Sunday, December 28, 2014

Art Town Talk

Ephemeral LFK December Moments

Christmas is now over (whew).  We can now pause, take a breath, and reflect upon some LFK highlights from this holiday season.

Seeing Dave Sturm's beard grow large as he prepared for his role in A Kansas Nutcracker

Dave Sturm in his role in A Kansas Nutcracker
Photo by Ann Dean

Meeting people who were intensely into the art of letter writing at Wonder Fair’s letter writing club, Christmas edition

Viewing swirling Christmas lights in trees when streets are empty in the early mornings on Massachusetts Street

Listening to presentations at city council meetings and the sudden realization that the 9th Street Corridor Project is not about art after all but about property values and development

Hearing Kent Smith's enthusiasm for the Percolator Gallery, drawing and sketching groups, and the building of community through the arts on KLWN radio

Aim For Justice art made for protests against police brutality

Cool art created for the protest march against police brutality

Seeing the first real snow of the year when we aren't sick of it yet. 

Brownies for Townies moment at the Will Avrill game show hootenanny

The quest to find Christmas spirit in a beverage with the Larryville Artists food critic

This quote from Mark Hennessey “The advice I give every young man starting life is: Never confuse the unusual and the impossible."

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Finding the Beauty in the Spare: Overlooked movies of 2014

It's the season for 2014 top movie picks.  We are highlighting two movies that were under the radar. Spare and austere, they contain no elaborate costume designs or special effects.  An antidote to high budget blockbuster movies, you will be thinking about these movies months after you see them.

 Agata Trzebuchowska in Ida

Plot: An orphaned woman in a convent investigates the history and fate of her relatives in post World Wat II Poland.
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski

This film could easily be mistaken for a European Criterian New Wave film circa 1960. It is stark, black and white, and stripped down.  The silent moments with little dialogue are like a January morning after a snowfall. Still.

Tom Hardy in Locke

Plot: A Birmingham construction manager leaves work in his car and instead of making a left to go home, he makes a right.  We learn where he goes and why in this 90 minute journey that will change his life.
Director: Steven Knight

The entire film takes place in a car and although we hear other people via phone calls we see only one actor.  If you are thinking "tedious" or "an exercise" you would be thinking wrong.  This movie is a great storytelling mystery.

Friday, December 26, 2014

History and Meaning of the Word "Kitsch"

Tim Burton's new movie Big Eyes explores "kitsch." To fully understand the movie Big Eyes, one must understand the meaning and nuances of kitsch.

The word kitsch originated in 19th century Germany and described cheap, popular, and marketable sketches and paintings. Today, kitsch has several connotations, some of which are direct and some layered with societal hierarchy.  Kitsch can mean low-brow mass production, crowd pleasing icons, and/or works that are calculated to have a mass appeal.  It can be used as a criticism to poor design as well as hipster ironic tacky or camp.

Critic Clement Greenberg used this word in his famous 1939 political essay Avant Garde and Kitsch. Although the ideas in this essay are complex, Clement explains art and culture from a Marxist political view. The avant garde stems from the educated enlightenment and is pure. On the other hand,  kitsch type of art is mass produced and stirs popular sentiment.  The essay was in part a response to the repression of modern art in Nazi Germany.

High art critics of the 1950's and 1960's, some of which were depicted in the film, were not just detached snobs criticizing Keane's work.  They were defending modern art from the perspective of free thinking.  The film explores other aspects and layers of kitsch including popular allure of Margaret Keane's work, original versus cheaply made copies, formulaic art void of contemplation, and the validity of sentimental subject matter.

Margaret Keane's Happy Mask, Unhappy Boy, 1963

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Movie Review: Big Eyes

Margaret Keane Waiting for Grandmother 1962

Tim Burton’s new film about the work of Margaret Keane is as much about high art versus kitsch as it is about the story of who created the famous 1960's big-eye paintings.  It’s about what is takes to sell art, and raises questions about the purpose of art.

The film starts with a Warhol quote “I think what [Walter] Keane has done is just terrific. It has to be good. If it were bad, so many people wouldn’t like it.”

Keane’s paintings permeated popular culture of the mid 1960’s and early 1970's. We remember this type of art as kids, and although we didn't know the word "kitsch", we knew this art was kitsch.  Girls had posters of Keane’s type of art on bedroom walls. One woman remembers buying a small trophy for a father's day gift which included a statue of a big -eyed girl with the inscription “Best daddy in the world. “.

Example of 1960's art copying Keane's style and subject matter

The movie brings up questions about Kitsch art and the role art plays in our society.  Dialogue includes “Art is fashion.” The New York Times art critic proclaims,  “Art is to elevate not to pander.” Jason Schartzman is a high art gallery owner who asks “Why?” Why would someone admit they painted this art?

According to the Wall Street Journal, Tim Burton has been collecting Margaret Keane's work since the 1970's.  According to Burton, "It was very present as artwork, exuberant art in a way, for those of us who has never been to a museum or anything."  Mr. Burton said of the paintings, "Some people obviously loved it and some people had a violently negative reaction...That's what I was interested in: polarization.  Is it art?  Is it complete kitsch?"

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Santa's Big Night

Santa at Frank's North Star

If our calculations are correct, Santa is probably pretty busy right now.  He’s loading his sleigh with toys and trinkets.  Reindeer are eating their magic hay and Mrs. Claus is pouring peppermint hot chocolate in a journey ready thermos. 

Stay safe, Santa, and eat some cookies for us!

Santa at D & D Tire on Vermont Street

Succulent Spinning at The Replay

A not too crowded Replay Lounge was the scene for last night’s record spinning of obscure 1960’s pop, soul, and country.  Two tag teaming DJ’s dig deep into piles of vinyl playing Left Banke, The Louvin Brothers, Don and Dee Dee, and Rock Pile. 

We chatted with DJ Jon Harrison about his succulent selections.  “It’s a complete cluster.  We play the records we like.  There’s no continuity."

The drink of choice is mostly cheap beer. Casual dancers drift near the stage dancing the kind of non-showy dance one does for oneself and not for others and no one is watching them.  Lights from pinball machines complement Christmas lights outside. Old friends embrace holiday visitors. 

DJ Lawrence Peters

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Goodies at Wheatfields

Sweets and goodies are a staple of the Christmas season. We wanted in on this.  We capriciously went to our favorite bakery for confectionery sampling (rumor has it that sugar plum fairies make Wheatfields pastries at night when we sleep).  

Among the Wheatfields goodies is the exhibition of current work by Emily Markoulatos.  Emily combines acrylic paint with a wood burning technique to create images inspired by the Kansas landscape and people.  Her more abstract canvases layer colors and texture that evoke imagination.

Check out Emily's work if you are at Wheatfields and visit her website here

Painting by Emily Markoulatos

Painting by Emily Markoulatos

Monday, December 22, 2014

Our Quest for Christmas Spirit in a Beverage Part II

“The Christmas spirit is alive and well in the beverages of LFK!” declares our Larryville Artists food critic.  In part II of our series, we report on findings when our critic posed the challenge to Downtown baristas and bartenders, “Give us your best Christmas drink.”

Refuting recent debate that connoisseurship is simply junk science, our critic slowly and carefully sipped and searched for nuances in each distict drink.  Our persnickety critic recorded impressions for the benefit of the LFK public.  Here are the findings. 

Look for Part I of our series here

Merchants' Old Leather Couch

Brittany at Merchants
Our bartender Brittany’s Old Leather Couch is a manly man’s drink. The straight-forward OLC comes in a slick martini glass with a twist of orange peel. Stellar ingredients include Tomatin single malt scotch, Gran Marnier, Alcemy cold brew, all spice dram and an orange peel. It’s stout and foamy. It’s orangey scotchy with slight hints of licorice. Each sip brings different notes. The first sip was a shock; the second sip a revelation; the third sip was satori.  We loved OLC so much, we shared with others around us.  Old Leather Couch is $7.00.  

Noah at Henry's

Pepperming Mocha

Noah suggested the Peppermint Mocha. With peppermint, chocolate, creamy Southpaw espresso and steamed milk topped with whipped cream, it makes an excellent Christmas coffee drink.   A combination of mint mixed with slight sweet, this hot beverage is strong with pronounced notes of whipped cream.  Exactly what Santa drinks as he loads his sleigh.  A perfect warm-up after ice skating  with Rudolph.  Peppermint Mocha is $3.50.

Thad of Frank's North Star

Hot Toddy with a cinnamon stick

Frank's North Star
We were enchanted with Thad's choice of an up-front hot toddy made with rye whiskey, cloved lemon, honey, hot water, lemon peel, and cinnamon stick. This hot goodness came in a whimsical hip New York, New York cup. We gave extra points for Thad's presentation of this warming drink, and promise to give him our recent copy of Neil Gaiman's Ocean at the End of the Lane.  Thad's hot toddy is a sure cure for chilled bones.

In the end, LFK's bartenders and baristas came through and gave us liquid Christmas miracles.  We hope Santa is extra good to them this year.