Recommended Listening: Mark Kostabi’s Kostabeat!

Kostabeat CD Cover

Some people have all the talent, it seems. It’s no secret that world famous pop artist Mark Kostabi is also a phenomenally gifted pianist and composer – and fortunately for us, he is not shy about sharing his music with a global audience. Mark Kostabi!

Kostabeat! is Mark’s new CD collaboration with Italian drummer, Tony Esposito. The album’s press release tells the fun story about how the two “met at one of Kostabi’s extravagant parties in Rome [where the artist lives for half the year. Nice]. Kostabi was on piano in the middle of a jam session when Esposito suddenly got on drums and Kostabi was blown away by Esposito’s commanding, percussive drive. They immediately agreed to collaborate on an album. Three years and 50 concerts later, Kostabeat! exists!

Of course, Mark and Tony gathered a group of top-shelf musicians to play on the album as well. Paul Kostabi (Mark’s brother, a musician of some repute who is also an artist), plays guitar on most of Kostabeat!’s songs, and he is joined by Italy’s most famous saxophonist, Stefano Di Battista; Lino Pariota providing his expertise on a variety of keyboards; and Antonio Nicola Bruno playing bass on all eleven tunes. Esposito produced the album in collaboration with Paul Kostabi.

As with 2011’s The Spectre of Modernism on which Kostabi collaborated with the legendary founder of Free Jazz: Ornette Coleman, drummer Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel) and Bass/Chapman Stick master Tony Levin, Kostabeat! achieves a multi-genre, crossover appeal and is notable for being Kostabi’s first not-entirely-instrumental album. Here, Mark’s Playful and provocative lyrics are sung by a team of female vocalists: Mollie Israel (daughter of film directors Amy Heckerling and Neal Israel) Elizabeth LoPiccolo, a very talented and fiery, emerging Brooklyn singer and Monica Marziota: a Cuban-Italian singer who also has careers in opera and Latin pop music. All technical proficiency aside, it sounds like everyone involved had a fantastic time making this record.

“Unexpected” is how you might sum up the variety of music you’ll hear on Kostabeat! The CD’s lively opening track, “New Muse” leads with Mark’s gorgeous classically-inspired piano, layered with hand percussion, before flowing into a staccato synth riff and distinctly world beat vibe highlighted by Marziota’s otherworldly vocals. “Oriental Scale” finds Di Battista toying with an arabesque motif on his sax over an insistent and undeniably groovy beat. The exultant “Eternity Now” seems a natural choice for a remix treatment by any one of the moment’s top DJ’s (and it would certainly pack the dance floor in any night club) but it’s sure to find that audience just as it sounds on the disc. Rave on!

Things get a little laid back with “Echoes of Twilight,” which begins with the delightfully seductive, spoken lyrics, “Thank you for a lovely invitation, but I already have plans for the evening.” The instrumental “Megatron Horizon” is a bit of genre-bender that will appeal to the electronic dance contingent, but things get sultry again with “Glide With Me.” Bruno’s funky bass lines anchor the song before LoPiccolo’s gorgeous vocal delivery has a chance to fully intoxicate you. Love this track!

Of course, we did not miss the significance of the title on “11:11” – which is number we seem to see very time we look at the clock. The lyrics, “Eleven Eleven, a sign from heaven” prove that Kostabi the lyricist is on the same page. We appreciate the uplifting lyrics on a non-rock song that truly rocks! “11:11” is also an example of the meticulous arrangements that feature on each song. Getting back to the CD’s lyrics for a moment, “Mine Tonight,” a song about, er, spending the night with a hooker, features a spoken word interlude that I’d guess was culled from Kostabi’s FaceBook feed, to wit: “just so you know, I feel very grateful for the times we shared together and I’m so glad that we are still friends. You’re a very special person and I hold you in high regard. I enjoy seeing your posts and watching her life evolve in positive ways.” So, who says FaceBook is a waste of time?

Last but not least, we would like to offer that “All The Way Jose” manages to mention guacamole and margaritas and cheekily name-check Roger Daltrey while favorably recalling the very best of Steely Dan. Kostabeat! Is an ideal soundtrack for entertaining a group of any size or just lounging around by your bad self. Nice work, guys (and gals)! Kostabeat! is available via iTunes and on the historic Italian record label Azzurra Music at This Link!

GRADE: A

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José Parlá’s In Media Res at Bryce Woklowitz Gallery

In Medias Res Concrete Wall DetailIn Media Res Concrete Walls
All Photos By Gail

Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery is currently hosting In Medias Res, the second solo exhibition of Brooklyn based artist José Parlá. The exhibition features new paintings, sculptures and a large-scale mural installation.

In Medias Res Concrete Wall Detail
Detail from Concrete Wall, Above

In Medias Res Front View

In Medias Res White and Pink Canvas

In Medias Res is a chronicle of Parlá’s life, beginning with his childhood and including his extensive travels around the world. Through choreographed, painterly works, the artist creates impressions of life-altering moments that have impacted his art making process.

In Medias Res Large Work

The artist’s distinctive method of conceptual and abstract storytelling unfolds and insists on its own vivid layers. The material densities of the works infuse the imagery with a sense of visual narration.

In Medias Res Pink Canvas

Parlá’s paintings exist somewhere between transcription and revelation – the accumulation of words, signs and markings evolve into a complex and unpredictable symphony. Time is very much at stake, and each image is an effort to demarcate the passing of time.

In Medias Res Detail

In Medias Res by José Parlá will be on Exhibit through October 18th, 2014 at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, Located at 505 West 24th Street, in the Chelsea Gallery District.

In Medias Res Signage

Tom Fruin’s Color Study at Mike Weiss Gallery

Tom Fruin Water Tower
Watertower By Tom Fruin (All Photos By Gail)

Oh, what fun it was to discover one of Tom Fruin’s  Watertower sculptures inside an art gallery instead of out in DUMBO or somewhere off the BQE! As it turns out, Fruin’s current exhibit, Color Study, over at Mike Weiss Gallery marks the very first time that the artist’s architecturally-scaled public works have been shown in a gallery context. Super fun!

Tom Fruin Water Tower Detail
Watertower Close Up

The Watertower is constructed from found scrap metal and colored Plexiglas in a patchwork design that also incorporates facsimiles of cigar bands and the word “Ecstasy” repeated at intervals across it’s colorful and endlessly captivating surface, which is illuminated from the tower’s interior.

Tom Fruin Water Tower Ecstasy Detail

Tom Fruin Cigar Band Wall Scultpture

The wall sculpture above (of which there are several on display at Mike Weiss) will give you an idea of the grid that Fruin builds on for his colored Plexiglas creations. Check out the one below:

Tom Fruin Wall Quilt

This patchwork of colors relates not only to the surface of the Watertower but also to Fruin’s earlier project series, Drug-Bag Quilts, in which the artist used found drug bags, stitched together with thread, to create quilt-like wall hangings. Talk about an interesting way to upcycle!

Tom Fruin Lanterns

Color Study also includes a set of Swings with Cigar Band Seats which are suspended from the gallery’s ceiling (not shown) and the above lanterns, one electric and one powered by a small fuel tank.

Stained Glass Flame Sculpture

And last but not least, Fruin has created this illuminated-from-within, Stained Glass replica of what looks to me like the cluster of flame from Lady Liberty’s torch. Astounding.

Stained Glass Flame Detail
Stained Glass Flame Detail

Color Study presents enchanting and unique artworks the likes of which you aren’t going to see anywhere else in the Chelsea Gallery District, so don’t let yourself miss this one!

Tom Fruin’s Color Study will be on Exhibit Through October 18th, 2014 at Mike Weiss Gallery, Located at 520 West 24th Street in the Chelsea Gallery District.

Tom Fruin Color Study Signage

Alessandro Gallo’s Strani Incontri at Jonathan LeVine Gallery

Lizard in a Suit
The Man Who Sold the World by Alessandro Gallo (All Photos By Gail)

You only have a few more days to check out Strani Incontri, an exhibition of new works by Italian artist Alessando Gallo over at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery. This is Gallo’s first exhibit at LeVine, but his work will probably look very familiarly if you know the art of Mike Leavitt, who also shows at LeVine.

Strani Encontri Room View
The Beginning of a Great Adventure (Foreground, Right)

Gallo merges elements of the real world to create a surreal one teeming with the possibility of strani incontri, or strange encounters. His hybrid sculptures embody human behavioral patterns and physical attributes from the neck down while unseemly animal heads mock the human disposition and comically question our relationship with the natural world.

Bird Busking
She Belongs to Me

Jakob Mountain Goat with Beer
Jakob

Gallo’s artistic process is deeply rooted in realism and he begins by photographing a model from all angles. He then uses those photographs, as well as images from his sizeable archive of animal wildlife books, as references while sculpting.

Snake with an iPad
Scripta Elegans

The mutant species Gallo creates are then placed in typical human circumstances, such as riding the subway or checking their tablet on a park bench, and are so accurately crafted that their presence is unsettling yet familiar.

Strani Encontri Birds in Bed
Come Fly With Me

Themes of loneliness, isolation and boredom are abundant in Gallo’s work due to the inclusion of an animal presence in the mundane minutia of urban life. Every culture has associations between animals and emotions, which are evident in adages such as ‘happy as a clam’ or ‘stubborn as a mule’, and Gallo views his sculptures as psychological portraits relating to these emotional states.

Swing Ducks on Swings
Swing

Regardless of their distortion, Gallo’s characters exemplifying human nature by humorously embodying our values and vices.

Vulture in the Garbage
Turkey Vulture

Alessandro Gallo’s Strani Incontri will be on Exhibit until October 4th at Jonathan LeVine Gallery, Located at 529 W 20th Street, 9th Floor, in the Chelsea Gallery District.

Toad in Superman T
I Feel Good

Strani Incontri Signage

Modern Art Monday Presents: Stuart Davis, Odol

Odol
Photo By Gail

Long before Andy Warhol and other Pop artists mined the world of trademark brands, Stuart Davis (1892 – 1964) incorporated imagery from logos, commercial signage and modern packaging into his paintings. The artist created the above work in 1924 – during the Golden Age of Advertising – as a sleek, streamlined ode to a bottle of mouthwash.

Odol is part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.

Video Clip of The Week: “Era” by Fiancé


It must be said that we were instantly charmed by the lush pop fugue of Fiancé’s “Era” – a shoegazery sonic delight that endures for nearly five full minutes! Apparently, this Delaware-based quartet that have yet to release an album are already drawing comparisons to Tame Impala — high praise indeed — but I think the nod indicates more that Fiancé are doing something worth listening to than that they are jumping on an aural bandwagon. The sound is too confident and too retro for that. Visually, the live performance footage filtered through a mirror ball haze is all you need to complete the package, but the band throw in an Easter egg of inter-cut footage of a teenage girl in a white party dress enjoying the late days of summer before possibly meeting a sudden and violent end? You’ll have to ask the band what that is all about.

Fiancé will release their debut EP, appropriately titled EP1, on October 7th via SQE Music. The EP — recorded to quarter inch tape on a Tascam 388 tape machine, which totally demystifies why it just sounds so effing good — will be available digitally and on vinyl and can be pre-ordered in the SQE Online Store. Enjoy!

Fiance Era
EP1 Cover Art