Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Year in Review: The Museum of Peripheral Art in 2014

To see past annual reviews for the Museum of Peripheral Art, click on the years under the blog archive. The last entry each year is the annual review.

Happy New Museum!

by Drew Martin
Since it is not officially the new year, I will refrain the fanfare. But I did have a great last day of 2014 in a museum environment. My daughter and I went to the Chris Ofili show at the New Museum in New York, which is up until January 25th. I really liked the details of his old work, the concept and mood of his "blue period" and the transformation of the top gallery floor for his most recent work.

This is a special shout out to the guards of the New Museum. My daughter felt faint, which they immediately picked up on, made sure she was ok, and within a couple minutes had her in a wheelchair so we could continue following the Trinidadian guide through the show. (Ofili now lives and paints in her homeland).

Here are a few details of the show, as well as a final shot of my daughter in the New Museum's beautiful Sky Room with a panoramic view.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

MoPA Sign for Peripheral Fans

You, the random visitor and occasional reader of this blog, might want more from this abstract relationship based on musings to an invisible audience. So as the year winds down, I would like to make available a small gift of my gratitude for your attention and a tangible keepsake: a little MoPA sign that will fit in the palm of your hand, which you can replicate on a 3D printer. If you do not have a 3D printer, you can download the file and send it off to someone offering 3D prints for a small fee, as I have seen on sites such as Fiverr, where you can make this size print for $5. If you go that route, search for "3D print" or "3D model" and you will see a bunch of offerings for people to print the MoPA sign file.

You can download the file for free from my Thingiverse post: Art Lab sign. Click on "Download This Thing!" and then select the "MoPAsign.stl" file. It is a little bit larger than a business card so it won't use up too much filament or take too long to print, and my first print of it last night came out really clean.

Print it out, keep it on your night stand, drill holes in it and hang it from your bike seat, or...better yet - mount it next to a peripheral art project you see out there in the world.

Thanks for keeping it real!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Out of this Thingiverse!

by Drew Martin
I have been hogging the new Da Vinci 3D printer that made its way into our home as a recent Christmas gift. My seven-year-old, who planted the seed last year by requesting one, now says it's boring, my middle kid likes what it spits out but is not too interested in the process, and my 16-year-old daughter does not like the smell it creates (burning plastic), nor do I. None the less, I am totally fascinated by it.

I first printed a demo key ring from the printer's memory, and then did a few tests with downloads from MakerBot's out of this world Thingiverse. I think it is magical that you can print something from that site and have it in your hands but the real beauty is going through the whole process yourself.

For my first design test I decided to make a sign for my Art Lab. I used the text tool in Google's SketchUp (first time using SU) and drew a simple rectangle behind the letters. Then I extruded that base away from the letters and individually extruded each letter away from the base so there are height differences, which gives the sign a nice effect. I had to install a plugin to export the sign as a .stl file, which I needed for my XYZware software for the the Da Vinci printer. I imported the file, sent it to print, and when I came back from my run with my daughter it was ready.

View the file and post on Thingiverse:

One of the really cool things about Thingiverse is that it creates a Thingiview of your uploaded file, which is a professional looking 3D model viewer in which you can rotate your object. (Pictured top in blue on the grid)

My reason for choosing the Da Vinci printer was purely cost. In all honesty, I would rather have a MakerBot, but the Da Vinci is fine for starters.

Two days into using the printer I have quickly realized what works and what does not work, and what should be 3D printed and what should be made some other way, by hand with metal, clay, plywood, or sewn with thread and fabric. That being said, the 3D printer is an essential tool for everyone. It is great for designers and artists but it is really meant for everyone. My daughter's chemistry teacher has one in her classroom and prints out chemical models. As a homeowner, I plan to print out an electrical outlet plate later today to replace a broken one, instead of jumping in the car and driving to Home Depot several miles away.

Related post:
On-Demanding People: From 3D-Printing Revolution to 4D-Printing Evolution

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Sublime Public Eye and the Fight for the American Mind

by Drew Martin
The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, which is the main building for the New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street (with the proud Lions out front), serves up art sooner than it does books.

The main entrance leads you directly into the D. Samuel and Jeane H. Gottesman Exhibition Hall, and before entering that you will notice the charming Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III Gallery off to your left.

In the exhibition hall there is now a very interesting show called Public Eye: 175 Years of Sharing Photography. From the NYPL website:

Thanks to the development of new technology and social media, more photographs are created, viewed, and shared today than ever before. Public Eye, the first-ever retrospective survey of photography organized by NYPL, takes advantage of this moment to reframe the way we look at photographs from the past. What are some of the platforms and networks through which photographs have been shared? In what ways have we, as photography’s public and one of its subjects, been engaged over time? To what ends has the street served as a venue for photographic practice since its beginnings? And, of more recent concern, are we risking our privacy in pursuit of a more public photography? Ranging from photography’s official announcement in 1839 to manifestations of its current pervasiveness, this landmark exhibition, drawn entirely from the Library’s collections, explores the various ways in which photography has been shared and made public. Photography has always been social.

I also really liked the show in the Wachenheim Gallery, Over Here: WWI and the Fight for the American Mind, which does a lot in a very small space. It is wall-to-wall propaganda materials circulated around the United States during WWI, such as poster art for war bonds, recordings from original Edison wax cylinders, and my favorite (taking up very little space in one corner, a series of clips from war-era films). The one that I found most fascinating was Winsor McCay’s (of Little Nemo fame) landmark 1918 animated film, The Sinking of the Lusitania. It is beautifully done, tragic, and very modern looking. There is even a wall-sized map in the room showing what a German occupied United States would look like, renamed New Prussia, with a small American Reservation in the South West, Denver renamed Denversburg, and a Wienerschnitzelplatz.

I first went into the Over Here show and as I was about to enter the Public Eye show, I walked by three young adults who were looking into the little gallery from which I just came. The young lady in the group asked "Wait, can we go in there?" and one of her male friends immediately responded, "Yes, it's a PUBLIC library." Hearing that was actually quite reassuring and made me appreciate the space/building and its shows even more. The nice thing about seeing art in the library is that is not really an art crowd, which gives the viewing experience (with people commenting around you) a different depth.

This year seems to have been a great year for films, and one of the new releases I am dying to see is Mr. Turner, which is about the brilliant British artist, Joseph Mallord William Turner. If the two shows I wrote about in this post are not enticing enough to get you into the library then maybe I should also mention that on the third floor, in the Print and Stokes Galleries, is the excellent show Sublime: The Prints of J.M.W. Turner and Thomas Moran.

The Public Eye is up until September, and Over Here and Sublime until February 15.

It's Such A Beautiful Day

by Drew Martin
Before I rave about Don Hertzfeldt's minimally animated It's Such A Beautiful Day, I just want to write that my very active and brilliant/on-the-spectrum seven-year-old son, Miles, usually experiences movies by half watching them and half playing a video game, working on a project, or running around the house. When I turned on It's Such A Beautiful Day, he came over, stood next to me (I was ironing), and watched the entirety of the hour-long trilogy movie without leaving the room. He was transfixed, and could not take his eyes off it. I have never seen him so captivated. And just now, the morning after, he reminded me of a boxing scene in the film.

It's Such A Beautiful Day (the trilogy including Everything Will Be OK, I Am So Proud of You, and It's Such a Beautiful Day
scored a rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer, and has been called one of the best animated films of all time. It is both silly and profound, and feels as if the film itself is a living thing, experiencing strokes and seizures, good and bad acid trips, life and death.

This felt like a very familiar film, and when I saw certain scenes, like a detail of waves crashing on rocks, I thought I recognized them, but knew this could be anywhere. It turns out that Hertzfeldt also studied at the University of California at Santa Barbara, so they might have been the very same rocks I know from where the campus juts out into the Pacific Ocean. I even briefly entertained that perhaps my own minimal cartoons, which ran in the school's daily newspaper, specifically Bovina, had some influence on him, but then I realized there was no overlap: I graduated in the winter of 1991, and he finished in 1998. That being said, what I feel in his film is the free-flow creativity of the arts and film students at UCSB, which I loved and by which/whom I was encouraged to share an inner life.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Return to Paradox

by Drew 
I am rattled by disorder so I have entertained that if I ever make a robot, the first thing I will program into its logic is to return things to the places from which they are taken. This is after all the fourth edict of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Put things back where you found them. It is a hallmark of civility. But on further thought this is not exactly what I want because, for example, if my robot were to take my favorite T-shirt and wear it to a concert, get it all greasy, and then precisely fold it and place it back into the drawer from which he took it, then that would not be good. Although that would be better than randomly discarding it on the street. So the request is really to put things back where you found them, in the state in which you found them, which might require cleaning, repair, refilling or some other kind of restoration.

I have been thinking a lot about "return" and what it means culturally. Return has a positive meaning: we want our parents to return home from work, children from school, soldiers from war. We want a return on investment, a return to paradise, and a return of affection.

The opposite of return is usually negative: something being stolen, divorce, and most permanently - death. That being said all of these have a more abstract sense of return: getting back to a moment of preownership, loneliness/solitude, and ultimately the final return to nonexistence.

Literature is full of literary themes of return and nonreturn, such as Candide, The Odyssey, Remembrance of Things Past versus You Can Never Go Home Again.

While this translates into the narrative and themes of the visual arts, the very idea of creating a painting, sculpture, or performance is also a kind of return. It returns the manifestation of an idea to its creator.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Foiled Again

by Drew Martin
When I set out to build Art Lab I was a little worried about its proximity to the boiler in my basement, which is only a few feet away from the edge of the space. I had originally conceived of a masonry blast wall of cinder-block and concrete mortar but I did not want to get that involved so I made it quickly from scrap wood with the idea that I would shield the exterior with sheet metal. In the end, I just started layering used sheets of aluminum foil: it is light, easy to manipulate and can be power-stapled into the wood surface of the wall.

The only problem is that aluminum foil, especially this kind of use, is associated with crazies, including the people (usually men) who line their hats with it or make hats entirely out of it. My worries that this might be an early sign of schizophrenia subsided when I realized Andy Warhol had lined his Silver Factory with foil. I hope people will think I am trying to steal his idea before writing me off as a nutcase.

This morning I went to the grocery store because I had to do some shopping. I was a little surprised to see that the Christmas present wrapping paper was so expensive, so in place of that I bought a large, heavy duty roll of generic aluminum foil for half the price but twice the square footage, and wrapped my presents with it. Now, instead of just throwing away wads of wrapping paper come Christmas morning, I can reuse the foil by coating my blast wall with it. In the meantime the bright, shiny foil-wrapped presents reflect the colors of the decorated tree and the string of lights.

Thankfully, most hands-on artists are creatively resourceful. The less money you have, the more important this is because the lower you are on totem pole, the more likely it is that you have issues that rich people do not have to deal with. This is especially true of housing.

My other low-budget fix this morning is in this same vein. A decade ago some you-get-what-you-pay-for work was done to the house in which I now live. The worker(s) cut corners on insulating the recessed lighting under a one-story roof. In cold weather the lights feel like they are air conditioning ducts blasting cold air. To help remedy this I bought a stack of clear disposal plates for almost nothing, put two together and then fit them up into the fixtures. First I took out the bigger floodlights and put in smaller bulbs so the plastic would not be close to the hot bulb. And then I taped the edge of the plate around the rim of the fixture. I am happy to report that they no longer draft.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Men Finding Themselves in Intense Physical Rites of Passage and My Little Ponies

by Drew Martin
I read an article yesterday from the 01.15 issue of Outside magazine that mentioned a stellar endurance athlete, Marcus Elliott, who I knew when I cycled and ran with that crowd back in the late 80s/early 90s in Santa Barbara while I attended UCSB. I never followed his career path but according to the article he went on to Harvard and became a sports scientist who has, in his words "...been innovating sports science for the past 20 years."

The article is about misogi, o
riginally a Japanese Shinto practice of ritual purification, which in Elliott's hands is an endurance challenge for some of his professional athlete clients. The most recent endeavor was an underwater, rock-carrying relay for five kilometers (which took nearly five hours).

It is about bettering your physical self but it is really about realizing physical limits that our prehistoric ancestors expanded, which modern society has narrowed to our comfort zones. The subtext, with the band of tough guys, giggling girls looking on, and having a beer together, is about being a man.

The article fell into my lap at a perfect time because the night prior I watched the Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me) produced movie A Brony Tale, by film maker Brent Hodge, about bronies - young men who are fans of My Little Pony. Hodge and As
hleigh Ball, a voice-over talent for two of the show's characters, set off from British Columbia to the New York hosted Bronycon, to come face to face with her and the show's fans. 

Much discussed is the question of what is manly, and whether or not you can be a real man and like colorful cartoon ponies designed for little girls. The military-, gym-rat-, and motorcycle riding-bronies say yes.

The documentary is very optimistic and well done, and Ball is a great personality to tag along with. Coincidentally she is also the lead singer of Hey Ocean!

Below is the trailer for A Brony Tale, and a video of the Hey Ocean! hit song Big Blue Wave.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Personal Selflessness of Ida Lebenstein

by Drew Martin
Last night I saw the Polish film Ida, which is about a young lady named Ida Lebenstein (played by Agata Trzebuchowska) who was orphaned, and then raised in a convent. She is told she has an aunt whom she should visit before taking her vows to become a nun. The aunt, a bad ass communist state prosecutor, informs her they are Jewish and takes her to the house in which she lived as an infant. The tenants are the Polish Catholic family that hid and fed Ida's family during WWII but then murdered Ida's mom with her aunt's toddler son, and buried them in the woods when they understood that they too would be killed by the Nazis if they were discovered to be hiding Jews. The aunt had left her son to go off and fight, and young Ida was saved because she could pass as a gentile, whereas her cousin was darker and circumcised. The same man that killed her mother, took Ida to the convent.

The story unfolds along this narrative, and while this is not a movie review, I do want to point out two art-related moments that I found interesting. The first is the very opening scene. We see Ida intently working on a sculptural object (pictured top). With its long hair, the piece could be a self portrait, but it turns out she is putting the finishing touches on a restored Christ statue, which she and other nuns-to-be then carry out to the convent yard and place on a pedestal in a crater-like ring. This play on what might be personal that is actually selfless is a theme throughout the film. Ida's exposure to the lives of others who are out for personal satisfaction ends up strengthening her Christian faith.

The second artsy scene is regarding Ida's mom, Róża (Rose). The aunt tells Ida that her mom was quite artistic, and once she even made a stained glass window for the cows so they would be happy. While visiting the home, which the family that killed her mom then occupied, Ida wanders into the cow shed and sees the window (pictured second from top). Ida is a black and white film so we never see the window in full color but it works not only as a symbol of her creative mom, but also alludes to her own religious calling. In a way this moment is a kind of a return to the manger scene from which she went out into the world and led a Christian life.