Friday, December 18, 2020

Cultural Recommendations in this COVID Year

Erik Larson's The Splendid and the Vile was published by Crown Publishers in February. (Photo: Nina Subin)

Pandemic or not, culture continues on. Here are some recommended books, CDs, DVDs and magazines you might want to purchase for the holidays, as presents for others or just to treat yourself.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

The Democratic Muse: Invoking the Future

Invocation Democracy, a virtual exhibition Curated by Monet Clark for Pro Arts Commons in Oakland California. October 30, 2020 - January 20, 2021

Featured artists in this exhibition:
April Bey • Monet Clark • Karen Finley • Edgar Fabián Frías • Frightwig and Timothy Crandle • Guillermo Gómez-Peña • John DiLeva Halpern • Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds • Jamil Hellu • Dale Hoyt • Merritt Johnson • Facing West Shadows / Lydia Greer and Caryl Kientz • Minnette Lehmann • Sang Chi Liu • Jennifer Locke • Darrin Martin • Ann McCoy • Lady Monster • Linda Montano • Shalo P • Charles Schneider • Christine Shields • John Sims • Mariee Sioux and Kacey Johansing • Penny Slinger • Emily Harris and Dano Wall • Liz Walsh


“Art provides us with a liminal space wherein momentary suspensions from our patterned thoughts and identities can be experienced, allowing for us to align with new states of awareness.” – Monet Clark, curator.

I have to say, as a culture critic who writes about visual art in all its manifestations, whether painted, photographed, filmed or performed, this curatorial definition of what an artifact is or might be strikes me as being among the most prescient I’ve encountered. It brings to mind one of Hannah Arendt’s insights into the nature of the art making process and its objects. It is central to what Arendt referred to as “The Life of the Mind”: “What are we ‘doing’ when we do nothing but think? Where are we when we, normally always surrounded by our fellow men, are together with no one but ourselves? It is more than likely that men, if they were ever to lose the appetite for meaning we call thinking and cease to ask unanswerable questions, would lose ... the ability to produce those thought-things that we call works of art ... ”

Monday, December 14, 2020

Hollywood Hill People: Hillbilly Elegy

Haley Bennett, Gabriel Basso and Amy Adams in Hillbilly Elegy. (Photo: Lacey Terrell/Netflix)

It’s hard to believe that Ron Howard, the skillful technician and entertainer who directed Frost/Nixon and Rush and In the Heart of the Sea, could also have turned out the new Hillbilly Elegy. But in a sense he didn’t. It was made by that other Ron Howard, the one who gave us A Beautiful Mind, which turned Sylvia Nasar’s brilliant biography of the mathematician John Nash into a fairy tale and was about as profound an exploration of mental illness as The Snake Pit, and Cinderella Man, which turned an exciting boxing narrative into an emotionally manipulative David-and-Goliath story pumped out of a Depression-era tearjerker, and Apollo 13, which felt like a promo for the NASA space program. All seven of these movies are based on real-life stories, so why are some of them so convincing and the others so hopelessly phony?