Sasha Frere-Jones

  • Richard Bernstein

    Regime change is never good for the court painter. And shortly after Andy Warhol died, Richard Bernstein lost his gig as the artist for Interview magazine covers. (Four more of his covers, already in the can, appeared after Warhol’s death.) Was he always competing with Warhol, the one who many assumed was behind Bernstein’s covers? Yes, but the artist also served as a bright antipode to the portraitists of the New York Post, arbiter of both celebrity and criminality, and the house organ of Warhol’s dark antithesis, Donald J. Trump.

    Warhol’s layers and print techniques brought his portraits toward

  • picks November 07, 2018

    Catherine Opie

    Among the photographs on display here is The Modernist (2018), Catherine Opie’s first film: 852 black-and-white photographs sequenced over twenty-two minutes. The proximate reference is Chris Marker’s La Jetée (1962), another film built from stills and less than half an hour long. Marker uses post–World War III Paris to push it along—Opie opts for Los Angeles and modernist architectural hits of the twentieth century.

    Inspired by California’s Lake County fires of 2016, Opie’s nameless character—played by Pig Pen, a trans artist from the Bay Area—decides to burn down several landmark John Lautner

  • performance November 07, 2018

    Cell Tones

    IN OCTOBER, AT LE POISSON ROUGE, Meredith Monk and her five-woman ensemble presented what she called the “essence” of Cellular Songs, a new ninety-minute work that she presented at BAM this past March but has yet to record. In its full iteration, Cellular Songs interleaves song and positioned bodies and slide projections. In the nightclub setting, Monk had to abandon the staging design for an overhead view and present a distilled night of music and movement. But one video element from the longer version was retained and played right before the performance started: five pairs of hands, pointed

  • music October 17, 2018

    Wander Woman

    MILES DAVIS DID IT thirty years into his recording career, in 1981, on The Man with The Horn. Dylan only needed thirteen years to get from Bob Dylan (1962) to Blood On The Tracks (1975). Chan Marshall took twenty-three to move from Dear Sir (1995) to Wanderer (2018). What these artists found, at the end of the arc, was the moment of synthesis, when the particulars that initially marked them moved across a divide (accidents, taxes, getting high, heartbreak) and reappeared as elements of a vocabulary. The broken and twisted and obscure tendencies were folded in and out of various styles, then

  • “Moon Dancers: Yup’ik Masks and the Surrealists”

    This exhibition was a model of concision, an intensely pleasurable summary of the knotty moment in art history when a bunch of French artists got it into their heads to collect ceremonial masks made by the Yup’ik people, a native Alaskan tribe. “Moon Dancers: Yup’ik Masks and the Surrealists” presented seventy-four pieces, most of them paintings and sculptures by artists such as Victor Brauner, André Breton, Leonora Carrington, and Max Ernst, along with nineteen Yup’ik masks owned by these same artists.

    Breton and Man Ray first saw the Yup’ik masks in 1935 in Paris, at the Galerie Charles Ratton.

  • music September 14, 2018

    The World On Six Strings

    A SUMMER OF MARY HALVORSON will tell you anything you want to know about the guitar. Her sound is as clean and strong as water, sustaining everything around it. She plays an electric archtop guitar, a Guild Artist Award issued in 1970, which is essentially an acoustic guitar with a pickup installed near the neck, where the strings sway and the body sings. The Artist Award, as Halvorson plays it, is a guide into the line and the note. Her tone serves her ideas, not the reverse. Halvorson doesn’t often distort her signal or blur what she’s presenting. She doesn’t go for clouds and sheets. If her

  • music June 26, 2018

    The Mercy Seat

    ON MAY 5TH, AT THE UNION TEMPLE OF BROOKLYN, a theater called Murmrr hosted the last date of a short tour called Conversations with Nick Cave. For just two appearances in Massachusetts and two in New York, he flew over from Brighton, England. Later that night, to explain why he had come to America, Cave channeled Sinatra: “I just sort of thought if I can get through New York, I might be able to do this elsewhere.”

    But why did he need to do this? In a press release, Cave wrote, “There has been a connection happening with the audience through the recent live shows where we have all shown a kind of

  • music April 02, 2018

    Heart of Stone

    WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THAT CHAIR?

    There used to be a Chinese restaurant on the corner of Avenue C and East Second Street. It was called The Golden Dragon. The filmmaker Ela Troyano owns the building. In 2005, her friend, composer John Zorn, turned The Golden Dragon into The Stone.

    What the fuck are you doing with that chair?

    The space was emptied of appliances and counters. In their place, a Yamaha grand piano, a small PA, and sixty or so black chairs were installed. Black sound treatment curtains were hung over the windows. Avenue C itself became the lobby. If the place wasn’t ambitious in any