Friday, June 27, 2008

Proof I'm weird

I visited And/Or Gallery in Dallas this afternoon to take notes for a review I'm working on. It's a show of Net-based art plus some hacker stuff that exhibits just the the right amount of edge without giving in to snarkiness. One of the artists in the show, Olia Lialina, has a Web site here with her partner Dragan Espenschied. Since the mid 1990s, she's been making Web-based artworks that have something of the awareness of material semiotics you find in the works of really good sculptors. Only here, the awareness is applied to the niceties of HTML code and low-grade digital graphics, not plastic, stone, rubber, etc.

My plans to work on a second review were crushed, however, when I found the gallery closed. In fact, all the business owners in the neighborhood met with the mayor this afternoon. So lots of places were closed. Foiled by community development.

Back home, I sliced a passel of homemade bacon, fried it up, and schlepped it to the Spot down on the square to share with Friday happy hour friends. That I took a mess of bacon to a bar this evening is proof that I'm weird. Nobody hauls bacon to a bar.

My friends liked the bacon, and I'll visit the gallery tomorrow. I hear the mayor has the day off.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


The review is at the magazine. I've begun research for the next one, and I've hacked away at another disgusting part of my studio.

But my point here is that the bacon is done:

Raw above. Cooked below.

BLT's for dinner, of course.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I spent the day slogging through some of the mess in my embarrassingly too big studio. Vacuum cleaners and machetes and stomping bigass spiders behind me, I have at least one room in a non-toxic state tonight. The work was pretty much physical, which was a gift, actually, since I needed the break from writing.

The writing proceeds apace. I have a draft of a review for one mag and a glimmering about what to do for the next one. The next one comes tomorrow -- a day late by my schedule, but that's what happens when you spend the afternoon hacking arachnids with almost illegal blades instead of writing. Wonder what my deadline is?

Meanwhile I also have three chunks of cured pork belly in the smoker pit right now. The belly chunks have been in a cure for a week as of tonight. It's time I had a good look at them.

Bacon beckons. More later.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Personalizing the losses

I just saw this at BAGnews. There's a link to the Rocky Mountain News story about his family and the damage his death in this idiotic war has done to them.

The howling animal joy that possessed me when my daughter entered the world 24 years ago is something he will never know. I guess that's why I experienced a very personal grief for a young man I didn't know. He was just a little older than my daughter.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


We bought half a hog last fall. In January, I packed a piece of the ham (the local meat processors cut the ham into two parts, alas -- I didn't know they were going to do it, so I didn't know to tell them not to) in salt and weighted it down to cure in the refrigerator. After the salt cure, I wrapped it in cheese cloth and hung it in a wine storage unit for a little more than five months. Today is my birthday and so I unwrapped it. That's me trying to slice it above.

I'm pretty happy about how it turned out. Never tried to cure a ham before. The only hard part was the waiting.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bacon again

It's our wedding anniversary. I'm making bacon:

Three batches of bacon, each weighing more than three pounds.

We bought over ten pounds of pork belly at Rudolph's meat market in Deep Ellum today. Back home, I cut it into three chunks and applied the basic salt cure described in Ruhlman and Polcyn's Charcuterie. In a week, I'll smoke it.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sex and assassination in the city

Last night I was waiting at an outside bar on the south side of Dallas to meet two women from a magazine I sometimes write for in New York. The joint is called Lee Harvey's, and it's a ramshackle collection of picnic tables, gravel, beer, mixed music, dogs, and casually dressed patrons just off Akard Street south of I-30. Some of the patrons were quite casually dressed indeed. One woman in a spaghetti-strap tank top offered us more than a little of what comedian Dawn French once termed an "astonishing bosom." But that's Dallas.

A 2006 poll of Dallas Observer readers named Lee Harvey's the best place in Dallas to "pick up some tail." Sundays the music is run by DJ Sistah Whitenoise, according the the bar's Web site. I was pretty anxious going in. I'm not accustomed to scenes where one picks up tail. But the dogs were fun. A woman with an ordinary bosom tossed a filthy tennis ball for a pair of rambunctious standard poodles; a badly behaved mutt jumped on a picnic table a little before the patrons seated there were done with their onion rings.

I'd never met my dinner dates, having only spoken to them on the phone. They were here in Texas to get a sense of the regional art scene. Also to get out of New York for a couple of weeks. Sipping a Shiner Bock, I started getting concerned that I'd not recognize them when they arrived.

But I did. It wasn't only the shoes -- hair, blouses, posture, gait all gave them away -- but the shoes alone were enough to tag 'em. Not Manolo Blahniks, but not Dallas either. Really not Dallas. Introductions complete, we got more beer (well, one of us got a Shirley Temple because she's pregnant.) and studied the menu. Burger, salad, onion rings (said to be the best in Dallas, but they weren't), two chicken panini sandwiches. An adorable mutt who could have been the model for that asshole Rodrigue's "Blue Dog" pictures begged impertinently and futilely for my sandwich.

Conversation ranged from Dallas galleries to the Kiefer winged book in Fort Worth to their itinerary across Texas. They plan to finish up at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa. I raved about the Judd aluminum boxes and about the Flavins. Probably I got pretty boring, but that's me.

Talk turned to the name of the bar. Yes, I said, I was here when JFK was killed. I was 12 and really too young to process what had happened, but still naming a bar after the killer is a mistake. Even if it's a very friendly place with cute dogs and lovely women. I still remember my mother lying face down on the bed sobbing that terrible afternoon.

Today my dinner companions drove to Houston. I stayed in Commerce.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Art Bomb

Robert Wilhite's sculpture, The Bomb, is on view at Barry Whistler Gallery through July 26. I took this picture last night with my cell phone, so it's not exactly stellar quality. Better images can be found here.

Made of wood, it's a life-size representation of the Fat Man, the atomic bomb that was detonated over Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War. That means it's eleven feet long. It's a compelling piece, combining dread with an elegant Post-Minimalist formal rightness.

Wilhite's Web site is here.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dallas dinner

At the suggestion of a friend we ate at Thai Noodle and Rice on Fitzhugh just east of North Central while we were in Dallas tonight. We hit the ATM on the way because we were forewarned they didn't take credit cards. It was a delight. The whole place has a homemade feel to it right down to the hand-lettered take-out menu: "Hot & spicy make taste."

We had an order of basil rolls, which were spring roll-like concoctions served with a delicious peanut/tamarind dipping sauce. That was the appetizer. One of the main courses was a spicy flat noodle dish with small bits of pork. Wow. The other main was a Thai beef salad, which although it was really good, didn't match the marvelous balance of spice, sweetness and texture of the noodles.

While we were eating, the cook dropped by our table to make suggestions for our next meal there (beef with sticky rice is all I remember). "I try to make it like the original," he said of his cooking. I liked that. Not authentic, but like what he remembers from before he emigrated.

As we prepared to leave, a waitress came by to suggest other tasty choices for our next visit since we like spicy food. I know it's a way of drumming up business for the restaurant, and that's okay. But there's something especially rewarding about seeing people who are both really good at what they do and know that what they do is really good. Having them share it with you is a pleasure.

Our tab was less than $25.

Tracy Hicks at the MAC

The McKinney Avenue Contemporary offers several art exhibitions a year in a large space it shares with the Kitchen Dog Theater in near north Dallas. Exhibitions have been of uneven quality -- a gorgeous, lyrical exhibit of David Reed's abstractions a few years back, for example, and a moving retrospective of paintings and sculptures by the late Scott Barber not so long ago suggest something of the place's potential.

But there have been a number of clinkers like the visually unintelligent exhibit of banal photo constructions by the otherwise very smart David Byrne a a while before the Reed show. As a visual artist, Byrne's a good musician. Yeah, I'm aware of the Talking Heads' RISD provenance, but he obviously got his show because of his musical fame, not the visual power and poetry of his work. An early Heads lyric snippet: "All my pictures are confused..." Right you are, David!

This afternoon we drove to Dallas to see the work of Dallas artist Tracy Hicks at the MAC, and true to form it was uneven. I've worked with Hicks in the past. Back in the 90s when I was the pet art writer for the Arlington Museum of Art and Hicks organized a group show there, he and I exchanged numerous emails and I toured his studio as we discussed an essay I was to write for the show's catalogue.

His offerings at the MAC consist of two installations: "still/LIFE" in the modest project room, and "Global Warning" in the largest rear gallery. The topic is ecological decline and species extinction, but I found looking at his rubber cast frogs and cast resin bottles visually pleasant enough (at least in some instances) that the message didn't really matter. Also, I have to say that (his scholarship notwithstanding) a plethora of thermometers scattered about and inserted into assorted cast laboratory-associated forms comes up short as a poetic way to address what we are doing to this planet.

A room full of bottled and jarred rubber frogs glowing in the dark under UV light on the other hand -- well that's something to see.

Sunday, June 8, 2008


There's a review by Randy Kennedy in the NY Times today about a big Erector Set toy skyscraper Chris Burden's made for Rockefeller Center. The piece does a chatty job of glossing Burden's extreme early body art works like getting shot and nailed to a car. Not at the same time, mind you.

After telling us he no longer does things like that. Kennedy adds a parenthetical: "He said he bore no physical infirmities from those years; one of his worst injuries came only a few years ago when he wrestled a coyote to the ground after it latched onto his dog. The coyote then latched onto his left hand and almost tore off part of a finger."

Sounds like a job for the ghost of Joseph Beuys.

Actually the toy skyscraper sounds like an engaging project. I need to get to New York, and not just for Burden's sculpture.

Wandering Around

At loose ends this afternoon, I drove to the Bass Pro Shop to see what was up with the joint. It's a huge boats and guns and hunting and fishing and outdoors-in-general megastore. These are not my people. Except for the smoker pits. A sign at the entrance turn styles: "Please deposit all guns and crossbows with the attendant." I couldn't have said it better myself. I wonder what's to become of their business as unemployment rises now that gas is $4 a gallon? Surely folks will reduce how much they drive out to the woods and shoot shit in the current economic situation. There was only one Hummer in the parking lot.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Obama's still not a Muslim

The New York Times says so here.

It is tiresome and unseemly that opinions published in the paper of record are allowed to orbit a fact-free planet.

Dallas Trip II

Drove back to Dallas yesterday, this time to see the CADD art fair at 333 1st Ave. It was a pleasure to see works by old friends and many new (to me) artists all together in one display area. A scarlet screenprint brushmark by James Nares at Marty Walker’s booth is still in my mind – active, gestural, painterly, and totally canned to the extent that it’s a representation of those qualities.

And I got a tee shirt for the price of admission. There was a lecture by Paige West, founder of Mixed Greens Gallery and the West Collection. She spoke about collecting to a mixed group of art professionals, gallerists, collectors, and the merely curious. While I didn’t find much of what she said useful, some of the audience appeared to be quite engaged.

I don't need advice about what to buy. What I need is the cash to buy that screenprint.