Leah and I became dog parents early in 2022, adopting a 15-pound, two-year-old Jack Russell / Chihuahua mix. Knowing Roe v. Wade would soon be overturned, we named her Maude, after the Bea Arthur character, who in 1972 was the first sitcom character to have an abortion. Living with Maude has been a big adjustment, but after getting over the initial hump, I’m not sure how we ever lived without her. She loves belly rubs, sidewalk snacks, and snoring well above her weight class. We hope to someday train her as well as she’s trained us. She makes us laugh every day.
2022 was a transitional year for me, personally and professionally. I left my job of six years at ProPublica at the beginning of February. I knew I needed a change, not just of employer, but of the kind of work I was doing. I wasn’t sure what shape that change should take, and I’m still not, but my momentum with Plus Equals, the algorithmic art zine I started in 2021, had me itching to focus on art full-time for awhile. And I was fortunate enough to land a steady contract gig for two days a week to keep me afloat while I did.
I only published two of four expected issues of Plus Equals, but I finally got my online shop up and running in April to sell the print edition, which has been an interesting (and sometimes frustrating) challenge. I didn’t meet my goal of breaking even for the year, but I made back about 75% of what I spent, which I’d feel better about if my shop’s traffic hadn’t pretty much flatlined after an early sales spike from existing readers. Having a table at Philly Zine Fest and a little art book fair in Brooklyn helped pick up the slack, and I’m excited to do more events in 2023, but at some point I’ll probably have to get real about online marketing, which is a daunting prospect, especially given my diminished enthusiasm for the social media hamster wheel. But regardless of its performance in the marketplace, I’m still loving making the zine itself, which is the most important thing. I’m planning to write a post soon with more details on what I’ve learned in my first two years of Plus Equals, so keep an eye out for that.
After indulging my affection for halftone screens in Plus Equals #2, I knew I wanted to explore further. I can’t say I expected the journey that followed: spending two and a half months relearning high school geometry (via Khan Academy) in service of developing a Python script, which I then decided to spend the rest of the year expanding into a full-blown web app. That app, which I’m calling Kalinoscope, generates linear halftone screens from existing imagery, allowing me to combine and manipulate the screens in a variety of ways. While it’s capable of virtually photorealistic results, I’m more interested in the other end of the spectrum: geometric abstraction. The abstract images I generate with Kalinoscope will be the basis for a series of paintings and prints. Halftones are generally regarded as more functional than expressive, but I’ve long found a certain poetry in magnifying their contours, and I’m very excited to see where this work leads. Oh, and if you’re wondering, I don’t have any immediate plans to make Kalinoscope publicly available, but I’m looking forward to sharing the art it helps me create.
Though Kalinoscope is aimed at art for art’s sake, I couldn’t resist putting it through its paces on a design project: a title sequence for Beyond Tellerrand, a creative conference held twice a year in Germany. I hadn’t done any motion design in a long time, and this was a really fun way to dust the cobwebs off those skills, especially since I also did the music. I’m keen to repeat the experience: I made an animated trailer for Plus Equals #6 and plan to do the same for future issues, and I was recently commissioned to make another title sequence for a different conference in 2023.
I mentioned in my 2021 wrap-up post that the logo and website I made for the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art would be unveiled early in 2022, and I made good on that promise. It was very satisfying to use my skills to support a local community I believe in, and a relief to discover that getting my head back around WordPress after well over a decade wasn’t nearly as cumbersome as I expected it to be. Eric, who runs PhilaMOCA, says the site is now a joy to update, which makes me feel like a million bucks. And on the other side of the coin, the visual thinking behind the logo concept and execution is just the kind of pure graphic design I’ve really missed doing.
Every year, I’m sure I won’t be able to pull off Robtober in time, and every year, I somehow manage to make it happen, even if I usually have to take some shortcuts and shrink the scope. The movie curation for the past couple of years has been a bit looser than I’d prefer, but on the design side, this year’s ransom note concept came seemingly out of nowhere, and went a long way toward propelling the design and helping it come together in a timely fashion.
In April, I visited Pittsburgh for the first time in nearly 20 years, a quick weekend trip by train on an old-timey coach with a bunch of friends to celebrate Karen’s birthday. Fun! Prior to the birthday dinner, Leah and Katel and I spent most of the day taking in installation art at the Mattress Factory, which I had failed to see on my last visit, and it was worth the wait.
In July, several days of wonderful quality time with my friend Craig and his family in Oregon, followed by a long weekend in Portland for the US Air Guitar National Finals. I didn’t compete this year, but I was asked to judge the finals, which I was excited to do but ultimately didn’t really enjoy. As I wrote recently, I don’t have a lot of faith in my speaking skills these days, and it turns out that doing live performance evaluations in front of hundreds of people is like an adrenaline injection for that insecurity. Much of the rest of my time in Portland was spent alone in a hotel room writing an application for an artist residency I didn’t get, so yeah, not quite the trip I hoped it would be. But it was great as always to hang out with my friends in the USAG community.
In September, I was all set to return to the Ottawa International Animation Festival for its first in-person event since the pandemic, but when I woke up on the day of my flight to Ottawa, I could barely hear anything. It cleared up before long, but my ears had been acting up for months, and the threat of relapse made solo international travel seem like a not great idea, so I canceled the trip, which was hugely disappointing. An otolaryngologist confirmed it was a wax buildup and got me squared away, so at least it wasn’t serious, but if I hadn’t dragged my feet on seeing a doctor, I wouldn’t have had to miss the festival. A month later at the Philadelphia Film Festival, I did at least get to see a few of the films I missed.
In October, we did a fun little glamping weekend with Leah’s family at AutoCamp Catskills and paid a long overdue visit to Dr. Tom Schantz, a cherished professor from my undergrad days, on the way home.
As I said earlier, I wanted to focus on art this year, and so I did. I think I spent more time engaging with art in 2022 than I had in the previous 10 years combined. It was great. Taking advantage of my newly flexible schedule, I began going on what I call “field days” on a semi-weekly basis. The idea was basically to force myself to get out of the house for the day and absorb things in the outside world, which most often took the form of museum and gallery visits. Some of my favorites, in chronological order:
- Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror (Philadelphia Museum of Art)
- Joan Semmel: Skin in the Game (Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art)
- Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley: Blood Moon (Fabric Workshop and Museum)
- James Turrell: After Effect (Pace Gallery)
- Ad Reinhardt: Color Out of Darkness (Pace Gallery)
- Peter Alexander (Pace Gallery)
- Sophie Taeuber-Arp: Living Abstraction (Museum of Modern Art)
- Walton Ford (Gagosian Gallery)
- Dennis Maher: A Second Home (Mattress Factory)
- From the Ground Up: Artists and the Built Environment (Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art)
- Sean Scully: The Shape of Ideas (Philadelphia Museum of Art)
- Charles Ray: Figure Ground (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
- Epic Abstraction: Pollock to Herrera (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
- Array Phase One: Peter Tollens, Six Paintings 2004–2009 (Larry Becker Contemporary Art)
I’m going to try to do a better job of properly documenting these outings in 2023.
We said goodbye to the great Mimi Parker in November, and I took it pretty hard. I even priced out a quick trip to Duluth for her funeral (which was open to the public), but ultimately decided against it. The end of Low wasn’t something I thought I’d have to worry about for a long time, and all of a sudden it was upon me. The fact that I was unduly critical of what turned out to be my final Low show, in March, didn’t make it sting any less. But I take comfort in the fact that over the years, I saw Low perform literally almost every chance I got, so there’s little opportunity for regret.
After Omicron settled down a bit, that Low show was my first of the year, and I made it to 17 others as well, including some bucket-listers: Kraftwerk, Def Leppard, and “Weird Al” Yankovic. Plus I finally got to be in the same room as Otoboke Beaver and I revisited some old favorites like Ghost, Melt-Banana, and Archers of Loaf. These shows were spread out all over the place, and I barely visited any venues more than once:
|Citizens Bank Park
|Cure Insurance Arena
|Dobbs on South
|First Unitarian Church (Basement)
|Kung Fu Necktie
|The Met Philadelphia
|World Cafe Live
Some others worth mentioning:
- Super Champon by Otoboke Beaver
- Hiroshima EP and Kyoto EP by Site Nonsite
- Living Torch by Kali Malone
- I will not use the body’s eyes today by Fire-Toolz
- VMAK<KOMBZ<<<DUGLAS<<6NDR7<<< by Douglas McCombs
- Custodians of Human Succession by Kilynn Lunsford
I watched 174 movies in 2022, continuing an upward trend. Twenty-nine were in theaters, and nearly half of those theatrical screenings were outré offerings of the Philadelphia Psychotronic Film Society at PhilaMOCA. I was also happy to return to what used to be the Ritz East theater in Old City, which had been closed since the start of the pandemic and was recently commandeered and reopened by the Philadelphia Film Society.
|PFS at the Bourse
|AMC Dine-In Fashion District
|Lightbox Film Center
|Betsy Ross House
|Mann Center for the Performing Arts
At home, Criterion Channel continued to prove its value:
My favorite films of 2022, in alphabetical order:
- The Banshees of Inisherin: A big improvement over Martin McDonagh’s previous film, bleak and poignantly funny in equal measure.
- The House: About as Rob Weychert as movies come. Uneven, but ambitious enough to make up for it. Between this and Mad God, stop-motion surrealism may have had more eyeballs on it in 2022 than ever before. I doubt it will translate to blockbuster success, but if the genre can build a cult following from this momentum to sustain itself and embolden more filmmakers, I’ll be a happy camper. See my original review.
- RRR: Between its bombastic action set pieces, vibrant musical numbers, and wholesome bromance, RRR’s uniquely maximalist approach brought both the quantity and the quality, making it the most thoroughly entertaining film of the year, so much so that I didn’t even mind its blatantly nationalist propaganda.
- Speak No Evil: Absolutely punishing Danish social satire in the vein of Lars von Trier or Michael Haneke that literally made my jaw drop. See my original review.
- Tár: A work of rare sophistication, and an honest examination of the complexity inherent in our relationships with artists, their imperfections, and the power structures they occupy. A career defining performance from Cate Blanchett. Visuals and sound whose lush dynamics are unassuming but nevertheless demand to be experienced in a proper theater. Just marvelous.
Some others I still intend to see include Petite Maman, Crimes of the Future, Bones and All, and EO. I feel like I should see Nope, The Northman, and Avatar: The Way of Water, but I can’t seem to convince myself I actually want to.
Ambitions for 2023
- Kalinoscope: I spent much of the past year building the tool, and now I’m ready to use the tool to make the art. A lot of experimentation lies ahead, but I have a lot of faith in my artistic vision for this project, which is a rare thing for me. On an experiential note, as someone whose work has for many years been primarily digital, I’m especially excited that more time painting and printmaking will mean less time in front of a glowing rectangle. Can’t wait to get my hands actually dirty!
- Plus Equals: Plus Equals #7 is currently underway and hopefully I’ll get back on a proper quarterly publishing schedule this year. I’ve really enjoyed discussing the project with people in person at events, so I’ll be on the lookout for more art book fairs and zine fests.
- RobWeychert.com V7: I haven’t been bothered by the slow pace of my redesign before now, but with Twitter officially behind me, it feels more important than ever to get this thing up and running. It’s still too early for deadlines, and there’s a lot of work to do, but let me just say aloud that one way or another, I hope to archive V6 and start publishing exclusively on V7 before the end of the first half of 2023.
- Volunteer work: 2022 was a somewhat self-centered year for me, and I want to start paying some of that privilege forward. I’ll be looking for opportunities to use my skills and donate my time to advocate for bicycles and public transportation.
- The job hunt: Still keeping an eye out for the next thing, still not sure quite what I want it to be. Hit me up if you’re hiring and think I might be a good fit.