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Posts Tagged ‘Toby Goodshank

“3 Men and a Baby”: When Macaulay Culkin Forms an Art Collective with Adam Green, Toby Goodshank

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In the living room of Macaulay Culkin’s New York City apartment, canvases occupy the space like so many peculiar yet  irresistibly magnetic house guests.  The room—converted into an art studio—is congested with the vestiges of creativity at work:  bottles of paint huddle together in bunches, and paintbrushes spring up like wild vegetation.

What began in earnest in February 2012 as collaborative art-making between Culkin and two artist-musician friends Adam Green and Toby Goodshank—both formerly of the anti-folk band  The Moldy Peaches—has coalesced into an art collective affectionately dubbed  Three Men and a Baby, or 3MB.  The collective’s first art show, a group of  frenetic, eclectic, and irreverent paintings entitled Leisure Inferno, opens at Le Poisson Rouge (LPR)  in New York’s Greenwich Village on Thursday, September 13.

The 3MB Collective: Macaulay Culkin, Adam Green, and Toby Goodshank; photo by Dima Dubson.

As the title of the exhibition suggests, the prevailing motivation behind the making of the paintings was fun.  That motivation naturally lent itself to a work environment rooted in playful camaraderie.  Culkin—who goes by the name “Mack”—explains the open-ended process of beginning a painting:  “We would take two or three words—‘disco’…’luau’…’Hellraiser’—and we’d all just kind of giggle about that.   ‘Alright, let’s do it.’  We have no idea really what it’s going to look like, or what our grand vision is, but we would have a good old laugh and just go for it.  And I think the results speak for themselves in a certain kind of way.”

Hellraiser Disco Luau; 5′ 6 1/2″ X 5′ 5 1/2″; acrylic, mixed media on canvas. Photo by Dima Dubson.

The collaborative dynamic at work, while much more common in music, is rare in visual art.  “Certainly we all have different techniques but we found it fun to paint together at the same time, explains Green.  “Just literally three people standing in front of the canvas with paintbrushes and painting at the same time.”  Perhaps this distinctive process can be linked to the brotherly bond between the artists.  “The connection I feel with them is pretty extraordinary,” says Goodshank.  “It’s lovely to get together with them all the time.”

The show is populated with canvases wrought with wild colors ranging from bright quasi-fluorescents to darker, muddier hues; the style of shapes and brushstrokes vary with each new figure in the painting.  Most of the works either incorporate multimedia collage or strongly hint at it.  In “Hellraiser Disco Luau,”  the cartoon-inspired pig and mouse do the hula near a grass-skirt-wearing Pinhead and a highly abstract , serpentine version of Garfield—all underneath a glittering disco ball, ocean-side.  While this hyperactive melange of pop culture references and visual eye candy can be dizzying at first glance, a cohesiveness emerges amidst the seeming nonsensical and disparate elements.  “I think we took a slant with it where there were really no mistakes,” says Mack.  “There was nothing wrong with a piece.  I might have painted that corner differently  than him, but it looks right.  There are no mistakes in a show like this.”

Even with all the thematic non sequiturs and “low brow” imagery—and perhaps because of it—Three Men and a Baby seem acutely aware of their distinct interplay with highbrow art and the implications of that relationship.  Mack elaborates:

You go to the Met or something like that, and you see some of the paintings from the Renaissance era.  A lot of those were probably the most technically proficient paintings in the entire museum.  However, when you go to the Modern wing, they might not be as technically proficient, might not have as much skill—but those are the kind of things you want on your wall.  Well, what do we want to put on our wall?  It’s not necessarily about technique, it’s more about the ideas.   It’s more about just what you want to look at.

Green has a decidedly more tongue-in-cheek perspective.  “We didn’t have a lot to compare it to,” he says of 3MB. “We didn’t feel like we were competing with other three-men collaborative painting groups.”

The ideas in Leisure Inferno are zany, sometimes edgy, but brimming with satirical affection.    “RBI” portrays a baseball game in which Luigi pitches a fireball to former New York Yankee Don Mattingly.  Elsewhere, Mario  wanders through a gloomy expressionist landscape as Jean-Michel Basquiat and JonBenét Ramsay look on from distant perches in  “Jean Benet Basquiat.”

Jean Benet Basquiat; 24″ X 30″; Oil stick, acrylic on canvas. Photo by Lippe.

In “Cast of Seinfeld,” Jerry and Kramer stand on the set of “Wheel of Fortune” as they serve as nude models for the artists He-Man and Orko (Masters of the Universe).  While these fabricated scenes are undoubtedly bizarre, there was an intriguing layer of reality that only added to the surreality. “There was some awareness that even Mack could be in a Leisure Inferno painting, you know?” says Green.   “I think that is interesting.”

Cast of Seinfeld; Oil stick, acrylic on canvas; 6’ X 5’. Photo by Lippe.

The first manifestation of what would become the 3MB Collective goes back to 2010, during the making of Green’s independently made feature-length film The Wrong Ferrari.  Shot entire on an iPhone, the movie starred both Green and Culkin, with Goodshank shooting much of the film; all three collaborated on the set designs.  Featuring ample amounts of provocation and pop culture, thoughtfulness and blistering  self-awareness, the film was later made available for free online.  “[Leisure Inferno] was more of a holdover from making the film…And it was just like, ‘Why don’t we try to focus that into a group art show?” Culkin explains.  ”  ‘Why don’t we keep this momentum up, [this] creativity?’  Next thing you know we’re doing Leisure Inferno.”

For Culkin, Goodshank, and Green alike, this  art collective debut marks several milestones in their respective careers.  Goodshank, a skilled draughtsman who had previously worked primarily with pen and ink, was new to the medium of painting prior to the collaboration.  “I find that working with Mack and Adam, they’re constantly inspiring me and encouraging me,” says Goodshank of his foray into painting.   For Green—a voracious painter who has had two solo shows this year alone—Leisure Inferno represents his first official group exhibition.  The exhibition at Le Poisson Rouge will be Culkin’s public debut as visual artist.   Green  seems to sense an adventurous, risk-taking spirit inherent in the collective’s work. “ I do think that that attitude of just doing something for fun benefited the show a lot,” says Green.  “It allowed us to be prolific and to work without fear.”

The Leisure Inferno exhibition at LPR continues through December 15, 2012.

Dogs Playing Poker; Vinyl paint, mixed media on vinyl; 5’ ½” 7’ ¼”. Photo by Guy Eppel.

Written by winebrick41

September 5, 2012 at 4:06 pm

No Sleep ‘Till Berlin: Toby Goodshank and the Waking Dream of Truth Jump Fall (EXCLUSIVE–VIDEO PREMIERE)

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A Post-Post-Rock Exclusive! The video premiere of “The Journey Back Down Jump Truth Mountain,” directed by Nathan Gulick, from Toby Goodshank’s 2011 album Truth Jump Fall.  This premiere and subsequent review of Truth Jump Fall is the first in an in-depth series of three articles about the life, music, and visual art of Goodshank–a “TG Triptych,” essentially.

After amassing a more-than-substantial solo discography of over 15 albums (not to mention numerous other collaborations), in October 2011 singer-songwriter/NYC anti-folk mainstay Toby Goodshank released what would be his last solo record stateside before his forthcoming move to Berlin. At eight songs, this collection entitled Truth Jump Fall combines the length of an EP with the thoughtfulness and serious intent of a full-length.

The genesis of the album is an intriguing one.  After recurring nightmares related to the passing of his father a few years ago had subsided, Goodshank began to have a series of vivid dreams instead, from which Truth Jump Fall would emerge. Rather than dreaming narrative scenes, the artist envisioned melodies, lyrics, and instrumental passages. One gets the sense that Goodshank had no other choice but to sing these songs and document them for the world at large.

The video for Goodshank’s “The Journey Back Down Truth Jump Mountain”–directed by Nathan Gulick, with costume design by Liz Abbot–is a narrative snapshot of a young social outlier making her way down Hollywood Boulevard, an area Gulick refers to as “like a seedy shopping mall.”  “Toby mentioned to me that a lot of the writing of the album came from dream imagery so I wanted it to be dream-like, nightmare-ish [sic] really,” explains Gulick. “The back story is of someone that maybe got a little bit of a break, overplayed it and alienated her friends, moved to LA and then blew it, and ended up lost on Hollywood Blvd.”

In casting the video’s protagonist, Gulick explains the choice of Pepper Bridge:

We had a small casting session and found a couple actresses that looked cool but not rough and vulnerable like Pep. They had to be able to rock the Elvis shades (which were for a long time a Goodshank staple) without looking too ‘rockstar’ – they had to be more like they were a pose or a shield.

Pepper Bridge’s character is estranged from the world in which she finds herself, yet is undeterred by her troubled presence in it. She comes across as an extension of the characters that steadfastly trudge through Goodshank’s songs–the real-life embodiment of the experiences and feelings expressed in the music.

Produced, arranged, engineered, and mixed by Jack Dishel—a former bandmate with Goodshank in The Moldy Peaches—the album Truth Jump Fall is a group of tightly coiled, highly personal songs that showcase a solo artist brimming with maturity. There is a sweet vulnerability throughout, tempered with an unwavering resolve lying just under the surface. As with all Goodshank songs, the songwriter’s voice is the nucleus around which the other musical parts move. An endearing nasal tone that hints at The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy intertwines seamlessly with the melodic phrasing and corporeal lyrical sensibility of Jeff Mangum (formerly of Neutral Milk Hotel). The resulting alchemy yields a deceptive musical concoction with a rather paradoxical taste: an ethereal, nonthreatening mouth-feel at first sip, it finishes with raw earthiness. It’s all very bittersweet, and it works. A perfect encapsulation of this signature quality of the Toby Goodshank persona can be found in the opening lines of the album closer “My Reflection”:

Horrible companion, you mean to do me harm/Disenfranchised concubine, catch a bullet scar/ Within you, jacked off to the desert sand/ We’re both failures clutching ruined plans

Goodshank’s world is populated with weathered yet beautiful souls—his among them—mangled in their circumstance; but the artist’s take always avoids judgement. He is reverentially honest in his insightful takes on the fragile human psyche and its simultaneously conflicting emotional states, a fact evidenced even in song titles such as “Baby I Feel Like Just Got Cut in Half.” As stated in the incisive “Prelude to Fire,” an album highlight, the prevailing philosophy of the album seems to be “When truth collides with revisionist attitudes, we will not place blame, we will seek a higher plane.”

Given the melancholic focus of the singer’s words, this higher plane is in part only achievable through the potency of Goodshank’s musical accompaniment, with its carefully crafted combination of propellant power-chord riffs, and folksy “comfort food” finger-picking—which possess a kind of mystical life-affirming power of their own. In this way, what otherwise could have been pessimistic songcraft dominated by its indebtedness to the lyrical legacies of post-punk and grunge instead evinces a sobering hope without detracting from unwavering emotional realities.

The vitality of Jack Dishel’s contribution to the record can’t be overstated: he provides the bulk of the additional instrumentation with understated atmospherics and economical, somehow intimate arrangements that closely hug the minimalist, lo-fi songwriting of aesthetic of Goodshank.

Truth Jump Fall can be found at Toby Goodshank’s Bandcamp site.

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