Archive for November, 2011


Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

— I am very fond of my sketchbooks that I began in the 50s and still work on today. I think there is a certain freedom when you are absorbed in painting a sketchbook. You are not burdened to do something important. You are not dealing in big things. You are just thinking and the sketchbooks are a way to express your thinking. They are very intimate. I work on my sketchbooks almost every day. If I had to choose what I value the most in my work I might choose my sketchbooks. Here are two of my favorite sketchbooks. There are four here which are just covers titled, My Father and I. The other is Sketchbook #1 which I hope to publish as a book one day. Some of my sketchbooks will be on display at my show at the Deichtorhallen House of Photography, Hamburg in February 2012.

Saul Leiter was born in Pittsburgh in 1923, the son of a rabbi. Leiter’s interest in art began in his late teens, and at 23, he quit theology school and moved to New York to pursue painting. That year he met the Abstract Expressionist painter Richard Pousette-Dart, who was experimenting with photography. Leiter’s friendship with Pousette-Dart and, soon after, with W. Eugene Smith inspired his involvement with photography. Leiter’s earliest black and white photographs show an extraordinary affinity for the medium, and by the 1950s he also began to work in color. Edward Steichen included 23 of Leiter’s black and white photographs in the exhibition, ALWAYS THE YOUNG STRANGER at the Museum of Modern Art in 1953. Leiter’s first exhibition of color photography was held in the 1950s at the Artist’s Club-a meeting place for many of the Abstract Expressionist painters of that time. In the late 1950s the art director Henry Wolf published Leiter’s color fashion work in Esquire and later in Harper’s Bazaar. Leiter continued to work as a fashion photographer for the next 20 years and was also published in Show, Elle, British Vogue, Queen, and Nova. Leiter’s work is featured in the book THE NEW SCHOOL: PHOTOGRAPHS 1936-1963 by Jane Livingston and in APPEARANCES: FASHION PHOTOGRAPHY SINCE 1945 by Martin Harrison. His work is in the collections of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Art Institute of Chicago; The Baltimore Museum of Art; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; and other public and private collections. A major retrospective of Leiter’s work will be on show at Hamburg’s Deichtorhallen Museum, from February 2 – April 22, 2012


Tuesday, November 29th, 2011


— I first read the author of Orientalism many years ago, and (along with Chomsky, Finkelstein and Khalidi) began to develop an understanding of the Israel/Palestine conflict and its history. Although penned in 1979, The Question of Palestine remains perhaps the most beautifully written, penetratingly critical (of both sides) and compassionate argument for the Palestinian cause. His 1993 lecture that was published as Representations of the Intellectual brought the ethical dimensions of being an intellectual (or cultural producer) into sharp focus, one can’t escape the seriousness of his argument: we are involved in what we see, hear and read in the news every day- the barbaric things that the powerful do to the powerless (otherwise known as civilization)- whether we like it or not, as Howard Zinn succinctly put it, “You can’t be neutral on a moving train”.

The fact that this same man was also, arguably, the most deeply and broadly knowledgeable interpreter of “western” classical music in the U.S. didn’t really dawn on me until relatively recently. I would occasionally read his music columns in the Nation, where he was music critic for many years, simply taking his brilliant, literary and often scathing reviews for granted. Now I know better. I am still angry that he died much too soon and Music at the Limits reminds me again of how much has been lost with his passing, and for me personally, how much I missed by just not paying close enough attention.

It’s hard to understate how completely in another realm Said was as a music critic, you can’t really compare his work to other music criticism (except perhaps Adorno), he was just doing something completely different. I bought Music at the Limits initially because of the essay on Sergiu Celibidache, the legendary and eccentric Romanian conductor of the Munich Philharmonic who never made a recording, insisting that music must only be heard in live performance. Celibidache turned the New York concert world on its ear (no pun intended) when he performed only one piece, Bruckner’s 4th Symphony, at Carnegie Hall for an entire two-hour program. Said understood and wrote about every aspect of the musical performance; the piece of music, its history, the history of its various performances (many of which he attended), the conductor and his history, the composer and his history, the orchestra and its history, its board of director’s history, the audience and the history of audiences, the form of the two hour concert, its history, etc, etc. Nothing was left outside the frame, nothing taken for granted or assumed neutral or natural. He performed a nearly complete analysis on the institution of classical music and did so in virtually every column he wrote while maintaining some of the most compelling and graceful prose in the english language.

In Daniel Barenboim’s forward to Music at the Limits there is a passing reference to the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the collaboration that grew from Said and conductor/pianist Barenboim’s friendship. The two men became very close friends after their now legendary chance meeting and a volume of their conversations Parallels and Paradoxes: Explorations in Music and Society was published in 2002, the year before Said’s death. The conversations between the Argentine-Israeli Jew (who also holds Palestinian citizenship) and the displaced Palestinian reveal a shared passion and deep commitment to the idea that intellectuals and cultural producers have a special imperative to struggle for justice. The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, started in 1999, is the concrete result of their commitment. It is an ongoing project for young musicians in the Middle East where Jewish children from Israel come together with Palestinian and other Arab children to rehearse, perform and live together. Although Barenboim insists it is not a peacemaking effort, the children’s shared love of music and the pedagogical framework of West-Eastern Divan at least creates the possibility for understanding and non-violence and is certainly an alternative that is in opposition to the logic of the Israeli occupation. The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (along with the rest of Edward Said’s work) offers a powerful example of the role art has to play in producing the world we want.

Above: Photos taken from West-Eastern Divan

Jesus Barraza
Hand Silkscreened

Sam Durant is a multimedia artist whose works engage a variety of social, political, and cultural issues. Often referencing American history, his work explores the varying relationships between culture and politics, engaging subjects as diverse as the civil rights movement, southern rock music, and modernism. His work has been widely exhibited internationally and in the United States. He has had solo museum exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Dusseldorf, S.M.A.K., Ghent, Belgium, and the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Zealand. His work has been included in the Panamá, Sydney, Venice, and Whitney Biennales. Durant shows with several galleries including Blum and Poe in Los Angeles, Paula Cooper Gallery in New York, Praz-Delavallade in Paris and Sadie Coles Gallery in London. His work has been extensively written about including seven monographic catalogs and books. In 2006 he compiled and edited a comprehensive monograph of Black Panther artist Emory Douglas’ work. His recent curatorial credits include EAT THE MARKET at the Los Angeles County Museum and BLACK PANTHER: THE REVOLUTIONARY ART OF EMORY DOUGLAS at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the New Museum in New York. He has co-organized numerous group shows and artists benefits and is a co-founder of TRANSFORMA, a cultural rebuilding collective project in New Orleans. He was a finalist for the 2008 Hugo Boss Prize and has received a United States Artists Broad Fellowship and a City of Los Angeles Individual Artist Grant. His work can be found in many public collections including The Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth, Tate Modern in London, Project Row Houses in Houston, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Durant teaches art at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California.


Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Tris Vonna-Michell was born in 1982, in Southend-on-Sea, United Kingdom and currently lives in Stockholm. Previous solo exhibitions include: Metro Pictures, New York (2011); NOT A SOLITARY SIGN OR INSCRIPTION TO EVEN SUGGEST AN ENDING, Overduin and Kite, Los Angeles (2010); TRIS VONNA-MICHELL, Capitain Petzel, Berlin (2010); FINDING CHOPIN: ENDNOTES 2005-2009, Jeu de Paume, Paris (2009); STUDIO A: MONUMENTAL DETOURS / INSIGNIFICANT FIXTURES, Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Bergamo, Italy (2009); AUTO-TRACKING-AUTO-TRACKING, Kunsthalle Zürich (2009); and TRIS VONNA-MICHELL, Witte de With, Rotterdam (2007). His work has been exhibited in group-shows at institutions and biennials that include: X-Initiative, New York; the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; 5th Berlin Biennale, Kunst-Werke, Berlin; Performa 07, New York; and Manifesta 08, Cartagena and Murcia, Spain. In September 2011 a new catalogue of his work was published by JRP|Ringier, in collaboration with Kunsthalle Zürich, GAMeC – Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo, Halle für Kunst Lüneburg eV, and Fondazione Galleria Civica – Centro di Ricerca sulla Contemporaneità di Trento.


Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

— Deep within the spirit and flesh of my being, the fretting breath of Ancestors guides the burning faith. Sacred are the visions ingrained like gleaming sermons, preached far beyond the face of my nights. Give me the courage to know the things of life, that I may be worthy of my place. Above all, teach me to share the gifts.

With some of my brothers and sister on the porch of the home where we all were born, when I was around 13 years old. From left to right: Freddie, me, Gloria, Warren and Marvin, all now involved in the arts.

Me in my studio. Photograph by Peter Tolkin

My studio. Photograph by Peter Tolkin

My studio. Photograph by Peter Tolkin

Born and raised in Greenville, North Carolina in 1933, John Outterbridge is an artist, educator and community activist. He was founder and Director of the Communicative Arts Academy, Compton from 1969-1975, and Director of the Watts Towers Arts Center, Los Angeles from 1975-1992. His work has been included in five PACIFIC STANDARD TIME exhibitions as well as in shows at the Centre Pompidou, Paris and The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; a retrospective of his work was held at the California Afro-American Museum in 1993. He is represented by Tilton Gallery, New York.


Tuesday, November 29th, 2011


Huma Bhabha was born in 1962 in Karachi, Pakistan, and currently lives and works in Poughkeepsie, New York. Most recently, she was included in the 2010 Whitney Biennial and participated in an exhibition of sculpture at City Hall Park in New York organized by the Public Art Fund. In 2008 she participated in the 7th Gwangju Biennale in Gwangju, Korea, and received the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum Emerging Artist Award. Her work has been widely exhibited internationally, including in group exhibitions at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; S.M.A.K., Ghent, Belgium; MOMA PS1, New York; Royal Academy of Arts, London; New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; and Arena Mexico Arte Contemporaneo in Guadalajara, Mexico.