Sold and Stolen

No matter how dismal First Thursday is, there's always something that saves it, that snatches the evening right out of the gutter. What saved it last week was finding Dylan Neuwirth in the Occidental Mall outdoor art market, wedged in between two other artists and selling the most pathetic little array of objects I have ever seen: a tiny painting, two tiny sculptures, and a bag of peanuts. He was wearing a new mustache, a slightly batty grin, and one of his Black Cross T-shirts; when I asked what the hell he was doing there, he said, "I just thought I'd set up and see what happened."

Hooray for the small provocative gesture--the kind of tart, unexpected encounter that Neuwirth is very good at (his show Gold Hick a few months ago at Artcore seemed, by contrast, more mannered and baroque). It is especially appropriate in light of the city's plan to hold the Occidental Mall artists to municipal vendor laws (see Amy Jenniges' news story, page 15). If you were inclined to read Neuwirth's deliberately half-assed presence at the market as a political text, you might detect a sardonic comment on the quality of the art sold there, or else on the market's infiltration by non-artists. For myself, I prefer to see him as someone who continues to tweak our comfortable frames of reference.

The other thing that made life worthwhile last Thursday was Crime Spree: The Dine and Dash Project, which I found at Outlaw, a one-night-only art and music thing. For this adventure, two (obviously) anonymous artists dined and dashed for an entire month, and then published a little book of restaurant reviews. Crime Spree is, surprisingly, an excellent read: an angry but controlled narrative, not without its humanity, and with a built-in ethics system (they tried to stick to big-chain corporate places, and always left a tip).

An existential undertone tolls through the project--brief appearances made by guilt, and by something that might be fatigue; some days are tersely represented by the designation "no meals." The moral lines are not as clearly drawn as you might think. And then there was the philosophical question presented by the payment jar. Crime Spree cost a dollar. Does one read and dash? I didn't.

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Congratulations to Susan Dory, who was awarded the 2003 Neddy Artist Fellowship in a little ceremony/cocktail party at the Convention Center last week. The Neddy is a generous award sponsored by the Behnke Foundation, in memory of artist Ned Behnke. This year's judge happened to be my old friend Mary-Kay Lombino, the curator of exhibitions at University Art Museum, California State University, Long Beach.

Dory was plucked from a pretty intimidating lineup of very established artists (Robert C. Jones, Randy Hayes, and Barbara Earl Thomas) for the $15,000 fellowship. If you're not familiar with her work, for God's sake go to www.howardhouse.net and take a look.

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