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Friday, June 20, 2008

Ray at night (part one): Art Tapout at Agitprop

Agitprop - the entrance

Saturday. I am going to Ray at night. I want to see Art Tapout at Agitprop. It is a live critic: 5 artists, 5 art pieces and Kevin Freitas as the art critic. Inside it is very small and kind of dark. A fight ring has been prepared: 2 high stools, 2 buckets filled with water, a sponge in each of them. On one side, a white dry wall pierced with a nail or two: the place where the art will hang in a few minutes. I am early, I am waiting outside. A huge Hummer-limo parks right at the entrance. I wonder if it is part of the event! 2 guys come towards me on the sidewalk to smoke a cigarette. One of them asks me:
- is it your limo?
- no!
We laugh.
– you’re a painter
- Yes
- I can tell: your t-shirt.
- I like to paint them
- Cool. I have a pair of leather paints, they are so full of paint, they are painful to wear! Is there someone inside the limo?
- No, I saw the driver, he parked the limo and left.
He kind of kisses the windows of the limo several times and now the once immaculate windows have blurry stains all over…

It is time to go inside, there are a lot of people in that tiny place. The art critic starts with Sandra Doore in “the cage”, the music of “Rocky” is on. Kevin Freitas wears a flashy pair of jeans, a black t-shirt where one can read “Death is certain, Life is not”, and a bright yellow cap with the US post office logo. It is the first time I see him, he seems a little bit nervous and concentrated, his has piercing eyes. He has some impressive tattoos, one is a beautiful snake wrapped around his neck. The referee, David White, wearing a striped black and white t-shirt introduces Sandra Doore. The art piece is hanged on the wall. It is the first round, Kevin Freitas is warming up. I take a short video with my camera.

Kevin Freitas next to "500 couches" by Joe Yorty

The second round with Joe Yorty is definitely getting really interesting. The piece is a large print made of tiny pictures of 500 free couches taken from the Craig’s List around the U.S. I like the idea more than the result but the conversation between Yorty and Freitas shows that something happens when the artist actually talks about what he wanted to do.

Zuri Waters next to his piece: "Untitled (dead boy)"

I love the third round with Zuri Waters – He was the guy talking to me outside. His piece is very strange! The thing is, I would have certainly not even notice his piece in an exhibition. It makes me wonder about the power of the discourse over the power of the art itself. Here’s some of their exchange:

Kevin Freitas: - A lot of people probably saw your show last October. And actually I had a tough time with that show. I’ve seen later works by Zuri what he calls the cutouts, which are flat panels and these figurines, they are brightly colored, really dissected, and I mean there is everything, there is life, I don’t know, sex, love, war, everything in those pieces. And for me those cutouts seem to be the smartest that work in your work, according to me. I think, the sculptures, they start loosing some of that power and intensity. I think they become too lovely, too chaotic, too sporadic…
Zuri Waters: - lovely…
KF- I know, it’s cute. I love the holes. I don’t know. Am I wrong, am I right?
ZW- we don’t have the cutouts here for comparison. This one is more totemic, it’s more like African-“masky”, which I was trying to get away from with the cutouts, trying to get away from the obvious Picasso-mask look of a face but I am happy with the mask.
I feel vacant. It’s a vacant time, you know. I feel like completely empty, I feel like everything is happening and I am completely aware of it and yet I am empty. And masks for me are completely appropriate for that.

This is a dead boy. And I was afraid when I made it that it was a dead African American boy because I gave it a flat top and a sort of creamy coffee complexion, completely unwillingly. And it has nothing to do with that. It has been shot by a paint gun but it has nothing to do with that.
KF:- Did you…
ZW:- No, I carved those, but it looks like it’s been shot with a paint gun.
KF:- So dead boy, dead boy because…
ZW:- This happens to be a dead boy.
…The back side is awesome. The backside is cool.
It was supposed to be like this, against the wall, initially, no construction at all, just like that. I like it free standing, like that.
I like the illusion on the front, the work on the back.

(Intervention of two people)

ZW:- It’s untitled – parenthesis - dead boy. But it is untitled.
KF: - That’s always confused me.
Someone: - I think that was his intent!
KF: - it’s like not taking responsibility for it, it’s like “untitled” so open to interpretation…
ZW: - I looked at it and the first thing I think is a dead boy. That’s all I could think of. My first thought about this piece is a dead boy. It’s a sad piece. I felt sad when I made it and it represents that.
Someone: - how did he die?
ZW: - he got shot with paint gun.
Someone: - where?
ZW: - all over his body!
Someone: - what happened to his arms and legs?
ZW: - He never had them! He is just an art object.
KF: - But There is always a certain amount of detachment you tried to put into the work, you know, “I don’t care, whatever”, “it’s colorful”, “it’s this, it’s that”, “it’s breakable, replaceable”. I mean, at some point, don’t you think you have some sort of responsibility? How do you think the viewer is taking out the work?
ZW: - I don’t know. How the viewer is taking the work?
KF: - Or understanding the work?
someone else talks and the question gets lost.

Kevin Freitas and "Untitled (dead boy)"

I take some videos. I wish I could shoot the whole “round”. It is really entertaining and more than that. A live critic is so rare, I cannot remember something as interesting since I was in my art school.

Too bad I cannot stay for the following 2 rounds. But I want to see “Finesse, Darling, finesse” the new work by Gerardo Yepiz (aka Acamonchi) at Rubber Rose Gallery, afew blocks away. It is already 9pm .

Agitprop Gallery
2837 University Avenue - North Park
San Diego, CA

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