Monday, May 24, 2010

This Just In...

The US Men's National Team training camp in Princeton has not provided a lot of news. This is frustrating to fans combing the internets for indications of Coach Bob Bradley's intentions to fill the many question marks in his line up, and Soccer in the US could probably benefit from a small window of media attention that it gets around the World Cup every four years. But it's probably a good thing for the team who are burdened with a double set of expectations. 

The expectations for the US team tend to be framed in the context of a mainstream media that goes into full butt-covering mode after years of explaining away editorial prejudice by calling soccer “boring”, “unathletic” or even, in the famous words of one gridiron shill, “a commie, pansy sport.”

 Informed readers will notice quite a bit of fantastical evaluations of the team from writers who are accustomed to American sports leagues, where a common occurence is a fairly lightly-regarded team getting on a five game hot streak and going to the Super Bowl. This is the same fantasy world where a team from the East can beat a team from the Midwest, and be declared “World Champion”, though neither of them has actually played the world. 

This World Cup is a true world championship, with 200 plus teams starting out, and the last 32 contesting the Cup. Surprises do happen (especially in Mundiales where the host is not particularly strong), but only seven coutries have ever actually won. The wheels of change in International Football turn slowly.

For the players, the pressure to prove soccer is a sport worthy of this sudden media attention is conflated with the pressure to beat teams with far better development systems and experienced players. Those who follow the team know that the reality is that the team is young, and speedy (far from “unathletic”), but still lacks the vision and subtlety of touch required to consistently win at top levels. It will be a step up for them to just play consistent football versus heavyweights or even other pretenders from Europe and Africa, whom they've always struggled against. This year, they are placed in a group composed of just such teams, England, Slovenia and Algeria. 

The first indication of how they'll do comes Tuesday and Saturday, as they take on Czech Republic and Turkey, respectively. These are strong European squads which significantly, got beaten out of WC spots by other, stronger teams, such as England and Slovenia. The Tuesday game will precede the final roster cut-down, the Turkey game is the first tune up with the final squad.  

The games don't count in the standings but are significant for young athletes who must react to the pressure to win a roster spot, and the US team overall will no longer be able to avoid the spotlight. 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Folk and Jazz

Can't believe how quickly the Monotype Workshop I'm teaching at the Art Students League of Denver is winding down! I also can't believe the diversity of prints we continue to see there. Tuesday I did a quick demo on Chine Colle, a sort of collage technique where colored paper is glued onto the main ( usually white) paper during printing. 

Two different approaches are seen here. Barbara (top) laid down a criss-cross pattern featuring the colors of the Italian flag ( turns out she's from my hometown of Buffalo, NY) under a lively, folk art style rendering of a tree. The Chine Colle element adds emotional depth to an already strong graphic.

Beth ( below), has favored experimental modernism since the class began, as in her studio work. Mondrian would have disapproved of her jazzy diagonals and intersections, but our class meets only 3 blocks from Broadway Ave, so he would easily see the "Boogie Woogie" element here. Well balanced color, with blue and black triangles providing a steady beat for the orange, red and acid green. 

I'm preparing a proposal for another, very similar workshop in the fall. I think we had a pretty good time, and I know of one participant, at least, who learned a lot ( the instructor). I'm also teaching a one-day workshop at the League Saturday, Aug. 7. You can register for either right here. 

Want a free sample? Got that, too. Tomorrow at my show at Open Press ( 40 W. Bayaud), I'm doing a demo and gallery talk that's open to the public, with drinks served. That's 2 PM. 

Was going to debut the long-awaited Squishtoid Manifesto there, but the monkeys working at my bank of used Remington Selectrics got a little grumbly when I brought that idea up. Then again, they've been working hard, and so have I. I might have to give us all the entire World Cup off. 

Monday, May 17, 2010

It Begins

Today, the most significant story in sports will come out of Princeton, NJ, though the sports talk wing of right-wing talk radio will work hard to ignore it. The United States Men's National Team will gather for the first day of practice in advance of the World Cup. The Mundial is by far the world's greatest and most popular sports event, despite one "lite" beer commercial repeatedly assuring its empty-calorie-swilling fans that gridiron throwball is "the world's most popular sport". Simply repeating it during the numerous stops in action of an NFL punt-a-thon doesn't make it so, and the World Cup would dwarf a month of Super Bowls. 

The young, speedy American team probably lacks the experience and subtlety needed to go far in the Cup, but the event is significant to Americans in more ways than that. It's being held in South Africa this year, and many would like to see Barack Obama pay a visit (though not the hard pressed South African police).

The symbolic value of this would be hard to miss- except on sports yell radio. The first black President of the U.S. visiting the one country whose record on race is as dark, yet as potentially redemptive, as ours. Throw in the Obama administration's work to repair the damage done to the USA's image by the single-mindedly unilateral Bushies, and the fact that Africa is a continent that could really use a bit of good news, and you can see that football isn't popular just because it's exciting to watch. It really does have the power to bring diverse peoples together, and to inspire hope and change. 

But of course, that's another story you won't find on American sports pages. They get right on those soccer riots, though. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

May already! This is a very busy time of year for me even without a day job, have no idea how I managed it with one. This post will be a hodge podge just to let you know I'm still breathing- I'll shoot for a longer post later this week. 

First, thank you to Conor O'Donnell ( and all of the artists in the workshop) for letting me post these  prints.  Check out my Facebook page for more. It's really been fun to see the wide variety of approaches, they look great on the pages, and the images provide me with talking points while I'm so busy. There have been some nice comments on the work, which I pass along to the artists. The class itself has been real fun. If you feel like leaving a comment, feel free. Though we've moved into color, Conor is still liking the rich black and grays on white, with the nice, sharp graphic look coming as a result of stencil. 

The Open Press show is up and running, and there have been some sales (to some of my previous collectors, hooray). There are two events associated with that still to come, a demo and gallery talk May 22, and The June First Friday. Come down for a drink if you are in town!

Of course, those who know me well know that all of this frantic activity is in aid of only one thing: sitting on me bum all June, watching football! As you can see, I did start a series of posts on the various groups a while back, then got swamped. I still hope to post more on the World Cup, if only to get myself psyched up for the world's greatest sporting event. 

And naturally, I still have cultural opinions. Expect some sort culture wars-type of screed sometime soon. Nothing gets me and the typewriter monkees in the back room fired up quicker than soccer-related xenophobia.