One paragraph reviews on art, movies, books, and pop culture by a know-nothing who knows it all

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Best Press Agents

If you're an artist and want to attract people to your next show, try to get Homeland Security involved. I would probably never think of checking out Duke Riley's "After the Battle of Brooklyn" exhibit at Magnan Gallery, if Riley hadn't received so much press and digital ink last August. When this water performance artist attempted to navigate his homemade submarine around the waters of Manhattan, the police and every other anti-terrorist soldier got involved. Riley was trying to recreate some Revolutionary War scene in which a sub overtook a British vessel. Hopefully, Riley captured the ensuing brouhaha on video. Homeland Security officers are definitely the best press agents in the world. Show starts Nov. 1. (Images via Damon Winter/The New York Times)


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

In the Closet

The label "alt-folk" makes me throw up, but recently that's all I've been listening to. I put the blame squarely on Suzanne Vega's "Beauty & Crime" disc. I had ignored Suzanne Vega after her 1987 "Solitude Standing," but I picked up her new disc because it is a paean to New York City post 9/11. I got hooked big time. I'm the type of person who likes to burn things out fast; that is, I listen to the same album five times a day for two weeks straight. I started to snuff the life out of the poor CD, so I went searching for more. At my library, I found "99.9 F. degrees" and "Songs in Red and Gray." Those CDs are now on continuous rotation. But, soon, I'll need more. It's hard to admit that I'm a Suzanne Vega fan. I guess I'm in denial. Perhaps it's all because of that cringe-worthy "alt-folk" label.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Realistic Allegories

James Valerio's paintings at George Adams gallery make me smile. These hyper-realistic paintings seem to be allegorical. However, the stories on these canvases are not standard symbolic tales but ones for the viewer to make up on his own. "Comic Times" shows a couple in their pattern-busy living room. The wife reads the funnies as intently as someone reads the business page, while the husband stares off in a reverie, his body partially blocked by a statue of three embracing figures. These paintings are intense and huge; some measure eight feet high. Valerio's deadpan humor kept me looking, and I wouldn't mind hanging one of these works in my apartment if it could fit. (Images via George Adams)


Friday, October 19, 2007

Gonzo Art

It may be thought of as a gimmick, but I like it: creating art under extreme situations--and elements. As part of his ongoing "Drawing Restraint" project, Matthew Barney sailed from Gibraltar to New York last December. As the boat rocked to and fro, Barney drew and painted with what he had available. The final art images are now on view at the Serpentine Gallery in London, and some were printed in W magazine. (Unfortunately, they are not available online, but thanks to my scanner, here are a select few.)

When the weather was cooperative, Barney went out of his way to make his circumstances uncooperative, such as strapping himself to the boat's side and using the hull as an easel.

Dracula's version of a Jackson Pollock drip painting. Who knows? Maybe that fish is a pollack.

Fish lips lend a hand.
(Images via W magazine)

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Conjectures of a Guilty Gallery-goer

I could almost start going to church again. Jackie Nickerson's photograph exhibit, "Faith," at Jack Shainman gallery documents Catholic religious orders in Ireland. Although these images were taken over the past two and half years, the church's recent scandals seem far, far away. Priest pedophilia, ordination of women, ban on abortion? Never hoird of 'em. This hermatically sealed world harkens back to a time of Thomas Merton, vows of silence, and deep contemplation. Nickerson's still lives of orderly, empty rooms, and clergy members at work capture the peaceful silence that must echo through those convents and abbeys. The portraiture work, on the other hand, is pretty standard. (Images via Jack Shainman gallery)


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Chicks with Matchsticks

The Saatchi Gallery's featured photograph for its current survey of post 9/11 American artists reminded me of another similar striking image. In Josephine Meckseper's 2003 "Pyromaniac 2," a model holds a lighted match in her mouth as though it were a cigarette and delivers us a "dare me" look. Meckseper's work combines anti-capitalism with humor, and the gallery describes this photo as "an emblem of commodified desire transformed to an impending powder keg explosion." That description could partially describe Fiona Apple in her 1999 video "Fast As You Can." Apple also plays with fire, but she goes one step further and extinguishes the flame inside her mouth. While Meckseper makes art about the forces outside, Apple's focus is doggedly about the fires inside. (Image via Saatchi Gallery and

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Torch Writer

Even as a woman, I'm a little intimidated by A.M. Homes. I just finished her 1999 book "Music for Torching." Think William Burroughs meets Richard Yates. It's that good. The novel, which I picked up in the bargain bin for $1.98 (!), is a satire, a sometimes brutal tale, about a husband and wife who feel "stuck" in their lives in the suburbs. Homes manages to make this story completely absurd but at the same time believable. There's something really aggressive and a little sadistic about her writing. Is that why I felt threatened by her? Am I a closet sexist? Perhaps Homes knows that even women would feel that way, and that's why she writes under a gender-neutral name. In any case, I can't deny that the book is at times, hilarious, right on the money, and tragic. (Image via

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Trampling on Camelot

Do we spot a trend here? It's time to publicize art works that deface Jack and Jackie. The Foundation for Italian artist Mimmo Rotella is hawking the artist's 1963 "L'ultimo Kennedy," in which JFK is given the treatment. More recently, Douglas Gordon does a little slash and burn on the missus. Ripping the Kennedys feels somewhat passe to me, more circa early 1980s. And I think that Jello Biafra did it best by naming his L.A. punk band, Dead Kennedys. Interestingly, Kaz Oshiro has an artwork called just that. Currently making the rounds, the art piece "Microwave Oven #3, (Dead Kennedys)" is an exact replica of a microwave made from canvas and wood. On the microwave's stain-splattered side is a bumper stick for the seminal punk band. So I guess we can zap those Kennedys as well.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Homage or Rip-off

Remember that pictorial spread in W magazine a few years back featuring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie portraying a bored 1960s couple? The 60-paged catalogue, which was photographed by Steve Klein, oozed with smart mise-en-scene and tons of back story. Well, at least one image wasn't as original as I thought. Julius Shulman took a very similar photograph almost 50 years ago. (The image is currently on view at the Orange County Museum of Art's "Birth of the Cool" show, as I read on Modern Art Notes.) Entitled "Case Study #21," Shulman's photo highlights a very cool couple relaxing in their Pierre Koenig-designed living room. So, was Klein's image an homage or just a blatant rip-off?

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Smells Like Calculated Media Blitz

Am I the only person in the world who is tired of Tom Ford's ongoing media blitz to prove he's not shy about sex? He likes to woo the press, and they all eat up his calculated, "shocking" sound bites. In his latest business venture at the perfume counter, the (former?) designer likes to talk about the alluring smells of body odor and men's crotches. T.F. and his don't-you-forget-about-me campaign have marched through the pages of Vanity Fair, the New York Times, and Out, but can he please leave ArtForum alone? I'm not wild about the monthly art magazine printing non-gallery ads, and this one for a T.F. fragrance for men seems especially grotesque and obvious. Can't we reserve this type of image for the sidebar ads on PerezHilton?

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Still Crazy After All Those Years of Therapy

Sometimes people are just screwed up, and no amount of therapy, yoga, or hocus-pocus rituals is going to save them. That's what I came away with after reading Kathryn Harrison's (very short) memoir "The Mother Knot." The book chronicles Harrison's coming to terms with her rocky relationship with her dead mother. (This includes exhuming her mother's body, having it cremated, and then throwing ashes all around.) I am a fan of Kathryn Harrison, the novelist, but Kathryn Harrison, the memoirist? Not so sure. Harrison, who was abandoned by her mother, had an affair with her father, and has suffered from bulimia and anorexia, has documented all those traumas in both fiction and nonfiction accounts. My advice: tap into your personal hells only for your novels. Your fiction is much more readable and has more depth than your truth. (Image via Random House)

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Jackie Takes a Beating--Again

Poor Jackie. What did she ever do to deserve the pummeling that artists like to give her? Was it Warhol who started this never-ending spanking machine? It seems that Ms. O's image as the bouffant, helmet-headed Jackie Kennedy usually takes the worst beating on the canvas. Douglas Gordon is the latest artist to deface Jackie in an upcoming show at Gagosian gallery uptown. And, last year, Jack Pierson portrayed Jackie as slowly going insane in his show Melancholia Passing into Madness at Cheim & Read. Can't we give the girl a rest?

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Lone Dissenting Voice

Who could ever imagine that Amp Power would be mentioned in the same breath as "Meet the Press" and "The New Republic"? Well, it happened this week in New York Magazine's comments section in which the weekly cited rave reviews for its Bill Clinton-in-Drag cover, along with one lone dissenting voice--yours truly. The weekly writes that "The New Republic's blog called it 'hilarious.' The Amp Power blog was unimpressed..." (See side image to read more.) I got a lot of ink on this one. Today, New York Magazine; tomorrow, the Drudge Report!

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Second Time Around

Is it possible to go back home again? To recapture that feeling when you watched a particular movie that zapped you right between the eyes because it encapsulated both your inner thoughts and worldview? Almost 20 years ago, one movie really sang to me: "Lord Love a Duck." Before "Heathers," there was "Lord Love a Duck," a dark comedy centered on high school life that playfully skewers just about every American institution. Could this movie still have the same effect on me since I've grown up? Yes and no. When I first saw this flick, I was completely focused on the Roddy McDowell character whose quick cynical take on the world ensnared me. (Christian Slater played the same role in "Heathers," but he gets blown away at the end.)

Upon this viewing, I realized how little screen time McDowell actually has and that Tuesday Weld's character, who is dying to be popular, fills the screen. Overall, the movie is not the greatest this time around. Perhaps I've become less cynical, or, now when I think of it, perhaps more. This film was made more than 40 years ago, and Americans' values are more vacuous than ever. In other words, biting satire, unfortunately, doesn't change a thing.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

From the Best to the Worst

Not long ago, New York Magazine issued out one of my favorite all-time magazine covers, featuring a curmudgeon Woody Allen and a steamy Scarlett Johansson sitting on a beach. How far a magazine can fall. This week's magazine's image of a photoshopped Bill Clinton in drag tops my worst all-time mag covers. Accompanying an article speculating on Bill Clinton as "First Lady" (get it?), the morph-job not only looks crudely created but is unfunny. An intern must have surely made this. Now all this week, I'll have to make a concerted effort to keep the mag face down on the table, or I could simply rip this unwelcomed image off and toss it in the trash.