Art & Development, Travelogue

Art Highlights: Los Angeles

Santa Monica • Chinatown • Culver City • Fairfax

Click on the images to see a larger file.


Two days, 50+ galleries, 4 museums. Here’s what stood out:

Won Ju Lim at Patrick Painter
Maximum effect with minimum trickery: digital projectors, colored plexi vitrines, poured paint sculptures, and some fake plants with gooseneck clamp lamps. The effect is truly astounding, and somehow very pertinent after the Southland fires. Lim may be my new favorite artist.

Lauren Bonn at Ace
Bonn’s Not a Cornfield cornfield was massive in scope and social programming, and she fills Ace with massive and terrifying psychic spaces which are somehow related to the cornfield and her study of bees. The scale is stupefying. I don’t know how Bonn orchestrates it, or Ace sustains it. But it’s amazing.
A side note: Bonn is also exhibiting the residue of a conceptual drawing piece involving an object recording the marks of a cross-Pacific passage. Sounds very similar to my Regalos project, doesn’t it?

Glenn Ligon at Regen Projects
A perfect example of why object-based conceptual practice is great: there’s so little mass in Ligon’s show, but there’s so much to think about. Thirty-six near-identical gold and black text paintings and one black-out neon text sculpture. Joke paintings invoke Richard Prince, but the racial content begs more conflicted social terrain. The neon text sculpture, of course, resonates with other (White) Conceptualists’ work, but again, Ligon’s content diverges into a realm of his own determination. My next stop was to look up Ligon’s article, “Black Light: David Hammons and The Poetics of Emptiness” (Artforum, Sept. 2004), a really beautiful artist’s writing/critical essay/statement about making art, resistance, the artist’s refusal, the “emptying out the self as a critical strategy,” and light as a material.

Kim Rugg at Mark Moore
Twenty-six re-assembled newspaper covers comprise Rugg’s “Don’t Mention the War,” in which she’s sliced and diced single letters and alphabetized them. I think she’s set a record; she’s broken an OCD-Art barrier. I’m impressed with the artist’s commitment to this massive project in an non-archival, unstable material. Furthermore, the craftsmanship is amazing, with hardly any relief in the collage.
Also at Mark Moore was Kenichi Yokono. I’m including this because I would have liked to explore this medium about ten years ago, when I was really into carving woodcuts, but not only interested in making prints. Yokono carves wood as if for printing, then displays the blocks as paintings, screens or skateboard decks. The content is punk-skate-pop culture, and the cut-out forms seem a little all over the place to me, veering towards hand-carved souvenir shop variety.

Group show at Marc Foxx
Lots of text-based work floated my boat here, including Jim Hodges‘ gold-leaf “Mother” on vellum. Francis Stark exhibited more good-bad-ugly work, which was awkward but intriguing nonetheless with its Alhambra delivery truck sized hanging sequins. While some artists cultivate the artistic persona of a naif through the use of odd materials, you get the sense that she isn’t faking her intuitive process.

Wild Women group show at Kontainer
This quietly installed group show was very smart. Tessa Farmer has assigned herself the dreadful task of creating minature (think: convert to microns) skeletons and attaching them to insects, and then hanging the dead bugs from monofilament. It’s a mind-blowing artistic practice. Tami Ichino‘s ceramic faux geodes are beautiful objects that manifested her paintings’ spacey psychedelia into three dimensions.

Eric Beltz’ “HISTROY!” at Acuna-Hansen
I resisted these drawings. They’re too slick: the gothic calligraphy and cursive script is too cool, the dead presidents theme seems so trendy, the literary references are very pop-goth. But these drawings have to be seen in the flesh, and I have to admit, Beltz’ self-described “high definition drawing” provides a truly enjoyable, memorable experience. Bonus: the title is wickedly funny, yet fitting.

A Great Delicacy group show at Taylor de Cordoba
Clearly I don’t connect often with paintings these days, but Greg Parma Smith‘s painting of a Swiss Army knife with a fabric pattern that escapes the still-life’s margins surprised me. It didn’t seem to take itself so seriously, which is hard to find among photo realist works. Rebecca Veit‘s and Kathryn Hillier‘s tense food-porn photos were convincingly reminiscent of Sunset Magazine, and Danica Phelp‘s charts were pleasingly ‘drawing-ly,’ if one could make up a graphite corollary to ‘painterly.’ McKendree Key‘s color photocopy stop-motion animation had a nice storm-at-sea rhythm while man-made garbage tumbled by as if on a watery freeway.

I had the pleasure of crossing paths with some Halloween- and Thanksgiving-themed sponge painting on the tinted windows of a dim sum shop in Chinatown. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen sio mai rendered in florescent sponge paint.

No photos, just strong impressions:

Slater Bradley‘s CGI rain cloud and singin’ in the rain dandy at Blum and Poe.

William Pope.L‘s show at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, “Art After White People.” Think about it.

Jamie Isenstein‘s deliciously restrained and curious “Welcome to the Egress” at Hammer Projects.

Francis Alÿs‘ “When Faith Moves Mountains,” also at the Hammer (whose exhibition title, “Politics of Rehearsal” could also be “Poetics of Reversals”).

Art & Development, Travelogue

Wish You Were Here: ‘Postcards’ from the Philippines

The Regalos Project

balikbayan boxes at SFO

Context: Balikbayan* boxes and their owners at the Philippine Airlines counter at San Francisco International Airport. These boxes, and dozens more, were on my flight to Manila. In a testament to the impact of balikbayan boxes, their additional weight was enough to necessitate a re-fueling stop in Guam.
*Literally, “going home.” Can refer to (1) standardized cardboard boxes for shipping gifts to the Philippines or (2) overseas Filipinos returning to the islands.

regalos at MNL baggage claim

Process: My empty, glitter-covered balikbayan boxes for the Regalos project generated curiosity at the baggage carousel at Ninoy Aquino airport (MNL) in Manila.

regalos project at Green Papaya Art Projects

Product: The Regalos boxes on display at Green Papaya Art Projects in Quezon City. Some of the glitter was lost in transit, suggesting the entropy between giver and receiver or intention and material. I really liked how Eric Reyes, one of our academic counterparts in Galleon Trade, put it: “It’s not so much a site-specific project, as much as a transit-specific one.” He liked that the work showed marks of transit, and which I think reflects his interests in imperialism and migration.

installation at green papaya
Installation at Green Papaya Art Projects, with Mike Arcega, Stephanie Syjuco and Reanne Estrada. Photo: PeeWee Roldan.

peewee and joaquin at green papaya
Family moments: Artist and Green Papaya Art Projects owner Norbert “PeeWee” Roldan and his son Joaquin share an ensaymada, a cheese-covered brioche. The ensaymadas were delivered by a relative of Galleon Trade artist Mike Arcega. Photo by Stephanie Syjuco.

In addition to interfacing with Filipino artists, I also took Galleon Trade as an opportunity to get to know and work with the other Galleon Trade artists, many of whom are busybusybusy back in the US. Being part of the Galleon Trade show at Green Papaya was awesome on all accounts: the exhibition was professional and it gelled curatorially (thanks to the planning of Jenifer, Mike, Stephanie, Eliza Barrios, Megan Wilson and PeeWee Roldan). And throughout the installation, when we gave each other honest feedback and discussed the works’ meanings and contexts, I thought to myself, “This is what it’s really about.”


Jeepney on M.H. Pilar Street

Jenifer Wofford is right: A tabletop book on Filipino street graphics is long overdue. As an enthusiast of typography and scripts, I enjoyed all the hand-painted signs, plump cursives, and florid jeepney ornamentation. Jeepneys are a quintessential Filipino mode of transportation; leftover from the U.S. occupation, jeeps have been assimillated as a key form of cheap public transportation. Jeepneys are loud, noxious, and–as any resident of congested M. H. Pilar Street in Malate, Manila might think–overabundant. Yet somehow, it works perfectly: they’re fast, the open windows provide a natural breeze, and there’s an unspoken honor system for passing the fare from rider to rider until it reaches the driver. They’re also richly decorated with spirit and personality, featuring everything from names of overseas workers to airbrushed murals (motorcycle riders or space scenes, for example). The mix of colorful typography with reflective metal is especially irresistible.


Though Manila’s traffic puts even the Bay Area’s congestion into perspective, there are lots of options for getting around, and some of them–like the tricycle–are lots of fun. The tricycle is actually a small motorcycle with a sidecar of welded steel for passengers. Riding through Teacher’s Village to have merienda (afternoon snack, including dinuguan and puto–pork blood soup and steamed rice muffins) at Mike Arcega’s tita’s house inspired a moment of sincere gratitude.

diplomas at green papaya

My honorary PhD in Fine Art from the University of Philippines, Diliman. The degree doesn’t actually exist; Mike Arcega had conterfeit diplomas made for the artists in the Green Papaya show to explore native economies.


dinner at green papaya

Classic homemade Filipino food (and drink) (clockwise from bottom): bangus (fried fish), some of the sweetest, tenderest chicken and pork adobo (vinegar and soy sauce stew) I’ve ever tasted, kare-kare (peanut-sauce stew), rolls of sweet rice, and San Miguel beer. On the first night I arrived, PeeWee Roldan, artist and owner of Green Papaya Art Projects, hosted a beautiful welcome dinner. Gaston Damag‘s sophisticated artwork lined the walls, and we enjoyed a low-key homecooked meal before the madness of daily openings and lectures.

jaime at aristocrat

Galleon Trade artist Jaime Cortez camoflages with the Aristocrat Restaurant, “The Philippines’ most popular restaurant,” which also happened to be next door to our home base. Jaime shares a plate of eggplant-tomato-onion salad, which, when stirred, surprisingly resembles salsa — except with baggong (shrimp paste).

net High Street

In a country of round scoops of rice, square blocks stand out. mag:net High Street in ritzy Fort Benafacio keeps it cubic. Beef mechado (tomato-based stew), adobo quail eggs, and a light sangria. Lovely.

Tourist Trap

airport receipt

This small piece of paper cost me quite a bit of worry.
I saved 650 pesos for the airport exit fee, but the rate had just been raised from P 550 to P 750, and the booth was strictly cash-only. I was short 100 pesos, which translates roughly into US $2. The situation became worrisome when the airport’s two ATMs wouldn’t accept my card. Worse, I carried a traveller’s check that had been utterly useless in the Philippines. Ironically, the airline supervisor said that since this happens so often, PAL no longer keeps a petty cash box to help out their passengers. Instead, he suggested that I borrow money from other passengers and pay them back on US soil. (A bad idea — there wasn’t actually an ATM and retailer to make change at the arrival area at SFO.) Luckily, a sympathetic traveller freely contributed pesos to my (mortified) relief. Whew!
The funny thing is, so many taxes are tacked on to airfares, I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about a $17 fee on top of my ticket price. But the current system creates these mini-fiascos. For all the high technology involved in running an airport, is a credit card machine too much to ask?


Romeo performing Spark
[Image from Romeo’s youtube video. Video by Eliza Barrios.]
Romeo Candido’s impromptu performance / goodbye gift to the Galleon Trade artists at The Living Room was really moving. With only two instruments — his voice and a loop pedal — Romeo created a full composition that crystallized a passing moment and brought everyone present with beauty. Romeo is a very talent filmmaker from Toronto working in Manila, and just by chance he happened to be in residence at The Living Room. I think almost all of the Galleon Traders were delighted by the affinity in our practices as North American artists trying to make a deeper connection to the contemporary arts in the Philippines.


Galleon Trade: Ship Launch Auction Items

Here’s what I’m donating to the auction.

Again, the funds will go towards helping the artists go to Manila for the exhibition at artist-run spaces, and of course for exchanges (such as salons, artist’s talks, etc.)

This is my first time going on an international exchange exhibition and my first visit to the Philippines! Hope you can share the excitement at Galleon Trade : Ship Launch on June 30th! Click here for details.

Untitled (Drawing for Stacked Orange Present), 2007, 13x17”, graphite on paper
Untitled (Drawing for Stacked Orange Present), 2007, 13×17”, graphite on paper

Aqua Present, 9” x 9” x 6”, paper, balsa wood
Aqua Present, 9” x 9” x 6”, paper, balsa wood