Condensation Cubes

Possibly Etruscan horse, bronze, c. 3rd Century BCE

Possibly Etruscan horse, bronze, c. 3rd Century BCE

Over the summer I began writing for Arte Fuse with this review of Vapor and Vibration: The Art of Larry Bell and Jesús Rafael Soto at the Tampa Museum of Art. I quite like the show, and thought the curator was quite successful with this experimental pairing of two artists with no personal connection. It’s been so soothing to just sit quietly in the Animals in Ancient Art gallery at the TMA too, so I was sad to learn its last day is 1 July. The TMA also has a lovely collection of Etruscan mirrors.

While at the museum I saw for the first time some paintings of birds by Hunt Slonem. I got to observe many macaws in Miami and cockatoos, a nonnative species who have crossed the Tasman Sea to make themselves at home in New Zealand, are also very familiar. I thought the two paintings shown here used some interesting techniques to get to what’s essential about these clever and beautiful members of the parrot family. The focus on the pink tones and sociability of the cockatoos and of the strong beaks and feather structures of the macaws, absent their brilliant colors, is quite thoughtful.

Until soon. – JMC

Hunt Slonem, Cockatoos, 2004.

Hunt Slonem, Cockatoos, 2004.

Hillsborough County Library Cooperative Art History “Lecture” Series

So, now that my time at the Rifkind Center is coming to an end, I have some breaking news announcements to post in sequence…

First, beginning this Saturday and through the summer months I will … well, be involved in a series of discussions about art history sponsored through a grant I received from the  Hillsborough Public Library Cooperative. It’s all kicking off at the SouthShore Regional Public Library in Ruskin.


The SouthShore Library has a great history of funding arts programs for the patrons in its off-the-track corner of the county and I am very grateful to receive this support and for being able to work around upcoming travel obligations. The library staff had in mind a formal sequence of talks, but the proposal I made is for something more experimental that I have had in mind for a while…

…which is why I hesitate to call these “lectures.” Each session is going to be very interactive and will unfold in a participant-driven way, and there will be a digital component posted for downloading during and after each event.

Mernet Larsen: Getting Measured, 1957-2017

I have known Mernet Larsen from her role as professor as professor at the University of South Florida’s art studio department, and from her many trenchant and witty remarks on the art situation in Tampa, as well as from her kindness to students and fellow faculty. She made some very telling and compassionate comments at the small memorial for Bradley Nickels some years ago.

Nonetheless I felt as if I could give this retrospective at the Tampa Museum of Art a fair review and was glad I took the chance to do so for Empty Mirror. Larsen’s painting are intellectually engaging and unclassifiable. Many from Getting Measured, 1957-2017 are reproduced with the article so I will let you look at it on the Empty Mirror website, and it’s also archived as a PDF at the Humanities Commons Core Depository.

Larsen Eggs 1961

Eggs, 1961. Oil on canvas, Courtesy of the artist. © Mernet Larsen

Last Night at the Castle…

Some intermittent institutions … I’m probably not going to see them again. I always wonder what “the last time” doing something or going somewhere will be like, if it’s better if you know beforehand or preferable to find out the continuum is now a memory afterward.

I have been going to the Castle, Tampa’s gothic and industrial music nightclub, in its various iterations, since I was a teenager. No matter how long I would move away for, it would always be here when I returned. Over the years, I was able to compare it experientially with all sorts of clubs, from Sanctuary in Salt Lake City to Warsaw in Miami to Berghain in Berlin and scads of “rave-themed” house parties in Antwerp and Brussels.

This past year I haven’t gone out as much in general, but I still met up with longtime friends on Mondays once in a while. We wouldn’t set up a date or anything, you’d just show up and some of the crew would be there. Attendance has been down on Mondays and while Ybor-City-in-the-Nineties legacies like the Senator and Theo Wujcik still make the scene regularly, eventually, the world will move on. It’s sad in a way to think of this last vestige of the once incredible Tampa Bay electronic music scene, which at one time including rotating DJ nights at Rene’s, Empire, Trax, Palladium, Club Detroit, Masquerade, and pop-ups at Act IV and other places (not counting London Victory Club, which began it all) falling into history but … I was really happy that the Castle has made so many attempts to keep up to date with electro and added lots of cool newish elements to its rotations, particularly in the music video department, mixing in Ladytron, Interpol, Cut Copy and Presets to the “hits.”

The last night I went to the Castle, I was braced to be a little disappointed, since I’m one of the people who actually prefers the new material to, you know, the entire Hacienda playlist from 1987. But actually it was just perfect. My friends were there, it wasn’t too crowded with glowstickers, and there was a lot of room to dance, yet it wasn’t empty. I don’t know if I will see the Castle again but this was a good way to remember it if I don’t.

The Castle

Downtown Tampa “Bridge Lighting / Agua Luces”

I was trying to think of the most hyperbolic way possible to describe the failure of the vague downtown Tampa “bridge lighting” from this past Friday (10 August 2012) but I can’t really think of anything that describes the underwhelmingness of the dead city this evening except that it was pretty much like any other summer, 100+ degree night downtown only with a few hipsters and scenesters. In terms of metrics I learned that 1000 people will not put in a dent in the cavernous space from the Tampa Museum of Art through Kiley Garden to Kennedy Boulevard.

The bridge lighting (the actual name of the event was “Agua Luces”) itself alternated monochrome projections, as if someone was turning one of those rotating color Christmas tree lighting wheels (I’m not explaining it very well; one of these) at an exceedingly slow speed (with about the same wattage), rhythmically, as in, with some kind of timing system, and yet not in the least hypnotically or soothingly.

It would have been more dynamic to have projected The Wizard of Oz, which was being shown in the park, onto the bridges. If someone had given a bunch of kids some laser pointers and they pointed them at the bridges, that would have been more interesting. A Mac desktop or even a Windows desktop. Someone making shadow puppets without even a real puppet, like, rabbit ears or something. Literally anything involving lights, bridges, the reflection from water, and being outside…

What do people think?  What are your projection ideas?


Thank you for the many emailed questions and comments about this post. Please feel free to share these concerns as comments here so other people can see them.

In response to the question about the cost of Agua Luces / Bridge Lighting, I was not easily able to discover a dollar figure, though this information is posted on the lightsontampa Website with respect to the origin of the project: “Lights On Tampa is a public/private partnership between the City of Tampa’s Art Programs Division and the Public Art Alliance, a 501(c)3 organization. The Program began in 2006 with the desire to bring something bold, of high quality and “on the moment” to Tampa…” noting that the Agua Luces was originally scheduled to commence in 2006 but did not, and “The City of Tampa hopes that with continued private sector support Agua Luces will be extended to the remaining bridges in downtown by 2014.  Lighting all nine bridges, as well as the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway which intersects with the Tampa Riverwalk, is a fundamental vision for the City of Tampa. Chicago-based lighting artist Tracey Dear who lit the bridges in Chicago as well as the Wrigley Building, was chosen for the installation.”

This is very telling information if you hack through it. I think “on the moment” must be one of those flack phrases (which I see sprinkled throughout that Website, along with photos of the bridges from the Tampa Club or wherever — places not even the most determined first-generation social climbers have access to let alone the public) that has a vague meaning, but seemingly by any definition, in 2012, we are no longer “on the moment” in the art world of 2006. Still you can’t fault the artist for accepting the commission although clearly there is more pedestrian traffic and people in general around the bridges in Chicago.

And it is also not surprising that “a fundamental vision” for Tampa from civic leaders is for something bland and shiny, as opposed to making the “light” rail happen, refurbishing the John Germany library a few blocks away from all the bridges, or whatever.