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
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
By Sara Lipton
Nineteenth-century travelers to Jerusalem were notoriously disappointed by what they found. Herman Melville complained in his Journal of a Visit to Europe and the Levant (1857) that “the color of the whole city is grey & looks at you like a cold grey eye in a cold old man … Judea is one accumulation of stones — stony mountains & stony plains; stony torrents & stony roads; stony walls & stony fields, stony houses & stony tombs; stony eyes & stony hearts. Before you and behind you are stones. Stones to the right & stones to the left … No country will more quickly dissipate romantic expectations than Palestine — particularly Jerusalem.” Albert Rhodes, American consul to Jerusalem in the 1860’s, was equally disenchanted with the denizens of the city: “monks ignorant of the elementary principals of their faith; Jews living three thousand years ago; natives with minds of children; all sitting, eternally sitting, and none working.”
To see the first-ever art exhibit at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, you must first descend the escalator, walk past the spotlit wreckage displayed as part of the museum’s permanent collection, past armed guards, past fire trucks warped beyond recognition, and, finally, past the buckled I-beams and other debris that haunt Ground Zero. These artifacts serve as totems of perseverance and frangibility, souvenirs of past atrocity. Yet this preceding layout is such that, once you enter the gallery, the art feels unnecessary, perhaps even insensitive. What can creativity achieve amid so much pain and loss? In light of this duality, both the helpfulness and helplessness of art are on display in Rendering the Unthinkable: 13 Artists Respond to 9/11, an exhibit that embodies the comforting generalities that annex America’s remembrance of 9/11 today. Continue reading
By Alina Cohen
A few days before the Problems and Provocations book launch, Stacy Switzer mused that the promotional materials somewhat misrepresented the nature of the event. “They’ve been saying panel discussion, but it’s not really a panel discussion,” she told me by phone. “It’s framed as more of a variety show.” Switzer is the former artistic director of Kansas City-based Grand Arts, a contemporary art project space that closed in 2015. Problems and Provocations, which she and collaborator Annie Fischer edited, celebrates the organization’s mission and projects throughout its 20 years of operation in pages both commemorative and absurd. Given the unconventional, expansive nature of Grand Arts’ work and the new book, a simple panel discussion just wouldn’t be fitting. Continue reading
By Alina Cohen
“Los Angeles, in my humble opinion, is moving more towards community,” said writer and filmmaker Cameron Crowe, who wrote the introduction to photographer Pamela Littky’s new book, The Villa Bonita, out from Kehrer Verlag this past September. Littky, who is known best for her celebrity portraits, is “capturing a new spirit of togetherness,” Crowe expounded. “People do, you know, need the smell of another person’s skin and a feeling that there is somebody on the other side of the wall.” Continue reading
Photographs of photographs constitute a peculiarly self-conscious genre. These images often emit a jejune urgency, an automatic feeling that the photographs they depict must be preserved. Given the rapid transformation of the photographic medium, it’s noteworthy that a physical photograph no longer qualifies as a preservation in and of itself — there must be a digital replication of the object. Photos are taken so that information can be shared (one thinks now of the reliable screenshot) — or so that information can be destroyed, the simulated a proxy for the actual. Sometimes, a photograph of a photograph implies historical and psychic gulfs between both beholders. As Zoe Leonard’s latest exhibit shows, these photographs can bear witnesses to — and perform in — the mysterious drama that is memory. Continue reading
This moment in human history has the word gender turning over and over in its mouth, the sandstone of the modern tongue stripping away the callouses on the word “woman.” On October 3rd at Skylight Books, author Kate Schatz and illustrator Miriam Klein Stahl heralded the word “woman” in the presentation of their new book Rad Women Worldwide. The book is a celebration of amazing women throughout human history, like activist Malala Yousafzai, novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and British punk rocker Poly Styrene. It is sequel to the duo’s first work, Rad Women of America, and a very considerate and artful archive of global femininity. The widened scope of subject matter was approached with great attention to diversity; of skill, of global recognition, of race, and of creed. By acknowledging each rad woman’s unique tribulations on her way to triumph, they have created not only an artifact of female excellence, but of female strength and tenacity in the face of patriarchy, racial oppression, and war. Continue reading
Photo: J. Soto-Gonzalez, first prize art contest winner ages 14–18
Let us congratulate Lizeth and Zulema for the impossible trek they have conquered.
Lizeth speaks of the extremes of heat, self-reliance at an early age, the round the clock labor universe of farm worker (“plant — pick and pack”) and the all encompassing knowing that all this is to sustain all life. It is incredible to know that a 10 to 13-year-old wrote this with such wisdom and compassion — a hard earned essay.
Zulema charts the long cycle of migrant generations, the year-long calendar — from Asparagus to Apples — crushing through school schedules and towns. She wants to break the cycle of poverty — the same one my father dreamed of dismantling in the 1950’s. Zulema has succeeded.
So we congratulate these chroniclers of migrant struggle and continuity, these wisdom-word writers for a just Now.
Juan Felipe Herrera
Poet Laureate Continue reading