Jason Ramos was born and raised in the San Antonio, Texas area, the son and grandson of painters. He has shown his art work extensively in group shows in the San Antonio and Houston, Texas areas before relocating to Southern California,... [more]
Jason Ramos was born and raised in the San Antonio, Texas area, the son and grandson of painters. He has shown his art work extensively in group shows in the San Antonio and Houston, Texas areas before relocating to Southern California, where he received his MFA in painting from Cal State Fullerton. Jason currently works and teaches in the Los Angeles area. [show less]
Nice scene, a lot of sculpture, as Sara Simon pointed out. We attempted to formulate a theory about how the economic downturn would usher a new opportunity for sculpture in the art market. Painting has always been the most archetypal of marketable art objects; sculpture has a reputation for being more, well, inconvenient. But much of what was at LA Louver Thursday made it seem worth the effort.
Lawrence Weiner at Regen Projects – I like words. I like poetry. I like typography. I like conceptual art. I like artists with funny last names. I like seeing John Baldessari at openings. I like being able to park. 6 out of 7 ain’t bad.
I’m beginning my initial preparations for teaching again in the fall – Introduction to Art Concepts and Introduction to Digital Media. My respective goals for this semester are to give the students practical tools for writing about art, and to emphasize more ideas about two-dimensional design in the digital class.
Chance and fate have dictated that I am currently housemates with Korean artist Nakhee Sung at the moment, here at my home, Raid Projects.It's quite serendipitous, then, that LACMA should have an exhibit of contemporary Korean art at the same time.The show is indeed a good time.Christopher Knight has chided it as “90’s festival art”, and though I agree it has some dull spots, overall it made me want to go to Seoul and make video art.
A standout was Choi Jeong-Hwa’s plastic container installation that should have been a few acres bigger, but provided a delightful forest to lose oneself in.It was an interesting contrast to the other “forest” on the LACMA campus – Burdens streetlights – whose permanent status on the grounds served to highlight how disposable Choi’s materials end up being.
Of course, Do Ho Suh’s pieces kicked everyone’s dick in the dirt.His ability to get so much artistic mileage out of the places he has lived as the source for his work is mind bending.His brother’s an architect Nakhee tells me.
Love that Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, wish they would have mounted the monitor in the elevator, to see how they play off of the permanent Krueger installation.My favorite in the whole show, however, was Kimsooja’s unbelievably provocative video installation A Needle Woman.So achingly simple, so hypnotically compelling, so tellingly revealing, she has managed to concisely and articulately show how contrary to conventional wisdom it is to literally take a stand.Kim does nothing in these videos, and yet the audacity of her stillness so quickly instills a similar notion in the viewer.The presentation of multiple videos from all over the world make the universality of her stance (and her stance) visually and poetically apparent.One simple move, or more correctly a lack of moving, and Kim has transformed herself into a force of nature, dictating the direction of the humanity around her, instead of the other way around.An inspiring solution to anyone who has felt caught up in life’s flow.
Plenty of other goofy and great pieces, by other goofy and great artists, an overall paradoxical feeling of a group of artists at different forms of play, yet united by something globally plugged in, but decidedly non-Occidental.A heavy prevalence on video is a badge worn almost patriotically in this show, and a picture of Korea is presented that makes a case for a country whose artistic identity could easily be the meat in an Asian contemporary art sandwich, surrounded by the hearty bread of China and Japan.But only as long as it’s one of those Vietnamese sandwiches.Because those are fucking tasty.
Many beers at Barbara’s bar at the Brewery here in LA resulted in the following list. They are all French. They are all painters. So it goes, in descending order:
5. Seurat. He’s underrated the way Roy Lichtenstein is. Divisionism / pointillism, like all Impressionist trends, was in part a reaction to the development of photography. In a mindbendingly sexy ironic twist, photography is now suffering (or, perhaps benefiting) from a similar crisis, as digital technology quickly redefines the old language and creates new. And the basis for digital photographic imagery? Pixels, my friend. The very notion of breaking an image down into small dots of color begins with monsieur Seurat, providing an excellent example of how the avant-garde trickles down to (read: gets co-opted by) the mainstream. People think La Grande Jatte was the only painting he ever made or something.
4. Monet. If it weren’t for the fact that we’ve all had to stare at posters of his paintings in waiting rooms, he would win by a narrow but substantial margin as the first modern painter, tied only perhaps with #3 down there (some say #2, also). I’m just talking conventional wisdom here, but it’s not undeserved. He was the first cat to make works that confronted the viewer with the notion of “you know and I know this is paint, you know and I know this is light.” That simple notion, of letting up on the illusionistic characteristic of painting inherited from the Renaissance, was like the monkey touching the John McCracken monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The fact that we even have the option of painting in a style other than tight, rendered, photographically representational realism is Monet. And now he’s on mousepads.
3. Manet. Depictions of modern life? Check. Loose paint handling? Check. Self-conscious appropriation of art historical references? Check. Another “first modernist”, Manet seems to be who every artist since needed to be to be an artist in the historical sense of the word. His transitional position between Realism and Impressionism affords his artworks with the full arsenal of everything modern art was just an expounding upon. Luncheon on the Grass is practically an Adbusters image, and that’s considered postmodern. A formal, contextual, and subject matter pioneer, Manet was also one the first to make obvious references to non-western artistic traditions (check out the background of Portrait of Emile Zola).
2. Courbet. Ever put on an art show of your own because no one else will show your work? Courbet. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of calling Courbet “the first punk rock artist” because of his alleged showing of The Artist’s Studio in a self built shack next door to the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1855. Let’s get down to brass tax – Gustave Courbet was the first human in history who could honestly reply to the question of what he was doing as “keepin’ it real”. His stance against Romanticism was so well articulated it is now more romantic than what Romanticism initially implied. Pop Art gets a lot of credit for confronting the “elephant in the gallery” issue of class, but Courbet figured how to paint “fuck you” over a hundred years earlier. Here’s a painting of peasants in my hometown at a funeral (Burial at Ornans). Here’s a painting of me and my influences in my studio because I’m great (The Artist’s Studio). Here’s a really, really sexy painting of a woman’s vagina (Origin of the World). Take it or leave it. These were the first paintings that you could have been in.
1. Cezanne. The 20th century only began because Paul Cezanne let it happen. The crisis of representation brought on by photography found its messiah and was delivered as everything every 20th century artist attempted because of this man. Look at The Bathers. Look at his still lives. LOOK. The explosion of abstraction that occurred in the first half of the 20th century was just a switching out of the variables of Cezanne’s intense commitment to understand exactly what was passing through his eyes to his brain, and his works are documents of this investigation. He pierced the veil of perception to see basic forms and non-local colors, and wrote much of what he discovered down in his letters to give us a road map of how these abstract elements function in nature and in art. In an evolutionary sense, he was the catalyst for painting become strong enough to survive into the next century, and become more influential to all art in the process. All of the affronts to the Classical traditions established by artists #2 - #5 were boiled down to their ontological similarities and used by Cezanne to come up with the blueprint for the spaceship that Picasso, Matisse, Duchamp, and Warhol all arrived on. We were just looking before Cezanne; now, we were seeing.
Now, I am biased towards painting, so, as a compensatory act, I feel Auguste Rodin could be a possible in there. A lot was shaken loose by his rendering of human form, and the plethora of sculptural forms produced in the subsequent century could be attributed, in part, to his simple move of revealing the hand on the surface. It is worth noting, as what is considered the “last” modern movement – Minimalism – was most fully articulated by the sculptural works associated with it.
There’s no way I can be right about all that. Tell me why.
So for the past two semesters, I have taught “Introduction to Art Concepts” atSanta AnaCollegeinOrange County,California.This is a class that is also known at other schools as “Art Appreciation”, among other titles.The SAC catalogue description reads thusly –
“A study of the visual arts in relation to both personal and cultural expressions. Fundamentals of visual organization, color theory, terminology, historical art movements and concepts will be studied.”
It’s a good time.It’s the perfect gig for me.The material is structured in the various textbooks pretty much all the same.Starts with some working definitions or art and why it’s important, its purposes and where it’s found.Next it goes into formal language, visual elements, principles of design, things like that.Then it takes each medium, one by one, and then a fast forward through the history of art.The history half is the standard narrative of the Western tradition with a detour after the 18thcentury to cover non-Western art traditions.
It’s a lot of material to cover.16 weeks to generalize about some 5,000 odd years of human beings doing every visually apparent thing that didn’t fall under the category of “eating” or “fucking”.(Though personally I think all art is about sex and death.)It is up to me what I emphasize, what I leave out, what I include, and what spin I put on everything.Some things I personally try to emphasize are:
-- How to write, speak, and most importantly chat about art intelligently. (As well as how write, speak, and chat well in general.)
-- How you “have to get smart to get art” and how knowledge of it can give one a creative edge in any discipline or walk of life.
-- That the story of art used to be just be the story of white, (seemingly) straight European males, and that contemporary art today cannot be understood without knowledge and reclamation of artists from formerly marginalized groups (females, people of color, queer, “outsider” art) and non-western traditions.
-- The ideas of the avant-garde eventually trickling down to mainstream society; art as the “R&D department” of culture.Specifically how many of the prevalent digital methods of information consumption and production today (like the website you’re reading right now) are products of ideas first put forward in art.
-- Art history as a history of reactions, and the external (non-art) circumstances that dictate particular movements and trends.
-- How formal language, knowledge of relevant contexts, medium-specific associations, and art history can all be used to conclude content and/or meaning from a particular artwork.(The last two is more generally referred to as “critical thinking” to use pedagogical language.)
What I want to know is what else should be included?Or more correctly, what shouldn’t be excluded?During the history phase of the class, it’s a pretty fast rundown of the greatest hits of art, and many artists fall through the cracks to present a more generalized story.What are the most important art concepts that should be taught in “Introduction to Art Concepts”?If you could teach anyone without an art education only a handful of things, what would you show them?
Allright, so, the Watchmen movie.
Let me begin by saying, “Relax. Calm down. Breathe.” Many of you, like me, have been engaged in a protracted effort to eliminate one’s expectations for the event in question, and I think I succeeded. I feel I went in to Zack Snyder’s film last night as impartial as one such as myself could be, at least on a conscious level.
For starters, any movie that has a scene with two superheroes fucking while a Leonard Cohen song plays in the background warrants at least 3 stars out of 5 for that scene alone. However, Watchmen the movie as a whole never really transcends that moment, though it does warrant further analysis. Comparing Snyder’s version with the original comic book, while inevitable, is ultimately counter-productive in judging the merits of the film on its own. While comic-book superhero movies of late generally deal with characters and premises that have seen many different versions and interpretations printed up over the years, Watchmen, as we all know, was a finite 12 issue comic book series with a definite beginning and ending. So this 3 hour movie was more of an adaptation of a novel more than an interpretation of a character or characters that have been interpreted many times. For many of us Watchmen, the book, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, represented a high point in what stood in for punk rock for the sexless and uncool adolescents of yesteryear. Like me. No film adaptation of a conventional novel is ever given this sort of scrutiny; but because the source material here is a comic book, what any other version of it may look and feel like visually is already laid down. Fortunately, Hollywood has quickly established a cinematic language for the genre of comic-book superhero movies, much of it established by a film that wasn’t even originally based on a comic book, the Wachowski bros. film, The Matrix. In Zack Snyder’s film adaptation of Watchmen, he uses this language without reservation; it is indeed, typical of most “comic-book movies.”
And that’s the problem. If Christopher Nolan can generate an artful, deep, hypnotic spectacle like the Dark Knight, then it stands to reason that the artful and deep source material of Watchmen would lend itself to being adapted to a film that rises to such heights. While still an ambitious, enjoyable film, Snyder’s Watchmen has more in common with Favreau’s Iron Man, Raimi’s Spider-Man films, and Singer’s X-Men movies than anything as inviting of serious critical attention like the Dark Knight. I feel comparing Watchmen to other films of the genre is the way to go; Snyder clearly was given the task of making a “comic-book movie” (as his previous film, 300, was) and he did not feel the need to do too much more than that.
Now it is ambitious, in its length (almost 3 hours) and complexity; however the moments I appreciated most is when Snyder chose to take liberty with the source material. His adherence to the plot, imagery, and details of the book felt at many times restraining, an exercise in dork satisfaction. The possible ire of message board comments, I feel, have never been more influential on the making of film before, and it shows. When a different take on one of the novels ideas or scenes came up, it was like a pressure valve being released, and a brief moment of Snyder’s interpretation was witnessed. His streamlining and simplifying of the story made sense, what he left out made sense – you cannot put a book on screen without changes; i.e. the film of a book is about the changes. Part of the production of comic-book movies typically involves internet research into what the fans expect and want. Unfortunately, at this point in Snyder’s career, I don’t think he is capable of crafting a film that invites the criticality that Moore and Gibbon’s book warranted and balance the essentials of why the source material is so revered. (For starters, he could lose his fetish for slow-motion action scenes. How he could film a story that is ostensibly about confronting clichés and un-ironically fill it with them is beyond me.) The book wasn’t a big deal because it was “badass”. It was a big deal because it was art. Art in the most unlikeliest of places: A superhero comic book.
So, 3 stars out of 5. Like I said, its not bad. It’s fun. It’s cool. It’s neat. It’s sexy. Some good performances. Some amazing imagery. Within the genre of comic-book movies, its ambition and scale put it a bit of a notch above some of the above mentioned movies. Did Nolan raise the standard on comic-book movies with the Dark Knight? Maybe. But Moore and Gibbon’s book Watchmen created a new standard back in 1986, and now a fun, cool, neat, sexy movie has been made of it. Go see it for yourself.