Tag Archives: boston phoenix

On Shepard Fairey at the ICA, and street art.

Photo from a series I shot for the Boston Phoenix, when Shepard Fairey put a mural up outside the offices.

If you’re in the Boston area tomorrow (Saturday, April 4), you might want to check out the Institute of Contemporary Art’s Design as Social Agent talks and tours, which they call a “full day conversation on design and culture.” There’ll be talks happening all day long, from 10 am till 3ish, by all different types of people – art critics, street artists, designers, curators, etc. I’ll be sharing my own street art-adoring point-of-view at 11 am in the galleries.

Here’s a link to the event on Facebook.

On Antje Duvekot.

Midway through her set at Club Passim last Friday, right before covering Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee,” Antje Duvekot remarked on something she’d read about the Great Depression. “Lighthearted entertainment became important to people,” said the Somerville-based singer-songwriter. “They needed it to get them through it.” A beat of silence, and then laughter rose from the crammed, brick-walled, basement folk club.

The unstated punch line of Duvekot’s self-depreciating joke had been made evident by the first half of her show, the second of four sold-out gigs promoting her just-released second studio album, The Near Demise of the High Wire Dancer (Black Wolf Records). Duvekot, who’s become one of Boston’s folk darlings over the past five years or so, writes songs soaked in forlorn wisdom, with lyrics like “the moonlight has made it plain that nobody needs me to call them home,” sung in her trademark weather-worn throatiness. They’re the opposite of lighthearted entertainment, but without the generic, maudlin cheese that plagues less skilled folkies.

The Economic Crisis 2009 crowd seemed cool with a gloomier tone, perhaps because the formerly dry Club Passim now serves wine and beer. Or perhaps because they knew what to expect.

Read the full review here.

Lovers’ rock

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Drug Rug
When we first started doing press, that’s all people wanted to talk about. And we were like, “Fuck, that’s so annoying.”

Despite their fatigue with the topic — being in a relationship that exists within a band (or vice versa) — Sarah Cronin and Tommy Allen (who’s quoted above), of the Cambridge-based, Beatles-esque, lo-fi rock band Drug Rug, are surprisingly welcoming and amicable when I visit them at their Inman Square apartment on a Friday afternoon. Cronin and Allen know what I’m there to talk about, but apparently they’re not holding it against me.

Their frustrations are understandable. Much like Jenny Lewis would rather not be known for her childhood acting gigs — starring in Troop Beverly Hills and The Wizard and Jakob Dylan probably wishes just one journalist would neglect to mention his legendary-rocker father, most couples in bands don’t want the “couple” part to loom over the “band” part. But like rock musicians, music journalists are always looking for hooks, and romance is a tempting element to any band’s narrative.

Still, there’s telling the story, and then there’s selling the story — for example, an early press release described Drug Rug, much to their chagrin, as a “magical love duo.” Even for Cronin and Allen, though, the line between bandmates and boyfriend/girlfriend is often vague, and sometimes nonexistent.

Read the full article here.

The Monster

Fun fact: I wrote something for the sports section. Hell just froze over.

The intersection of Brookline Avenue and Lansdowne Street, in the hours before, during, and after a Red Sox game, is not unlike a trading floor on pre-crash Wall Street: it’s chaotic, teeming with people, and everyone’s trying to make a buck. Scalpers aggressively push tickets; vendors hawk T-shirts, programs, and meat products. For a pedestrian weaving through swarms of such in-your-face salesmen and pulsating, beer-fueled Fenway faithful, it can be overwhelming.

Curious, then — suspicious, even — is the leprechaun-looking man approaching passers-by from his post (a beat-up, neon-green canvas chair placed in front of the Sausage Guy’s cart), saying he wants nothing but to take their photo. (He posts the shots on the multiple albums he keeps on his MySpace page.) On a chilly, gray Monday night outside Fenway, just before the Sox threw out the first pitch of a game against the Cleveland Indians — and the day before Boston clinched a playoff berth — the man waves his small, silver digital camera, and asks an approaching couple: “Can I take your picture?” They hesitate, as though considering his offer (perhaps they’re simply considering eating sausage). Eventually, the round, white-haired woman shakes her head firmly as they walk away. “We’re from Cleveland!” she protests.

Read more here.

Lonesome Cindy McCain.

From the Phlog:

I delved into Ariel Levy’s lengthy New Yorker profile of Cindy McCain with the belief that I would emerge feeling much like I do after watching most romantic comedies aimed at female audiences: vaguely annoyed, not particularly moved, and bored and frustrated with the predictability of it all. After all, I’ve heard Ms. McCain’s rare public speeches, her insistence that family values are the core around which our ailing society must revolve (despite the fact that her relationship with John began with love at first sight at a cocktail party – while John was still married and living with his first wife and three children), and her cutesy, winking, astoundingly unfeministic reminders that behind every man is a supportive woman, which makes me want to hurl any nearby object at my radio.

Levy’s piece defied my expectations, though. Her profile of John McCain’s blonde, size-0-St.-John-skirt-suited, “pampered and brittle” wife was brutally honest, fantastically observant, and extremely well-written. There are some anger-inducing moments in the piece – like when a family member recounts the time McCain described herself as an only child at her father’s funeral, despite the fact that her half-sister was sitting in the front row. There’s also her quirky tendency to fabricate critical details in many of her stories. McCain loves to recount the trip to Bangladesh, during which Mother Theresa encouraged McCain to adopt a ten-week-old orphan with a cleft palate. The Christian Science Monitor reported on August 20 that that whole Mother Theresa part is false. Levy writes:

“The stories that Cindy McCain tells all tend to have the same elements: secrecy, unilateral action, revelation. She is a kind of blond Lucille Ball in these tales, always up to something, never wanting to be found out by Ricky. But her madcap (if genteel) fifties-housewife sitcom persona is complicated by the more troublesome aspects of these anecdotes. She often leaves out a detail or two, omissions that change the shade of the story.”

Overall, though, the piece mainly made me feel sad. I feel sad for Cindy McCain. This is a portrait of McCain as someone who basically raised her children alone (she stayed in Phoenix, while John was in DC five days a week – for the past 20 years), was addicted to painkillers for at least three years (she admits to taking 10-15 Percocet and Vicodin pills a day: “When the kids were young and I was alone with all these babies, by Thursday I’d have a pity party”) before her husband even noticed (and then it was only because a pending DEA investigation forced her to fess up to him), spent four months on her own, recovering from a stroke, and now lives in constant fear that she’ll inadvertently say something that’ll screw up McCain’s campaign:

“McCain zigzags constantly between the two roles she was brought up with: she is the brave, individualistic Westerner who can ride the range and fly a plane and then the polite, fragile lady of the house with the flawless outfits and the duct-taped mouth. These are very different roles, but they both require privacy. Being a campaign spouse—or the First Lady—is an exceedingly public role. It is little wonder, then, that when she is on the campaign trail Cindy McCain often looks miserable… This is women’s work, as the McCains have defined it: to keep their own suffering quiet.”

This is picture of Cindy McCain as woman who suffers silently, but puts on a good “first wife” front, and John McCain as a man who’s always been to busy to pay any attention. How’s that for family values?

More: The Lonesome Trail: Cindy McCain’s nontraditional campaign, by Ariel Levy

The show by street artists that’s not about street art… sort of.

Photo by Hargo

Photo by Hargo

You could say I’m slightly obsessed with the Wall in Central Square. It’s sort of the same way I feel about certain bands, or certain musicians. Like when I’m watching a really phenomenally great band, and it’s maybe a band that not many people have heard of, or that isn’t making any money really (that’s pretty much everyone nowadays), and I get to witness That Moment. The moment where someone is just totally and completely lost in the music – hunched over, or crawling on the floor, or shaking their head, and sweating, and just totally oblivious that anyone is watching, because they are so absorbed and enamored by what they are creating, and I’m sort of caught up in it, too – well, those are my favorite moments. It’s amazing and slightly overwhelming, even just to witness, especially when it’s people I know or am friends with, because I feel suddenly feel so in awe of them that I don’t even know what to say afterwards. “Great show?” “Thanks for spilling your guts out on stage for no apparent reason other than just to do it?” And this is what makes me love music.

And that’s the same feeling I get from street art. When you walk into the alleyway by Central Kitchen that encompasses the Wall, it’s like the visual incarnation of that moment. Honestly, I think I have a stronger emotional reaction to the wall than to the Louvre or the nine million churches I was forced to visit for art history classes in Italy. I’ve always been more of a modern/20th-21st century art gal. The Mona Lisa, etc. always felt sort of dead to me, not just in the sense that the artist is literally dead, of course, but it just didn’t really speak to me in any way that later art, also by now-deceased artists like Mark Rothko or Matisse could. Obviously there is a place in this world for fine art; there’s a whole chain of influences in place. But visiting the Wall just feels so now. It’s truly imaginative, put there for no other reason than to create art, and all you have to do to see it is walk down the street.

So, when I heard about the latest show at the Distillery Gallery, in South Boston, I knew I had to write about it – just based on the list of names alone: Hargo, Dark Clouds, Buildmore, Kenji, Noir Boston, Alphabet Soup…

From today’s Phoenix:

Not long after walking into the Distillery Gallery on a Monday evening, Thomas Buildmore removes two painted-over NO PARKING signs that had been screwed into the wall. “This show isn’t about street art,” he says.

If it were, “we’d have some cliché conversation about street art versus fine art.” Moments prior, I’d had that cliché conversation, with Cantabridgian artist Morgan Thomas. We agreed that “Paint It Now” — the show that opens tonight at the first-floor alt-gallery in the Distillery, South Boston’s living space-cum-artistic haven — is street art moved into the fine-art world. It’s just a change of location, with the added luxury of time, which most street artists — who are constantly looking over their shoulders — lack.

Buildmore’s sentiment is a surprising one, given that the show features a dozen or so artists, many of whom use city walls as their canvases. He and Thomas, who are part of a collective called Overkill Studio that’s based in the same building, organized the show with Scott Chase, the director of the Distillery Gallery.

The idea behind “Paint It Now” is simple: give two white walls and an unending supply of black paint to several of Boston and New York’s young artistic talents, and see what happens.”

Read the rest here. (Or come to the opening tonight.) Also, I took a film making class, and made my first ever movie at (you guessed it!) THE WALL. I’ll post that eventually.

Daniel Johnston’s art sale

Via OTD:

Dirty Pilot, an art gallery based in Cochituate, is hosting an exhibit of Captain America drawings by the indie cult-favorite singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston. The artwork’s entirely online – the gallery used to have a physical space, but now has retired to the Interwebs, according to their website. From the inbox:

“Over the course of Daniel Johnston’s career as well documented through this survey of drawings from the mid 1970’s thru 2005, Daniel has continuously wrestled artistically with his signature character Captain America. This super hero has not only been equated by Daniel with a symbol of Divine Glory and the American Dream, but also with the worship of his father Bill a decorated war veteran.

This overview explores a range of work from Daniel’s early College notebook drawings through his later finished color and B&W drawings.

Recent accomplishments include the award-winning documentary “The Devil and Daniel Johnston”, a property of Sony Pictures Classics, opened to rave reviews on March 31st 2006, in both NY and LA, and the long-awaited DVD release of the film was released on September 19th, ‘06. Running concurrently with the opening of the film was a major show of Daniel’s artwork at a prominent NY gallery and a collection of Daniel’s work at the Whitney Museum’s Biennial exhibit!”

We’ll admit it – we loved The Devil and Daniel Johnston. It was a fascinating documentary of a musician whose influence is evident in today’s indie rock, yet he’s still not particularly well-known (outside of ’80’s and ’90’s indie rock fans, and the aforementioned cult followers). We feel it should be required viewing for any music fan today, along with Stop Making Sense and Runnin’ Down a Dream. Kurt Cobain liked Johnston’s music enough to rock a “Hi How Are You” t-shirt at televised Nirvana gigs:

And Johnston’s artwork was a common thread in the movie (a reflection of the role it’s played in his life), lending an air of levity to a story that’s somewhat heartbreaking, though Johnston’s still around, still playing the occasional gig. Below, a sampling of works in Johnston’s Dirty Pilot show. Purchase if you’ve got the funds – looks like pieces are selling for about $75 – $1,800, and a few have already been sold.

See more here.