Staff Picks: Bardi, Baseball, and LSD

 

Though David Hockney’s major retrospectives at the Tate, the Pompidou, and the Met last year cemented his status as one of the greatest artists of our time, the breathtaking innovation on display at his new exhibit, “Something New in Painting (and Photography) [and even Printing]” is evidence that at the spry age of eighty, the man is only just getting started. The show includes eighteen new paintings on hexagonal canvases as well as two new works of computer-manipulated photography that each span a full gallery wall. As Hockney describes it, he once drove through a long tunnel under the Alps. There were no other cars, and the constancy of the road narrowing into the pinprick of light ahead, the tyranny of the one-point perspective, created an unbearable atmosphere of tension. Then the car emerged, and there were the mountains, there was the sky, there was the world, wild and unbound and everywhere around them. One painting in the show describes this with stark simplicity: the narrowing road below, the vista of mountains above. The rest capture the dizzying feeling of awe by playing with “reverse perspective,” Hockney’s technique in which the space bends, the edges fold in, and the viewer is granted the gift of peering around impossible corners and hovering over floors that reach upward. The notches on either side of each canvas are the inverse of the nose that generally interrupts our vision, a breaking open of the way we see. The show will be on view at the Pace Gallery until May 12. The colors, the sumptuous aquamarines of a Los Angeles swimming pool, the burnt sienna and iridescent yellow of the Grand Canyon, provide the perfect escape from this unrelenting New York winter. Nadja Spiegelman 

 

Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images North America

 

Dorothea Lasky’s latest collection, Milk, often feels like an optical illusion: simplicity in black-and-white, arranged so that it reveals something disorienting and complex in a way you can’t quite articulate. Each line is vibrant in itself, popping short and quick in sharply skipping staccato, individually crafted and yet still somehow seamlessly woven into the full piece. Lasky demonstrates her virtuosity time and again; like any artist truly confident in their medium, she doesn’t need much material to create a deeply stirring piece. If you’re still not sold on Lasky’s minimalist brilliance, you can take a test drive with the Review’s Spring issue, which features “A Hospital Room,” a poem from the collection. —Lauren Kane

 

 

Recently, I was sent spinning by Amy Meng’s debut poetry collection, Bridled, which follows its narrator through the end of her marriage and reentrance into single life. This is a drama that plays itself out through a series of realizations that together offer more than the sum of their parts. Meng’s insights into identity, which she at one point calls “a subtle knife paring bodies apart,” are extraordinary—one poem is titled “Self-Portrait as Gordian Knot.” Her narrator changes and grows as she comes to understand the intricacies of herself and her past life. Bridled is lovely to read and served as a reminder to question my own understanding of myself as an entity. —Eleanor Pritchett

 

Pete Reiser.

 

After leaving school, I soon realized that I have almost no natural sense of time. Without its cyclical scaffolding—midterm, final, vacation—months slide by, and weeks stretch like seasons. Horizonless, time sags. Yet the MLB opening day remains a brassy clock chime. Opening day means that winter is over, no matter the weather—the outfield grass is patterned and fantastically green, like a perennial artificial spring. I have always been a baseball fan, and even when I was a child, my love for the sport was nostalgic. My favorite baseball book was and remains Peter Golenbock’s Bums, a magnificently definitive oral history of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Golenbock spoke, it seems, to every living Dodger player, fan, and beer vendor. At the age of twelve, I read it incessantly and rabbinically, pained by an intense affection for a team that transformed losing into a kind of grace. The old Dodgers featured in Bums become mythic personalities, embodying distinct qualities like characters out of the Iliad: Gil Hodges’s gentle-giant reserve, the way he smiled benignly on his roughhousing teammates; Jackie’s laconic intensity; Branch Rickey’s scampish, restless intelligence, which I always associated with my grandfather’s; and Pete Reiser’s tragic aura. When he was twenty-three and filled with puppyish exuberance, Reiser ran face-first into the outfield wall while chasing a ball. He knocked himself out and was never the same. He would play into the next decade, reduced physically but with the same abandon, as if his mind lagged behind his body. In a subsequent encounter with the wall, he was briefly paralyzed and carried off in a stretcher. That is baseball in my mind—childlike, bursting with potential, and then gone. —Matt Levin

 

 

The Adroit Journal is where I go when I want to know what the kids are reading. An online journal founded in 2010 by Peter LaBerge (then a high-school sophomore), Adroit is by now well aged. The poetry, though, maintains the kind of freshness and enthusiasm that keeps high-school students up all night reading. This is not to suggest that the voices in Adroit are unformed. I didn’t know about Duy Doan, who has two poems in Issue 24, but the Yale Younger Poet Prize committee certainly does. His rhythms are hypnotic, and I danced them all the way to the end. But don’t linger here forever when you could read Ama Codjoe’s “Garden of the Gods” or Derrick Austin’s “Son Jarocho.”  The real winner this issue is José Olivarez’s “A Mexican Dreams of Heaven”; each section is full and funny and a rosary of little perfect prayers. The poem finds humor in religion, race, and disparity. It’s impossible to love one stanza over another, but I found myself returning to the poem’s delicious opening again and again:

all of the Mexicans sneak into heaven. St. Peter has
their name on the list, but none of the Mexicans have
trusted a list since Ronald Reagan was President.

—Julia Berick

 

 

Almost ten years ago now, a four-and-a-half-minute masterpiece called “Dock Ellis & the LSD No-No” was posted on YouTube. Ellis was a seventies baseball player who took acid, thinking he had a day off, then realized that he had lost track of time—“The next day, which I thought was the next day … ”—and so had to rush to the stadium and pitch while “high as a Georgia pine.” He ended up pitching a no-hitter, which is when a pitcher throws so well that no batter on the opposing team scores a single run for all nine innings. Ellis has a gift for describing this experience, and the film rises to meet his narration with music from Stax Records and colorful, wiry visuals. Ellis is candid, funny, and nonchalantly soul bearing: “It was easier to pitch with the LSD because I was so used to medicating myself. That’s how I was dealing with the fear of failure. The fear of losing. The fear of winning.” Although nothing like Friday Night Lights in tone or content, it’s similar in that an interest in sports is not required. I know almost nothing about baseball. But I know a hero when I see one. —Brent Katz

 

 

Those who know me well know that at times I lull myself to sleep by watching standup comedy specials. I find the sound of laughter soothing and the art of making fun of life’s shittiest moments necessary. I’m a bit bashful to admit my sleeping habits to you all here, but I’ve just recently tucked myself in to James Acaster’s four-part special, Repertoire, and found it too good to keep to myself. Acaster—a thirty-three-year-old nimble, lanky, redheaded man from Kettering who dresses in “paisley, paisley makes the girls go crazily”—is outrageously funny. Inventive, charming, and insanely original, he embraces his inner (and, let’s face it, outer) nerd, obsessing over loopholes and mathematical theorems while pacing the stage. With an observational approach to comedy, Acaster is the Nicholson Baker of standup, chewing over minutia with profound delight and inimitable smarts. Some of his funniest bits consider things like the deplorable hardship of slicing cheese, the preposterousness of oven mitts that are “joined together by that filthy hammock,” and the pleasure of closing cardboard boxes using their own flaps (i.e., without parcel tape). But he warns early on that “some of the jokes are sad.” And they are: we’re told of the woman he loved and lost, of his wavering faith, and more. Acaster’s range is impeccable. I’ve rewatched Repertoire night after night after night. —Caitlin Youngquist

 

 

I don’t care what anyone says: there’s only one song that matters, and lucky for you, it’s streaming everywhere. At midnight last Friday, Cardi B released “Be Careful,” the fifth track off her first studio album, Invasion of Privacy, which she subsequently released at midnight last night. An anthem for the unfortunate condition of being with a man who’s trash and loving him anyway, “Be Careful” is the tender girl bop to deliver us from the relentless whining of the ubiquitous sad boy (Drake, The Weeknd, Bryson Tiller, Drake). Each verse bleeds into the chorus, the last line incising the soapy first: “You make me sick / the only man, baby, I adore.” Cardi makes sure her listeners know she’s being soft; the song’s titular refrain—“be careful with me”—is always accompanied by a clarification: “It’s not a threat, it’s a warning.” The real threat is slipped into the end of the first verse: “Karma for you is gon’ be who you end up with.” Only Cardi could turn intimidation into a plea and speculation into a hex. —Maya Binyam

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