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

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Beyond the Cover

Everyone has been talking about Gwyneth Paltrow's unrecognizable cover shot on W magazine. But the real reason to pick up this month's issue is the 17-page spread of Laura Dern photographed by Juergen Teller. Any actress in her late 30s who stands before Teller's unmerciful lens should be applauded. She has real guts. This is the same woman who let David Lynch shoot her in "Inland Empire" with a DV cam about two inches away from her face. Dern seems to be the type who is all about the artistic endeavor, and if she looks her age or older, so what. Fortunately, Teller did show a little kindness to his subject and snapped a few flattering images. (Images via W magazine)

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Off Again

Once again, it's vacation time for me. This will be my last break for the summer. See ya in a week or so. (Image via

Friday, August 10, 2007

Light in August

Michael Somoroff's "Illumination" at BravinLee programs is like a planetarium visit for grown-ups. Walking through this darken maze of light shows, video projection, and computer-generated imagery, the viewer enters Plato's Cave and a mosque's interior. The 360-degree rotation inside the mosque as daylight streams through a high opened window is the exhibit's standout. Using multiple curved screens, Somoroff creates the sensation that the viewer is spinning around the mosque's interior. This hallucinatory trip is accompanied by a "2001"-like soundtrack of bells, chimes, and low drones. This exhibit is nice little transport to other worlds on a hot summer day. (Image via


Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Doll's World

In the New York Times review of the Morton Bartlett exhibit at Julie Saul gallery, Roberta Smith compared the artist, who created and photographed life-like dolls, to everyone from Lewis Carroll to Martín Ramírez. She failed, however, to mention the much closer similarities between Bartlett and Dare Wright, who created the "Lonely Doll" children books. (I've posted images of Wright's doll on the left, and Bartlett's on the right.) Both Bartlett and Wright were reclusive, solitary souls who made a make-believe other life of dolls and drama and trauma. Bartlett fashioned and photographed his creations between the '30 and '60s, while Wright published her books in the late '50s.

Bartlett's dolls are definitely more facially expressive than Wright's Lonely Doll; nevertheless, the Lonely Doll's stories have more an emotional impact than Bartlett's photos, perhaps because the books deal with those twined childhood fears of rejection and loneliness.

When stuffed animals are introduced into this doll-world, Wright portrays Mr. Bear as scolding the Lonely Doll, whereas Bartlett imagines one of his creations setting things straight with her animals. Another aspect I like about Wright's photos is her location shooting. Bartlett, on the other hand, captured his images in a much more controlled setting. (I've posted two evocative images of Lonely Doll on a NYC stoop and walking in Central Park with her buds.)


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Landscape Plastic Surgery

THOMAS FLECHTNER Site 5This may be a bad sign: I saw Thomas Flechtner's show at Marianne Boesky gallery less than a week ago, and I couldn't remember a single image. I had to refer to my notes and visit the gallery's website to refresh my memory. But when I did, I remembered, "Oh, I liked this stuff." The exhibit has two parts: one uses lightboxes to showcase photos of blownout cherry blossom trees, while the other focuses on large-scale color images of razed landscapes. The photos of man's attempts to recreate Mother Nature's handiwork are most interesting. The land is cropped and corralled in a sad imitation of what it use to be. So organized, so tidy, and so half-dead. Sort of like landscape plastic surgery. (Images via Marianne Boesky gallery)



Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Dress Up, Dress Down

DUANE MICHALS Return of the Prodigal SonIs a group show successful if only a handful of the artists succeed in the exhibit's intent? Sometimes, yes. Sean Kelly gallery's "Role Exchange" features 27 artists whose selected pieces explore identity switching, borrowing, and co-opting. Too many of these photographs and videos, however, are just an excuse to play dress-up. Too much camp and playacting and not enough assimilation and blurring of roles. Nevertheless, there are some standout works, which make the show worth checking out. Both Duane Michals' "Return of the Prodigal Son" and Michel Journiac's "Hommage a Freud" go a little deeper in the role exchange theme and explore it with more emotion and less Costume 101 superficiality, like the photo of Warhol in drag. (Images via,, and Sean Kelly gallery.)

ANDY WARHOL Self-portrait in Drag


Monday, August 06, 2007

Writing the Unspeakable

When I first started reading Jonathan Rosenbaum's New York Times op-ed piece about Ingmar Bergman, I literally gasped. Trashing the genius Swede auteur? And so soon after his death? The man's body isn't even cold and out come the knives to slash away at this fabled master of celluloid. Entitled "Scenes from an Overrated Career," Rosenbaum writes, "The hard fact is, Mr. Bergman isn't being taught in film courses or debated by film buffs.... Why hardly anyone watches Bergman films anymore." Rosenbaum contends that Bergman didn't break any new ground in filmmaking; he simply transferred his stage techniques to film. "Above all, his movies aren't so much filmic expressions as expressions on film," he writes. I partially agree with his points; however, I feel that because so many of Bergman's films are great, doesn't that make him a great director? (Image via


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Russian Bookie

YURI MASNYJ Trying to Understand Your LogicYuri Masnyj's sculptures and watercolors at Metro Pictures gallery give a flirtatious wink to Russian Constructivism and Cubism. The perceptive in the watercolors is charmingly just a bit off; reds, pinks, and blacks are the dominant colors; and the silhouette of a guitar pops up again and again. Almost all of the works depict bookshelves full of thick tomes with Cyrillic lettering on their bindings. Some of the imagery almost border on those still life models created by art teachers in which various incongruous objects crowded a space. Unlike most contemporary artists who make assemblages, Masnyj seems more interested in capturing a bygone mood that in creating an exact replica. (Image via Metro Pictures gallery)

YURI MASNYJ Dark Mountain Party
YURI MASNYJ The Night's Still Young installation view


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Yet Another Freak Show

Why, oh why, do most photographers feel compelled to portray members of a subculture as freaks? (Let's give Diane Arbus a good spanking if she's the cause of all this.) Matt Hoyle's exhibit of photos at Point of View Gallery focuses on those crazy and kooky people who like to swim in frigid water. So guess what? All the swimmers look like either homeless people or Bellevue patients. I dig the high contrast of these images, and I also liked the non-portraits. Still, I OD'ed on photography's Freak M.O. a long time ago. (Images via Point of View Gallery)