“Between Blossoms,” an exhibition of photographs by Shen Wei, is at Flowers Gallery in New York through April 22. Wei, born in China and now based in New York, focuses on landscapes with a pervasive, ghostly negative space. This series, he says, uses “a touch of melodrama here, a hint of seduction there” to bring out the layer of dream-life hovering just beneath reality; he aims to find “an elusive, enchanting beauty” in the everyday.
- Yevgeny Yevtushenko, who died this weekend at eighty-three, reminds us that sometimes a poet can achieve that rare thing: popularity. All it requires is persistence, good fortune, and cultural conditions dramatically different from those of the contemporary U.S. At the height of his powers, Yevtushenko commanded audiences of thousands in the Soviet Union, where his readings gave voice to the hopes and fears of a generation struggling to come out from under Stalinism. In an obituary for Yevtushenko, Anna Nemtsova writes, “He was like a giant loudspeaker sending messages across Soviet borders on behalf of his country, without sarcasm or cynicism, even when his country’s leaders made it impossible to love the state, when they beat down his own love for Russia by banning the best avant-garde art, destroying lives, repressing dissidents, deploying armies to foreign states … Yevtushenko and three other famous poets, Andrei Voznesensky, Bella Akhmadulina, and Robert Rozhdestvensky, turned poetry into a cult, brought it to stadiums, recited their lyrics for thousands of spectators. Once, during one such poetic concert, Yevtushenko’s fans carried him around Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, as if an Olympic champion of poetry.”
- Listening to the lounge chanteuse Diamanda Galás, Hua Hsu hears a voice unadorned, “ancient-feeling in its primal ambitions,” and thus at odds with almost everything on the radio right now: “In the early days of pop music, the microphone was still an instrument to be mastered. Singers like Holiday, Sinatra, and Baker explored the possibilities of what amplification could accomplish, cooing and chatting over their bands in a way that felt intimate, as though the words were being poured into your ears alone. Our expectations are different nowadays. Some of the most exciting current experiments in pop music involve processing those voices, using technology not to capture the singer’s quiet whisper but to make the singer sound unfamiliar, pulsing and flickering, swirly and surreal. It’s music conscious of our states of constant distraction, the voice tracking the surges and flows that comprise life in digital spaces.”
“Search Light,” an exhibition of paintings, photographs, and drawings by Jane Hammond, is at Galerie Lelong through April 22. The show features what Hammond calls “Dazzle paintings,” works derived from photos, painted in acrylic on a surface of mica sheets over Plexiglas. Hammond infuses these paintings with silver, gold, copper, and palladium leaf, giving them a dense, textured reflectivity. Her photographs, meanwhile, are digitally manipulated to present what she calls “stills from a movie in my head.” In a 2013 interview, she explained,
I’ve always worked with found information … When I talk to myself about my paintings, I always use this word jammed. It’s a reference to how each constituent element in the painting is coming from a disparate source, from another culture, from another time. Each one is freighted with the way they drew in England in the 1890s, or an Art Deco sensibility, or the way woodcuts looked in Germany in 1500, or Chinese ink drawings. And I’ve always valued these inconsistencies. You know, there is a rabbit on a branch; the branch is much more detailed than the rabbit is; the branch is seen from the left; the rabbit is seen from the right. That’s what I call jamming. I like the collision of the otherness.
- These days, it often seems the world has tilted on its axis: nothing is the same, we’ve broken with the past, there’s no going back. But we’ve still got an old friend kicking around—the barf bag. In these uncertain times, Hollywood’s horror filmmakers still turn to sick bags as a primo promotional gag. For there is still vomit in this realm, and still a need to contain it in the face of extreme spectacle. Cara Buckley writes: “After a moviegoer apparently vomited during a Los Angeles screening of the French coming-of-age cannibal flick, Raw, the theater began handing out barf bags … The move is a vintage publicity stunt going back some fifty years. Among the standout bags in movie history: The keepsake vomit bag from the 1963 splatter film Blood Feast came with an encouragement, ‘Spill your guts out!’ ‘Guaranteed to upset your stomach!’ proclaimed the bag from the 1981 Italian film Cannibal Ferox. The bag for The Beyond (1981) came with the thoughtfully worded warning, ‘Individuals with sensitive constitutions may experience stomach distress,’ and advised that the bag be used only once and not overfilled.”
- For a while, Marianne Moore taught at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, a dubious institution in Pennsylvania that aimed to “assimilate” Native American youth basically by flogging their culture out of them. This was not, as one might imagine, a bright spot for Moore’s career. Siobhan Phillips notes that “even at the time Moore taught there, the school’s obvious wrongs were noticed and decried. Moore knew of ‘cruel neglect and abuse,’ as her mother put it in a letter included in [Linda] Leavell’s biography. Moore did not protest. In 1914, federal investigators examined conditions at CIIS and dismissed the superintendent … Congress found financial corruption and mismanagement as well as incidents of wrongful expulsion and physical harm. A student in Moore’s department organized the petition requesting the investigation, which 276 students signed. Moore was accused of supporting insurrection, but she sidestepped the charge, as she reports in a letter to her brother: ‘I crush out disrespect and rancor whenever I see it, and I give the students as thorough a training in political honor as I can.’ When inspectors came to Carlisle, she dodged them. Her brother advised her not to say anything definitive or particular. She took his advice.”
- First the white nationalists took that haircut—you know the one, an arty variant on the Marine’s high-and-tight buzz, endemic to white guys in gentrifying neighborhoods circa 2013. Then the white nationalists took Barbour field jackets, depriving a whole generation of the joys of waxed canvas. Now the white nationalists have come for Jane Austen, in whom they mistakenly see a love of tradition, and it is up to us to say: enough. Let them claim some other, lesser Regency writer—an E. T. A. Hoffmann, maybe, or even a Sir Walter Scott—and leave us to read Persuasion in peace, the animals. Jennifer Schuessler writes, “Some alt-right admirers hail Austen’s novels as blueprints for a white nationalist ‘ethno-state.’ Others cite her as a rare example of female greatness … A post on the website Counter Currents called ‘The Woman Question in White Nationalism,’ for example, includes a string of comments debating how the vision of marriage in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice fit with the ‘racial dictatorship’ necessary to preserve Western civilization. ‘If traditional marriage à la P&P is going to be imposed, again, in an ethnostate, we must behave like gentlemen,’ one commenter wrote.”
- Kay Redfield Jamison’s new book, Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire, aims to rehabilitate our understanding of the poet’s mental illness, which tends to be shrouded in the clichés of the eccentric artist. Dan Chiasson writes, “From his thirties on, Lowell suffered the relentless cycles of bipolar disorder, the ‘irritable enthusiasm’ that lurched him upward before landing him in despair … The poet’s cycles of illness and recovery have been judged in scolding moral terms, or, worse, viewed as a kind of lifelong-mishap GIF, with Lowell stuck in a permanent loop. When he was manic, Lowell smashed wineglasses and schemed to marry near-strangers. In recovery, his depressions were severe, his remorse profound, the work of repairing the relationships he’d damaged unrelenting. But the metaphors that came so quickly to hand could again be tamed and put to use. ‘Gracelessly,’ he wrote, ‘like a standing child trying to sit down, like a cat or a coon coming down a tree, I’m getting down my ladder to the moon. I am part of my family again.’ ”
If Barbara Loden directed a film using Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills, it would begin to approximate the photographs in Marianna Rothen’s recent “Shadows in Paradise” series, on view at Steven Kasher Gallery. The images elicit a sixties noir and depict women in various guises in isolated scenes of distress, eroticism, and introspection. The series’s title takes its name from Remarque’s 1971 novel; the book appears in one of the photographs, laid open across the lap of a distracted reader. Rothen’s use of it may reference the woman’s (or, more generally, women’s) feeling of a simultaneous absence and doubling in her life: that her identity and her body—physically and psychologically—are always circumscribed by social and cultural forces, so that she becomes two people, neither one of whom, perhaps, she recognizes. In one of the works, in which two photographs are set side by side, the image on the left shows a woman gazing out a window at an overturned chair, a dress, shoes, and a wig on the lawn; the image on the right shows the same scene, but the woman at the window now inhabits the dress and wig and lies prone on the ground, as though dead. Rothen has said that her photographs reference Persona, Three Women, and Mulholland Drive, and too often she wears those influences on her sleeve, but, to me, these are images that couldn’t have been made by a man. Rothen shows an appreciation for the subtle variations of women’s predicament that can only come from having known it herself. —Nicole Rudick
I don’t know whether it’s my favorite movie, but I do know Mulholland Drive is the only film I’ve ever seen twice in two days—as soon as I left the theater, I wanted to go back in. And I don’t know whether it’s my favorite moment in the movie, but I do know that when the mysterious woman in the Teatro Silencio opens her mouth and begins to sing in Spanish, and the song turns out to be “Crying,” and then she proceeds to sing the song in its entirety, I have never felt more satisfied, or more uncannily understood, by a work of art. And now, thanks to Beyond the Beyond: Music From the Films of David Lynch, edited by J. C. Gabel and Jessica Hundley, I know that Lynch has called this his favorite moment in all his films. Others may prefer the Woman in the Radiator from Eraserhead, or Dean Stockwell lip-syncing “In Dreams” in Blue Velvet, or the “Locomotion” scene in Inland Empire—as this lavishly illustrated compendium shows, nearly every film or show Lynch has made uses music to deep and mysterious effect. —Lorin Stein Read More