The paintings of Gil Cuatrecasas were exhibited at the LA Art Show 2018 last week (Jan 10-14th). His booth of large acrylics—depicting vibrant, botanical chucks of color crosshatched like Joseph Albers’ early optical studies and densely layered like white noise or confetti— will be the prelude to a major 2020 retrospective at American University Museum in Washington, D.C. [Read more…]
In the most recent season of Charlie Brooker’s excellent The Twilight Zone meets tech anthology series, Black Mirror, an entire episode is dedicated to dating: specifically the app-driven online variety favored by millennials. In “Hang The DJ,” we meet protagonists that slog through endless hours, months, and years of misery guided by an automated system that “learns” from each doomed relationship and ultimately pairs them with their “perfect match.” But an unspoken question looms throughout the episode: why? [Read more…]
Agnieszka Holland’s provocative film, Spoor, challenges preconceived notions of animal dominion, gender equality, and the excessive use of power by the ruling class. A recipient of multiple awards, including three Academy Awards nominations, Holland is a masterful director who excels at weaving powerful and conflicting themes into stories. Inspired by Olga Tokarczuk’s book, Drive Your Plough Over the Bones of the Dead, the title of the film refers to the tracks and traces left by animals, while its original title, Pokot, is a hunting expression referring to the count of animals killed after the hunt. [Read more…]
The two samples below are enough to show Frank’s savage (and hysterical!) brilliance, but if you need further proof, or merely more of Joe Frank’s wonderous vision, go to joefrank.com and listen to virtually his entire career. Below, Pol Pot, Hitler, Stalin & Mao speak of tailors, floral arrangements, paint colors and books while the lesser-breeds, those less brilliant and accomplished — the pikey-lot of Gary Gilmore, Jeffrey Dahmer, JW Gacy, T-Bone Bundy and Charlie Manson sit with party hats at a nearby children’s table, wordless, inconsequential, shunned. In the second clip, a preacher speaks in Old Nick’s tongue:
“No More my Lord,” from Bad Karma (2000).
“Telephone Prayer,” a clip from Joe Frank’s Men of the Cloth (2001).
A pencil is a little wonder-wand: a stick of wood that traces the tiniest motions of your hand as it moves across a surface. I am using one now, making weird little loops and slashes to write these words. As a tool, it is admirably sensitive. The lines it makes can be fat or thin, screams or whispers, blocks of concrete or blades of grass, all depending on changes of pressure so subtle that we would hardly notice them in any other context. (The difference in force between a bold line and nothing at all would hardly tip a domino.) And while a pencil is sophisticated enough to track every gradation of the human hand, it is also simple enough for a toddler to use. [Read more…]
Bathed in sumptuous yet disorientating shades of midnight blue, periwinkle, and canary yellow light, Los Angeles-based figurative painter Matt Lifson’s latest mural-sized works currently displayed in the CB1 Gallery exhibition How is your fever? reveal how color, mystery, nostalgia, and tone can influence the way an audience views a piece. As this Long Island-native’s first solo showing at the downtown Los Angeles gallery, the seemingly commonplace images seen here feature an ominous energy, forcing the viewer to play detective and piece together Lifson’s cryptic narratives. [Read more…]
Renowned for her searing portraits of corruption, complicity, greed, and inequality in modern society, celebrated Joshua Tree-based painter Georganne Deen further explores this ubiquitous elitism and immorality in her latest collection of haunting figurative paintings, Georganne Deen: Psychic Violence in America, currently on view at CB1 Gallery in downtown Los Angeles. [Read more…]
Hunter of Stories
by Eduador Galeano
Nation Books, 272pp. $26.
Eduardo Galeano taught me where my parents came from. Always more historian than novelist, or commentator as chronicler, the Uruguayan maestro’s work was one whole mosaic framing the Latin American experience from conquest to capitalist modernism. Galeano, who shed his mortal coil in 2015, was the modern artist of the vignette, telling history in snapshots. I first read him as a young student when a mentor recommended his classic Open Veins of Latin America, an eloquent history of the economic and social history of the region, told with a journalist’s precision and novelist’s sense of language. The late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez famously gave a copy of the book to Barack Obama during a summit in 2009, and I still sadly suspect that Obama didn’t bother to read it. [Read more…]
Other animals use tools, but as far as I know, we’re the only ones to make paintbrushes. Painting is a physical thing, like sports or ballet. There are important exceptions, of course, like Wade Guyton and his followers, who use computers, scanners, and inkjet printers to make paintings, but for anyone not placing a heavy bet on digital tech, how one grips the brush matters, as does each finely calibrated aspect in the chain of command from brain to canvas: the size and shape of the brush, the viscosity of the paint, and the pressure exerted by the shoulder-arm-hand continuum, its direction and velocity. That’s what painting is on a physical level: brush hitting canvas. It’s been going on for a long time because the way it links perception with action intersects with something elemental about humans. Painting is no more passé than drumming or, for that matter, pole-vaulting, which is not to say that we all need to do it, or can. [Read more…]
Based on the writings and adventures of best selling journalist Jay Bahadur, Pirates of Somalia is an enthralling ride into the reality of Somalia’s pirates, seen from the shores of a nation pillaged by foreign corporations. This film is a far cry from the dichotomies of Captain Philips and the media’s ennobling of Americans in stark contrast to the barbarism of the Somalis. [Read more…]
Using over 100 years of archival footage, director Sierra Pettengill explores the history of the largest Confederate monument, Georgia’s Stone Mountain.
Rejected as a master’s thesis in Anthropology, Kurt Vonnegut went on to detail the Shapes of Stories in his book, A Man Without A Country, which is highlighted in abbreviated form in the lecture below:
The Juniper Tree
by Barbara Comyns
NYRB Classics. 192pp. $14.95
From December 2017, Harper’s Magazine
When you consider the savagery of your run-of-the-mill fairy tale, our use of the term to connote “romance” or “idealization” smacks of nothing more than romance and idealization — a semantic circle of willful delusion. Take “The Juniper Tree,” by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. A woman longs for a child, gets pregnant, gives birth to a son, and dies. The father remarries. One day, while the little boy has his head in a chest filled with apples, his stepmother slams down the lid, decapitating him. “Maybe I can get out of this,” she thinks. She ties the boy’s head back on with a scarf, convinces her daughter that she killed him, and cooks him into a stew. The truth comes out when a bird, channeling the boy’s spirit, crushes the stepmother with a millstone. It’s gruesome. But the story’s most grotesque feature is this mild sentence about the first wife: “Then she had a child as white as snow and as red as blood, and when she saw it, she was so happy that she died.” [Read more…]
God: A Human History
by Reza Aslan
Illustrated. Random House. 320pp. $28.
If you’re looking for some kind of Cartesian logic knot that offers proof of whether God exists or not, this is not the book for you. [Spoiler alert: No one knows for sure.] But if you are a curious-minded folkorist, either secular or believing, with a literary taste for the intersection of science and mythology, physiology and faith, politics and cosmology — then it’s a page-turner. As books about religion go, it’s profoundly unlikely to spark heated debate. Instead, it takes a simple strategy of inversion — the premise that we made God (every version ever) in the image of ourselves, and not the other way around. Not because God does or doesn’t exist or needs to be invented — but rather, because our species has instinctual need to give the abstract concept of our gods an appearance, important symbols, and physical forms, the better to comprehend, explain, and worship them. [Read more…]
There is a scene in the film I, Tonya where Tonya Harding, played by Margot Robbie, has just skated a stellar performance. It is clear she possesses more athleticism and raw talent than the skaters before her, yet she receives low marks across the board. She approaches the judge’s table in anger. Admitting to the strength of her routine, they then criticize her nail polish (blue) and her choice of music (Zeppelin). She is told her scores would improve if she worked harder to fit in. Her response? “Suck my dick.” She then fires the well-dressed coach who sided with the judges and advises her to “lose the nail polish.” [Read more…]
There are links between eras so subtle we barely detect them in the fabric of the times. We enter the movie theater and are swept away by the images and the aural force of the music score. But in the films we see we can also find the interesting threads that bind us to past histories. Listen closely to the harmonies propelling a scene forward, and the ear will catch the whisper of a previous era aflame with powerful ideals. At the closure of the film season, audiences have recently flocked to the polarizing new Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, the latest, bombastic addition to the canon. In addition to Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, there was another returning marquee name essential to the identity of this franchise, or better put, the pop mythology of the times. I mean, of course, composer John Williams. Audiences may have little way of realizing as they are experiencing a film that they are participating in one of the last stands of the great Romantic period. If we are at the dawn of new revolutions, then in the cinema we find traces of one of the grandest revolutions to have re-shaped culture. [Read more…]
Hailing from the picturesque seaside town of Les Cayes, Haiti, conceptual painter Andy Robert has built a career on exploring notions of community. As a graduate of the prestigious Whitney Independent Study Studio Program, this assemblage and found object artist has depicted the human side of such monumental and important issues as the Flint Water crisis and poverty in exhibitions past. His latest series, Lakou: One Two Five currently on display at one of Hollywood’s avant-garde art meccas, Hannah Hoffman Gallery, this poignant collection delves into the ideas of heritage, society, and place. These intimate, heartfelt cityscapes and portraits connect the viewer to the Caribbean and its culture, people, and its tragic history. [Read more…]
After decades of winning praise as a screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin makes his directorial debut with Molly’s Game, a bold biopic about a resilient and notorious poker entrepreneur. Electric with Sorkin’s signature wit and fronted by Jessica Chastain in a powerhouse performance, the film has a sharp and undeniable charm. Then Sorkin gambles away audience good will with a stupid, ham-fisted ice rink sequence. [Read more…]