Entering into Terry Allen’s universe is not unlike the imagined sensation of standing on an egg as it rolls across a hard wood floor, never stopping long enough to crack. The process by which we come to understand and appreciate his work requires a level of commitment on the part of the viewer not unlike balancing on an egg in that there are so many nuances and brilliantly imaginative connections being made all at once, that you feel that if you look away — even for an instant, that egg could shatter beneath your feet and you would be left with nothing but egg on your face. [Read more…]
Toni Morrison published her first novel, The Bluest Eye, when she was 39 years old. By this time she was a divorced single mother of two sons and a respected teacher with a master’s degree in English from Cornell. She was an established a senior editor at Random House, the only Black woman in that position at the publisher. She’d championed Black authors and emphasized Black literature in the mainstream, including developing and strategically bringing out autobiographies by such Black Power luminaries as Angela Davis and Muhammad Ali. She was a close friend of influential participants in the Black Arts Movement, like the poet Sonia Sanchez. Yet in Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, the most recent documentary released on Morrison, she recalls being unwilling to submit The Bluest Eye, a novel about a little Black girl that longs above all else to have blue eyes, to Random House because she was, in her own words, “Just an editor. Not a writer.” [Read more…]
For Sama is an extraordinary journey into war through the intimate lens of a woman who, in the course of five grueling years, also becomes a mother. From the 2011 uprisings in Aleppo, Syria, to her daily life in an area under never-ending siege, director Waad al-Kateab offers an unprecedented look into the lives of civilians held hostage under the oppression of what they refer to as “The Regime” — Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad regime — amid the shadows of global politics. [Read more…]
The streets were dark with something more than night.
We tell stories in order to live.
The City of Stars, sometimes known as “LaLaLand” — our often misunderstood Los Angeles — has always had a dark side. Too often it’s a place where dreams come to die. On the bright side, it is a place of endless sunlight and personal reinvention. Here, reality and fiction, truth and lies intertwine as everyone waits for The Big One to rearrange the furniture. Home to the literary work of Raymond Chandler, Joan Didion, and Nathaniel West, it is a tantalizing contradiction of place. Narrative Painting In Los Angeles brings together thirteen figurative painters who interrogate the history of art, the nature of identity, sexual politics and social justice through the lens of Southern California with enormous skill and elan. [Read more…]
It’s rare that a press screening comes with a warning. But in the wake of reported walkouts, invites to see Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale came with a warning. In red font, critics were alerted that the film would contain “sexual violence towards women, violence towards children, and violence motivated by racism.” Since the film’s Venice premiere last fall, some have criticized Kent for the brutality found in her much-anticipated follow-up to her breakthrough debut The Babadook. However, considering her sophomore effort is a revenge-thriller that explores the sins of colonialism, the brutality is essential to its message. To capture the merciless of this domineering mindset, Kent won’t look away from its violence and depravity. And she won’t let us look away either. [Read more…]
When The Shed opened in April, it was roundly panned by the cultural press, despite the fact that it is currently the most dynamic platform for emerging, contemporary art made by artists who live and work in New York City. The rough, daily endeavor of living and working here finds resonance throughout the monumental, rhomboid shape designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro that is imbued with movement. This philanthropic effort to finally preserve and platform the city’s ever-growing, marginal, creative culture is not only epic, but long overdue. [Read more…]
Curated by artist Nina Chanel Abney, Punch, at Jeffrey Deitch in mid-city, beautifully assaults the viewer with color, exciting shapes, and vibrant figuration. The current exhibition is an expansion of one presented at Deitch’s New York outpost last year; here the focus is primarily on LA-based artists, thirty-three in all — contemporary artists creating figurative and abstract connections with culture, society, and humanity. [Read more…]
We’ve met lovers like Jules and Mickey before in movies like Badlands, Natural Born Killers and, of course, Bonnie and Clyde. They are partners in crime, metaphorically and literally, kicking off Villains with a smash-and-grab robbery that’s given a bit of flare by the animal masks they choose to wear. As they dash off in their getaway car, Jules (Maika Monroe) excitement translates into titillation, and she’s all over an elated Mickey (Bill Skarsgård) as he drives. But their plan to hightail to a beach and easy living hits a snag when they run out of gas. [Read more…]
Nostalgia has replaced epochs in the modern culture. There is the increasing feeling that while technology certainly races ahead in its advancement, culturally we are obsessively looking to the past. Vinyl is sought after by the kids who are convinced it sounds better than digitally remastered albums on CD or streaming. The look of videotape is being recreated for music videos and even entire film projects. Music scores are reviving the techno sheen of the 1980s. Millennials, having just missed out on the 80s and consuming art while growing up highly influenced by the 70s, are desperate to reach back. With consumer culture now defining the times and creating stagnation in any new art forms or styles, the past takes on a new glow. But few filmmakers can make art out of nostalgia quite like Quentin Tarantino. His new film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, defines nostalgia itself. In its look and sound it feels like a brain working in overdrive to recall a specific moment in its archived history. [Read more…]
Morris Graves is an eloquently quiet artist. And yet the subtle chords he strikes in his delicate, musical compositions have a remarkably powerful resonance, a feeling of total “rightness” that certain artists can achieve, often with the least apparent drama.
Graves, a mostly self-taught, transcendental painter, created works that stand as painted haikus. An avid gardener, many of his paintings are of birds and flowers. His 2001 obituary recalled the artist, in his youth, “rushing here or there with flowers or canvas in hand.” “There is,” as he once put it, “no statement or message other than the presence of flowers and light.” [Read more…]
With the recent group exhibition Future Starts Slow at LAUNCH F18, participating artist Rose Vickers and I took the occasion to discuss her artmaking and extensive writing practices. Rose grew up in Australia and has spent time living and traveling throughout many regions of the world. Rose and I both discovered each other’s work through Instagram and followed one another for many years before finally meeting in 2018.
While many know Rose for her writing, which has been published in Mousse Magazine, Oyster, and Artist Profile among others, she in her own right is an incredibly talented visual artist. The way in which she views her subject matter has always stood out to me as an incredibly unique perspective. We began our conversation about her work and duality of her combined artistic practices and where throughout her process they converge. [Read more…]
Saint Jerome took to extremes. As theologian and scholar, he traveled to the Holy Land to master Hebrew, translated the Hebrew Bible into Latin, churned out commentary after commentary, and defended church doctrine with warnings of hell. And then there was the sinner, shamed by his conduct among women, converted to Christianity after a vision, and living alone in the desert but for a lion and for a stone to beat his breast. [Read more…]
For his ninth (and possibly penultimate) film, Quentin Tarantino takes audiences back to the summer of 1969, where Hollywood was swinging and hippies seemed a harmless subculture. That is until the Manson Family murdered Sharon Tate and her friends in her mansion on Cielo Drive. Blending fact with lots of fiction, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood re-imagines this time as the fairytale its title suggests. But instead of white knights and princes, Tarantino offers stuntmen and TV cowboys. Instead of castles and lavish balls, he presents a celebrity-stuffed party at the Playboy mansion. Instead of an evil sorcerer or monster horde, there’s Charles Manson and his minions. And instead of a princess as a damsel in distress, Tarantino presents an enchanting ingénue who was killed in her prime. [Read more…]
At 77, the youthful fire inside David Crosby refuses to flicker out. The music legend makes this more than evident in the new, reflective documentary David Crosby: Remember My Name. A chronicle of his highs and lows, Crosby impressively allows this to be a work of complete, sometimes stinging honesty. Directed by A.J. Eaton with renowned director and journalist Cameron Crowe producing, Remember My Name leaves few stones unturned in Crosby’s life. In a sense he is a survivor from that last generation of creative minds who were heirs to the Romantic tradition. Born in the shadow of World War II, finding a voice in the tumultuous 60s, there’s more to a personality like Crosby than the mere tag of “old hippie.” From his drug abuse to writing iconic music and touring as a member of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young before the group implodes amid intense squabbles, it’s all laid bare in this film. And that’s exactly how he wanted it. [Read more…]
Devils in Daylight
by Junichiro Tanizaki
New Directions Publishing, 96pp., $9.95
“I would call back at least for literature this world of shadows we are losing. In the mansion called literature I would have the eaves deep and the walls dark, I would push back into the shadows the thing that come forward too clearly, I would strip away the useless decoration. I do not ask that this be done everywhere, but perhaps we may be allowed at least one mansion where we can turn off the electric lights and see what it is like without them.”– Junichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows
Early 20thcentury, Japan. You, caped in shadows, find yourself watching two men who are watching, through a grainy peephole, two other people, a man and a woman, who are seemingly killing another man. The entire thing is busy, complex, furtive; erotic in its staggered geometry. Outside, where you are and where you aren’t, the rain-slicked street holds tiny concentric halos of light projected out from the window of an Inn that dizzies its patrons with licentious allure, while Rockwell’s paranoia blares from a jukebox — It always feels like somebody’s watching me, tell me is it just a dream — and you can’t help but look over your shoulder as you see a lantern-eyed black cat, smiling. Mind you, the song and the jukebox haven’t been invented yet, and Rockwell lingers as a figment awaiting popstar iteration, but still, they are there, this is happening, a confluence of elements, which includes you and five other people (one of them now very much dead), and the whole thing gets you thinking about the dreamlike immediacy of voyeurism, or the pyramidic folds of role-playing. You have entered that place between realms, where the novelist Junichiro Tanizaki so comfortably dwells. [Read more…]
Recently we interviewed the painter and printmaker Austin Stiegemeier, who is teaching fine art at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. Stiegemeier grew up in the small town of Rathdrum in northern Idaho. He began studying art while still in elementary school, and eventually pursued his art education at two universities in Washington State, completing his MFA at Washington State University. Since then, Stiegemeier has taught at several U.S. colleges, including Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. Our conversation concentrated on his pursuit of representational art, including narrative art and portraiture. [Read more…]
Ann Shostrom’s army of women warriors fills the front room of the Elizabeth Harris Gallery, a ghostly troop draped in shades of white: the traditional color of virgins, brides and suffragettes. Tall and graceful, evoking Corinthian columns, these seventeen fabric figures are both timeless and completely of the moment. Elegantly pieced together from sinuous scraps of material foraged from salvage sales, thrift stores, friends’ childhood wardrobes and Shostrom’s own closet, they simultaneously suggest Miss Havisham’s endless jilted vigil, the courageous members of the #Metoo Movement, and the chorus of 100-something congresswomen who earlier this year proudly wore ivory, ecru and alabaster to President Trump’s second State of the Union address. While explicitly feminine, they are also plainly phallic, iron fists within velvet — or in this case lace, linen and silk — gloves. [Read more…]
The cinema of the Andes is a haunted art form. Rojo is set in the Argentina of the 1970s, plotted and shot like a classic noir, with a dark political subtext. Like many of the best recent films from this particular South American country and its neighbor Chile, the crime genre is used to tackle the legacy of the neo-fascist military regimes that governed these countries during the Cold War. This adds a layer of richness to the storytelling you don’t find in most U.S. movies or shows about detectives and murder. Noir has of course always been a vehicle to express the deepest recesses of any society, going back to films made by German expatriates in the U.S. during and after World War II. Fleeing the Nazis, directors like Fritz Lang framed the American underbelly with titles like The Big Heat and Scarlet Street. Now it is Latin American directors coming of age in the lingering aftermath of political terror who are refurnishing the genre in new ways. [Read more…]
at The Met Breuer
Reviewed by John Haber
Mrinalini Mukherjee had a dual fascination, with Modernism and the myths of her native India. If they seem impossible to reconcile, they both drew her to local materials to make the myths her own. Mukherjee worked in fiber for more than forty years, so it seems only natural that her retrospective at the Met Breuer opens not with a wall but a curtain. The entry holds barely a clue to what comes next beyond the artist’s name and a title, Phenomenal Nature — not even wall text at the side by the stairs. Penetrate within, and the curtains multiply, almost sheer but thoroughly opaque. One can still marvel at the former Whitney Museum, but its movable partitions have fallen completely away. They leave a space no less divided and mysterious for that. One might have stepped behind a stage curtain, only to find that the performance is just underway. [Read more…]
“Why are you so angry all the time?” The heroines of writer/director Jasmin Mozaffari’s debut feature Firecrackers have plenty of reasons to rage. Living in poverty in a suffocatingly small Ontario town, recent high school graduates Lou (Michaela Kurimsky) and Chantal (Karena Evans) have little hope for their futures. All they see around them is squalor, crappy jobs, abusive boys, addiction, intolerance, and violence. This is why these battle-hardened besties, who throw punches as easily as f-bombs, have plotted a way out. For a year, they’ve scraped together the wages earned cleaning scuzzy motel rooms so they can runoff to New York. They’ve slung they’re possessions into a pair of garbage bags, compiled one thousand dollars into a tattered envelope, and arranged a ride with a pick-up truck-owning pal. But a horrid incident derails the pair’s plan, pitching them down a path littered with stinging tears, shattered glass, and wretched compromises. [Read more…]