Thursday, December 17, 2009


KEXP is asking listeners to vote for their favorite albums of the 00s. So, of course I participated, but the minute I started scanning the list, and realizing that I could only choose 5, my brain just started laughing at itself! Only 5 for 10 years of great music? And even if I could magically come up with 5 records, how could I ever possibly rank those 5.

Well, as a response to the KEXP list, and as a cathartic exercise, I present to you, my top 50 albums of 2000-2009, in ranked by “blew me away” factor combined with overall staying power and top-to-bottom strength. There are many other songs, or tracks, or downloads as they say, that I love, but we are looking at entire albums here. The only rule being, only one album per artist.

I’m sure in another ten years, if I go back and rank these same albums, the list will look very different. Hell it would look different tomorrow, but this is all just in good fun, so here you go
1. The Wrens The Meadowlands - Still blows me away.
2. Sigur Ros () - Still their best, most affecting work, listening to this album is truly a gorgeous experience
3. Carissa’s Wierd I before e - I'm cheating here, in a sense, since this is a live album, but it's so darkly lovely, so full of pain and beauty, and such wonderful, simple elegant and surprising songs
4. Cold War Kids Robbers & Cowards - my favorite rock album of the decade
5. Rainer Maria Long Knives Drawn - my second favorite rock album of the decade
6. Sun Kil Moon Ghosts of a Great Highway - I never get tired of this album
7. Interpol Antics - Turn off the Bright lights almost beat out Antics, but basically they are both amazing
8. Radiohead Hail to the Thief - the most influencial band of the last 15 years.
9. Nada Surf Let Go - Fruit Fly is one of my all-time favorite songs...a great pop rock album
10. Devotchka How It Ends - suffered from being overplayed but still fantastic music
11. Modest Mouse The Moon and Antartica - the last great Mouse album
12. And You Will Know Us By The Trail of The Dead Sources, Tags & Codes
13. Danger Doom The Mouse and the Mask
14. Mclusky Mclusky do Dallas - My love is better than your love we take more drugs than a touring Funk band, SING IT!
15. The Walkman Bows + Arrows
16. Sonic Youth Murray Street
17. Explosions in the Sky The Earth is not a Cold Dead Place
18. Mates of State Our Constant Concern
19. LCD Sound System Sound of Silver - "Someone Great" top 5 songs of the decade
20. Deltron 3030 - I nearly forgot this came out in the 00s!
21. Spoon Girls Can Tell
22. The Postal Service Give Up
23. Stars Heart
24. The Doves The Last Broadcast - probably i'd rank it higher in the list if i felt like editing this thing more
25. Bjork Vespertine -
26. The New Pornographers Electric Version
27. Mogwai Happy Songs for Happy People
28. 764-HERO Weekends of Sound - how did i not know about this band when they were actually still a band? Unsung heros of PNW rock
29. At The Drive-in Relationship of command - one armed scissor
30. Sleater-Kinney All Hands on the Bad One
31. Silver Jews Bright Flight - fucking brilliant
32. M83 Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts
33. The Dirty Three Whatever You love, You Are
34. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
35. Beck Sea Change
36. The Streets a grand don’t come for free - This is one of the most underrated hip-hop albums ever, but maybe that's because its not really a hip-hop album but something else entirely. I love it.
37. PJ Harvey Songs from the City, Songs From the Sea
38. Sufjan Stevens Illinois - Oh, Sufjan, will the hipsters ever let you back into the cool club?
39. Busdriver Roadkillovercoat - what did he just say??
40. Ghostland Observatory paparazzi Lightening - beloved by many but now in danger of being forgotten about, can they ever get the energy back of their first two albums?
41. The Flaming Lips Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
42. Mark Lanegan Field Songs
43. Red House Painters Old Ramon
44. Death Cab For Cutie We Have the Facts and We are Voting Yes
45. Dan Deacon Bromst
46. Ulirch Schnauss A Strangely Isolate Place
47. Tapes ‘n Tapes The Loon
48. The Rosebuds Birds Make Good Neighbors - all their records are equally sweet and nice
49. Aloha Some Echos - probably the band you have not heard of on this list. You should.
50. TV On The Radio Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes - the first 6 songs of this album are the best thing that band has ever done
50.5 (Tie) Astronautalis Pomegranate, Shenandoah Davis We Camera, Huma We Are Here For You

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Art Quickie #7 - Margie Livingston @ Kucera

When I was a young lad, recently BFA'ed and fresh on the Seattle art scene (by which I mean going to art openings, talking shit, and wondering why I wasn't getting noticed, like all young artists are supposed to do) I kept coming across Margie Livingston's work. SOIL, Greg Kucera were her main haunts, but she seemed to turn up everywhere.

To be completely honest, I never really got it, her work at that time...well I did get it, but I didn't understand really what it was that made her do these paintings of lines and shapes, seemed to be variations of variations of variations. Of course, at the time I didn't understand that Margie was painting these works from a sort installation-like structures that she assembled in her studio. Sticks, strings and the like, with a variety of light sources. Her entire body of STRUCTURE paintings was so damn painterly in process and subject and that alone should have gotten me. For I fancied myself a painter's painter. After a sort anyhow.

A few more years went by, and I started to see and understand things more, and my respect and interest grew in her work. But I always wondered, how would her work develop? How long would she keep painting those structures in her studio? Would her successes keep her repeating herself, or would she push things?

These are the kinds of questions that artists should be asking of themselves and their peers. However, the answers are not so simple. Morandi made a career out of painting the same 5 bottles for most of his life. But then again Basquiat repeated himself to no end, and was burnt out and dead by 30. Who's to say?

Any who, I'm getting off track, and this is supposed to be an Art Quickie. But all these thoughts are what went through my head when I walked into Greg Kucera the other night. Lo and behold, with this new show "Riff" Margie has taken her studio practice and rethought many aspects of what sort of art can be produced in such a setting. I don't wish to give too much away, I think that a certain delight is had in experiencing these new works in person. So go see it!

But I will say that some of the art produced is from her STRUCTURE series but these new paintings are somehow more loose and yet tighter and take the series to a more vividly robust realm. The other works in the show could be roughly described as painting deconstructions. Call them painting sculptures, sculptural paintings, paint them what you will, they are delightful and interesting to look at, which is no easy thing. Check it out.

As a bonus, Greg Kucera is also showing a selection of nice, trendy-looking works by Whiting Tennis, and some delightful, whimsical, cat vs paper bag sculptures by Edward Wicklander.

It has been a privilege to watch Margie's work develop through these years.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

We Built This To Leave

Our show is up! We Built This To Leave opening reception November 6, 6-11pm. Show runs through November 29 at Vermillion gallery. Come check it out! Me, Trevor Johnson, and Sharon Arnold.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Art Quickie #6 - Karen Sargsyan

Firstly, sorry for the very gray photo. this work is much more vibrant and pretty, but my cell phone is not a good camera. Look here for better pics: Karen Sargsyan or search.

Ambach & Rice is the new hot gallery in town, if you haven't heard. I stopped by with Nicole on Saturday to check out this show Abroad Understanding, by Karen Sargsyan. Very strong show! My first impression of the work was that the figures had a very NW coast Salish and also Inuit feel to them...I thought it likely this was a local, maybe Vancouver artist...however I was off base on that.

Karen hails from Armenia, by way of the Netherlands. His figures tell the story of a usurped king. Clearly borrowing on myth and legend from several sources. Really I didn't get too into the story so much, I just enjoyed the beauty and craftsmanship. Karen is a master of cut paper, a trend in recent contemporary art that is getting more and more sophisticated. I can only imagine the challenges of trying to pack up and ship these fragile creations!

Okay, this is an art quickie, right? So i better cut it off here. However, let me add that A & R are starting off strong in Ballard (they've taken over the OKOK space) and they might be a strong start of making a case for Ballard (and Cap Hill) to become replacements for the Pioneer Square scene, as downtown continues to push galleries further and further away. This show is one of the stronger gallery shows I have seen in recent memory, it's a museum quality exhibition, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out in Ballard.

Monday, October 19, 2009

ElectroPopShoeGazerIndieHipHopRock 1

Am I dying a blogger death by only updating every 3 weeks? Probably. Oh well, who cares.

I keep wanting to steer this blog towards art related subjects only, but I just don't think it will happen, and for now, I'm going to stick with my random eclectic musings on music, film, "culture" and occasionally art. Which pretty much means lots of reviews of music and film. Sorry if that bores y'all! I'll try to get stronger content on here in the future.

Speaking of stronger content, have you seen the latest City Arts Magazine? There's a nice piece in there on Sunny Day Real Estate by yours truly.

One more thing, before I get to my reviews "ElectroPopShoeGazerIndieHipHopRock" is going to be the name of all my music posts, joining Art Quickies and The Current Cinema as repeating columns.

New Built To Spill?!!! How come I didn't know this was happening until I saw the record in the store? Have I lost touch completely? Wait, don't answer that. There is No Enemy is excellent. Easily their best album since Keep It Like A Secret. Doug and the guys seem to have settled comfortable into the organic jam session song writing style that they used exclusively on the last release. This album brings more flowing, nice pretty songs with that strongly familiar BTS sound, but it's tight and strong front to back. It's a mature work from one of the most honest bands working today. 4 Molos

I have to admit that I don't really understand what Islands are all about but they have released one of the catchiest pop indie rock albums of recent memory. I had some of these songs rolling around in my noggin almost immediately after first lesson. The album, in question, is called Vapours and it is very good. It's a bit glam, almost silly, but somehow smart and sentimental too. A couple of misses on the record (like the song with the voice-effect that as Nicole says, only belongs on Daft Punk records) but even the misses are really damn catchy. Something must be in the water in Quebec because Montreal has been one of the best music scenes in the world over the last few years. 3.5 Molos

Local darlings Grand Hallway released their second album Promenade not long ago. Tomo Nakayama is one hell of a song writer. There's no getting around it. Sometimes listening to this band makes me think of a more humble Elton John with quirky orchestral elements. All indie pop sweetness. Love songs. Will bands ever tire of writing love songs? Would any one want them to stop? Likely the answer is no. 3.5 Molos

Kittens and puppies.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Godzilla has been waiting for a Sunny Day to wake up

I haven't been bloggin' much. To be honest, I'm not sure if my blog will continue to be a big part of my web presence. With facebook, flickr, and plain-old email taking up so much time, and with my occasional writing assignments for actual print (you know, like words on paper and stuff, you might remember them), this here little blog is taking a back seat. Plus, you know there's the art, the job, the lovely Nicole, the friends and the family to spend time with (not necessarily in that order).

But I will do more, I promise.

It will just be in the sputtering installments that by now you all should be used to. And if you ain't having it, then stop reading, nimrod!

Still with me? Okay, here's a few things I have encountered:

You have only till Oct 3rd to see a lazy-ass GODZILLA sleeping between, well around really, Open Satellite's giant pillars. Go East. The artists in SIMPARCH have created a delightfully snoozy monster well worth the trip. Art can still be fun and actually create child-like responses that are honest, on occasion. 3.5 Molos.

Go see Sunny Day Real Estate's reunion tour! They are bringing it like they did in 1994, except with less hair. Or maybe that is just me who has less hair. I have seen them twice in the last 2 weeks and the first show, at Tacoma's Hell's Kitchen no less, was a spine-tingling, amazing experience. Plus, it got so loud i had to wear earplugs for the next show 2 days later, in Portland. So I didn't really get to hear the Portland show, but i briefly listened to their new song, that's right, they have a new song, and it was tight. Plus, you can get Diary and LP2 on Vinyl! Sing it! SDRE Tacoma Show: 5 Molos. SDRE Portland show 4.5 Molos. Diary reissue 5 Molos. LP2 reissue 5 Molos

Grand Archives released Keep in Mind Frankenstein which follows up last year's self-titled Subpop debut with another batch of happy/sad slightly folky mellow moody indie rock songs. This one is slower, darker, and a lot less eccentric than the debut. A far more enjoyable listen overall, everything on it just feels much more considered. Although it is lacking the punchy delights of songs like Torn Blue Foam Couch and Southern Glass Home. Still, like everything that is remotely connected to Carissa's Weird, from Grand Archives, to S, to Sera Cahoone and of course even Band of Horses it is full of sad, wonderful beauty. Even the failures that this group of artists have done are still better than most of the crap out there. Keep in Mind Frankenstein is no failure, it's a mature, record from a prolific songwriter searching for a new post Carissa's Wierd world to play in. 4 Molos

Time to break out the scarves people, winter's a coming!

thank you to slog/open satellite and the flickr photographer that i borrowed these images from. feel free to steal any of my pics from the web, anytime.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Hello dear readers, it has been a while! This post is all about music, and I'll try to keep it brief. Well, no promises on that. After all, I just turned in 1500 words for an article I'm writing on Sunny Day Real Estate's reunion tour, and it was supposed to be 1200, which, frankly, isn't so bad, only 300 words over. But I'll tell you, at one point that piece was at like 2600 words...any who, I'm rambling and you all don't give a damn.

So let's get to the music reviews:

Really, what is the big deal with Yacht? Sure they have a couple really catchy songs, but they are pretty much just standard pop-indie danceable rock songs. Okay, yes the guy is from Portland...well Astoria really. And the stuff sounds like it comes out of NY, so that ins kind of interesting. Are there a lot of Yachts in Astoria? I imagine more sea-going vessels in those waters, after all the entrance to the Columbia river, with it's currents and sand bars, is one of the most dangerous waterways in the world. This is true. There's an army of tug boats and such whose job it is to guide ships through the mouth. Any who, wasn't I going to talk about music or something? Yacht, oh yeah. See Mystery Lights. Okay it's a pretty fun album. I'm equally delighted and annoyed by this music. Couple of stellar tracks though and it's pretty cool that it's from Astoria. In short, it is excellent indie dance rock pop so if that is your thing you will not be disappointed. 3 Molos

John in the Morning is probably responsible, personally for like 36% of all album sales decisions in Seattle, that is, all those people out there at Easy Street, Sonic Boom, Everyday Music sitting there thinking, "I'd like to get some new music, but I just don't know what I want..." Well they remember that song that John has been playing lately, or that album that he recommends and pick it up. Nothing wrong with that, John has great taste. The man has turned me on to so many bands that I can't hardly imagine living without...bands that I might never have heard otherwise. KEXP in general is a godsend.

So upon john's recommendation and having never listened to it at all, I picked up the new album by The Horrors Primary Colors. And it's pretty damn good. The good people at Sonic Boom had left a label on the album, that read"Moody Brit goths overcome their awkward stage of being lame and concocted an excellent follow-up that is pretty awesome actually" I can basically agree with that. The lyrics are mostly standard love songs, juvenile even, but for what is lacking in the words, the band makes up for in the driving music. I hear a lot of Film School, The Doves, and My Bloody Album amongst others in the guitar and rhythm and if you like those bands, and can imagine a sort of lighter blended version of all those influences, you will enjoy this album. Definitely a surprisingly strong release, thanks John! 4 Molos

Combine Yacht with The Horrors, add a female singer/songwriter, and make it a bit more earnest in its pop-gazing rock (I totally just invented that term-pop-gazing. like shoe-gazer but your head is up and your foot is tapping...right?) and you have Metric's Fantasies. I enjoy this album. I've never paid any attention to the band before, so I'm wondering now what I have been missing out on, as this is ther 4th album. Probably more sweet, tight sing-able rock music. Okay, good stuff, not groundbreaking, but good. 3.5 Molos

What about the new Cave Singers album? It will surely be on top of a lot of lists at the end of 2009, especially around the PNW. Yeah it's good, real good. It's a more rock version of their stellar first album. Turned up the rock, and turned down the folk, but they still do keep it folky, so all you beards out there wont be disappointed. 4 Molos

Okay folks, all for now, although let me add that the live album by K'naan Dusty Foot on the Road is very well done. It does a great job of capturing what surely must a be a stellar live performance. Having never seen him live, nor being very familiar with the music I find myself very much enjoying this performance. 3.5 Molos

Later y'all.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Current Cinema - Inglorious Bastards

Oops, wrong poster.....I saw Inglorious Bastards on Saturday.

I was speechless. Part of that was exhaustion (long week, not feeling great, etc) but part of that was simply that Quentin Tarantino's newest is just superb film making. What an unexpected film-going experience.

I have not seen the original "The Inglorious Bastards", nor have I seen the 30s/40s era German films that are constantly referenced but I still enjoyed the hell out of this movie. Quentin has developed the strangest knack for creating movies with tons of long, drawn out dialog scenes that you keep waiting to end in someone getting shot in the face or some such thing, and they do, on occasion end that way, but often they simply end when the conversations naturally end between the characters. Damn if it doesn't work. Silly, smart, UBER CINEMA-O-PHILE stuff, but simply glorious. Yes, I had to use the word glorious in this review.

If you saw the previews and are expecting a violent, silly romp, this ain't it. Although there's plenty of violence, silliness and romp. Honestly, trying to describe this movie is challenging-it is truly genre-bending.

Oscar to Cristoph Waltz, he owns every scene he is in. Maliene Laurent is stellar as well. Brad Pitt has a ton of fun. Great stuff all around.

I'm just going to just shut up and tell you to go see this damn movie. 4.5 Molos

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Art Quickie #5 - Hostel Art Collective

Last night I attended the opening reception for the Hostel Art Collective, which is a new youth hostel (which the city really needed) in Belltown (2327 2nd Ave, across from Roq la Rue and Halogen galleries) that features the work of nearly 50 local artists. It was a blast! Each artist got their own room, to pretty much do anything they wanted to. The building was very heavy on street (Weirdo) and pop-surrealistic artists (PGee), but there were a few more traditional painters (Chris Sheridan) and installation artists (Carlos Esparza/Sierra Stinson) thrown in as well.

Brown-baggin' PBR was the order of the evening. The crowd was not unlike the exciting Free Sheep events of recent months, art kids and hipsters clogging all the hallways.

Highlights include rooms by Chris Sheridan, John Osgood, PGee, Jeffrey Taylor, Michelle Anderst, Joe Vollan, and so many others!

I'm not sure if there will be any other public events in the Hostel, but if you get a chance to see the space, do not pass it up!

More photos can be seen at these locations:

4 Molos!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Sounds of 2009

Hello everyone! Sorry for the absence, but I had surgery on my sinuses and have been out of commission. Subsequently I haven't been out to see a lot of art around town, or movies for that matter. I have lost track of all the art, music, culture, and films happening around town-basically all the things that I am supposed to be reporting on in this forum to you all. Sorry about that, I hope you have managed to entertain yourselves without my advice these last few weeks!

I did watch a ton of DVDs during my recovery, movies like Defiance, or James Bond vs the Nazis, which was a perfectly mildly entertaining and somewhat interesting film. 2.5 Molos Oh, and I saw the first season of Mad Men, which more than lives up to it's reputation as a extremely well-written, intriguing show. Mad men is fascinating. It's not exactly a happy show, in fact it always left me in a kind of perplexing, slightly sour mood, but it's just so damn well done and mysterious I could never stop watching.

Moving on, I wanted to catch you all up on music in 2009. To be honest I really can't keep up with new music in any sort of comprehensive way anymore. There is just too much out there, on the web and at the stores. But here are a few short reviews of things that have fallen into my world of late:

Perhaps the most fun record I have heard in a while is Major Lazer's Guns Don't Kill People...Lazers Do.. It's a delight. Fully of dance hall and sort of reggae/hip hop/ experimental dance fusion songs. But in a kind of mainstream-accessible sort of way. It's fun and has good beats. Plus, you really really must find the video for Pon de Floor online-it will floor you. Features of lot of "passa passa" style dancing. After you watch that video, research passa passa. Kids these days. 3.5 Molos

There is a local rapper Shabazz who is a bit of a mystery. I'm not eve certain that he is local, but that is what I heard. Shabazz released a really good record, Palaces of light, that i picked up a few weeks ago and it's a really tight bunch of dark, clean, slightly thuggish but smooth rap. If that makes sense. Thuggish is probably the wrong word. Tough might be more accurate. I think it's a good evolution of local hip hop, but I'm not at all an expert on the scene, even if i am friends with a white rapper. If you are a fan of hip-hop get the record, that's all I'm going to say about it. 3.5 Molos

Sonic Youth keeps making albums, and I keep buying them. But it's getting a little old. Or they are getting a little old. Although the title of their new album, The Eternal, speaks to this rather directly!
Don't get me wrong, it's good, very good. The band really can do no wrong. But I think they have fallen into a realm of just making music for their fans. Their music is becoming very much variations-on-a-theme, when it used to be they were always pushing boundaries and exploring new unknown sounds. So they aren't innovators anymore, they wont blow your mind with this album. But if you are into their sound, you wont be disappointed. 3 Molos

, on the other hand, has still got some innovation going. Although at times it is starting to feel ever so slightly formulaic...but just slightly. His new album, Jhelli Beam, really encompasses what I trying to say here...songs alternate from blowing your mind, to being more like here's another classic Busdriver-sounding song. Although for such a weird, experimental hip hop artist like him, that's a funny thing to say. If you have never heard of Busdriver, you need to. He's really quite amazing, and this album is tight and delightful despite what I have said above-I think my only issue with him is he's just kind of hard to take a lot of. He's a hard artist to listen to his records front-to-back. Too much Busdriver is a bad thing, a little Busdriver is fucking amazing. 4 Molos

Alright kids, off to your record stores! And if anyone has any great musical suggestions for me, I'd love to hear them.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Current Cinema - The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker is the best film I have seen this year so far. (although I have not see a lot for the record) I don't think a better movie has been made about either Iraq war to date. This is the kind of movie that keeps you thinking about it for days, and that's a rare treat with all the instantly forgettable crap out there. This war will no doubt end up being the subject of many more films/novels/and stories for years to come, but I doubt if anyone will make a film that treats the subject with such clean, strong and simple story-telling methods, while still being entertaining. Perfectly acted all-around.

The few, slightly clunky plot points or directory moves-like the needless use of Ralph Fiennes in this movie-I realize he's worked with the director before (Strange Days) and probably that is why, but i found it distracting,when all the other actors are pretty much relatively unknowns and so strong...but those small things are easily forgiven.

Kudos to the director, Kathryn Bigelow who is developing a most unusual directorial filmography (Point Break!, Blue Steel, Strange Days), writer Mark Boal (In the Valley Of Elah), and lead Jeremy Renner for a strong performance. Well done, go see it. 4 Molos

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Art Quickie #4 - Troy Gua @ Vermillion and Greg Lundgren @ Open Satellite

This art quickie will actully be quick for a change.

Greg Lundgren is from Bellevue. Troy Gua is from facebook. Okay, Troy is not really from facebook, I dont know where Troy is from originally. I'd say that he might have spent some time in Japan, but I think that is just the hair.

The respective exhibitions are full of suprizingly overlapping themes about the trials and tibulations of the artistic life in this region. Greg's show focuses on the expereince of growing up in the suburbs from the perspective of a successful artist career with smart, scuplture/installation works that are both entertaining and insightful. The works had the feeling of a Brent Easton Ellis novel, except with more heart. He has much to say about his ubringing in the context of Bellevue culture. His show is called I am from Bellevue and it will be on display at Open Sattellite until August 1st. Make the trip to the eastside and check it out.

Troy's exhibition Do you see me? at Vermillion differs from Greg's in his focus on efforts to get himself and his art noticed in the local art scene. Much of the work delves into the experience of online networking within the local art community with a very pop-art perspective. He seems to say that the quest for attention both physical and online creates direct, surreal focus on image making-on persona creation. It's a very brave, introspective departure from Troy's poppy celebrity combo-portraits. His show will run at Vermillion through August 2nd.

Go see both these shows. There is much more happening then my brief, very first-impression-ish, comments here. It is rare that I see shows which make me want to go back and look closer. Kudos to Troy and Greg!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Please don't sit on the art

I work at the Frye Art Museum.

Cat’s out of the bag. Not literally though, cats are not allowed in the museum. That is unless they are service animals. Which, actually is not all that uncommon, some cats provide valuable service needs to folks, although it can be a bit surprising to see a leashed feline walking around 19th century paintings (it certainly caught me off guard). Sorry I digress…I mention that I work at the Frye because to this point I have tried to keep the location of my museum guarding secret, so as to ward off my immense fan club. However, I grow weary of sharing insight and stories about “the museum”, as “Frye” is much shorter. Plus as an esteemed local critic pointed out to me, “everyone knows you work at the Frye”.

Now working at the Frye, as I do, I have heard a lot of unexpected questions through the years and one that I dread the most is:

“Is that art?”

I fear it almost as much as its companion, “where is the art?” (often asked of a patron standing adjacent to the “missing” art”). If a piece isn’t a painting, photography, drawing, or sculpture the public often doesn’t know whether or not they are looking at art. The rise of mixed media, non-traditional materials, installation, performance art and all the things that blur the lines between may be to blame. Surely this is the reason that a man asked me one day, when looking into a gallery with paint buckets and ladders strew about, if it was an installation piece. I informed him that we were actually installing a new show. “Who can tell anymore?” he asked with a shrug.

I have the upmost respect for the art-viewing public, even when they don’t know if they are viewing art, and I always try to talk about the art in question, often citing art history, the context of the show, and curatorial vision. However it can be a challenge at times to explain some of our works, especially to folks who have never sat through a slide lecture on Post Modernism or Pop Surrealism.

The Frye currently has a piece installed that seems to confuse a great deal of people about whether or not it is art. It is called Gussied Up and it is by the artist Mike Kelley as part of the excellent, entertaining show currently on display, The Puppet Show (through Sept 13th). Now Mike Kelley is a huge name in the
contemporary art world. He has shown all over the world, has a nice big Phaidon catalog published, did a Sonic Youth album cover and generally has had all the artistic success I can only dream of. This particular work of his is a large piece, situated in the center of a large room. It is essentially a huge table, with some smaller pieces of furniture on top of it. Additionally, there are a few small articles of doll clothing hanging from the pieces of furniture. Does this sound like art to you?

Well it is, very much so. As you may recall, I am involved with Security at the museum and it’s my job to see to it that art does not get damaged, let alone touched. My word what a headache this piece is! Many people seem incapable of walking by this work without running their hands along the wood table, or tugging at one of the little shirts. Even one of our volunteers couldn’t resist adjusting this little jacket that hangs from a vice, despite the protests of guards. I gave him an earful I’ll have you know.

Now Kelley work is not my favorite piece in the show (probably the Kentridge piece holds that honor-it’s mesmerizing) but I get paid the same to protect all of the art and the inability of folks to hold back their tactile desire is infuriating. But here’s the question-why do people touch that Kelley piece so much more often than the traditional paintings from the collection?

And why to they look so confused when I ask them to please not touch the art?
A lot is given away with that look-an embarrassed, sudden understanding that in fact, this table is a work of art, (which explains why it is in the middle of a museum with people staring at it and guards watching it) and that they just fondled a work of art for without a second thought. Well, at least they didn’t pull up a chair and sit down for a meal.

Speaking of sitting, this reminds me of a show we had a few years ago but the artist I’ll just call S. S had a few rooms in the front galleries at the Frye and in one of them she had 3 works on display: large painting on paper that spilled onto the floor, a video work projected on a wall, and sculptural/installation work on the floor. This work looked a great deal like a large, black box kite with some items inside of the body of the work-notable a neatly stacked pile of unlabeled tin can goods. Not exactly a traditional looking sculpture. Do you have a good image of this work in your mind? Okay picture the scene…

A lady, walks into the gallery with the box kite work. She seems very interested in the projected video but needs a place to sit and rest while she watches. Well how about this bench over here, that looks perfect! But wait….next thing you know, the bench, which was not a bench at all, collapses, her feet are up in the air, and she is on her back, executing a rather graceful, maneuver to right herself amongst much ruckus and tin cans rolling every which way. Now fortunately the lady was just fine, and the art was completely repairable with no lasting damage. After my heart stopped pounding in my chest I was fine too.

Do you think she thought that was art? Or a good place to take a load off?
Art History is full of examples of artists pushing the boundaries of what art can and should be-Dada, Duchamp, Rauschenberg, Warhol, Hirst, etc etc…the list goes on and on…you’d think that the question of what art is and could be would get stagnant after so much time and energy has been devoted to answering it, but clearly it will never go away. And clearly people still can’t always tell if something is art or not. So the next time you go to a museum remember this:


things that are art in the museum:

-anything in a frame
-anything with a label next to it
-anything behind a stanchion or on a pedestal
-anything that a guard is standing by
-anything that is in a room by itself

things that are not art in the museum:

-fire extinguishers
-exit signs
-drinking fountains
-the other “fountains” in the men’s room (if they had “R.Mutt” signed on them them it would be different story)
-outlets (you know, those holes in the walls that you plug stuff into)
-real wood benches (usually-but not the one that has the puppets on it-that IS art-stay OFF!)
-the seismographs on the floor. Oh and they aren’t seismographs either, they are Hygrathermographs
-the guards (but don’t touch them either)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Netflix News #1 - JVCD, Wendy and Lucy, The Sky Crawlers

The Netflix News keeps you informed on what you should and shouldn't move to the top of your queue. Or at least that's the idea. (really it's just a different way to bundle all the reviews I do on this blog-to try to be a bit more organized)

JVCD The Muscles from Brussels has seen some lean years. I think one can mark the downtrend in Jean Claude's career with his co-starring roll in Doubleteam, alongside Dennis Rodman. Or maybe it was Timecop. Or who knows. Maybe we all just grew up. And by "we all", I just mean all us young boys who grew up on Bloodsport, Kickoxer, Universal Soldier, etc etc...JVCD was a delight to my adolescent dreams of doing the splits while kicking ass, and then doing the splits while dancing (Kickboxer, really). So here's the Belgium star, now 47, broke, losing his family, losing his career, and making a "serious" film about these matters, in his native tongue. And it's great! He reminds me of a washed-up version of Vincent Gallo in this movie. Will you get it if you weren't a fan of his growing up? Doubt it. But you know what, give it a shot anyway. The very Dog Day Afternoon-ish story about an action star on his last legs trying to salvage his life and career but getting caught up in a fame can be horrible-doused hostage robbery plot will resonate with all. Long live Jean Claude! 3.5 Molos

And for something completely different, rent Wendy and Lucy. Written and directed by Kelly Reichardt as part of her movies about her dog series...okay not really, but it kind of feels that way-because one of the 2 main characters in this film is Lucy, Kelly's dog. Just like one of the main characters in her acclaimed last feature, Old Joy, was also her dog Lucy. Okay, that's a bit of a stretch, in Old Joy Lucy plays a very much tiny role in that quiet, strong little film. In Wendy and Lucy, though, Lucy gets her chance at co-starring. Or so it seems, until Lucy gets lost and Wendy (Michelle Williams) spends most of the film looking for her and assessing her life in the process. That's a pretty boring sounding synopsis, although accurate. But the film has a lot of life and subtlety in this little tale of a lost dog. It sticks with you long after you wonder what exactly you were watching. 3.5 Molos

The Sky Crawlers, on the other hand, is just plain old boring. Jesus what a snoozer. I love a good anime but this movie was so utterly concerned with looking cool it forgot to wake us up. It comes from the team that did Ghost in the Shell a few years back-which was awesome, if incomprehensible. The Sky Crawlers is neither. It's just pointless. 1.5 Molos

Monday, June 22, 2009

Art Quickie #3 - Inside Out at the Moore

above-the line to get in

What can you say about the craziness that took place at the Moore Saturday night other than: "Bravo!" D.K. Pan and NKO of Free Sheep Foundation curated a massive performance/installation throughout the entire Moore theater (including the basement). There were dozens of artists and performers involved and it was a blast. Balkan brass band music, Goddesses, painted dancers, murals, a huge pile of watermelon-which we missed seeing in person,but it was delightful to see folks walking around with watermelons downtown all evening-and all kinds of other things. There was work by Susan Robb, Lead Pencil Studios, Gretchen Bennett, Jason Puccineli,Megan Mertaugh, Stefan Gruber, Joshua Lindenmayer (nice posters Lil' Curly!) and a host of others.

This was an amazing people-watching event and generally a spectacularly fun evening. I can't say that the art blew me away, but really I don't think that anything was supposed to be more than an entertaining romp! And it felt like the entire Seattle Art scene came out. Big thanks to everyone involved with this undertaking. Seattle needs more of these type of events.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Art Quickie #2 Greg Boudreau

As promised here's #2: Greg at Grey Gallery and Lounge:

Grey gallery typially does 2 shows, one in the "gallery space" and one in the "lounge space". I suppose that the gallery space is more prestigious but right now you best bet is checking out Greg Boudreau's work in the lounge. Greg is a stencil master. It's hard to see from his tight, glossy end product all the intricate, layered exacto blade cut stencil work that is involved. It's a shit-ton, believe you me. Having known and followed Greg's work I have the benefit of knowing much about it, and I'm afraid this Quickie will reflect this knowledge.

So, let me just address the artist directly here>

Greg! Hi how is it going? Good to see you the other night back in has living in SoCal been? Fucked any actresses yet? (see I can ask him that cause we are buddies-it's a guy thing, okay maybe not really) I like the new work, seems like you are building on what you started over the last year or so...poppy colors, run-down buildings that kind of act like exposed ribs of the city....another strong, pretty showing of work. But my friend, I thing that you need to stay large with these works. The small one's aren't doing it. Someting about all the detail that goes into the stencils just gets toned down too much with all the smaller works. They are good images and I think they would be 50x better if they were 5x larger. I realize that you had to transport these works up from SoCal, so it makes sense that you embarked on a small series. But the big work is where it is at for your stuff. However, I do like the change to not strictly using found palatte wood. This is a good choice. I suggest bigger, solid panels. But what do I know?

The piece, "LA River", would be kicking if it were wall-sized.

Let's get a beer.

Art Quickie #1

"Art Quickies" is the name I'm giving this series of arts review in which I will rather hastily respond to recent shows and/or art works around town.

Let's start the series off with a show from the newly and horribly named "Blitz" aka Capitol Hill Art Walk (2nd Thursdays)

Art Quickie #1 Noah Grussgott's Caution Kid at Grey Gallery and Lounge:

Oh the perils of life! Oh disenchanted youth! Oh the garbage the city leaves in it's wake! Combine these 3 well-traveled ideas and you have essentially Noah's show. Noah Grussgott is the kind of artist that seems to look around the city, sees discarded material and uses this material to play with. It feels a bit like, Hey I bet I can turn that old pile of stuff into something interesting. Is it important? Is it visually engrossing? Or new? Maybe if you haven't picked up a copy of Art Forum in the last 10 years it might be. But I've seen this thing a lot. Don't get me wrong, I think a lot of interesting work can be done with found materials, but this isn't it. I soured on the the whole show when I saw the piece, a almost entirely blank piece of paper with one sentence written in the middle "I can't be what you want me to be". The only response to that is "sigh".

Concrete shapes intended to look remind us of children, sitting a bench covered in caution tape, and other city debris? Looking at a rectangle-in-rectangle wall sculpture made of foam core? Yes these are the materials we build with, and yes these are materials used to caution us, kid, but no, I have nothing to really say about any of these ideas. Except that I like to make things. Well you can't get away with that if you have works like that aforementioned drawing. The only delight I had in the entire show was that one "kid" in the middle of the bench-the concrete covered entirely in Band-Aides.

Try covering that whole world in Band-Aides and you might have something.

Okay, I'll leave Noah alone now. Also, that wasn't much of a Quickie, was it? I'll try to do better next time. I must be grumpy.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Style vs Style

2 movie reviews for you today, one of which is in theaters now, but you should rent, the other one is on DVD now, and you should have seen it in the theater (me too).

The Brothers Bloom is currently showing. The second feature by writer/director Rian Johnson (he of the great movie, Brick) is a letdown. The movie works so hard at trying to keep us guessing as to who is playing with who's strings in this brotherly grifter tale that it forgets to actually develop the characters it's so brazenly showcasing. Fun, quirky, and highly stylized for the first 30 minutes or so...but then it just starts to peter out. The strong work by the 3 main actors creates a few nice moments, but essentially they are weighed down by the simplicity of their characters- Adrian Brody's Bloom is mentioned more than once for being frozen and unable to break out of character-well that's exactly how all the characters feel in this movie.

Nice try Rian, better luck next time. Hopefully Hollywood will give you another shot, and more time to develop a story with your 3rd feature. 2.5 Molos

Pictured above is a still from the greatest pool/death scene ever filmed. (the image quality is not so good, but trust me) It's from the amazing Swedish vampire movie that everyone saw in theaters but me last year, Let the Right One In. What a stellar movie. Sure it's working with a the old vampire story, not exactly fresh ground, but oh how smart and serene this film is. Every character's actions, no matter how small, are important. Every event and every bit of dialog propels the action forward, albeit in a slow, Scandinavian way. And, there is a great cat attack scene to boot! 4.5 Molos.

Monday, June 1, 2009

prison to prison


In Film:

I netflixed (isn't it great when your company can turn into a verb? You know you have a good one when that happens)a movie called The Visitor (2007) directed/written by Thomas McCarthy and I have to say it was very very good. This guy is on a roll. Well, that is, if a roll can be as small as 2. If so then he is on a good one. His last movie, The Station Agent, was a quiet, powerful little movie that was just handled so well. The Visitor is much the same. McCarthy uses a similar lead character-a man at a crossroads in his life, very much thick in a rut, and like in the Station Agent, he gets mixed up in circumstances that he did not forsee. The Visitor finds the man getting wrapped up in the lives of 2 "illegials", one of which ends up in a detention center. It's a very well acted and often lively drama about some pretty serious, topical issues. Check it out. 4 Molos

In Arts:

Caught the latest show at Crawl Space the other day, drawings by Buddy Bunting in a show entitled High Living. Buddy's work (I figure I can call him Buddy, because after all, if your name is Buddy then you are already everyone's friend) is strong stuff, if somewhat thin on substance. Start, minimal landscapes in pencil and ink. His long drawing (33') of Two Rivers Prison is very very well done. It's worth going to the show just to take a look at it. An impressive perspective. The rest of the show is more hit-and-miss. There are well drawn but unintersting car emblems plus a full size el dorado. At least I think it was an el dorado, I can't quite remember (I dont know my cars very well). A couple light landscapes which are very reminiscent of recent b/w work by Zhi Lin.

There has been a lot, stark drawing happening in the art world over the last 10 years or so. At times it feels to me like a bunch of illustrators decided that the wanted to be "high artists" and so created work on white paper, with a heightened sense of formalism, little-to-no surprizes, and framed them in white wood behind glass, thus bringing them into contemporary art context by virtue of style alone. I can't really buy it. I do enjoy strong drawing in general, but what happened to substance, either in subject or in process?

Buddy's work is strong,and it's easy to talk about his choice of a prison as subject matter, or to look at the clever drawing of the back of a semi-truck in an empty lot with the lettering "No Hiring" on the side and make whatever illusions you want to, but I'd like to see more here with his work, and with work of this nature in general.

The shadow of Warhol hangs over us but when can we move back to substance over style in image making?

3 Molos

In Defense of Christian Bale

He didn't have much to work with. I'm referring to Terminator Salvation of course. What a lousy movie. It's hard to say really where they went wrong with the picture, there are so many things to choose from, but let's start with the director, someone who calls himself "McG". I think that says it all right there...if you can't even bother to have a real name, how seriously can you take yourself and your work? Not very, after all this is the director of both Charlies Angels movies. In that silly franchise, a goofy, choppy, corn ball action movie was exactly what was called for. Unfortunately, McG's experience directing such films didn't prepare him for creating a movie like what Terminator Salvation should have been, namely along the lines of the first two Terminator films. Dark, good characters, well paced tension and stellar action/thriller scenes. Where is James Cameron when you need him?

I'm not going to bother nit picking the rest of the film (horrible editing, terrible story, confusing, lousy dialog and uninspired acting). Let's give it 2 Molos. Probably better than Wolverine, but eh...

One thing though, I think it's time to give Christian Bale a break. I mean if you had found yourself involved with this project, with his resume of excellent and challenging performances (The Machinist, The Prestigue, American Psycho) I'm sure you would have flipped out once or twice on set.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Just a few drawings

Back in the saddle

Hello everyone, here's a messy list of reviews for you all to enjoy, or hate, or ignore.

In Film:

The summer movie season is well underway, and well underwhelming. Once again I came into the season excited for the onslaught of action romps laid out before me but so far it’s been a drag. Wolverine? What a drag. This move is so poorly written, directed and produced it is hardly worth even reviewing. I had hopes. Well, actually I figured it would suck, but I hoped I was wrong. You might ask why I bothered to go see it if I had no hope…well, thing is I’ll go see anything, hell I saw Crank 2 (2 Molos) in part because the first Crank was such an entertaining surprise- point is that you just never know. And, I hell even mediocre movies can be entertaining for a couple hours. Back to Wolverine. Perhaps the most annoying aspect, other than the presence of Ryan Renolds, what this idea that young wolverine had bones that shot out of his hands instead of metal claws…it’s just so cheesy I can’t even bother explaining it. Every possible interesting character in the film is only given about 3 scenes. The only hope for the film at all is when Xavier shows up at the end, promising a future of better stories and character development. 1.5 Molos

Okay, so that was not much of a review, but you know what, I’m leaving it.

Everyone loves the new Startrek. I was mildly entertained until I had to leave on a work emergency about 2/3 of the way into the film. I stuck around long enough to enjoy the presence of the big 3, with Bones and Spock clearly stealing the show from Kirk. And I greatly appreciated the scene where Kirk is getting it on with the green lady. Remember Eddie Murphy’s joke about Kirk being off “fucking the green bitch?” In any case, okay, it’s entertaining. Decent. I like how they market the film as “a Startrek” for everyone. AS IF the old Startrek movies were not suitable for general audiences? Really? Any who, it’s a hell of a lot better than Wolverine, but at the same time, doesn’t it feel like they could have made it just so much more serious? It aint no Wrath of Khan. Reason? The bad guy has no charisma. A tentative 3 Molos. I still need to see the ending, maybe the good guys don’t pull it off?

What ever happened to cook, scary, and well written bad guy characters in action movies? And another thing, both Wolverine and Startrek are PG or PG 13 (what’s the difference?). Oh how I long for a good big, huge Rated R summer action movie. I guess all my hopes lie in Inglorious Bastards. They certainly don’t lie in Terminator Salvation. Hey remember Terminator 2. And Terminator for that matter? Both rated R.

In music:

I admit it, I’m getting out of touch. I probably don’t listen to KEXP enough anymore. But I can tell you that the new Pink Mountaintops is excellent! It’s my favorite of the Pink Mountaintops records, and I might even enjoy it more than the first full length Black Mountain record (both projects are headed by Vancouver’s Stephen McBean). It’s a good, poppy clean album of love songs, with a few surprises. The stunning Jessie Sykes makes an appearance. Pink Mountaintops Outside Love 3.5 Molos

Jeremy Enigk released a new solo record called OK Bear. Enigk is an artist. He has had a fascinating musical career to date and while I don’t always get behind some of his past ambiguous godly lyrics, they have always been deeply veiled and his voice is the real story, not so much the actual words he is singing. The emotion of the words, not the specifics…he’s a poet really, just listen to Guitar and Video Games from Sunny Day Real Estate…However, especially with OK Bear, it’s the words that come to the forefront. The words and simpler melodies, backed by subtly complex orchestration. It’s a really good album, with some delightful songs. Not as musically adventurous as his first solo record, the seminal Return of the Frog Queen, but the songwriting is more mature and well adult. And aren’t we all getting older? 4 Molos

My monthly whim purchase is an album by King Khan and the Shrines called What is?!. The sticker said something about it being punk soul garage rock and I think that is right on. It’s a good, fun, summer romp. Reminds me of listening to a Black Keys album. If you are in the right mood you will just eat it up. I bet they put on a great live show. 3 Molos

Speaking of live shows, I saw Honeydove play their first live concert in their hometown of Seattle at Chop Suey and they were really good. Very tight, and impressive, especially considering they only have a handful of songs right now. Kate Tucker has a lovely rock voice and I am excited to see how the songwriting goes and what they come up with for an album in a couple months. I think this project has a lot more potential than Kate’s previous band, Kate Tucker and the Sons of Sweden, which fell too directly into innocuous pop rock. Good luck guys!

In the Arts:

Go see The Puppet Show at the Frye, but don’t touch any of the puppets or I will beat you down. Really, though, the show is great, there are some stellar pieces by a few big names, Kara Walker, William Kentridge, and Denis Oppenheim stand out. There are several interesting videos that I haven’t watched yet, and a number of duds, but the show is fascinating and entertaining. It is NOT for children. The way the space has been transformed is worth the trip, although perhaps I find that more interesting because I spend 40 hours a week in there. 3 Molos.

Open Satellite has work by the artist Seth Kinmont on display right now if you dare venture to the eastside. Seth has created, in his residency at OS, a full size electric carriage. I believe he intends to actually drive this horseless carriage on city streets but I am not certain. It’s quite something, this carriage. I’m not sure that there is a heck of a lot behind it other than, wouldn’t this be a cool thing to build? I didn’t learn that much about the quiet artist, but apparently he makes a lot of electric “art cars”, which, I presume, all have certain connotations designed to get one thinking about alternative transportation. Reminds me of these junk rafts being built of recycled plastic bottles and such and sailed out to the great garbage piles in the sea to raise awareness. Does this electric carriage raise awareness? I think it would if for sure if it I saw it driving down the streets of Bellevue, instead of being locked inside of the wonderful clean, huge space that is Open Satellite. The drawings and construction materials in the space (which were used as he built the thing in that space-OS is a residency program) felt like filler. I do suggest checking out Open Satellite, they have a lot of interesting shows and a gorgeous space-go to a reception and enjoy free Manny’s! Seth K- 2.5 Molos