Friday, September 23, 2016

John Cage - Water Walk



John Cage​'s performance on "I've Got A Secret TV show in January 1960.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

"The Witkiewicz Reader" by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (Edited, Translated, and with an introduction by Daniel Gerould


"The Witkiewicz Reader" Edited by Daniel Gerould (Northwestern University Press)
There is the joy of going to a used bookstore, for instance, Alias East, on Glendale Blvd. and picking up a totally unknown author and his book. Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewiez, or better known in his home country of Poland, as Witkacy. "The Witkiewicz Reader" is an anthology of his various writings from 1914 to the date of his death (by suicide) in 1939. He lived through tough times in his country or part of that world, and his writings reflect, not realistically, but at least spiritually or aesthetically, the period that he lived in. Which, looking back, was not so good.


He was not only a writer, but also painter, commercial portrait painter, philosopher, playwright, photographer and a huge experimenter in narcotics. In that sense of structure he sort of resembles Artaud, but without the madness, but clearly with the emotional attachment to his life and the things that went wrong in that life as well. Personally I don't find his fiction that interesting, but on the other hand, his essay on drugs is very interesting, as well as his letters to a friend. He is probably one of the first 'aesthetic' writer to focus on the effects of peyote and cocaine. Almost scientifically minded, but.... well, he's an artist, so that aspect totally rears its head in. In that specific sense, he resembles William S. Burroughs - in fact, if he lived just a tad longer, I think he would be a Beat. 


Reading a best of, which is basically selections of that author's writings, one gets a pretty good snapshot of one's work. I'm curious to actually read an entire novel by him. If that's possible, and in English. Daniel Gerald, did a good job in choosing the material and he also places his life in chronicle time - so it's very much of a biography as well.





Friday, September 16, 2016

Eve Babitz



There’s Adam, and then, there is of course, Eve Babitz. There are those who call her a party girl, but in truth, she had documented her times and social world in Southern California, as if she was Charles Dickens. Or perhaps Marcel Proust. Her landscape is the Los Angeles art world of the 1960s and 1970s. I first met her when I was a child, and I think it may have been at Barney’s Beanery in West Hollywood. My father, the artist Wallace Berman, would go to Barney’s for a glass of beer or two, and so would the entire population of the L.A. artists of that time and period. Eve was attached to various artists, so therefore she was a regular as well. My initial reaction to her as a child was 'pretty lady. ' To the outside world, she was introduced as the naked girl who played chess with Marcel Duchamp, in the now a famous photograph by Julian Wasser. Babitz also did colleges, and she did the artwork cover for the second Buffalo Springfield album. She was famous for dating interesting men. But now, as people look back and noticing or reading the new reissues of her books (published by NYRB and Simon & Schuster) - Eve Babitz is a writer of great distinction and importance. 


One thing I have noticed, that people from my age and time, if they’re still alive, the younger generation is very much interested in those who lived the life during the 1960s. If for nothing else, just because one has had breathed with the greats, or acknowledge to share the same glow as those who are now deceased. The subject matter of culture in Los Angeles is very much a huge interest among those who study cultural history. It’s an area of the world where every great person of some note, has visited or lived under the sunny skies. Movies and music have been produced, written and made here, and so the same for its literature. A lot of Los Angeles fiction or literature comes from writers who came from somewhere else, and are trying to deal with the physical aspect of living someplace that they perceived as hostile to their physical and mental well being. Eve Babitz is not in that category at all, because she’s very much the daughter of Los Angeles, and was raised in a highly cultured household. Her mother was an artist, and dad a classical violinist, who worked for the 20th Century Fox studios. Her godfather is Igor Stravinsky. Eve’s life is a mixture of the high and low culture that was Hollywood from the 1940s to 1960s. The city is a magnet for the displaced, the adventuresome, and the romantic as they shadow-punch the shadows away from the direct sunlight. In such a fashion, Babitz is the skilled guide to the landscape and citizens of Southern California. She resembles both Marcel Proust and F.S. Fitzgerald, because she has a great eye for detail, and clearly has an understanding regarding the importance of the landscape within the characters’ make-up as well as their presence in that world. 


Also, she has the magnificent talent of being in the right place and time. The famous image taken by Julian Wasser of Eve, in the nude, playing chess with Marcel Duchamp was a matter of luck and by the hustle of the photographer, knowing to get a great shot. The background story was that Babitz was having an affair with Walter Hopps, the curator of the Duchamp exhibition - and at the time, there was some discomfort between the both of them. In a sense, it was Babitz’s revenge towards Walter for not allowing her to come to the Duchamp opening. Ironically enough, as it is a playful homage to Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase” it is also a secretive (which Duchamp would approve of) commentary on Eve’s part as well. Although the whole image was dreamed up by Wasser, I suspect Babitz saw the many levels of such a setting. 


I just finished reading “Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, The Flesh, and L.A.” and it’s an incredible snapshot of not only Los Angeles proper, but also the getaway locations such as Palm Springs, Bakersfield, and various beach communities. I have also read “Eve’s Hollywood,” but I prefer “Slow Days” because i feel in this book Babitz really conveys her love for Los Angeles, not only for its obvious reasons of sun, beach and fun - but also for its darkness and great culture. Babitz is very opinionated and focused on the weaknesses of the various characters that run through her narratives. That is what gives her writing the noir quality. It’s not about crime and guns, but more regarding sexuality and how one looks at life. She is thought of as a party girl, yet she strikes me as a realist, and how everyone plays out their fate in the community. Also her commentary that she makes in the book regarding the nature of doing creative work in Los Angeles is 100% correct. To quote, regarding Stravinsky in L.A.: “I think that the truth was that Stravinsky lived in L.A. because when you’re in your studio, you don’t have to be a finished product all the time or make formal pronouncements. Work and love - the two best things - flourish in the studios. It’s when you have to go outside and define everything that they often disappear. “ In her eyes, New York and elsewhere is where the final product is defined and noted for its importance. Yet, doing art in Los Angeles is very much part of life, and it is not about defining who you are, but the enjoyment of being in a studio or being studio-minded and processing all of that in your artwork, music or film. An interesting and wise observation from Babitz. She's an excellent writer. 


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Gruppo Nuova Consonanza Azioni Documentario




Mario Bertoncini, Walter Branchi, Franco Evangelisti, John Heineman, Roland Kayn, Ennio Morricone, Ivan Vandor e Frederic Rzewski.
1967-1969

The greatest Italian band ever! Maestro Ennio Morricone​ and his fellow band members playing live in this documentary.  Must watch!

Vince Taylor - Rock'n'Roll singer - 50s/60s





A superb mini-documentary on the great Vince Taylor.  I have been obsessed with Vince for some time now.  Without a doubt, he's rock.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Evening Series No. 4


The Evening Series Volume 4

Tonight, I feel like someone turned the oxygen off.  Stuffiness has its decaying scent. Not mildew exactly, but the scent of life not happening.  Which pretty much describes my life.  The job I have already, pretty much pays the bills, but nothing left over for fun and relaxation.  So in place of relaxation and fun, I began to work on a journal.   At first, I decided to get a blank notebook - but one with attractive grade of paper, but also much needed lines.  My handwriting is kind of bad, so I need something to keep my lettering straight and to the point. And since I don’t have a lot of money, I purchased an expensive blank (but lined) journal.  In my mind, since I made a financial commitment on the tools of the trade (expensive pen as well) then that means I will produce great literature.  So far, the page has been blank. 




If time is money, I’ll be super broke by now.  I have noticed that I look at the clock on the wall, more than the empty blank page in front of me.  At times, I feel like a narration that is just waiting to be cracked open.   Then again, I do look at that clock often.  The big hand moves faster than the little hand.  And my hand grasps the pen and it’s not moving at all.   I put on Michel Legrand’s “Ballade de Polly Maggoo” on the turntable, because it’s getting closer to midnight, and I haven’t the foggiest idea why I have the notebook opened in front of me.  It’s not drawing me closer to the pen or paper.   If I stare at the two items on my table, it looks like they are pulling away from me.  

My memory is very great, and part of the problem is I can’t feel or tell which memory is more important than the other.   I start thinking maybe I should write something about my life, but then again, don’t you need to have a life to write about it?   Clearly I did things, but living that life is one thing, and then writing it down is a totally different matter.   I’m pretty sure I was happy when I went through the motions of my life, but writing, I feel a sense of disappointment, that perhaps, I could have done more.  And we are taught early that more is the best. But looking back, it seems not that much has happened.


The notebook’s blankness is now taunting me.  I used to own a series of leather bound miniature notebooks to take with me so I can jot down an idea or image if I’m out of the house.  But, not surprisingly, the blank notebook pretty much stayed in my back pocket of my jeans, and often while walking in Echo Park Lake, I would pretend to write something down on the blank page, because I would see people all around me, writing with great intensity.  The only thought in my head at that moment, is that I wish that I had some sort of passion - something to burn me up.  Depression, pure joy, even a boredom with many textures and levels - but all I felt was nothing.  So pretending just made me feel ‘OK’ at that moment, and occasionally I would stroke my chin, like I’m in deep thought.  But the truth is, I was totally acting.  I’m such a fake, and then I try to analyze that, so I can write on that subject - but all I come up with is a blank.  Void.  Empty.  Natta.  



It is at that moment, that I put the notebook aside, and open my laptop. I go on Facebook, to see what Kim is doing.  She writes on film, especially Noir, and is very much an expert on the cinematic arts.  She also can’t sleep at night, and tend to post on Facebook around 2 am, and since it is the twitching hour, I want to see what she’s up to.  Gene Wilder.  She’s posting images of Gene Wilder.  He died.  She likes Gene Wilder.  She likes him a lot.  I never seen a Gene Wilder film.  I have heard of him, and I saw images of him on the internet and in various coming attractions throughout my life, but I never actually seen a film by, or him in it.  The reason why I haven’t seen his films, is because I can’t stand comedies.  I can’t laugh at the movies.  Why?  I don’t know.  I went on a date once to see a Laurel and Hardy series of short films, and my date was laughing like an insane person, but I just kept quiet and ate our pop corn.  In fact, I pretty much ate the entire bag, because she was laughing, and I had nothing better to do then munch on the food, and I wasn’t even hungry. 



I actually wanted to go out to the movies with Kim, but I was afraid to ask her. Not in fear of not accepting my date, but her saying yes.  I feel it would have been my responsibility to actually select a film, that I think she may enjoy watching.   And since comedy is out of the question, what kind of film do you take a woman, or beyond that, a person to?   She has a quirky taste, so I imagine it could have been the recent “Batman VS. Superman” film, or even “Suicide Squad.” But is that really a good date movie, and especially with someone like her who has sophisticated taste in films?   I didn’t ask her.  Or ask her out.  Which solved that problem quickly.  



The page is still empty.  Yet, somehow I feel like I lived a life.  But not an actual life, but one that’s in my head. When people read my works in general, they notice that my writing is about nothing.  Yet in that void, one can taste the most devious fruits, that seem to be too good.   In reality, they have been rotting on my kitchen table. They are used more for visual appearance, than something tasty to eat.  So, in that sense, my writing will nourish your head, but leave your body nothing.  I throw the notebook aside, and I get off the chair.  I approach the window looking at the night.  It’s dark.  My eternal canvas.

- Tosh Berman

Friday, September 9, 2016

"Papa John" An Autobiography by John Phillips (Dolphin Books)


There is invariably a dark presence or cloud in one's area of interest. I love rock n' roll. In fact, I love music. And I love reading musician's memoirs. At the best, they are brilliant with strong characteristic qualities - Jah Wobble, Ray Davies, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Viv Albertine, Oscar Levant, and numerous jazz memoirs. The weak one's is usually written for money - well, more likely all for money, but still, the character comes through and makes it a fascinating read. Unfortunately, John Phillips of the Mamas and Papas has no strong character. Son of a failed military man, he is a figure who basically had one service - and was to service himself. There are charming characters - such as Errol Flynn and others of that particular character, that can only do bad, yet, somehow become charming even after their questionable deeds and actions. Phillips, on the other hand, lacks the charm And his memoir "Papa John" is the king of the charmless autobiographies. He had sex, he did drugs, he wrote happy/sad music, he had more sex, more drugs, hung out with famous (and more talented than him) people, did drugs with them, did drugs with his children, had sex with friends, other's wives, sex with wife, sex, and then more drugs. He became addicted. A little bit more sex, but mostly now drugs. By the time I finished this book, I loathe him. Still, at times, it was a hard book to put down. However, then again, I'm sort of the guy who can probably watch a slow-motion car accident - and then hating myself for doing so. I don't hate myself for reading this book, but as I read, I had one eye on the page of this book, and a wandering eye on the pile of books I want to be able to read. It kept my hope up.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

"Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women, 1947-2016 at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel


Lee Bontecou "Untitled" 1964

I’m sad. For the past six months I have lived among the artworks of the female artists who are in the “Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women.” As I write this, it’s September 4th, the last day of the exhibition. Today, my wife left for Japan, my co-worker will be leaving for school sometime next week, and the show is over today. All three “closings” depress me greatly. As I walk around the gallery today, I photograph the images with my eyes, regarding the artwork here, and memory recall will be the main source for me. There is the catalog, and it’s a nice one, but it’s not the same as seeing these works in front of you. I know in the future I will be discussing this show with another person who visited the exhibition, and due to our memories, I suspect that it will be a separate experience. I have never ‘shared’ a common memory. Each person who takes in an art work, usually have their own means in obtaining that piece in their memory. 
For example, I have looked at Louise Bourgeois’ sculptures in the gallery across from the bookstore. I also have been looking at Ruth Asawa’s beautiful, yet fragile works of art for the past six months. When you sit by the cash register, one eye tends to wander over to the gallery with the glass doors. Since the show opened, we have been receiving up to 200 people a day. Maybe more. Although the show is focused on women’s art, I tend to forget the gender, but I have a memory of the art. 

Magdalena Abakanowicz (Wheel with Rope" 1973

Magdalena Abakanowicz’s “Wheel with Rope” (1973) is a powerful presence in a room. Technically the work spreads out to the next gallery space, with its long rope attached to the oversized wheel. For me, it reeks of the early 20th century technology or even something earlier. It’s the most aggressive work in this show. And oddly enough the work fits in with the overall architecture of the Hauser Wirth & Schimmel complex. The building used to be a food processing plant during the turn-of-the-century. So, I imagine seeing a giant wheel on the premise in 1899, was probably not that much of an unusual sight. Still, “Wheel with Rope” is a very strong piece, especially when it’s placed inside a gallery space. What I have read on Abakanowicz was that she witnessed the powers of the Stalin years in Poland, her home country. My first thought was that the wheel is used to not move itself, but there to pull something in, that would be attached to the rope. The rope is thick, perhaps to hold a large ship or boat? The work was made way after the Poland issue, but still, the sculpture has a political feel. It’s very mysterious. 
The additional time I spent with this exhibition, the more I see it as a group of artists - not tied to gender, but more with the thought of sculpture as the medium that they all share. The first gallery, coming from East 3rd street entrance, was art by Ruth Asawa, Lee Bontecou, Louise Bourgeois and Louise Nevelson. As I mentioned, this is right by our bookstore. So I would glance into this room quite frequently. For me, this room of art was perfect. For one, the works in this show are put together in a chronicle order, so in a fashion, the show is set by time, not really theme - but it’s interesting to see the show as what was happening at a certain moment or time . The artists came from all over the world, so it didn’t focus on a nationality - but more what was happening with abstract sculpture. 
Ruth Asawa "Untitled [S.208, Hanging Three Interlocked Spheres, Each Containing Three Interlocked Spheres], ca. 1962 

The one lasting gift from this exhibition is that I was introduced to new artists. Oddly enough, I didn’t know Asawa or Bontecou’s work at all. I was impressed with Bontecou’s timeless brutality - and two feet away, was Asawa’s profoundly beautifully textural hangings. Sculptures to me are about space, and how that space is filled. I would think first-hand, that it must be difficult to share space with Bontecou’s wall-hanging sculptures. Yet, the delicacy of Asawa, really made her work stand out as well as Bontecou, due to its contrasting aesthetic. In many ways, it’s Beauty and the Beast. Not set as a character, but as works in the same room. Which is set quite elegantly, due to the room’s architecture. Space issues also come to light with Eva Hesse’s work for the floor “Augment” and the hanging on the wall works “Aught.” The beauty of both pieces I don’t think can be photographed properly, due to the fading of the latex material, which seems to have a life of its own. For me, photography tends to fail in front of a sculpture or a work that is two or three-dimensional. I think it’s important that the viewer is actually there and either sharing or standing by that specific space of the artwork. 

Sheila Hicks "Banisteriopsis" 1965-1966

I was also impressed with Sheila Hicks" "Banisteriopsis" which is made of linen and wool. In other words, yarn. I never heard of the word 'banisteriopsis' and later, I read up that it's a plant that grows in Central and South America. In the 1950s, she spent a great deal of time in that area of the world. There is something Peruvian or that part of the world regarding this specific piece. I think due to yarn. When I think yarn, I think Peru. No, I haven't the foggiest reason why. I find this the funniest work in the exhibition. For one, it's pleasing to the eye, but I tend to come to this room to visit the piece over and over again. 

Eva Hesse "Aught" 1968

The exhibition was co-curated by Paul Schimmel and Jenni Sorkin. One can always say 'why so-so is not in the show?" Nevertheless, they did an excellent job in making this exhibition work. For a more overall look of the show, here's the website:
http://www.hauserwirthschimmel.com/…/revolution-in-the-maki…

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Unica Zürn by Tosh Berman



There are lives that are so painful. I shutter when I hear the name Unica Zürn. Her life was not a bundle of warm joy, but more of a gothic horror story than anything else. A brilliant artist and writer, but covered in the cloak of pure misery, and being a woman in that social setting of the arts in the 20th century - is not that totally hopeful or beneficial to her fragile state of mind. Yet, she did remarkable works of art. 
Her partner-in-art-crime was the artist Hans Bellmer, who is known for his work with doll parts. Disturbing sculptures of limbs torn apart, and then re-placed in a creative fashion. Highly sexualized, as well as being demented, in other words a great artist. Zürn and Bellmer, if this was a work of fiction, this would be a perfect match-up. Alas, the truth is painful. 


She was 37 when she met Bellmer (he was 51), and came from a very troubled background. More likely she was sexually abused by her older brother, had a father whom she adored but he wasn’t around much, and his third wife, the mother of Unica, was detested by the daughter. She had a job with UFA, the German film company, at the height of the Third Reich, and was married to a much older man, where she had two children. They divorced some years later, and she lost custody of her two children due to her mental problems. During the 40s and early 1950s, she was described as a happy person. Then she met and moved in with Hans. 


Throughout her adulthood, Zürn was a remarkable artist, who totally used her madness or illness as a springboard for her work. She wasn’t an “outside” artist. Zürn was totally conscious of what she was doing. She has been compared to Anton Artaud, who both, shared the same doctor. And both, Zürn and Artaud were obsessed with their mental state or illness. This, I find, to be a tricky situation. I have always been attracted to the artist who’s mentally ill. In fact, I collect books on these figures. The thing is, as I dwell into their work and madness, I sort of forget about the pain that they live with. Blame it on my love for the surface, but often I miss the textures and deepness of such artists as Unica Zürn. This, I finally got over the complex, and now, I see her work beyond her illness. 


I’m not going to lie. Zürn is a very attractive woman to me. As I look at photographs of her, I can detect disturbance, but also the beauty of her face. The yin and yang, or opposites that gives so much textural levels. I sense her madness opened up a horrible world for her, yet, it’s the source that gave her the tools of her art. She used those tools wisely, even though her life wasn’t a happy one. I have read bits and pieces of her literature, but it is mostly the drawings that draw (no pun intended) me into her world. These inks work on paper is sort of like a map, but not one that shows a direction or destination. A landscape of her inner-thinking. Zürn has powerful eyes, and that is one of the main visual themes in her drawings. Some are human faces, but also eyes from a beast, creature or demon. They’re disturbing, but also very beautiful. Her technique is exquisite, and very refined. 


It’s not surprising that Bellmer used her as a muse - which can be a deadly position to be in for a human being. The idealized figure for inspiration can leave one feeling empty, in such a relationship. Life, or lives, is what it is that lasts in one’s lifetime. Yet, art, does have the ability to go beyond that lifeline. But often comes with a price. All reports say that their relationship was a hard one. He photographed her in various poses naked or half naked, but tied up with rope or string - where she resembles the discarded doll parts of his artwork. I now wonder if his work is more of ‘their’ work. A collaboration not only between lovers, but also as artists. I suspect she brings in something more than just inspiration. The photographs that he took of her, as a tied-up piece of sculpture, can be seen, on the surface, of one dominating over the other. But I wonder if that’s true. I suspect that she was very much part of the process in these photographs. I don’t think she’s a passive personality, at least, I don’t get that aspect of her personality through her work. 

Hans Bellmer very much looks like the perverse evil demented artist. I haven’t seen every image of Bellmer, but not one so far, is he fancy-free and smiling. Nor does she smile. Happy-go-lucky couple they ain’t! Nevertheless they both produced work that is erotic, thoughtful, disturbing, and for me, painful. Not his life so much, but just reading about Zürn’s narrative and how things just got darker for her. She suffered from bad effects of an abortion as well as mental pain regarding her life as an artist and a partner-in-art-crime with Bellmer, and both suffered from severe money issues as well. To me, there is nothing sadder of the fact he told her he couldn’t take care of her, due to his severe stroke at the time. It was around this time she decided to go out of their fifth story window. There’s a lot of tragedy connected to her art. It’s not a good-feel trip through the park. It is more like a walk in the Grimm Brothers’ park within a dark forest, and yes, one can imagine human limbs hanging from the trees. 

It’s fascinating that a lot of artists who use the pen on paper, are also writers. Off the top of my head I think of Jean Cocteau, Artaud, Denton Welch, and Boris Vian, among many others. Zürn, I feel, needed both mediums. I suspect that one medium leads into the other - and writing/drawing was very much of the standard Surrealist practice - and she and Bellmer were close to that movement. Zürn serves many purposes. One as a person who was very much part of the Surrealist world, in their later years, and her work with another artist - Bellmer. But we have to remind ourselves what she put on the table. Which was very much her drawings and profound writings/novels that pretty much exposed her inner-thoughts as well as the position of a woman in the arts - either used as a muse, but more likely a collaborator who put more than her two cents in the soup. Beautiful, brilliant, and a great artist - that’s Unica Zürn in a nutshell.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

"The Age of Bowie" by Paul Morley (Gallery Books)

ISBN: 978-5011-5115-6 
I for one am very grateful to live in the 'Age of Bowie."  I can't think of another artist who either took me to other places, or I felt I could have a discussion with this artist about those places.  I never had an eye-to-eye chat with Bowie, except to recommend a Japanese bookstore in Downtown Los Angeles - still, such a remarkable music maker and cultural advisor.  Paul Morley's book on Bowie is exactly what one would think, if you have read Morley's other books and articles on the subject matter of pop music.   Morley is not a 'it has a nice beat, and I give it a five' type of commentator - he's more of a Walter Benjamin, but happily placed in the world of the pop music world. 

There is nothing new to read in "The Age of Bowie," if you're a long-term fan of David's work - nor is there any really new insights into the Bowie world, if you read the many (and many) books that are out there on Bowie, and which to be honest, are pretty good.  What you do get is the unique voice of Morley, and in a sense this book is more about Paul Morley than David Bowie.   And this, is a very good thing.  For one, this book was written quite quickly, in honor of Bowie's passing, but it is also a reflection on the pop eras that has passed for Morley as well.   most of the chapters, he lists records that were released during Bowie's own releases - and it gives the book a really nice framework.  

It also focuses on Bowie's obsessions and interests - and how that sneaked or became part of his music.  Morley has a really good understanding of Bowie's work, and he's a fan, but he's not an emotional lunatic fan like me.   He's like a detective going through the evidence and cooly remarking on each item that is on file.    The book will not please all Bowie fans, but it's a must for Bowie fans to read.  One of the many things I like about this book is that it's not a closed conversation, but a very open one - where readers can add their own thoughts and commentary.   It is also not an album-by-album critique - but clearly an over-all approach to the Bowie magic.   David Bowie was (and still is,) a superb adventure.  This book is one of a few that take that adventure and go with it. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

"Conversations with Robert Evans" by Lawrence Grobel

Rat Press

I'm on a Lawrence Grobel kick. This being the second book I have read by him - the first was "Conversations with Marlon Brando." This one is "Conversations with Robert Evans," who is a film producer, and one time the main honcho at Paramount Pictures. Evans, at the moment, is an idol of sorts for those who love the idea of Hollywood, especially mixing a certain amount of contempt and adoration. Evans is a superb hustler, who I suspect is not into the money, but more of the lifestyle - and that, he's really good at it. Classically good looking, he strikes one as an iconic figure, who will risk all, to make the movie of his dreams. And perhaps he did. He made a lot of good films, or was involved in a lot of good movies, yet again, it's more of an appreciation of a system than anything else. Throughout the interview or conversation with Grovel, he seems to consistently go into his press files - which seems huge. He's a guy who lives in the public landscape, and will die in the public eye. On the other hand, he has a pretty magnificent life - and I think for us amateur hustlers, this is something that is a goal to reach. Therefore, sadness is right behind us, and walking among us mortals.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

"Conversations with Marlon Brando" by Lawrence Grobel


Marlon. Brando. Icon. Also a very thoughtful man, if he's interested in the subject matter or having a conversation with a writer/journalist he admires or likes. I never was obsessed with Brando or his films, I like them, like I like ice cream, but I don't obsess about the cream. On the other hand, many people do obsess over Brando, especially regarding his personality, and his dislike of the acting profession - which I think is not true. 

He doesn't like 'professions' in general. But clearly he does like acting, and I think the reason he likes it, is because he's a very curious sort of guy. He likes to research and learn. And I think a big part of acting is the research part, and the ability to watch and listen to others. He's also quite funny in this book which is pretty much in the Q&A format. Clearly he asked for, and insisted, that this interview would deal with issues of the Native American world, and the horrible things that were done to these people. And in actuality, the best part of the book is Brando putting his thoughts and articulating his 'anger' regarding how the American Indian was treated in its past and also, in contemporary times. He's very observational and extremely smart fellow. And yes, he does talk about acting - but he doesn't gossip. Except for his dislike of Charlie Chaplin, because he treated his son very mean or rude manner. Also his brief commentary on Tennessee Williams, Kazan, is interesting. Again, he's a very talented observer and I suspect that if you are a friend of Marlon Brando, then he's a friend for life. It seems he has a series of long term friendships from people he grew up with. An interesting little book. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

"ANICET or the PANORAMA" by Louis Aragon (Atlas Press)

ISBN: 978-1-90065-69-1 Atlas Press
"ANICET or the PANORAMA (Atlas) by Louis Aragon

The beauty of DADA is that it came from total disaster, in other words, total destruction.  Out of the ashes of World War One, came DADA.   Like pollen floating in an air stream across Europe, writers/artists got a whiff of it, and it stayed within their DNA.  Perhaps the first literature to come out of the French DADA world is Louis Aragon's "Anicet or the Panorama."  It's a dis-jointed tale of crime life, but told by a writer that is not overly concern about narration from A to Z.   That map is re-written by Aragon, who uses the life surrounding him at the time, which means Andre Breton, Max Jacob, Picasso, and others, who all make an appearance in this work of "fiction." 

World War 1 changed the young doctor Aragon, and the future World War 2, will change him again.  So what we have here is a very young Aragon facing up to, as well as articulating the world around him - which is Paris 1918/1919.   A snapshot of the time especially with the cinematic references (Pearl White serials, Fantomas) but nevertheless, a snapshot taken by a poet with his poetic sensibilities in place. 

Once again, Atlas Press, goes beyond their duty to come out with another beauty of a production, which is this book.   

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Eva Hesse by Tosh Berman









German born, Jewish and of course, had to be on the move during her childhood in the 1940s, Eva Hesse lived an intense short life. She died at the age of 34. Yet she is the gift that keeps on giving.   Like my other favorite artist, Yves Klein, who also died at the age of 34.  Both artists, when I look at their work, deals with life as a force to reckon with - it’s not about early death, but living life intensely and correctly.  That word “correctly” has a moral tinge to it, and I don’t mean it in that sense.  For these two artists, there were choices in front of them, and both made the correct decisions.  Hesse had a rather odd and complicated family life - a manic - depressive mother including a step-mom who had the same name as her, but also suffered from brain cancer.  Apparently within weeks of Hesse’s actual illness. 


Hesse worked in the medium of paint, but also did sculptures using latex, fiberglass, and plastics.  There is for sure a substantial argument for and against the lasting of the material she used in her art work, but I feel Hesse knew her art pieces wouldn’t last forever due to the material she chose for her sculptures.  There’s a beauty in thought, knowing what you leave on this mortal earth will not last.   I often think of her sculptures in that light.  There are two works of art displayed in the current exhibition “Revolution in the Making” at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel by Hesse. 


Eva Hesse "Aught"

“Aught” is four canvases with latex and filler stretched over it.  The photograph here (images give a hint of an artwork, but one really needs to see certain works in person) doesn’t show the fragility of the work.   Each canvas is different from the other.  Either by coloration or the aging of the work.  I could be wrong, but the four individual pieces that make up this work of art, I think, would have been identical, at the time they were made.  


Marcel Duchamp’s famous large glass art piece, covered by dust, and photographed by Man Ray is another work, that comments on time and how it affects art.   Not exactly a decay in the same sense of Hesse’s work, but the awareness of the passing of time, and to me, an obvious reflection or meditation.  It seems, when you read about her, Hesse’s life must have been difficult - yet the work she produced, is to me, a delight.  “Aught” changes over time, and that is what makes the work so powerful and beautiful.  Yet, it’s a work that needs to be re-visited many times.   The show has been up for four months already, so I come back to “Aught” repeatedly, and I feel each time I look at it, there is some sort of change - which I suspect it is more how I look at an object or art, but nevertheless, there is something about it that changes.  I imagine if you’re the owner, you can look at this work on a consistent basis for decades, noticing a change here or there - but for us (the others) we can only see it for short periods of time.  So with respect of time passing, it is not our time that is going by, but the work itself that is commenting on that passage from one point to another.  


Eva Hesse "Augment" 


“Augment” is a funny title for the other piece that is in the exhibition.  It’s layers of latex canvases that are laid on the floor on top of each other.   It’s a beautiful piece of sculpture, but it reads like a painting to me.  I think due to its flatness, but it is 17 units or individual pieces that make up “Augment.” I don’t see this work as a passage of time, or dealing with decay -but more of a design that is somewhat hypnotic, and for some odd (unexplained) reason reminds me of layers of bacon on a plate.  And although I do not eat bacon, I think the bacon itself is a beautiful looking meat.  Yet, it’s the repetition of the pieces that give it a funny aspect, where one approaches this work as almost like slices of a whole bread loaf.  There is a natural or environmental aspect of the work, but I don’t feel that is the intention.  I think it’s more of the fact that it exists, and that is the sole purpose of this work.   Seeing layers of the same thing is kind of funny in an absurd manner.  I read an interview with Hesse, that is in the “October Files” series, where she mentioned that repetition in her work is - “Because it exaggerates. If something is meaningful, maybe it’s more meaningful said ten times. It’s not just an aesthetic choice. If something is absurd, it’s much more really exaggerated, absurd, if it’s repeated.” So, “Augment” works in that absurdity, but it is also a pleasure for the eye.  It relaxes me, and perhaps it the repetition of seeing the same object over and over again, that gives me such contentment.   “Augment” and “Aught” are separate works, but they are also a brother and sister or two sisters - nevertheless, it’s in the same family.  It was shown together only once in 1968, and this is the first time in 48 years that these two pieces have been rejoined, for this specific exhibition at Hauser, Wirth & Schimmel.  Artworks in a room tend to have a dialogue between themselves, and if you look, one can make connections between the two pieces.  “Aught” can mean ought, which suggests a sense of duty or responsibility.   “Augment” is making something greater, by adding to it.  So “Aught is four individual pieces hanging on the wall, and then finally on the ground you get 17 pieces which make up “Augment.” The visual and word pun is Duchampian in a sense, but it also plays with the concept that ‘more is better than less.’ 


As I mentioned, I’m often drawn to the Eva Hesse works in this exhibition, because it  suits my hungry eye, but also there is something provocative  and funny about these two works - and now that they are together, I feel a bit more of a whole person.  Perhaps, you will feel the same.   

Monday, August 8, 2016

Jimmy Page: 'Lucifer Rising' (Original Soundtrack)



I'm always disappointed when a major music figure doesn't follow their muse more.  Jimmy Page seemed to be on the right path with respect to this music he put together for Kenneth Anger's film "Lucifer Rising."  A musician in his studio making music.  It's a superb piece of work.  The best thing he has ever done.  I know he did a limited-edition release of this album, and only on vinyl.  Sadly I don't have it, nor the recording above.   But it's a beauty.

- Tosh Berman

Friday, August 5, 2016

"Mad Like Artaud” by Sylvére Lotringer / Translated by Joanna Spinks (univocal)


"Mad Like Artaud” by Sylvére Lotringer / Translated by Joanna Spinks (univocal)


I read books on Antonin Artaud like a Dodger or Yankees fan eating peanuts in a game.  I can’t get enough of Artaud, and almost every book on him, at the very least, is super interesting.  “Mad Like Artaud” by Sylvére Lotringer, is the best.   So good in fact, that at times have a hard time believing that Lotringer actually interviewed these key people who were Artaud’s doctors as well as the woman who ran his literary estate.   By hook or crook.   

In French literary circles the issue of Artaud and his madness and therefore his stay in a mental hospital during the occupation is quite controversial.   The Letterists had a campaign to annoy the doctor who helped (or destroy) Artaud in the mental hospital - and here we get fascinating long interviews with two of Artaud’s doctors: Jacques Latrémolière and Gaston Ferdière.  Lotringer is very aggressive in his questioning for both doctors, but more so for Latrémolière, who clearly didn’t care for Artaud’s work.  In fact, he finds it hard to believe that he has any importance whatsoever.   On the other hand, Ferdière has a great appreciation for Artaud and his work - and, weirdly enough, has the hatred from the Letterist.    What is interesting, as we get an inside view of Artaud’s craziness as well as his life in the hospital.  At the start, he almost starved to death, but due to his friend, the poet Robert Desnos, he was spared the misery.  So now we have the push and pull of people around Artaud, and in a way it is sort of madness in itself.   The most saddest to me is Paule Thèvenin, who is a controversial figure in the Artaud world.  She was the head of his literary estate, with some unhappiness on the part of his family.  Still, the bitterness comes through after many years. 

There is some fiction in the book, where Lotringer meets Artaud as an dying old man - which makes the whole book kind of hmmm.  Nevertheless, a fascinating book, and truly a superbly written one as well.   For sure a classic Artaud study, but also a fascinating look into the world of a French mental hospital in the post-war years as well as during the occupation.  A must for the Artaud lunatic, but also anyone who is interested in 20th century French literature. 

ISBN: 9781937561413 Univocal



- Tosh Berman

Monday, August 1, 2016

Lun*na Menoh Conducting Her Version of Maurice Ravel's BOLERO





Lun*na Menoh conducting her own version of Maurice Ravel's BOLERO.  All sounds from the sewing machine.  What she has done is take Ravel's masterpiece back to the Industrial Age, when the sewing machine first started to appear in people's homes.  Probably the first mechanic machine that appeared in the everyday home.  Ravel's dad worked in a factory, so he was aware of the rhythms of the factory, and then therefore "Bolero."

Lun*na worked from the original score by Ravel, so it is probably one of the most accurate versions of the orchestrated piece in existence.   It's 18 minutes long, which was the original length that Ravel wanted for Bolero.   Some orchestrations speed up the piece, but Ravel consistently asked for it to last 18 minutes. Lun*na honored the composer, by following his suggestion.  As well, as bringing it all back to the factory.    Pretty much a masterpiece by both Ravel and Lun*na.

- Tosh Berman