Blog →

February 14, 2010

恭禧發財!

Just taking a moment to wish everyone a Happy Chinese New Year! It's the year of the tiger, which is the year my brother was born. A friend of mine (who is also a tiger) told me that one is supposed to hand out red envelopes on the year of their sign. I wonder if my brother is reading this. :-)

I pulled the papercut above from an old Dover book of papercuts I bought for a project a long time ago. When I saw the stylized tiger cut, I just had to use it. It is a tiger, isn't it?

By eugene at 11:39 PM | 2 comments

A few weeks ago I read an article in the NYTimes magazine about Tino Sehgal. It hinted at the work he was about to unveil at the Guggenheim museum in New York. As soon as I finished reading the article, I started counting down the days until the show was to open. I had wanted to go on the first day. I settled for the second.

Sehgal does not allow his work to be photographed. To allow viewers to experience the work for themselves, I won't describe the major work on view in this post (though the NYTimes article describes another piece, also on view, which put me in the mind of Bill Viola's work). I will, however, say it was one of the best things I've experienced at the museum, and I was able to see the museum in a way in which I never have before. Those readers of who are unable to come to New York to view the work in person can email me to discuss the piece. To give some context forSehgal's art, the Guggenheim writes:

Tino Sehgal constructs situations that defy the traditional context of museum and gallery environments, focusing on the fleeting gestures and social subtleties of lived experience rather than on material objects. Relying exclusively on the human voice, bodily movement, and social interaction, Sehgal's works nevertheless fulfill all the parameters of a traditional artwork with the exception of its inanimate materiality.

If anyone else has gone to see the show, please leave a comment or email. I'd love to discuss the work with others and to read reactions to the piece.

By eugene at 11:20 PM | Leave a comment | Tags: ,
Detail,Nakayama Horse race track, Chibe, Japan, 2005

Skyline Books is going out of business. I passed by the store last weekend en route to Adorama and saw the sign outside the door. They've always had a good selection of photography books and I paused to take a look. The shelves had already been picked over, but I picked up Naoki Honjo's Small Planet at a discount.

For a while, the internets seemed over-saturated with tilt-shift photography (on the photoblogging front, it seemed to be the new cross-processing), but I liked the color and composition of Honjo's prints. He has a great eye for isolating the details that the technique brings out and shooting accordingly. The book is published by Little More, a Japanese publisher of mainly art books.

By eugene at 10:47 AM | 1 comment | Tags: ,

January 28, 2010

See: You, the Living

Filmed over the span of almost three years and comprised of some 50 loosely-connected vignettes, Roy Andersson's You, The Living unspools like a Tsai Ming-Liang film directed by Emir Kuristica, with a heaping teaspoon of Jacques Tati and a dash of Monty Python thrown in to give it flavor. The film is beautifully composed and lit with an even light, giving the images a slightly pale quality that enhances the overall effect of the film. The director has said, ""I want light where people can't hide in—light without mercy," and yet one feels a strong sympathy for the characters and their situations. The locations are all sets, and much has been made of the time in which it took to create each one. At times, I was given to think of the papercraft creations of Thomas Demand.

The film has no plot to speak of. Characters come and go, occasionally addressing the audience directly. A few characters reappear, and the film includes multiple vignettes that follow their fortunes and dreams. The camera is mostly static, observing their actions and recording their thoughts. Each scene is carefully choreographed, and precisely performed.

Andersson approached people on the street to act in the film, and the majority of the roles were assumed by non-professional actors. The film is so stylized that to have famous or professional actors assume the roles would be almost a distraction. Andersson has also remarked that it would be embarassing to ask actors to play such minor roles.

The title refers to a quotation by Goethe, "Be pleased then, you the living, in your delightfully warmed bed, before Lethe's ice-cold wave will lick your escaping foot," which served as the inspiration for the film, and which preceds the film. It's a film about the "grandeur of existing," without being weighed down by the gradeur of that statement. Andersson's motto when making the film, taken from a work of Icelandic literature, was "man is man's delight." In You, the Living he delights us with his intent.

You, the Living. Roy Andersson, 1997. 95 min.

By eugene at 2:15 PM | Leave a comment | Tags: , ,

January 24, 2010

Music to help the masses

In support of relief efforts for Haiti, Chuck Wild (DJ, producer, MC, and member of the Beatards) has assembled a mix of old school Haitian records pulled from his crates, called Music = Medicine. All he asks is that you donate at least $5 to Partners in Health and forward your donation receipt to him. You can find all the information here. It's a great mix of music, and a great way to support a worthy cause.

Wilco has also made available two live concert recordings on their site. All they ask is that you make a minimum donation of $15 to OXFAM or Doctors Without Borders.

Yesterday I visited the David Zwirner gallery for its survey of minimalist works, Primary Atmospheres: Works rom California 1960-1970. From the press release, the show presents a

. . . survey of the particular kind of minimal work that was made in and around Los Angeles, work which differentiated itself in its emphasis on surface, synthetic materials, industrial processes, and perception. Often referred to under the umbrella term "Light and Space," the artists and artwork included in this exhibition will present a more inclusive overview of the ground-breaking and diverse art practices that flourished in California in the 1960s. The exhibition includes rarely seen works by Peter Alexander, Larry Bell, Laddie John Dill, Robert Irwin, Craig Kauffman, John McCracken, Helen Pashgian, James Turrell, De Wain Valentine, and Doug Wheeler.

Of work collected for the exhibition, my favorites by far were the two by James Turrell, Juke Green and Gard Red.

Upon entering the spaces in which Turrell's works are installed, the pieces looked as if they were fashioned from plastic. I wondered how he made something so tangible so seemingly intangible until I broke the plane of light that had been projected into the corner. I then was amazed that he had actually made the intangible tangible. In many ways, Rothko's paintings and Anish Kapoor's Memory (currently installed at the Guggenheim) affect me similarly, as the work plays with the perception of depth and surface.

Turrell is one of my favorite artists, and I long to have the opportunity to visit the Roden Crater. The Wikipedia page on the artwork claims that Turrell plans to unveil it to the public in 2011. If anyone has any insight on the possibility of visiting it earlier, please let me know.

For fans of Dan Flavin, alternating pink and "gold" is installed in a large gallery space next door to the gallery. Their site states that the installation was supposed to be only through 19 December 2009. I'm uncertain how much longer it'll be on view. Primary Atmospheres will be on view until 6 February 2010.

By eugene at 12:34 AM | Leave a comment | Tags: ,
Photograph courtesy Jean Lee

Yesterday, Michael asked me if I'd be interested in seeing Stiffelio. He wasn't feeling well and offered me his ticket. I wasn't familiar with the opera, but was curious. Plàcido Domingo was to conduct. The day before I had been thinking of getting tickets to Simon Boccanegra, another Verdi opera with which I was unfamiliar. It was to be Domingo's debut as a baritone. Last week the NYTime remarked upon his versatility and his back to back evenings performing onstage and in the pit.

Jean had also asked me if I'd be interested in seeing The Swell Season at Radio City Music Hall. Their babysitter had fallen through and her husband had volunteered to stay home so that she could go. I told her yes, and made my apologies to Michael. I hoped that he would get well soon.

I met Jean in front of the theater and went in. She told me her husband had had to go to the box office to pick up their tickets earlier in the day and they had upgraded his seats. We were in the center of the orchestra. We arrived in the middle of the opening act, and settled in.

The Swell Season took the stage and sat on the floor, Hansard on guitar and Irglová on what appeared to be a Casiotone. They sang a song together then introduced the Frames and a brass section, which filled out the stage.

The band played beautifully; the sound was rich and full in the room. Glen was giddy with excitement at their return engagement, encouraging the audience to sing along, and regaling us with stories between the songs. They covered Van Morrison (a rousing version of "Astral Weeks" that Hansard played solo) and Bruce Springsteen. They played songs by the Frames and from the Swell Season's various incarnations.

At one point he told us about an older woman he had met in an elevator in Chicago. He had been taken with her royal blue coat and told her. She turned to him and told him why she loved the coat. She appreciated the fact that he had appreciated it, and told him the coat symbolized a lot to her. It had convinced her to take control of her life.

Hansard offered to help her to her car. She thanked him and asked him what he did. He told her he was a musician. She asked him what the name of his band was. He told her. Never heard of them, she said. He told her he used to be in a band called the Frames. Never heard of them either. He said he was in a movie that did well in the states. Once? Nope.

She said she was from New York and Hansard gave her his email address. He said they would be playing in January and would love it if she could come. She paused and said her son would have been about his age. He had died in that damned building. Hansard paused. Her son had finished her job on the 10th but was just going back to pick up popcorn; that's how he had put it. She had had a premonition. She wanted to tell him not to go to work that day. That morning she was going to call to tell him. She turned on the television and saw the buildings in flame.

She had tears in her eyes when she told Hansard how important it was to tell people what you thought. She told him not to hold back.

Hansard said she never contacted him; he had hoped she would be in the audience and had wanted to see her again. He said he thought about her advice often. The distance between your mind and your mouth is so short, and yet so much stuff gets caught up in the brain, never to be voiced.

He then stepped out from behind the mic and played to the room without amplification. He sang and screamed out the words, his voice and guitar clear and naked in the suddenly silent room.

When I was in college, Spaulding Grey appeared at the library. The auditorium where he was to perform was packed, and I was lucky to have found a seat. He performed A Personal History of the American Theater. It was the only time I saw him perform.

His command of his craft was mesmerizing. I was transported to the small theaters and dingy rehearsal spaces where he cut his teeth, following his career as it developed and following him as he developed as an actor. At one point, he told us of an exercise. He was working with an acclaimed director, and in the middle of an emotional scene he was told to stop, to let everything go. He stepped out from behind the microphone and spoke directly to the audience. He told of how layer after layer of emotion and being fell away. In the rehearsal space he stood as he stood before us, letting go of his character, letting go of himself. The room was transformed.

The Swell Season closed with an old Irish song that had been made popular by the Clancey Brothers. The song was generally sung at wakes from the viewpoint of the corpse, Hansard explained. But there was no regret in it. He sang: "Of all the money that e'er I spent / I've spent it in good company." He told us how wonderful it must be to be in that state and in what a comfortable position. "And all the harm that ever I did / Alas it was to none but me." No worries. No stress. "And all I've done for want of wit / To memory now I can't recall." He invited us to sing the chorus with him. "So fill to me the parting glass / Good night and joy be with you all."

By eugene at 10:55 AM | 5 comments | Tags: ,

This year the Frick Collection turns 75. The NYTimes published a short article about recent renovations a few weeks ago.

The collection is housed in the former residence of steel magnate Henry Clay Frick and includes "some of the best-known paintings by the greatest European artists, major works of sculpture . . . superb eighteenth-century French furniture and porcelains, Limoges enamels, Oriental rugs, and other works of remarkable quality." Like the Nueue Gallerie (also housed in a former residence) it has a distinctly European atmosphere that matches the art contained therein.

It's been years since I've been. A few weeks ago Angela had mentioned the museum and suggested we go; today we did. I wish I hadn't waited so long to return. I loved being in the museum and seeing the works in situ. It felt like stepping into another time, and both Angela and I wondered what it would be like to live in such a space, surrounded by such amazing art. At one point I took out my iPhone to check messages, but quickly put it away; it seemed almost wrong to be using such technology within Frick's home.

The above is a detail of Jan van Eyck's Virgin and Child, with Saints and Donor, painted in the early 1440s. The painting is easily one of my favorites of the collection. It has a strange quality that seems to render it both in three and two dimensions at once.

The Frick's website has an extensive catalog of their collection (including a search engine of their works), and their YouTube channel contains introductions to various pieces of art recorded by various members of the curatorial staff.

By eugene at 10:42 PM | Leave a comment | Tags:

To thank me for designing his website, Eric gave me a copy of Christopher Anderson's Capitolio. The book is comprised of full-bleed black and white photographs made in Caracas and sequenced to create a cinematic experience. From the blurb:

The word capitolio refers to the domed building that houses a government. here, the city of Caracas, Venezuela, is itself a metaphorical capitolio building. The decaying Modernist architecture, with a jungle growing through the cracks, becomes the walls of this building, and the violent streets become the corridors where the human drama plays itself out in what President Hugo Chavez called a "revolution."

Some of the spreads can be seen here, and Magnum in Motion has published other photographs here.

By eugene at 10:53 PM | Leave a comment | Tags: ,

January 13, 2010

See: The Hurt Locker

Katheryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker follows the fortunes of a tight-knit bomb squad as they near the end of their rotation in Iraq. That they're tight-knit is a necessity of their job and of their situation; left to their own devices, it's hard to imagine the three men would be nodding acquaintances, let alone trust each other with their lives day in and day out.

It's a tense film, full of suspense, that seemingly paradoxically lets each scene unfold at its own pace. There's not much dialogue, but there doesn't need to be. We learn about the characters through their reactions and interactions. Bigelow shot nearly two hundred hours of footage for the film, and one can imagine how that may have allowed the actors the room to fully inhabit their characters, as well as allowed the editors the ability to create the experiential feeling of the film.

Mark Boal, the screnwriter, was himself embedded with a bomb squad in Iraq, the his screenplay has the ring of authenticity. He's also confident enough to let his material stand. Where lesser films might become mawkish or underline the emotional underpinnings of certain scenes (hello, Good Morning Vietnam) The Hurt Locker leaves us with ambiguities, even during emotionally climactic scenes. It's a thorougly engrossing film, fully realized.

By eugene at 10:15 PM | Leave a comment | Tags: , ,