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Friday, May 1, 2009

Hint Tip: Kembra Pfahler

The last time we saw performance artist Kembra Pfahler, she was onstage, naked (save for a big black wig and head-to-toe blue body paint), upside-down and spread-eagle, while the other body-painted girls in her mock-goth band The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black took turns smashing eggs into her, um, voluptuous horror. It was more camp and fun than it sounds, but a dark message of female brutality does permeate Kembra's shows and her sardonic lyrics—as her new book documents all too vividly. Published by Deitch Projects, Beautalism chronicles the three decades of her irreverent career, up to her gobsmacking 2008 Whitney Biennial performance. It's pretty amazing stuff. So we're crossing our fingers (and legs) that Kembra might, just might, do a ditty at the launch party for Beautalism, which will also inaugurate a yearlong bookstore, ARTBOOK at X, between D.A.P. Books and the curators at X-Initiative. 548 West 22nd Street (the old Dia space), May 16, 5-7 pm...

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dark Star

Before Tilda there was Andrew. That's just one takeaway from spending a few hours with the absorbing early films of Derek Jarman. Before he went on to make feature-length ruminations on beauty, homoeroticism and death (Caravaggio, Blue), the experimental British filmmaker, who himself died of AIDS in 1994, broached the same heavy themes in short works shot in the grainy, washed-out warmth of Super 8 film.

The X initiative, a year-long series of quality art programming housed in the space formerly occupied by Dia:Chelsea, is screening these rare gems on three floors, offering a perfect Saturday afternoon antidote of artsy malaise to the annoying chirpiness that befalls the city in spring. Poetic, cryptic and relentlessly melancholy (classical music helps set the tone), the nearly twenty films range from the macabre pretty-boy ballet of "Death Dance" to the high-camp artifice of "Andrew Logan Kisses the Glitterati," featuring a likely Jarman lover playing dress-up with a blasé coterie of friends. In other films, the eye is sated with images of Victorian boathouses, Stonehenge-like formations, mirrors, rituals and the distorted face of Genesis P-Orridge, frontman of cult industrial band Throbbing Gristle.

There's notable fashion too. Entire sequences recall a Helmut Newton shoot, while the getups for said dress-up party seem lifted straight out of a Saint Laurent collection circa 1975. Lovers of avant-garde sadness had better hurry though; the films are on view through the end of the month only.

—Suleman Anaya





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