Tag Archives: rachel riot

There’s no “their” there exhibition

On, Saturday October 30th from 3-6pm, at 5733 San Leandro St. Oakland CA, The Oakland Cannery Collective will exhibit their work in honor of Arthur Monroe and the remaining Cannery artists in an exhibition space, once an artist home and workspace, that has been purposefully left vacant by the new building owners in an attempt to weaken the community. The remaining artists have chosen to occupy and transform this vacant space. The exhibit will provide the public a sense of the impact of the Cannery Collective and pay tribute to art and Arthur Monroe’s community building.

There’s no “Their”, there.

  Oakland has a protracted history of being a place without a “there”, without an identity, an ethos, an epicenter. This was punctuated succinctly by Gertrude Stein when she reduced her hometown to a one liner: “Theres no there, there”.

  Before parts of east Oakland were selected to become the “there” of Oakland’s cannabis green zone- the city’s latest attempt at economic redevelopment- the creative community was here . Over the past 40 years these empty warehouses became “their” studios and “their” homes. They were here when there was no there. As in many of America’s most suffering cities when manufacturing pulled out, the creative community filled those voids. Where investment turned tail, accepted losses and bet on a different horse, the creative community became the custodians of entire swaths of abandoned places.

Artists took the detritus of the failing post-industrial cities no longer making brake pads, soup cans, or coat hangers and they produced culture. Our identities, as Americans, are wrapped in that culture, both when it is comforting and proud and when it is hateful and scarring. That culture is a record of who we are, and in that, it is profound and invaluable. Beyond the arts that flourished here, something else happened. The arts community reimagined the possibility of what these vacant properties could become. This is perhaps the most valuable result of these endeavors, they created their own affordable housing.

Arthur Monroe founded these spaces at the Cannery following a similar model he helped start in New York. These repurposed buildings became communities that served both the arts community and the city well. However, while the arts community viewed itself as a vital component of the city, the city viewed that community as a stop gap measure; place holders in the absence of new investment. New investment arrived in 2018 in the form of legalized cannabis. Men and women in suits gathered around a conference table at city hall to discuss the placement of Oakland’s “Green Zone”. They looked to east and parts of west Oakland and said “How about there?” As if these spaces were still vacant and still up for grabs. In that discussion a big part of Oakland’s creative community was all but forgotten. After 45 years they had yet to earn a possessive pronoun. Overnight, the spaces artists built had accrued in value exponentially. Artists, like those here in the cannery suddenly found themselves as an impediment to cannabis investors and a new gold rush.

  For close to 4 years, the artists at the Oakland cannery have been enduring constant harassment, code violations and threat of eviction. Arthur Monroe passed away in October of 2019 under these conditions, fighting for the right to remain in the place he had built. Of the 20 studios in the cannery, 9 are now vacant.That number will be 11 in a few months. These vacancies are a result of concerted efforts by cannabis developers, who now own the cannery, to make our tenancy so unpleasant that we simply leave voluntarily.

  This exhibit of Arthur Monroe and the remaining cannery artists is an effort to pay tribute to both Monroe’s art and his community building achievements, and at the same time give the viewer some sense of the breadth of the cannery collective . Not long ago, this exhibition space was a home with tenants. It has been purposefully left vacant by the current owner in an attempt to weaken this community. The remaining artists here have chosen to occupy this vacant space, and transform it. What better way to demonstrate and celebrate the ethos of Arthur Monroe and this collective.

Tragic Carpet

You should want this on your coffee table

On June 5, 2018, Rachel Riot and I embarked on a journey with the goal of photographing the carpets of every casino on the Las Vegas strip. We trekked the 8.6 mile round trip, bouncing from freezing air conditioned casinos to the 100º+ heat on the strip, stopping only occasionally to rehydrate with White Castle burgers and vodka tonics. Normally I avoid projects this demanding, but this was different. What lie ahead was the opportunity to catalog an array of poor design choices unlike any other. Like John Steinbeck in “The Log from the Sea of Cortez”, we hardly understood the gravity of what we were about to see. By the end of the evening as we sat waiting for the roller coaster at New York New York, our revelations had only begun to sink in.

Most people spend there time in Las Vegas looking at the lights and attractions, distracted by the bells and whistles of slot machines, the barking of croupiers, and the incessant soundtrack of Rihanna’s “We Found Love”. It’s a dizzying cacophony that engages hyper-arousal, or the “fight or flight” response, as it is more commonly known. In that frenzied state, most spectators miss a truly horrifying piece of the Las Vegas experience: Looking down.

There on the floor of every casino lay hundreds of thousands of yards of some of the most aesthetically offensive, and at times vertigo inducing, motifs ever woven. Paisley and Fleur-de-lis mashed against faux graffiti and jungle foliage in unimaginable ways. Nautical instruments and aerial views, post modern geometry, architectural and textile embellishments are all arranged in a manner that reduces thousands of years of science and art to a mélange of nothingness. You get lightheaded and feel somewhat nauseous, maybe from the heat or from the pairing of colors, or perhaps because you realize others see these horrible floor coverings as “opulence”.

The haunting question that refrains in your head is not how this was done, but why. With each photograph in this book, we have hypothesized on what may have inspired the art direction. What exactly were they going for? What were they inspired by? It’s as if you force fed someone flowers, and skittles, and tropical fish until they vomited all over the floor. It’s mind boggling. It is the ethos of excess. The same ethos that has led to other great American abominations, like the Meat Lovers Pizza, the Chevy Avalanche, Hummer limousines and Nicki Minaj. Attention grabbing spectacles satisfying the appetite for more. Las Vegas mirrors the worst outcome of the American dream; a constant wanting of more followed by a quick dismissal, endlessly repeating.

After an entire day spent surveying hundreds of these catastrophes of interior design, bloated and befuddled from the heat, you feel as if you’ve fallen down Lewis Carroll’s rabbit hole. By the end, you are staggering about the strip with Grace Slick’s voice singing “White Rabbit” in your head. Except…you are completely sober.

As the sun set over the strip and the sky turned that deep blue of The Palazzo’s carpet, I am reminded of what a wise man once said about ambition; “You’ll never be taken seriously if you let people walk all over you.”

Tragic Carpet: A photographic study of every carpet on the Las Vegas strip

7×7 inches

38 pages full color, SIGNED

softcover

GET IT HERE

Street Art City – Lurcy-Lévis, France

In July, I traveled from Paris, with Nite Owl, to Lurcy-Lévis in the center of France to participate in Street Art City. Street Art City is a complex of buildings that were once some kind of training facility for the phone company (or something like that), and has long since been abandoned. About 3 years ago the new owners started inviting urban artists to come to the complex and make murals, do installations and create a room at hotel 128. Hotel 128 is an old dormitory type building containing 128 small individual rooms on 4 floors. Every room has been taken over by an artist. Below is mine.

I worked, as much as possible, with existing materials from the room. Shower doors, broken sinks, clusters of light bulbs. An important aspect for me was to reapply sections of the removed wallpaper over areas of the portraits. I didn’t want these to feel as though they had been installed, but rather that these images were always there, under that veneer of wallpaper. I wanted the images to feel as if they perhaps predated the buildings utilitarian phase and were now, after all these years, uncovered. That idea runs parallel to the idea of the salvage portraits. Presenting not an evolutionary change, but a regression. Presenting atavisms. Traits in people that had long been dormant, strands of DNA that still exist is us, but have become obsolete in a post modern civilization. Traits that still exist under the facade of civilized society, which can be reawakened, given an extreme environmental change.

On the radiator in the room I wrote “Entering a period of consequences” as a sort of warning about the fragility of all these structures we have grown dependent on.

It was an interesting week, surrounded by these images in this tiny room, in an abandoned building miles from anything.

Lurcy-Lévis is centered in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Getting cigarettes was a 90 minute walk round trip. Surrounded by Corn and Cows, an ironic place to showcase urban art. It offers many artists a place to work free from the distractions of ordinary life, urban life; it’s peaceful. That said, places like this scare me, rural places. I am not a country person. It’s too quiet, it gets too dark at night- it’s too summer-camp slasher movie for me. It took some acclamation on my part. But being outside of your comfort zone is always a good thing.

I got to spend some unrushed time with the homies Nite Owl and Rachel Riot. Also got to know a few solid guys from Barcelona Sebastien Waknine, Simón Vázquez and Zeso. Making art is obviously the reason I travel as much as I do. The thing I value the most about that travel is the people I meet, the stories they tell and these unlikely little places like Lurcy-Lévis that I would have never seen if I wasn’t making art