DAILY ART FIX: Video – From Batman (1967) In the Art World, the Joke’s On Us

Art world links which caught my eye…

From the old Batman TV show-the Joker goes conceptual.

An interesting take on a change that was actually occurring in the arts during the 1960s. It can be seen as a prophetic pop culture reflection of the shift from Modernism (the punny abstract painters) to Postmodernism. The Joker’s appropriated blank canvas, hailed as a work symbolic of “the emptiness of modern life,” could have come straight out of a contemporary art gallery.

Here we have the evidence. Conceptual Art is a tool of super-villainy, promoted by establishment useful idiots. Funny because it is so true.

Holy minimalism Batman!

PS – Cesar Romero was the best Joker, outperforming Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, and Joaquin Phoenix. 


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ARTISTS: Remembering Steve Gompf

Steve Gompf April 27, 1963 – March 4, 2018 


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

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: In the Art World, the Joke’s On Us

From the old Batman TV show-the Joker goes conceptual.

An interesting take on a change that was actually occurring in the arts during the 1960s. It can be seen as a prophetic pop culture reflection of the shift from modernism (the goofy abstract painters) to post-modernism-the Joker’s appropriated blank canvas as a work symbolic of “the emptiness of modern life!” Could have come straight out of the Saatchi Gallery.

Here we have the evidence. Conceptual Art is a tool of super-villainy, promoted by establishment useful idiots. Funny because it is so true.

Holy minimalism Batman!

PERFORMANCE: “Don’t Touch That Dial” Spoken Word at First Studio


Virginia Ross “How to Watch TV”

Don’t Touch That Dial-An Evening of Spoken Word

January 16, 2015 7pm Admission is Free

“Under Television Skies”  Third Friday Reception 6pm-10pm  

FIRST STUDIO 631 N 1st Ave Phoenix, Arizona 85003

The art exhibit Under Television Skies has been a wonderful event.  But during the January Third Friday reception, a whole different form of the arts will be represented when First Studio presents “Don’t Touch That Dial,” an evening of spoken word performance.

Once upon a time network television was the dominant force of media in this country, monopolizing communal communications and perceptions. Such limited choice seems quaint these days. Participating poet Shawnte Orion mused on how times have changed. “Before internet reduced the wide world to the convenient click of a mouse, we were tenuously connected to people on the other side of the country who also liked and followed the same television shows we were watching at thirty instagrams per second,” he observes.

Making use of the historic studio floor of the space, the performers of “Don’t Touch That Dial” will pay tribute to the vanishing age of television. The poets include: Manuel Arenas, Richard Bledsoe, Bill Campana, Jack Evans, Jeff Falk, Neil Gearns, Heather Smith-Gearns, Judy Green-Davis, Philip Haldiman, Trish Justrish, Deborah Berman-Montano, Joe Montano III, Ian Murdock, Shawnte Orion, Tracy Thomas, and more!

Although mass market TV tended towards lowest common denominator entertainment, every now and then a genuine work of art would slip in. Here is one of those moments of unexpected grace from 1959, when author Jack Kerouac performed accompanied by Steve Allen’s piano improvisations.

ARTICLE: Don’t Touch That Dial


Nice article on the “Under Television Skies” exhibit at First Studio:

Artists channel their creativity into works about television at First Studio gallery

I was amazed by the intense pieces produced on the theme by a collection of talented artists, thanks to everyone who took part. The next public event is Third Friday December 19, 6pm-10pm. And coming up January 16th will be “Don’t Touch That Dial,” a spoken word event that will highlight some of Phoenix’s most inspirational poets.

EXHIBITION ANNOUNCEMENT – “Under Television Skies” at First Studio

Interzone (2)

Richard Bledsoe “Interzone” acrylic on canvas 16″ x 20″


December 5, 2014 – January 30, 2015

Opening Reception December 5, 2014 6pm – 10pm

FIRST STUDIO 631 N 1st Ave Phoenix, Arizona 85003

Participating Artists Leslie Edeline Barton, Michele Bledsoe, Richard Bledsoe, Frances Byrd, Stephanie Carrico, Tane Clark, Mike Doherty, Jeff Falk, Heather Smith Gearns, Geoff Gildner, Steve Gompf, Dain Quentin Gore, John Herman, Kristine Kollasch, Jim McCarty, Joe Montano III, Nick Rascona, Virginia Ross, Trish Justrish, Sherry Weiss, Shelley Whiting, and more!


Virginia Ross “How to Watch TV”

  These days, often it seems we have more engagement with the mass media environment than the natural one. Although new forms of technology are overtaking its dominance, television remains the one of the most pervasive forms in contemporary culture. It’s common to have been raised with TV as our constant companion, and it makes up the shared foundation of much of what we experience. For good and ill, our society gathers around the television like earlier generations gathered around the hearth, and our experience of the world is highly influenced by the filtered and stylized messages and images it broadcasts. In December and January, a group of artists present their visions of life lived in the glare of TV. The exhibit has an appropriate venue in Phoenix, Arizona’s historic First Studio, which was once the city’s original television station, and now is a venue for creative businesses. In addition, the opening reception will include a tribute to some of Studio’s legendary and beloved performers, Wallace and Ladmo. Says show curator Richard Bledsoe, “Television has changed a lot through the years, it’s intriguing to see how artists react to it. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with First Studio on a thematic show that ties into both their history and the contributions they make to Phoenix’s current cultural scene. I’d been in some group exhibits there before, it’s an interesting and beautiful space.” First Studio exhibition organizer and participating artist Kristine Kollasch agrees. “I have been excited about this show, “Under Television Skies’ since Richard first discussed his idea with me,” she states. “And I can’t imagine a more perfect place to show works created specifically about the influence of the TV than the very first TV studio in the Phoenix.” Artist Jeff Falk mused on how television was been a presence in his existence. “My generation, old people, was the first raised entirely with television. It defined our lives. These days there is the crossover effect. TV, computers, Netflix, etc. But a portable TV weighed about 50 lbs, had a luggage handle on the top and still required two people to carry it. Then we only had the beast in the corner of the room. The black and white cyclops, the haunted aquarium.” No discussion about First Studio can be complete without acknowledging the contributions of Wallace and Ladmo, TV hosts to generations of Phoenician kids. Bill Thompson, show creator and portrayer of “Wallace Snead” passed away in 2014. The opening reception of “Under Television Skies” will include footage from the show as a tribute to the joy these entertainers gave to Arizona for 35 years.

Wallace and Ladmo Show Extravaganza

Shelley Whiting “The Wallace and Ladmo Show Extravaganza”

Co-owner of the space Theresa Murphy sums up the legacy of First Studio and its current mission. “First Studio, built in 1949, was home to the first television station in Arizona.  When it first went on the air KPHO was the only television station between St. Louis and San Francisco and its signal was repeated from the Mexican to Canadian borders.  This important broadcast facility played host to Presidents from Eisenhower to Reagan and celebrities from Cassius Clay to Liberace.   The first in Arizona to broadcast in stereo and then in color, the first to use videotape and the home of Wallace and Ladmo.  Critics and fans from far and wide consider Wallace and Ladmo one of the most important and influential children’s show in the history of American television.  In one single week, the lineup of guest who wanted to appear on this groundbreaking series included Jonathan Winters, Jack Benny, Joe Namath, John Byner and Lorne Green.  Steven Spielberg’s broadcast premier was from an episode of the Wallace and Ladmo show shot at First Studio, a boy scout showing a homemade super-8 war movie.  Spielberg even sent a letter to the show thanking them for inspiring his work and life. “After years of neglect and sitting unnoticed, First Studio was brought back to life in 2001.  It is again a center for creative endeavor housing 11 companies in the creative field anchored by the original studio.”

Gearns Please Stand By

Heather Smith Gearns “Please Stand By”


Jim McCarty Sharper Contrast & Better Reception”



Frances Byrd “Alice in TV Land”


Steve Gompf video still

Rascona Investments

Nick Rascona


Sherry Weiss and Dain Quentin Gore


John Herman