Archive for January, 2009

What I am Looking at: Jesse Bercowetz

January 31st, 2009 No comments

This was a brilliant find. My reaction to seeing Jesse’s work is to get into the studio and get some work done. Anyone who knew Jesse and his work from the mid-1990’s in Chicago, and the collaborations he did with Chester Alamo, will recognize him in this body of work. 

Visit Jesse’s website at [ www.Jesse ] & his collaborations with Matt Bua at [ ]





SPECs on the Artist:

Jesse Bercowetz is a graduate of the School of The Art Institute of Chicago. He was awarded a Jerome Fellowship and is a recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts Grant. Selected exhibitions include: The Brooklyn Museum, NY, The Drawing Center, NY, White Columns, NY, PS1 / MoMA, NY, Galerie Michael Janssen, Berlin and Derek Eller Gallery, NY. This month he will present a new large-scale sculpture in the exhibition Next Wave At The Brooklyn Academy of Music, curated by Dan Cameron. There will be an installation of his collaborative work at Mass MoCA in 2009. Bercowetz lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Slash the Arts: A Bad Trend in Higher Education

January 28th, 2009 No comments

In bad economic times Brandeis University looks to close the Rose Art Museum and sell collection.

Via Art Fag City [ link to article ]

In the name of economic hardship Brandeis University announced Monday it will close its Rose Art Museum and sell off its collection. An internationally renown museum, the 8,000 object collection includes work by such contemporary stars as Cindy Sherman, Matthew Barney, and Nan Goldin, and Post-War masters including Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Nam June Paik. Closing the universities budget deficit, which is said to be upwards of 10 million dollars was cited as the rationale behind the decision.

To say that these decisions raise a few questions seems an understatement at best.   For one, the Brandeis Museum has relatively small budget concerns compared to other Universities.   Cornell for example has seen its endowment drop 27% in the last six months and is now pulling $150 million from their reserves.   Also, it has to be noted that the sale of just one major work in the collection, (the nearly 6 foot tall early Lichtenstein or the Rauschenberg Combine currently on display for example),  would return enough money to close the gap the University has disclosed.   It’s possible however, that like many other institutionally run museums,  is contractually obligated to funnel that money back into the collection, which would explain at least one small aspect of that decision.

This sort of short sighted economic problem solving represents a problem to any university, but it’s particularly acute in the case of the Rose Museum, given its stature.  Painter Dana Schutz’ first museum solo show, for example, was mounted there in 2006 and ran concurrently with a Matthew Barney exhibited.  Major shows by John Armleder in 2007 andFred Tomaselli in 2005 have occurred within recent years, and amongst the historical highlights, Joseph Cornell had a solo show at the Rose in 1968, and received an award from Brandeis.

Shedding no light on the motivations behind this decision, University President Jehuda Reinharz made the following statement to The Boston Globe,

“This is not a happy day in the history of Brandeis,” President Jehuda Reinharz said tonight. “The Rose is a jewel. But for the most part it’s a hidden jewel. It does not have great foot traffic and most of the great works we have, we are just not able to exhibit. We felt that, at this point given the recession and the financial crisis, we had no choice.”

But even if foot traffic were a measure of success, as 16 Miles of String points out, it’s hard to believe the museum receives any less than many other departments.  Also, since when does any museum exhibit all the great works they have?  Jerry Saltz just wrote an article about why recessions are a great time to show off works in museum collections infrequently shown.   Could the university not just cut costs at the museum rather than liquidating “nearly half a century of public trust?”

Categories: General Arts

Immediate CHANGE in Attitude

January 28th, 2009 1 comment

Quick to Engage, Direct, Soft, Smart and Articulate.

Steve Clemons has the stuff.

Categories: International

Pattern Language

January 27th, 2009 5 comments

I am posting this as a placeholder for the use of the term “Pattern Language.” I used it in my last post in referring to the built environment in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. It is a term made popular by Christopher Alexander in his book by the same name ( You can explore more at

Because of my interests in planning I have a tendency to think in terms of how we move through the world and know. This is a good stepping-off point into a discussion about my own work and how I reference and build a painting.

Categories: In My Studio, Painting

View Outside My Window

January 25th, 2009 No comments
10 am

10 am

7 pm

7 pm

7:30 pm

7:30 pm

2 am

2 am

From this view it looks like we are literally cooking ourselves.

A Prologue to Black Holes

Even a “Black Hole” has a location, and to most Americans East Chicago is a black hole. It is not among the many places they visit or are aware of. It is a place of distant images and vague emotions. East Chicago is a gap area in America’s geography. There is nothing new about the presence of gaps in ones awareness. Americans are famous for their limited awareness, but usually we associate those limits with what is happening in the rest of the world, not five minutes for one of its great cities.

I am amazed at how thorough and comfortable Americans are at maintaining and preserving this black hole. Millions transverse the area daily. Commuters who travel between Chicago and the East witness the conditions from high up as they cross the Skyway, and Cline Avenue bridges.

Black Holes are perfect places for making things or people disappear. They also provide cover for stomping out civil unrest and fracturing organize opposition.

So who occupies our black hole.

East Chicago is home to BP (the largest oil refinery in Midwest and second in the nation), Mittal Steel (largest integrated Mill in the country), U.S. Steel, and many other large legacy industries. They own much of the land (>80%) and most of the value in this city.

I cannot help but think that all this smoke represents an intentional failure of civil society to protect its citizens. To who’s benefit? And who benefits from a fractured civil society?

Under the Plumb of Industry:
Included under the plumb of industry are social and environmental costs. In addition to the large industries, East Chicago is also home to some of the poorest census tracts in America. Some of these census blocks have a medium household income less than $11,000. Yet, these same residents pay among the highest property taxes in the country at 8.43%. This is literally the most regressive taxing structure in America. You can’t make this stuff up. And yet, these numbers don’t give an accurate picture of poverty in East Chicago. They are skewed to the high end due to lack of reporting in this population and high city government employment rates. And yes, all this was accomplished under local Democratic leadership.

To make matters worse The Mayor and the East Chicago City Council recently provided BP with a $164 million tax abatement (with out a single public hearing – an illegal act in itself) on the promise of 70 new jobs. These new highly technical jobs will require an advance education that East Chicago residents simply lack. When BP and IDEM held the public hearing last spring on the air permit in Hammond and not East Chicago, BP employees and contractors came out in great numbers. However, less than 3% of them live in East Chicago under the plumb of BP. Too often we identify BP with Whiting, but 2/3 of this new project is presently being planned for East Chicago.

The City of East Chicago is also the single largest employer of East Chicagoans, with 18% of the Workforce employed by the city and city related taxing districts (corporate City, School City, Library, Sanitation, etc.). That translates into ~28% of households receiving a paycheck from the city.

The School District is also the lowest performing district in the State of Indiana, despite having the highest per student investment.

I could go on…

Air Quality:
Based on EPA’s Toxic Release Inventories (TRI), Lake County is ranked as the 7th most polluted county in the country due to atmospheric releases. This high ranking in pollution is attributed to BP, Mittal and U.S. Steel, all of which are concentrated on East Chicago’s lakefront and within a mile outside its borders. This would probably make East Chicago one of the most polluted cities in the country, if not the world. Still, this did not stop the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) and the USEPA from recently re-designating the region as an attainment zone for sulfur dioxide, a convenient re-designation in light of BP’s decision to refine sour crude from the Canadian Tar Sands – a high sulfur product.

Water Quality:
The indiana Harbor Shipping Canal (IHSC) is considered the most polluted waterway in America. It is the only “Area of Concern” on the Great Lakes that fails all measurable “Beneficial Uses.” After 30-years of the Clean Water Act not a single environmental project has been initiated to clean this waterway. The government may have initiated a few projects to stem some releases into the canal, and they may have issued a few fines, but outside of that no real progress has been made, not even the attenuation of time has significantly improved its condition. Today, the City of East Chicago continues to be the greatest violator in Indiana of its NPDES permits, and has not made any efforts to re-engineer its combine sewer overflow system.

If the by-products of industry were included into products and sold on the market, they would be recalled. But since they are freely distributed in communities like East Chicago, the citizens can absorb their benefit. Under such complex plumbs it is almost impossible for a resident to associate a health condition with a source, and yet that is exactly what is being requesting of them to gain standing in the permitting process. A process that needs to be scrapped.

Amazingly, East Chicago no longer has an Environmental Department to guard the health and welfare of its citizens. This too was accomplished under local Democratic leadership. With such glaring impairments you have to ask yourself why there are NO environmental groups doggedly fighting to clean this environment. You would think East Chicago would be a poster child for all kinds of humanitarian and environmental causes. Has this not happened because, I am just wrong in my assessment? That my data conveniently supports a false picture? Or that I do not include any important gains in recent years?

By all measures this area is frozen by 19th century steel-town politics. It is easy for the delicate nature of a post-industrial society to look away from the damage that these industries continue to reek on segments of our society. The NIMBY instinct (not in my back yard) is an attack on the Health and Welfare of our weakest citizen’s.

It may be now be an appropriate time to review the incremental approach environmental groups have adopted in the last two decades and access their achievements. Yes, we can say this approach has delivered some benefits in improving the overall environmental health in our region. yet, it has become overwhelmingly clear that these gains have not met the minimum requirements necessary to sustain a healthy community. East Chicago is a case in point. In fact, it has become apparent, that the incremental approach has failed miserably to meet the requirements necessary to sustain human life on this earth. Granted, the world is large and there reach is limited. Still, we clearly need a new regime, one which maintains the level of trust with industry that the incrementalist have forged, and moves this relationship forward to actually meet the minimum requirements for a healthy sustainable community in East Chicago and elsewhere. There is a lot of work to be done, legislation to be adopted, and 3.4 billion small steps to be made.

Someday, I hope to look out my window and see a green inspiration.

Missing Paintings

January 22nd, 2009 No comments

In my first attempt to get my work seen, two of my paintings were stolen from a group show I participated in with Uncle Freddy’s Gallery. When I first heard they were missing I was not so upset – I didn’t feel terribly invested in them. But now that a month has gone by and I am looking at these images, I am much more upset.

If you have any information regarding the location of the these works, please contact the Hammond police department. 219/852-2906

Lake Effect Series: 56" x 72"

Lake Effect Series: 56" x 72"

Lake Effect Series: 30" x 34"

Lake Effect Series: 30" x 34"











Hammond Gallery Paintings Swiped

Times Correspondent
 | Friday, December 19, 2008 |

HAMMOND | Four monumental paintings collectively valued at $51,000 are missing from a temporary gallery in the former Mercantile National Bank building at 5243 Hohman Ave., police said.

The sheer magnitude of the crime — the largest piece stolen measures 8 feet by 12 feet — has left detectives scratching their heads, and the artists hanging theirs.

“You hope that some of your better work can be around so people can see it,” said well-known local artist Tom Torluemke, whose enamels “Hide & Seek” and “Between Two People” were among the pieces stolen.

The paintings were part of a fall exhibit which reunited some two dozen artists to celebrate the original downtown location of Uncle Freddy’s Gallery, which Torluemke founded with Linda Dorman in 2002.

After the show ended, some of the larger pieces were left at the site with permission from the building’s owner, the Hammond Development Corp., Dorman said, until weather conditions improved.

And then the paintings, including two by East Chicago artist Thomas Frank, were discovered missing on Wednesday.

“We just want them back,” said Torluemke, best known for his 12 foot by 25 foot tile installation, “Jesus Speaks to the Children,” at Andrean High School, terrazzo flooring in Indianapolis International Airport and murals at the Indianapolis-Marion County Central Library.

Torluemke and Dorman said they promise not to press charges if the works are returned or can be recovered undamaged. They ask that anyone with information about the artworks call their gallery at (219) 923-1909.

Police had no suspects as of Thursday afternoon. Detective John Murks can be reached at (219) 852-2906.

Images of some of the missing paintings can be seen at

Categories: Painting

This is a Re-org

January 22nd, 2009 No comments

Be patient with me as I set up this blog and migrate content from other sites.

Categories: Misc