Sunday, March 31, 2013
Saturday, March 30, 2013
I’m Talking Whitney Here.
Nice day on Saturday so I chose to spend a few hours at the Whitney Museum looking at everything that they have up right now, which exhausted me. The Whitney has always struck me as being like a small town, compared to those other big city houses of art. I don’t mean it in a bad way, but this is a place where the ticket seller tells me what an honor it must be for me to be in their permanent collection as he takes my "artist in the collection lifetime" membership pass and hands me my ticket, and where the female coat checker asks as she hands me my coat if I enjoyed the shows. Hard to see this happening at the Moma or The Met or The Gu Mu. After all this is a museum that I recall visiting as a kid in the early 50’s when it was on 54th st. and that you could get to by going through a connecting entrance in the Moma. For years I thought I had dreamed or imagined this “magic door”. The Whitney is now getting ready to move into a giant new building downtown designed by Renzo Piano who also did the very fine recent renovations on the Morgan Library so I’m expecting a good looking building unlike the Moma mess designed by Yoshio Taniguchi, and no doubt the museum will lose its small town feel once they open to the public in 2015. My main stop today was the well received and talked up Jay DeFeo Retrospective and her giant (in size and reputation) “painting” “The Rose” that she worked on for about 8 years and is built up of paint and more paint that she then chiseled and carved. Actually I find the story of the piece more interesting than the final result, but it is a striking and dramatic work lit with theatrical wow and style, but for me hardly one of the masterpieces of the 20th Century. There’s much to like in this colorless show, and much that left me cold or rather lukewarm. Her delicate drawings and gentle collages are really not my cup of tea, and I was more drawn (no pun please) to her craggy dense large textured paintings. The exhibit is beautifully installed, and I do recommend that it be seen even though I have my own private reservations about her work. She remained somewhat obscure and unknown until this show so I guess that there are indeed 2nd and even 3rd acts in the art world, which is a good thing. Also saw the “Sinister Pop” show which is about as sinister as a day at the beach. There are many terrific pieces in the show all from the Museum’s collection and like the other group show “Blues For Smoke” on view it’s a hit and miss exhibit. Although basically a show highlighting the African American experience in art and music there is also a hefty use of video and film throughout and includes several white artists that I found puzzling and unnecessary but I guess the curator’s thinking was that even white folks can get the blues. As I said, its an uneven show with some works that are minor and not very interesting and I was drawn more to the works by the “older” generation of artists like the marvelous paintings by Beauford Delaney, Jacob Lawrence, the collages of Romare Bearden and the Roy DeCarava photographs. The installation is also unappealing and dull. The really wonderful show for me is the “American Legends: From Calder to O’Keefe which is a changing installation and takes up the entire 5th floor and is just wonderful. There are rooms devoted to Stuart Davis, Joseph Stella, Demuth, Elie Nadelman, (who when i was a kid thought he was a woman) Calder, Hopper, Cornell, Jacob Lawrence, O’Keefe, Marsh, Hartley and other fine artists from the first half of the 20th Century and includes for me a revelation room featuring the photographs and some paintings by Ralston Crawford.
images Joseph Stella and Jay DeFeo
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Lori March 1923-2013.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Gutai and Zarinia Go Boating
I really enjoyed the Gutai exhibition at the Guggenheim especially since it was a complete unknown quantity to me. Briefly put they were a collective of artists working in Japan from 1954 to 1972 who took painting, sculpture and installation art and turned it on its head. They also published journals some of which are displayed throughout the show. No doubt they were influenced by American Abstract art but they brought their own unique culture and sensibility to their work and also I think were reacting to their postwar environment and the horrible war they lived through. Lets not forget that they are the only country ever to have atomic bombs dropped on their heads. The show is beautiful and lavish, and wonderfully installed and compelling with many terrific paintings that are bold and inventive in their techniques. I thought it was a much better show than the one on Japanese Art that the Moma mounted a few months ago "Tokyo 1955-1970: The Birth of the Avant-Garde" There is a short but informative video on the link below. I also liked "Zarina (not to be confused with Zorina the dancer) Paper Like Skin" which is a somewhat large but compact retrospective of her works on paper and of paper including many prints. Her way of working is minimal. Simple shapes, lines and marks including a nice series of pin drawings made by her piercing the white paper with needles. They have the look of braille. I also liked a wall installation of lots of 3D abstract like bird shapes made of tin, and there is a large series of small drawings and collages arranged in a large round display case that were hit and miss for me. Born in India in 1937 she brings a subtle political edge to her work that doesn't infringe on the beautiful look of many of her pieces. Also on view is a dull group show called "contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia" which the museum is warning us is the first in "multi-year Initiative" The work is strictly grad school stuff and that the museum is actually buying these things is beyond me. The final show on view is another accumulation bit of nonsense by Danh Vo who actually won the Hugo Boss Prize for his work. This one is an homage of sorts to the late artist Martin Wong and is a smallish room with wall to wall shelves housing the eccentric and eclectic collection of Wong. So what we have are shelves of vintage Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck toys, Popeye stuff, books (I noticed two copies of "The Philosophy Of Andy Warhol. (From A To B & Back Again)" and wondered if they were signed along with tons of salt and pepper shakers, trinkets, children's books, travel guides and even some toys that I owned as a kid. What bothered me about this latest pile of stuff (The Guggenheim seems to love this kind of exhibit as its the second recent one they're shoved down our throats) is how appealing and enticing it is. I mean who doesn't like flea markets, shelves of toys and tchotchkes. This show appeals to our inner spiritual tchotchke, and is the kind of exhibit that Aunt Betty and Uncle Al can easily love, embrace and talk about back home in Indiana. But and this is a big but what does it say about Martin Wong other than he liked to collect things. Does it say that he was gay? No. does it say that he had AIDS and eventually passed from it Again no, this information is mentioned in an oh by the way aside on the intro statement. Does it say that he was a painter? No not really although there are a few inconsequential works of his peeking out from behind all of the objects, and does it say that he was an Asian American? Yes we know that of course from his name. I want more much more from homages and memorials than shelves of things. When I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn I had a friend Freddy Adler who had the most amazing toy collection I think I had ever seen. Arranged on many shelves in his bedroom they were to be looked at and not touched, and his mother and grandfather hovered over me to make sure of this. Maybe I should propose an exhibition to the Gu Mu of Freddy Adler's toys and the meaning and influence it had on my becoming an artist.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Spring Breakers 2013
A modestly made film with some of the most repulsive young women you will ever see in a contemporary movie. The plot is simple and small. 4 young pretty college girls want to go on a spring break holiday, but they don’t have enough money, so three of them who would be right at home playing the witches in Macbeth steal a teacher’s car and with fake plastic guns and those scary ski masks storm off into the night to rob a fast food joint and with the stolen loot they are soon off to St. Petersburg where the boys are. As I said 3 of these bimbos (and that’s what they are) are nasty pieces of work, while the 4th one, aptly named Faith is the only decent girl in the group. Faith who is also the only non-blonde is played by Selena Gomez, who although she goes along for the ride has doubts, conflicts and confusion because of her religious beliefs and her basic decency. That she would even go along with these 3 is one of the movie’s plot flaws, regardless of peer pressure. While the film is sexual, (it hovers over everything) there is actually very little of it in the film, and most of it when it happens is girl on girl action. There is also a scene where James Franco has forced oral sex with the barrel of a gun. The kids are more into drugs, drinking and violence, which comes and goes in various degrees of nastiness and absurdness. The most fun part of the film for me is when the four of them wind up in jail dressed only in their well worn bikinis and are bailed out and rescued (if that’s the right word for it) by a low life rapper, gangster and drug dealer by the name of Alien played with robust off the wall charm and dread by James Franco who is decked out in tattoos grillz and long cornrows, he’s like a long lost relative of the pimp played by Harvey Keitel in Taxi Driver, the wolf in this very grim fairytale. The director/writer Harmony Korine has a good eye and with his excellent cinematographer Benoit Debie fills the screen in bright crayon box colors of withering male and female bodies, crowded beaches, pools and destroyed hotel rooms crowded with drunken young men and women being totally disgusting and repulsive. Now I know that this behavior is nothing new and I’m really in no position to be judgmental as I recall a rip- roaring few days that I had when I was in college at the now gone Concord Hotel in the Catskills. The film ends with an explosive burst of far-fetched violence and believe or not most of the cast might live happily ever after or somewhat close to it. Or maybe not.
some more shows
I forgot to mention that also at DC Moore is a small but beautiful show of Milton Avery.
oh yes I also saw the Helen Frankenthaler show at Gagosian and yes it is gorgeous and happy to say that it gave me a new perspective on her work. I still don't like her as a person (her politics stunk) but the scale and colors carried me. Also Thorton Willis at Elizabeth Harris shows large simple shaped abstract colorful paintings, that are bold and bracing and Andrew Masullo one of the darlings of the art world has a smart and colorful show on at Mary Boone of his small scale happy meal paintings. I do like these, not all but many of them. Also saw the large retrospective like show of Faith Ringgold at ACA, I really like her paintings on fabric. And Mark Dion at Tanya Bonakdar has a big show of sculptural displays of natural history things and organic materials that hit me as being very literary somethng like a Steven Millhauser novel. Accumulation art is dragging me down. His drawings, photos, prints upstairs are lacking. They really have no appeal for me, and look like the usual smart ass drawings that cover the walls in many of the galleries in Chelsea. His work is also reminiscence of some of the graphic novel artists and illustrators, but still the show has charm and I can see his stuff appealing to a lot of people, I'm just not one of them
Saturday, March 23, 2013
Duane Michals Photographs
wow. I went to see the Duane Michals show of photographic works today at DC Moore and he was there. He graciously signed the nice announcement for me. He's always been an icon for me both as a photographer and as a gay man telling his story through his art. The show is lovely with much of the work consisting of hand painted tintypes hung against brightly colored areas painted directed on the wall. Michals who is now 81 is still vibrant and doing youthful and joyous work.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Storm Cellar has just published my collages in a b&w print edition which can be had for cheap $4.99 or the full color e book pdf for $2.99. You can of course see them right here for free.
http://stormcellarquarterly.com/2013/03/18/new-issue-now-out/ (8 photos)
http://stormcellarquarterly.com/2013/03/18/new-issue-now-out/ (8 photos)
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Some short movie reviews
Tomorrow we live. 1942
This doesn't even deserve a 1 star rating mainly because the transfer is so rotten that after 1/2 hour I turned it off. It was like watching a movie shot through a grilled cheese sandwich. It might have been a fun little B movie if I could have seen it especially since Ricardo Cortez is in it. I will never ever rent alpha video again. They should be run out of town.
crime of passion 1957
somewhat ok movie melodrama featuring Barbara Stanwyck as a feisty independent newspaper reporter who rails against marriage and a woman's place is in the kitchen thing who then suddenly and without much motivation off and marries a weak willed police officer played by Sterling Hayden. This is not an ideal marriage for her, and she soon starts to have moods of anger and depression as she goes about trying to manipulate her husband's career by sleeping with his captain played by the oily Raymond Burr in order to get Hayden a promotion. Bad things soon follow but there is really little motivation or reason why this strong woman would suddenly change her tune and get all weak in the knees over Hayden. The film begins as a tough newspaper movie and then the mood and feel of it changes and turns into a woman's flick. The best scene is the dinner party where Stanwyck has a minor breakdown over the cream cheese and olive sandwiches. Not too interesting, but as usual Stanwyck holds the screen and our attention. Directed by B cult director Gerd Oswald.
Garbage. This film sets gay rights back to pre-Stonewall days. A mean -spirited unfunny piece of crap. I wish I had never rented it. Sacha Baron Cohen please go away.
Drag me to hell 2009
Predictable full of holes horror film with high budget fx and a few good laughs and scares. But it's pretty much old hat stuff. Did like lorna Raver though as the old gypsy from hell, and the great title promises more than it eventually delivers. The horror genre continues to free fall into the blahs. With the attractive and promising young actress Alison Lohman.
Event horizon 1997
In space no one can hear you yawn. Predictable space adventure that lifts material from much better sci-fi horror flicks. The script (if you can call it that) doesn't give the cast much to work with, although the sets look good, look elsewhere for a good sci-fi space flick. Well there's always Alien.
Los Bastardos 2008
Not very good shocker, influenced by Michael Haneke, Carlos Reygadas & Bruno Dumont but nowhere as interesting or exciting as their films. The opening is a riff on the ending of The Third Man. A little too little for me, and the burst of extreme violence is just sickening without any emotional pull. There is no depth to the characters (although the housewife is heartbreaking) and I kinda like the idea of not really knowing where or why a film is going but this one is not developed enough, maybe it needed more than 90 minutes to tell its story. (I can almost hear the moans and groans) Why this got a push from Film Comment is beyond me.
Twentynine Palms 2004
Dumont is an original French film director who makes visually striking physically and emotionally violent films. I've pretty much seen all of his films and always find his work to be intriguing, powerful and usually shocking. His influences are everywhere in his films sometimes inspired by art (Humanite’s important "tableau" is inspired by Duchamp's final great work) and Twentynine Palms ending reminded me of Hitchcock. But his films can be slow and difficult in terms in his pacing & camera shots. I also find most of his films to be disturbing and this too can be a big turn off for some along with his use of explicit sex scenes. So this film is about a couple traveling through the desert and some very terrible things happen. The suspense at times is killing, and as a quasi horror film, it's so much better than what is accepted as horror films these days. I think with a director like Dumont one should just forget the reviews and see at least one of his films. Dumont is one "newer" foreign film directors who use pockets and spots of unexpected violence and explicit sex in their films, some of the others include Gaspar Noe & Catherine Breillat & the Mexican director Carlos Reygadas. This is Dumon't only film in English, and its known that he would love to make more films in Hollywood