I really respect and enjoy the work of Jon Contino for a few reasons. The first is that he’s able to draw an anchor, put it on a t-shirt and actually make it look good. I’m definitely in the camp of people who think anchors are overused, but when Jon draws them he gives them some spirit that makes it work. Second, he does most of his work by hand, which definitely comes across really clearly. It all feels charmingly off, like something your grandfather might have tattooed on his body from “the war.” Both of these points might sound like half-compliments, but I guess what I’m really saying is that he defies these normal conventions and captures the inherent beauty of things.
My third point is the fact that he runs a really nice personal blog. He puts up little personal pieces, news about his clothing brand CXXVI, and best of all, he answers people’s questions and gives advice. People ask him how he gets the look and feeling of his drawings, business questions, tips about textures, all kinds of stuff. And the fact that he takes the time to answer these questions make him a pretty rad guy, in my book.
Weird enough, when I was writing my Mulholland Drive review, I had my iPod on shuffle and this Mount Eerie song started playing, and it totally uses Angelo Badalamenti’s tune to Twin Peaks. Kinda’ weird, right? I’m a huge fan of Mount Eerie/The Microphones/Phil Elverum, so I’ll take any excuse to post his music. The sample used is titled Love Theme From Twin Peaks and is so distinct it’s hard to not to immediately think of Twin Peaks when you hear it. The way that Phil Elverum blends it into his own song is a bit of genius, in my opinion. It’s a beautiful, haunting song and his voice sounds perfect over the top of it all. If you dig this song you should check out the rest of the album that this song is from, it’s called Wind’s Poem.
Sometimes I can be a little slow on the uptake pertaining to certain movies or music. It happens to everyone, there’s just not enough time in the world to see and hear and everything. But there are a certain number of films/albums that are generally considered to be classics, things you really should see before it’s too late, and I think most fans of film would put Mulholland Drive near the top of that list. I never had anything against it, just never had a burning desire to see it. Lately though, Kyle and I have started watching Twin Peaks, another Lynch classic that neither of us had seen (I was 8, Kyle was 4). But he’s a huge fan of Mulholland Drive, and his enthusiasm got me excited for it.
I really didn’t know what to expect of the movie. From the two episodes of Twin Peaks that I’ve seen, I knew it would be weird in the best ways. David Lynch is phenomenal and being just weird enough that it feels like it doesn’t drift into absurd, or at least not that I’ve seen so far. Mulholland Drive takes a similar cue that Twin Peaks does, the idea of an ideal, pristine life, that in all reality, is a fucked up mess. If you haven’t seen the movie, don’t read any further, here’s where get into the nitty gritty.
This is out of control. Even though the form seems less aggressive when modeled in wood or rendered in desaturated hues; at scale this project is not timid. NYBillboard is the work of Chris Precht who was clearly inspired by the work of Archigram for this megastructure. The project addresses both social and environmental concerns, potentially producing 13% of its own energy through photovoltaic panels, wind turbines, and algae. It breaks with tradition and building codes to introduce a top-heavy billboard into a forrest of tapered towers in downtown Manhattan– at least in theory.
Now is time to pour one out to one of my favorite writers of the past 40 years, Gil Scott Heron. In the same vein of Upton Sinclair, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, John Coltrane, and Malcolm X, he was an artist who existed to push borders of music and spoken word with a socially-conscious flair. He rejected popular conceptions of music and poetry and helped pioneer the world between jazz, blues and soul. A candle slowly burning outside of the mainstream, his influence was far reaching. If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then Heron is spoiled in that respect. Thousands have imitated, remixed, or sampled his work.
Gil Scott-Heron’s records are a hip hop producers dream. Combining a powerful voice with confrontational yet inspiring lyrics, Scott-Heron’s first record, Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, was recorded in 1970 when he was 21 years old, in a NYC nightclub. This simple, low budget recording indicted the government and out-of-touch middle class as exacerbating the problems that plagued urban America. With his following record, Pieces of a Man, Scott-Heron created the template for what would become hip-hop: breakbeat-esque percussion, jazzy instrumentation, and his fierce diction. By the mid-1970s he had two top 30 hits (Johannesburg and Angel Dust) and set the table for the rap revolution about to take over America. After releasing only a couple records in the 80s and 90s, XL Recordings put out his last record in 2010, entitled I’m New Here, with the grittiest beats he’s ever released, coupled with his inimitable social commentary and viceral wordplay.
Over time I have come to believe the best barometer of a great artist would be their impact over time – moreso after their passing than before it. “Timeless” is not a word that should be used trivially; it is an adjective that can only be bestowed through years, decades, or centuries of evidence. In his passing, Gil Scott-Heron will find new life as an important part of American culture, free from any labels, recognized on his merit alone.
I was immediately drawn to Kris Mukai’s work in the latest issue of The New Yorker, and when I discovered that she also makes animated GIFS of her characters I became a fan for life. The best part about Kris is her versatility, she can go from creating a really goofy anime caricature of Notorious BIG to a seriously detailed commercial illustration for the film Dogtooth. Zine fans will love her self-published comic strips like “Ghost Factory” which involves a cat and bear doing whacky antics like breaking into a factory to find a ghost.
Last week I came across this image by Yarisal & Kublitz over on Today & Tomorrow and it definitely resonated with me. It’s called Just Like Starting Over, and for some reason I find this idea really romantic, that you could start things over and it could all be better. It’s a naive idea as well, and silly most definitely, but that’s what I like about it. I’m sure when some people view a piece like this they’ll see the inverse, the U.S. flag in pieces on the ground, but this feels like a glass half empty/glass half full scenario. I’d describe myself as a realistic optimist, so this looks like an opportunity to be creative and make positive changes, make things better.
Today is holiday here; a break from work or summer classes, because stateside, it is Memorial Day: a day to remember the folks who died serving under the American flag. So this week, I thought we start in the United States by looking at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The memorial was designed by Maya Lin while she was still an undergraduate student at Yale. It shouldn’t be too surprising that a memorial to a controversial conflict would elicit a lot of dispute itself, but anger ignited after Lin’s design was selected: fueled by disagreements over what a memorial should be, the austerity of Lin’s design and, sadly, her race. At the dedication ceremony in 1982, Lin’s name wasn’t even mentioned.
Whenever something this important is this abstract, the interpretations of the form, materiality– everything– are open to many readings. The memorial has not turned out to be the scar that that detractors feared it would be. Most of the controversy dissolved when visitors experienced that it wasn’t a dig at veterans, but a powerful tribute to the men and women inscribed in its walls. That it was conceived by someone so young, selected by the jury, survived the political tumult and built on the national mall is unlikely and I’m not sure a similarly situated design would survive today.
Occasionally in school when architecture students and architecture professors disagreed about the direction or propriety of a project, you would hear the anecdote about Maya Lin, whose studio professor allegedly disliked her memorial project and gave her a low grade. “It just shows you how little professors know,” you might hear as tired people stood around a model picked apart physically and conceptually. But the strength of an idea isn’t if it is immune from criticism and controversy, but if it can survive.