Thursday, May 26, 2016

"True Homosexual Experiences: Boyd McDonald and Straight to Hell" by William E. Jones

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

Curatorial Walk-Through of "Wallace Berman: American Aleph" with Claudia Bohn-Spector, Sam Mellon, and Tosh Berman

Please join us for a private curatorial walk-through of "Wallace Berman: American Aleph" with Claudia Bohn-Spector, Sam Mellon and Tosh Berman. 

Followed by a book signing of the newly published hardbound illustrated catalogue. Catalogue available for purchase.

Please RSVP to or 323-461-3311

Wallace Berman American Aleph L.A. Times Review by David Pagel

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.
Wallace Berman's "Untitled (Multi-color Shuffle, A-4 Neil Young)," 1969, Verifax collage with acrylic.
Wallace Berman's "Untitled (Multi-color Shuffle, A-4 Neil Young)," 1969, Verifax collage with acrylic. (Wallace Berman Estate and Kohn Gallery)
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.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

"Paris Vagabond" by Jean-Paul Clébert; Introduction by Luc Sante (NYRB)

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. 

"Wallace Berman: American Aleph" Installation Photographs (Kohn Gallery

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:

Friday, May 13, 2016

"The Mysterious Underground Men" by Osamu Tezuka, edited by Ryan Holmberg (PictureBox)

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. 

Wallace Berman American Aleph Catalog available at the Kohn Gallery

For those who want to purchase the Wallace Berman American Aleph catalog can do so, at the moment, at the Kohn Gallery.   If not in Los Angeles (shame on you!) one can purchase copies here: