Art

Lyle Perkins – Ease of Use

French Riviera

13 November – 13 December 2015

When I first met Lyle Perkins in Los Angeles in 2011, the London artist was a visiting artist-in-residence at the Raid Gallery Downtown.  The Arts District is full of legally-zoned industrial spaces where artists live on the fringes between Tinseltown and Skid Row. The latter milieu seemed to inform Perkins’ representational watercolors depicting the overfilled shopping carts of L.A.’s homeless, images which most Angelenos are conditioned to filter out of their sun bleached dream vista. But as an outsider, Perkins’ studied them, subtracting the person to whom the cart belongs and the dirty streets and surrounding areas they traverse. Against a white space they look like highbrow children’s book illustrations until after staring at them your mind fills in the blanks – the misery of mental illness and poverty

Since moving to London two years ago I regret not seeing Lyle as much as I’d seen him in L.A. where I even managed to get him to play guitar in my ad-hoc band in Silver Lake, Purple Thermus. Family responsibilities and all that. This past week however I managed to extract myself from my basement flat and trek to Bethnal Green for his latest opening at a store front gallery called French Riviera.

‘Ease of Use’, is a small exhibit consisting of a series of paintings based on everyday objects, a broken chair for example, painted in a manner both representational and abstract. Here again, Perkins extracts commonplace objects from reality by boosting the colours to extract the formal configurations from reality. Within the tightly conceived compositions, the subject matter questions sculptural forms without the sociological implications of his Los Angeles work, however unintentional they may have been.

As before Perkins experiments with the structure of the canvas, leading him to layer brightly coloured hues and create multiple planes and gestural motions. His use of utilitarian subject matter has been compared to Gerhard Richter’s painting Tisch (1964) and attempts to create a new vernacular distinction between photo realism and painterly abstract vision.

Since I’ve run out of art speak I’ll copy and paste from the gallery description:

“This dialogue continues in a number of works such as Buddy (2015) and Pymmes (2015) where the subject is displaced against a vivid yet ambivalent setting. In paintings such as Barnard Park (2015) and Chair in Finland (2015), natural surroundings are depicted whereby Perkins evokes an ‘emotional formalism’ within these oddly surreal paintings, that are contemporary in atmosphere and yet, timeless in subject matter.”

As a subject of common interest, we chatted about L.A. with a third person who’d never been. “It’s so amazing, you have to go” he said to the somewhat incredulous friend and I was startled by his affection born from distance perhaps and more likely the general soggy misery of London in winter. He was really selling it. She’d better hurry though. That same Arts District is evolving into a desirable locale and places like Raid and the 18th St. Arts Center may soon make way for not-so-affordable luxury residences. THe overflowing shopping carts will end up in a landfill and their owners disappeared. It’s a story played out in every major city, especially here in East London where you need to run a hedge fund just to live on the outskirts. An exaggeration maybe, but it could point to a yearning that seeks non-reality in everyday objects when you’ve put down stakes in a city of smoke but your mind is somewhere over the rainbow.

French Riviera is a gallery in Bethnal Green, East London, presented by artists Samuel Levack and Jennifer Lewandowski as an extension of their long-standing collaboration.

Originally published in Saachi Gallery Art & Music Magazine

 

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Art, Travel

Ciao, Chianciano!

Biennale Of Contemporary Art 2015 – Museo D’Arte Di Chianciano Terme

by Gregg Lopez

If you’re an art lover thinking of taking a road trip to Tuscany this fall – and really who isn’t? – type Chianciano Terme into your GPS (granted you’re in Western Europe), and let the satellite guide you through the winding country roads and beautiful amber laced vistas that inspired the Renaissance. When the sun begins to set you’ll recognize the famous somber hillsides from so many restaurant landscape paintings, the golden aura that captivated Diane Lane in Under The Tuscan Sun and helped her heal from her divorce and find romance once again.

There you’ll find the Chianciano Art Museum, the internationally renowned collection of London-based Italian collector Roberto Gagliardi housed in a four-story former hotel on a street with many hotels.

There are so many beautiful mid-century hotels in fact that it seemed odd how empty the town was when my wife and I rolled up in our rented Citroen with our toddler and a studio apartment’s worth of luggage stuffed in the back. Apparently the season lasts only two months in the spring. In the hot summer months, most tourists clamour for places less landlocked, perhaps unaware of the thermal spas that are a 10 minute drive from the piazza.

Look for the building with the sign that says ‘Art Museum’ in block type (and not ‘Hotel’ or ‘Nail Salon’) and you’re in the right place. We were ever so glad to be in the right place after our car broke down in Nice and we arrived four hours after we’d originally scheduled. Marie Gagliardi was gracious enough to keep a bottle of prosecco cold, which we enjoyed on the roof of the museum.  

Upon entering it’s likely you’ll be startled by a dark figure sitting facing the front door. A shiny black clothing mannequin wearing a floral print shirt and holding a mandolin.

“I know it even scares me sometimes when I come down here.”

It’s the first of many mannequins you’ll see at the Chianciano. In addition to paintings and sculptures spanning from contemporary to antiquity, the Gagliardis own a vast collection of vintage clothing, and rather than keep them in a separate room, they’ve placed mannequins all throughout the galleries positioned as if viewing the artwork.

After our first good night’s sleep we were able to relax on the spacious balcony and the little guy could run around the room on the tile floors, spin around and kick his little Minions ball back and forth. He’s really getting good at football.

Before getting the tour of the gallery we would be hitting one of the famous sulfur springs I remember from my visit to Italy as a child with my mother. My memory is vague but it seemed like it was a ditch on the side of the road with steam clouds rising from the dark water filled with old Italian ladies seeking the fountain of youth. I remember being told of the health and restorative properties of the eggy-scented sulfur water and, after a season of fast food, child care and deadlines, I needed a thermal fix.

By the guidance of google and GPS we navigated our way up a narrow winding road and managed to find the thermal baths of St. Filippo. Rather than the roadside ditch of my memory these thermal baths are towered by the Mount Amiata in High Val d’Orcia, a natural Tuscan environment that belongs to the UNESCO world heritage sites. Chianciano Terme can trace its history back to the 5th century BC and the Etruscans, who had built a temple dedicated to the god of Good Health. I hoped the baths could sort out my allergies at the very least.

In Roman times, word spread of the curative power of Chianciano water. Horace visited the area on the advice of his physician during the 1st century BC. Luxurious Roman villas were built in the area near the thermal baths. Today, amongst the 20th century hotels, the calm restorative feel remains.

After the relaxing baths and one of many outstanding meals at local restaurants it was finally time to tour the museum guided by the Gagliardis.  Two floors and 3000 square metres of classic, contemporary and historical works: Louden, Liu, Rembrandt, Goya, sketches by Toulouse Lautrec, Munch and Magritte, a 1950 portrait of Umberto II, pieces from the China’s Han dynasty, W.A Turner’s self-portrait, many paintings from the tortured psych of Frances Turner (no relation) whom the Gagliardis supported (“She came in here and asked us if we wanted any art.”).  The Mayor of Chianciano was on hand as well to welcome us. They’re quite passionate about promoting the town as an international destination for art lovers or just lovers in general and I’m happy to assist hence this piece of holiday propaganda you hold in your smart-phone ravaged thumbs.

Here’s the deal. From the 5th of September to the 13th, the museum will host the 4th Biennale of Contemporary Art, a premier exhibition bringing the finest contemporary artists from around the world. The Biennale is a celebration of carefully selected artists and their work, emphasizing beauty and overall quality. By eschewing recurring themes, movements or styles the viewer can appreciate each work as a single entity. The work will replace the regular collection and be lovingly displayed in the museum itself, but the festival takes over this whole town, with concert and wine tastings – and it’s all free. An area steeped in rich cultural diversity and artistically inspiring scenery. In many ways it’s the perfect location for an international art festival. The sleepy villa will instantly come alive.

The night before we left, we had the second best pizza in town – a restaurant with a kids’ room. A perfect summer night dining al fresco while being able to watch the kids play through a window. This is where we really felt the vibe of this town, low key, friendly but not at all dull.  

The next afternoon, before popping off for good, we took nice warm summer stoll around the empty tourist mecca, gelato, a little shopping and “the best” pizza before we were to embark on the three hour drive down south towards Castelforte. Walking through the piazza it was clear that the absence of a nearby beach accounted for the lack of foot traffic and the feeling that we had an entire resort to ourselves. You sort of wanted to walk down 500 years or so to a beach, but we settle for a benetton shop. Despite being the only punters inside, there were three clerks on duty. And everything was 30% off.  

Everything’s fine in Chianciano and we were sad to leave.

 

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Theatre

Soundville!

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NEW “SONG POEM” MUSICAL PREVIEWS IN HOLLYWOOD

“Soundsville!” penetrates Hollywood’s shady demo recording industry of the not-too-distant past, with stories of businesses that operated in the gray-area of mail fraud by soliciting poems from everyday people, via tiny ads in the back of magazines.

Aspiring lyricists were flattered by the companies’ “expert appraisal” and subsequently hooked into recording fees with unfulfilled promises of career momentum.

Few heard the actual songs. However, today’s cognoscenti have rightfully praised the work of the cash-hungry musicians who recorded dozens of these fascinating musical snapshots of days gone by per session.

Soundsville is a place where session men lay tracks to their doom and poets and singers find that their recording fees pale in comparison to the many personal tolls of self-delusion.

The play previews two Saturdays: August 5th and 19th at 10pm at the IO-West, in the Andy Dick Black Box – 6366 Hollywood Blvd. http://www.iowest.com

(from 2008)

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Music

Hitsville, S.E Asia

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Cambodian Space Project – Whiskey Cambodia

Despite Pol Pot’s mass murder of its western-influenced population, Cambodia’s rock and pop scene of the late 60s lives on amongst the stacks of tapes and CDs hawked on Phnom Phen street corners. Snapped up by American tourists like Paul Wheeler, and sampled on his 1996 Cambodia Rocks compilation, these mid-fi treasures sounded like The Ventures lost on Gilligan’s Island, and devotees of finer off-beat garage rock devoured them like so much banh chiao. In due time bands like Dengue Fever produced their own version of Khmer-beat and the Cambodian rock revival launched into orbit, even though most garage rockers are not in fact fluent in Kmher.

Meanwhile back in Cambodia, Srey Thy, a war child survivor, continued the tuneful tradition in her homeland tape traders despite growing up in dreadful circumstances that involved kidnapping, slavery and, as the story goes, having to sleep in an abandoned army tank. Srey persevered, pulling through long enough to discover the karaoke bar where she’d serenade hard partying (and paying) tourists. It was there Tasmanian rocker Julien Poulson heard her voice and knew he needed her to put together a band. The Cambodian Space Project was born.

In hindsight it’s easy to spot Poulson’s vision of marrying simple honest garage rock to Thy’s haunted, resonant vocals. Srey’s melancholy birdsong of loss and yearning compliments bashing drums and reverb drenched power chords with stage presence to spare. The Space Project recorded albums and toured everywhere. On the road with CSP, Srey entertained and inspired many, eventually utilizing her new high profile to become a prominent human rights activist.

On their 3rd LP – “Whiskey Cambodia” – the CSP drive their rocket ship into the heart of American 60s pop: Detroit, Michigan. Employing first rate Motown session players, the Space Project evolves past surf and garage without dropping the party vibe. After opening with surf stomper “Dance Twist” the new line-up shifts from ballads (“If You Go I Go Too”) and 70s soul/funk (“Black to Gold”) to dancehall pop (“Mountain Dance”) and the Doors-like soundscape of the title track as deftly as one would move from the beach to the hot tub. While some of the grit has been cleaned out on this go round the celebration and adventure remain.  Much of the adventurous spirit is supplied courtesy of guitar wizard Dennis Coffey who himself brought Motown into the space age (and the 70s) with his legendary guitar effects on Edwin Starr’s “War (What is it Good For?)” and the Temptations “Ball of Confusion”.

Overall this collection provides ample reasons to rip Love Shack off the hi-fi and elevate the party headspace to a more exotic chill-factor. As with most of what you’d call party rock, it’s sounds exceptionally better after a few Mai Tais and/or Thai sticks, creating your own personal space project in your mind. For added authenticity you may want to dub the album onto cassette a few generations and play it through a giant boom box which you’ve bungee corded to the back of a moped before heading off to Bamboo Island to catch some waves.

Originally published in Saachi Gallery Art & Music Magazine

 

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Art

Christian Marclay – White Cube, 28 January – 12 April 2015

Christian Marclay

White Cube, 28 January – 12 April 2015

As you stroll through the wide entrance hall of Bermondsey’s White Cube gallery, sound and video depicting bottles rolling along the pavement are cast at foot level from eight digital projectors. Marclay shot this footage, a piece called ‘Pub Crawl’, near his East London home as he tapped and kicked the bottles, beer spilling out, during early morning walks after the neighborhood clubs shut. Played together, they transform common street sounds into accidental music, and the stark, clean gallery entrance into a grimy side street. Due to the placement of the projectors, visitors’ legs get in the way and create opaque shadows, a small flaw in an otherwise novel idea.

The main attraction of the opening weekend of the show was the London Sinfonietta performing, alongside Marclay, in one of the larger rooms, the parameter of which has been outfitted with wall long shelves (the kind you might place your drink on in a pub) covered in hundreds of empty pint glasses. A security guard was on hand to shush people who are folding their programs too loudly or coughing. The reason for this is the whole performance is being recorded and cut directly onto a disc master to be pressed onto vinyl in another room which houses a hydraulic record pressing plant created by The Vinyl Factory. The crowd seemed fairly engrossed in the whistling sound created by mic’ing pint glasses – spacey abstract chirping from the Planet Pint Glass – complemented by violin, cello and various percussion instruments, including rattling caps in a glass.

The other side of the room was mostly empty as there was less interest in the paintings that combine the splashing paint of abstract expressionism and comic book motifs depicted in a pop-art style. The connection between reading comics and drinking beer made sense to me but may have been less obvious to the more high-minded visitors. It did serve as a bridge between the aforementioned after-hours beer bottles and the incredible comic book installation ‘Surround Sounds’.

For this, Marclay used the Adobe After-Effects app to create animated projections within a darkened room where visitors sit on a carpeted floor bathed in comic book onomatopoeia (WHOOSH!, ZOOOM!, and so on] projected 360 degrees from floor to ceiling. My 16 month-old seemed to have a blast, or rather a BLAST!, chasing after the colourful scans of gnomic phrases. There’s no sound or music, but, in the same way that Marclay has always subverted sound into art and back again, the overwhelming effect of seeing this superhero lexicon is unavoidably loud.

Drinking, vinyl records and comic books – this exhibit show much covers all the essential elements of the modern world.

Originally published in Saachi Gallery Art & Music Magazine

Gregg Lopez

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Music

The Rockin’ Dad’s Guide to Ty Segall

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Ty Segall – Manipulator (Drag City)

I’m not sure if Manipulator is the 8th, 9th or 13th album in 6 years by the psychedelic wunderkind Ty Segall. Numbers get fuzzy at my age, especially when you include the myriad cassette, vinyl and compact disc collaborations the 27-year-old California native has released under different guises (e.g. Fuzz, Sic Alps, Party Fowl, The Ty Segall Band -not to be confused with Ty Segall, the band, The Perverts).

Why do I mention his age? Because I’m an over-the hill hack who can barely muster the energy to type out words like “fuzztone” and “riffage” let alone write and record a bazillion new songs that recreate ever so lovingly the tone and energy of a Pebbles Vol. 6 or a Kinda Kinks, that’s why. But enough about me. You’re wondering if Ty’s new double platter is the dog’s bollocks, not whether some word jockey is having a mid-life crisis in the back pages of an art magazine. Alternatively, you might ponder whether the latest disc is a suitable entry into the oeuvre that can fill a wall of record bins.

A distillation of his previous work, be it the Blue Cheer ear-punch of Fuzz or the insular Skip Spence trip of the acoustic material, Manipulator finds Segall balancing the garage punk aesthetic with a flowing melodic inventory of west coast weirdo mixture of sun and clouds. Segall embodies these vintage styles with more affinity than someone who came into this world the same year as The Joshua Tree has any right.

While that alone garners him an “E” for effort, the fact is when you hear a real band blasting through their repertoire in a studio, sounding a bit tighter and tour seasoned (honorable mention of course to Emily Rose Epstein and Charles Moothart) having memorized all Ty’s new power chord riffs, amps mic’d within the boundaries of a 1968 sonic palette, it makes you wonder what the point is of writing about it. Rock and roll is fun and writing is hard work. Again, that’s not your problem as a reader.

As the album chugs along, halfway through its 56 minute run time, I wonder: is there a discrepancy between the “less is more” approach and the sheer overall volume of Ty Segall’s output? What was left on the cutting room floor? Not every track is a gem. Should it have been whittled down to a single length? Am I too old to write about what the kids are into these days? Maybe, I don’t know and nope. This music is older than me, older than my older brother even. If I could travel back in time and played this record for someone in 1968, it wouldn’t cause a warp in the space-time continuum.

But is it retro? That 1980s buzzword from the first 60s revival is no longer relevant.  At this point in time, every obscure, low-budget, regional, vanity press, garage punk reissue of a reissue has been unearthed, yet  those of us waiting to discover the next forgotten Wimple Winch or Q65 will never be sated. Well there isn’t any more. It’s all been dug up. That is why it rules that these “millennials” sidestep the usual doubts that block GenX Debbie Downers like myself from creating such joyous rapture just because it isn’t necessarily “original.”

Of course most of the people who made the original versions of this music are dead now so I should consider myself lucky. We all should. And we should be grateful that folks like Mr. Segall exist and are doing the saintly work of filling our lives with more and more vintage organ sounds and Pretty Things pastiche to which we would wake and bake to if weren’t so damn old.

 

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