Michael Asher, Famed CalArts Professor and Conceptual Artist, Honored at Memorial Service

Michael Asher was an important member of both the contemporary art world and the CalArts community. When he passed away, he left an artistic legacy that will always be remembered. Here is my obituary and coverage of his formal memorial service that was published on the arts blog at www.laweekly.com. Rest in peace, Michael… and thank you.

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“The mood was one of respect and reflection last Friday, Dec. 7, as hundreds of friends, colleagues, student and teachers gathered in the Main Gallery at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia to celebrate and remember the life of long-time beloved faculty member and widely regarded conceptual artist Michael Asher…

Asher, who passed away after a long illness on Oct. 15 at the age of 69, is often hailed as one of the most influential figures in the contemporary art world, particularly noted for his work in a genre known as institutional critique, involving artistic takes on the structures of the art world itself, such as museums and galleries.

But he was perhaps even more widely known for the exhaustive attention and critical consideration he gave to his students’ work. Within the framework of his famous Post-Studio Critique class, Asher would spend hours and hours discussing a single artwork, deconstructing and examining it from every possible angle. The class meetings, starting at 1:00 pm on Friday afternoons, were known to stretch past midnight (or even later) on a regular basis.

“The primary activity of the class is to enter into a fairly complete discussion of each student’s art production,” wrote Asher in a collection of writings straight-forwardly entitledWritings 1973-1983 on Works 1969-1979. The president of CalArts, Steven Lavine, told the crowd at the service of how art teachers he had recently met in China had asked him, in amazed disbelief, whether the stories about the iconic class were in fact true — he said he had assured them that they were. I myself was most fortunate to have attended the class several times as an undergraduate — but only on Michael’s gently-delivered but firm condition that I “not talk too much.” …”

CalArts has established a new scholarship in his name. For more information, please visit the University’s website. 

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A One-Day-Only Art Exhibit Along All of Mulholland Drive

Stephen Van Dyck has quite a vision when it comes to transforming the Los Angeles landscape. This is an excerpt from my article in the arts blog at www.laweekly.com about one of his unique and comprehensive “road concerts”.

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As I cruised along Mulholland Drive yesterday afternoon, I was transported into a new kind of artistic space. I continuously discovered an array of different interactive art exhibits and performances, unevenly distributed along the historic ridge-top pass usually traversed by movie stars in sports cars…

For most viewers this artistic incursion into the normal reality of the city was entirely unexpected and even confusing… after all, what are all these people doing playing and watching music next to the road? What does that man have on his head — and why does that particular star map stand seem to have so many customers?…

Stephen Van Dyck, a performance artist, is the founder of Los Angeles Road Concerts, the name he’s given to this event and three other similar ones, which have taken place since 2008 along similarly forgotten or unexamined stretches of San Fernando Boulevard in the Valley, Washington Boulevard, and Sunset Boulevard (the most recent one). The series, one of a number of L.A. projects that are rethinking how to view and experience art, seeks to investigate and reclaim the often ignored or overlooked public spaces that line our public roadways in L.A. Over 110 artists answered an open call to participate in the intensive one-day only affair, ranging from established to emerging names…

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The culminating reception was supposed to have taken place at Sunset on a bucolic hilltop near the Missile site at the Western edge of the drive, but park rangers and various law enforcement made it clear, as they had throughout the day, that the artistic influence was not welcome. Never to be deterred, and despite receiving a citation, Van Dyck moved the reception down to the road itself, where local band The Lone Stars played a full set as part of a “pop-up club” across Mulholland from their audience as the sky turned pink and the lights of the Valley began twinkle into view…

Hundreds of in-the-know art world players attended the event throughout the day, but the real impact was more likely made on those who simply happened upon the happenings. One anonymous passerby at the reception couldn’t believe his luck…

While he may be disappointed that another Mulholland Road Concert isn’t happening soon, the L.A. Road Concert series will continue. You will be able to find out details on the next one (and view past projects) at www.LARoadConcerts.org.”