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…]
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…]
Seeing Allred is a fascinating documentary about one of the most powerful and outspoken discrimination attorney and women’s rights advocates of our times: Gloria Allred.
Co-directed by Sophie Sartain and Roberta Grossman, the film gets up-close and personal with this formidable woman, from her high profile cases and strategic presence in the media, to her personal life, her feminist awakening, her dedication to civil rights and her passion for activism.
“There is a war on women. It’s real. It can be very ugly. Women depend on me to be strong, to be fearless, and to assert and protect their rights,” declares Allred. [Read more…]
by Kevin Baker
From “Death of a Once Great City”
Courtesy of Harper’s Magazine
New York has been my home for more than forty years, from the year after the city’s supposed nadir in 1975, when it nearly went bankrupt. I have seen all the periods of boom and bust since, almost all of them related to the “paper economy” of finance and real estate speculation that took over the city long before it did the rest of the nation. But I have never seen what is going on now: the systematic, wholesale transformation of New York into a reserve of the obscenely wealthy and the barely here—a place increasingly devoid of the idiosyncrasy, the complexity, the opportunity, and the roiling excitement that make a city great. [Read more…]
by Aaron Timms
From “The Needles and the Damage Done”
Courtesy of The Baffler
What kinds of people did I expect to find here, in the public garden at the foot of 432 Park Avenue, New York’s tallest residential building? In the days before I arrived in Manhattan to chart a course across the city, I’d studied the plans and websites of the “supertalls,” the new crop of skeletal residential towers rising one thousand feet and more above midtown. The architects’ renderings of these new superstructures were charged with all the clichés of the genre: the plate-glass exteriors knifing skyward, the unobstructed views of the miniature city below, the lobbies at once massive and discreet. The humans were harder to grasp. Artists’ impressions showed the supertalls’ residents-to-be in a variety of unnatural poses: a couple in formal wear touching each other next to a baby grand, a woman alone on a balcony with a dining table set for eight. But it was the passers-by sketched at the periphery who interested me most. Would the people here be like they were there, smudged and passive with the bready limbs of a disaster movie’s sacrificial-crowd-in-waiting? [Read more…]
In January of 1979, two extraordinary losses occurred in Mexico. 56 sperm whales beached themselves on the country’s coast line. Reportedly on the same day, fabled jazz composer and bassist Charles Mingus died of heart failure related to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). He was 56. Mingus had gone to Mexico in the late stages of his disease to seek alternative treatment. He was cremated and his ashes were poured into the Ganges, the sacred river that runs through India and Bangladesh. The whales were also burned, their ashes disposed in a dump. [Read more…]
Jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk loved Laurel and Hardy, and playing Yahtzee with his wife Nellie, and ping pong. He once played 60 consecutive games of pong against John Coltrane, Monk winning all but one. He also lost his cabaret card (a license to play in New York clubs) for a time after being busted holding fellow pianist Bud Powell’s stash of heroin. An English Hungarian Baroness devoted her life to his patronage, even leaving her children behind, upon first hearing Monk’s music. His playing with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Kenny Clarke birthed Bebop, the complex rhythmic stew that changed the face of jazz. Monk’s life is sort of the quintessential American experience — filled with innovation, the impact of racism, even marked by a climactic third act when he clawed his way back to the top of the heap. [Read more…]
At the start of Touch Me Not, which opened the 2018 Romanian Film Festival in New York City, two men set up a device involving a glass plate and a camera. This is followed by a panning shot in shallow focus detailing the landscape of a male body, skin, hair, follicles, moles. The movement of the camera and its focus are perfectly controlled: light floods the body evenly, leaving no shadows, resulting in a flat objectivity with no physical feature being favored over another. The blurred face of Adina Pintilie, the director of Touch Me Not, appears on the glass plate. She is talking to someone about the film, questioning their relationship: “Why did you not ask me about the film? Or was it me being relieved you don’t ask?” A disembodied woman’s voice replies. The camera turns to reveal, Laura, who is played by Laura Benson, or who is Laura Benson. A svelte woman in her 50s with a mane of dark hair, the seasoned English actor has worked with Patrice Chéreau and other directors known for their exploratory approach to drama. [Read more…]
The space of The Underground Museum might be what you expect, but it might not be. It is housed in an unassuming storefront on a busy street in Arlington Heights, Los Angeles. As visitors enter, they appear in a small museum gift store, with the usual items expected there: books about featured and past artists, some trinkets, and a sign-in registry for the museum’s mailing list. Just past the entry door and counter is another door. This is a carved wooden door, more like an ornate front door, if memory serves correctly, and here is the true entrance to the museum space and to Deana Lawson’s exhibit, Planes. [Read more…]
During the mid 1960’s, Light and Space became a loosely affiliated art movement related to Op Art, Minimalism and Abstraction. Influenced by American artist John McLaughlin, the movement was characterized by a focus on perceptual phenomenon and became well known throughout California. Artists integrated ideas of light, volume and scale, and the use of materials such as glass, neon, fluorescent lights and cast acrylic. Led by installation artists Robert Irwin and James Turrell, the pair specialized in the phenomenon of sensory deprivation and became curious about pushing the boundaries of art and perception. [Read more…]
Abide with me! Fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens: Lord, with me abide! –Hymn
Sally Mann’s haunting black and white photographs are a hymn to the South she loves so ferociously, with all its troubled, tangled, twisted history filled with bitter defeats. The charismatic photographs of her children, of her own black nanny Virginia, who also cared for her children, and of the Civil War battlefields are poignant, bittersweet narratives examining the complexities of race, place, family and faded memory. [Read more…]
One can only imagine what the great Roman historians like Tacitus and Suetonius would write about our own imperial moment. From rugged colonial stock the union sprout, liberated itself from the British crown, declared itself the United States, expanded in both territory and military might, and birthed characters like Richard Bruce Cheney. Forever imbedded in the world’s bloody consciousness as “Dick,” Cheney’s shadow looms large over the last 40 years of American history in Adam McKay’s brilliant, savagely insightful Vice. It is both a biography of power and a reckoning with the republic’s spiral into a capitalist behemoth straddling the globe. Some may be taken aback by McKay’s sense of dark comedy, in which the halls of power are exposed as a nest of minds which are not particularly cultured, but ruthlessly focused on the wielding of influence for profit and control. In that great American tradition going back to Mark Twain and Gore Vidal, McKay is using his own art form as a tool of scorching iconoclasm, rendering official histories to dust and transforming Dick Cheney himself into a figure both titanic and tragic. It falls on Christian Bale and Amy Adams’s shoulders to embody figures full of pain and ravenous villainy who perform their drama on the world stage. [Read more…]
It is the cinema which chronicles the passions, nightmares and dreams of an era. To look back at the movies of any given decade is to peer into the very fabric of an age’s consciousness. We are currently living through a period of historical transition, a moment Gramsci would recognize as a moment when an old world is beginning to die and what will come forth we do not yet know. Paris is burning, new parties worship the cult of blood and land. This helps explain why much of the year’s defining cinema obsesses itself with the past, the present and an aching uncertainty over what is to come. Yet some movies were also full of hope and tenderness, wisdom and the reverie of romance. I spent much of this year in darkened screening rooms all over Los Angeles. Whether in a hidden corner of Rodeo Drive or in some distant multiplex in Burbank, I found myself moved, exhilarated or challenged with despair. Here are ten offerings which defined the year in film, and crystalize our place in this current passage of time. [Read more…]
at California African American Museum, Los Angeles (through February 17, 2019) Reviewed by Ellen C. Caldwell
Robert Pruitt: Devotion is Houston-born and New York-based Robert Pruitt’s first major museum exhibit in Los Angeles, and it is a must-see and muse-experience. California African American Museum (CAAM) features Devotion in a large interior room, with plenty of light and room for a show with large-scale charcoal works on paper, paintings, sculptures, and installations. [Read more…]
Vivian Maier has been called a street photographer, although many of her photographic works are less about capturing the action around her and more about revealing a certain intimacy in her subjects. She was meticulous in her work; unedited and unculled, her images have an amazing range of power and depth. She has been called the nanny photographer, and while it is true that she spent forty years working as a nanny, she spent more time than that perfecting her craft. She has been called a mystery and an enigma, and to some extent, surely, she was that, having hidden her work from view, stored it in storage lockers, and then let those storage units fall into arears. Much speculation has been made as to whether or not Maier wanted her work discovered or cared little if it was lost. [Read more…]
A rush of air snatched out of my lungs, up my throat and through my lips, which sit agape in awe. Breathtaking. Too often “breathtaking” is employed as a casual synonym for beautiful. But Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is literally breathtaking. With an inventive animation style so groundbreaking that Sony is patenting its process, this superhero adventure pushes the boundaries of a genre that risked stagnation in live-action. But a bold look that blends CG animation with an illustrator’s flare is just one of the big risks this mainstream movie dares to take. [Read more…]
The University of Arizona Museum of Art’s solo exhibition What is the Color, When Black is Burned? The Gold War. Part I features the work of master storyteller, artist, and historian Umar Rashid (also known under the alias of Frohawk Two Feathers).
Chicago-born and Los Angeles-based, Rashid has been sowing his saga of the Frenglish Empire for fifteen years. He began this body of work by imagining the unification of France and England, exploring visually how centuries of colonial history could have played out differently (or exactly the same in many ways) had this union occurred. [Read more…]
Her Body and Other Parties
by Carmen Maria Machado
Graywolf Press, 264 pp., $16.00
Imagine, now, an episode of Black Mirror, in which the female-body-as-haunted-house is the prime subject, a corporeal metaphor undergoing a cinematic vivisection. A symphonic series of camera angles, close-ups, rapid cuts and fade-outs commingle with bones-in-the-attic narrative and feminist bloodletting, Camille Paglia channeling Shirley Jackson, and we, the viewers, are riveted to the screen, to the exposed interior of a haunted house that seems never-ending in its shadowed corridors and passageways. The episode closes with an appropriately unsettling final scene, a cryptic air that slows time and promises an emotional hangover. You stare at the silent blackened void of the screen, waiting for music to play, for credits to roll, for something to happen. Finally, words appear in white block letters — Written by Carmen Maria Machado. This stirring episode hasn’t yet aired, because it hasn’t been written, but in a parallel realm where I get to play Netflix exec, Machado has been commissioned to contribute her unique and considerable talents to the Black Mirror universe. [Read more…]