PRINT Summer 2003


Dave Muller

Dave Muller is a Los Angeles–based artist and the operator of Three Day Weekend, an artist-run nomadic project space. His drawings will be on view this fall in the Biennale de Lyon and at The Approach in London.

  1. WILD SUBURBAN PARROTS Before you see them, you hear their manic squawks. Then, up in the sky, these boisterous clowns appear. Unleashed from captivity, pet parrots have congregated, reproduced, and flourished all around Los Angeles. A pack has been hanging out in South Pasadena, so I’ve been eating my lunches outside there, hoping to sneak a peek. They are nice to visit, but I’m glad they’re not my noisy neighbors. I mean, come on, do you really think all these parrots got away on their own?

  2. HOW TO DRAW A BUNNY (PALM PICTURES, 2002) John Walter’s brilliantly edited film tells the story of Ray Johnson’s enigmatic life (and death), piecing together fragments—anecdotes, documents, and artworks—in an attempt to illuminate the elusive father of mail art. Among the highlights: Describing his method for remembering names that escape him, Johnson rattles off a dazzlingly quick memory-jogging list—alphabet, brown, Canada, dog, English, French, German, Hitler, Indians, July, Kansas, Louisiana . . . Once, trying to recall a particular famous singer, he got all the way to z, he says, and still couldn’t remem-ber it. So he started again with a, and there it was: “Al Green. The name I was trying to remember was Al Green.” Just one glimpse of a beautiful mind at work.

    Ray Johnson, New York, mid-1950s. From How to Draw a Bunny. Ray Johnson, New York, mid-1950s. From How to Draw a Bunny.
  3. BARBARA BESTOR The architecture of Los Angeles–based Barbara Bestor revels in materiality without being fetishistic. It’s all in the details. In her own house, a two-by-four extends horizontally past the surface of the wall where it should have been cut—a bit like a line on an architectural drawing that went too far but wasn’t erased. A plywood shear wall left uncovered save a coat of varnish reveals its structural function and also makes for a beautiful wall covering. Another Bestor home contains a two-sided bookcase that runs through three floors, doubling as a multicolored striped supergraphic. These are machines I’d like to live in.

  4. TROPICAL TRUTH: A STORY OF MUSIC & REVOLUTION IN BRAZIL (KNOPF, 2002) Caetano Veloso’s memoir, written in 1997 and now translated into English, sent me on a wild buying spree—gobbling up countless albums by the great Brazilian musician as well as by Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Jorge Ben, Tom Zé, Os Mutantes, Chico Buarque, and Luciano Perrone. But of course it’s not just about the music, it’s about the entire intellectual/avant-garde climate of post-coup Brazil. Veloso recounts competing in a 1968 national contest (à la American Idol) and introducing Jimi Hendrix–style electric guitar into the Tropicalismo mix. Like Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival three years earlier, Veloso was booed. But he resisted, eloquently berating the crowds: “If you’re the same in politics as you are in music, we’re done for.”

  5. MY MP3 At the risk of sounding like an infomercial . . . I listen to music constantly, and variety is important. When traveling, I used to drag along hundreds of CDs in those clumsy binder cases. Now I carry 3,500 songs on an mp3 player—and there’s room for more. Small hard drives like the iPod function as personal radio stations. In the play-all/shuffle mode, mine will go for roughly 18,500 minutes before I hear a single song repeat. (That’s almost thirteen days!)

  6. “LOSING MY EDGE” Among the most-played of those 3,500 songs is this one by LCD Soundsystem. Mocking all our oldster fears to a trendy electroclash beat, James Murphy whines, “I’m losing my edge, to the kids, from France and from London.” His lyrics emulate the more-knowledgeable-than-thou pretension of music-fan boys—perhaps a little too well. When he claims, “I was there” about every breakthrough moment in the history of rock (when Captain Beefheart started his first band, the first soundclash in Jamaica), I get a little skeptical. You just can’t be that über-cool forever: “I’m losing my edge, to better looking kids, with more ideas and more talent.” But here’s the surprise: “they’re actually really, really, really nice.”

  7. STEVEN SHEARER, GUITAR #4 Vancouver artist Steven Shearer’s wall-size ink-jet print gangs together more than 1,200 found (most on the Internet) and family photos depicting guitars and their owners. It’s a patchwork quilt of the rock ’n’ roll dream, a monument to all the ax-grinding legends who went nowhere save in their own minds. This is art that reminds you of every time you just had to scream, “Queen of the Ryche!!!”

  8. LUMIPHOS The Italian firm Abet Laminati produces a stunningly sophisticated selection of laminates (what most of us call Formica), of which my favorite is glow-in-the-dark Lumiphos. Charged by ordinary daylight, this stuff gets to work when the lights go out, retaining its glow for about thirty minutes. Anything that sat on the surface while it was charging leaves a visible “shadow” when moved, converting your tabletop into a photogram. In its day mode Lumiphos mimics the color of a lemon Mento.

  9. LAURA OWENS Owens’s current show at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art is full of invention and affection. At yet another panel on painting a few years ago, Owens responded to a question about what direction the medium might take by quoting KRS-One, who responded to a similar question, “Where is hip-hop going?” with “You all are hip-hop. Where are you going?” In Owens’s case I’m happy to follow, just to see what’s going to happen.

  10. FOAMTIME BUILDING BLOCKS My wife, Ann Faison, brought home a set of small foam building blocks for our six-month-old daughter, Grace. Ann, Yoli (the babysitter), and I are all addicted. For me, it’s a chance to exercise my inner architect: These red, yellow, blue, and green blocks can make what looks like a bastard brother to Memphis-group designs from the early ’80s. Grace loves to wipe them out, creating a vast Pollockesque scatter. Her favorites are the smallest semicircular ones, because they fit best in her mouth.