A Long Wild Ride – A film review of ‘Beauty is Embarrassing’

Beauty is Embarrassing

It is not often thought that beauty can be embarrassing. Beauty, to most people is the exact opposite of embarrassing, and if we are talking about the art world, beauty, is the advocated standard where aesthetic perfection is celebrated above all else. The concept that beauty can be embarrassing is a bold statement, but when you break it down like Wayne White does, it makes total sense. Wayne hypothesizes that beauty, so rarely encountered, is powerful enough to send us into a state of vulnerability where we feel unworthy to be in its presence. And that, he explains in Neil Berkeley’s documentary, is embarrassing.

Chronicling Wayne White’s personal and career life, Beauty is Embarrassing takes an in depth look at the artist’s influential early childhood years, his commercially successful time as designer and puppeteer on the set of Pee Wee’s Playhouse and the culmination of his methodology in his present day success as a master typographist and fine artist who has come full circle. First time director Berkeley, who formed a friendship with White in 2001, spent two years devoted to the project, traveling across the US from New York to Los Angeles, collecting over 300 hours of footage that forms the entertaining tapestry of White’s rich story. Fresh behind the scenes video of Pee Wee’s Playhouse is fused with the divulging interviews of art world aficionado’s such as Cliff Benjamin, Todd Oldham and David Pagel. Beautiful animation sequences produced by BRKLY (the filmmaker’s own company) pinpoint the artist’s prominent life moments, and form a kinship with White’s pop, fun-quirky style.

Fun being the operative word here, as the ulterior focus of the documentary, told though White’s on the road lectures, focuses on his self-proclaimed career mission to openly cultivate the humorous side of fine art which is known all too well as the domain of the serious and the cautious. Beauty is Embarrassing creates a portrait of a man whose natural demeanor is wildly magnetic and who’s work is able to transcend the notion of the artist as untouchable. Art is subjective, and so White’s oeuvre may not be your thing, but the story behind this classically trained, creative thinker is deeply inspirational. He is a painter, sculptor, cartoonist, puppeteer, set designer, art director, animator, and illustrator who imparts a genuine passion for following your dreams to audiences across his lecture tour as well as people involved in his daily life, and those touched by connection in the arts community.

Premiering at SXSW 2012, the film has lived on to play in countless other festivals, such as Hot Doc’s, Full Frame, Atlanta Film Festival, and IFFBoston. Distribution of the film is slated for early September, but there is no need to wait that long. Beauty is Embarrassing will come home to LA tonight to screen as part of the Los Angles Film Festival at the Bing Theater at LACMA. You can also support the DIY effort to distribute this film for theatrical release through Kickstarter.

It’s a wild ride. Enjoy it.

Christina Stimpson

June 21, 2012 / By

Solstice by Roland Seer

Still from Solstice by Roland Seer

Still from Solstice by Roland Seer

To celebrate the summer solstice, here’s is an animation that takes its name from the celestial event: Solstice by Roland Seer. What’s particularly nice about Roland’s video is the effect created by the layers of different media. The hodgepodge gives the video a sense of exuberant craftiness, as if Roland was a kid whose enthusiasm eclipsed his skill (or budget) to make these videos. And it was a labor of love, Roland made the video mostly in his “spare time next to school and work.”

Alex Dent

June 21, 2012 / By

A smaller Schaulager, designed by Herzog & de Meuron

Herzog and de Meuron's design for the Schaulager Satellite

Herzog and de Meuron's Schaulager Satellite

Herzog and de Meuron's design for the Schaulager Satellite

The Schaulager is closed this summer for construction. Nothing too crazy: the building was opened with a unfinished floor knowing that one day it would be converted to storage… and now that is happening. But while the Schaulager is closed, a so-called Schaulager satellite has opened.

The satellite space was designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the architects of the original museum. So it’s not surprising that the satellite has many of the same details that the original has, but it also has traces of other H&dM projects: The extruded house shapes from Vitra and an triangular plan that reminds me of their purple pavilion in Barcelona. The overall effect is much less complicated than the firm’s recently opened Serpentine Pavilion, which likely has distracted attention away from the Schaulager satellite. The project seems a wee bit like arch-incest, but like most products of inbreeding it had a reduced life span; in this case only two weeks.

Alex Dent

June 20, 2012 / By

‘Solo Piano II’ by Chilly Gonzales

Chilly Gonzales

To do a complete contrast from Friday’s ridiculous crack party of El-P’s The Full Retard, I want to make your Wednesday clean, clear, crisp and crafty. Chilly Gonzales, a Canadian living in Paris, is mostly known for his work with Leslie Feist, Peaches, and Jane Birkin. Less known are his collaborations with Drake and Steve Jobs. While occasionally dabbling in disco and contemporary pop, Chilly’s real talent is in his piano playing. Solo Piano, his 2004 release, was a smattering of melodic ideas refined into little piano ditties. The follow up, Solo Piano II, is something in between Richard D James’ piano musings and the thematic touch of Les Six. The video is a medley of melodies from the new album which comes out August 28. Early warning system activated!

Alec Rojas

June 20, 2012 / By

Fun and colorful illustrations by Sister Arrow

George Mellor : Sister Arrow - TANGLE

I love this work by Sister Arrow (aka George Mellor). Working in a number of media including drawing, painting and animation, Sister Arrow’s work is rich in vibrant colour and playful shapes.

Listing “nature, metaphysics, sci-fi, primitive life, caves and Japan” as some of her key influences, it’s easy to make the connection when looking at her work above. Her combination of sci-fi and nature make for some interesting work and her portfolio is a joy to look through. Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the characters in her prints and paintings – they’re called “Sumo Babies”. They’re an imaginary pygmy cultivar super-race which she invented. Now you know!

Philip Kennedy

June 20, 2012 / By

BE TRUE, How Nike Celebrates LGBT Pride

Nike #BeTrue shoe to celebrate pride month

Nike #BeTrue shoe to celebrate pride month

Nike #BeTrue shoe to celebrate pride month

This past Friday, Nike launched #BETRUE, a series of shoes commemorating Pride month. The three pairs of shoes in the series are inspired by three different cities with robust gay communities: NYC, San Francisco and Portland. As each of the three cities are quite different, the pairs of shoes have their own personality, too: the New York shoe is more tailored and fashionable while the San Francisco is a bit more edgy (think black leather) while Portland is something completely different. If you want a pair of the shoes, you’ll have to make a pilgrimage to one of these three cities pick them up; each is only sold in its respective city.

While the designs of the shoes are pretty slick (you can see a video of some sort of launch party where the shoes’ designer, Shawn Ormsby, is introduced and says a sentence about the shoes) the #BETRUE shoes are just one aspect of Nike’s commitment to visibility and Pride. On the same day that the shoes launched, Nike hosted the first global summit focused on eliminating anti-LGBT discrimination from sports. That’s a pretty big step in the right direction.

P.S. The #BETRUE slogan is not new for Nike. Sans hashtag Be True was the original Nike Dunks campaign slogan in 1985, the first time team colors were used in collegiate footwear.

Alex Dent

June 19, 2012 / By

Fiona Apple’s new album comes out today, listen to ‘Every Single Night’

The Idler Wheel by Fiona Apple

It’s been seven years since Fiona Apple released an album, a long hiatus for a very complex artist. Her new album, The Idler Wheel, came out this morning, though you may have heard it streaming on NPR for the past week or so. It’s kind of incredible to think that it’s been 16 years since she released her first album Tidal. The waif looking girl singing on MTV is now a deeply interesting woman who’s done and incredible job of continuing to explore her psyche through music. On the surface is the album is obviously beautiful. She’s still just as talented as she was. But I feel like you don’t really get to know what the music is about until you know who Apple is these days.

There’s this really great interview with Apple by Dan P. Lee which is quite long, but definitely worth it. Basically he was able to befriend Apple, getting to know some of the plot details of her life. She seems almost like a character from a movie, but not necessarily in a bad way. She has problems sleeping, sometimes sleeping in her Malibu backyard on an air mattress with her dog. She has trouble keeping relationships, mostly because she likes to be alone, which she references in her music.

The song above is Every Single Night, the first single and the first song on the album. It should give you a good idea of what the vibe of the album begins as. After that the album just starts to get deeper and deeper, ending with the song Hot Knife and the lyrics, “If I’m butter than he’s a hot knife…” Glad to hear that Miss Apple is back to her old tricks.

Bobby Solomon

June 19, 2012 / By

Giant LEGO men dissected by Jason Freeny

Giant LEGO men dissected by Jason Freeny

Giant LEGO men dissected by Jason Freeny

Not to outdo Philip and his last post about the LEGO Haunted House, but I saw these dissected LEGO men by Jason Freeny and knew I had to post them. Jason is pretty well known for his dissection illustrations and toys, showing the inner workings of just about every pop culture icon or toy out there.

Now he’s tackled a trio of 18″ LEGO men, showing their complex inner workings. I love the little details, like the fact that they have this mash of square flesh around their feet, and that the skin at the top of their head is quite thin like a real scalp. It’s also exciting that he documented the whole process, which you can see here.

Giant LEGO men dissected by Jason Freeny

Giant LEGO men dissected by Jason Freeny

Giant LEGO men dissected by Jason Freeny

Giant LEGO men dissected by Jason Freeny

Bobby Solomon

June 19, 2012 / By

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