A Short Good Bye Letter To Writer and Raconteur Glenn O'Brien

text by Adam Lehrer

Clash’s Mick Jones shared his personal guide to a healthy and happy life: “Don’t be a cunt to anybody.” And always out front and center was Glenn, looking handsome and sophisticated in his slacks and shirts or his Basquiat-customized leather jacket, somehow seeming a notch cooler than the uber-cool legends of art, music and fashion he had on the show. There is no greater example of Glenn’s savvy for turning a cultural moment into a historical movement than the years he spent producing TV Party. It set the stage for where his career would head.

O’Brien refused to abide by artistic anti-establishment norms. While many of his friends would die or go broke trying to live up to some ill-defined notion of ‘never selling out,’ O’Brien managed to find ways to make his talents profitable. In addition to his literary gifts, O’Brien was a respected forward-thinking ad man responsible for genius campaigns for Calvin Klein, Swatch, Nike and others and served as creative director of Barneys for just over a decade. He always maintained his integrity, however, instilling his campaigns with the same subversive wit he applied to his work as an editor, curator and writer. He constantly questioned the nature of advertising and what being a ‘creative director’ actually meant, writing a piece on the subject for Art Forum. He made advertising a creative pursuit of equal importance in his oeuvre. 

On a personal note, I want to mention O’brien’s substantial generosity and genteel nature. Having worked as a photographer, writer and editor in the New York art world for a few years now, I inevitably met the man a couple of times. I remember the first time I crossed paths with him, at an opening for a show at Bill Powers’s Half Gallery, I was extremely intimidated by him. But he had a way of disarming you and making you feel like you had as much right to be a part of this wacky art world as he or anyone else did, and he was always a pleasure to talk to. Shortly before his death, I was actually waiting for his quotes via email in regards to a show he curated at Joe Nahmad Gallery for his friend and painter Jan Franck that I was covering for a short piece in Forbes. The quotes didn’t come, and the piece temporarily got lost in the shuffle when the show came to a close. I thought it was strange that he passed the opportunity to discuss his friend’s work. I should have known that he wasn’t feeling well and regret pressing him for the quotes. 

Glenn O’Brien, who once described himself as an anarchist that believed if people had good manners there would be no need for laws, was a true New York original and icon. He brought together the city’s creative disciplines with its commerce and media in a way that actually defined the way that New York is viewed within the world. This city needs another Glenn O’Brien. We need another TV Party. But I worry that the millennial mindset is a million miles removed from the work ethic and iconic detachment of Glenn O’Brien. In a recent piece for Purple, O’Brien addressed the obvious shifts in New York culture, asking himself if this city can ever be perceived the way it once was as a hub of radical creativity and thought. “New York isn’t what it used to be,” he writes, “but no place else is, either. Our vulgarities are more interesting than yours.” Times change, but cool does not. Glenn O’Brien was a surprising optimist. His unique ‘vulgarity,’ laid-neck sophistication, and utterly refined taste will be sorely missed. 

[FASHION REVIEW] New York Men's Day and Private Policy

text by Adam Lehrer


I can't be the only amongst us fashion editors feeling a little cognitive dissonance towards my chosen medium. Every single day, I'm glued to the news and witnessing yet another national tragedy: Alton Sterling, Filando Castile, the Dallas police. All of my energy goes towards tweets and Instagram posts and expressed sympathies and it all results in a general sense of feeling useless. Of feeling like maybe what I'm doing is not worthwhile. And then I have to turn around, plug my mind into the information highway, look at fashion, at art, listen to new music, and try and formulate ideas about it all and process it to reframe the information.

Thus, it's been a little harder to get excited by fashion recently. On the bright side, it's a lot easier to discern when something is generally amazing. Raf's Mapplethorpe collection, Demna at Balenciaga, the arrival of Kiko Kostadinov. When fashion is good, it hits you on all senses: visually, sonically, emotionally. It takes you out of your own anxiety and allows you to just put your bullshit aside and be defeated. 

New York Fashion Week: Men's, now in its third season, doesn't offer much in the way of transformative fashion experiences. There just isn't a lot of support here for radical thought, and it feels a little more obvious with each passing season of the shows. A year ago, the first Men's Fashion Week was the first fashion week I ever fully covered and I was probably pretty psyched to be wearing my best suede boots and get photographed while posturing around. I was drunk on weed and beer and sunshine and my own newly inflated ego. All that bullshit can alter your sense of objectivity, and next thing you know you're throwing 5-star reviews at the most trite High Street aping garbage rags coming down the runway. Not this time. That's right, one year in and I'm jaded. And hopefully, jadedness comes in handy when covering fashion.

New York Fashion Week: Men's starts with New York Men's Day, where eight or so brands offer looks at new collections in what amounts to a more inclusive buyer's presentation. In theory, it's a nice way to glimpse new clothes: there's no cat fights over seating, you are given a healthy time frame to come and go, and there's a Cadillac provided free meal. I always have a good time. But a lot of these brands have shown over and over: Chapter, Krammer and Stoudt, PLAC, and others have used this forum for almost every season. It's starting to feel a little same-y, and doesn't feel essential at all to providing our readers an overview of what's exciting in fashion right now.

There is always at least one brand that warrants a second look, however. Last season, it was Edmund Ooi, a Royal Academy of Art-trained Malaysian designer that channels early Raf caught naked at a leather club. This season, it's the nice Parsons grads Siying Qu and Haoran Li and their label Private Policy. Though there were a couple looks that could have been edited from their SS 2017 show, such as pretty basic Navy trench coats, but there were some startling looks here. Siying told me at the show that much of this collection was centered around the idea of the warriors fighting for justice, and she noted that recent news events weighed heavily on both their minds when conceptualizing the collection. The starting point was a news article about enslaved fisherman in Southeast Asia. How do we find justice? There's no doubt that self presentation has much to do with that, and designers have played with this trope time and time again. But the clothes were nice here, and harsher than past Private Policy seasons. There were still the fun pieces, like the colorful souvenir jackets. There was a theme of protection versus aggression. A black jacket layered and draped recalled Yohji and his desire to protect his customers' bodies, but these deconstructed and slashed tank tops came on strong, like the warrior announcing his battles, perhaps. Like an older editor at the presentation said, "Deconstructed, now that's fashion."

[FASHION REVIEW] Vetements Couture Spring 2017 Collection

text by Adam Lehrer


From the very beginning, Vetements connected with fashion lovers not because of how different it was, but because of how oddly familiar it is. Demna Gvasalia and his radical collective of European designers are primarily interested in the ways that mainstream products have been co-opted and used by various sub-cultures as signifiers, protectors, and weapons.  Demna will tell any interviewer that asks that Vetements is not a “conceptual” brand; that it’s really “just about clothes,” as the brand’s name would lead you to believe. But the fact of the matter, the “just clothes” mantra is conceptual in and of itself. Demna, and stylist Lotta Volkolva, use the identities of clothes to extrapolate ideas from them: a hoodie sized to this means X and jeans with this particular cut mean Y. It’s almost like the viewer or the wearer can project his or her own ideas onto the clothes, like a blank canvas. The skinhead and his bomber jacket, the DJ and his tracksuit, the model and her stilettos: Vetements constantly finds new ways of looking at products we’ve seen, and probably worn, 1000 times.

After the last three shows, all of which were hailed as revolutionary, and not to mention Demna’s first two Balenciaga stunners, Vetements’ SS 2017 menswear and womenswear presentation at Paris Haute Couture was the glorious send off of Vetements’ first era. Because Vetements is ultimately about clothes and the wild possibilities that live within garments, Demna and crew decided to collaborate with a slew of massive brands based on various products and what brand first came to mind when that product was mentioned: a tailored jacket (Brioni), bomber (Alpha Industries), jeans (Levi’s, duh). Forget artistic genius! Though there was plenty of that in Vetements SS 2017 as well, this show was a grand feat of business savvy! Guram Gvasalia, Demna’s brother and brand CEO, finagled his way through the entire garment industry to sell the Vetements vision to 18 (!!) iconic brands. These brands would be producing Vetements designs in their factories (Gvasalia told Monolo Blahnik that he’d be slashing his shoes, and Monolo was actually excited at the prospect). That is indicative of how powerful this brand has become: EVERYONE seemingly wants to see the “Vetements version” of their products.

Some of the collaborations resulted in the exact product you would expect from a Vetements show. The Alpha Industries’ MA-1’s for instance, were oversized to the umpteenth degree, and the beautiful Mackintosh coats had the elongated sleeves and easy silhouette that, let’s face it, looks like the coolest possible way to wear a Mackintosh coat.

But there were some sumptuous surprises born of these collaborations. The Brioni jackets that opened the show were slashed at the shoulders, allowing Paul Hameline to wear the coat over his back as a cape of sorts, while the trousers were slashed at the hem. All the while, Brioni (good sports that the Italian tailoring maestros must be) agreed with the Gvasalia brothers’ idea to not iron any of the Brioni pieces (a Brioni suit is usually tailored up to 40 times before hitting retail). Blahnik thankfully didn’t have to endure the destroying of his shoes, but instead offered Vetements a waist-high version of his thigh-high satin stiletto boots. They were basically pants that acted as shoes. Or shoes that acted as pants. Either way, they fucking worked!

The Levi’s denim pieces (without Levi’s logos, score 1 point Guram) were also exciting. There was a black on black denim look oversized and draped over the wearer’s head, but there was also a corduroy Canadian tuxedo look that look cut similar to the suits in the Balenciaga menswear show. Texan cowboy boot purveyors Lucchese manufactured a sleek and glam rock version of their classic boots that looked nice with the unstructured jackets. NYC leather brand Schott, creator of the Perfecto (AKA the world’s greatest motorcycle jacket) offered some lovely oversized leather jackets, but also took Demna up on the offer to cut some leather into some little booty shorts. Why not? Carhartt workpants were turned into huge dresses (more like smock dresses). Canada Goose, creator of the world’s warmest puffer jackets, got the architectural treatment, creating jackets with all sorts of interesting details allowing the wearer to style the piece in a variety of ways. The Canada Goose puffers looked like much more technically precise versions of the Puffers in Demna’s first Balenciaga Ready-to-Wear show.

Totally out of left field was Demna identifying the “couture” within the brand DNA of one Juicy Couture. That brand, which has become as associated with Velour tracksuit-clad alcoholics sweating it out in rehab as it has been with just plain good velour, saw their signature fabric cut into a few stunning couture dresses and pantsuits.

What was most fascinating about this show is that it showed how malleable “real clothes” can be. All of these brands create products that can be worn by pretty much every type of customer. Champion sweats are at once the product choice of people recovering in hospitals, but once styled and proportioned and thrown on a cigarette smoking young thing with Sisters of Mercy on the headphones, Champion sweats become a different thing entirely. Doc Maarten’s even can be worn by a guy working construction with little or no care toward fashion and look just as good on an all black wearing Yohji Yammamoto acolyte. I love Raf Simons as much as anyone, but I’ll admit that you have to be pretty fashion forward to make Raf work for you. And fashion doesn’t work for everyone, it really doesn’t (even I usually opt for the same look of tight jeans and big safari shirts every day). Vetements is the first high fashion brand that seeks to provide a direct link between the world of wearable and lovable products and high fashion.

Vetements is absolutely disrupting the system. They are one of the first brands to offer a radically different perspective on garment construction while still achieving great success. Why is this brand showing during Couture week? Because they want to, goddamn it! Why would they show their new collection at department store Galeries Lafayette during store hours? Because they want to. Of course that isn’t only it, it’s that Demna and Guram are intimately acquainted with the benefits of an excited press. But more to the point, Vetements’ Spring 2017 Ready-to-Wear show proved that Vetements is really “just about clothes,” but that there are layers of subtext to being “just about clothes.” Vetements is about the identity of clothes in relation to the identity of the person wearing those clothes. Vetements is about the myriad possibilities that live within a simple article of clothing. And Vetements is about freedom to wear your clothes the way that makes you feel like your coolest self.

[FASHION REVIEW] Kanye West's Yeezy Season Three Collection

text by Adam Lehrer

I, admittedly, am a Kanye West apologist. I find myself profusely defending the man anytime a friend of mine has something even slightly negative to say about him. I, truly, am a massive fan. And then he has to go and drop a bomb like the “COSBY IS INNOCENT!!!” tweet and I’m left thinking, “Kanye why you doing this to me bro? You’re putting me in a tight spot.” So heading to Madison Square Garden in sub-freezing weather for an upclose viewing of Yeezy Season 3, (thank you Adidas) I had an unexpectedly sour taste in my mouth. It didn’t matter though..

Anyone who tells you something as blasé as “it sucked” clearly has a very personal hatred for the man in question. This was fashion as pop art and pop art as high-octane “Holy Fuck!” entertainment. Big is the operative word here. A filled Madison Square Garden gazing upon what seemed to be at least 500 models. For those naysayers of which I’m sure there are many of (though perhaps not as many as the 20 million fans that tuned into the presentation’s live stream however), try putting this into perspective: it was the biggest conceptual art project of all time and certainly the biggest presentation Vanessa Beecroft has ever assembled, the biggest listening party of all time, and quite easily the biggest fashion show of all time. It was so much more than fashion though.

As expected, celebrities came in spades for this show. The whole Kardashian clan: Kim, Kris, Kendall, Kylie, Kourntey, Khloe, and Caitlyn all came out to support. Pusha T swayed his head behind his brother Kanye throughout the entirety of the listening session. Vic Mensa showed up to play a new track of his own. I could have sworn I saw actress Shailene Woodley walk by as I found myself entrenched in the scene. Even our friend and artist extraordinaire Ryan Mcginley was sitting a few rows ahead of me wearing an excellent self-patched denim vest and dancing along with all the new Kanye tracks. The models, of which there were so many it was near impossible to identify them all individually, had a few celebs amongst them as well. In addition to Yeezy regulars like Ian Connor and others from the previous two seasons, Atlanta weirdo art rapper Young Thug and super super super model Naomi Campbell both found themselves center stage adorned in new Yeezy looks.

At this point, you have probably decided whether or not you like Kanye’s clothes. Personally, I love them (I’m wearing a Season 1 short sleeve sweatshirt that I got 80 percent off at Antonia in Milan as I write this, it makes me look like some sculpture artist or something), and it’s hard to doubt that Kanye has identified a look. I mean, every brand is ripping him off after just two seasons, from his friends like Jerry Lorenzo of the Fear of God label and Ronnie Feig of Kith to fast fashion conglomerates like H&M.

It appears that every season Kanye maintains his interesting palette of beige to black military garb but also implements new styles into the mix as the brand goes on. This season, he seems particularly taken with his young co-hort Ian Connor’s urban normcore look, as there were amazing overalls, college logo sweatshirts, and workwear pants in seemingly magnificent materials. At the same time, Kanye’s claim at the show that he sought to one day be creative director of Hermés wasn’t as ludicrous as it should have been with the introduction of some of his most capital “F” fashion pieces. Campbell led a group of stunning female models wearing honest-to-gooness mink coats. One couldn’t help but be shocked at the sheer volume of clothes. Yesterday I thought Saint Laurent’s 90 looks was pretty astounding, but this show numbered in the hundreds. There is such a cool posse mentality to the Yeezy brand. Like, you’ll look pretty cool on your own in this stuff but if your entire group of friends starts donning these looks, you guys will be a goddamn wrecking crew.

I don’t want to say much about the album, but I will say that TSOP (The Story of Pablo) is in no way a let down. It has that propulsive energy that I so loved about Yeezus but Kanye is once again opting to amp up soul and funk melodies to house tearing effects as opposed to experimenting in atonality. Most songs are bangers, but the record ends beautifully with the haunting Sia collaboration Wolves that was premiered at Yeezy Season 1. Kanye tweaked the sound a bit and it sounded crystal clear and almost psychedelic in its atmospherics.

The sheer spectacle of Yeezy Season 3 was unprecedented. Beecroft’s choreography was fantastic, applying the minimal approach of the first two seasons to an army sized diverse casting of youths. You’d find yourself gazing amongst the models and then catching an interesting detail: a female model puts her fist up like a civil rights sign (pun intended) or Ian Connor lights up a cigarette and puffs away. How this thing worked is beyond me, but Kanye’s DONDA creative team is really doing tremendous things. I’ve never really seen something so massive and mainstream present itself at what can’t be described as anything other than a magnificent temporal art work.

And it didn’t stop there. After Kanye’s record played, he expressed excitement about a video game he developed chronicling his mother Donda’s travels to Heaven. Yes you read that correctly. After a clip from the game was shown on the jumbotron, the crowd responded lukewarm. Kanye, looking stunned, scolded us, “You act like making a game about your mom traveling to Heaven is regular,” he said with a smile. And then he played the clip again. The crowd cheered loud the second time around. 

Click here to see more photo coverage of the collection. 

[Fashion Review] The Best From Day One Of New York Fashion Week Mens

Text by Adam Lehrer

So, New York Fashion Week: Men’s has begun for the FW 2016 season. The story with New York will always be that the designers that show in New York are far too market-driven in comparison with the brands that come out of London and Paris. It does often seem that brands here are far too worried about ending up on the racks of Nordstrom to really make anything close to being considered art, but then again you’d also not really be looking hard enough. The menswear scene in New York is huge: we love clothes here! Dudes here are as focused on style and willing to take risks on new styles perhaps more than any city in the world. From Supreme to high fashion to the best vintage stores in the world, guys in New York use all manner of garments to express that thing that they are trying to express.

The designer schedule for FW 2016, while slim in comparison with those in Milan, London, and Paris, is looking fairly strong. Italo Zuchelli, perhaps the greatest minimalist menswear designer in the world, will host a Calvin Klein presentation here. Few menswear designs on Earth are as conceptually strange, artisinally gifted, and rarified as those by Greg Lauren (whose show we will be attending). Plus, there are a range of new designers defining a new high fashion scene in Los Angeles, including Rochambeau and Second/Layer, that are calling New York their home.

The concepts are there, it’s just you have to sift through a lot of overly commercial monotonous mediocrities to find the good stuff. NYFW:M started today with New York Men’s Day, platform presentations of eight new brands. So much of what makes fashion amazing is seeing the clothes move with human bodies (Craig Green exemplifies this), and it can be difficult to hold a cohesive concept without the splash of a catwalk. But the designers at NYMD did their damndest to try. Some of the clothes were dull. Some were actually quite amazing. Here were some of the best.


Edmund Ooi FW 2016

In our review of his SS 2016 runway show, we discussed Malaysian designer Ooi’s refreshing emphasis on concept but lamented his inability to render them into wearable clothing. He heard our cries with FW2016; a striking balance between futuristic high fashion and utilitarian workwear. The coats, which ranged from belted trench coats to quilted bomber jackets, came layered with high treated t-shirts, neck jewelry, and awesome blue leather gloves. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the presentation were the spectacular cropped skinny denim; Ooi using denim is sort of like Ralph Lauren using latex. The collection felt very Raf, perhaps too much so. It’s probably on the fault of the viewer to relate anything youthful and confrontational to Raf, but the influence felt very evident here. And I’d still rather wear Raf. But nevertheless, very nice clothes.

Plac FW 2016

While certainly not approaching anything resembling high fashion, New York-based PLAC has found some footing under Korean creative director Sang-Hyun Lee. The knits and scarves were massive and draped over the models, creating an easy evocative look.

David Hart FW 2016

I actually was thinking the other night, why is it that when designers reference music is it always punk (Raf), rave culture (Liam Hodges), or hip-hop (Astrid Anderson). Why not one one of the most stylish of all musical genres, Jazz? While New York designer David Hart, who has worked for Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph, might not be the most conceptually brilliant designer out there, his FW 2016 presentation at NYMD answered my call. His presentation room, set to a soundtrack of A Tribe Called Quest, recreated the atmosphere of Claude McKay’s Home to Harlem, if in a slightly too obvious manner. Nevertheless, the all black cast and understated high luxury made for a groovy atmosphere and some very desirably tailored clothing.

Robert James FW 2016

“As a New York designer, I’m very conscious of not making anything related to Americana or workwear. I want to make real, luxury designer clothing,” said designer Robert James to me at his FW 2016 collection. The aim is admirable. James isn’t overly concerned with concepts, he pretty much always works in the sphere of refernces to rock n’ roll (this time the opulent dressing of 1970s rock bands), but he is an exquisitely skilled tailor and the clothes here were perfectly fitted and befitting of high price tags.

CWST FW 2016

I’ve never been one to think of dope smoking (and growing) tree huggers as the most stylish people around, but Californian brand CWST had me re-thinking that sentiment with their campfire celebrating FW 2016 presentation. For the presentation, the brand created a field of marijuana and had a campfire acoustic guitar player wheeling through the soundtrack. On top of that, the clothes were pretty amazing, turning hippie staples like drugrugs and knitted pants look like the most desirable products on Earth. There is something refreshingly unique about this brand, taking inspiration from their home state and then letting that inspiration ripple through the snooty fashion world. Never change, CWST.

Chapter FW 2016

I actually quite like Chapter and own some of their knits and pants (they actually make some really cool looking trousers), but they do seem to offer a more accessibly price but still well-made versions of the types of designers that sell their clothes at Totokaelo. But their FW 2016 presentation was fantastic, seeming to imagine the bad boy vampires of The Lost Boys at a John Coltrane concert (there was a live jazz band for the soundtrack). The designers of Chapter have a real knack for shape, taking things like minimal bomber jackets and trench coats and then just flaring it at the arm or the seems and making it look really cool. Chapter also offered the brand’s first pairs of denim, which we cropped, slashed, and drop-crotched, giving that girlfriend jean vibe to dudes, which didn’t look bad even if won’t get me to ditch my Levi’s anytime soon. Chapter really is a great brand though, especially if you are a guy who wants to wear things like Margiela and Lanvin but can’t come close to affording it. 

See more fashion coverage here

[FRIDAY PLAYLIST] Best Pop Records of 2015

Text by Adam Lehrer

Earlier this year, I interviewed fashion designer Siki Im, and we discussed the ramifications of the term “elevated sportswear,” and his response was rather elegant: “Everything is elevated these days,” said Im. He was right. 10 years ago, when the phrase “pop music” conjured associations of Backstreet Boys and Britney, I would have never even thought to make a pop music list. But we are well into the Internet age at this point (it feels like just yesterday when I was on the Shoutweb message boards, discussing the excellence of KoRn and Slipknot with other pimply faced malcontents, but in reality it was 15 years ago), and the artists that grew up watching TRL and then reading Pitchfork on their desktops have come of age. Pop music has mutated into a variety of forms, only connected through an accessible, danceable, and sing-along quality. You can have the retro-psych R&B of Miguel, the post-modern alterna-pop of Bjork, or the British dancefloor celebration of Jamie XX, and it is all pop. Sub-culture has thoroughly been erased, and that isn’t a bad thing. It just means that individual taste has come to the forefront. You will have a much harder time finding someone who is only into black metal these days, but you might find a girl who has Grimes playing on her headphones sitting at the coffee shop wearing a Darkthrone t-shirt.

The point is, the artists making pop these days are very much artists, and not corporate drones. They by and large love music and are acquainted with at least some form of music history. In the words of Future and Drake, “What a time, TO BE ALIVE!”

D'Angelo - Black Messiah - Track: Betray My Heart

R&B has arguably become contemporary popular music’s most important genre: 808z, Frank Ocean, Miguel, Jeremih, the Weeknd, Kelela, Nao, How to Dress Well and the list goes on and on. But D’Angelo, as part of the neo-Soul movement in the mid-‘90s, was already demonstrating the inherent possibilities in groove-driven soul melodies matched with amazing vocals over 15 years ago. Black Messiah came out at the tail end of 2014, so it missed its chance for most year-end lists. I simply must pay respects to it here, because it is the best record that has come out since its release. People waited for 14 years for this thing, ever since the majestic Voodoo was unleashed upon the world in 2000, and Black Messiah immediately established D’Angelo once again at the forefront of the world’s most riveting entertainers. It took Voodoo’s abstract and far out grooves ever farther into the abyss, and the record sounds minimal but dense all the same. It re-established soul music as a powerful form of protest, possibly the first record of its kind to do so this well since Sly Stone put out There’s a Riot Goin’ On in the early ‘70s. D’Angelo has an amazing ability to pay homage to his forefathers while sounding utterly contemporary. D’Angelo spent a decade caught up in drug, legal, and financial problems, finally releasing that tension in this beautifully written record. “I been a witness to this game for ages, And if I stare death in face, no time to waste,” he sings on 1000 Deaths. D’Angelo pours his personal life into his sounds and uses it to indict a racist and unjust system. He is one of the last revolutionaries we have. And his voice hasn’t lost a step.

Björk - Vulnicura - Track: Black Lake

Bjork winds up labeled as experimental music just as much as she does pop, and that is testament to how utterly alien her fairly straight forward songwriting style sounds. Vulnicura is Bjork’s best album since her masterpiece, Homogenic. Consider the 18 years of Bjork musical domination that have transpired since 1997, and it’s staggering to think of another artist that has remained that relevant for that long. Of course we all know the story behind the record, that Matthew Barney jilted Bjork after a decade of domestic bliss leaving her utterly heartbroken. But Bjork is not the type to lie down, and instead belted out that frustration in this transcendent body of songs. Vulnicura finds Bjork at her most lyrically straight-forward, trading obtuse haiku for succinct declarations of strife: “ I did it for love, I honored my feelings, You betrayed your own heart, corrupted that organ.” Bjork, displaying eternally excellent taste, lets hot shot producers bring the weird, with Arca and the Haxan Cloak both bringing their abstract production techniques to an otherwise string oriented album. Bjork is simply Bjork, transcending any notion of popular music or trend, and she will always resonate.

The Weeknd - Beauty Behind the Madness - Track: As You Are

Toronto’s The Weeknd’s career exploded this year. But as he established himself as one of the world’s most popular artists, he also found himself as probably the least critically acclaimed of the contemporary R&B stars. Of course, Abel Testaye doesn’t make it easy for himself, with his occasional outright over-the-top misogyny, but I’ll be damned if Beauty Behind the Madness isn’t an absolutely perfect R&B record. Many of my friends said they have preferred The Weeknd’s earlier, weirder work. But you ask me, this is the type of music that Abel was meant to make: big, arena ready, anthemic pop music. It’s like a Phil Collins-led group playing R&B, and that is a compliment. The Hills, Can’t Feel my Face, and more were some of the tracks that had me putting a clinic on the dance floor all year. There also has to be something said of The Weeknd’s voice: there is nothing like it. It doesn’t even sound very trained, as if Abel just opens his mouth and that is what comes out of him.

Nao - February 15 - Track: Inhale, Exhale

With only an EP and a single to her name, the East London-born Nao has re-defined danceable R&B. Often compared to other transformative R&B artists FKA Twigs and Kelela, there is something undeniably less austere and far more youthful about Nao’s sound. From the opening glorious bassline of February 15’s first track Inhale, Exhale, Nao conjures up images of neighborhood block parties and dance-offs. Her voice is high-pitched and adolescent-sounding, Nao’s sound is completely all her own. Much less self-consciously arty than her peers, Nao’s sound almost comes off like an elevation of the bubblegum soul of Deniece Williams. It is more street-wise, to be sure, but this is music to dance to. I listened to these five songs dozens of times throughout the year, and never did I get sick of it. Nao is fully in control of her product (she even released her music on her own label, Little Tokyo).

Miguel - Wildheart - Track: Hollywood Dreams

Miguel’s deep love of music has always been apparent; he has equal adoration for artists as disparate as Prince and Led Zeppelin. As good as his 2012 release Kaleidoscope Dream was, Miguel needed to grow as a musician to fully embrace the retro-tinged neo-psychedelica soul that he has achieved on the excellent Wildheart. Miguel always felt like he might be the millennial answer to Prince, but with this sound he has gotten there. The album is dripping with sex, but like with Prince it comes off as more a celebration of sex than a misogynist fantasy. Miguel is as focused on the woman’s pleasure as he is his own, and somehow that comes through sonically. The album is fairly maximal, similar in production to big ‘70s rock albums, and Miguel has emerged as a guitar player to be reckoned with. Miguel is a big Lenny Kravitz fan, and Lenny appears on the excellent album closer face the sun. But Miguel’s sound feels like what Lenny’s music could be if Kravitz weren’t so concerned with making songs that can accompany car commercials (people often forget that Lenny’s first record was actually pretty fucking good though).

Jamie xx - In Colour - Track: Stranger in a Room (feat. Oliver Sim)

Perhaps some would feel more comfortable placing Jamie XX’s solo masterpiece In Colour on a list of electronic albums, but the record is far too joyously accessible to be taken as anything other than pop. Unlike bro DJs like Diplo and Steve Aoki that try and make dance music more pop, Jamie XX’s music feels both essentially pop and essentially dance. In Colour is a celebration of the UK’s deep history in dance music re-purposed for a magical conceptual pop record: Good Times channels grime, Stranger in a Room taps into Madchester dance pop, SeeSaw goes for trip-hop, and Sleep Sound re-ignites the acid house. So many styles filtered through such an unmistakable musical voice. Jamie XX is an obsessive fan of British music and has created a record that feels at once beautiful as much as it does culturally relevant. Though he got help from his cohorts from the XX on this album, Jamie XX seems to find much more joy behind a stack of records and a labtop than he does a guitar an a mic. There is more exuberance to this music than anything the man has ever been a part of. This is the future of dance music AND pop music.

Grimes - Art Angels - Track: Venus Fly (feat. Janelle Monae)

Remember that scene in Twin Peaks when they are all at the Roadhouse? Donna and James are making up. Ed and Norma are confirming their love. And Coop, just before the Giant tells him that is happening again, is tending to a beer while admiring the synth-y ‘80s goth pop group with a bleach blonde singer on the stage. Grimes to me is that fictional band made non-fiction. When profiled by Dazed earlier this year Grimes got a little defensive when pressed if she is reaching for a more accessible sound. But I think she was getting defensive because her music has always been quintessentially pop, but undeniably alien all the same. Venus Fly with Janelle Monae is ready for college kid catering night clubs, while California makes a grand case for the virtues of Bedroom Bubblegum, or some critic cliché to describe the sound of that song. The record is tight and well-sequenced, edited with the precision of a Hype Williams music video.

Jeremih - Late Night: The Album - Track: Planez (feat. J. Cole)

I had kind of given up hope on hearing anything new from Jeremih in 2015. The single for Don’t Tell ‘Em came out way back in summer of 2014 for chrissakes. But, the internet does it again and Jeremih’s excellent new collection of ‘90s R&B revitalizing tracks, Late Night: The Album, made it into our iTunes feeds a couple of weeks back. There are some beautiful melodies on this record. Opening track Planez finds a slow burning bass line under sequenced synths and utterly muscular vocal lines from the man himself. Actin Up takes a minimal beat with a sparse string section and lets Jeremih’s voice do all the talking. Jeremih, the man of a thousand hip-hop features, proves himself a capable album maker all on his own with Late Night: The Album.

Kelela - Hallucinogen - Track: Gomenasai

For whatever reason, Kelela’s brand of late period Aaaliyah-referencing dark and sexy R&B works really well in short bursts. The Hallucinogen EP, six tracks in all, feels fully fleshed out. Warp Records, legendary for their its with experimental electronic icons like Aphex Twin (a personal hero of mine) and Autechre, released this album. That alone provides some indication of the punk mentality Kelela exhibits. At this point in her career, she could start to shoot for RIhanna, or at least Janelle Monae-like, success. But that isn’t where she is at musically. Arca, the Venezuelan genius who basically popularized experimental music in 2015, produced the record and brings some delightful grit to the listening experience. That being said, Arca is a malleable producer, and the beats on this record feel more polished than anything he’s ever done before; almost sounding like Timbaland’s B-side deep cuts. Kelela regular Kingdom brings some dancier cuts to the mix, too. The record leaves you simultaneously satisfied and begging for more.

FKA Twigs - M3LL155X - Track: Figure 8

FKA twigs, the London-born former dancer, is a multi-media genius. She is a dancer for one thing, employing mesmerizing chereography into her performances. She knows her fashion, employing the looks of futuristic London-based designers Craig Green, Nasir Mazhar, Cottweiler and many more. Her 2015 EP, M3LL155X, came complete with a video spanning the record’s entirety utilizing bizarre images and close-ups of Rick Owens’ wife Michelle Lamy’s face. The film was directed by Twigs herself. All that versatile talent has potentital to distract from how utterly unique her music is. Twigs grew up listening to soul like Marvin Gaye and Ella Fitzgerald and punk and glam like Siouxsie and the Banshees and Adam Ant. Her music sounds nothing like that. She is the rare artist that is in no way bound by her influences. M3LL155X, though perhaps not as incendiary as 2014’s LP1, is another landmark record for the 27-year old artist. Abstract electronics collide with smoky R&B rhythms. The industrial tinge gives the sound a cold detachment, but the swirling soul grounds it in humanity.

Tame Impala - Currents - Track: The Moment

On any other record, I would have classified Tame Impala under rock n’ roll. Currents, Tame Impala’s 2015 release, is a pop record through and through. And if you ask me, they are all the better for it. I enjoyed Kevin Parker’s first couple of records, and especially admired his jaw dropping guitar playing, but Tame Impala always came off as a little too Arcade Fire-y to me. Not sonically, just in the sense that it was the type of rock guaranteed to be adored by Pitchfork and loved by a certain type of indie rock fan (the kind who has no clue what SST records is). Currents is Parker’s most accessible album, and it also feels like it’s his sweet spot. The record, while still featuring some stunning guitar work, emphasizes club-ready synths and beats. Parker has admitted that he was eager to hear Tame Impala in a dance setting, and it works. The album was recorded entirely at Parker’s home studio in Fremantle, Australia, but sounds like it could have been recorded at a Jay-Z studio. Polished, would be the best word for it. But Parker infuses big grand emotion into his music, and Currents is most confident and exuberant work yet.

Janet Jackson - Unbreakable - Track: BURNITUP! (feat. Missy Elliot)

Two years ago, when Beyoncé surprise released that stunning self-titled record, she was praised for blurring the boundaries of genre in efforts of pushing pop music into a more musically dense future. And she deserved it, that record is a masterpiece. Unfortunately, people seem to forget that Janet had already done that with her albums Rhythm Nation, and especially The Velvet Rope. Both those records are stunning masterpieces of auteur-driven pop music. Janet hadn’t put out anything close to hitting those records’ majestic heights since. 2015’s Unbreakable, though no Velvet Rope, is a thorough return to form for the icon. Janet has always reflected the music of the time into her music, as much as she has social issues. On this record she takes on EDM, that most maligned of popular music, but manages to not embarrass herself one iota (I wish we could say the same for Madonna). People often forget how tremendous a singer Janet is, and she reminds them of that undeniable range on After you Fall, a track that must be dedicated to her late brother, Michael. This is a woman going on her fourth decade of super stardom, not even her brother was making good music that long.

Adele - 25 - Track: Other Side

The criticism of Adele’s music (for example: Damon Albarn of Blur and Noel Gallagher of Oasis have both called her granny music, to paraphrase) I mostly agree with. Compared to where most of pop is at these days, her music feels conventional and safe. 25, like its predecessor, has some truly epic songs, like smash single Other Side. But it also has some skip overs. But all the criticism is undone when you consider that voice, which she has added even more range to with this new record. She hits some notes that leave you with goosebumps; a physical reaction that overrides critical conceptualization. And she also sold 4 million records in two weeks, so she is pretty much single-handedly keeping the record industry afloat (I exaggerate, but fuck that’s a lot of CDs).

Lana Del Rey - Honeymoon - Track: High by the Beach

I really have tried to avoid Lana del Rey’s whole thing. In no way do I think her deserving of the “Lynchian pop” description that critics have often tagged her with. Her music is more or less soul-driven pop with a smokier and sultrier voice than most of are used to. That being said, I really loved Ultraviolence; tracks like West Coast and Shades of Cool were full of darkly evocative mood and swagger. Honeymoon feels a bit rushed in comparison with its predecessor, but its first half is fairly flawless, with High by the Beach sounding like Lana at her most irreverently Lana-ness. Does Lana have many more records in her? It does sound like she is floundering a bit.

Carly Rae Jepsen - Emotion - Track: I Really Like You

I avoided this record until last week. I was perfectly content to have Carly be that one girl with that one seductively annoying great pop song, Call Me Maybe. Then, at a party I heard that chorus, “I really really really really really really really like you,” and while initially offended, found myself singing along before I caught myself. Carly’s music gets IN YOUR HEAD. But while it’s there, you realize you don’t want it to go away, like a Britney Spears song infecting your brain like a tumor. You want those offensively catchy melodies to stay in there, like a safety blanket. I hate this record as much as I love it, and that’s what makes it so fun.

[FRIDAY PLAYLIST] The Best Electronic-Experimental Noise Records of 2015

text by Adam Lehrer

The most interesting development of the last few years of avant-garde and outer limits music (the kind of tunes that Wire Magazine writes about monthly) has been the convergence of noise and electronic music. Noise musicians like Dom Fernow (Prurient) and Ron Schofield (Container) have been making danceable tunes for some years, and record labels like Ron Morelli’s L.I.E.S. make their bread and butter by peddling this aesthetic. At some point the noise dudes got bored nodding their heads in a room full of sweaty dudes and very few women, but at the same time would rather kill themselves than be caught alive at EDC. Luckily, all you have to do is add beat and texture to the abrasive soundwalls of noise and you have some of the most seductive music being made in 2015. EDM didn’t kill electronic music, it just killed the mainstream public’s perception of it. But just as punk rock arose in protest of the bloated arena rock of the ‘70s, a more sonically varied and artfully crafted electronic music has risen in the face of Skrillex and Diplo.

But that’s certainly not all that experimental music has to offer these days. The deep underground is stronger than ever. With the trusty internet, this stuff has never been easier to find, either. There are no excuses. If you don’t like what you’re reading about in Spin and Pitchfork, then you need to search engine that shit, harder.

1. Arca, Mutant, Track: Snakes

Arca, now age 25, is one of the most important artists in the world. Consider the facts. This guy has made major contributions to four of the most important and forward thinking pop records of the last 15 years in Kanye’s Yeezus (the most influential album of this era, don’t front), FKA twigs’ LP1, Bjork’s Vulnicura, and most recently Kelela’s Hallucinogen. He’s the most interesting producer in the world right now. Then you take his actual solo records. Last year’s Xen was a visionary masterpiece, and this year’s Mutant was a step up in every sense. Still rooted in the bizarre hip-hop sound that he helped develop, his music has grown in scope and cacophony. Industrial buzzing and synth sirens coalesce and mutate into a sound so thick and dense you don’t know what else to do other than move.

2. Prurient, Frozen Niagra Falls, Track: Greenpoint

Dom Fernow, once a king of the No Fun scene of harsh noise revivalists, has greatly expanded his palette over the last few years. As Vatican Shadow, he dove head first into the rave with a harsh techno sound. With Vegas Matrys, he embraced his love of Nowregian black metal (his since closed East Village record shop, Hospital Productions, had one of the best extreme metal selections in the world). He even performed as a member of Cold Cave, thickening the band’s coldwave chills. Once again recording as Prurient, Fernow drew on all these styles and more to create his masterpiece, Frozen Niagra Falls. Recorded upon Fernow’s move back to New York after years in LA, Frozen Niagra Falls is about harsh and uncomfortable change. Drawing on Fernow touchstones like harsh noise, dark ambient, and screwed beats, it is an expansive and lonely record. Tracks like Greenpoint explore Fernow’s new found love of acoustic guitar, but you won’t exactly recognize it the way he uses it.

3. Jenny Hval, Apocalypse, girl, track: Freaky Eyes

Inspired by darker ‘80s pop and Kate Bush, Jenny Hval has taken the melodies of her forebears and made them more obtuse. On Apocalypse, girl, Hval is able to sound ominous and oddly hopeful all the same. Hval, once a member of experimental metal band Shellyz Raven, hasn’t foregone her connection to extreme music and avant-garde; noise legend Lasse Marhaug, Jaga Jazzist pianist Oystein Moen, and Swans percussionist Thor Harris all make cameos. Her collaborations with such towering figures are testaments to Hval’s confidence; though she embraces the sounds provided by these musicians never does this record sound like anything other than her. Though it’s perhaps the most art-pop record that she has recorded, it’s also perhaps her strangest. It’s a towering statement by an artist that only seems to be getting better.

4. Oneohtrix Point Never, Garden of Delete, track: Freaky Eyes

Daniel Lopatin’s Onehotrix Point Never project has not yet released a bad record, but Garden of Delete’s concept speaks directly towards me. Most boring white guys into art and music got heavily into music at around 12 to 14, and most times that music isn’t exactly critically lauded. Personally, I could have been one of those pimply faced kiddos in the Papa Roach video for Last Resort. Nu-metal was my bag: Tool was my favorite band and I also loved Korn, Slipknot, Deftones, System of a Down, etc.. Eventually, those bands would make way for concept-driven stuff like Dillinger Escape Plan and Meshuggah, and then you re-discover Nirvana and Sonic Youth and whatever. At around 18, you get too pretentious for the nu-metal or stuff you liked as a teen, but when I turned 25, I chilled out and realized that Tool is actually an amazing and unique rock band. Garden of Delete, a concept record centered around a fictional alienated (and part alien) teen character named Ezra and his love of a fictional band called Kaoss Edge, seeks to elevate the art that obsessed our less taste-driven and more angst-ridden teenage minds. Lopatin has found taste in the tasteless, and no record this year better described the synthesis of artistic obsessions that have arisen in the information age. Listening to grunge on weekdays and going to raves on weekends is no longer a rarity. There is no sub-culture, just the individual taste. This is what the lush and dizzying sounds of Garden of Delete explains.

5. JLin, Dark Energy, track: Guantanamo

Rick Owens’ FW 2014 runway show was the most seminal fashion moment of the last 10 years. Having black sorority girls line dancing in sequence while wearing Owens’ garments saw an industry celebrating a culture more or less never even marketed towards in the high fashion world. Fitting then that JLin soundtracked that show, as her unique brand of pulsating footwork, as found on her full-length Dark Matter, celebrates the mind-set of going harder and faster than anyone on the dance floor. There is tremendous musicality on this record, and it begs the listener to consider oft-ignored sub-cutures in the realm of high art. Culture and its notions of high and low are rapidly changing and deteriorating, and Dark Matter proves that sweating it out in a packed basement of a dingy club is no less substantial than making beats in an art gallery. JLin’s blazing performance this year at MOMA PS1 showed that the art world and the fashion world need to open themselves up to new cultures or be rendered mote in due time. Thank Christ.

6. Lotic, Agitations, track: Carried

Agitations finds “beat”maker Lotic at his most exuberantly jarring. In an interview, Lotic said that the record was born out of a disillusionment with club culture, and as such these are very club-unfriendly tracks. There are still beats here, but they are chopped and sliced apart, connected only through stirring blasts of discordant noise. Lotic refuses to be trapped by the culture that he is a part of, and as a result pushes the sometimes limiting culture into its darkest depths.

7. Blanck Mass, Dumb Flesh, track: Dead Format

Fuck Buttons has always been a good gateway for indie rock kids to start fucking around in the world of noise. With the Blanck Mass project, Fuck Buttons’ Benjamin John Power has created a sound that might be a waypoint for EDM kids to start charting the outskirts of electronic music. It is loud and aggressive but always danceable. The beats pulsate on this record like few that have come out this year. And despite its relative accessibility, there is absolutely nothing watered down about it. Instead, Power has found his niche in towing the line between the dance floor and the avant-garde. It’s a delicate balancing act that many have flirted with, but only Blanck Mass has executed with such a swaggering confidence.

8. Circuit des Yeux, In Plain Speech, track: Fantasize the Scene

Circuit des Yeux has been labeled an experimental-folk project since its inception, but Haley Fohr’s sound was often so belabored in glorious hiss that it was hard to hear anything resembling folk music. On In Plain Speech, Fohr brings her operatic voice to the front of the mix and better pronounces her melodies creating a fuller and clearer sound that in no way hinders the darkness that she has always emanated. Her music has gotten better with each production. By incorporating strings and pianos into her psychedelic swirl, she has hinted at the long and incendiary career that is to come.

9. Mumdance and Logos, Proto, album: Border Dance

Grime producers Mumdance and Logos have never been hindered by their adherences to grime music. On both of their solo outings, they have incorporated the entirety of UK club culture into their music. On their first record as a duo, they incorporate that enthusiasm into one of the headiest dance releases of the year. The music is minimal but utterly effective. On standout track Border Dance, for example, the duo builds a steady acid house beat over a beat-less atmospheric hiss, building towards a climax that never really arrives. Orgasm is always the most boring part of sex, right? It’s all over after that. Border Dance is one long lead up to release that is an infinite space away.

10. Holly Herndon, Platform, track: Morning Sun

Despite its decidedly hi-brow aesthetic, Platform has ended up on numerous year-end lists: Noisey, Pitchfork, and even NPR have counted it among the best of 2015. What is immediately clear about Holly Herndon’s 2015 release is its unbridled ambition. On her blog, Herndon discusses method as an academic would (she is currently working towards a doctorate at Stanford’s Computer Research in Music and Accoustics), and espouses her theory that in the near future emotion and idea will be shared digitally. That is what makes her unique blend of electronic dance music and sound art so stirring and magnetic. At the center of all the academic and high-art collaborators is a profoundly emotional voice. That voice is often the one of Herndon herself.

11. Jam City, Dream a Garden, track: Black Friday

Dream a Garden is a major step away from Jack Latham’s first record as Jam City, Classical Curves. Where as that album found Latham digging into the jackhammer beats of grime and UK house, Dream a Garden is immediately discerned by vocals and washes of guitar. Latham is Night City’s most important and political artist, and this record shows him wanting to dig deeper into his influences, namely ‘80s goth and early ‘70s funk. The shimmery keys hint at Coteau twins, while the washed out funky guitars play like Kevin Shields doing Curtis Mayfied. This is a fuller celebration of UK music history. It is also a protest record, and while most protest records demonstrate in-you-face aggression, Dream a Garden asks to give peace a chance.

12. Chrononautz, Made in Time, track: Acid Empathy

Chrononautz members Dom Clare and Leon Carey have played in noise and free improv bands together since 2000. But it was in their Chops, an acidic dirge of a band veering between lo-fi electronics and the most outer limits of free jazz, that the duo really developed an interest in electronic sounds. In Chrononautz, and especially on the 2015 release Made in Time, Clare and Carey approach blazing techno sans abandoning the improvisational skills they have developed over the last 15 years of music composing. There appears to be interest in some of the headier aspects of the Detroit techno lineage on the record, but instead of the beats remaining tight and precise, they veer towards utter chaos. This is the sound of techno coming apart, and it’s glorious.

13. John Wiese, Deviate from Balance, track: Segmenting Process for Language

John Wiese has been something of the overlord of Los Angeles’ avant-garde music scene for some two decades now. With solo Project Sissy Spacek, he tests the improvisational limits of grindcore. Along with Troniks records head honcho and Cinemfamily curator Phil Blankenship, Wiese performs harsh noise as duo LMH. He’s also been a member of noise metal unit Bastard Noise and Sunn 0))). The guy has hundreds of titles bearing the fruits of his labor. But under his Christian name, Wiese has released more conceptually driven full-length records. Case in point: Deviate from Balance. Wiese, commonly associated with noise punkers, has emerged as a serious avant-garde composer on this record. Working with a long list of collaborators (members of Smegma, Los Angeles Free Music Society, Ikue Mori, Evan Parker, Spencer Yeh, and more), Deviate from Balance is far from easy-listening, but the sounds exert far more control than is commonly associated with free-wheeling outer limits music. Compositions can surely be scary.

14. Lakker, Tundra, track: Mountain Divide

Dublin duo Lakker employs big and bold production on their noise and techno hybrid of a record Mountain Divide. There is something tribal about the music: as if there is one steady beat that holds together the disparate soundscapes throughout. They are veering more towards electronic dance music more than anything experimental, but there are uncomfortable sounds that separate Lakker apart. The duo seems to have fully realized their sound on Tundra, letting tight beats build towards violent episodic explosions. The future holds much in store for Dara Smith and Ian McDonnell.

15. Sightings, Amusers and Puzzlers, track: Counterfeited

Of all the harsh noise bands of the ‘00s, Sightings Mark Morgan’s NYC trio was always the most ecstatically rock n’ roll. Taking cues from forebears like Harry Pussy and even Teenage and the Jerks, Sightings applied an angular and possibly math-y post-hardcore approach to noise. Actually recorded during the sessions of 2013’s also excellent Terribly Well, Amusers and Puzzlers finds Sightings cutting up between blasts of fractal guitar, dub-inspired rhythms, and large doses of psychedelic hypnosis. If this band is truly done for goods, Amusers and Puzzlers is an epic end for a band that truly never sounded like any other.

A Very Autre Thanksgiving Playlist Featuring Peaches, Bowie, and More

Text by Adam Lehrer

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Where will you be eating today? Family? Friends? Both? To commemorate the holiday we put together this playlist counting down a slew of songs that express gratitude to one thing or another. Leonard Cohen and Jeff Buckley's versions of 'Hallelujah' both praise the state of existing in this world. Lou Reed is grateful for heroin in this version of the Velvet Underground's 'Heroin.' Everyone is thankful for sex, and in 'Fuck the Pain Away' Peaches illuminates on the healing powers of rough sex while weird hair R&B singer Sisqo is merely thankful for the all mighty thong. On the more poignant end of the playlist is Stevie Wonder, whose track off 'Innervisions,' 'Living for the City,' express love and thanks for his parents. Bowie says thank you to all the heroes out there where ever they may be. Happy thanksgiving, and stay thankful.

6 Things We Learned About Artist Justin Adian From His Talk During His Exhibition at Skarstedt Gallery

photograph by James McKee

Artist Justin Adian titled his recently closed show at Skarstedt Gallery ‘Fort Worth’ after his hometown. The show features Adian’s bold organic paintings created by stretching oil enamel-painted canvases around foam cushions then mounted on wood. Some people would argue that Adian’s work is abstract, and they’d be right most of the time. But Adian also engages in pop culture iconography; one painting references Raymond Pettibon’s infamous Black Flag logo. Adian doesn’t so much mash-up high and low as he does reject high-low as a concept. Good art is good art.

What is a major influence on the show is the Texan town that it is named after. Not only in its referencing of Texan Minimalism but there is a mellow vibe to Adian’s paintings in the show. Looking at them almost strips back your inhibitions and stresses more than they force the viewer to ponder the meanings in their minds. There are references to design and architecture, and it appears like Adian is perfectly fine with his work being seen as something of an interesting object in the background of a space.

On Wednesday night in October, Adian sat down with art historian Alex Kitnick to discuss some of these concepts. What was interesting is that Kitnick, a tried and true art historian, seemed to have difficulty relating to Adian and his huge breadth of pop cultural influences. As a result, the conversation never really took off like it could have. Nevertheless, here are six things we learned about Justin Adian at his discussion of ‘Fort Worth.’

1. He considers his work to be paintings, but they usually start as drawings

“They start as drawings. I think of the final products as paintings, but as the material grows they increase in lines and negative space.”

2. Raymond Pettibon is everything to him, and he loves referencing Pettibon in the work.

“One of the artists that I loved before I ever got into art was Pettibon. I wanted to make an homage to the Black Flag bars but in pink. It’s called ‘Slip it In,’ after my favorite Black Flag record.”

3. He utterly rejects the delineation between high and low art.

“Everything in the work is just stuff that is in my head whether it be minimalism, counter-culture, or music. I’ve never grown out of any of my interests, my interests just grow.”

4. When working for a “White Cube” exhibit, his work comes out a bit more slick than usual.

“These works are pretty slick for me. When it comes to these Chelsea shows I tend to make these slicker and more gentle pieces.”

5. He uses boat paint, as in paint that you use to decorate your boat.

“This is all boat paint, so it’s really shiny. It elicits weirdly northern European commercial colors.”

6. His next show will be far less slick.

“I am working on stuff that will entail much more aggressive gestures, like two panels on a face, so it will be coming out at you and pushing back at the piece.”

Justin Adian's "Fort Worth" has closed, but you can check out images from the exhibition here. Text by Adam Lehrer. Follow Autre on Instagram: @autremagazine

[FASHION REVIEW] Paris Fashion Week Round-Up

This is now the third Fashion Week round-up intro I have had to write. Again, I will have to touch upon what makes this particular round unique to the industry and important for fashion. But honesty, do I actually need to make an argument concerning Paris and its total domination of conceptual fashion? OK, here’s an argument for you: Raf Simons, Rick Owens, Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yammamoto, Dries Van Noten, Martin Margiela, Junya Wattanabe, Olivier Rousteing, and need I continue? A lot happens at Paris: some bad, some good, and some utterly transcendent. It’s too much to write about really. It’s the longest of the fashion weeks and it can be easy to forget about incredible shows mere days after they happened. Today as I am baffled yet excited over the announcement of Demna Gvasalia of Vetements being named creative director to Balenciaga while former Balenciaga godhead Nicolas Ghesquiere continues to alter the fabric of what we know to be Louis Vuitton, I almost forgot that Rick Owens put on the funniest and most conceptual collection of the week. So another season is over, and the buying begins. See you at the menswear shows.


Dries Van Noten

dries van noten 2.jpg

There have been times when Dries Van Noten has gone over my head. He is a highly conceptual and independent designer, but more than that, I don’t always feel connected to the clothes. But I was in Opening Ceremony last week (browsing, not buying) and came across a huge rack of Dries FW menswear stuff and all one can say is wow. His clothes have a physical touch that is vibrantly unique. You want to wear it, all of it, even the stuff that doesn’t in anyway line up with your own style.

So I keep the fact that I’m looking through a screen in mind when I watch Dries Van Noten’s SS 2016 collection come down the runway. Dries is a wonderfully referential designer, and this collection seemed like it was in the same ball field as Marc Jacobs’s New York stunner a couple weeks ago; a look back at the beauty, ugliness, glamour, and tragedy of old Hollywood.

When you think of “elegant fashion” you probably conjure up something glitzy or couture-ish, but Dries has totally created his own version of elegance. His color palette; often marked by shiny hues of green and bright magenta; always look slightly off allowing the garments that much more of a statement. Only Dries could send a huge printed satin dinner jacket right before a bright pink robe. The looks started to get more brutal after about 20 models culminating in a stunning black flared out skirt. And as chic as this collection is, Dries wants women to wear these garments. I can tell just by looking at them that they would probably feel very special to wear.

Rick Owens

rick owens.jpg

Some might wonder when Rick Owens, if ever, will not use some kind of conceptual gesture within his runway shows. It has to be said, wondering what Rick will do has become one of the premiere talking points at Paris Fashion Week. Not only did the man completely invent an entire look (Health goth or grunge chic or street goth whatever the fuck you want to call it), but he also has a knack for generating enormous buzz in a way that feels smart, thoughtful, and funny. Rick Owens, the Dark Lord of High Fashion, is the funniest motherfucker in the whole game. For the last menswear show, garments revealed penises. The clothes in the SS 2016 womenswear show were, in some cases, models themselves. And somewhere backstage, Rick was grinning.

Rick had models’ legs hanging from the necks of models while other models cradled models like babies. Who knew there was this much you could do with a model? Rick was commenting on the strength of women (not a “strong woman"). Rick sees that women are able to shoulder the burden of others peoples’ pain as if it were their own, which reaches its metaphorical realization during childbirth. It felt like Rick was saying to his own mom, “Mom, I know things aren’t always perfect, but I love you. You are amazing.” By that stretch, the show was both funny AND poignant, and even made me want to call my own mom.

Some of the garments; cropped and grungy bomber jackets, black and white cloaks, asymmetrical tunics; felt like good old Rick. But as he’s done more of in recent seasons, there were some risks taken here with both color palette and shape. The introduction of orange and light pinks did not feel at all out of place within the collection, and transitioned nicely to the more brutal looks.

So, once again, Rick nails his show with equal parts theatrics and the fashion design chops to back it all up. Here’s to the last independent 100 million dollar man in fashion!


I am amending this review upon learning that the leader of the enigmatic design collective that is Vetements, Demna Gvasalia, is taking over for Alexander Wang at Balenciaga. Wang’s Balenciaga show was one of his strongest, melding the coture looks and streetwear aesthetics that he often tried too hard to keep apart from one another. But it was clear that he never made the stamp on the house that we all hoped for when hearing of his appointment. With that, I thought that the Kering group would aim for a Balenciaga designer that had a firmer grip on tailoring and true luxury. Early thrown around names like Chitose Abe and Paco Rabanne creative director Julian Dossena both made perfect sense to me. Both designers have brilliant flourishes for elegant luxury, extreme silhouettes, and experimental fabrics. But Kering and Balenciaga instead go with another designer, Gvasalia, who is once again known for grungy takes on streetwear classics. But unlike Wang, Vetements has a design aesthetic that is truly unique and considered in both their shows and the clothes that they retail. They recycle fabrics and their garments are all instantly recognizable without overt branding. They have become street style favorites of cool kids everywhere. And most of all, people are excited, with even Cathy Horyn praising Gvasalia’s appointment at Balenciaga. Gvasalia worked with Martin Margiela for eight years, and that commitment to progressing design could bring Balenciaga their first push towards the future since Nicolas Ghesquiere left years ago.

And about the Vetements SS 2016 show, well, it kicked ass. I’ve been loving this brand for a while, with their gigantic bombers and sweatshirts that fall on women just so and their denim made of random pieces of recycled jeans. No brand on earth is nailing how style-minded people want to dress so well. Really want them to start doing menswear. But anyways…

Staged in a Chinese Restaurant (the FW 2015 was in a gay club, they are the best at finding random amazing places to stage shows) and with street and Instagram-casted models walking alongside professionals, the SS 2016 show was worthy of any and all hype. Always featuring dude and girl models wearing the clothes, The first model to near-run down the runway was none other than other weird dude designer Gosha Rubinchinsky wearing a standard open short sleeve black shirt, yellow t-shirt and cropped leather pants, a simple opening making way for more extreme but always wearable looks. Stand outs were lime green blazer and mini-skirt over a chopped up tank top worn by a beautiful long legged athletic girl, big blazers worn over argyle sweaters with sharp cut leather knee highs, and dudes wearing huge smocks. Gvasalia also introduced some new dresses that still spoke to his gallery girl following with everything looking just perfectly off. New hoodie designs were introduced as was a ‘Star Wars’ poster re-imagined as wide legged trousers. Perhaps the most Vetements-defining look was the final: a Chinese collar trench coat with top buttons buttoned, no shirt worn underneath, studded leather belt, cut off denim mini-skirt, and thigh-high black leather boots. Vetements is a brand for the creative people that are so successful they can wear whatever the fuck they want whenever they want: Kanye West, Lorde, etc.. The brand is intimately aware that the modern artist with Internet access is a little into everything: from the lowest forms of pop culture to the most head scratchingly avant-garde, from big t-shirts to couture. Balenciaga, bring it on.

Yang Li

The former Raf Simons apprentice Yang Li doesn’t get his due credit. Paris is saturated with talent, and perhaps his all black everything feels a bit overdone to some of the style set. But if the Swans-referencing SS 2016 presentation is any indication, few designers understand brutal fashion like Yang Li.

Dan Thawley’s take on the collection for Vogue was interesting; that Yang Li’s punk girl is returning from her years of rebellion to her bourgeoisie past and creating a new identity for herself. In that, you will find traditionally elegant garments cloaked in references to dark post-punk music and dingy clubs full of unsavory behavior. The girl can change her life, but those memories brand her and build her. In a flourish certainly reminiscent of his teacher Raf, Li introduced beautiful overcoats sewn with patches emblazoned with lyrics by the mighty Michael Gira of Swans (I actually really really want one). Asymmetric coats covered black dresses embellished with elongated skirts. Li stretches out minimalism and though he references some of the key conceptual designers of the last 10 years (Rick, Raf, Rei), it feels like he is really carving out a new identity in fashion.

Yohji Yamamoto

Yohji’s SS 2016 menswear collection saw the designer apply his own artwork to his garments, and his womenswear collection was soundtracked by Yohji’s music. At 72, the designer continues to find himself re-invigorated creatively. We are lucky to have him.

In some ways, Yohji went to his all-black roots with this collection, but the flourishes spoke to concepts for the future. The excess fabrics coming out in all directions in the dresses and the near tye-dye looking color splashes looked so wild that there was absolutely no way Yohji didn’t consider every angle. His experimentation with denim was like nothing I’ve ever seen using the fabric to embellish an avant-garde dress. The clothes looked quality and made for Bjork’s next runway excursion. The final dress deviated from the all-black concept in a deep blood red. This was Yohji’s statement of vitality. Leading avant-garde fashion through four decades now, he is here to stay.

Maison Margiela

Though John Galliano once again opted out of the bow for the SS 2016 collection in respect to Martin Margiela’s house codes, he certainly wasn’t hidden. Galliano’s stamps were all over this collection for Margiela feels all the better for it. His first couple collection saw him playing with Margiela ethos with his takes on the masks and such. But Galliano has always been a punk designer even when working at the biggest houses. In that, he’s not so out of place at Margiela as some editors speculated he might be. On the contrary, the house feels new again, but it’s still Margiela.

The “Lo-fi, sci-fi” titled collection saw Galliano introduce dozens of products to the Margiela arsenal including huge cumbersome looking bags (maybe not so successful) and some really interesting shoes marked by ankle bracelets and stockings brought over the shoes. The collection moved deftly through color, styling, and theme: geishas in Navy jackets and skirts, Margiela-recalling minimalist lime green and white all-over coats, guys in black chest-exposing dresses. Galliano is surely happy to be able to design anywhere, let alone at a house as coveted as Maison Margiela. With this collection, he looks poised to bring Margiela into the future.


You know I’m going to write about Raf Simons. Like Khaleesi (Emilia Clarke of ‘Game of Thrones’) said before the show, “I get to wear some beautiful costumes on the show, but on the street few things feel like wearing Dior). Raf redefined menswear luxury countless times, but now at Dior he seems to specifically tap into what exactly is luxury in womenswear. His clothes bring out the innate beauty of a woman without cloaking her in an abundance of fashion.

Raf is rightfully thought of as a conceptual designer, but at Dior he has relished the ability to take on commercial appeal as a concept. I love records like the Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds,’ Janet Jackson’s ‘The Velvet Rope,’ or most recently the Weeknd’s “Beauty Behind the Madness.’ These are big and bold experimental records that apply adventurous sound techniques to music that never veers from pop sensibilities. I see Raf’s Dior in the same way. The SS 2016 looks were pretty breezy: black and white dresses, power suits, minimal pops of royal blue and red. Raf looks as comfortable in his position at Dior as he does wearing his Raf Simons X Sterling Ruby paint splattered shirt that he wore taking his bow.

Paco Rabanne

Honestly I knew nothing of Paco Rabanne creative director Julian Dossena until Olivier Zahm interviewed him for the most recent issue of Purple Fashion. From then, I was intrigued. Dossena worked at Balenciaga with Nicolas Ghesquiere until the latter quit four years ago. With him, went Dossena. He was quickly snatched up by the Puig Group to consult for Paco Rabanne to revive the futuristic image of the label that was cultivated by its namesake designer in the 1960s. He earned the creative director role eight months later and now it is safe to consider that futuristic image revived.

Paco Rabanne’s SS 2016 collection feels both retro-futuristic and regular futuristic with a line of sportswear that utilizes progressive fabrics as well as an overall vibe of attractive sleaziness. Pleather fabrications come in gold and look breathable and wearable. A tracksuit top looks on par with what menswear label Cottweiler does with its re-thinking of fabrics for the future. Sleeveless shirts carried prints with Native American motifs reminding the viewer that progression must first come in the form of thoughtfulness. Julian Dossena was being tossed around as a name to take over Balenciaga, but honestly, I’m so much more excited to see what else he has in store for the Paco Rabanne label.


Chitose Abe, the other design name thrown around as a Balenciaga recruit, has an extremely popular aesthetic. Because of her brand’s recognizability, people seem to forget that she is also just an amazingly complex designer. Her clothes all reek of design. There isn’t one color or shape that isn’t 100 percent considered.

Her SS 2016 collection was filled to the brim with conceptual layers and interesting construction choices.

Abe has her touchstones with the vintage vibes and exotic looking blankets, but she seems to take it into new realms with each collection. Like her SS 2016 menswear collection, Abe referenced ‘80s LGBT friendly New York club Paradise Garage with the collection in the form of t-shirt prints. And like that club, the SS 2016 womenswear collection is full of chaos and nonsense. But within the chaos lies a well-planned and executed political statement.

Louis Vuitton

I know it might be early to say, but I am finding Nicolas Ghesquiére’s version of Louis Vuitton way more interesting than I ever found Marc Jacobs’s to be. Ghesquiére has always been an avant-garde designer, but he has managed to tailor his vision to brands with well-established house codes and re-create those codes over and over. Louis V is a travel brand, and Ghesquiére looks towards the future of traveling. The SS 2016 collection references ‘Tron’ and the sci-fi movies of Ghesquiére’s truth as an army of globetrotting cyberpunks marched down the runway. The clothes here were really crazy: opulent and luxurious in equal measures.

It’s hard to imagine anyone not wanting to buy pieces like the leather moto jacket printed with Lou Vuitton logos and American stripes. I also loved the color-blocked pieces. Ghesquiére speaks to a very specific customer: his own. Those who love the house of Vuitton will have to progress their tastes because Ghesquiére drastically moves Louis Vuitton forward. Fashion is barely able to catch its breath to keep up with this man’s imagination.


Comme Des Garçons

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The elegant birds of paradise flew at the Comme des Garçons SS16 showcase. The conceptual practice of adornment was living and breathing in this collection: the oversized ostrich laced collars and the rose-like crown hair designs. I believe the spectacle of it all actually helps one focus on the tailoring and design rather than overpower it. Rei Kawakubo forever draws the connections between fashion and art. The dresses here appear to hide certain aspects of the female frame and then radiate new life from the garment itself. The oversized button holes in the tweed peacoats give a fairytale ending to a seamless collection of wit and glamour.


Ice queens gallivanted down the runway at JW Anderson’s second collection for Loewe. The SS 2016 collection featured drool-worthy trousers made from plastic to the embossed metallics and a silver high waisted pleated pant. The theory of less is more would be better categorized as giving more in the right places. JW Anderson has mastered that tact. The collection had an asymmetrical balance to each look; one mirror shard earring would be paired with black patent lizard embossed trouser and a tan suede jacket. Though I’m slightly appalled by the “put a bird on it” brooch but the rest of the accessories make up for it. I loved the shimmery long bracelets and the oversized Koi fish necklaces (I have vintage versions of the real thing!). I detected referencing to Japanese atelier; note the slight resemblance to Issey Miyake “Pleats Please” collection. The monogrammed pieces brought a sporty component to the collection without losing its “Posh Spice” elegant simplicity. J.W. Anderson can be a mood ring changing colors but stays true to his style DNA.


When we reminiscence about past Céline by Phoebe Philo collections, we often think about smooth lines marked by a casual chic but twisted by a pervasive surrealism. That is not what we think of when faced with the SS 2016 collection. In this collection there was a subliminal sexuality expressed with white sultry silks and black tailored lace. The woman is a housewife preparing her escape to the concrete jungle. The elegant ribbed knits with the high chalk tailored waists accompanied by safety pin necklaces appear safe but sharply drawn out. The palette of burnt oranges, pastel purples and army greens are complimentary to a woman that may be harboring a secret lover. The optical illusion within the disappearing waist in the finely tailored long blazer coat is design at its truest.

Haider Ackerman

I am caught inside the net of Haider Ackermann. The SS 2016 collection’s hidden detailing in the soft exposures of fishnets and candy colored hair veils leaves you feeling intertwined and in love. I couldn’t take my eyes away from the electric array of colors and textures. It was obtuse to his latter collections of dark blacks and greys. This would prove to be a challenging transition for some but not for Haider. Each drop-crotch trouser adds a new intermixture of color, sheen or a classic black. The SS 2016 look is very punk as well poetic and romantic. The long duster cover ups are luxurious silks and velvets that transcend the effortless quality of a Haider woman.

Miu Miu


Cohesive chaos is the body of work that Miu Miu presents eloquently time in and time out. I’m in love with the layered and tailored looks of tulle skirts and see thru apron dresses that populate the SS 2016 collection. The color story of rich purples and soft greens paired with a plaid laidback slack. The whimsical dark beauties race the runway like witches from Stepford. The oversized jackets and collars are a fatal sight; the collection of tobacco browns, colorful patterns and winter whites. The clash of Victorian silks with the strong dexterity of the leathers make an effortless collaboration. The eclectic style of art deco shapes and argyle patterns make a style reference to this timeless era. The Fred Perry-esque polo shirts make it a tangible line to collect and covet. The subtleties of the anklet lace ballet slippers and embellished boots w will be dancing in my head until the ever hopeful sale season.

Saint Laurent

The Saint Lauren SS 2016 collection felt a little different than previous ones. Hedi Slimane’s collection embodied maturity. Models wore long draping embodying a rigorous elegance. There were not many baby dolls here. This is a look I love and will wear with my Adidas campus sneakers. The women adorned crowns like princesses of the runway. They looked unfazed and too cool. The Wellington boots reminded me of a festival fairy with tousled hair smoking a cigarette while kissing your rocker beau. No one does leather like Hedi; it has become a staple piece for every season. This season’s leather jacket is slightly more slouchy and oversized than his classic perfecto. There is an honesty in the models that Hedi casts and the way he styles them. His ideal woman just woke up from a bender, had some morning sex and ran to another show. I adore the tenacity of it all. Bring on the texture and bring on the lush lifestyle.

Text by Adam Lehrer (Autre Fashion Editor) and Julianna Vezzetti

[ART REVIEW] Kamil Franko At New Release Gallery

by Adam Lehrer

I went to Paris for the first time when I was 16-years-old on a student trip. It was my first time in Europe, and the whole time I was in something of a transcendental lull. I was already heavily into art, music and history, and I remember the whole time being taken into a state that wasn’t quite awake but certainly wasn’t sedated either. I did the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. I ate baguettes and drank booze for the first time. It was one of those experiences when the reality lines up perfectly with your imagination and a specific tranquil state is elicited. And then, I was on the subway when all of a sudden my eyes burst with tears and I fell to the floor violently ripped out of the bliss. I later found out that the police used tear gas to stop a thief. This is all coming to mind as I am looking at the formidable paintings by Copenhagen-based artist Kamil Franko at the opening of his show ‘Love and Violence’ at Erin Goldberger’s new gallery New Release Gallery. Franko’s paintings appear to be marked by tranquility as they are moments of sharp violence.

The lovely and brilliant Goldberger is best known amongst the New York art world as director of Bill Powers’s Half Gallery. The opening was packed with young art kids in a way that I haven’t seen in New York in years. It feels like Goldberger found the perfect time and the perfect Chinatown location to open a downtown gallery that could serve as a new Ground Zero for the new generation of artists in the city.

Kamil Franko’s work, while paying heed to the traditions of great painters, has a style that feels explosive and fresh. Franko piles paint on top of one another forming a thick and physical void separating the viewer from the imagery. The imagery contained within those paintings is at times both tranquil and violent. “I don’t think it’s about being between good and evil,” says Franko. “I think it’s a borderland between two polarities.”

Franko’s paintings are as much about creation as they are about destruction, and that dichotomy lives within his technique as much as it shows within his content. “I added paint carefully in creating the canvas, and at the same time I demolish it or remove it,” he says. “The motif is in the method. For example, I took a drone as a symbol for some destructive elements with an ominous presence of both beauty and ugliness.”

Franko is, for lack of a better term, a “painter’s painter.” He created the works contained with ‘Love and Violence’ during a period of isolation he underwent for three months in Budapest. He wasn’t even creating these paintings for the sake of a show, as there was no such show to be making them for. He literally paints just to paint. How many artists are like that are out there these days? Goldberger then contacted him via email to discuss putting together a show for her brand spanking new gallery. Franko credits that isolation with propelling his work forward. “After three weeks you’re asking yourself what the fuck are you doing here,” he says. “When you are alone in your head it seems to calibrate clearer ideas. You can focus when not disturbed by your environment.”

Franko’s work, at times both dark and hopeful, speaks to a bright future for art and proves a most appropriate show to open Goldberger’s new gallery. The time is right for a young gallerist to show off work by young artists, and I think I can speak for all of the young art community of New York when I say, “We are ready for this.”

Adam Lehrer is a writer, journalist, and art and fashion critic based in New York City. On top of being Autre’s fashion and art correspondent, he is also a regular contributor to Forbes Magazine. His unique interests in punk, hip hop, skateboarding and subculture have given him a distinctive, discerning eye and voice in the world of culture, et al. Oh, and he also loves The Sopranos. Follow him on Instagram: @adam102287


[AUTRE PLAYLIST] The History of Rock N' Roll

Traveling this week with limited access to WiFi, so I have decided to upload a pre-existing playlist, the Best Rock Playlist Ever, in accordance with my world view anyways. To me, everything about these bands capture the attitude that has made rock music a major part of my life since I was a kid. Everything from obvious rock n' roll gods like The Stones and Hendrix to '80s British stuff like Joy Division and yup, the Smiths, to farther out stuff like Columbus, OH-based freak rock band Vertical Slit and the sadly overlooked Pink Reason (whose 2007 Siltbreeze release "Clean the Mirror" got me through some tough and druggy times). A lot of this stuff has pretty much soundtracked my life. Rock n' roll has a way of accenting the high points and combating the low points. Have a nice weekend.

Adam Lehrer is a writer, journalist, and art and fashion critic based in New York City. On top of being Autre’s fashion and art correspondent, he is also a regular contributor to Forbes Magazine. His unique interests in punk, hip hop, skateboarding and subculture have given him a distinctive, discerning eye and voice in the world of culture, et al. Oh, and he also loves The Sopranos. Follow him on Instagram: @adam102287


[REVIEW] Bettina WitteVeen "When We Were Soldiers...Once and Young" Art Installation at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

text by Adam Lehrer

German-born artist Bettina WitteVeen, a self-described “Buddhist and pacifist,” believes that war and violence are not the innate genetic traits that we are so often led to believe that they are. On the contrary, she believes that human violence is an aberration of the human spirit. “I’m a very strong believer that we are not actually hard-wired towards war,” says WitteVeen. “I believe we need to understand war to abolish it and that we can.”

WitteVeen’s new public art installation, ‘When We Were Soldiers… once and young,’ features dozens of inflated photographs carefully placed within an abandoned hospital in the Brooklyn Navy Yard that served as an infirmary for soldiers from the Civil War to World War II. The photos, some of which are characterized by natural beauty and others that are marked by brutality and dread, find a fitting spiritual home within the hospital. The abandoned hospital is full of history and ghosts of yore. Even without the photographs it carries a pervasive sense of existential dread. The photographs then provide a vivid illustration as to why this old facility gives you that sense of fear.

The exhibition is broken into two parts. The upstairs part focuses on the soldiers and their physical recoveries, offering vivid details of the ravaging that the human body endures during war: photos of men without limbs, men hanging on barbed wire in the trenches, explosions and more. WitteVeen deliberately avoided shocking imagery, “Because shocking imagery forces people into their fight or flight reflexes,” she says. But despite that notion, there are quite a few brutal images displayed amongst the installation.

Much of the installation has to do with war’s corruption of the human spirit. WitteVeen talked about what she calls the “Bezerker Mode.” She believes this is when the soldier has lost his capacity for patriotism and wanting to honorably defend his country and instead has grown to enjoy the killing and the violence. How does this happen? “This state is generally brought about when a soldier loses a comrade in battle,” she says, “The bezerker state is elicited when the vengeance instinct kicks in.”

Moral degradation in its many forms goes hand in hand with war. Curiously, beautiful images of poppy flowers are shown in the installation. Poppies and opium to WitteVeen are extremely loaded motifs in this scope. “I wanted to contrast the beauty of nature but also show the violence when war collides with nature,” she says. “Opium kills the pain, and it is for the killing of the pain that we go to war, which we then need more opium for.”

The downstairs part of the installation focuses on the persistent mental effects of war, “I wanted to focus on the long-term plights of the citizens,” says WitteVeen. One room is extremely bright, with the centerpiece image featuring a young woman of an undefined era. WitteVeen tells a harrowing story of the girl, who she elects not to give the name of. This girl was raped when she was 12-years-old, and though she found happiness and marriage, the trauma never left her. She developed a light allergy that would eventually lead to her suicide. Though the story is not directly related to war, WitteVeen comments on the use of traumatic violence (such as rape) and its use as a weapon. This brutality completely destroys the individual, and every individual contributes to society.

WitteVeen is not a Christian but she is interested in the idea of the cross as emblematic of sacrifice and redemption, and there are crosses in many of the images and even in WitteVeen’s own sculpture work. One such sculpture features a cross with a decayed human skull in the middle, images shot from the inside of a chapel, on the two sides, a red war image below, and a black abyss on the top. This room serves as a place of contemplation for the viewer.

The final room is “the room of redemption,” says WitteVeen. There are a few violent images, but she also photographed former battlegrounds and shows how nature has over-rooted the violent past. Thus, war can be ended, and it is in our nature to do so. “The wounds are healed,” she says.

There are a lot of ideas in the installation, and they don’t all seem to be immediately related. Throughout the preview of the installation, WitteVeen annotated many of these ideas with her own interpretations of her work. As a viewer, one almost wishes there was more room to create your own idea of the work. When asked if she worries that someone who didn’t have her to annotate the work for him/her might miss the redemptive aspect of the work and take a more nihilist view, WitteVeen says, “Of course not, this is art and not a documentary. But I only know what my intentions were.”

WitteVeen is an optimist and a humanist. It took her five years to put together this installation, and she is clearly excited with the results. There will be an essay that she wrote accompanying the exhibition, and I would suggest reading it. But I would also suggest creating your own conception of the exhibition. We all feel something when it comes to war. Whether or not you believe that war can actually be ended is irrelevant, but WitteVeen’s installation will force you to ponder the notion of war in a way that you might be uncomfortable with. That discomfort is understanding. 

Bettina WitteVeen "When We Were Soldiers... once and young" will be on view until October 24, 2015 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard Hospital in Brooklyn. Text and images by Adam Lehrer

Adam Lehrer is a writer, journalist, and art and fashion critic based in New York City. On top of being Autre’s fashion and art correspondent, he is also a regular contributor to Forbes Magazine. His unique interests in punk, hip hop, skateboarding and subculture have given him a distinctive, discerning eye and voice in the world of culture, et al. Oh, and he also loves The Sopranos. Follow him on Instagram: @adam102287


[REVIEW] Dover Street Market's Open House During Fashion Week

There always seems to be two distinct groups of so-called “fashion people.” One set of people is attracted to the glitz and the glamour of it all, they can be found throughout fashion week at galas and luxury boutiques. The other set is attracted to fashion through the creativity and possibly the weirdness of it all, and can be found throughout Fashion Week at exclusive downtown parties, shops carrying Hood By Air, and very often, New York’s Dover Street Market. Dover Street Market not only carries the best high fashion that the industry has to offer, it also has become something of a Ground Zero for our city’s creative types. Much of this has to do with the shop’s ability to display fashion in myriad creative ways through the use of concept installations.

At DSMNY’s Fashion Week Open House on Thursday, the store introduced some amazing installations. A ground floor installation designed by exciting new Gucci creative director, Alessandro Michele introduces Gucci’s Cruise 2016 collection, while longtime Raf Simons collaborator and photographer Willy Vanderperre was hanging out signing copies of his new IDEA book ‘636.’ London heritage label Labour and Wait launched its first US shop within the walls of DSMNY, designer Jeanne Signoles was in store celebrating the US launch of her luxe-meets-function bag brand L/Uniform, and John Galliano’s first collection for Maison Margiela was commemorated with a visual installation calling back to Martin Margiela’s famous experiments with paint. All of these installations and appearances were fantastic; Rei Kawakubo accepts no less. But it was particularly heart-warming to see one of my favorite artists (and full disclosure, good friend) JK5, aka Joseph Ari Aloi, giving birth to his installation on DSMNY’s 5th floor.

JK5, who found footing as a tattoo artist and has branched out into a more multi-disciplinary approach, found himself with a monumental opportunity when he found out that Rei Kawakubo was interested in using his work in some capacity in the FW 2015 Comme des Garcons Homme Plus collection. To his astonishment, that capacity was some of his extremely distinct letter forms being featured ALL OVER that collection in mega skinny suits, tights, and leathers.

Aloi has a keen ability to recognize opportunity when he sees it. He is also an avid fashion lover, and particularly enthralled with the world of CDG. He sought to nurture the new creative and business relationship. The lines of dialog stayed open, eventually leading up to this installation.

An open galactic space serves as the backdrop of the installation, true to Aloi’s themes. He is interested in the Force and in the interconnectivity of the universe. When he speaks, he is always looking to connect the dots between events in his life and around him. For him, everything that has happened in his existence has led up to this moment, “It’s all coming around full-circle in exciting ways,” says Aloi. 

For the installation, JK5 lent his creative language to an arsenal of CDG wallets, perfume boxes, and DSM Converse sneakers. Also included were his Rizzoli book, art works, and his new jewelry collection made in conjunction with jewelry designer, Asher Hoffman. The rings and jewels interpret the galactic visual style of JK5 extremely well, and they are really heavy and well-made; they’ll look stylish on your fingers and would also have the (probably) unintentional benefit of being really useful in a bar fight.

Aloi is interested in business and the idea of branding, and it stands to evidence that his visual language translates as well to a variety of products as it does standalone art works. Where he will go from here is wherever his destiny dictates he will go. “The world’s getting the story, and it’s a good one,” says Aloi over text. “Truly lucrative new opportunities. I want to art direct my own brand, that’s the goal.”

Adam Lehrer is a writer, journalist, and art and fashion critic based in New York City. On top of being Autre’s fashion and art correspondent, he is also a regular contributor to Forbes Magazine. His unique interests in punk, hip hop, skateboarding and subculture have given him a distinctive, discerning eye and voice in the world of culture, et al. Oh, and he also loves The Sopranos. Follow him on Instagram: @adam102287


[ART REVIEW] Katherine Bernhardt "Pablo and Efrain" At Venus Over Manhattan

I find myself drawn towards artist Katharine Bernhardt’s work in spite of an inner resistance I feel towards work that could be described as “cute” in the most basic of ways. While I love some of the goofier performance artists doing kitschy work in the Midwest like Jaimie Warren, the aesthetic of cute is not something that I gravitate towards. So sue me, I’m affected (becoming a black clad heavily tattooed art writer was probably the only way for an untalented art geek to get girls). But Bernhardt’s work is made more wondrous by her demonstration of mathematics. Within her paintings, no matter how silly the imagery, there are real patterns and proportions made of a vivacious color field grid locking her imagery into place. It places the work in the middle of the war between our animal instincts and rational thinking (isn’t it weird that the part of our brain that sees things as “cute” is actually our inner apex predators identifying things as weak, but it’s our rationale that decided it’s ok that it’s weak, precious even, hence “cute”). Her word is a visually rich and fun tug of war.

Bernhardt’s new show, Pablo and Efrain, opened up last night at Venus Over Manhattan. Bernhardt’s imagery is often directly correlated to the imagery that she is absorbing and the objects that she is using: “Every residency that I’ve done, wherever I am, sub-consciously the imagery of the landscape always makes its way into my work.” During the creation of these new works, Bernhardt was in her beloved Puerto Rico. Therefore, much of the imagery living within the canvases reflects the colorful landscape of the island: sharks, various fruits, turtles, tropical birds and more blend seamlessly with some of Bernhardt’s fascination in mundane objects like cigarettes and sharpies. It’s like the imagery comes from a very unconscious and fluid aspect of her creative mind, while the planning and sequencing of the imagery on the canvas is totally mathematic and precise. With a huge mish-mash of imagery, she still manages to avoid overloading the viewer with sensory. Instead, it’s just a blast to look at her work.

Her interest in patterning also manifests in her fascination with the weaving traditions of the rural Berber women of Morocco. As such, Bernhardt lined the floors of the gallery with coffee bags sourced from Puerto Rico. The bags not only were nice and soft to walk on, but also helped make clear the influences that went into the show: the imagery of Puerto Rico and the precise lines needed to weave such bags

The show’s title, Pablo and Efrain, is an ode to the twin Puerto Rican artists behind the Poncilli Creacion, who Bernhardt met on her most recent trip to Puerto Rico. True to her unpretentious, self-effacing, and effortlessly charming manner, Bernhardt admits she knew nothing of the artists before meeting them. Only that she was completely taken with them when she did. “They’re just really fun and hilarious to be around,” she says while cracking herself up.

Bernhardt was at the opening with her family and son and having a great time. When Norwegian artist Bjaarne Melgaard was admiring one of her paintings, Bernhardt covertly snapped a photo of the intimidating fashionable artist. Unlike so many artists (and writers, admittedly) she adopts no pose. She just loves making art, and it shows in her work. Despite the lackadaisical attitude though, she is a real master of craft. That willingness to marry imagery that could be deemed silly with real technique makes for a unique viewing experience. “I just make the art, I let you guys come up with your own ideas about it,” she says. 

Katherine Bernhardt "Pablo and Efrain" will be on view at Venus Over Manhattan until October 24, 2015. Click here to see more photos. Text and photographs by Adam Lehrer.

Adam Lehrer is a writer, journalist, and art and fashion critic based in New York City. On top of being Autre’s fashion and art correspondent, he is also a regular contributor to Forbes Magazine. His unique interests in punk, hip hop, skateboarding and subculture have given him a distinctive, discerning eye and voice in the world of culture, et al. Oh, and he also loves The Sopranos. Follow him on Instagram: @adam102287


[AUTRE PLAYLIST] Japanese Psych Noise Rock

No one seems to do psychedelic rock as joyously blistering as the Japanese. In this playlist, you'll find some of the most ear scorching psychonaut rock n' roll out there. Within this list is the progenitors of this whole thing, Les Rallizes Denudes, with their vampiric doo-wop stomper 'Night of the Assasins.' The immortal Kawabata Makoto is well-represented on this list, with his band Mainliner's 'M' and longstanding project Acid Mother Temple's 'Starless and Bible Black Sabbath." Kawabata's sound philosophies are a strong stand in for the philosophy of this blissful form of music. Equally influenced by Stockhausen as he is Hendrix, Makoto marries the most mind-altering textures from rock, noise, drone, and jazz to bring an aural onslaught that pummels as much as it enlightens. 

Adam Lehrer is a writer, journalist, and art and fashion critic based in New York City. On top of being Autre’s fashion and art correspondent, he is also a regular contributor to Forbes Magazine. His unique interests in punk, hip hop, skateboarding and subculture have given him a distinctive, discerning eye and voice in the world of culture, et al. Oh, and he also loves The Sopranos. Follow him on Instagram: @adam102287


[AUTRE PLAYLIST] Mid-90s Proto-Arena Techno

text by Adam Lehrer

Back in the mid-‘90s, when in the wake of Nirvana, major labels would literally sign anything that appeared remotely “alternative,” electronic music had a powerful but brief explosion in the mainstream. This is way before Skrillex ditched his emo band after frying at a Daft Punk show and almost a decade before EDC would congregate to try and avoid teen deaths. 

The summer of ’97 was an important one for me. I was OBSESSED with music. I was glued to MTV and would go with my mom to the grocery store so I could stay in the car and listen to alternative rock video. I was only nine, but I was getting exposed to the music that would shape me as a music fan: Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream, Nirvana Nevermind, Radiohead OK Computer, Wu Tang Enter the 36 Chambers. I’d log into a dial-in modem and wait for 10 minutes to get to the Spin Magazine website. My first issue of Rolling Stone had Marilyn Manson on the cover. Pop music was all I thought about.

One morning while watching MTV I came across what I correctly thought was a terrifying video of what I incorrectly defined as some sort of horrific agro metal band. The video was for The Prodigy’s ‘Breathe,’ the first single from their 1997 breakthrough The Fat of the Land. I didn’t know what to think at first, it was a little intense for me.

Later, Kurt Loder (AKA GOD) delivered an MTV news brief that The Prodigy was in fact an electronic dance music group from the UK and that they were part of a movement of electronic dance groups that were breaking through to the mainstream. Other groups and DJs included in this segment were actually already quite successful in the underground Orbital, the white trash meth tweakers Crystal Method, and the Chemical Brothers who were about to release their landmark record Dig Your Own Hole. I was immediately drawn to the Chemical Brothers’ release ‘Block Rockin Beats,’ it had a similar physical effect on me to the first time that I heard my favorite Wu Tang songs. The grooves just pulsate. I went to the mall with my grandmother who would often let me shop at Hot Topic. She spoiled me with copies of Dig Your Own Hole, Fat of the Land, and a navy blue Chemical Brothers t-shirt (really wish I still had that thing).

Within a year, this electronic music craze died down. The Chemical Brothers followed up with the successful Surrender, but they found themselves relegated to cult success. The Prodigy was never able to top Fat of the Land. Alternative rock radio moved on to nu-metal, and MTV moved on to to Britney and boy bands. But my love of electronic music endured and grew more far out. Soon enough, I was devouring Sonic Youth at the same rate that I was Aphex Twin and Autechre.

Now dance music is a multi-billion dollar business, and much of the music has dumbed down because of it. I don’t hold much resentment towards Skrillex and his ilk, but I do hold a little bit of resentment towards the culture that surrounds his music. At any rate, it took groups like The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers, and later Daft Punk of course, to show that electronic music could be amped up to exist within a stadium context. They broke down the barriers.

Today I am going to see The Chemical Brothers headline the first night of EDC. I fear that I will be one of the oldest people there, but also that I might be one of the few Chemical Brothers fans in the audience. There is still so much amazing electronic music being made, but these festivals cater to the lowest common denominator of the genre. I’ll try and not care, fry my face off, and try and tap into that nine-year-old kid who wondered what getting, “lost in a K-Hole meant.”

Adam Lehrer is a writer, journalist, and art and fashion critic based in New York City. On top of being Autre’s fashion and art correspondent, he is also a regular contributor to Forbes Magazine. His unique interests in punk, hip hop, skateboarding and subculture have given him a distinctive, discerning eye and voice in the world of culture, et al. Oh, and he also loves The Sopranos. Follow him on Instagram: @adam102287


The Other Half of the Antwerp 6: Belgium’s Unsung Fashion Heroes

When it comes to Fashion, the Belgians will continue to be a driving, influential force. With a round of fashion weeks upon us in September, there will undoubtedly be a few references to these sartorial geniuses from this unlikely creatively kinetic country. Sure, the Martin Margiela and Raf Simons stars burn the brightest – especially at retrospectives like the one that is on view now at the Bozar Center For Fine Arts in Brussels – but the credit for laying the first fashion stakes belongs to a band of misfit outsiders known as the Antwerp 6. Here, our fashion editor-at-large,  Adam Lehrer, explores the life and works of the more unknown members of this fashion collective that may not be household names, but are just as influential and still worth talking about.

I get really obsessed with radical art collectives and movements. There is something so alluring about a group of likeminded weirdoes banding together to express a uniform idea and fucking up everybody’s pre-conceived notions about what art or music or cinema should be. I can rifle off some of said movements that have all held massive spaces in my Internet search history: the Fluxus movement of the 1960s, Warhol’s factory, Albert Ayler and the early ESP-Disk Free Jazz artists, late ‘70s Los Angeles Punk Rock, French New Wave Cinema, the literary Brat Pack, early New York graffiti, late 1970s New York No Wave, Motown Records, Wu Tang Clan, Lars Von Trier and Dogme95, and so much more. I love learning who the players were, and then seeing where the players ended up. It seems like in all of these movements, some of the people were able to translate their talents and creativity into massive successes, while others were never able to re-create their glory days of being in a badass art collective and waving big ol’ middle fingers to the system. Perhaps this is why in all my interest in fashion, I have never been able to live down my utter fascination with the Antwerp 6.

The Antwerp 6: Walter Van Bierendonck, Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs, and Marina Yee (Martin Margiela was not an official member, despite common belief). Six design students that all attended Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Art, employed an avant-garde approach to fashion, and literally put Antwerp on the map as a fashion city to respect. The other influential fashion designer from Antwerp, Raf Simons, used a drapey black hoodie in his A/W 2001 ‘Riot’ collection emblazoned with the word “Antwerp” and a graphic depicting the Antwerp 6’s members in all of their youthful glory. The sweatshirt looks like a punk rock hoodie you could get on St. Mark’s and that is the point: the Antwerp 6 was one of the first group of fashion designers looking towards the more down-trodden sub-cultures (Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto, and Issey Miyake were also doing this in Japan) to create high fashion. And they just happened to all be friends hanging out, doing drugs (probably, anyways, right?), listening to music, and borrowing clothes from one another.

But, as these things often turn out, only half of the Antwerp 6 achieved international success. Demeulemeester, Van Noten, and Van Bierendonck all translated their visions into massive brands, and the latter two are still designing their brands to this day. Does that mean they were more talented than their compatriots? Maybe, but I don’t think so. Let the rest of this piece be an ode to the ever-unsung talents of the forgotten members of the Antwerp 6: Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs, and Marina Yee.

Marina Yee showed her first collection in London in 1986 under the brand Marie five years after she graduated from university. Yee often re-designed and structured clothes that she found in flea markets, emphasizing a worry that she held concerning the wastefulness of fashion. Interestingly enough, it is Vivienne Westwood that we most often associate with the eco-conscious high fashion, but it was Yee who expressed concern with such issues as far back as the 1980s, when Westwood was still designing with Malcolm McLaren. Her visibility in fashion in the ‘90s was scarce; she designed with the Belgian brand Lena Lena and with her old friend Bikkembergs. She had a comeback of sorts in 1999 when she participated in the 400 Anniversary Antoon Van Dyck celebrations curating a selection of Van Dyck’s emphasizing fashion. In 1995, Yee briefly launched her MY label and showed 30 pieces at a private event in Paris, again recycling thrift materials to be fashioned into utterly elegant fashion. Yee’s talents are monumental, and her lack of success in comparison with some of her friends may have to do with her resistance to the fashion system. Countless designers now are placing importance on dismantling the fast fashion system. Hiroki Nakamura of the VISVIM label designs hoping people will wear his clothing for a lifetime. Stella McCartney is committed to green fashion. And of course, Westwood has been lauded for her commitment to fashion that has a positive impact. Yee’s output was small, but her impact was massive. In fact, Marina Yee is set to release a new line of scented candles and perfumes in the coming month. 

The Flemish Dirk Van Saene also avoided the fashion system. Though he participated in a group show in 1987 with his five friends, he mainly designed clothes out his small Antwerp boutique Beauties and Heroes. Van Saene’s lack of international recognition can be traced to two arguments. For one, Van Saene wasn’t interested in any one particular aesthetic that his brand could be recognized by. He employs the mindset of an artist: he makes whatever he wants to make. That attitude is admirable, but not exactly business-minded. The other is that he too also avoids the fashion system, and in some ways is downright disdainful of the fashion industry: “ I think there's currently nothing interesting in fashion. It is so boring. The designers never tire of repeating the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. So what? We've already seen everything. I can think of no designer collection, which I really like. And the worst thing is the press, which comes from a designer the next, as long as there is a bag for free.” Van Saene has started creating pottery, and a career as an artist might suit his incendiary talents more than fashion design.

Dirk Bikkembergs might be the most internationally recognizable name out of the “other members” of the Antwerp 6, but his career path is idiosyncratic to say the least. In fact, some people may not realize but his garments are still being produced and sold every day (his website is having a huge sale right now). Awarded the Golden Spindle award in 1985, Bikkembergs launched a shoe line in 1987 and a menswear line launched in 1988. When looking back at those old collections, it is immediately notable that he already was elevating sportswear to luxury long before Ricardo Tisci emblazoned a Givenchy t-shirt with a Rottweiler. But unlike his compatriots, Bikkembergs moved away from the brutal and deconstructed fashions that Antwerp was becoming famous for with the successes of people like Demeulemeester and especially, Martin Margiela. He moved towards soccer, Bikkembergs fascination with sports, and soccer in particular, made him extremely successful financially, but most likely hurt his artistic credibility. But that didn’t seem to matter to him. Bikkembergs continued to use professional football players as menswear models. In 2000, he launched Bikkembergs Sport and used a footballer as a logo. He even became the Sole Sponsor of Inter Milan, an amateur football club. Not exactly highbrow, I know. But one has to admire the strong “don’t give a fuck” attitude of an art school educated fashion designer turning around and designing soccer clothes. When your friends are selling shredded knit sweaters to be retailed at $800, it’s pretty punk to sell a hoodie with a soccer graphic for a quarter of that. I like to think Bikkembergs has fun taking the piss out of his art minded classmates.

So if you have to split the Antwerp 6 into two camps, perhaps you do so by looking at the fact that Van Bierendonck, Demeulemeester, and Van Noten all consciously decided to redefine the fashion system and progress the idea of fashion. But nevertheless, they all decided to exist within the fashion system. Yee, Bikkembergs, and Van Saene all did whatever the hell they wanted.  The Antwerp 6 was a rebel collective, but they weren’t all fashion rebels. 

Necessary reading: 6+ Antwerp Fashion (maybe the most comprehensive monograph on the Antwerp 6) and Belgian Fashion Design (a good history lesson). And make sure to see The Belgians: An Unexpected Fashion Story on view now until September 15, @ Bozar Rue Ravenstein 23, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium

Adam Lehrer is a writer, journalist, and art and fashion critic based in New York City. On top of being Autre’s fashion and art correspondent, he is also a regular contributor to Forbes Magazine. His unique interests in punk, hip hop, skateboarding and subculture have given him a distinctive, discerning eye and voice in the world of culture, et al. Oh, and he also loves The Sopranos. Follow him on Instagram: @adam102287


[AUTRE PLAYLIST] Late 70s (and Some 80s) Art Damaged Punk Rock From Los Angeles

text by Adam Lehrer

For the first of Friday Autre playlists, I thought it most appropriate to highlight the quintessential Los Angeles-based punk rock bands of the late 1970s (and some '80s). Perhaps this is a cliché move, but Autre is of course a Los Angeles art magazine. The Hollywood punk bands were decidedly art leaning without exactly aspiring towards art. That is the Los Angeles art attitude; a sort of nonchalance that allows for the word to spin out of control and occasionally achieve the transcendental. In another cliché move, X's 'Los Angeles' kicks off the playlist, but c'mon, it''s X. Los Angeles's closeted junkie punk hero, Darby Crash, comes in next with the Germs' 'Communist Eyes.' Many people argue that the LA punk scene was way weirder and more punk than that of New York, and it's easy to see why. Prior to Lydia Lunch, James Chance, and the noise freaks of Brian Eno's No New York compilation, the earliest New York punk bands all had a musicality and professionalism running through the music that the LA bands largely did not (save for X, maybe). The Ramones mastered the few chords they were using, Television was downright groovy at times, and David Byrne is a musical genius. The LA bands devolve to art noise all the time. Take the Germs, who had as much influence on hardcore punk as they would noise rock bands of the 1990s like Harry Pussy and Sightings.

I purposefully left hardcore bands, save for the Middle Class who were on the edge, as they are for another playlist. Also, I love the Screamers and Angry Samoans but there are no good tracks of theirs on Spotify. Musically, there isn't a lot holding the LA bands together other than that they all listened to their own particular favorite types of music and filtered them through lack of musicianship and chaos. Enjoy!

Adam Lehrer is a writer, journalist, and art and fashion critic based in New York City. On top of being Autre’s fashion and art correspondent, he is also a regular contributor to Forbes Magazine. His unique interests in punk, hip hop, skateboarding and subculture have given him a distinctive, discerning eye and voice in the world of culture, et al. Oh, and he also loves The Sopranos. Follow him on Instagram: @adam102287


[ART REVIEW] Aki Sasamoto Food Rental Performance On The High Line In New York

New York-based Japanese artist Aki Sasamoto’s work affects the viewer on many levels. Her creations, sculptures that serve utilitarian and aesthetic purposes, are superb enough to warrant museum attention by themselves. But Sasamoto’s work really is about the performance. Her singularly silly performance style is underlined by real human truths. But aside from all the wisdom and beauty that is found in Sasamoto’s work, it’s also really funny. Perhaps that is why her public performance on the New York City Highline, ‘Food Rental,’ worked so well: though a certain art-centric crowd (including NY Mag art critic Jerry Saltz) was in attendance, there was also what seemed to be a gathering crowd of passing tourists. These people were perhaps not aware that they were witnessing the newest performance by one of the most important contemporary artists in the world, but they certainly laughed a lot.

Sasamoto provides catharsis to an audience in lieu of the audience’s art-savvy. Perched atop the High Line Rail Yards, a busy and loud touristy section, sat an actual wheeled food cart built by Sasamoto. I heard a spectator complaining about how “loud a place this is for performance art,” and I wanted to tell him to shut his mouth. The loudness was the whole point. Sasamoto wanted the experience to be as close to the actual food truck experience as possibles The performance began with Sasamoto asking the audience to pick from her menu. The first item picked was something to do with diseases. Sasamoto asked the audience to think of two diseases, and said, “Two diseased we are going to look at today: Charismatic Syndrome and Strategic Syndrome.” She laid out the symptoms, causes, preventions, etc of these diseases by making gestures out of two sets of mashed potatoes. Basically, she was discussing the nature of capitalism. She used an example of Martha Stewart, clearly someone suffering from Charismatic Syndrome, “Everyone has an aunt that plants thing,” said Sasamoto. But people with strategic syndrome who are obsessed with what’s going on in the word (media, PR, hipsters, financers) build people like Martha Stewart up. It was hilarious and full of truth.

Another menu off the item criticized critics, and was discussing a purported New Yorker article that was unfair to a pickpocketer. Pickpocketers, to Sasamoto, are the highest form of art.The performance veered between philosophical truths and personal memories and traumas that resonated nonetheless. One menu item saw Sasamoto strap on a pair of sandals elevated by sharp steak knives as she stood atop her food cart’s counter and cut oranges with her sandals. She did so while relaying a memory about having her mother visit when she spent the whole visit finding reasons to not tell her mother everything she always wanted to tell her. The story ended with her in the bathroom at the airport in a stall next to a woman with diarrhea. The story was sad and beautiful, but presented in a way that will surely be unforgettable to the viewer. And maybe that’s the point.

Sasamoto’s performances are really an elaborate and beautifully conceived form of communication. She has found a way to express herself by creating these performances. The performances are so distinct that the ideas and storied conveyed by Sasamoto remain buried into the viewer’s psyche. It’s like when you hear a certain song, and it takes you back to a time in your life. It triggers a memory. Sasamoto’s performances trigger memories, but they also create new ones. Now when I see mashed potatoes, I will remember the plague of Charismatic Syndrome. That, my friends, is genius. Sasamoto is not just one of the great contemporary artists; she’s one of the great contemporary storytellers.

Adam Lehrer is a writer, journalist, and art and fashion critic based in New York City. On top of being Autre’s fashion and art correspondent, he is also a regular contributor to Forbes Magazine. His unique interests in punk, hip hop, skateboarding and subculture have given him a distinctive, discerning eye and voice in the world of culture, et al. Oh, and he also loves The Sopranos. Follow him on Instagram: @adam102287