by Victor Serge, translated from the French and with an introduction by Richard Greeman
Singular and solitary, the novelist Victor Serge (1890–1947) appears as an orphan of history, a chance survivor improbably clinging to the coffin of the Bolshevik Revolution. The main characters of Unforgiving Years, Serge’s final novel, written in Mexico, the place of his own final exile, are his fictional brothers—disillusioned Soviet …
Shortly after the Berlin Wall went up and the painter defected, or as he would say “relocated,” from Dresden to the West, Richter drew a series of images featuring a single protagonist going through an abstract landscape. Recently discovered in a 1962 notebook, these have been published by his archives in a facsimile edition titled Comic Strip—a sparely beautiful book-object that, like Krazy Kat or Little Orphan Annie, has a central character or rather an expressive motif.
“Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism 1910-1950,” now showing at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, presents a Mexican response to European art that, at least up until World War II, was equal to and in some regards stronger than that of North America. To a degree, the show is the story of the three star muralists, Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, and José Clemente Orozco, who along with the posthumously canonized Frida Kahlo, defined the new Mexican art. But their work is situated among scores of lesser-known artists who were also responding to the decade-long Mexican revolution that broke out in 1910.
Bruce Conner’s enormously influential follow-up to A Movie, Cosmic Ray (1962) was the original underground blockbuster—a frantic found-footage-plus-gyrating-naked-woman montage set to Ray Charles’s ecstatic What’d I Say. Establishing Conner as the poet of sexual frenzy, the film anticipated the MTV aesthetic and, since it was first shown as a multi-screen projection piece installation at San Francisco’s Batman Gallery, also anticipated the cinema installations that are now commonplace if not ubiquitous. Douglas Gordon’s 24 Hour Psycho (1993) and Christian Marclay’s The Clock (2010) are exemplary instances of Cosmic Ray’s descendants.
Kaili Blues is both the most elusive and the most memorable new film that I’ve seen in quite some time—“elusive” and “memorable” being central to Bi Gan’s ambitions. As much as it is about anything, Kaili Blues is about a place.
Perhaps for Freud, Coney Island was America—a realm where fantasy was made material and the pleasure principle ruled. So it is with the bountiful exhibition “Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008,” at the Brooklyn Museum through March 13.
The Los Angeles artist Jim Shaw is an esoteric populist who doesn’t only make art but, since he began exhibiting found “thrift store paintings” in 1991, has created his own tradition, an American vernacular surrealism that might be termed “crackpot gothic.”