Monday, March 29, 2010

Hebru Brantley

Take the time this week to see the Hebru Brantley exhibition at Pun(c)tuation on Capitol Hill. In addition to being Brantley's first Seattle show, its also the first showing of "Lions Disguised as Lambs" a powerful new series of images that reference racist cartoons and advertising slogans from Jim Crow-era America in order to create a very contemporary punch in the gut.

Brantley, who blasted out of Chicago as a member of the design studio Molotov Kartel, is a phenomenally versatile young painter and illustrator, gracefully walking the line between graffiti and folk art, drawing from sources as varied as Clementine Hunter, Romare Bearden and Jack Kirby.

The show runs until April 9. Pun(c)tuation is open from 2 – 9pm Monday through Friday. On April 2, avant garde Seattle hip hop crew Black Stax host their CD release party and album listening event with Brantley's show as the backdrop. More here.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Born Yesterday

...and a poem.

Born Yesterday

by Phillip Larkin

Tightly-folded bud,
I have wished you something
None of the others would:
Not the usual stuff
About being beautiful,
Or running off a spring
Of innocence and love -
They will all wish you that,
And should it prove possible,
Well, you're a lucky girl.

But if it shouldn't, then
May you be ordinary;
Have, like other women,
An average of talents:
Not ugly, not good-looking,
Nothing uncustomary
To pull you off your balance,
That, unworkable itself,
Stops all the rest from working.
In fact, may you be dull -
If that is what a skilled,
Vigilant, flexible,
Unemphasised, enthralled
Catching of happiness is called.

Your Daddy Loves You

Call me corny, but it's my brown eyed girl's first birthday today, and I'm celebrating! With a song...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Biking Lake Baikal

A Eugene, OR-based crew is now exactly half-way through the first ever human-powered winter circumnavigation of Lake Baikal in northern Russia. The lake - which is surrounded by mountains and boasts an average winter temperature of -19°C - is completely frozen at this time. The team of 5 bicyclists is riding entirely on snow and ice for an estimated 43 days.

Lake Baikal is the world’s deepest lake, holding nearly a fifth of the world’s fresh water supply, and is also assumed to be the oldest, with an age of over 25 million years. It is home to 1,200 indigenous animal species, and is the focal point of the environmental movement in Russia. In addition to simply challenging themselves to a super human feat, the cyclists are riding in support of an international effort to build a recreational trail system around the lake.

The team website is chock full of equipment specs and technical information, covering everything from gearing ("One of the unique features about our bikes is the 2-speed single speed drive-train...The chain is tensioned with adjustable sliders in the frame and there are no derailleurs.") to clothing choices ("While we expect some days of moderate temperatures around -15 degrees C, we must also be prepared for winter storms and periods of cold down to -40 degrees.") to the fact that normal bicycle grease freezes around -15 Centigrade. Fascinating stuff.

You can follow their progress on this map, or on Twitter, or on their Facebook page, where they also regularly post gorgeous photos, like the one above.

I caught wind of this story via Bike Juju, a terrific blog on the cultural and artistic impact of bicycles. Made right here in Seattle! Kudos!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Popular Prints

Very clever. The goal of Colombian conceptual artist Alvaro Barrios' new project - titled Popular Prints - is to reach the largest number of people possible. We are all invited to print a high resolution copy of the image above and mail it to Barrios, who will sign and number every copy. Download the print here and send the printout, along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Barrios c/o BOMB Magazine, 80 Hanson Place #703 Brooklyn, NY, USA. Prints must be received by March 31, 2010.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sacco Wins Ridenhour Prize

For the first time, the Ridenhour Book Prize will be given to a comic book. Joe Sacco's graphic novel "Footnotes in Gaza" has won the award, which carries a $10,000 dollar prize.

Ron Ridenhour was the Vietnam Veteran whose 1969 letter to Congress and the Pentagon brought the My Lai massacre to light. Ridenhour went on to have a successful career as an investigative journalist and the prizes named after him - the book prize, a career prize and a prize for truth-telling - are awarded to writers and journalists who strive to "protect the public interest, promote social justice or illuminate a more just vision of society."

Footnotes in Gaza is the story of two forgotten incidents in Palestine - the 1956 mass killings of Palestinians in Rafah and Khan Younis. The statement from the Ridenhour committee notes that the book is a work of "profound social significance, one that explores the complex continuum of history. At a time when peace in the Middle East has never seemed more elusive, Sacco's illustrations bear witness to the lives of those who are trapped by the conflict." The award itself will be presented in April in Washington, DC.

Friday, March 19, 2010

News From Lego Land

German artist Jan Vormann recently spent two weeks in New York "repairing" some of the city's dilapidated walls and buildings with Legos. Vormann calls his brand of street art "Dispatchwork," and he has taken it from Tel Aviv to Berlin to Quito. You can see much more of his work on his splendid website.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wilfred Owen

Today is the birthday of poet Wilfred Owen, born March 18, 1893. From his childhood Owen was determined to become a poet and from the age of nineteen immersed himself in poetry. He was working as a private tutor in France when the First World War broke out. Feeling guilty about the calm and safety of his position, he returned to England in October 1915 and volunteered to fight. He was sent to France on the last day of 1916.

Immediately, Owen was overwhelmed by the reality of his situation. His letters home are full of blood and anguish, and his poetry quickly evolved into eloquent and bitter denunciations of war. In the spring of 1918, fully expecting to die at the front, Owen began to plan a volume of his poems. In a letter describing his work he wrote "...Above all I am not concerned with Poetry. My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity. Yet these elegies are to this generation in no sense consolatory. They may be to the next. All a poet can do today is warn. That is why the true Poets must be truthful."

Wilfred Owen was killed by machine gun fire on November 4, 1918, one week before the end of the war.

Dulce et Decorum est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! -- An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime. --
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, --
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Persistence of Sadness

Rafaël Rozendaal is some kind of html genius. The Persistence of Sadness is his latest piece. Turn up your volume and click on the rocks. But not while the baby's sleeping!

When you break out of that trance, there are plenty more to slip in to here. And don't forget his blog One Question Interview, still going strong.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Jazz Baroness

The Seattle Jewish Film Festival is underway, and as usual there are simply too many great films to squeeze into a family man's schedule. One movie that may drag me away from the changing table is The Jazz Baroness, a documentary on the life of Pannonica de Koenigswarter.

Born to the English branch of the Rothschild family, de Koenigswarter moved to New York in the early 1950s, took a suite at the Stanhope Hotel, bought a silver Rolls-Royce, and quickly became a fixture in New York's exploding jazz scene. She provided financial and moral support to John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and Coleman Hawkins, to name just a few, and Charlie Parker died in her living room. Most famously, she was friend and lover to Thelonius Monk, who lived in her home from 1970 until his death in 1982. Amongst the many tributes to her in song, Monk wrote the tune ''Pannonica'', pianist Horace Silver wrote ''Nica's Dream'' and the saxophonist Gigi Gryce wrote ''Nica's Tempo.''

Critic Stanley Crouch wrote a typically smart and bitter appreciation of the film here. The Jazz Baroness screens once only, at the SIFF Cinema on Monday, March 15 at 8:00 pm. More info and tickets here.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


This weekend brings the annual installment of the ever growing Emerald City ComiCon. It's hard to see how it can get any bigger than it is right now, as this year's guest list features two of the biggest names ever to appear atop a fanboy's list of cult heroes. Both Marvel Comics founder Stan Lee and Mr. Spock himself Leonard Nimoy will be speaking and signing autographs. I'd suggest getting in line NOW if you intend to exchange a little "live long and prosper" with either of them. Further down the A-list, but still exciting enough to send a tremor through this fan's heart, is Love and Rockets co-creator Gilbert Hernandez, who should be somewhat easier to mindmeld with.

Also delighted to see that local hip-hip comics publisher Capstan Media has a booth in this year's Artist Alley. What are you waiting for Homie? Grab your mystic mallet and get down to the convention center! March 13th & 14th, 2010 at the Washington State Convention Center. Advance tickets available here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

South Park Bridge

I joined about 200 people at the South Park monthly community meeting last night to hear about the fate of the South Park Bridge. South Park is a fascinating little neighborhood on the southern edge of Seattle, mostly built from the 1920's through 1950's to provide homes for the Boeing workers whose factory was in full bloom at the time. Since then the fortunes of Boeing and all of the industries that surrounded it have waxed and waned, and South Park has come through many rough patches. Statistics from the 1970's and 80's suggest that it was Seattle's most dangerous zip code for quite a while, but in recent years the neighborhood has undergone a rennaisance, finally getting a long sought library and community center, and becoming the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in Seattle.

The big problem South Park faces these days is the closure of the bridge that connects the neighborhood with the rest of the city. The bridge across the Duwamish River moves some 20,000 cars and trucks and more than 5,000 bicyclists and pedestrians each day. A 2006 assessment of the bridge showed that one of its piers isn't anchored in stable soil, both piers were built with substandard concrete, and either side could collapse during an earthquake. The Federal Highway Administration has given the bridge the worst safety rating in the state.

King County estimates that it would cost $123 million to replace the bridge, and last month the federal government rejected a grant request for $99 million, leaving the project without a penny. The bridge is scheduled to be closed on June 30th, diverting all traffic to the nearby freeway and cutting off all walking and biking routes to and from the neighborhood. An urban neighborhood on the verge of genuine renewal will be left utterly isolated.

The facts one could gather from the community meeting were nothing but depressing. Despite years of warnings, there is simply NO plan to repair or replace the bridge. Representatives were on hand from the Office of the King County Executive, from the City of the Seattle and from the Port of Seattle, but there was only one message: South Park does not have the money or the clout to force a solution. The locals were up in arms with anger and frustration, but the offical reaction was to express sympathy and shoot down all hope.

Read more about the situation here, and more about yesterday's community meeting here. And if you're in Washington, by all means call your local and State reps and demand that they help this vibrant community maintain its lifeline.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Mistake by the Lake

Photographer Chris Mottalini has taken a lovely series of photographs of makeshift enclosures in Buffalo, NY built by parents whose kids have to wait for the school bus in that town's famously brutal winters. The shelters dot the Buffalo landscape, but when I lived there they just blended into the background. I'm impressed that Mottalini took the time to notice them. The series carries the ignominious title "The Mistake by the Lake." Many more images here.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Film By Design

The 10th Annual By Design film festival opens tonight at the Northwest Film Forum. By Design is a beloved local institution that explores the intersection between design and the moving image. The programs have always presented breathtaking new work alongside unearthed treasures from the past, and this year continues that worthy trend. Highlights of the 2010 series include a documentary on the British-based art collective The Light Surgeons on March 6; a presentation by film curator Peter Lucas on the history of movie title sequences on March 7; and no less than FOUR different programs of short films by Charles and Ray Eames. More information and tickets here.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Barry Hannah

Sigh. Sad to hear that writer Barry Hannah passed away on Monday, March 1. He was 67 and had been battling cancer for some years. Hannah's writing had such boisterous energy and manic spirit that it seems wrong for him not to have lived into an obstreperous old age. But there you go.

Hannah blasted out of the deep south with his first novel, “Geronimo Rex” in 1972, an incendiary coming-of-age tale replete with sex, violence, liquor, a perverted white supremacist, and a special kind of dark hopefulness that became his stock in trade. He wrote several more novels, but his unique way with words really shined in his short stories - wild and absurd tales of an American South full of passion, guns, confused war veterans, suspicious strangers, oddballs, outlaws and hair trigger good ol’ boys. He was one hell of a writer. The Rumpus has a sweet remembrance of the man, and the lit blog Tin House features an interview with Hannah from 2009 in which he discusses his illness and his as yet unpublished final book, The Sick Soldier At Your Door.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Gorillaz in the Mix

The good folks at NPR are temporarily sharing a free stream of the entire new Gorillaz album, Plastic Beach. Let's be honest, it's all about about promotion, but it's still an entertaining listen. As ever, Gorillaz' core duo consists of musician Damon Albarn and graphic artist Jaime Hewlett, and they continue their trend of working with an outstanding roster of musical contributors, including Snoop Dogg, Bobby Womack, Lou Reed, Mos Def, The Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music, and more.

Listen here.

Kiki Smith

The extraordinary sculptor, printmaker and photographer Kiki Smith will be in Seattle for the opening of her new show at the Henry Art Gallery. Smith entered the art world as a sculptor in the late 1970s, creating works of unsettling beauty which often showed women's bodies in various states of distress. One powerful series of pieces, made of bronze and forged steel, featured a woman with her skin removed to show bare muscle tissue, yet her face, breasts and belly remained smooth. In the 1980's Smith experimented primarily with print making, most famously experimenting with screenprinted images of organs and body parts on clothing, posters and public walls. For the last 30 years, the artist has bounded from sculpture, to prints, to video presentations to installations, always creating a powerfully unsettling sense of intimacy that provoke political and social unease.

The show at the Henry, titled "I Myself Have Seen It: Photography & Kiki Smith" opens on March 6. The very unusual show consists of both Smith's own photographic works, alongside photographic images from Smith's personal collection. The exhibition features Smith's snapshots, video collaborations, computer-based images and hand-made composites, juxtaposed against such photographic treasures as 19th-century motion studies by Eadweard Muybridge.

Smith opens the show with an introductory lecture on March 4th. Tickets are available now through Brown Paper Tickets." I Myself Have Seen It" runs until August 15, 2010.