Archive for September, 2009

MORE THOUGHTS ON TODD SCHORR

Posted by erin on September 24th, 2009

SJSU Students Discuss Contemporary Surrealist Work Seen at SJMOA

The Todd Schorr show at the San Jose Museum of Art was popular and well received as indicative of contemporary directions in art. Its content was not without controversy while its style had inevitable appeal to a young generation of artists. I went to the Museum with a group of San Jose State undergraduates wondering what they would have to say about the work. It was a delight to learn that students appear to be much better prepared to express cogent opinions on art than they were in an earlier epoch. What they took away from the show revealed that they engaged it seriously. Many of their observations were enlightening to me. Here are a few that were submitted in writing:

Erin Goodwin-Guerrero, Editor

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Todd Schorr’s Antidote for a Troubled World exists in the context of the nuclear threat looming near.

Bopharandeth Em: Schorr was a unique child with a surreal sense of imagination. He says that when he was a child he was exposed to a lot of popular culture, comic books and a collection of National Geographic belonging to his parents. His work conveys all this, and the overlying threat of nuclear war. Schorr has rejected boundaries and emphasizes playfulness. By rejecting boundaries, his work causes controversies.

Lizzie Orr: Todd Schorr’s work is a clear example of Postmodernism because it tackles the concepts of political correctness and gender rolls cynically, while using traditional painting techniques‚Ķ. The painting, Domestic Turmoil in Punkinville, shows Mr. and Mrs. Potato head fleeing the scene of a domestic dispute. This piece can be seen as humorous because of the involvement of the popular childhood toy, but in reality, in today’s society, it is no laughing matter. The painting is very realistic except for the heads of the two characters, which are giant spuds with many ‘eyes’, and their home — a pumpkin. ‚ĶThis juxtaposition of realism versus pop culture in two distinct styles makes this piece, and others in the exhibition like it, Postmodern.

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THE DE LA TORRES RETURN TO SAN JOSE

Posted by erin on September 16th, 2009

La Reconquista at MACLA Recalls the Last Judgment with a New World Twist

By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

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The de la Torres’ altar, La Reconquista, at MACLA

It was around thirteen years ago that the de la Torres first arrived at MACLA to install their first San Jose exhibition. From slides sent in advance, then Director Jaime Alvarado, and all of us on the Artist Selection Committee were excited to meet these unconventional Latino artists. If glass art conjures up exquisite Venetian vessels or Chihuly-like chandeliers, this was not that. For all the history of glass art as a medium of delicate, beautiful craft, the de la Torre glass sculpture had content! It was funky and bold, informed by both rasquache and history. There was endless cultural commentary paired with arbitrary insertions of the ridiculous. It eagerly mixed with such low brow materials as styrofoam, cast-off parts of wood furniture or metal appliances, plastic toys, fake fur in atrocious plastic colors, beer bottles and many small dollar-store discoveries representing bad taste and consumer culture. Their art was as wild and iconoclastic as it promised to be and the brothers, Jamex and Einar, did not disappoint either. They were sharp, well-informed, thinking artists, with a wicked sense of humor. Born in Guadalajara and educated at Long Beach State, with citizenship and residences on both sides of the border, they introduced us to an endless parody of cross-border politics, gender politics, politics and government in general, consumer culture, cultural icons, the precious Gods of MesoAmerican history, art history in general, and the Catholic religion. Nothing was or is sacred with the de la Torres.

Our excitement quickly turned to sadness and outrage when an individual living on the streets of downtown San Jose, well known for the religious tracts he disseminated along South First Street, managed to single-handedly wreck the whole show. This one-time graphic design student, allegedly high on drugs, broke through the glass doors at the front of the gallery, ripped the crash bar off the door and used it as tool of destruction to break all the glass elements in the sculptural works that lined the walls and stood throughout the gallery. The exhibition had not even been lit, and the public never had the chance to see it in more than swept up heaps of broken glass, bent metal and miscellaneous remnants. The perpetrator of the horrid act was ostensibly offended by the de la Torres’ irreverent use of Christian symbols among other affronts embodied in their work. Much was made of his offence in the context of freedom of speech for artists. I always felt that the matter dealt more with the tragedy of brain damage to individuals using mind-altering substances.

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In the SJSU hot shop, the de la Torres return as guest artists.

So, in spite of the loss of a great deal of their body of work early in their career, the de la Torres developed a very particular relationship to San Jose. They have returned to work as guest artists in the glass program at San Jose State repeatedly, donated annually to the MACLA Benefit Auction and have shown at MACLA in other exhibitions many times.

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SoFA District Experiencing a Transformation

By Josh Russell

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Hard-hat energy is applied to the installation of planters and the creation of sidewalk extensions for San Jose’s Sofa District.

The end of June marked the official completion of year one of 1stACT Silicon Valley‚Äôs SoFA (South of First Street) implementation plan. This plan is in collaboration with a key group of SoFA leaders, the Redevelopment Agency, City of San Jose, San Jose Downtown Association, and Ken Kay Associates. This activation plan is a demonstration project from 1stACT’s vision for the future of Downtown San Jose based on a framework of “big deals” and “small wonders”.

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Parallel parking makes room for planters in “bulb-outs” without the loss of parking spaces.

“The SoFA area is demonstrating a series of “small wonders” that significantly improve downtown,” said Connie Martinez, Managing Director and CEO of 1stACT Silicon Valley. “Once completed, our hope is to build on the success of an important three block area in downtown and transform other areas of Downtown San Jose.”

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BEV RAYNER CALLS UP SENTIMENT AND A LAUGH IN SJSU EXHIBITION

Posted by erin on September 6th, 2009

Cumulative Portraits and Messages over Time, Speak to Stages of Life

By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

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The lining of Rayner’s Coat, composed of small portrait photos.

The beginning of the academic year at SJSU is marked by a surprising exhibition by Santa Cruz artist Bev Rayner in Gallery 3. A single form – a coat with a long tale and long arms – occupied nearly the entire gallery. Much larger than the previous multimedia sculpture with which I am familiar, this work has all of the content that Rayner is known for, and more. Again, Rayner speaks to the endless generations of families and friends that are preserved in our memories, by family snapshots as much as anything else — and even then, as time passes, their images are lost in our minds. Photographs of men and women of all ages line the interior of the coat, disappearing into the depths of the long lining that lies face down on the floor.

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FIRST FRIDAYS INAUGURATE THE FALL ’09 SEASON IN SOFA

Posted by erin on September 6th, 2009

More than Fun, A Great Survey of What is Happening Artistically in the South Bay

By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

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Erika Hannes and Praba Pilar arrive from San Francisco and Oakland to enjoy First Friday in San Jose.

As the Sofa District of San Jose undergoes a face-lift, parking is readdressed and neighborhood restaurants burst outdoors onto widened sidewalks, the monthly ritual of gallery visits, sidewalk chats with friends, and dinner downtown is enhanced. Lighted trees, live music on stages, dancers, street vendors and street poets all made the visual arts district come alive on the outside and inside on September’s First Friday.

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Live music on the stage in front of Anno Domini Gallery, contributed to the ambiance of the South First Street “Gallery Crawl” on First Friday, September 4th

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Street vendors on South First between San Carlos and San Salvador have fun and sell their work. “Hi Gustavo!”

Stages in front of Anno Domini and MACLA brought a wide variety of energized sounds to the street. Live music inside Eulipia appealed to diners, offering a more relaxed listening environment. Beyond the vendors and galleries, art could be seen in unconventional spaces such as the new Downtown Yoga Shala, the billiards parlor and Caffé Trieste. Other new tenants on South First Street, in The Art Glass Center bring art glass in action, with community accessibility to the scene.

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The Art Glass Center is a new member of the visual arts organizations that populate south First Street in San Jose.

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SCHORR’S PERSONAL FANTASY AND SPECTACLE

Posted by erin on September 1st, 2009

Todd Schorr: “American Surreal” on exhibit at the San Jose Museum of Art

by Sarah Ratchye

20-June to 15-September, 2009

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The Parade of the Damned, acrylic on canvas, 60” x 84”, 2004

Months before it was open to the public, I anticipated the Todd Schorr exhibition, American Surreal, at the San Jose Museum of Art, with excitement. As a trustee of the museum, I am privy to the exhibition roster well in advance. Pumped up by several years of subscriptions to Robert William’s magazine Juxtapoz, a number of beautiful hard and softbound books on pop surrealist art and artists, and a multi-level appreciation of contemporary painting, I was ready to revel in the paint, technique, color, appropriated pop imagery, nostalgic hippie wowness, and manic middle-schoolboy subversiveness of Schorr’s works.

The exhibit has been well-attended since the “soft” opening in June. The expected unusual sorts of creatures, sporting fanciful and unique signs and symbols of their various countercultures, packed the Party opening in July. An interesting contradiction that evening was the appearance of the artist in a conservative grey sport coat. He may have even worn a tie. Shades of Madison Ave.? After all, he was a well paid illustrator living and working in New York before setting off for Los Angeles with a dream of making art. The museum threw a grand art party that evening complete with a sold-out panel discussion with Todd Schorr; Colin Turner, publisher of Last Gasp; Mark Bode, a comic and tattoo artist; and Susan Landauer, the San Jose Museum’s Senior Scholar and Curator of Collections. As if that were not enough, Todd Schorr signed his newest book, American Surreal after the panel discussion and guests enjoyed music, hors d’oeuvres, and all the exhibitions on view. Susan Landauer curated the Todd Schorr exhibition and wrote the essay, Sympathy for the Devil, contained in the exhibition book. Since the party, each time I visit the exhibit, the galleries are full of viewers actively engaged in discussion before the paintings. Once, I heard people making the uncanny musical noises associated with the cartoon characters in the work before them. Schorr’s mostly large, colorful and image-packed paintings definitely draw viewers close and stimulate discussion.

The first painting I encountered in the museum galleries, set the tone for the exhibit. She Was Charmed by His Outward Appearance has an intriguing pulp-fiction title and image that grabbed my attention. On one side of the work, a glamorous gal leans backward into the embrace of her conventionally handsome companion. Her beautiful beaded gown reflects the strange yellow glow from a large tank of monsters. She is apparently unaware of the thick wormlike lower body that emerges below the man’s jacket, and leads behind a wall to a menacing multi-eyed shark-teethed demon. Something very creepy is about to begin and the pretty victim of this event is oblivious. She allows herself to be seduced by superficial beauty and, consequently seals her doom. Schorr reveals the true identity and malevolence of outward appearances to the viewer and paints a cautionary tale. Pulled into the picture by Schorr’s magnetic images and brilliant technique, the eyes wander lazily and languidly over the glittering surface and pretty people only to be pulled wide and terrified at the encounter with the demon in the dark. The artist is well versed in the power of attractive imagery to persuade and confuse, and assumes that his viewers will arrive before his paintings already charmed or bewitched by the familiar characters he paints. Nonetheless, Schorr leads the viewer further, behind the curtain, to show her the evil lurking beneath a beguiling smile. The message is reinforced in several other works in the exhibit.

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