Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Photo Review: David Lynch at Morrison Hotel Gallery, NYC

“I’ve got to learn more about this guy!” the college-age girl in the expensive dress exclaimed from behind her bangs.

“You know, if I was seeing this exhibit and I didn’t know who the photographer was, I would say that he was ripping off David Lynch,” the guy with the backpack to her right grinned. “I wasn’t aware that he also did photography.”

The girl looked at him quizzically.

“A lot of these look like movie stills, don’t you think?” the guy asked.

The girl looked confused. “I’ve never heard of him,” she explained.

The guy leaned in gently: maybe there was some confusion. “Blue Velvet? Did you ever see that? Wild at Heart?” He reached for an obscure one: “The Straight Story?”

No reaction.

“Eraserhead?”

The girl shook her head. “I really like his stuff, though.”

Which in a way perfectly crystallizes everything that’s wrong with the art scene in New York, 2010. The one college sophomore in town with zero awareness of who David Lynch might be, and she’s one of the few who actually had the fortune to get into last night’s invite-only opening of his photo show at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in the old CB’s Gallery Space at Bowery and Bleecker. Ten thousand film students from throughout the five boroughs would have enthusiastically paid good money to take her place.

The exhibit collects fifty characteristically stylized, noir photos – both color and black-and-white – that Lynch contributed to the new album Dark Night of the Soul, a collaboration with the late Mark Linkous, a.k.a. Sparklehorse. In a way, it makes sense that Lynch would find himself at home with Linkous’ sad, bucolic, Big Star-inflected Americana rock songs: behind the violence and the menace, Lynch’s characters long for a safe haven amid comfortable surroundings. There are plenty of both on display here. While the show is an absolute must-see for dedicated Lynch fans, it also doesn’t break any new ground: Lynch the filmmaker and Lynch the photographer are one and the same.

All the shots come in sets of three or four. The black-and-whites have an expectedly grainy Eraserhead feel. Aside from a couple of predictable down-and-out portraits, the best of these seems to be an overhead shot of a homeless woman’s shopping cart, her shadow juxtaposed with a lurid poster of a woman’s face staring to the side atop it.

The most indelibly Lynchian of these is a set of four that could have been Wild at Heart stills. Its centerpiece depicts a quartet of uniformed policemen ineptly trying to hose down a man whose lower extremities are dripping some ominous blue-green substance. A couple of neighborhood middleschool kids look on, puzzled, in the background. A close-up of the two kids adds detail, as does an absolutely classic shot of a girl flipping the bird from the backseat of a two-toned, half primer-painted 1972 Nova sedan.

Lynch indulges his lightning-in-the-eyes fixation in another foursome: headshots of a screaming man, shaking and blurry, with the last in the series being a shot of railroad cars passing in the night. His iconic child/demon creature makes an appearance, in the form of what looks like a cross between a patched-together Mayan sculpture and a twistedly cartoonish, reassembled pinata. Meanwhile, a child plays in the dirt behind it, oblivious.

Another series of four features a smiling man in what looks to be a trance amidst a shower of Christmas ornaments and then shards of glass; almost predictably, there’s also a frame of an emergency services Econoline van speeding beneath a billboard of the guy suspended in midair, blissed out as everywhere else.

Which perfectly captures the show’s appeal. The master noir filmmaker of this era (and the one before that, for that matter), Lynch’s images provoke, intrigue and induce the occasional gruesome smile. Most of these also have all the subtlety of that Econoline van – or the flying man – hitting a grimy brick wall. After dark, of course, under flickering neon light. The gallery has advertised limited edition prints of all of the photos on display here, which at their typically surprisingly affordable prices have most likely been snapped up already. But you can still look. Hours at the Bowery gallery are noon to 7 PM Tuesday through Sunday.

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July 14, 2010 Posted by | Art, photography, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 7/14/10

Just about two weeks til our best 666 songs of alltime countdown reaches #1…and then we start with the 1000 best albums of alltime. Wednesday’s song is #15:

Phil Ochs – Doesn’t Lenny Live Here Anymore

While the Lenny of the title was inspired by the great Lenny Bruce, this isn’t exactly a funny song. As Lincoln Mayorga’s organ weaves around, Ochs paints an unforgettably seedy tableau where a “haggard ex-lover of a longtime loser” searches for him in vain. At the end, in an evocation of the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention riots, “the shoulders charge, the boards of the barricade are splintered,” but it’s too late. From Rehearsals for Retirement, 1969.

July 14, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

George Steinbrenner – An Appreciation

The individual most responsible for the increase in baseball ticket prices over the last several years, George Steinbrenner died yesterday afternoon of a heart attack in his native Tampa. He was 80. Steinbrenner had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease since at least the early part of the zeros. Convicted felon, full-blown sociopath, on-and-off owner and figurehead of the New York Yankees, Steinbrenner would outbid any other team for free-agent talent – as well as for scores of players who were considerably less talented. Steve Kemp, Rawly Eastwick, Chuck Knoblauch, Bob Shirley and Ed Whitson may only be remembered today by diehard fans, but they cost Steinbrenner millions. To keep pace, other teams joined in the bidding wars, and their team salaries rose – as did ticket prices, since club owners passed those costs on to the fans. Meanwhile, the family firm that Steinbrenner inherited, American Shipbuilding, struggled and eventually filed for bankruptcy in 1993.

As Alzheimers set in, Steinbrenner’s sons Hank and Hal kept with the program: when Yankee third baseman (and admitted steroid cheat) Alex Rodriguez opted out of his contract in 2007, the Yankees rewarded the pumped-up slugger with a new $275 million, ten-year deal. The Steinbrenner sons also engineered the construction of a brand-new Yankee Stadium (this time using taxpayer money), to replace the fully functional, architecturally exquisite original ballpark that Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and Yogi Berra once called home.

George Steinbrenner’s felony conviction stemmed from illegal campaign contributions to the 1972 Richard Nixon campaign; Steinbrenner copped a guilty plea and was fined. In 1989, he hired a smalltime con artist, Howard Spira, to spy on the Yankees’ future Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, ostensibly to get out of an onerous, multi-year contract with the star. Spira eventually went to jail for extortion; Steinbrenner was not criminally charged, but was banned from baseball for life by then-commissioner Fay Vincent. He was reinstated by Milwaukee Brewers owner Bud Selig after Selig led a cabal of owners to oust Vincent in 1993.

Steinbrenner’s spendthrift ways frequently met with success: the Yankees won several pennants and World Championships under his ownership. But there were just as many lean years where losses outnumbered wins. In good times and bad, Steinbrenner waged war with his players, his front office personnel and pretty much anyone with whom he came in contact. This was best exemplified by his codependent relationship with five-time manager Billy Martin, a favorite verbal punching bag and chronic alcoholic who died drunk behind the wheel. Steinbrenner’s ability to find fault knew no bounds: the most trivial matters, such as the state of a player’s facial hair, would spark tirades that often veered off into incoherence. He went through publicists, general managers, coaches and stadium personnel like he went through players: his employees cursed him even as a relative few of them enjoyed the benefits of his lavish spending. If there is a hell, he can look forward to spending time there with fellow owners like the Cincinnati Reds’ Marge Schott.

July 14, 2010 Posted by | baseball, New York City, obituary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments