The Family that Blogs Together? is now online! Aren’t you curious about “bluestocking bohemia?”

A bodkin is a:
• a blunt, thick needle with a large eye used especially for drawing tape or cord through a hem
• a long pin used for fastening hair
• a strange metaphor for my sister, Sierra?

We’re planning a new collaborative blogging venture, Bumpkin and Bodkin. (Tagline: It’s all good among kin.) No, she’s online now - in a non-FB capacity, with articles about… crafts, travel… other stuff.


What I Said / What I Meant to Say

Art Ltd magazine published a “Spotlight on Santa Barbara” feature this month to tell the story of various developments in the art scene of Santa Barbara. I recommend reading it if you want a good sense of what’s cooking up here.

It also seems worth taking a moment to correct myself.

Here’s what I (apparently) said, “[the gallery is not interested in deciding what’s good or bad based on whether the work is representational or abstract.” I (apparently) went on, “This rejection of the idea that the narrative of art in American inevitably leads to the triumph of abstraction dates to a very specific moment, which is when Alfred Barr acquired Andrew Wyeth’s painting Christina’s World for the Museum of Modern Art in 1948. Art historically speaking, that decision is our point of departure, so naturally, this Andrew Wyeth show is important to us, because it represents what we are all about.” For the record, the painting was purchased in 1949. While we’re correcting misunderstandings, I am not, in fact, the curator, though I am quite proud of the show.

What I meant to say is that the gallery does not stake out a particular position between abstraction and representation. We believe that rich results can be had from either approach. In some sense, the Andrew Wyeth exhibition embodies the idea, since it was Alfred Barr’s private acquisition of Christina’s World that upended the midcentury thought that representational art was on its way out. That’s what I should have said.

A big thank you to Art Ltd and to the writer, Charles Donelan, for their efforts to focus a little attention on the 805.


The West Coast Underground

Sweet siren Google,
Alert me to the allusions of asymptomatic articles!
Sing to me of Smith and Bontecou, too…

This morning, I received an e-mail alerting me to a new article in the NY Times about a series of monographs on “obscure” abstract artists of the mid-twentieth century.  Among these, Hassel Smith, who is described as, “…once mentioned along with abstract masters like de Kooning, Kline and Motherwell, then devolved to “West Coast underground legend,” then (kind of) vanished.”

Here is the slideshow:

Ah, the West Coast Underground… my old stomping grounds.  I was more of a imaginary figment than a legend there, but I find great comfort in knowing that great minds and spirits like Hassel preceded me.  Having curated two exhibitions from his estate, I find it somehow fitting to hear him described as “underground.”


Jeremy Tessmer, California scholar

The New York Public Library blog cited me as a “California scholar” today. I was called much worse yesterday.

Check out this post on Dabo.


The Original Rudeboy / LA ART SHOW

caravaggioMichelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio - truncated to a Madonna or Cher-like “Caravaggio” for modern attention-deficit prone audiences is enjoying his last days in Los Angeles at LACMA’s Bodies and Shadows: Caravaggio and His Legacy exhibition on now through February 10th.

It is a MUST SEE.  Why?  Because of this painting at left.  St. John the Baptist painted c. 1604 is quite simply a daring work of genius.  Compositionally, it’s very nearly perfect. Following linearly across the major forms one zooms endlessly back around the center of the canvas in a masterfully hidden bit of Mannerist trickery.  There are echoes of triangles in the left arm, the right thigh, and his cloth.  The shadows over his eye and the turned bamboo cross, meanwhile, add pathos to the spiritual quality of the painting by suggesting that his divine calling was something of a heavy burden.  St. John the Baptist, here, literally looks away from the divine light as though it were blinding. His look, meanwhile, hints at either skepticism or even weariness.

Most daring, however, is the fact that this figure appears to be a classically informed Kouros - an idealized young  man who hovers between the innocence of boyhood and the erotic potential of manhood. (Thanks Camille Paglia.)  How Caravaggio avoided charges of heresy for this work, I’ll never know. BUT, it is a masterwork and well worth the trip.

THE LA ART SHOW… is full of old friends who are trying valiantly to keep a large and now long-standing fair in Los Angeles. Nevertheless, I was underwhelmed. The contemporary side was full of empty populist stuff and the historic dealers seemed resigned to an audience of lesser means and education.  Am I projecting?  Maybe.  Tune in next time: I will check in with my spies and offer a final report.