Staff Picks: Light, Lust, LiveJournal


This Week’s Reading

Alfred Stieglitz, Equivalent [251b], ca. 1923, black-and-white photograph flush-mounted on card, mounted to board, 4 9/16″ x 3 9/16″.

In 1925, Alfred Stieglitz began a series of moody, diminutive photographs of cloud patterns (abstracted, they resembled curls and skeins of smoke); he called it Songs of the Sky, before later changing it to Equivalents. He showed the images to his friend, the composer Ernest Bloch, who, according to Stieglitz, declared it to be music. Partly in response to his friend’s photographs, Bloch composed “Poems of the Sea.” A show at Bruce Silverstein Gallery takes its name from Stieglitz’s series and presents five pairings of art and music, including Stieglitz/Bloch. The idea is to listen to a piece of music while looking at artworks that were inspired either by that composition, that composer, or by music more generally. Though it’s not always convincing, the idea of having two mediums respond and react to and provoke one another is intriguing. I love Frederick Sommer’s ink drawings of musical notation (they’re hieroglyphs and also stacked Futurist cityscapes), but his coupling with Chris Washburne is too on the nose. The obliqueness of Lisette Model’s photographs of people’s shadows resonates well with Arnold Schoenberg’s atonal Pierrot lunaire. My favorite, though, may be Aaron Siskind’s black-and-white photographs of male bodies tumbling through space set to a string-quartet arrangement of John Cage’s delicate, gorgeous Cheap Imitation: neither transcends its medium, but instead seems more acutely, more exquisitely itself. —Nicole Rudick

I spent some time this week on, an Internet project dedicated to cataloging memories of the early web. Built by three artists—Ben Sisto, Josephine Livingstone, and Joe Bernardi—the “literary/graphic” project asks writers to draw inspiration from one of the 216 web-safe color codes, such as the offending #66FF33 or the wistful #0099CC, writing personal recollections in 216 words. I scrolled through Web Safe’s rainbow grid, reading lyric memories about the conversant gargle of dial-up (Andrew Blevins, #CC6600), multiplayer computer games (Adrian Chen, #33CC00), LiveJournal (Anna Weiner, #003366), and other relics of the early web. Colors in the palette regularly inspire memories of braces and prom, group chats and forums. I wondered, reading about MySpace and MSN, what the colors of the early Internet trigger for me. Maybe Ask Jeeves, the first man in my life to whom I never could ask the right questions. Or Xanga, where I lurked on blogs written by my classmates. Or maybe Machu Picchu, an obscure nineties computer game I’ve lost nearly all memory of and haven’t ever found again. All that’s left is the name, and the bellow of nostalgia. —Caitlin Love 

James Turrell, Juke, Green, 1968, projection, installation dimensions variable. Photo courtesy BFA, via Pace Gallery.

Some of James Turrell’s early experiments in light projection are on display at Pace Gallery for the next month. This is the part where I tell you why they’re Significant Works of Art, but it’s tough to form a thought more articulate than “they look really cool.” In the late sixties, Turrell began using projectors and apertures to generate seemingly three-dimensional planes of light that transmute as you approach them, becoming studies in perception and boundary. Turrell was raised a Quaker, and the silence and interiority of that faith have always marked his work, which flirts with the metaphysical. “Light is different than we normally see it,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “There are glimpses when you see light and it has its own presence.” Juke, Green, from 1968, leads you to that presence: in an empty room the color of lime Kool-Aid, a luminous wedge appears to rest against the wall. It looks really cool. —Dan Piepenbring

Imagine that a renowned feminist scholar wrote a book not unlike Fifty Shades of Grey in the 1970s, gaining a cult following that hailed it as a celebration of female sexuality, only to see it decried as smut in literary and academic circles. This is the premise of Stuart Nadler’s novel The Inseparables (out in July), narrated by three generations of women grappling with crises of femininity. The story is set some thirty years after the release of that imaginary book (which shares the novel’s title), when Henrietta, its author, allows her publishers to reissue it. Lydia, her fifteen-year-old granddaughter, gets suspended from her boarding school after taking a nude photo of herself for personal use; having hoped to see her body through the male gaze, she instead has the image stolen from her phone and disseminated by a boy who told her she was beautiful. Nadler writes with tenderness and empathy; in an age when women, especially teenage girls, are caught in an endless cycle of body re-representation, The Inseparables feels urgent, but without losing its warmth and humor. —Daniel Johnson

From the cover of The Colour in Anything.

The Hungarian director László Neme’s debut, Son of Saul, covers two days in the life of Saul Ausländer, a Hungarian Jew in Auschwitz-Birkenau. The film is shot almost entirely from over Saul’s shoulder, and much of the action is out of frame—that cinematographic intimacy earned the film its critical acclaim, but to my taste, its strongest feature is its drama. Saul is a Sonderkommando, a member of a nonvolunteer work unit made up of death-camp prisoners that are tasked with aiding in the disposal of corpses. When he finds a dead Hungarian boy that he believes to be his son, he tasks himself with ensuring a proper burial, a commitment that compromises much of what’s left of his and his fellow prisoners’ lives. That may sound sentimental or heavy-handed, but the film deftly avoids the clichés of its genre. It feels, above all, authentic. —Ty Anania

James Blake used to be portrayed as the crooning, post-dubstep bedroom producer that Gotham deserved, so I feel a bit resentful at having a new James Blake shoved down my throat. But his latest release, The Colour in Anything, reminds me that I need to shut up and just listen to the music. Colour strikes me more as a logical next step than a sea change: Blake’s experimentation with trap and grime elements, already evident in 2013’s Overgrown, come to a head here, melding and sometimes clashing with synthesizers ripped straight from eighties New Wave and electro. But this is still a James Blake album, most inspired in its down-tempo moments, when Blake’s falsetto can breathe comfortably. The Colour in Anything may not be my favorite of his albums—hell, it might even be my least favorite—but it still leaves me convinced that his best work is ahead of him. —Rakin Azfar