The editors' blog

  • AGNES MARTIN AND THE GREAT INDOORS

    ~ Posted by Marion Coutts, June 17th 2015

    Agnes Martin didn’t decide to be a painter until she was 30: a good age to start something new. Martin (1912-2004) was a Canadian who lived most of her life in the United States. In New York she became part of the scene around Barnett Newman, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Rauschenberg and Sol LeWitt. She always looked like an artist who was after something, and success came quickly. For the rest of her life, with multiple variations, she made abstract paintings in acrylic paint and graphite on canvases measuring 183cm square. Working in subdivisions of the frame, she created fields of minimal colour, banded in horizontal lines. The resulting expansions, contractions and experiments in this format are on show at Tate Modern in London and are astonishingly varied.

    read more » ArtExhibitionsMarion Couttspainting
  • THE RISE AND FALL OF NINA SIMONE

    ~ Posted by David Bennun, June 16th 2015

    Most great artists have their legacy defined as much by their influence as by their output. Of those who do not, none is greater than Nina Simone. Her genius does not ring down the years in major work by successors. When fans speak of “the incomparable Nina Simone”, it is not simply a turn of phrase. Simone was sui generis, inimitable—although plenty have tried. They might as well have attempted to bottle lightning.

    “What Happened, Miss Simone?”, a new documentary directed by Liz Garbus and released on Netflix, sheds some light on why this is so. It is well known that Simone was a classically trained pianist who turned to popular black music styles to earn a living. It is understood that this combination—relatively commonplace today, but rare in 1950s America—lies behind her sound. But these bare facts are inadequate to explain her uniqueness. It is in the detail, in Simone’s own words and the accounts of those who knew her, that we discover, as the title promises, what really happened.

    read more » AmericaBluescultureDavid BennunjazzMusicRock
  • AN INEFFABLY TENDER FILM FROM PIXAR

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, June 15th 2015

    An animated feature for kids acknowledging the cognitive importance of sadness? It has to be a Pixar movie. One day our children will ask us what it was like to be able to roll up and see the new Pixar film the same way we asked our grandparents what it was like to put down a dollar for “Snow White”, “Pinocchio”, “Dumbo” or “Bambi”. Pixar have already matched Disney in the 1940s with a running flush of their own, which includes “Toy Story”, “The Incredibles”, “WALL-E”, “Ratatouille” and “Up”, although there were rumblings of discontent over “Cars” and “Brave”. But good news: the studio’s new film, “Inside Out”, runs the full gamut of emotions we’ve come to expect from Pixar—joy, sadness, anger, fear—with one crucial difference: Joy, Sadness, Anger and Fear are also its stars.

    read more » cultureFilmTom Shone
  • CHRISTOPHER LEE’S LONG SHADOW

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, June 12th 2015

    Sir Christopher Lee, whose death at the age of 93 was announced on Thursday, used to grumble to interviewers that people wouldn’t stop associating him with Count Dracula, whereas, in his view, he had made a better job of many other roles. His own favourite performance was as Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, in “Jinnah” (1998). It’s a complaint you have to take with a pinch of salt. After all, Lee played the Prince of Darkness in seven Hammer films between 1958 and 1973, plus one German production, so it’s not unreasonable of us to picture him with blood dripping down his chin and a bosomy starlet hanging from his arm.

    read more » cultureFilmNicholas BarberObituaries
  • 250 PAIRS OF SHOES, BUT NO FEET

    ~ Posted by Rebecca Willis, June 12th 2015

    What, I wondered, do you wear on your feet to the press view of the V&A's new exhibition, "Shoes: Pleasure and Pain"? The answer, it turns out, is something flat and comfortable: there were people in trainers, sandals, loafers, brogues, gentlemen's slippers and (me) Chelsea boots. I spotted only two pairs of heels in the whole, crowded gallery. Behind the glass of the vitrines, though, it was a different story: vertiginous heels abounded (for both men and women), some feathered or jewelled or sequinned, from near and far, from the distant past to the present.

    The feet of the viewers—who had probably, like me, arrived on public transport—provided an unspoken commentary on the exhibition itself: many shoes are deliberately, gloriously, extravagantly, boastfully impractical. And that, the captions make clear, is the point of them. Shoes have long been indicators of status. The less practical they are, the more obviously they declare the wearer as a member of the privileged and leisured classes, far above the dirt and toil of manual labour. And journalism.

    read more » cultureExhibitionsFASHIONRebecca Willis
  • SIX SONGS FOR YOUR PLAYLIST

    ~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, June 11th 2015

    Here's our pick of the best new tunes. You can listen to them on the player below, or find the playlist on Spotify by searching for IntLifeMag. All songs are available on iTunes, unless otherwise stated.

    Dusty Springfield: Someone Who Cares
    Typically elegant ballad, recently rediscovered.

    Blur: Lonesome Street
    Liam Gallagher is right: this is Blur (above) at their best.

    Dawes: All Your Favorite Bands
    Touching title track from another lucid album.

    Father John Misty: I Love You Honeybear
    Subtle earworm from a man who should go down well at Glastonbury.

    Tove Lo: Like Em Young
    Tired of waiting for Madonna to return to form? Try a Swedish livewire instead.

    David Sinclair Four: Sick of Being Good
    Veteran critic, IL contributor and writer of sardonic rock songs. 

    read more » MusicplaylistRockTim de Lisle
  • GLOBAL, CULTURAL, ESSENTIAL

    ~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, June 10th 2015

    The cool gaze on our cover belongs to an architect, David Adjaye. A more global figure it would be hard to find. Born in Tanzania to Ghanaian parents, brought up in England, Adjaye has now made it in America. He is working on the African-American museum that will complete the Smithsonian set in Washington, and is tipped to build the Obama presidential library in Chicago (which may have more books in it than some). His style is consciously international. He met his match in our writer, Ariel Ramchandani, an Indian/Israeli New Yorker. She e-mailed last July, saying she was “fascinated by Adjaye, and the global modernity he represents”. After quizzing him in SoHo, New York, and watching him at work in Harlem and London, she has delivered on that promise.

    read more » fictionFilmFrom the editorLiteratureTim de Lisle
  • WOMEN DO PAINT VERY WELL

    ~ Posted by George Pendle, June 9th 2015

    At the cutting-edge Maccarone gallery in New York last week, a packed, largely female audience gathered to hear a powerhouse of women artists discuss feminism and painting. Moderated by Alison Gingeras, a former curator at the Centre Pompidou and the Guggenheim Museum, the panel featured the much-lauded British painter, Cecily Brown, who is famous for her abstracted erotic imagery (above); the emerging American artist Rosy Keyser, whose decimated lace-draped paintings billow with an unsettling power (below); and Joan Semmel, who has been demanding gender equality in the art world since the 1970s, and who, at 82 years old, is still painting naked self-portraits with remarkable candour. “It’s great to have such a large turnout,” remarked Semmel, “considering I was told long ago that feminism was over and painting was dead.”

    read more » Artart marketgeorge pendletalksvisual arts
  • PACO PENA'S ADVENTUROUS FLAMENCO

    ~ Posted by Michael Watts, June 3rd 2015

    Declaring a liking for flamenco used to be problematic for the Anglo-Saxon temperament. We were rightly scornful of cod-Latin acts like Dorita y Pepe (who were Dorothy and Pete from south London) or the histrionics of the guitarist Manitas de Plata, who was born French and adopted a Spanish monicker meaning “Little Silver Hands”. But modern audiences are more discerning, performers more worldly and experimental, and flamenco more popular globally than ever before. Large numbers of Japanese women view it as a safety valve in a highly formalised society, while Spain’s huge influx of foreigners has invigorated flamenco’s native economy. There are annual flamenco festivals in the Netherlands, Chicago and London. And this year, Sadler’s Wells, an important innovator under its artistic director Alistair Spalding, has staged dance mash-ups of flamenco with hip-hop and Indian kathak.

    read more » cultureDanceFlamencoMICHAEL WATTSMusic
  • JAWS: A TRIUMPH OF COWARDICE

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, June 2nd 2015

    This year you can’t move for movie birthdays. “The Sound of Music” is 50, “Toy Story” 20, “Goodfellas” 25 and “Back to the Future” 30. “Jaws” turns 40 this month, and celebrates with a talk by its star, Richard Dreyfuss, at Connecticut’s Maritime Museum, and a Writers Guild event in Los Angeles with its co-screenwriter, Carl Gottlieb. But delivering the biggest Proustian kick is a limited-edition design of the old, 1975-era Narragansett beer cans crushed in the film by the shark-hunter Quint (Robert Shaw), so that you too can #CrushItLikeQuint.

    read more » cultureFilmTom Shone

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