Rare Picasso Portrait of Marie-Thérèse Heads Sotheby’s’ ‘Unseen Works of the European Avant-Garde’ Auction

 

 

If you’ve read Patrick O’Brian’s Picasso: A Biography, or at least seen the 1996 Merchant-Ivory film Surviving Picasso, you understand that Pablo wasn’t really the easiest person to live with—he could be awful, actually. But those women who endured him were obviously immortalized in the most spectacular of ways.

Ballet dancer Olga Khokhlova was certainly so, only to discover in 1935, after 17 years of marriage, that the Cubist master had been carrying on an eight year affair with model Marie-Thérèse Walter. Olga left him straight away, though they remained legally married until her death in 1955.

Walter was Picasso’s muse during one of his most exhilarating periods—and Sotheby’s has a particularly ethereal portrait of her from that time, Femme endormie (which translates to “Woman asleep”), up for auction. It will be part of a larger Evening Sale collection on offer July 28 in London, under the edifying banner Unseen Works of the European Avant-Garde.

 

Wassily Kandinsky, Ohne Titel (Komposition)

 

Surely, the first few decades of the 20th Century rank with the Renaissance in terms of transformational art world significance. And the auction will boast many of its marquee names, including Fernand Léger, Alberto Giacometti, Wassily Kandinsky, Lyonel Feininger, Marc Chagall, Henry Moore and Jean Arp. It’s practically a modern art museum starter kit.

Taken together, one can discern certain aesthetic narratives, which help to elucidate the exceedingly revolutionary nature of that time. From an unnamed private collection, Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Department Helena Newman reveals that it was the product of a genuinely passionate art lover, rather than a mercenary trader, with an emphasis on rarity.

“Unified by the breadth and depth of art from across Europe,” she explains, “it offers seldom seen works from the pinnacle of the Avant-Garde, from the figurative to the abstract. At its core is the exceptionally beautiful 1931 portrait of Picasso’s lover Marie-Thérèse, an intimate glimpse into their early days together when the love between the artist and his most important muse was still a secret from the world.”

Unseen Works of the European Avant-Garde will be up for auction July 28 at Sotheby’s London.

 

From Top: Marc Chagall, La branche de gui or Le rêve; Lyonel Feininger, Zottelstedt II

New Madame Gandhi ‘Waiting For Me’ Video is a Dazzling Call to Action

 

 

When we recently spoke to Madame Gandhi (now newly signed to Sony Masterworks), it turned out to be, to say the least, an inspiring conversation about self-possession, empowerment, and gender equality and justice. The Harvard graduate, TED Fellow, and one of the most original percussionists working today—the latter a job she’s done for both M.I.A. and Oprah—is nothing shy of a genuine force of nature, an activist, artist, poet and impresario all at once.

So, if it even need be said, we’re excited for anything new she sends our way—the latest of which is this utterly dazzling video for her latest single “Waiting For Me.” Directed by Misha Ghose, but conceptualized/produced by an all-female team, it was stunningly shot in India, ideologically featuring gender non-conforming cast members. The song, originally released last autumn, is vivid call to action against systems of oppression.

“I don’t want our identity to be defined according to how oppressed we are / Do you feel me?,” she fervently queries.

 

 

“We as artists have the power to use our art to vividly reimagine the world we wished we lived in,” she insists. ‘Waiting For Me’ is a song about questioning societal norms as they exist. The video opens with the quote, ‘We always assume our own powerlessness, but never our own power.’ With the interconnected social justice movements happening around the world, we are seeing a larger belief in the power of the collective for change.”

At a time when social, sexual and economic justice are all under attack, it’s nothing less than exigent that artists like Madame Gandhi take a firm stand against those who would abuse power in order to maintain it. The video seeks to do just that, but to also convey hopefulness and joy as much as anger.

“It’s a call to action for each of us to examine how hierarchy, capitalism and systemic oppression serve to keep us obedient,” she explains, “with little space for dialogue or critical thinking. My hope is that it inspires folks to ask, ‘Are my behaviors contributing to the oppression of somebody else? And what contributes to my own oppression? What does my version of freedom look and feel like?’”

 

BlackBook Interview: Joy Downer’s ‘Paper Moon’ Rises From the Quarantine

 

 

The synth-pop dream girl with the oxymoronic name, Joy Downer has come out of the nationwide quarantine with a glittering new album. Indeed, Paper Moon is the LA songstress’ first full length, and it has put her on an aesthetic stage that’s distinctly reminiscent of some of her idols, David Bowie and ABBA to name a couple. 

The familiar sonic stylings of ’80s pop are channeled and repurposed through she who actually makes up half of the Downer duo—the other being her betrothed, Jeffrey Downer. And on tracks like “A Song You’d Never Want to Hear,” lush synths create blankets of aural warmth that are punctured by reverberating snares, while guitars strut in a rhythm that will surely make you want to get up and dance.

BlackBook caught up and chatted with the alt-pop darling about growing up in a musical household, her songwriting process, and her break into the industry.

 

 

I read that both your parents are musicians. What was it like growing up in a musical household? 

My mom is a talented pianist and composer—she writes gorgeous pieces that so often fill the house, sometimes way too early in the AM. My dad was the drummer of his high school band The Inner Minds, mostly Beatles covers. I have really fond memories of him playing dashboard drums in the car, very enthusiastically. My parents divorced when I was two. I lived with my mom and five siblings, and visited my dad every other weekend. At his house, there was my step mom and five more siblings. Each was very different as far as the music I was exposed to, but I did get to hear a lot—certainly a huge bright spot of my childhood, as well as a refuge.  

What kinds of music did they play? 

My mom played a lot of soundtracks from musicals: John Williams, Mannheim Steamroller, Frank Sinatra, Queen, Dolly Parton, ABBA. My Dad listened to a ton of great rock &  roll: Creedence, The Kinks, Zombies, Herman’s Hermits, Pink Floyd, The Who, Crosby Stills & Nash. Also the occasional Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash. 
I enjoyed all of it. But when it came to what I discovered myself, it was artists like Oasis, Jeff Buckley, Prince, Bowie, T-Rex, Pulp, Blondie, Arcade Fire, Billie Holiday, Tears for Fears, The Strokes, White Stripes…I could go on and on.  

Some of your family members even made it onto the album?

Yes, my mom on piano and a voicemail sample, my brother on guitar and vocals, my dad’s voicemail sample, my sister on harmonium—my daughter and husband also sang on the ending part of “Paper Moon.” 
Music has always been a thread within our family, but I don’t know that it’s been part of the relationship with anyone besides my brother Jon. He played music and wrote songs before I did. I was so inspired by the way he channeled feelings into music, I started doing the same. We definitely connected over it, and still do. 

 

 

 

How did you celebrate the release of Paper Moon?

To be honest, I didn’t really celebrate. At the time it came out I was in a very different headspace, as were most people I know. I was also extremely sick that day from a stomach bug. Perhaps a belated celebration is in order though!

Was there a song that was particularly hard to realize on the album?

I would say “Over and Out” and “Good Bad.” Both went through a few different versions and arrangements. The former really came together once we tracked the horns, by Jared Dickinson. Whatever walls existed with that song, they were blown away by the new inspiration and life that he literally blew into it. And “Neon Turns” was a song we revisited after a year, because we hit a wall. It was such a monumental task to kind of dissect those songs and put them back together in a new way. But well worth the tediousness and annoyance of it.  

Do you have a songwriting process that you tend to fall back on? Are you one to write lyrics first and then figure out the melody/harmony, or do you let things develop all at once?

I don’t have a set process. Sometimes I record ideas on voice memo in the middle of the night, sometimes I get really inspired and write a song in my head in full—I can hear all the instrumentation. I play or sing out all the counter melodies to Jeffrey and he plays it on the appropriate instrument. Sometimes he will be jamming or playing something, I almost always start hearing a vocal melody and other ideas that could go with it—which typically follows with a 20 minutes stream of consciousness idea session. Then the trick is picking which bits to build that song with. I typically write the lyrics in the moment, with a plan to rewrite at a later time, but almost always I stick with the original lyrics. Though towards the end of the record, I made much more of an effort to write intentionally and poetically.

You’ve been making music pretty much your whole life. Did your approach to songwriting change when you started composing with Jeffrey?

I’ve been writing music since I was eight, and writing music with Jeffrey since 2009—recording and co-producing with him since 2018. I would say that working with him has given me the opportunity to grow as an artist and explore all sorts of ideas and sounds in a very safe creative space. We both push each other to be better and to get out of our comfort zones. I also feel like this first full length record is just the start of what I am capable of creating. I’m looking forward to everything that’s to come.  

 

 

After you settled down in LA, you took a brief hiatus from making music, until you decided to quit your jobs and pursue it full time. Was there a particular moment that helped you make that decision?

I was working as a “door girl” for a beautiful speakeasy bowling alley/bar at the Roosevelt Hotel, as well as auditioning and Uber driving in the day. After a couple years of doing the same thing, I was feeling very miserable, trapped, and unfulfilled. I had to gamble on myself if I wanted to tell a different story. As luck would have it, I booked a commercial after making that decision, where I met Lauren Kolar. I told her I was looking to record my songs, she said her husband Rob was the guy. And since I just made a decent penny on that commercial, I was able to hire Rob Kolar to produce my first EP of five songs. We actually recorded in his home studio. So being in the position of wanting to continue to create, and having had a glimpse of a home studio and all the possibilities, I started figuring out how to do that myself—and with Jeffrey.

What was that like, recording at home?

There’s a lot that I love about being in my own space. There’s a lot of freedom in it, having an idea late at night, knowing you can go track it right then and there. There’s also happy accidents that happen because we are at home—like my sister doing dishes in the next room during tracking, which once we pitched them up sounded really cool (in “Plastic Wrap”). 
And something else I will say is that if you don’t have a time limit or end date for a song, calling it finished is a really hard thing to do. That’s when I learned how important setting “done by” dates is.  

How would you describe Paper Moon? What are its intentions? 

In describing the album, I can tell you it’s an adventure of sounds, textures, tempos, and feelings. Of course, that’s my description, and every listener will have their own discovery and meaning. I would say my intention in sharing the music I create is to offer connection. In creating it, I’m finding a connection to myself. In sharing it, I’m hoping for the connection it can be to and for others. 

What’s next for Joy Downer?

I have a whole lot of songs to finish and so many more to write. The trick is finding the time to do that during a pandemic, and with a child at home full time now. 

 

Poignant New Christinna O Single ‘Hot Head’ Meditates on Living With Bipolar

 

 

We fell for Christinna O in 2019, with the release of her excellent Girl in Passing EP. The 20-year-old, Philly based songstress has been an outspoken queer female voice, something notably lacking in hip-hop and R&B. But she also knows her way around a sultry groove, which is precisely what underpins her poignant new single “Hot Head,” just released today.

It should be noted that she’s also a genuine poet, when so many unworthy can be found claiming that same title. And against a background of chiming guitars, lush atmospherics and jittery beats, she can be heard pleading in earnest, “If I don’t bite my tongue, don’t clench my teeth / Promise you will listen to me.” And considering her warning that, “The spirit’s got a temper,” we think it best to pay her your full attention.

 

 

Produced by Daniel Lynas (Kanye West, A$AP Rocky), the song is actually about living with all the fears and uncertainties of bipolar disorder.

“‘Hot Head’ expresses how hard it is to speak and be heard for your truths,” she insists, “especially as a Black woman, as a queer Black woman, as a Black queer woman who lives with mental health obstacles. It is a mouthpiece for my often held rage. This song meets me at the fork in the road, with the option of imploding or getting it all out.”

Thankfully, Christinna O is a Black queer woman who happens to also be a (musical) force of nature.

 

Jules de Balincourt Exhibition Will Open ‘Paris Gallery Weekend’

 

 

Jules de Balincourt was born in Paris. Yet he grew up in Los Angeles, completed an MFA at NYC’s Hunter College in 2005…and then became one of the pioneers / central figures of the burgeoning Bushwick artistic community with his anything-goes Starr Space—where he could be found rubbing shoulders with the likes of Terrence Koh and Harmony Korine.

His work is now exhibited quite extensively (we caught a group show in Lille in 2019 that he was a part of), and is repped by galleries in New York, London, Copenhagen and Paris, where he is returning to help usher in Paris Gallery Weekend, the first significant art event in the French capital since the coronavirus lockdown back in March. Indeed, his dramatically titled new show There Are More Eyes Than Leaves on the Trees, opens July 2 at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in the Marais.

 

 

That title was actually culled from an old Costa Rican proverb, which posits that even in times of isolation (like, a global pandemic, for instance), the world around is always sort of aware of us and what we are doing. It also confronts the worsening relationship between humans and nature, especially as powerful political operatives continue to lay waste to crucial environmental protections.

But de Balincourt himself reveals that the featured works were very much an experiment in steering around, or away from narrative, in order to free the act of painting from any literal constraints.

 

 

“I was curious to see what would arise when simply painting a painting,” he explains, “pushing painting away from its narrative quality. I like the idea of placing the viewer at these crossroads of painting, in which one’s emotive response hovers between rational realism or figuration, on the one hand, and the abstract subconscious or primitive on the other.”

He hopes viewers will be allowed the privilege of traveling between the conscious/known, and the enigmatic/unknown. Which, considering the rather ominous, nay apocalyptic quality of our current reality, seems like not such a bad thing.

There Are More Eyes Than Leaves on the Trees runs from July 2 through September 5 at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, and is also available for viewing online at Ropac.net.

 

BlackBook Interview: Brooklyn’s Nation of Language are Canny Post-Punk Revivalists

 

 

 

The decline of guitar-based rock & roll is so far behind us as to be almost not worth bringing up—although we raise a glass to The Strokes for their recent attempt at keeping the flame flickering (honorable mention to Jack White, naturally). The six-stringer has been replaced, of course, by electronic apparatuses that are so much easier to master, making for a decade of bedroom wannabes churning out repetitive electronic beats in staggering quantities. It’s simplistic to describe this type of music as “’80s sounding.”

Of course that was the decade that inaugurated keyboard heavy bands’ dominance of the charts and airwaves; but the likes of Human League, Gary Numan, New Order, and others who helped define the ‘New Wave’ during that time, came to their electronics not just for ease of use, but through a need for newness and rebellion, just as visceral as had the Clash with their guitar-bass-drums-politics in the late ’70s. They, also, meant it man. 40 years later, while the majority of electronic pop is just heartless bleeps and bloops strung together for maximum marketability, thankfully some synth bands also still mean it; to wit, Brooklyn’s Nation of Language.

The artful trio may have only recently released their debut album Introduction, Presence; but they are being genuinely heralded as masters of their electronic domain, as if they had been at it forever. It appears they might just be savants. So to further investigate, BlackBook caught up with songwriter/vocalist Ian Devaney from our mutual quarantine positions. We learned much.

 

 

 

Hey there, where are you and what are you up to today?

I’m in my Brooklyn apartment. Just finished a bike ride and then later I’ll be going to some protests.

The protests are continuing in Brooklyn?

Oh, yeah. There’s, like, a whole slew of them. I have to choose which ones to go to, because there’s one every couple of hours.

Do you think it has made its point? How does the timeline of protesting go?

I think for me, it’s something that you kind of keep doing until you’ve seen that you have shown the people who make decisions that minor signifiers won’t cut it. I remember last week, the governor was like, “Okay, you guys have made your point. You don’t have to come out anymore.” And everyone was like, “We haven’t really changed anything.” So I was looking back at and comparing the time these protests went on versus protests in the…

Sixties?

Yes. And some of them went on—particularly the bus boycotts—went on for so long that it’s kind of like, “Let’s keep the pressure up until more things happen.”

We have an apartment in Greenpoint, but we’ve been hiding out in Connecticut, and I feel a little…I don’t know…that I’m not doing my civic duty.

I think it’s—I, for a long time, wasn’t going to the protests because I just had a lot of corona-induced anxiety about being in crowds. And so, I totally sympathize with the desire to not be surrounded by thousands of people.

 

 

 

I’m looking at other countries and just feeling very cut off and abandoned, I guess in a way, by American society.

I bounce back and forth between being so crushed, and then so hopeful. It’s just this very extreme thing going on that can be pretty exhausting.

But oh, your band…we got no high-pressure pitch, we just loved what you’re doing.

That makes me very happy because that’s always sort of been my—I’ve traditionally been super bad at telling people about the band. I’ve always kind of hoped that we would sort of have developed in such a way that we could be like, “Hey, check it out,” and people would actually check it out.

My facetious answer to bands who ask “How do we get attention?”…sometimes is, “Well, you just have to be awesome, and then people will like you.” Who’s in the band and how did it get going?

We’re a tight three-piece. It’s my wife who plays synths. I guess it was like a songwriting exercise sort of idea that I was kicking around, and our bass player is just…he has more technical knowledge than I do, and is just the sort of person to be like, “Yeah, let’s do it.”

So, if it evolved kind of naturally like that, obviously your sound is very much…I don’t know if influenced is the right word…but references a definite period. One would guess that you set out to do that?

Yeah, it was definitely a conscious thing. I have listened to this kind of alternate version of the OMD song “Electricity,” and it was…you know, synth music, but very stripped back and focused on the bass a lot, and was kind of rough and not everything is totally synced up and in time. It just kind of really struck a chord with me because I always associate synth music with being something that’s so tight and lush and maximized. So, I was like, I wonder if I can with just, like, my dinky keyboard that I have, I wonder if I can write a song that captures that vibe. I did, and then was like, well, let’s try another one. And then after a while, we had five songs.

 

 

NME described you as “new wave revivalists.” Is that an apt description?

Uh…I mean, I think it’s in kind of an easy shorthand. I wouldn’t push back on it too hard, certainly.

You’re obviously fans of Joy Division and New Order. I don’t know if you have posters hanging up in your room…

No, no posters. But it’s certainly just…new wave and post-punk sounds are like a palate that I really like—that resonate with me a lot.

What’s it like being in a band and kind of having your wings clipped a bit with this coronavirus lockdown situation? Is the August show (8/21, The Sultan Room, Brooklyn) potentially happening, and would that be your first gig back?

Yeah. The August show seems—it’s sort of touch-and-go, but it seems like we’re leaning toward it happening. We’ve been kind of discussing how to do it with a socially distanced concept in mind. So, we’re thinking maybe we’ll do two nights, two shows a night.

That’s an idea.

So, we can do a half and half thing. But yeah, we’ve been a band that’s always relied a lot on the live show as what felt like the primary hook that drew people in. We were three shows into a tour when all of this happened, and we completely canceled and came home.

Where were you supposed to be going?

We had just finished playing Montreal and we were supposed to be going to…Cleveland maybe, or Columbus. I can’t remember now. So, when it became clear that live shows were not something that were going to be happening for quite a long time…there was definitely a period of total hopelessness. And then, shockingly, it’s gone far better than I ever expected. Radio stations have been very welcoming for us. All across, not just America, but everywhere, it seems.

 

 

It seems like radio…

Is having another moment.

And has been slightly revitalized by this.

Yeah, between radio and a lot of publications writing very generous reviews, things have really taken off in a much more amazing way than we expected.

That’s great. Not everyone gets an NME review.

Right. And it feels particularly special because we’re an unsigned band; and so just being sort of reminded of that when we’ll look at radio charts or lists of reviews…you look at the other people on these lists and are like, I can’t believe we’re being mentioned alongside any of them.

Figuring that bands can maybe play out a bit in the fall, what’s the plan?

We just signed on with some booking agents, and so we’re obviously…it’s very much wait and see, but we’re a band that loves touring, and so we’d love to hit the road as fast and as hard as possible.

For now, what else are you spending your time doing other than protesting?

I mean, there’s a lot of writing, I would say. It’s definitely gone back into writing mode. I don’t know that I ever really leave writing mode, but now that I have all this time, it’s what I spend so much more of my time doing.

 

 

Are you the main songwriter? Do you come up with the basic melodies and words?

Actually, I put everything together. We’re talking about once restrictions lift a little bit, getting back into the studio and working on some songs that would be for the next record, and just kind of getting everything set so on the word “Go,” we can move forward and keep it going.

You’re weathering the storm of this pandemic okay as a band. A lot of bands don’t do so well on the road anyway.

It’s true. I’ve always been thankful that we are a band where everyone likes to tour, because even if there’s one member in the band who doesn’t, it can make life very difficult.

You obviously have gotten some good word of mouth. Do you show up in Boston and Cleveland and Berkeley and people just come out?

I mean, it’s been a little while, because we had to sort of invest our money into making our first record,; which is why we were so excited about this tour we were on when it got called off. But yeah, we’ve done a number of tours both here and in Europe and we’ve been very fortunate. I don’t know the degree to which the people there knew who we were, but we’d play shows and people would just be showing up.

If you wanted to get signed, was there a particular label you have in mind? Too bad Factory’s not around anymore.

I don’t think there’s any one sort of dream label in my mind. We’ve been in talks with a couple at this point. But we’ve been able to do so much on our own that it’s still something that I’m sort of cautious about. I’m not opposed to the idea, it’s just really nice to have the sort of freedom to do what you want to do whenever you want to do it.

Loupe Artist Petrus Bergstrand’s Cultural Guide to Stockholm

Thielska

 

 

As unrelenting travelers, a game we’ve found ourselves playing under quarantine is one the one where we plan out trips that may or may not actually happen, recognizing that anticipation can at least provide a part of the thrill that we’ve been asked to put away for now. Naturally, scanning the slate of postponed exhibitions is a crucial element of said planning, as we honestly can’t wait to get back to our established schedule of fervent gallery and museum hopping.

Surely, the much buzzed about app Loupe has played a crucial role in helping art lovers survive this three-month cultural disconnection, with its multiple and expertly curated channels of “on demand” streaming art. In fact, during the lockdown, they notably launched a new motion art feature.

Yet still, as we can’t expect international travel to be returning to normal levels any time very soon, we asked Loupe artist Petrus Bergstrand to take us on an artistic trip through his comely hometown of Stockholm, admittedly our fave Scandinavian capital. The successful Swedish painter is known for his canvases that explore the possibilities of abstraction and surrealism, while unburdened by the narrowness of specific narratives. His work has been exhibited in New York, LA, Miami, Dubai and, obviously, Stockholm. It can also be viewed, of course, on Loupe.

“Petrus’ abstract pieces are multifaceted,” enthuses Loupe curator Nicole Kutz. “Their layers, organic forms and colors are not only striking in person, but they translate beautifully to Loupe’s streaming experience. His work truly fills a space both onscreen and in the flesh.”

The latter, of course, we’ll just have to wait for.

 

Petrus Bergstrand, The soft reality

 

Petrus Bergstrand’s Cultural Guide to Stockholm

 

Theilska

Thielska (pictured top) is an art museum at Blockhusudden on southern Djurgården. The gallery contains the financier and art collector Ernest Thiel’s collection of works of mainly Swedish painting from the 1900s. Thiel sold the building, the art collection and all the equipment to the Swedish state in 1924. This is a gem for the visitor who wants to travel back in time. Djurgården is also a large royal green park open to the public 24 hours a day. Beautiful for a nice long walk in any season.

Karlavägen

This is where the top notch Swedish galleries decided to accumulate. The area is an allé, as they call it in French, with a walking space and well curated gardens in the middle of a wide avenue going in opposite directions. You can find galleries like Forsblom, Anna Bohman, and so on—I like to go here for openings.

 

Galerie Forsblom

 

Hälsingegatan

Similar to the area around Karlavägen, in Hälsingegatan you will find many interesting galleries showing a less bourgeoisie kind of artm and a wider variety of art forms. Here you can visit my favorite small galleries Flach and Fagerstedt. Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations about the route around the gallery area. They are very co-operative here and love to do simultaneous openings that end up becoming a block party (especially during summer).

Ulfsunda slott

Ulfsunda slott is the historic Queen Kristina’s hunting castle, built in the 15th Century, located right opposite my studio. This is now a conference area, gallery, spa, hotel, café, and a great place for a business meeting. In the gallery and dining area they show some great upcoming artists. You can stroll the garden, shoot pool and hang out; but it’s not really for the social party person, though. More of a tête-à-tête vibe here. I go here occasionally for an opening or a meeting.

 

 

Skånegatan / Katarina bangata

When I want to visit the southern part of Stockholm, I take a 50 minute stroll from my studio in Bromma to Skånegatan. The area has a wide range of restaurants, record shops, thrift stores and cultural hotspots. Not far from there you can find my favorite Indian eatery Shanti, located on Katarina bangata. I go here for lunch at least once a week—delicious.

Lillsjön

This is my meditation garden, and I go here for my daily power walk, to clear my mind and to reload energy. The pond is located a stone’s throw from my studio, and it can solve any problem for you with its magic in summer. Lillsjön is great for inspiration, relaxation and bird watching.

 

 

Sosta

Sosta is a little cafe found in the middle of Sveavägen. On this nice, broad avenue, planned by Jean de la Vallées, you can find a lot of bars, cafes and shops—but Sosta is a must. A small but lovely Italian place where the staff is like family from the first conversation, and the audience is a broad blend of people with one thing in common: the love good coffee.

Konstnärsbaren

The artist bar, or KB as it is most commonly called, opened in 1934, and is now somewhat of an hotspot in Stockholm’s pub life, for the artist wannabes as well the original artists. The unique murals have been painted by Sweden’s foremost talents and are matched with exhibitions by contemporary colleagues. A unique atmosphere and exciting history. Many stories have passed here. Come see for yourself.

 

 

Biljardpalatset

This is a Swedish undercover classic. Dark and gloomy, it has three floors of billiards with two bars. They usually play great music while the game is on.

Riche

This restaurant has been around since 1893, and many world-known personalities have come here. In the small bar you can enjoy DJs and live acts throughout the week. They also show contemporary art and some mostly younger, upcoming acts. At Riche you can blend in as a 23 year old or a 66 year old. A great place for a full night of fun and madness, or just a pit stop for a peek at the art, architecture, crowd and menu.

 

 

 

Aussie Photographer Tamara Dean’s New Exhibition Meditates on Nature & Isolation

 

 

Australian photographer Tamara Dean has long explored the fragile relationship between human beings and nature, something which has become increasing antagonistic as the 21st Century unfolds. Indeed, statistics on the health of the ocean and the extinction of species are at near apocalyptic levels.

The global pandemic has only served to ratchet up the contentiousness, as humanity does daily battle with an insidious, but naturally occurring virus, that has already taken nearly half a million lives. So the timing of a new UK exhibition of Dean’s work could not be more poignant. For the latest in its Artist Spotlight series, the venerable Informality Gallery in Henley-on-Thames has assembled some of her most striking recent works, those which depict enigmatic human immersion in natural settings, which somehow appear both serene and slightly ominous—while seeming to meditate on the condition of isolation.

There is also a palpable mystical/spiritual element to each; and collectively, they singularly capture the current emotional and environmental zeitgeist.

 

 

Dean offers the ethereal explication, “Once I enter the forest, I shift into another place inside myself. The smell of the Earth and leaves, the sounds, the textures, and the play of light through the foliage, all come together to create an elevated sense of reality for me. It makes me feel more active and more capable of being in the moment. I drift into what I could only describe as something akin to a daydream. I am mesmerised by the micro and the macro. My senses are heightened. For me, this is the closest to what I would consider a spiritual experience.”

Also a sign of the times, the show will be part physical, part digital, with British galleries having cautiously undertaken re-opening. But as we’re not likely to be hopping a plane to London any time very soon, it makes perfect sense.

Artist Spotlight: Tamara Dean will be on show at Informality Gallery through July 23.

 

 

 

 

BlackBook Interview: ‘The Chi’ Star Miriam A. Hyman on Rapping, Shakespeare & How Jada Pinkett Changed Her Life

 

 

 

When you can’t find Miriam A. Hyman on set, you might find her in the recording studio, rapping under the moniker Robyn Hood. But then, when you can’t find her there, she might just be ghostwriting for the likes of Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o. 

After graduating from the Yale School of Drama, she made her way towards off-broadway to perform Richard III at The Public Theatre in New York before landing the lead role, D’Artagnan, in a performance of Three Musketeers at the Classical Theater of Harlem. Her time on the stage gained her respect and recognition and, unexpectedly, led to her entrance into the rap game. Around that time, Miriam adopted her stage name and began releasing mixtapes and EPs, garnering for herself a Best New Artist nomination at the Philadelphia Hip-Hop Awards.

Her second EP Truth Teller was released in February, and a third is scheduled for release on June 25. But she is also notably slated to debut that same week (June 21) as Dre, the proud newlywed of Nina (Tyla Abercrumbie) on the third season of the hit series The Chi—Showtime’s poignant drama about life and strife on the South Side of Chicago. 

BlackBook caught up with Miriam to talk about her big summer. 

 

 

 

Have you been listening to any good music in quarantine?

I’m listening to my own music—to that new EP Truth Teller [laughs]. But I always have either my TV or my phone on Pandora, so I’m always hearing what’s new.

Who are some of your biggest musical influences? 

I’d have to say Hova, of course. Rapsody, Common, I love Jadakiss, I love Migos. I’m all over the place because I love gospel, I love hip-hop, I love jazz, and I love R&B. Those are few of my main influences. 

What role do you think music plays for you right now, amidst everything that’s going on? 

Music is huge for me; it’s very therapeutic. To just write and be with myself and my thoughts. I kinda built an in-house studio during this pandemic; there’ve been some positives to quarantining. A lot of DIY projects. So I’ve been able to record a lot on my own. It’s been really good as far as that’s concerned. I can write something, jot it down, pop right into the studio, record, and send it off to my engineers and producers. There’s still a conversation that’s able to happen even though I can’t get into the booth right now. 

When did you begin rapping? 

2013.

What brought it on?

A combination of things. I had finished graduate school around that time, and basically I went on to do one of my first plays at the Public Theatre in New York—I was working on Richard III. I do a lot of Shakespeare, and the way Shakespeare writes is quite poetic. Like I always say, “I went from the bard to the bars.” I had a lot of time on my hands then. I was just coming outta graduate school, so I was very well prepared. I was coming into rehearsals off book, ready to go. And when the director wasn’t working with me, I had to fill my time with something. So I just started playing with writing verses. What I’d do is download a lot of instrumental beats and I would rap over them—some of the people who I named initially, I loved their lyrics, but I also loved the beats. Characters like Swizz Beats, he always has a lot of really great tracks. That’s kinda how it started, basically. 

 

 

Do you find that there’s a relationship between your music and your acting? Does one influence the other in any way?

Definitely. I think I bring a lot of character and a lot of versatility to my music. I think I’m able to pull from my acting background for that. It’s interesting that you say that because for this EP I’m working on now, I’ve been pulling even more from that line of work. I think it’s kind of in my blood. It’s in my DNA. One can’t work without the other. Even when I’m working on something that’s completely acting related, the way in which some playwrights write, there is a very rhythmic function that’s happening, and I think I’m able to find those rhythms easily because it’s just embedded in my soul. I’m able to just find the flow of what a writer is trying to say… Or at least I think I’m finding the flow! [laughs]. 

Can you elaborate a bit on that?

Sure. I’m playing with a couple of different skits throughout the EP, and that’s something I’ve never done before. Rarely is that something that I hear. Eminem used to do that with some of his music. It was kind of like he was acting within the song—not even like a skit leading up to it or coming after—it was really within the song. So it’s just that idea that you can bring a different kind of life to the character a musician has already created. We can just evolve with it a bit more. 

So speaking of characters: Was there a reason for choosing the moniker “Robyn Hood,” and do you feel your taking on qualities of the character by choosing that name?

I thought about a lot of different names when I started playing around with writing, as I’m sure a lot of artists do. Like you come up with maybe five or ten names before you decide on one. I just liked the versatility in terms of what “Robyn Hood” can actually stand for and mean. I think of myself as being a pretty well-rounded and grounded individual. And the name encompassed all of the ideas I wanted to relate in my music. So I changed the “i” to a “y,” being a female, but also to have a different swag on it. I didn’t want people to think, “Oh, Robin Hood. She’s trying to be a new example of the old-school Robin Hood.” But it is that idea of robbing for the hood, you know. Being very present for my community, and doing as much as I can to take what I’ve learned and give back and affect them in a very positive way. I also just thought there’s a lot of fun in the name, and that it’s something a lot of people could relate to. I didn’t want to call myself any old thing. So it was like, what can I come up with that’s going to be really representative of who I am as a person? Not just a musician, but a musician as well as an actor. 

After graduating from the Yale School of Drama, you started performing off-Broadway. What’s the transition from theatre to television like? Do you find it hard to keep up the energy take after take after take? 

No, I mean I had done a little bit of TV before I went into graduate school. I did an episode of The Wire. I did an episode of Law and Order. Another show called Conviction. It wasn’t completely new, but it was approaching it on another level because of all the training I had, which really helped me to up the ante. I think because of the theatre, I’m so accustomed to redoing. They call it “rehearsal” because you have to re-hear, redo, and repeat. I’m so accustomed to taking it from the top and running through it again that for TV and film, I don’t feel like you get as many takes as you do in the rehearsal room. 

 

 

When did you begin acting? Was there a decisive moment that told you that this is what you wanted to do?

Oh my gosh, it was a very decisive moment. I started acting when I was a teenager, but when I was about ten years old, my mom took me to go see a film. I begged her—begged her—to see A Low Down Dirty Shame with Jada Pinkett, and I fell in love with her character and energy. How she made me feel as an audience participant. Prior to me seeing that film, I wanted to be a brain surgeon. But when I came out, I said these exact words to my mom: “I want to do that for the rest of my life.” I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t even know what that meant. It just felt right for me to say it. It’s just a testament to my faith, because I am doing the exact thing that I spoke about and wanted to do. I don’t really think my mom realized what I was willing to go through in order to attain my dream. But I’m glad she took me to see that film! It changed my life. 

So for your newest project, you play Dre on The Chi. How’d you go about preparing for this role? 

The Chi is a dope project number one. They’ve had two very successful seasons; a lot of really cool characters and storylines. I feel like my character was somebody who was kinda in the neighborhood in the first two seasons, but not somebody who was talked about or mentioned. And coming into Season Three, it’s like audiences get introduced to her, but some of the world in Chicago was already familiar with her. She’s a really dope character, really down to earth. I’m hoping everybody really loves her as much as I did—and do. I had an awesome time playing her; she’s gonna give you something that some of the other characters just don’t give. She just has a totally different energy that she’s coming with. Totally different background, and that has put her in the position to be who she is now. I’m excited for the world to be able to be introduced to Dre, and this season of The Chi, for sure. 

Can you describe that energy she’s coming with?

Yeah, she’s really bold. She’s extremely responsible. Very loving. Very supportive. Dre don’t play; she’s a boss. She’s very firm in her decisions. She’s really rooted in who she is, and she doesn’t apologize for that. I love that about her. She’s really unapologetic about who she is, who she loves, and what she’s bringing to the table. 

She’s a bit of a guiding figure in the show. Someone who aspires to affect positive change in people. 

Definitely, for sure. 

And it seems as though you attempt to do something similar with your music. You put songs out there that are not about the stereotypical themes of drugs, misogyny, and violence. Do you feel like you have these parallels with your character?

Most definitely. I always try to pull from what I know and what my experiences have been thus far, and use that as fuel, whether I’m working on a show or a song. I pull from either to help support me. Just musically, I want to give people a little something that they’ve been missing. Lotta people who hear my music say, “Oh that’s so refreshing, you don’t sound like anybody else.” Or, “I can understand what it is that you’re saying.” I always attribute that to how I was raised, and having this quality training. I’ve really been able to take all of my education and put it into both of my focuses. They play off each other, for sure. I don’t know if I’d be so successful at one without having the other.