Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Art Review: The 2009 Williamsburg Art & Historical Society Group Show, Part 1

On Sunday, March 15, 2-5 PM the Williamsburg Art & Historical Society hosts a panel discussion on a continually nagging problem: why, though women are prominent as art collectors, curators, museum directors and gallerists, are women so underrepresented in public collections? Panelists addressing the situation include Dorian Bergen (ACA Galleries), Katherine Griefen (A.I.R. Gallery), Dena Muller (Art Table), art critic and writer Andrzel Lawn, artist Lili Bita, and some others. The WAH Center quotes a recent New York Magazine article, and the statistics are far worse than a devotee of the arts would assume: women artists only make up 5% of the collection at MoMa, still only 15% at the supposedly cutting-edge Whitney, and a shocking 1% (that’s right, one percent) at the Frick. If these numbers are really accurate, they’re stunning, because what’s onsale, at least in New York, seems to reach far closer to gender parity. Even here at Lucid Culture, with a mission of giving equal time to women artists and musicians, we’re still running about 60/40 male. Other than the obvious, long-running problems, what gives?

 

It’s not that the WAH Center isn’t holding up their end. Essentially, this year’s group show is divided into two parts: the current one representing the generation of women born before 1950 is up through April 12; the second, featuring younger women artists opens April 25. Predictably, there are many highlights.

 

Carol Quint is back with her delightfully ghoulish, timely sculpture, some looking authentically and eerily skeletal. There’s a cemetery scene, each skeleton affixed to the front of its black slate tombstone like a convict about to be executed. In the back, a couple of them have fallen over. Or have been pushed over. There’s a meditative skeleton in a lotus position in an easy chair. The most aptly playful one is a black plastic toy hot rod with an elaborate, specially modified engine and exhaust system made out of bones.

 

Liz Biddle has several multimedia works on display. Earthtoned or eerily orange insects appear out of focus, perhaps underwater, painted on acrylic, one work centered around a dangling, rusting, empty light socket. Another has a strikingly authentic nipple protruding from the edge, looking anything but erotic, in the corner past a wallsize, scattered assemblage of eerie, totemlike objects. It’s impossible to walk past without stopping.

 

Regina Granne undoubtedly had no intent to steal the show but she does, with a selection of intensely impactful, war-themed oil pastels from her show Shadowed World, Shattered World. Missiles are represented by paper airplanes folded out of some nameless map, honing in on the terrain below, blank white silhouettes of soldiers with their weapons at hand posed like toy soldiers. Another large work intersperses religious images from some shattered stained-glass window among black-and-white portrayals of grief, anguish and terror, parents, widows and civilians looking straight out of a Frontline documentary on Gaza. The most powerful of all of these are two smaller paintings, the background of each done in an awkward, childlike style. The first is a scrawled child’s self-portrait being blown up by one of those paper airplanes; the second has the paper airplane (a CIA drone, maybe?) zooming in on a comfortable, cozily innocent 2-D rendering of a childhood home. Polemical? Absolutely. Subtle? No, but Art Lite never stopped a war. Remember, innocent Iraqis, Palestinians, and Afghanis along with American troops are still being killed as you read this.

 

The downstairs room at the center also are also some memorable Judy Chicago and Faith Ringgold linotypes on display, notably Chicago’s iconic, sepiatoned 1972 earth mother getting the life sucked out of her by her hordes of greedy, desperate children.

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March 9, 2009 Posted by | Art, review, Reviews | 1 Comment

CD Review: Balthrop, Alabama – Subway Songs and Cowboy Songs

Two brand-new eps from the multistylistic Brooklyn music mob. True to the band’s signature shtick (Balthrop, Alabama style themselves as a little Southern town relocated to the BK), a lot of people were involved with making these albums and in general they acquit themselves well. Perhaps because of the sheer number of contributors, the band’s ability to fluently channel a ridiculous number of styles from decades ago to the present day is uncanny, and spectacularly so. The first of the two, Subway Songs is delightfully gruesome, lushly and imaginatively produced with layers of vocals, horns, keys and a variety of rustic stringed instruments. It also doesn’t seem to have the slightest thing to do with subways. It opens with Subway Horns, theatrical gypsyish ska punk like World Inferno. Bride of Frankenstein, which follows, is southwestern gothic with some biting slide guitar in the style of Friends of Dean Martinez. Prom Story is an amusingly and musically spot-on spoof of early 60s girl group ghoul-pop; Ocean’s Arms adds a faux Irish tinge to an immigrant’s tale gone drastically awry.

 

Red Hook Pool is a fast, upbeat folk-rock number spiced with banjo, a dead ringer for a Phil Ochs pop hit from, say, Tape from California, 1967. It, too comes to a grisly conclusion after the rain starts, morphing strangely into a vintage style soul song after a long instrumental vamp. With its beautiful, soaring vocals, the 6/8 ballad My Way the Highway sounds like what Caithlin de Marrais might have done if she’d been alive in 1965. At least nobody seems to die in this one.

 

Cowboy Songs explores a satirical concept. Trouble is, between Ween’s Twelve Golden Country Greats album, the Inbreeds, and David Allan Coe, there isn’t much country music territory left  to parody, and this doesn’t exactly add anything to the canon. The musicianship here is all first-rate, and in fact some of these songs are so period-perfect that they could be from Nashville in the mid-60s – but as b-sides. Old Cowboy Queer sounds like a ripoff of I Thought I Was Country Til I Found I Was Queer by fellow Brooklynites the Illbillies (now Maynard and the Musties), which achieved some notoriety about ten years ago. There are also thoughtful attempts at crafting a slowly swinging romantic ballad and an oldschool Ray Price-style shuffle. And then they end it on a tongue-in-cheek apocalyptic note. Balthrop, Alabama plays the cd release for these two at the 92YTribeca on 3/13 on an excellent bill with the Ukuladies and the Moonlighters starting at about 9:30 PM.

March 9, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The Wiyos with Steppin In It at Joe’s Pub, NYC 3/7/09

by Vanessa Lee Raymond

 

Joe’s Pub was cooking this Saturday night and the packed room positively hummed in anticipation. We found a perch at the bar just before the start of the show, and were pleased to find our drinks slung by none other than that ole whiskey drinker Josiah Early, a fellow roots musician.

 

Openers Steppin’ In It did us proud with their easy, laid-back oldtimey vibe. Frontman Joshua Davis kept the tone sweet and low with melodious vocals. Steel guitarist Joe Wilson did a small amount of show stealing, but we didn’t mind. And we must concede that the band is definitely getting their bang for their buck with accordionist/trumpeter/harmonica player Andy Wilson. In fact, across the board, the group’s lean roots songwriting matched their impressive musicianship. The sheer number of instruments the quartet played was astonishing – if anyone can explain the roster of oddly shaped mouth harps and flutes Wilson played throughout the evening, do tell. We’re intrigued.

 

Under the Wiyos’ marquee the stage became a street market for sounds, each musician hawking his wares in earnest. In addition to stellar steel guitar playing, driving bass, a theatre of vocals and solid guitar, we were presented with harmonicas, kazoos, wash-board, twin megaphones, beat box vocals, ukulele and an array of vocalizations and miniature noise-makers. The evening was marked with driving rhythms and witty repartee. Michael Farkas on lead vocals wooed the crowd with his winsome looks and shoe-shiner’s voice. Joebass lost his hat in the midst of a particularly hard-hitting tune. Parrish Ellis imparted a revealing road story (I thought what happens on tour stays on tour, no?) and educated us on the complex grammar of “faux-French.” The crowd was caught up in a circus of sound that whirled in with a beat boxer and whooshed out with a 10-piece encore comprised of the two touring bands and two special guests.

 

All in all we’re glad to see that the Wiyos are keeping good company, and it’s good to see them stop by their old stomping grounds every once in a while. We hope they make good on their promise to present the 10-piece ensemble next time they’re in town.

March 9, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Wendy & Lisa – White Flags of Winter Chimneys

An unexpected treat. The duo’s first new studio effort in ten years finds them taking the quantum leap they’d always hinted they might have in them. Most of the new album White Flags of Winter Chimneys is moody, atmospheric, often dreampop-inflected anthems that give more than a nod and a wink to the Cure, layers of watery guitar and keys floating over slow hypnotic beats. With the 80s revival now seemingly a permanent part of the culture, Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman picked an auspicious time to release this.

 

The cd’s big, opening ballad, Balloon moves along resolutely on a variation of the big hook from Floyd’s Us and Them, matched to a ghostly choir of pensive vocals. Invisible, a ridiculously catchy, guitar-fueled rocker would be the big radio hit if anyone still listened to commercial hit radio: “The sun is gone, I made it disappear…Invisible, I will never be,” Melvoin sings defiantly. There are also a couple of overtly Radiohead-influenced numbers here, the somewhat minimalist Ever After and the album’s closing Sweet Suite, which is totally Kid A, building to a very big and very Thom Yorke crescendo complete with a shape-shifting rhythm and layers of echoey guitar.

 

Salt & Cherries is a playful come-on: “It’s a beautiful day to come over and play with you in the dark.” The pretty, downtempo pop Red Bike cleverly nicks one of the ancillary guitar licks from Stairway to Heaven. With its sparse guitar and vocals, You and I has the feel of a great long-lost track by the Lindsey Buckingham-era Fleetwood Mac if that band had had any self-awareness, with particularly beautiful vocals: “Darkness is only home for the night, and you and I are running out of time.”

 

Of all the bonus tracks currently available with this via the band’s site, only a 1992 demo, The Dream hints at anything substantial. With Lush defunct, Siouxsie and the Cure having become nostalgia acts, this will inevitably find its way into every goth night and onto every retro 80s-ist’s ipod. Good for them.

March 9, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Song of the Day 3/9/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Monday’s song is #506:

Ian Hunter – Rain

If you count everything in the guy’s prolific post-Mott the Hoople career, Hunter’s got a pretty impressive catalog of gloomy, Lou Reed-ish glamrock. This is a big, swirling, stately, elegaic anthem with towering, monumental post-Sandinista production by the Clash’s Mick Jones. Mp3s are kicking around; if you’re looking for vinyl, it’s on the Short Back and Sides lp from 1981 (link is to a choice of torrents).

March 9, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment