Saturday, March 31, 2012

Itsa Small, Small World

by Drew Martin
I finally finished my dog sculpture this morning and then decided to drop it off at Family Business, which is Maurizio Cattelan and Massimiliano Gioni's tiny contemporary art space in Chelsea. It is part of Hennessey Youngman's (Jayson Musson) show Itsa Small, Small World.

I turned over the creature in a bit of a rush. Musson was there with a young lady. She looked at my sculpture and said to him "We'll take this, right?" (I heard them discussing they were not going to take any more pieces). Musson nodded and then said, "Wait a minute. What does it smell like?" My dog sculpture is made with metal coat hangers, air-drying clay, layers of papier-mâché and cotton. I dusted it with curry powder to dirty the white coat, so it has a strong odor. I explained, "It's a New York City dog!" and Musson complained a bit, "I know but it is a small space." I quickly filled out the paper work and left it in their hands. The working title for the sculpture was Howl but in a hurried moment, I wrote NY Shitty. The inspiration for this work was reiterated while approaching the gallery: numerous little dogs squatting and pooping on the sidewalks. Howl is the perpetually shitting dog. My walk to work every morning involves dodging these little K-9s. Their business is often just smeared into the concrete. I created Howl as a way to come to terms with this part of my city environment and crack-of-dawn experience. I had not intended him to be pungent but now that I think about it, it really adds to the piece. That is what dogs do...they stink up places. I also like that it is a sculpture with something that affects the olfactory sense. Most works of art have a default smell of the materials that comprise them, i.e. oil paint. I used a process that has been with me since my childhood: papier-mâché from all the piñatas we made for our parties, and cotton, which was used as my fur for my werewolf costume that was the theme for a few of my most memorable Halloweens. The starting point was the miserable little dog in Albert Camus' The Stranger.

Opening Reception: Tuesday, April 3rd at 6pm (I hope to see you there!)

Itsa Small, Small World
@ Family Business
520 W. 21st St.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Winnebago Man

by Drew Martin
I just watched Winnebago Man, (click left to see the trailer) a documentary about Jack Rebney, who is also known as "the angriest man in the world."

Rebney was a CBS newsman for part of his career. In 1989 he represented Winnebago for television advertisements. During a blistering summertime filming in the woods of Iowa, Rebney cursed at everything that moved. The handful of young men on the crew decided to keep the camera rolling to capture his raw exclamations. These outtakes were then compiled onto a VHS tape that was sent to the senior management of Winnebago, who promptly fired Rebney and spurred him to retreat to a cabin in northern California. Rebney was separated from his cult fame and lived like a recluse for two decades until he was tracked down by the filmmaker, Ben Steinbauer. 

The original tape of Rebney was copied and circulated around the States (and abroad) and spread like wildfire. Once YouTube was developed, it was posted there and went viral with millions of hits.  As the documentary unfolds, the rediscovered Rebney agrees to meet with Steinbauer but what we find is a calm and reflective old man at peace with himself. The moment is anticlimactic but also promising. Steinbauer returns home somewhat empty handed but is soon contacted by Rebney who claims he sugarcoated his interview and presented a "Mary Poppins" version of himself.  The cantankerous old man is alive and well and ready to speak up. So Steinbaurer returns to Rebney’s cabin and continues the film, which peaks with him making an appearance at a small theater where videos such as Rebney’s outtakes are shown.

Winnebago Man is an interesting film about media. It speaks to the transition of film/video to the immediacy of the Internet, cyber-bullying, a community based on a shared, mediated experience and the lives of people behind the sound bytes and captured glimpses. Rebney insists that only complete losers would be interested in his outtakes and is surprised to find quick-witted die-hard fans who explain that his video is what they turn to when they are down.

The introduction credit sequence is nicely done. It is a montage of classic Winnebago shots and footage spliced with the credits using the Winnebago stripe motif, such as the still pictured above (which has been altered to fit in the image square) and is charged with the song Winnebago Warrior by the Dead Kennedys.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

His Heart is in the Hair

by Drew Martin
I just watched Vidal Sassoon: The Movie, (click left to watch a trailer) about the rags to riches life of Sassoon. It is an amazing story. His father left his family when he was a little boy. He spent part of his childhood in an orphanage and worked as a bicycle messenger in bombed-out London for the military during WWII. He took voice lessons to jettison his Cockney accent when he was turned back at prospective jobs and told to learn English. At 14, his mother had an epiphany that he would be a hair dresser and brought him to a professional who waived his apprentice fee because he liked his good manners. He went from dreading the idea to revolutionizing the hair industry. His hairstyles were influenced by Bauhaus architecture and, in turn, influenced fashion. He is said to have put the top on the miniskirt. His salon team was greeted like the Beatles when they came to America. Pictured here is Nancy Kwan who decided to play chess with her manager during her appointment with Sassoon because she could not witness him cutting off feet of her hair. The result was this timeless bob, which was immediately photographed for Vogue. In 1965, Roman Polanski filmed Repulsion in Sassoon's London salon and then asked Sassoon to cut Mia Farrow's hair for Rosemary's Baby. Sassoon was the first stylist to create a line of hair products, have celebrity endorsements and to promote a lifestyle. The documentary is of course about hair and fashion but most importantly it is about making a statement in any field through ambition and hard work.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Picasso and Braque go to the Movies

by Drew Martin
I just watched an excellent documentary called Picasso And Braque Go To The Movies (click left to see the trailer). It is about the influence of movies on cubism and how cinema and cubism took over and restructured vision to modern principles.

The documentary explains that photography started as a still art (because of the long exposures that were required) but once it became instant, the ability to analyze motion was quickly met with the ability to synthesize movement through film. While cubism is most often thought of a still art governed by geometry, this documentary frames cubism as a complement to cinema that should be viewed more akin to the splicing, editing, and fragmentation of the human form and environment with a temporal experience that we find in film.

Pictured here is Loie Fuller whose serpentine dance was a popular film subject and who moved Max Jacob to exclaim "Rodin is Nothing." This documentary is loaded with clips of the movies, which would have been watched by the cubists at a time when the movie projectors would have been present in the same space as the audience, clicking away as animated machines, spinning reels of film.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Next to Godliness

by Drew Martin

Each swallow works hard to be perfect pilot-provider-builder-trainer-teacher-lover-mate, no half-true hate! So, each day like a bird, perfect thyself first!

I read these words this morning on my Dr. Bonner's peppermint soap bottle. I have been a fan of the soap since my late teens and it is the product I am most consistent with and loyal to. I love the soap, packaging and message.
This past weekend I watched an excellent documentary about Dr. Bronner, his soap, the company, and  his children and grandchildren: Dr. Bronner's Magic Soapbox. Click on the link to the left to see a preview on YouTube.

Here is the blurb from Netflix...Brilliant chemist, Holocaust survivor and mental hospital escapee, Dr. Emanuel Bronner invented his famous Magic Soap and founded the environmentally concerned company that's just as popular today as it was among the counterculture in the 1970s. This documentary captures the complexity of Bronner's relationship with his son Ralph, who spent years in orphanages and foster homes as his eccentric father sought to unite all mankind.

Pictured here: my own stash...a bottle of Dr.Bronner's Magic Soaps 18-in-1 Hemp Peppermint Pure-Castile Soap, a wrapped bar of this soap and an unwrapped one I just started working on.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Captain Jain-way

by Drew Martin
I grew up like most American kids squashing bugs and not thinking much about it although I remember protesting the cruelty of boys frying ants with magnifying glasses in the sun. I became a vegan in my late teens and was most fascinated by the Jains of India who veil their mouths and sweep the path before them so as to not inhale or step on any insects. My considerations have wavered over the past twenty years. My vegetarian and vegan ways were only maintained in pockets of my life. My lowest low was when I worked at a zoo in northern Czech Republic. As an animal keeper it was required of me to feed the animals, which sometimes included killing their meals. When I was shown how to grab a living rabbit by the ears and hit in on the back of the head with a wooden club, I expressed I could not do it. The worst was how the baby chicks were killed before being thrown into cages: a handful of them were placed in a metal bucket, then another bucket was slipped on top and the animal keeper sat on it. I did this once when I lost my head during a heated argument with a coworker my age who insisted I do this part of the job too. It was horrific and I will never forget it. I never did it again. We live in a culture of contradictions. Simply put, a life is a life whether it is a cow or a fly but we have found ways to justify the killing of anything especially if our health or property is jeopardized by mosquitoes, termites, bedbugs, etc. Until recently I still had the knee-jerk reaction to kill centipedes in my house and I used to set mouse traps when field mice became too intrusive. I have stopped this now. I might recoil when a centipede scurries in front of me in the basement and I am not comfortable with the renegade mouse that darts around the kitchen but I cannot bring myself to kill them. What has changed, believe it or not, is having watched numerous episodes of Star Trek. There is a lot of violence and death in this show but there is also a profound reaction to newly discovered life forms that often pose a threat. This humanity is not religious-based or overly moralistic. Instead, it is more about the curiosity and appreciation of life and the acknowledgement that desperate acts come out of fear and that establishing communication is vital. I do not have a universal translator to speak to my mice and centipedes but I understand they are in my house for many of the same reasons I am. What works about the format of a television show is the ability to play out a situation, to show cause and effect, episode after episode, series after series, which performs the like the religious parable or a cultural fable, but without the rhetoric.