Show Asks Whether Time Is Running Out

By Mohammad T. Khan
A photo from A Collaboration with Time-Deterioration series, by Robert Farber. Photo courtesy of Hexton Gallery.

A photo from A Collaboration with Time-Deterioration series, by Robert Farber. Photo courtesy of Hexton Gallery.

The exhibition “Tick Tock: Time in Contemporary Arts”, which opened at the Lehman College Art Gallery on Feb. 20, 2018, shows time from the perspective of different artists within multiple genres from the mid-nineteenth century to today. The exhibition presents a range of media, including oil-on-canvas, sculpture, photography, video, mixed construction and installations. The artists’ representations of the importance of time in our daily lives and even in our dreams provide the exhibition’s overarching theme. The show’s quality is inconsistent, especially because some of the work is controversial or experimental. Some of the pieces, such as “Sunday Afternoon,” by John Carlin and “blow up 273 -the long goodbye” by Kysa Johnson, were evocative, but many were unstimulating, such as Laurie Simmons, “Walking Pocket Watch II.” 

Two artists from the nineteenth century show how the experience of time changes as a person grows older. In “Boy with a Clock,” oil on panel, Carl Haag shows how a child experiences time. A little boy plays with a clock undisturbed by time constraints. In “Sunday Afternoon,” using oil on canvas, John Carlin depicts how the passage of time differs for three individuals. Through a scene from a rustic family’s everyday life, the picture shows how time progresses for people in different life stages. The young boy playing outside seems to be enjoying his time. For him time is going by slowly. The viewer gets an impression that for the woman in the house time in the moment is precious, because she is lost in a book. The old man in the home looks like his time went by too quickly. He is looking away from his family, perhaps reflecting on his past and his body language shows that he is not engaged in the present. Both artists have used an accessible representational style of painting typical of its time to show how time is experienced in our lives.  

The artist Robert Farber’s work shows that a person’s beauty fades over time. His “A Collaboration with Time-Deterioration Series” are two deteriorated archived fashion photographs of models from 1980 and 1981. The two photos smudged very badly as the photos deteriorated naturally over time.   At one time, the pictures probably looked nice. The picture in 1981 looks more attractive than the one in 1980. It looks very bright. The picture in 1980 looks hideous because, due to the photo’s deterioration, the woman’s face looks like a monster from a horror movie. This photo also looks darker than the one in 1981. Both, however, show that glamour and beauty, like the medium Farber used, are defenseless against time. 

Other artists explore the idea that time should not be wasted. Mary Engel has made a sculpture of a dog composed of watches, wire, mesh, and fabric in “Sleeping Watch Dog.” The dog seems to be relaxing, wasting its time by not doing its guard duty. Alexandra Forsyth Martinez has formed an open hand-blown hourglass out of white sand in the “First Instance (The Beginning).” The sand at the bottom of the hourglass demonstrates that time has run out. Its two companion pieces show an unexpected progression. In “Second Instance (The Middle)” and “Third Instance (The End).” Martinez adds black sand — using ashes — inviting us to reflect about time running out. The three hourglasses lead us to contemplate time itself differently and whether everything should be done before the deadline, considering we all become ashes in the end. Steven Spazuk’s “Ticking Bomb,” and “Stopping Time,” are made of soot on paper mounted on panel. “Stopping Time” shows an object sitting on the clock’s hands that causes time to stand still. “Ticking Bomb” conveys how important time is when a bomb is set to blow up, but also serves as a metaphor for time running out. This art is all highly conceptual. Their representations of time are confusing but thought provoking.

Each piece has its own unique way of commenting on time, and attempting to capture how each of us has a meaningful relationship to time. However, the exhibition did not address some concepts of time, such as prioritizing time management. Despite a few unimpressive pieces, this exhibition is likely to please most patrons, who are sure to enjoy the diversity of the art and the representations of time.

Long Way Down Tops Reading List

By Leonel Henriquez

Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds. Photo by Leonel Henriquez 

“Long Way Down,” a novel that examines life in urban areas from the perspective of William, a black teenage male, has soared to the top of the Young Adult Reader’s list. Released in October 2017, the novel is National Book Award Finalist and John Newbery Medal winner Jason Reynolds’ eighth book, and his fifth in the last three years.

It chronicles a day in the life of 15-year-old William the day after his older brother Shawn is shot and killed. William’s life is actually an allegory, representing lives broken in part by the ongoing cycle of a drug-driven neighborhood economy, gang affiliation, and gun violence that plagues many of the youth and minority communities in large urban centers like Newark, Philadelphia, New York City, and Detroit. 

Several things make the novel unique. It is written entirely in verse as a lyrical tale similar to Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” The author also engages the reader by using anagrams and words to create shapes, at one point covering a page with a question mark.

The author’s uncomplicated language and its creative presentation illuminate how the parameters of the character’s world are detailed by the rules of the disenfranchised drug- and violence-riddled neighborhood. For example:

1. Crying. Don’t. No matter what. Don’t.

2. Snitching. Don’t. No matter what, Don’t.

3. Revenge. If someone you love gets killed, find the person who killed them and kill them.

The heart of the story is how William encounters the ghosts of others in his life that were also shot to death, including three family members, his father, his uncle Buck, and his brother, along with William’s friend Dani. 

One thing the book emphasizes most is how the rules of life depend on the environment in which people live. William faces a choice between living by the rules or recognizing that he could do his small part in breaking the cycle of gun violence that engulfs the neighborhood and its residents. The ambiguous ending leaves the reader wondering what happens next, and which would be the correct course of action if they were in his shoes.

This book is more than just about the rules. It also explores the variables that allow the continuum of violence from generation to generation. Beyond that it is about the heart and soul of a brother-to-brother relationship, the agony shared by their family and community as a result of violence and the questions of what to do next in the face of pain and adversity. Overall this novel should be considered a must read for readers of all ages.  

‘Fullmetal Alchemist’ Fails to Live up to Hype

By Juan Vasquez

The promotional poster for the film. Courtesy of Wikipedia. 

Live action films based on anime have, more often than not, turned out to be awful. The American remakes of “Fist of the North Star,” “Dragon Ball: Evolution,” and “Ghost in the Shell” are all notoriously bad. The most recent addition to that list of shame is “Fullmetal Alchemist,” widely considered to be one of the most influential anime and manga series of all time. So naturally, as with the anime that came before it, studios had to go and ruin it with a live action film. 

Because this manga-to-movie fiasco seems to be one of Hollywood’s more vicious cycles, it is crucial to understand why this movie adaption, released in January 2018, was truly horrible. “Fullmetal Alchemist” the manga was released in “Monthly Shonen Gangan,” a Japanese manga anthology, in August of 2001 and ended its run in June of 2010. Since then it has released two anime adaptions: “Fullmetal Alchemist” and “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.” 

This film attempts clumsily and hastily to stitch these three related but different pieces of media into one cohesive narrative. In the beginning, we see brothers Edward (Ryosuke Yamada) and Alphonse chasing down a man named Father Cornello (Kenjiro Ishimaru), because they believe he has a Philosopher’s Stone. The Philosopher’s Stone is a powerful magical item that provides its user with almost god-like alchemical powers. The director tries to condense the manga's 192-page first volume into a ten minute scene. However, it can never be done convincingly to create a narrative that makes sense. 

Most of the cast was terrible, save for Maes Hughes (Ryuta Sato) and Roy Mustang (Dean Fujioka). Both even look like the characters if you squint hard enough. The others just look like passable cosplayers. Gluttony (Shinji Uchiyama) was the worst of these offenders. He’s supposed to look terrifying, not goofy. Another disappointment was that this was the fifth time the fan favorite Maes Hughes died on screen, with fans left heartbroken yet again.

The only plus in this film is the setting. The background of Volterra, Italy really made the setting seem so believable. Some effort was put into making this world seem authentic. Also, the CGI for Alphonse was so pristine, there were times I forgot I was looking at a CGI suit of armor.  So, the film is not all bad, just mostly bad.

This film is not recommended for even the most diehard of Fullmetal Alchemist fans, let alone someone new to the franchise. Its poor character design and poorer attempt to condense twenty-seven manga volumes into a two-hour abomination of a film ends up, not surprisingly, blowing up in viewers’ faces. As with almost all anime adaptations, this one has proven to be a dud. 

‘President Luthor’ Provides an Entertaining Look Into Today’s Political State

By Juan Vasquez

A copy of President Luthor. Photo by Juan Vasquez

Comic books have always been inherently political forms of media. The X-Men were originally used as an allegory for the Civil Rights movement, with Dr. Charles Xavier representing Dr. Martin Luther King and Magneto representing Malcolm X. In the Green Lantern and Green Arrow comics, Green Lantern is forced to recognize and reconcile with his prejudice towards African-Americans. And lastly, the critically acclaimed graphic novel “Watchmen” gave us a politically charged superhero story set in an alternative political timeline not much different from the time in which it took place. Fittingly, the “President Luthor” saga does the same as it predecessors.

Of the many stories published in the 2018 omnibus, “President Luthor” strikes true to today — considering the current political climate and the 2016 Election still reeling in the minds of many. The book starts with Luthor’s prologue, where he decides to run for President after seeing Superman’s influence in Metropolis. From here I was expecting a political drama akin to Watchman. But right after he announces his candidacy, he is arrested by Aquaman, King of Atlantis, and a giant sea monster starts attacking Metropolis. I admit that I was taken aback by the sudden shift in tone, but then found it quite enjoyable. 

What I really liked about “President Luthor” was the writing. Despite being written over a span of sixteen years, each part feels fresh and uniform to the entire story. The omnibus itself is divided up into three parts: “Campaign,” “Election Night,” and “Inauguration.” While the art styles are vastly different (in both style and quality), the story manages to maintain a cohesive narrative. Once you reach “Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography,” however, you see the change back into a dark, political thriller.   

This omnibus adds a refreshing take on politics in comic books. It is not as grim or dark as its predecessors, but it is a delightful read. It will please long-time Superman fans as well as inviting readers to revisit to an old storyline that, if one were to look closely, echoes our own real life political state. Lex Luthor is a vile comic book character, similar to the comic and cartoon characters in our government.