Category Archives: Art

When Chris Marker Freely Photographed, and Briefly Fell in Love with, North Korea

By Colin Marshall

Even though I live there, I still only with difficulty perceive Northeast Asia through any lens not borrowed from Chris Marker. This owes mostly to the influence of dozens of viewings of Sans Soleil, his 1983 fact-and-fiction cinematic travelogue through places like Iceland, Cape Verde, San Francisco, and especially Japan, a feature-length realization of the peripatetic form of “essay film” he invented with 1955’s Sunday in Peking. Between that and Sans Soleil, he’d gone to Tokyo during the 1964 Olympics and come back with the materials for a 45-minute documentary about the titular young woman whom he happened to meet in the street there. Le Mystère Koumiko came out in 1965, just three years after his best-known work: La Jetée, the short drama of apocalypse, time travel, and memory made almost entirely out of still photographs. Continue reading

The Selfie and the Monument: Shahak Shapira’s YOLOCAUST

By Jason Francisco

In mid-January, Israeli satirist Shahak Shapira’s project “YOLOCAUST” shivered across social media. Shapira mined Facebook, Instagram, Tinder, and Grindr to collect selfies taken at Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which he presents along with their original hashtags and “likes.” When the viewer mouses over the pictures, a black-and-white image appears in which the Memorial itself gives way to a historical photograph from the Holocaust, such that the selfie-takers appear as figures in the landscape of genocide to which the Memorial refers. The title refers to YOLO, an acronym popularized by the rapper Drake and common among millennials and centennials, meaning “You Only Live Once” — words Shapira imbues with sarcasm with regard to the selfie-takers at the Memorial, but which are perverse with regard to the victims of the Holocaust. Shapira informs his audience that people can have their picture removed from his site by sending an email to “undouche.me@yolocaust.de.” Continue reading

Elegy as Ecstasy: Rereading Motherwell

By Dean Rader

“a word is elegy to what it signifies”Robert Hass

The first poem of mine to be accepted for publication in a national magazine was about Robert Motherwell. It bears the dizzyingly innovative but not misleading title Motherwell. It was (and is) an homage to his spectacular series of Elegies to the Spanish Republic, completed between 1957 and 1990. That Motherwell is the subject of a poem is not surprising since the main aesthetic concept for the Elegies finds its roots in poetry. Motherwell’s artistic guide was the French Symbolist poet Stephan Mallarmé, who urged artists “to paint, not the thing, but the effect it provides.” That advice is highly symbolic and highly evocative in that it foregrounds the poetic over the literal. Continue reading

Museum Curators and their Public

By Steve Light

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) recently re-opened after a closure of over three years for expansion and renovation. Most of the opening exhibitions consist of artworks loaned by the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection on the basis of an arrangement and agreement which resulted in the Fishers funding the museum’s expansion. I haven’t been to SFMOMA in many years. I don’t visit the Bay Area often, but when I do it is the most sparkling and invigorating artists in the region whose work I want to see, and their work tends not to be in the MOMAs and MOCAs of the world, although they certainly ought to be. Continue reading

Another Chance to Understand: John Baldessari at the Marian Goodman Gallery

By Sam Sackeroff

How do you solve a problem like the avant-garde? That is a question that John Baldessari has been asking in one form or another for more than five decades. Since July 24th 1970, when, in an inspired moment of getting-over-it, Baldessari and his students at the University of California at San Diego burned the last-gasp gestural paintings that he had made between 1953 and 1966, he has been exploring different ways of pushing the most compelling elements of advanced visual art out of the ever-narrowing confines of academic modernism and into the rich and unpredictable space of actual looking. Continue reading

Only Emote

By Zack Hatfield

A little over a year ago, when entrepreneur and reality television tycoon Kim Kardashian debuted the first wildly popular line of celebrity emojis named Kimoji — an app that packages personalized emoticons and digital stickers for smartphones — a rumor propagated by online entertainment sites and the star herself claimed that Kardashian had broken Apple’s app store. The rumor proved false, but the publicity helped. Even more, people liked the Kimojis, which included risqué curves, Yeezy sneakers, a corset, a cannabis leaf, a car with suicide doors, and a now-viral image of Kardashian’s face with a pixelated tear placed below a kohl-dipped eyelash. Continue reading

Clunky Beauty — Allison Miller at The Pit

By Daniel Gerwin

Allison Miller does funny things with drips. In “Jaw,” one of seven paintings in her current solo show at The Pit in Los Angeles, drips slide up the canvas in defiance of gravity, while others flow down as expected — clearly, she changes the orientation of her pictures as she works. Miller’s drips are not simply byproducts of her process, as in Franz Kline, for example; but instead, have been carefully preserved. She places tape over the drips she wants to isolate, then removes it only toward the end, preserving rectangles of color around the original drips so that they stand out against the final surface. It’s a goofy send-up of Abstract Expressionist marks with their connotations of emotional urgency and dramatic creativity, but also a canny way of reintroducing the drip as painterly language that escapes the confines of cliché. Continue reading

Blackstars: Life After Death in the Music of 2016

By Derek McCormack

2016 was full of unpredictable trends and occurrences, and the music released this year was no different. In fact, three of this year’s best-selling and acclaimed albums — David Bowie’s Blackstar, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Skeleton Tree, and Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker – all describe a fascinating new trend. In particular, these albums feature frontmen who have been forced into a powerful confrontation with death – for Bowie and Cohen, their own, and for Cave, that of his 15-year old son, Arthur (and perhaps, by extension, his own). Especially coming from three aging white men, this contemplation of mortality comes at a telling time — just as white male privilege and its collective patriarchal baggage are reentering the political spotlight. Perhaps making sense of this unique musical trend could help us to make greater sense of this tempestuous year. Continue reading