Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Tucson MOCA hours of operation

Museum of Contermpoary Art- Tucson
191 East Toole Avenue, Tucson AZ 85701 Tel: 1 520 6245019E-mail: info@moca-tucson.org www.moca-tucson.orgHours: Tuesday - Sunday 12pm - 5pm, Third Thursdays 12pm - 8pm

Unfortunately the museum's website does not appear to be up and running with flying colors, so we will all have to telephone the museum to find out if the show is still on.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

A Love of Ruin

Just in from the Tucson Museum of Art Biennial, but I must warn my readers: I left my notes in a suitcase. Many names and titles are sadly missing, but I will fill those in at a later date.

The major impression: Very interesting to see a thread running through the best works: a fascination with clean, dry death and a kind of crisp aging. This is the most site-specific biennial I've ever witnessed. On a museum map, I jotted down concepts like document, past, ageing, relic, death, and decripitude.

This being the Sonoran desert, there is a very real sense of dessication everywhere you go. Leave something out and it doesn't exactly rot (California forests) or turn to mold (New Jersey farms) or get eaten (Bali alleyways). The deterioration of things in southern Arizona is slowed by the dry climate. Compared to other places I know, it takes a little longer for objects to rust around here, and there isn't the moist devouring process of rains, insects, and bacteria.

So it may really be of no surprise that the works in the Tucson Biennial would exude dryness, a crisply preserved PAST, and unsullied ...may I venture STERILE... death.

Dust, dead horses, gravesites and the human mark are shown in various media but all in suspended decay. Just like a dry horse skeleton one might come upon in the desert.

The desert itself is a kind of display case if not merely a pedestal. Those hiking in the desert are treated to remains of all kinds, suspended in the heat and dryness, offering a kind of dry beachcombing. Picking one's way thru the Tucson Biennial was like that!

The massive photo portrait of gleeful, wrinkled retirees by their suburban swimming pool (water nearly unseen) was one captivating work exemplifying this sense of dessication. It was not just a parody of the life-giving desert oasis, but it was a glorification of preservation by drying.

There was an interactive piece, possibly by Lucy Petrovich, quite ambitiously employing 3D glasses and a joystick type of control, which leads the viewer through a graveyard. It's quite fun to virtually move through a tree or go along a brick wall, but the rigid white crosses and seemingly plastic flowers were perpetual reminders of the site's purpose. Never realistic in terms of texture or rendering, the graphics made me feel like I was in another dimension, a kind of half life. Is this what the dead see? In line with resident retirees and the desert's radioactive materials storage areas, I was struck with a sense of the desert being used for the purpose of storing death itself.

But therein lies also the twist of artificial landscape, which is more easily noticed in a place like Tucson than in other cities. The desert is massive, impossible to ignore. Whether you drive or fly into Tucson, you are fully aware of the forbidding natural landscape, and of its almost miraculous human civilization. Arizona has some of the world's most artificial habitations. Lawns and pools are changing Phoenix' climate, and threaten to do the same to Tucson. Artists like the photographer above and Petrovich understand this sense of the artificial.

Artists who chose to portray bodies almost always went for artifice, in either the sense of preservation or depersonalization. I noted to myself that Rembrandt Quiballo's work impressed me, but I am not sure if he is the artist whose photo representations of the body as image only, without spirit or life, was a highlight in my tour of the exhibit. I think these were two different artists, for Quiballo, it seems, works in oils. Would that I remembered the name of the other artist!

Recording dust balls was the subject of one photographic piece, also interactive (the images were displayed in book form, so that the viewers can turn pages). Again, an intimate if not fully loving presentation of the dried up dregs of a place (in this case, the museum galleries themselves).

Do we map things just to claim them or to preserve them? Man has charted, mapped, cataloged, and labeled this earth to an obsessive extent. Hard to tell if the hard-ass Arizona claim staker has a sense of humor about this, but many of the artists took a light-hearted glimpse at the matter.

Lora Alaniz gave a memorable cart-ography video, footage of a shopping cart that sometimes anthropomorphed as a suffering, wandering individual. Sometimes the subject just seemed to be a tool under punishing use, grinding along in the aching physical realm. Dig, Tucson has plenty of derelict types because it's cheap to live there. But this wonderful piece made me conceptualize territory, a huge issue in Arizonans powerful and ordinary. Staking claims, mapping, blazing trails, putting on a label... it's pure WEST sensibility. Kay Emig has a piece called Four East Mesa Trailheads that blew me away. I noted "seed beads" next to her name, and I do recall an amazing work that used this vernacular medium to excellent effect. Also noteworthy: Peter Happel Christian's Brief Notes on Existence and Will Sanders, who understands depth.

Out here in the desert, it's a game of the dichotomies of ruin and preservation, life and death, unclaimed and charted, the past and the now. This brilliant collection speaks to these matters, reads the desert, charts a slow passage of time... in soft, clear voices as plain as a dry creek bed.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Get Back, Jojo!

I've been doing the famous Beatles' lyrics backwards... I've left California grass for Tucson, Arizona.

Am ensconced in a house that can only be called gorgeous. ...Using same meaning as when style guru Made Wijaya says, Bali has the world's most gorgeous culture. More on that in a moment.

Finally managed, in this crazed real estate market, to find two properties which have a decent cash flow on rentals. One is a bit of a fixer-upper and the other is nearly perfect as-is. But it took me four months to find these and a few hard lessons in the Arizona market, to know to jump, puma-style, on these offers. More on those when I close escrow.

For the moment, though, I have moved out of the usual Ramada circuit, and moved into the Foothills home of artist and arts educator Barbara Rogers. Barbara is a gracious hostess and hardworking painter. She has a great circle of friends, some of whom I met at her place at a party on Saturday night. Kimberly Lund is moving to the middle east to teach painting, and we all celebrated her send-off. Fantastic middle eastern dishes came from myriad guests, and Barbara's secretary belly danced her way around the room like a juicy tinkerbell. What a night! Artists, bassists, curators, DA's, educators, the creme de la creme.

Meanwhile, I line up insurance quotes and edit the perfect commercial lease, starting my day with a stroll through Desert Shadows in blissfully cool weather (all the Tucsonians can't believe the temperatures and sprinkles of afternoon rain). Bunny rabbits with perfect white tails and delightfully tall ears scatter across Barbara's driveway. Lizards and quail families dash by like cartoon characters. The neighbor's gardening detritus has enough agave pups to start a new hedgerow in Montara. Yes, I thought ahead and brought an extra suitcase.

Now, about that word gorgeous. What is different about gorgeous, compared with beautiful, pretty, and handsome?

Gorgeous is a type of beautiful, but it denotes boldness and drama. Pretty is a type of beautiful that is plainer, more delicate, and closer to a natural, unembellished beauty. Handsome is about quality and good lines and simplicity; a beauty that is not usuallyh natural but is mindful of the limits of interference. Gorgeous is the aesthetics of interference, of clashes, of extremes. Barbara's house is all about gorgeousness. Her gold and richly layered paintings are everywhere. And if these are the ones that didn't sell in galleries, then what must those in other homes and museums look like?

Barbara's home is a showcase for her many collections... platform shoes are displayed like works of art, an oak table is a repository of desert artifacts, and museum-quality Buddhas stand watch over everything. There are lush curtains, oversize plants, massive armoires, and the lustre of metal, here and there, shining out from under a tiny layer of perfect tarnish. There are curves, ovals, flaws, and ridges. A red bathroom, a bronze bedspread, and a black lacquered grand piano (which got a workout Saturday night).

It's all so gorgeous.

adopt your own virtual pet!