There is no film quite like Thundercrack! (1975), an art film parody of 50’s Hollywood melodrama, film noir and Old-Dark-House tropes masquerading as a porno film. Filtered through the eyes of filmmakers Curt McDowell (Load) and George Kuchar (Hold Me While I’m Naked, The Craven Sluck), the film contains all the hallmarks of their previous underground hits, sort of mashed together in a wonderful, one-of-a-kind film that has never been duplicated and never will. And unlike more mainstream, palatable “transgressive” films (cough-Rocky Horror-cough), Thundercrack! still retains it’s shock value. Try watching this film with your parents. [Read more…]
Archives for November 2016
The appropriately titled Curtains, Eileen Quinlan’s spare exhibition at Miguel Abreu, unsettles in ways few shows dare. The 24 black-and-white prints, all gelatin silver, communicate a spirit that is both cryptic and choleric. They dampen, these images, as in deaden. They silence. One feels in their presence as if having stepped into the afterings of a wake, casket still open, all guests gone. Something yet lingers.
Part of what disquiets in this utterly hushed series is the spectering of Quinlan’s own aggressive hand, which haunts in ways comparable to the cramping of a limb not long ago severed. It manifests as fitful revenant in openly hostile attacks against the negatives themselves, which are scarred with slashings and steel wool scourings and experimental broodings borne of plain artistic urge. A good dozen-plus prints in the show reflect the latter. As fly to wonton boys, killed solely for the sport, the negatives for these prints were left for hours or days in chemical baths, eroding or outright obliterating any image that might have been and erasing with it any expectation as to what a photograph should even minimally convey. To that end, these prints merely allude to photography, working as they do in the same medium. They are acting, however, in an alternate other: as medium in a kind of necromancy. They conjure rather than represent.
The press release for Ascension describes an exhibition where “fragmentation abounds in multitudinous ‘selves’, highlighting large-scale interactions between national and, arguably, mystical realms.”
Moving through the Rox Gallery’s two-level group show, however, my impression was that the artists in the gallery’s meandering lower level were engaged in a far more interesting and urgent discussion about a virulent kind of masculinity that is proving to be not just failed but fatal to the longterm existence of our species. [Read more…]
I’ve not been to a wax museum but I can imagine the Frankenstein on display might look something like Corpus Americus, the new group exhibition at Driscoll Babcock. Then again, the better analogy might be in the source material itself, in Shelly’s nameless creature who to this day stalks the starless wilds of our imaginations. For beneath the patchwork of skins stitched loosely into an ungainly whole, there is indeed something alive at the heart of Corpus Americus.
The animating strike is the question, “what does it mean to be an American today,” an idea that resides as much in abstract notions of America as in a chimeric Americana, those fabled high periods of yore. America today is a country far downwind from those onetime peaks, and in the lowlands things have begun to smell a bit foul. The stench no doubt lifts from the Corpse Politicus, our national institution that’s been so supremely bungled by the very leaders we entrusted with its care. [Read more…]
Vincent Desiderio is perhaps settling too comfortably into the role of master. Long considered one of the more skilled and thoughtful painters of our generation, his impressive 2011 showing at New York’s Marlborough put him amongst our best. The exhibition remains a peak moment in Desiderio’s career, where decades of discipline, contemplation, experimentation and deliberate execution came together in an inspired and powerful grouping. His Mourning and Fecundity II, I liberati, and Sink are contemporary masterworks, while few else in the series fell exceedingly short. The collection spoke of an artist in that perfect present tense, aware as much of a considered audience as in the assured lead of his own explorative hand. The best of these paintings hung with a consciousness above craft, their ranging stories both lucid and open. You do not stand in front of Morning and Fecundity II without wending imaginatively through the grave hours prior, nor is it possible to stave away the nearer end. The effect, long one of the great pleasures in Desiderio’s work, is a movement within and beyond the canvas that feels wholly cinematic.
Little of that movement exists in the new collection now on view at Marlborough. And though the theme of this series is “reification,” which suggests a solidification that might intend a termination of movement in the technical narrative as well, too many of these paintings nevertheless feel inert beyond the theme, which should not preclude a heartbeat.
Two works in particular highlight the contrast. [Read more…]
John Waters’ second movie not only set the low bar for just how gross a midnight movie could be in 1972, Pink Flamingos remains to this day the most cogently transgressive and anarchic film ever made. Nowhere else in cinema will you find a singing-asshole performer — with an extended close-up on his anus’s “performance” — sex between two people with a live chicken in the middle, indecent transsexual exposure, a flasher with a salami tied to his penis, a mock-incest blow job between a “son” and his transvestite “mother,” actual eating of dog feces, and an enigmatic terrorist drag queen played by the incomparable Divine. [Read more…]
If there is ever a core idea behind our modern-day celebration of Halloween it is the need to escape. We run from ourselves into masks and costumes, for one night becoming that which we wish we had been. Sometimes we choose the face of a monster, only because we as mere humans are the most monstrous creations of all. Fear of oneself is essentially fear of your seed, of your origins. No filmmaker has captured the very psychology of America like David Lynch, and even in his early student and short film work, one finds an artist digging into the depths of his psychic plane, and our own. [Read more…]