The final scene of 1973’s cult horror film The Wicker Man was inspired by an aside in Julius Caesar’s The Gallic Wars, which screenwriter Anthony Shaffer claimed he fixated on because it was “the most alarming and imposing image” he had ever seen. Caesar, traveling through Gaul, remarks on how the people are “extremely devoted to superstitious rites,” so that when they are troubled with severe disease or engaged in battle, they often resort to human sacrifice, “because they think that unless the life of a man be offered for the life of a man, the mind of the immortal gods can not be rendered propitious.” Among the various means of sacrifice Caesar had heard about, it was one in which figures of vast size were constructed, “the limbs of which formed of wicker they fill with living men, which being set on fire, the men perish enveloped in the flames.” While, Caesar concludes, they “consider that the oblation of such as have been taken in theft, or in robbery, or any other offense, is more acceptable to the immortal gods; but when a supply of that class is wanting, they have recourse to the oblation of even the innocent.” [Read more…]
This exhibition of Ellsworth Kelly’s plant drawings is a companion exhibition to Ellsworth Kelly, Last Paintings, shown at the Matthew Marks space directly next door on West 22nd Street. The late Ellsworth Kelly’s oeuvre is unusual in that he pursued quite various themes and ways of artmaking in a range of media, including painting, drawing, prints, and photographs. Ellsworth Kelly had wanted to pursue art from a young age, and following a tour of service in the Army during World War II, he studied art in Boston and then Paris. He began making drawings of plants in the late 1940s in both of these cities, and his fascination with plants as subject continued throughout his career. [Read more…]
The Bad Batch (2016) is a stark and stunning new film by Ana Lily Amirpour. And timely too, considering every effort by our current regime to cast those of seeming naught into the desperate oblivions of a world only slightly less unhinged than the one depicted in this film. With a nod to the current depravity of our day, the film opens (forgive my indulgence) in the wet dream of said regime whose spooging head is our ever-ranting, ever-pissy Child-in-Chief — let’s call him Boy — he who nightly wets his bed and in the dreamy slosh fingers blindly for his own plundered asshole. Were the Boy blessedly in this film, he’d be swiftly on a sizzling spit: fatted swine for its flesh-hungry natives.
We first meet our protagonist, a wordless Arlen May Johnson, aka Inmate 5040, as guards walk her to desert’s edge, to the kingdom’s unceremonial gate (American chain link), to literally lock her away from fair society. She stands, indifferent to her plight, with only a backpack, a burger (which she promptly eats) and a half-filled jug of water. Ignored is the wooded post which reads:
Warning: Beyond this fence is no longer the territory of Texas. That hereafter no person within the territory beyond this fence is a resident of the United States of America or shall be acknowledged, recognized or governed by the laws and governing bodies therein. Good luck.
There, she is loosed into a blistering landscape of sand and sunbaked clay, and she walks straight in as would a schoolgirl through a noonday park, though there is little question here of her arrival into something far more suspect. Arlen’s first encounter is with a tribe of desert body builders — a brutish, body-ripped band in need, naturally, of good supply of protein. Stray travelers seem their sole course, and these luckless lie chained and limbless in what unremittingly comes as another feed, one body part at a time. Arlen, freshly snatched from the feral barrens, no sooner meets with a hacksaw than she wiles a witting escape, and face-up to the blazing sun, a snapped up skateboard as her ride, she pushes into a fevered dream one foot, and only one foot, at a time. What follows is a love story.
Few contemporary painters nail the zeitgeist as pointedly as Eric Fischl. The artist is in top form at his current show “Late America;” five large-scale canvases that pack a paunchy punch: the Hamptons’ haute bourgeoisie, magnified poolside by harsh daylight in the full flawed glory of their middle-aged decadence.
Fischl’s merciless vision is equally unkind to the men and women in these works, but here the men fare slightly worse. This is the decline of the American empire in painted Technicolor, and its various iterations depict the nominal heads of household as gracelessly aging emperors without any clothes. Although the show’s press release states that the pieces are not political, it is hard not to think of the wizened white patriarchs currently in power. [Read more…]
The Start Of Your Ending (41st Side)
Can’t Get Enough Of It
A new day comes
like something you cannot name.
And perhaps because once again,
you must bend yourself
to the task of living
you begin to hack your way
through the mute glyphs
and weird print of your own thinking.
Searching among the splayed alphabet
of time and space
for the word’s cordite shape. [Read more…]
June 15, 2017
Socialism was to be a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, a consciousness-driven model of social transformation but without the processes that would allow it to validate its understandings against how the world really worked. Focused more on mobilization against an enemy than understanding itself and its society, the Communist Party and its state were both constituted through mechanisms they also made. The way in which they were made also prevented authorities from recognizing the real problems they faced.
I wrote that paragraph to describe Andreas Glaeser’s book on the political epistemics organizing the East German society communists ruled. One can understand Trump Rule better in light of that work, as well as of others illuminating communist rule.
It’s not only the pervasiveness of the lie. Do we need to trust authorities to act on our behalf and require no evidence that they do? Do we need to emulate the sycophancy of the leaders’ lieutenants in order to find our place in the new order? If we challenge authority, do we risk becoming an enemy? In this kind of order, it’s not the rule of law but the rule of loyalty that determines trustworthiness and truthfulness. [Read more…]
In 1916, when Florine Stettheimer was 45 and had been painting for over 20 years, she had her first solo show at the Knoedler Gallery in New York. Half way through the show, she wrote in her diary: “I am not selling much to my amazement.” And, at the end, “Nothing sold.” She did not get the recognition she expected as an artist through the sale of her paintings. Reviews were derisive or indifferent at best. It must have hurt. Had her paintings sold, she would have joined the ranks of painters such as O’Keeffe and Aaron Douglas and Arthur Dove and Gaston Lachaise, her Modernist friends who lived from their art. Instead, she was denied an escape from her position as an upper class idler. From then on, she refused all solo shows. She embraced brazenly her identity as upper class, at least publicly. She overpriced her paintings to prevent any sales. [Read more…]
at David Krut Projects, NYC Reviewed by Robin Scher
Since the days of cave paintings, the human need to represent and be represented has served as a powerful impulse to create art. This desire has manifested in many forms and been fulfilled in various fashions. Icons and Avatars, a current group show at New York’s David Krut Projects, presents five international contemporary artists who continue this tradition through portraiture. [Read more…]
Was it all a dream—
I mean those old bygone days—
Were they all what they seemed?
All night long I lie awake
listening to autumn rain.
This poem from the Zen monk, Ryokan, could serve as an emblematic preface to Haruki Murakami’s Men Without Women. Claustrophobic poignancy and stringent wistfulness, shot through with quirky humor, characterize the autumn-flavored tone of the seven stories comprising the collection. [Read more…]
at Cristin Tierney Gallery, NYC
Reviewed by Robin Scher
Picture documentary and artwork as a Venn diagram. Sometimes the line between the two categories is blurred. A fine example of this can be found in Janet Biggs’s three channel installation, Afar, currently on show at New York’s Cristin Tierney gallery, which offers viewers a brief visual sojourn to East Africa’s Great Rift Valley — “the most unlivable place on earth.” [Read more…]
1949 | 2017
Excerpted from Jesus’ Son
Car Crashing While Hitchhiking
A salesman who shared his liquor and steered while sleeping . . . A Cherokee filled with bourbon . . . A VW no more than a bubble of hashish fumes, captained by a college student . . .
And a family from Marshalltown who headonned and killed forever a man driving west out of Bethany, Missouri . . .
. . . I rose up sopping wet from sleeping under the pouring rain, and something less than conscious, thanks to the first three of the people I’ve already named–the salesman and the Indian and the student–all of whom had given me drugs. At the head of the entrance ramp I waited without hope of a ride. What was the point, even, of rolling up my sleeping bag when I was too wet to be let into anybody’s car? I draped it around me like a cape. The downpour raked the asphalt and gurgled in the ruts. My thoughts zoomed pitifully. The travelling salesman had fed me pills that made the linings of my veins feel scraped out. My jaw ached. I knew every raindrop by its name. I sensed everything before it happened. I knew a certain Oldsmobile would stop for me even before it slowed, and by the sweet voices of the family inside it I knew we’d have an accident in the storm.
I didn’t care. They said they’d take me all the way. [Read more…]
The Georgia O’Keeffe show at the Brooklyn Museum is an ode to the artist as icon. The exhibit combines little-seen early work with the artist’s own clothing–including dresses, jeans, shoes, and hats—as well as photographs taken by her famous husband, Alfred Stieglitz, and a dozen or so other noted photographers, to illustrate the extent to which O’Keefe — much like Warhol — was the brilliant architect of her own enduring image. [Read more…]
Kang Seung Lee’s two part exhibition at Commonwealth & Council reflects in part on photography’s documentary capacity by re-examining and reproducing photographs. Lee’s project grapples with the indexical nature of photography, but moves beyond merely exploring concerns surrounding what Roland Barthes called photography’s “evidential force.” [Read more…]
Though New York for years has had an inspiringly lively and progressive jazz scene, Kamasi Washington, approaching the American cultural front, is singlehandedly making the form relevant once more. His forthcoming EP, Harmony of Difference, currently (and exclusively heard) in its own room at the Whitney, will surely set the stage for the long in coming Jazz Renaissance.
Hands down the best collaborative work at this year’s Biennial, and in fact the single best piece in the exhibition (no diss on an otherwise excellent affair, particularly floor 6), is Washington’s stellar “Truth” and the equally affecting film in accompaniment, Harmony of Difference, written and directed by AG Rojas.
It is obvious from the map, an exhibition at REDCAT organized by Thomas Keenan and Sohrab Mohebbi, showcases a variety of maps, videos, archival material, and other multimedia ephemera that highlight migration, migrant rights, and social justice in both the twenty first century and the age of surveillance. This timely exhibit juxtaposes a variety of maps, ranging from hand-drawn maps passed and exchanged by migrants, to governmental maps used for tracking and surveillance purposes, to artistic renderings that visualize various migrants’ stories, to geospatial mappings. [Read more…]
A Third Gender: Beautiful Youths in Japanese Edo-Period Prints and Paintings (1600–1868)
at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto
excerpted from a review by Ian Buruma
Read the full review in the May 11, 2017 issue of New York Review of Books, or read it on site at nybooks.com
Lusting after pretty teenage boys was not considered shameful in premodern Japan. Experienced older women did it. Young women did too. Older men indulged in it (as long as the boys were passive sexual partners). Adultery was not permitted, on the other hand, and it was unseemly for grown men to love other grown men. But the love of older men for young boys, a practice called shudo, literally “the way of boy love,” was considered, especially during the eighteenth century, and notably among samurai, to be a mark of erotic discernment. [Read more…]
The group exhibition, Undercover Boss, opens a conversation on the ubiquity of surveillance, insofar as the ability to view another’s intimate affairs without their knowledge through social media outlets, the multiplicity of images that dilutes their meaning, and how this information can be mishandled. The inaugural show at metro Detroit-based gallery Reyes Projects features artists Tony Cox, Greg Fadell, Sadie Laska, Jane Moseley, Jonathan Rajewski, Scott Reeder, Tyson Reeder, and Joe Roberts. [Read more…]
There was no way it was ever not going to be a mess: eleven years of one of the most influential American art galleries, condensed into a 100,000 square foot section of LACMA’s Resnick Pavilion. Consider the fact that many of the artworks in the 134 exhibitions held over those eleven years turned out to be canonical Modernist masterpieces, and were acquired by museums or major private collections around the globe, many now unwilling or unable to lend them. Others were destroyed, or lost, or are too delicate to go on public display. Some – not all of them masterpieces – entered LACMA’s own collection, so of course they wound up in this show, whether they fully deserved to be there or not. [Read more…]
US Vice President Joe Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sat in white and gold upholstered chairs in the Presidential Palace in Ankara. It was August 24, 2016, over one month past the July 15th failed coup attempt in Turkey.
Biden began by thanking Erdoğan for his friendship and for Erdoğan’s condolences when Biden lost his son. He leaned across the gap between chairs, placed his hand atop Erdoğan’s, and said it was hard to fathom that the coup attacked the hotel where he and his family had been staying just 15 minutes after they had left. [Read more…]