Best thing Judge Bill Gibron has ever written: "the aural aftermath of a Bjork OD."
Farts longa, vita brevis.
Appreciation of art is as personal as enjoyment of music or love of food. Everyone's tastes are different, and yet few could argue over the acknowledged benchmarks in any of these individualistic pursuits. Talk of tunesmiths, and The Beatles or Bob Dylan is universally referred to as revolutionary. When cuisine is contemplated, lobster and steak, caviar and roast duck are commonly held visions of gourmet splendor. But painting and sculpture still seem to divide the dogmatic. One man's Pollack is another man's finger painting, and for every soul who appreciates Picasso, there is another puzzled by his eye placements. Therefore, a company attempting to create a standard-bearing arrangement to the sensation of a still life or the majesty in a mountain range treads very troubled waters. They are the Titanic to someone's iceberg. They are destined to make one group grin while torturing the temperament of others.
But MVC is still going to try it.
In a duo of DVD releases, entitled Art & Music: Volume 1 and Art & Music: Volume 2—New Artists, MVC meshes soundscapes with landscapes and symphonies with surrealism to provide a combination of easel eye candy with easy listening leanings. But just like the arguments above, after watching the almost museum-quality montages, the same old sentiments apply. Some may find these discs exceptional diversions. Others will smite them like a pissed-off Zeus during lightning bolt practice.
The packages themselves represent very divergent ideas. Volume 1 explores a sextet of great works from recognizable masters. Volume 2 provides us with endless amateurish reasons why those ads on the back of matchbooks (usually asking you to draw Droopy the drunken clown or Crunchy the crippled frog) are so friggin' popular. Volume 1 surrounds its works with the beautiful, elegant sounds of Rossini. Volume 2 presents its pathetic paint puking within an equally nauseating noisefest, a mixture of New Age noodling and hip-hop slop beats that should have, as you read this, both Windham Hill and Jay-Z scuttling to disassociate themselves from their respective meal ticket genres. At 35 minutes, Volume 1 feels too short and extremely shallow, not offering enough art or a wide enough sampling of classic canvases to really warrant a release on DVD. At 55 minutes, plus 11 minutes of interview footage, Volume 2 acts like a sperm whale-sized tranquilizer, a guaranteed cure for insomnia as horrible, half-assed creative charlatans crow over their own crap. Volume 1 is like Heaven, that is, if Wal-Mart was in charge of decorating the Afterlife. Volume 2 is a trip to Purgatory by way of Ms. Sharple's 6th grade art class (or the spin-art booth at the fair).
So these DVDs are not really a contrast in substance (since the overall merits of the images offered are sketchy at best). They are more like a nice attempt at something aesthetic. But instead of diving into a really spectacular pool of paintbox products, we end up with a couple of discs that wallow in the kiddie pool of arts more mainstream measures.
Volume 1 is a screensaver on steroids, a few minutes of fanciness masquerading as a full-fledged DVD. If you like Monet, Degas, Cezanne, Gauguin, and Caillebotte, then you'll really enjoy the six paintings proffered. It would have been nice to see a wider selection of works (frankly, there are better examples of Monet's mastery of color than "Regatta At Argenteuil," or of Gauguin's framing of form than "Women Bathing") but this is just nit-pickery. What we have here is nothing more than one of those "Virtual Fireplace" videotapes that were all the rage about 15 years ago. If you like classical art melded with classical music, then Volume 1 is the way to convert your incredibly complex home theater system into a "perhaps too expensive'" picture frame. It's still vastly superior to what's up Volume 2's smock sleeve.
Now, there is really nothing wrong with the modern mahlstickers in Volume 2. Some show decent color coordination and, on occasion, you can see glimmers of true talent trying to pry its way out of self-righteous ridiculousness. But these are wannabes, hucksters hoping to sell you on their skill with a palette knife. Most of the painters interviewed express a common philosophy: art is like a burning desire inside them that they just have to let out. Now, this could also be a description of certain STDs, or a case of explosive diarrhea after eating way too many canned tamales. But these brush-strokers apparently feel a painful drive to take pigment to paper, and they do manage to share their vision with us, since actual soreness is one of the direct side effects produced after watching Volume 2.
And frankly, the sting of surrealism or the wounding by watercolor would be far less severe if not for the horrid music accompanying this collection. Some talentless tone-deaf dolt named Dahlia (unfortunately, not the infamous Black one) caterwauls all over the aural map in a fruitless attempt to find a melody, hoping to match it to some incredibly arch accompaniment in what sounds like an electronica recreation of Tori Amos dying from throat cancer. Using strange samples and an even odder sense of song, this excuse for expression recalls the aural aftermath of a Bjork OD. Supposedly, there is another recording retardation named Auditory Sculpture adding to the audio assault, but you'll be hard pressed to tell the Moog from the monotony. Both backing bands set back the concept of Ambient several decades. A halfway decent attempt at photorealism will arrive onscreen and you'll think, "My, that's pretty nic…Ow! My God! Who in the &$*&@ is slaughtering a baby ox on the soundtrack?" If the art here is barely passable (and presented in a strange fashion where, at random, sections of the canvases are highlighted with a zoom for no apparent reason), then the music adds a kind of esoteric insult to the already idiomatic injury. Had something more subdued, less steeped in the digitized drivel been used to back this look at California's current crop of delusional Delacroixs, Art & Music: Volume 2 would be like a local talent show: full of promise but less than completely professional. But with the tuneless torment added on top, it becomes just another gallery of acrylic gesso junk.
As mentioned before, only Volume 2 contains any extras, and the interview footage is footnote fluff puffery. The artists each get a sentence or two to describe their yearnings to translate the Technicolor yawn they experience each morning after a night of too many Kahlua Mudslides into viable visuals of their inner demons. Admittedly, it's fun to watch Grandmas talk about painting children or flowers, in juxtaposition with antisocial stereotypes who try to toss their political agenda into every comment they make about the artist's craft. But aside from menus that allow you to skip to certain images and songs, the Q&A is the only extra "content" contained herein.
As for the sound and vision, there is really no questioning MVC's desire to release clear and color-correct imagery. Both DVDs use a kind of "full-frame equals picture frame" ideal, and when they can offer the entire picture into the cathode-ray space, they will. But there are other times when a stupid "backdrop" dynamic is employed, with the canvas pulled back, crushed and crammed onto the screen (the addition of a bogus border sometimes killing an already flat-lining figure study). It is in these cases where the "zoom" is utilized, not that anything of interest is ever discovered. As for the audio, the Dolby Digital presentation enhances Volume 1's ethereal excellence. But the same sonic scope surrounds the redolence of Volume 2, making the trip-hop acid flop sound like one of Moby's amplified bowel movements.
If your level of art appreciation wavers somewhere between Guernica (on the high end) and velvet tapestries depicting four dogs playing poker (on the "guys living in a frat house" side), then perhaps Art & Music: Volume 1 and Volume 2: New Artists will satisfy your craving for cool colors. But for those people who recognize a Rembrandt from a Rauschenberg (and understand that both are names of artists, not toothpaste), then these primer level DVDs will be a waste of your forced perspective patina. While occasionally lovely to look at, and only a chore to listen to in the more modern mode, these discs are an achromatic look at what is a wonderfully vibrant, if totally subjective, avenue of entertainment.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: MVC Productions
• Artists Interviews (Volume 2)
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