American Women (dismantling the border) II (48″x60″) depicts the U.S. Mexico wall being dismantled by American Indigenous women (Comanche, Navajo, on the U.S. side; Aztec, Miztec, Mayan, on the Mexican side). Most borders which define Nation States — topics of such heated debate — were only recently built, created by Colonial conquest, and are false constructs: hastily drawn lines etching across and carving up lands inhabited for millennia by Indigenous peoples. Thus, it is the right of the Indigenous to dismantle the oppressive walls and artificial distinctions of the world: walls that slice through the heart of communities and ecosystems, the only function of which is fear based exclusion. [Read more…]
Soon after the start of “Paris, Texas,” Harry Dean Stanton appears in an astonishing gorge called the Devil’s Graveyard. He’s playing a lost soul, Travis, who will spend the rest of the film getting found. Right now, though, surrounded by rock formations that evoke the westerns of John Ford, Travis is an enigma. On foot and wholly alone save for a watchful eagle, wearing a red cap and an inexplicable double-breasted suit, Travis looks like a former cowboy or maybe a businessman who took a wrong turn. He looks like someone Dorothea Lange might have photographed during the Great Depression. He looks like the American West, all sinew, dust and resolve. [Read more…]
Vacation-starved New Yorkers could nonetheless repair to David Zwirner gallery this summer, on West 19th St. and view James Welling’s short film Seascape (2017). The film provides an ingratiating encounter with the storied, rock-festooned Maine coast, accompanied by an audio of accordion and taped ocean sound. There is no narration, just image, sound and elegiac music, as ocean waves endlessly and variously crash upon the rocks, the sun becomes clouded then bright again, and water and sky ever change hue. America “grew up” with landscape painting of the Romantic era, beginning effectively with Thomas Cole, and, continuing in the dramatic seascape narratives of the Maine coast by Winslow Homer. Welling’s film adds yet another iteration of aesthetic and method to this tradition [Read more…]
Glen Rubsamen’s paintings of locales around the Los Angeles region, which are selected using a conceptual schema based on virtual mapping, combine idealized images of landscapes pared down to essentials, and a sense of detached irony. Visually reminiscent of Ed Ruscha’s paintings of Los Angeles and the West—but without the conceptual text-based play or the monumentality and horizontal scale, they rely on clichés of Los Angeles to reproduce a kind of iconography that is familiar and, like Ruscha’s, cinematic: palm trees (and the occasional eucalyptus) and vast expanses of sky, rendered in heightened, lozenge colored hues. Rubsamen’s paintings, exhibited at Christopher Grimes Gallery this summer under the title “The Disguise Was Almost Perfect,” are accompanied by a poster sized map, available as take-away, adapted from a hand-drawn 1915 Automobile Club map of the region, on which the artist has overlaid graphics of his paintings push-pinned to their correlated location. [Read more…]
The new Twin Peaks (2017) finds David Lynch working in fresh and sublimely haunting domains, ones that pleasurably flirt or unnervingly skirt the spectral drop-offs of some charged and sinister abyss. This seems no visional or evolutional change of tack, nor does it appear, at least in these early episodes, Lynch is newly surveying unmapped terrains. Rather, there is something more elevated in this late-career landscape, and something far more intimate as well. One senses, when viewing this new series, particularly his excursions into Lynchian Other-Realms, that his articulation of these doppelgänging worlds feel more experiential than conceptual, more occupied than conceptualized. [Read more…]
The new kid on the block is the The Marciano Art Foundation, which showcases the art collection (some 1,500 pieces strong) that the brothers Paul and Maurice have collected since 1980. Instead of building a new structure, the Marciano brothers (of Guess fame) chose to buy and remodel the striking Scottish Rite Masonic Temple on Wilshire, which was designed by Millard Sheets. [Read more…]
The legendary Glen Campbell died today at age 81 following a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He will be missed.
Here he is on an old TNN special with a room full of country music legends, including Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Roy Clarke, Chet Aikins, Ray Stevens, Tammy Wynette and Crystal Gayle:
In his New York Review of Books commentary, excerpted below, Martin Filler speaks to the wealth of new material out on Frank Lloyd Wright, including two current exhibitions and four new books. You can read the full review in the August 17 issue, or read it on site at nybooks.com
Few things are more satisfying in the arts than unjustly forgotten figures at last accorded a rightful place in the canon, as has happened in recent decades with such neglected but worthy twentieth-century architects as the Slovenian Jože Plečnik, the Austrian Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, the Austrian-Swedish Josef Frank, and the Italian-Brazilian Lina Bo Bardi, among others. Then there are the perennially celebrated artists who are so important that they must be presented anew to each successive generation, a daunting task for museums, especially encyclopedic ones that are expected to revisit the major masters over and over again while finding fresh reasons for their relevance. [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…]
“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…]
Sofia Coppola’s sixth movie, The Beguiled, has been making waves recently. An adaptation of a 1966 book and 1971 movie featuring Clint Eastwood, the plot follows a group of isolated Confederate women and the havoc wrought by an unexpected Union soldier who drops into their midst. Starring such recognizable names as Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning, it has been lauded as a feat of mood, art direction, acting, and costuming, with the cast as well as Coppola herself garnering platitudes: she won Best Director at Cannes Film Festival for the film, making her the first woman director in 56 years and only the second overall to win the prestigious award. Oscar buzz is already swirling.
However, the film has also generated controversary for its use of an entirely white cast against the backdrop of the Civil War-ravaged South, despite the fact that the source material included Black women characters in Edwina, a free mixed race teacher who hides her Black parentage, and Mattie, a house slave. [Read more…]
Doctor Walker was a cold incisive surgeon; he went by the book. He was one of the first that created to-do lists and this made the operations run smooth. The scalpel has no heart. He was a sort of literalist. And Bob, as they called the anesthesiologist, came always rumpled with the same plaid shirt everyday and seemed to click the gas just at the right time to put the patient under the spell. There was an ether about him. [Read more…]
Igor Posner’s untitled photograph (below) is from his newly released book, Past Perfect Continuous. Mary Di Lucia’s response to that photograph, titled “A Brief History of Mid-Century Portraiture” (also below), is excerpted from her new collection, titled Accompaniments. The companion books are newly out on Red Hook Editions. [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…]
The Start Of Your Ending (41st Side)
Can’t Get Enough Of It
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…]