Arts

The Marvelous Variety of Straightforward Rap

Fans and critics will tell you that 2019 was a lousy year for consensus in rap. This usually means that big statement albums were few and modest examples of pop functionalism were many. The four albums reviewed below illustrate the genre’s diversity heading into a new decade. There’s not a mumbler or an Auto-Tuned crooner among them yet, marvelously, these practitioners of straightforward, unadorned rapping sound nothing like each other. DaBaby: Kirk (Interscope/Billion Dollar Baby) On his second 2019 album, DaBaby flaunts his talent for energetic precision. The past year’s biggest new rap star has invented a new minimalist style limited to fast, simple beats and giddy nonstop rapping. His specialty is speed. He favors bouncy, skeletal keyboard loops that propel instead of just cruising. A...

Welcome Back, William Gibson

Her car decloaked behind her. It was patterned, someone had told him, on something called a Dymaxion, though he’d never bothered to look the term up. — William Gibson, Agency Emotion pictures. If all-gender Snapchat glut reached critical mass oohing over Ava, that smart sex-bomb bot in the 2015 movie Ex Machina, William Gibson’s Agency (Berkley, 2020) gifts us with (“kinda sorta”) one, up close and personal, if disembodied Eunice, who comports in her select tele-present terms, as “culturally African-American,” “Pronoun, she.” An AI upload hybrid for which overheated readers can host friendly fire/side, warm and fuzzy feelings! In Greek, Eunice spells Joyous Victory. She’s one of the Nereids; they’re sea nymphs. “She’s an intermittently hierarchical array, complexly conterminous” (page 36)....

The Extraordinary Ordinary in Prose Poems

In Maxine Chernoff’s Under the Music, the absurd proves inextricable from the ordinary. “Once on a train going backwards, I met a man too generous for his own good. To flatter me, he guessed my age, and I, to prove him foolish, said, ‘Sir, I am a chair.’” What are we to do with a story like this? Chernoff subverts the expected, exposing the seams that stitch together our experience of reality. If, as she writes in the prose poem “Drones,” “The usual mixed with the strange is the stuff of dreams,” then this collection, published by MadHat Press in 2019, places us squarely within a reverie. The work spans four decades and ten books, yet constitutes a surprisingly cohesive collection, especially given the fluidity of narrative modes. That Chernoff forgoes established genre categories — ...

A Contemporary Master of the Brushstroke

David Reed, “#712” (2010–11/2018–19), acrylic, oil, and alkyd on polyester, 96 x 54 in
ches (© 2020 David Reed/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; photo by Rob McKeever, courtesy Gagosian) When it comes to David Reed’s work, there seems to be almost no middle ground, especially in the US (he has a bigger reputation in Europe). His color combinations and explorations of paint’s plasticity have either never quite gotten the attention I believe they deserve, or, in the case of one New York Times critic, they have been dismissed for possessing “no inner heat.” I think the absence of “inner heat” is one of the most captivating things about Reed’s work. He doesn’t use paint’s flesh-like qualities to arouse a sympathetic connection. His refusal to count on the viewer’s compassion ...

The Art World Has Discovered the Dolly Parton Meme Challenge

A Jeff Koons Dolly Parton meme by @jerrygogosian (courtesy of @jerrygogosian) When Dolly Parton posted a grid of four photos of herself labeled “LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Tinder” — ingeniously captioned “Get you a woman who can do it all” — she may not have predicted the extent of the Internet’s fascination with grouping things into categories. The meme is officially having a viral moment, with celebrities from Mindy Kaling to Janet Jackson creating their own interpretations of themselves, their pets, or inanimate objects as each of the four social media platforms.  Get you a woman who can do it all pic.twitter.com/sG4OHpVgxM — Dolly Parton (@DollyParton) January 21, 2020 And, since art is but an imitation of life, museums, auction houses, and a...

SoCal Museums Annual Free-For-All This Saturday!

More than 40 SoCal Museums are waiving general admission fees on Saturday, January 25, in honor of the 15th annual “Free-For-All” day. “I am always impressed by the range of cultural offerings. From cars to Cold War artifacts to modern art there’s something for every,” president of SoCal Museums and marketing director at the Skirball Cultural Center, Jennifer Caballero said in a news release. No matter where you decide to visit, a museum is supposed to evoke thought and conversation while also educating you on different cultures.  There are ample area museums participating, which can also make it difficult to choose which one(s) to visit. Here are some of our favorite highlights, in case you are wondering where to start. California African American Museum: Including the wildly popular Cros...

New US Space Force Logo Looks a Lot Like Star Trek‘s Starfleet Logo

The new Space Force logo (left) and the Star Trek logo for Starfleet Command (images via White House and Wikipedia) Welcome to another day in the alternate timeline that we live in. One that includes the blurring of television and reality, but what did you expect from a man who has only been good at reality TV? Today, US President Donald Trump unveiled the new logo for the US Space Force, and not only is it poorly designed (why is the date of establishment there and why is it in Roman numerals?) but derivative, as one would expect from the Trumps. As you can imagine, George Takei, who played Hikaru Sulu on the popular television series, has some feels: Ahem. We are expecting some royalties from this… https://t.co/msYcJMlqjh — George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) January 24, 2020 There i...

Mexican Artist and Women’s Rights Activist Murdered in Downtown Juárez

When Isabel Cabanillas de la Torre, a Mexican artist, clothing designer, and women’s rights activist didn’t make it home Saturday, her friends were worried; they reported her as missing on social media. Early the next morning, The El Paso Times reports, she was found dead. Cabanillas was shot next to her bicycle in downtown Juárez, Mexico, just across the US-Mexico border from El Paso, Texas.  On Sunday, demonstrators, including activists, artists, and women’s rights advocates from across the city descended on the city’s Benito Juárez Monument, calling for justice for Cabanillas. Hijas de su Maquilera Madre (Daughters of Maquila Worker Mothers), an artist collective Cabanillas was a member of, told the El Paso Times that she had “a lot of talent, ideas and love to share.” The police ...

Art Pick: The Influence of Fellini

“I see no line between the imaginary and the real,” legendary film director Federico Fellini once said, and the artists assembled for The Influence of Fellini: A Surreal 100th Birthday Celebration would definitely agree. From the urban-inflected and pop surrealist idioms Corey Helford Gallery champions, artists like Adrian Cox, Brandi Milne, Caia Koopman, Dosshaus, HERAKUT, Junko Mizuno, Lola, Luke Chueh, Miss Van, Ron English, Shark Toof, Soey Milk, Stella Im Hultberg, Sylvia Ji, The London Police, Vyal One, and literally dozens more come together to celebrate his legacy of optical and narrative adventurism that goes way beyond the silver screen. Corey Helford Gallery, 571 S. Anderson St., Boyle Heights; opening reception: Sat., Jan. 25, 7-11 p.m.; exhibition: Tue.-Sat., noon-6 p.m., thro...

Museum of Chinese in America’s Archives in Danger Due to Ongoing Blaze

The Museum of Chinese in America in New York during the fire on the night of January 23, 2020 (courtesy of Tomie Arai) A five-alarm conflagration that broke out last night, January 24, at the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) in Manhattan has injured eight people and destroyed the museum’s top floors. New York City’s fire department (FDNY) was still fighting the flames as of 11am today. The museum’s staff is working with emergency conservators to assess the damage to its prized archives. “We’ve been operating at this fire since 8:40 yesterday evening,” said FDNY’s Chief of Fire Operations Thomas Richardson in a statement today. “At the height of the fire, we had about 200 fire and EMS personnel on the scene.” According to Richardson, the bl...

Tiepolo, Once Dubbed the Greatest Painter in Venice, Gets a Retrospective

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, “Rinaldo and Armida in the Enchanted Garden” (ca. 1752), oil on canvas, 105 x 140 cm, Residenz Würzburg © Bayerische Schlösserverwaltung (all images courtesy of the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart) What exactly is Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770), that 18th-century Venetian master of illusionistic ceiling painting, doing today in Stuttgart of all places, spiritual home of the automotive industry, city where Daimler, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche are all headquartered? What relationship can there possibly be between what we often see  on a typical Tiepolo painted ceiling (if we choose to crick our necks) — magnificent horse-drawn chariots surging weightlessly through the air, nymphs and idling gods buoyed up on clouds, all painted in colors of near-sublime d...

Film Pick: Venice Film Festival

For 17 years, the Venice Film Festival has presented new, vintage, rare, and in progress works of documentary and poetical cinema — but the undertaking’s central inspiration enjoyed an even longer history in the community. Once the site of the original Beatnik hotspot Venice West Cafe, which hosted icons of Californian and global counterculture from 1958-66, 7 Dudley Ave. went on to a gloriously eccentric second act as the home of Sponto Gallery, a hub of community arts, gatherings, shenanigans and total freedom of the most progressive and hilarious kind for another 24 years. VFF is dedicated to this legacy of love as much as it is to ongoing support of telling Venice stories. Beyond Baroque, 681 Venice Blvd., Venice; Sun., Jan. 26, 7-10 p.m.; free. facebook.com/BBLitArts/events.  The post...