Thursday, December 31, 2009


2010 the year we make contact

As part of my eighth birthday celebration I wanted to go see "2010: The Year We Make Contact." I thought it was going to be like "Star Wars." It isn't at all like "Star Wars." Oh well. We went to Pizza Hut after the movie, so everything was all good.

Here's another "Contact" for you.
Happy New Year!

Contact - Phish - Alpine Valley, 8-10-1996

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

"Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer. Cheer to all Whos far and near. Christmas Day is in our grasp so long as we have hands to clasp. Christmas Day will always be just as long as we have we. Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart and hand in hand. "
-How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss

the tree in whoville from how the grinch stole christmas

Monday, December 21, 2009

Erica Sheets - Featured Artist


“Come out of your houses even if it is difficult for you, do away with your individual isolation, let yourselves be possessed by the ideas of the working masses and help them in their struggle against a rotten society.”
-George Grosz, 1920

Broken Wheels

Fame, det.

Erica Sheets is an Oakland, California based multimedia artist whose work represents an update of German Socialist Realist work of the 1920’s and 30’s. Sheets blends historical and contemporary references to an effect that is profound, sobering, and visually striking.

Sheets makes a contemporary, American type of Tendenzkunst, or “tendentious art.” Tendenzkunst refers to a type of art being made in Germany after the first World War by such artists as George Grosz, Otto Dix, and John Heartfield, that addressed collective, social concerns as opposed to the personal abstractions of Dada, surrealism and expressionism.


A principle of Tendenzkunst is that any artwork not blatantly allied with social change, blatantly represents the dead weight of the status quo.

Much of Sheets’ work deals with issues of labor, class, culture, politics and social struggle. Frequently, her work examines the way that these issues are expressed in and by the body. The machinations of culture and politics maim and deform the proletariat and the bourgeoisie alike. In a work entitled “Fame,” Sheets presents an image of Angelina Jolie morphed with Mickey Mouse and laden with Oedipal associations. The eyes are plucked out, replaced with reflective surfaces, and radiating red string.

Fame, det.

Below, under a magnifying glass, is a small image of crippled rat inside of a matchbox.

“Fame” is an appropriate contemporary response to Otto Dix’s 1920 painting Der Streichholzhandler I (Match Seller I), which depicts a blind quadriplegic man seated on the sidewalk, selling matches as the bourgeoisie pass by above.

Sheets makes wise material choices in her work that raise the metaphorical value and befit the subject matter of each piece. Great mental gymnastics are not required to read red string as analogous to veins or rivulets of blood.

M-2, M-3

In Sheets’ paintings “M-2” and “M-3,” which bear images derived from posters urging factory safety, the point is symbolically made by red blood staining yellow skin.

The artwork of Erica Sheets skillfully emphasizes the collective over the individual, social consciousness over narcissistic preoccupation, and practicality over oblique ambiguity. She reminds that art has the power to be at once direct and poetic.

Erica Sheets is co-director of the Basement Gallery in Oakland, California.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

“Do Yourself a Favor…”

If you like Daniel Johnston, you will like this video of two kids on the street in Brussels (I guess) singing Daniel Johnston’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Your Grievances,” complete with mispronunciation of “grievances.”

If you don’t like Daniel Johnston, this won’t mean much to you.

But, if you do like Daniel Johnston, and you watch the video, be sure to stick around until the end for a cool surprise. Also, you’ll have to turn the volume up a little.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Juan Miguel Santiago - Featured Artist

At Peace With Others

Juan Miguel Santiago is a sculptor based in Oakland, California. Santiago’s ceramic figures, like religious idols rescued from the “House of Wax” just as the flames began to rise, combine religious and cultural associations to an effect that is eerie, attractive and personal.

Some of Santiago’s sculptures resemble religious idols, such as statuary of the Buddha or the Madonna. This resemblance traffics in associations of worship, reverence and ritual, which Santiago handles with an individual stance. His idols appear to be in a suspended state of melting, or covered in ghostly layers of whitewash. Any type of idol is covered with layers of references, associations, histories and superstitions. Such narratives adorn and comprise religions and art worlds. That which seems to cover the features of one of Santiago’s idols is the idol itself.

Invisible Immigrants

From St. Peter’s Basilica to the Rothko Chapel, art and religion depend, now and then, upon the ability of an artist to manipulate the material of the physical world to the point of describing some quality or condition of a metaphysical realm. Culture selects which physical stuff will become the language of metaphysical realms. Complexity can be gained when individuals choose that stuff for themselves.


In a work entitled “False Idols…Obscure Objects,” multiple figures of Ultraman, each approximately 20 inches high, appear to battle one another on the gallery floor. Ultraman is a Japanese television character from the late 1960’s. Appropriately, Ultraman is only able to spend a few minutes on Earth at a time, lest he die.

Burmese Idol

As in the work of Katharina Fritsch, the formal devices of repetition, color and scale complicate the classification of Santiago’s Ultraman idols. Certainly this work says more about the artist, and art in general, than it says about Ultraman specifically.

Much of the power of Juan Miguel Santiago’s work is the elegant way in which it reminds that any type of idol is a physical material dependent upon context found in an array of narratives, from the Old Testament to obscure television shows, for meaning and relevance.

Juan Miguel Santiago teaches ceramic art at Chabot College in Hayward, California. He recently curated an exhibition at the Basement Gallery in Oakland, California. See more of his work here: