Tag Archives: Art

17 X 10: My favorite cultural moments of the year

In no particular order, here is my meta-list of my favorite music, films, books, and whatevers, from a year in which we really needed good music, films, books, and whatevers.

1.  Twin Peaks, on Showtime. Because of a broken knee, I missed the community viewing parties and was forced to watch this show by myself at home, where it was a punch in the gut that haunted me for weeks after. Especially that last episode, and of course episode 8, maybe the weirdest thing ever on broadcast TV, eclipsing the White Lodge sequences from the original series.

2. Legion, on FX. A psychedelic and surreal superhero show with a nonlinear plot. An example of the kind of bonkers WTF TV that owes a lot to Lynch, but this show was a lot more fun.

3. Anna Meredith at Baby’s All Right, Brooklyn. A British composer bringing a giddy experimental sensibility to pop music. The live version of this song was one of the most heart-stoppingly fun performances I’ve ever seen from a band.

4. Pipilotti Rist: Pixel Forest, at New Museum.

5. Borne, Jeff Vandermeer. To my shame, I hardly ever read novels anymore. Part of it is my lousy time management, but the other is failing to find an author or book series that I really love. That ended this year, as I found sci-fi writer Vandermeer, whose Southern Reach trilogy I plowed through (just in time for it to hit the big screen), and whose 2017 novel about a talking blob that falls off of a 3-story high flying bear I couldn’t put down.

6. LCD Soundsystem, American Dream. Not the album of the year – maybe not even in the top 10 or 20 albums of the year. It just feels good that they’re back.

7. That Darth Vader scene from Rogue One. Who knew that this character’s most memorable film moment would come in an unnecessary prequel 40 years after his first?

8. Lady Bird. I was expecting a quirky mumblecore kind of film, and then 3/4 of the way through realized how perfect the writing and acting were – and also how moving. The most satisfying movie of the year for me, by far.

9. Song Exploder. Just when I’d grown weary of 90-minute chatterfests, this refreshingly short podcast (actually from 2016) featured artists simply breaking down the writing and recording of a single song of theirs.

10. Can football be art? Well, yeah – when it’s this Super Bowl catch by Julian Edelman.

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SXIG

I went to the SXSW Music conference again this year, as I have done in recent years. Thanks to winter storm Stella, I got to spend an extra day in Austin, which ended up being a great one, and in all I logged time at around 70 different shows in the 5 days. I’d say the last few years were better in terms of music, but hardly anything to complain about.

I’m not the most consistent Instagrammer, but I decided this year to play around with a few different photo apps and then became somewhat obsessed with it. I like Prisma for its great range of effects and Layrs for the ability to stack images in layers on top of each other (why doesn’t PS Express, the mobile Photoshop app, do this?). Those, combined with the standard iPhone editing tools and Instagram filters, can do some amazing things. Here are a few of my favorites from Austin, and I’ve got a bunch more at my IG account. By the way – in order, this is Mint Field, Tei Shi, Dude York, Weaves, Holly Macve, and Merchandise.

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What I’ll remember from 2016, culturally speaking

Well, except for YOU KNOW WHO.

Here is my meta-list of my favorite music, films, books, and whatevers, from the Year That Shall Not Be Named.

1. David Bowie, Blackstar I listened to Blackstar on repeat the night after its release in January of this year. I was astounded by it’s brilliance, and I was equally excited that David Bowie was making vital art into his eighth decade of life, emerging once again as a presence in NYC. I drifted off to sleep with the album on, and then woke up the next morning to the news alert that he had passed away. The shock and sadness of that lasted with me for a long time, and it made it difficult for me to listen to Blackstar again until just recently. It was a tremendous farewell act.

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2. Stranger Things, Netflix’s thrilling, funny, sci-fi mystery series which bullseyed both taut storytelling and 80s nostalgia. I told you, Lando.

3. Kanye West, Life of Pablo and Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book Both of these Chicago rappers created compelling music this year that had a heavy gospel influence. Kanye’s was tormented and messy – gospel as desperation – and announced itself as being capital “I” important. Chance’s was both full of explicit Christianity and also fun as hell, and settled for merely being maybe the most infectious record of the year.

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4. The iPad Pro Finally an Apple computer whose screen you can draw on! It’s not perfect, but I enjoyed digitally drawing for the first time. When I found the software lacking I turned to AstroPad, which turns the iPad into a tablet that could run my desktop Photoshop.

5. Blake Crouch, Dark Matter A page-turner based on Schroedinger’s Cat? Say no more.

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6. Triumphs and Laments I was glad to be able to visit William Kentridge’s impressive 550-meter long mural, created not by painting, but by by power-washing around the black soot on the walls of the Tiber River in Rome.

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7. LCD Soundsystem reunion I hardly ever bite on the “Band Who Broke Up X Years Ago Reunites For Summer Festival” bait, but I somehow missed seeing them while they had been together, and I believed James Murphy’s promise that they’re in this to do something better than they’ve done before. So I ponied up the money to see them at Panorama, and they didn’t disappoint. My fingers are crossed for some studio music from them in 2017.

8. Unfinished Opening in the old Whitney Museum space on the UES in March, the Met Breuer (the Met’s new museum for contemporary art) crushed it this year with it’s inaugural exhibitions. Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible featured works that were unintentionally unresolved and also those that embraced an unfinished, “work-in-progress” aesthetic, leaving it to the viewers to ask themselves: when is a work really “done?” Never less than fascinating, my highlights were:

this abandoned Lucian Freud, a portrait that Klimt was still roughing out when he died,

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a Daumier that was gorgeous not despite but because of being mostly scraped away, this creepy incomplete work from Anton Raphael Mengs,

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and a room full of atmospheric Turners.

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9. Kerry James Marshall: Mastry The next show at the Breuer (still on display through January 29) is a retrospective from this Alabama man who deals with the American black experience through both honoring and subverting the many stylistic traditions of Western art which he is well-versed in, from Rococo painting to comics. There are so many things going on in his works that it’s hard for me to accurately summarize it here, but it is powerful.

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10. Empire Strikes Bond It’s refreshing to remember that the internet isn’t just a forum for fake news and hateful trolls. It’s also a place where art that would previously have gone unnoticed can find a wider audience. So what would the opening credits for The Empire Strikes Back have looked like if they were done in a James Bond style? This amazing visual mashup piece by a student filmmaker answers that question.

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Mighty Fine

LA artist Jenny Fine was kind enough to swap drawings with me when I was in California recently. I definitely got the better end of the deal. She can draw her ass off. Look at this sketch:

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It’s pretty close to perfect, especially the legs. The bold strokes, the varying line thicknesses, the bit of texture where the ink gets dry – it’s all so nice to look at. She nailed the weight shift in this woman’s stance. And this:

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It’s a little more exaggerated, but she’s captured exactly what’s going on with this dude’s (Left Brain from Odd Future, I think?) swagger. This is how you draw! If you want to see more work like this, check out the Kid Ink video below, for which she did all the sketches, or sift through her Instagram.

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Miami Man Machine

It’s possible that there’s nothing better than this Kraftwerk portrait (taken from the cover of Electric Cafe) done by Maxhaus at Space 52 during Art Basel Miami this week. I only wish I was there to see it in person. More pics here at Jackie Hadel’s blog.

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Holding the mustard

I’m not sad to see winter say goodbye, but I am disappointed that I’ll have nowhere to write my initials in the snow. For a few months, at least.

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Speaking of speech

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Recently I was asked by my alma mater to participate in a panel discussion regarding the many threats to free speech at the hands of terrorism.  We are all acquainted with the brutal and troubling ways in which this threat has played out in recent months. The panel happens April 6 at The College of William & Mary, so if you’re in the area, feel free to stop by and say hello. The alumni magazine thought it would be great to do a cover story on the same topic, and it made sense that I’d illustrate it.

In terms of imagery, there are few things that have been done to death as frequently as the “pen as weapon of free speech” has. Pen vs. gun: the symbolism is natural and obvious, but it seems to me like every working cartoonist drew their own similar version of it in response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks. My colleagues at the New Yorker offered their takes on the issue as well. Some of the images cartoonists created were brilliant and some were legitimately moving, but I intentionally avoided participating because I felt like I was struggling to come up with anything new on the issue. So this was personally a challenging assignment.

The first bunch of ideas I came up with felt a little too contrived, too gauche, especially since magazine covers are not usually the territory for overwrought editorial concepts.

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The cover idea that the editors picked was chosen not necessarily for it’s poignance or cleverness (because it’s not to be found there), but merely because click here to read the rest of this post

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