Games are often used as metaphors for life. Whether recreation or competition, they condition players to enjoy the buzz and endure the struggle, to brave the painful upset of loss and savor the short-lived exhilaration of winning. Captivated by this rise and fall, Brooklyn-based artist Luke O’Halloran is interested in the sport and symbols of risk, chance, and possibility. From infinitely spinning slot machines to flurries of playing cards thrown into the air, his work often freezes fleeting moments in a blur of movement. But there are quieter examples too. Featured here, O’Halloran’s pencil-drawn portraits show scenes of friends building houses of cards, each filled with a sense of mounting tension that signifies the fragility of life.
“It is impossible to pose them, and I don’t interrupt or ask for a pause,” O’Halloran explains. He doesn’t stage the scenes either. Instead, he spreads a deck of cards out on a table and lets the sitter begin building while he snaps reference photos. In these tableaux, the subjects seem suspended in trance-like superposition, imagining a range of possibilities as they delicately select placements. Focus and finesse are key, and commitment to each moment must be unwavering, or the cards will fall. Once translated into drawings, the resulting portraits are gracefully understated. Each balances an economy of careful lines with tight details scrupulously inscribed through spare hatch marks, exacting the defining features and gestures of each participant with a pared-down complexity.
“Liz & Kenny building a house of cards” (2022). …
While their spectral iridescence is reminiscent of gasoline splashed on pavement or the psychedelic images made by infrared cameras, Caitlin Cherry’s recent paintings are actually inspired by a phenomenon of glitching LCD screens. A few years ago, Cherry noticed that when looking from the side, at a slant, the colors on her laptop screen would begin to invert, a process better known to photographers as solarization. Depending on the adjusted level of color distortion, a figure with brown skin appearing a shade of deep orangey bronze might flip, changing to the hue most its opposite on the color wheel, an alienoid blue. Translating pixels into paint, Cherry experimented with imitating this inversion, developing the signature kaleidoscopic style that characterizes her portraits of Black women, many of them luminaries like Cardi B. and Dominique Jackson. The effect is a visual dissonance, the chaotic layering of multiple disagreeing lenses, offering an expressionistic line up of pop culture provocateurs who have helped redefine femininity and the limits of self-transformation. “Black women have never sat comfortably in an idea of what female-ness is,” the Richmond-based artist asserts, “Even if they don’t realize, they are playing by a set of queer politics.”
Cherry often pulls her source material from the latest movies, TV, music videos, award shows, and social media. “I’m frantically archiving because the pace of culture has sped up,” she laughs, “the overturn is quicker than it used to be.” She is interested in the noise of niche celebrity culture — fleeting, marginal fame, people becoming commodities, perpetual social performance — how tech trends seem to be establishing a broad landscape of new role models, resulting in a less streamlined sense of normal or natural. …
Legends of Drag tells the tale of 79 “queens of a certain age” across the U.S. Brooklyn icon, Charlene, shares her thoughts along with some legendary portraits.
Michael R. Jackson used to work as a Broadway usher mere blocks away from where his new musical, A Strange Loop, is running at the Lyceum Theater. His show, which won the Tony Award for Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical, was in development for 18 years, and what began as a one-person monologue gradually evolved into a full musical production. After garnering rave reviews during its Off-Broadway run at Playwrights Horizons in 2019, winning a Pulitzer for drama in 2020, and attracting a star-studded roster of producers, like Jennifer Hudson, Alan Cumming, and RuPaul (to name a few), A Strange Loop opened on Broadway in April 2022.
Jackson is from Detroit, Michigan, and came to New York City as an undergrad to study playwriting at NYU. To walk down 7th Avenue with him now is surreal, in part because of the ubiquity of banner ads for A Strange Loop. Look down every single street near Times Square and you’ll see them fluttering overhead, purple and orange, like a fabulous series of sunsets right above the traffic. As we weave around tourists and taxis, I ask if he’s used to the feeling yet of seeing his work celebrated like this, he replies, “used to?” and chuckles to himself.
A Strange Loop is about Usher, a big Black queer Broadway usher who’s about to turn 26. Usher is writing a musical about a Black queer Broadway usher named Usher who’s writing a musical, and finds himself caught in a series of loops born of his own self-perceptions. …
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Valentin Amour doesn’t want to be pinned down — figuratively, at least. Born in a small town near the west coast of France, the 29-year-old was trained as a ballet dancer until shirking the art form in their early twenties. Any who have recently encountered the performer through social media, Onlyfans, or scenes for Lucas Entertainment will understand that Amour’s appeal requires little explanation. With a penchant for jockstraps and an ever-arched back, they’ve captured the attention of hundreds of thousands.
The theatrical moniker “Valentin Amour” is a marriage between the performer’s given name, Valentin, and their pseudonym “Amour” — chosen with help from their mentor, Austin Wolf. Beyond its ring, Amour was drawn to the the name for its campy allusions to sex and romance and representation of Amour’s heritage.
Despite the relatively conservative climate in which they were raised, as a child Amour was free to express their sexuality. Like many, they found joy in playing dress-up with their mother’s frocks, fashioning makeshift nails, and dancing ballet. After taking weekly classes in their hometown, they attended a boarding school and later a conservatory for dance in their early teens. At 20, after completing a masters in contemporary dance, they joined a professional ballet company with a focus on modern techniques like Martha Graham. However, Amour’s ballet career was short-lived. After one year dancing professionally, they felt bored by the discipline’s petty politics and quickly left ballet.
In the years that followed, they found their footing as a porn star. …
It is impossible to ignore Ocean Vuong’s accolades: He’s won a MacArthur Genius Grant, a Whiting Award, the T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry, and in 2019 his novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous was long-listed for the National Book Award while spending several weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list. His lyrical name is recognized outside of the literary circuit. Only so many authors are; many of them dead. That is to say, Ocean is not in the company of many contemporaries. While the ‘public intellectual’ has been called an endangered species, Ocean is one of the few we have writing today. This is more surprising given his lack of a Twitter presence, where writers often gain popularity for pontificating on anything and everything. Still Ocean, earning continued praise for his deft craftsmanship, is rarely far from the literary conversation. He is a writer’s writer — most comfortable at his desk, mulling over the pliability and banality of language.
Ocean broke out in 2016 with his debut collection of poetry Night Sky With Exit Wounds (Copper Canyon Press).. He enjoyed critical success and more. Fashion magazines, fashion brands, and even Netflix came knocking. Ocean, his star-ascendant, has made, and is making, poetry cool again.
Time Is A Mother, Ocean’s second collection of poems, arrives at a very different moment. While she lived long enough to see her son’s phenomenal success, in November 2019, Ocean’s mother passed away. She figures prominently in his first books as the central pillar of his matriarchal, immigrant family. …
In the heart of England is Corby, an old steel town, which painter Ryan Driscoll calls “the epitome of the color gray.” Since childhood, Driscoll was forced into the dutiful British pleasure of reading Shakespeare, and despite his dyslexia, fell in love with the stories. Occasional trips to the National Gallery in London inspired his tendency toward the mythological melodrama and old-school flare of the museum’s massive allegorical oil paintings, and when at home, he grew up watching old Hollywood films. “I’ve probably seen Cleopatra about ten times through,” he admits. Modeling for his own paintings, Driscoll has become something of a performer, assuming a range of characters — monsters, witches, warriors, queens, fairies, deities. It’s fantasy through a queer lens, somehow sweet but also dry, outrageous and campy at the same time as it’s gentle and unrelentingly romantic. Cindy Sherman meets William Blake, Michael Powell meets Max Ernst, Bronzino meets Joseph Campbell — Driscoll offers his own spin on traditional iterations of the hero and villain, becoming a shape-shifter for an assembly of elegantly surreal dramatizations.
Mostly working in oil and watercolor, Driscoll is largely self-taught, his pseudo-Mannerist style highly informed by observation. “No one else uses the technique I use, and they probably shouldn’t,” he laughs. “I’ve got a feeling it’s not economically or logistically sound.” Only a few of his friends are artists, and he feels mostly on the outside of the current vogue of figurative painting in the art world. He spends most of his time painting and sees social media as a way to get eyes on his work. …
Back in September 2010, we suggested in our weekly newsletter to go outside for a bike ride around NYC — in your underwear. You feel a bit silly at first, but once that passes, it becomes great fun — you'll feel somewhat liberated. Embrace your inner-exhibitionist and explore the city like you never have before. Go outside and show some skin. As long as your junk stays in the trunk, you'll be fine. 12 years later we decided to ask a few friends to experience the feeling of riding a bike in just a white brief.
Oliver Sim is best known as one third of the xx, a band he formed with schoolmates Romy Madley Croft and Jamie Smith when they were in their teens, living in Wandsworth, London. Their stripped back musical style and lovelorn lyrics complemented by Oliver and Romy’s distinctive vocals made them critical darlings. Their first album released in 2009 became a commercial hit, reaching number three on the U.K. album charts. Two more albums followed along with years of touring. While Romy and Oliver were both open about their sexuality, Oliver never used male pronouns in lyrics to suggest same-sex desire until his recent solo debut, Hideous Bastard (2022). In the album he ventures into even more revealing territory, declaring in the last line of the song “Hideous” that he has been living with H.I.V. since he was 17. This admission is one of many on the album, which draws inspiration from horror films, and while pondering deeper themes is still joyous and musically unbridled. Produced by bandmate Jamie xx, the album sets a high bar for all involved. We chatted with Oliver this May, right before he was about to leave for a scheduled U.S. tour that was unfortunately delayed because of a covid outbreak in his band. Oliver was open, friendly, and more than ready to kick off this new chapter of his life.
How are you doing? I’m good. I’ve just been in the countryside visiting my bandmate Romy.
Oh, nice. How was the shoot with Wolfgang [Tillmans who photographed Oliver for this story]? …