Posts in Essay

Thoughtful meditations and personal or critical musings inspired by visual art, moving images, and subjects including — and not limited to — pop culture, poetry, urbanism, social economics, politics

On Being-Hated: Werner Schroeter, Erika Staiti, “Community”

03.23.2015  |  By
Filed under: Essay, Projects/Series

Let’s start with where I can’t go. I could have one lover, maybe two; I could text someone I don’t know from the Internet and meet them on a street corner, kiss them when we don’t yet know each other’s names. I could stand on the same street corner, abandoned callously by someone else’s lover, weeping. I could get an email from someone ... More

Other Half Orbit

03.16.2015  |  By

We met with Ingrid Rojas Contreras and Jeremiah Barber in the gallery of their current joint exhibition Lo real maravilloso at Mission Cultural Center to talk about their ongoing collaboration. Ingrid identifies primarily as a writer and Jeremiah as a visual artist; however, their connection and collaboration of more than a decade blurs boundaries ... More

On Being-Hated: Banks Violette, Pharmakon, Karaoke.

03.09.2015  |  By
Filed under: Essay, Projects/Series

Let’s start with where I am. It could be anywhere. I’m on a train to Philadelphia, I’m on a plane back to New York. I’ve just moved to Oakland. I’m wearing a pair of fingerless leather gloves and there’s a slim choker around my neck loose enough that the buckle’s constantly slipping over to the front.


Matisse’s Couture Closet and “La Conversation”

11.17.2014  |  By
Filed under: 151 3rd, Essay

Jared Ledesma

In 1938 Henri Matisse completed La Conversation (The Conversation), a vibrant exploration of color and design on canvas featuring two female models clad in couture. This painting, along with many other works in SFMOMA’s Matisse collection, was the focus of my research in preparation for Matisse from SFMOMA, which was on view at the... More

BOOM: Turfing Inspiring The World

09.29.2014  |  By
Filed under: Essay, Projects/Series

My first two posts on Oakland turf dancing emphasized some of the sites where turfing takes place, or is subsequently shown: from the art gallery, to the Oakland Ballet, to the stages where Johnny Lopez’s TURFinc battles take place. That is, turfing is visible in a number of known venues for art. But there is another site that is critical to this... More

Taking Up Room On The Floor

09.22.2014  |  By
Filed under: Essay, Projects/Series

The RIP videos made by Oakland turf dancing crew Turf Feinz appeared in 2009-2010, commemorating recent deaths of young people in Oakland. It’s been four years or more since most of them were posted, which in turfing time, like internet time, might as well be forty. However, many, if not all, of the dancers in those videos are still dancing in O... More

The Sketch Artist: Paul Clipson’s REEL

09.17.2014  |  By
Filed under: 151 3rd, Essay, Field Notes

Judy Bloch on movie love masquerading as obsessive duty in REEL, a book from filmmaker, and longtime SFMOMA projectionist, Paul Clipson.

The tiny 35mm film frame (twenty-four pass by per second), in its singularity, evokes all of the big screen’s satisfying fullness. No small screen (say, television or computer) can hope to equal this lovely, fr... More

BOOM! Turfing Against the World

09.15.2014  |  By
Filed under: Essay, Projects/Series

In 2010, the annual juried show at Southern Exposure was titled BOOM! Thinking back on it now, I love that curator Astria Suparak called it BOOM! It was a little melodramatic for a few rooms of generally non-explosive works of art, but prescient in a way. BOOM! – the beat comes in and everybody moves.  BOOM! – fireworks and their long echoes a... More


07.31.2014  |  By

What is without reason, is monstrous. What is with singular reason, is monstrous. What ignores reason over a singular, driving motive, is monstrous. What is reasonable will get you from the top of the steps of your home, where you tie your shoes and feel the first breath of the day’s weather on your skin, to a table across town that sits near the door of the place where you do business, but this will never be anything anyone would pay to see on a screen. Only the monstrous is entertaining and profitable.


The State of Refuge in Vancouver

05.15.2014  |  By
Filed under: Essay

This text appeared originally in Fillip 3, in slightly longer form:

At the Lobby Gallery, Erica Stocking exhibited Single Room Occupancy. She built a mid-level luxury hotel room in an empty space behind the gallery wall. The Lobby Gallery serves a duel function as the actual lobby of the Dominion Hotel, a boutique hotel on Abbott Street just North of Cordova and West of Carrall. It is just tucked into Gastown—the historical district which designates itself from the surrounding Downtown Eastside with brick sidewalks, wrought iron guard posts a... More

James Franco: To Barf or Not to Barf, That Is the Question

04.26.2014  |  By
Filed under: Essay, Projects/Series

As the saying goes,  if everybody hates you, you must be doing something right, right? So what happens when both of the top art critics in New York slam your work on two different days, delivering a one-two knockout punch? It’s enough to drive most artists to suicide!

The question is, do you go down for the count or do you to get back up and try to keep fighting? Jerry Saltz went so far as to say that George Bush is a better artist than James Franco. Roberta Smith pleaded for someone  to get him to stop making art.

Sure, maybe Franco is... More


04.03.2014  |  By

“The game is a machine composed of interconnected mechanistic devices. These devices facilitate bad faith interaction… A con or snow job is the site at which X preys upon the hopes, fears, and anxieties of Y for ulterior motives and/or personal gain. The machinations which vehiculate this manipulation can have wide effect—ranging from the ... More


03.27.2014  |  By
Filed under: Essay, Projects/Series

At the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, filming a soft drink ad in front of a crowd of fans, a pyrotechnic malfunction ignites the singer’s hair causing second degree burns on his scalp and face. The case is settled out of court and the settlement is donated to the Brotman Medical Center, which is rechristened in honor of their benefactor. The President invites the singer to the White House to give him an award for his support of charities that helped people overcome alcohol and drug abuse (the First Lady’s pet cause). Inspired by ... More


03.17.2014  |  By

Hard sunlight bullies through smoke and soot. Something awful is burning all the time and a haze mutes even medium distances into old photographs. Our town is shrouded in perpetual smoke that fades red to an 1890’s sepia, and clouds any blue to a dusty gray. Muted colors make us feel like we’re in some scratchy old movie. That in turn slows everything down. Traffic lights halt movement for almost all of a Linda Ronstadt song even when there’s nothing to wait for. Birds seldom fly and when they do they don’t flap. They circle the ... More

Your Day is My Night

02.07.2014  |  By
Filed under: Essay


“. . . dawn, always new, often superb, inaugurates the return of the everyday.”—Henri Levebvre

“the house protects the dreamer”—Gaston Bachelard

“. . . the non-I that protects the I.”—Gaston Bachelard

Coming into culture is also coming into discipline. It begins with trying to get newborn babies to s... More

A short essay on form

12.11.2013  |  By
Filed under: Essay

A form amassing. A signal sent and received. An object for use. Form is force. Form behind. Form in a world of radical positivity. Form is leaking. Form learned from limits. Force is form. In this way, form is passive. Form is seen. Light reflects from the surface of form. Form which reforms then dissipates. Form which strikes then flees. Form whi... More


11.19.2013  |  By


A road trip to San Francisco to see Prince perform from the Controversy album. Morris Day and the Time are the opening act. The audience is 99 percent African American, and dressed to the nines. Dancing with arms thrown up; we’re in church. Our minister preaches: I’ll Jack U Off!
In May, I have my first gay sex. We warm up with vodka, orange juice, and his collection of every David Bowie video he recorded off Friday Night Videos. FNV is an ho... More

Stop Hating on the Genius of Miley Cyrus

09.02.2013  |  By
Filed under: Essay, Projects/Series

Most people don’t realize just how much Miley Cyrus has been suffocating under the international brand built by the Disney Corporation. Remember—they portrayed her as an innocent, apple pie–loving American wonder child that could do no wrong.

They invested millions upon millions of dollars in that wholesome purity—in the middle class f... More

How to Be Invisible Online (for Artists)

08.07.2013  |  By
Filed under: Essay, Projects/Series

Because artists tend to express unpopular political views they get lumped in with witches, heavy metal musicians, Communists, terrorists, satanists, or whatever seems to be warping the minds of our youth at the moment. Think of Ai Weiwei, Henry Miller, William S. Burroughs, Jim Morrison, The Dead Kennedys, The Dixie Chicks, Andres Serrano, N.W.A., ... More

The NSA Is Watching You Watching Porno

06.26.2013  |  By
Filed under: Back Page, Essay

Obviously the NSA is the ultimate voyeur.
Obviously the NSA knows about every porn site you have ever looked at.
Obviously the NSA knows you sent some pretty mean and emotionally messed up e-mails to your ex-wife.
Obviously the NSA knows you check your e-mail eighty-five times a day.
Obviously the NSA knows you check Facebook 150 times a day.
Obviously the NSA knows you scan the Craigslist dating section all the time.
Obviously the NSA knows your cell phone is just a sophisticated tracking device that can also be used for phone calls and textin... More


06.20.2013  |  By

The Ghost of Flight 401 (shown in the post “1976”) is an open-hallway of a film. All that space was a gallery waiting to happen, and the inspiration for a three-part exhibition called Psychometry that I curated (at Exile, Arratia Beer, and Right Window) in 2009–10. Artists created responses that, in a way, sat like furniture within the ma... More


05.28.2013  |  By
Filed under: Essay, Projects/Series

Her murmuring, her mumbling, accented. Her skin, her freckles, her glasses, crisp paper. Her. The her of writing, whomever. The written word is like currency. There remains no attachment between the hand of the writer and the words that were written and certainly not the mouth. Writing, on the other hand, is an act of mark making.

The Otolith Group... More

Language to Be Loved At

05.15.2013  |  By
Filed under: Essay, Projects/Series

Nathaniel Dorsky’s films are the opposite of language, and don’t need it. He talks about poetry, but only because he is talking about what’s ineffable, about what is beheld by the eyes, but also held inside of the body. His camera stares, and when, in the dark of the theater, the slow, silent images are illuminated by light, looki... More

Did Occupy Really Change Contemporary Art?

05.01.2013  |  By
Filed under: Back Page, Essay, Field Notes

I almost spilled coffee on myself yesterday when I read this bombastic headline in the New Republic: “How Occupy Changed Contemporary Art.” Then I laughed out loud.

It’s just that I die inside a little bit more each time when I read yet another “art review” written by someone purporting to be an authority on the subjec... More

The Shape of the Archive

04.24.2013  |  By
Filed under: Essay, Projects/Series

“Every rhythm is a sense of something.” —Octavio Paz

Filmmaker Jean-Gabriel Périot reuses photographs and bits of old film already set tightly inside the grammar of history. He stacks or lists the sequences of archival pictures into new rhythms and velocities. The films are inflected by the aging body of media, the familiar grain of film sto... More

Social Media Bomb: Garbage in, Garbage Out

04.20.2013  |  By
Filed under: Back Page, Essay

Has social media made us all stupid? During the Boston manhunt for the marathon bombers, the #tweeters, the Facebookers, and Reddit users spread all kinds of erroneous rumors, provided tons of false leads, and misidentified several individuals as the bombers. If that wasn’t bad enough, several mainstream media outlets ran with stories that weren’t true.

First, during the Boston manhunt, CNN’s John King breathlessly reported the bomber was a dark-skinned male who had just been arrested. Of course, that went viral immediately. U... More

Carlos Villa 1936–2013

03.24.2013  |  By
Filed under: Back Page, Essay

Nobody wants to get that call, but at 3:41 am this morning I got it. Carlos Villa had passed away. I didn’t want to write an obituary, and so I am not mentioning his numerous awards and such – so this is not an obituary – OK?

It’s just that I had worked with him at the San Francisco Art Institute and saw how he had been a role model and father figure for so many students in the Bay Area and not saying something about that doesn’t seem right.

Also – it’s worth noting that while a cast of colorful charact... More

Judy Must Live! Notes Before and After Seeing VERTIGO in IB Technicolor

03.18.2013  |  By
Filed under: Essay, Field Notes

Since I first saw Vertigo at the age of 17 at the Aquarius Theatre in Palo Alto, it’s been a fantasy of mine to see it in its original imbibition Technicolor format. Unquestionably the greatest 35mm color motion-picture format ever created — due to its dye-transfer process, which produced prints known for their fantastically beaut... More

Kahlil Joseph’s “Until the Quiet Comes”: The Afriscape Ghost Dance on Film (part II)

03.04.2013  |  By
Filed under: Essay

This is part two of a two-part essay on “Until the Quiet Comes”- a film by Kahlil Joseph that recently won the Sundance Film Festival’s Short Film Special Jury Award. Part one of the essay covered the film’s opening sequences and their relationship to African cosmology. This concluding part of the essay focuses on what I perceiv... More

Kahlil Joseph’s “Until the Quiet Comes”: The Afriscape Ghost Dance on Film

03.02.2013  |  By
Filed under: Essay

I’m still looking at Kahlil Joseph’s film “Until the Quiet Comes.” Released in September of 2012 and more recently the 2013 recipient of the Sundance Film Festival’s Short Film Special Jury Award – it is presently my favorite piece of art. The consensus of opinion amongst my peer group is that Joseph’s short film is pure genius.... More