My family is in New York briefly for a Bat Mitzvah, and I found myself with a free hour yesterday near the Metropolitan Museum of Art. At first, my reaction was….Covid…museums…another missed experiential opportunity. But when I approached the steps of the legendary art institution and saw how uncrowded it was…and really having a deep desire to check out their Surrealism Beyond Borders show, I decided to venture in.
The surrealism exhibit has been exhaustedly covered in the art press, some critics praising its breath and scope, others suggesting many of the works falling shy of true surrealist ambitions. What I encountered was an incredible collection of crazed art…paintings, films, sculptures, music….most of which I was unfamiliar with, lovingly curated by a group of people whose passion for the modern subject of surrealism bled through every room of the exhibit. The journey they lead me through, from country to country, decade to decade, from the early 20th century to its end, might at times be beyond Surrealism, but was always compelling…and many time truly exciting.
Yes, the regular suspects were represented: Dali, Miro, Breton. But it was the artists I did not know that were the highlight. The opening room features the incredible Armoire Surrealiste by Marcel Jean, which is a real mid-century wardrobe closet painted to make appear that there are many doors beyond the real ones opening up into beautiful alternative landscapes. Which are the real key holes and which are the painted ones? I could have zoned out onto that piece for the whole hour.
But luckily, I didn’t, or I would have missed seeing the incredible allegorical Triptych by Remedios Varo, whose three paintings had been united for this exhibition, as well as Mayo’s Coups de Bâtons…with its characters in the midst of a political riot, all interconnected through the stretchy, drippy style of the surrealist. The exhibition digs deep into how artists from around the world found surrealism as great way of expressing the dark political issues they were confronted with, and how many were imprisoned…tortured…because of their art. Mozambique’s Maleangatana Ngwenya, whose untitled beautiful yet violent cannibalistic orgy is a showstopper, became “part of a network of African artists who drew upon Surrealism in the anticolonial struggle” as others did in their countries.
But the piece I found most inspiring was one that showcased a whole other aspect of Surrealism, not of war and violence but of camaraderie and togetherness. In 1976 Ted Joans started an exquisite corpse drawing...where an artist starts a drawing, with another adding to it, and so on…that traveled the globe for 30 years (2 years past Joans’ death) connecting with 132 participants including a whose-who of surrealist artists and beyond: Bruce Conner, William Burroughs, Paul Bowles, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Dorothea Tanning (whose paintings are also featured in the exhibit), Milford Graves and on and on and on and on. I walked down the length of the corpse, aptly named Long Distance…a visual diary from the great artists of the day (while blues music was echoing from the next-door gallery chronicling the surrealist scene of mid-60s Chicago) in awe of its achievement. Each artist represented such a different style and story…all together on one long long sheet of paper that had traveled thousands of miles over three decades.
The Long Distance was a great ending to a show that will stick with me for a long long time.
"We find absurd, and deserving of total disdain, the religious, racist and nationalist prejudices that make up the tyranny of certain individuals who, drunk on theor own temporary omniscience, seek to subjugate the destiny of the work of art….Intellectuals, writers, artists! Let us take on the challenge together. We are totally united with this degenerative art….Let us work for its victory over the new Middle Age that is rising up in the very midst of the West.”-Long Live Degenerate Art, 1938
True friendships are wonderful, precious things. Camus and poet Char had one, meeting regularly in Provence, paying tribute to the other in their published works… Camus even mentioning Char in his Nobel Prize speech. For anyone who is fluent in Persian, here is an opportunity to dig into their 12 years of letter writing. “It is this common requirement of Beauty as a political response to the excesses of ideology that unites the two artists at the end of the war.”
Great interview, with a deep dive into finding humor through pain. And who knew Buscemi was once a stand-up comic?
Nothing like a local paper, like Thurston County, Washington’s Thurston Talk, to do a deep dive into a moment in time that otherwise would be lost forever. Today would have been Ike Turner’s 90th birthday. The deeply problematic founder of rock n roll hits this milestone with no recognition whatsoever on the internet, wiped out because of the evil actions that permanently mar his legacy. I met Ike several times as he attempted to make a come-back near the end of his life. Hell, I once mistakenly knocked a cowboy hat worn by Little Milton off his head, which flew and hit Ike in the face. When he looked up at me and smiled, I was not sure what was going to happened next. Ike had a dark dark energy…you could feel it when you were in his presence; he was a scary guy. And, his production of Rocket 88, based on Jimmy Liggins’ Cadillac Boogie, changed EVERYTHING, helping birth an era of some of the greatest music of all time.
A great deep dive into long-time Lobosian, talking about the bands great new covers homage to east LA as well as some of the work we have done together through Reboot, namely the new score he participated in for The Ten Commandments and The Golem…..
I knew all about Leland Stanford’s many séances held in attempt to communicate with his son…but had no idea of the crazed ending of his widow. This is a compelling read about the unsolved murder of Jane Lathrop Stanford in 1905….
WEEKEND LISTEN: The Return of Wayne Douglas (Doug Sahm)
Tomorrow is Doug Sahm’s birthday…a perfect excuse to listen to all of the music he made during his life. The Return of Wayne Douglas was his last record, finished after he passed away suddenly in Santa Fe. My friend Bill Bently and I got to help Doug put this record together…a mix of some of the old favorites and new ones he had been recently writing (including his thumb at modern country music Oh No, Not Another One). His re-do of Beautiful Texas Sunshine and his cover of Dylan’s Love Minus Zero are worth the price of admission right there. The classic country band he put together, with pedal steel and twin fiddles abound, is just glorious. I miss you all the time, Doug. Happy Birthday.
Forehead Of The Rose
By: René Char (Translated by Mary Ann Caws)
Despite the open window in the room of long absence, the odor of the rose is still linked with the
breath that was there. Once again we are without previous experience, newcomers, in love. The
rose! The field of its ways would dispel even the effrontery of death. No grating stands in the way.
Desire is alive, an ache in our vaporous foreheads.
One who walks the earth in its rains has nothing to fear from the thorn in places either finished or
unfriendly. But if he stops to commune with himself, woe! Pierced to the quick, he suddenly flies to
ashes, an archer reclaimed by beauty.