Don’t call Victor Gastelum a stencil artist. Yes he wields an X-Acto blade like the Master of the Flying Guillotine, but long before Bansky was spraying 2-D cliches onto London walls, Victor was creating images that resonated like stills from an unknown film noir. It’s hard to remember now that there was a time when low riders and Mexican wrestlers were not in rap videos and beer commercials, but it was during those late 80’s and 90’s that Victor took the stuff of his childhood visual culture and created images that contain both literal and figurative depth. We sat in his studio in Long Beach and talked about his journey from making Punk flyers to working at SST Records and navigating the art world like Mr. Magoo. [Read more…]
Arms elbow deep in white suds,
Soul washed clean,
Clothes washed clean,–
I have many songs to sing you
Could I but find the words
“A Song to a Negro Wash-Woman”
by Langston Hughes
Wall text of the first (above) and last stanza of this Langston Hughes poem, an elegiac ode to the over worked and unappreciated Negro wash-woman, coupled with ten of Betye Saar’s own vintage washboards, set the tone for this poignant, powerful, and political show entitled Keepin’ it Clean. At 90, the venerable Betye Saar still clearly has plenty of “fire power,” as demonstrated by this quietly explosive body of work—about half from the mid to late 1990’s (Saar began collecting washboards in the 1990’s) and the other, more recent pieces are from 2015-17. [Read more…]
July 18, 2017
Famous for the Art of the Deal even before reality shows became a big thing, Donald J. Trump has demonstrated this week that he does not even know how to play the game in Washington DC. Legislation is not the same as a political campaign. “Repeal and Replace” Obamacare was a great slogan for mobilizing those who didn’t really understand the complexity of health care (as this president himself admitted) but who hated that last guy in the White House. But without an alternative to Obamacare, this is not even a good con, as the failure in the Senate illustrates. We might then rework Trump’s sole literary claim into something more appropriate: perhaps the Art of the Fool?
Trump, however, is no fool, at least not in the tradition of the venerated Fool. [Read more…]
The art of Carol Rama occupies a strange and singular space; Rama, a self-confirmed outsider, is poised on a chosen cusp. Not a true outsider artist herself (her intense, self-conscious stoking of her own particular obsessive-compulsive neuroses precludes that) she provides a unique meta-vision — even a celebration — of the outsider mindset. She is a self-proclaimed insider of an outsider world, which she obsessively observes, reveling in recording its scatological and erotic impulses.
Henry Darger and Martin Ramirez were equally obsessed: it is fair to say that they all, including Rama, suffered from some degree of obsessive-compulsive disorder, just as does the uber-successful artist Yayoi Kusama. Louise Bourgeois once famously called her art “a form of therapy.” Or, as Rama put it, “We all have our own tropical disease within us, for which we seek a remedy. My remedy is painting.” [Read more…]
Epigraph: The German philosopher, Hannah Arendt, once said that ‘factuality itself depends for its continued existence upon the existence of the non-totalitarian world” (Origins of Totalitarianism, p.388). What if instead of construing Trump as an instrument, cause, an agent of his own will and power, we consider him a symptom, an extrusion of a set of complex conditions manifesting itself in the opportunistic formation that identifies as this man. Configurations of power are always dependent upon the conditions of their emergence. Mechanistically speaking, we know some of the conditions—erosion of public education, the exaggerated income gap, increased inequity mapped onto race, class, and ethnicity, the destruction of the working class and its guarantees or even possibility of a secure lifestyle. The breakdown of a democratic system rotted by the diseases of capitalism is easily trackable. We can see all of the elements of our condition and how they combine to create anger. Add to this the various drugs: literal drugs, the opiates, and the psychic drugs, the fantasy products pumped into the social system in the form of entertainment, the unreality television, the nighttime series the daytime rants–all part of the frenzy of consumption.
Power is never as effective as when it is abusive. And abuse is never so effective as when it is arbitrary. Combine these insights with a few others and the shape of the current political climate emerges starkly [Read more…]
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…]
No more should Black English be presented largely as a dialect that leaves out this and reverses that, with specialists then wondering why the public continues to think of it as a cluster of errors and isn’t impressed that the errors are systematic. Rather, Black English must be introduced via a collection of ways in which it is more complex than Standard English, not less.
People respect complexity. People like simplicity in their music and in ways of preparing food, but in terms of grammar, not so much. Some people involved with presenting Black English to the public might wonder just what such a collection of complex features would consist of, other than the shadings of verb usage I just mentioned. The simple fact is that specialists in Black English have not been primed to seek out those features that outdo Standard English in complexity. Systematicity will intringue and stimulate academic linguistic analysis, but the public isn’t having it, so we must change the lens.
Below I will discuss five things in the dialect that demonstrate that anyone speaking Black English is doing something subtle and complex.
1. Up what?
I once had occasion to ask a black American with a solid command of Ebonics what up means in a sentence like “We was up in here havin’ a good time:’ [Read more…]
Consider the parts of speech. In Latin, the verb has up to 120 inflections. In English it never has more than five (e.g., see, sees, saw, seeing, seen) and often it gets by with just three (hit, hits, hitting). Instead of using loads of different verb forms, we use just a few forms but employ them in loads of ways. We need just five inflections to deal with the act of propelling a car — drive, drives, drove, driving, and driven — yet with these we can express quite complex and subtle variations of tense: “I drive to work every day,” “I have been driving since I was sixteen,” “I will have driven 20,000 miles by the end of this year.” This system, for all its ease of use, makes labeling difficult. According to any textbook, the present tense of the verb drive is drive. Every junior high school pupil knows that. Yet if we say, “I used to drive to work but now I don’t,” we are clearly using the present tense drive in a past tense sense. Equally if we say, “I will drive you to work tomorrow,” we are using it in a future sense. And if we say, “I would drive if could afford to,” we are using it in a conditional sense. In fact, almost the only form of sentence in which we cannot use the present tense form of drive is, yes, the present tense. When we need to indicate an action going on right now, we must use the participial form driving. We don’t say, “I drive the car now,” but rather ‘I’m driving the car now.” Not to put too fine a point on it, the labels are largely meaningless. [Read more…]
Interviews with Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, Common, Chris Rock, Mahershala Ali and others as they discuss issues such as systemic racism, troubles with honesty in relationships, the readiness to love, mentorship and much more.
One line on 4:44, the 13th solo album by rapper Jay-Z, implores listeners to “Stop me when I stop telling the truth.” If that’s the case, you can’t stop this album for its entire 34 minutes. Featuring some of his most introspective and lyrical wordplay since 2007’s American Gangster, 4:44 is essentially a comeback record after a series of projects that were commercially successful but weren’t particularly critically well-received by reviewers or fans. It finds the 47-year-old drug dealer-turned-rapper-turned-multi-millionaire businessman at a crossroads of sorts, reflecting on his choices thus far and laying out the motivations for the directions he’s going in next; each of the ten tracks weave the musings of the man Shawn Carter against the rap mogul Jay-Z and back again. [Read more…]
Works by artists from South of the Sahara are being exhibited at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris, one of three exhibitions of African art. The building, a folly Frank Gehry has indulged in his advancing years, reportedly cost just under 900 million dollars, while less than a decade earlier his Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao cost a comparatively scant $100 million.
The works are part of a collection that curator André Magnin has put together on behalf of Jean Pigozzi, an art collector and heir to the Simca automobile brand. Pigozzi owns yachts and islands and admits, quite unabashedly, he has never set foot on the African continent and doesn’t plan to. Despite this rather paradoxical setup, the art — vibrant, expressive, masterly — silences any misgivings about the contradictions between art market and free expression, about the morality of exiling these works from their native audience, about the appropriateness of an “African Art” label and, finally, about the subjectivity of a Western critic’s review. [Read more…]
Directed By: Phuong-Cac Nguyen
Produced By: Alfredo Ritta
South American Cho-Low is a short documentary that examines the meeting point between cholo style and lowrider culture in Sao Paulo. The film features interviews with major personalities and icons from the movement such as photographer Estevan Oriol, Christopher “Duel” Hall, Antonio Carlos Batista “Alemão” Filho, Luiz “Gordo” Teixeira, Mariana de Paula Martins and Leandro Vinicius Pimenta Cabellos, who take viewers through the world of lowriders, tattoos, religion and cholo style as they recount why they’re so passionate about Chicano and lowrider culture, and why they relate so much to those living the life in East Los Angeles. South American Cho-Low shows that despite the violence associated with gang culture, the Brazilian interpretation — where violence is noticeably absent — provokes the deeper question of what it means to truly be a lowrider and maintain a Brazilian identity.
Born in San Antonio, Texas, and schooled in Chicago and Los Angeles, the multi-hyphenated artist, musician, and publisher Aaron Curry is an amalgam of diverse but cohesive geographic and aesthetic influences. The selected works in his curated show, Press Your Space Face Close To Mine, at The Pit, reflect the impact of each place on his art practice, including teachers, artists and musicians. In addition to his own installation, there are works by Sadie Benning, Richard Hawkins & Elijah Burgher, Gary Panter, AR Penck, Barbara Rossi, Dieter Roth, Don Van Vliet, John Wesley, Robert Williams, and Karl Wirsum. [Read more…]
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre,” sounds the opening line to W.B. Yeats’s lamentable ode to the cyclical turns of history, The Second Coming. Almost a century after its writing, those words have taken on a particular prescience in light of our present perilous politics—a fact that has not alluded the commentariat. It seems only appropriate then that in this the year 2017, a city like New York should receive a visual reminder of Yeats in the form of Anish Kapoor’s Descension, a massive whirlpool currently making literal waves in Brooklyn Bridge Park. [Read more…]
California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) biologists have captured and fitted a tracking collar to a female gray wolf in Lassen County, and confirmed that the wolf and her mate have produced at least three pups this year.
During summer and fall 2016, remote trail cameras captured images of two wolves traveling together in Lassen County. There was no evidence they had produced pups at that time. While the female’s origins remain unknown, genetic samples obtained from scat indicated the male wolf originated from Oregon’s Rogue Pack. The famous wolf OR7 is the Rogue Pack’s breeding male. [Read more…]
Meridel Le Sueur’s The Girl, written in 1939—the year in which World War II began, the Manhattan Project got underway, and The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind premiered—had to wait nearly forty years before its publication date in 1978. If it hadn’t been for John Crawford, the founder and publisher of West End Press, whose goal was to “print works by American writers neglected by publishers in the ‘mainstream,’” this small masterwork may have remained an unknown treasure collecting dust in Le Sueur’s basement. [Read more…]
Joe pushed open the door and a bell sang.
Max followed Joe into Red’s.
The men’s dark hats and trenchcoats were beaded in snow.
Joe took off his hat and waved it profusely, air-drying the moisture that had accumulated on it. He put the hat back on and surveyed the diner.
The place was empty except for two customers.
An old woman, wearing a green hat that fit her head like a woolen conch shell, was seated at a table in the far corner. Arms gelatinously splayed on either side of the table, she was hunched over her bowl as if divining messages from it. When Joe and Max entered, she raised her eyes and stared at them with listless gravity.
At the counter, which was lined with red vinyl stools, sat a rumpled, doughy-looking man with an eyepatch.
Snow in April, Joe piped, as if announcing the title of a hit song. [Read more…]