Shut Up and Do Something! RANDOM RANCH

Posted on Tuesday, 17 July

Lindveit, Eric_Random Ranch_Flyer_Show by YOU!

Shut Up and Do Something! RANDOM RANCH  

In 1988 four recent Kansas City Art Institute graduates were in need of studio space.  A basement in the Leedy’s Opie Brush building at 2006 Baltimore next to the Contemporary Art Center in the freight house district (Crossroads) seemed to be the answer.  Eric Lindveit, Kevin McCarthy, Scott Gober, and Andy Spencer set up camp in the unheated space.  At the time there were few options for young artists to exhibit their work in Kansas City.  These artists quickly utilized their new basement studios also into an exhibition space called Opie Productions.  An early group show entitled “Art Now Project”, which featured 13 Kansas City artists, even received a review from The Kansas City Star’s art critic Donald Hoffman.  The Opie curators were outraged and insulted by Hoffman’s bad review.  Eric Lindveit and Kevin McCarthy reacted by submitting a letter to the Star with concerns about there being no critical competition for the art critic/art bigot.  The letter was signed under the name- The DONALD WHO?. After the letter was submitted the artists would continue to exhibit group shows as the Donald Who? Group.

In 1989 the artists moved out of the Opie and set up shop in the desolated West Bottoms.  A few artists had already been setting up studios in the old industrial buildings on and around Union Street. The buildings were huge and the rent was cheap mainly because the historic West Bottoms neighborhood never really recovered from the great flood in 1951.   Lindveit and McCarthy set up their studios and opened a new alternative gallery space called Random Ranch at 1331 Union 3rd Floor.  Random Ranch quickly grew a reputation for organizing strong exhibits and happenings. McCarthy left Kansas City in 1991. Lindveit would then have assistance from old friend Chris Ketchie. In 1995 Lindveit closed the Random Ranch when he moved to Chicago. 

Eric Lindveit’s motto was “Shut up and do something!” Random Ranch definitely did something.  It played a key role in developing the legendary West Bottoms’ alternative DIY gallery scene, along with co-organizing the Culture Under Fire Art Treks and Art Trolley shuttles to and from the West Bottoms galleries and studios. Two decades later the West Bottoms neighborhood still continues to thrive with alternative visual and performance art venues.  Venues that encourage young artists with a voice to experiment and showcase their work.

Text by Pat Alexander.

The letter sent to the KC Star by Lindveit and McCarthy

Lindveit, Eric_Random Ranch_Letter from The DONALD WHO?

Eric Lindveit’s Living Archive e- interview:  

1. Please describe your artist-initiative that informed the arts landscape of Kansas City (location, dates, people involved):

I started the Random Ranch with Kevin McCarthy in 1989 in the West Bottoms. Kevin was there from 89 to 91 and Chris Ketchie was there from 91 to 93.

The Ranch was active from 89-95 and over the years became a vital outpost for alternative arts in KC. We showed work that in our estimation needed to be seen. It was a great, rambling space that lent itself to installation and challenging work that occupied its own space.

2. What was the motivation to launch your project in KC?

I came to KC from the northeast and Kevin came from Chicago.  After graduating from KCAI and a year or so in Jim Leedy’s OPIE basement, we struck out for the promised land of the West Bottoms.  It was astonishing to me that this neighborhood, once called the wettest place in the West because of the preponderance of bars, speakeasies and brothels, had lain fallow for generations and was essentially a blank canvas.  Anything was possible, and we chose to plant our flag to see what we could do.

3. How was launching this project a new frontier for you?

There was no precedent. David and the crew at the Left Bank were doing interesting things on Summit but the Bottoms was a ghost town. 

4. While in the epicenter of this project, what was a defining moment?

I think for me it was a project where we put on a different show every night for a week.  I did another version titled “Force of Habit” at the Artist’s Coalition shortly thereafter.  The concept was to present high level, curated exhibitions one right after the other. What happened was a few people came every night. More people came one or two nights. But the majority of people who claim to have attended never actually showed up at all. So the events rapidly jumped to the realm of myth and injected some good energy into the community.  I also moved one or two of the walls at the ranch slightly every day during the run so that the memories of people who did return would be slightly off.

5. How did that (entire project or moment) lead you to a new frontier?

It was the actualization of a bad idea gone good, and it lead me to pursue other bad ideas.

6. What do you miss about those frontiers?

Uncertainty, camaraderie, and risk.

Lindveit, Eric_Random Ranch_Flyer_Force of Habit

Random Ranch Flyer-Force of Habit

Lindveit, Eric_Random Ranch_Flyer_Action Index; laughin an lyin

Random Ranch Flyer-Action Index; laughin an lyin

Lindveit, Eric_Random Ranch_Flyer_Round Up, Studio Talk

Random Ranch Flyer-Round Up Studio Talk

Lindveit, Eric_Random Ranch_Flyer_THE DONALD WHO GROUP

Random Ranch Flyer-The Donald Who Group

Lindveit, Eric_Random Ranch_Flyer_Shoot Out

Random Ranch Flyer-Shoot Out

Lindveit, Eric_Random Ranch_Article_KC Star 07.6.1995

Lindveit KC Star article: July 7, 1995

Posted on Thursday, 28 June

A Living Archive Interview with Peregrine Honig about her Fahrenheit Gallery. 

Media Archive: Absurd & Violent

Posted on Tuesday, 19 June

Airplanes, mummies and muslin sculptures combined in two-person exhibit

By ALICE THORSON

Originally printed in The Kansas City Star: Friday June 27, 2003

Well-known in Kansas City as an artist and an entrepreneur. Peregrine Honig also knows how to put together an evocative exhibit. The two-person show “Rapt” at Honig’s Fahrenheit Gallery, 1717W. Ninth St., pairs the oil and charcoal drawings of airplanes and mummies by California-based lay Gould Stuckey with the stuffed and embroidered muslin figurative sculptures of recent Kansas City Art Institute graduate Rachel Frank to disturbing and topical effect.

Honig thought the art works would work well together because there is something both “absurd and violent” in both bodies of work.

Stuckey, a 1996 graduate of the School of die Art Institute of Chicago now living in Los Angeles, made war drawings as a child. In a recent interview, he said he started the drawings in this exhibit in the relatively calm days of fall 2000, but as world events heated up, his relationship with — and the interpretations of — his planes and mummies acquired a greater sense of urgency.

Sept. 11 is “a filter put over everyone’s lens,” he remarked.

The strengths of Stuckey’s works are many, beginning with his tactile and expressive drawing style that doesn’t entirely leave those childhood efforts behind. There is a whiff of cartoon about these images, which — despite their menacing subject matter—are wholly disarming in their expression of the typical boy’s delight in machines, weapons and things that blowup.

Drawings such as “Mummies in a Field” (2000), with its battlefield spectacle of crashed and fragmented aircraft and plane-impaled mummies, requires the viewer to perform a balancing act between horror and amusement.

This is narrative work, but instead of offering the conventional “view through a window,” Stuckey disperses his images in all-over compositions that utilize the animated rhythms of abstract expressionism. The debt to the latter is most pronounced in the black-and-white drawing, “Mummies Moving to the Right.” inspired, the artist said, by Willem de Kooning’s “Excavation.”

In other works the images are organized into swarming, teeming configurations. Little planes cluster like bees in a hive in a drawing created with repeated strokes of a plane rubber stamp.

In the largest drawing here, Stuckey scatters hundreds of small images of planes across the paper’s expanse, yielding a composition that evokes the seething skies of “Tora, Tora, Tora.”

Whereas war films and video can have an inuring effect, Stuckey’s drawings perform an interrogatory role moving viewers to consider where this impulse to war comes from, and how it is nurtured within the culture.

Despite a resemblance to big dolls, there is nothing playful about Rachel Frank’s sculptural embodiments of human vulnerability. Many of her patchwork muslin figures are truncated or fragmented like disaster victims, but their lack of physical wounds suggests that the disasters they have survived emotional ones.

Frank wrests a lot of expression from her wielding of needle and thread. Her woman in a bathtub, whose body is cut off at the knees, wears a stunned look on her face; a kneeling figure, with all her limbs intact, is endowed with poignant vacant stare.

These pieces, and Frank’s stuffed fabric rendition of the interior of a closet, all are made from unadorned white muslin, and as such veer a little too comfort to the plaster figures of George Segal.

She surmounts this problem in works such as “Sleeping Couple” and Figure,” which derive both artistic individuality and conceptual heft from the artist’s application of colorful embroidery to the faces and bodies of the figures.

With stitches deft but not fussy, Frank brings a painter’s touch to this needle work tradition, enlisting her colorful and selectively applied stitches in the aim of expression rather than embellishment

Poly fill, muslin and colored thread are the craftiest of craft media, regularly used for children’s dolls and all manner of kitschy home decor items. Frank declares her kinship with these strata of creativity and taste, while rising to the challenge of transcending them.

Media Archive: Home Soil

Posted on Tuesday, 19 June

BY DEBORAH DICKSON CAMPBELL 

To describe the sensations and visual effects of snow to a person from an equatorial region is not without its challenges. Trying to explain American culture to someone who has never visited is equally as difficult. 

Even with NAFTA, most regions in Mexico have been spared the iconic Coke machines, as KCAI senior Hector Casanova, formerly of Mexico City, notes. So how does he communicate to his mother what it is like living in the USA? Eloquently bilingual, Casanova writes her letters describing his everyday encounters and the process of assimilating from an outsider to an insider. She, in turn, constructs her own rendition of a land so close, yet so far, and “organizes his images through the filter of her experience and sees them as half-real, half-magic.” 

The Dirty Laundry “installation/sculpture/painting/sequential art/comics and concrete poetry piece” at the Fahrenheit Gallery, created for the Culture Under Fire Alternative Art Trek, is about the desire to stay connected to a life and family he left several years ago. 

Amid the recorded rhythms of Brazilian rain forest water-drums are several clotheslines strung across the otherwise unadorned space. Dozens of pillowcases, shirts, pants, dresses, underwear, socks and baby clothes dipped in latex primer hang as if petrified remnants of an abandoned yard or roof. Some of the whitewashed clothing is un-adorned, while other pieces are treated like primed canvases covered in text, paintings and narratives. The impetus behind Casanova’s sculpture is his mother’s arduous work as a laundress. 

A quilted baby blanket images his madre holding a sculptural bundle of collaged fabric and torn bits of a letter in her overworked arms. Over and over he draws his mother’s caricatured face with a simple, recognizable linearity. One portrait pillowcase is outlined by red and blue lines to resemble an inter-national air mail envelope. Additional images capture the absurd situations his mother faces when accepting mail from the postman: In one cartoon-like rendition he demands money; in another, a sexual favor. 

His painted portraits of men and women, appearing on everything from a little girl’s dress to a man’s shirt, range in styles from illustrative to expressionistic to abstract. Casanova’s double major in art history and illustration manifests itself in his exploration of a wide range of historical styles and contemporary concepts. Yet it is his deeply heartfelt need to reconnect and reassure that supplies the installation with its vitality. 

Spanking new gallery in the Bottoms 

Art exhibition spaces seem to be arriving as frequently as the trains in the West Bottoms. Just in time for the Art Trek, The Betty Jean Gallery swept the last of the nuts and bolts off the floor (and into the sinks) of the recently acquired warehouse and installed Unrealized Expectations, a group show of local women artists studying at KCAL Artist/Founder Holly Dilbeck’s goal is to increase art’s accessibility, and she believes, “Art should be presented without attitude.” 

Mandy Sheedy contributed ceramics in the forms of truncated female figures with melted facial features and indentations pressed deep into their torsos. These potent hollows recall African Kongo reconciliation sculptures after their accouterments are stripped. The largest is life-size and deeply scratched and scarified like a worn park bench. 

The pieces that beg for the most attention, however, are the three fiber and mixed media sculptures of La-J, a vigorous and youthful grandmother of nine who left the corporate world to make tangible the catharsis of her visionary talents. Her titles alone are intriguing, making references to emotional passages by Sylvia Plath. 

"By the roots of my hair some god got a hold of me" combines strip-loom weaving with doll-making to form a powerful, ever-evolving altar. A six-foot-long, banded textile is densely packed with a plethora of fiber textures and colors. On the surrounding wall are six unique doll-like sculptures ranging in symbolic meaning from the pain of birth (for mother and child) to the pain of racism, as visualized in a wax figure covered in a gunny sack emblazoned with "l am not a tar baby." 

"Over your body the clouds go" is immediately associated with a discarded wedding dress hanging on a wooden hanger partially covered by a worn embroidered cover. Nicotine yellow and singed in areas, the delicate gauze boldly forms an ample bosom. "Once I was ordinary-tell me my name" is a haunting figural work, decapitated and impaled onto a crate. Wax covered gauze is woven with straw and stitched with twine; materials are trans-formed by an accidental fire into peeling, decomposing flesh. La-J feels people don’t know who they are until the social facades are sloughed away.

A Living Archive e-interview with former KC artist Jesse Small

Posted on Tuesday, 19 June

Jesse Small Living Archive e-interview: 

1. Please describe your artist-initiative that informed the arts landscape of Kansas City (location, dates, people involved):

I had a studio in the West Bottoms from 1997 - 2003, in what is now called Cafe Racer. 

2. What was the motivation to launch your project in KC?

I was seriously broke coming out of college, and wasn’t about to move back to LA.  I was lucky to end up in the West Bottoms, there was a lot of people in the same boat as me.  As far as I can recall, there were no master plans.  We were all just surviving and trying to make it as artists.

3. How was launching this project a new frontier for you?

Well, it was the start of my life as a studio artist.  I learned that it is a nearly impossible thing to pull off, even when settled in for a meager existence.  I remember being deeply afraid about paying rent, working at the wood pallet factory behind my studio, swinging a hammer for the man, working in studio all night.  It was scary times.

4. While in the epicenter of this project, what was a defining moment?

September openings in 1999.  Huge opening night where thousands of folks descended into the Bottoms.  All us residents got better and better at coordinating our shows.  We never sought permission, funding, or approval to follow through on our ambitions.

5. How did that (entire project or moment) lead you to a new frontier?

I got enough experience and momentum to go off to graduate school.

6. What do you miss about those frontiers? What would you like to see a return to? What never came to fruition?

I really had the perfect studio in the West Bottoms.  I feel that I have been seeking a similar type of studio situation ever since I left KC.  I am getting closer.  My career as a public artist never came to fruition there.   

7. What new frontiers do you see Kansas City embarking upon and what frontiers would you like Kansas City to approach?

For the young artists to stop asking for permission and money to make their work.  Urban Culture Project and Charlotte St have sucked the initiative out of the art scene in KC. A good frontier would be to leave these structures behind. 

8. What other projects or artists inspired your endeavor (local or otherwise)? What, if any, other collaborations were connected?

The Dirt Gallery was a truly inspiring operation.  It was the mast head of the West Bottoms art scene and gave us all a sense of place and security.  But everything that was going on in the West Bottoms was just a measure of what super broke people can do.  Why were we there?  It’s not like there was a big plan, it was basic survival.

9. What is your most valued piece of KC art related ephemera?

My Dave Ford wagon painting.

For more details on how to contribute your archival materials visit: http://thefrontierkc.wordpress.com/participate/

Fahrenheit Gallery: Peregrine Honig

Posted on Tuesday, 19 June

Honig,Peregrine_Fahrenheit.Flyer

Fahrenheit Gallery: Peregrine Honig

Peregrine Honig opened the Fahrenheit Gallery with her then boyfriend, artist Jesse Small, in the summer of 1997 on the second floor of an old building located in the train yards and industrial area, the West Bottoms. Fahrenheit was above a silkscreen/banner company and next door to another artist-run space, Dirt Gallery.  Honig and Fahrenheit soon developed connections with other artists, the gallery serving as another hub for creativity. She was able to become immersed in the local arts community, a community that shared a reverence for what had come before, and, a as a beacon of light directing all that would follow. Honig used the Fahrenheit space for showcasing her curatorial chops.  Showcasing artists, self-taught as well as the formerly trained in exhibitions that challenged the traditional ideas of what art is. Honig worked with several KC artists in group shows, many of whom would go on to receive CSF awards. Fahrenheit was a non-conventional space, originally located at 1317 Union before moving to its 1717 W. 9th St. location in 2002.In total, the space would move three times. However, it was during its time on 9th St., showing the full blossoming of Honig’s curatorial and production practice.

Fahrenheit Gallery began in earnest as an alternative venue for artists, traditional and not so traditional to get their work out to the public. The first show, curated by Honig was an exhibition of the work of self-taught artist, Bill Moreland, who before his inaugural show at Fahrenheit had been displaying his work in local laundromats. That first show provides a brief glimmer of what was to follow. In 2004, Honig co-curated a large group show featuring some of the brightest local talent, including Linda Lighton, Sike Style, David Ford, and Davin Watne. The Gun & Knife Show chronicles the cultural subject of weaponry, industrial and personal. The show was highly successful and provided further evidence of Honig’s power to create in front and behind the scenes. Honig moved spaces again in 2008 and is currently focusing on her own artwork, running lingerie shop, Birdies and organizing large scale projects such as the 18th Street Fashion Show and her annual Mardi Gras society party replete with music and art installation, the Valentine’s Ball.

Text by Jennifer Williams. All images/materials courtesy of Peregrine Honig. 

Flyer: About Face- December 22, 2000

Honig,Peregrine_Fahrenheit.Flyer.About Face

Flyer: Tetanus Pretty Nightmares- October 2005

Honig,Peregrine_Fahrenheit.Flyer.Tetanus.2005

PHOTOSHOOT: KC Magazine Cover- July 2008

Honig,Peregrine_Fahrenheit.PHOTOSHOOT_KC Magazine_July.2008_cover

Flyer: “a hairy tale” 

Honig,Peregrine_Fahrenheit.Flyer.Cover.A Hairy Tale

Flyer: Depth/Funnel

Honig,Peregrine_Fahrenheit.Flyer.Depth Funnel

Fahrenheit: Stop Kitty Porn

Honig,Peregrine_Fahrenheit.PHOTO.Stop Kitty Porn

Media Archive: What’s Hot, Fahrenheit sizzles as its owners focus on Kansas City’s alternative art scene

Posted on Tuesday, 12 June

By Alice Thorson, Art Critic

Originally printed in THE KANSAS CITY STAR

As if the seedy warehouse facade were not clue enough, you suspect you’re not visiting a conventional art gallery when a Boxer-Doberman and Doberman-Rottweiler escort you to the exhibition within.

You know it when the gallery’s owners haul out their pet ferret and set it to licking chocolate sauce off their fingers.        

Welcome to the alternative art spaces of the West Bottoms, where artists make the rules and show whom and what they please.

A couple of the newest players on the scene are Peregrine Honig and Jesse Small. Small just graduated from Kansas City Art Institute with a double major in sculpture and ceramics. Honig is a senior in the painting department.

The two recently took over the second floor space at 131’7 Union St., formerly known as the Unofficial Nipsey Russell Gallery.        

Honig and Small have dubbed their gallery endeavor “Fahrenheit,” an allusion to the Ray Bradbury novel Fahrenheit 451. They like its associations with things hot and new.                 

The couple’s plan for the space is twofold: to provide a venue for local bands and to offer their “own angle” on local art.

The idea, the couple said in a recent interview at their space, is to focus on artists who haven’t been seen, or that the established gallery structure is not set up to discover.

Local artist Bill Moreland, subject of Fahrenheit’s inaugural exhibit, fit the bill.

City dwellers who don’t own a washer and dryer may be familiar with the largely self-taught septuagenarian’s work, which he regularly exhibits in Kansas City laundries.

In a recent interview the artist said he’d sold about 25 paintings at a laundry at 43rd and Walnut streets, where he’s hung work for six or seven years. He’s branched out to a half-dozen others.

Landscapes, resembling the snowy scenes popular on Christmas cards, are a favorite subject.

Moreland said he finds many of his landscape motifs in religious pamphlets he receives from a missionary association in New York. The booklets feature poems and water illustrations.

Photographs are another favorite source. The artist’s literal translations of photographic light, shadow and color can produce bizarre results when translated into paint, as in his canvas depicting a woman’s head. Her reddened complexion reflects not the eye’s but the camera’s apprehension of flesh.

Moreland first picked up a brush when he took a painting workshop during a vacation 30 years ago-his only formal instruction besides some painting lessons at the Jewish Community Center-and he’s been at it ever since.

“I’m actually a musician,” Moreland said. “I’ve been playing for 50 years. I taught drums for 30 years in the music stores; I also play vibes.”

Moreland quit teaching two years ago, but his retirement did not dim his fervor for making art.

Small said he and Honig wanted to reward Moreland’s hard work and dedication.

Moreland’s commitment is the most impressive thing about his work. His exhibit includes experiments with abstraction and animal portraits as well as his slightly fractured versions of Currier and Ives-type scenes.

It’s work anybody can relate to, down to the painting that includes a mailbox with a toilet labeled “junk mail.”

Media Archive: ‘Works’ isn’t what it used to be

Posted on Tuesday, 12 June

By Alice Thorson, Art Critic

Originally printed in THE KANSAS CITY STAR: Sunday. July 11. 1993 

"Works," a group exhibition at K.C. Site in the West Bottoms, is a quite different exhibit today than it was when it opened last month.

A word painting by David Ford was painted over by the exhibit’s curator, Michael Ogden. Another piece, by D.F. Smith, was vandalized but remains on view shrouded in black. A third piece, “The American Dream” by Thomas Dunsworth, was removed when the raw chicken meat it incorporated began to smell bad.

But the biggest stink in the art community is over the removal of Ford’s work, which consisted of the handpainted statement: “i saw sherry leedy kissing bob dole, they forgot who they were.” Leedy is a Kansas City gallery dealer; Bob Dole is a U.S. senator from Kansas.

Initially, Ogden said the problem with the piece was one of content. Now, not coincidentally after being criticized for his action, the curator says Ford’s work was illegitimate.

Ogden says the Ford artwork was not authorized for inclusion in the show. Indeed, his printed list of works includes only four paintings by Ford. The word painting made for a fifth, and originally occupied a space between two other Ford paintings that hang in the rear section of the gallery’s second floor. As with many of the works in the exhibit, it was executed on site and completed on the day of the opening.

The piece had been on view for more than a week before it was painted over by Ogden.

The image advanced by Ford’s words was a provocative one. Some undoubtedly would find amusing the pairing of such a cultural liberal as Leedy with Dole, a symbol of American conservatism. (This might make a fine emblem for the Bi-State Cultural Disrict.)

Others, who exist outside the world of establishment respectability that Leedy and Dole cohabit, might conceivably view the two as cut from the same cloth. It’s a question of perspective — that visitors to the show were deprived of considering.

Besides being an artist, Ford is the director of the Left Bank Gallery. Some artists have charged Ford’s work with bad faith, saying that it issued from political motivations — primarily the desire to put a “rival” alternative gallery on the spot — rather than intellectual aims. Others simply found it to be in bad taste.

Either way, such primness in artists is unbecoming. Certainly it is anathema to the contemporary artist’s vital role of challenging and provoking. Artistic provocation is something Kansas City could use more, not less, of. And it is something one looks for, especially, from younger artists as yet unhobbled by the institutional affiliations that constrain so many of their elders.

"Works" runs through next Sunday.

Media Archive: Alternative art is on the rise in West Bottoms, by Alice Thorson: Art Critic

Posted on Tuesday, 12 June

Two Union Street spaces return with new names, new priorities.

Originally printed in THE KANSAS CITY STAR: Friday. April 26. 1996

Culture Under Fire Week finds alternative art activity on the rise in the West Bottoms. The resurgence follows a period of relative dormancy precipitated by the closing of the artist- run K.C. Site and Random Ranch galleries in 1995.

Today’s citywide Art Trek of local galleries offers an ideal opportunity to check out five artist-run spaces in the Bottoms:

One, the Dirt Gallery, 1323 Union St., run by artists Davin Watne and Shannon Weir, is new. Two of the Bottoms spaces have changed names. The Unofficial Nipsey Russell Gallery at 1317 Union St., where artists Jack Boyd and Chris Teasley have their studios, used to be known as the Langdon Gallery.

The 1331 Union gallery, run by Eric Swangstu, occupies the space formerly known as the Random Ranch. Swangstu took it over when former occupant, artist Eric Lindveit, left for Chicago.

The Old Post Office, 1220 Union St., longtime stomping grounds of Kansas City artist and exhibition entrepreneur Jose Ika, plans to begin presenting exhibitions within six months, upstairs and down.

Open-Wide Studio, above the 1331 Union gallery, also is revving up again. All of these spaces will be open to the public from 6 to 11 p.m. today, and two are presenting theme exhibits loosely geared toward “Culture Under Fire’s” anti-censorship agenda.

The largest is 1331 Union gallery’s group show of area artists titled “April Fools.” Curated by Swangstu, the exhibit features works presenting the artist as subject by 40 area artists.

The Dirt Gallery’s group exhibit “Voyeurism,” features works by I0 artists, including Jimmy Lane, whose dark rebellious expressions have long been at home inn the alter native sector, and William Smarr, who previously has shown his figurative paintings at the Laic Show and Gallery V.

Erie Madsen, Amy Pina and Swangstu are exhibiting in “Voyeurism” as well as “April Fools.” Jeremy Lotz, Janice Wallace, Amy Rim, Cyan Meeks, and Max Key round out the cast of “Voyeurism.” which was jointly curated by Watne and Weir.

The Unofficial Nipsey Russell Gallery opens a one-person show of works by Alan Kehde, whose record suggests he can be counted on to come up with something unexpected. The two other spaces are offering much more informal gatherings of work.

At Open Wide Studio, sculptors Frank lilt and Michael Urweiler have pulled together an ad hoc exhibit.

The Old Post Office’s upstairs space features a casual display of Ika’s eerie agglomerations of discarded stuffed animals along with works by several invited artists.

Downstairs, Kendall Kerr and Shia Gordon are opening their studios to trekkers.

Different aesthetic

Those familiars with the old Random Ranch and K.C. Site may notice a decided — and insalubrious — shift in the “West Bottoms aesthetic” from one that exploited the grunge signifiers of the area’s aging urban setting — Lindveirs mattress paintings are a prime example to a new tide of academic figuration, in which the creativity quotient is considerably lower. The trend is most evident in the 1331 Union exhibition, where all but a handful of pieces use paint on canvas or photography to represent the nude human form. Most of the featured artworks were created specifically for this show Swangstu said. He asked the invited artists to keep a couple of things in mind. One was the “artist as subject or model.” The other was “nakedness.”

"I asked people to work perceptually," Swangstu said.

Many of the participants responded by taking off their clothes and painting another. Bill Shipman, best known for his sinuous, carved wood figurative sculptures submitted a waist-up nude of Kendall Kerr. Kerr reciprocated with an upside down representation of a nude Shipman.

Continued from Page 14

Eric Madsen created a collotype featuring a nude Amy Pina. Pina did a nude of Madsen, with whom she is moving to Oregon soon, as well as artist Nikole Emmanuel, who alto painted Pina.

Eric Swangstu, outlined in silver on a bright pink ground, appears nude in Kansas City Art Institute professor Roan Slowinski’s submission. For his part, Swangsto painted himself examining himself directly on the wall.

Also in the self- portrait vein, 1981 painting by Kansas City Art Institute professor Jim Saimic depicts his aroused self, seated in a chair against an abstracted background based on an anatomical illustration.

Academic nudes

Full frontal is the name of the game in “April Fools”. But you know what? It’s boring.

Technique these artists have. Ideas on the other hand, appear to be a stumbling block. Most of the works in this show could have been painted at almost any point in this century - they’re that detached from life and art issues today.

At best, certain works admit a superficial relationship to the broader art world’s immersion in body and gender issues. But too many do not fail to rise above the technical involvement of the life-drawing class. Whether this efflorescence of academic nudes is a function of Culture under Fire’s anti-censorship theme or a favored orientation among recent Kansas City Art Institute graduates who have chosen to stay on here, the phenomenon is worth examining.

Where, for instance, did it come from?

Swangstu observed, “A lot of people are working figuratively here” He sees “a real tradition of that kind of work” in Kansas City. 

Speaking from Dirt Gallery. Weir assigned the impetus to the Art Institute, where rendering the figure is “one of the tools they want to give you” and is the focus of a good deal of faculty work.

The fact that academic nudes define the limits of artistic outrageousness for Culture Under Fire week has disturbing implications. Foremost is the notion that painting and photographing the nudes, are by definition, cutting edge things to do. Perhaps one of the culprits is the conservative Midwestern community in which these artists show and work - one that still finds the nude to be somewhat shocking. Of course, the reality is that art that challenges conservative community standards is not- in the judgment of art world sophisticates- necessarily challenging art. In fact, without a pertinent message or provocative dialogue with tradition, it tends to represent just the opposite. 

Standout works

Works that stand out from the crowd in “April Fools” include Shipman’s Diebenkornian image of Kerr surrounded by a quirky yellow frame and Thad Howard’s spoof on Thomas Hart Benton’s “Persephone,” which casts himself as the object of Benton’s voyeuristic gaze. Lori Raye Erickson’s triptych incorporating a dangling bundled element fabricated from a yellow slicker represents one of the exhibit’s few forays into abstraction. It also stands out for its spirit of experimentation with regard to materials. Another eyecatcher is Maria Vasquez Boyd’s portrait of Steve Frink, a cropped nude distinguished by the artist’s highly individualistic palette and paint handling.

The spaces themselves are not the least of West Bottoms art scene’s attractions. The Dirt Gallery, for instance, designed by Eric Laing with suggestions from Watne and Weir, gives the artworks something to live up to. The tall narrow gallery, with its scraped rafter ceilings and aged painted brick walls may be the most romantic exhibition space in the city. Not all of the art to be found here appears on the walls-upstairs Is home to Jeremy McConnell’s offbeat publishing venture, Flavorpak, a journal of urban culture and criticism that he 1994 Kansas City Art Institute graduate began producing as a student, and aims to put out quarterly.

McConnell said he recently picked up a national distributor for Flavorpak; it also has been written up in the Utne Reader. Thee publication contains comics, essays on politics and culture and numerous photographs and illustrations showcasing the perspectives of young artists.

Posted on Tuesday, 12 June

A Living Archive interview with Dirt Gallery Co-Founder/Director Davin Watne, conducted by Dennis Helsel, 2012 

In this interview, Davin Watne recalls a time in the Kansas City art scene when artists took things into their own hands and created opportunities for themselves with an empowering DIY spirit. He comments on the sacrifices of running an art space as well as the learning experience that it provided. In the act of sorting through his archive of these times, Watne recalls key events and moments, which have left a lasting mark on him and the Kansas City arts community. In a closing comment Davin recognizes that while opportunities are great to pursue, there is nothing quite like Doing It Yourself; and perhaps the frontier for artists to pursue is exploring the DIY spirit while combining the resources and technologies of a connected age. 

Leo Esquivel (left) and Davin (right) in front of the gallery.

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Machismo: The Hurt at the Dirt, 1999

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Post No Realism 

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MORE DIRT GALLERY IMAGES at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/77441163@N08/sets/72157629484663854/

Gorilla Theatre: Bringing Theater to the People: David Luby, Founder/Artistic Director

Posted on Tuesday, 12 June

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Gorilla Theatre: Bringing Theater to the People

David Luby,  Founder/Artistic Director 

Bringing with him only a sack of books and a suitcase, David Luby came to Kansas City in the eighties to attend graduate school at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.  Luby had never been to the Midwest before, but quickly fell in love with Kansas City, a combination of thriving metropolis with a small town feel.  Meanwhile, many of his friends, comprised mostly of fellow UMKC graduate students who had been out of school for a few years, had been spending their time “playing around” in Chicago, Kansas City, and St. Louis while looking for work. It was at this point that Luby , who was freelancing in set, sound, and lighting work, made a proposition: instead of waiting for work to come to them, they should start their own theater company. Formed in 1989, Gorilla Theatre officially gained not-for-profit status as a 501.3c organization the following year. During this time, theaters were seeing their audiences graying, or as Luby puts it, appealing only to the “blue-haired crowd”. Gorilla Theatre created a creative space that straddled the lines between community and professional theater, with a desire to change the perception of theater as a strictly senior fare. Gorilla Theatre actively sought a younger audience by taking inventive theater directly to the people.  Their statement of intent is best personified in their motto of E.T.C.- educate the audience and the performers, train the audience and the performers, and culturally enrich the community.

The first show Gorilla Theatre put on was a musical version of “Plan 9 from Outer Space”, a humorous take on the Ed Wood film.The first night of Plan 9 attracted a very special guest, Wade Williams (who owns the rights to the original film). Williams would sign on as co-producer and the show ran for three months at the Fine Arts Movie Theater. He would go on to tell the players later “I could sue you, but, I like it so let’s talk.” Gorilla Theatre’s first original work was a three-act play written by Philip Blue Owl Hooser called “Night of the Blue Owl”.  What Gorilla Theatre may be most known for is their presentation of Greek plays, performed every year on the steps of the Nelson-Atkins Museum, during the early morning, the same time the original plays would have been seen.They liked the ideas of being gypsies, not being tied down to any one place. Gorilla Theatre performances would be held in a variety of spaces, from movie theaters, to coffee houses to art galleries. Even the rehearsal space was in constant flux. “Night of The Blue Owl” was originally going to be performed at The Left Bank, but the gallery unfortunately closed. So Luby went to Leo Wetherill of The Human Observation Lab. The group cleaned and gutted the first floor of Lab building,  located in a desolate area of downtown Kansas City, with the group providing the only visible activity in the area. When the building’s owners opted out of renewing their lease, Gorilla Theatre moved again, this time to Leedytown, in the Opie building, which doubled as both rehearsal and living space, staying in the space for five years.  One of the first places that Luby became taken with when he arrived in Kansas City was the Nelson and saw as the perfect spot for Greek tragedies. Gorilla Theatre will perform all thirty-three Greek plays; number twenty-one will be a performance of “The Suppliant Maidens” by Aeschylus on the South steps of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 7:30am Saturday and Sunday, June 30th and July 1st, 2012 and is free.

Text by Jennifer Williams. All images/materials courtesy of David Luby.

Death as Usual Flyer

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June 5-6, 1999

The Bacchae of Euripdes: 9th Annual Greek Solstice Play

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The Persians: 19th Annual Summer Greek Show

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Primate Asylum

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Salome

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Posted on Tuesday, 12 June

A Living Archive interview with David Luby, founder and artistic director of Gorilla Theatre Productions. Inaugurated in September of 1989, the Gorilla Theatre is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, volunteer-based organization  which has given Kansas City over twenty years of classic drama, avant-garde theatre, and original works.

A Kick in the Head leads to a Big Bang: Mark Manning, producer/actor/activist

Posted on Thursday, 7 June

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A Kick in the Head leads to a Big Bang: Mark Manning- producer/actor/activist

In 1986 a young small town Nebraskan migrated to Kansas City to pursue his theatre craft.  Kansas City was considered an oasis for Mark Manning.  Manning quickly landed low paying gigs as an actor and stage manager at the independent theatre, The Unicorn Theatre at 3828 Main Street.   Like many young artists, he also ventured into the service industry to support himself.  Manning found employment on West 39th Street’s “Restaurant Row” at Lou Jane Temple’s eclectic Café Lulu.  Unfortunately, Manning would become a victim of a random hate crime after an evening shift at Café Lulu. The traumatic gay bashing later enlightened the artist to create a performance piece about the beating.  Manning debuted his first original performance piece at David Ford and Scott Cordes’ “Art Coffee and Roll” program at The Foundry.

The audience’s reception to his original work encouraged Manning to produce more pieces and create a weekly event called “The Spoken Word” at Café Lulu with co-worker/actor Ron Megee (Late Night Theater).  The variety show format (10 minutes an artist) fostered an underground scene for Kansas City performers to showcase new original works for over one hundred weeks.  After Café Lulu closed in 1991, Manning evolved “The Spoken Word” showcase into “The Big Bang Buffet.”   Manning created themes for each of these events that attracted contributions from more of the serious writers and performers of “The Spoken Word.”  The Cabaret, a gay bar at 5024 Main, would become an early “home” to The Big Bang Buffet’s performance events. New social and political themed performances were showcased at The Cabaret with titles like: “Birmingham’s Book Burning Barbeque”, “Gingrich Eggs and Ham”, “Every Gay People”, “Nasty Sally Searsucker”, and “The Fired-Up Fruitcake Bake-Off.”   Often the shoe-string budget productions were benefits for various organizations like the Coalition Against Censorship, KC Free Health Clinic, The Good Samaritan Project, and ACT-UP.  Big Bang Buffet continued to fill the house at the Cabaret and also flourish as an organizer/contributor to the annual Culture Under Fire anti-censorship programs in Kansas City.  In the end Big Bang Buffet presented art exhibitions and hosted over 75 performance events at underground venues and established theatres like The American Heartland, Midland, and the Unicorn. 

Mark Manning continues to be an activist/organizer in Kansas City.  He is the producer for KKFI’s 90.1 FM’s weekly community radio program; Wednesday Mid-Day Medley (10am-12pm). The program highlights Kansas City’s art community and features original local music.  Manning also is the coordinator of the KCK Organic Teaching Gardens program at elementary schools in Kansas City, KS.

Text by Pat Alexander. All images/materials courtesy Mark Manning.

October Event 1990

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February Event 1991

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Best of Big Bang Buffet 1992

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100th Show: July 7 1992

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CANS January 25, 1993

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Hot Popped Art: July 19,1993

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Kansas City Star: February 23,1994

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9.9.99

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The Rubber Heart Show

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The Fired-Up Fruitcake Bake-Off

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Jesse’s Dream, Our Nightmare

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An American Family Christmas

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Posted on Thursday, 7 June

A Living Archive interview with Mark Manning, co-founder of the anti-censorship performance-art extravaganza known as Big Bang Buffet. Since 1990, Big Bang Buffet has created over 100 different productions in Kansas City presenting original and controversial performance art, theatre, art, spoken word, music, film and dance.

Posted on Wednesday, 23 May

A Living Archive interview with Leo Wetherill of Stimulus & Response Company and The Human Observation Lab. Wetherill, along with Alec Shepherd and Eric George, ran the legendary Human Observation Lab, a live performance venue at 1012 McGee in downtown Kansas City, from 1987-1990, during which time they presented a wide range of experimental performance, theater and live music.