Sunday, July 23, 2017

David Lynch's "Twin Peaks: The Return" Airing on Showtime: May 21 - Sept 10 | "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" released on Criterion Collection: Oct 17 | David Lynch Movie Night at Seattle Art Museum: Jul 18 | 25th Annual Twin Peaks Festival: July 28 - 30

For those that read the initial reviews of "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" from Cannes in 1992, and found that we were to get a significantly truncated cut of the film in theaters stateside, the decades-long wait to has came to a close in 2015 with the release of the "Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery". Now to be rereleased this fall by The Criterion Collection in an upgraded 4K restoration overseen by the director, the only notable remaining "missing piece" is the integration of the excised footage into the cut as screened at film festival on the Riviera some 25 years ago. Lynch spoke with The Guardian on the eve of its release, exuberant at the opportunity to return to the content and reassemble a narrative from their fragmented form. The director made good on his promise editing these deleted scenes from the film into a stand-alone viewing experience featuring 90 minutes of previously unseen footage as The Missing Pieces. Along with both seasons of the original series these were given a hi-definition restoration and transfer packaged together in the lavish box set edition. Not only revealing the larger world of Twin Peaks cut from the cinematic prequel, it present scenes from the series and promotional content, the details of which documented by Nick Newman in his piece for FilmStage, "Twin Peaks’ Reborn With David Lynch-Approved Blu-ray Box Set".

Though Booed at Cannes and the target of frustrated Twin Peaks fans and critics upon its release, the film has since gained a reevaluation with context and distance, with pieces like Calum Marsh's "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me Is David Lynch's Masterpiece" increasingly more common. With the cinematic expansion of it's narrative offered by the Missing Pieces the film watches as a connective thread between the first two seasons of the original and the current Twin Peaks: The Return miniseries. Allusions to both the Latin American connection, David Bowie's errant FBI Agent Philip Jeffries and the relationship these bear to the Lodge Entities seen in the meeting space depicted above an anonymous convenience store are all expanded upon. There is also a epilogue sequence cut from the theatrical version featuring events that follow immediately on the conclusion of the second season. Cause to rejoice, it's been a long and circuitous path from "How ‘Twin Peaks’ Got Lost, and Found Its Way Back" arriving in the midst of the abundance of cinematic, longform television. Rather than a recreation of the concerns, technical form and approach of the original, the miniseries advances the art beyond the standards of what one would expect to experience even in the current environment of longform streaming content. While also joyfully exhibiting the director's love of film, in the series' numerous nods to cinema history.

Delivering a experience that watches like nothing else, it is truly "Beautiful, Grandiose, Cryptic, and Punishingly Tedious: That's Why Twin Peaks is So Beguiling". For those who are following the new miniseries, an assembly of critical interpretation, enhancement and viewing aides have been thankfully documented by Criterion via their ongoing "Twin Peaks Returns" column. Expertly insightful weekly recaps can also be found on Mubi, The New York Times (concluding with a serving of weekly "donuts") and The Guardian, for those looking to delve deeper. Returning to the subject of the film; I found myself among the minority of fans of the original series who considered "Fire Walk With Me" to be the metaphorical icing on the cake at the time of its release. Though not the theatrical epilogue to the series that many viewers had hoped for, on the big screen it watched as a condensation of Lynch and Frost's central themes unadulterated by quirky small town americana, willfully eccentric surrealist intrusions, and soap opera tropes. It marked a forceful return to the essence of the story and it's concerns after the guest directors of the second season and their often hollow attempts at replicating all things Lynchian. (Tim Hunter of "River's Edge" fame was an exception. His episodes still hit the right notes while expanding the world Frost/Lynch created). Hunter aside, the Frost/Lynch directed episodes still watch as though on a higher operating level than much of the series' content. They are almost without exception, the singular Twin Peaks magic-in-a-bottle concoction of myth, small town drama, suggested surrealism, tone and ambiance.

Its truncation due to ABC's cancellation and David's hurried reconciliation of the series is still as abstract, brutal, emotionally dissociative and heartbreaking to watch as it was over two decades ago. "Fire Walk With Me" can be seen as a reconciliation of sorts to the series' abrupt and dramatically tragic conclusion. For it's 20th anniversary, Alex Pappademas of Grantland returned to the prequel with fresh eyes and decades distance and finds it less a departure, and more true to what David's cinematic world and it's concerns are really about, making for an, "Anatomy of a Fascinating Disaster: Fire Walk With Me". This next week also sees the 25th annual Twin Peaks Festival held as it is every year since 1993, at the locations featured most in the series itself; the towns of North Bend and Snoqualmie. The three days of the festival consisting of the annual night of film screenings, site tours and celebrity dinner and Q&A with select members of the series' cast and creators, which for this year's iteration includes; Charlotte Stewart, Kimmy Robertson, Sabrina Sutherland, Sherilyn Fenn, James Marshall, Al Strobel and others, with the annual tradition of surprise guests (past years have included Ray Wise and co-writer Bob Engels). Or even, as was the case earlier this year, Sheryl Lee attending the screening. Proceeding the festival, the Seattle Art Museum hosts their, "David Lynch Movie Night: The Art Life & Wild at Heart" with a screening of the new documentary on the artist's early life and the 1990 Cannes Palme d'Or winning feature length film.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

SWANS with Okkyung Lee final dates of West Coast Tour Aug: 22 - Aug 27

Next month The Neptune will host SWANS on the final tour of their current iteration alongside experimental cellist, Okkyung Lee. Having led the towering rock outfit through numerous manifestations over the decades since it's inception, including a brief phase as the orchestral folk ensemble Angels of Light, change and transfiguration have been one of their great constants of Michael Gira's lifelong music endeavor. After the physical endurance-testing rock olympics of 2010-2011 in which Michael Gira's SWANS reformed after a 15 year hiatus, we were blessed with a fourth and final album in this current half-decade of reinvention and creative metempsychosis. At the end of their previous incarnation with the grandiose heights scaled in "Soundtracks for the Blind" and "Swans are Dead", they took celestial ascension and physical bombast to literally epic durations and dynamic intensity. The post-reform precision and brevity of "My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope in the Sky", the more variegated and nuanced "The Seer", the extended forays heard on "To Be Kind" and rapturous hypnoticism of last year's "The Glowing Man" scale similarly Homeric heights heard two decades past. "Michael Gira on ‘Dangling Off the Edge of a Cliff’ for SWANS Epic Final Album" for The Observer maps the musical trajectory's Oroborous-like path back to itself, as SWANS of the 21st Century has birthed a supreme amalgam from it's own DNA. One that encapsulates the totality of their 35 year trajectory from brutalist No Wave minimalism to Musique Concrete and extended tonal and drone compositions to electric rock, psychedelia, blues, folk and Americana.

The Guardian's John Doran postulates how its come to pass that SWANS have produce the best work of their career so far. Where so many other bands of a similar vintage have retread familiar ground, revisiting the formula of past successes, Gira and company chose to instead stake everything on a fresh roll of the dice. They took a genuine gamble on creating new art rather than trying to recapture past glories and in doing so, they have conjured an, "Enduring Love: Why SWANS are More Vital Now than Ever". The albums of this decade are the fruit of an extended, ever-evolving recording process, "A Little Drop of Blood: Michael Gira of SWANS Interviewed" for The Quietus describes the often arduous writing, rehearsal, touring and recording in a dynamic creative systole and diastole. The undertaking of then translating these recorded works to a marathon live experience documented in an interview with Pitchfork of 2014, "Michael Gira Talks about How SWANS Returned without Losing Any Potency". Even more personal and confessional, The Quietus have produced a lengthy interview on the explicitly spiritual, transcendental nature of their live incarnation, "This is My Sermon: Michael Gira of SWANS Speaks". From which Gira is quoted; "I hope there's a spiritual quality, but it's not a denominational kind of thing, it's an aspiration towards some kind of realization, or breathing the air that the spirits breathe, or going somewhere that is bigger than myself when I conceive these songs. It's a great feeling. I think The Stooges had a kind of abandon and release, if you listen to Fun House. But electric guitar music has the ability to do that to people, and it's also like the Master Musicians Of Jajouka, where they just keep going and you lose your mind but find it simultaneously. That's sort of the idea. My personal spiritual beliefs are irrelevant. Music is the practice." And like the albums of their previous iterations in the 1980's and 90s, the live realization of this practice has far exceeded their corresponding recorded works. Gira and company's live performances this decade have watched as almost a ritual of invocation. Bringing with them the visceral and transcendental effect of mind-frying, body-numbing volumes to elevate all. Photo credit: Samantha Marble

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Seattle Art Fair at CenturyLink Center: Aug 3 - 6 | Out of Sight at Schoenfelds Building: Aug 4 - 27

In advance of the Seattle Art Fair's inaugural success, there was abundant speculation as to the nature of the exhibit local philanthropist Paul Allen and the organization he had assembled with Max Fishko of Art Market Productions, would be bringing to the city. At the time there was little that offered insight beyond the press release, which made it out to be half-commercial gallery, half-curated exhibition, featuring some 60 galleries representing local to international dealers and an emphasis on the West Coast and Pacific Rim. The majority of the dialog focused on the fair's relation to the art market, with Brian Boucher's "Why Are Gagosian, Pace, and Zwirner Signing On for the Seattle Art Fair?" and The Observer's "Paul Kasmin and Pace Gallery Join the Inaugural Seattle Art Fair" leading the discussion. With later pieces like Seattle Times "High Art Meets Deep Pockets at Seattle Art Fair", as well as the New York Times recap, "Seattle Art Fair Receives a Boost From Tech’s Big Spenders", and Art News "Why the Seattle Art Fair Is Important for the Art World", positioning the event in relationship to the moneyed local tech industry.

All of which were little more than discussions of the art market and the inclusion of some of the gallery world's international power players. For insight into the curatorial direction and work to be featured, one had to rely on regional media in which there was no small supply of skepticism expressed concerning the fair being another of Paul Allen's pet cultural projects, both for the good and the bad. The extent of the fair's scope became apparent opening weekend with favorable coverage in both the New York Times and Artforum. The exhibitions and galleries drawn from Asia were among the three day event's greater successes. In addition to the participating galleries Kaikai Kiki and Koki Arts from Tokyo, along with Gana Art of Seoul and Osage Gallery from Hong Kong, the "Thinking Currents" wing curated by Leeza Ahmady, director of Asia Contemporary Art Week produced a premier exhibition of video, film and sound work exploring themes related to the cultural, political, and geographical parameters of the Pacific Rim. With Kaikia KiKi head, Takashi Murakami returning for the fair's second installment, programming his own satellite exhibition "Juxtapoz x SuperFlat", for Pivot Art + Culture. As covered by Trinie Dalton in, "Pacific Objects", for Artforum, "Seattle Art Fair and Out of Sight made a Return" with the fair's successful second year.

Returning the first weekend in August for it's third edition, this year will feature an expanded body of galleries, some 84 in total, along with it's program of talks, on-and-off site performances and collateral events around the city. These under the umbrella of the fair's Project series, presenting immersive and large-scale works spanning sculpture, performance, and installation. The Projects offering a platform for presentations beyond the art fair booth and into adjacent neighborhoods of the city, the latter the focus of Art News' "Seattle Art Fair Adds Daily Dialogues and Special Projects, Featuring Jenny Holzer and W.I.T.C.H.". Laura Fried returns as artistic director, along with the core dealer committee of local gallerists, James Harris and Greg Kucera, and the big players from Los Angeles, represented by William Hathaway of Night Gallery and New York's Lidia Andich of Gagosian Gallery, Robert Goff of David Zwirner  and Elizabeth Sullivan from Pace Gallery. Notably, in the way of influential presenters, "Roberts & Tilton are Among New Galleries" returning from their inclusion in last year's program.

Preeminent arts entity, Gagosian are back after an absence in 2016, and United Talent Agency, who represent work by rebel artists of the past 30 years, including Mike Kelley, Joe Bradley, Nate Lowman, Elizabeth Peyton, and Raymond Pettibon, will mark their first participation in an art fair. Also in it's third installment, Out of Sight returns in a new exhibition space at the historic Schoenfelds Building for its annual survey of contemporary art in the Pacific Northwest. With a new curatorial and production team under the direction of exhibition caretaker, Scott Lawrimore of Lawrimore Project. Current Director of the Jacob Lawrence Gallery, Lawrimore is joined by this year's curatorial team of Greg Lundgren, S. Surface, Justen Siyuan Waterhouse, Holly Palmer, and Benedict Heywood. Credited as "The Real Seattle Art Fair is Out of Sight" in local press, last year's exceptional program was a collaboration between Sharon Arnold of Bridge Productions along with Seattle artist Greg Lundgren and Sierra Stinson, founder of Vignettes for Vital 5 Productions. Offering a counterpoint to the global vision of the Seattle Art fair, this 22,000 square-foot survey of contemporary art read like a who's-who of the best work seen about the Pacific Northwest in the past decade.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

"Yayoi Kasuma: Infinity Mirrors" at Seattle Art Museum: Jun 30 - Sept 10

Following its debut at the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, the retrospective of Yayoi Kusama's painting, sculptural and installation work will travel to four major museums in the United States and Canada, including the Seattle Art Museum, The Broad in Los Angeles, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. From experiences had at the Broad and it's "Infinity Mirrored Room: The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away" of 2015, with overwhelming demand and inaccessibility by those who purchased tickets, the current touring exhibition hopes to curb such issues with a explicitly finite number of tickets offered for scheduled times and limited duration viewings of each installation. The Hirshhorn became the testing ground for this format, finding that even with the severe limitation put on time in each of the Infinity Rooms, patrons were engaging in distracted activities, leading to damage to the installation. From their example, we can hope that Seattle Art Museum has created a structure for programming the highest qualitative experience for it's patrons as "Yayoi Kasuma: Infinity Mirrors" arrives for it's two month engagement this July. Working concurrently with the then developing Gutai movement in Japan, Kusama produced her own idiosyncratic paintings in a style incorporating abstracted natural forms in watercolor, gouache and oil, primarily on paper. This work came to develop in a fashion outside of the canvas, with a growing disregard for traditional materials and setting. Her focus on repeating abstract patters and polka dots expanded to cover the surfaces of walls, floors, cloth materials, and later, household objects and human figures. Leaving Japan in 1956, a brief stint in the Northwest followed, during which her correspondence with notable American painter Georgia O'Keeffe led to connections in the New York Minimalist and Fluxus scenes of the early 1960s.

By 1961 Kusama had relocated to New York, coming to share a studio in the same building as installation artists and sculptors Donald Judd and Eva Hess. Kusama's own work developed over this period, expanding to include everyday objects such as ladders, shoes and furnishings who's surfaces where redolent with the sculptural recrudesce of phallic protrusions. Initially white and monochrome, and later in metallic and again, polka dot configurations. During this time Kusama struck up a friendship with assemblage and experimental filmmaker Joseph Cornell, which came to be a source of lasting and often daily conversations and correspondence with the senior artist and creative mentor. A span of time also marked by notable shows with figures from the Pop Art movement, a brief compatriotship with Andy Warhol and inclusion in high profile exhibitions including the 1966 Venice Biennale with her "Narcissus Garden". It was with the breakthrough of her 1965 "Infinity Mirror Room: Phalli’s Field" that came to define the larger direction of her life's body of work. Utilizing mirrored walls in a controlled and enclosed space, Kusama escalated the focused repetition of her earlier paintings and works into a seemingly endless perceptual landscape. In the decades since the advances of her first installation of it's kind, the artist has produced more than twenty distinct Infinity Mirror Rooms as a series of "Vivid Hallucinations from a Fragile Life". The Hirshhorn exhibition of this past year presented six of these works, the largest number of such pieces shown simultaneously together, making it the first retrospective of it's kind. From the Hirshhorn: "Ranging from peep-show-like chambers to multimedia installations, each of Kusama’s kaleidoscopic environments offers the chance for the viewer to have a vantage into the illusion of infinite space. By tracing the development of these iconic installations alongside a selection of her other key artworks, Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors aims to reveal the significance of the Infinity MIrror Rooms amidst today’s renewed interest in experiential practices and virtual spaces."