Volunteers at Hahamonga sow support for native plants


Nicholas Hernandez, a nursery manager with the Pasadena conservation group Arrroyo Seco Foundation, gives a tour on Monday of a new native plant nursery containing some 3,200 plants native to Southern California. Created through a partnership with Pasadena Water and Power, the nursery aims to help restore native habitats and educate locals about the many benefits of using native species in home gardens and yards. (Photo by Sara Cardine)

By Sara Cardine
Los Angeles Times Published: October 23, 2015

Deep inside Hahamongna Watershed Park, local conservationists have built a cooperative plant nursery they hope will educate citizens about the benefits of going native and eventually provide a horticultural lifeline to the ecologically threatened Arroyo Seco Canyon.

Members of the Arroyo Seco Foundation, working with Pasadena Water and Power, have leased through December a portion of the park’s property from the city of Pasadena to resurrect a long-defunct nursery space for the cultivation of plant species gathered directly from the canyon and surrounding foothills area.

Foundation members and volunteers have so far propagated more than 3,200 plants representing nearly 80 local species. Nursery manager Nicholas Hernandez, a man of Southern California tribal descent who also goes by the name Nicholas Hummingbird, collects most of the seeds and clippings from his walks through the area.

“We want to be a resource not only for the Arroyo Seco, but for the community at large,” Hernandez said. “It’s imperative we all come together and learn the importance of our native plants.”

During a recent tour of the property, Hernandez showcased local herb, flower and tree specimens and discussed the many advantages local plants can bring to a yard or home garden.

Black sage (salvia mellifera), for example, adds a spicy flavor to foods but also attracts bees while repelling harmful insects. Put into a tea, it reputedly fights colds. Soaked into a compress, it is said to ease arthritis and muscle aches. Another native, a California lavender, attracts more local pollinators than the French variety sold in stores and planted by homeowners.

Nearby, a small potted Engelmann oak, (Quercus engelmannii, also called the Pasadena oak), represents a species native to Southern California but nearly extinct.

“They used to abound here, inside the park even, but now there’s only a handful of them left,” Hernandez said, explaining how garden centers and grocery store offerings, along with aesthetic preference, disproportionately affect the natural selection of plants.

Building the nursery is one component of a much larger effort to restore local water collection and ecosystems unique to the area, according to Tim Brick, the foundation’s executive director.

In 2011, the foundation secured a $3.3-million grant through the state’s Integrated Regional Water Management Program to expand Pasadena’s water intake capabilities and improve environmental conditions for local fish and wildlife.

PWP raised another $8 million, and together the two groups created the Arroyo Seco Canyon Project, a multiyear environmental improvement effort. The water agency assumed management of the project, allowing the foundation to head outreach, planning and habitat restoration efforts, including the nursery, Brick said.

Although a lawsuit filed by an out-of-state resident over parts of the project has temporarily halted progress, Brick hopes the nursery can continue to cultivate local species and involve locals in the effort to restore native plants to a position of prominence.

“We want to really turn it into a long-term lease, because we really think this is a valuable asset for the future,” Brick said. “People are really excited about the possibilities, so we’re going to try to keep it going one way or another.”

With a free workshop from Hernandez on native grasses planned for Sunday morning from 9 to 11 a.m., as well as a Nov. 1 “Twilight at Hahamongna” open-house celebration from 4 to 7 p.m., foundation members are hoping to spread the word about the Arroyo Seco Canyon Project and the importance of cultivating native species at home.

“Our goal is to try and restore the park into a healthy ecosystem. When the time comes, we’re going to need as many La Cañadans as we can to make this a reality,” Hernandez said.

For directions to the nursery in Hahamongna Park, visit, arroyoseco.org http://www.arroyoseco.org/index.htm, or call (323) 405-7326.

Thanks to Kathleen Johnson

October 26th, 2015
richard hawkins

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October 24 – December 12, 2015

Richard Telles


October 24th, 2015
Selling Off Apache Holy Land

By Lydia Millet
NY Times Published: MAY 29, 2015

ABOUT an hour east of Phoenix, near a mining town called Superior, men, women and children of the San Carlos Apache tribe have been camped out at a place called Oak Flat for more than three months, protesting the latest assault on their culture.

Three hundred people, mostly Apache, marched 44 miles from tribal headquarters to begin this occupation on Feb. 9. The campground lies at the core of an ancient Apache holy place, where coming-of-age ceremonies, especially for girls, have been performed for many generations, along with traditional acorn gathering. It belongs to the public, under the multiple-use mandate of the Forest Service, and has had special protections since 1955, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower decreed the area closed to mining — which, like cattle grazing, is otherwise common in national forests — because of its cultural and natural value. President Richard M. Nixon’s Interior Department in 1971 renewed this ban.

Despite these protections, in December 2014, Congress promised to hand the title for Oak Flat over to a private, Australian-British mining concern. A fine-print rider trading away the Indian holy land was added at the last minute to the must-pass military spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Act. By doing this, Congress has handed over a sacred Native American site to a foreign-owned company for what may be the first time in our nation’s history.

The Apache are occupying Oak Flat to protest this action — to them, a sacrilegious and craven sell-off of a place “where Apaches go to pray,” in the words of the San Carlos Apache tribal chairman, Terry Rambler. The site will doubtless be destroyed for any purpose other than mining; Resolution Copper Mining will hollow out a vast chamber that, when it caves in, will leave a two-mile-wide, 1,000-foot-deep pit. The company itself has likened the result of its planned mining at Oak Flat to that of a nearby meteor crater.

The land grab was sneakily anti-democratic even by congressional standards. For more than a decade, the parcel containing Oak Flat has been coveted by Rio Tinto, Resolution’s parent company — which already mines on its own private land in the surrounding area — for the high-value ores beneath it.

The swap — which will trade 5,300 acres of private parcels owned by the company to the Forest Service and give 2,400 acres including Oak Flat to Resolution so that it can mine the land without oversight — had been attempted multiple times by Arizona members of Congress on behalf of the company. (Among those involved was Rick Renzi, a former Republican representative who was sent to federal prison in February for three years for corruption related to earlier versions of the land-transfer deal.) It always failed in Congress because of lack of support. But this time was different. This time, the giveaway language was slipped onto the defense bill by Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona at the 11th hour. The tactic was successful only because, like most last-minute riders, it bypassed public scrutiny.

It’s worth noting that Rio Tinto affiliates have been McCain campaign contributors, and that Mr. Flake, before he made it to Congress, was a paid lobbyist for Rio Tinto Rössing Uranium (a huge uranium mine in Namibia). Mr. McCain and others assert that the mining project will be a boost to the local economy, though it’s unclear how many of the 1,400 promised jobs would be local; a Superior-area miners’ group, in fact, opposes the swap on the basis that it won’t help the local people or economy. Rio Tinto, incidentally, has been called out in the past for environmental devastation.

“Why is this place sacred?” said Wendsler Nosie Sr., a former chairman of the San Carlos Apache, in a recent interview with Cronkite News. “No difference to Mount Sinai. How the holy spirit came to be.” If you don’t want to take his word for it, the archaeological record at Oak Flat contains abundant evidence that the Apache have been here “since well before recorded history,” according to congressional testimony by the Society for American Archaeology.

If Oak Flat were a Christian holy site, or for that matter Jewish or Muslim, no senator who wished to remain in office would dare to sneak a backdoor deal for its destruction into a spending bill — no matter what mining-company profits or jobs might result. But this is Indian religion. Clearly the Arizona congressional delegation isn’t afraid of a couple of million conquered natives.

The truth is that for Mr. McCain, Mr. Flake and others who would allow this precious public land to be destroyed, it’s not only the Indians who are invisible. The rest of us are also ghosts, remnants of a quaint idea of democracy.

Oak Flat may still be saved, albeit with difficulty, since the bill’s language stipulates quite simply that 60 days after the federal “environmental impact statement” is complete, the land will belong to Resolution — in other words, that the swap will occur no matter what the environmental study says. But, like all laws and pieces of laws, it can be reversed by new legislative language.

The deal is an impressive new low in congressional corruption, unworthy of our country’s ideals no matter what side of the aisle you’re on. It’s exactly the kind of cynical maneuvering that has taught the electorate to disrespect politicians — a disdain for government that hurts everyone. If ever there was a time for Congress to prove its moral mettle to the public, this is that time. The rider should be repealed

Thanks to Dewey Nelson

October 22nd, 2015
Kathleen Johnson


Kathleen Johnson: Brainchild Part 3

Composer Mark So

Sunday, October 25th, 2015
Doors open 7:30, piece begins promptly at 8:00 pm

Dominique Cox as Brainchild
Julie Brody
Kate Brown
Mari Garrett
Gabie Strong

Costumes by Kelly Marie Conder

Initiated in 2008, Brainchild is the artist Kathleen Johnson’s nine-part, multi-year fiction and sound project. For each successive part of the sci-fi story, she collaborates with a guest composer who creates a choral work for performance. Johnson’s narrative follows a girl, Brainchild, who discovers the abandoned structures of an ancient civilization, and slowly begins to understand her own strange connection to its builders. Finding musicality within the language of the Brainchild text itself, composer Mark So has created a score for Part 3 comprised solely of the words on the page, arranged and notated into open fields, dense clusters, and single lines to produce what So calls a “native” reading. Part 3 premiered at HDTS at the Mars Desert Research Station, a Mars analog site where Johnson was in residence in 2004 to study the landscape and its use in preparing for life on Mars.

7000 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
O: 323.871.4140
F: 323.871.4226

October 22nd, 2015


October 19th, 2015
Jonas Mekas Refuses to Fade

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At 92, the filmmaker shows no sign of slowing
down. Why do people like him flourish in old age?

NY Times Published: OCT. 16, 2015

Jonas Mekas took his first photograph at age 17, when Soviet tanks rolled into his village in Lithuania. He immigrated to New York when he was almost 27, made his first autobiographical film at 46, started his website at 83 and, at 92, presided over a gigantic installation of his work at a Burger King in Venice, during this summer’s Biennale. A few weeks ago, at a party in the East Village, Mr. Mekas assessed his life as a subject.

“I’m so boring,” he said. “Nothing dramatic happens — no hospitals or surgeries. I have nothing interesting to report.”

Mr. Mekas, who will turn 93 on Christmas Eve, is one of six New Yorkers over the age of 85 that I have been following since the beginning of the year.

Their stories have been unpredictable and event-filled over that time. But none has moved as puckishly as his.

On a Saturday afternoon in March, for instance, it involved a descent into a Greenwich Village jazz club, the Zinc Bar, where Mr. Mekas held court at a table of student opera singers visiting from Lithuania. He had come to read from an unpublished novella called “Requiem for a Manual Typewriter,” about the bewildering prospect of trying to decide what to write about. Like most of his work, it took the shape of a diary and spoke in a voice of wonder. “Have you ever thought about how amazing, really amazing, life is?” Mr. Mekas read on stage, to laughter from a full house.

Later, at the table, Mr. Mekas and the teenage opera students were joined by two New York writers in their 70s, Lynne Tillman and Amy Taubin, whose careers he had supported — a typical scattering of ages and backgrounds, with Mr. Mekas at the center, a generation older than the next in line.

“All my friends, when I say I’m going to New York, they say, are you going to meet Jonas Mekas?” said Bernardas Garbaciauskas, 17, a baritone. “Many young people find him inspiring. What Jonas Mekas was doing years ago with his film diaries, Instagram and Facebook are doing now. Jonas Mekas is the future.”

What makes some people seem to stop living in old age, and others to hum along with no visible loss of energy? Karl Pillemer, a gerontologist at Cornell University who specializes in life span development, calls this “the most extraordinary question. Why do people turn out this way? I don’t think we have an answer. Of what we do know, some is exactly what you’d think, and some is surprising.”

Each of the other five people interviewed for the series struggles with physical challenges: failing knees or eyes, poor circulation, sore joints, spells of loneliness. Two are all but housebound, one lives in a nursing home, the other two in buildings for older adults, with various levels of care.

Mr. Mekas, by comparison, lives like someone much younger.

This year alone, besides the Biennale installation, he is completing work on two books, sorting through several unfinished films, compiling his materials on Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground for an exhibition in Paris, continuing to post video diaries on his website and trying to raise $6 million to build a cafe and library at Anthology Film Archives, the financially struggling nonprofit institution he helped start in 1970. In between, there have been readings to give, openings and screenings to attend, new friends to meet, old ones to revisit, preferably over wine.

“He’s the reason I’m energetic,” said Phong Bui, 50, who publishes a free arts magazine called the Brooklyn Rail, and has become a part of Mr. Mekas’s universe. “We have found a way to feed off other people’s energies as well, by being somewhat selfless. We both love being in the center of the tornado. When you’re in the center you’re not touched.”

Mr. Mekas, when asked what kept him going, pointed to disruptions in his youth — first when the Soviets occupied Lithuania in 1940, then when he was interned in a Nazi forced labor camp, then his five years in displaced persons camps in Germany after the war. A sickly child, he surprised neighbors by surviving even that long.

“When I landed in New York I was 27,” he said, bending the chronology slightly, “but since I had missed so much I decided to remain 27, you see, because there was so much to catch up, and I am still trying to catch up.”

His life, he said, was a series of good breaks:

“People say, ‘Oh, it’s so sad through what you had to go.’ No, I’m happy that I was uprooted, because I was dropped in New York in the most exciting period, when all the classical arts had reached culmination, like Balanchine and Martha Graham, and something else was coming in. I caught Marlon Brando and Tennessee Williams and Miller; I saw the end of the old when I came in ’49, and I saw the beginning of the new, John Cage and Buckminster Fuller and the Living Theater and the Beat Generation. And I was a sponge for all of it.”

Another day, he said, “I trace everything to my childhood on a farm.”

A film strip by Mr. Mekas showing John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Credit Jonas Mekas
Anyone who has spent much time around older people has noticed that those who are more engaged with the world tend to be more resilient to the changes that come with age. Little is known about the biological mechanisms at work inside the brain. Do good health and sharp wits lead people to be more purposeful and engaged? Or does purpose work at a cellular level to make the brain and body resistant to the woes of old age?

“This hasn’t gotten a lot of focus in the scientific literature,” said Patricia Boyle, a neuropsychologist and researcher at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, a part of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “We focus on disease, on what predicts bad outcomes. We need to understand what predicts human flourishing. They’re not flip sides of the same coin.”

In a long-term survey of more than 1,400 older people, Dr. Boyle and a research team observed what others in the field had noted: that people who felt their life had a goal or purpose showed lower rates of memory loss and other diseases associated with old age.

The researchers wanted to know why.

They examined the brain tissues of 246 people who died during the study. The autopsy results, reported in Archives of General Psychiatry, were striking. The brains of people who had very different levels of cognitive decline often showed similar levels of damage from Alzheimer’s — what neurologists call “plaques” and “tangles” in the brain circuitry. The brains that functioned better, it turned out, belonged to people who in surveys had indicated more purpose in life.

Dr. Boyle proposed a concept of “reserve,” borrowed from physiology. Most systems in our bodies are able to sustain some level of damage before they start to malfunction. Having a purpose in life may not slow the formation of plaques and tangles, but it appears to increase the reserve that the brains can call on before they start to break down, perhaps by spurring other healthy brain connections that compensate for the decline.

The stronger the purpose, the more it added to the reserve.

The results held up even after the researchers controlled for differences in exercise levels, education and other factors.

Dr. Boyle said the results were just a first step toward understanding why some people aged differently, but that their implications were vast. People’s sense of purpose, she said, “is something we can change.”

“Part of it is getting people to sit down and say, ‘What do I want my life to look like at the end of the day?’” she said. “‘What do I want my mark to be?’ ”

For Mr. Mekas, this has never been an issue.

Mr. Mekas in New York, circa 1955. Credit Gideon Bachmann
On a recent afternoon in his Brooklyn loft, where he lives with his son, Sebastian, 33, he talked about what motivated him to keep making art. On the wall was a handwritten mission statement he created for the designer Agnès B., a friend: “Keep dancing. Keep singing. Have a good drink and do not get too serious.”

“Something is in you that propels you,” he said. “It’s part of your very essence, what you are. Like, go back to Greeks and muses. How they explained that, the muse enters you at birth or later, and you have no choice. It becomes part of you. You just have to do it.”

His hands shake slightly, and he started wearing glasses after laser surgery a few years ago, but otherwise he has made few concessions to age. If anything, he said, he has become more “obsessed” with his writing and filmmaking since he moved to Brooklyn from SoHo in 2005 (after he separated from his wife, Hollis Melton), because he has cut down on the time and energy he spent at Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan.

“I don’t feel like I’m working,” he said one day in his apartment, sorting through a binder of film frames for a project that was still taking shape. “It’s fun. And when I grew up on a farm we did not consider that we were working. We were just doing what had to be done that day. We had to plant certain things, to milk certain cows. The concept of workers came when the Soviets came in and organized the workers. Suddenly everybody was a worker. But we were not workers until then. So I’m continuing what I was doing when I was growing up: I’m just doing what has to be done.”

Mr. Mekas does not take vacations or weekends off — though he travels for his exhibitions — and does not begin his days with plans. Instead, he said, he wakes up without intention or worry. “I’m not seeking,” he said. “I’m not a thinking person, and I’m not planning. The best I could describe it is I make angels work.”

He has avoided what Dr. Pillemer of Cornell identifies as the debilitating factors of old age: physical or mental disability, extreme poverty and low levels of happiness or well-being earlier in life. In New York City, 58 percent of people age 85 and older say they have problems walking, and 31 percent say they have cognitive difficulty, according to an analysis of census data for The New York Times by Susan Weber-Stoger of Queens College. One in five say they have hearing problems and half say they have trouble living independently; 19 percent live in poverty.

Though Mr. Mekas cut back on drinking a few years ago, he still enjoys wine with friends. When he leaves the house he carries a pepperoni and some bread in case he gets hungry — and to share with friends, he said.

“I think he’s amused by his aging,” said the filmmaker Ken Jacobs, 82, a friend since the early 1960s. “He doesn’t hide his age. He wears a hat too much, but you can see he’s an old guy.”

In one way, Mr. Mekas has not been able to avoid the losses of old age. His youngest brother, Adolfas, died in 2011 at 85. In February, Mr. Mekas was given a Courage Award by his longtime friend Yoko Ono, 82, at a dinner at which he reminisced with another honoree, Ornette Coleman, who used to rehearse in Mr. Mekas’s loft. In July, Mr. Coleman died at age 85. If Mr. Mekas grieved, he did not do so in public. He had little to say after the death. What was there to say? Life went on.

“I’m not a very introspective person,” he said one day at the Anyway Cafe in the East Village, over pickled herring and beer. “When you come from a farmer’s background — village life — people live, they don’t analyze themselves. It’s more communal, more like being, living, communicating with friends, neighbors. I’m not analyzing myself, even if I’m being diaristic in video and writing. It’s self-centered, but if you read Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller, they’re very introspective and convoluted, but I’m not that type of person, so my diaries are not that personal.”

In an unpublished 2005 poem, Mr. Mekas encapsulates much of his attitude toward old age: “I worked all my life to become young / no, you can’t persuade me to get old / I will die twenty seven.”

A benefit of living so long, and of keeping good company, is that many of his belongings have become quite valuable. Mr. Mekas arrived in the United States in 1949 with only three bags of books and one set of clothes, but he has spent the time since acquiring. He paid most of his son’s college tuition bills by selling five posters from Andy Warhol’s film “My Hustler” for $10,000 each. For the last eight years he has lived on proceeds from his sale of materials from the 1960s “anti-art” Fluxus movement to a museum in Vilnius, Lithuania.

“But now it’s the end,” he said. “So now it’s complex. I know that the Smithsonian is buying a copy of ‘Walden’ ” — Mr. Mekas’s first autobiographical film — “so that will pay maybe a year’s rent.” In the last few months, he got notice that his rent would rise 12 percent and received an offer from a family-run foundation to cover the increase for the next three years. Still, he said, he will most likely have to move eventually.

“Since I landed in New York I always managed to survive,” he said. “Always something came. Angels are watching. If I can’t figure it out, angels will figure it out. I just do every day what I do.”

His angels are both metaphorical and literal. Mr. Mekas believes specifically in “other realities” containing “angels and fairies,” but also more broadly in forces aligned toward beauty and art, and he is determined to move among them.

“Consciously or unconsciously, I made a choice,” he said. “My time is limited, I choose art and beauty, vague as those terms are, against ugliness and horrors in which we live today. I feel my duty not to betray those poets, scientists, saints, singers, troubadours of the past centuries who did everything so that humanity would become more beautiful. I have to continue in my small way their work.” Detachment from these forces, he said, is what causes so many people to get old.

“What keeps him alive is that he is an enthusiast,” said Johan Kugelberg, 50, a curator and an owner of Boo-Hooray gallery, who is publishing a collection of Mr. Mekas’s writings and photographs called “Anecdotes, or a Dance With Fred Astaire.” He described Mr. Mekas as “the anti-Warhol, Obi-Wan Kenobi to Warhol’s Darth Vader. He is my hero because he never succumbs to the dark side. And neither will I, because of Jonas.”

In the meantime, Mr. Mekas surrounds himself with younger people and new art. On an October day, he enthused about having just seen a digital exhibition that was so new, he could not say whether it was good or bad, art or not art, but he knew he could never master the technology. It did not upset him; it excited him. “We’re at the beginning of many things,” he said.

In a 1974 essay, “On Happiness,” Mr. Mekas concludes with a meditation on a plate of grapes that might serve as his summary of his life. “This plate is my Paradise,” he wrote. “I don’t want anything else — no country house, no car, no dacha, no life insurance, no riches. It’s this plate of grapes that I want. It’s this plate of grapes that makes me really happy. To eat my grapes and enjoy them and want nothing else — that is happiness, that’s what makes me happy.”

October 17th, 2015



Adams and Ollman

October 16th, 2015
Karl Wirsum

Karl Wirsum, China Clown, Jimmy Jones Brother Jack, Jimmy Jones Junior, and Tree Son, c. 1973-1974, acrylic, papier-mâché, light fixtures, soldering iron, and fabric, dimensions variable


Karl Wirsum, The Hard Way: Selections from the 1970s
Organized with Dan Nadel

Through Saturday, October 17, 2015

Derek Eller

October 15th, 2015
Searching for Sam Gilliam: the 81-year-old art genius saved from oblivion

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Swing Sketch, 1968, one of Sam Gilliam’s innovative ‘drape’ paintings
In the 1960s, he was hailed as an artist as radical as Jackson Pollock – but the art world somehow forgot Sam Gilliam. Here’s how two savvy fans tracked him down and brought him back into the spotlight

By William Fowler
The Guardian Published: 15 October 2015

Three years ago, Sam Gilliam was living in obscurity and his money was running out. He was nearing 80, his health was bad and he had no pension. But there was one thing he still had, one thing he had never given up on: the studio near his apartment in Washington DC.

In the 1960s and 70s, Gilliam was known for his “drape paintings” – huge, colourful canvases torn from their surrounds then knotted and swagged into sculptures. He was considered one of abstract art’s great innovators, one of the first painters to break the frame. Critics at the time described his work as “magisterial”, “enormously important” and “one of those watermarks by which the art community measures its evolution”. He had shows at the Whitney in 1969, MoMA in 71 and the American Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 72. But he hadn’t had a major exhibition or representation for years, and was cut off from the art market.

Little did he know that, as he struggled to hold on, wheels were in motion to restore his reputation. The story of his extraordinary comeback culminates this week with a show of his work at Frieze Masters in London, rubber-stamping his credentials as a living master. But it starts in LA, where two young men were drinking heavily one night.

One was David Kordanksy, a gallerist with a taste for artists who are off the radar. The other was Rashid Johnson, an artist known for tackling the role of race in US culture. Kordansky was trying to woo Johnson to his gallery, and the two were sniffing each other out, namechecking artists they loved. At one point, the conversation turned to 1970s abstract artists – and it emerged that the pair were both enormous fans of Gilliam. “I’ve always loved geeking out over artists who have been ‘decentralised’,” says Kordansky.

Why was no one paying attention to this artist whose innovations, they thought, were on a par with Jackson Pollock’s paint-pouring? They believed Gilliam had being written out of art history because he was a black artist whose work, paradoxically, didn’t look black enough. It made him hard to classify. Not to mention the fact that his palette – all acid greens and hot pinks – seemed so ahead of its time.

“I knew he was still out there,” says Johnson. “But it wasn’t until David talked about curating a show of his work that I thought, wow, I might actually get the chance to meet the man.”

Their first attempt to make contact was rebuffed, but on their second, they were invited into Gilliam’s studio. There they found not just the painter himself, but a whole body of work the world had never seen: pieces that preceded the drape paintings. In fact, they were their jumping-off point, with bright colours, taped lines and bevel-edged canvases.

“We were both like, ‘Whoa! What are these?’” says Kordansky. “And ‘Have you got any more of them?’” adds Johnson.

It was clear these paintings could form the basis of an entire exhibition. But when the two men suggested this, Gilliam began to weep. “I actually thought he was laughing at us,” says Kordansky. “Like, ‘you little burgermeisters, coming into my studio, thinking I would let you do anything with my work’. Then it turned out he was crying.’

“It was like a light in a dark place,” the artist tells me. “I did cry – at the idea that I might make some money and guarantee myself a future. It really caught me off guard.”

That first show in LA was a huge success. Not only did Gilliam sell nearly all of his early paintings, but over the coming years Kordansky placed many of them with major institutions like MoMA. “Sam stayed constant – it was the world that turned,” says Laura Hoptman, MoMA’s curator for painting and sculpture. “Finally, he popped back into focus.”

“Even when artists of colour are embraced by the canon,” says Johnson, “there is often a strict focus on a particular moment, rather than their career as a whole.” His goal now is “for people to gain the same familiarity with Gilliam that we have with Matisse or Picasso”.

Whenever Gilliam’s work is shown at Kordansky gallery, people say: “‘Who’s this exciting young Brooklyn painter?’ They’re stunned when they find out he’s 81 and living in Washington surrounded by his family.”

Being rediscovered has brought about one further change in Gilliam. “I’m painting again,” he says. “I feel like I’m starting all over. I feel like I’m just beginning.”

Thanks to Jonathan Maghen

October 15th, 2015


OCTOBER 13 – DECEMBER 19, 2015

Gagosian London

October 13th, 2015

Thanks to Gillian Garcia

October 13th, 2015
Native Lives Matter, Too

NY Times Published: OCT. 13, 2015
By Lydia Millet

IN August 2010 John T. Williams, a homeless woodcarver of the Nuu-chah-nulth tribe who made his living selling his work near the Pike Place market in Seattle, was shot four times by a police officer within seconds of failing to drop the knife and piece of cedar he was carrying (Mr. Williams had mental health problems and was deaf in one ear). He died; the folding knife was found closed on the ground. The young police officer who shot Mr. Williams resigned, but he never faced criminal charges, even though the Seattle Police Department’s Firearms Review Board called the shooting unjustified.

In South Dakota in 2013, a police officer used his Taser to shock an 8-year-old, 70-pound Rosebud Sioux girl holding a knife; the force of the shock hurled her against a wall. After an investigation, the officer’s actions were deemed appropriate.

That same year 18-year-old Mah-hi-vist (Red Bird) Goodblanket of the Cheyenne-Arapaho tribes was killed by the police in his parents’ home in Oklahoma just before Christmas. They’d called 911 because their son was having a violent episode after a misunderstanding with his girlfriend. Before the police entered their home Red Bird’s father begged them, “Please, don’t shoot my son.” A few minutes later, the parents would count seven bullet holes in their son’s body — one in the back of his head. The exact narrative of the incident, which fittingly took place in Custer County, is in dispute.

In November 2014, also in Oklahoma, Christina Tahhahwah of the Comanche tribe died under suspicious circumstances while in police custody. Fellow inmates claim that jail guards shocked her with a Taser for refusing to stop singing Comanche hymns.

In December 2014, one day after attending a #NativeLivesMatter rally against police violence, Allen Locke, a 30-year-old Lakota man, was shot dead by the police in South Dakota. Mr. Locke had been holding a steak knife at the time he was hit by up to five bullets; the shooting was deemed justified a month later.

Most recently, in July, a 24-year-old Lakota mother of two named Sarah Lee Circle Bear died in a South Dakota jail of a methamphetamine overdose. Her death, which involved a two-hour time lapse between the first signs of physical distress and her transport to a hospital, got almost no national media attention.

All the victims were Native Americans, and they’re just a small sample of a systemic problem. American Indians are more likely than any other racial group to be killed by the police, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, which studied police killings from 1999 to 2011 (the rate was determined as a percentage of total population). But apart from media outlets like Indian Country Today, almost no attention is paid to this pattern of violence against already devastated peoples.

When it comes to American Indians, mainstream America suffers from willful blindness. Of all the episodes of police violence listed above, only the killings of Mr. Williams and Mr. Goodblanket received significant news coverage outside Indian circles, the latter only in an article for CNN.com by the Oglala Lakota journalist and activist Simon Moya-Smith. The Williams shooting, which was the subject of public outcry, was covered by a major local news site, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, as well as by The New York Times.

One reason for Indian invisibility in the media may be low numbers; Native Americans and Alaska Natives in the country now total about three million, or 5.2 million if you include mixed-race individuals, compared with about 45 million African-Americans. Perhaps equally important, their population densities off the reservation tend to be low. They have a small urban presence; New York, with about 112,000, and Los Angeles, with about 54,000, rank first and second among cities with American Indian populations. Phoenix, Oklahoma City and Anchorage come next. About one-fifth of American Indians still live on reservations.

Economic and health statistics, as well as police-violence statistics, shed light on the pressures on American Indian communities and individuals: Indian youths have the highest suicide rate of any United States ethnic group. Adolescent women have suicide rates four times the rate of white women in the same age group. Indians suffer from an infant mortality rate 60 percent higher than that of Caucasians, a 50 percent higher AIDS rate, and a rate of accidental death (including car crashes) more than twice that of the general population.

At the root of much of this is economic inequality: Indians are the poorest people in the United States, with a poverty rate in 2013 that was about twice the national average at 29.2 percent — meaning almost one in three Indians lives in poverty. So it doesn’t come as a complete shock that members of these disadvantaged communities encounter law enforcement more often than, say, middle-class whites. But the rate at which native people die as a result of those encounters is nonetheless deeply disturbing: Though “single-race” Indians make up slightly less than 1 percent of the population, they account for nearly 2 percent of police killings.

There are many complexities surrounding Native American interaction with the dominant culture, whose Declaration of Independence refers to them as “merciless Indian Savages” and whose history of mass killings has taken a staggering social toll. But the fact is that today’s avoidable tragedies of oppressed Indian lives and troubled deaths remain far too often in the shadows.

At this moment, when black Americans are speaking up against systemic police violence, and their message is finally being carried by virtually every major news source, it’s time we also pay attention to a less visible but similarly targeted minority: the people who lived here for many thousands of years before this country was founded, and who also have an unalienable right to respect and justice.

October 13th, 2015
Frances Stark

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Structure that F(its my opening)
2006. Gouache on paper with silk on panel. 39 x 55 x 1 in.

UH-OH: Frances Stark 1991-2015
Opening October 11, 2015


October 10th, 2015
Alberto Burri, a Man of Steel, and Burlap

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A 1952 Burri painting from his “Muffe” or molds, series that used glue mixed with pumice.

NY TImes Published: OCT. 8, 2015

Alberto Burri’s prescient paintings — in patched, burned and otherwise abused burlap, plastic or wood — form a lavish, beautiful and admirable, if sometimes monotonous retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum. It presents an artist who is impressive less for the profundity of his work than for his consistency and his ideas, which remain very much alive even among young artists not familiar with his work.

In a dazzlingly researched, often eloquent catalog essay, Emily Braun, an art historian who oversaw the Guggenheim show, “Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting” (and is also curator of the Leonard A. Lauder Collection of Cubist Art), argues that Burri’s art is a crucial, underacknowledged link in the development of collage and assemblage and helped set the stage for a host of postwar art movements — Neo-Dada, Process Art, Arte Povera and more. Indeed, Burri is relevant today as a grandfather of what has lately been called “painting without paint,” and what was referred to in the 1960s as“unpainted paintings.” Unfortunately, he may also inaugurate a bane of current art: the use of found materials so inherently affecting — burlap being one — that they require little of the artist.

Burri (1915-1995) became an artist because of World War II. Born in Città di Castello in the Umbrian region of Italy, he trained as a surgeon and served with distinction as a medic in the Italian Army in the early 1940s. He had risen to the rank of lieutenant by 1943 when Allied troops captured him in Tunisia, briefly put him to work caring for captured German soldiers and then shipped him to an American prisoner-of-war camp near Hereford, Tex.

As an officer, Burri was exempt from manual labor, but he was also not permitted to practice medicine. Like many of his fellow officers, he took up painting, sometimes using burlap gunny sacks as canvas, and even exhibited in a show of prisoners’ art. Once repatriated, he continued to make art, teaching himself as he went, in Rome.

Abandoning traditional paint on canvas, Burri was soon at the forefront of an international wave of younger artists who pushed at and beyond the perimeters of painting by introducing unorthodox materials and techniques, a group that included Robert Rauschenberg, Yves Klein, Donald Judd, Günther Uecker and Burri’s friend Lucio Fontana. He had his first gallery solo show in Rome in 1947, and his first two solo exhibitions in this country in 1953, at the brand-new Allan Frumkin Gallery in Chicago and the cutting-edge Stable Gallery in New York.

Critics have long associated Burri’s art work with wounds, scars and various forms of destruction and decay. But for the most part he denied that his wartime experiences inspired his art works, which he emphasized were simply paintings of an unusually physical kind. Nonetheless, the war caused a dearth of conventional artistic materials that at the least brought out Burri’s inborn talent for using scavenged scraps – especially burlap – in physically imaginative, pictorially arresting ways.

The Guggenheim has long been New York’s go-to museum for postwar modern art outside the United States. In 1979 it astonished New York with the first museum survey in this country of the German artist Joseph Beuys. More recently, it has surveyed the art of postwar Japan and more specifically its Gutai artists; the Zero artists of Germany and Italy; and the individual careers of Antoni Tàpies, Lucio Fontana and Lee Ufan.

The Burri show is another in this line, the first large show of his work – nearly 100 pieces, dating from 1949 to 1989 — in this country since the museum’s previous Burri survey in 1978. It also affirms a longtime connection. The Guggenheim acquired its first Burri in 1953 after its director at the time, James Johnson Sweeney, visited the artist’s studio in Rome. Burri was prominent in the inaugural show at the museum’s Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building that Sweeney organized in 1959. An unusually sweet moment in the current exhibition is a group of 16 miniature works, displayed in a vitrine as if in a little gallery, that Burri sent the Sweeney family at Christmastime. (Ms. Braun assembled the exhibition with Megan Fontanella, an associate curator at the Guggenheim.)

Burri’s development suits the Guggenheim. His successive series unspool smoothly up its spiral ramp. Nearly everything has a handsome, elegant toughness and rich sense of color, both applied and intrinsic. But they also present, I’m afraid, as artworks that collectors of a daring mind-set once liked to put above their sofas.

Two small canvases from 1949 and 1950 are the most traditional works. But even here the paint is mixed with tar – inspired by Miró’s tar-paper paintings, which Burri saw on a trip to Paris. Their near monochrome, heavily worked surfaces and flattened compositions are full of things to come. The bulk of the show is devoted to works primarily from the 1950s and early ’60s — an amazingly productive phase. By 1952, Burri is fashioning roughly collaged surfaces from fabric, burlap and Vinavil, a glue not unlike Elmer’s. He mixes it with white paint to create thick strata of crazed, beautiful craquelure in different scales like those cultivated in Chinese porcelains, or skins punctured with big holes, as in the small “Bianco.” For his “Muffe” (molds) series, he adds ground pumice, creating gravelly surfaces that resemble waste or festering skin.

Burri also starts applying his surgical skills, sewing pieces of fabric together; stitches of varying sizes become a recurring motif, at once structural and visual. Then he zeros in on the burlap bags, patching together their often already-patched surfaces with bits of other faded fabrics and areas of stark black or white acrylic, evoking abject landscapes or mended walls or tents. And by now we’re barely out of 1953. These works have an immensely resonant complexity, yet it’s conveyed by relatively conservative compositions of large and small parts that artists like Klein, Fontana and Judd were deliberately avoiding.

As Italy’s postwar recovery gained traction, new materials come into play in Burri’s work, along with fire, and its resonance narrows. Paintings are made from wood veneer with scorched plumes of black, or thin sheets of welded steel. (The small “Ferro” from 1958 is the busiest and best, its circular forms suggesting the canvas and wire reliefs that the American artist Lee Bontecou started making in 1959.) Most plentiful are sheets of clear, red or black plastic, burned to create gaping, sooty holes and skinlike sags, sometimes layered together as in the elegant, fiery horror of “Rosso plastica M 2” of 1962. Elsewhere Burri just marks time rearranging component parts, for example tastefully combining red and black paint with wood veneer.

Around 1966 Celotex, a composite insulating board, starts to become his preferred working surface. He could layer it with paint, which he takes up again with a vengeance, or change its texture by chiseling. It dominates the upper reaches of the show, with austere black on black and white on white works in which thickly layered acrylic paint – mixed with different amounts of medium – is fissured by large deep cracks, suggesting parched, lunar landscapes. A wall text calls them “some of the widest and deepest craquelure in the history of art.”

These cracks become environmental in “Grande Cretto,” Burri’s nearly 22-acre memorial to the Sicilian hill town of Gibellina, which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1968. Burri began work on the project in 1985, compacting the town’s ruins into large irregular blocks – all level to a height of four to five feet — and then covering them with roughly finished cement painted white. Completed only this year because of financial reasons, this usually poignant work of land art is represented here by a film by Petra Noordkamp that ends the show on a high note. Burri’s cracks are in this case pathways for visitors, evoking both a ghostly street plan and an earthquake’s rivening power.

In her essay, Ms. Braun sees Burri’s precedent in so many artistic developments since the 1950s that it can feel like overkill. She may be right, though Burri’s work relies excessively on the suggestiveness of materials and processes, rarely going deep. But however much he pioneered, he still left more for others to explore.

October 9th, 2015
Adventures in the Science of the Superorganism

By David Wallace-Wells
Science of Us Published: October 8, 2015

One in eight adults who think they were born alone are carrying around, like a change purse, some residue of a sibling they never knew existed.

It is not only possible, it has in fact happened that a woman who vaginally conceived a child, then vaginally delivered her, had Protective Services threaten to take the child when a maternity test showed she was not, in fact, the mother. Nor was she the mother of her second child, genetically. Or her third, whom she was still carrying throughout the dispute with her estranged boyfriend — the man who, those same tests proved, was definitively the father. Only later did Lydia Fairchild discover that the true mother of all three of her children was her twin — if twin is really the word for one human embryo more or less swallowed by another before birth. The eggs that produced those babies had been with Fairchild her whole life, but genetically they belonged to an unborn sister, unknown to her and even her parents, living on in small parts inside her — a phenomenon that poetic scientists have called “parasitic” or “vanishing” twins. These days, they tend to prefer “chimerism,” after the mythic beast assembled, like Frankenstein’s monster, from multiple animals. But, man, isn’t that even creepier?

Don’t relax — it’s not just twins. In a new paper, “Humans As Superorganisms,” Peter Kramer and Paola Bressan of the University of Padua describe a typical human body as a teeming mass of what they call “selfish entities.” Picture a tree warped by fungus, wrapped with vines, dotted at the base with mushrooms and flowers, and marked, midway up, by what the tree thought the whole time was just a knot but turns out to be a parasitic twin. This is the human superorganism — not the tree, not the tangled mess of things doing battle with it, but the whole chunk of forest — and Kramer and Bressan would like to place it at the very center of the way we think about human behavior. They are psychologists, and their paper is a call to arms to their fellow shrinks, exhorting them to take seriously as a possible cause of an enormous buffet of behavioral phenomena — from quotidian quirks, to maddeningly opaque disorders like autism, to schizophrenia — the sheer volume and weird diversity of completely crazy alien shit going on in just about all of our bodies, just about all the time.

At least one part of this superorganism theory is not all that unfamiliar, especially to anyone who remembers recent articles by Michael Pollan and others about what is often called “the brain in your gut.” That part: that our stomachs are, actually, zoos. In fact, they’re not really our stomachs. Principally, they belong to the hundred trillion bacteria enticed by evolution into your chutes-and-ladders intestinal tract, then enlisted to eat your food for you. The weirder thing is that evolution also put hundreds of millions of neurons there, which means there’s a lot of trouble to be caused by those 160 or more species of bacteria (yes, full species). And the behavioral effects are pretty startling. Take a mouse, evacuate his intestines, and repopulate them with the microbes of another mouse, and he’ll act like the other mouse — adventurous mice become timid. In humans, what is delicately called “gut flora” affects not just obesity but also anxiety, and some think it plays a role in disorders as far-ranging as MS and Parkinson’s. What role exactly? Who knows? Though there have been some attempts to treat autism with yogurt.

Okay, so, the gut is weird. But what if you lived in the gut? What if you were the gut? Kramer and Bressan want us to stop looking at our stomachs like we’re hosts to some messy guests, or homeowners too disgusted by a particular closet to ever go poking around in it, because, they write, the human superorganism isn’t something to observe from the privileged perch of the self. Instead, they suggest, it envelops the self — the environment in which and against which genes give rise to who you are, an internal environment populated nevertheless by an entire orchestra of aliens, some of them fiddling away in the brain, and each with its own evolutionary interests at stake.

What aliens do they mean? They point also to viruses and parasitic diseases — both the ones that have already colonized our DNA (depending on how you count, as much as 45 percent of it) and the new ones we could catch, like toxoplasma gondii, just for instance, which is three times as likely to be found in schizophrenics. And then there’s what Kramer and Bressan call “foreign human cells” — a sort of catchall for whenever parts of one person end up in another. Which happens a lot! There’s the way identical twins invariably share cells like Matchbox cars at the early stages of development; the way, they theorize, even fraternal twins arise from the same bundle of cells; the way a mother’s immune system can attack and partially colonize a fetus she is carrying; the way a baby can send cells back in the other direction, including stem cells, which can grow into just about anything; and the way in which that mother-child dynamic may direct the in-house genetic engineering called gene imprinting. And it also includes, yes, Lydia Fairchild’s vanishing twin, and the ones that many of us have been apparently hosting, unwittingly, our whole lives. All of which, Kramer and Bussan say, may just help explain why your son is gay. To take one of their more speculative claims.

As many as one in eight single-baby newborns, and possibly more, began life as one of two, later absorbing the other baby-to-be before anyone really noticed (including the baby, who at that point typically wouldn’t have produced so much as a single limb). Which means that one in eight adults who think they were born alone are carrying around, like a change purse, some residue of a sibling they never knew existed; in some cases, that change purse could be, inside a woman, say, a male kidney. Foreign cells can come from children too; an autopsy study of 46 mothers showed male cells in 13 of their kidneys, ten of their livers, and four of their hearts, thanks to stem cells’ having passed through the placenta, taken root where needed, and sprouted, sometimes into whole patches of tissue. In another study, this one of 59 women, 63 percent harbored male cells in their brains.

And then there are the more extreme cases, like fetus-in-fetu, a kind of twin growth almost too grotesquely surreal to mention. Almost. Possibly the gnarliest example is the case of Sanju Bhagat, an Indian man who carried his twin inside him for 36 years, until a 1999 surgery designed to relieve swelling in his stomach so massive it made him look pregnant. “To my surprise and horror, I could shake hands with somebody inside,” a presiding doctor told reporters of the procedure. “First, one limb came out, then another limb came out. Then some part of genitalia, then some part of hair, some limbs, jaws, limbs, hair.” As everyone noticed, the finger­nails were quite long.

This is not, by the way, the speculative part of the paper; it’s the real-deal part. In fact, what Kramer and Bressan have written is technically called a review, which means mostly it summarizes and analyzes existing research, enclosing in a single phenomenological circle a wide range of what had been seen as divergent subjects, grouping some pretty routine stuff with genetic anomalies that used to land you in a freak show. And then asks us to contemplate, and their colleagues to study more closely, what it all means for behavior and psychology and identity that a part of your brain really belongs to your daughter or your unborn twin — or, for that matter, a virus that’s hijacked the control panels of at least some patch of cells. There are those who will wonder just how rigorous that speculation is, and, perhaps for them, the authors have preemptively chosen to open their paper with a quotation from Star Trek: The Next Generation (the Borg cycle, of course). But in fairness they probably could’ve also used H. G. Wells, Dostoyevsky, Freud, or any of the Romantic poets. “We argue that we do not have a unitary ‘self,’ ” Kramer and Bressan write. “We argue that an incessant struggle among a very large number of ‘selfs’ — some human, some not — determines who we are.” Is it insane to say, at least as a metaphor for mosaic identity, that sounds sort of reasonable?

Thanks to Jonathan Maghen

October 8th, 2015
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