Sunday, August 31, 2014

Contemporary Art: Storm King Art Center, New York

(Drivebycuriosity) - Do you like sculptures? Then you might enjoy the "Storm King Art Center" (stormking). This is a large park (around 500 acres; 200 ha; 0.78 sq mi) in the state of New York, around 1 hour north of Manhattan (wikipedia).

You can see there - mostly huge - sculptures which are fitted into a beautiful landscape. The artworks sit on the hayfields and meadows and harmonize with the green topography.

I indulged in the harmony of the artificial - sometimes monumental - pieces with the nature and the interplay of shapes & clolors.

My favorites are the works by the Chinese artist Zhang Huan. There is now an exhibition, called "Evoking Tradition" (through November 9 2014). His enormous "Three Legged Buddha" (2007, Steel and copper), which shows the head of the artist, is part of the museum`s permanent collection. Huan`s sculpture "Peace No. 2" (Cast bronze, gold leaf, and steel) shows a traditional Buddhist temple bell. Instead of the clapper the artist hanged a replica of his own body covered with gold leaf. Yes, great artists love themselve very much.

If you go there you shouldn`t miss the trolley ride, which is covered by the admission. The vehicle drives you close to the park´s highlights and a recorded commentar gives short explanations to the art works.

There is also a small indoor museum with more sculptures and some drawings. Above you can see some sculptures by Zhang Huan. The artist used ashes found in buddhist monastries in China.

Let the pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy!

Movies: Life Of Crime

(Drivebycuriosity) - Kidnapping is a serious crime. But Hollywood made a lot of more or less funny movies about this topic, like "Fargo" or "Raising Arizona". The film "Life of Crime", which now is running in US cinema theaters, follows this tradition (imdb).

A group a thugs abduct the wife of a seemingly wealthy man, which leads to a chain of surprising and hilarious events (this blog is spoiler free). The movie is less dark and messy as the typical crime flick these days and doesn`t have the usual gory scenes and shock tactics. "Life of Crime" shows more a laid back attitude and has even some romantic moments.

I enjoyed watching the fine cast. Mark Boone Junior got a lot of laughs as a creepy but clumsy weapon obsessed Nazi, an evil version of "The Dude" (Big Lebowski).  Jennifer Aniston delivered her role as the abducted wife with charm, Tim Robbins as her "couldn´t care-less" husband was a perfect counter part and Mos Deaf showed the appropriate sleaziness. I had just problems that John Hawks, as part of the abductors, was a bit too nice to be believable.

The nimble editing helped to make the film enjoyable like a straight-up Margarita on a late Sunday afternoon.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Contemporary Art: Unconscious Lens @ BOSI Contemporary, New York

(Drivebycuriosity) - Dreams are mirrors of our hidden thoughts, the unconsciousness, taught Sigmund Freud. For a very short time there is an art exhibition which refers to Freud´s insights and displays "most instinctual desires that are repressed and released in our dreams": Unconscious Lens (bosi). The show is @ BOSI Contemporary on Orchard Road in Manhattan´s trendy Lower East Side (bosi). you will have to hurry, the exhibition will end tomorrow Saturday August 30.

There you can find collages, photographies and a video by New York based artists Najib Aschrafzai, Rosanna Bach, Mike Fernandez, Gabriele Giugni, Alison Nguyen, and Anh Thuy Nguyen. I show here my favorites.

From above you can see:
Anh Thuy Nguyen: Faceless #2, 2013, Archival Inkjet Print on Matte
Gabriele Giugni: Flea Sequence, 2012, Printed on backlight display mounted on Plexiglass
Najib Aschrafzai: Mystical Dream 1, 2014, Sliver Gelatin Print
Anh Thuy Nguyen:  Destruction/Rebuild #2, 2014, Silver gelantin print
Anh Thuy Nguyen: Faceless #1, 2013, Archival Inkjet Print on Matte
Rosanna Bach: Exile and the Kingdom, 2014,  Archival Inkjet Print on Glossy paper, float mounted onto gallery glass

There are also some impressions from the opening receptions last Wednesday.

Let the pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Economy: Why The US Retail Sales Disappoint

(Drivebycuriosity) - The US economy is expanding. But the US retail sales have been disappointing recently. US consumers are reluctant to shop in spite of the healing job market and swiftly climbing stock & home prices. One explanation for the almost stagnating retail sales is the slow growth of salaries.

And there is another explanation: The high gas price. Today gas at US pumps costs around twice the average price in the 1990 (around $1,90 zfact). The rise works like a tax hike because consumers, especially commuters from the suburbs, have less money to spend for other goods.

The following table shows how average US gas prices at the pump developed since 2005 (each year mid August bespoke):

2005  $2.56
2006  $2.96
2007  $2.76
2008  $3.76
2009  $2,63
2010  $2,74
2011  $3,59
2012  $3,72
2013  $3,54
2014  $3,45

In 2008 the gas price jumped around one dollar (plus 30%), which turned then the economic slowdown into a severe recession, because many commuters couldn´t bear the dual burden of high gas prices and mortgages which let to a default of their mortgage payments (driveby).

After a short relief in the years 2009 and 2010 the high gas prices returned. Today US gas costs almost as much as at the peak in 2008 in spite of the rising US oil production (fracking). Pundits claim that the US refineries cannot use the American type of oil, called WTI (West Texas Intermediate, also known as Texas light sweet), therefore they depend on the International oil type, called Brent Crude. WTI costs today $94 and Brent $102.

Brent is more expensive than WTI because it is mainly produced in Middle East, Iran and Russia. The ongoing geopolitical issues (Iran conflict, Russia sanctions, wars in Iraq and more countries) are fueling speculation that the oil supply from these regions can be interrupted. Therefore the price for Brent has a speculative premium for risk which is keeping it expensive.

But there is hope. Recently the price for Brent dropped from around $115 to $102 because there is a flood of oil on the market and none of the alleged disruptions has happened so far. As a result the US gas price also went back ( minus 6.5% from this year's high) reports the financial service Bespoke Investment Group (bespoke). If there are no new severe conflicts the US gas price could fall further which should rekindle the US retail sales.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Culture: Street Art - What`s Going On In Lower Manhattan - August 2014 Edition

(Drivebycuriosity) -  Manhattan is a paradise for connoisseurs of street art. Almost any day some new mural, graffiti or other image appears, most of them in the downtown area. Since my latest street art report from July 2014 (driveby) I discovered a lot new works on the streets of Soho, East Village and Lower East Side.

My favorite in this collection is a tribute to China, which I found at trailer on Manhattan`s East First Street - a satellite office for Second Avenue Subway workers. This is part of the frequently changing works of the New York`s Centre-Fuge Public Art Project (driveby).

Also eye catching is the artsy Beastie Boys mural by street artist Danielle Mastrion on Ludlow Street in Lower East Side. Again I am impressed by the variety and the indeas of the spray painters.

And there were of course more funny stencils to discover (driveby).

Let the pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Economy: Hooray, The Oil Price Is falling - Causes & Consequences

(Drivebycuriosity) - The oil price is under pressure. Brent Crude, which represents the price for international traded oil, dropped today below $102 for the first time in more than a year (businessinsider). Brent has now declined more than 3% in August and 11% since a June surge to just under $115. The high oil price has been holding the global economy back, especially Europe suffered, because it depends strongly on imported oil.

It looks like that the oil price bubble is losing air. I have written frequently that the oil market doesn`t represent the economical fundamentals any more (driveby). The oil price is artificially elevated because banks, hedge funds and other speculators pumped a lot of money into the oil market (via financial instruments called futures).  They ignored that the global market is awash with oil thanks to rising production in the USA (fracking) and a sluggish demand (more energy efficiency and weak economy in Europe).

Instead the oil speculation focused on geopolitical risks. Many speculators had set bets that conflicts in Ukraine, Iraq, Syria and other problem regions could lead to a disruption of the oil supply.
The oil market resembles a hot air balloon: A steady flow of geopolitical news (Ukraine, Middle East) has been heating the speculation on upcoming supply problems and has been keeping the price of oil high like a balloon in the air.

In the recent days the news flow from the geopolitical risk areas has been calming, meaning less hot air for the "oil price balloon". As a consequence many speculators are reducing their bets on possible supply disruptions.  "This has taken an enormous amount of speculative steam out of the oil trade", explains one expert (seekingalpha).

If the fall of the oil price continues it would work like a global tax cut. Consumers would have more money to spend for other goods and services. Hence a pullback of the oil price would foster consumer spending and rekindle the sluggish retail sales in the US and Europe. Companies could invest more money because of shrinking energy and transportation costs.

If the oil price drop continues - and it should as long as no new conflict is cooking up which could be used as an excuse for the oil speculation - falling energy prices could deliver some tailwinds for the global economy. Especially the weak European economy could use some boost from a lower energy bill.

Contemporary Art: "The Loss Of So Many", By David Mellen @ BOSI Contemporary, New York

(Drivebycuriosity) - New York City is a mecca of art. There seem to be hundreds of galleries and almost any day a new interesting exhibition is popping up. Recently a show @ BOSI Contemporary on Orchard Street in Manhattan´s trendy Lower East Side caught my eyes (through August 23, 2014 bosi).

They are presentings works by David Mellen, an American artist. The solo exhibition is called "The Loss of So Many".

Going there isn`t a loss. The paintings hit my visual taste buds. I indulged in the delicate but powerful interplay of colors. Mellen created dynamic scenarios wich reminded me of tales of alternative universes and other science fiction topics.

His sculptures - which were almost paintings - displayed similar constructions and fit perfectly into this collection.

Let the pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy.