The Bad Batch is a stark and stunning new film by Ana Lily Amirpour. And timely too, considering every effort by our current regime to cast those of seeming naught into the desperate oblivions of a world only slightly less unhinged than the one depicted in this film. With a nod to the current depravity of our day, the film opens (forgive my indulgence) in the wet dream of said regime whose spooging head is our ever-ranting, ever-pissy Child-in-Chief — let’s call him Boy — he who nightly wets his bed and in the dreamy slosh fingers blindly for his own plundered asshole. Were the Boy blessedly in this film, he’d be swiftly on a sizzling spit: fatted swine for its flesh-hungry natives. [Read more…]
“What I am trying to get across is that material is a means of communication.”
An exhibition entitled Material as Metaphor, currently at the Craft and Folk Art Museum, brings together eleven contemporary West Coast sculptors (Lloyd Hamrol, Victoria May, Lisa C Soto, Joel Allen, Miyoshi Barosh, Mary Little, Phyllis Green, Christy Matson, Senga Nengudi, Kay Whitney, May Wilson) who mostly use non-traditional materials such as industrial felt, vinyl, pantyhose, found thrift store crocheted blankets, rubber inner tubes, and other organic or manufactured items to create the predominately soft, sensuous, and idiosyncratic free standing and wall pieces. [Read more…]
The geometer’s circle is a perfect abstraction, a static and timeless singularity. The naturalist prefers ripples on a pond: plural, overlapping, and dynamic. Throughout their histories, much of philosophy and art have sided with the geometer, regarding the eternal form as more real, more substantial. This perspective denounces the transitional for its decay and change; it sees permanence as superior.
In his essay “Circles,” Ralph Waldo Emerson takes a different approach. He says, “Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning; that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens.” [Read more…]
Don’t call Victor Gastelum a stencil artist. Yes he wields an X-Acto blade like the Master of the Flying Guillotine, but long before Bansky was spraying 2-D cliches onto London walls, Victor was creating images that resonated like stills from an unknown film noir. It’s hard to remember now that there was a time when low riders and Mexican wrestlers were not in rap videos and beer commercials, but it was during those late 80’s and 90’s that Victor took the stuff of his childhood visual culture and created images that contain both literal and figurative depth. We sat in his studio in Long Beach and talked about his journey from making Punk flyers to working at SST Records and navigating the art world like Mr. Magoo. [Read more…]
Arms elbow deep in white suds,
Soul washed clean,
Clothes washed clean,–
I have many songs to sing you
Could I but find the words
“A Song to a Negro Wash-Woman”
by Langston Hughes
Wall text of the first (above) and last stanza of this Langston Hughes poem, an elegiac ode to the over worked and unappreciated Negro wash-woman, coupled with ten of Betye Saar’s own vintage washboards, set the tone for this poignant, powerful, and political show entitled Keepin’ it Clean. At 90, the venerable Betye Saar still clearly has plenty of “fire power,” as demonstrated by this quietly explosive body of work—about half from the mid to late 1990’s (Saar began collecting washboards in the 1990’s) and the other, more recent pieces are from 2015-17. [Read more…]
The art of Carol Rama occupies a strange and singular space; Rama, a self-confirmed outsider, is poised on a chosen cusp. Not a true outsider artist herself (her intense, self-conscious stoking of her own particular obsessive-compulsive neuroses precludes that) she provides a unique meta-vision — even a celebration — of the outsider mindset. She is a self-proclaimed insider of an outsider world, which she obsessively observes, reveling in recording its scatological and erotic impulses.
Henry Darger and Martin Ramirez were equally obsessed: it is fair to say that they all, including Rama, suffered from some degree of obsessive-compulsive disorder, just as does the uber-successful artist Yayoi Kusama. Louise Bourgeois once famously called her art “a form of therapy.” Or, as Rama put it, “We all have our own tropical disease within us, for which we seek a remedy. My remedy is painting.” [Read more…]
1973. David Lynch had been shooting Eraserhead for roughly one year when he ran out of cash. The film was suddenly and indefinitely on hold. It was, he says, “a depressing time.” It was also this time that the American Film Institute asked a friend of his, Fred, to shoot a test using two different black and white video stocks to determine which stock was best, because, as Lynch tells it, “they were going to buy a bunch.” Lynch says when he heard AFI was buying video tapes, “it gave me a sadness, and I worried they were going to have to change the name of the place” (from American Film Institute to American Video Institute). “So I looked at Fred, and I got an idea, and I said, um, ‘Fred, does it matter what you shoot?’ And he said, ‘Well, what are you talking about?” And I said ‘Could you shoot anything you want? Twice. One with one stock and one with the other, and go like that, for the test?’ And he said, ‘Well, I don’t see why not.’ So I said, ‘Could I write something and make something for tomorrow?’ And he said, ‘Okay.’”
That evening Lynch wrote The Amputee. The next day he shot this video:
One line on 4:44, the 13th solo album by rapper Jay-Z, implores listeners to “Stop me when I stop telling the truth.” If that’s the case, you can’t stop this album for its entire 34 minutes. Featuring some of his most introspective and lyrical wordplay since 2007’s American Gangster, 4:44 is essentially a comeback record after a series of projects that were commercially successful but weren’t particularly critically well-received by reviewers or fans. It finds the 47-year-old drug dealer-turned-rapper-turned-multi-millionaire businessman at a crossroads of sorts, reflecting on his choices thus far and laying out the motivations for the directions he’s going in next; each of the ten tracks weave the musings of the man Shawn Carter against the rap mogul Jay-Z and back again. [Read more…]
Works by artists from South of the Sahara are being exhibited at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris, one of three exhibitions of African art. The building, a folly Frank Gehry has indulged in his advancing years, reportedly cost just under 900 million dollars, while less than a decade earlier his Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao cost a comparatively scant $100 million.
The works are part of a collection that curator André Magnin has put together on behalf of Jean Pigozzi, an art collector and heir to the Simca automobile brand. Pigozzi owns yachts and islands and admits, quite unabashedly, he has never set foot on the African continent and doesn’t plan to. Despite this rather paradoxical setup, the art — vibrant, expressive, masterly — silences any misgivings about the contradictions between art market and free expression, about the morality of exiling these works from their native audience, about the appropriateness of an “African Art” label and, finally, about the subjectivity of a Western critic’s review. [Read more…]
Born in San Antonio, Texas, and schooled in Chicago and Los Angeles, the multi-hyphenated artist, musician, and publisher Aaron Curry is an amalgam of diverse but cohesive geographic and aesthetic influences. The selected works in his curated show, Press Your Space Face Close To Mine, at The Pit, reflect the impact of each place on his art practice, including teachers, artists and musicians. In addition to his own installation, there are works by Sadie Benning, Richard Hawkins & Elijah Burgher, Gary Panter, AR Penck, Barbara Rossi, Dieter Roth, Don Van Vliet, John Wesley, Robert Williams, and Karl Wirsum. [Read more…]
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre,” sounds the opening line to W.B. Yeats’s lamentable ode to the cyclical turns of history, The Second Coming. Almost a century after its writing, those words have taken on a particular prescience in light of our present perilous politics—a fact that has not alluded the commentariat. It seems only appropriate then that in this the year 2017, a city like New York should receive a visual reminder of Yeats in the form of Anish Kapoor’s Descension, a massive whirlpool currently making literal waves in Brooklyn Bridge Park. [Read more…]
This exhibition of Ellsworth Kelly’s plant drawings is a companion exhibition to Ellsworth Kelly, Last Paintings, shown at the Matthew Marks space directly next door on West 22nd Street. The late Ellsworth Kelly’s oeuvre is unusual in that he pursued quite various themes and ways of artmaking in a range of media, including painting, drawing, prints, and photographs. Ellsworth Kelly had wanted to pursue art from a young age, and following a tour of service in the Army during World War II, he studied art in Boston and then Paris. He began making drawings of plants in the late 1940s in both of these cities, and his fascination with plants as subject continued throughout his career. [Read more…]
Few contemporary painters nail the zeitgeist as pointedly as Eric Fischl. The artist is in top form at his current show “Late America;” five large-scale canvases that pack a paunchy punch: the Hamptons’ haute bourgeoisie, magnified poolside by harsh daylight in the full flawed glory of their middle-aged decadence.
Fischl’s merciless vision is equally unkind to the men and women in these works, but here the men fare slightly worse. This is the decline of the American empire in painted Technicolor, and its various iterations depict the nominal heads of household as gracelessly aging emperors without any clothes. Although the show’s press release states that the pieces are not political, it is hard not to think of the wizened white patriarchs currently in power. [Read more…]
In 1916, when Florine Stettheimer was 45 and had been painting for over 20 years, she had her first solo show at the Knoedler Gallery in New York. Half way through the show, she wrote in her diary: “I am not selling much to my amazement.” And, at the end, “Nothing sold.” She did not get the recognition she expected as an artist through the sale of her paintings. Reviews were derisive or indifferent at best. It must have hurt. Had her paintings sold, she would have joined the ranks of painters such as O’Keeffe and Aaron Douglas and Arthur Dove and Gaston Lachaise, her Modernist friends who lived from their art. Instead, she was denied an escape from her position as an upper class idler. From then on, she refused all solo shows. She embraced brazenly her identity as upper class, at least publicly. She overpriced her paintings to prevent any sales. [Read more…]
at David Krut Projects, NYC Reviewed by Robin Scher
Since the days of cave paintings, the human need to represent and be represented has served as a powerful impulse to create art. This desire has manifested in many forms and been fulfilled in various fashions. Icons and Avatars, a current group show at New York’s David Krut Projects, presents five international contemporary artists who continue this tradition through portraiture. [Read more…]
at Cristin Tierney Gallery, NYC
Reviewed by Robin Scher
Picture documentary and artwork as a Venn diagram. Sometimes the line between the two categories is blurred. A fine example of this can be found in Janet Biggs’s three channel installation, Afar, currently on show at New York’s Cristin Tierney gallery, which offers viewers a brief visual sojourn to East Africa’s Great Rift Valley — “the most unlivable place on earth.” [Read more…]
The Georgia O’Keeffe show at the Brooklyn Museum is an ode to the artist as icon. The exhibit combines little-seen early work with the artist’s own clothing–including dresses, jeans, shoes, and hats—as well as photographs taken by her famous husband, Alfred Stieglitz, and a dozen or so other noted photographers, to illustrate the extent to which O’Keefe — much like Warhol — was the brilliant architect of her own enduring image. [Read more…]
Kang Seung Lee’s two part exhibition at Commonwealth & Council reflects in part on photography’s documentary capacity by re-examining and reproducing photographs. Lee’s project grapples with the indexical nature of photography, but moves beyond merely exploring concerns surrounding what Roland Barthes called photography’s “evidential force.” [Read more…]
There was no way it was ever not going to be a mess: eleven years of one of the most influential American art galleries, condensed into a 100,000 square foot section of LACMA’s Resnick Pavilion. Consider the fact that many of the artworks in the 134 exhibitions held over those eleven years turned out to be canonical Modernist masterpieces, and were acquired by museums or major private collections around the globe, many now unwilling or unable to lend them. Others were destroyed, or lost, or are too delicate to go on public display. Some – not all of them masterpieces – entered LACMA’s own collection, so of course they wound up in this show, whether they fully deserved to be there or not. [Read more…]
Point Blank is the title of the exhibition of four new paintings by Berlin based German painter Marcel Eichner (b. 1977, Siegburg, Germany) at James Fuentes Gallery, New York. In this show, Eichner works in acrylic and ink, with vigorous ink drawing and marks on broad washes of acrylic ground in pastel pinks and blues, and areas of white. These paintings mark the fulfillment of a new phase in Eichner’s approach to painting, since he has now moved away from his earlier idiom derived from the style of his mentor at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Jörg Immendorff. In his earlier work, Eichner emulated the piecework integration of figure and ground that is characteristic of Immendorff, an almost claustrophobic “interior-view” aesthetic so often found in the German Expressionist tradition. [Read more…]
It would be easy to say that the alternative histories portrayed in the works of Umar Rashid are perfectly timed to reflect the era of “alternative facts” taking place in this historical moment. But the truth is, if you are going to make art intended to talk, both directly and indirectly, about the oppression of people of color and the suppression of their history, there is no time in the modern era when the work would not seem timely.
As Frohawk Two Feathers, and now Umar Rashid, the artist re-imagines 18th century history in images that recall traditional portraiture, folk art and Native American art but updated with details from the contemporary world. The mash-up allows him to speak simultaneously about the past and the present, accompanied by a complicated written narrative that must be read to fully understand the work. [Read more…]
Silent Voices at LewAllen Galleries, Santa Fe NM Reviewed by John Biscello
During a recent visit to Santa Fe, I chanced upon the artwork of Linda Stojak. Her show, Silent Voices, was being featured at LewAllen Galleries, and entering the shrine-like atmosphere of the nine-painting exhibition, I immediately felt as if I were holding sacred vigil or bearing witness to metamorphic elegies.
The female subjects comprising Silent Voices seem to exist in a haunted chrysalis state, or embryonic purgatory. Their faces, ashen swabs which are kin to Di Chirico’s faceless enigmas, suggest not only the tragic obliteration of identity but also the potential for rebirth, i.e., a Bardo makeover. [Read more…]
at The Harwood Museum of Art, Taos NM
Reviewed by Erin Currier
Not unlike tin scraps gathered, then painstakingly crafted and painted into ex-voto offerings under the dim flicker of propane lamps in the outer rings of Mexico City, Antigua, or Salvador, and not unlike the mid-century Beat “cut-ups” of William S. Burroughs scattered like lotus petals on a mosaic tiled floor in the junk-sick dawn of Tangiers, and not unlike the embroidered Ayahuasca-dreamt songlines of the Amazonian Shipibo, Anthony Hassett’s pen, ink and glaze drawings in Japanese Moleskin albums are rhythms of a history at once autobiographical and universal: poetic calling cards shuffled and laid bare in a line by an adept renderer’s hand that has the strength and fury of a fighter’s fist combined with the mystical empathy of a Stigmata. [Read more…]
On Saturday, January 21st of this year, Tony welcomed me into he and Erin’s warm home. Greeting me at the door with a big hug and smile, Tony, despite his ongoing lengthy battle with cancer, was his usual self: cracking gallows humour jokes about his health, about the newly inaugurated President Trump, the cop-rotten planet, and so much more. [Read more…]