Need a great book to read, album to listen to, or TV show to get hooked on? The Flavorwire team is here to help: in this weekly feature, our editorial staffers recommend the cultural object or experience they’ve enjoyed most in the past seven days. Scroll through for our picks below.
Kerry James Marshall: Mastry
I recently saw Kerry James Marshall’s touring retrospective — Mastry — at Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art. The exhibit spans close to 80 mostly massive (and each dizzyingly symbol-heavy) paintings, and its thematic scope stretches from the historical to the intimate, and taps into inherent intersections of the two. It addresses, and also serves as an artistic corrective to, the ways black Americans’ lives have been shaped — and resisted being shaped — by brutally oppressive white sociopolitical forces, in life and in painting. Marshall uses his platform to particularly upend the latter, having made it his goal to solely paint black subjects. He staunchly refuses to render them within a context that, as so many painters have, contrasts them to whiteness; he centralizes black subjectivities as he traverses the wreckage of American history and joys of personal moments, focusing on what his subjects have made of life both within and beyond the often historically shitty (to put it lightly) experiences white society has offered. In a video from the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (where the show originated), Marshall elaborates:
You can’t underestimate the value of a figure in a picture that seems self-satisfied, especially given that the history of black people in the United States and in other parts of the world is that it’s somehow compromised and always traumatic. If part of the goal is to normalize the presence of those figures in museums and artworks, then you have to have a sustained engagement with those figures under a variety of conditions and circumstances so that it becomes ordinary to you. For the moment, it matters that they are uncompromising in terms of the presentation of their blackness.
From the haunting near-monochromatic paintings drawing on Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and notions of stigma and erasure tied to skin color, to the vibrant-hued hyperbolizing of the social intricacies of, say, a barbershop scene, or a black woman staring out of the frame as she prepares to paint her self-portrait, Marshall manages to, per Holland Cotter in the New York Times, “represent a conscious effort… to rescue the image of black life from a default air of pessimism” without “avoid[ing] bitter realities.” Kerry James Marshall: Mastry will be up at L.A.’s MOCA until July 3. — Moze Halperin, Senior Editor
Luke Evans in Beauty and the Beast
The Beauty and the Beast remake is out this week on Blu-ray, and boy do I wish I liked it more, since my oldest daughter likes it so much and we’re already watching it at least once a day. But it’s kind of a mess, bloated and unnecessary, padding the animated original with new (bad) songs, new (bad) scenes, new (bad) lyrics to old songs, and dance breaks galore; Emma Watson’s performance is pretty thin, and Dan Stevens never really manages to emerge from behind the CGI. In fact, it probably says something that the whole movie is basically shoplifted by Luke Evans as the villainous Gaston, but he’s a blast – the actor, understand, not the character, whose ugly sexism is this time boosted by an odd new subplot where he tries to straight-up murder Belle’s father. Yet Evans is terrific, handily capturing the character’s machismo, cluelessness, and villainy, and showing off an ace singing voice to boot. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor
The Regulators by Richard Bachman
This week my staff pick is Richard Bachman’s The Regulators. Bachman’s name might be familiar, and if so, it’ll be because it’s the pseudonym of a far more famous writer: Stephen King, who first started using the name in the late 1970s, a period during which he churned out novels faster than his publisher could release them. He returned to it in 1996 with this book: the conceit was that it was published simultaneously with a Stephen King novel, Desperation. The two books use the same character names, but the narratives are entirely different. Back in 1996, I read Desperation first and then The Regulators, and I promised myself that when enough time had passed that I couldn’t really remember either book, I’d read them in reverse order. So I’m starting on The Regulators, and so far enjoying it thoroughly. We’ll see how Desperation fares in due course. — Tom Hawking, Editor-in-Chief
Ride the High Country
Thanks to nothing more than the accidental intersections of home video releases, I’ve been taking in a lot of Sam Peckinpah lately – mostly signature ‘70s works like The Ballad of Cable Hogue and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, destinations that make this 1962 starting point all the more interesting. This richly saturated Technicolor Western (new on Blu from Warner Archives) is a frontier version of the “one last big score” heist movie, with old-timers Randolph Scott and Joel McRea teaming to transport $250,000 worth of gold, ward off the young punks that are after it, and maybe just take it for themselves. But it’s also a dry run for the themes and ideas Peckinpah would explore in Wild Bunch, Cable Hogue, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, and other late works – specifically, the myth-making of the West and the aging of the cowboy ethos. (“I must say, Mr. Judd, I expected a much younger man.” “Well, I used to be. We all used to be.”) It’s a tough little movie that doesn’t use its slick sheen to soften the story’s real menace, and its elegiac ending is remarkable, up to and including a final image that’s just about perfect. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor