Sunday, February 26, 2012

Moving Blog

Friends that pay attention, we're moving! Continue your watching here: Island Coconut on Wordpress.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Winter Night

I love winter. I love the long dark nights and chilly air. I love the pitch black sky and the cape of stars that lay loose underneath like black licorice jello. I love the dew in the air and how it makes the arching elysium twinkle drops of light forever and ever and ever and ever. I love that it reminds me about dying.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Learning English

A piece I wrote on Ron English for the KCRW blog, which can be found here.

Ron English is an American artist and the benevolent Big Brother to popular culture mash-up painting, coining the term “POPaganda” to describe his own signature blending of high and low cultural touchstones. KCRW is very excited to announce that this vanguard street, political and popular artist is the designer of our Winter 2012 artwork. I met up with Ron on the eve of his Corey Helford Gallery opening to learn a bit about his beginnings (as well as his mind) and I’m happy to share what I’ve learned with you. Enjoy this introductory course to Ron’s work and check out more about him at his own web site, POPaganda.

At four-years-old, an hour-long timeout was once assigned to young Ron English as punishment by his mother for playing with firecrackers in his family’s backyard. As timeouts traditionally go, he was seated alone in a room and directed to sit and think about what he had done. Unknowingly, Ron’s mother left him alone with a box of crayons that until that time had gone unused. When Ron’s mother returned, she found him so immersed in drawing that he refused to stop. At first his mother thought he was continuing his bad behavior but she quickly realized he was drawing withsincerity, if not obsession. It was then, that at just four-years-old, two fundamental truths were unearthed about Ron English – he was mischievous and he really liked to draw.

This explains why so much of English’s art includes being blown up.

It also sheds some light onto the inspiration for Ron’s latest body of work – himself.

Currently on view through December 10th at Culver City’s, Corey Helford Gallery, “Seasons in Supurbia” features Ron’s interpretation of his childhood memories. This includes “Combrats,” Ron’s GI Joe clown children decorated in bright yellow, blue and pink camouflage, riding asupermarket quarter-operated cartoon pony (also decorated in bright yellow, blue and pink) as well as several portraits of Mickey Mouse with gasmask faces, sexualized bovine cowgirls and manyother motley, but well-loved, Ron English characters.
“I made this show very Pop Surrealist. This show is about myself. I thought I was the most ordinary person that ever existed. But then you realize as time expands, whoever you were, your experience was extraordinary and time makes it extraordinary… So for this show, I was trying to think about how we were the first generation that was totally saturated with media. We had a lot of cereals pitched just to us, cartoons and the first mass-produced toys. But there’s not a huge conversation about how was it for the receivers of this? What was this like for them? You lay in your yard and you imagine the Grand Canyon was this little ditch you dug – everything was expansive. So I was trying to play with the idea of the ever-unfolding imagination of a little kid.”

An Austin boy living in New York via the mid-west, Ron’s soft tone is attached to no dialect and he looks today much like he probably has most of his life – black t-shirt screened with his own MC Supersize character, grey blazer, shaggy blonde hair, goatee and black-rimmed glasses. He’s the leader of Comic-Con. And he really is. Along with his mighty portfolio that ranges from street to gallery to museum pieces (Ron is in the permanent collections of Rome’s Museum of Contemporary Art [MACRO] and Paris’ Museum of Modern Art), much of his work is also available as very limited-edition toys in the same cartoon culture mash-up of his paintings. Marilyn Monroe with Mickey Mouse boobs and a 3’ Charlie Brown with his skeleton showing can be seen at Corey Helford now.

But there was a time of course before all of these portraits, toys, gallery openings and museums. In much the same way that Kool Herc was the first DJ to spin a break-beat, Ron English is considered the first artist to bring commentary and cultural exposé into street art. He started with billboard takeovers. On these takeovers, using extraordinary wit and clever imagery, Ron flips corporate identities onto themselves with a guerrilla art tactic often referred to as Culture Jamming. The result is the exposure of the subliminal drivers behind commercial messaging and the control they effect on popular culture. His billboard subjects range from cigarettes to fast food to even the beloved Apple computer. Most well known may be MC Supersize, Ron’s obese cartoon image of Ronald MacDonald which also starred in Morgan Spurlock’s, “Supersize Me.” The effect of Ron’s Culture Jamming work is so poignantly accurate it smarts. The viewer is shocked by their new realization with a sensation like, “How’d I miss that?”
When I asked Ron about how he started his billboard enterprise, I was surprised by their fairly serendipitous beginnings, “I worked at a photo lab. They had a wall that was the exact same size of a billboard. Every day they would throw away used piles of seamless paper after models stood on them for photo shoots. They also had tons of paint from a catalog shoot where they photographed stacked up paint cans. So I went out and actually measured a billboard and said to the owners, ‘You know, your wall is the exact same size as a billboard. Why don’t I come in after work and I can take that seamless paper and that paint and I can paint billboards. I’ll post them up and you’ll see them when you come to work. It’ll be fun.’ They said sure. They were real nice.”

Nice indeed. This was a time when Ron had difficulty showing in galleries because of his young age of 20. Mid-‘80s Dallas galleries would tell Ron they were interested in established artists that were at least 30. So Ron continued to make his billboards, bringing large photo reproductions (also produced at the photo lab) to underground warehouse shows. A few of Ron’s friends liked his billboard ideas and began creating their own. After some time a crew was born and they began to collectively turn the city into their art gallery. In a night they’d paper billboards throughout Dallas, then get a keg and enjoy their citywide opening. A daring idea for the mid-‘80s, such activity today is practically a career path. For Ron and his friends, it was a really good time. As Ron puts it, “None of us thought we could make a career out of this anymore than we could make a career out of taking bong hits.”

But a career has followed Ron and whether it’s a billboard or a gallery painting, what’s wonderful about all of Ron’s work is his brilliant wit backed by extraordinary technique. His commentary is direct, mining just below the surface to raise Main Street’s subliminal monologue above a murky corporate ground. He combines pop culture shots with intricately detailed messages. Viewers become dramatically engaged with his work and disappear into Ron’s bizarre rabbit-hole world. As a result, viewers often begin to question their commitment to the tattled on messages – whatever they may be. Ron is a master with the effect of light in painting to bring dimension to his work as well as the effect of light to bring dimension to his message.

I’ll end with Ron’s commentary of an alien from outer space’s perspective of our relationship with cows and how to keep things interesting:

“What if an alien came, they’d say, ‘Oh, you have this weird relationship with cows. What is that all about? You take your mother’s milk away from your babies and have them drink cow milk, and then you eat the cows, what else do you do with the cows?’ If you’ve always known something, it’ll never be strange. But when you go to another country and everything’s weird, or another city and everything’s weird, and then it kind of normalizes and then it’s not interesting anymore. How do you keep things kind of interesting? Like when I was a kid, to keep from being beat up, they would ask me to draw stuff but as an artist that’s the first trick you learn so it’s not interesting to you anymore.”

Perhaps that’s what all the sexy bovine cowgirls are all about.

Ron English is on view at Corey Helford Gallery through December 10th with “Seasons In Supurbia,” featuring 18 new paintings as well as sculpture and toys. Corey Helford is open to the public and is located on Washington Boulevard in the Culver City Arts District.

CAFAM in Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA 1945 – 1980

A piece I wrote on CAFAM for the KCRW blog, which can be found here.

For anyone still unfamiliar with Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980, it’s like a Southern California art history class with no pre-requisites, SATs, GREs or student loans to encumber your studies.
Specifically, Pacific Standard Time is a 6-month monumental coordinated overtaking of the Southern California arts community via museum and gallery exhibitions. Reaching from Santa Barbara to San Diego, more than 60 museums and arts venues will be participating. There will be free dates and shuttles and it will further the discussions of Los Angeles as a longtime substantial participant in the international art scene. It begins with the post-World War II era and continues to the ‘80s.

One outstanding PST participant will be the Craft and Folk Art Museum located on the Wilshire District’s Museum Row directly across the street from the La Brea Tar Pits and LACMA. A venue with a rich California history, their intimate galleries feature exhibitions that merge skilled craftsmanship and design with the telling of a people’s story. In a conversation with CAFAM’s newest Executive Museum Director Suzanne Isken (former Education Director at MOCA), spoke about the importance the museum and founder Edith Wyle were to L.A. growing as a real arts capital, “Edith was a real mover and player and shaker to the art scene… and [CAFAM] was a real center. People came, artists came. She was a very active and important person – passionate about the work she was doing and very into the dissemination of information across cultures. She would travel and curate exhibitions and bring these other cultures to L.A. at a time when people didn’t really know about these things.” Behind these dedicated efforts of Edith and CAFAM, the L.A. arts community was given a home to play in once the museum officially opened its doors in 1974.

Two Pacific Standard Time exhibitions will simultaneously be on view at CAFAM – Golden State of Craft: California 1960 – 1985and The Alchemy of June Schwarz.
Golden State of Craft represents 75 groundbreaking artists that all contributed to forming the history and language of California Design. Their work propelled craft into new and uncharted directions, whose effect has had a lasting impact on contemporary art practices. All artists of Golden State have previously shown at CAFAM.

The Alchemy of June Schwarz: Enamel Vessels from the Forrest L. Merrill Collection celebrates the exquisite beauty of the work of a veritable, “Living Treasure of California,” as recognized by the California State Assembly. June Schwarz, now 93, was an innovator in the process of electroforming in art – the use of a chemical bath to build layers of metal onto objects. For June’s work, by hammering, sewing and pleating these metals onto her vessels, forms evolved that created a stunning and intricate interplay between the corroded surfaces and vivid color.

When speaking about these shows, Isken says, “Our physical plans are not as large as some of the big campuses but these artists are amazing. These are artists not shown in the large institutions and who really deserve a look and social recognition. They’re inspiring. You walk out thinking, ‘I want to do that,’ or, ‘I want to make something,’ or something you really feel a part of. It’s a special brand of hope.” Her excitement for the entire Pacific Standard Time program continues with the perspective, “With PST there’s a sense of history to all of [the programs] that’s both charming and a nostalgia. It allows you to look back at your life and what you were born around and see the objects that were made in this time and have a larger sense of who you are and where you came from. And that’s pretty exciting.”

Golden State of Craft: California 1960 – 1985 and The Alchemy of June Schwarz will open to the public this Sunday, September 25 through January 8. CAFAM is a KCRW Fringe Benefits partner. Members who present their card at the ticket counter will receive 28% off admission and 10% off purchases made in the store.

Art in Town: Kim Tucker & ShoeboxLA

A piece I wrote on ceramic artist Kim Tucker for the KCRW blog, which can be found here.

Your first impression of Kim Tucker’s ceramic figures is one of whimsy. They come in the size of small children or as smaller miniatures participating in what appear to be regular people activities. They are innocent and dressed in coveralls or what may be cotton skirts or maybe a frock. In a flash of a millisecond, you’re moved to tears. They are human and fantasy. They are vulnerable. You notice their fragility as if co-opting on their clay make-up, a material that easily breaks when not handled delicately. You see their shapes are awkward, their expressions are often somber and some are adorned in strange bumps or smiley face blemishes. There’s a desire to protect them like your own children or a friend, while acknowledging their familiar sorrow within yourself. It cannot be ignored. Using a medium traditionally built for decorative arts of elaborate shapes and vases, Kim’s twist in creating her menagerie is even sweeter. You must experience her work for yourself.

Kim recently exhibited a show with ShoeboxLA, a unique monthly pop-up gallery that creates installations in creative spaces. This event was a 3-hour show at All Star Lanes, a bowling alley in Eagle Rock. I missed it. I was crestfallen. The idea of her ceramic breakables in an All Star Lane gallery seems like the ideal setting for the emotional twist she infuses into her figures. The great news is ShoeboxLA will return this Sunday, October 30th from 2:00 – 4:00pm with a second show for Kim at Vlad the Retailer on Heliotrope in Los Angeles (a couple doors down from Scoops and Cafecito Organico Coffee near LA City College). This is a wonderful chance to enjoy Kim’s work for yourself and one of ShoeboxLA’s intelligent installations - and some yummy Scoops salted caramel ice cream, to boot! See you there.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

little hunter - chicken little

I don’t mean to be so selfish right now but I really do hope there is a heaven. I just miss her so much. I don’t know what I’d see when I get there. I held her body and it was so heavy and pliant. Everything happens so fast.

Myrna 1998 - November 1, 2011
i love you baby kitty

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Talking With the Street Folk

A piece I wrote on Lydia Emily for the KCRW blog, which can be found here.

Lydiaemily is an L.A. street artist, part of an adventurous movement comprised mostly of graphic artists that manipulate Photoshop. But Lydiaemily is a folk artist in this scene and has risen up by analog. She doesn’t even own a copy of Photoshop, relying on Kinko’s to convert her iPhone photos of finished pieces into B&W images. Once converted, sheets are printed, painted over and tucked into the trunk of her car, next to sticky paint brushes and a bucket containing a coagulated water and flour mix. Later it’s all whisked away on a Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, chaperoned by Lydiaemily to be pasted up across the city in the wee hours of the night.

Lydiaemily paints oil on canvases sizes 24”X36” with the backgrounds covered in meticulously cut slices of the Sunday New York Times. These are then glazed on to her canvases, framing her realistic portraits of world political players and political themes. In one sentence, written across the base of the image, floats to-the-point commentary calling out their political deeds. They are bold statements and have the effect of, “A-ha! Got you!” as Lydiaemily paints the news stories behind the news stories. She forces a challenging political commentary onto a public canvas.

Although a gallery artist for over 15 years, it was rare when a gallery would hang one of her political pieces, traditionally selecting her images more pastoral and innocent. Her political portraits were protests but were often misunderstood. Not long after a wary gallery owner took down an early version of her portrait of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad amidst complaints from collectors, his image painted on top of the words to his disturbing 9/11 UN speech, did Lydiaemily take her first walk into Kinko’s, introduce herself and leave with several bundles tucked under her arm of 11”X14” and 8-1/2”X11” color copies of her portraits of Ann Coulter, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hamid Karzai and her powerful, “The Truth May Not Set You Free,” portrait of Julian Assange. Each of them went up on the street. After that, Lydiaemily as a street activist went viral and she became known. Today, in only a matter of months, the galleries want her back, she’s up in new ones and she’s receiving international accolades, including her participation in the upcoming Milan show, “Inner-Walls,” the first women-only world wide street art exhibit in Italy.

The on-the-edge method, the accessibility and response to her messages and the support within the street art community have been a positive experience for Lydiaemily. She’s saddened by what she observes as unnecessary factions in the community, insider arguing between different cliques. “There’s a very serious street art community. Most people really look out and really hope that each other will succeed. Some don’t,” says Lydiaemily. “Take any group of beings and put them in a community where they’re all trying to have spot on a wall, where there are no rules, and there will be fighting.” She believes if the artists unify, they could rise to great heights, “If we’re all hungry and excluded and taking our money and time and we’re all risking our freedom in the eyes of the law and breaking out onto rooftops – if we all have this same type of goal, what is there to fight about? ...[we] could be worldwide, the amount of work that we could get done would be unstoppable and what keeps [us] stoppable is the arguing. The type of pieces the community could do would be incredible.”

To date, Lydiamily’s been in street scene shows both locally and nationally, including Lab Art Los Angeles’ most recent, “Miss Danger On the Loose – A Female Street Art Exhibit.” Over 600 people attended opening night. By the end of the evening, empty spaces spotted the walls, representing the sales of Lydiaemily portraits that went home with collectors. She participates in collaborations with her peers, trading work with each other with what she refers to as, “the same excitement as kids trading baseball cards.” Her Winston Churchill portrait garnered attention from Churchill’s estate and a print now sits with his family. For Lydiaemily though, the inclusion of one of her Obama “Hope” Bombs in a Huffington Post L.A. street art pictorial has been her greatest thrill.

Lydiaemily is presently on view at Lab Art on La Brea through August 18 and will be participating with solo and collaborative pieces in the, “L.A. vs. War,” show, recognizing the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks as well as Milan’s upcoming first ever women-only world wide street art exhibit in Italy, “Inner-Walls.” Her art is also on view throughout the streets of L.A. and San Francisco and the web site,

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Every Day

I've always had the same dream that became a great fantasy.
One day I realized it was probably a fine idea.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Trish. None Other.

We believed Trish’s beautiful voice of Broadcast was what raised her above our common fragility. It’s possible that her tragic and sudden passing holds the source of what made us all lovers of her and of Broadcast too. She was simply sublime. We believed she surpassed our humanness, but last night she succumbed to pneumonia. We are heartbroken. We miss her. We cannot imagine the loss her family and loved ones must know today. Our thoughts are with them. We miss you Trish. We thank you. Rest in peace.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Jandek is NOT a Unicorn.

Technically, I want to see a unicorn. More importantly though, I want to see Jandek. How about tonight? Sure. That's doable. So I'm cool about the unicorn thing.

Whoa. I Wrote Abour Ed Ruscha.

KCRW's edited version of this article is posted here.

“How did I not know Ed Ruscha was at the station recording a Guest DJ Project?! That is so cool!” This is what I shouted to Rachel, KCRW's Music Publicist, as I high-fived her over this latest Guest DJ Project.

As KCRW’s Drive Director, I’m part of the small group that has a day job at the station, so I get to enjoy the wide array of guests that visit KCRW to participate in our programming. Ed Ruscha is a significant icon creating significant icons. He’s a major contributor to the birth of the Pop Art movement. He’s an artist. Ed Ruscha visiting KCRW’s Guest DJ project… this is big news.

Ruscha works with minimal and simple images. Viewers are left contemplating a delicate afterglow behind the impressions of his work. Constructed with the same minimal principles, hearing Ruscha’s picks of Doo Wop, blues and folk makes sense. Of course it’s the music he grew up with but it’s also the music he chose to grow up with. These genres’ are composed with simple arrangements that produce organic, sincere and real music. Without pomp and artifice, people exist in the lyrics. Stories and a human element. I see this in Ruscha’s work. Stories, people and so much beautiful commentary in his artwork’s seeming simplicity – all ideas spoken with just a few visual notes from artist-songwriter Ruscha.

It’s exciting to hear the musical Top 5 picks from an artist like Ruscha. His work exposes him as an outstanding thinker with revolutionary contributions to our visual language. A list of favorites like these offers a peek for onlookers to connect intimately with such a mind’s inspirations. It’s a benevolent paparazzi. Which makes the small tale of his last pick even sweeter.

Ruscha’s final song selection was one of his son’s, also an artist and a fairly active DJ, Eddie Ruscha Jr. He discusses the innocent song naming process that also involved his grandson’s participation. Listening to the story, it’s hard not to acknowledge that Ruscha’s proud of his family and loves the sanctity and intimacy that art creates, the tale closing with, “…and that's how these things get done.” Things are made without affect. These things simply exist and we can play with naming them. This final inclusion is the humbling pick. The most human pick. The artistry. Sharing the song and story with our Project is touching and the feast of why these Projects are so engaging. Another simple masterpiece from Ed Ruscha, brought to you by KCRW’s Guest DJ Project.