Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Speed Reader

By Stephen Ausherman, Gaylon M. Parsons, Michael Henningsen, Captain Opinion

DECEMBER 7, 1998: 

Howl: The Artwork of Luis Jimenez
by Camille Flores-Turney (New Mexico Magazine Artist Series, cloth, $45)

Public artist Luis Jimenez is best known for his colorful fiberglass sculptures. Albuquerqueans are probably familiar with his Fiesta Dancers on the University of New Mexico campus. He combines traditional techniques with images from popular culture and "materials associated more with amusement parks than fine art museums." If you're like most people I know, you've grown tired of this Baroque lowrider aesthetic, claiming it resembles lawn decorations for Christmas, only bigger and more garish. But when this self-described cultural mongrel resurrects images from both sides of the borders, the results are not without controversy. The most fascinating part about this book is its descriptions of public outrage over works that most people I know find innocuous. For example, his equestrian sculpture, Vaquero, for downtown Houston seemed to cause much discomfort among Texans simply because it featured a Mexican with a gun. Howl works well as a study in cultural perceptions and misperceptions. It deserves a careful look. Even if you're not too fond of the work of Jimenez, look again. Chances are you've missed something. (SA)

The Unknown Matisse
by Hillary Spurling (Knopf, cloth, $40)

Before Matisse became the celebrated master of 20th century French painting, he lived the hand-to-mouth existence one might expect any young artist to live. Turn-of-the-century Paris, with its hustle and bustle on top and sordid student cellars on bottom, is rendered admirably well. The details of how Matisse managed, never having picked up a drawing pencil before 20, to convince his tyrannnical seed-merchant father to allow his son to move to Paris form the beginning of Hillary Spurling's engrossing biography. As she underscores, this work is light on art history and on art criticism, though there are enough color reproductions and black and white illustrations to make her points about the painter's development. The chewy center of this entertaining, intelligent biography is that tantalizing "unknown" in the title. Spurling has recaptured a bit of forgotten history; she effectively refreshes the collective memory. This tidbit also explains one of the more mysterious aspects of Matisse's progress, the so-called "dark period." This work is accessible, informative and inspiring. (GMP)

by Barney Hoskyns (Pocket Books, paper, $15)

It was bound to happen. While '70s glam rock can't yet be proclaimed as officially back, it's most certainly on deck. And that's thanks in no small part to Todd Haynes' recent film Velvet Goldmine, a fictional celluloid account of the rise and demise of British glitter rock. The trip back from the dead continues with author Barney Hoskyns' true-to-life document, Glam!

Beginning with a forward by Haynes, Glam! traces the peculiararity of the largely forgotten (or simply ignored) rock era in detailed chronology. Interviews with glam icons Lou Reed, David Johansen, Bryan Ferry, Brian Eno and others offer unique, in-the-moment glimpses of the age of excess as it applied to sexuality, social structure and music.

Hoskyns' does a fine job of balancing the mathematics of chronology with both the fruits of his pure research and insights from key people involved in the glam rock revolution. The book finally exposes the era for what it was: as important and influential as any before or after it. (MH)

Chaco Trilogy
by V.B. Price (La Alameda Press/University of New Mexico Press, paper, $12)

Don't waste 12 bucks on this series of long-winded, deadly serious poems about the holiness and spirituality of Chaco Canyon. Aside from the fact that it is incredibly thin--75 numbered pages with the poetry starting on page 21--it just isn't a good book. That's because Price isn't a very good poet. Oh, he's semi-skilled at this, but unlike truly great poets, his words are tinny, and they fail to inspire or burn themselves into your brain. The problem is that Price is a guy who's always looking for deep meaning in every rock, sunset, speck of dirt, drop of water and stink bug. The bigger problem is that in these poems, Price does find deep meaning in things like weeds and dust. Sometimes, V. B., rocks are just rocks and nothing more. Nothing holy and nothing precious. Another problem with this book is the grammatical experimentation that Prices uses. He starts stanzas and sentences and continues thoughts in the middle of lines so that some pages look like they were typed by someone in the middle of an epileptic fit. It gave me a headache. (CO)

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