Archive for March, 2009
Read Lowboy by John Wray, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Published earlier this March, 2009, Lowboy is the new novel by John Wray. The premise is explained simply enough: a sixteen-year-old schizophrenic boy abandons his medication and takes a delusion-filled joyride through the subways of Manhattan in order to save the world by having sex with whoever will give it up to him and trying to keep the doubts away so that he can maintain composure long enough to get it from the girl who he’s in love with (maybe) and is weirdly into him all while dodging the police …still with me? Okay, so maybe there’s a little more to it.
The chapters shift between the boy and his pursuers, who are none other than his strange and beautiful mother and a (surprise!) lonely New York City detective. Along the way the boy meets some very interesting characters…imagine hanging around with the lunatics in the New York City subway system, you start to understand. The narrative starts off brief, almost quaint, moving you along just fast enough to keep up suspense and giving you just enough to grab at to keep the book compelling. By the end the narrative begins to shift, as does Lowboy’s mental state, to a frantic and transient mish-mash that can’t be trusted.
Admittedly, the chapters with Lowboy’s mother and the detective are a little less than exciting when you’re waiting to get back to the regressive thrills of inter-subway tunnel exploration. You’d also be surprised how squirmy Wray can make a love scene between a pubescent white boy and a street-wizened crackhead. I found myself shamelessly giggling. I really grew to like Lowboy, too, pulling for him to get laid so that he’d save the world.
All in all, it’s a pretty good book. I recommend it for a quick easy read when you want a break from your Iliad or Naked Lunch, ahem. In the future I’d like to see John Wray avoid the sordid temptation of tying in generic detective-genre analyze-and-pursue themes. Other than that it’s easy to see why in more than a few places he’d been referred to as a promising young writer.
Visited Ryo Toyonaga: Mephistophelean
Gallery open March 18th to May 15th, 2009, at The Vilcek Foundation, 167 E. 73rd St. New York, NY. See http://www.vilcek.org/ or http://www.ryotoyonaga.com/
Sculpting as an art-form is a harsh medium. Too often you’ll see pieces that are unrealized and sophomorically limp and shapeless. Ryo Toyonaga, however, has managed to create some off-the-wall pieces that, in their own amoebic wanderings, maintain a tight structure and semblance of continuity.
Picture the world beneath the ocean a million years from now…these pieces look like what would be brought back by a diver as proof of a long-lost civilization. All the pieces are related through structure and color, as if drawn up in the same net. Wispy little flagella rise up from the pieces, while corpuscular growths complete the heavy marine presence.
The colors of the pieces are mostly a volcanic terracotta, with the exception of a couple pieces that are slashed open to reveal what appear to be bright red berries, while the textures shift between the smoothness of metal and the coarse graininess of coral or shale.
The use of the mechanical themes are usually used in conjunction with rotting or shriveled organic elements, as if the system of spigots and wheels sucked the life right out of nature.
The Vilcek Foundation’s gallery was super smooth and bright, so that the pieces really popped out and grabbed your attention. It’s definitely worth checking out, as Ryo Toyonaga’s work is very different and special. A series of lectures are also available through the Vilcek Foundation if you’re interested in getting a little more involved. See their site for info.
As the first installment discussing new music, I wanted to bring to the table something good to start out with. Something with promise. I envisioned discussing a band you’ve never heard about that would wind up becoming a hit one day.
In this vain, after a bit of searching, I was lucky enough to stumble upon the new self-titled album by The Love Language (Click this link and it will open a new window to their MySpace page. Listen to ”Providence”, it’s an excellent example of their music.) The album itself is great, 9 songs that include no filler, just good tunes with great hooks. They sound like a mix between The Arcade Fire (perfect mélange of layered instruments, tinkling piano faintly in the background, vivacious choruses, the melancholia of analog recording and timid production…) and The Cold War Kids (dissonant vocals, heavy tambourine, all as if played and recorded in a large room).
They are not as vocal driven as The Cold War Kids, though, which is great. The lead singer is often accompanied by others in a ghostly chorus, the thick fat of the vocals resting atop a simmering stew of guitars, pianos, drums, tambourine, a humming bass, at times all mashed up together to the point it’d be almost impossible to pick out a single instrument to focus on any more than a moment.
So I enjoyed the album and I definitely recommend it. My only criticism of the album is its terrible production. The band was good enough to pull off a great album, however, even with the cringing distortion during some of the shouted vocals and barely being able to hear the drums or guitars some of the time over the tambourine. Maybe that was their intention, which I hope wasn’t.
I can see this band having an awesome second album, with hopefully a better level of production. All the other pieces are already there.
Check out the band on Myspace for further info (their bio is hopelessly literary and unbalanced –loved it…brilliant).
Visited KRAZY! The Delirious World of Anime + Manga + Video Games
Exhibition open Friday, March 13th 2009 until June 14th 2009 at the Japan Society Gallery. See japansociety.org
Alright, so where do I begin with this one? Let’s start by saying that I have never been a big anime or manga fan. Video games, of course, I’m a relatively young guy. But due to a lack of exposure to anime and manga growing up I knew very little and never developed much of an appreciation for them.
So the exhibit opened this past weekend and I said: “Hey, I’m starting this new art blog, checking out new stuff. This is definitely new to me, maybe for others, so let me give it a shot.”
I wouldn’t say I was disappointed so much as I was underwhelmed. The exhibit was little more than some bubbles along the walls displaying pages and covers of classic comics. Some movie screens played a selection of the most popular anime movies. Manga books - huge journals resembling phone books - with dozens of monochromatic comic strips were kept on a book case and were available to flip through. The ones I picked up were in Japanese, though, and I can’t…well, you know…I’m ashamed to say it but I can’t really read Japanese.
The inclusion of video games in the exhibit was little more than a gesture. A wall display said how important they were in Japanese art and a small room had a few Nintendos set up and available to play.
The best part was by far the viewing room, where they showed classic movies on a circular wall, all the films one beside the other. Small cubicles allowed you to sit and view these with audio in a more personal setting. Also available are presentations of movies and television shows in a movie screening room.
At the end of it all I was left with a deep curiosity. The absurd grandness of the characters, the scenarios they were placed in and the gravity by which everything is portrayed is a little bit too much to brush off. The strangeness of it all gets a hook into you.
And so with the very little taste I got I am inspired to beef up a bit on my Japanimation chops, come back an art samurai.
So here it begins…
Week to week I’ll be checking out new art and artists, from visual arts to novels or other types of fiction to music, and will bring to you, Dear Reader, a few thoughts about it all. The purpose of this is, of course, to satiate my own thirst for new and outstanding art, while hopefully benefiting others with a proper description of my experience, something that will get you involved as directly as possible in the experience and discover new art and artists. I may also drop a few words on cool things I come across relating to art or the art experience. I’ll try to remain focused.
I feel that a lot of art has become an underground practice, stuff that’s a part of a counter-culture. I’d like to see a world where magnificent, original art is as integrated into our society as commercials and advertising. The benefit of this integration, while perhaps not immediately or empirically tangible, would broaden our scope of imagination and sophisticate our general appreciation of the world around us. We should all know brilliance; its presence can be contagious.
Okay, enough of that. I invite all to participate and I would love nothing more than to bring together a community of art lovers. Let’s get it out there.
P.S. Thanks Sid!