations of 10 Benjamin essays, including the one that would become by far his most famous, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” For years, with Illuminations difficult to find, students could be seen with photocopied versions of Benjamin’s essay on the fate of art in the wake of the invention of photography and film (it was a good indication that someone was to be avoided at all costs if he or she proudly noted the irony of this, just as it was good sport to hear who would pronounce the “j” in Benjamin as if it were an English name).

The complicated publishing history of Benjamin’s writings in many ways was tied up with the reception and popularity of “Work of Art.” As the first of Benjamin’s essays to find a large English audience—it began to be a mainstay of film studies in the early 1970s as part of the interest in Brechtian aesthetics launched in part by the important British film journal Screen—it seemed to circumscribe interest around Benjamin almost exclusively in terms of Marxist aesthetics, and particularly the thinker’s place between the cool analytic Marxism of the Frankfurt School and the more firebrand variant of Brecht, whose friendship with Benjamin is thoroughly examined in Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life. (In Germany, Adorno, as the executor of Benjamin’s estate, had come under fire, particularly among the New Left, for unduly controlling the legacy of the author and resisting the interests of radical students in his work.)

For a writer who could hardly be pigeonholed, the essay’s dissemination seemed to have had precisely that effect. As it happens, the first volume published under Harvard’s imprimatur was an extension of sorts of Benjamin-the-Marxist-thinker. Moscow Diary, a record of Benjamin’s impressions of the Soviet city during a two-month visit in pursuit of his love of five years, the children’s theater director Asja Lacis, joined the scattered publications issued from New Left Books, the forerunner of Verso, in London—a fascinating set of essays and books, but ones that failed to give the full scope of Benjamin’s interests and writings.

When Waters came to Harvard from Minnesota, the larger Benjamin publishing project was beginning to be more defined. The seven-volume publication in German of the collected writings, begun in 1972 and completed in 1989, superseded the two-volume selection edited by Adorno, and Waters began to lay the groundwork for what he knew would be his legacy at the press. “I had a tremendous amount of support,” Waters says. The then-director of the press, Arthur Rosenthal, was “keenly interested,” although it was clear that it would cost a lot of money. Yet if Harvard seemed a less than likely home for someone with Benjamin’s left-wing reputation, it had ironically benefited from Adorno’s earlier reticence to place his writings in English with an explicitly politically oriented publisher. Still, Waters had to turn to support from faculty members—he counts the art historian T.J. Clark, then a professor at Harvard, as being of tremendous help—some of whom may be surprising. Above all, he credits the sociologist Daniel Bell, who was a member of the Board of Syndics at the press, which oversees the publication of titles at Harvard.

“It may come as a surprise that Dan, with his reputation as a conservative critic, would have any interest in Walter Benjamin,” Waters says. “But he was always interested in Jewish things.” When Siegfried Unseld, the publisher who had brought out Benjamin’s collected works in German, and Waters discussed the project in the late 80s, it was clear that it was going to be both extensive and quite expensive.

In a memorial tribute to Bell, Waters quoted the sociologist’s take on why such a big project was necessary: “If he were a theorist, he’d have presented his ideas systematically, and we could publish a well-chosen selection of his work that would represent his thinking beautifully, but he’s a critic, not a theorist, which means his ideas are scattered across all the pages of his work, and the only way to publish his work adequately is to publish hundreds and hundreds of pages of it so readers can see how his ideas emerge as he gets caught up in analyzing hundreds of concrete situations.”

One pleasant oddity of the original project is the story of how Eiland, who teaches literature at MIT, became Benjamin’s translator. Waters recalls, “Howard had submitted a manuscript about Heideg­ger” that Harvard ultimately declined to publish. “But the reports were incredible. I asked whether he might consider translating Benjamin—which if you think about it, is pretty outrageous, considering we had turned down this other book.” It turned out to be a stroke of genius. “There were some bad translations already in circulation, and when bad translations get in circulation, it’s hard to get them out. With Benjamin, I worried at the beginning how much I could depend on the translator, but I sensed that Howard was the only person I could trust.”

Waters has a wistfulness about the series he started at Minnesota and the beginnings of his Benjamin series. Translations have become increasingly tricky and expensive propositions for university presses, and despite the successes of Arcades and the collected Benjamins, they remain potential money losers. After the accolades piled on the press for the first volume of the collected writings, and with Arcades in the works, Waters figured that the public was ready for a massive dose of Benjamin. Volume 2 was almost 900 pages, covering Benjamin’s fecund output between 1927 and 1934, and it shocked Waters to see how poorly it did. “We vastly miscalculated. It seemed to completely put people off. I didn’t realize how much the doorstop effect of the book might” turn off buyers, even if the volume contained among Benjamin’s most important essays. (In subsequent paperback editions, Volume 2 has been repackaged in two parts.)

After the poor showing, Waters admits, “I didn’t know how well Arcades would sell.” But the allure of Arcades proved that the interest in Benjamin was far from exhausted, and not only in academic contexts. Its fabled kaleidoscope of the cultural phantasmagoria of mid-19th-century Paris, with inspiration above all derived from the shop windows of the city’s new flâneur-friendly displays of consumer commodities, united the dreamscapes of surrealism, the rigorous materialism of Marx, and the range of a deep, mazelike immersion into the emergent forms of cultural consciousness. It’s no wonder that this unfinished project, long rumored to be a masterpiece of modernist thought, would capture the interest of artists and critics as his earlier essays had done. Waters singles out the surprising effect that a rhapsodic column by the architecture critic Herbert Muschamp in The New York Times, which compared Benjamin favorably with Proust, Joyce, and Musil and portrayed Arcades as a “towering literary event”—played in putting sales over the top.

Fourteen years after the publication of Arcades, Waters can take stock of the Walter Benjamin industry. Volumes on the writer show no sign of abating, but he points out that the biography he has just published fills a real void. “It’s shocking to me that there has never been a full biography in this country,” and while citing Uwe Steiner’s “fine introduction” published in translation in 2010 by Chicago, he is not shy about boasting that a press that has become so identified with the works of Benjamin is home to what he bluntly calls the definitive biography.

Of course, it’s a publisher’s job to act as a publicist, but Waters has always put his work on a different, higher plane. “This is what God put me on earth to do, to bring Benjamin to America,” he says, with a bit of mischief in his voice. And the divine mission is not done. Waters is quick to mention other books he still yearns to see in print: in particular, a volume of the radio speeches Benjamin wrote for children, work the author undertook in the late 1920s that, even if he liked to dismiss it as Brotarbeit, his bread-and-butter work, is a marvelous example of his interest in the mental world of children. A new translation of Benjamin’s correspondence is also on his wish list. But it’s hard to imagine that even these will fulfill Waters’s mission. After all, he says in passing, “Every sentence of Benjamin’s is worthwhile.”

The Chronicle Review

March 18th, 2014
That Old-Time Whistle

NY Times Published: March 16, 2014
By Paul Krugman

There are many negative things you can say about Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee and the G.O.P.’s de facto intellectual leader. But you have to admit that he’s a very articulate guy, an expert at sounding as if he knows what he’s talking about.

So it’s comical, in a way, to see Mr. Ryan trying to explain away some recent remarks in which he attributed persistent poverty to a “culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working.” He was, he says, simply being “inarticulate.” How could anyone suggest that it was a racial dog-whistle? Why, he even cited the work of serious scholars — people like Charles Murray, most famous for arguing that blacks are genetically inferior to whites. Oh, wait.

Just to be clear, there’s no evidence that Mr. Ryan is personally a racist, and his dog-whistle may not even have been deliberate. But it doesn’t matter. He said what he said because that’s the kind of thing conservatives say to each other all the time. And why do they say such things? Because American conservatism is still, after all these years, largely driven by claims that liberals are taking away your hard-earned money and giving it to Those People.

Indeed, race is the Rosetta Stone that makes sense of many otherwise incomprehensible aspects of U.S. politics.

We are told, for example, that conservatives are against big government and high spending. Yet even as Republican governors and state legislatures block the expansion of Medicaid, the G.O.P. angrily denounces modest cost-saving measures for Medicare. How can this contradiction be explained? Well, what do many Medicaid recipients look like — and I’m talking about the color of their skin, not the content of their character — and how does that compare with the typical Medicare beneficiary? Mystery solved.

Or we’re told that conservatives, the Tea Party in particular, oppose handouts because they believe in personal responsibility, in a society in which people must bear the consequences of their actions. Yet it’s hard to find angry Tea Party denunciations of huge Wall Street bailouts, of huge bonuses paid to executives who were saved from disaster by government backing and guarantees. Instead, all the movement’s passion, starting with Rick Santelli’s famous rant on CNBC, has been directed against any hint of financial relief for low-income borrowers. And what is it about these borrowers that makes them such targets of ire? You know the answer.

One odd consequence of our still-racialized politics is that conservatives are still, in effect, mobilizing against the bums on welfare even though both the bums and the welfare are long gone or never existed. Mr. Santelli’s fury was directed against mortgage relief that never actually happened. Right-wingers rage against tales of food stamp abuse that almost always turn out to be false or at least greatly exaggerated. And Mr. Ryan’s black-men-don’t-want-to-work theory of poverty is decades out of date.

In the 1970s it was still possible to claim in good faith that there was plenty of opportunity in America, and that poverty persisted only because of cultural breakdown among African-Americans. Back then, after all, blue-collar jobs still paid well, and unemployment was low. The reality was that opportunity was much more limited than affluent Americans imagined; as the sociologist William Julius Wilson has documented, the flight of industry from urban centers meant that minority workers literally couldn’t get to those good jobs, and the supposed cultural causes of poverty were actually effects of that lack of opportunity. Still, you could understand why many observers failed to see this.

But over the past 40 years good jobs for ordinary workers have disappeared, not just from inner cities but everywhere: adjusted for inflation, wages have fallen for 60 percent of working American men. And as economic opportunity has shriveled for half the population, many behaviors that used to be held up as demonstrations of black cultural breakdown — the breakdown of marriage, drug abuse, and so on — have spread among working-class whites too.

These awkward facts have not, however, penetrated the world of conservative ideology. Earlier this month the House Budget Committee, under Mr. Ryan’s direction, released a 205-page report on the alleged failure of the War on Poverty. What does the report have to say about the impact of falling real wages? It never mentions the subject at all.

And since conservatives can’t bring themselves to acknowledge the reality of what’s happening to opportunity in America, they’re left with nothing but that old-time dog whistle. Mr. Ryan wasn’t being inarticulate — he said what he said because it’s all that he’s got.

March 17th, 2014
julia rommel

Through March 16 2014

The Bureau

March 15th, 2014
Exploiting California’s Drought

NY Times Published: March 11, 2014
By: Mark Bittman

The San Joaquin Valley in California can be stunningly beautiful: On a visit two weeks ago, I saw billions of pink almond blossoms peaking, with the Sierra Nevada towering over all. It can also be a hideous place, the air choked with microparticles of unpleasant origins (dried cow dung, sprayed chemicals, blowing over-fertilized soil), its cities like Fresno and Bakersfield sprawling incoherently and its small towns suffering from poverty, populated by immigrants from places as near as Baja, Mexico, and as far as Punjab, India.

This year, much of its land is a dull, dusty brown rather than the bright green that’s “normal” here, even if “normal” is more desire than reality. With water, this is the best agricultural land in the world. Without it, not so much.

If you have a good well you can pump groundwater at will; atypically, that’s not managed by the state, so you pay only for drilling and electricity. Until, of course, you draw down the water table (or your neighbor does, by drilling a deeper well). This race to the bottom is not sustainable, and wells are going dry as a result. You may have a large or small water supply contract from one of hundreds of water districts, granted when population was small, water was plentiful and environmental concerns ignored. These contracts have boosted the economy at great cost to the environment, and they’re ludicrously unfair: Some pay $7 per acre-foot (roughly 326,000 gallons), others $200; some have to buy on the open market, and cities generally pay over $1,000. Even then, supply may be inconsistent.

This is an issue that falls to the state government, which has begun to slowly do its work, passing a package of water policy bills in 2009 that mandate a start to measuring water use and a pricing system based in part on the amount of water used. “The regs don’t say that you have to use less water, but that you have to use it more efficiently,” Doug Obegi, a staff attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, explained to me.

Efficiency is imperative: The amount of water available is not going to increase. This drought may or may not be a result of climate change, but the area is likely to become warmer and drier as the effects of global warming increase.

But there is enough water to farm here while providing water for 40 million people (with more coming) to drink, bathe and wash. Some of that will be “gray” (recycled) water, especially for lawns, the single biggest use of residential water. And, according to Obegi, it could be that not every one of the current eight million irrigated acres will be planted.

This year, about 500,000 of those acres will lay fallow, and although that may not have a national impact — mass-produced food is a global commodity, and California’s drought is not a global tragedy — it’s a crisis locally. Many farmers are receiving 0 percent (as in none) of their federal water allocation, and some are pulling out their trees or crops or not bothering to plant at all. The more squarely the state faces the necessary changes now, the more drought-resistant California can be in the years to come.

For a consistently reliable water supply, one of two things must happen: Crop selection must be modified or water delivery and use must be more rational. But trying to persuade politicians, farmers and even water conservation advocates to think about determining what’s grown may be nearly impossible.

Still: The most water-thirsty “crops” are industrially produced meat and dairy and the food needed to sustain them. Livestock guzzle water and produce a double-digit percentage of our greenhouse gases. Other crops, like almonds (California grows 82 percent of the world’s supply), are mostly exported.

But the state can’t dictate what landowners grow. (We can help by eating fewer animal products.) It can, however, price water more fairly and make profligate water use unprofitable.

Some argue that more dams would solve the problem, but as the Sierra’s snowpack shrinks, this might be a recipe for expensive and dry reservoirs. Less expensive and more effective solutions would essentially overhaul the water delivery system to provide metered water on demand (now it’s often “use it or lose it”), which in turn would encourage more farmers to install drip irrigation, which quickly pays for itself. The state should not just monitor but also manage groundwater usage, and mandate treatment and recycling plants; these may be expensive, but they’re far less so than building new dams and shipping water hundreds of miles. Furthermore, if farmers were encouraged to build soil health by rotating crops, planting cover crops and integrating more organic matter, the land itself would become more drought-resistant.

The current drought is a crisis worth exploiting. Because rainfall cannot be relied upon but California agriculture is of critical importance nationally (the state provides around 50 percent of our fruits, vegetables and nuts), these kinds of changes are needed to begin to shift an arcane and antiquated system.

March 15th, 2014
Save the Fulton Pedestrian Mall




The Fulton Mall in Fresno, California is being threatened with demolition.

The pedestrian mall houses sculptures from Peter Voulkos, Stan Bitters, Claire Falkenstein, Gordon Newell, Alexandr Calder among others.

Please Help

Thanks to Stan Bitters

March 15th, 2014

March 14th, 2014
Farm-to-Table Living Takes Root

Screen shot 2014-03-13 at 4.54.58 AM
Laura Segall for The New York Times

March 11, 2014

GILBERT, Ariz. — In many American suburbs, outward signs of life are limited to the blue glow of television screens flickering behind energy-efficient windows. But in a subdivision of this bedroom community outside Phoenix, amid precision-cut lawns and Craftsman-style homes, lambs caper in common green areas, chickens scratch in a citrus grove and residents roam rows of heirloom vegetables to see what might be good for dinner.

The neighborhood is called Agritopia, and it’s one of a growing number of so-called agrihoods, residential developments where a working farm is the central feature, in the same way that other communities may cluster around a golf course, pool or fitness center. The real estate bust in 2008 halted new construction, but with the recovery, developers are again breaking ground on farm-focused tracts. At least a dozen projects across the country are thriving, enlisting thousands of home buyers who crave access to open space, verdant fields and fresh food.

“I hear from developers all the time about this,” said Ed McMahon, a senior fellow for sustainable development at the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit real estate research group in Washington, D. C. “They’ve figured out that unlike a golf course, which costs millions to build and millions to maintain, they can provide green space that actually earns a profit.” Not to mention a potential tax break for preserving agricultural land.

Sixteen of Agritopia’s 160 acres are certified organic farmland, with row crops (artichokes to zucchini), fruit trees (citrus, nectarine, peach, apple, olive and date) and livestock (chickens and sheep). Fences gripped by grapevines and blackberry bushes separate the farm from the community’s 452 single-family homes, each with a wide front porch and sidewalks close enough to encourage conversation. A 117-unit assisted- and independent-living center is set to open this summer.

The hub of neighborhood life is a small square overlooking the farm, with a coffeehouse, farm-to-table restaurant and honor-system farm stand. The square is also where residents line up on Wednesday evenings to claim their bulging boxes of just-harvested produce, eggs and honey, which come with a $100-a-month membership in the community-supported agriculture, or C.S.A., program. Neighbors trade recipes and gossip, and on the way home can pick up dinner from one of a few food trucks stocked by the farm.

“Wednesday is the highlight of my week,” said Ben Wyffels, an engineer for Intel who moved here with his wife and two sons two years ago from another Phoenix suburb, attracted by the farm and the community’s cohesiveness. “To be able to walk down the street with my kids and get fresh, healthy food is amazing,” he said, and has helped steer his family toward kale and carrots and away from chicken nuggets and hot dogs.

This way of life does not come at a premium, either; Mr. Wyffels, like residents of other agrihoods, said his home cost no more than similar houses in the area. And because the Agritopia farm is self-sustaining, as farms are in many of these developments, no fees are charged to support it, other than the cost of buying produce at the farm stand or joining the C.S.A.

Agritopia was among the first agrihoods — like Serenbe in Chattahoochee Hills, Ga.; Prairie Crossing in Grayslake, Ill.; South Village in South Burlington, Vt.; and Hidden Springs in Boise, Idaho — established just as the real estate market collapsed. They have emerged intact, with property values appreciating and for-sale signs rare.

At Serenbe, all 152 homes are occupied and its 3 restaurants draw tourists from surrounding states. Builders are adding 10 custom homes, with plans to break ground on at least another 20 by year-end. The 7-acre organic farm, soon to expand to 25 acres, lured Vikki Baird, a fund-raising consultant, who moved to Serenbe last summer from the affluent Buckhead neighborhood in Atlanta. She had divorced, and said she was looking for a “healthy place” to settle. “You walk down the street, open your bag and say, ‘Give me what’s fresh this week,’ ” Ms. Baird said.

Newer developments include Willowsford in Ashburn, Va., which opened in 2011 and was named the National Association of Homebuilders’ 2013 suburban Community of the Year, largely because of its 30-acre farm and a culinary consultant who regularly teaches classes in how to prepare whatever is in season. The Kukui’ula community in Kauai, Hawaii, opened in 2012 and has a 10-acre farm in addition to a clubhouse, spa and golf course.

“As a developer it’s been humbling that such a simple thing and such an inexpensive thing is the most loved amenity,” said Brent Herrington, who oversaw the building of Kukui’ula for the developer DMB Associates. “We spend $100 million on a clubhouse, but residents, first day on the island, they go to the farm to get flowers, fruits and vegetables.”

Mr. Herrington regularly fields calls from other developers who want to incorporate farms into their housing projects. At least a dozen new agrihoods are underway or have secured financing, including Bucking Horse in Fort Collins, Colo.; Skokomish Farms in Union, Wash.; Harvest in Northlake, Tex.; Rancho Mission Viejo in Orange County, Calif.; and Prairie Commons in South Olathe, Kan.

Their success or failure may depend on hiring the right farmer. Agritopia went through four before finding the right one.

“This type of farming is hard and requires an incredible ability to multitask,” said Joseph E. Johnston, the developer and a resident of Agritopia, which sits on what was once his family’s farm. “I’m not sure most developers have the patience to really see it through and make it work.”

Though Mr. Johnston’s father planted four kinds of commodity crops, like cotton and corn, a community farmer must plant a vast variety of highly perishable, organic (or at least not chemically treated) crops, then market them to residents and sell the excess at farmers’ markets and to local chefs. Agritopia sells to 20 highly regarded chefs, including Charleen Badman (a.k.a. the “Vegetable Whisperer”) of the restaurant FnB and Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco.

“You have to be an excellent grower but also good at customer relations, business projections and labor controls,” Mr. Johnston said. “There’s no manual or anyone at the county extension service to tell you how to do this.”

For guidance, many developers are turning to suburban farm consultants like Agriburbia in Golden, Colo., and Farmer D Organics in Atlanta, which assist in choosing farm sites, building the requisite infrastructure and hiring farmers who work for salary or in exchange for housing and proceeds of whatever they harvest.

“The interest is so great, we’re kind of terrified trying to catch up with all the calls,” said Quint Redmond, Agriburbia’s chief executive. In addition to developers, he hears from homeowners’ associations and golf course operators who want to transform their costly-to-maintain green spaces into revenue-generating farms.

Driving the demand, he said, are the local-food movement and the aspirations of many Americans to be gentlemen (or gentlewomen) farmers. “Everybody wants to be Thomas Jefferson these days,” he said.

Take L. B. Kregenow, a lawyer who with her husband, David, a doctor, has contracted to build a home in the Skokomish Farms community southwest of Seattle.

“I’m a foodie and interested in animal husbandry and cultivating my own wasabi and mushrooms,” Ms. Kregenow said. But she also likes to travel, which she said makes living in an agrihood ideal. “For me, the serious downside of farming is doing it on your own means, doing it 365 days a year,” she said. “But in this scheme we will have a farm without all the responsibility.”

Thanks to Jonathan Maghen

March 13th, 2014
Standing up to the Kochs

Published: MARCH 10, 2014

Democrats have for too long been passive in the face of the vast amounts of corporate money, most of it secret, that are being spent to evict them from office and dismantle their policies. By far the largest voice in many of this year’s political races, for example, has been that of the Koch brothers, who have spent tens of millions of dollars peddling phony stories about the impact of health care reform, all in order to put Republicans in control of the Senate after the November elections.

Now Democrats are starting to fight back, deciding they should at least try to counter the tycoons with some low-cost speech of their own. Democrats may never have the same resources at their disposal — no party should — but they can use their political pulpits to stand up for a few basic principles, including the importance of widespread health-insurance coverage, environmental protection and safety-net programs.

The leader of this effort has been Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, who has delivered a series of blistering attacks against the Kochs and their ads on the Senate floor over the last few weeks. In addition, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has set up a website,, to remind voters of just what the Kochs stand for, and why they raised $407 million in the 2012 election. And individual candidates are making sure voters know who is paying for the ad blitz.

“The billionaire Koch brothers,” says one of the people quoted in an ad released Monday by Senator Mark Begich of Alaska, who has been the object of one of their blatantly false television barrages. “They come into our town, fire a refinery, just running it into the ground, leaving a mess.” Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina reminds voters that the Kochs and their allies have pressed for high-end tax breaks that burden the middle class.

Mr. Reid’s comments have gone to the heart of the matter. In his most recent speech, he pointed out that the fundamental purpose of the Kochs’ spending is to rig the economic system for their benefit and for that of other oligarchs. They own an industrial network that ranks No. 14 on the list of the most toxic American air polluters, and got their money’s worth in 2010 by helping elect a Republican House majority that has resisted environmental regulation.

“That Republican majority is, in fact, working to gut the most important safeguards to keep cancer-causing toxins and pollution that cause sickness and death out of the air we breathe and the water we drink,” Mr. Reid said. “Without those safeguards, the Koch brothers would pass on the higher health care costs to middle-class Americans while padding their own pocketbooks.” He called it “un-American” to spend lavishly to preserve tax breaks and end workplace safety standards.

Republicans quickly rushed to the cameras to demand an apology on behalf of their benefactors, furious that anyone would dare interrupt an industrialist in the process of writing a check. But Mr. Reid made it clear no apology would be forthcoming.

What the Kochs want — and polls show they have a strong chance of getting it — is a Senate led by Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, now the minority leader, who promises in his latest campaign ad to “be the leader of the forces that take on the war on coal,” the most polluting power-plant fuel. Nothing could be better for the owners of Koch Carbon, and they are willing to spend whatever it takes to make it happen. But they are finally encountering some resistance.

March 10th, 2014
Peter Shire | Scorpion Pots

shire scorpion black 3
Scorpion Pot # 1, 1996
ceramic, glaze, paint, and stainless steel
32 X 13 X 12 inches

Peter Shire | Scorpion Pots
March 9 through April 11, 2014

South Willard Shop Exhibit

March 8th, 2014
The Fat Drug

NY Times Published: MARCH 8, 2014

IF you walk into a farm-supply store today, you’re likely to find a bag of antibiotic powder that claims to boost the growth of poultry and livestock. That’s because decades of agricultural research has shown that antibiotics seem to flip a switch in young animals’ bodies, helping them pack on pounds. Manufacturers brag about the miraculous effects of feeding antibiotics to chicks and nursing calves. Dusty agricultural journals attest to the ways in which the drugs can act like a kind of superfood to produce cheap meat.

But what if that meat is us? Recently, a group of medical investigators have begun to wonder whether antibiotics might cause the same growth promotion in humans. New evidence shows that America’s obesity epidemic may be connected to our high consumption of these drugs. But before we get to those findings, it’s helpful to start at the beginning, in 1948, when the wonder drugs were new — and big was beautiful.

That year, a biochemist named Thomas H. Jukes marveled at a pinch of golden powder in a vial. It was a new antibiotic named Aureomycin, and Mr. Jukes and his colleagues at Lederle Laboratories suspected that it would become a blockbuster, lifesaving drug. But they hoped to find other ways to profit from the powder as well. At the time, Lederle scientists had been searching for a food additive for farm animals, and Mr. Jukes believed that Aureomycin could be it. After raising chicks on Aureomycin-laced food and on ordinary mash, he found that the antibiotics did boost the chicks’ growth; some of them grew to weigh twice as much as the ones in the control group.

Mr. Jukes wanted more Aureomycin, but his bosses cut him off because the drug was in such high demand to treat human illnesses. So he hit on a novel solution. He picked through the laboratory’s dump to recover the slurry left over after the manufacture of the drug. He and his colleagues used those leftovers to carry on their experiments, now on pigs, sheep and cows. All of the animals gained weight. Trash, it turned out, could be transformed into meat.

You may be wondering whether it occurred to anyone back then that the powders would have the same effect on the human body. In fact, a number of scientists believed that antibiotics could stimulate growth in children. From our contemporary perspective, here’s where the story gets really strange: All this growth was regarded as a good thing. It was an era that celebrated monster-size animals, fat babies and big men. In 1955, a crowd gathered in a hotel ballroom to watch as feed salesmen climbed onto a scale; the men were competing to see who could gain the most weight in four months, in imitation of the cattle and hogs that ate their antibiotic-laced food. Pfizer sponsored the competition.

In 1954, Alexander Fleming — the Scottish biologist who discovered penicillin — visited the University of Minnesota. His American hosts proudly informed him that by feeding antibiotics to hogs, farmers had already saved millions of dollars in slop. But Fleming seemed disturbed by the thought of applying that logic to humans. “I can’t predict that feeding penicillin to babies will do society much good,” he said. “Making people larger might do more harm than good.”

Nonetheless, experiments were then being conducted on humans. In the 1950s, a team of scientists fed a steady diet of antibiotics to schoolchildren in Guatemala for more than a year,while Charles H. Carter, a doctor in Florida, tried a similar regimen on mentally disabled kids. Could the children, like the farm animals, grow larger? Yes, they could.

Mr. Jukes summarized Dr. Carter’s research in a monograph on nutrition and antibiotics: “Carter carried out a prolonged investigation of a study of the effects of administering 75 mg of chlortetracycline” — the chemical name for Aureomycin — “twice daily to mentally defective children for periods of up to three years at the Florida Farm Colony. The children were mentally deficient spastic cases and were almost entirely helpless,” he wrote. “The average yearly gain in weight for the supplemented group was 6.5 lb while the control group averaged 1.9 lb in yearly weight gain.”

Researchers also tried this out in a study of Navy recruits. “Nutritional effects of antibiotics have been noted for some time” in farm animals, the authors of the 1954 study wrote. But “to date there have been few studies of the nutritional effects in humans, and what little evidence is available is largely concerned with young children. The present report seems of interest, therefore, because of the results obtained in a controlled observation of several hundred young American males.” The Navy men who took a dose of antibiotics every morning for seven weeks gained more weight, on average, than the control group.

MEANWHILE, in agricultural circles, word of the miracle spread fast. Jay C. Hormel described imaginative experiments in livestock production to his company’s stockholders in 1951; soon the company began its own research. Hormel scientists cut baby piglets out of their mothers’ bellies and raised them in isolation, pumping them with food and antibiotics. And yes, this did make the pigs fatter.

Farms clamored for antibiotic slurry from drug companies, which was trucked directly to them in tanks. By 1954, Eli Lilly & Company had created an antibiotic feed additive for farm animals, as “an aid to digestion.” It was so much more than that. The drug-laced feeds allowed farmers to keep their animals indoors — because in addition to becoming meatier, the animals now could subsist in filthy conditions. The stage was set for the factory farm.

And yet, scientists still could not explain the mystery of antibiotics and weight gain. Nor did they try, really. According to Luis Caetano M. Antunes, a public health researcher at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Brazil, the attitude was, “Who cares how it’s working?” Over the next few decades, while farms kept buying up antibiotics, the medical world largely lost interest in their fattening effects, and moved on.

In the last decade, however, scrutiny of antibiotics has increased. Overuse of the drugs has led to the rise of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria — salmonella in factory farms and staph infections in hospitals. Researchers have also begun to suspect that it may shed light on the obesity epidemic.

In 2002 Americans were about an inch taller and 24 pounds heavier than they were in the 1960s, and more than a third are now classified as obese. Of course, diet and lifestyle are prime culprits. But some scientists wonder whether there could be other reasons for this staggering transformation of the American body. Antibiotics might be the X factor — or one of them.

Martin J. Blaser, the director of the Human Microbiome Program and a professor of medicine and microbiology at New York University, is exploring that mystery. In 1980, he was the salmonella surveillance officer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, going to farms to investigate outbreaks. He remembers marveling at the amount of antibiotic powder that farmers poured into feed. “I began to think, what is the meaning of this?” he told me.

Of course, while farm animals often eat a significant dose of antibiotics in food, the situation is different for human beings. By the time most meat reaches our table, it contains little or no antibiotics. So we receive our greatest exposure in the pills we take, rather than the food we eat. American kids are prescribed on average about one course of antibiotics every year, often for ear and chest infections. Could these intermittent high doses affect our metabolism?
Continue reading the main story

To find out, Dr. Blaser and his colleagues have spent years studying the effects of antibiotics on the growth of baby mice. In one experiment, his lab raised mice on both high-calorie food and antibiotics. “As we all know, our children’s diets have gotten a lot richer in recent decades,” he writes in a book, “Missing Microbes,” due out in April. At the same time, American children often are prescribed antibiotics. What happens when chocolate doughnuts mix with penicillin?

The results of the study were dramatic, particularly in female mice: They gained about twice as much body fat as the control-group mice who ate the same food. “For the female mice, the antibiotic exposure was the switch that converted more of those extra calories in the diet to fat, while the males grew more in terms of both muscle and fat,” Dr. Blaser writes. “The observations are consistent with the idea that the modern high-calorie diet alone is insufficient to explain the obesity epidemic and that antibiotics could be contributing.”

The Blaser lab also investigates whether antibiotics may be changing the animals’ microbiome — the trillions of bacteria that live inside their guts. These bacteria seem to play a role in all sorts of immune responses, and, crucially, in digesting food, making nutrients and maintaining a healthy weight. And antibiotics can kill them off: One recent study found that taking the antibiotic ciprofloxacin decimated entire populations of certain bugs in some patients’ digestive tracts — bacteria they might have been born with.

Until recently, scientists simply had no way to identify and sort these trillions of bacteria. But thanks to a new technique called high-throughput sequencing, we can now examine bacterial populations inside people. According to Ilseung Cho, a gastroenterologist who works with the Blaser lab, researchers are learning so much about the gut bugs that it is sometimes difficult to make sense of the blizzard of revelations. “Interpreting the volume of data being generated is as much a challenge as the scientific questions we are interested in asking,” he said.

Investigators are beginning to piece together a story about how gut bacteria shapes each life, beginning at birth, when infants are anointed with populations from their mothers’ microbiomes. Babies who are born by cesarean and never make that trip through the birth canal apparently never receive some key bugs from their mothers — possibly including those that help to maintain a healthy body weight. Children born by C-section are more likely to be obese in later life.

By the time we reach adulthood, we have developed our own distinct menagerie of bacteria. In fact, it doesn’t always make sense to speak of us and them. You are the condo that your bugs helped to build and design. The bugs redecorate you every day. They turn the thermostat up and down, and bang on your pipes.

In the Blaser lab and elsewhere, scientists are racing to take a census of the bugs in the human gut and — even more difficult — to figure out what effects they have on us. What if we could identify which species minimize the risk of diabetes, or confer protection against obesity? And what if we could figure out how to protect these crucial bacteria from antibiotics, or replace them after they’re killed off?

The results could represent an entirely new pharmacopoeia, drugs beyond our wildest dreams: Think of them as “anti-antibiotics.” Instead of destroying bugs, these new medicines would implant creatures inside us, like more sophisticated probiotics.

Dr. Cho looks forward to this new era of medicine. “I could say, ‘All right, I know that you’re at risk for developing colon cancer, and I can decrease that risk by giving you this bacteria and altering your microbiome.’ That would be amazing. We could prevent certain diseases before they happened.”

Until then, it’s hard for him to know what to tell his patients. We know that antibiotics change us, but we still don’t know what to do about it. “It’s still too early to draw definitive conclusions,” Dr. Cho said. “And antibiotics remain a valuable resource that physicians use to fight infections.”

When I spoke to Mr. Antunes, the public health researcher in Brazil, he told me that his young daughter had just suffered through several bouts of ear infections. “It’s a no-brainer. You have to give her antibiotics.” And yet, he worried about how these drugs might affect her in years to come.

It has become common to chide doctors and patients for overusing antibiotics, but when the baby is wailing or you’re burning with fever, it’s hard to know what to do. While researchers work to unravel the connections between antibiotics and weight gain, they should also put their minds toward reducing the unnecessary use of antibiotics. One way to do that would be to provide patients with affordable tests that give immediate feedback about what kind of infection has taken hold in their body. Such tools, like a new kind of blood test, are now in development and could help to eliminate the “just in case” prescribing of antibiotics.

In the meantime, we are faced with the legacy of these drugs — the possibility that they have affected our size and shape, and made us different people.

March 8th, 2014
Sara VanDerBeek

Screen shot 2014-03-06 at 5.17.27 PM
Aperture, 2014

March 7, 2014 — June 8, 2014

MOCA Cleveland

March 6th, 2014
An 84-Year-Old Ceramist’s New York Moment

A selection of works by Magdalena Suarez Frimkess are on view at the artist’s first New York show at White Columns.

NY Times Published MARCH 3, 2014

Though Magdalena Suarez Frimkess’s ceramics collaborations with her husband, Michael Frimkess, have drawn a following for many years — they’re in the collections of a number of institutions, including the Museum of Arts and Design and the Smithsonian — the 84-year-old Venice, Calif.-based artist has rarely exhibited her own work. But as her debut New York solo show, opening tonight at White Columns, demonstrates, her talent is as singular as the life she has led.

In her choice of motifs, the Venezuelan-born artist seems entirely unbound by convention. She’s just as likely to decorate one of her pieces with scenarios from Greco-Roman pottery as she is to feature Mickey and Minnie Mouse dancing the jitterbug. Though she often returns to the same imagery in her work, she never plans her subjects beforehand. “I just use whatever happens that day — it’s like a menu that you choose your food from,” she says. But if her work appears offhand and playful, there can be something unsettling about it as well. A frequent theme has Olive Oyl in trouble, getting kidnapped or dangled over a school of vicious sharks. Other pieces depict more quotidian scenes, borrowed from Mayan and Aztec codices, of women giving birth or looking into obsidian mirrors.

The stories that Suarez Frimkess portrays may not correlate directly to her own experiences, but her life has been eventful. Orphaned at the age of 7, she later enrolled at the School of Plastic Arts in Caracas but set her ambitions aside at 18 when she met a man with whom she had a son and a daughter. As the children grew older, she returned to study painting and sculpture at Catholic University in Santiago with several Fulbright students, including the California artist Paul Harris. He was so taken with her work that he described her as “the most daring sculptor now working in Chile” in a 1962 article for Art in America, and arranged for her to receive a fellowship to study in the United States. This drew her partner’s ire, and he gave her an ultimatum. The decision to attend the Clay Art Center in Port Chester, N.Y., was a wrenching one, and it would ultimately take her away from her children for decades. But it did bring her into contact with the Los Angeles-born ceramist who would become her husband and longtime collaborator, Michael Frimkess.

In 1971, after the couple moved to L.A., Frimkess developed multiple sclerosis. Producing his solo work became more difficult, and Suarez Frimkess set aside her own painting-and-sculpture practice to begin collaborating with her husband. In this new arrangement, he would throw his signature thin-walled, elegantly proportioned pots and she would glaze them. In his earlier solo work, even before Pop Art, Frimkess had decorated his pieces with images from popular culture, touching on multiculturalism, overpopulation and jazz. “He comes to it from a more ideological place,” says Karin Gulbran, who curated the White Columns exhibition (and also has a solo ceramics show opening there simultaneously). “She jumped in and took the subject matter in her own direction.”

Perhaps because Suarez Frimkess is self-taught, her own pieces have less in common with the work of other West Coast ceramists than the ones made with her husband do. “She’s not an outsider artist, but she is outside of the ceramics tradition,” Gulbran says. The way she makes and decorates her pieces bears this out: Her forms are more sculptural than functional, and although glazes are designed for dipping, Magdalena applies them like paint in a process that she likens to cloisonné.

The White Columns show comes at a time, half a century into their career, when Suarez Frimkess and her husband seem to be having a moment. Last year, a number of pieces were in “Grapevine~,” a standout exhibition of California ceramists at L.A.’s David Kordansky Gallery. South Willard, a men’s wear store and hub of that city’s arts community, has shown their work numerous times. And they are to be included in the Hammer Museum’s upcoming “Made in L.A. 2014″ biennial — which should help make apparent the couple’s influence on a younger generation of West Coast artists.

Magdalena Suarez Frimkess is on view at White Columns through April 19

March 4th, 2014


Lens reflex
Curated by Steven Baldi

Zoë Ghertner
Jacob Kassay
Stephen Prina
Eileen Quinlan
H. Armstrong Roberts
Torbjørn Rødland

March 14 – April 19, 2014

Opening Friday, March 14, 2014


Lens reflex brings together a group of works that I feel employ a sensitivity to the camera as a tool and a sensual use of the photographic apparatus. The works selected both allow and utilize the tool’s ability to create a tertiary, magic-like, presence within the objects it creates. The exhibition attempts to indirectly address the specificity of the camera and the mechanical process that produces an object which is separate yet tied to it.

- Steven Baldi, 2014

Thomas Duncan

March 2nd, 2014

March 2nd, 2014

Matt Paweski, Slanted Plaques (teal)
Beech hardwood, steel, copper rivets, enamel, wax

The exhibition is conceived as a tribute to Frank Stella’s late 1970s series of paintings “Indian Birds,” and in particular to Khar Pidda (1978), published on the cover of Flash Art International no. 92-93 in 1979.

Lupo Borgonovo
Elaine Cameron- Wier & Ben Schumacher
Sam Falls
Lucy Kim
Dave Miko
Dianna Molzan
Ruairiadh O’Connell
Matt Paweski
Kour Pour
Adele Roder

March 4th – April 5th
Opening March 4th 6-9pm

Flash Art NY Desk
630 9th Ave Suite 403
(between 44 and 45th St.)

March 1st, 2014
sam kaufman

thurston conder, wolfgang conder, sam kaufman

Where else can you get a jug by George Ohr, a chalice by Georges Jouve,
a tea pot by Gio Ponti, a bowl by Gwyneth Paltrow, and a 16th century Halberd?

Sam Kaufman

February 28th, 2014
When May I Shoot a Student?

NY Times Published: FEB. 27, 2014

BOISE, Idaho — TO the chief counsel of the Idaho State Legislature:

In light of the bill permitting guns on our state’s college and university campuses, which is likely to be approved by the state House of Representatives in the coming days, I have a matter of practical concern that I hope you can help with: When may I shoot a student?

I am a biology professor, not a lawyer, and I had never considered bringing a gun to work until now. But since many of my students are likely to be armed, I thought it would be a good idea to even the playing field.

I have had encounters with disgruntled students over the years, some of whom seemed quite upset, but I always assumed that when they reached into their backpacks they were going for a pencil. Since I carry a pen to lecture, I did not feel outgunned; and because there are no working sharpeners in the lecture hall, the most they could get off is a single point. But now that we’ll all be packing heat, I would like legal instruction in the rules of classroom engagement.

At present, the harshest penalty available here at Boise State is expulsion, used only for the most heinous crimes, like cheating on Scantron exams. But now that lethal force is an option, I need to know which infractions may be treated as de facto capital crimes.

I assume that if a student shoots first, I am allowed to empty my clip; but given the velocity of firearms, and my aging reflexes, I’d like to be proactive. For example, if I am working out a long equation on the board and several students try to correct me using their laser sights, am I allowed to fire a warning shot?

If two armed students are arguing over who should be served next at the coffee bar and I sense escalating hostility, should I aim for the legs and remind them of the campus Shared-Values Statement (which reads, in part, “Boise State strives to provide a culture of civility and success where all feel safe and free from discrimination, harassment, threats or intimidation”)?

While our city police chief has expressed grave concerns about allowing guns on campus, I would point out that he already has one. I’m glad that you were not intimidated by him, and did not allow him to speak at the public hearing on the bill (though I really enjoyed the 40 minutes you gave to the National Rifle Association spokesman).

Knee-jerk reactions from law enforcement officials and university presidents are best set aside. Ignore, for example, the lame argument that some drunken frat boys will fire their weapons in violation of best practices. This view is based on stereotypical depictions of drunken frat boys, a group whose dignity no one seems willing to defend.

The problem, of course, is not that drunken frat boys will be armed; it is that they are drunken frat boys. Arming them is clearly not the issue. They would cause damage with or without guns. I would point out that urinating against a building or firing a few rounds into a sorority house are both violations of the same honor code.

In terms of the campus murder rate — zero at present — I think that we can all agree that guns don’t kill people, people with guns do. Which is why encouraging guns on campus makes so much sense. Bad guys go where there are no guns, so by adding guns to campus more bad guys will spend their year abroad in London. Britain has incredibly restrictive laws — their cops don’t even have guns! — and gun deaths there are a tiny fraction of what they are in America. It’s a perfect place for bad guys.

Some of my colleagues are concerned that you are encouraging firearms within a densely packed concentration of young people who are away from home for the first time, and are coincidentally the age associated with alcohol and drug experimentation, and the commission of felonies.

Once again, this reflects outdated thinking about students. My current students have grown up learning responsible weapon use through virtual training available on the Xbox and PlayStation. Far from being enamored of violence, many studies have shown, they are numb to it. These creative young minds will certainly be stimulated by access to more technology at the university, items like autoloaders, silencers and hollow points. I am sure that it has not escaped your attention that the library would make an excellent shooting range, and the bookstore could do with fewer books and more ammo choices.

I want to applaud the Legislature’s courage. On a final note: I hope its members will consider my amendment for bulletproof office windows and faculty body armor in Boise State blue and orange.

February 28th, 2014

Karin Gulbran, 2014

Clive Hodgson
Magdalena Suarez Frimkess
Robert Kitchen (curated by Vince Aletti)
Karin Gulbran
Joe Fyfe

March 4 – April 19, 2014
Opening reception: Monday, 3 March, 6-8pm

White Columns

February 27th, 2014
Mason Williams


Mason Williams
“Bus”, 1967
Blockbuster Bus Book
Company, Beverly Hills, Ca
Life-size photograph of a
greyhound bus – when unfolded
the massive photograph
measures 324,5 x 11,10 cm
and weighs 4,7 kg.
Folded and housed in original fiberboard box, designed by
Bob Willis.

Through March 22th 2014

Daniel Buchholz

February 27th, 2014
California Endangered Species: Plastic Bags

NY Times Published: FEB. 25, 2014

LOS ANGELES — On a recent drizzly day, Esha Moya found herself standing outside a grocery store in South Los Angeles, her half-dozen paper bags falling apart in the rain, wishing she had a few small items that had been free and plentiful her entire life but are now banned in this city: plastic shopping bags.

“I hate this,” said Ms. Moya, a telemarketer and a mother of two. She has begun stockpiling plastic bags at home because paper bags “are always breaking,” she said. “It’s stupid, and it makes it really hard for us.”

A companion to shoppers for a half-century, the plastic bag is now under siege in California, where a growing number of policy makers have come to regard it as a symbol of environmental wastefulness.

Since 2007, plastic shopping bags have been banned in nearly 100 municipalities in the state, including Los Angeles, which at the start of this year became the largest city in the country to enforce such a ban. Paper bags, which are biodegradable and easier to recycle, are often available for a small fee.

And now, lawmakers in Sacramento are trying to make California the first state to approve a blanket ban on this most ubiquitous of consumer products.

“It has become increasingly clear to the public the environmental damage that single-use plastic bags have reaped,” said Alex Padilla, a state senator who is sponsoring legislation for a statewide ban. “This is the beginning of the phase-out of single-use plastic bags — period.”

Mr. Padilla’s measure would ban traditional single-use plastic bags at supermarkets, liquor stores and other locations where they have long been standbys. Paper bags and more robust, reusable plastic bags will be available for a 10-cent fee, with the goal of forcing shoppers to remember their canvas bags.

The case against plastic shopping bags is simple and, with more than 150 communities across the country embracing some kind of anti-bag laws, increasingly familiar. Plastic bags are used once or twice but can last up to a millennium. Only a small fraction of the bags are recycled, in large part because they jam sorting machines at recycling plants and so must be separated from other plastics. Many bags end up snagged on trees, stuck in storm drains or sitting in landfills.

In just a few years, local bans on plastic bags have spread from San Francisco to Honolulu to the North Shore of Massachusetts. Washington, D.C., has imposed a five-cent fee, and New York City has several times considered charging for bags, most recently last year, when the proposal died at the end of the city’s legislative session. The new mayor, Bill de Blasio, has expressed support for a ban on plastic bags.

Many consumers bristle at having to pay for a necessity that has always been free. “We’re already struggling,” Ms. Moya said as she waited in the rain for a taxi with her disintegrating paper bags, purchased for 10 cents each. “Groceries cost enough money. Then I have to pay for bags?”

The plastics industry has worked furiously to tap into that frustration. So far, the industry — behind millions of dollars spent lobbying lawmakers — has managed to beat back efforts to pass statewide bans in California and a handful of other states.

Hilex Poly, one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of plastic bags, singlehandedly spent more than $1 million lobbying against a bill to ban plastic bags in California in 2010. That bill failed, as did another attempt in 2013. Hilex Poly, based in Hartsville, S.C., has made political donations to every Democrat in the California Senate who joined Republicans in voting against last year’s bill.

Mark Daniels, a vice president at Hilex Poly, said a ban would cost the state up to 2,000 jobs.

“This is going to cost Californians millions and millions of dollars,” Mr. Daniels said of the current legislation. “They’re going to have to purchase millions of supposedly reusable bags from China.”

But support has been steadily growing in the California Legislature. The Los Angeles Times endorsed a statewide ban on Thursday, and several senators who voted against the ban last year have come out in support of it this year. Some environmentalists say they now believe they have the momentum to push bans across the country, starting with California.

“It’s very effective, and it’s very cost-effective,” said Kerrie Romanow, director of environmental services for San Jose, Calif.

Since San Jose’s ban took effect in 2012, plastic-bag litter in storm drains, which can contribute to flooding, has fallen by 89 percent. In unincorporated parts of Los Angeles County, large retail stores reported a drop in the use of paper bags since a similar ban, coupled with a 10-cent fee for paper bags, took effect.

“People are adapting very quickly,” Ms. Romanow said. “The days of a single candy bar getting its own plastic bag are over.”

Abbi Waxman, a television writer in Los Angeles, said she had tried for years to wean herself off plastic bags. But despite sidelong looks from grocery store cashiers, she seldom remembered to bring her cloth bags.

Then the 10-cent fee kicked in.

“Once they started charging me, that was the tipping point when I could actually remember to bring my bags,” said Ms. Waxman, 43, standing with a half-dozen reusable bags on a recent shopping trip.

“I have, I’m not kidding, about 40 reusable bags at home, because I feel so guilty when I come without them that I buy more each time,” she said.

Mr. Daniels, the Hilex Poly vice president, said the plastic bag had been unfairly scapegoated for a variety of environmental ills. Thin plastic bags are reused, he said: They are repurposed as lunch bags and trash can liners, and they come in handy for pet cleanup.

But other plastics manufacturers have begun to embrace the changes in their industry.

“The industry will be destroyed if it’s unwilling to evolve and change,” said Pete Grande, president of Command Packaging in Vernon, Calif., which is starting to produce more heavy-duty, reusable bags from recycled agricultural plastic.

Last year, Mr. Grande opposed the bill to ban single-use plastic bags in California. So did the two Democrats who represent Vernon in the State Senate.

This year, they all support the bill, which would allow stores to offer more durable plastic bags for a fee alongside paper ones at the checkout line.

“We lived for thousands of years without single-use plastic bags,” said Mr. Padilla, the bill’s sponsor. “I think we will be just fine without them.”

Thanks to Jonathan Maghen

February 25th, 2014
Caught Looking

Mary Weatherford, Bonnard colors cave, 2011. Flashe on linen, 64 x 78 inches.

Simone Gad, Tracy Nakayama, Ruby Neri, Lauralee Pope, Mary Weatherford

Through June 8th, 2014

The Armory Pasadena

February 24th, 2014
John Humble | Pico Boulevard

3500 block, Pico Boulevard

LA Weekly Published: Feb 21, 2014
By Jennifer Swann

L.A. artists have long been fascinated with the city’s iconic boulevards and colossal freeways. Ed Ruscha’s 1966 book of photos, “Every Building on the Sunset Strip,” documented just that. Catherine Opie’s mid-90s photo series “Freeways” commented on how the massive concrete structures divide communities and separate cities from suburbs. L.A. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne has an entire column dedicated to exploring constantly-evolving boulevards like Crenshaw, which he says is still seen as the final dividing line between the poorer parts of South Los Angeles and the wealthier Westside.

In a 1998 episode of This American Life, former L.A. Weekly food critic Jonathan Gold mapped Pico Boulevard by visiting all of the places where he used to eat when he lived there in the 1980s – including Mr. Coleslaw Burger, which was long gone. He later wrote about the experience for the Weekly: “Precisely because Pico is so unremarked, because it is left alone like old lawn furniture moldering away in the side yard of a suburban house, it is at the center of entry-level capitalism in central Los Angeles, and one of the most vital food streets in the world.” In the This American Life episode, he admits becoming obsessed with the idea of Pico Boulevard. “Almost every ethnic group that exists in Los Angeles, you can find on Pico,” he says. “There’s specific blocks that are Guatemalan and Nicaraguan blocks and Salvadoran blocks. There are parts of Pico where you can drive for probably a mile without seeing a sign that isn’t in Korean.”

Screen shot 2014-02-21 at 8.37.24 PM
Inglesia Ebenezer, Pico Boulevard

The latest love letter to Pico Boulevard comes from 69-year-old artist John Humble, who’s lived and photographed Los Angeles since the early 1970s. His current exhibition, which runs through Saturday at Craig Krull Gallery in Bergamot Station and is simply titled “Pico Boulevard,” explores the nearly 16-mile stretch from the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica to Central Avenue in downtown’s fashion district.

While Pico Boulevard serves as the backdrop for Humble’s most recent exhibition, the city as subject matter is hardly new territory for the artist who was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1972 to create a documentary survey of Los Angeles. Ever since then, he’s continued his mission of “trying to pinpoint what it is about Los Angeles that makes Los Angeles unique,” through photography studies of the L.A. River, Venice Beach, the I-105 Freeway interchange, and countless gas stations, billboards and truck stops around Wilmington and East L.A.

His photographs capture sprawling, unremarkable landscapes that he says reflect industrialization and mass-migration. “Oil barracks in the front yard, or an apartment right next to a factory,” he says of his subject matter. “It’s exciting. It’s weird. But when I turn onto the street, it’s like already my adrenaline starts to pump. First you put the camera up and then you wait for the serendipity.”

Growing up, Humble’s father was in the army and his family moved across America frequently. He had been enrolled in six elementary schools and started high school in Panama before finishing it in suburban Highland Park, Illinois and making a beeline for San Francisco Art Institute soon after.

For two decades after moving to L.A., Humble was a “freeway flyer,” a name given to the part-time instructors who commuted all over Southern California to teach at different colleges and universities during that time. He was eventually hired full time at Fullerton College, where he taught until retirement in 2006. The following year, he scored a solo show at the Getty, where he exhibited photos of his longtime muse: Los Angeles.

1250 South Brodway and Pico Boulevard

Like many Angelenos, Humble’s method of experiencing – and subsequently, photographing – the city is through his car window. In the 1970s, Humble traveled the city in his Volkswagen van, parking his car when he saw something he wanted to photograph and using the van’s roof as a tripod for his camera. He captured images this way not just in Los Angeles, but also in in Africa and Asia, where he lived in his van for a year and a half while photographing the landscapes. He’s since traded in his VW van for a more sensible Ford Explorer and he’s given up his 35 mm camera for a digital version, but the subject matter of his photos has remained largely consistent throughout the years.

Hi-Fashion, Pico Boulevard

Over the last year, Humble turned his lens to Pico Boulevard’s pockets of ethnic neighborhoods. “Pico starts near two luxury hotels in Santa Monica. Once you pass Fox studios, there’s a golf course, and a Jewish district, a Russian district, then Koreatown and Latino districts,” he says. “Then you practically pass through L.A. Live and you end up in the garment districts and then the Coca Cola bottling plant. It seemed to me to be an opportunity to take everything that I feel about L.A. and condense it into one street.”

Along the way, his camera captured a fire hydrant erupting in a vacant parking lot, a street-side memorial for a motorcyclist killed outside a car wash, a sign for a lost bird just underneath a freeway overpass near downtown, and a 12-foot-tall tropical bird painted on the side of Guatemalteca Market.

“Since I’m an artist and I’m not getting paid for this, I do it when I want,” says Humble, a retired instructor who keeps a photography studio in Santa Monica. He still strolls Venice Beach three times a week to shoot photos, including a new series documenting hand-made signs that say ‘no photos.’ “At this point in my life, I just have to go with what I see,” he says. “I just look out the window. It’s a visceral kind of way of looking at things.”

John Humble
Through February 22, 2014
Craig Krull

February 21st, 2014
Sigmar Polke


“Sämtliche Publikationen”

Through March 22th 2014

Daniel Buchholz

February 21st, 2014
A Tale of Two Art Dealers


Left: Irving Blum, ca. 1962. Photo: Frank J. Thomas. Courtesy of the Frank J. Thomas Archive. Right: Everett Ellin, ca. 1958-1963. Everett Ellin papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

by Darcy Tell
East of Borneo
March 04, 2013

In many instances, what was happening in the East was simply more powerful, more convincing, and more intriguing. —Irving Blum

In the late fifties, the outlines of the Los Angeles art world were narrow by anybody’s standard. Unlike many regional cities of equivalent wealth, the city still lacked an independent encyclopedic museum. There were no modernist or contemporary art museums, just the lingering, humiliating memory of the short-lived Modern Institute of Art started by Vincent Price and others in 1947. UCLA had muffed the Arensberg-Scheyer donation in 1950. Contemporary art was mistrusted. The public ignored it, and conservatives—most vocally, government officials and figurative or “Sunday” painters—demonized it. Even so, an art market existed but just barely.

There were a few elite dealers in town by the late fifties. Frank Perls, a German refugee, opened in 1939. He was from a family of art merchants and established a thoroughly professional gallery that sold 19th- and 20th-century European art as well as contemporary and older work from California and the United States. Perls energetically supported the local art culture. He lectured, lent and rented art, judged competitions, and raised money. His letters show him to be humorous, opinionated, and, though completely aware of his adopted city’s provincialism, confident that it could—and would—become an important center someday.

Perls had quite a few colleagues, both immigrant and native-born, who operated in the same way. These men sold what we would now call blue-chip art, contemporary European and American work, regional paintings, and even antiquities. The secondary market—private, discreet—was a mainstay. These dealers kept track of who owned which valuable paintings, bought and sold, searched for new collectors, and looked after the old ones. This kind of business moved outward from its clients and the painstaking work of following collections and monitoring taste. Even so, it was not that uncommon for galleries in Southern California to show contemporary artists. When they did, however, they usually held shows of established artists, many of them from the East or at least outside LA. With gallery space so scarce and a market predisposed toward artists with reputations, the youngest Southern California artists were marginalized.

When it began in 1957, Ferus Gallery took little part in Los Angeles’s mainstream gallery culture. Founders Walter Hopps and artist Edward Kienholz settled on a space behind an antiques shop on La Cienega Boulevard and dedicated it to showing new work by local artists. Los Angeles at this time did not lack artists. Indeed, with Chouinard, Otis, and Art Center gathered around MacArthur Park, one relatively strong art system in the area was the schools. There was avant-garde activity, much of it in small venues (surf shacks, cafes), studios, and private spaces. From the beginning, the Ferus group played an important role in this insular, creative, and forward-looking scene. Ties were strong to the somewhat arcane and much more literary San Francisco Beat culture, and sales were not a priority; showing and fellowship were.

Enter Irving Blum, an ex-GI who had worked for Knoll in New York choosing modern paintings for its corporate interiors. Having concluded that he wanted to sell art, he decided “that to do a gallery in California might be a provocative thing” and traveled West. In 1958, after assessing the local scene, he took over Kienholz’s stake in Ferus. He and Hopps decided the gallery was “too primitive as it was,” so Blum moved the gallery out from its hideaway and into a pristine white space with street frontage. He culled the stable and consciously sought to give the gallery national exposure. “The other aspect that Walter had never attempted that I brought to bear was a decision within a year’s time that I wanted the gallery to take on not so much a California aspect. […] I wanted it to be considered in a larger way. And I thought that the only way I could achieve that would be to bring in people from back East.”

Blum refined his ideas over the next few years; as he put it, “I had to hit on a formula.” He was canny, finding “three or four people […] in the late fifties and early sixties” to tell him which artists to visit in New York. Bill Seitz, Dick Bellamy, Ivan Karp, and Henry Geldzahler were men on the list, figures in the New York gallery and museum world who knew the changing trends and would have been able to steer Blum to younger painters.

About the same time Blum and Hopps were making over Ferus, another easterner established a gallery of contemporary art in Santa Monica. Everett Ellin was born in 1928 in Chicago. When he showed up in California, he had degrees in engineering (University of Michigan) and law (Harvard) and had served during the Korean War. He clerked for a California Supreme Court justice and then worked at Paramount and the William Morris agency. His Los Angeles art project started naturally enough through his girlfriend, the painter Joan Jacobs. She and her friends needed somebody to write contracts, and after he agreed, they urged Ellin to start a gallery. He opened in 1958 in Santa Monica, where he showed Jacobs and several other California artists.

Ellin took easily to dealing but, apparently knowing something of American art, was immediately drawn to New York. “Dying of curiosity to see the whole Abstract Expressionist environment in action,” he went to the city and made the rounds. In what was, by Ellin’s account, a lucky accident, dealer Sam Kootz told Ellin about a gallery job at French and Company, a blue-chip antiques business founded at the beginning of the century that was opening a contemporary art section. Kootz arranged an interview.

The eye behind the contemporary program at French and Company was Clement Greenberg, America’s most famous art critic. Clem, as he was known to his friends, needed money badly. However, at a time when the distinction between the commercial and intellectual was deadly serious, to the intellectual at least, he insisted that the gallery have a director to handle the details of selling so that he might maintain “his image as a connoisseur […] visionary .[…] and critic.” 14 After a quick interview, Ellin got the job.

The gallery, with a roster of New York’s most famous painters and a magnificent skylighted space, was extremely high-powered, as Ellin discovered. “I met all the collectors. I met all the museum people. I met the critics. I just dealt with everybody. Clem didn’t want to do any of that. And I had tremendous exposure because everybody came to David Smith [a retrospective at French and Company]. […] The attendance was unbelievable, and it didn’t stop for the entire run of the show. It was that way every day, and all the directors, all the museum directors, came and I got to meet them.” 15 More intangible but just as important, the methodical Ellin was exposed to New York’s gallery world at a very high level of commercial sophistication and intellectual ambition. Unfortunately, luxe decor and prestigious shows could hide the gallery’s shaky finances for only so long, and the contemporary section at French and Company folded in less than a year. 16 Ellin decided to open another gallery in Los Angeles. This time, he wanted to set himself apart from the galleries that were beginning to cluster on La Cienega, where Ferus had its new space, and he located on the Sunset Strip instead.

An exhibition announcement for the Everett Ellin Gallery’s inaugural exhibition, 1960. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Predictably, after his stint as Clem Greenberg’s protégé, Ellin created a program that explicitly stood on his “admiration for the New York School.” From September 1962 through December 1963, building on his experience at French and Company and intentionally carrying on his work there, he put on what he called ‘“museum-grade’” shows. These ambitious exhibitions included recent, historical, and earlier postwar works of very high—read New York—quality, often borrowed from dealers in the city.

The first was a drawing show that included work by one California artist, Frank Lobdell, among more famous painters from the East. Next, he opened a version of the large David Smith show he’d organized at French and Company, which had gotten great reviews during the New York run. Smith came out for the opening. In a Los Angeles Times interview, he talked art, giving readers serious, articulate intellectualizing delivered in classic Ab Ex style. He embraced abstraction, for example, but he told the Times there was room for “images of recognition […] as long as they are masterfully expressed.” To Smith, “Conviction,” as the headline read, was “all that counts.”

Ellin followed up the Smith exhibition with an eclectic program that reflected the variety of New York sources he relied on. He showed earlier modernists like Arp and several Dadaists, Helen Frankenthaler, Arshile Gorky, Jack Youngerman, and Jasper Johns. He also showed a few West Coast artists, including Joan Jacobs (by then his wife, who was much encouraged and admired by David Smith).

In March 1962, apparently at the request of dealer Virginia Dwan, Ellin exhibited work by Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint-Phalle. As part of this show, Saint-Phalle staged her first American Action de Tir in an alley off the Sunset Strip near Ellin’s gallery, a performance in which she, aided by Tinguely and Kienholz, shot paint at a target 6 meters away. Saint-Phalle’s revolutionary act, which we now recognize as a harbinger of a new art world, at the time drew only short mention in the local press. Nor does it seem to have made much of an impression on Ellin; he never talked about it in later interviews and did not include it in the meticulous chronology he prepared to go with his papers when they were donated to the Smithsonian.

Ellin worked hard to project the sense of artistic conviction he had soaked up during his brief time on Madison Avenue, and his shows reflected the quality and variety of his connections. But whether they focused on Abstract Expressionist or avant-garde artists, Ellin’s elegant, serious shows did not make money. The central problem was that Los Angeles lacked the kind of customers he needed: men and women with some knowledge and, perhaps more important, confidence, whom he could develop as collectors. “I couldn’t really plan to continue doing the kind of shows I was doing. And it was really hard for me to think of having a gallery that did less […] once I set those standards and got into that groove and I could get any material I wanted.

“Everybody from New York thought that they were going to be getting Los Angeles collectors, and, you know, they did. The collectors in Los Angeles would learn from me and buy in New York.” He carried on through the end of 1963, when once again he got a great job in New York by accident. This time, he worked briefly for the Marlborough Gallery and its founder, Frank Lloyd. Next, he worked for the Guggenheim Museum, and finally, he organized, piloted, and led the Museum Computer Network, the first effort to systematize museum information in database form, the achievement for which Ellin remains most famous.

For a while there in the early sixties, it looked like a real solid art scene was developing in California. Even Henry Geldzahler [of the Metropolitan Museum] felt he had to make a trip once a year to check on what was happening. But there weren’t enough dealers there and the museums weren’t active enough, and the people just weren’t buying art—they were satisfied looking at the scenery, I guess. —Andy Warhol

In his 2004 interview, Ellin talked a little about his colleagues in Los Angeles and tried to explain why the art world in Los Angeles fell short. “Paul Kantor […] had a very elegant practice selling high-priced 20th-century pictures,” he said, “and Frank Perls had been around a long time.” However, it seemed to Ellin that “quite a few [LA] galleries […] were just making the motions. […] They didn’t have a particular message. They were doing all right, but there was so little there. We were not producing the collectors because we didn’t have the good stuff in Los Angeles.”

Ellin’s remark betrays his very specific point of view—that of a non-Angeleno engineer turned art dealer with a JD law degree from Harvard and values that he’d absorbed from his mentor Greenberg, Abstract Expressionist artist friends, and his immersion course in the conventions of Madison Avenue art-world theater. It also nicely sums up the deficiencies of the art world in Los Angeles at this time, as judged by people with experience of the East Coast art world and strong ideas of what constituted a serious art scene. To these men (most of them were men), the Los Angeles art world lacked the necessary ecology in the practical sense. Beyond that, over and over, like Ellin, they offered another, more free-floating criticism: Art culture in Los Angeles lacked the right attitude. Since the 1940s, Clem Greenberg, as he became the dominating presence on the American art scene, argued for the historical inevitability of abstraction and the imperative to advance modernism. Polemical and extremely aggressive—he now can seem like a figure from Cold War central casting, as do many of the artists in his ambit—Greenberg set the terms in which American painting was discussed and sometimes made. The sectors that made up the art world in these years must have felt Greenberg’s influence in slightly different ways, but they all felt it. By the late 1950s, for instance, artists all over the country were forcefully aware of Greenberg’s ambitious ideas, perhaps through reading or from exhibitions, teachers, or fellow painters. Imposed with absolute authority, these must have seemed bewilderingly large to many artists as they worked in their studios, but whether you loved or hated them, by the late fifties and into the sixties, even in distant Los Angeles, they were known by all to be art’s orthodoxy. As his friend and protégé David Smith told the Los Angeles Times, conviction was what mattered in your art. During the years that Greenberg championed postwar American painting so effectively, the expectation of intensity and aggressive self-assertion was extended to how artists behave. For dealers and collectors, especially in Los Angeles, the interplay of action and the imaginary was more complex.

To sell art, dealers often depend on—indeed create—a subtle atmosphere of associations. Projecting visually and with words ideas or traditions or tastes, the seller of art evokes a powerful set of images for buyers. This work does not depart fundamentally from what someone selling clothes does: To make a sale, dealers may affirm, charm, cajole, or directly manipulate a customer. With art as with clothes, any number of collective signifiers and individual tendencies can be in play.

As I’ve said, in Los Angeles at this time, everyone interested in contemporary art understood the dominant signifiers that had largely developed in New York. To, as Blum put it, “be considered in a larger way,” artists were expected to express the requisite sense of mission with intensity, self-confidence, and sense of consequence that Greenberg preached. To sell, dealers would as a matter of course project the same kind of associations to convince collectors to buy. For the Blums and Ellins, the intractable problem was that the larger world of Los Angeles—the world with the money—did not yet understand what insiders knew so well.

Compounding the problem in the city was the fact that both Ellin and Blum were operating at a time of major transition in the American art world. Andy Warhol described this new phase as the “late post–Abstract Expressionist days […] right before Pop,” a time in which young artists of many different tendencies were challenging Abstract Expressionism’s domination. Warhol gives hilarious descriptions of the surprisingly intense confrontations between older and younger New York in the very early 1960s. His funny and clear observations make you wonder, too, how the shift away from Abstract Expressionism played out in Los Angeles, a city full of imaginative artists and lacking in educated collectors, with the dealers in between.

During their years in the California market, Irving Blum and Everett Ellin each responded in a different way to the considerable problems of selling art in Los Angeles at this moment. The stolid Ellin looked backward and East: Most of the art he showed, borrowed from New York dealers, satisfied Greenbergian standards of artistic inquiry and the aspiration to be taken seriously. To convince and persuade the very few potential buyers, he simply reproduced the practices he’d learned on Madison Avenue. And he failed.

Blum was more flexible and forward-looking. He knew that Ferus needed added credibility to avoid being seen as a provincial gallery. As he put it, “I just didn’t want the stigma. My ambitions were greater than that.” So he tacked and trimmed nimbly to reposition the gallery, adapting what Ferus already had, moving to a redesigned white-box space on the street, purging the Beatnik-hipster aesthetic that had been influential at the gallery. Central to his plan of reinvention was to show New York as well as Los Angeles artists.

Interestingly, Blum projected the sense of serious purpose that was expected of a successful art gallery, but he didn’t actually change the program that much or diverge noticeably from what art institutions in the city were also doing at the time. Like Ellin, he drew on the advice of New York dealers, but I think the thing that set him apart was that he clearly perceived the shift in the art world, and Ellin did not. So, if Blum’s changes were not as radical as they appear in hindsight, and if he, like Ellin, eventually abandoned the LA art world, why is his work at Ferus Gallery remembered as a watershed of art culture in Los Angeles?

L: Poster for Ferus Gallery’s The Studs exhibition, Los Angeles, 1964. Courtesy of Hal Glicksman. R: Ferus Gallery (Billy Al Bengston, Allen Lynch, Robert Irwin, Craig Kauffman, John Altoon, Ed Kienholz, and Ed Moses, Los Angeles, 1958. Photo: Patricia Faure.

Irving Blum was not a great innovator; it’s probably more precise to call him a clever opportunist. Guided by his New York dealer acquaintance and with better instincts, he was more perceptive than Ellin about what was going on in American art. He took advice from knowledgeable people, as the story of how he came to show Warhol illustrates. In the early sixties, Warhol—who at the time was putting images from comics in his pictures—was trying to find a dealer in New York. Around 1961, Ivan Karp brought Blum to Warhol’s studio. Shown a Superman on canvas, Blum (perhaps still used to looking at Abstract Expressionist–style paintings) laughed. By the following year, though, everything had changed. Leo Castelli—who, by the way, was just developing his eventually metamorphic ideas about marketing contemporary American art —had just taken on Lichtenstein, and after a second visit, Blum offered Warhol a show, the artist’s first commercial exhibition.

Blum was also quicker to notice the ties developing between media (slicks or movies or television news), fashion, and contemporary art. Catching the new tilt toward irony, he played with representations of artists—in photographs, advertisements, and gallery ephemera—to promote Ferus and its stable. During the early Cold War era, the Abstract Expressionists had profited to some extent from media image-making. Blum (and his cronies) knowingly sent up the kind of photographs of intense brooding artists that had become familiar in the previous couple of decades.

And so it was that Ferus gave us, tongue-in-cheek, “The Studs” and other images of hypermacho artists presented with a California spin. This new photographic convention—made up of so many familiar, indeed evergreen, icons of Los Angeles art of this period—came right out of the battle against the Abstract Expressionists, whose “toughness,” as Warhol called it, went with their “agonized, anguished art.”

In the end, neither dealer stayed in business. Blum is often singled out as the man whose gallery started it all, and his time at Ferus also left a set of memorable, and still effective, images. He figured out a way to make his gallery appear more convincingly to be part of the bigger national world of images. During his tenure, the collectors he needed to survive were not convinced by his projections, but he had made a start at the beginning of a decade in which, finally, the Los Angeles art world started to catch up, as Andy Warhol later said.

Thanks to Basil Katz

February 21st, 2014
steven baldi

sb book

Please join us this Sunday afternoon to celebrate the release of artist Steven Baldi’s new book Documentation,
designed by Harsh Patel and published by Gottlund Verlag.
Documentation is a catalog of Steven Baldi’s 2012 exhibition at Thomas Duncan Gallery. The publication is an in-depth look at the role photography has on exhibition perception.
Featuring photographs of the works in the exhibition, as well as installation images of the changing sculptural configurations and a conversation between the artist and Matt Sheridan Smith.

Bob’s coffee and donuts will be served.

Steven Baldi Documentation signing and release
Sunday February 23, 3–5pm.
South Willard
8038 W. 3rd St.
LA, CA 90048

February 19th, 2014
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