art in all its forms

art in all its forms


Crossing boundaries

On Richard Rawlins Gotcha at Alice Yard, Woodbrook, Port of Spain

Once more, art confronts us with the intersection of ideas.

Richard Rawlins' recent exhibition, Gotcha, raised questions over the place of modern practices of design within the traditional realm of art and painting, of politics and art and of installation work and non-traditional formats for creating design and for expression (specially designed lapel buttons are part of the work).

The work, recently shown at Alice Yard, comprised a series of politically-themed paintings (are any paintings not concerned with politics?) displayed in various spaces within the Woodbrook backyard space. The work used simple designs (are there such things?) which pushed quite close to iconography (the artist plans a series of limited edition prints to be sold at a later event in a few months time).

White elephants, dangling flies that become pianos, non-performing arts academies and lego politicians all suggest what we all know: the realm of politics is one big megee.

"The joke is on you. It always was," Tracey Hutchings remarks in a limited edition monograph published by Rawlins to accompany the show (sections of which are featured here). The joke, Hutchings notes, functions "politically, mentally, economically, and maybe even spiritually". This at once playful and dark, sincere and whimsical: a kind of therapy that focuses more on triggering dialogue (what part of life does not?)

SEE MORE at Richard Rawlin's blog here.


'Even as a bird...'

Detail from print of the drowned Leander in the arms of Hero

'His admiring eyes more pleasure took...'


Admit one

 General Admission, an exhibition by Tessa Alexander.

What does it mean to carve a small society up into fractions? What are the functions and implications of these divisions; how are these divisions, based on class, race, education, political affiliation, sexuality, gender and even disability, reflected in everyday life?

A glimpse might be had from Tessa Alexander's latest show.


General Admission looks at this latest trend of dividing a space using rather imposing scaffolding creating sections within an area purely based on economics and naming these sections VIP and even VVIP relegating the General Admission section to the very back of the space so you become the outcast. This very disturbing trend has become the norm and it seems the past and where we have come from is repeating itself.

In this body of work I look at "General Admission" who does this apply to? Are we not all general admission, did carnival, jouvert, steel pan, doubles, sno cone etc not come out of the "General Admission" in our society?

I created this body of work based on these questions/observations and chose to highlight and even celebrate the general admission of us as a people.


Born in Trinidad Tessa Alexander always enjoyed creative expression and she remembers wanting to be an artist since childhood. After completing high school at Bishop Anstey, she went on to study Fashion Design and Merchandising at the International Academy of Design and Technology and worked in that field producing her own label for approx. 10 years. In 2004 she was given an artist residency at CCA7 after which she began renting a studio there as committing to a space dedicated to my practice would allow her work to grow. In 2005 she was invited on an artist residency to Delhi, India for six weeks and to a workshop in Nairobi Kenya in 2007. Her work can be found in collections in Germany, Canada, the US and regionally. At present she maintain a studio from her home and remains committed to her practice and to the education of children hosting weekly art classes and camps.--ARC Magazine.


Super 8 is suspenseful

Zack Mills and Kyle Chandler in "Super 8."

Not a bad film. At times a little creepy and always suspenseful. The deliberate attempt to re-create that awe and wonder of early Spielberg blockbusters (think ET) is a little heavy-handed but works. The special effects and some action sequences feel loose. But all in all this is affecting and effective. One underground shot is brilliant. Stay for the super 8 footage that plays during the credits: this is perhaps the film's best part.

STARS: ***


Does Rihanna’s latest video glorify:

1) violence
2) violence against men
3) vigilante justice
4) crimes of passion


1) it is violent, though that fact does not make it glorify anything. If anything it is a realistic depiction of a human situation. All the controversy is misplaced.

2) well clearly there is something romanticized about the idea of "hell has no fury like a woman scorned". And somehow, you get the sense that if this was a video about a man killing a woman who horned him things would not be the same. Yet, is there not a double standard in criticizing women in positions of power enacting violence and not doing the same for men? Thus

3) what may be wrong about this is that is romanticizes vigilante justice in general. Or does it? Is this video social document or normative standard? After all it is just a pop video. And actually it is one of the few videos out there reflecting something that is unfortunately very real.

4) doubtful.

Thus, to me, the most pressing question in this video is: WHAT IS RIHANNA WEARING? 

From the Abovegroup blog

Wendell McShine. SEE more here.

You g ot ca ught a gain

Not nice RR. Not nice at all. SEE MORE here.


all that's left

Detail from Christopher Cozier's "all that's left"


Christopher Cozier. Open Studio.

Saturday, June 11; Sunday, June 12, 3 to 9 pm.

Three projects will be installed in Cozier's studio with related studies and drawings for sale:

• “Tropical Night” series, shown in “Infinite Island”, Brooklyn Museum, NY, and also in “Afro Modern” at the TATE Liverpool

• “Now Showing”, a silkscreen edition produced for the TTFF

• My latest silkscreen edition, “all that’s left,” launched by David Krut Projects, NY, and on view in “Fugitive Vision”

Please call 714-3609 for directions.


David Krut Projects is pleased to present Fugitive Vision, a group exhibition of works by Christiane Baumgartner, Christopher Cozier, Joseph Hart, Whitney McVeigh, Ryan and Trevor Oakes, Phil Sanders, Sara Sanders, and Mary Wafer.

The human eye continuously absorbs and categorizes an endless flow of visual information, encountering, simultaneously and unconsciously, objects in one’s path. We process this visual overload of masses, materials, and actions by forming connections between the external and ourselves. Our vision is always shifting, because the visible — as the Impressionists first understood, and the Cubists later expanded upon — is by nature, fugitive, and cannot be understood from a fixed perspective. The works in this exhibition explore the frameworks that surround and influence this subjective vision. Highlighting the interplay between sight and site, “Fugitive Vision” investigates the relationship between visual modes of perception and representation.

Christopher Cozier explores the confrontation between the sight of one’s body and the stratification of self, revealing embedded, prescribed notions of identity and masculinity. As a symbol of success and division, the rostrum appears in his drawings in various configurations, exposing the hierarchy of cultural identity as a production of a game or contest. Unoccupied, the symbol of the rostrum becomes an uninhabitable platform that pervades the pictorial space, questioning the commensurability between culturally-coded sight and a predetermined place.

Opens June 9, New York. 

FOR MORE info check here.


A mutant bromance

FILM REVIEW: X-Men: First Class ***

James McAvoy and the great Michael Fassbender in Matthew Vaughn's X-Men: Origins

X-Men purists scoff when I say I enjoyed X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Apparently the first few films in the franchise were more faithful to the spirit of the X-Men (though there are question marks over Halle Berry’s infamously bad wig in the first film). So fans everywhere should be relieved to learn that the latest reboot of the franchise, X-Men: First Class, is not bad and is even at moments intensely enjoyable.

The film is an interesting combination of the buddy/bromance genre that Judd Apatow and company have made de rigueur in Hollywood in recent years (witness The Green Hornet, Batman and Robin) and, well, X-Men comic book stuff.

We get a lot of the background facts that established the ground-rules in the later movies and learn the back stories of the major characters: we find out how Professor X ends up in a wheelchair, what turns Magneto ‘bad’ (though the point of his character is to make such a simplification complex) and why some of the other characters end up romantically linked. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) makes a cameo appearance and so do some characters who will later become villains.

All in all, this profuse back-story stuff is too much and weighs the narrative down. The characters never come to life and we feel like their function is to fulfill a purpose within the X-Men mythology whenever they appear onscreen.

But what makes this film good is Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy who have a good chemistry and unusual depth for the parts. Fassbender is an excellent actor (rightly made famous for his tour de force performance in Steve McQueen’s Hunger) who manages to invest in each role, yet maintains a certain degree of malleability (he appeared in Inglorious Basterds and is due to appear in Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre). UPDATE: There is also some fun stuff involving the Cuban missile crisis!

ALSO SAW: The Eagle

Channing Tatum in The Eagle

This week I also saw The Eagle, another bromance but this time involving a Roman slave, Jamie Bell and Channing Tatum. No, it’s not a gay porn film, I swear!

The movie, by Kevin MacDonald (who did the Last King of Scotland) is ambitious and manages some power. But somehow you leave with a sneaking suspicion that things were changed by Hollywood suits in an attempt to make the film more appealing. The film bears the imprint of a film which was intended to be a sobering vision, made less sobering because of commercial imperatives. That said, there were lots of Romans and they always look good on-screen.

STARS: ***

Che Lovelace's desk

SEE more from inside painter Che Lovelace's studio here.


Women in art

Glass ceiling: 'Shattered' by Linda Ahwal-Kowlessar, 2004, tempered glass, currently on display at the 'Women in Art' exhibition at the National Museum and Art Gallery.


THE IDEA that art can have a gender: that the sexes approach art differently and that the products of male and female artists differ in clear ways is one that some people still seem to cling to. Consider VS Naipaul’s latest comments which have triggered controversy (and at least one cool feature on the UK’s Guardian website).

In an interview at the Royal Geographic Society at the UK on Tuesday, Naipaul was asked if he considered any woman writer his literary match. He replied: “I don’t think so.” Of Jane Austen—whose work he has dismissed as “gossip”—he said he “couldn’t possibly share her sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world”. Naipaul said he felt that women writers were “quite different”:

“I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me,” he said. The author, who was born in Trinidad, said this was because of women’s “sentimentality, the narrow view of the world”.

“And inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too,” he claimed. He added: “My publisher, who was so good as a taster and editor, when she became a writer, lo and behold, it was all this feminine tosh. I don’t mean this in any unkind way.”

But we don’t have to go all the way to the UK and to Naipaul to see ideas like this in play.

Witness the fact that the state-owned National Museum and Art Gallery on Keate Street, Port-of-Spain, currently has an exhibition on called “Women in Art”.

Consider that title again and all its positive and negative implications:

Women in Art: Women make their own unique brand of art, come see!
Women in Art: Art is not all done by men, lo and behold there are women artists too!
Women in Art: The work of this group of female artists can stand alone as a testimony to the fact that women make work as good as men!
Women in Art: In a world dominated by male hierarchies female artists are not being appreciated, appreciate them now!

You could criticize the title of the museum’s exhibition (which is actually a fine gathering of work by the likes of Pat Bishop, Susan Deyal, Adele Todd, Abigail Hadeed and many others) for implying and enforcing a notion of male dominance that must be rebelled against. Worse, you could say that the title implies that women make a particular type of art: recognizable perhaps in the Naipaulian manner.

The title could be read positively, however. It could imply that while men dominate the art world, the work of women is equal. In other words, the title, combined with the fine quality of the work on display, become a powerful statement demonstrating that women make art, not inferior work.

A review of the pieces in the exhibition provide no clue to its gender assumptions. Of course this is correct: the work is work is work, not didactic, not narrowly obsessed with one theme. Or perhaps this is better explained by the exhibition’s precursors: the ‘Women in Art’ exhibitions put on by the association of artists called, funnily enough, ‘Women in Art’ (you can check out their website here). 

Is there not something odd about an organization based on gender putting on an exhibition whose title ties it in some way to gender? Do we feel the need to have an organization called "Men in Art"? 

At the same time, there are some realities: the art world, traditionally, and like all of the professions, has been seen for centuries as a man's world. While there is inherently nothing that distinguishes female and male experience in this regard (except in experiences of different gender norms), there is perhaps a need to defiantly send a message: The work of this group of female artists can stand alone as a testimony to the fact that women make work as good as men! 

Perhaps only Naipaul would see it differently.


Desert island books

Over drinks with a friend the other day the conversation turned to the following question: stranded on a deserted island for the rest of your life what books would you want to have with you? 

Now being stranded on a deserted island might mean you'd be a little preoccupied with others things like fighting off the animals or hunting for food but you'd surely find time for some good literature! 

1. The Bible 

This one is a no-brainer. Most of Western literature, in some form or fashion, is traced to these texts which never fail to startle and inspire in every sense of the word. A must have.

2. The Tempest and/or The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

The Tempest is widely accepted as Shakespeare's last and--in the views of some--best and most atypical play. An elegy that is something of an homage to all that came before it from the Bard:
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange. 

3. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

I come back to this for its opening sentences: “My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my christian name Phillip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit that Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.” In other words, the protagonist is in a battle between forging his own destiny and fate: between naming himself and being named. A few lines later we learn that the “father” of the first sentence is dead and just as his name has been cut short—both advertently by others and inadvertently by himself—so much of Pip’s life has also been cut short of prospect, of opportunity, of expectation. This is a miraculous opening for a miraculous book. While Great Expectations is heavy-handed, perhaps, in some of its symbolism, its miracle remains the fact that every single line Dickens wrote in it is pregnant with possibility. Whenever I go back I always see more.

4. A House for Mr Biswas by VS Naipaul

One aspect of Naipaul's 1961 novel that not many people comment on is how its language and tone open up the narrative to deep and profound medications on life. We hear and read a lot about the novel's comic aspects, about its post-colonial themes, about its politics and its relation to Naipaul's other works. But what the book's narrator actually says is often overlooked (in favor of looking at the action and the comments of the characters). Consider one of the novel's best didactic passages that comes at the end of its great prologue:

But bigger than them all was the house, his house. 
How terrible it would have been, at this time, to be without it: to have died among the Tulsis, amid the squalor of that large, disintegrating and indifferent family; to have left Shama and the children among them, in one room; worse, to have lived without even attempting to lay claim to one's portion of the earth; to have lived and died as one had been born, unnecessary and unaccommodated. 

The language is elegant: precise but not verbose, well-structured yet still rhythmic. The book is hypnotic, heart-breaking and, ultimately, has the impact of a prayer. Interestingly, with a new book out and new editions of older books also out, Naipaul is in the news for some controversial remarks he's made (yet again).

5. Candide by Voltaire

Such fine satire will be most welcomed. Optimism might also be useful in the circumstances, too.

6. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Useful for battling all the wild predators on the isle.

7. Undraining Sea by Vahni Capideo

Also useful for battling wild predators but perhaps for other reasons. If you are going to be facing the sea every morning then why not in the company of Capildeo's book? 

The poetry of this volume joins the sea of words: it both makes and breaks the ocean up. The work is deeply mysterious (as in the poem 'From First to Last...') but also concerned with complex everyday experience. The form of the poems are themselves a medium of the poet's expression: her choice of structures and of mechanisms to express the iridescence of ideas mirror the language and images within her gift. This is a work of synesthesia. 

Check out more about the book here and consider this section from 'Disappearing People':

      As egrets fly over
reclaimed land in a whiteness
more plangent than the mangrove salt
crusting their wings,
just so was the gate
less wrought than what lay there,
arms fronting the ceiling.
     But she shouted to it,
     I am missing a layer.
You know how it has gone.
Where is the skin that pasted my bones?
My breastbone is pulsing
with my breath palpitating.
By my life! Give me cover!
What amends for no surface?
I keep down to a walking pace.
Still it goes surging, spilling out, life:
I need to close it,
what you took without moving.
8. Beloved by Toni Morrison

One of the greatest novels ever written. The key success of the work is how Morrison gives voice to the voiceless, how she reverses an abhorrent erasure with a rage and fractious beauty.

9. The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth

You have to have an excellent thriller. This was the thriller that changed all thrillers and is still a good read.

10. Misery by Stephen King

Might help to lighten the mood!