Thursday, December 31, 2015

Movies: The Year 2015 - A View Into The Rear-View Mirror

(Drivebycuriosity) - 2015 was an acceptable cinema year 2015 but weaker than the years before  (2014 2013). There were certainly less movies which allured me to spend money on the box office. And I missed jewels like "Under The Skin" (2014), "Melancholia" (2011, "The Master" (2012) and "Social Network" (2010). But the year had some  remarkable productions anyway:

In my opinion there was a trio of cinema highlights:
 "Ex Machina" belongs to the rare species of real science fiction movies because it describes possible future developments based on scientific considerations, in this case information technology. The film deals with one of the most important topics of the coming years: Artificial intelligence (AI). In the year 2013 the movie "Her" had already picked the topic of machine intelligence, but "Ex Machina" is much stronger.  Director Alex Garland created a fascinating psychological triangle between a young and smart coder, who is eager to fulfill his job, a "Turing Test" in order to find out if the machine indeed is as intelligent as a human being, the employer, the creator of the machine, and the sexual highly attractive machine-girl ("sex machina"?). This creates tensions and conflicts which escalate and get more and more dramatic. The plot is spiced with intelligent dialogues and philosophical debates about evolution, creating life, freedom of will, sexual attraction, deceit, survival strategies and much more. Even that the plot was highly intellectual it had a lot of suspense and I really cared about the fate of "Ava" and the humans.

 "The Martian". Astronaut Mark, a biologist, has to fight for his survival on Mars. The plot also is based on sciences (physics, chemistry, biology and more) and very plausible assumptions. I really cared about the astronaut´s fate, but I also enjoyed how the involuntarily "Martian" uses his skills and scientific knowledge to fight for survival. I liked most that the film is optimistic and delivers a "we can do it" message.  The "Martian" is pro science, pro technology and pro progress - a refreshing contrast to the usual dystopian movies (driveby).  Cinematography and special effect designers constructed a realistic Martian environment and created gorgeous space flight scenes. I watched the film in 3D and got really the impression to be with Mark on Mars or in outer space.

"Carol" This movie, set in New York City, went into the past - the 1950s. Carol, a wealthy married woman, meets Therese, a young shopgirl. Love happens. But it gets complicated. The film based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith ( but don´t expect a murder thriller)  let the viewer participate in the emotional roller coaster of Carol & Therese and the dance of different social classes. The  cinematography is a piece of art. One of the film´s manifold pleasures is an erotical choreographed love scene between "Carol" & "Therese". Cate Blanchett - as "Carol" - proves again that she is one of the brightest stars on Hollywood´s firmament. She is charming, bitchy, arrogant, strong/vulnerable - and irresistible. Rooney Mara - as "Therese" - impressed me with her intensity. Her powerful eyes and her gazes cast a spell - and not just on "Carol".

                                                  Licence To Blockbuster

2015 brought another comeback of James Bond. Even after more than 50 years the character is still alive and kicking. Even that "Spectre" the newest Bond movies doesn`t match "Casino Royal", which is one of the best Bond flicks (my favorite its still "Goldfinger"), the franchise can easily compete with other action movie series like "Mission Impossible" and "Bourne". The film is a fine piece of contemporary action extravaganza with the help of 7 screen writers and a budget of about $245 million. Daniel Craig showed again how much the franchise depends on him. I reckon that the tough, cool and elegant British actor is the second best Bond, close behind Sean Connery. It´s a pity that he wants to retire from the Bond genre. I indulged in watching Léa Seydoux, whom I had admired in "Blue is the warmest Color" ( driveby), this time as the newest Bond girl. She is a goddess of lust and will make her way in Hollywood.

James Bond had again a lot competitors.  Tom Cruise´s ambitious long time action movie project returned with "Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation", the number 5 of the series. I really enjoyed the well-made mixture of action & humor even that many scenes were quite hilarious. The plot has a filed out set of deceptions, delusion & feints which you can expect in a contemporary action thriller (this is a spoiler free blog. The frequent action scenes are cutting edge, there is a lot of physical violence elegantly choreographed. An elaborately shot & edited combat scene ( 4 participants) during a performance of Puccini´s opera Turandot in the Wiener Staatsoper (opera house Vienna) was priceless and one of the highlights of the whole series. Rebecca Ferguson was the most important innovation in this "Mission" installment. The Swedish actress brought some glamour & sex appeal into the movie and delivered a stunning blend of charm and martial arts skills.

 "The Man From U.N.C.L.E"  also threw his had into the action arena. The movie is based on a TV series from the 1960s. The original was a parody on James Bond movies, hilarious, funny and  charming. I liked the fast paced story line, set in the cold war climate of the 1960s: An odd couple, a CIA agent and a KGB spy, are hunting together ex-Nazis who are in possession of a nuclear bomb (this is a spoiler free blog. The film was nostalgic, elegant and charming with some well placed pieces of violence. Part of the fun came from the settings: The digitally revived cold war times Berlin, with the "Mauer" (Berlin Wall), and the decadent upper class society of 1960s Rome gave the movie a special touch. And listening to the congenial soundtrack with a lot of 60s gems was a pleasure too. Arnie Hammer impressed as KGB agent by his powerful presence garnished with some comedian elements.

Spies arent`t just competing with each other, at the box office they also are challenged by dinosaurs.  "Jurassic World", the newest installment of the series, allured my wife and me to 41 bucks into 2 tickets for the IMAX 3D-version. The money was well spent. We had a hell of a lot of fun watching the dinosaurs chasing people. Who can escape and who not? The film`s dramaturgy is well balanced, nail-biting action mixed with funny scenes, and there is even place for some romantics. As usual the makers quoted a lot of classics like Godzilla, Hitchcock`s Birds, Pitch Black, which amplified the fun. The stars of the movie are of cause the dinosaurs, there are tiny & cute ones and funny dinosaur pets, but the story belongs to the big predatory monsters of course. I especially enjoyed the flying predators, but my favorites are the park's four - half tamed - velociraptors, named Blue, Charlie, Delta and Echo; smart, swift, elegant beasts, which looked and behaved like real predators.

Hollywood also took another look at the Mexican drug cartels ("Savages", "The Counselor", "Traffic"). "Sicario" tells again about the bloody & dirty war between the US drug enforcement and the Mexican drug cartel. It´s a well-thought-out and powerful thriller, that also satisfies art film tastes. There is a lot of blood & violence (some scenes are really tough), but horror & action are photographed like an art movie. Cinematographer Roger Deakins & the special effect teams created amazing pictures full of beauty.  

The genre black comedies was well represented by "Cut Bank". As so often, strange characters are doing bad and stupid things which brings them into trouble. Violence and funny scenes are frequently trading places. I enjoyed the great John Malkovich as an overstrained backwater sherif and Billy Bob Thornton as local businessman and would be father in law. Oliver Platt as a postal inspector "from the capital city" also was fun to watch. But the star of the movie is Michael Stuhlbarg as the inscrutable "Derby Milton", a character which will stay in the memories of his audience for a while.

The year had some good movies which didn`t belong into these genres:
"A Most Violent Year": The film tells the story of Abel, an ambitious entrepreneur, who has big plans as local oil seller, & Anna, his equally ambitious wife and business partner. The movie is a fascinating portray of a fast social climber and self-made man, who is surrounded by a viscous environment. The film is set in New York City in the year 1981 as crime ruled the streets and oil prices peaked, paralyzing the economy. Oscar Isaac radiates the aplomb and self-confidence someone needed in this times to survive. The gorgeous Jessica Chastain plays his perfect partner against crime.

"The Diary of a Teenage Girl": Minnie, age 15, has sex with her mother´s boyfriend, who is almost 40. The movie ignores the legal aspects of this relationship and focuses instead on the feelings of the girl . Minnie is smart and sexual very curios, but also very frustrated and neglected, because nature didn`t bless her with beauty. She tries to compensate her minority complexes, to escape the tristesse of her white trash home and to satisfy her hunger for life with a vigorous sex life. The movie, set in San Francisco´s liberal hippie climate in the 1970th, is an entertaining psychological study about coming of age and the issues of a teenage girl. Director Marielle Heller, who also wrote the script, wasn`t shy of sex scenes and nudity, but the amorous parts were well dosed and necessary for the plot.

2015 was also a good year for the French cinema that delivered at least 3 marvels:

"The New Girlfriend/Une Nouvelle Amie"- a kind of melancholic comedy about people who are getting confronted by their own sexuality. The film touches in a playful way issues like friendship & gender identity. There are similarities to films like  "Farewell My Concubine", the movies by Pedro Almodóvar and the Amazon series "Transparent"  but "Girlfriend" is much more subtle and filigree. The film is sometimes funny and hilarious, but also gives something to think about.

 "The Clouds of Sils Maria": Juliette Binoche impersonates an international movie star, who accepts again a role in a prestigious stage play, where she had kickstarted her career in her youth. Then this character had played the seductive assistant and lover of a ripe woman, who drove the other one to suicide, now she is cast in the role of the elder. The switch causes her a lot of doubts & and inner turmoils. Kristen Stewart plays her assistant. The movie - partly set in the awesome photographed mountain region of the Swiss Alps - moves very slow and focuses on the dialogues between 2 smart women. Psychological & philosophical conversations and musings about aging, relationships (between women), life strategies, theater business and much more replace action.

"In The Name Of My Daughter/L'homme qu'on aimait trop": The film shows a conflict between Renée, who controls a grandiose casino at at the French Mediterranean coast, and her daughter Agnès. The younger woman wants to get her heritage, some million euros, paid out immediately. Maurice, a very smart and unconscionable lawyer, gets involved in this struggle and a dangerous mess starts which spans over 3 decades. The movie is a love story, court drama & business thriller and tells about sex, obsession, betrayal, organized crime, justice - and maybe murder. Catherine Deneuve enthralled with her beauty; Adèle Haenel impressed by her intensity, acting like a wild & irrational animal in heat, driven by her craving & lust, totally out of control.

Even with very low expectations - "Star Wars - The Force Awaken" didn´t work for me. The plot is a masterpiece in senselessness. But lots of funny robots, funny flying things, funny animals and funny people who where constantly chasing each other or running away kept me awake. There was heavy fighting with light sabers, so heavy that sometimes the snow began to cook. And every third minute or so something exploded, the earth opened and some planet fell apart.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Economy: The Negativity Cult

(Drivebycuriosity) - It seems there is a cult around the 2008 crisis. Even that the recession ended in spring 2009 and the stock market gained more than 200%, the meltdown still dominates the headlines and a new Hollywood comedy celebrates the "heroes" who´s bets had worsened the crisis.

I worked then for an online service in Germany and wrote frequently stock market and financial news. Shortly after the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, which brought huge gains for short sellers, groups of hedge fund managers and other short sellers tried to repeat their success.  They borrowed stocks from a brokers, sold the papers immediately in the hope to buy back for a much lower price. Others bought CDS, financial constructions which were bets on the bankruptcy of a company.  In the months after Lehman´s fall herds of hedge funds and their followers attacked everyone who seemed vulnerable - almost any bank had to be saved. Federal Reserve member Richard Fisher (Dallas Fed President) described these attackers as " big money" that "does organize itself somewhat like feral hogs. If they detect a weakness or a bad scent, they go after it."(marketwatch).

These massive bets against banks and many other companies destroyed not just the trust into the attacked firms, these bets destroyed the trust into the whole economy. Bankruptcies and tumbling stock prices seem to confirm those attacks. The destruction of trust lead to spiral of pessimism that almost sucked the whole economy into the vortex of a depression. In spring 2009 massive stimulus programs (QE) and a zero interest policy stopped finally the downward spriral.

But years after the crisis the distrust is still around. The pessimist zeitgeist still rules. People who allegedly "saw it coming" own a huge following and crash prophets are still en vogue. There is a cult around doom & gloom gurus like John Hussman. In 2011 the fund manager announced an US recession (businessinsider) and repeated his recession call in 2012 (businessinsider). In August 2013 Hussman predicted that the US stock market will crash soon (businessinsider) and he repeated his crash call in August 2014 (businessinsider). Hussman has still a lot of devote followers - in spite his awful performance. Henry Blodget is one of Hussman´s chearleaders. In July 2014 the founder & CEO of influential website business insider also announced a stock market crash following Hussman´s arguments. Marc Faber is another member of the doom & gloom club. The perma- pessimist, who is still worshipped,  predicted for 2014 a stock market crash that should be worse than the crash of 1987 ( cnbc).

There also is a cult around short sellers like William Ackman. The hedge fund manager is betting massively against Herbalife, a producer and seller of nutritional supplements, which he wants to destroy (driveby).  The media eagerly multiply and advertise the strategies of short sellers like Ackman, Chanos & Co., giving them the power to influence the stock market (talking stock price down). Even when the short sellers do nothing illegal they can inflict a lot harm by spreading  rumors and allegations which can ruin the reputation of a company and thus irritate customers, creditors, investors and employes and so inflict damage on the company.

The naysayers, downers & prophets of gloom are courted by "New York Times", "The Guardian", "Bloomberg", "Business Insider" and Co and the majority of the popular bloggers, they all link to each other. The negativity cult is irrational in the face of the progress the world has been making (bloombergview  spectator). In the US the number of new jobs and wage are rising and the weekly jobless claims dropped on the lowest level since 40 year. The cult of pessimism is at least irritating investors and potential employees and creating a headwind for the economy.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Economy: An Overlooked Reason For The 2008 Crisis

(Drivebycuriosity) - The financial crisis from 2008 still rules the headlines. I am aware that the financial meltdown was partly caused by the bursting housing bubble that lead to a chain reaction of bank crashes.

                                              The Super Storm Effect

But I think there is another reason for the severe recession: The oil price spike from 2007/08 (chart below). I think both causes, the crashing housing market and the oil shock, worked together and merged into a perfect storm. This is the term used by meteorologists: 2 bad weather systems come together and amplify each other. Take for instance Super Storm Sandy that devastated parts of New York City in 2012. Then a hurricane, coming from the south, merged with a weather system coming from north: "A storm like Sandy would normally be losing steam as it moved into colder, less energetic waters..however, a trough of low pressure dipping down from the Arctic is feeding the hurricane, actually strengthening its intensity as it moves northward" commented one meteorologists  (livescience).

From summer 2007 through July 2008 the oil price spiraled from about $50 to $147! A study by Prof. James Hamilton (University of California, San Diego) shows this oil price shock turned the economic slowdown into a severe recession (econbrowser).: "The oil price increase over 2007:H2-2008:H1 should be regarded as a key development that turned the slowdown in growth into a recession" (archives).

Other researchers came to the same results: "Oil prices played a role in eventually bursting the US subprime bubble....In 2003, the average suburban household spent $1,422 a year on gasoline, which rose to $3,196 in 2008 (oilprice). "Rising household energy prices constrained household budgets and increased mortgage delinquency rates" (oilprice). Low income suburban homeowners suffered most from the rising gas prices.  Poor homeowners are called "subprime" and their delinquencies are known as "subprime crisis."

The 2007/08 oil shock wasn´t an exception. The chart below shows that oil price spikes were regularly followed by more or less severe recessions. For instance Opec`s oil embargo in the 1970s caused severe recessions and in 190/91 an oil price spike caused by the first Iraq war was followed by another recession. Rising oil and high prices from 2009/14 slowed the global economy down but a recession could be avoided thanks to zero interest policy and the massive QE programs of the Fed.

                                                           Herding Behavior

The question is - why did oil prices spike in 2008 when the US economy already was slowing down?

There were several reasons:

1. The begin of the Iran sanctions in 2006 and the sharpening of the conflict in the following years  - especially the curbing of Iranian oil exports - lead to a sharp rise of oil prices in the years 2007 and 2008  (   youtube).  Speculation on a possible war against Iran - which could disturb oil supply significantly - fanned the oil price spiral further.

2. Some Opec members reduced oil production because of homemade problems. Venezuela cut off oil sales to ExxonMobil during a legal battle over nationalization of the company’s properties there and oil production in Nigeria was shut down thanks to oil worker strikes and terror attacks (

3. Investing in oil was fashionable. Hundreds of hedge funds, specialized commodity funds and others invested into oil in the hope of further rising prices. They bought directly - or indirectly via ETFs & bank certificates - financial contracts (futures) which are backed by oil (financialization). So oil became an asset which is traded on financial markets like stocks, currencies and bonds. The financialization process pumped billions of dollars into oil futures and created an additional demand for oil which drove prices upwards. Rising prices allured more speculators who followed just the trend (momentum players) leading to a snow ball effect. And Goldman Sachs called an oil price of $200!.

In 2008 I worked  for a German online service covering financial & commodity news. There was a huge demand for "oil news" because many readers (users) had invested in oil. Many believed in the peak oil theory, which claimed that the world will soon run out of oil and its price can only go up. They also set bets on geopolitical risks, the above mentioned Iran an other conflicts, that should make oil even more scarce and expensive. And in the first half  of 2008 banks recommend to invest in oil as an insurance against falling stock prices! Many speculators followed the advice and their purchases drove the oil price higher - the herding behavior worked as a self-fulfilling prophecy for a while. So  losses on the stock market fueled the oil price spiral - till the oil price bubble finally burst.

Conclusion: I think that the 2008 crisis was an odd accident caused by an oil shock (Iran conflict, commodity speculation, peak oil theory, herding behavior) in combination with severe bank problems created by the bursting housing bubble. Something like that could happen again,  but I believe that the probability is low.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Stock Market: Worshipping The Wrong God

(Drivebycuriosity) - "The stock market is worshipping the wrong god", says Jim Cramer (alpha). The CNBC host hit the nail on the head. The US stock market is fixed on the price oil. Today Dow Jones & S&P 500 again closed in the red "pressured by another downdraft in oil prices", writes Reuters (reuters marketwatch). In the recent weeks dropping oil prices (today minus 3%) regularly were accompanied by falling stocks.

The bonding between stocks and oil doesn´t make sense. If the stock market would respond rational, then falling oil prices would cause rising stocks. History shows that cheaper oil is positive for the global economy.

In the year 1986 happened a similar oil price collapse. Then Saudi Arabia flooded the markets - as they do today - to get rid of their competitors  (wsj this link has a paywall.You can bypass by copying the link into google). "In late 1985, Saudi Arabia abandoned its swing-producer role, increased production, and aggressively moved to increase market share" (freerepublic). The sudden oil flood caused the oil price to collapse from $30 to $10 (minus 70%  morganstanley). After the 1986`s oil crash followed a period of relatively cheap oil and other commodities till around 2003 (chart below).

 The oil price collapse didn´t cause a recession. The US economy grew in the years 1986 & 1987 each 3.5% (annual GDP growth) and accelerated to 4.2% in 1988 (worldbank). In the period 1985 through 2000 cheap commodities in combination with falling interest rates and a technological revolution (Internet) induced a period of prosperity (with the exception of 1992 as the first Iraq war caused an oil price spike which caused a mild and short-lived recession), the longest boom in U.S. history (factcheck).

The recent oil price collapse - and the oil crash from 1986 - work like a global tax cut. Consumers world wide have more money to spend for other goods & services. Companies  have less cost for energy & materials. And dropping energy prices translate into lower transport costs which makes almost anything cheaper. Food prices drop as well because transport costs are lower and farmers spend less for diesel (tractors, harvesters). Lower prices for other commodities like iron, steel, aluminium and like reduce the cost to produce cars, bridges, airplanes, harvester significantly.

I suppose that the global economy will respond posetively to cheap commodity prices and the stock market rally will restart.

PS I am aware that in the years 2009-2014 stocks & oil prices climbed together. But this was an exception. Zero interest rates and QE programs fueled the appetite for risky assets in general. I expect that the markets will be more selective in the future and commodities will stay cheap because the technological progress will encourage supply (fracking) and curb demand.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Economy/Oil: Forget Opec - Meet The California Cartel

(Drivebycuriosity) - There is a global oil flood, oil prices are falling and people pay much less for gasoline, diesel and heating oil   - but not in California. In the Golden State gas prices have been climbing recently again - contrary to the national and global trends. Today Californians pay on average  $2.82 per  barrel, about 40% more than the national average ($2.00 fuelgaugereport ). Californian gas costs 12 cents more than a month ago - in spite of the worldwide falling energy prices (gasbuddy). It´s hard to believe, but the current Californian gas price is 15 cents higher than at Christmas 2014.

The oil refining industry claims that the high prices were caused by "state regulations, trouble with imports and an outage at a major refinery" ( latime). California requires a special mix of oil distillates and taxes gas higher than other states to protect the environment. The industry also claims that "unplanned refinery outages" are reducing the supply unexpectedly (mercurynews). But in the face the recent sharp rise of the Californian gas price these explanations sound fishy. Reuters & The Los Angeles Times report that at least one big oil tanker got detoured from California to Mexico to get there a higher price for the load (reuters  latimes).

This behavior reminds of Opec when the cartel had still control over oil. The organization was founded in the 1960s. Purpose: To keep oil scarce to hold the price up - like a monopolist would do. In the 1970s Opec cut oil production sharply to punish the West for Israel´s Yom Kippur war. Oil became rare and expensive what caused at least two recessions and a decade of economic stagnation and high inflation rates.

It seems that the California cartel is taking advantage of the global oil flood by restricting gas supply in California. So the cartel earns there high prices and stellar profits - in spite of the global oil deluge. Forget Opec - meet the California cartel.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Science Fiction: In Situ

(Drivebycuriosity) - Many science fiction stories deal with aliens. They often describe how humans  encounter extraterrestrial lifeforms or discover alien artifacts. These encounters resemble the discoveries made by archaeologists. Editor Carry Cuinn had the idea to curate an anthology with stories that combine fictional archeology with alien encounters: "In Situ" (amazon).

The 15 collected stories (together 250 pages) reach from hard science fiction, based on scientific and plausible assumptions, to pure fantasy and horror. I have two favorites:

 "Jewel of Tahn-Vinh" by R.S. Hunter. A lonely captain of a space ship, that collects salvage, makes a dangerous found. Pure science fiction and thrilling.

The other favorite is "You always have the Burden with you" by Ken Liu. Researchers are evaluating an alien city on a planet far away. A woman, who is an economist and an expert in tax accounting, has her own insights. One of the very rare hard science fiction stories that include a pinch of economics. Priceless! Liu is an American writer, born in China, and one of the rising stars in the world of science fiction.

 I also enjoyed:

 "Recovery" by Jason Andrew. The story combines science fiction with pure horror, 

"Donning the Helm" by Dawn Vogel, "The Dig" by David J. West, "Seed" by Bear Weite & "Vessels of Clay, Flesh, and Stars" by Mae Empson are all solid exotic horror/mystery in the tradition of  H.P. Lovecraft. "Relevant Information From The Tel Naiman Site" by Kelly C. Stiles belongs into the same category, but has some dry humor.

"The Stone" by Rebecca Lloyd is a somewhat creepy combination of a mystery with a psychological study of a solitary man.

In the moment of writing the Kindle version is sold for $3.99 (amazon). This a very nice price for a solid selection of science fiction, horror & mystery.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Movies: Star Wars - The Force Awakens

(Drivebycuriosity) - There is a huge cult around "Star Wars" - or is it already a religion? Being an economist I am impressed by the box office records. I had to watch it.

I saw "Star Wars - The Force Awaken" in Imax 3D (imdb). The plot is a masterpiece in senselessness. But lots of funny robots, funny flying things, funny animals and funny people who where constantly chasing each other or running away kept me awake. There was heavy fighting with light sabers, so heavy that sometimes the snow began to cook. And every third minute or so something exploded, the earth opened and some planet fell apart.

In the row below me I saw a man with a toddler in his arms. The kid tried to grab the things that seemingly were flying around it.  Maybe "Star Wars" caters the child in all of us.

PS Some artist had a funny idea for a future "Star Wars" movie. I couldn´t resist.

Contemporary Art: Best Of New York`s Gallery Shows 2015

(Drivebycuriosity) - 2015 was a good year for the world of contemporary art. New York City, which has hundreds of art galleries, presented a flood of impressive art show. It was so much fun to discover different styles and ideas and I was impressed by the variety of concepts, styles and techniques. Many exhibtions were on the rapidly gentrifying Lower East Side, which is getting more and more a strong contender to Chelsea.

Here are my favorites from New York´s gallery shows 2015, as usual a very subjective selection.

Some say there is a trend to figurative paintings. Maybe so, at least there were some shows with gorgeous figurative paintings. Above you can see works by Marchal Mithouard a.k.a Shaka seen @ Gallery Nine 5 in New York´s Soho district (24 Spring Street gallery). The show was called "Onde De Choc", meaning shock wave.

Marc Strauss (299 Grand Street marcstraus ) also had a fascinating show. They dispalyed works by Entang Wiharso, the first exhibiton of works by the Indonesian artist in New York.

The gallery Garis & Hahn & on Manhattan´s traditional Bowery (garis) presented "Time to Speak a Human Language" by William Buchina. The artist, who graduated in communications design in 2001, had over the course of his career collected materials from books, the web, and corners of attics. He arranged his collections to collages which he used as models for the paintings shown in this exhbition. The paintings, which are all called  "Time to Speak a Human Language" (with a distinguishing number) are mostly acrylic on canvas. You can see influences from surrealism and from pop art.


Lisa Yuskavage is considered as one of the most talented female visual artists of her generation (wikipedia). and known for her "sapphic dreamworlds" (observer). The gallery David Zwirner showed new works by Yuskavage @ their dependance on 533 West 19th Street in Chelsea  (through June 13, 2015 davidzwirner).

                                                         Empire Of The Senseless 

Gallery Friedman Benda (friedman) exhibited "Kathy Acker Empire of the Senseless". The title of the show refers to the Punk author Kathy Acker and her 1988 novel "Empire of the Senseless".  I chose Natalie Frank`s painting "Women in Interior" (2015, Oil on canvas) plus  another work by this artist - certainly not the usual chicken wings.

At Foley Gallery (59 Orchard foley)  I saw works by the German artist Simon Schubert: "Multa Nocte . Above this paragraph you can see his   "Untitled (Poe House  Balitmore)", (2015, Graphite on paper), followed by "Untitled (Poe House Boston)", (2015, Graphite on paper) 

It seems that portraits are still en vogue. Gallery Lesley Heller Workspace on Lower East Side (54 Orchard Street lesleyheller) had a focused group exhibition, called "Who, a look at contemporary portraiture". Above you can see "Patents, Garuda, and the Meltdown" by Rhonda Wall (Acrylic and collage on board) followed by Caroline Larsen`s "Self portrait After Matisse" (2014, Oil on canvas).

Jeffrey Deitch  (76 Grand Street ) had works by Cameron (through October 17 2015 deitch.): "Cinderella Of The Wastelands".

At a tiny place on New York`s Broome Street I found an interesting pop-up show organized by the Verse Collective.

                                                                  Pure Magic

But abstract paintings were still alive and kicking:

The gallery McKenzie Fine Art (55 Orchard mckenziefineart ) displayed works by Amy Myers. The exhibition is called "Spectral Bond, Light as Spiral".

Some paintings are pure magic. For instance the works by Eric Freeman I saw @ Launch F18 (94 Allen Street, launchf18). Like many contemporary artists. Freeman is experimenting with new techniques and material. As the gallery describes, "to add new depth to this body of work, he paints with a layered method of combining oil and "high tech pigments of the modern age."  Layer upon layer of medium creates a new textured surface from which light refracts, allowing the light to reverberate between each layer.  With this process and the tactile nature of Freeman's materials, illusion and 3D holographic images seem to form".

At Jane Lombard Gallery ( 518 West 19th Street  anelombard) I saw an exhibition of works by Sarah Dwyer, called "Sunk Under"

 Eleven Rivington (195 Christie Street 11rgallery) had an exhibition of works by Jackie Saccocccio called "Degree of Tilt". Their press release describes Saccocccio`s technique as "manipulating the alchemical qualities of liquid pools, via-a-vis tipping, dragging and shaking the large-scale works over one another".

The Chelsea  gallery Chambers Fine Art   (522 West 19th Street  chambers ) specializes in contemporary Chinese art. Above new works by Zhao Zhao, called "Constellations II" . The show is based on an experiment where guns where used to shoot on glass. The paintings (all oil on canvas) are painstaking reconstructions of what occurred when bullets penetrated glass.

Marc Strauss Gallery on 299 Grand Street had works by Hermann Nitsch, an ambitious artist with a wild history (artnews).- a survey of three decades of painting

Galery Richard  (121 Orchard Street galerierichard ) exhibited paintings by Joseph Nechvatal, called "Odyssey pandemOniom". The press release explained: "The centrality of his oeuvre revolves around computer-generated viruses that he created in C++ in collaboration with programmer Stephane Sikora. In his paintings, the computer virus surfaces as the active agent which manipulates and corrupts the information stored in the image (the host), decreasing its integrity. This corruption allows Nechvatal to use the virus as a painting implement; therefore it can be viewed as a constructive, creative process".

                                        The Beauty Of Raw Power

Even that I prefer paintings I spotted some sculptures I really enjoyed:

I am fascinated by Richard Serra and I indulge into his often massive works which display the sheer beauty of raw power. David Zwirner had a gorgeous Serra exhibition @ their Manhattan dependance on 537 West 20th Street (davidzwirner): "Equal" (2015). There you could see  8 identical blocks of forged weatherproof steel, each: 60 x 66 x 72 inches (152,4 x 167,6 x 182,9 cm). These cubes were installed in 4 stacks: 2 blocks each, each stack: 11 feet (3,4m) high.

Gallery Lehmann Maupin`s  (lehmannmaupin)  show "Future Seasons Past" dispalyed artworks  by LIU WEI (2013, books, wood, iron, and hardware).