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GUEST BLOG: Renée Reynolds

17 Aug

Renée Reynolds grew up between Chicago and Los Angeles. She writes short fiction and paints long images while working as a freelance writer in Shanghai.  This piece appears courtesy of HAL publishing, a postpat colonist publishing house promoting China-based works by exceptional authors.  She is a long-time collaborator with CP composer Veronika Krausas. 

Fort Bringham’ere in Brief July 5, XXXX

Dear Mr. Just Wondering,

Thank you for your interest in the operations of Fort Bringham’ere. Do accept our apologies for requiring 13 months and a day to reply – foreign-correspondence clearance protocol sure can be a time consuming process! You will find all inquiries and concerns classified as non-confidential addressed in this notarized document. I thank you in advance for pardoning the necessary omissions.

Fort Bringham’ere (formerly Fort Gimme) Military Biosphere Reserve (FBMBR) is located in an undisclosed northern township. With a north-south length of 880 m, and an east-west width of 500 m, the FBMBR covers a total area of 440,000 square-meters (44 hectares).

Once known as one of the world’s largest city squares, second only to the Imam Reza Shrine in Old Iran, FBMBR includes the majority of the highest quality hiparian flats remaining in mainland China. Multiple species of hiparian-dependent life-forms, found in Fort Bringham’ere’s flats, are candidates for rare and special species listing at local and national levels, including the Dusty dead-vinehopper (Wuttanowe dustus), the Xi’s Peckerspot (Thatsanot livustus), and the extremely rare, Highway Blue Face (Cyaninan cryptivius).

As urban development, invasive species, real estate price-hikes, demolition and ground cover succession continue to efface the northern region’s hiparian flats, restoration and management are critical in providing enough suitable habitat for these and other important species to maintain viable populations.

Stewardship of rare and special species and natural habitats has a priority at Fort Bringham’ere. The proper entrapment, documentation, blog-posting, paper-mache and enticing display of such species are also mandated practices under strict Fort-implemented regulations as well as national and local law. The process of listing any hiparian specimen as ‘threatened’ or ‘endangered’ could have negative implications for the funding, training and ranking of Fort Bringham’ere’s personnel. Access to the means by which such an act can be performed is therefore monitored with an extensive CCTV network as well as armed guards trained in relevant disciplines such as Zoology and martial arts.

Monthly reports are compiled for historical record-keeping and internal reference only. Such reports use carefully selected segments of survey and informational testimonies on northern mainland China’s hiparian-dependent life-forms. Oral history, folklore (including ancestral superstitions) and supporting interviews of expert upright citizens with extensive experience in the region, as well as qualified family members, provide additional source material when necessary.

All reports aim to create a thorough yet entertaining picture of the rare, common and otherwise compromised populations existing on and around Fort Bringham’ere over time. While content generated thusly can be used to enhance tourism revenues in future, studies conducted on Fort Bringham’ere are currently closed to the public as well as non-briefed personnel.

Aspects of high-quality hiparian habitat such as low pu-pu fecal cover, abundant alcoholic and diverse nectar sources, and high-rise dormant VIP colonies can be correlated with all regional species’ diversity and abundance. In the absence of such opportunities to propagate, many of the rare and special species will undoubtedly achieve extinction before the year of the Dragon, a decidedly important passing of amorphous energies that dictate the deepest of all meaning to all living creatures in all known economically viable locations.

Thus, all men of high-ranking cloth at Fort Bringham’ere endorse the passing of the mandate RU4-DiRoll and the doubling of munitions used in Q1 and Q2 in our on-going efforts to protect surrounding Technology Parks, as well as nearby residential and commercial development zones from any species known and unknown to pose a threat to the protocol we all work so diligently to uphold.

Your support is appreciated!

Yours Truly,

Lt. Colonel August Finis, Operating Commander

Fort Bringham’ere Military Biosphere Reserve

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CP Interviews Steve ‘Espo’ Powers about his graffiti installation collaborations with Barry ‘Twist’ McGee and Todd ‘Reas” James

25 May

INTERVIEW BY RACHEL MATOS. Introducing our second in a series of interviews and reviews by CP guest blogger Rachel Matos. An exhibited artist, educator and professional performer, Rachel studied at the School of Visual Arts and Columbia University, and has since worked for LACMA, Norton Simon Museum, The Guggenheim, The Met, The Bronx Museum, Montclair Art Museum, Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt and thePhiladelphia Museum of Art.

Nothing is more exhilarating than entering a museum space and feeling as though you are in another time and place. MoCA, as an institution, has been transformed into a small international urban space encompassing the histories of street art in its current exhibition ‘Art in the Streets’. In my opinion, one of the most captivating areas within the museum had to be Street Market.

The space felt nostalgic and new all at once. The installation is incredibly detailed, completely layered with neon lit signs that illustrate an urban wit that can only come from the genius minds of Todd ‘Reas’ James, Barry ‘Twist’ McGee and Steve ‘Espo’ Powers,  who brought in their own experiences from the streets of San Francisco, New York and Philadelphia.

A church front, a gated store and pay phone are just a few elements throughout the small avenues In Street Market. From this native New Yorkers’ perspective, it feels like Canal Street in the 80s and 90s. The visual language was very familiar to me. I had the hardest time stepping outside of myself and my childhood memories in order to view the show as a spectator.

I couldn’t leave the exhibit without digging a bit further so I decided to start an email dialogue with Espo. I can’t say it was the most in-depth conversation. But, our chat was certainly in the spirit of what this installation all about – Go see it yourself, create your own dialogue, and anything you need to know, really, is in the show.

RM: Do you feel the messages in Street Market lose or gain anything when the audience is from Los Angeles – a city known for being an urban sprawl?

SP: MOCA is in Little Tokyo and close to downtown LA, so I think it makes perfect visual sense in that setting.

RM: Are your signs and murals influenced by the context of the environment they’re in?

SP: Always

RM: What are your thoughts on traditional advertising?

SP: I steal from it what I need. And try not to get mad when they steal from me.

RM: When did you realize that letter styles of signage and info graphics would make for such powerful artistic statements?

SP: When God wrote on the wall in fire in Daniel 6:6

RM: When did creating installations to compliment the art, become the art itself?

SP: For me and todd? Circa 1999

RM: Can you leave the readers with your thoughts about the importance of having a collaborative approach to art?

SP: 3 heads are better than one. And a whole neighborhood is much better than 3! That’s the new math.

And there you have it. Is it because Espo is an artist that ‘three heads is much better than one’ sounds so profound? I mean, after all, collaborative efforts in art make for an interesting dialogue when multiple perspectives are married together. I tend to think so. Perhaps I am reading too much into it, as Espo’s verbiage would have me do so.

Either way, if you are one of the very few people who have not gone to see Art in the Streets, the show will be up until July 8th.

ARTIST INTERVIEW: Ichiro Irie on paperclips, artistic discomfort, and interdisciplinary portraiture

22 Apr

REVIEW BY RACHEL MATOS. Introducing our first in a series of articles by CP guest blogger Rachel Matos. An exhibited artist, educator and professional performer, Rachel studied at the School of Visual Arts and Columbia University, and has since worked for LACMA, Norton Simon Museum, The Guggenheim, The Met, The Bronx Museum, Montclair Art Museum, Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt and thePhiladelphia Museum of Art.  

Ichiro Irie

Have you been to the Torrance Museum of Art lately? The museum is in the midst of its first in a series of international exhibitions representing artists with similar cultural backgrounds. The first is Gateway Japan, where I had the privilege of viewing works by Japanese and Japanese American artists. The show ran the gamut of disciplines from three-dimensional portraits atop of mobile phone canvases to sumo-wrestlers creating footprints on a clay fighting ring.

As I entered the gallery, I noticed black canvases that evoked a series of emotional range. From afar, I could see a monochromatic portrait of a woman singing and a man laughing. Up close, I noticed the portraits were all made with staples on blocks of wood transforming the illusion of representational work into abstraction.

Interested in Ichiro’s interdisciplinary approach to portraiture and his participation in Gateway Japan, I asked the artist a few questions about himself, his work and what’s next.

CP: You were born in Tokyo, raised in Los Angeles, but you don’t consider yourself Japanese or American. You say you feel ‘Angelino’. What does being an Angelino mean to you?

IRIE: Technically I’m both Japanese and American.  I was born in Japan from Japanese parents.  I was brought to L.A. when I was 2, but I spoke Japanese at home, ate Japanese food at home everyday, and went to Japanese school on Saturdays.

Ichiro Irie

Ichiro Irie

On the other hand, outside of the house, I’ve lived my life mostly like any kid in L.A., my friends and acquaintances from all walks of life.  Well, I grew up in West L.A. and Brentwood, went to middle school and high school in Santa Monica, and Santa Barbara.  Most of my peers were Caucasian with a sprinkle of other races and ethnicities.  My connection to the Japanese and Japanese American communities here outside of family and a handful of friends had been limited at best.  I should also mention that I just became a U.S. citizen last year.

Nevertheless, because of my appearance, people who see or meet me here for the first time see me as the other.  Heck, I even saw myself as the other, and perhaps I still do.  My favorite movies, my favorite bands, my favorite actors and actresses, people on T.V., girls I liked, my best friends… nobody looked like me.

In Japan, I look, more or less, like everyone else, but after a few minutes of conversation, it becomes pretty obvious that I’m not completely one of them.  Often in a good way, because, when I visited Japan as a child or as a young adult, people were curious to get to know me, kind of like the exotic strange animal at the zoo.  I didn’t mind that for some reason.  In short, I’ve always been the token Japanese kid here, and the token Gringo Japanese in Japan.

I feel like an Angelino, because my identity and my outlook towards the world have been totally shaped by my experience here.  For all its politically correctness, progressive thinking, yoga, and health consciousness, life in Los Angeles is defined by racial politics.  I’m not saying anything that’s hasn’t been said 1000 times before, but just go to any restaurant in Brentwood, Melrose, Beverly Hills or Santa Monica… 90% Caucasian.  The busboys, dishwashers, housekeepers, gardeners, and day laborors… Latino.

Ichiro Irie

I have a son in grade school now.  Investigating which public schools have the highest level of education, the highest standardized test scores are in predominantly White and Asian communities.  The school in the bottom half are all Black and Latino.  This reality is not only sad, it’s criminal, although I’m not exactly sure who to blame.

I’ve read a couple statistics, one that Asian men are the most single (as in available) segment of the population, and another that they have the highest average income.  In what kind of f’d up society is the richest guy considered the least desirable?

Los Angeles is also home to Hollywood.  There are an unusual amount of people who want to be famous here.  There are an unusual number of people with cosmetic surgery.  Los Angeles is home to the San Fernando Valley, the porn capital of the world.  Los Angeles is a city where people are very isolated.  I visited New York for the first time since 2005 this year for a show.  I was shocked how random people actually walk up and talk to you.  It made me uncomfortable, and I liked it.

So, as I hope you can see, my relationship to the rest of the world, I believe, is measured against all of my experiences here in Los Angeles.  I’m a product of this city.

CP: Was there a pivotal moment that brought you awareness about the self importance and the over-glorification of oneself as an artist? Are the mediums you choose a reflection of those feelings? 

IRIE: I think those were the words of Heather Jeno Silva who wrote about my work.  Although I don’t necessarily disagree with her, I don’t make work in order to prove some point against self-glorification either.  I just try to do what comes the most naturally at any given moment.  Even when I’m being ironic from time to time, I simply try to do what feels like a sincere pursuit of my artistic concerns.  My work is diverse, dispersed, and spans media and disciplines, because of this.  I get bored easily.  I’m interested in a lot of different things.  I want my body of work to reflect an expanded definition of identity without being didactic.  I can only accomplish this within my means and my limitations, both economic and personal.  It is certainly not the most efficient strategy towards achieving commercial success or branding my self as an artist.  Maybe this is being humble, or maybe I’m trying to bite off more than I can chew.

Ichiro Irie

The materials I choose, and the images I create are a result of questioning to my self, why a person like me or just people around me in general would end up in a place like this, at this particular age.  When you are surrounded by these materials and images, they become normal, and almost invisible.  For example, with my accumulations series, I observe, depict, accumulate, and transform everyday objects such as paperclips, staples, screws, poster putty, and hair clips.  By bringing these entities to the foreground, I’m trying to show how unusual these things really are.  Imagine landing in the world today from, say, just 200 years ago.  All of these things would seem so bizarre.

This idea of transformation and humor has been particularly important to me recently, because it allows the possibility for subtle defiance, active participation and pleasure within a set of parameters, even if it is only within my tiny corner of the world.

CP: Have the tragic events in Japan changed or influenced the direction of your work in any way?

IRIE:  Yes, in 2009, I did a series of ink drawings of two adolescents, one boy and one girl, surrounded in the aftermath of some catastrophic event.  In spite of the bleak environments depicted, I believe they were hopeful pictures.  I wanted to expand on this series by doing larger drawings and paintings of a similar nature.

Because of these recent events in Japan, I’ve decided not to continue this series anymore, because I’m worried that people will think that I’m doing these works as a result of the Japanese earthquake/tsunami.  I’m worried that the works would now seem opportunistic.

CP: Can you share what you are working on and what we can look forward to?

IRIE:  I’ve been teaching at Santa Monica College and Oxnard College the past 4 years.  I feel a little bit like the catcher in the rye, trying my best to not let these kids and adults slip through the cracks.  Several of the more fortunate ones are doing remarkably well.  It’s a very rewarding process to see your students evolve.

I’ve invested so much energy in the teaching process, and with many of my students, a relationship emerges that is beyond academic or professional.  I’ve been reading up a little on the concept of transference and counter transference in relation to psychoanalysis, and playing with the idea that most of these students are trying to transfer to a 4 year university, MFA program, or simply to the next stage of their lives and careers.  My most current work revolves around these ideas of transfer and transference.

I’ve been in 5 shows in L.A., New York, Mexico City and Frankfurt in the last 4 months, and I feel a little spread thin in terms of exhibiting, so I probably won’t be showing my own work again until August.  I will be showing work at Gallery Lara in Tokyo at the end of the summer, and will be participating in the Sur Biennial curated by Ronald Lopez this fall.  I’ve also been invited to participate in a show in Berlin called “La Vida es Cruel” curated by artist/curator Florian Heinke.

In the meantime, we will continue our curatorial projects at JAUS, a small artist run space I direct in West L.A.  I’ll have my summer off for the first time since returning to L.A. from Mexico City in 2006.  I’m looking forward to spending more time in the studio, developing new works and getting some much needed R&R.

ABOUT RACHEL MATOS:

An exhibited artist, educator and professional performer, Rachel Matos studied at the School of Visual Arts and Columbia University specializing in painting and the history of modern art. She has worked for LACMA, Norton Simon Museum, The Guggenheim, The Met, The Bronx Museum, Montclair Art Museum, Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt and thePhiladelphia Museum of Art, among many others.  She is often sought to develop educational programs for art institutions and to serve as a guest lecturer and curator. Her works have been exhibited at the Woodmere Art Museum, the Colombian Consulate, the Society of Illustrators, and Rockefeller Center. Learn more about Matos here.