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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

WHEN WOMEN'S BODIES GET CENSORED ON FACEBOOK: AN ARTIST RESPONDS 8/27/15

I am an artist who wrote an article about my censorship experience with FB for an on-line magazine WOMEN"S VOICES FOR CHANGE. Please go to:
http://womensvoicesforchange.org/when-womens-bodies-get-censored-on-facebook-an-artist-responds.htm 
OR
http://bit.ly/1EW3xla

Recently it happened again with the image above " Grace and Sluter's Philip The Bold "reported "anonymously" by someone who was a "friend." I always put the privacy on FRIENDS for this series. This time FB acknowledged this did not violate their standards. ANONYMOUS REPORTING is dangerous and unjust. 
Facebook must stop allowing one individual to sabotage work and 

ideas. Please sign the petition at: http://chn.ge/1EhPO7W



Wednesday, August 19, 2015

STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON 8/19/15


Five young men  - Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren, Eazy E and DJ Yella -  walking towards us, lined up in a row coming into the picture frame like modern-day gunslingers - full of swagger and the defiant air of adolescents that have grown up and experienced the brutality that comes with being black living in one of the poorest and most dangerous communities in 1980’s America - the city of Compton, CA., south of downtown Los Angeles; these are the members  of the pioneering “gangsta rap”  and West Coast hip hop group N.W. A. (an abbreviation of Niggaz wit' Attitude) whose “rags-to-riches” story is told in the biopic STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON directed by F. Gary Gray

A group of locals, some of whom had been friends since childhood band together to express the rage they feel at society’s inequities;  to bring to attention the destructive nature of racism practiced by the authorities in their neighborhoods; police who were the supposed “enforcers” of justice interacting with urban black men treating them like enemies with no regard for their civil rights. N. W.A. fought back with raw screaming authenticity - lyrics that told their stories, attacking with the rat-a-tat of drum-machine beats and rhythms - words sprayed out with the ferociousness of thundering cannons - gesticulating and shocking their audiences with facts that were harshly bitter, crude. and all too real. N.W. A. became heroes to an expanding audience - their voices had been unleashed - fighting back  not with guns and flying bullets,  but with music that had the power to slice souls. 

I listened spellbound  to N.W.A.’s sounds, inhaling their cries of intense fury, but at the same time cringing at the vitriolic lyrics aimed at women who were often referred to as “ho’s and bitches” - buried in the same slimy abuse and disrespect, that the power structures so disdainfully thrust on them. The glamorized characterization of the relationship between the “perks” of fame - adulation, material acquisitiveness and indiscriminate sexual abandon - are depicted as becoming the roots of a Greek tragedy -  hubris leads to nemesis.


The film follows the group’s path to worldwide fame including the oft seen sleazy ups and downs of the managerial side of the  performing business; the collaboration of the entrepreneurial Eazy - E (a terrific performance by Jason Mitchell) with a scheming white businessman Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) to form a production company called Ruthless Records. Once recruited into N.W.A., Dr. Dre (a fine Corey Hawkins) is portrayed as the anchor of the group handling the music, and Ice Cube (played by his son O’Shea Jackson, Jr. with an uncanny resemblance to his father) is the lyricist along with MC Ren, pen and notebook in hand constantly jotting down phrases for future use. All five members were uncompromising, never giving into pressure from institutions, (including the FBI), the press and other external forces to tone down their rhetoric, many of whom were shocked by the unrelenting capacity of street vernacular to propel the public into social awareness.


STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON  also presents the personal battles and clashing egos among the rappers, with some quitting over “royalty” issues going off on their own, but over time we witness their strong “familial” bond which is unbreakable.The movie was not filmed in a vacuum - the turbulent history of the late ’80’s and early ’90’s is woven into the plot including the 1991 police battering of Rodney King, videotaped and seen on television by the whole country, and the subsequent acquittal of the four accused police officers in 1992 sparking riots in Los Angeles - clearly foreshadowing uprisings 22 years later, where a police culture is still too ready to shoot and destroy  what they perceive as “threatening” men and women of color.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

TRUE DETECTIVE SEASON 2 HBO SERIES - 8/12/15



I rushed home every Sunday night to see TRUE DETECTIVE - SEASON 2 (8 parts) even though I could barely get through the convoluted plot which involved the corruption of political figures, land deals, gangsters of every ethnic stripe, sex parties with lovely young "women of the night" forced to open their mouths wide so that the drug "molly" could be eye-dropped onto their expert tongues making them more pliable to the community’s pawing, fat-bellied and well-heeled politicians and financial titans who were their clients. Yet there was a mesmerizing fog of melancholic desperation hovering over the series baring the soul's dissolution ( a persistent theme of the creator Nic Pizzolatto), heightened by quick cuts, and the murky presence of universal evil invading the most innocent of hearts. The dialogue was cryptic - nothing was clear including the vaporous air. But I still tuned in weekly to get my fix of danger and despair.

Upon reflection I believe that the dialogue and plot were deliberately apocryphal, the ominous beat of the music purposely underscoring the characters’ secrets and lies; the rapid shifts in place contributing to the lack of clarity in all relationships; we never really “know” who or what we are dealing with.

The series focused on 4 main players - Detective Ray Velcoro (an intense heavy-browed Colin Farrell who I loved as a “hit-man” in film BRUGES,) Detective Ani Bezzerides (excellent  job by an unglamorous Rachel McAdams ), Frank Semyan (Vince Vaughn a steely mobster attempting to go “straight “ showing he can act without playing an oaf in some Grade C puerile comedy,) and Officer Paul Woodrugh the closeted gay State Trooper ( performed by the handsome “hunk” Taylor Kitsch) - their professional and private lives are the essence of TRUE DETECTIVE which is absorbed in revealing each of the character’s deeply felt  personal ignominy and disgrace which has poisoned their intimate selves.

Languidly unraveling the main personas through confrontations and memory was psychologically elegant, but alas by the final episode there were only 90 minutes left to the series, so I was really disappointed to view a Deus Ex-Machina finale - the tempo speeding out of control.  Attempting to rapidly tie up all the loose ends in the criminal investigation; the threads got warped  and distorted and the “detective” story -  always secondary to Pizzolatto’s pessimistic view of human nature and the ability to forgive oneself and others - was put front and center; predictable and worst of all sentimental and cheap. What a shame! This might have been a contender!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

REFLECTIONS ON FACEBOOK AND EXHIBITION GOING BIG 8/2/15

Once you were isolated outside of the main art “hubs” often working with the same feverish passion as the “stars” we see featured in the established art and on-line magazines, and blogs; many of the same faces who became “the chosen ones” from the millions of artists inhabiting our planet. AND then came along Facebook (FB), a space that drew a community of LIKE-minded artists - some who were working, others who felt hidden and forsaken not getting the “rewards” of their efforts - slipping into oblivion, no longer unearthing their inexhaustibly complex internal solar systems. 

Affiliating with a group has never been my thing, but I do hunger for the exchange of ideas among peers so joined FB shortly after it was launched in 2004. Earlier (in the late1990’s through 2001) I had “moderated” a group (now called blog) Plexus/Chalkboard/Artseen, created by Stephen Pusey, where we had some amazing discussions about the meaning, the process, the branding, the commercialization, the frustrations of being an artist - exchanges often  filled with vitriol, laced with poetry, support and love. 

Facebook - the new “club “ soon grew into bands of associations, factions and personal, sympatico connections - virtual acquaintances - that we began to care about, to laugh with, to celebrate, empathize and grieve over in “sickness and health.” Artists in rural areas, from international towns and cities (that I had never heard of) became my “friends,” and the realization that we often shared a tenacious drive for authenticity, promulgated respect  and awareness of the acute vision of what (for me) were once far-removed cultures now penetrating my hermetic space through their written words and images.


GOING BIG - a large group exhibition curated by Suzan Shutan and Susan Carr drew on these affiliations - artists they admired  on Facebook - and often had never met. The works are small and diverse - abstraction dominates - endless investigations of pattern, geometric forms and color relations; some revealing the creator’s hand and thereby their personalities exposed like one’s handwriting; and others pristinely appear - as if stamped on the canvas/paper/wooden supports by an unseen divinity. Paintings dominate, but included were photographs and sculptures unfolding the gamut of expression and materials that we humans can construct - affirming  our need to cry out - look at me- look at the world that I represent.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

GOING BIG - OPENING NIGHT AT ART EXHIBITION 7/30/15

This is a short video I made Opening Night of an art exhibition in NYC at Central Booking Gallery, 21 Ludlow Street. Dates: July 30 - August 28, 2015.
Curators: Suzan Shutan and Susan Carr.
There are 111 artworks in the show including a small piece of mine.

Links:


https://vimeo.com/135136009
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEdmnDOCb4s

Thursday, July 23, 2015

JIMMY'S HALL 7/23/15

Seventy-nine year old British director Ken Loach has been dealing with social issues in film since the early 1960’s and JIMMY’S HALL is no exception, based on a 10 year period in the life of Jimmy Gralton, a Leitrim (County in Ireland) Socialist -  the only Irishman ever deported from Ireland in 1933. The clash between the Catholic Church, intermixed with local politicians  and what they considered Stalinist/Communist ideas brewing in a small village’s Dance/Meeting Hall - built for the local community of farmers and laborers -  teaching art, poetry, song, boxing classes, highlighting music and dance performances; a space to openly speak about landowner/working conditions.

I am a sucker for a good-looking Irishman, and Barry Ward is just that; he plays Jimmy who is expressive, passionate and a stirring advocate for basic individual freedoms. We meet him in 1932, after a forced 10 year exile in NYC, returning home to work on the family’s small plot of land at a “hopeful” time, a new government has come into power. Set amidst the rolling green hills of an idyllic village, Jimmy plans to settle down and help his elderly mother, a former librarian who years earlier drove around the rural area, bringing books - catalysts for ideas - to her neighbors. Life in 1932 is and is not the same - personal relationships have changed - former love interest Oonagh who fought at his side in earlier days, having not heard from him for a long time after Gralton was forced to flee Ireland in 1921, married a “solid” man from the hamlet and bore 2 children. Despite the years gone by, their deep connection has never come untethered and the tenderness between these two intense fighters for human rights is  filmed in a lovely scene where they slowly move together, swaying under the pale light of unrealized dreams; fulfillment impossible.


JIMMY’S HALL is a movie about the pervasive paranoia and corruption of Ireland’s Government/Church partnership in maintaining “moral order” in a world that is  absorbing new ideologies; where principles and tenets cannot be contained in ancestral and inbred receptacles. The community demonstrates an unrelenting courage and willingness to confront representatives of the power elite in their attempt to love, laugh, frolic, and examine doctrines that have been intrinsic to them - no longer isolated they dare to defy through unity thereby gathering courage. Director Ken Loach’s radiant portrayal of Jimmy Gralton resurrects a fighter whose name was all but forgotten. The combat against a powerful, intransigent armed state in 1932 seemed desperately futile, but history has proven otherwise.

Friday, July 10, 2015

YOKO ONO: ONE WOMAN SHOW, 1960-1971

                Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1971
                             May 17-September 7, 2015

She makes me happy. From the moment I walked into the 6th floor galleries at The Museum of Modern Art, a big grin appeared on my face. I was feeling a bit under the weather and the cure was Yoko Ono. A delicate electric charge infuses the poetic underpinnings of her work from the beautifully penned instructional notes challenging viewers to “do” things so they themselves become ”artists” - freshly aware of the world around them - the touch of others, their whispers; their relationship to the wind, experiencing the shining sun which eventually "melts into the sky" - before  you are ordered to make a tunafish sandwich.  

                                 SNOW PIECE
                          Think that snow is falling
                          Think that snow is falling everywhere 
                           all the time.
                          When you talk with a person, think
                          that snow is falling between you 
                          and on the person.
                          Stop conversing when you think the 
                          person is covered by snow. 

                          1963 summer

Her prescriptions are remedies aiding in the attentiveness of one’s own breath, allowing you to feel the heart beating and listening to the rhythm of its murmurs. In Yoko Ono’s universe we live conjoined with nature - celebrating an individual's humanity, but always as inclusive beings brought together to live in peace on this planet.

The exhibition includes films  which documented audience interaction with the artist - particularly  the 1965 “Cut Piece”, her best-known performance work staged at Carnegie Hall. Yoko Ono was visually communicating the passive and acquiescent role of women. Visitors were prompted to come up on the platform - where the artist was sitting motionless - and cut away her clothes snip-by-snip, as she remained stationary,  frozen, but not expressionless. I found this improvisation harrowing. Women often came up and with more discretion wielded the scissors with an attentive delicacy; on the other hand a few men pushed past psychological boundaries, attempting to inflict humiliation and in so doing proclaim mastery over her body. Ono’s face is seen communicating equanimity, confusion and disdain - her response being both revelatory and dramatic.

The intention of Film No. 4 1966-67 “ was to cover the screen with one object… something that was moving constantly…” Buttocks filled the screen, becoming the star of this approximately 80 minute 16 mm film which included 200 participants walking naked “in place while remaining centered in the camera shot.” Sometimes the genders were not immediately apparent as we focused on the myriad  sizes and shapes of derrieres, the amount of body hair, and the way the gluteal muscles sidle up against one another in the process of rapid exercise. 

The Fly filmed in 1970 is a 23:55 minute view of a fly’s  slow exploration across a naked woman’s body. She is impassively lying on a bed, legs outstretched, while it explores every bit of her torso - a caressing lover fabricated out of hallucinatory dreams. There are close ups of the fly - one showing the wings flapping, taking a nip out of the model’s stomach, stretching the skin, while buzzing about on its erotic and infiltrating journey. The soundtrack features Yoko Ono singing -  her insect like voice screeching along with John Lennon’s instrumentals adding another layer of vulnerability to the exposed form. 

Flies are a medium that Ono had used in 1971 when she released them in MOMA’s Sculpture Garden; the flies soaring off into the galleries and then “radiating throughout the city…” Forty-four years later her exhibition is publicized through news and digital media - no longer having to hire a man with a sandwich board traipsing back and forth on 53rd Street promoting an imagined event.  

 Upon exiting the exhibition, I smiled again, delighted to have glanced over at the wall, catching a glimpse of  Yoko Ono's never-ending dictums - this time expressly drafted provisions to  the exhibition’s co-curators - Klaus Bisenbach and Christophe Cherix:

Time Piece to Klaus
Make a film of a day
To be viewed in 50 years time.


Y.O. 2015 April