I am often guilty of placing art into a narrow department of paint on canvas or sculpture. Mark Bradford doesn’t fall into either of those categories, and during my initial trip around the ICA’s West Gallery, his use of everyday items from hair dresser’s paper to billboard scraps layered onto plywood or canvas, allowed for ample time and examination. It wasn’t until I made my way to Niagara, a video, that the entire collection suddenly gained a reciprocal association. It’s not only Bradford’s use of found, urban items, it was that so much of it was discarded, forgotten or not wanted. In Niagara, the subject Melvin may be go against the social grain, but if he does, he’s blissfully unaware or better still, he doesn’t care. The lasting image of Melvin flouncing down the dirty street contains the signature Bradford code, and the rest of his urban matrix became easier to unravel because of it.
Bradford’s use of many different textures and tools makes for unique work. In comparing Bradford to an avant-garde legend of Gustave Courbet’s stature, I would caution gallery-goers in making that association. Bradford’s vision is a progressive one to be sure, but it is rooted in common themes of sexuality, race, and urbanism. His is a commentary that isn’t necessarily new, but his execution is impeccable. On the surface, his work may not seem overtly political, but it is. Niagara was shot on a street in South Central Los Angeles, formerly the site of his mother’s hair salon, now his studio. South Central is a melting pot, but one ridden with bullet holes. Known most widely for its gangs and violence, many will never be able to shake the correlation between the neighborhood and the Watts Riot of 1965 or the myriad gang-based movies that achieved extraordinary popularity in the 1990’s. Melvin, dressed in bright yellow shorts and a skimpy white tank-top, might be a homosexual, but we aren’t sure. It doesn’t matter. His appearance is one that would gain attention in any neighborhood where toughness is the street code. Rather than subscribe to that doctrine, Melvin has his own drummer, and boy is he marching to him. His hands sway back-and-forth, like decorations at the end of his long, lanky arms. I couldn’t help but think of Matthew Wilder’s cheesy pop classic “Break My Stride.” Consider the lyrics; “Ain’t nothin’ gonna break my stride/Nobody’s gonna slow me down, oh-no/I’ve got to keep on movin’.” The song could almost be ironically played as a bed to the video. There is literally so much shit around him, and he’s flying, beautiful and triumphant for seemingly no reason at all. To his left is a half-full or half-empty forty ounce bottle of malt liquor, abandoned for something better or something worse, but we don’t know. Empty cups and lonely posters are hanging on for dear life, blowing around in the wind without really going anywhere, not unlike their human neighbors. The sidewalk is slightly pitched down, but that’s not where Melvin is headed. This is a guy who’s walking downhill because he has momentum. The wheat-pasted fliers don’t disappoint either. A fluorescent yellow one on top says Five-Star, while the equally neon orange one beneath it partially conceals the remainder of the message. The loads of chain-link fencing suggest prohibition and protection at the same time, only no one is around to be the beneficiary or the forbidden. The only other life is signaled by a slow moving van that takes a left turn. How convenient, maybe we all should move a bit to the left. The piece’s crescendo comes when Melvin comes across a small pile of actual dirt. It’s not man made, just true earth. He leaps over the dirt with such grace; it nearly drove me to tears. With so much suck around him, Melvin soars.
If there’s an indelible significance, it’s the value of truth in self. Sure the piece is political, but even politics are based on people. So much of life is spent trying to find ourselves. Social mores, media, and advertising are constantly trying to push us in predetermined directions. Melvin has determined his direction, and more of us could follow his lead. It’s as grassroots approach as there is, and I get the feeling that if more people were like Melvin, the world would be better for it.
Sick toss by D-Wade, but call me when ‘Bron drops the hammer and doesn’t have to lay it in like I used in rec games at the Kennedy in 1995.
A few weeks ago, Drew Magary wrote a piece about celebrities he’s met in response to a question in the Deadspin Funbag. That same day Bobby Big Wheel took the mantle on his tumblr and followed suit:
On Deadspin today, Drew put together his list of celebrities that he has seen in person, and mentioned that everyone should have a running list. I think the rule for the list is that it has to be somewhere you wouldn’t expect to see them. For example, the fact that I’ve been to Yankees games doesn’t mean I’ve seen Derek Jeter before.
In this spirit, I’ve decided to offer mine. You’ll note the list will be particularly slanted in one direction as I was the beneficiary of an invite to a ridiculous birthday party I had no business being at. With that, here’s my list.
- Jay-Z, Jason Strauss’s birthday party at Tao Las Vegas, April 2006. Jay was really hard to get at, even though this party was dripping with celebrities. I was on the adjacent banquette, and when he stood up, I did too and shook hands and heaped praise on him like you’re supposed to do when in that situation.
- Shaquille O’Neal, Woodward (Ames Hotel) One Year Anniversary Party this year
- Hoopz, Shaq’s GF, Woodward party
- Jason Strauss, Owner of Tao, his own birthday party at Tao Las Vegas, mentioned above
- Paris Hilton, above party
- Nicky Hilton, above party
- Kyle Richards, this was well before Kyle was famous for the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I had accidentally hit the jackpot in that the week before this Vegas trip, I had watched an E! True Hollywood Story about the Hilton Sisters. Kyle was prominently featured in the episode. She looked approachable, and I asked her to have Paris and Nicole come down from on top of the banquette they were dancing on because I knew them. I obviously didn’t, but told them we had met at Teddy’s, and I owned a Bentley dealership on Wilshire. Paris blew me off, but Nicky was back and forth with me all night, asking me for cigarettes. At one point she stumbled and I caught her. She was dating E from Entourage at the time.
- Mekhi Phifer, same party. Made two drinks from the stupid Grey Goose bottle service, one for him, one for me, and he waved his hand over his mouth like the drink was way too strong and put it back on the small, round table in the center of our banquette. Mekhi gave me literally hundreds of hi-fives that night. I honestly felt like I was as famous as he was. It was right before he got E.R.
- Nick Staal, same party. Came up in the elevator with him but didn’t really see him at the party.
- Perez Hilton, same party, was tagging along with Paris and some dumb DJ who I don’t know, and it was right after he became Perez Hilton after being forced to abandon page six six six.
- Scott Weiland, lead singer Stone Temple Pilots, Velvet Relvover, same party. Drinking VOSS water and miserable. Talked to him about a show he played in Worcester.
- Lisa Ling, same party
- Jamie Lynn Sigler, same party
- Vanessa Manillo, same party. She fell on the ground at this party and there was a paparazzi picture that showed up in Us and People. Remember, this was around the time she was posing for knife pictures with Lindsay Lohan. She had just started dating Drew Lachey’s older brother.
- Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad, same party. He was really friendly and down to party because he was barely famous at this point. Was up for a lot of shots straight from those Grey Goose bottles. Nicky Hilton also got mentioned in People magazine for being spotted doing shots out of the same bottle.
- Ryan Seacrest, American Idol, Toy’s R’ Us in Times Square. It was 2o02, nobody recognized him, and he’s tiny. Also; had the requisite and cliche three Big Black Body Guards.
- Josh Beckett, Boston Red Sox, Saw him at Waterworks after he got shelled that Sunday afternoon. With a ton of bros.
- Peter King, Sports Illustrated Football Writer, See him all the time. He lives on my street, like ten doors down from me, swear to god.
- Matt Sorum, Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver drummer, same Vegas party
- Tom Green, Times Square, happened to be walking through Times Square in 1999 and he had just walked out of Mtv.
- Sum 41, once famous, post-punk pop band, saw them all at a Donna’s concert at the Middle East Downstairs in 2001. Took shots together, got invited backstage to their show the following night by Cone, never went.
- Annie Duke, poker player, Celebrity Apprentice, saw her at a shitty Irish bar in Fanuiel Hall one night.
- Daniel Sunjata, Rescue Me, having dinner at banQ in Boston
- David E. Kelley, dinner at the above mentioned restuarant
- Vernon Jordan of Bill Clinton fame, Farm Neck, MV, later the same night at Lola’s in Martha’s Vineyard
- Tommy Davidson at Lola’s, Martha’s Vineyard
- David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox, Fundraiser
- Mel Gibson, Filming The Edge of Darkness on Washington St. and Union Park in my neighborhood after work one night.
- Cameron Diaz, Filming Knight and Day on Union Park.
- Amy Smart, Filming a pilot that apparently never got picked up, also on Union Park.
This list will be continually updated, as I remember others I’ve left out, or others I come across in my travels and travails.
I’ve been doing that thing where you buy a pair of raw, unwashed Levi’s 501’s and wear them every day, unwashed, ad infinitum.
If you’re interested in this post, you probably know the particulars of how to handle raw and rigid denims, but for those that aren’t, I’ll offer a synopsis.
I like Levi’s 501 Original Shrink-To-Fit Jeans in Indigo. Feel free to buy APC or Raleigh or Tellason or whomever else you see fit. I like Levi’s because you can get ’em for like forty bucks. When they’re new and raw, the tiny red tag on the seat pocket looks dynamite, too. Anyway, the deal is, buy the jeans expecting them to shrink about 10% once washed or soaked. Soaking is simply that — throw them in the tub, turn ’em inside-out, wear them in the shower, ocean, whatever (there are thousands of methods, use Google if interested.) From then, hang dry and make sure to put them on while still damp. According to legend, the jeans supposedly shrink to the contours of your body. I bought mine 2″ longer (32″x34″)to combat cuff shrinkage, and probably could have gone as long as 36″, but those are hard to find.
I bought the pair you see in October, and I have since soaked them three times, a little high for most denim gurus. I know I said I have never washed them in the title, and that part is true. No detergent or chemicals or electricity have touched my jeans. They Amish. My jeans get really gross, though, so I’ll gladly soak more often than not.
You can see that I always keep my iPhone in my left pocket, and beyond that, the wear is pretty typical. I always like the discoloration above the pockets, and I think that’s what places like Abercrombie & Fitch typical try and cop. Obviously they, or any of the hundreds far above their creative tier can’t do it as well as we can. And definitely not for less than fifty bills.
This is what they look like, off-the-rack:
Mine after 120 days:
As promised, this was relatively brief, but for more you should take to the internets. A Continous Lean has one of my favorite denim posts ever, with a few opinions from Michael Williams. Denim Debate is another great time-waster as well.
For one last contrast, here’s a photo of the above pair, underneath anontherpair I bought 180 days ago, taken back in October:
The picture quality sucks, but you get the idea. I stopped wearing the pair in the foreground because they were only a 32″ inseam, and after the first soak, they became high-waters.
Here they are today:
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