Friday, August 29, 2014

James Lee Byars ½ an Autobiography. P.S. 1

This is a wide open somewhat large look at what some in the art world call a mythical figure while others label him a dandy. I wish I found more to like in this rambling retrospective, but most of his objects left me cold and dry, and wondering why him. There are many darkly lit rooms and galleries, exactly the kind of environments I really dislike, but I dared to enter them anyway since much of the exhibition took place in these spaces so what choice did I have?. This is the kind of exhibition that this museum has a fondness for kinetic, busy, artistically lit  and somewhat threating  that incorporate expensive looking manufactured objects and things that look like that have not been touched by human hands. This show fulfills that fondness and to be fair I did like some of his work with my preference being his early pieces that he did when living in Kyoto in 1958 where  he got busy doing elegant scrolls and large lovely black ink drawings of forms on Japanese rice paper and I wish there were more of them shown. Also quite marvelous were the large figure like sculpture made of pieces of wood with a tiny ball for a head that is laid out like a corpse in a dimly lit gallery and the medium sized stone painted in rich black paint which is also laid on the floor.  He also dabbled in performance and had a standout presence in his bowler like  hats and gold lamé suit, that he would sometimes wear around and at art world functions , the suit by the way is in the show hanging in one of the galleries, and there are several videos of Byars wearing his trademark like hats. Fun. There are also several cases of letters and documents that have become  de rigueur in many contemporary museum shows, regardless of how dull and incompressible they are. Most of the letters and such are to the famous museum curator Dorothy C. Miller who Byars charmed and delighted with his fragile pieces. The show is up only until Sept 7th so rush to the no. 7 subway line if you have a need to see it.   

Last notebook drawing of the summer of 2014

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Maria Lassnig. P.S. 1.

I took advantage of the cooler weather to take a long jaunt (3 different trains) to go to PS1 and take a look at the Maria Lassnig and James Lee Byars shows before they close. Maria Lassnig just passed at 94 I see, and I was unfamiliar with her work, so it was a nice find for me to see her paintings that spanned a very long and fruitful career. I went through the wrong door and started the show from the most recent work which at first took me aback a bit, All those twisted figures and faces painted in those tutti fruity like colors, sharp lime greens and screaming blues, and all those alien like faces, distorted, violent and yes compelling. I soon calmed down and started to get into her work,and by the time I wound up in the early work I was won over. This was a life well lived and painted, so if possible you should try to get there to see this show that will surprise but not necessarily delight you.

Ray Donovan 2013

Very bad people doing for the most part very bad things. This is a series that is not for the timid or squeamish, it’s full of characters and situations that push your face to the sidewalk and make you jump back in fear and sometimes disgust.  Set in L.A. it stars the very terrific and sexy Liev Schreiber as a transplanted lower class Irish   Bostonian who is now a big time corrupt Hollywood fixer-cleaner who solves big time problems for his big time Hollywood clients which include big shot corrupt  lawyers, movie stars and your everyday crooks and gangsters. In this messy mix are his two damaged brothers and one half brother who happens to be black and a father from Hell who when the series starts has   just been released from prison after serving 20 years for murder and robbery and jets across country to L.A. to surprise his not so loving sons.  Ray lives in a big house with his wife, another tough former Irish Bostonian and their 2 not so lovable teenage kids. This is a complicated, sophisticated   pull no punches series with many ins and outs, plot twists and turns, killings most of which are brutal along with strong scripts, vivid characters and terrific performances. Some of it is clichéd and predictable (there are those 2 pesky teens doing what all pesky teens do and seem to be a prerequisite for modern TV series), secrets kept and untidy plot turns. However its so well written, acted and directed that all of its ’faults can be laid aside, thrown out the window or shot in the head, because there is a lot to relish with this hardboiled crime series with its good lineage and nourish touches. It’s also a tangy and sometimes vulgar send-up of Hollywood with all the trash and tinsel that we love about the place. So there are corrupt cops and lawyers, a tough (but attractive lesbian girl Friday), an Israeli assistant fixer, 3rd rate prize fighters, cheating wives, a blackmailed closeted gay actor who loves the trannies, killer movie stars, pedophile priests, and the damaged grown ups of their deeds, cold hearted killers on the lam and more, much more. Put them altogether and you’ve got one hell of a show.  Also noteworthy are the performances, especially Jon Voight who is great as the senior Donovan.   

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Richard Attenborough 1923-2014

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Notebook drawing August 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014

Teenage Art

I've been going through old work mostly from when I was a teenager.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Only Lovers Left Alive 2014


          They wear their sunglasses at night. One could say that this is like one of those romantic films, a throwback to those fluffy 30’s and 40’s romantic comedies about long and fruitful marriages with the husband and wife taking a vacation from bored wedlock and living separately in far off places only to come back together when they realize how much they love and miss each other. Oh yes I should add that the husband Adam played by Tim Hiddleston an actor new to me and Eve the wife played by the luminous Tilda Swinton who always seems new to me are vampires. Oh not another vampire movie I can hear you saying along with all the moans and groans, but wait these are two charming, clever and culturally sophisticated drinkers of blood.
                      He makes music and collects expensive and beautiful musical instruments with a strong leaning towards guitars and she is literature driven, a compulsive reader who has a great way with speed-reading. Eve when the film opens is living in Tangier while Adam is holed up in a depilated mansion in Detroit. Clever settings that Jim Jarmusch the director and writer of this horror delight sets us down in. Both of these dears are reformed creatures of the night, having sworn off feeding off humans or zombies as Adam calls us and instead get their red liquid nourishment from suppliers.
                     In Detroit it’s a tainted hospital doctor named Watson played by a snarky and very funny Jeffrey Wright, while in Tangier Eve gets her stuff from her best pal and fellow vampire Christopher Marlow (yes that Chris Marlowe) wonderfully acted by John Hurt. Eve finally picks up and travels to Detroit because she’s worried about her love and his depressed moods, and after a complicated flight arrives at his door with only books as her luggage. 
                   Soon the couple are sharing nocturnal drives through a devastated Detroit and in one terrific scene Adam takes Eve to visit the once Majestic movie palace “The Michigan” where they appreciate the rare beauty of this ruin as if they were touring Pompeii or some other ancient relic of the old world. There are other quick glimpses of movie theatres both in Motor City and Tangier very quick but I have a feeling that this was a way for Jarmusch to pay tribute to his love of movies and the way we use to view them and also to remind us that hey its only a movie.
                          There is also plenty of talk about literature. At one point Eve blames Adam’s dour moods on “those romantics, Byron and Keats and the French ones”, and begs him to tell her what  Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was really like, a droll and funny moment. There is also plenty  of music in the film both original and otherwise including the great  Denise LaSalle and Charlie Feathers which Adam and Eve  listen to on on old 45’s.
           Soon though there is trouble knocking at their door and it arrives like a dervish whirl. It’s Eve’s bad girl sister Ava played by Mia Wasikowska who behaves very badly indeed, with the windup being the dumping of a body into an acidy like polluted pool of water that quickly dissolves the body and which causes Eva to remark “now that was visual”. 
                  Adam and Eve are soon making a hasty retreat back to Tangier where they find a dying Marlowe brought down by tainted blood and here we are down by law and love. I know that this film is not much in the light of the day , but I found it  splendidly entertaining and a visual feast thanks to Jamusch’s fine painterly eye and his use of the great cinematographer Yorick Le Saux and the jam packed production design by Marco Bittner Rosser.  This might make it to my ten best list.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014



Monday, August 18, 2014


Mungbeing Magazine has just posted some of my "Hospital Drawings" that I did back in 1974. You can view them all at this link.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Notebook drawing August 2014

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Chapman Report 1962

In 1962 Hollywood was still turning out 1950’s fluff and nonsense while struggling at the same time to turn out serious adult fare, that by and large were mostly mediocre and doomed to failure.  The Chapman Report directed by George Cukor was one of those films that failed to pull in audiences and was indeed a flop. Cukor was trying to make an entertaining and adult film about a group of women who take part in a sex survey, which will remind viewers of Kinsey. He was hindered not only by the vapid material but also by the censors who were still very active in the early 60’s and studio interference. 
                        Based on a best selling titillating novel by hack writer Irving Wallace, Cukor had his work cut out for him, and all his skill and talents just couldn’t surmount the dreadful source material. The film covers the problems and indiscretions of four suburban women who are friends and  take part in the survey ranging from Jane Fonda’s (looking like a kewpie doll and simply dreadful) frigidity to Claire Bloom’s raging sex drive (read nymphomania) along with alcoholism. 
                            Also schlepping along is Shelley Winters blowsy and doing her usual over acting shtick  as a cheating wife having a torrid affair with Ray Danton tasty and dark as a chocolate brownie, and for some comedic relief Glynis Johns as a culture driven wife of an art gallery owner who piddles around with poetry and hankers after a beach bum hunk played by Ty Hardin, who shows more flesh than any of the women.  Cukor brings his strong sense of color and design to the film using his usual creative team to add shades and darkness to the 60’s decor and cinematography  which greatly help the crass proceedings.
                     He also used the great costume designer Orry-Kelly to tint the character’s personalities with what they wore, so in one scene frigid Fonda with her hair so tightly pulled back in a bun that I worried that all her bodily functions must have been shut down is dolled up in a stunning white dress with a matching white wide brim hat that suggests her coldness and her problems with sex.  I even thought that all that white might be indicating that although she is a widow she may still be a virgin. 
                   The only interesting woman and the best performance is Claire Bloom who plays Naomi the nympho and again her clothes, set design and lighting indicate her personality. Bloom is so good in this trash, that one could learn about great acting by just watching her move across a room, slightly soused and highly horny, and of course being the most vulnerable and tainted of the lot, she has to meet a terrible fate while the three other women live happily ever after with very few bumps and bruises.  The men are for the most part a vapid and dull group and includes Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as an unethical assistant to Dr. Chapman who falls in love with Fonda and starts to melt her frozen soul, which is underlined by showing us Jane letting her hair down and brushing her locks with loving sensual care, as Efrem looks on. The movie is so long that I thought I would cry. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Notebook Drawing August 2014

Lauren Bacall 1924-2014

Truly stunning.

Erotic Book

I'm pleased to announce that the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York City has acquired a book of erotic collages that I did in 1989 that was exhibited in an exhibition of Erotic Books at the Ted Cronin Gallery in New York City in 1990.

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