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: Establishment Art Institutions Aren’t Worth a Bucket of Spit, But They Will Subsidize One

Ragnar Kjartansson: Spitting Mad 

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Pity the poor Hirshhorn Museum. They occupy a prime piece of real estate, right on the National Mall in the wretched hive of scum and villainy, Washington, DC. And yet, as a museum dedicated to contemporary art, the institute just doesn’t seem to get much love or respect. I feel sorry for the uranium magnate Joseph Hirshhorn, who originally  endowed the collection. Little did he know how radioactive his legacy would become.

An article about a recent acquisition the Hirshhorn made may give some insight as to why they lack esteem. Smithsonian.com is eager to explain it in this article:“Why the Artist Ragnar Kjartansson Asked his Mother to Spit On Him.”

Mind you, they don’t give the real answer, which would be an ambitious artist is performing the obligatory pandering required for advancement under the current corrupt Postmodern junta that dominate the arts. Rather they let the artist speak for himself: ““Art is so serious, it’s too serious to be serious about,” Kjartansson informs us.

Well okay then. Thanks for clearing that up. A trite little statement of doublethink nonsense to justify the non-art offered up.

The article does us the favor of explaining the video work:

In the filmed performance piece… a 24-year-old Kjartansson, still in art school, stands in a blue dress shirt as his mother, recognized in their native Iceland as the accomplished actress Guðrún Ásmundsdóttir, hauls off and spits on him.

There is silence, and a dramatic pause in which they exchange gazes, and she does so again and again.

Every five years since the first video in 2000, Kjartansson has repeated the action in the same location—before a bookshelf—and added on to the film. When the fifth iteration is shot in 2020, it will come to the Hirshhorn as well, as will all future versions.

A new segment of this debased piece of pretentiousness coming in 2020? We can hardly wait.

The article also has a link to the video-at least 6 minutes of it. The entire epic currently runs 20 minutes.

I have not watched the video. Why would I? Why would anyone?

Having it linked here also raises the interesting question of how a museum can “acquisition” something available as a Youtube link. Perhaps they’ve gotten hold of the director’s cut, featuring deleted scenes and an alternative ending. The article does note there are no immediate plans to put the “piece” on display, so at least we’ve got that going for us.

What is so discouraging is imagining the amount of behind the scenes meetings, discussions, budget planning, and project management that went on to facilitate bringing this loogie into the collection of a major American museum. It’s sad the way the left has as destroyed the credibility of our country’s enduring institutions. The arts fell long ago; currently the activists are working on NFL football. It can all be summed up by the timeless tweet by Iowahawk:

 

The partisans we are talking about here aren’t capable of generating something new. Their model is like a virus: infect a host and reduce it to a virus replicating factory, until the host withers away. Move on to the next host, and repeat.

We live in the dying days of the futile Postmodern campaign to destroy the timeless human tradition of art making. Postmodernists are so saturated in groupthink they can’t tell the difference between producing art and producing saliva. They are so deep in the echo chamber they don’t hear how, outside their bubble, indifference is shifting into impatience, soon to grow into rage.

It doesn’t how many out of touch museums embrace this stuff. Establishment efforts failed because humanity instinctively rejects the absurd assertions coming out of elitist academia and art industry bureaucracies. We aren’t buying the cultural Marxism they’re hawking.

They hate us and they are lying to us, and no amount of puff pieces claiming reality and make-believe are collapsing in on each other can disguise their contempt. It’s not a video of a mother spitting on an artist the Hirshhorn has obtained. It’s evidence our incompetent, entrenched culture industries don’t even bother to hide their disdain anymore. They are spitting on Western Civilization, art, the family, civil society, and all of us.

“It is quite clear to anyone of an uncluttered mental disposition that what is now put forward, quite seriously, as art by the ruling elite, is proof that a seemingly rational development of a body of ideas has gone seriously awry.”

The Remodernism Manifesto

EDIT: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please visit other articles for more commentary on the state of the arts.

VIDEO: When Worlds Collide-A Python Talks Conceptual Art on Doctor Who

Tardis Art

Cameo: Wonderful affunctionalism

I’ve made no secret about my vintage Doctor Who fandom on this blog. Recent comments by comedian John Cleese reminded me when he made an art-related appearance on the legendary television series in 1979.

For his brief dialogue, story editor Douglas Adams served up a piece of art babble worthy of Vogon poetry status. Cleese and actress Eleanor Bron give the Doctor’s time machine, the Tardis, a critique that could straight out of  Saatchi gallery press release. (See the John Cleese clip from “The City of Death” at this link. )

Cleese: “For me, one of the most curious things about this piece is its wonderful… afunctionalism.”

Bron: “Yes. I see what you mean. Divorced from its function and seen purely as a piece of art, its structure of line and color is curiously counterpointed by the redundant vestiges of its function.”

Cleese: “And since it has no call to be here, the art lies in the fact that it *is* here.”

[Doctor, Romana and Duggan dash in and enter the TARDIS; it dematerializes]

Bron: “Exquisite. Absolutely exquisite.”

Pompous elitist art patrons like the ones caricatured here are real enough. They are the type of people that have given non-talents like Tracy Emin a simulacra  of relevance and a facade of a career.

The establishment rejects the self-evident principle expressed in the Stuckism manifiesto: “Art that has to be in a gallery to be art isn’t art.”

The elitist’s response is, “We declare it is art because we say so. We camouflage our unscrupulous power trip with lots of pretentious, pseudo-intellectual banter. We don’t care about art, we care that we are the only ones whose opinions matter.”

The art world is full of hopeful supplicants who will wage war on behalf of the most absurd cultural institution dogma, hopeful their conformity will be rewarded with crumbs of acknowledgement. Their whole identity is invested in acting as defender of the woefully inept establishment artistic status quo.

Sadly most of these acolytes would not acknowledge real art if it appeared – or vanished – right before their own eyes.

Bonus video clip: Cleese and the Doctor (Tom Baker) indulge in a little backstage skit with some Python bite.

 

VIDEO: How Cooking is Like Art

We cooked dinner with my sisters-in-law last Saturday. It was a fancier meal than we would normally make so my wife Michele Bledsoe brought her camera, intending to document the process.

What began as a spontaneous goof on a cooking show intro became something more as the evening went on. Michele filmed each step, not for the purpose of making a how to video, but as a platform to reflect on the overlap between our normal efforts at art and the preparation of a special meal to share with family.

The results were fascinating and extremely delicious.

EXHIBITIONS: Un Amor – Festival Arte Sano X, Andalusia, Spain

A Thistle From The Heart

Richard Bledsoe “A Thistle From The Heart” acrylic on canvas 9″ x 12″

One of my latest paintings will be exhibited halfway around the world in July.

The show is “One Love,” otherwise known as “Un Amor,” at the Festival Arte Sano X, being held in San Pedro de Alcántara, in Spain’s Andalusia region.

The names of these places are like poetry to me. Not only do they sound beautiful, they evoke images of a rich and mysterious past. Epic stories of the maneuverings of Romans, Vandals and Moors, Republicans and Nationalists. Song lyrics from the Doors and the Clash. Columbus set sail from this region. Pablo Picasso, an explorer of a different kind, was born and raised in Malaga.

In honor of Malaga’s most famous ex-resident, I created the painting for the show in a spontaneous manner. I was thinking of the amazing film  The Mystery of Picasso, which was so influential on me as a young artist. Even as I improvised, imagery and order appeared.

It was very exciting to package up my painting, knowing where it was going.

spain package

Getting ready for the post office

 In the best DIY tradition, this show was organized by Artista Eli, founder  of Spain’s Malaga Stuckists art group. She generously invited an international crew of Stuckist and Remodernist artists to take part in a festival celebrating health and art.

It’s a good fit, for the cutting edge philosophies of these 21st century art movements are a great cure for sickness and lethargy of  the establishment art industry.

I am so grateful to live in the age of the internet, which allows me to connect with inspiring people no matter where they are, and share our art around the world.The grassroots have gone global.

Artista-Eli-One-Love-Tree-2015-Acrylic-on-Canvas-92-x-73-com1

Artista Eli – One Love Tree – 2015 – Acrylic on Canvas – 92 x 73 com

VIDEO: At The Crossroad

 

“At the Crossroad” acrylic on canvas 24″ x 30″ by Richard Bledsoe

This painting was inspired by blues legend Robert Johnson. It was claimed Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for musical talent. In this video, I talk about why that is a bad idea.

“At the Crossroad” sold the first time I exhibited it, purchased by a nice young couple. I have no idea who they were, or where the painting is today.

I enjoy when someone connects with my paintings.

Art enriches life.

COMMENTARY: Creating the Art of the Future

A Young City in an Ancient Land

Richard Bledsoe describes the principles of Remodern America

6. Modernism has never fulfilled its potential. It is futile to be ‘post’ something which has not even ‘been’ properly something in the first place. Remodernism is the rebirth of spiritual art.

-Billy Childish and Charles Thomson, The Remoderism Manifesto

My wife Michele Bledsoe, self taught artist, is now also a self taught video maker. I’m amazed by the results she accomplished in just a few days. DIY! See the video here.

She put together the piece above featuring my paintings and writings. I’m describing my thoughts on a seismic shift in ideas about how contemporary art is made and experienced: Remodernism.

It was probably around 2009 when my life was changed. Late one night, doing some random internet surfing, I came across the story of the Stuckists, and more importantly for me, the Remodernism Manifesto.

I’d been involved in the arts my entire adult life. I have a BFA in Painting from Virginia Commonwealth University. After art school there came the galleries, non-profits, arts organizations. It’s been a fascinating and joyful pursuit.

I love art and artists. Unfortunately the art scene also hosts a festering pit of toxic ideas and attitudes: the aggressive delusions of Post Modernism. This deconstructive system of nihilism, relativism and sophistry is presented as the only correct ideas to to proclaim, the only acceptable philosophy.

When I read Remodernism’s forceful denunciation of the failures of Post Modernism and their practical suggestions for an alternative approach, I was relieved to discover I was not alone in the world. Others recognized the issues our civilization was facing. Even better, they were doing something about it.

Childish and Thomson articulated ideas I’d always held but had not been able to express. It was trying to come out in my art, but even there I lacked clarity.  Reading their words made me intentional.

In Remodernism these 2 UK artists identified an open source art movement that comes right from the soul and reflects a tectonic change in the collective unconscious. It builds on the traditions of the past to create an art for the future, an art that is accountable to the people.

When they wrote their statement in 1999 they were ahead of their time, just like a good artist should be. Events have caught up to the observations they made. They stated that in the art world, the self proclaimed elites were dysfunctional and self serving. The establishment had bungled things terribly and now it was up to the rest of us to step in and set things right.

What was true about art then can now be recognized as a global phenomenon as our political classes frantically try to tighten their grip on the power they have mismanaged in a spectacular fashion.

The story of the twenty first century will be about the dismantling of centralized power. One of the first victims of the evolution in thought will be the rotting shambling corpse of Post Modernism. It was never really alive to begin with. Post modernism was a grand manipulative marketing scheme  by the establishment to create a baffled and distracted populace. Its collapse had been announced many times before but you can’t replace something with nothing. Remodernism provides the choice we’ve been denied by our cultural gatekeepers for so long.

 I am grateful for the integrity and generosity of the originators of Remodernism. A Remodernist artist is recognized not by a particular style but by a motivation: to connect on a deeper, more enriching level with his own nature, his fellow humans, and God, and to demonstrate this connection with his artistic expression.

I appreciate the opportunity to share my own art and words in the inevitable ongoing renewal of our culture.