by Roberto Friedman
Resolute vegetarian pop singer Morrissey is touring the States with a round of concerts, and he always has plenty of opinions to share. In an essay for Hot Press website, he wrote: "The very existence of the Queen and her now enormous family – all supported by the British taxpayer whether the British taxpayer likes it or not – is entirely against any notion of democracy, and is against freedom of speech. For a broad historical view of what the Queen is and how she 'rules,' examine Gaddafi or Mubarak, and see if you can spot any difference."
Re the suppression of freedom of speech, the Moz offers as evidence "a statement from Commander Christine Jones of the Metropolitan Police last month, when she warned that any British people carrying anti-royal placards who are 'seen in the vicinity of the royal wedding would be removed under the Public Order Act.' This means that any political dissent in England is silenced in order to protect the royals, which in itself goes against every principle of democracy."
Well, OK, we can see his point. In rebuttal, we can only offer this vintage photograph of the young Queen Elizabeth square-dancing. You never saw Mubarak doing that.
Out There spent much of this past week within the fortress walls of SFMOMA, participating in events surrounding the opening of two major exhibitions, Jasper Johns: Seeing with the Mind's Eye and Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective (both through Feb. 3, 2013). On Tues. night, we were invited to the Artist's Circle and Director's Circle reception for the shows; then on Wed., attended the media preview of the exhibits, while the museum's annual press luncheon, in which director Neal Benezra and curators give an overview of the coming year, was rescheduled due to some sports-related celebration. We've been reading both shows' catalogues as well, a good way to get an in-depth command of the material. Look for arts writer Sura Wood 's reviews of both Johns and DeFeo exhibitions coming in the next two issues.
Related: author and cultural critic Greil Marcus will discuss the work of Bay Area artist DeFeo (1929-89) in a lecture, Greil Marcus: Jay DeFeo and All That Jazz, on Mon., Nov. 5, at 7 p.m., at the Lisser Theatre, Mills College, Oakland. Press notes say, "DeFeo was part of a vibrant community of avant-garde artists, poets, and musicians in San Francisco during the 1950s and 60s, and was a faculty member at Mills College in the 80s. Although best known for her monumental painting The Rose (1958-66), DeFeo worked in a wide range of media and produced an astoundingly diverse and compelling body of work over four decades. Her unconventional approach to materials and her intensive, physical method make her a unique figure in postwar American art. Marcus is a contributor to the exhibition catalogue accompanying Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective , currently on view at SFMOMA. Info: firstname.lastname@example.org."
We've been listening to the new album Gold Dust (DG/Mercury Classics), on which singer/songwriter Tori Amos revisits songs from her entire catalogue, reworks them in orchestral settings (arranged by John Philip Shenale ), and records them with the Metropole Orchestra conducted by Jules Buckley.
This has become a "thing" for contemporary recording artists who aspire to distinguished reputations, reworking their pop hits in orchestral arrangements. Sometimes it works (Joni Mitchell ), sometimes it doesn't (Paul McCartney ). With Amos, the songs sound surprisingly natural in their high-art dressing. Perhaps it's because she composed them and originally played them on concert piano, an instrument on which she was classically trained. It's not such a conceptual leap from there to full symphony orchestra.
The album spans her career, from her debut album Little Earthquakes (20 years ago, in 1992) on. Some of them still pack quite a punch, and there's nothing decorous about Amos' lyrics. "I wanna smash the faces of those beautiful boys, those Christian boys. So you can make me cum, that doesn't make you Jesus." – "Precious Things"
PS: RIP German composer Hans Werner Henze , who died on Saturday in Dresden, at 86. Major 20th-century composer, major artist, major queer.