Archive for December, 2018


Sunday, December 30th, 2018

Now, each time that I see her, her body is smaller.

What memories will I take from her. From her body that I was once close with, from her body that I loved, that I loved greatly. From her warm damp body after the shower, smelling strongly of soap, dressed in a cotton night gown. She didn’t wear under wear at night.

I have a box of her pictures and in so many of them it is just her, alone, posing.

A teen.

I am entirely unsure of her interior, what colors beat inside of that overcast withering sky. What cage she falls asleep in and how it may be opened during her dreaming. How her hands and body do shake. How restless and how far away.

Math Bass was born in 1981 in New York and lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. They have had solo museum exhibitions at MoMA PS1, New York; the YUZ Museum, Shanghai, China; the Jewish Museum, New York and the Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA. Public collections include the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles and the YUZ Museum, Shanghai.


Sunday, December 30th, 2018

— Graffiti writing was my first committed creative endeavor, I was obsessed. An early passion that steered me away from less productive trouble as a teen and in hindsight, taught me about observing architecture and the built environment around me. Seems that the lessons I learned scrutinizing buildings and trains for the perfect spot may have much to do with the details of the world that so preoccupy my mind now.

The greatest writers are the Pichação of Rio De Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil. It’s a super specific culture that orbits the graffiti world, and short the commonalties of illegally writing on things, I find it to be quite unique. I do not claim to be some insider, only a DEEP fan. The Pichação’s developed a stunning type of hieroglyphics, slightly goth or heavy metal-ish and owing much esthetically to the materials they predominantly use – small rollers and cheap bucket paint. While there is a baseline of sorts found in their typography, each individual or crew customizes the language with specific flair. It requires the next level of skilled madness to be one of these writers as it is a hyper dangerous endeavor. Beyond the pursuit of illegally writing in the streets of one of the most violent, corrupt cities on the planet, the Pichação incorporate free climbing and rappelling with crude ropes and ladders up and down the highest buildings in the metropolis as a key component of their culture.

Looking past the exhilaration, I was always so impressed with the relationships between what is written and the architecture or infrastructure that was written on. Brazil’s messy mecca of Portuguese – Euro Modernism and Brutalist architecture has created a rigid, stepped landscape for the middle class of the city. The design of these buildings, many that have been abandoned or fallen into neglect, are full of nooks and steps in their stark, rhythmic, geometric design. The Pichação climb and traverse them like armies of small ants, using the architecture, and each other, to climb to new heights in competition all while observing and reinforcing the given details of the building as the parameters for their writing. Spacing and scale are always carefully considered, where a grid of blocks or recessed panel on a buildings facade starts and ends, acts as the parenthesis for the methodically cryptic writing of names. They take care to free climb a fifteen story building neatly writing above each window, above each patio awning, crawling up along the buildings pop-outs and boosting each other for grips and leverage.

I don’t imagine these writers care much about the artistic or conceptual relationships to the architecture they paint, Pichação use their writing as a way to reclaim the city for themselves, much of which wasn’t built with them in mind anyway. But I think I’m drawn to the unconscious effects that the city’s design has had on their style and technique of painting. The rhythm and organization related to the symmetries of these types of architecture – the esoteric humanness of the writer vs the cold logic of the building has made a direct impact on they esthetics they developed. The phenomenon of Pichação is a deep dark and complicated one, but it’s also so raw and free and beautiful. I first discovered Pichação in the late 1990‘s when Brazil’s greatest graffiti “art” export Os Gemeos, teamed up with the San Francisco king Twist. Twist had brought back photos from a trip to Sao Paulo, and there was a Brazilian feature in a graffiti magazine that I some how came across in suburban Phoenix, Arizona. I was captivated and followed ever since, from the zines, to the forums, to the blogs, and now Instagram. Honestly, it’s my favorite thing on Instagram (*and the crazy industrial milling videos) – its still so raw, unadulterated, and done purely for the twisted love. It’s quite refreshing to think that through deep dedication and focused madness, a young person from the lost parts of a mega city can reclaim it as theirs, a kind of David vs. concrete Goliath with handwriting. Here are some of my favorites.

Matt Paweski was born Detroit, in 1980. He lives and works in Los Angeles. A selection of recent solo exhibitions includes: LOOK OUT, SWITCH – SWITCH, COUPLES, FOUNTAIN, Park View/Paul Soto (2018), Los Angeles; SANOU OUMAR / MATT PAWESKI, Gordon Robichaux, New York (2018, two-person with Sanou Oumar); Lulu, Mexico City (2018, two-person with Ella Kruglyanskaya); Herald St. London (2017); Ratio 3, San Francisco (2016); and NEW SCULPTURE, South Willard, Los Angeles (2015). In 2018, Paweski took part in the group exhibitions ROCK, PHIL, Los Angeles; A PAGE FROM MY INTIMATE JOURNAL (PART I) —, Gordon Robichaux, New York; Condo, PARK VIEW/PAUL SOTO, hosted by Queer Thoughts, New York; and US SOFTCORE, curated by Matt Paweski, South Willard, Los Angeles. In 2016, he was exhibited in WALK ARTISANAL, Los Angeles; and, in 2015, KLEENEX ROSE, Bodega, New York; THE CURVE, Wallspace, New York; and MATT PAWESKI AND ANDREA SALA, Cherry and Martin, Los Angeles.


Sunday, December 30th, 2018

January 25th, 2013:
Invisible Cows and time lapse still from Hale County This Morning, This Evening

RaMell Ross is an artist, filmmaker and writer based in RI and Al. His work has appeared in places like the NY Times, Aperture, Harper’s Magazine, TIME, Oxford American, and the Walker Arts Center. He has been awarded an Aaron Siskind Foundation Individual Photographer’s Fellowship and a Rhode Island Foundation MacColl Johnson artist fellowship. He recently had a solo exhibition at Aperture Gallery in NY. His feature documentary HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING won a Special Jury Award for Creative Vision at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and has screened at Museum of Modern Art, Institute of Contemporary Art – London, Museum of Moving Image, and Lincoln Center.


Sunday, December 30th, 2018

People are thinking a lot about the current U.S. Government. I recall how I spent a year making “Portraits of the U.S. Congress 1986-87”. I did it basically because not unlike today, I couldn’t understand who they could possibly be. In case someone fresh wants to take a shot at photographing Congress (besides the most excellent press corps) here is a bit of what it was like for me.

In 1986-87, I dragged 45 lbs of equipment around the halls of the United States Congress in what amounted to a shopping cart. It was a half-assed thing to look at but the lightest means to transport my 8×10 camera equipment to the 15 minute appointments I had to make portraits of members of the House and Senate in their offices at the Capital.

Here is a page from my appointment book.

On alternate weeks, I made calls for appointments from my home phone in Pennsylvania some 220 miles away from D.C. using the invaluable Congressional telephone book.

Then I spent the next week in D.C. shooting. Here is a schedule of a week of shooting.

Here is a map of the entire Capital Hill.

And one of the Capital Building alone.

Finally the only hand drawn map I have remaining of the 4th floor of the House Rayburn Building and how to get around.

There was lots of walking from place to place. You used underground passageways to get from building to building. It was a miracle I could find my way and get there in time. I even learned which elevators took freight to carry me expeditiously. Looking at how I did things, I think it is very funny that I was able to pull this off. It should give anyone hope. Really it should. About anything.

When looking at these maps and schedules I found these notes I made about my appointment to photograph Senator Strom Thurmond, Republican of South Carolina when I was doing “Portraits of The United States Congress 1986-87”.

Notes on Senator Strom Thurmond Republican South Carolina:

His outer office had rich furnishings, french chairs and desks.

I sat opposite attractive and interested in me (mutual) older man.

We chatted about pressures of being in Washington – he only 3 days a year – me at that point 3 months left to go.

A lot of people came in – teenager boys gangly, goofy, lobotomized… hardly able to stand – walking like they had their legs tied together – so uncomfortable with the situation or themselves.

2 young girls — about 14 or 15, red dresses, thick (very), dark hair – smaller girl more sculptural of features like a greek sculpture in real life but a bit array with pouty lips just breaking into her womanliness. I think they sit very straight… their Dad is with them. Then a man who was on crutches or some major impairment of walking comes in and I move my seat for him and the girl, the smaller one in red, takes this seat.

The staff is chatting about the recent blizzard. I get a phone message from Senator Rockefelller’s office (Aside: I have no idea how they know where I am as there are no cell phones at this time. I use a typewriter and white out and a regular phone and zerox machine… it was all very old school for me.)

I use their phone to return the call — appointment cancelled. I am confused frightened and delighted to have the attention I feel the call brings upon me (Aside: No one actually cares but me and my ego.)

The Press Aide gets me into Thurmond’s office and it is like no other I’ve yet seen. Definitely Louis 14th furnishings. 20ft high ceilings 30 feet long 15 wide. Covered to ceiling with plaques etc. Strangest is that there are two desks, and in one further from me is Strom Thurmond who because of the dimensions of the room and of him, seems miles away.

He is barely seen above the desk yet feels very powerful. Fireplace on right, glowing family portraits – wife or daughter of exceptional beauty and sexual bloom. A Blond Prize. A surprising portrait. Surprised me even though I knew his wife had been, a young, beauty queen… she couldn’t be the one in the picture unless it was 10-15 years old… was it their daughter? (Aside: No pictures of his illegitimate black daughter who he conceived by the maid servant southern racist style!!!!!!!)

The Press Aide introduced me. I set up the camera. Egad! Simultaneously, they have decided to photograph all the horrid high school boys during my appointment! I folded up the tripod legs and stood precariously on the side with my camera almost being crushed when door from the hallway opened to let in the bored boys. I was stunned by the precision with which Thurmond arranged the boys around his body and his handshake. He was masterful. He stood where he always stands I assume, by the fucking flag. He in the middle. If there was more than one constituent, shaking hands was accomplished by crossing over his body’s front, a massive fucking front, (like a skater moves with a partner) all while telling the boys how to stand and where to look, smiling sharply while directing them. They seemed trapped by puberty, somewhere the needle was stuck. Maybe all their energies were concentrated in those newly energized reproductive organs. And there was no evidence that any could be diverted for any other purpose like thinking or responding to the outside world. I couldn’t blame them (Aside: I was stunned as well. How could I succeed in photographing this master of ceremonies. He had massive shoulders, a tiny shrunken — apple like head. He also had terrific charisma, though I loathed his political positions he was nearly overwhelming to me.)

The photographer of the boys did a grand job. Plastic staged shots. Flash smile Flash smile — Thurmond the director. Then Thurmond gave each of the boys a plastic key chain with his name and President Pro Tempore on it in a crappy cellophane wrapping. Only one boy seems disarmed-frightened during the hurried shooting. Thurmond didn’t have time or make any effort that I could see to really know anything about anyone — a publicity factory. (I met this same photographer by happenstance in Senator Roth’s office the next day… we had a nice chat about pain killers… he said that he works for “Close Up” a profit organization charging $850 plus flight costs for these portraits and he doesn’t believe Congress is aware of it.)

Anyway, I was appalled by how much time was taken by the commercial shooting of the kids… Then it was my turn and he (Thurmond) thought he could carry on a conversation with his staff whose desks also occupy the room.

I said I had to have him hold still.

First shot far away – thought it was nothing and was going to be nothing then moved closer. Terrified the whole thing was going very bad and almost at the same time it became incredible. I made five shots. At the last he began to smile. Done.

Then Strom Thurmond gave me a fucking key chain! He put his hand on my shoulder and drew me ever so

(After all, I had just seen him on my terms which are like love or close to it.)

As he drew me near, I felt compelled to embrace him but held back. With the other hand, he gives me this fucking key chain and I can still hear the cellophane wrapper on it and I was so thrilled. What if I hadn’t gotten my key chain. What a letdown that would have been!

The thought also came – as he drew me near, was he going to fall over — he is 85 years old. Was he steadying himself?


Judith Joy Ross was born in Pennsylvania, in 1946. She lives and works in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Since the early 1980s she has dedicated her work to the medium of photographic portraiture. Her books include CONTEMPORARIES (1995), PORTRAITS (1996), PORTRAITS OF THE HAZLETON PUBLIC SCHOOLS (2006) and PROTEST THE WAR (2007). Her photographs are included in numerous institutional collections, including those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Addison Gallery of American Art; Allentown Art Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum Folkwang, Essen; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Die Photographische Sammlung, Cologne; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; and Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven; among others.


Sunday, December 30th, 2018

I have suffered from amnesia for a long time. Perhaps for ever. For as long as I can remember. I don’t usually remember anything. Or very little. I have often wondered why and how I am the person I have become. A ridiculous question I can never answer. Flipping through an old family album the other day, I happened upon these two photos that have always been there, that I’ve seen time and again since I was little. This man was decapitating people and burying their heads under a church. I used to live in Togo. Nobody ever explained these pictures to me. I’m not sure I ever even asked myself about them. It was thus. It was this man, near my home. It was me. I could have been him. I could have been this head. Perhaps I grew up without my head, or with my head in someone else’s hands. I know this picture is part of me, my constitution, my past and future. But I don’t know how. I will never know. Just as I’ll never know if the policemen made the body longer than it was. Or the head bigger. Or if they forgot to measure the head.

This morning I wrote to my mother:

“Who was this man? Why is he in our family photo album, among the pictures of my childhood?”

She replied by email two hours later:

“He had just beheaded a pregnant woman, and was looking for others to kill… It seems that someone told him that the more people he killed, the richer he would become! You can clearly see it’s not a woman’s head, he was executed on the beach, after photos were taken and measurements made of the remains of the body.
What’s the point of that? I guess the cops didn’t have a lot to do.”

Véréna Paravel was born in 1971, in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Paravel is a filmmaker, artist and anthropologist. Her works include the short videos 7 QUEENS (2008) and INTERFACE SERIES (2009–2010), the feature FOREIGN PARTS (2010) and, with Lucien Castaing-Taylor, LEVIATHAN (2012) and her latest film CANIBA(2017), both produced as part of Harvard University’s Sensory Ethnography Lab.