THIS WEEK: A SELECTIVE GUIDE

SNAPPING, KNITTING AND FOXING AROUND | October 8th 2008

CATHERINE OPIEOur guide to what's on around the world, compiled by Ariel Ramchandani and Jessica Gallucci

Special to MORE INTELLIGENT LIFE

 

SO EDGY IT MAIMS

The photograph is of a bare back--a woman's, as it turns out, though it could easily have been a chubby teenage boy's. The area between her shoulderblades is etched with bleeding surface wounds, thin red scratches that form a childish composition: two stick-figures in triangular skirts in the foreground, a square house with a peaked roof in the background. There is a chimney with squiggles of smoke. A semi-circle of a sun peeks from behind a scallop-edged cloud, beads of blood glistening on each ray. A pair of m-shaped gashes suggest flapping birds. Nevermind the gore and injury: the very crudeness of its execution makes the engraving seem cruel, an insult to its medium. But look again: the stick-ladies are smiling, and holding hands. This is “Self-Portrait/Cutting”, by Catherine Opie. Opie's mid-career exhibition at the Guggenheim sprawls across three floors, revealing her remarkable versatility. Works include portraits from San Francisco's queer subculture (many featuring the photographer herself), bleak urban landscapes and snapshot-style domestic tableaux. One long rectangular room contains, on opposite walls, a series of colourful icehouses against white skies and snow; and another series of wetsuited surfers, small and black, floating in a fog-shrouded, horizonless blue-grey sea. If Opie's other work carried a whiff of gimmickry, if anyone questioned her sensibilities or capacity for grace, this hall of luminous prints offers redemption. ~ J.G.

CATHERINE OPIE: AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHER, Guggenheim Museum, New York, through January 7th 2009

 

FIT TO KNIT

No longer the habit of bored old ladies, knitting is now cool. A quick internet trawl reveals quite a few believers in the transformative powers of this maternal pastime: Knit to Quit sets hands ticking to help pregnant mothers quit smoking; the Breastfeeding Network crochets yarn-based mammaries to teach expectant mothers how to feed; there is even an underground punk knitting movement, according to Steven Wells in the Guardian. Trendy kids knit in the open on "world wide knit in public day", and the occasional celebrity is caught on camera squinting over a hand-made bootie. This week, exercise your right to knit during "Stitch 'n' Bliss"--Britain's National Knitting Week. Sponsored by Knitting Magazine, organisers aim to raise £10,000 for Bliss, an organisation that cares for premature babies. Newbies can learn to knit at a workshop (aka, "Stitch 'n' Bitch") or just eat and shop at one of the local bake and craft sales. Advanced needlers can help to make tiny blankets to keep premature babies warm. Consider inviting some friends over for a "knit in", where you can all talk about the good ol' days. ~ A.R.

"NATIONAL KNITTING WEEK, through October 19th, various locations, Britain

 

THE QUIETEST BAND IN AMERICA

In a review of a show by the Fleet Foxes, a Seattle-based band, Amanda Petrusich said of the lead singer Robin Pecknold that she "half-expected fireflies to rush out of his mouth". This odd image is pretty spot-on--his airy, melodic voice recalls the quiet magic of dithering in the gloaming on a summer evening. I'm listening to "Blue Ridge Mountains" as I write this, and I'm overwhelmed by a desire to find a way to get outside. Given the band's laid back, throw-back country-ish sound, with nary a blip from an electronic toy, Fleet Foxes recalls folk groups such as Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. But their sound is still distinctive, with soaring, beautifully layered harmonies with mandolins and piano solos. Tim de Lisle, editor of Intelligent life magazine, writes in the autumn issue that the band's "baroque harmonic pop jams" may make them "the second best young band in America" (after Vampire Weekend). With their live shows, they have the power to turn a "dark, cramped club into a temple", writes Jed Gottlieb in the Boston Herald. The band descends on Chicago this coming Sunday, and begins their European tour on October 28th. ~ A.R.

FLEET FOXES AT METRO, October 12th, Chicago

 

28 YEARS LATER

In 1980 the Jewish Museum in New York exhibited a show called "ten portraits of the 20th century", featuring portraits of Jews by Andy Warhol. Commissioned by Ronald Feldman, Warhol delivered a who's who of Jewish notables, none of whom he'd met: Sarah Bernhardt, Louis Brandeis, Martin Buber, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, the Marx Brothers, Golda Meir, George Gershwin, Franz Kafka, and Gertrude Stein. The show's opening was greeted with controversy--"Jewploitation", criticised the Philadelphia Inquirer; "exploitative", confirmed the Village Voice. Now, almost 30 years later, with Warhol considered a leading artist of the 20th century, these portraits are being shown a second time, together with preparatory sketches, source images and other materials. "Warhol's Jews: Ten Portraits Reconsidered" originated at the Jewish Museum in New York, and has recently travelled to the new Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, designed by Daniel Libeskind and dedicated to the current (and rather vague) experience of Jewishness in America. In this, Warhol's portraits are successful. His shiny, eye-catching representations (initially criticised as anti-Semitic) capture a complicated view of Jewishness that is quite distinct from anything religious. ~ A.R.

"WARHOL'S JEWS: TEN PORTRAITS RECONSIDERED", through January 25th 2009

 

Picture credit: Catherine Opie, "Self-Portrait/Cutting", 1993. Chromogenic print; © 2008 Catherine Opie. Courtesy the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles.