patronizing the arts

Linette and I left town after work on Friday and headed down to Cincinnati for a party at the brand new Contemporary Arts Center, where our friend Matt is the Assistant Curator of Exhibitions. It was a big night for him as they were launching their much anticipated and very ambitious Beautiful Losers: Contemporary Art and Street Culture show.

Matt’s wife, Laura, who is also a friend of ours, and a recent contributor to Crimewave, told us that Matt had been freaking-out the past few weeks, as the pressure was building. Apparently, the night before she had tried to reach him on his cell phone. He hung up almost immediately, after saying that he was standing on the roof of the museum with the cops. It seems as though there were complaints about the animatronic graffiti artists that they had strategically located outside. Believe it or not, the people of Cincinnati get uncomfortable when they see robots in ski masks waving cans of spray-paint. Matt, we were told, also had to “put panties” on something that was found offensive. And, he’d taken to crying recently. And then there was something about a shouting match with an employee of Circuit City… He’d been pushed to his limit.

When I called to talk with Matt a few days ago, I got Laura on the phone. She said that Matt wasn’t home yet, that he was busy trying to get a truck flipped over in front of the museum.

Here’s a clip from the museum’s website explaining the intent of the show:

The exhibition brings together artists from multiple disciplines, whose works are inspired by various aspects of urban life and street culture. Included are painters, sculptors, photographers, filmmakers, performance artists, graphic designers, illustrators and multimedia artists. The exhibition is organized in five sections:

One section is devoted to examining those artists who have had direct influence on the development of the generation of artists and designers that is the focus of the exhibition. This section will include paintings, drawings, photographs, graphics, and samples and documentation of early works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Neil Blender, Henry Chalfant, Larry Clark, R. Crumb, Glen E. Friedman, Ari Marcopoulos, Raymond Pettibon, Pushead, and Craig R. Stecyk; and the hand-painted skateboards of Dogtown’s Wes Humpston.

The Body of the exhibition showcases the recent multi-media art of Thomas Campbell, Cynthia Connolly, Brian Donnelly (KAWS), Cheryl Dunn, Shepard Fairey, Phil Frost, Mark Gonzales, Evan Hecox, Jo Jackson, Todd James (REAS), James Jarvis, Andy Jenkins, Chris Johanson, Spike Jonze, Margaret Kilgallen, Harmony Korine, Geoff McFetridge, Barry McGee, Ryan McGinley, Ryan McGinness, Mike Mills, Stephen Powers (ESPO), Clare Rojas, Terry Richardson, Ed Templeton, Romon Yang (Rostarr), and Tobin Yelland…

In his or her own way, each artist represents the subcultures of skateboarding, punk, hip-hop, and graffiti, often inhabiting and redefining the spaces that exist between these disparate worlds, and making those spaces their own.

One section is devoted to examining those artists who have had direct influence on the development of the generation of artists and designers that is the focus of the exhibition. This section will include paintings, drawings, photographs, graphics, and samples and documentation of early works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Neil Blender, Henry Chalfant, Larry Clark, R. Crumb, Glen E. Friedman, Ari Marcopoulos, Raymond Pettibon, Pushead, and Craig R. Stecyk; and the hand-painted skateboards of Dogtown’s Wes Humpston.

The Body of the exhibition showcases the recent multi-media art of Thomas Campbell, Cynthia Connolly, Brian Donnelly (KAWS), Cheryl Dunn, Shepard Fairey, Phil Frost, Mark Gonzales, Evan Hecox, Jo Jackson, Todd James (REAS), James Jarvis, Andy Jenkins, Chris Johanson, Spike Jonze, Margaret Kilgallen, Harmony Korine, Geoff McFetridge, Barry McGee, Ryan McGinley, Ryan McGinness, Mike Mills, Stephen Powers (ESPO), Clare Rojas, Terry Richardson, Ed Templeton, Romon Yang (Rostarr), and Tobin Yelland…

We wanted to go not just to see the exhibition, and congratulate Matt, but also to finally meet Crimewave contributor Cynthia Connolly, who had a number of her photos in the show. I’d been exchanging notes with Cynthia for almost a decade, but we’d never met. (When I first got to know her, she was the person at Dishcord Records who bought ads in Crimeave. It wasn’t until a few years later that I knew she was also an accomplishe dphotographer.) I tried to meet her about five years ago, when I was living in LA. She was in town showing her photos and we tried to get together. It didn’t work out though. I went to the show with my friend Jeff, but we got nervous and didn’t talk to anyone or try to find out which one of the cool-looking people she was. Jeff and I just shuffled around, looking at our feet and behaving like you’d expect a guy from Kentucky and a guy from West Virginia to act in a gallery full of super-hip Angelinos. (The gallery, as I recall, was pretty cool. It was in an old school or something and each of the artists had their work exhibited in a different classroom.)

Friday night in Cincinnati, we couldn’t find Cynthia again. Matt told us that he’d seen her there. He may have even told us what she looked like. But we didn’t find her… I’m thinking now that perhaps we aren’t meant to meet.

Other than not getting to meet Cynthia, the show was great. What could be better than drinking cold cans of beer and looking at original R. Crum sketches and photos of strung out kids shitting in hotel room dressers and fucking on top of TV sets?

I probably should have taken notes as I walked around the museum, but I didn’t. Now I can’t remember much, aside from the fact that Terry Richardson’s super-bright fashion/porn work was on one side of a wall, while Cynthia’s black and white photos of ice machines were on the other. Both were laid out in a similar rectangular grid and the juxtaposition made me happy. If I were less tired, or a better writer, I could probably say something pretty profound abut that, something about the subjects who so willingly toss aside their clothes for Terry Richardson and his camera in New York while Cynthia Connolly scours along the dirt roads of America looking to uncover beautifully damaged ice machines. Fuck, there’s probably a graduate thesis in there somewhere.

And an apology:
I wanted to blog more last week, but I was consumed with work. I had this big event that I was planning. I desperately wanted to write about things, like the fact that John McCain apparently said that he’d consider running on the Kerry ticket, but I just couldn’t muster the energy. For that, I am truly sorry. (Can you imagine a race between Bush-Giuliani and Kerry-McCain? That would be one fucking incredible race, one for the history books.)

I’m going to take a break and read the New York Times for a while now.

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