Published—Van Gogh and Vampires

August 4th, 2011 § 1 comment

A part of me wishes that Centerpieces, the latest book by the author Penelope Przekop, and the subject of my latest book review, had actually been what it promised: a historical fiction about Van Gogh. I would have enjoyed it more if it had even reminded me of Van Gogh, his art or life. A cliché artist now as part of the Impressionist/Post-Impressionist pack, he is always an appealing painter. I still remember the old portfolio of Van Gogh prints I discovered during my childhood, hidden away in my mother’s closet. I don’t know where they came from, but finding a whole collection of poster size prints was like finding gold. She let me take them, and for a large part of my childhood colorful, swirling portraits in careful rotation filled my bedroom walls. I’d lie in bed staring at them when I’d take breaks from doing schoolwork. When I started dancing my mother bought me a beautiful Degas print of a little dancer tying her shoe, and framed it on my wall. It’s not terribly surprising that I found myself taking both Impressionism and Post-Impressionism in undergrad, where I learned about the dark personalities that made such colorful and seemingly cheery paintings. Both movements were full of moody, brooding men with devoted families they didn’t love. Instead of any of this, however, Przekop gave us vampires, pharmaceuticals, and awkward writing.

Published—Warhol’s Motion Pictures

March 6th, 2011 § 0 comments

It was the lovely and overlooked film by Sofia Coppola, Somewhere (2010), that started me thinking differently about a trend I have been seeing in too many art shows over the past few months. The catalyst for my latest review is the shocking realization that Andy Warhol’s Motion Pictures, exhibited now at MoMA, feels fresher, newer, and more thought provoking than anything else I’ve recently seen. That I would want to write about Andy Warhol had never occurred to me, and that I would find some aspect of his work new seemed impossible. All I have been seeing from young artists this year, however, has consisted of clever remakes of older artwork, and it’s been one Cindy Sherman (to use a popular candidate) reference after another. A critic friend of mine said he was going to start writing more “negative reviews” simply because he was finding it impossible to find something he actually liked. I was glad to know other people were having a similar problem, but this doesn’t explain why new art seems determined to reference old work. Perhaps in trying to avoid the term “derivative” artists have started making exact replicas of other artists. Watching Somewhere put a different spin on the idea of remaking in an older tradition. Coppola’s film, so simple and fresh, reminded me of the films I was seeing reshown in galleries, such as Warhol’s Screen Tests and Larry Clark’s Tulsa. Though Coppola seemed to be drawing from older styles of filmmaking, her reasons for doing so were tied directly to filmmaking today. In an NPR interview Coppola talked about the decision to make her film so spare:

I hope it’s refreshing for audiences. I just feel like in movies today we are so bombarded with fast editing and song after song, that I wanted to have more breathing room, to just have a pause. Even modern life, with everyone in contact and on BlackBerrys, I feel like it’s nice to have a break from that, and to be alone with the characters.

A Fred Tomaselli Lecture

January 23rd, 2011 § 0 comments

Artists, with a few exceptions, don’t tend to have the type of cult following that various celebrities and rock stars have, outside of a few insular groups comprising mostly of other artists. While we know movie stars by their faces and names and not necessarily by their filmography, the artwork of artists is usually more recognizable than their name, let alone their face. It was therefore surprising to find such a dedicated turnout at the Brooklyn Museum on a cold Saturday night in November, for Fred Tomaselli’s explanatory gallery tour of his mid-career survey exhibited at the museum. Wandering through the show a few weeks prior to Tomaselli’s guided tour, I found as I typically do when looking at his paintings, that while his process is engaging, unique, and visually simulating, his subject matter remains boring, bizarre, and baffling with its birds, flowers, astrological designs, and neo-classical looking nude figures.

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A Bedraggled Angel–Women & Rock

January 10th, 2011 § 1 comment

“It wasn’t pretty, but I was with you all the way,” Patti Smith said as she concluded the first of her annual New Year’s performances at the Bowery Ballroom Wednesday night. In Just Kids, Patti wrote that whatever you’re doing on the new year will be a premonition of what you do that year, which is perhaps why it makes perfect sense for her to play three shows in the final days of December, and to bring in the new year with music. Her opening night is apparently more a “rehearsal” than anything else—“I don’t know why you come tonight”, she said Wednesday, calling us insane—the second performance is Patti Smith’s birthday—she turned sixty four this year—and the closing night is of course New Year’s Eve.

My first time taking part in her tradition, and I unknowingly picked the rehearsal performance. Surrounded by an aging crowd who sees her year after year, listening to Patti tell me about the changes in her work that have transpired between last year’s show and this year’s, (apparently all she had to share of Just Kids last year was the finished cover of the unpublished book), I felt like I had unintentionally picked the worst show for the same reason that the first camera you buy isn’t the best one you will ever own: you have to earn the right to buy a better one. Next year I will see the birthday show, and the year after that perhaps I will brave the crowd and share the new year with Patti Smith. As entertaining and inspiring as I think it would be to spend the last hours of the year listening to Patti ramble and rock, I’m happy that this year I got my feet wet slowly: she seems to require a certain amount of getting used to.

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Published—Interviewing Roxy Paine

December 2nd, 2010 § 0 comments

I’m almost glad that my first interview was with an artist who was unfamiliar to me as it made interviewing Roxy Paine seem almost easy. I spent weeks researching Viola, reading his book and anything else I could get my hands on, trying to commit to memory his extensive body of work. Roxy, in his early forties, is a familiar artist with a familiar story. Still young by art world standards, there has not been too much written about his work, and having written about him before I had already read most of what has been published. Gregory Volk wrote with a new article on Paine in last months Art in America, where Roxy seemed be to the flavor of the month. Being familiar with the artist’s work makes you less reliant on what other people have said about it in the past. Paine was easygoing and easy to talk to, sipping a cappuccino as we spoke. Learning from npr I know now to let my subjects simply talk, to let them answer my questions in their own way and at their own pace, which oddly gives you more control of the conversation instead of less. I have also found out that you don’t have to affirm everything they might say. This interview was less planned, but I still knew what I wanted to ask, and what I hoped to sneak in before the end. I think it went well, and I know I felt much better about it afterward.

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