The LA Times, once a towering, globally respected newspaper, has become a click-bait web of invasive ads and circus-style barking for subscription servicing that, though intolerable even when things in our city were on the norm, now come across as shark-like and ravenous, a dubious entity profiteering its wares much in the way of the two deplorables who stocked up on some 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizers with full intent of selling off all to the fearful for a handsome profit. They, if you recall, were swiftly booted from Amazon for price-gouging and were universally demonized in numerous news outlets around the world. Is not the sanitized LA Times, in this perfect viral storm, hawking their wares much the same? Are they not hording the gold of crisis-era information and, rather than sharing it without charge — as is their civic duty — they instead frontload every headline, every one-sentence introductory blurb, with either an onslaught of ads or swift delivery to a paid subscription page. No Corona updates without cash in hand for those of us living under its singular mantle, for no longer in this city is there a competing newspaper to call them in check. [Read more…]
One of the videos on view at the entrance of The Broad’s exceptional new exhibition, Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power (opening March 23), is Angela Davis speaking to the idea of what it means to be a revolutionary. It is a timely reminder and an historical call to hone once-again one’s revolutionary teeth. A review of Soul of a Nation is forthcoming.
Angela Davis (1972)
On view at Matthew Marks, Los Angeles, are a selection of photographs from Nan Goldin’s hypnotic and haunting series, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, which in its original format is a 48 minute slideshow documenting Goldin’s life in over 700 photographs and 30 songs, the text of which, those songs, acting as the narrative for the “film.”
In her introduction to the book, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, Goldin writes:
I was eleven when my sister committed suicide. This was in 1965, when teenage suicide was a taboo subject. I was very close to my sister and aware of some of the forces that led her to choose suicide. I saw the role that her sexuality and its repression played in her destruction. [Read more…]
1964. Richard Avedon and James Baldwin publish their spare yet radical treatise shot through to the arrow’s heart of America and much-adored Americana. Their collection, perhaps even more radically, was titled Nothing Personal, and nothing at the time could have been further from the blood-slaked truth. One can only imagine how so very personal, and how lacerating, these images must have been in the high epoch of Jim Crow, where the unsilenced shot of pistol, the swift stroke of knife, the snap of rope, the strike of skin-crackling fire were the unmitigated and unmediated means of cage-keeping of the day. This fall Taschen will republish a facsimile edition of Nothing Personal, with unpublished photographs and a new introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Hilton Als. Als’ introduction is excerpted below. An exhibition of images from Nothing Personal will be on view at Pace Gallery, NYC, from 17 November through 13 January, 2018. — CvH
by Richard Avedon and James Baldwin
Introduced by Hilton Als
I am about thirteen years old and my body and mind are carried along by the energy that thinking engenders in me—the nearly phosphorescent ideas and possibilities I find in books, looking at pictures, and whenever I visit a museum. Some of the photo books I covet the most can’t be checked out from the Brooklyn Public Library, so, day after day, I duck out of my junior high school, in Crown Heights, and, walking past the Brooklyn Museum, then through the Botanic Garden, I go to look at them in the stacks. [Read more…]
by C von Hassett
The new Twin Peaks: The Return (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.
Less dream (or dreamy) than earlier movements into surrealist expression, the first quarter of Episode 3, for instance, shows Lynch, in an extraordinary way, to be as clear-eyed and sure-footed as he’s ever been in these ghostly yet thoroughly gripping realms. It’s as if, rather than imagining, some doppelgänger of himself now inhabits these realms, sending in return faint coordinates and word; or Lynch, figuratively, has set foot in them himself, excursioned through them in a near-corporeal way, and now with intimate familiarity he is able to speak cinematically to their airy constructions, and he does this with such nuance that they feel like alternate extents of consciousness and being: expansive, elusive, wholly mercurial states of mind-borne self.
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:
If the greenhouse warming effect of the resultant increasing atmospheric CO2 is as great as the most advanced current models suggest, a critical level of warmth will have been passed in high southern latitudes 50 years from now, and deglaciation of West Antarctica will be imminent or in progress. Deglaciation would probably be rapid once it had started, and when complete would have led to a rise in sea level of about 5m along most coasts.
–Prof. John H. Mercer, 26 January 1978
12 July 2017
A trillion-ton iceberg totaling 2,240 square miles, or 12% of the Antarctic peninsula, and 40 trillion cubic feet of ice — a volume twice that of Lake Erie — today broke free from the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica. Following the collapse of the Larsen A ice shelf in 1995 and the Larsen B ice shelf in 2002, today’s calving further weakens the entire continental glacier and sets in motion what scientist believe is the first stage of total glacial collapse. [Read more…]
Cracked Actor (Live, Los Angeles ’74)
Sweet Thing/Candidate (Live, Los Angeles ’74)
In honor and in celebration of Cracked Actor, the new live release from David Bowie’s infamously depraved yet musically stellar ’74 tour (the new album narrows in on one evening, his September 5th show at Los Angeles’ Universal Amphitheater, which I had the blearied pleasure of attending!), Riot Material scratched up a BBC documentary from that same tour, titled Cracked Actor: A Film About David Bowie. The 1975 film, viewable below, is directed by Alan Yentob: [Read more…]
The Bad Batch (2016) 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.
We first meet our protagonist, a wordless Arlen May Johnson, aka Inmate 5040, as guards walk her to desert’s edge, to the kingdom’s unceremonial gate (American chain link), to literally lock her away from fair society. She stands, indifferent to her plight, with only a backpack, a burger (which she promptly eats) and a half-filled jug of water. Ignored is the wooded post which reads:
Warning: Beyond this fence is no longer the territory of Texas. That hereafter no person within the territory beyond this fence is a resident of the United States of America or shall be acknowledged, recognized or governed by the laws and governing bodies therein. Good luck.
There, she is loosed into a blistering landscape of sand and sunbaked clay, and she walks straight in as would a schoolgirl through a noonday park, though there is little question here of her arrival into something far more suspect. Arlen’s first encounter is with a tribe of desert body builders — a brutish, body-ripped band in need, naturally, of good supply of protein. Stray travelers seem their sole course, and these luckless lie chained and limbless in what unremittingly comes as another feed, one body part at a time. Arlen, freshly snatched from the feral barrens, no sooner meets with a hacksaw than she wiles a witting escape, and face-up to the blazing sun, a snapped up skateboard as her ride, she pushes into a fevered dream one foot, and only one foot, at a time. What follows is a love story.
Though New York for years has had an inspiringly lively and progressive jazz scene, Kamasi Washington, approaching the American cultural front, is singlehandedly making the form relevant once more. His forthcoming EP, Harmony of Difference, currently (and exclusively heard) in its own room at the Whitney, will surely set the stage for the long in coming Jazz Renaissance.
Hands down the best collaborative work at this year’s Biennial, and in fact the single best piece in the exhibition (no diss on an otherwise excellent affair, particularly floor 6), is Washington’s stellar “Truth” and the equally affecting film in accompaniment, Harmony of Difference, written and directed by AG Rojas.
— the video, as you can see below, has been scrubbed from the internet, so below is the actual track —
Kamasi Washington, “Truth”
According to the Whitney press release, “Harmony of Difference is an original six-movement suite that explores the philosophical possibilities of the musical technique known as counterpoint, which Washington defines as ‘the art of balancing similarity and difference to create harmony between separate melodies.’
Justin Lyons is a mixed media artist living in the Florida panhandle. We spoke with him on the eve of his solo exhibition at the Bruce Lurie Gallery in Los Angeles.
CHRISTOPHER HASSETT: Before addressing your most recent work, I wanted to briefly touch on a few signature elements in what is considered to be pivotal career pieces, elements which not only define but help flesh out your global visual language. This language, by the way, initially and superficially registers as being quite primitive, even crude, but upon spending time with these pieces it becomes apparent that something more thoughtful and sophisticated is taking place. [Read more…]
Neville Wakefield is the Curator and Artistic Director of Desert X, a site-specific contemporary art exhibition ongoing throughout the Coachella Valley from February 25 to April 30, 2017. RIOT MATERIAL spoke with Neville on the eve of Desert X’s launch.
CHRISTOPHER HASSETT: What is it about these artists you’ve selected for Desert X that speak to you personally, or speak to a greater vision you’re trying to articulate through the exhibition, and I refer to them more as an inter-connective group as opposed to distinct individuals? [Read more…]
In 2012 Justice David Souter anticipated an “invasion of ignorance” which a mere four years on, at the close of 2016, bares its unsightly teeth. RIOT MATERIAL, lacking all the foresight of the good judge, holds out its own prognosticatory lens and aims it four years further. That lens, naturally, peers through art, and though art has the timeless ability to show the way forward, it can equally enlighten as to which way we should not go.
Below is one scenario of a nation, 2020, gone prophetically grate.
Many thanks to the great artist Roger Ballen for this apocalyptic short, Outland.
CHRISTOPHER HASSETT: There seems to be an explicit call to action in much of your work, or at the very least the demand that one take note of some supreme injustice in the land or amongst peoples. Yet what I appreciate about your work is that, more than it being mere critique or some one-dimensional, stop-action capture, it instead offers a way forward, and in my mind that way forward is dependably the right way forward. I’m thinking of, as an example, a new work of yours titled American Women (Dismantling the Border). Can you speak more to this idea of there being a constructive framework or, rather, this inherently optimistic baseline level of production which seems not only to shape but lay a distinctive stamp across your entire arc of expression? [Read more…]
We got it from Here... Thank You 4 Your service Reviewed by C von Hassett
A Tribe Called Quest just dropped their first album in 18 years, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Released mere days after the Great Debacle of 2016, We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service is remarkably, if not thrillingly present tense. Wholly animate in both sound and vision, it is a record that is also uniquely relevant — as much for being in essential response to the angst and rancor of the day as it is for inspiring, as good art tends to do, a requisite spark that might yet ignite conscientious action in the days and months ahead.
Theirs, with this exceptional release, is the resounding shot of this new cycle, and it is one which heralds little quarter. Straight-in they reject a presidential promise that unblushingly assures “all you Black folks, you must go / all you Mexicans, you must go / all you poor folks, you must go / Muslims and gays…” The vitriol, borne high on foul national sentiments, amounts to a kind-of maniacal voodoo, to use their image, and they counter the venom with their own dream serum of living in a world inclusive of all, one without division “no matter the skin tone, culture or time zone.” We are long on a grim horizon from there, but in the storm that is surely in approach, “young leaders will rise / in the eyes of despair and adversity.”
Whatever Will Be
New Museum, NYC
The New Museum’s three-floor exhibition, Pixel Forest, from Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist, is an immersive wonder. If you’re looking for an enchanting, into-the-wilds experience where you can literally lie around — beds and floor cushions are in plenty — then this is the show for you.
Look out Lucinda. The heir to blistering Americana is honing her craft and unleashing some heat on LA’s pulsing musical fringe, known otherwise as its de facto center. New Zealand-born, Los Angeles-based Jackie Bristow sculpts out some distinctive terrain with the formative blade of her exemplary band and the clement heart of her winsome songcraft.
Bristow on record is rather in the tradition of the lovestruck or lonely, a sultry, mid-tempo sound that has as its subject a woman vulnerable yet invincibly strong, a woman to worship were it not for ill-fatings or a misalignment in the stars. Unsurprisingly on stage her presence is one of tenderness and backcountry charm, her voice both sweetly raw and refreshingly unrefined.
Her band, however, at least the one in current support, is an urban fur that wraps her and warms her to those more in want of a good sonic mauling. They, this connective quartet, are muscular and fierce and sculpt out a body of sound rooted deeply in country, blues, rock and roll, and perhaps something more distinctively Los Angeles, that of great session players coming together for an evening on stage or, that rarer wed, a lasting incarnation that not only translates but transforms one artist’s vision into a leaner, dare I say meaner, more enduring sound.
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…]