Todd Gray’s work draws from his archive of photographs amassed during the past forty-five years of his career. Taken in locations from Hollywood to Ghana (where he maintains a studio), these images have been selected by the artist to explore the complex interrelation of Blackness, diasporic identity, and historic systems of exploitation. For his ongoing series Exquisite Terribleness, begun in 2013, Gray collages photographs into a layered arrangements of thrift store frames, creating compositions of fragmented bodies. Many of the individual photographs that Gray uses for his collages were shot following his own creative visions; others, such as in Euclidean Gris Gris 2 (2018) were commissioned, including many he took as Michael Jackson’s personal photographer in the 1970s and early 1980s. Jackson is significant here for Gray not as a celebrity or figure of controversy, but as a global phenomenon whose almost mythic status serves to frame the complex issues explored in Gray’s work. Michael Jackson was accused of child sexual abuse in 1983 and then tried and acquitted for the crime in 2005. New allegations surfaced in a documentary released on HBO in early 2019.
Photographed as Part of The 2019 Biennial Exhibit at The Whitney Museum, NYC
Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra continues to make the rounds in NYC, but this mural, entitled Black or White, of Michael Jackson’s Face as both a child and an adult actually went up some time ago, in late August of 2018. I have walked by it a bunch of times and that orange food truck is always there, so it’s hard to get a clear shot.
Dead for nearly a decade at this point (as hard to believe as that is) Jackson continues to be a highly polarizing figure, especially in light of the just-aired HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, which most definitely lends considerable credence to the child abuse allegations of which Jackson was charged and then famously acquitted. It just makes me sad for everyone involved. I wonder how long it will be now before this mural is painted over.
The Michael Jackson Mural is painted on the side of an apartment building located at the Southeast corner First Avenue and East 11th Street in NYC.
In imagining Michael Jackson (1958 – 2009) as a contemporary god of pop culture, Jeff Koons draws on long histories of representing mythic figures in sculpture. In Michael Jackson and and Bubbles (1988), the singer cradles his pet chimpanzee, mimicking a Pieta as perhaps a poignant evolutionary take on the composition of a mother and her child. Koons uses the techniques and conventions of traditional Meissen porcelain — a medium often associated with kitsch — on a grand scale, to underscore the mass appeal of his subject. Similarly, the pronounced use of gold signals excess to the point of banality, even as it reflects the brilliance of the megastar in the manner of an Egyptian pharaoh.
Photographed as Part of the Exhibit Like Life: Sculpture, Color and The Body, at The Met Breuer, NYC.
Dennis Tompkins and Michael Bush, who were Michael Jackson’s longtime costume designers, were asked to create a pair of Metal Cowboy Boots (circa 1990) for Jackson. The designers found inspiration in sabatons, the part of a knight’s armor that protected the foot. The singer wore these boots to the White House in April of 1990 to received the Artist of the Decade award from President George H.W. Bush.
Photographed in the Autry National Center in Los Angeles.
Confession: While I’m not immediately crazy about the fact that Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker has been made to sound like Michael Jackson on this ridiculously amazing tune, the fact that “‘Cause I’m A Man” aurally draws on the dizzily addictive vocal hooks from ’70s soul classics like The Delfonics’ “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time” and The Stylistics’ “Betcha By Golly Wow,“ more than makes up for any perceived slight. Because, Michael Jackson. Geez.
On Tame Impala’s third album, Currents, Parker’s approach to making his version of modern psychedelia boosts the recording quality and accessibility of these tunes while preserving its intelligence and amazing melodic richness, which makes for a sonic transition as profound as when Guided By Voices let Rick Ocasek produce Isolation Drills. If you know what that means, great. If not, it doesn’t matter.
Visually, this highly abstract computer animated video is simply mind blowing and makes me want to eat handfuls of acid, while also allowing a feeling of vulnerability that something resembling “Romantic Love” is perhaps truly possible. It’s a heavy turn on when men sing about how manly they are, but here Parker puts his heart on the line by confessing his shortcomings as being owed to the fact that he’s, well, just a man. Also, why has no one up to now thought of making an animated video where a Plasma Ball Sphere substitutes for man’s head? I ask yez…
On Currents (says the album’s press release), Kevin Parker “addresses a blindingly colorful panorama of transition in the most audacious, adventurous fashion he’s yet to capture on record. Dense with heady lyrical introspection, musically the most playful, bold and varied Tame Impala record to date, Currents is Parker putting down his weapons and embracing change as the only constant – sonically, thematically, and personally.” Currents is released on July 17th, 2015. Turn on, tune in, trip out. Enjoy!
Brittle House By Will Cotton, 2000 (All Photos By Gail)
Like Paul McCarthey’s ill-fated Butt Plug Tree, I like art that pushes boundaries. That’s what I found in abundance when Geoffrey and I made the scene last Saturday at Flag Art Foundation in Chelsea for the opening reception of a group show they call Disturbing Innocence. It was definitely disturbing.
Mummified Barbies by EV Day
Curated by Eric Fischl, Disturbing Innocence features over 50 historical and contemporary artists whose use of dolls, toys, mannequins, robots, and other surrogates forms a deep and powerfully expressive genre. The exhibition poses profound questions surrounding social constructs of youth, beauty, transformation, violence, sexuality, gender, identity, and loneliness.
Amy Bennett, Property Line, 2007
Inspired by Fischl’s own childhood in suburban Long Island, NY, and his early career as an artist working in New York City in the 1980s, Disturbing Innocence presents a subversive and escapist world at odds with the values and pretensions of polite society. Ninety percent of the art on display is not for the easily offended, but if you are open minded and appreciate stuff that is a bit — or a lot — twisted, then this will be your thing.
Let’s take a look at some highlights from the show!
This snow globe features the serene, wintery scene of one clown standing on the back of another clown in order to commit suicide by hanging himself. Because clowns are scary!
I call this one Nude Rapunzel, because none of the names of the art/ artists were posted adjacent to the works, which is just lazy if you ask me. Or, rather, it makes me feel lazy for not scouring the interwebs thoroughly enough to glean the name of the artist/piece.
Here is one of the less disturbing pieces in the show: it looks like an exploding plastic bag trapped inside a cage.
Here is a closer look. I like it.
Playdate by John Waters, 2006
Look! It’s baby Michael Jackson post-plastic surgery disaster. Let’s find out who his playmate is.
Why, it’s baby Charles Manson! Oh, the cuteness.
This one is just insane.
I did a Google image search of “Sculpture made of breasts” to try to find the name /artist of this piece and got about 100 hits, none which were this sculpture.
This piece, which is a video of a talking head projected against a split sphere, really reminded me of the talking statues in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. It’s the same technique used to give the mannequins expressive faces at the Brooklyn Museum’sJean Paul Gaultier exhibit last year.
Jennifer Rubell, Nutcracker Doll
This functional Nutcracker Doll might be a bit big to keep on hand in your kitchen, but it sure would be a hit at your holiday party!
This sculpture of Siamese Twin Girls was the most disturbing piece in the show, for me. I wish I knew more about it.
I think that all of these sculptures and tableaus, such as the one-armed child above, are perhaps meant to make us more comfortable with seeing and being around people that look different from ourselves. I don’t know that there are any definitive answers, but Disturbing Innocence at the very least aims to start a conversation.
Find out more about Eric Fischl and artists involved in Disturbing Innocence by visiting This Link.
Disturbing Innocence will be on Exhibit Through January 31st, 2015 at Flag Art Foundation, Located at 545 West 25th Street, 9th Floor, in the Chelsea Gallery District. Gallery Hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM.
There Goes The Neighborhood: Peter Drake, Siege of Syosset, 2007
Do you think Ashton Kutcher Has Webbed Feet? Take the Quiz and Find Out!
What do Walt Disney, The Queen of England and Pop Singer Lily Allen have in common? They’re all the subjects of the very fun Celebrity Urban Legends Quiz found at Two Little Fleas. Click on over to take it for yourself right now!