Wednesday, April 30, 2014
The Gracie Allen Murder Case 1939
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Thursday, April 24, 2014
Monday, April 21, 2014
Sunday, April 20, 2014
With it's current exhibition of the James Franco Show "New Film Stills" the Pace Gallery continues its downward spiral as a depository for celebrity schlock. I don't think I will ever recover from the images of Jerry Saltz and Marina Abramovic dancing with Jay-Z at his Picasso Baby fiasco that the Pace Gallery hosted last summer. These are images that will haunt my nightmares for years to come. So it should come as no surprise to me that they would throw up these dreadful images by Franco that he sees as an homage to Cindy Sherman's overrated and dreadful Untitled Film Stills, a parody of a parody. In this show we have lots of dull and dreary portraits of Franco posing in drag and the shows many misdemeanors is the great disservice it does to all the great drag queens out there who take their art seriously. I admit that I found some of them silly, giggly and harmless, but hardly the stuff that the poet Frank Bidart calls in the press release "profound", and please remind me in the future to avoid this guy's poetry. Franco who has long played at being an artist sites besides the already mentioned Sherman (also in the press release) Richard Prince, Dan Colen and Paul McCarthy as some of his favorite artists and I can see why he would be taken with these showy and overblown art world blue chip dandy's. I can see the Moma smacking their corporate botoxed lips over these things and will no doubt punish us with them all over again in one of their ghastly recent acquisitions shows that they mount every so often. I should note here that I sometimes do like Franco as an actor and a pusher of some difficult film works, his "Broken Tower" which was a minimal and stark film about the poet Hart Crane that he wrote, directed and starred in is well worth a look. Happily I saw two excellent photography exhibitions (one has since closed) which removed the sour taste of the Franco from my mouth and mind. The Malick Sidibe photographs now on at the Jack Shainman Gallery until April 26th was wonderful, and rich with his black and white images from the 1960's through the 80's of mostly nightlife in Mali soon after it gained its independence from France in 1960. His photos of young people dancing are especially great and there are also many poignant portraits of young people posing with pop record albums of the period along with some portraits with hand painted backgrounds and frames. Stunning work. The other great show has since closed and I'm glad that I caught it on the last day. Jerome Liebling who died in 2011 was vividly alive in his show at Steven Kasher with large and small black and white and color images a few of which have become part of my photographic reservoir of lasting and haunting images. I'm especially thinking of his "Butterfly Boy" of 1949 which is an image of a young black boy with his coat open looking like he is about to take off. So poignant. I've always loved this image and yet I couldn't place it with the photographer until the other day when I had an aha moment. What a rich and lasting body of work this great photographer has left us with. Both the Sidibe and Liebling shows will no doubt be on my list of the best exhibitions of 2014.
Friday, April 18, 2014
Two Men In Manhattan. 1959
I’ve been thinking a lot about this odd little 84 minute Jean Pierre Melville film that I saw the other night that is set in a nocturnal 1958 New York City right before Christmas and where all roads seem to lead to and from Times Square. The story follows two Frenchmen a reporter and a photographer, both old friends, sometimes not in agreement, but here they are on assignment from a French news agency to find a missing French delegate to the United Nations. All they have to work with are photographs of the guy with 4 of his mistresses, a jazz singer, a striper, an actress and a call girl, performers all, and off they go in their snazzy overcoats into the inky black night of Manhattan to find them and hopefully the missing diplomat. The reporter Moreau who is righteous is played by the director himself with his sad face, dark rimed eyes and bow tie and the photographer Pierre Delmas is played by Pierre Grasset who has a big drinking problem and a steady lack of morals, a paparazzi before the term was invented who thinks nothing of snapping photos of unaware bare breasted strippers in their dressing rooms and attempted suicides in their hospital beds. Melville who is known for his French crime thrillers and love of American movies combines the two in an uneasy but provocative Noir assemblage, with on location footage of Manhattan mixed in with interior scenes later filmed back in Paris. These interiors have the look and feel of Paris (with the exception of Delmas’s dump) more than New York with their baroque and rococo furnishings and cramped spaces, they look like sets in a play and Melville films them head on which adds even more to the theatrical feel of these scenes, while his beautiful flowing nighttime scenes of the city flow and move. There are scenes on the subway, on 5th avenue lit up with Christmas lights, and holiday shoppers, skaters in Rockefeller Center, a busy street in Brooklyn also lit up for Christmas and above all Times Sq. We get to view the interviews with the diplomat’s girlfriends along with his lesbian secretary who lives of course in Greenwich Village. All of them are dubbed and this adds to the strangeness of their scenes, which are also strangled by the lousiness of their performances. But so what. These are portraits that you might find in a thrift shop anyway so it doesn’t really matter how bad and mad these ladies are. The actress is performing at the Mercury Theatre (a big hug from Melville to Welles) in a production that looks like something you might see at a summer camp for ambitious young teens who long to act, sing and dance. The Jazz singer who is actually quite good is interviewed at a Capitol Records recording session that looks like it was filmed in a garage, the prostitute hiccupping Marilyn, Jayne and Mamie and works at an Asian themed whore house that Von Sternberg would have killed for, and the stripper who is black, nasty and disliked by the other strippers and does her thing in a flea bag strip joint out in Brooklyn that has a very aggressive bouncer on the payroll. None of them give our Frenchy’s much help but offer the audience some good little works of art compressed in shadow boxes of interiors with wonderful details, a pin up of Liz Taylor tapped to a wall, scandal magazines, cigarette packs, late 50’s decor and furniture, a diner that is said to be an exact replica of the one that James Whitmore hovered over in “The Asphalt Jungle.” Who knows if that’s true but at the counter are some good types, an orthodox Jew, (or so he seemed to me) a cop off duty chowing down his food, a young boy smoking a cigarette who gets hell from the cop and a drunk who is aggressive and comical at the same time, the film is full of stuff like this. And then there are the lit up movie theatres of the Square. Is that me and my Mom crossing Broadway after seeing “Party Girl” at the Loew’s State on our way to our 2nd Sunday movie of the day “I Want To Live” The city of my youth caught in this movie is of course long gone, the line of phone booths that lined 42street across the street from Grant’s fast food joint, Hector’s a glimpse caught by the camera where I would have many meals after many movies and where Seltzer would come out of fountains instead of water. And then there is the Jazz score by Christian Chevallier and Martial Solal who has a cameo playing the piano at The Pike Slip Inn and seems to have been a real life dive. This might be the first jazz score done for a film. The lush inky black and white cinematography is by Nicholas Hayer and much of it has a documentary look to it because of the actual New York City footage. This is a city of dark, amazingly dark except for the glowing neon lights of Times Square, this is a deserted place after dark which will surprise many, who only know the city of today which glares and blasts. So what happens with the missing diplomat, I’m not saying but I will say this is a marvelous eccentric little pebble of art, but not for everyone and I can imagine many hating it and saying “Ira Joel Haber is out of his fucking mind” but for me its a keeper a piece of true film brut.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
If you are around east 22st you might want to check out the small but very good exhibition of Ray Johnson's collages that is at the Sidney Mishkin Gallery of Baruch College. I had no idea this place even existed until I saw a notice about this show. These are bullet like pieces, small but for the most part very potent and strong, if not deadly, and full of pop images before pop was pop and Ray was probably the most important mail artist that ever used the post office. I liked his abstract collages as well as the more popular imagery ones, and I don't think Ray would go for all this "new" technology stuff. You can't be touchy feely in emails. I like his work and I'm sorry that he killed himself. Most of the pieces in the show are from the collection of William S. Wilson a close friend of his and whose mother was the zany artist and maker of assemblages and collages herself May Wilson, now thats an exhibition I would like to see, but I shouldn't hold my breath. Once when I was very young, (even younger than I am in my profile picture) I was at big art world party and across the crowded room Ray made his way to me in cruise control mode. "And what do you do, he asked" "I'm an artist" I said. "Oh" he replied and walked away. I once got a birthday postcard from him, which I sold, (I know) and he contributed a piece about me for my retrospective at Kent State many years ago, that he made sure was returned to him and which is posted here. We can all use a little Ray Johnson in our lives now and again.
Monday, April 14, 2014
Zoomoozophone Review has just posted their first issue with my collage on the cover. Thank you Zoomoozophone.
A nice thing to wake up to. Mark Givens and his beautiful on line journal Mungbeing has just posted their spring issue with 4 pages of my notebook drawings. This is my 8th appearance in this magazine, and if you click on the link at the bottom of the page you can see all of my contributions to the magazine beginning in 2007.
Sunday, April 13, 2014
The large show of works by the late artist Sigmar Polke now filling the Atrium and the large spacious galleries that the Moma usually uses to show off its latest mediocre acquisitions seems to me to be a show worthy of the attention paid and the spaces used. Polke is pretty much a stranger to me, so I was looking forward to seeing this show, and by and large I wasn't disappointed. I especially liked his imaginative use of materials and how well he used his large canvases, these are the best pieces and no doubt these works done on fabrics and other odd surfaces were a big influence on some well placed and over saturated artists of the 80's. His work with photographs and smaller collages are pleasant enough but really didn't do the trick for me and I couldn't concentrate on his films and videos that were placed on monitors here and there. The exhibition guide that you pick up is 32pgs and as usual I hate these fucking things in which you have to match the tiny diagrams with the numbered captions, small descriptive labels would have worked fine instead of me having to try to decipher this poorly conceived and designed road map. I took a look also at the Jasper Johns "No Regrets" show which put me to sleep and I was standing up and walking. This guy hasn't done anything worth looking at in probably 40 or more years and the only reason he has this space is well because hey he's Jasper Johns. He might be the most overrated artist of the 20th century, notice I said might be, but his reputation to me is really based on a few maps and flags he did in the 1950's. These latest works are dull and D.O.A. I also took a quick second look at Robert Heinecken: Object Matter which I liked better the second time but I still think his stuff is pretty juvenile, minor and mostly silly, but the guy sure could handle an X-acto knife and I liked that he pretty much worked only in black and white with the exception of those altered magazines that cover a whole wall with their bright colors. Think Mad Men and advertising of the early 60's with some mild porn thrown in. Yesterday I caught the final day of the Onnasch Collection that took up the huge Hauser & Wirth space with a museum quality exhibition of mostly works from the 60's by some big time major male artists, and one woman, but I did like a lot of the work, a room of Kienholz, and some terrific small Tuttle's early Dine's and Oldernburgs, and not a Jasper Johns to be found. Also good was the Howardena Pindell show of unstretched paintings from 1974-1980 which are obsessive with punched dots and overloaded with paint and other unusual "things." I also quickly walked in and out of the David Zwimer galleries which had some dark rooms that I wasn't going to go into and Petzel which has some big charcoal drawings by Robert Longo that didn't interest me at all. The other gallery that I made it to was Michael Rosenfeld which is a gallery that I like for the "historical" shows they put on. This month there is a beautiful show of twentieth Century African American artists, and finally if you are near FIT this week check out the soon to close "Elegance In An Age of Crisis: Fashions of the 1930's" if only to see the display cases full of Fred Astaire's shoes.
Saturday, April 12, 2014
Poetry space offered up another photo by me for poets to be inspired by. You can view the results at this link.
Wednesday, April 09, 2014
The Milo Review
Tuesday, April 08, 2014
The Killing 1956
Slinking into the Mayfair Theatre in Times Sq. in May of 1956 where it just laid there collecting dust and indifference, this is Kubrick’s first masterwork. Unsettling, damp and dark this little bed bug of a movie was pretty much ignored by critics and audiences alike. Maybe because even in 1956 it seemed dated even by conservative Hollywood’s standards. It looks like 1951 and in 1956 Hollywood was doing the big Cinemascope color thing with bloated brightly colored easy does it entertainment, and giving out its little Oscar man to some pretty but dreadful things like “Around The World in 80 Days,” “Giant”, “The Ten Commandments” and “The King and I” none of which have stood my test of time. Sure some of these are fun and camp but where does a cheap black and white dime store pulp fiction Noir like “The Killing” fit in? It doesn’t of course; it’s a stay at home on a Saturday night when everyone else is having fun at the Prom kind of movie. That’s ok. Even as a 9 year old those old-fashioned musicals and biblical fables didn’t really do the trick for me. I was more interested in “The Man Who Knew Too Much”, “Invasion Of The Body Snatchers” and “Written on The Wind” and my 9-year-old idea of a musical was the brassy and bold “The Girl Can’t Help It”. How “The Killing” got by me is a mystery, maybe my mother didn’t like her young child seeing a movie with killing in the title, but she thought nothing of taking me to see “The Bad Seed” which gave me nightmares for years. I finally saw “The Killing” for the first time some years back, and recently slipped the gorgeous Criterion transfer into my dvd player the other night and started to swoon the minute Marie Windsor as Sherry started to give it to her poor schnook of a husband the short sad Elisha Cook Jr. who asks her why did she marry him? Good question Elisha because this Sherry is no cherry on the top. She is bad, a cheat, a rancid parfait topped off by a bunch of blonde hair sitting on the top of her head. Sherry is cheating on Elisha big time and has her pointy mid 50’s tits wrapped so tightly around hubba hunk bad guy small time crook and lover on the side Vince Edwards that he can hardly breath. “You’d sell your mother for a piece of fudge” Sterling Hayden says to her after he finds out that she is dangerous when wet or dry and could screw up his ludicrous plan to rob a race track. This is a heist movie gone bad from the word go, and we watch it fall apart in Kubrick’s back and forth story telling seen from the different characters point of view. There is some (thankfully not much) annoying over the action narrative spoken tough and serious by Art Gilmore who made a career doing voice-overs which were common in neo-realist crime and heist films of the period. The screenplay was really co-written by Kubrick and Jim Thompson (who by the way got shafted on this and took his own fall over this pot boiler getting only “dialogue” credit) and with smooth tracking cinematography by Lucien Ballard that flows, moves and shoves itself into detailed cluttered depressed small rooms and bedrooms as well as the cracks and crevices of a real L.A. The supporting cast is brilliant and includes the good little actress (as Pauline Kael referred to her) Coleen Gray as Hayden’s bride in waiting who is probably still waiting, and who the great Jay C. Flippen in a very homo moment wants Hayden to dump and go away with him. We also have Ted de Corsia as a corrupt and dirty cop, Joe Sawyer as a bartender and crazy Timothy Carey who plays a racist assassin. All are good and all are in on the play to rob the racetrack. There are others and some of the action and script lags and some of the sets (especially the interior of the racetrack) look like something left over from a bad prison movie. But even with these minor flaws this is still one hell of a heist and one of the ten best films of 1956. Best Actor, supporting actor, supporting actress and screenplay.