jesse sugarmann


During a talk at his gallery Fourteen30, I once asked Jesse Sugarmann if failure was something he was exploring in his work. In other words, were his car works in particular, experiments with equal opportunities of success and failure, or even experiments with no determined outcome, for example setting a car up on blocks rev the engine and see what will happen. He responded that failure wasn’t something he was interested in per se, that he worked to make certain outcomes happen.

He say, “one more job oughta get it
One last shot ‘fore we quit it”
One for the road

TBA:11/Jesse Sugarmann “Lido (the pride is back)” from Lisa Radon on Vimeo.


That came to mind yesterday at the 4 PM performance of Sugarmann’s “Lido (The pride is back)” at Washington High School for PICA’s TBA:11 Festival. And this has a lot to do with managing the audience’s expectations because lifting three Chrysler minivans off the ground is pretty spectacular, but when PICA had used the word “flip” to describe the performance, one expects flipping or falling over maybe, but probably not leaning which was the end result. He’s doing the performance twice more today, Sunday, September 11, so flipping may happen at either 4 PM or 7 PM. I can’t help thinking, though, that the promise of a flip and the resulting lean might have been Sugarmann’s intention all along, a metaphor for American car industry’s repeated big promises and not-quite-there delivery not only on product but all of the attendant issues that the US has been dealing with since manufacturing was moved overseas, workers lost family-wage jobs, and cities like Flint and Detroit fell apart. Sugarmann’s expressly referencing Lee Iacocca in this piece. I never knew that Lido was Iacocca’s nickname, but don’t ever say you didn’t learn anything from art. Iacocca’s big personality had a definite “Watch this!” edge to it which makes either a flip or a fail-to-flip outcome pretty apt.

I should say that the whining soundtrack of the electric blowers may be my favorite part of the piece.

I recently wrote this for art ltd. about Sugarmann’s recent Works and Days solo exhibition at Fourteen30 which explains a bit more about the celebration and critique of American car culture that his work addresses in what I think are such smart and subtle ways.

I’m not even going to be annoyed with Sugarmann for getting that Boz Scaggs song stuck in my head (which I apparently…according to…I have been singing incorrectly since I first heard it).

It could be the theme song for the last 30 or so years of the American car industry:

Lido missed the boat
That day he left the shack
But that was all he missed
He ain’t comin’ back.

Photo: Andrew Billing. PICA's 16th Birthday Party. Holocene. Portland, OR


How sweet was PICA’s Sweet 16 birthday party at holocene? A big mess of cotton candy sweet. Reminded me of TBA late nights when everyone’s around, music’s good, kind of have to yell to talk but you do it anyway, or dance. Reporter, Miracles Club, Emily (DJ New Moon Poncho) spun before and after, and it was so good. “You make me feel mighty real.” And I love that some Jesse Sugarmann-ed one of the PICA van invites (see above) (was it Jesse?).


Reporter. Photo: Tim Kamerer.


Above the bar there was a projection of live video of the photobooth-in-the-van outside manned by brilliantly by Sokhun Keo. AND NOW there are the photos to prove it and more. Thanks PICA crew.


PICA CREW. Photo: Sokhun Keo

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