March 23rd, 2007

Chris Keeley

There is a definite relationship to, you know, John Currin, to Lisa Yuskavage, to Murakami, to Nara,

Allegory of the Four Elements was sold within moments of the opening of the Art Basel Miami fair in December, to a Colorado collector for $300,000. Tree of Life went for a whopping $800,000, the sculpture for $500,000. In an absurdly convenient stroke of symbolism, the preview’s guests included both Billy Shire, L.A. Lowbrow’s wizened patron saint (founder of La Luz de Jesus and Billy Shire Fine Arts), and the effortlessly elegant Ann Philbin, director of the city’s most significant “mainstream” contemporary-art institution, the Hammer Museum.

There is a definite relationship to, you know, John Currin, to Lisa Yuskavage, to Murakami, to Nara, to Barry McGee.”

Shooting Low, Aiming High

The strange trajectory of Mark Ryden

Friday, March 16, 2007 - 3:00 pm

Allegory of the Four Elements, 2006 (All images courtesy Mark Ryden and Michael Kohn Gallery)

The opening reception for Mark Ryden’s new exhibition, “The Tree Show” at Michael Kohn Gallery, was six hours long. If you glanced at the invitation beforehand, you might have thought this was a misprint. Six hours? Two is customary. Three is generous. Six, you might be forgiven for concluding, falls somewhere between pointless and pretentious. But then you would be seriously underestimating both the breadth and the fervor of Ryden’s fan base. In fact, the extension was merely practical.

At 3 p.m. on Saturday, midway through the opening, a line stretched out the back door, down Crescent Heights and around the corner onto Beverly. By the time the gallery closed its doors at 6, the guard who’d been hired to manage the flow had counted 2,222 visitors — this in addition to the 220 who’d attended the private preview two nights before. (All those twos make a curious pattern for an artist with a professed interest in numerology.) Kohn associate Samantha Glaser confirmed later over the phone that Ryden himself had been there throughout, milling with admirers and signing autographs. Each time I’d seen them in the course of the week leading up to the show, Glaser and other gallery staff appeared to be wavering between exhilaration and exhaustion, taken aback by the machinations of a network they weren’t used to handling and didn’t entirely understand. Ryden, on the other hand, was clearly in his element. “Oh, he’s having a great time,” Glaser said. “He’s just in heaven!”

The show is a kind of debut for Ryden, or, depending on your vantage point, a departure: his first in a gallery that bears no affiliation whatsoever with the disparate “underground” community collectively known as Lowbrow. (Other Kohn artists include Walton Ford, Bruce Conner and Reed Danziger.) His last dealer, prior to 2003, was Earl McGrath, whose historically “mainstream” gallery took a Lowbrow turn a number of years ago and has shown Josh Agle (Shag), Gary Baseman, Chuck Agro, Andrew Foster and Eric White. In the past, Ryden has shown solo at Mondo Bizzarro in Bologna and Outre in Melbourne, and in group shows at Roq La Rue in Seattle, CoproNason in Culver City (the gallery has since moved to Bergamot Station), Merry Karnowsky on La Brea, and, of course, La Luz de Jesus in Hollywood — all galleries that wear their outsider/underground/post-pop/pop surrealism (whatever you want to call it) credentials on their sleeve. A midcareer retrospective co-organized in 2004 by the Pasadena Museum of California Art and the Frye Museum in Seattle — a show that broke attendance records in Pasadena — began to point the way toward a broader sort of recognition. The show at Michael Kohn, it seems, confirms it: The high prince of Lowbrow — known for his incomparable skill, his often shocking price tags, and his capacity to sell out just about anything — is ready for some attention from the art world.

Apology, 2006

“He didn’t come to us because he needed to sell paintings,” Kohn told me shortly before the show went up. “He had no problem selling paintings. He came to us because he wanted to be selling paintings to the ‘right’ people.”

Kohn’s slightly guilty inflection on the word right points to the awkwardness at play here: There are significant differences — not only aesthetic but social, institutional and philosophical — between the world of Lowbrow and the mainstream art world, but any attempt to examine these differences tends to bring out the worst in both. Few in the mainstream art world care to look too closely at the elitism of which they’re often accused, just as few on the Lowbrow side care to address the dangers of blind aesthetic populism. So, like feuding siblings they keep to opposite sides of the room, each professing indifference while privately coveting some aspect of the other.

Lowbrow is popular (within a particular range), theatrical, fun and often lucrative. It fosters figuration and narrative — qualities that were, until recently, widely scorned in the contemporary art world — and rewards rather than questions the development of technical skill. Operating largely outside the scope of critical discourse, it enjoys a high degree of freedom. It can afford to be funny, it can afford to be crass. And Lowbrow artists have fans — passionate ones. What mainstream artist can boast of a MySpace group organized “for anyone who has had their life altered by the magnificent and profoundly magical Mark Ryden”? Those in the art world, on the other hand, have access to a kind of prestige that no amount of popularity — or celebrity patronage — can buy. By aligning themselves, more or less, with an established historical trajectory, and playing to the terms of an established critical discourse, these artists forsake a certain freedom but increase their opportunities for serious — and lasting — recognition.

There are numerous artists who enjoy some degree of crossover but few who straddle the divide quite as cleanly as Ryden. Combining the pictorial accessibility of Lowbrow with the weight of art-historical awareness, layering seductive technique over an increasingly mystical conceptual framework, Ryden makes work that plays by both sets of rules, without, impressively, seeming to bow to either.

The Tree of Life, 2006

“These pictures,” Kohn remarks, “are just extraordinarily well painted. And they’re weird enough to be interesting. I’ve noticed among my colleagues — a lot of my colleagues out in New York, who deal with more conceptually based work — that looking at Mark’s work used to be a guilty pleasure. I saw them coming by my booth in the Miami Basel Art Fair and oohing and aahing over this extraordinarily seductive painting. This was not their normal fare but they liked it anyway. Now, little by little, it’s shifting. A guy who bought one of the works in this show collects Diebenkorn and Thiebaud and John Currin and some contemporary photographers — not just figurative work but mainstream contemporary work, and now that also includes Mark Ryden. Now people can finally do it guilt free.”

That Ryden will get the attention of the art world is all but assured: He’s simply too talented, too rigorous and — more to the point — too savvy an artist not to. More interesting, then, is the next question: What does it mean for a serious contemporary artist to be popular?

Ghost Girl, 2006
With his thin brown hair falling now to his shoulders and strands of gray winding through the long, spindly beard that extends from his chin, the 44-year-old artist Collapse )
Chris Keeley

Eva Lux

rip eva lux

September 22, 2005

the burlesque performer passed away this weeka at 32, and in fact very few people actually knew her like Warren Ellis, who wrote some words about his friend that - at least for me - made anyone feel the loss. strange, that.

bad signal

It’s been about a week since I last
spoke to Leticia. She’d just started
a new temp secretarial job, and was
working her little arse off. I think
the last note I got was that she
loved JONES #3, a script I’d talked
to her about way back when. Her
name was Leticia Blake, but she
worked in the adult film industry as
Eva Lux. Mostly fetish stuff —
BDSM, fringe things like electro-play,
a little gonzo. She’d giggle about
the titles: Black Dicks In White Chicks.
She’d hit a bad patch a while back,
but was putting her life back
together. She was about six weeks
away from moving in with a friend,
a stable one, was modelling again,
and was working up to recommencing
her writing.

I woke up this morning to a note from
a mutual friend that Leticia died
yesterday afternoon. I don’t really
feel like telling you how.

I’m bothered by the idea that, by
the end of the day, Leticia could
be written off as another adult film
statistic. She subtitled her blog
“Diary of a Pleasure Activist.” She
was smart, and she didn’t fool
herself about a goddamn thing. She
knew she was the epitome of the
Oscar Wilde line: “I can resist
everything except temptation.”
She had the writer’s need to write,
but life kept getting in the way.

Our mutual friend is a shaman and
ceremonialist. On Thursday night,
she’s lighting candles for Leticia.
Me, I’m having a glass of white wine.
She’d always have a glass of white,
some Californian muck chilled to
within an inch of its life, during our
marathon conversations.

I’m going to miss you, sweetheart.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Eva Lux
Heroin Overdose 9/20/2005 aka Leticia Blake. She was taken off life-support after a heroin overdose landed her in the hospita.

Eva Lux

Date of Birth
3 May 1973, USA

Date of Death
18 September 2005, Los Angeles, California, USA. (heroin overdose)

Birth Name
Leticia Lynn Blake

5' 5" (1.65 m)

Chris Keeley

Rob Sato and Ako Castuera coming to LA's Secret Headquarters next Friday

ako castuera rob sato 

Artist Rob Sato and Ako Castuera have a new show going up at The Secret Headquarters (LA's best comic shop) next Friday: 

Rob and Ako live up the street from Secret Headquarters in what some would call a shack. They like to refer to the place as a log or The Log. The sad part of this story is not the living conditions, but the possible non-living conditions as The Log has been sold. Or is going to be sold. Either way, Sato started to pack. All books are boxed you'll be happy to know. It might be safe to say that his Xeric award is tucked away in there as well. He won that prestigious grant a few years ago for his BURYING SANDWICHES graphic novel. Know this; he's been compared to Winsor McCay - Wha'! (Though that review was from his cousin.)

What can we say about Sato's partner in crime Ako Castuera? Actually, not much. We don't know a goddamn thing about her. Except that she lives in The Log with a bunch of boxes. We are really on top of our game here at SHQ.

Rob and Ako will attend the opening from 8pm to 10pm. Have a beer while discussing the finer points of packing.


Chris Keeley

Mitch O'connell: Tattoos

250 tattoo designs, the best of O’Connell's 3 sets of tattoo flash titled Stewed, Screwed and Tattooed (2001), Done While Drunk (2002), and From the Bottom of the Barrel (2006). Each limited edition set sold for $100,

Chris Keeley

Roll Hall of Fame's induction ceremony... the firey introduction by Zach de la Rocha of Rage Against

Roll Hall of Fame's induction ceremony... the firey introduction by Zach de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine, Patti's at-times tearful acceptance speech, and her (STILL!!!, AFTER ALL OF THESE YEARS!!!) blistering live performance. Link

Punk matriarch Patti Smith was recently inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. She wrote about the contradiction inherent in that award in this New York Times piece. She urges people to quit whining about the death of CBGBs and other punk institutions -- revolution is written, sung, and expressed in video every day, online:

Should an artist working within the revolutionary landscape of rock accept laurels from an institution? Should laurels be offered? Am I a worthy recipient?

I have wrestled with these questions and my conscience leads me back to Fred and those like him — the maverick souls who may never be afforded such honors.

Chris Keeley

Bush's top political aide has built his career on diverting and deceiving; he'd do the same under oa,0,4268248.story?coll=la-home-commentary

Don't expect the truth from Karl Rove

Bush's top political aide has built his career on diverting and deceiving; he'd do the same under oath.
By James C. Moore
JAMES C. MOORE co-wrote "Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential" with Wayne Slater.

March 23, 2007

CONGRESS WANTS TO hear from Karl Rove, and members want him sworn in. Rather than accept a politically expedient deal from the White House — a no-oath interview — Senate and House committees have approved subpoenas for Rove and others. Lawmakers hope to figure out whether Rove hatched the plan to fire U.S. attorneys who were not hewing to the Republican Party's political playbook.

Whether Rove chats or testifies, Congress will surely be frustrated. Asking Rove questions is simply not an effective method of ascertaining facts. Reporters who, like me, have dogged the presidential advisor from Texas to Washington quickly learn how skilled he is at dancing around the periphery of issues. Any answers he does deliver can survive a thousand interpretations. Few intellects are as adept at framing, positioning and spinning ideas. That's a great talent for politics. But it's dangerous when dealing with the law.

Rove has testified under oath before investigative bodies twice, and in neither case was the truth well served. In 1991, he was sworn in before the Texas state Senate as a nominee to East Texas State University's board of regents. The state Senate's nominations committee, chaired by Democrat Bob Glasgow, was eager to have Rove explain his relationship with FBI agent Greg Rampton.

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Chris Keeley

But the Magassas clearly are not an isolated case. Immigration to New York and other American cities

But the Magassas clearly are not an isolated case. Immigration to New York and other American cities has soared from places where polygamy is lawful and widespread, especially from West African countries like Mali, where demographic surveys show that 43 percent of women are in polygamous marriages. 

Other women spoke bitterly of polygamy. They said their participation was dictated by an African culture of female subjugation and linked polygamy to female genital cutting and domestic violence. That view is echoed by most research on plural marriages, including studies of West African immigrants in France, where the government estimates that 120,000 people live in 20,000 polygamous families.

“The woman is in effect the slave of the man,” said a stylish Guinean businesswoman in her 40s who, like many women interviewed in Harlem and the Bronx, spoke on the condition of anonymity. “If you protest, your husband will hit you, and if you call the police, he’s going to divorce you, and the whole community will scorn you.”

Islam is often cited as the authority that allows polygamy. But in Africa, the practice is a cultural tradition that crosses religious lines, while some Muslim lands elsewhere sharply restrict it. The Koran says a man should not take more than one wife if he cannot treat them all equally — a very high bar, many Muslims say.

Chris Keeley

Elephant Droppings paper

Elephant Droppings Paper

The Elephant Poo Poo Paper company makes stationery and related goods out of dried, odorless elephant shit:
We can make about 25 large sheets of paper from a single piece (or turd) of elephant poo poo!!! That translates into about 10 standard sized journals including the front and back covers! Neat, huh!?!?!?
Link (via Cribcandy)
Chris Keeley

Wangari Maathai Awarded Indian Peace Prize

Wangari Maathai Awarded Indian Peace Prize
And the Indian government has awarded Kenyan environmentalist and Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai its top international award for her contribution towards peace and for her fight against environmental degradation. In 2004 Maathai became the first African woman to win the Nobel Prize. She spoke yesterday in New Delhi.

  • Wangari Maathai: "In order to live in peace with each other, we need to govern justly and fairly, respect the rule of law, respect human rights and give voice to the majority and the minorities as well. This is more likely to preempt many of the conflicts and the root causes that causes them."
Chris Keeley

Does Soprano Get Whacked? Does He Get a Banana Split?

Does Soprano Get Whacked? Does He Get a Banana Split?

BLOOMFIELD, N.J., March 22 — They gathered here — an old man in a black fedora and leather jacket, a woman in a tracksuit, a young mother pushing a stroller — for a final glimpse at Tony and Carmela and A. J. and Meadow.

As HBO’s television series “The Sopranos” films its final episode in this blue-collar town outside Newark, the citizens of New Jersey are, in many ways, rushing to get one last look at themselves.

So dozens of people crowded around Holsten’s Brookdale Confectionery on Thursday afternoon, though it was impossible to see the first family of fictional Mafia through the thick black shroud over the door of the old-fashioned ice cream parlor.

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Chris Keeley

Ex-Deputy of Interior Dept. to Plead Guilty

Ex-Deputy of Interior Dept. to Plead Guilty

WASHINGTON, March 23 — J. Steven Griles, the second-highest official at the Interior Department during President Bush’s first term, pleaded guilty today to lying to a Senate committee about his ties to Jack Abramoff, the disgraced lobbyist who obtained help from the Interior Department for his Indian tribal clients.

Mr. Griles entered the plea shortly after 11 a.m. Eastern time at a hearing before United States District Judge Ellen Huvelle. Sentencing was set for June 26.

Under a plea agreement with Mr. Griles, the Justice Department recommended a five-month jail term and another five months in a halfway house or confined to his home. The maximum sentence for a conviction would have been five years in prison.

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Chris Keeley

Pat Buchanan: "The AIPAC Girl"

TO: Distinguished Recipients
FM: John Whitbeck

The events reflected in the brief article by Pat Buchanan transmitted
below constitute further evidence (if needed) that elections in the
United States are totally irrelevant to changing the power structure in
the country. Both American political parties are self-service
organizations which dance to the same tune.

*The AIPAC Girl** *

*By Pat Buchanan*

*Creators Syndicate*

*March 20, 2007*

* *

If George W. Bush launches a pre-emptive war on Iran, House Speaker
Nancy Pelosi will bear full moral responsibility for that war.

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Chris Keeley

Bea putting on makeup,” Boston, 1973, a Cibachrome photograph by Nan Goldin at Matthew Marks

Bea putting on makeup,” Boston, 1973, a Cibachrome photograph by Nan Goldin at Matthew Marks

Art in Review

Matthew Marks
523 West 24th Street, Chelsea
Through April 14

Nan Goldin’s last outing at Matthew Marks was an affecting slide presentation that explored her older sister’s teenage suicide and Ms. Goldin’s own descent into self-mutilation and a stint in rehab. There was a codalike aspect to the work, however, that made you wonder: where would Ms. Goldin go from here?

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Chris Keeley

Woody Harrelson’s Father

Woody Harrelson’s Father

Dies in Prison

Woody Harrelson’s father, Charles Harrelson, 68, has died in the high-security federal prison in Florence, Colo., where he was serving two life sentences for the murder of a federal judge, The Associated Press reported yesterday. Mr. Harrelson, who appeared to have died of natural causes, was found unresponsive in his cell on March 15, according to Felicia Ponce, a Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman in Washington. He was convicted of murder in the slaying of United States District Judge John Wood Jr. outside his home in San Antonio on May 29, 1979. Prosecutors said a drug dealer hired Mr. Harrelson to carry out the killing to prevent the judge from presiding at the dealer’s impending trial. Mr. Harrelson denied involvement, saying he was in Dallas, 270 miles away, when the slaying took place.