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Preview: Dusty Wright's Culture Catch - Smart, Pop Culture Podcasts & Written Reviews - Arts & Entertainment

Dusty Wright's Culture Catch

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Re-Animate Me, Part 2!

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 15:39:23 +0000

allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"> The 19th Annual Animation Show of Shows January 9, 2018 NYC The history of my personal love for animation (and the history of the Annual Animation Show of Shows) is laid out in my review for the 18th Annual Animation Show of Shows. The newest collection of animated shorts had its initial premiere screening in Fall 2017. It was then shown at the Quad Cinema in January 2018. Unlike last year -- when there was only a single showing of the collection, at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia on the Upper West Side -- this year the show ran for two weeks, with two to four screenings per day. As noted in my earlier review, in watching these series' one is immediately struck by just how wide a variety of animation types and styles there are: from "traditional" to watercolor, from stop-motion to claymation, from collage to puppetry, and beyond. Also interesting is the sheer number of countries from which the animators hail: the current grouping includes France, Belgium, U.S., U.K., Canada, Switzerland, Germany, and Sweden. The 19th Annual Animation Show of Shows opens with "Can You Do It" (set to the song of the same name by Charles X), which features a horse race through the streets of a large city. Using mostly black, blues and whites, with the figures drawn in a quasi-geometric art deco style, the metaphor of a drag race (replacing the cars with horses) is clever and well-handled. This is my second favorite film of this grouping. Following this is "Tiny Big," a delightful series of related (?) vignettes using simple line drawings. With no narrative, the only sound one hears is the ambient sounds of each vignette. Lack of narrative -- or using only music or ambient sound -- seems to be one of the themes of this collection of shorts. Next up is the hilarious "Next Door." Using vibrant, mostly primary colors, it relates the story of a rigid, grumpy businessman and his next door neighbor, a very loud and imaginative young girl. (He and his house and possessions are drawn in a block-y fashion, while she and her house and possessions are all rounds and curves.) As he tries to settle in quietly after work, she is across the street playing imaginative games, making lots of noise. I do not want to give away the ending, which is as sweet as it can possibly be. "The Alan Dimension" unfolds like a comedic episode of the Twilight Zone. Drawn in what looks like (but is not) "standard" animation, we are introduced to Alan and his wife, who live what seems to be a normal post-retirement life -- except that Alan gets "visions" of the future (which he draws while in a trance), but only a minute or two before the event. His wife is eventually driven to leave him out of neglect, at which point he has a vision that is a true realization for him. The denouement is both amusing and touching. Opening with grainy black-and-white footage of a car careening off a cliff, and then using a truly wide variety of animation styles, "Beautiful Like Elsewhere" seems to be a meditation on the aftermath of the crash, both temporal (e.g., grieving family) and spiritual. The images evoke an equally wide variety of feelings, which are given even greater force by the slow and mostly melancholy music to which the film is set. This is one of two films that I felt were too short: I loved what it did, and simply wanted more. "Hangman" is one of many such films that used to be shown in classrooms in the 50s and 60s to foment discussion on various topics. Done in traditional style, the film is a series of animated stills, with Herschel Bernardi narrating Maurice Ogden's famous poem. It is a wonderful treat to see this newly restored version in all its glory. "The Battle of San Romano" takes the Uffizi portion of Paolo Uccello's masterpiece and "animates" it -- both literally and figuratively, as th[...]


Thu, 18 Jan 2018 16:04:55 +0000

(image) Helene Pavlopoulou: Dithyrambs of Liberty

Helene Pavlopoulou’s Dithyrambs of Liberty series fits into the post-modern art paradigm in that it is inclusive of other cultures and periods. Globalization with its many cultural influences has impacted not only her work, but that of most artists around the world. This blurring of borders, geographies, cultural tendencies, and categories has been the cause for Pavlopoulou’s fluid re-creation of an artistic language that addresses contemporary issues like alienation, the electronic revolution, and political turmoil.

This painting installation series alludes to many philosophical tracts including Plato’s Allegory of the Cave in his Republic (520-514BC) in which Socrates narrates to Plato’s brother Glaucoma the story of the prisoners. Here, he likens those not educated in the theory of forms to physically restricted prisoners in a cave who can only see their shadows. This allegory betrays his belief that the sensate world is only a copy of the real one that can only be understood through the intellect. As seen in Pavlopoulou’s paintings this idea is evidenced in her motifs that are sometimes painted opaquely and at others rendered only through line or as negative shapes thus remain shadows. Plato’s idea is also found in her references to the virtual world that can be analogized to the shadows, and that through manipulation, alienates us.


Her imagery also demonstrates a palimpsest of cultural and social as well as historic elements that combined in each canvas, create powerful statements. The historic past is rendered solid and the present as mere shadow similar to digital images. The canvases are divided into painted portions like Futurist rays allowing us a glimpse of spaces that contain part of large ships, musical instruments and horses painted in negative grey and blue.

The instrument, the ship and horse are modes of travel and the riot police uniforms and Renaissance gown are each signifiers of present and past respectively. Pavlopoulou seems to be saying that yesteryear was a more authentic world, as its weightier appearance suggests, and that of today, is flimsy like Plato’s shadows in the cave. The present collides with past. Historic past is rendered solid and the present as mere shadow similar to digital images. - Thalia Vrachopoulos, Ph.D.


Dr. Vrachopoulos is a curator and is a professor in the philosophy of art and specializes in the Asian and contemporary/modern. She has published critical essays and lectured widely in the United States and abroad. 

Coital Exchanges

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 03:26:51 +0000

Pillowtalk Written and directed by Kyoung H. Park P resented by Kyoung's Pacific Beat at The Tank, NYC January 11-27, 2018 "Radical" may not the first descriptor that most people would instinctively assign to the word "love," but it is precisely that pairing, in its multiplicity of meanings, that lies at the heart of Pillowtalk, by Chilean-born Korean playwright Kyoung H. Park, whose company Kyoung's Pacific Beat dedicates itself to promoting a culture of peace and serving as a conduit for marginalized voices. Pillowtalk, making its world premiere at the recently relocated and expanded The Tank as part of the Exponential festival, which showcases NY-based artists, delves deeply, fearlessly, and often hilariously into the marital life of crusading Asian-American journalist Buck (JP Moraga) and his African-American ex-athlete husband, Sam (Basit Shittu). Park, who also directs, provides the audience with a dramatic look at the specific relationship between two incisively drawn individuals while reminding us that the personal is even more political for some couples. Sam was at one time an Olympic-hopeful swimmer, tokenized by the media as a black hope in a majority-white sport. Having developed addiction issues and lost his chance at an athletic career after a traumatic incident, Sam now at least claims to be satisfied with the steady paycheck that he earns working in a corporate, Republican environment. While Sam says that he sees the couple as having transitioned into some measure of stability, including an overpriced Brooklyn apartment, and playing the game of upward mobility, Buck maintains a driving desire to change the world, especially through his writing (not unlike a theater artists, perhaps). The problem is that Buck has just been fired from his job as a journalist, another casualty of the digital revolution -- and possibly more insidious factors. Another, maybe larger problem is that he can't quite bring himself to tell Sam. The stress of Buck's humiliating firing and of his keeping it to himself rapidly helps to stoke discord between him and Sam, and their disagreements speak to larger themes as the two men engage in an intellectual and emotional push and pull long into the night. Their wide-ranging exchanges touch on issues from the current backsliding political climate, gentrification, the internalization and interconnectedness of modes of oppression, homonormativity, and the racial dynamics of (their) sex, even as they are always talking about their own relationship. Even arguments over domestic chores more clearly reveal their rootedness in social issues when the arguers have an awareness that to be married is itself an ideological action taken in the context of a particular, arguably repressive political structure. Sisyphus is introduced as a point of reference early on, and it applies equally to the constant struggles both of living as a marginalized person and of loving others, informing Sam and Buck's debates over their imagined future, whether to assimilate or resist, and whether to attempt to transform the world or merely survive in it. It informs too Sam's sense of exhaustion and questions about the role of suffering and, as one of the characters asks, whether love is not enough to consider a life to be successful. The play is bookended with sections choreographed by Katy Price, Artistic Director of the Ballez dance company. In the opening segment, Buck performs a series of Sisyphean forward and upward movements that reappear in the closing segment. Significantly, however, both Sam and Buck dance together, sporting symbolically complementary costumes, in the latter section, which takes Buck's frustrated dream of being a ballet dancer as a jumping-off point to play with gendered dance tropes in what amounts to a condensed reenactment of the play itself. In doing so, it meta-theatrically works to remedy Buck's complaint that there are no gay ballet narratives for Asian men. It also [...]

Crumb Transmutes Kafka

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 06:09:55 +0000

 (image)  Kafka By R. Crumb & Dave Zane Mairowitz (Kitchen Sink Press)

Franz Kafka was the master of the transformation, the dive into darkness, the unpeeling, the alchemical combination of right and wrong, up and down, matter of fact and out of your mind. Which is why, were he with us in the flesh, I'm sure he would approve of the Kismet that brought his story (and his stories) together with artist R. Crumb. It is an artistic marriage made in heaven -- well, to be precise, in hell.

Not to sell David Zane Mairowitz, the word guy, short, but the collision of the nervous, honest, probing pen-and-ink sketches of America's finest illustrator (ever?) and the world's finest fantasist in the pages of Kafka (a reissue of the fabulous (fabulist?) Kafka for Beginners of some years back) is a dynamic duo to equal Rodgers and Hart, Lennon and McCartney, or Batman and Robin. The combination of Franz and Robert creates something new and disturbing -- call it art. I can't help thinking that, despite all the fantastic post-impressionist and expressionist and futurist and modernist artists of Kafka's time, if he had the choice, he would have picked Crumb to bring his stories to life.

Like a Classics Illustrated comic gone horribly, horribly wrong, Crumb's Kafka infests the mind. The horrific image of Hermann Kafka, all hairy legs and evil limbs, dragging his skeletal little Franz to the beach is like a virus. In fact, to give credit to the collaboration of Mairowitz and Crumb, the intermingling of Kafka's biography, and his stories -- not to mention Prague's Golem and the burgo-tourism that has enveloped today's Prague -- create a tight whole. They save particular venom for the class of people who spout words like "Kafka-esque" at cocktail parties. In other words, sorry to say, all of us. And in the end, that is the diabolical genius of these two, and why, the fact that they came together after being divorced by eighty years, is so perfect. Nothing could be more horrible. And that, in the end, is its perfection. - Ken Krimstein

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Mr. Krimstein is a writer, cartoonist, professor, father, and grump who lives in Chicago. So there.

A Talent To Amuse

Sun, 07 Jan 2018 11:57:56 +0000

Andrew Heard 21st August 1958 - 9th January 1993 The artist Andrew Heard was a combination of contrasts, contradictions and charm. Although his large immensely detailed canvases referenced quintessentially English topics, it is a testament to their brilliance of construction that the viewer didn't need to know who his subjects were in order to be engaged by them. Usually British actors, comedians and neglected television personalities held centre stage. It helped, enhanced and enriched the viewing experience if you knew them, but as he was more successful in Europe, the references were secondary to the visual impact of the work. Heard had more recognition in Germany where his paintings sold well via the Friedman-Guinness Gallery in Frankfurt, he also exhibited at Turske & Turske in Zurich, where the essentially English comic Arthur Askey held little in the way of a visual translation abroad. His work was initially monochromatic and stark but developed into a cavalcade of color. Andrew Heard's pictures are layered, complex and deeply emotional, littered with references both subtle and profane. The term exquisite could be applied to many of his works. They remain a gift to the eyes. Heard was born in Hertford on August 21st 1958. He initially graduated in 1979 from the University of London with a degree in Art History, the year in which he entered the Chelsea School of Art. Whilst working as a waiter at the legendary Blitz Club he encountered the artists Gilbert & George, presenting them with a bottle of wine as a token of his admiration, but scarpering with nerves before he'd taken the time to uncork it. This brief commotion instigated a friendship which lasted till his death; he even featured as a model in some of their work, "Shame" being one notable example. By 1983 he was living in West Berlin and later shared a studio in Garden Walk with the poet and artist David Robilliard (1952-1988). Just round the corner from Old Street tube station, it was a remarkable space occupying two floors of an old warehouse, the ground being the work area and open plan, whilst the first was roughly divided with plaster board partitions into room-like spaces. Needless to say it is now a luxury apartment block whose redevelopment was advertised in the national press. No aspiring artist could now live in such cold yet spacious luxury. There was a huge walk-in safe in the far corner of the first floor, although he managed to drill a hole in the door Andrew never succeeded in cracking the lock. It was like living with a mystery, one that intrigued and frustrated him in equal measure. He and Robilliard organized parties and exhibitions there. They were a combination of extremes. Andrew's mediative and considered contemplations were at the other end of the spectrum to David's didactic and spontaneous paintings. An odd artistic pair they both achieved much beneath the lingering and encroaching shadows of mortality It was an organic and youthful time, and with hindsight a sadly brief flowering of artistic freedom. David Robilliard died on 3rd November 1988, the opening night of Andrew's Cork Street show, Gilbert & George in attendance by his hospital bed. Andrew's painting "That's All Folks" was dedicated to David, adding a subtle, sad poignancy to the Warner Brothers cartoon caption that it celebrated with sorrow. It was a return compliment to David's poem: A LITTLE POEM FOR ANDREW HEARD You don't often see a goat on a London bus and if you did there'd be a lot of fuss. Most people wouldn't recognize the eye of Kenneth Williams as a leering moon in the picture "Dear Heaven" (image left) accompanied by Benny Hill dressed as a cherub taking aim at a mermaid from a largely forgotten black and white comedy of the 1950s. In this way, Andrew Heard harnessed and shared his interior world into a cohesive and evocative visual statement. H[...]