Thursday, June 30, 2016

"Like Cattle Towards Glow" by Dennis Cooper and Zac Farley

Great film. In a sexual landscape that is half awake with a strong hold on a dream world. Five segments where characters are all at an emotional or sexual (or both) heights. Beautifully textured with layers of sadness, yet with perfect dialogue. A great sense of pacing, with overtures to Robert Bresson and Michelangelo Antonioni in that sense, yet, Dennis and Zac made a film that is very much their world - both in a style and in its vision. Fantastic work.

- Tosh Berman

"Sign and Images" by Roland Barthes (Seagull Books)

ISBN 978-0857422415 Seagull Books
"Signs and Images" by Roland Barthes Translated by Chris Turner (Seagull Books)

Seagull Books (out of India) has been putting out these bite-size hardcover editions of Roland Barthes's writings.  What I have read so far, all wonderful.  This new one, "Signs and Images," is very well-titled.  A collection of essays, introductions, and brief writings on the image and what it represents to the world.  Here we get commentary on art, the cinema, and how a country like Japan deals with the issue of 'image, ' and how that reads to their citizens as well as to the western world (or at least in France).  Barthes is one of the very few foreign writers (Donald Richie is the other) who understands Japanese culture.  For him, it is almost a science with respect to researching the representation of images and how that translates into a form of reality, or at the very least, an interpretation of something - whatever it's in the cinema, an artwork, or a whole culture like Japan.   Reading Barthes work is wonderful, because it is thought-in-action. It's not the conclusion, but the journey that is important.  

-Tosh Berman

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Music I Listened to today on Vinyl (June 15, 2016)

"The History of Rock: 1967" by Uncut Magazine

"The History of Rock/1967" by Uncut Magazine

How can anyone who is not touched by pop music, can possibly avoid the publications edited by Uncut, that focuses on one year in rock, via the original articles from Melody Maker and New Musical Express.   The issue I have just read, "1967," is simply fascinating.   It was the year of "Smiley Smile," "Sgt. Pepper" and "Magical Mystery Tour," along with the dark psych sounds of the Stones' "Their Santanic Majesties Request."   On one level, it is like traveling back in time, but for me, it is being in the 'now, ' and looking back to the past.   The two previous issues "1965" and "1966" one sees a progression of the old style of pop writing, which is basically a PR for the music business.   "1966" you start getting more journalistic approach to the music world, as it got more serious and baroque like.   "1967" is the first year of Technocolor for the pop world.  The previous years were very much like a black and white film.  

Jimi Hendrix, who is the cover figure for "1967" is the perfect example of color (not only skin) becoming prominent in that culture.   A lot of clothing from that period looks like left-over designs from the turn of the century, but now in living color.   The Stones were always either in muted or dark colors or black and white, but "Santanic" album is one of bright colors.   Scott Walker with the Walker Brothers featured greatly in '65 and '66, but one would think of them as black and white as well.    So overall, pop in the 60's became one of color, when before, it was dark shades of gray or stark black and white.   Also one notice that the major Dylan presence in '65 and '66 is non-existent in 1967.   Yet, his sense of adventure is everywhere in pop music at the time.

And singles are still important, but albums are making a strong aesthetic stand in 1967.  "Pepper" is like a novel, and so is the Stones "Santanic" album, and if one reads carefully, the death of Brian Epstein sort of brings in the end of the manager superstar.  "1965" was sort of a new world, and '66 was a time of exploring, but 1967 was a year of spiritual awareness or curiosity (especially for the Fab Four), and one gets the impression by reading this publication that everything was about to end.  In what way, no one knew.   One thing that is interesting, is that questioning in the interviews with the many artists are in a serious vein.    Some on war, but a lot of chatting among the press and the artist on the subject matter of drugs (mostly due to the Stones being busted that year) as well as God.

In "1967" we are introduced to The Monkees, Bee Gees, Cream, Traffic, The Who, The Move, Syd's Pink Floyd and the first pop festival, Monterey. .    A touch of flower power as well.  Everything was peaking, but then, it dimmed quickly.

Music I Listened to today on Vinyl (June 14, 2016)

Monday, June 13, 2016

Music I Listened to today on Vinyl (June 13, 2016)

"The Magic Circle: On The Beatles, Pop Art, Art-Rock and Records" by Jan Tumlir (Onomatopee)

ISBN: 978-94-91677-43-4 Onomatopee

The Magic Circle: On The Beatles, Pop Art, Art-Rock and Records” by Jan Tumlir (Onomatopee)

Like it or not, The Beatles will always be the dividing line between acceptance and non-acceptance.  Those who hate The Fab Four, do so, just because they exist.  In a way, the issue is brought up in Yukio Mishima’s novel “The Temple of the Golden Pavilion.” Not specifically mind you, but the fact that the main character had to destroy and burn down the Golden Pavillion, because it such an iconic beauty, that he felt it restricted his life.  The Anti-Beatle people I suspect, feel the same way.   Not me, by the way.  I love the band.  Although I have to admit that I really don’t listen to them that much anymore, because their music is pretty much etched into my DNA.  I can just look at a Beatles album cover, and the melodies come right into my head via eyesight straight to the brain.  Jan Tumlir’s book on the later Beatle works and its culture sort of works in that same frame of mind.  It is a culture that one can’t escape from, and here, in great detail, he approaches the Beatle world via the visual arts as well as how they are placed in our world culturally.  

For instance, it is fascinating when Tunlir writes about the Beatle album covers from Sgt. Pepper to the so-called “White Album.” It’s fascinating how Peter Blake and Jann Haworth’s design for the Pepper cover is totally maximum but the White Album, designed by Richard Hamilton, is totally minimal.  It’s interesting to look at The Beatles music and product, and how in-tuned they were with the arts of the time.  In a sense, all roads led to the Beatles.  Tunlir uses John, George, Paul & Ringo as signs or sign posts to a culture that expanded, and yet, very important to its local (Liverpool, America) region.  Which in turn becomes the world. 

- Tosh Berman

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Steve Wolfe (1955-2016)

I'm very sad to hear about the death of Steve Wolfe, an artist that I greatly admire.  I saw his show about five years ago at the Whitney.  As a book and record geek, how can I possibly not love his work. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Bernard "Bernie" Sanders

I just want to show my appreciation for Bernard "Bernie" Sanders for running a great race for President. If it wasn't for you, it would have been a severe boring race between Clinton family vs. Bush family. (Good nod towards Trump as well for getting rid of the riffraff of the Republican party.) What I really like about you is that you stayed with the issues, and you were in your Brooklyn style, very polite and nice to the others. As the days turn, or the months, or even the years or decades (if we last that long) people will remember you for your wonderful campaign. You have brought up issues that the Clinton world would never bring up, so thank you for that as well. You're a good person Mr. Sanders. Thank you for the light that you brought to this election. Beyond that, and speaking for myself, I have no interest in the coming election. Good luck to all, and now, here comes the literature and music - Tosh Berman

Music I Listened to on Vinyl Today (June 9, 2016)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Tosh Berman and Michael Kohn Interviewed on Wallace Berman American Aleph exhibition

Michael Kohn is intrerviewed about the Wallace Berman American Aleph exhibition at the Kohn Gallery. And if you stay towards the end, I'm interviewed as well.
You Can't Eat The Sunshine
3 hrs
New podcast (episode 111): The Wild World of Wallace Berman
Join us for a special episode dedicated to the influential Los Angeles artist Wallace Berman (1926-1976). Our guests are Hollywood gallerist Michael Kohn, who walks us through the retrospective exhibition "Wallace Berman—American Aleph," on view at Kohn Gallery through June 25, 2016, and the artist's son, the author and publisher Tosh Berman, talking about his father's craft and character, and his importance in the mid-century West Coast cultural scene. 
We’ll also discuss the campaign to Save The Smell and with it the last remnants of the early 20th century Main Street entertainment zone, a lost episode of California's Gold with Huell Howser reminds us that Lummis House needs a lot of help, a troubling proposal to gut the Cecil Hotel (aka Stay On Main) and a new campaign to ensure Pershing Square’s historic monuments don’t fall by the wayside if the park is redesigned. All this and more as Kim & Richard usher in the month of June, 2016.

Monday, June 6, 2016

"Together Through Life: A Personal Journey with the Music of Bob Dylan" by Chris Morris (Introduction by Tosh Berman)

I wrote the introduction to Chris Morris' book on Bob Dylan called "Together Through Life: A Personal Journey with the Music of Bob Dylan."  The beauty of this book is though it does cover every Dylan album, but it is also a personal journal of sorts by the author, with respect what his life was going through, and he reflects on that, as well as each Dylan release of the time.   If you're a Dylan fan, this book is a must - but even if you're not a fan of his albums, one can still read this book as a personal memoir by Chris.  In a fashion, it is sort of a book like mine :  Sparks-Tastic  - in that I write about my favorite band, but nevertheless, it is really about me.  So "Together Through Life" is the ultimate Chris book about Dylan... And Chris.

Friday, June 3, 2016

"Antonin Artaud" by David A. Shafer (Reaktion Books)

ISBN: 978-1-78023-570-7 Reaction Books

"Antonin Artaud" by David A. Shafer (Reaktion Books)

There are certain figures that one grows up with, even though one may not understand their work, it is still part of one's DNA.   There were always images on the wall in our family household.  Jean Cocteau, Brigitte Bardot, and Antonin Artaud.  I eventually as a teenager, started to read his works, more out of curiosity, and family duty than anything else.   I have read countless books on Artaud which in truth, there are probably more books on him, than say his writings.  Still, the image of Artaud is a very strong one.   He had a beautiful handsome face when young, and as an adult and a drug addict - still pretty sharp looking!  If this was death and pain, I'll pick up a six-pack of it please!

Yet, the surface is not everything, and as one dwells into his writings and drawings, one discovers an inner world where communication is muted by disease, mentally as well as physically - and to somewhat break that wall between audience and performer.  Artaud in most circles is thought of as a theater artist - especially with his manifesto "Theater of Cruelty."   The grand-dad of happenings, and 20th century experimental theater practices, Artaud is the guiding light of everything that is wonderful abut the spirit trying to leave the sick body and mind - yet, of course, there is usually some sort of payment in the end.   David A. Shafer wrote a really nice and brief - yet smart - biography and study on Artaud for the great Reakton Critical Lives Series. 

It's a sad narrative of a life of a genius that was side-tracked by madness and therefore a prolonged spell in various mental hospitals.  Yet, one can never forget Artaud's image as an actor and as a visionary that moved out of the shadows to express sincere angst against a world that abandoned or tortured him.  I fully appreciate why my dad had his photo in his studio and elsewhere.  Oh, and he was a beautiful looking man. 

- Tosh Berman

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Gene Vincent "Be-Bop-A-Lula" 1963 (Reelin' In The Years Archives)

A rather manic version of "Be-Bop-A-Lulu" by the great Gene Vincent.  Eros + physical pain = bliss.  His performance always remind me of Georges Bataille for some reason.  Vincent, when he sings/performs, his eyes are towards the heavens.