ARTISTS: Remembering Steve Gompf

Steve Gompf April 27, 1963 – March 4, 2018 

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Steve Gompf was the first person I met in Phoenix that became an enduring connection.

It was the winter of 2000 – 2001. I’m not sure of the exact month. I had moved to Arizona at the end of October; after being in town a couple of months, I finally made it out to the First Fridays art walk.

Steve Gompf was in the basement of the Luhrs Tower. He was working the Artlink table, passing out maps. Young, thin, Steve Gompf, with shaggy red hair and a beard. I had been involved with an arts non-profit back in Virginia, so I was curious about Artlink. I pestered him with some questions. I don’t think we even exchanged names. Little did we know what the future held. I certainly didn’t realize I had just met a visionary artist, who would become a significant co-conspirator and friend.

As time passed I kept running into to Steve, as the art scene is its own small town within the larger city. He was at parties, he was at openings, and when I joined the Artlink board, he was there too. Eventually I made the connection between Steve and the wondrous creations he produced: the televisors.

These were Steve’s signature body of work. He presented them as if they were historical relics: antique televisions, manufactured between 1889-1928. That time range happens to be before there was any practical television technology widely available, and definitely before there were any broadcasts being made. But the specificity of the dates effectively reinforced the idea the televisors were pioneering examples of luxury goods from a bygone age.

 

The Televisors

Steve knew enough about actual antiques to reference the styles of different countries and eras in his televisor designs. The amazing thing was he managed to pull off these creations using the most random bits and pieces he scavenged from thrift stores. The televisors were assembled from candlesticks and dog bowls and lamp fixtures, and just about any other scrap of wood and metal you can imagine. He arranged all the parts meticulously into an illusion of sophisticated industrial design. I used to joke they were only held together by gravity, but it’s pretty much true. All those fiddly pieces were just in place due to a series of Steve’s willful balancing acts.

Steve embedded monitors inside these elaborate cases, and showed his own video creations on them. This is where things took a darker turn, which added more complexity to the televisor experience. His video imagery was sometime soaring and celestial, but more often it was like Hieronymus Bosch fever dreams, It was as if the televisors  were receiving broadcasts from Hades. Steve took the sequential photographs of Eadweard Muybridge, and re-animated them into a grotesque cast of chimeras wandering in some lost nocturnal plane.

Reanimated video stills 

 

This video art culminated in his epic “Parade: The Absolute End of the World.” He worked on this video for 8 years. It literally has a cast of thousands of his wild beings marching past in formation.

 

I Love a Parade: Stills from Steve’s epic video art  

We got to spend a lot of time with Steve and his art in the 5 years we were members of Deus ex Machina Gallery. Steve’s televisiors were always the stars of the show there. They were instantly accessible and fascinating for our patrons.

The televisors worked on so many different levels. They were sculptures. They were assemblage. They incorporated video and sound, They were conceptual in the best sense of the word, hinting at an entire alternative reality. And they were unapologetically beautiful.

An hypnotic televisor at Deus Ex Machina 

We had so many special moments at that gallery. Steve like to set off smoke bombs in the street and play double dutch routines on the sidewalk with invisible jump ropes. Once Steve got his hands on a top hat, and serenaded my wife Michele Bledsoe with his rendition of “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka. The lyrics of that song applied very well to Steve: “We’ll begin with a spin/Traveling in the world of my creation/What we’ll see will defy explanation.”

Michele and Steve: Pure Imagination 

Like the ornate videos he created, Steve was a complex hybrid of traits. He could be bawdy and bossy and boisterous. No matter what shenanigans he was up to, you just had to say, “That’s Steve,” and roll with it. His infectious, anarchist laughter was a clue to his driven nature; part Elmer Fudd, part Woody Woodpecker, coupled with wide eyed enthusiasm.

In his teacher mode, Steve was a master of the blunt but accurate critique. He was one of the few people that Michele felt like she truly learned something from. And to this day his advice drives my artistic production: he told me once you should always have a long term, a medium term, and a short term project going, all at the same time. This wisdom has become my own method.

As a gallery partner, he was committed and supportive. As a friend, he was giving and affectionate in his own particular Steve way. Our home is full of the thoughtful little gifts he came across during his Goodwill shopping. I shared his fascination with strange history; he was always bringing me topical books to read. He recognized Michele’s love of beautiful trinkets, so he brought her exotic objects of glass and brass.

Ultimately Steve was a worker, always so excited to push his art to new levels, and to share his own strange vision with the world. He loved to be involved in events and happenings.

I will always be glad, in one of our last exchanges through Facebook, I invited Steve over for dinner. He responded by sharing a trailer of a cool movie he was excited about: Embrace of the Serpent. We didn’t confirm the date, and I kept meaning to follow up. I thought we’d have plenty of time to work out the details.

We wanted to see Steve before his birthday. I was already mentally planning the menu. Only later did I learn that not too long after that message, he was gone. We did not find out until weeks later.

The New Times provided a thoughtful eulogy to Steve, that stuck one discordant note. It mentioned how his works made you want to question more. Although the idea that art equals questioning is a dominant  piece of dogma in Postmodern art, it is a misreading of Steve’s accomplishments.

Steve did want not his viewers to question. He wanted them to experience wonder, which is not the same thing at all.

We loved Steve a lot and learned so much from him. We will treasure the time we got to spend with him.

 

Michele Bledsoe “Portrait of Steve Gompf” acrylic on canvas 

 

A Celebration of Life for Steve Gompf

Sunday May 20, 2018 7 pm

Alwun House

1204 East Roosevelt Street

Phoenix, Arizona 85006

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ARTICLE: Activist Art Exposed as an Elitist Bait and Switch

Graphically Dull: The Stilted Stylings of Turner Prize nominee Forensic Architecture

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“The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.”

― Socrates

It’s that time again. Time for ruling class apparatchiks to announce the latest slate of non-artists to be nominated for what is advertised as a prestigious award for art:

THE GUARDIAN: Turner prize shortlist pits research agency against film-makers. “A research agency that investigates international crimes and injustice, and comprises architects, film-makers, archaeologists, investigative journalists, lawyers and scientists, has been nominated for the 2018 Turner prize. Forensic Architecture, which has about 16 members and is based at Goldsmiths, University of London, will compete for the 33rd edition of the prize against three solo artists – Naeem Mohaiemen, Charlotte Prodger and Luke Willis Thompson.The list is more overtly political than in previous years, featuring artists tackling issues of post-colonialism and migration, queer identity, human rights abuses and racial violence. Once again, it raises questions about what precisely art is. The three solo artists primarily use film, whether shot on 35mm or iPhone.”

Over in the UK, the Tate Museum’s Turner Prize is one of those self-serving yearly events elitists create to congratulate themselves for extreme cleverness. Named after an actual artist, the great English painter J.M.W. Turner, this supposed recognition of achievement is anything but. First awarded in 1984, the Turner Prize has degenerated into the establishment’s way of trying to enforce pointless Postmodernism as the standard for contemporary art. It’s almost like they purposely look for the most numbskull non-art possible to distort the public’s perception of what art is, and what it does.

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.If wisdom begins with the definition of terms, what do you call efforts to deliberately lie about what those definitions actually are? The manipulation of our shared understanding is too calculated to be merely inept; too consistent to be ascribed to simple ignorance; too debased to be just misguided. There is strategy here, relentlessly advanced and ferociously enforced.

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Misdirection is at the core of the whole rotten Postmodern gambit. “Who is there among you, who, if his son. asks him for bread, will give him a stone?” The contemporary technocratic managerial class, that’s who. Our culture is saturated with globalist diktats that are fundamentally at odds with reality.  They not only give us stones for bread, they give us leftist activism in place of art, and tell us to swallow it.

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The art world makes a great example of the failure of elitist equivocations, because it exposes the lies with visual evidence. In their latest event to assure us that 2 + 2 = 5, the Tate scraped up some real scintillating content. Take for example the Guardian’s article headliner, Forensic Architecture. As their website describes:

“Forensic Architecture is an independent research agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London. Our interdisciplinary team of investigators includes architects, scholars, artists, filmmakers, software developers, investigative journalists, archaeologists, lawyers, and scientists. Our evidence is presented in political and legal forums, truth commissions, courts, and human rights reports.We also undertake historical and theoretical examinations of the history and present status of forensic practices in articulating notions of public truth.”

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Not impressed by the vast list of ax-grinding bureaucracies and committees Forensic Architecture engages with? Don’t see what any of that has to do with art? Maybe their supporting imagery will get you woke, or maybe not:

Forensic Architecture’s reconstruction of the abduction of 43 students in Iguala, Mexico in 2014. 

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Nothing like graphics that could be out of a 1980s pain reliever television commercial to prove This-is-Serious-Guys. Or perhaps your artistic spirit is more stirred by a flow chart/subway map aesthetic:

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Forensic Architecture: missed their stop

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Nominated for a top art prize. Seriously. This is not art, this an activist power point presentation that seeped out of its think tank, and now threatens to bore all of humanity. Something has gone seriously wrong with standards and practices.

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Either some people in the culture industries don’t know what they are doing, or they know exactly what they are doing, and it’s with evil intent. Benjamin R. Dierker’s recent Federalist essay “How The Left’s War On Words Manipulates Your Mind,” sums it up, describing:

“This isn’t innocent linguistic drift or slang; it is a conscious effort to reshape society. The schemes include redefining words for personal gain, using modifiers to alter the meaning of a word, replacing technical words with colloquial ones, and creating new words. Each of these is a bullying tactic, which distort effective discourse.”

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The Stuckist art movement called out the sheer stupidity of the Turner Prize with protests for years, until it just became too self-evident to bother about. In my book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization, (coming in the summer of 2018) I build on ideas first codified by the founders of Stuckism, English artists Charles Thomson and Billy Childish. They recognized we are at the beginning of Remodernism, a new phase of our culture that will wipe out the frauds perpetrated by our Postmodern would-be masters. As I say in the Remodern America Manifesto:

“Ruling class totalitarians use Postmodern art as a tool of oppression. Elitists have weaponized art into an assault on the foundations of Western civilization. This deceitful cabal seeks to destroy any principled perspective on the lies, manipulations, and abuses they commit. The scourge of Postmodern relativism as a cultural force is no accident; it’s a top-down driven campaign. Hyping soulless, unskilled art has a toxic, weakening effect on society as a whole.”

The story of the twenty-first century will be the dismantling of centralized power. We’ve been poorly served by the governing classes across all our institutions. The longer the current elitists attempt to cling to their privileges, the harsher the ultimate corrections will end up being. But an easy place to start undermining their pompous authority is by daring to state the obvious: nominating propaganda for an art prize doesn’t make it into art.

Edit: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please check out other entries for more commentary on the state of the arts.