Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Oddball Magazine has just posted this recent notebook drawing of mine along with a poem by Randall. Check it out and all of my other contributions (there are a lot) over the years to Oddball Magazine.
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Once Upon a Time In America 1984
It’s inconceivable to me, how anyone viewing this great film would not be moved, excited & ultimately overwhelmed by it. For starters the film has had a very rocky road, but there is now on dvd the most complete and restored version of the film with 22 minutes of missing footage added including the sequence with Louise Fletcher, making this version the one that Sergio Leone wanted the world to see.
The missing footage adds some clarity to the film, but the scenes are grainy and washed out because they had to work with scrapes of take-outs and you can tell by the poor quality that this is the missing footage. Overall I prefer the previous 229 minute digital dvd version of the film which is the one shown at Cannes Film Festival in 1984, and I would recommend this one if you can get your hands on it. The transfer is nicer, the colors crisper and richer in tone and quality than the complete directors cut and for me I would sacrifice the more complete version for the more beautiful version, but that’s just me.
From the opening with that Goddamn ringing phone, to the last shot of a smiling stoned out DeNiro (this ending always makes me cry) this film is a true work of art. Complicated & personal, Leone weaves an epic tale about a bunch of Jewish gangster-friends from their criminal childhood on New York's lower eastside in the 1900's to the1960's. And like many films of the genre, Once Upon touches on the themes of friendship, loyalty & betrayal but does so in what some find an unsettling structure.
The film constantly weaves from past to present and back again and I think that this form of filmmaking makes some American moviegoers uneasy. They like their films with beginnings, middles & hopefully happy endings. This is a film that is all over the place, a demanding film with characters that come & go impolitely & age without aging. Leone the artist takes a sacred genre and does marvelous tricks & turns to it. Its also a very violent & sexy film, a little too "European" for a mainstream American film, so the film was butched down to a 2 hour version that got bombed by critics, and hated by audiences who came expecting another Godfather sequel, because hey after all DeNiro is in it.
The cast is terrific with memorable work by all including DeNiro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern, a very young Jennifer Connelly in her first film and the great Tuesday Weld, and is also doted by a wonderful supporting cast. The music by Ennio Morricone is one of his best scores and the beautiful cinematography is by Tonino Delli Colli. The look of the film is rich and detailed with influences from art including Reginald Marsh and Edward Hopper. Filmed all over the place including Williamsburg and Dumbo before these Brooklyn neighborhoods were gentrified. The best film of 1984 and possibly the best film of the decade.
Sunday, November 27, 2016
Friday, November 25, 2016
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Monday, November 21, 2016
Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round so Our Thoughts Can Change Direction The Museum Of Modern Art. Or how you’re going to keep this artist down on the farm after he’s seen Picabia
When the going gets tough the tough go to museums, and that's what I did the other day taking in the remarkable exhibition of this wonderful artist’s life work. Papa Dada. It doesn't get off to a great start, what with those wonderfully bad post impression paintings, that look like calendar art.
However we are quickly and happily pushed into his quick change (there will be many of these) with his large abstract paintings that were influenced by Cubism and are bold but without the delicate beauty that I like and associate with the great works of Cubism. These paintings look good and are in their own way very commanding, but they still didn't do it for me and the big doing it for me begins in the next gallery when his art and heart belong to Dada.
This is where it starts to get good or even great. I've always loved Picabia, this dashing playboy with his love for fast automobiles and fast action who could have been played by Vittorio De Sica or maybe Marcello Mastroianni in a past movie of his life. The only actor today who could do him justice would be Jean Dujardin.
Picabia’s vast imagination and his experimental use of materials and images that provoked and challenged art lovers at the beginning of the 20th Century (and still do) poked and prodded us to what art and especially painting can be. So here in the largest gallery we have this vast and gorgeous display of his beautiful mechanical paintings and drawings that he called mechanomorphs, intricate and crazy things that don't do anything except only herald and sing the beginning of the 20th Century and the idea of movement and machines as beautiful things, something to put down on canvas and paper.
His dada machines are strong and precise sometimes named after friends, and intricately drawn especially in the drawings and prints. It’s in these works that he started to add stuff to the canvas including words and even his signature would sometimes become a part of the painting. It is in this gallery that his large work “L’oeil Cacodlate” (reproduced on the cover of the catalog) that incorporates words, names and collage elements including a small portrait of Picabia is installed.
This is one of my favorite works in the show and indeed in all of 20th Century art. It was an inspiration for me as a young artist. Papa was everywhere or so it seemed, and because of this beautiful and expansive exhibition we can also spend some time everywhere, here and there.
Turn a corner after this large display and you come across his carnival of monsters. Lavish and garish so colorful and textured that you might need to put on your sunglasses, but don’t better you get jabbed in the eyes with these marvelous and disturbing portraits and embraces from the early 20’s. But wait there much more. Take for instance his “transparencies” where lines color and images criss cross layer upon layers of figures and intricate designs and motifs many from nature, both high and low from many sources and periods that he puts on top of each other in thin transparent layers, hence his name for them. They are large complex and of course beautiful, guaranteed to draw you in.
Then there are what might be the most controversial pieces of his career the paintings from the early 40’s that can be called camp and kitsch but also disturbing and political and precede pop by many years. In this time and place Picabia took images from soft core porn magazines and other commercial magazines and pushed and put them together in these ridiculous paintings of Aryan gods and goddesses that are somewhat erotic and that can be to some off putting but I liked the camp and political things of these works and it is here that the very scary painting “Adoration of the Calf” hangs and brings to mind the awful new president elect and his followers. I know that this is a coincidence but it’s a creepy and compelling one.
The exhibition ends in the last years of his life, the early 50’s and you might say it ends how it began with abstraction. This is the time for small and intimate paintings, circles and squares placed on areas of textured colors, they dot the walls of the final gallery as beautiful and compelling as everything that went before them. This then is the life and work of one of our great artists, generous and expansive in his talent and life. Ah Papa. One of the best exhibitions of the year.
Monday, November 14, 2016
Gwen Ifill 1955-2016
Saturday, November 12, 2016
Friday, November 11, 2016
Robert Vaughan 1932-2016
Another stupid dumb dull fake movie about a great singer. There are so many of these things being made lately, there's the dreadful ones about Miles Davis, Chet Baker and now we can add Nina to the list. There are others which I've blocked. Here we have a petite looking pretty model looking Zoe Saldana, 50 shades too light playing Nina Simone without any of her style and unique performance style, and forget about her voice. Saldana has a nice little singing voice but so what, she does not capture Simone's rough, raw, beautiful voice which really bothered me. The film has small little points about her troubled life here and there, but makes no attempt to give it some depth or shading, its all one note, drugs, booze and nasty are the stuff that this Nina is made of. Listen she was one of my favorite singers and if she was one of yours do yourself a favor and skip this crap and just listen to her albums or watch her on Youtube and the recent doc. about her which is still not available on netflix.
Thursday, November 10, 2016
Raoul Coutard 1924-2016
Wednesday, November 09, 2016
Tuesday, November 08, 2016
Kerry James Marshall. The Met Breuer
The Met Breuer is bulging over with terrific shows right now, so overwhelmingly good and vast that I couldn’t take all of them in at one time, and went back last Sunday to see the much-touted Kerry James Marshall show. You got your Diane Arbus on until Nov. 27 and you got your Paul Klee show now on until Jan 2, and we now can add the spectacular stunning show of large paintings by Kerry James Marshall.
I was not that familiar with his work, catching one here or one there so it was like a present for me to open this box and view his beautiful and compelling body of work. Comprised mainly of very large mural like canvases that are unstretched they specifically tell the stories of Mr. Marshall life and in more general terms and images the harsh African American experience. And we are all along for the ride because they also tell the stories of the United States in all its blunders and bigotry and are not always easy to look at no matter how gorgeous these paintings are.
Filling two large floors of the museum its on the fourth floor when those big elevator doors open and we are hit in the face with nine very large paintings that immerse us, wrap their arms around us and bring us in to the gardens, which is what these paintings are titled somewhat sarcastically because these present us with views of the failed experiment known as low-income housing and actually have gardens in their names. Cold comfort indeed.
Here they are for the first time in more than 20 years, cinematic in scope its almost like viewing a movie in Cinerama, these canvas torched my soul and heart with their breathtaking images and soaring technique. Marshall uses intense bright colors mixing in collage, silkscreen prints and sometimes-garish touches of glitter as if to poke us in the eyes, or using it as an underline. He draws and paints beautifully there are no two ways about that and has an extensive knowledge of western art that he also brings into his work.
These very large mural like paintings are full of small touches, notes and jots that constantly drew me in with their rebus like narratives. The museum also has given him an open pass to pick out pieces from their collection to exhibit along with his own work, and I have mixed feelings about this somewhat now common curatorial trick or treat that is being offered up more and more these days.
How about asking an artist to pick out works that they hate now that would be different. It can also be a confusing tack especially for the ladies who lunch some of whom were blissfully confused by suddenly being in a gallery with works that clearly weren’t by Marshall. “Who did these” one lady asked in her singsong voice. A friend quietly Came over to her and gave her the load down, “oh” she said and moved on. To be sure there are great works displayed here in the little side gallery and I am grateful for being able to see an Ingres, a few Jacob Lawrence’s a Bearden, a Graham portrait, one of his cross eyed women and that Seurat drawing is to die for.
There are also many portraits by Marshall in the show, especially provocative and arresting were “The actor Hezekiah Washington as Julian Carlton Taliesen Murderer of Frank Lloyd Wright Family” and “Nat Turner With The head of his Master. A large grouping of his photographs titled “Painting and other Stuff” failed to entice me especially with the work of one of the great photographers of mid 20th century down on the 2nd floor. I also could have done without his light box comic book drawings and some of the more recent paintings especially those abstract ones in the last galleries for me didn’t point to a good direction. With all that said this is still a terrific compelling exhibition easily one of the best of the year, and one that should be seen by anyone interested in walking down a side street of contemporary painting.