Wednesday, June 15, 2016
How can anyone who is not touched by pop music, can possibly avoid the publications edited by Uncut, that focuses on one year in rock, via the original articles from Melody Maker and New Musical Express. The issue I have just read, "1967," is simply fascinating. It was the year of "Smiley Smile," "Sgt. Pepper" and "Magical Mystery Tour," along with the dark psych sounds of the Stones' "Their Santanic Majesties Request." On one level, it is like traveling back in time, but for me, it is being in the 'now, ' and looking back to the past. The two previous issues "1965" and "1966" one sees a progression of the old style of pop writing, which is basically a PR for the music business. "1966" you start getting more journalistic approach to the music world, as it got more serious and baroque like. "1967" is the first year of Technocolor for the pop world. The previous years were very much like a black and white film.
Jimi Hendrix, who is the cover figure for "1967" is the perfect example of color (not only skin) becoming prominent in that culture. A lot of clothing from that period looks like left-over designs from the turn of the century, but now in living color. The Stones were always either in muted or dark colors or black and white, but "Santanic" album is one of bright colors. Scott Walker with the Walker Brothers featured greatly in '65 and '66, but one would think of them as black and white as well. So overall, pop in the 60's became one of color, when before, it was dark shades of gray or stark black and white. Also one notice that the major Dylan presence in '65 and '66 is non-existent in 1967. Yet, his sense of adventure is everywhere in pop music at the time.
And singles are still important, but albums are making a strong aesthetic stand in 1967. "Pepper" is like a novel, and so is the Stones "Santanic" album, and if one reads carefully, the death of Brian Epstein sort of brings in the end of the manager superstar. "1965" was sort of a new world, and '66 was a time of exploring, but 1967 was a year of spiritual awareness or curiosity (especially for the Fab Four), and one gets the impression by reading this publication that everything was about to end. In what way, no one knew. One thing that is interesting, is that questioning in the interviews with the many artists are in a serious vein. Some on war, but a lot of chatting among the press and the artist on the subject matter of drugs (mostly due to the Stones being busted that year) as well as God.
In "1967" we are introduced to The Monkees, Bee Gees, Cream, Traffic, The Who, The Move, Syd's Pink Floyd and the first pop festival, Monterey. . A touch of flower power as well. Everything was peaking, but then, it dimmed quickly.
Monday, June 13, 2016
|ISBN: 978-94-91677-43-4 Onomatopee|
The Magic Circle: On The Beatles, Pop Art, Art-Rock and Records” by Jan Tumlir (Onomatopee)
Like it or not, The Beatles will always be the dividing line between acceptance and non-acceptance. Those who hate The Fab Four, do so, just because they exist. In a way, the issue is brought up in Yukio Mishima’s novel “The Temple of the Golden Pavilion.” Not specifically mind you, but the fact that the main character had to destroy and burn down the Golden Pavillion, because it such an iconic beauty, that he felt it restricted his life. The Anti-Beatle people I suspect, feel the same way. Not me, by the way. I love the band. Although I have to admit that I really don’t listen to them that much anymore, because their music is pretty much etched into my DNA. I can just look at a Beatles album cover, and the melodies come right into my head via eyesight straight to the brain. Jan Tumlir’s book on the later Beatle works and its culture sort of works in that same frame of mind. It is a culture that one can’t escape from, and here, in great detail, he approaches the Beatle world via the visual arts as well as how they are placed in our world culturally.
For instance, it is fascinating when Tunlir writes about the Beatle album covers from Sgt. Pepper to the so-called “White Album.” It’s fascinating how Peter Blake and Jann Haworth’s design for the Pepper cover is totally maximum but the White Album, designed by Richard Hamilton, is totally minimal. It’s interesting to look at The Beatles music and product, and how in-tuned they were with the arts of the time. In a sense, all roads led to the Beatles. Tunlir uses John, George, Paul & Ringo as signs or sign posts to a culture that expanded, and yet, very important to its local (Liverpool, America) region. Which in turn becomes the world.
- Tosh Berman
Saturday, June 11, 2016
I'm very sad to hear about the death of Steve Wolfe, an artist that I greatly admire. I saw his show about five years ago at the Whitney. As a book and record geek, how can I possibly not love his work.
Friday, June 10, 2016
Thursday, June 9, 2016
I just want to show my appreciation for Bernard "Bernie" Sanders for running a great race for President. If it wasn't for you, it would have been a severe boring race between Clinton family vs. Bush family. (Good nod towards Trump as well for getting rid of the riffraff of the Republican party.) What I really like about you is that you stayed with the issues, and you were in your Brooklyn style, very polite and nice to the others. As the days turn, or the months, or even the years or decades (if we last that long) people will remember you for your wonderful campaign. You have brought up issues that the Clinton world would never bring up, so thank you for that as well. You're a good person Mr. Sanders. Thank you for the light that you brought to this election. Beyond that, and speaking for myself, I have no interest in the coming election. Good luck to all, and now, here comes the literature and music - Tosh Berman
Wednesday, June 8, 2016
Michael Kohn is intrerviewed about the Wallace Berman American Aleph exhibition at the Kohn Gallery. And if you stay towards the end, I'm interviewed as well.
Monday, June 6, 2016
"Together Through Life: A Personal Journey with the Music of Bob Dylan" by Chris Morris (Introduction by Tosh Berman)
I wrote the introduction to Chris Morris' book on Bob Dylan called "Together Through Life: A Personal Journey with the Music of Bob Dylan." The beauty of this book is though it does cover every Dylan album, but it is also a personal journal of sorts by the author, with respect what his life was going through, and he reflects on that, as well as each Dylan release of the time. If you're a Dylan fan, this book is a must - but even if you're not a fan of his albums, one can still read this book as a personal memoir by Chris. In a fashion, it is sort of a book like mine : Sparks-Tastic - in that I write about my favorite band, but nevertheless, it is really about me. So "Together Through Life" is the ultimate Chris book about Dylan... And Chris.
Here's info on the book: http://rothcopress.com/together-through-life-a-personal-journey-with-the-music-of-bob-dylan/
Friday, June 3, 2016
|ISBN: 978-1-78023-570-7 Reaction Books|
"Antonin Artaud" by David A. Shafer (Reaktion Books)
There are certain figures that one grows up with, even though one may not understand their work, it is still part of one's DNA. There were always images on the wall in our family household. Jean Cocteau, Brigitte Bardot, and Antonin Artaud. I eventually as a teenager, started to read his works, more out of curiosity, and family duty than anything else. I have read countless books on Artaud which in truth, there are probably more books on him, than say his writings. Still, the image of Artaud is a very strong one. He had a beautiful handsome face when young, and as an adult and a drug addict - still pretty sharp looking! If this was death and pain, I'll pick up a six-pack of it please!
Yet, the surface is not everything, and as one dwells into his writings and drawings, one discovers an inner world where communication is muted by disease, mentally as well as physically - and to somewhat break that wall between audience and performer. Artaud in most circles is thought of as a theater artist - especially with his manifesto "Theater of Cruelty." The grand-dad of happenings, and 20th century experimental theater practices, Artaud is the guiding light of everything that is wonderful abut the spirit trying to leave the sick body and mind - yet, of course, there is usually some sort of payment in the end. David A. Shafer wrote a really nice and brief - yet smart - biography and study on Artaud for the great Reakton Critical Lives Series.
It's a sad narrative of a life of a genius that was side-tracked by madness and therefore a prolonged spell in various mental hospitals. Yet, one can never forget Artaud's image as an actor and as a visionary that moved out of the shadows to express sincere angst against a world that abandoned or tortured him. I fully appreciate why my dad had his photo in his studio and elsewhere. Oh, and he was a beautiful looking man.
- Tosh Berman
Thursday, June 2, 2016
A rather manic version of "Be-Bop-A-Lulu" by the great Gene Vincent. Eros + physical pain = bliss. His performance always remind me of Georges Bataille for some reason. Vincent, when he sings/performs, his eyes are towards the heavens.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
|ISBN: 978-0996421812 We Heard You Like Books|
"True Homosexual Experiences: Boyd McDonald and Straight to Hell" by William E. Jones (We Heard You Like Books)
A few months ago, I read this incredible book of film critiques by Boyd McDonald, called "Cruising the Movies." McDonald wrote on films that were played, usually very late at night, on the local TV station in New York City. This was before VHS even, so there wasn't a video tape he could watch, but he actually had to view these films in his one room hotel-like apartment in upper Manhattan sometime in the 1980s. Never mentioning the director, instead he focused on the stars that are in the movie. And usually beyond their acting skills, but mostly focusing on their ass, crotch, torso, and legs. For me, I thought that this was a very interesting way of looking at films. One can presume that Boyd McDonald, an incredible prose writer and thinker, was a homosexual.
The word "gay" has connotations that really don't fit in Boyd McDonald's world. For one, he had a zine in the 1980s (and still being produced by Billy Miller) that totally focused on anonymous readers who sent McDonald letters describing their homosexual sexual experiences and encounters. McDonald took his work very seriously. He was sort of a budget level version of Alfred Kinsey. Instead of obtaining information for an academic press, McDonald collected his 'narratives' and put it all in his zine "Straight to Hell."
Artist, filmmaker, and writer, William E. Jones, has written a magnificent biography and critical study on McDonald's life and work. A hardcore homosexual subject matter, I, as straight as I can, or may be, finds McDonald and this book totally fascinating. His "Cruising the Movies" is such a hardcore film geek book, but of a different kind. On one level, this is critique for the Homosexual's eyes and senses, yet, for me, it's an inside look into a hyper-world of sensuality that just exposes its sexual mores via the big screen, or for McDonald in the little more likely black and white set he had in his apartment. A recluse, ex-serious drinker, yet by all accounts a loving man to his nieces, is an incredible subject matter for a book. Jones captures that world, with his intelligence and his grasp on gay cultural history -it is really an one-of-a-kind biography.
The book is not a super in-depth bio, due that there is very little record of McDonald in existence, except for his work - which I suspect would please McDonald to a great degree. I'm just happy to be introduced to McDonald's writings, and clearly he is one of the great publishers, who worked in the shadowy zine world. Essential gay culture book, but also a fantastic look into the mind and talent of Boyd McDonald.
- Tosh Berman
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
|The Los Angeles Times May 24, 2016 by David Pagel|
At Kohn Gallery, “Wallace Berman: American Aleph” paints an intimate picture of the legendary artist who was at the center of the scene when Los Angeles came into its artistic own.
Beautifully organized and installed by Claudia Bohn-Spector and Sam Mellon, the deeply engaging exhibition contends that it’s high time historians stop thinking of Berman (1926-76) as a California artist and start acknowledging him for what he is: an influential American whose potent works were not only in tune with the wild times in which he lived, but who also anticipated the major transformations that would take place with the development of communication technologies.
Like Andy Warhol’s best works from the 1960s and ’70s, Berman’s pointblank pictures combine the individual attentiveness of handcrafted objects with the implacable anonymity of mechanically reproduced imagery. Where Warhol turned to silkscreen, Berman used a Verifax machine — an early version of the photocopier — to print variously sized grids of similar but distinct images.
Both artists zeroed in on the content of messages and the media by which that content was conveyed. Too smart to think that the medium is the message, Berman and Warhol explored the thorny relationships between what was being communicated and how it was being communicated. Where individuals stand in relation to mass media — and one another — is their great subject.
Berman’s go-to composition consists of a life-size hand (often the left) holding a small transistor radio. The face of the radio functions as a frame for images he has scavenged from newspapers and magazines.
Political figures, athletes and astronauts, as well as everyday objects, mystical symbols and musicians, not to mention religious icons, animals and nudes, appear in these vertical rectangles. No bigger than an index card, each is all the more potent for being a part of a larger — and potentially infinite — group. Nearly half of the 80-plus pieces in the exhibition follow this format. Many feature single images. The largest grids are made up of 56.
The experience these pieces generates recalls channel surfing, Web browsing or listening to a random selection of downloaded songs. If you want to make sense of things, you have to do that for yourself. Berman will not do it for you. Like the radio, he simply channels forces flowing through the ether. He leaves viewers free to figure out what it all means.
That DIY ethos runs to the heart of his art. It can be seen in his earliest pen-and-ink drawings, from the 1940s, which pay homage to masters of jazz improvisations while registering the risk of heroin addiction.
Sex and spirituality — often united in blissful instants of harmony — also go to the heart of Berman’s deeply bohemian art. That’s what distinguishes him from other artists interested in the effects — and affects — of mass-produced imagery. More cosmic than local, it shows Berman to be an American original.
Kohn Gallery, 1227 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 461-3311, through June 25. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.kohngallery.com
Saturday, May 21, 2016
|ISBN: 978-1-59017-957-4 NYRB|
"Paris Vagabond" by Jean-Pual Clébert, Foreword by Luc Sante (NYRB)
Luc Sante with his "The Other Paris" wrote one of the two ultimate books on that beloved city. He also wrote an introduction to the other essential book on the French capital that is by Jean-Paul Clébert called "Paris Vagabond." Like "The Other Paris" this book reeks of the underclass or the belly of Parisian culture, with its homeless, drunks, criminals, streetwalkers, and everything between. Encouraged by Blaise Cendrars, Clébert wrote the ultimate book in early 1950s on the culture that was not celebrated by overseas tourists in Paris. Wandering from one neighborhood to the next, Clébert recorded with a pen or pencil on newsprint, wrote about those who fell or lived in the cracks of Paris. Impressionistic as well as documentation he covers the waterfront that to some, is pure hell. Yet, it is virtually a Jean Genet love of the squalor and dirt of the Parisian underworld. Throughout the book it is illustrated with photographs by Patrice Molinard, who begin his career taking images for Georges Franju's documentary "Le sang des bêtes." His aesthetic or documentation fits perfectly with Clébert's realistic poetic prose. A superb translation by Donald Nicholson-Smith, this is the book on Paris. A total classic.
Here are photographs of the installation of the show "Wallace Berman American Aleph" at the Kohn Gallery. I except every citizen of Los Angeles,as well as the world, come to this exhibition. And of course, buy the catalog as well. Curated by Claudia Bohn-Spector and Sam Mellon. The Kohn Gallery is located at 1227 Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038. Phone no is (323) 461-3311. From May 6 thru June 25, 2016. Website: http://www.kohngallery.com
Friday, May 13, 2016
|ISBN: 978-1-939799-09-8 PictureBox|
"The Mysterious Underground Men" by Osamu Tezuka, edited by Ryan Holmberg (PictureBox)
Osamu Tezuka is not only a manga comic god, but more important, a genius with ties to the Western tradition of comics as well. "The Mysterious Underground Men" is a youth's tale of adventure, science and criminals. The beauty of this story is that it is almost like a feverish mixture of criminals and sci-fi villains - all in one story. Tezuka wrote and drew this manga in the late 1940s and what is fascinating to me is his positive attitude towards the wonder of science and what it can bring to mankind. On the other hand, and only a few years when he wrote this manga, the atomic bomb killed thousands. Yet, somewhere in his psyche, he looks up to science and the good that is human. Yet, death lurks within the narrative, and he was perhaps one of the first manga writers for kids (later he wrote for adults) who introduce characters that will tragically die in the narrative.
This beautifully designed book (like all titles published by PictureBox) is faithful to the tradition of the Japanese manga, but also brings in the retro look of that era into the packaging and design. On top of that, the editor Ryan Holberg, in his introduction, brings in the influence of the 1930s serial Flash Gordon as well as comics like Blondie and various Walt Disney cartoons/comics as well. Tezuka took all of this in, and in an essence, made a giant pot of soup, which is basically this manga. "The Mysterious Underground Men" is a silly plot, yet what adventure is not basically silly. It's the imagination at work, and Tezuka like the professor or engineer in this story, can cook up the ultimate adventure yarn. Excellent book.