Focusing on 2012's visual arts highlights
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 26, 2012
This may seem a strange way to start a
review of the year in Cincinnati’s visual arts, but the piece that stays
with me the most — haunts me, really — doesn’t even fit any traditional
definition of art.
Jeremy Pinnell and the 55’s are older than their collective years
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 24, 2012
It’s only been 10 months or so since the
official debut of scene veteran Jeremy Pinnell’s new project, Jeremy
Pinnell and the 55’s, and it’s already been a momentous period.
by Steve Rosen
Posted In: Visual Art
at 10:43 AM | Permalink
Having wrapped up a very busy first (extended) weekend of
FotoFocus activities, I’m humbled by the fact that I only got to a portion of
the exhibits and events occurring under the month-long, regional photography
Before it’s over, more than 70 shows and related special
events — like this Wednesday’s concert at the Emery Theatre by Bill Frisell/858
Quarter, featuring musical portraits inspired by photographer Mike Disfarmer’s
work — will have taken place. I’m wondering if FotoFocus, like the National
Park Service, should have a passport that can be stamped at each site of a
sponsored activity. (Quite a few exhibits will continue past October – check here for
“Umbrella,” by the way, is an apt word to use in one
respect. Sideshow, the thoroughly charming outdoor kick-off party that took
place Friday night, was bedeviled by rain and cold temperatures. As a result,
attendance was small. That was disappointing because the alleys of downtown’s
Backstage Theatre District had been turned into a colorful, imaginative,
Fellini-esque carnival for the evening, with handmade booths, games of chance
and photography opportunities.
A stage with a theatrical backdrop served to host A Hawk and
a Hacksaw, a New Mexico duo — Jeremy Barnes on accordion and Heather Trost on
violin — whose music had an East European/Middle Eastern flavor and whose
musicianship was impeccable. They would have fit well at MidPoint. In fact, the
Backstage Theatre District would make a great outdoor venue next year for
MidPoint, which, as Mike Breen pointed out, needs a stronger downtown presence.
On Wednesday, I attended the preview opening of Doug and
Mike Starn’s Gravity of Light in Holy
Cross Church at the Mount Adams Monastery. I had gone a couple weeks earlier
for a test, which I described in last week’s Big Picture column,
where the noise and flying sparks from the giant carbon arc lamp’s scared me
even as the magnitude and, well, gravity of the monumental photographs that its
light illuminated astonished me.
On my second visit, with maybe two dozen other guests
present, Gravity of Light wasn’t
quite as scary — not when you see people using the carbon arc lamp’s brilliant
white light to read their smart phone email. Ah, technology! But it’s still a
profound exhibit — a major installation that uses photography as an intrinsic
part of a created environment – and I can’t imagine that anyone interested in
contemporary art or FotoFocus would want to miss it. And afterward, you’ll want
to discuss what it means.
Two other exhibits I attended over the weekend were Anthony
Luensman’s TAINT at the Weston Art Gallery and Let's Face It: Photographic Portraits by Melvin Grier, Michael Kearns and Michael
Wilson at Kennedy Heights Art Center. Luensman is one of our most talented
local artists, especially ingenious with installations involving sound and
light, but I didn’t get a clear indication of how or why the presence of
photography (and video) is supposed to crucially matter in this mixed-media
The Kennedy Heights exhibit had some remarkable large-scale
black-and-white portraits by all three accomplished local photographers. Grier
and Wilson, in their Giclee prints made from film negatives, got remarkable
expressiveness their subjects like “Robert” and “Tony” (Grier) and “Thomas” and
“Lamayah” (Wilson). Those Wilson photos, and some others, frame the pupils of
their subjects’ eyes with a tiny white square, a stunning effect. In several of
his large Giclee prints from digital photographs, Kearns achieves clarity of
detail so rich (on “Chuck,” which is Wussy’s Chuck Cleaver, and “Andre”) that
you could stand there and count every strand of the subjects’ hair. I don’t
know who Andre is, but the way he is posed with head slightly upward and a
triumphant smile emerging from a mouth that appears to be missing some teeth
makes him heroically human. It’s a meaningful show.On Thursday, I attended the Cincinnati Art Museum’s
reception for Herb Ritts: L.A. Style,
the Getty Center-organized show of the late photographer’s black-and-white
prints. Beautifully installed, this exhibit features Ritts’ fashion and
celebrity work, as well as his stylized, erotically charged studies of the nude
male and female torso. The show doesn’t so much chart his “progression” from
high fashion to high art as it spotlights the connection between fashion and
art. It also underscores that the eternal human quest for perfection is about
the body as much as the mind. (Kathy Schwartz will have more on this show soon.)
For opening weekend, the art museum’s Chief Curator James
Crump — also FotoFocus’ co-chair — brought to town Paul Martineau, the Getty’s
curator for the Ritts exhibit, and Charles Churchward, a magazine design and
art director who knew Ritts and has written Herb
Ritts: The Golden Hour.
Martineau, it turns out, is at work on a major Robert
Mapplethorpe exhibit to be presented by the Getty and Los Angeles County Museum
of Art in 2016. (Getty Research Institute and LACMA recently acquired some
2,000 of his photographs, and the Getty already had acquired the archives of
Sam Wagstaff, Mapplethorpe’s collector/lover.)
Martineau told me it might travel. Cincinnati would be a
perfect venue for it — Crump has made a documentary about Mapplethorpe and
Wagstaff, the authoritative Black White +
Gray. Is it too early to start a Facebook campaign to bring that
Mapplethorpe exhibit to Cincinnati? Any volunteers?
Watch for Contributing Visual Art Editor Steven Rosen’s FotoFocus blog postings all month. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Mike Breen
Cool 'One Shot Music Video' project continues with Cincy duo Over the Rhine
We've written a bit in the past about the new film-meets-music "One Shot Music Video" series, beautifully shot, black-and-white short films of various local musical acts shot at the historic Emery Theatre (which is back in action as a functional venue this weekend). Shot by world renowned photographer Michael Wilson with audio help from the musical duo Pop Empire, the clips are filmed in one continuous take (thus the name). The project has started to take shape and is on a roll now. Pop Empire's Cameron Cochran reports that the series is now named for the venue — "The Emery Sessions" — and will be comprised of footage from 10 artists, all shot at the theater. It's a great way to not only spotlight local music, but also show off the theater in a great light.Wilson and Pop Empire have completed a couple of videos for Daniel Martin Moore for the first of the series. The second in the series is Over the Rhine (longtime compadres of Wilson's, who has shot OTR album covers and promo shots — including the one above — since the band's very beginning). OTR is familiar with the surroundings; the band played the "preview party" hosted by The Requiem Project which re-introduced the 100-year-old theater to locals late last year.Here's a clip of Over the Rhine's Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist performing "The Laugh of Recognition" from the twosome's latest album, The Long Surrender. (Click over to local blog Each Note Secure to check out another clip from the project.)Cochran also runs the all-free, all-digital "record label" The Recording Label, which has issued stellar recordings by The Kickaways, Vacation, Sacred Spirits and Pop Empire. He says working on "The Emery Sessions" inspired him to give the label a more local-specific name. The Recording Label is now called Cincinnati Recording Service. Click here for the new site.And here are a few words from Cochran on the Sessions and the label:If we are consuming light then sound is accompanied by sight. Many musical performers understand this concept and will incorporate a visual component to their audio performance. The idea behind the "One Shot Music Video" is to approach music from the opposite direction. The audience approaches the music from a visual perspective first because whether they know it or not the first performance they see is the photographer's. It is the photographer's eye that navigates them through the musical performance. The hidden live performance is the one done with the camera.The Emery Theatre was the perfect place to begin our exploration of this relationship between listening and watching live musical performances. Each musician we have recorded and that we are going to record have a love for this amazing space and understands what the Emery Theatre means to our great city of Cincinnati. It is perhaps our own experiences working in this theatre and the pride that has developed for our hometown of Cincinnati that inspired us to change the name of The Recording Label to Cincinnati Recording Service. This name change is also a tip of the hat to another person who loved his city as well as the power that American music has to bring people together, Memphis' very own Sam Philips.
by Mike Breen
Local group closes out residency, releases clips from Emery Theatre video project
Local electronics-tinged Rock & Roll duo-turned-trio Pop Empire closes out its every-Tuesday residency at The Comet tonight with another free, 10 p.m. show. The band has been publicly evolving and busy as bees, adding a live drummer (which, as you'll see in the clips below, gives the band's sound a whole new dimension), working on a new album, running the free digital record label called The Recording Label and masterminding a cool new video project with internationally-acclaimed photographer Michael Wilson. The video project is a series of music clips featuring bands performing live, filmed in one continuous shot, without edits. Pop Empire filmed several songs for the project at the historic Emery Theatre (on the border of Over-the-Rhine and Downtown). Check out clips for "True Believer" and "The Chills" below (and click here to check out the rest). Pop Empire's music can also be heard in a new ad for Harley-Davidson. Check out the commercial featuring PE's "Some Fun" below.
Acclaimed singer/songwriter debuts Jeremy Pinnell and the 55's tonight at MOTR
The music he made with groups like The Light Wires, The Great Depression and The Brothers and the Sisters helped make singer/songwriter Jeremy Pinnell one of many local music fans' favorite songwriters. Pinnell's folksy songs were marked by his ability to convey — with an almost uncomfortable accuracy — the kind of dark, ominous emotions most people try to bury. His words, his melodies and especially his muttering yet soulful voice had that rare ability to effortlessly do what most writer's strive for their whole career — to make a deep connection with the listener that goes beyond a hummable hook or slick guitar solo and buries itself deep inside their conscience. Having practically every person who heard his songs immediately captivated wasn't enough to keep those projects together. Pinnell seemed to ride the waves of success each act experienced (on varying levels), then the band would break up before the project's full potential was reached. After another dry spell, Pinnell returns to the local stage tonight at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine for the live debut of his latest project, Jeremy Pinnell and the 55's. Once again, Pinnell has hooked up with some gifted collaborators to create more soul-stirring songs to shatter what's left of your fragile, blackened heart. The 55's reteams Pinnell with one of his earliest musical partners, Cameron Cochran (currently with Pop Empire). When they were 18, Cochran and Pinnell were pals playing Country songs together at their buddies' Punk Rock shows. Cochran says "The Voice" was already in place."He had that voice that would shut up a room," Cochran writes in a press release. "It didn't matter what the show was. He would open his mouth and everyone listened." The two went their separate ways eventually, but recently reconnected. Cochran is vague about the circumstances of their last project ending and this one beginning, saying only that it is a tale of "heartbreak, tragedy, love and redemption" worthy of a Country song. Indeed, the 55's sound is somewhere between AltCountry and Indie Folk, with the timelessness of those genres' precursors driving everything. The band is rounded out by drummer Chris Alley and bassist Ben Franks; Cochran adds spectral atmospherics with his pedal steel guitar work and hovering backing vocals. Some of the 55's material has come out via a handful of wonderful live videos shot by local photography superstar Michael Wilson. Below, check out one of the clips by Wilson, who is also working with Cochran on a series filming at The Emery Theater called "One Shot Music Videos" (referring to how Wilson shoots each in one continuous shot without edits). Tonight's show at MOTR is free and starts around 9:30 p.m. Visit JP & the 55's on Facebook here.
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 15, 2010
If it's seemed like Cincy Folk trio The Tillers haven't been as omnipresent on the local club scene this summer, that's because the group has been spending a lot more time on the road since the release of its sophomore album, By the Signs. The band has been playing clubs and festivals throughout the Midwest and East Coast but come home Thursday to open for Ramblin' Jack Elliott at the Southgate House.
Michael Wilson displays 'small things' at the Weston Art Gallery
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 8, 2009
I've seen Michael Wilson's photographs of major musicians like Over the Rhine, Lyle Lovett, Phillip Glass and B.B. King and start asking questions. He's so humble about his work it's almost unnerving. "See, at the Weston Gallery, they’re calling it a mid-career retrospective, which is probably as good a term as any," Wilson says. "For the most part, it will be drawn from 30 years of work that would have been done just for myself. Personal work."