Archive for June 2009
(Photo: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / June 17, 2009)
We’ve got to honor and respect the place of sports in society.
Following the Lakers’ world championship victory in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, there were reasons for L.A. fans to celebrate. A Lakers victory brought a well-deserved sense of pride to the players, and many messages to their fans. This Lakers team demonstrated some of the time-honored lessons of sports. They showed the beauty of athletic performance, the will to overcome adversity, the value of teamwork and individual leadership, and the determination to redeem oneself.
The arena of sports provides us with focused and measurable accomplishment. The invented constraints of time and regulations give the boundaries, while the immeasurable human forces of competition, determination and frustration give sports its spirit. At least since Greek times and the original Olympics, these things have been valued by Civilization. Kurt Streeter’s eloquent report from Eugene, Oregon on the Prefontaine Classic reminded us (“This is track as it should be”, Los Angeles Times, Monday, June 8, 2009).
But there have been two things to mar the Lakers’ victory, and we should be careful to nip them in the bud. First, of course, was the needless and mindless violence that erupted around Staples Center on Sunday night. Police chief Bratton rightfully called those involved “knuckleheads”.
Times editors must bear the responsibility for the other knucklehead, T. J. Simers (“Idolatry of Lakers is ludicrous”, Los Angeles Times, Monday June 15, page U2). When the Times continues to employ a sportswriter whose main concern is criticizing professional athletes’ personas (witness his on-going feuds with many a Dodger or Laker player, coach or owner), it does a disservice to the readership. “Winning it all makes them no more appealing, Kobe still over the top absurd in his mood swings, Pau still carrying on like someone swiped his rattle, Phil so above it all it’s surprising he doesn’t demand to be carried off the court like Cleopatra…” writes Simers.
What’s amazing to this sports fan is just how cooperative the athletes can be with television and print journalists. How strong and supremely patient do you have to be, in order to answer all those questions—from the immediate on-court interview at half-time, to the endless questions during the after-game press conference? Not to mention the pre-recorded features, the public appearances, and the competitive pressure of the game itself. And then to have some wisecracking hack write, “a victory doesn’t make unlikable athletes likable.”
The Lakers, with the salary cap, have to decide about bringing back Odom and Ariza. But for the Times, operating at a loss already, there should be no hesitation: Get rid of T. J. Simers. Bring on a brilliant writer, like Dan Neil, to review the sleek performance of the human athlete. Or assign the compassionate and eloquent Steve Lopez to the story of Derek Fisher’s challenges as a parent.
But don’t let us suffer through another column by T. J. Simers.
Sometimes the gallery seems to be an information kiosk. Visitors ask all kinds of questions. I’ve written about some behind-the-scenes topics on this blog in the past, including how our announcement photos are taken, and how I was introduced to ceramics. But frequently I’ve also answered the question, “How did you become a dealer?”
I learned about the art business from lots of people, mostly dealers and artists in Los Angeles. But, when pressed, I would have to say that the most influential was Jan Turner. I had an entry-level job at her Janus Gallery, during the early 1980s. I was the exhibition preparator. It was during that time that I met Ed Moses, Peter Shire, and many other artists. It was at the Janus Gallery that I learned how to present an exhibition.
The Janus Gallery, in several locations over a fifteen-year period, exhibited paintings, sculpture, photography, and ceramics. The stylish and sophisticated Jan Turner showed paintings by Ed Moses and Carlos Armaraz, as well as the ceramic sculpture of Peter Shire, Elsa Rady, and Mineo Mizuno. This was in the context of the hippest architecture (Coy Howard designed the space), at openings that featured Hollywood’s “A” list, and to much critical acclaim. The risk taken was enormous. For one exhibit by Elsa Rady, architect Frederick Fisher designed the installation, special walls and fixtures were built, and the largest space in the gallery was dedicated to “Conjugations”—a series of works that grouped Rady’s vessels in oscillating, mutable forms.
From the beginning of the gallery, Turner promoted the work of Peter Shire. Shire’s playful architectonic works, rooted in constructivism but altered by bright color and a zany sense of humor, eventually became known internationally. His experiments with the teapot form bridged into the design world and their playful form adapted well in the postmodern world of architecture and design. So well, in fact, that they were featured in several magazines in the early 1980s, and one article caught the eye of Ettore Sottsass. Peter Shire was invited to join the Memphis Group, becoming the only American member of the European design team. Shire branched out into furniture design, worked in glass, and gained major sculptural commissions, but has since returned to ceramics on occasion.
The hallmarks of the Jan Turner years were exquisite presentation, and the paintings or sculpture were displayed in a perfect sequence, with just the right isolation. No expense was spared in lighting, pedestal design, or detail. As one might imagine, Jan presented herself with impeccable style as well—and still does. She was our guest at the opening of our Ed Moses show, with her daughter Aimee. I often think of how much I learned, over 25 years ago, from working in her gallery.
I’m a proud member of KCRW, the Santa Monica National Public Radio station. I’ve spent many an hour in my car, hanging on every word of Morning Edition during a national crisis. I’ve become addicted to This American Life, and I’ve often marveled at the cogent summation of a Supreme Court decision, as told by Nina Totenberg. Who can top the interview ability of Terry Gross? As the NPR site states: “Though Fresh Air has been categorized as a “talk show,” it hardly fits the mold. Its 1994 Peabody Award citation credits Fresh Air with “probing questions, revelatory interviews and unusual insights.” Then, of course there is always the role of KCRW as tastemaker for new music. That keeps me young.
Last year, for professional support, we sponsored a few underwriting “spots” and let people know about our exhibit of Robert Graham’s work. It was the most meaningful advertising support that we’ve ever made. But for personal excitement, I’ve hardly had more thrills than today, when Ed Moses was interviewed on KCRW.
Veteran station manager Ruth Seymour took a special interest in Moses’ exhibit at the gallery, and came to see it last Saturday. Ms. Seymour and KCRW art critic Edward Goldman talked with Moses today for a full half hour. She conducted a superb interview with Ed, and the painter extended his reputation as an outspoken legend. Because of the station’s generous use of technology, we can offer it to you here.