the zine formerly known as ...

F ing Good Art
now is
The Dog #7
April 5 2001

Archived at

Ken Fandell and Charles LaBelle
at Bodybuilder & Sportsman

Ken Fandell's articulate series of photographs of small, monosyllabic words in inarticulate sentence combinations trumps Ed Ruscha, but good. The plant portraits trumpet nothing but Fandell's inability or lack of desire to nurture plants of the non-plastic variety. And what were Charles LaBelle's photographs and burnt-out moth doing in this show? Perhaps the artists were under the impression that when moving forward you would end up further onward.

-- Lori Waxman

Lori, Lori Lori, you are so wrong ... besides being a good painter Ruscha has a good sense of humor and even more an extraordinary sense of selection for what could be of interest within Pop-culture. But a sense of humor is exactly what Fandell lacks. It is easy to tell he is working hard at it. Dry conceptualism shouldn't be confused with a lack of personality embodied by the work. Fandell's choices of monosyllabic words are not appealing enough to capture my interest. Maybe if "UH" had an exclamation point or if the sentence led me somewhere maybe, who knows? As for the photos of fake plastic plants, they are only an art school exercise at best. On the other hand Charles LaBelle’s work looked like Fandell's work or was it the opposite. And just for the record I did like LaBelle's burned-out moth and Fandell's ode to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Both of these works were or at least seemed sincere and straight foward and less involded with smart-art, high brow trickery.

-- Pedro Velez

Miami Artists at NFA Space

Five Miami artists including the over-exposed William Cordova make a good argument in favor of reasons why little Elian is better off in Cuba. Not to say the show was bad but it definitely was lighthearted and easy to forget. John Espinosa's 6 ‘x 8’ duratrans lightbox is a revelation of sorts. A photo of a huge explosion during broad daylight in an undetermined place. It looks like a promotional still taken from MI2 or Armaggedon and its resonance is as fleeting as any of those films. Westen Charles has reconfigured the shape of a group of bowling balls to expose the best qualities of their glossy and slippery surfaces but at the same time has transformed them into possible bowling trophies by taking away any useful qualities and that is a good thing.

-- Pedro Velez

Worst show of the Year
(so far)

-- Pedro Velez

We do like:

Katarina Fritsch, at the MCA

Katarina Fritsch is a master of the uncanny who has creepingly rendered poodles and monks and rats as the evil yet familiar things they really are. So why she chose to shape thousands of identical golden wheat strands into a heart -- a stupid, flat, silly, high-schooler's drawing of a heart -- is just plain beyond me. Maybe I'm way too intolerant of sentimentality and nostalgia, maybe it's because I didn't grow up in the Midwest, but I'll take a dozen giant black rats anytime over this belated Valentine's day treat. The yellow glow from the pile of shiny wheat is real nice though, and if you sit on the gallery floor, level with the installation, you can’t tell that it's heart-shaped.

-- Lori Waxman

Jen Reeder at INOVA, Milwaukee

The long awaited coming of age of Jen Reeder is finally here with "A Room with the Walls Blasted to Shreds and Falling." Unlike her previous endeavours, White Trash Girl or Nirvana, Reeder is not the center of attention this time around and neither is the trendy teenage angst which Reeder's work is commonly known for. It seems to me that Reeder's new work is about boredom and what develops from this -- a certain state of grace. Just think of the spider building the web, the girl staring at the roof while involved in headphone music or the kids hanging in the pool, even the traffic going nowhere fast. Walls Blasted is also an honest observation of the Midwestern way of life, a slow life, at least in Reeder's eyes. I saw all this with amazement at INOVA in Milwaukee and in a completlely different setting than at TBA. In a regretful move by some genius minds at INOVA, Reeder's video was screened on the smallest TV screen available and in the smallest room leading to the entrance to the woman's bathroom. The space was big enough to be shared by only two people at a time. I believe in equal treatment and the non-hierarchical lessons of minimalism, but this was ridiculous. Needless to say, Reeder's soundtrack was mixed with the sound of the bathroom door opening and closing, people peeing, and all sounds related to biological expulsion of the unnessesary. Despite all the pre-approved commotion organized by master curator Peter Doroshenko, Jen Reeder's smooth edition, stunning visuals, and comfortable subject hit a sublime throughout a drowsy excursion in Midwestern society. Included in the video was the sounds of: Stars of the Lid, Autopoieses, Kit Clayton, Brokeback and John Leone.

-- Pedro Velez

Kirsten Stoltmann at Hermetic, Milwaukee

Plain and simple but great. Kirsten sings along to Blur's Tender while driving to an unknown destination. Also in the show a long horizontal print of Kirsten loosely standing in front of the shoreline. She is not in awe or defiant but just standing. And last but not least a wall painted blue (I think?) and with her name stenciled in the lower right corner as if were her signature. Its all about slowly disappearing and becoming eternally blue. Basically it's about life.

-- Pedro Velez

Jenn Ramsey / Willie Gregory at Dogmatic

Upstairs, Willie Gregory's low-tech color photocopies are visually attractive in a voyeuristic high school sort of tone. However the content is vague and cryptic, flying between pop TV stars and self-portraits. Someone told me that he's an obsessed fan, paying homage to others by making cheesy Tony Tasset maquettes and generating posters of stars that look like his girlfriend. I wish I hadn't been told that stuff; it's nothing that I care about and it throws the work into an "insider only" realm that is heavy into elitism and goes easy on the ideas in the work. Whatever the show is about remains a bit elusive, but the work manages to capture a freshness that has the potential to get a point across…if he wants to have one.

Downstairs, Jenn Ramsey is also dealing with issues of being "inside" although she's approached it in a physical sense rather than a social one. (This is a stretch at trying to link these shows, and it doesn't silence the confusion of the work upstairs.) While taking a picture of the corner and placing it in the corner may seem overly obvious, there is an extraordinary humility in the way she treats these works. The small-scale, unframed photographs demand object status, having the ability to both reflect and interfere with the space you’re in. In contrast with Gregory's work, there is a quiet honesty about Ramsey's installation. She sets up a contemplative space and asks you to consider traditions of observation, composition and representation without forcing hierarchies and strained conclusions.

-- Shane Selzer

Chris Patch at TBA

If I'm going to be asked to look at landscape paintings in a contemporary setting they had better be something that really needed to be made. Chris Patch's paintings are not rising to that challenge. The postcard landscapes at TBA are openly detached from any ideas about nature -- fine, but they're also detached from ideas in general, and what's worse is that they're not fun to look at. Flat abstraction has to be pulled off pretty smoothly (in these oh-so-trendy times) for it to be worth the bother. You could draw parallels with this work and Bob Ross, although Ross is maybe more complex because he was so honest regarding his intent, and hey, at least his flavor was his own.

-- Shane Selzer

Finch defends Patch

Shane, I'm afraid you haven't looked at Patch's paintings long enough to discover his intent. He offers not mere landscape painting but primarily portraits of the American west. These images reference the vistas portrayed in travel atlases of the 50s and 60s when America was still whole-heartedly selling itself ideas of American superiority as manifested in the grandeur of its landscape. CP paints these iconographic topographies (also familiar to us because of the luminist painters, oh and then there's Ansel Adams, and don't forget the entire history of the Hollywood western) with mild attempts at true verisimilitude. Instead, he chooses stylized landscape forms, hyper-realized depths of field, and super-naturalcolors -- all working against our familiar expectations of familiar American scenes . The weirdness of his compositions seeks to provoke a feeling in the viewer not of straight-up nostalgia, but a subconscious awareness of the funky, romanticizing, equivocating effects of a nostalgic agenda…and I do think they are fun to look at.

-- Leah Finch

SMALL PRINT: Assembled and distributed as a service to you, by a collection of artist/critic/curators including: Michael Bulka, Pedro Velez, Julia Marsh, Leah Finch, Shane Selzer, Lori Waxman, Nato Thompson.

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