Monday, August 21, 2017

The Evening Series - Monday, August 21, 2017

I recently purchased a window shade, where it will keep the sunlight out, but if you’re outside the window, you can see yours truly as a shadowy figure moving around in my living room.  Day and night.  Privacy has never been an issue with me.  I don’t see the point in it.  Some people I know have shredders so they can cut up their bills and health notices as well as other personal papers before they throw it in the trash.  I, on the other hand, post all my bills, including notes from my doctor as well as sensitive tax notices on my Facebook page.  I figure the best way to hide something is to put it all in plain sight. 

It has been an open secret that every night I have a performance by our window.  Although we do have shades, the image on the curtain looks like images from a Lotte Reiniger film.  A German Filmmaker who was the pioneer of the silhouette animation.  My “shadow play” is never planned out in advance.  It’s everyday life in Tosh’s household, and that seems to bring an audience out in the evening.   The only thing I do in an organizational sense is to leave my trash cans out in front of the garage.  One for regular trash and the other is for recycling waste.  The show during the summer months starts at 9 PM.

Tonight, I’m planning on doing a version of Arthur Schnitzler’s 1895 play “Anatol.”  It’s theater about a bourgeois playboy named Anatol, who is obsessed with the thought of a lover being unfaithful to him.   It’s a common problem around me, and it’s a play that I take to my very heart.   Through the theater, one can project their anxieties in such a state, where it is healthy.  The lighting of the piece needs to be perfect.  I have to set lights within the living room to project the images to the outside world.  I hired a well-known lighting expert for the stage, Hassard Short, who came recommended by a friend of mine, Billy Ladd, who is a chorus dancer on Broadway. 

I spent the day making articulated cut-out figures, one representing me as Anatol, and the rest are all the women characters in the play.  Each cut-out female is based on an actual woman I know.  I have asked these particular 'models' to come over to the house, where they have to remove all their clothing so I can trace their body onto paper to do the cutting that will fit their form.   Being a heterosexual male, I was, of course, attracted to the female forms in front of me.  As part of my body reacted to what was in front of me, one of the models was kind enough to trace on the paper so that it can be part of the cut-out figure of my character.  I expect when I make my appearance as a cut-out, with the help of my model, I will get a standing ovation from the audience.  

When one prepares to put together a show for an audience, it seems that the preparation is more important than the actual performance.   I have had dreams where I'm a viewer instead of one who is participating in the narrative of the dream.  Now, that I'm conscious I make dreams happen.  It's the payoff that keeps on paying.  

- Tosh Berman

Thursday, August 17, 2017

"Arbitrary Stupid Goal" by Tamara Shopsin (MCD/FSG)

ISBN: 978-0-374-10586-0

A hard book to put down.  Each page is a bite size narrative that is so well written and often profound, that you just want to take another page in, and then after that, another, and so forth.  Tamara Shopsin, besides being a wonderful prose artist, is also an illustrator and designer.   Some of the text is only a few paragraphs long on a page, to full page - but this is an epic history of her family, their friends, and the main star of the book, New York City, specifically Greenwich Village.   

Every page is a reflection of the classic New York landscape. One that I often imagined in fiction, films, and music.  Reading this memoir, I have The Lovin' Spoonful as a soundtrack in my brain.   No mention of the band within its pages, but that is what I bring to the text as a reader.  The Shopsin family are well-known in the Village and beyond, due that they had a food market, which turned into a legendary diner.  I've been there twice, and the food was incredible, but beyond that one goes there for the spectacle; the theater that comes with the restaurant.   I can't think of another diner that is so enjoyable, as well as entertaining.  The chances of being insulted by the owner (the author's father) are in the 70% bracket.  Of course, it's worth taking a chance, because it's an amazing show.   And again the food is great.

Tamara Shopsin's book captures the flavor of her family which in turn means classic New York City.   Every page has a wisdom or philosophy either made by Tamara, or by the mom Eve, or dad Kenny.   This is the book to have when one is feeling down or depressed.  The life that comes off these pages is rich, brilliant, and hysterical.  The sad thing is Manhattan has changed into a huge shopping mall mentality.  Shopsin captures the moments why one would want to visit NYC in the first place, as well as a focused snapshot of life being lived at its intense pleasure.  

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Evening Series: Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Evening Series: August 16, 2017

I need a pre-amp for my stereo hi-fi, and at the moment, my right channel, or speaker is not working.  It’s OK if the album is in Mono, but most of my vinyl is in Stereo.  So, in my living room, I have to stay close to the left speaker, which is awkward, because our dining table is closer to the right speaker.  That is where I like to sit and stare at the album cover or read the liner notes while listening to music. 

I had a record listening party, and that too was odd because all seven of us had to sit around the left channel speaker.   I had to get chairs from another room, and what was worse, we were listening to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” and I can be wrong, but I feel we’re missing some of the sonic aspects of this specific album, by listening only to the left channel.  We often look at the right speaker, and all of us, shake our heads. 

Since we’re on the second floor, and due to the weight of our bodies by the left speaker, we noticed that the floor was squeaking more.  And when we had our dance party the night of the listening party, close to the left speaker, the floor collapsed.  Of the seven, four died.  I was saved due that the left speaker fell and got stuck between the hole, and therefore by holding on the speaker I survived this ordeal.  Sadly we had to cancel the dance party that night.  

For me, it was touch and go.  I had to decide to save my life or spear the speaker being damaged in the fall.  Luck had it, we managed (the speaker and me) to get ourselves stuck between the wooden beam and ceiling.  Due to the kindness of our neighbor downstairs, he brought the speaker successfully down from the wooden beam, and my wife pulled me up from above.   After checking to see if the Hi-Fi was OK, I then checked on our guests.  Like I reported before, four died.  It’s a tragedy.  The scratch on the left speaker will always remind me of that evening. 

After fixing the floor (thanks to the landlord Mr. Kushner) it looked new.  When I look at my left speaker, I’m reminded of the tragedy.   Four people lost their lives by dancing to Gary Glitter’s “Rock n’ Roll Part Two”  In one of the ‘yeah’s” in the chorus they went down like a Led Zeppelin.   My wife was spared, if not by God, then by the natural urge to have a drink and to eat some dip on a chip on the other side of the room.   I often think how fate comes in and enhances the scene.  No, I mean life. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Evening Series: Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Evening Series: Tuesday, August 1, 2017

As the darkness takes over the sky, I notice the music changes as well.  Michael Nyman’s music works in daylight.  His album of 1990 “The Kiss and Other Movements” is very much a morning piece of music.  It has rhythm and a direction which is onward and doesn't look back.  Which is ironic, because Nyman always has a glance toward the past concerning his music.  Chamber music made for minimalist rooms with a large window.  Birds outside seem to respond to this album in a lively manner.  I like to play music loud, and I usually open the windows up in the room so the sound can travel beyond the four walls.  It maybe my imagination or my fantasy coming to life, but it seems birds come over to our window sill to listen to Nyman’s music.  I have to make sure that they don’t fly inside the room because we don’t have screens on our windows.  Once, a bird did fly in, and it took me the whole afternoon to get it out of our home.  The bird that flew in was a California towhee.  They tend to knock on windows because they are reacting to their reflection.  Once inside the house, they are bewildered. I first, used a broom to try to push it to an open window.  But the bird panics, and eventually goes to even a higher location.  So unable to reach the bird, I just open all the windows, and within time, it finally sees its reflection, and once that happens, they leave through the window.

The late afternoon becomes a horror show.  Particularly in the living room, because by 4 to 6 pm the sun directly hits the space, and although the temperature is not high, it’s very uncomfortable to sit in the room.  I tend to play Serge Gainsbourg in the late afternoon, and especially music he recorded in the early 1960s.  The album of that time of day is Gainsbourg’s “Confidential” which is breezy, swings, but has strong melodies.  Electric guitar, stand-up bass, and Gainsbourg’s voice.  What can be better in a hot, bright room?   The living room is large enough in that I can move around the room to avoid the direct sunlight that comes through the windows.  We have wooden shutters, but they’re original (house built in 1937) and quite beaten up through its years blocking the sun.  Some of them are utterly useless, and the sun comes in invited as well as uninvited.  What’s interesting about Los Angeles weather is very much the same every day, so one can directly predict when the sun will hit the room.  I’m usually dancing with the direct sunlight.  More of a waltz as I move five feet here or there to find shade.  “Scenic Railway” one of the outstanding songs from “Confidential” drifts from the speakers as if it is having a sun stroke.   I like to take naps in the afternoon.  The coolest and most shady is under the table.  So I often lay down on the wooden floor, facing the ceiling, and take a nap for fifteen-minutes.

Around 7:15 P.M., darkness takes over the room.  It’s time for wine.  We have no direct electric lighting in the living room, so light comes from an old lamp in the corner as well as street lighting outside our window. It is a crime light, so it gives out a yellow tint.  My favorite drinking music, and in the evening (mind you) is the NASA Voyager Space Sounds.  These are sounds that come from outer space.  It’s the sound of ionized gas or plasma that is heard outside the Voyager.  The sound is ghostly, even haunting in its intensity.  One can think of it as ambient music, but while listening to it in the darkened room, I find myself being thrown into the sound as if someone throws catnip to a kitten.  I’m drawn to the music as I stick my head out the window to see the stars.

From a distance, walking from house to house to driveway I can see a pair of coyotes strolling down my street.  These two Flâneurs or as I like to call them, boulevardier, and I imagine looking for food.  I don’t have any pets, so I’m not alarmed, but still, I find them sinister.   There is nothing beautiful about them, and their habit of staying in the shadows during the daytime hours, or brazenly walk down an urban street in the nighttime always gave me a sense of dread.  Ever since the drought, coyotes have been getting closer to human’s houses, and of course, the attraction to smaller pets is a magnet for these dogs of the night.  Still, I can’t keep my eyes off them  One of them comes up to my staircase.  I have seen these animals run into people’s yards or entrances, but I have always dreaded the thought that they will come to my property.   I put the music of the Voyager loud, in hopes that the coyotes will realize that humans are living in these homes.  What’s alarming is I hear a sound of a coyote digging outside my front door.  Then the sound of sniffing. After a few minutes of silence, besides the music, of course, I hear a knock on the door.

I  didn’t answer it.  I then heard a yelp.  I stood by and kept an eye on the door. I also went over to the window to close them.  Although we are far above the street level, I had this sudden fear of a coyote jumping from the road to our window pane.  Impossible, but the imagination doesn’t always take logic.  I was slightly tipsy when I went to bed.   As I laid on the bed, and top of the bed sheets and blankets, I kept hearing sounds outside the house.  I got up, and I saw the two coyotes staring at me through the window.

I have read that Freud had a dog that stayed with him during his sessions with patients.  His dog was also aware of time in that the animal would head toward the door when the session was coming to a close.    I now wonder if the two coyotes out there are perhaps waiting for me to leave the house.  Or to guard me in the case of imminent danger?  The truth is I don’t want to think.   I want to live.  I want to think what the night brings to me.  The two coyotes are the answer.

- Tosh Berman

ADULT. - Uncomfortable Positions (feat. Lun*na Menoh) (Official Video)

Lun*na Menoh with the band ADULT.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Evening Series: Monday, July 31, 2017

I’m pretty happy-go-lucky middle aged man till the evening comes rowing on toward the end of the daylight hours.  It is then, while drinking my first glass of wine, that my thoughts turn inward, expressing the dread that is very much not noticeable during the daylight hours.  Each sip I take brings me to a place that is more real than my mornings.  It is if I have been avoiding the surf, and finally, I can get on the wave, and let it ride me to a place that’s home.  Which by any terminology will be called despair. 

I spend most of the daylight hours at the Central Library here in Los Angeles.  I have been working on a novel about a writer who based his life on the presence of Robert Benchley.  Not being him exactly, but a character who approaches the sensibility of a Benchley in his life and writing.  When I show my novel-in-progress to others, they have all commented on Benchley - why and who?   I’m mostly interested in the “what” than the who or why of such commentary.  Benchley represents the humor of the world that is not funny.  I don’t see the joke during the daylight hours, but when in the home or at a bar nearby the library I often focus my thoughts on the world that exists in front of me, and how one can be funny inside that particular landscape.   It’s no joke, you know?

As the tick-tock of the moments go on, and I’m in front of my laptop, which has to be the most unromantic method to writing, I think of the family unit and what it means to a writer describing the moments as they pass.  Impossible to capture the fleeting thoughts as I drink more.  Truman Capote, a well-known lover of the sauce that takes one to other places, wrote that it is impossible to write when drunk.  Like his commentary that Kerouac wasn’t writing, just typing, he is clearly wrong.  As the cloud becomes thick with deep insight into a memory that comes and goes, like a humming refrigerator in the middle of the night that keeps one awake.  The thought comes back to the family and what that means to me, and therefore the world.  I come to a conclusion after looking at this page for an hour that the family could care less about the world. 

If you can see me now, one would notice a downturn frown on my face.  Happiness is now a distance, and as I look outside the darkness, it seems to me to be a portrait of yours truly.  Handsome yes, but sad as well.   My time spent in hell, which looks very much like heaven, is my prison. I made these four walls with additional space for windows all around me, and I have no one else to blame except yours truly.   I read Benchley to get insight and reflect on a time when social drinking was looked upon as an active series of steps to one’s betterment.  Now, I can see the false footsteps to that ladder to success.  It’s a myth or image supplied by my ego and taste.  I remember reading a quote by a wise older man.  He said:  “Look down at me, and you see a fool; look up at me, and you see a god; look straight at me, and you see yourself.”   Which proves that one should at first, be standing up than sitting down.   And second, never look at someone straight on.  It’s best to study that person perhaps behind their back. 

I will sit here, drink wine, till the bottle is empty.  Then I will go to bed.  I will dream. Everything will be fine and dandy in the morning.  Till the evening comes again (and again). 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Evening Series: Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Evening Series: Saturday, July 29, 2017

The evening is unnerving.  There is the sense of dread just right before I fall asleep.  It feels like the dream world is knocking on my waking consciousness and waiting to enter.  The entrance is fearful because I don’t feel that there is an exit.  Once I enter the opening of this world, it will close on me, and I will be held a prisoner in this world of not of my making.  I'm aware that there is a bridge between the two worlds, but I also feel like I'm living two lives in one.   The images that come to me at nighttime are ones of extreme textural sensitivity.   I recall in a dream that someone gave me a book, and the volume had regular pages, but also a series of round circular holes that are cut out.  One can read the book, but you also read the following page, due to the hole, which is in the center of the page.  The placement of the text was a way of looking into the future, or logically on the next page. 

Food is never part of my dreams.   I don’t recall ever having a meal or eating food in my dream world.  I wonder about this because the food is so sensual, and one would think that once in the dream world, the pleasures or fears of tasting a meal would for sure be part of the landscape.   Objects like books come in and out of the picture, and again, with vivid detail.  I often wake up from a dream and find myself that the book I have dreamed about doesn’t exist.  One of the reasons why I like to write is to obtain the book that comes with my dream. 

The other odd thing concerning my dreams is that a lot of times it’s a third person perspective.   Sometimes I’m one of the characters in the dream narrative, but it’s not me telling the story.  It’s like watching a film in a movie theater, where I’m just a passive viewer.   In most cases it’s a thriller, where I’m (as a character) is chased or I’m chasing someone. The incident or situation can be in a danger zone, but as a viewer, I never feel panic or being upset by what is unfolding in front of my eyes. 

I dream of people I know, and I don’t know.  The ones I do know seem to be individuals that I don’t think about in my current life.  For instance, last night I had a dream about someone I used to work with, but for the life of me, cannot remember his name.  His presence in the dream is powerful, and what I remember of his personality is very accurate. I never think of him.  He doesn't matter to me now, nor in the past, except it’s someone I had to see due to my occupation at the time, but also the daily schedule of seeing someone you work with in the workplace.  

I have had sexual encounters in my dream.   Very satisfying and not always with a woman I know in my waking life.   The sensuality of the moment is that I’m enjoying myself greatly, and I’m not thinking of anything except the pleasure I’m getting out of the sexual encounter.  When I wake up from such a dream, I never feel depressed or sorry to be back in bed.  Instead, I  look at the ceiling and its shadows due to the lighting of the trees outside my window.  Sexual dreams are the only passage between the two worlds where it's a pleasurable experience. 

On the other hand looking at the digital clock across the way makes me think of time passing.  Or in the future, for instance, what needs to be done for the next day.   I fall asleep, and then I have a series of dreams that are anxiety driven due to schedules being missed or appointments that I have forgotten.  I tend to have embarrassing moments such as being naked in a place or situation, where I clearly shouldn’t be in the nude.  There is a feeling that if I ignore my nakedness, then everyone else in my dream will do the same.  So no one calls me out being in the nude, but I’m entirely conscious that I’m naked and the fear of being discovered in such a state causes anxiety.   What’s interesting to me is that I have no fear of being found naked in the awakened life.  Now, thinking of it, I think it’s more about keeping secrets.  The exposure or having some form of truth coming out that can harm you.  That’s the fear.  I have many secrets. 

- Tosh Berman

Friday, July 28, 2017

Tosh Berman Reading at ARTBOOK @ Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles, plus Others

I, Tosh Berman, will be doing a reading with Leslie Dick, an. cinquepalmi,  & Lucy Blagg.  Friday, August 4, 7PM. 

Artbook at Hauser & Wirth is pleased to present Out of the Hat, a reading series for just two Fridays in August where various artists, writers, dancers, poets, and theoreticians will share—and be called—to the stage through an old adage of chance: the pulling of names out of a hat.

Poetics, theories on sleep, movement and narratives will share the stage at Artbook beginning with a stellar line up on Friday August 4th with Tosh Berman, Lucy Blagg, an. cinquemani and Leslie Dick.  This line up will then be followed up by another stellar line up on Friday August 25th with Evan Burrows, Michael Kennedy Costa, Simone Forti, Michael Ned Holte and Matias Viegener.

The event will be facilitated by Brigitte Nicole Grice and Ravenne Swanner and hosted by Artbook at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles. 

Tosh Berman is a writer and publisher. As the publisher of TamTam Books, he published books by Boris Vian, Serge Gainsbourg, Guy Debord, Jacques Mesrine, Ron Mael & Russell Mael (Sparks) and Lun*na Menoh. As a writer he wrote a memoir/travel journal/ music critique "Sparks-Tastic," (Barnacle Books) a book of poems "The Plum in Mr. Blum's Pudding (Penny-Ante)," and a forthcoming childhood memoir of life with artist father Wallace Berman "Beat Boy" (City Lights Books).

Lucy Blagg is from Los Angeles, California. Their chapbook, Semi Fleshy, was published by n0 eg0 p0ems in 2016. With Lainey Racah, they run the Los Angeles Archival Poetry Project.

an. cinquepalmi metaphorizes her doubt & lurks for pay in los angeles. she was a transparent extra in the extended universe. find more ursa any online w Apogee, Susan the Journal & Anomaly. her orchid’s name is *lilith too*; it’s not dead yet either.

Leslie Dick is a writer and critic living in Los Angeles. She was full-time Critic in Sculpture at Yale School of Art for the academic year 2016-17. Leslie Dick is currently Co-Director of the Art Program at CalArts, where she has taught since 1992. 

Evan Burrows is a poet and musician who lives in Los Angeles.

Sparks - Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me) (Official Audio)

The new great tune from Ron Mael and Russell Mael Sparks.  It's hard not to play this over and over again.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Evening Series: Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Evening Series: Thursday, July 27, 2017

I spend the day looking forward to 7 pm.  Cocktail hour.  I think if I stood in front of the blank computer screen it would make the time go faster.  It doesn’t.   I pretty much schedule my day on a daily basis.  I know exactly when I wake up, which is 7 am, and I know when I will have my first cup of black coffee.  I then start writing, or to be honest, think about writing, and then when I put my first word on the page, it’s lunch time.  I then have lunch which is usually something that puts me to sleep. I go to the couch and read, which means I close my eyes for 40 minutes or so.  When I wake up or should say, when I leave the couch, I come back to the computer to do some more work.  I put the first word on the page, and then think about changing that word.  This goes on until 7 pm when I have my first sip of white wine. 

When I am drinking wine, I don’t want to see or hear from anyone.  One may call me on the phone, but there shall be nothing but silence on the other end.  I reserve this time for me and my thoughts.  Not saying that this is anything different from the daily writing chore I put myself through.  To focus on oneself takes a great deal of concentration.  I think therefore I am. 

I have been working on a short story that is taking a long time to complete.   From the very first day, I hated the story.  Yet, I felt compelled to finish the narrative.  It’s a strange thing to struggle on a piece of writing that one hates, and going through the motion of trying to complete it.  You have no interest in the story, so, therefore, who can appreciate this tale that has no or gives no pleasure whatsoever.  It’s maddening.  The waste of the hours to work on such folly is a terror.  Then again, there are pieces of literature that I have been working on and off for the last 40 years.  It sucked 40 years ago, and it still sucks today.  Why it was just yesterday that I added a sentence to the work that has no beginning and no end. 

As the daylight gets darker, and head towards the night, I think about the day, and how I wasted it with little or no effort on my part.  My existence has no meaning to no one  Yet; my only friend is the minutes that pass me by, without even looking back.  I’m on the Titanic, and as I go down, I notice time is mocking me from a great distance.  If I stay alive, it is only to mark my time here as a form of habit.  I collect time like a little girl who keeps up her Barbie collection in order.  

I have memories of the time that is neither good or bad.  Sentimental feelings went down the bathtub drain, as I sat in the luke warm water complimenting the passage of time.  The subject matter of time, as the foundation for one’s narrative, is a tricky procedure.  How does a writer express the anxiety that comes with moments passing by, and not coming to any conclusion, except that the journey from Point A to Point B is an emotional disaster?   The adventure is the destination to who knows where.  “Ordinary life doesn’t interest me.”  I realize that I have no interest whatsoever in anything to do with entertaining another.  For the reader, I can’t imagine the horror of reading this text.     

- Tosh Berman

Friday, July 14, 2017

"Night Music: Essays on Music 1928-1962 by Theodor W. Adorno (Seagull Books)

ISBN: 978-0857424501 Seagull Books
What I know of classical music is what I hear on record/vinyl/cd.   Beyond that, almost nothing.  My reaction to Classical it totally musical, and the occasional liner note on the back cover of the album.  With curiosity, I picked up Theodor W. Adorno's "Night Music," in the hopes of learning more about this form of music as well as dipping into the brain of Adorno, one of the leading 'thinkers' of the Frankfurt School of critical theory.  Adorno was also a composer, and what is interesting about "Night Music" is that it was written from the late 1920s to 1962.  The essays are not organized in chronicle order, but in a manner that is very readable.  The book consists of two collections of texts "Moments musicaux" and "Theory of New Music."  When Adorno speaks of new music, he's not talking about Cage (who does get a brief mention in a later essay) but composers of his generation and time, for instance, Schönberg, who is the main figure in these series of writings, along with Berg, Webern, and Ravel.  There is also the commentary on Beethoven, Wagner, and Bach, but the heart of the book is on the Second Viennese School of music.  For one, it's interesting to read these essays knowing that they were written during a time when Schönberg and Ravel were active and doing music.  One is not looking back, but at the present when these essays were written.   The writing for me is readable, but also difficult due to its density and Adorno's knowledge of music.  People who are either serious fans of Classical (especially 20th-century) or musicians will jump on this book with no problem, but for the guy or gal, it's a serious journey into the rabbit hole that is music.   Seagull Books who published "Night Music" should get special notice for the design of the book, and their great taste in titles.  Also, Wieland Hoban did a fantastic job in doing the translation from German to English.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Lun*na Menoh: "A Ring Around The Collar" Fashion Show 2017 with Les Sewing Sisters, July 22, 2017

Lun*na Menoh: "A Ring Around The Collar Fashion Show 2017, with Les Sewing Sisters July 22, 2017

All photos by Steven Nilsson & Jennifer Cheung

Contact Information : (562) 999-2267

ArtExchange - ArtX with the Long Beach Museum of Art

Lun*na Menoh “ A Ring  Around The Collar: fashion show 2017”


Lun*na Menoh “A Ring Around The Collar: fashion show 2017,”
with Les Sewing Sisters
Date: Saturday, July 22, 2017
Time: 8:00 P.M.

ArtExchange - ArtX with Long Beach Museum of Art presents “Lun*na Menoh, A Ring Around The Collar Fashion Show 2017.”

Taking place at ArtExchange Gallery, 356 East 3rd Street, Long Beach, CA, 90802 and featuring art performance/ music band Les Sewing Sisters.

Unlike a commercial fashion show, Lun*na Menoh ’s fashion show is more of a “de-fashion show.”  There are Runway models changing outfits one after another but Menoh’s clothing, although wearable, is more conceptual in theme and practice. For this event/performance,  Menoh’s theme of the fashion show is “ A Ring Around The Collar”  which is also the title of the exhibition of her artwork that is taking place at ArtExchange/ArtX.   Menoh worked on "A Ring Around The Collar" art/clothing project for 18 years, and this is her first fashion show in Long Beach.  The majority of the wearable clothing is made by dirty stained white collars or the image of the dirty collar.

In addition, Les Sewing Sisters will perform their music before the fashion show.

Les Sewing Sisters are Lun*na Menoh’s music project with Saori Mitome, which uses the sewing machine as a music instrument.  All music heard by Les Sewing Sisters are original sounds that come from the sewing machine and then altered through electronics, which in turn changes noise into music.  Les Sewing Sisters is a mixture of spoken word, singing, jazz-influenced pop, with a side of hip-hop, yet danceable experimental noise music. All the lyrics are about dressmaking, sewing, fashion, and clothing.

Also a short video for the program:

"A Ring Around The Collar" 7 min video
Directed by Jeff Mizushima

A video directed by Jeff Mizushima on the history of Lun*na Menoh's collecting and using men's dirty white collars for her artwork.  Ten years of the artwork and fashion shows that Lun*na directed and made with respect to her art. 

 "Lun*na Menoh has brilliantly narrowed the catwalk between art and haut couture, fashioning work that adorn bodies with thrilling ingenuity and restyles our mind.”
- Ralph Rugoff: Director of the Hayward Gallery, London

Monday, July 3, 2017

Paul McCarthy: "WS Spinoffs, Wood Statues, Brown Rothkos" July 1 - Sept 17, 2017 at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles

Paul McCarthy
WS, Bookends
Black walnut
Bookends (Horizontal) (12'): 365.8 x 304 x 444 cm / 144 x 119 5/8 x 174 3/4 inches (overall dimensions)
Bookends (Vertical) (14'): 444 x 303.7 x 365.8 cm / 174 3/4 x 119 5/8 x 144 inches (overall dimensions)

Paul McCarthy “WS Spinoffs, Wood Statues, Brown Rothkos” July 1 - September 17, 2017, Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles

Like many of my generation, Walt Disney’s “Snow White” has a strong presence in my life. The year I was born, so was Disneyland. So I feel very much like the child of Disney, and keep in mind, that I never actually saw the Disney "Snow White and the Seven Drawfs" film, but just the byproducts of the movie that is very much part of my childhood culture. Paul McCarthy and I are only nine years apart, so I feel that him being an American and McCarthy exposed to Disney’s world around the same time as I, there is a common understanding of that culture. Beyond that, I rarely think of Disney as an adult, even though where I live (Silver Lake / Los Feliz) there are traces of this man’s work and his world. Again, hard to avoid. Paul McCarthy jumps into the Disney world with both feet, hands, and head. 

His current exhibition at the Hauser Wirth in Los Angeles is a fascinating show on many levels. When I walked into the gallery and confronted with these massive sculptures, I’m struck by not only the size of the works, but also the Black Walnut wood textures that convey the image of Snow White, The Prince, the horse, and the Seven Drawfs. I tend to draw myself to art exhibitions that take me from the outside world into another world of the artist’s making. McCarthy’s work does that in the extreme. My childhood memories came back to me that instant when I entered the show. I see the work as a re-mix version of my take on Disney’s Snow White.

Snow White came into existence courtesy of the Brothers Grimm, which they published in their first edition of “Grimms’ Fairy Tales.” In German, it’s title is “Schneewittchen. The final version of the Grimms’ version of Snow White appeared in 1854, the birth year of Oscar Wilde and 100 years away from my birth date as well. Disney, like McCarthy, totally did a re-write of the folk tale to serve his aesthetic and perhaps pleasure. I think the exhibition is not a commentary on the Grimms take of the story, but involved and obsessed with the Disney version. 

The sculptures are so grand that I also thought of various portraits of Napoleon done when he was alive. Heroic, on a grand scale, with emotions on the skin level. The fact that these sculptures made out of wood have an organic feeling of nature being contained to make a human’s vision. There is also kitsch added to the mixture, which reminds me of going to my Grandma’s house and she too, with his "WS, Bookends," had fairy tale figures as bookends. Disney became not only a thought but also a product. If we have to think about Cambell Soup through the eyes of Warhol, then clearly we have to think of Walt under the telescope of McCarthy. 

Snow White here (and always in my opinion) is very sexual. The boundaries between The Prince and Snow White are explicitly joined where there is no space between the figures. The same goes for the Seven Drawfs. It’s a combination of an orgy, pleasure, and perhaps pain. On the walls are McCarthy’s “Brown Rothkos” which gives the entire exhibition a sense of balance and placement. For me, it is like putting a period after the sentence. What I’ve read of the Brown Rothkos is that they are carpeting laid out in McCarthy’s designed forest in his exhibition that took place at Park Avenue Armory in 2013, and this is the drippings and residue of the individual trees that are painted on these carpets. Placed on the wall gives the work an importance, but also a connection perhaps the sculptures in this show and the exhibition at the Park Avenue Armory. In other words, these pieces can stand alone but are also connected theme-wise with other artworks by McCarthy. Like Disney’s world, it’s “a small world.”

Lucky me, I can go back to the exhibition again and again. It is both a journey into my childhood obsessions with the Disney motif, but also McCarthy’s take on a landscape that most in my (our) generation can relate to. (Un)happy Trails!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

"The Subject Matter" by Tosh Berman

Hallo, I’m facing a blank page.  

The only words I can see are the ones above this sentence. 

I’m in search of a subject matter.  Although the subject isn’t coming to me. 

The subject matter is like a lover that is kept waiting.  Eventually, won’t come along at all. 

Reservations made at 4, and here I sit here waiting for the subject to come to me.

As I put the pen on the page, I can see reflections of the subject matter, but it’s always from a side view and not straight on. 

Ten minutes later I still wait, and the subject matter is beginning to mock me. 

I’m beginning to feel like a lounge lizard, and people are noticing that I just hang around

 The word here, a word there, oh for the push to add another word!  Well, the wait ever end?

The subject matter you taunt me.   I listen to a song and read a text, in the hope of obtaining you.

I want to remember, just to remember that I should be remembering, but alas, I forgot.

- Tosh Berman, July 1, 2017

Friday, June 30, 2017

"How To Be A Man: A Guide to Style and Behavior for the Modern Gentleman" by Glenn O'Brien (Rizzoli)

I'll read anything by the late and great Glenn O'Brien.  He wasn't the easiest writer to follow, since he moved around a lot from one publication to another, and had various positions in the commercial world for the fashion and magazine industry.  I discovered him when he wrote his music column in Interview Magazine sometime in the 1970s.  His wit and style came out when he wrote brief pieces on the bands that were performing in NYC during the height of the punk era.  "How To Be a Man: A Guide To Style and Behavior for The Modern Gentleman" is his masterpiece.

On the surface, this is a guidebook for the guy who is trying to improve himself, but there is something textural in this book that goes very deep into one's consciousness.  O'Brien wrote a column for GQ, and I suspect that this book is a collection of his writings from that publication.  The interesting thing is that it starts off with the subject matter of what it is like to a male in the 21st century, but then goes off on different tangents regarding class, politics, and how one carries himself in a world that seems pointless at times.  O'Brien makes sense of the chaos and gives advice in how one can handle themselves in this world of uncertainty.

O'Brien quotes Oscar Wilde (duh), Boris Vian, and various European and American authors, as well as dipping into the contemporary arts and music.  His range of interest is endless, and his love for culture is like a bottomless well. It never ends.  The book's format is tight chapters on specific subject matters.  "Socks," "Underwear," Shirts, and so forth.   It eventually springs to the topic of aging and death.   Since O'Brien passed away recently, it is quite moving (and hysterical) to read these later chapters in this book.  If one likes the essay writings of John Waters, then for sure, you will love Glenn O'Brien, and especially this book.   Lots of good advice, but it is also a great way of spending time with a unique character.  

Monday, June 26, 2017

"Vinyl Freak : Love Letters to a Dying Medium" by John Corbett (Duke)

ISBN: 978-0-8223-6366-8 Duke University Press

Perhaps it's due to my mood at the moment, but "Vinyl Freak" is the best book I have read on record collecting, or to be more specific, for the love of vinyl and music discovery. First of all, I read this book due to my friend Amber Noé, who suggested to me at a bookstore. She doesn't (at the moment) share my love for the vinyl world, but still, it was sweet of her to find this book for me. Second, I may only know eight albums here that the author John Corbett writes about. All, are obscure Jazz or experimental music albums. To say that they are obscure is like saying the night is dark. I never heard of these artists or their music. So, what is the purpose of someone like me reading a book on someone's collection that is mostly, if not all, entirely unknown?

Corbett recognizes the importance of sharing one's love of a collection and showing it to someone else. He not only shows this body of work but also explains what and where they came from. It's a geek book of course, but a very generous one, where the reader doesn't feel left out of the information or more importantly, the passion of such a collection.

The book is beautifully designed in that every album he writes about we can see the record cover as well. All entries listed here are not on CD or streaming, as of the publication's date. If you're a music collector, all this will do is make one keep a list to check out later. Corbett also writes an essay on the issues of collecting and his history of his passion. There is also an excellent piece at the end of the book regarding his over-the-top passion: Sun Ra. I sense there will be a separate detailed account of that subject matter in another book by Corbett. Nevertheless, this has been a total fun read for me and made me re-think what I do with my music blog regarding my collection. Learn from the master!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

"The Dream Colony: A Life in Art" by Walter Hopps (Bloomsbury USA), 2017

ISBN: 978-1632865298
Since my dad Wallace Berman is in the narrative of Walter Hopps own narrative, I was a little nervous to open up and read his memoir.  The fact is, there is a chapter here focusing on my father, and it is one of the best things I have read on Wallace.  On the other hand, Wallace did a solo show at the Ferus Gallery, where he got busted for pornography (this is the 1950s!), and the exhibition was closed down by the LAPD.   When my dad got some friends to go pick up the artwork from the gallery, the works went missing.  According to Walter in this book, my father destroyed the works.  This is not the case.  Someone at the gallery either caused the works to go missing, or they destroyed the artworks.   Either by accident or design, the whole exhibition disappeared. And without bitterness on my part, I feel Walter and Ed Kienholz are responsible for these works missing, due that they are the Ferus Gallery at the time.   Still, Wallace and Walter were very close friends.  I remember Walter from my childhood with fond memories.

"The Dream Colony" is an excellent memoir.  Although I do disagree with certain things (like above) and making it sound like my dad didn't like Irving Blum, which as far as I know is not the case at all - is a superb look of the Los Angeles art scene as well as an excellent series of narratives from Walter.  Reading the book I can hear his voice, and there is at least one great (and usually) hysterical story per page.  This is not a stuffy art bio or autobiography; this is the world seen through Walter's eyes.  He was a remarkable and very articulate lover of art.  He wasn't schooled in a specific school.  Walter allowed himself to roam through art collections and he pretty much knew art in a very instinct manner.

He was a man of great taste and had the brilliant talent of being in the right place at the right time.   Walter never wrote anything as far as I know.  He mostly dictated his essays and introductions to catalog through another's typing.  Everything here that Walter says about himself is basically true, and his lateness in doing things was legendary.   Still, he had the vision of giving my dad his first (and only, in his lifetime) gallery show, as well as giving Marcel Duchamp his first retrospective in Pasadena.  I was there at the Duchamp opening!

Deborah Treisman and Anne Doran did a fantastic job in editing this book.  Ed Ruscha's introduction is smart, warm, and entirely correct. I know it must be difficult to do a project like this, especially after Walter's passing.  "The Dream Colony," I think is one of the better books regarding the art world of the 20th century.  Walter always struck me as a romantic figure, and I can understand those who are seduced or swayed by his presence and thoughts on art.   He was the real deal.  And yes, I don't agree on certain narratives that run in this book, it is still Walter's story - and that is not a bad thing at all.