Chris Burden's Through the Night Softly, 1973 performance for TV consumption. [Never did art cross boundaries...]

Chris Burden's Through the Night Softly, 1973 performance for TV consumption. [Never did art cross boundaries...]

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Mike Kelley Foundation; Art Palm Springs; Burden: The Doc

Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts

Eight recipients have just been named by the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts to receive their Artist Project Grants, totaling a hefty $319,000. The fortunate ones—Human Resources/356 S. Mission Rd.; The Industry; La Plaza de Cultura y Artes; REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater); The Society for the Activation of Social Space through Art and Sound (SASSAS); University Art Museum, California State University, Long Beach; Vincent Price Art Museum and Pasadena Arts Council/Volume.


It’s the second year for these grants, which are selected through a competitive application process. “These artists and organizations exemplify the ambitious and imaginative spirit of this grant,” says Mary Clare Stevens, Executive Director of the Foundation. “From new works—such as Liz Glynn’s sculptural stage set of fire and steel—to the first-ever performance of the late composer James Tenney’s magnum opus, to critical examinations of art history, the projects reflect the remarkable scope and variety of artistic and curatorial practices in Los Angeles.” Keep an eye on the Foundation’s website to apply for the 2018 cycle—http://www.mikekelleyfoundation.org.

 

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Art Palm Spring: Picasso at the Axiom booth.

Art Palm Springs 2017

Under the new leadership of Urban Expositions, Art Palm Springs (Feb 16–19) enjoyed record attendance on opening night—2,600 art aficionados showed up. This was the sixth iteration of the fair, formerly called the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair, and boasted a record 70 booths. They expanded their programming, including some preview discussions of Desert X, and, as before, overlapped with the start of Modernism Week (Feb 16–26), a celebration of all things Mid-Century that pulled 97,000 attendees.

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Art Palm Springs 2017 opening night


And most of all, I’m happy to say that the art on display—the real selling point, right?—scored an overall higher quality than before. About half the participating galleries are California-based, including major local ones such as Imago, J. Willott, and Jorge Mendez. CMay Gallery from West Hollywood brought some of those amazing sculptures by Yi Hwan Kwon—they’re curiously elongated figures, like the figures in an El Greco, but usually they look “normal” from a certain angle, so it forces the viewer to walk around them slowly.


The fair also felt fresh, with an impressive list of galleries from outside California, including C. Grimaldis from Baltimore, Michalopoulos from New Orleans, Cynthia Corbett from London, England, and Maria Elena Kravetz from Cordoba, Argentina. Seeing the top quality blue-chip work that Jane Kahan (New York) brought was especially prize.

 

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Chris Burden’s Through the Night Softly, 1973 performance for TV consumption.

Burden: the Documentary

Chris Burden died too soon, but after seeing this revealing new documentary about his life and career, Burden, you’re surprised he survived his wild and crazy youth. As a grad student at UC Irvine, he was already pushing the boundaries. He began in sculpture, but quickly became immersed in performance art, mostly featuring himself. “I figured out that the act of doing something in itself could be art,” he says, “and I didn’t have to make an object.”


In 1971 he staged the infamous Shoot, in which he had someone shoot him with a rifle. In an interview Burden (1946–2015) insists the shot was only supposed to graze his arm, and produce a few drops of blood. But the shooter, a practiced marksman, says the gun pulled to the left, so the bullet went through his arm, a shock to both of them. Burden ended up in the hospital, but that didn’t stop him from later having himself nailed through both hands to a VW Beetle, crawling through broken glass, and so on. The media dubbed him the “Evel Knievel of the modern world,” which he didn’t like. “He’s a stuntman, he’s a trickster,” Burden says of the comparison. “I’m not a trickster, everything I do is for real.”


To be released theatrically in May, Burden, directed by Richard Dewey and Timothy Marrinan, proceeds at a leisurely pace, with well-selected interviews with the artist at various moments in his career (including shortly before his death), intercut with those who knew him, from classmates and other artists to critics. Artists Charles Christopher Hill, Barbara T. Smith and Alexis Smith—who was once besotted with him—have fascinating things to say about Burden’s obsessiveness with his work, and how he seemed to have two sides to his personality—one, sweet and likable, the other “calculating, vindictive,” as Barbara T. Smith says. Almost miraculously, he seemed to find balance later in life, gaining audience (and buyers) for his eccentric output, and becoming affluent enough to buy acres of land in Topanga Canyon, where he built a gigantic studio to make the work he wanted.


Fortunately, he had stopped doing performance art in the mid-’70s. Curiously, only glancing reference is made to his wife, Nancy Rubins, a sculptor—perhaps she did not want to be part of the doc? A big collector of odds and ends, Burden made work from discarded props and Erector sets. Towards the end of his life he created two playful and nostalgic artworks, both in their way an homage to his adopted city of Los Angeles—Urban Light, made up of 202 refurbished street lamps and Metropolis II, a miniature city encircled by hundreds of toy cars zipping around on tracks. Both are at LACMA, and Urban Light, being outdoors and very photogenic, has become a perennial fave of selfie-takers.

 

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Hollyhock House

COMING IN MAY…

The 2017 California-Pacific Triennial from the Orange County Museum of Art opens May 6 with 25 artists from 12 countries—from California and the Pacific Rim. This time the curator is Cassandra Coblentz, and the theme is “Building As Ever,” which was at least partly inspired by the fact that the current, very valuable, 2-acre OCMA lot is for sale, and the museum building is now a teardown. For years they have been planning to move to their new location at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, a 1.64 acre lot donated to them. The LA-based artists in the Triennial are Carmen Argote, Michele Asselin, Beatriz Cortez, Ken Ehrlich, Patricia Fernandez, Olga Koumoundouros, Renee Lotenero, Nancy Popp, Bryony Roberts and Alex Slade.

In celebration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th anniversary, Barnsdall Art Park Foundation and the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs presents a highly topical play, Fefu and Her Friends, taking place throughout May (Saturday May 6 at 8 p.m. running through Sunday, May 28) at FLW’s iconic Hollyhock House. The pioneering play marks the first time a production has ever taken place at the UNESCO-nominated House at Barnsdall Art Park.