Category archives: Visual Arts

  • “If it doesn’t inspire you in some way, I failed as a filmmaker,” says Richard “R.G.” Miller, the subject of Justin Johnson’s new documentary Double Digits: The Story of a Neighborhood Movie Star. Of course the same can be said of Johnson’s homage to Miller, a prolific, super low-budget auteur who makes movies for the sheer love of it. Against many odds, Miller has succeeded in not only pursuing his passion, but getting many other people enthused and involved in the process. Double Digits celebrates the fact that while some may may aim for mega fame and fortune, those with extremely modest means and realistic ambitions should not be discounted as artists, and in fact, may be truer to their art. We’re introduced to 52-year-old Miller at his Wichita, Kansas apartment  -- which doubles as his studio -- and learn that his one-man production company RG Internet Art Films has released several half-hour to hour-long features on Miller’s Youtube channel. "Thank God for the Internet,” he chuckles, not attempting to create a viral sensation with his compelling, delightfully lo-fi movies. “If I get double digits [more than nine "likes"], I’m successful.” Double Digits, which was shot over the course of three years, shows the making of Miller's newest effort, The Mask Man, shot in his apartment and on his side lot, as are all of his films. His painstaking DIY efforts include miniature stand-ins (dolls), homemade costumes and masks, and various household items that have been[...]
  • Hot Sugar’s Cold World, Adam Bhala Lough’s engaging new documentary, begins with the title musician/producer recording the sound of Pop Rocks candy dissolving in a young woman’s mouth. It’s as good an introduction to the iconoclastic Hot Sugar (Nick Koenig) as any: this New York-based musical alchemist creates highly atmospheric compositions out of myriad everyday sounds. His moody, multi-layered electronic music has become the main soundtrack for Comedy Central’s Broad City and has graced tracks by rappers Antwon and Heems, in addition to many other Koenig collaborators. (One of his first high-profile production credits was for the song “Sleep” from The Roots’ 2011 concept album undun.) The movie invites us to watch -- and ultimately marvel at -- Koenig's unorthodox, intensely personal process. Something of a wunderkind, Koenig found his MO years ago as a young hip hop fan, when he realized that “everyone winds up using the same sounds,” so he decided to make his own. Hot Sugar's Cold World  follows Koenig over several months as he creates his music in a variety of environments and cities; collaborates and hangs out with assorted luminaries including Jim Jarmusch, actor Martin Starr and Heems (Himanshu Kumar Suri); queries astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson about the nature of sound; and talks about his process and his life. At one point in the film, he breaks up with his girlfriend, Internet-famous rapper Kitty, seemingly due to conflicting touring schedules and the [...]
  • I once read that people who see faces in inanimate, non-portrait objects, are neurotic, and the article did not mean that endearingly. If that's true, then children who make animal and human shapes out of clouds (so many) are neurotic. And truthfully, most artists are too. So with that, I will use this post to talk about an artists who plays with this idea in a rather beautiful way, and to tip my hat to those individuals who choose to and are able to view the world in a more fascinating way. Jane Lafarge Hamill's paintings combine traditional portraiture with modern abstraction. Her works first appear as a slather of saturated, vibrant colors, enhanced by her thick application of paint. However, though appearing haphazard, the way she has manipulated the paint allows for a vague, albeit familiar, image of a human's face to come through. Depending on how she has arranged the lines sometimes the face is in profile, sometimes face front. What really allows for the portraits to be visualized is not in the revelation of facial features, as they are pretty blurry, but in the way the lines make up the shape of the head - the forehead, jawline, and neck specifically. While this alone makes her painting style unique, what makes her work beautiful is her use of color. Her pieces are not exceptionally large, rather they are on the smaller side, yet they instantly pop out due to the layers of applied color and the vibrancy of the palette. What is especially contemporary [...]
  • NYC Arts Non Profit Heads West in Support of Local Arts Programs Convergence: Saturday, November 14th, Studio Maesto, Santa Monica, CA. On Saturday, November 14th New York City based non-profit Art for Progress (AFP) will host a fundraiser in support of Studio Maesto’s Arts Collective Program in Santa Monica, California.  The event will take place at Studio Maesto’s dance and photography studio at 1547 6th Street, Santa Monica, and will feature visual art from three Los Angeles based artists who have exhibited with AFP in the past- Sona Mirzaei, Lichiban and Pablo Damas. The night will also showcase live performances from Barry Komitor (NYC based band Bad Faces), DJ sets from NYC’s Gatto, LA based DJ/Producer Elliot DeHoyos and a myriad of local performance artists. Net proceeds from ticket sales and a percentage of art sales will go to support the studios arts collective program (details below). Tickets ($15) will be available at the door. Tickets include a drink and light fare. Additional beverages will be available for purchase. Studio Maesto, 1547 6th Street, Santa Monica, CA - Hours: 7:30pm – 11:00pm Over the last 12 years, Art for Progress has produced over 50 major events in NYC, Miami, San Francisco and Washington DC. With a focus on multimedia productions, AFP has garnered valuable press coverage for artists in world renowned publications such as The New York Times, Women’s Wear Daily and The Village Voice.  While supporting and promoting artists through these[...]
  • As its title implies, Alice Rohrwacher’s captivating new film The Wonders is infused with a sense of discovery and marvel. Set in the Tuscan countryside, this atmospheric, closely observed narrative centers around the hardscrabble life of a bee-keeping family, as experienced mainly through oldest daughter Gelsomina (Maria Alexandra Lungu). On the brink of adolescence, the girl is torn between the insular existence of her hard-headed father and the pull of the outside world. The latter appears in the form of a seductive reality show called Countryside Wonders and the arrival of a silent, troubled boy who is taken in by the family. While the film isn’t autobiographical, Rohrwacher grew up in this part of Italy, worked in honey production, and is of Italian-German descent, like her onscreen family. Her familiarity with this milieu is obvious, especially in realistic scenes of bee handling – which include alarmingly dense swarms around real hives -- and honey-making. The apiary details of The Wonders are fascinating enough, but then there’s the roughly beautiful Tuscan countryside and the family itself: Idealistic, bad-tempered Wolfgang (Sam Louwyck) and exasperated, affectionate Angelica (Alba Rohrwacher, Alice’s sister) are the parents; sensitive, determined Gelsomina, comical but vulnerable Marinella (Agnese Graziani), and two uninhibited little girls who frolic half-naked like gleeful colts, are the kids. There’s also their longtime lodger Coco (Sabine Timoteo), a scra[...]
  • NURTUREArt's group show Sextant looks to our sense of reality and place as constructed from memory, history, and objects. While a serious subject, some works are able to retain playfulness, an example being Igor Ruf's video work The Cave (2015). The artist as actor recites the same lines over and over as he moves and dances around a cave space. Subtitles indicate that he is saying he has bananas and a guitar, among other basic necessities, and he doesn't need much else. We see Ruf repeating names and asserting his identity, and it's unbelievable in its goofiness. He touches on the ability objects have in shaping our memories and how those moments cumulatively form the perception we wish to have for ourselves, and for others to have of us, and he maintains a lightheartedness throughout.   Calum Craik has two pieces in the show that also examine, as he writes in an artist's statement, "a hazy memory, actual events, and experience." He is more interested in pop culture, however, as he feels that "everyday objects act as vehicles to question and imagine...documents, photographs, and raw materials act as a mechanism to reconsider truths, events, or invent new possibilities." This certainly rings true in Lesiure (2013). A space blanket, shiny and geological-looking, is situated across a small image of a California pool that lays flat on the floor. Above this image hangs a small bowling ball resembling the earth. This creates a shadow on the lower left corner of the p[...]
  • Even in a field of distinctive and cutting-edge animated films, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet is unusual. Directed by Roger Allers (The Lion King), the long-gestating passion project of producer Salma Hayek features the work of eight international independent animators, in addition to Allers’ crew. Though constructed as a children’s tale, the film contains sophisticated animated segments inspired by chapters from Lebanese poet Gibran's much-quoted guide to philosophical and spiritual enlightenment. The framing story’s simplistic narrative and overly broad humor, presented in traditional (if not actually hand-drawn) animation style, is somewhat at odds with its dark political overtones, adding to the disconnect.  Despite its flaws, however, The Prophet -- buoyed by a diversity of splendid animation -- becomes surprisingly poignant by its conclusion. Very loosely based on its source and set in a vaguely Middle Eastern land, the narrative involves a rambunctious little girl whose mother (voiced by Hayek) cleans the rooms of a poet (Liam Neeson), imprisoned for seven years due to his inflammatory writing. One day he is told that he will be released to return to his own country, but the authorities -- autocratic bad guys (Alfred Molina, Frank Langella) -- aren’t exactly truthful. While young children might not understand the film’s themes of censorship, artistic freedom and tyrannical political regimes, older kids will probably be put off by the story’s naive presentation[...]
  • This week, while we are trying to figure out how to somehow incorporate bodysuits into our late-Summer wardrobe, or how to convert a shirtdress into a layering piece, Paper Magazine has issued a fantastic round-up of 15 fashion stars-to-come that you need to know about right now . These designers are fresh out of design school, probably excited to hit the ground running this September when the official 2015 international Fashion Week season returns after Summer hiatus. Here's a sneak peak at FOUR of the designers featured in the round-up that are going to be household names by the time the 2016 Fashion Week season cycles in. You're welcome. 1) Jon Max Goh, Parsons The New School for Design Photo: Hiu Zhi Wei  Talented design, who also has a great singing voice, creates gender fluid ready-to-wear that doesn't conform to mainstream norms. “I’m interested in asking why and how we design the way we do—and answering these questions by designing in a way we don’t,” Goh tells Style.com. 2) Samantha MacDonald, Savannah College of Art and Design Photo: Samantha MacDonald This designer-to-watch will not be as easy to find on future high-fashion runway but she will certainly influence popular style as in-coming Assistant Fashion Designer at Macy's starting this Fall. 3) Elizabeth Hilfiger, Rhode Island School of Design Photo: Elizabeth Hilfiger Tommy's middle daughter might prove to be a chip off the old block, effortlessly creating preppy fast fashion like h[...]
  •   There are two different ways to write about The Amina Profile, Sophie Deraspe’s startling new documentary about Syrian activist Amina Abdallah Arraf, author of the blog A Gay Girl in Damascus. One way is to tell the story that has already been covered in the press but is not necessarily that widely known in this country. The other is to review the movie up to a point, leaving a big chunk of it vague for anyone who may not be familiar with the narrative (and doesn't conduct a Google search before finishing this paragraph). Maybe there’s a sort of middle ground? The doc begins with texting between two young women who have connected on a social media site: Amina, a Syrian American living in Damascus; and Sandra, a French Canadian living in Montreal. It soon becomes flirtatious and sexual, mainly on the part of Amina, who seems starved for this kind of forbidden contact. The film shows Sandra recalling the genesis of this digital relationship and how she becomes intrigued by details of Amina's life as an activist circa 2011, at the dawn of the Arab Spring. She gets caught up in Amina’s daring new blog A Gay Girl in Damascus and the latter's reports of police harassment due to her outspoken views. At one point the mainstream press picks up on the post “My Father, My Hero,” in which Amina describes how her dad defended her against the police. She becomes a heroic figure in the blogging community, a sympathetic symbol of the Syrian revolt. Punctuating this na[...]
  • Damian Marcano’s debut feature, God Loves the Fighter, is a raw, highly stylized film about life in the rough Laventille neighborhood of Trinidad and Tobago’s capital, Port of Spain. Replete with a cast of colorful characters (played by an all-Trinidadian cast), eye-popping visuals, and a strong soundtrack of music by Q Major and Freetown Collective, God Loves the Fighter is a loose, impressionistic film that makes up in grit and atmosphere what it lacks in cohesion. It’s also a rare depiction of the struggling inhabitants of a city that has one of the highest crime rates in the Caribbean. The film is largely narrated by King Curtis (Lou Lyons, half of reggae/spoken word duo Freetown Collective), a charismatic street poet and vagrant who describes Port of Spain’s poor east side as “a dirty, nasty concrete jungle of fallen leaves.” Curtis introduces us to a variety of characters, filling us in on their often-bleak back stories. These include main protagonist Charlie (Muhammad Muwakil, Freetown Collective's other half), who is trying to find legitimate work; Dinah (Jamie Lee Phillips), a young prostitute who finds solace in a local church; Moses (Simon Junior John), a middle-aged taxi driver who runs drugs in order to make ends meet; and Putao Singh (Darren Cheewah), a sinister thug who spouts bad ethnic jokes as he commandeers a combination bar/brothel/cocaine ring that controls just about everyone in the film. These characters (there’s also a young boy and his grieving, ab[...]
  • No doubt about it, fashion and music have an almost symbiotic connection. Tastemakers like Gwen Stefani make it look so easy, right? However, with the hit-and-misses of musical fashion designers like Kayne West, finding a way to successfully meld the two together is not an easy feat. That's what makes former fashion accessories designer Krista Retto such a fascinating subject. She's flawlessly applied her talents in marketing and advertising into successful jewelry-making career, and then reinvented herself again (of course using all the skills she's mastered) to create a music company. She's the co-founder of the Big House Companies, comprised of a music publishing house (Big House Publishing) and a indie record label (BHi Music Group), that has found a way to harness all of her past experiences into one all-encompassing career. Ready to reinvent yourself? Krista gives some insight into how it's done. Read and learn after the jump. BhpNewYork.com Jacqueline Colette Prosper, yummicoco.com 1) Tell us how you got into jewelry making. I fell haphazardly into the world of jewelry. I went to Senegal, West Africa for music (out of pure love) and, while there, also discovered the beauty of gems and jewelry-making. When 9/11 hit, I stepped out of my corporate life and volunteered for months at the World Trade Center site, came home each night and made jewelry to steady myself. I had lost more than 30 people that I knew and I was more than rattled. Out of she[...]
  • Eran Riklis’s A Borrowed Identity starts out on a humorous note, as we see young Eyad (Razi Gabareen) attempting to improve his family’s TV reception by adjusting the roof antenna, while his father Salah (Ali Suliman) shouts instructions out the window. Though Eyad loses his footing, falls and is knocked unconscious, the generally blasé reaction of his family lets us know he’ll be OK. We learn that Eyad and his family – Salah, mother (Laëtitia Eïdo), grandmother (Marlene Bajali) and several brothers – are Arabs living in the Israeli town of Tira. Although the film, which is set in the 1980s and early 90s, retains moments of levity throughout, it soon becomes a serious coming-of-age story about a young man who is caught between two often clashing cultures. According to a 2013 census, over 20% of Israel’s population are Arabs, citizens of Israel who consider themselves Palestinian by nationality. A Borrowed Identity is based on the semi-autobiographical novel Dancing Arabs by Sayed Kashua, who also wrote the screenplay. It’s a clear-eyed look at the difficult situation of people who are not full members of the society in which they live, as well as the well-intentioned attempts by those in power at bridging that gap. In one early, mordantly funny scene, young Eyad casually announces, “Mom, I brought home my Jew,” the result of a school program endeavoring to bring together Palestinian and Jewish children. We learn that Eyad's father attended university as a youth, but[...]