Friday, March 23, 2012

A Quick Guide to Banksy Books

While flipping through a book catalog yesterday I noticed some new books on infamous street artist, Banksy. I thought I would list them here, along with the other titles that I’m familiar with:

Wall and Piece by BANKSY
This is the one book that should definitely be on your bookshelf. And as far as I know, the only official Banksy collection out there put together by the artist himself. It is very popular and I have seen it “out of stock” on Amazon quite a few times, especially since the time that Exit Through The Gift Shop came out in theaters. (I know for sure it is one of the best-selling items at Revolution Books L.A.)

Banksy’s Bristol: Home Sweet Home by Steve Wright
A nice hardcover collection that focuses on Banksy’s hometown of Bristol and stands out because it has many images of the artist’s early work. (Also, some interviews with people who worked with him early in his career).

Banksy Locations and Tours Vol. 1 & Vol.2 by Martin Bull
These first came out in the U.K., but then PM Press put out their versions. The collections were put together by photographer Martin Bull, and can be very useful if you ever decide to go on vacation to areas where Banksy has left artwork behind. (Both books also have images of great art from other infamous street artists). But, the drawback to these editions is that they are small (for art books), so even though they have many great photographs, the images are rather small.

Banksy: Myths and Legends by Marc Leverton
This book just came out at the end of last year, from Ginko Press. It’s a smaller book with about 80 color illustrations; however it seems to focus more on “stories” and “facts” about the artist. It seems to feature some of his most recent work and looks like it’s priced very affordably.

Banksy: You Are An Acceptable Level of Threat compiled by Gary Shove & Patrick Potter
A new collection, set to be released this summer, and the preview makes it look very promising—especially because it’s supposed to include photos of the work Banksy did in New Orleans, and the stencils he did out in Los Angeles when he was in town for the Oscars. If you see this at a bookstore, grab it because it definitely looks like it would be worth to add to your home library.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Quick Thoughts on Season Two Finale of Walking Dead

"This isn't a democracy anymore!"

With those words from Rick, (leader of a band of people who have come together to try and survive some sort of zombie apocalypse), the season two of The Walking Dead came to an end--and my excitement of the possible political implications of what this could mean for the next season began!

Could some real deep social commentary about America finally be at the forefront of this series? The show has had its ups and down in terms of plot, but it has mostly been an entertaining show to watch. However, it's mostly just been entertaining, so the possibility of a show that is both entertaining and also makes some sort of commentary on current events or the current state of society has gotten me very excited! Of course, this is all in the writers' hands...

But think of all that can be done: Could the zombie apocalypse represent the failed capitalist system? Will the zombies come to represent people who vote? Will the band of lone survivors become some sort of metaphor for a future society--possibly even socialism? (Or, another unfortunate cynical story about so-called human nature)?

What gives me hope is the fact that a lot of good social commentary has already been made in zombie movies. Cult classic films by George Romero like, "Night of the Living Dead," and "Dawn of the Dead," which deal with issues of racism, inequality and consumerism, come to mind. What do people think???

Monday, March 12, 2012

Recent Albums You Might Have Slept On Vol. 1

Saul Williams, "Volcanic Sunlight"
This album was actually released in November of last year, and I had mentioned its release before. This is very much a something-for-everybody kind of album, as there are all kinds of songs on here: fun, happy songs with simple hooks (“Girls on Saturn”); songs that you definitely want to play at your next house-party (“Dance”); songs with lots of poetry (“Look to the Sun,” “Explain My Heart”); and the more trippy, experimental songs (“Diagram”). There is a bit of dance album feel to a lot of the music, but the lyrics are at the level of what fans of Saul Williams would expect, so they would not be disappointed.

Outernational, "Todos Somos Ilegales (We Are All Illegals)"

This album was released online at the end of 2011 to provide a soundtrack to resistance and revolution—it is “future rock” after all. There have been some good things said of the album, some of which you can find on the band’s Tumblr page. Here I’ll focus on my highlights, which include the funky “The Beginning Is Here,” which looks to set the tone for 2012; “We Are All Illegals,” a new anthem for all those fighting against the attacks on immigrants featuring a bunch of guest stars on the track, including some short but politically sharp lines from Residente of Calle 13; “Canta El Rio,” a beautiful and eerie sounding song with Ceci Bastida providing vocals; and my personal favorite, “Que Queremos,” which the band has been playing at shows for a long time and finally released. It’s a pay-what-you-can album, so there’s no excuse not to have it on your computer’s music library right now!

Ana Tijoux, "La Bala"

The first album that I was excited to hear this year and it did not disappoint. It starts off strong with the title-track, “La Bala,” and then quickly hits its high-point with “Shock,” and you know right away that this album will be even more politically charged than her previous work—of course, with everything that is going on in her home country of Chile, you can’t be surprised that it was a politically heavy album. Some have said that they did not dig the beats as much as they did on her previous album, and although I agree (just a little), I have to say that the songs are just more meaningful and powerful than her last disc. (Also, I love her singing; her voice reminds me a bit of Nelly Furtado).

Thursday, March 1, 2012

MacArthur Park Through the Eyes of Sonia Romero

I have to admit that as much as I hate Metro trains and buses sometimes (for various reasons), I have to give it up to them when it comes to public art; they do a great job of putting up a variety of beautiful art pieces in many of their train stations.

My favorite public art piece (that was commissioned by Metro Art and completed back in 2010), is "MacArthur Park; Urban Oasis," by local artist Sonia Romero, and it is located in the Westlake-MacArthur Park Red Line station. It is a series of 13 porcelain mosaic murals, which can be described as vignettes that show daily urban life in the the Westlake-MacArthur Park neighborhood.

What I really love about it is that it represents all that is good in the area and it also gives us beautiful depictions of the working-class immigrant people that work and play in the park; for example, a lady selling tamales, and a paletero (ice-cream vendor).

There is also a lot of history in the pieces. For instance, there is one piece memorializing Al Langer, the founder of Langer's Delicatessen and Restaurant, which is across the street from the park--and has been there since 1947! My favorite panel is the one that depicts the Westlake Theatre, which was built in 1926 and used as a movie theatre until 1991, and is now a swapmeet. The clashing of the old neon sign and ticket kiosk with murals of products you can buy inside the swap meet always made this a curious sight for me and the artist really captures this well.

I'm not the only one who thinks this is great public art. As a matter of fact, last summer it was chosen as one of the best public art pieces by the organization Americans for the Arts. People should check-out this art by visiting this train station; or, if you live too far and can't make it to L.A., visit Romero's website HERE.