Thursday, January 11, 2007

Kathleen Ewing Gallery to Close Move

Alexandra over at Solarize This has some insider intelligence that reveals that the Kathleen Ewing Gallery, one of the District's oldest art galleries (and one who underwent a major expansion a few years ago) will close. Read her post here.

Without a doubt one of the leading photography venues in the nation, if Ewing does close it will be a major blow to the DC area gallery and specifically photography scene.

Update: The gallery will close its present location, but just because they're moving to a new location in the area. Great news!

Kirkland on Lin

Thinking About Art reviews the Amy Lin show at DCAC. Read JT's review here.

I've been harping on this for a while: Buy Amy Lin now.


OK, I've now received loads of good info on artDC and will be posting it later tonight... good news for artists as well, not just gallerists and dealers.

Come back later.

Curated Artomatic opens tomorrow

In Bethesda... read the WaPo's report on the subject here.

Traditional critics dismissed the earlier Artomatics because (mainly) it lacked a curator's hand. I'll be curious to see what they think now that it has the experienced hand of several successful and experienced gallerists as well as fellow artists.

My predictions (and I was really wrong in predicting media coverage of the DC City Hall Art Collection):

- Blake Gopnik, the intelligent and erudite Chief Art Critic of the Washington Post will (a) ignore it, or (b) write about it and dismiss it, or use it to continue to preach his dated Greenbergian agenda, or tell us about a work that could have been seen in a NYC gallery "a few years ago."

- Joanna Shaw-Eagle, the elderly and experienced Chief Art Critic of the Washington Times will cover it, and offer us a detailed description of the various shows at the various venues.

- Michael O'Sullivan, the savvy Washington Post's Weekend section Chief Art Critic (and the only WaPo critic in "tune" with the DC area art scene), will probably cover it and offer the only true insight into this mini AOM.

- Jessica Dawson, the young freelance writer who pens the "Galleries" column for the Style section of the Washington Post will either (a) ignore it, or (b) cover it in a small dismissive little mini-review.

- Jeffry Cudlin, the award-winning Chief Art Critic for the Washington City Paper, and who has participated in the last Art-O-Matic, may cover it (if his packed schedule as an Adjunct Professor at Maryland allows it), and offer us an intelligent review, but will probably highlight the weaknesses that exist in a commercially curated effort of a egalitarian idea.

- The bloggercritics who liked it before will like it again, and the ones who dismiss it before will come to it again with a pre-poisoned well and attack it again.

Let's see over the next few weeks if I've nailed this.

New DC area gallery

I mentioned it a while back, and today Rachel Beckman in the WaPo checks in with a story on the new Honfleur Gallery in Anacostia. Read it here.

Rachel's column includes this spectacularly provincial comment:

Rozina Knight, eating lunch next door at Younis Pizzeria, feels differently about the gallery. "I don't think that's something good for Southeast," says Knight, who lives in the neighborhood. "We need jobs and schools for our children. We don't need an art gallery."
It's not really Rozina's fault for feeling this way - we do need jobs and schools for all children, but a good art gallery is a key part of the cultural tapestry that makes a city flourish, and when cities and neighborhoods flourish, jobs and schools benefit, and Rozina's wish hopefully get a little closer to being realized.

Artist Imani Brown curated Honfleur's pre-opening show of tattoo artists' work titled "No Scratchers." It will include a couple of my Pictish Nation pieces. More on that later.

Bailey's Top 10 Art Shows

Ahhh... one of the cool things that I can do with Mid Atlantic Art News is to solicit input and opinions and "lists" from anyone and thus provide an open forum for anyone interested in the arts.

Whenever the responder is the WORDprocessing madman known as Bailey, one always knows that the response will be long, very long, and full of controversy, and stories, and stuff that makes you go Uh?. This is the third year in a row that Bailey has set a new word record for Top 10 lists.

Here's Bailey, uncensored and unedited:

Do You Know What It Means To Miss The Dead, Missing And Exiled Painters From New Orleans
If Painting Is Really Dead,
Then I Guess That Must Mean That The Only Good Painter Is A Dead Painter
by The Right Reverend James W. Bailey

“Bureaucracy has murdered people in the greater New Orleans area and bureaucracy needs to stand trial before Congress today. So I'm asking Congress please investigate this now. Take whatever idiot they have at the top, give me a better idiot. Give me a caring idiot. Give me a sensitive idiot. Just don't give me the same idiot." - Aaron Broussard, Jefferson Parish President

“Any connection between American art and American nature is purely coincidental, but this is only because the nation as a whole has no contact with reality.” - `Ignatius J. Reilly' in John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces

“I rode out the storm. I never considered leaving. I’m not a coward. I don’t run. I’d wake up, scavenge for food [and] water for me and [the] old people in the neighborhood, then I’d paint for the day on Magazine Street. We didn’t know anything. The media came by – Fox, CNN, L.A. Times, telling us levees broke. I rode down on my bike towards the flooded area, but the cops kept pulling out guns on me, so I went back home. A woman yesterday called me an ‘angry Black man’ – she couldn’t be more wrong. I’m an angry man. They don’t see me trying to champion the rights of the underdog. My work is political and society based. My work is [created] to make sure we don’t forget.” – New Orleans artist, Terrance Sanders

“I pledge allegiance to the anti-overt-political-messages-in-art consensus critical opinions of the white ivory tower art elite critic masses (as well as to the lame ass suck-up wannabe blue chip artists who attempt to please them), and to the subtle and minimal political messages in art for which they stand, one American MFA-Chelsea-produced art over God (and way the fuck over the head of the average critically abused major museum collection-denied ‘uneducated’, ‘self-taught’ black Southern ‘Folk’ artist), postmodern, with mass deconstruction and class-sanctioned segregated aesthetic values upper class liberty for all who understand what the hell they are saying.” – New Orleans artist/photographer, The Right Reverend James W. Bailey

“Jesus says buy more folk art.” – New Orleans artist, Albert “Big Al” Taplet


Christmas in New Orleans

As I stood at the site of my destroyed home in New Orleans on Christmas day of 2006 (an early 2005 Christmas present given to me in late August of that year by the United States Army Corps of Mass-Murdering Engineers), I found myself standing amidst the bombed-out mess of the Big Easy postmodern Katrina debris field thanking God for the fact that we New Orleanians are blessed with a courageous and powerful sense of humor that has allowed us to laugh our way through this government-at-all-levels-created hell on earth.

Maybe it’s a Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder-seeing-85-per-cent-of-your-city-destroyed-and-hundreds-of-your-fellow-New-Orleanians-drown thing, but international art and blue-chip New York City artists haven’t really helped very many of us too much in our efforts to work our way through the havoc that evil and sadistic bitch of a storm named Katrina wrecked upon our city and our lives.

As a matter of fact, allow me an opportunity to be crudely blunt about it: Fuck the Bush-bashing rhetoric of the 1st-class-seat-jet-flying “I don’t do the ‘political’ thing with my work” artists who hold gold passports to the Chinese-Google® government/corporate-approved global art market.

The global art market in New Orleans, as we know it, is this: New Orleanians were saved from the emotional drowning waters of Katrina by being pulled to safety by local painters/jokers who knew how to float a poorly drawn image of a pirogue on a Salvation Army-purchased reusable canvass down Canal Street. And what will continue to save the collective sanity of the (Re)New Orleans as we fight the impossible 3rd Battle of New Orleans to save our city are our local artists/comedians.

And, as God as my witness, I’m telling you the straight up Gospel truth, my gentle elitist modern art receptive readers, as well as all the rest of you semi-art-literate lazy-ass-couch-potato-bound-blog-news-reading-sub-intellectual-yahoo-flyover-red-state-ground-level-NEA-hating-New-Orleans-deserved-it-because-who-in-the-hell-in-their-right-mind-would-ever-choose-to-live-below-fucking-sea-level American citizens who are so despised by the art intelligentsia, [and, not forgetting, of course, the preferred servant class of the art intelligentsia, which includes all of you hard-working Virgin Mary-worshipping predominately Catholic illegal immigrants from Central America who support your hard-working families by cleaning the V.I.P.-reserved major donors-only restrooms of the nation’s leading cultural institutions that receive mass quantities of the aesthetic excremental waste byproducts of the let’s-get-our-art-collecting-gorge-on-with-all-this-big-ass-expensive-art–so-we-can-bing-it-and-purge-it-down-the-critical-hedge-fund-investment-paid-for toilet ivory tower American art elite (an American art elite whose “deep and profound” concern about what happened in New Orleans came quickly loaded with a temperamental (and expedient) Republican-hating political agenda, an agenda whose compassion for New Orleans terminated at the Democratic Party congressional majority ballot box faster than a dinosaur-era holdover Louisiana mosquito hyped on crack can say “boo”)], that every damn one of you ought to get down on your knees and thank God Almighty as well that we New Orleanians have the sense of humor that we do have that we hold so dear to our hearts. The only reason you’re alive and reading this (especially if you live within a 1,000 mile nuclear bomb blast radius – I understand a dude named Putin in Russia has some real bargain basement deals he can offer on these weapons of mass Katrina instruction - of F.E.M.A’s Washington, D.C. office) is because we New Orleanians have such a remarkable sense of humor.

Yeah, you right! You had better believe that if it weren’t for our collective legendary sense of humor that has mentally protected us during almost 300 years of one catastrophic natural disaster after another, combined with one Republican Party/Democratic Party bipartisan political induced bullshit levee-funded catastrophe after another, we very likely woulda, coulda, shoulda converted en masse after Katrina to a radical form of Cajun Islam (a seriously fun religion backed up by an all-volunteer AK-47-armed I-got-my-extra-shotguns-in-the-back-of-my-Rebel-Flag-emblazoned-pickup-truck enemy combatant militia(all the members of whom just also happen to be exceptionally talented zydeco musicians – our spiritual leader, by the way, is Stanley “Buckwheat Zydeco” Dural, Jr.), aligned ourselves with Muqtada al-Sadr (I’ve never personally met the man, but goddamit I’m willing to bet my muffuletta-from-Central-Grocery-in-the-French-Quarter-eating life that even after everything the good ole U.S.A. has done to win the minds and hearts of the citizens of his home country that he cares more about New Orleans than the 537 New Orleans-in-denial-till-we-“solve”-the-problem-of-the-surge-in-troops-in-Iraq assholes sitting on top of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.(minus St. Senator Mary Landrieu, of course), and proceeded to press our cause for a God-Jesus-Allah-Mohammed coalition sanctioned revenge and retribution Holy War on Washington, D.C. that would envelope the City of War in a blood-bath fashion that would make the violence of Sin City look like one of the Care Bears had accidentally tripped over his left front paw and fallen down with a painless laugh onto a bed of roses.

Yeah, modern American “I pledge allegiance to the anti-overt-political-messages-in-art consensus critical opinions of the white ivory tower art elite critic masses (as well as to the lame ass suck-up wannabe blue chip artists who attempt to please them), and to the subtle and minimal political messages in art for which they stand, one American MFA-Chelsea-produced art over God (and way the fuck over the head of the average critically abused major museum collection-denied ‘uneducated’, ‘self-taught’ black Southern ‘Folk’ artist), postmodern, with mass deconstruction and class-sanctioned segregated aesthetic values upper class liberty for all who understand what the hell they are saying” artists hawking their hot and trendy art wares in Chelsea and at Art Basel in Miami didn’t save me and many of my fellow New Orleanians from becoming a post-Saddam-Hussein-trial-15-minute-kitchen-timer-F.E.M.A.-employee-hanging Shiite cleric after Katrina, 300 hundred years of the ART OF NEW ORLEANS HUMOR DID!

And from Michael "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job" Brown, to George W. “Roe versus Wade? I don’t really give a shit how those poor blacks in New Orleans get the hell out of Dodge. Hell, man, I’ve got billions of American (d)Ex(press)(ed) Unbridled Capitalist ATM-Debit Card For Your Every Stupid Need® hungry Muslims around the world to convert to a trilateral Haliburton-Wal-Mart-McDonald’s Democracy™ to worry about!” Bush, to C. Ray “Chocolate City” Nagin, to William J. “90 Thousand Corrupt Lobbyist Crawfish Stuffed In My Freezer ‘Dollar Bill’” Jefferson, the bipartisan joke smokers that conspired (and keep conspiring) by acts of commission or omission to destroy our beloved New Orleans keep coming.

The thing the rest of America needs to understand about the New Orleans sense of dead serious humor (in case you didn’t learn it from Ignatius Reilly) is that some of our funniest comedians act in a very intense manner and never crack a discernable smile.

Years ago I met one such unsmiling artist/comedian from New Orleans.

I was having coffee at a delightful neighborhood coffee shop in the Mid-City area of New Orleans (near City Park and the New Orleans Museum of Art) when I suddenly noticed through the window a small thin white man standing in front of a cab parked on the side of the road with the hood raised.

As I exited the coffee shop, I joked with the man and asked him if he needed me to call him a cab.

The cabdriver didn’t laugh at the irony of my question.

Instead, he stared right at me with unblinking eyes and said in a very serious tone, “Come here, chief, I want to show you something.”

I walked over to his cab, leaned under the hood of the car to take a look (being that at the time New Orleans was the “Murder Capital” of the country, I cautiously peered around underneath the hood of the car, with one eye on the man, and with my shooting hand at the ready on my M9 Beretta that I always carried with me under my Don Johnson-Miami Vice-era silk jacket, in the protective effort to make sure he wasn’t about to rob, kidnap or kill me – even though the dude was small, thin and white and looked perfectly harmless, it’s important for you to understand that way back in the old school murder capital days of New Orleans that one could never really be too sure who the next major street gangsta might be, especially with most of the major white ganstas of public notice being recruited from the ranks of death-row eligible members of the New Orleans Police Department), didn’t see anything unusual, so I asked him what I was supposed to be looking at.

"There,” he said, as he dramatically motioned with his left hand. “You see that piece of orange tape wrapped around the solenoid?”

“Yes,” I replied, after I saw what he was pointing to.

“Well, that damn orange piece of tape wasn’t there this morning. That’s how they let me know they can kill me anytime they want,” he intoned with the most serious look you could imagine upon his face, with the greatest drama of speech reserved for the work “they.” “They place color-coded tape on my engine when I’m sleeping at night. They want me to know that they could install a car bomb if they wanted to.”

“They?” I asked, as I did a slow 360 survey of the neighborhood looking for hidden cameras, wondering if I was being secretly filmed for a cameo appearance on The X-Files.

“Who’s they, podnuh?” I asked the paranoid Mulder man, barely able to control my Scully smirk.

“The C.I.A. and N.S.A., of course,” he replied in a most unflinching deadpan voice.

Scully wouldn’t have been proud of me. I couldn’t control it any longer. I broke out laughing…and hysterically so.

And the small thin white man? Well, he just continued to stare at me with those unblinking eyes as I laughed my ass off during one of the best laughs I’ve ever had.

It turned out that the cabdriver that I was talking to was Perry Raymond Russo. Yes, that Perry Raymond Russo, the same Perry Raymond Russo who had his 15-minutes of infamy as a witness during the Jim Garrison/Clay Shaw/John F. Kennedy assassination trial staged in New Orleans. The same Perry Raymond Russo who was a technical adviser on Oliver Stone’s film, J.F.K. (Russo appears briefly in the film playing the role of an angry bar patron.)

Perry Raymond Russo and I became friends that day. Perry Russo was a real New Orleanian. Perry Russo definitely had the hard-core New Orleans sense of humor. I believe that Perry Russo would have been one of the survivors of Katrina as well, had he still been alive at the time.

Perry Raymond Russo died of a heart attack in New Orleans on August 15, 1995, ten years before Katrina.

Perry Russo was also an artist. I own one of his paintings (pictured above.)

Yeah. When you’re from New Orleans it’s hard to be impressed with a lot of art you see and with most artists you meet when you’ve had the privilege of living in such an unearthly city where every damn native-born soul IS a work of art. A lot of artists in this world try so hard to fake a personality (or, worse, fake that they have NO personality – if you’ve ever met one of those blank face angry white male minimalist artists that walk around like they’ve got a Donald Judd box stuffed up their anal-retentive butt, then you no doubt know what I’m talking about!)

I know I’m getting a little off subject with this comment, but I don’t know what it is about people born and raised in New Orleans. Even those New Orleanians who hate modern art and progressive culture have the heart and soul of a real artist. I’ve long been convinced that this strange paradox has something to do with folks who live in hot, steamy and swampy environs who eat a lot of red beans and rice. Maybe that, or maybe it’s just the fact that people who live below sea level don’t give a shit about what the rest of the world thinks about them. So much of cultural and art criticism, being the hot air bullshit that it is, tends to rise toward the heavens, which means New Orleans, being below sea level) has always been immune to that crap. God bless those poor monks in Tibet and Nepal. One can only imagine how much art critical nonsense they’ve had to listen to floating around, among and above their mountains since the days of Clement Greenberg.

Anyway…back to the blood, guts, tears, mud and muck of Katrina and this story about some of what was lost and found from my destroyed New Orleans home and studio…

Once upon a time, long before the world outside of New Orleans ever heard of the 17th Street Canal, I had a massive collection of art created by some of my favorite artists from New Orleans. Many pieces from my collection were lost or destroyed in the floodwaters of Katrina. Fortunately, other pieces survived and now (safely, do I dare believe safely, especially since I presently live so close to the corporate offices of U.S. Department of Homeland Security?) hang on the walls of my home in Northern Virginia.

The running line among many survivors of Katrina is that during the first year after the disaster those New Orleanians left alive could proudly claim to have (just barely) survived it. However, sometime shortly after the 1st anniversary of the levees collapsing is when most of us from New Orleans realized that we had in fact (and quite unknown to us) actually died.

In 2006, I installed a New Orleans-inspired home-gallery-away-from-home exhibition in Reston, Virginia. This exhibit functioned as a place of refuge for me, a place where I could contemplate the future of the Katrina-DNA-altered particle of life left in my dead body and soul and whether or not I would be favored by God for some type of a miraculous emotional resurrection.

During 2006 I spent endless hours roaming through this exhibition in my home gallery, meditating upon the works by artist friends from New Orleans whose lives and art have long touched my heart and mind, some of whom died as a direct result of Katrina or its related emotional stresses, several of whom to this very day I still do not know their status or whereabouts.

Life and art endure.

New Orleans endures.

New Orleanians endure…as we always have…as we always will.

My Top Ten List of painters/friends from New Orleans who were featured in my 2006 home-based gallery exhibition, Do You Know What It Means To Miss The Dead, Missing Or Exiled Painters From New Orleans?, include the following:

1. Ronnie Boudreaux - painter (exiled from New Orleans to Florida)

2. Joe Bruno – painter (suffered a heart attack and died within weeks of losing his home and all he owned to the floodwaters of Katrina)

3. De Ma Jean - painter (drowned in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans during Katrina)

4. Charles Gillam – painter (survived Katrina and still lives in New Orleans)

5. Addie Hall – painter (survived Katrina, along with her boyfriend, but was brutally murdered by the same boyfriend in New Orleans in late 2006)

6. Gregory Hawkins – painter (status and location unknown to me)

7. David Rex Joyner – painter (status and location unknown to me)

8. Elizabeth Fox - painter (survived Katrina and still lives in New Orleans)

9. Terrance Sanders – painter (survived Katrina and still lives in New Orleans)

10. Alfred “Big Al” Taplet – painter (exiled from New Orleans to Texas)

The Final Four Paragraphs from A Confederacy of Dunces:

Now that Fortuna had saved him from one cycle, where would she spin him now? The new cycle would be so different from anything he had ever known.

Myrna prodded and shifted the Renault through the city traffic masterfully, weaving in and out of impossibly narrow lanes until they were clear of the last twinkling streetlight of the last swampy suburb. Then they were in darkness in the center of the salt marshes. Ignatius looked out at the highway marker that reflected their headlights. U.S. 11. The marker flew past. He rolled down the window an inch or two and breathed the salt air blowing in over the marshes from the Gulf.

As if the air were a purgative, his valve opened. He breathed again, this time more deeply. The dull headache was lifting.

He stared gratefully at the back of Myrna’s head, at the pigtail that swung innocently at his knee. Gratefully. How ironic, Ignatius thought. Taking the pigtail in one of his paws, he pressed it warmly to his wet moustache.

It’s almost 17 months after Katrina and my dull headache caused by this greatest of American tragedies is just now starting to lift. Maybe in January of 2008 I’ll have the desire and energy to review some works by living painters from the metro D.C. area (there are so many great painters in this area of the country who have incredible talent and vision) who impressed me during their 2007 exhibitions.

But in the meantime, at least for just a little while longer, I hope that you’ll understand that I need to continue to seek some comfort, and humorous inspiration, by viewing and thinking about my painting by Perry Raymond Russo, one of many great paintings I own by a damn great dead painter from New Orleans.

Even all the way up here in the Washington, D.C. area, as I close my eyes and think about the several painters from New Orleans I know who are dead, missing, or permanently exiled from New Orleans, I too can smell salt air blowing in over the marshes from the Gulf.

That salt air smell from the Gulf makes me sad.

But sad is good.

Sad means I’m feeling something.

And feeling something, which means I’m no longer feeling the numb of nothing, must mean I’m getting better.

From the film, Sideways:


Miles Raymond: Well, the world doesn't give a shit what I have to say. I'm not necessary. Had. I'm so insignificant I can't even kill myself.

Jack: Miles, what the hell is that supposed to mean?

Miles Raymond: Come on, man. You know. Hemingway, Sexton, Plath, Woolf. You can't kill yourself before you're even published.

Jack: What about the guy who wrote Confederacy of Dunces? He killed himself before he was published. Look how famous he is.

Miles Raymond: Thanks.

Jack: Just don't give up, alright? You're gonna make it.

Miles Raymond: Half my life is over and I have nothing to show for it. Nothing. I'm a thumbprint on the window of a skyscraper. I'm a smudge of excrement on a tissue surging out to sea with a million tons of raw sewage.

Jack: See? Right there. Just what you just said. That is beautiful. 'A smudge of excrement... surging out to sea.'

Miles Raymond: Yeah.

Jack: I could never write that.

Miles Raymond: Neither could I, actually. I think it's Bukowski.

Charles Bukowski said the following: "The most important thing for the creation of art is cheap rent."

Charles Bukowski once lived in New Orleans back in the days when the rent was really dirt cheap. Bukowski, more than most, understood the art of economics: When the dirt cheap rent goes, so go the artists.

Brother and Sisters, one of the saddest things that I can personally report concerning the cultural future of New Orleans is that the dirt cheap rent in that magical city is in very real danger of flying away forever.

Every great Pentecostal preacher from my home state of Mississippi ends the Sunday sermon, after first scaring the hell-fire bound shit out of you, with a positive thought and an important question for you to think about on the road home from church.

The positive thought…

Forget what a lot of damn so-called art critic experts in the art world might try and tell you – paintin’ ain’t dead. Oh, no, cher, don’t ya even dare thunk dat thought! Listen to me, cher, when I tell you that our painters from New Orleans may be dead, missing or exiled across the country, but their paintings are very much alive, doing quite well and will live on forever.

The important question…

The question that has no answer at this point is this: Will many of New Orleans’s great living artists ever be able to come back home?

Let’s all pray for the power of art to do what it can to breathe more life filled with peace into this crazy messed-up and sometimes astonishingly beautiful world, a world where far too many live in unimaginable circumstances.

Please keep New Orleans in your thoughts and prayers as well.

New Orleans…it catches my heart in its hands.

God bless.

The Right Reverend James W. Bailey


Read my 2004 review published on Lenny's blog:

2004 – The Year a Small Army of Mississippi Rebel(lious) Artists Invaded Washington, D.C.

Read my 2005 review published on Lenny's blog:

The Right Reverend James W. Bailey's Top Ten Metro Washington, D.C. Area Friendly Fire Art Attacks