Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Wild Hunt.

Tallest Man on Earth plays new songs.

The new Tallest Man on Earth record, The Wild Hunt, reminds me of someone looking out the window onto a vista of a shit ton of forest trees. Safe in the high perch of some cabin and closed in by glass but brushed by a breeze from the cracked-open door, our viewer gazes at the woods and dreams about being there. It’s not that he doesn’t travel in the woods, or go out there and make a fire every so often; it’s just that it’s nice to have this separation- sometimes the woods are out there, and he’s inside, safe.

Our viewer picks up his guitar or sometimes sits at his rough wooden table gazing into the distance and drinking black coffee out of a chipped ceramic mug and he gets to thinking that though today the air is relatively crisp and cool, he’ll go out without a jacket and sit in the grass. Yeah it’s nature idyllic, but that’s what the Tallest Man is all about. It’s about having the balls to be rustic. Manhattan-strolling Dylan this is not. There’s more razor-edged wind and insistent guitar strumming.

The Tallest Man on Earth is Kristian Matsson. He’s from Sweden and he says he’ll be leaving in the fall. Don’t worry though, he’ll be here all summer.

Monday, March 8, 2010

What I've been up to

Keeping up.
So just so it's up on here rather than in my tiny bio, I wanted to put up a post about what I've been up to. I've been writing (and actually publishing) a lot more recently, so this post will be describing that quickly and then next post I will excerpt a review or two that I've done.

I've written a total of four pieces now for Hyperallergic, an online art blogazine started by New York City art writer, critic and awesome guy Hrag Vartanian. The blog features a wide variety of posts, ranging from new media columnists to professors of impressionism to contemporary art world news; I've covered Boston and Beijing and hope to keep moving on to some artist and gallerist profiles.

I have also started writing for LEAP art magazine, a new bilingual (Chinese and English) art magazine in Beijing that covers China's contemporary art world as well as international exhibitions and artists. Editor Phil Tinari, an American writer, curator and art-worlder at large in Beijing, has developed the magazine with a combination of academic articles, critical reviews, exploratory media pieces, fashion shoots and short blip write-ups. So far, I've contributed a blurb about Chinese photographer Madi Ju's first photobook, Qingchun, and a larger review of Yunfei Ji's recent James Cohan Gallery New York show, Mistaking Each Other for Ghosts.

I'm now interning at GlobalPost, a relatively recently founded international news agency based in Boston. Our group of interns develops, edits and creates content for the site's Study Abroad vertical, a section that gathers work from student reporters. I had a hand in our popular cats in costumes story and have a few other articles in development.

Just in case you were wondering. Now back to (ir)regular programming.

Twin Sister

New Bands/New Music

I just wanted to write everyone and say that Twin Sister is far and away my favorite new band of the past year. Sure, plenty of oldie-but-goodies have put out some excellent stuff, but Twin Sister is something new, something different, something that ties together electro and funk and indie pop and woodsy day dreams.

Their 2008 EP is available for free on their website, a homegrown jumble of hipster photos, song outtakes, even a collection of cell phone ringtones which are unabashedly catchy. The EP itself is four songs long and the band doesn't take a breath transitioning from one to the next, the best 15 minutes straight of music you'll hear in a while. Opener Dry Hump is quiet but builds insistently. The way Andrea Estella sings, if you're all alone, you can bring ov-er your bones, it's like a fluttering leaf attached only tangentially to a tree branch, ready to shake off and drift out into open air. The production is spare, beautiful, quiet.

Ginger (love the song names, right?) is a punch compared to the waves of the first tune. It starts out with a grainy, fuzzed out hit of drums guitar and synth and doesn't let up on a galloping rhythm all while skirting lyrics of ginger kids wrapped in Estella's mewling. It's flighty but heady music. Following is Nectarine, a picked acoustic guitar ringing over burbling tape noise that somehow manages to actually call to mind the light orange pink and yellow of a tangerine, the color of morning light bouncing off faded blossoms. Somehow.

And the closer, the effervescent, get down knock out groovy slow burn fretless bass lovefest, I Want a House. There's Estella's plaintive I want a house/built of old wood echoing out over a jangling backing, the drums kick in, the beat picks up, your feet start tapping, you could paint it any color/just so long as I could live with you, and all of a sudden you're dunked bodily into the chillest laid back indie jam since indie was invented. Estella's voice leaves over one last live with you and the instrumental takes over wholly, getting deeper and deeper into the music as one singly piano synth jab keeps time. Far and away one of the best songs I've heard since the EP came out in 2008, even though I only picked it up as the band's star has risen in the past year.

They're opening for Xiu Xiu and Tune-Yards (no alternating caps) on April 10 at the Paradise in Boston. Who want to come?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Art Free Associating.

They are remarkably similar.

1. "La Grenouille's pike quenelles Lyonnaise." NYT link
2. Magritte, The Rape, 1945

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gagosian in Athens.

Gagosian in Athens.
Work from "Three notes from Salalah" by Cy Twombly, inaugural exhibition, Gagosian Rome

Via Art in America ( Gagosian is planning on opening up a new gallery in Athens, Greece. An exhibition entitled "Leaving Paphos Ringed with Waves" by Cy Twombly will open on September 25.

Does anyone remember this happening in Rome? A space at Via Francesco Crispi 16 opened an exhibition of Cy Twombly's works, entitled "Three Notes from Salalah," on December 15, 2007. The building, a neoclassical structure made up of the ground and mezzanine levels of a former bank, built in 1921, is an imposing mix of grand vertical columns and impressive facade with bare, white cube galleries on the interior. The atmosphere seems fitting for the emperor of contemporary art.

But where's Gogo going with this? Is he not satisfied to be king of New York and London? Does he crave some classical propaganda, long the crutch of despots? After all, endless monarchs and rulers have copied classical architecture to give themselves some street cred with the peasants. "Look at us!" the buildings say, "we reach back to the Roman empire! Check the dome! Don't we look powerful!?"

Charlemagne did it at Aachen:

So what is Larry up to, conquering the ancient world city by city with new outposts of his contemporary art empire? I can't find the source, but I remember reading around the time of the Rome gallery opening an article that proposed Gogo had opened the space simply to secure the legacy of Cy Twombly, to placate the artist and make sure Twombly knew Gogo was committed. I wouldn't be terribly surprised. Twombly is an artist eminently familiar with the classical, with antiquity, and with his own place in the scope of art history. He has taken inspiration and quotes from Greek and Roman poets and the epics of wars and warriors of the time. See Gogo's description of the Athens show for a soundbite:

"The group of four canvases that comprises the Athens exhibition is inspired by a quote from the 7th century B.C. choral lyric poet Alkman."

Twombly certainly deserves to be shown in context with antiquity, and Rome would be the perfect place to do it. The atmosphere seems poetically perfect for Twombly's re-energized visions of legend. On the other hand, the Rome gallery has already played host to a few other important shows and events, including a Lawrence Weiner exhibition and a much-publicized GREED, A New Fragrance by Francesco Vezzoli. Rome's a rising star in the contemporary art world and Italian contemporary artists are long overdue to rise again from their 70s arte povera hangover.

But Athens!? And another Twombly show!?

I dunno, it seems like it might be a fetish, a power play, inaugurating classical spaces with the contemporary master of the ancient world. Maybe Gogo is a kind of performance artist, excorcising the ancient demons, fighting the aura of myth and the contemporary ennui of these places, using Twombly as a charm as Twombly digests the ghosts and puts them into paintings.

Leaving Paphos Ringed with Waves (III), 2009

So on the jumping off point of Larry Gagosian as performance artist conquering his way through antiquity with his artist-warriors: how does art conquer space? How does the inherent aura of a space with thousands of years of history get confronted by the contemporary art within the Rome/Athens galleries? What happens? In my mind Gagosian is appropriating these spaces into the greater historical narrative of his own contemporary art power. Cy Twombly is appropriating antiquity, ancient emotion, into his own paintings. The combination seems pretty striking.

What I love about art so much is that it presents this continuous narrative, an ongoing rush of ideas and aesthetics and work and life. The meta-works by Gogo and Twombly, the reliquary galleries, containers of ancient space that hold new works referencing antiquity, are perfect. They encounter the past and digest it, they encounter the contemporary art world and conquer it. Most of all, it's just badass. Gagosian as spatial architect, gesamptkunstwerk maker.

I'm looking forward to standing in one of these spaces and seeing if I can feel anything struggling in the air around me.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Wayne Thiebaud's San Francisco.

Wayne Thiebaud's San Francisco.

This is how San Francisco looks to me. Like a vertical cross section that sticks straight up into the air, a slice of a hill. The light, too. When it's sunny out, the buildings cast blue shadows on the streets around 5:30.

Walking down California Street, sometimes I felt like I was going to fall off to one side. I'd walk straight past a cross street and suddenly look to the left to see nothing but empty air stretching all the way to the ocean and the city splaying out before it in a patchwork grid of pastel buildings. There are the stucco facades of apartments painted light blue, the faux-Roman flat rowhouses with shuttered windows.

Everything thing is angled straight up and perched on the hills like a row of birds bobbing on a telephone wire. So when I'm riding in the car like a roller coaster and trying not to fly off the pavement, my eyes are still out there in the empty air, looking down, picturing the city like a Wayne Thiebaud painting: everything mushed against the flat sky, pushed up like a body against a wall, slammed by the sunlight. Everything rolls down San Francisco like the city got tilted on its side. The cars go fastest cause they've got wheels.

All paintings are by Wayne Thiebaud, variously titled: Down 18th Street, Apartment, and Highway Curve by Google Image search. Happy looking.