Letter 15: April 26, 2022

annette lemieux

Since I first announced my desire to explore a greater sphere of cultural subjects, I have been thinking on which to address. I was always into the music of my time, especially experimental voices and styles as they came to me through friends and through popular media like magazines, radio, and MTV. I was an avid follower of the show “120 Minutes” that aired every Sunday night at Midnight from 1986 (the year I graduated from high school) until 2000, when I had stopped watching MTV because most of its original programming has been replaced by so-called Reality TV. College was a great place to encounter new music, or people who felt passionately about some of the bands I already knew, having a more in-depth involvement with their music and cult of personality. My college also ran a tiny little radio station, with a signal barely strong enough to pass beyond the gates of the college, but everyone we knew was listening. It was easy to get on the schedule. The guys who ran the station were all in bands and so had extra records to share. Stuff I had rarely ever heard of. But it opened my eyes to so much. XTC, Pixies, Smiths, Joy Division, all the 4AD Records bands like Throwing Muses and Clan of Xymox. Reggae. Ska. Punk. Like I said, some of the same, but much more in-depth, much more of a shared community of values through music, especially through musicians. My college was north of Boston, and Boston had a music scene of its own, where certain trends that would never take hold in New York had absolute traction. Things like Ska. Certain blends of contemporary Punk. My favorite place to check out new music was Newbury Comics in Harvard Square, which was located in this mini-mall called The Garage, which also housed my favorite cafe, The Coffee Connection, which served Curried Chicken Salad and huge salads and large French Press pots of coffee. One could hang out forever and eat and read. They even let one graduate student keep his books on one table after closing. He looked like he was busy with the longest of all dissertations, stretching into infinity. Newbury Comics was introduced to me by an older student who was obsessed with the bands I talked about here, it wasn’t a huge store, but the selection was solidly New Wave, Punk, Ska, etc. They sold huge posters of the bands, and had a DJ booth where you could request that they play a record you wanted to buy. It was a great place to see who your peers were in the same music scene. It’s since moved to a streetside location.  

Arcade Fire. Courtesy The New York Times 2022

These days I am very actively exploring as many bands as possible. Through Spotify I have access to an endless track of them. I currently have 435 pages followed. This may seem excessive, but it has to cover all my musical interests. I love Alternative, Blues, Jazz, Classical, Punk, Metal, Flamenco, the list goes on and on. I have rediscovered the bands of my youth in their contemporary guises, and old bands I never knew because I had to know someone who owned their records or heard them at some club. I remember when I used to hang out at a local cafe, and whatever music I heard there with any regularity, I ended up buying the CD to listen at home. Sometimes a certain song would be so popular that it would be playing wherever I went. It would seep into my consciousness. I would look forward to hearing it again. Now I only need to open the app and press play.

Current obsessions include The Idles, Arcade Fire, and Nine Inch Nails. Also lots of Jazz like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy, Singer/ Songwriters like Mark Geary, who I knew in the late Eighties when he was a young waiter at Cafe Orlin in the East Village. Also recent music from old favorite bands The Pixies, Depeche Mode, Killing Joke, and more. I promise to go into depth more in future posts.  

SHEILA LANHAM

Some current shows I wanted to recommend include a conceptual photographer and a painter using scrims and printmaking impressions to enrich the gestural process. Though I usually limit my recommendations to underknown artists it’s with some pleasure that I recently discovered new work on view by Annette Lemieux, an artist whose work has been challenging assumed perceptions for decades. Her current solo exhibition at Mitchell Innes & Nash, 534 W 26th St, is on view through May 27, 2022. The other is Stephen Maine at Hionas Gallery, 94 Walker St, on view through May 7, 2022. Last but by no means least I wanted to plug a that show I’m hosting on my website Gibson Contemporary for a talented artist you should know more about. “World Views” presents a series of paintings by Sheila Lanham that are culled from antiquated encyclopedias, whose diverse yet badly printed images inspired these surreal masterworks. On view through 10 pm on May 10, 2022.

stephen maine

See you back here soon with new essays! AND new letters every two weeks!

David Gibson