In 2015, Colombian filmmaker Ciro Guerra won the world’s attention with his Oscar-nominated Embrace The Serpent, a bold black-and-white drama that followed an Amazonian tribesman as he leads white scientists into the wild in search of a curative plant. Culture clash also plays at the heart of his much-anticipated follow-up, Birds of Passage (A.K.A. Pájaros de verano), which was Columbia’s submission for the Best Foreign-Language Academy Award this year. In the 1970s, the Wayúu community of northern Colombia’s Guajira Desert was dedicated to its traditions, observant of omens, and suspicious of outsiders. But as an emerging drug trade gave them access to wealth and power, their community became less isolated and less united. [Read more…]
This all by way of passing comment on the challenging Xiu Xiu, never an easy thing to do. A couple of years ago I talked to the band’s main male Jamie Stewart. He was forthcoming and amenable, not a difficult artiste, and he talked about what he does with a seriousness that I liked very much. He thinks he’s a cranky, pretentious arsehole, but I don’t. Anyway, I do think it’s interesting that Stewart’s openly human persona doesn’t always reconcile with the often sonically and lyrically traumatized music he makes. There is some backstory: He told me about his father, a drug addict who died by suicide. It’s hard for me now to not project a lot of liteweight pop psychology upon Stewart’s musical madness. Like, a-ha [Read more…]
To say that a work of art holds up a mirror to the world is to recognise an attempt by the artist at portraying the truth. “See what the world really looks like” is the message. Art like this – that seeks to show us the reality of things – does so by parodying, exposing, lampooning and taunting. It invites you to peer into the fracture it has opened up, and when you do so, it’s like standing beside the artist and peering in together. With Jeff Koons it’s always a bit trickier. You sense that he too is holding up a mirror, but what kind of fracture is he asking you to peer into? One that, when the light reaches the depths, you see Koons’ own smile gleaming back at you? [Read more…]
The writer wanders the seaside of a great island lost in his own thoughts, lovesick and grappling with a changing world. Such is the enduring image of Tomas Gutierrez Alea’s masterpiece Memories of Underdevelopment, which remains the greatest jewel of Cuban cinema. First released in that fevered year of 1968 to worldwide acclaim, it remained largely unavailable in the United States for decades, eternally referenced in film scholarship yet not easy to actually view. Now thanks to the Criterion Collection, it has returned to us, beautifully remastered and stunningly relevant. Made when the Cuban Revolution was merely a decade old and still enflaming passions in the hemisphere, it now speaks to us in a restless yet post-revolutionary moment, when its audience sees it from a the vantage point of dashed dreams and uncertain hopes. When Alea first made this movie his protagonist was an intellectual questioning himself within a society determined to inaugurate a Marxist future, today he would feel at home in a world where nobody can say what is coming. [Read more…]
You know something is happening but you don’t know what it is. Do you, Mr. Jones?
–Bob Dylan, “Ballad Of A Thin Man”
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
The sixties was a tumultuous decade, filled with assassinations, race, student and antiwar riots. This traumatic and dangerous time, when the social fabric was being torn apart, also gave birth to many civil rights movements for marginalized people such as women, gay/lesbian/transgender and people of color. This exhibition at The Autry Museum focuses on the Chicano movement specifically and on La Raza, a newspaper/zine that was crucial to exposing, through text and image, the Chicano movements struggle for social justice from 1967-77. [Read more…]
Joan was convinced she had cancer. Sometimes it was a dull ache in her side, sometimes a cut that didn’t heal. She knew of a woman with Crohn’s Disease and just recently an old friend of hers died of pancreatic cancer. It was just a matter of time before those alien cells took over her body. Her body was on the edge of a cliff, ready to fall. When she got out her Tarot deck, she always drew the Fool. Once she saw the Hermit in a dream. He dropped his lantern and the light tumbled down into a rocky canyon, glowing on the silver cliffs as it fell. It was winter, with pockets of snow on the peaks. [Read more…]
With Serpentine Fire, now at Quotidian, curator and gallerist Jill Moniz has assembled an astoundingly innovative, resonant show from artists who have pushed the limits of their materials and subjects. The title of the show is taken from an Earth, Wind, & Fire song, and just as the band offered a breath of exciting fresh air with its early music, so does this exhibition. [Read more…]
Everybody knows. It’s not just a title. It’s a promise. It’s a threat. It’s a bombshell. In a cozy, sun-dappled village outside Madrid, everybody knows Laura (Penélope Cruz) and Paco (Javier Bardem) were childhood sweethearts. Everybody knows their break-up was brutal and strange, with her leaving for Argentina while leaving Paco her share of her family’s land. Everybody knows Laura’s husband is wealthy and too busy to join her at her sister’s wedding. But when her happy homecoming is derailed by a shocking abduction, nobody knows who might be to blame. In this time of impossible despair, Laura and Paco become uneasy allies in this treacherous terrain of ransom, resentments, distrust, and deeply buried family secrets. [Read more…]
James Siena has had what might be called a linear career. Whether painted, drawn or sculpted, his work is purely line-based. Yet his art always avoids the shortest distance between two points; i.e. the simple straight line. Instead he has continued to evolve work based on what he calls “a visual algorithm,” creating recursive labyrinthine canvases; intense but relatively small-scale repetitive patterns painted in enamel on aluminum. [Read more…]
With Nightcrawler, writer/director Dan Gilroy teamed with Jake Gyllenhaal for a deliciously vicious evisceration of news media’s “if it bleeds it leads” culture with a format that was one-part thriller to one-part dark comedy. The result was a film that was wickedly entertaining and thought provoking, while proving Gyllenhaal is one of the most exhilarating actors of his generation. For all these reasons, I was positively giddy in anticipation of the pair’s reunion, Velvet Buzzsaw. Here Gilroy satirizes the snooty and sordid world of high art by blending dark humor and horror. But to my horror, lightning doesn’t strike twice. [Read more…]
Joan Semmel is the master of the anti-Selfie. For decades she has turned the camera on herself, using candid photographs as references for her large-scale nudes, which are both sumptuous and unsettlingly intimate. For an age obsessed with instant, miniature self-branding imagery, pervasively produced by iPhones and through Instagram, her large, flawed, vulnerable figures open a nearly forgotten door onto the pure pleasure of painted flesh. [Read more…]
To say that the opening of Ed Moses Through the Looking Glass, was crowded with fans and art lovers is an understatement. Moses is an LA icon of art, and the collection of his recent works on display here underscore the reasons for that honorific. That he continues to draw and fascinate viewers is unsurprising; his works are a magnet, deeply attractive, alive and engaging. [Read more…]
The Natashas, by Yelena Moskovich,
Dzanc Books. 232 pp. $16.95.
You enter a dark, deserted warehouse on the waterfront. One that smells of cats and kerosene, and whose walls are covered with dusty calendars from bygone eras. Or perhaps you find yourself in the balmy catacombs of an arterial sanctuary. Or, fill-in-the-blank, and create a setting that corresponds with your own resonant sense of dislocation, the flickering rose-light of omen and mystery. Simply, you are there, delegate to enigma, compelled to explore, to scratch an existential itch, which began with a crumb floating in a pool of cirrus: “In the boxshaped windowless room, all the girls are named Natasha.” A simple description and declaration, what could be the textual fade-in to a Samuel Beckett cryptogram, and it is this cinematic “teaser” which has drawn your inner-Philip Marlowe into a Maya Deren filmscape where a sign warns: The dream you are dreaming may not be your own. Welcome to the lucidly baffling world of Yelena Moskovich. [Read more…]
Paige Jiyoung Moon’s solo exhibit, Days of Our Lives, at Steve Turner, Los Angeles, is utterly immersive and compelling. Through minute details both in size (with most paintings averaging just 12 inches in size) and in presenting the everyday, Moon highlights the mundane aspects of life, elevating the ephemeral and making the fleeting more permanent and profound. [Read more…]
In the character-driven lineage of such classics as Goodfellas, Big Lebowski, and True Romance; Walk to Vegas (written by Vincent Van Patten and Steve Alper; directed by Eric Balfour) features a brotherhood that operates on an informal black-market economy impervious to the rules of law, other than the innate sense of honor established through direct eye contact, firm handshakes, and camaraderie. It is a den of high-stakes Hollywood gamblers continuously engaging one another in ever-more outrageous ante-upping, dares and bets that culminate in our protagonist, Vincent VanPatten, attempting a walk from LA to Vegas in seven days in a suit. The characters of this instant classic — played by such greats as Eileen Davidson, Jennifer Tilly, Danny Pardo, Paul Walter Hauser, and James VanPatten, are straight out of Cervantes. The result: pure comic genius. [Read more…]
Fear can act as a sickness, making us quake and quiver before falling petrified and useless. Fear can spread like a virus, contaminating whole communities, pitting people against each other and the wider world. In the Brazilian animated film, Tito and the Birds, this simile is made literal as an eye-catching and important parable for kids. [Read more…]
There is a scene in Barry Jenkins film adaptation of If Beale Street Could Talk, a novel by visionary James Baldwin, that details American racism without a word. Tish, the protagonist and narrator of the story, is working behind a perfume counter at a department store. She is visibly pregnant. Her job is not one typically given to ‘Negro’ girls, but this store considers itself progressive, and so she is allowed to offer the newest fragrance by spraying it on the back of the hands of passers by. A white man approaches and wordlessly grabs her hand instead, bringing it to his nose and lips where he sniffs her skin intimately. Tish, portrayed in a luminescent tour de force performance by 19-year-old newcomer Kiki Layne, is visibly uncomfortable but cannot recoil: not only is it her job, but this is early 1970s New York, where the Civil Rights Movement is over yet legalized racism remains right around the corner. Her discomfort is written all over her face, tinged with fear. Silently, he grips her wrist in a display of ownership – mimicking that of slavery, when white people did claim ownership of Black bodies, before releasing her and walking away. [Read more…]
Atsuko Tanaka was a pioneering Japanese artist. She was born in Osaka in 1932, and lived until the age of 74. She died in 2005 in the historic city of Nara.
Tanaka may claim a place among the forerunners of performance art. Before Alan Kaprow organized any “happenings” in New York, Tanaka was taking part in the Gutai group, an experimental postwar Japanese art movement founded by a group of young artists in Ashiya in 1954. The aims of the Gutai group were to reinvent the art-scene in post-war Japan, seeking new and radical means to sever links with the recent past. The art historian Yve-Alain Bois has said that “the activities of the Gutai group in the mid 1950s constitute one of the most important moments of post-war Japanese culture”. [Read more…]
While Subliminal Projects, owned by the artist Shepard Fairey, is a small space, it resembles a Philadelphia graffiti crew’s warehouse loft with brick flooring in one room and sheets of plywood serving as support in all other parts of the gallery. A nonsensical line delay outside (I waited 85 minutes) frustrated everyone, including the doorman at the front entrance. “I haven’t worked in L.A. for nine months, and this is why,” he told those awaiting their moment with Chuck D. [Read more…]
Vile Days, by Gary Indiana,
edited by Bruce Hainley.
Semiotext(e). 600 pages. $29.95.
Courtesy of Harper’s Magazine
How unromantic can a deathbed scene get? A test case: one day in 2015, The New Yorker’s art critic, Peter Schjeldahl, makes his way to the Village Voice’s Cooper Square offices, seeking to rescue the columns he wrote for the alt-weekly in the 1990s from their undigitized obscurity. Let in by a staff member who seems slack-jawed that anyone should be so keen to enter, Schjeldahl observes the paper’s remaining employees: “A very few people, not appearing to be up to much, sat far apart at desks in a dimly lighted panorama of desuetude.” Coda: as summer 2018 gasps its last, so does the Voice; mourned in September blog posts, like Schjeldahl’s for The New Yorker, it now exists only in archival form. This seems a fittingly uncharismatic parable for an East Village that has died more than once in the past thirty years or so—the end doesn’t even get to feel poignant anymore. [Read more…]