Bryan Ida: The Language of Color

Bryan Ida works in layers. Layers of color, line, and meaning are all equally discernable in his new exhibition at George Billis Gallery, Echo and Line, running May 20th to July 2nd.

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Ida’s images create external shapes and a haunting, richly symbolic language. The Los Angeles-based artist’s background in electronic musical composition is reflected here, with paintings that evoke the visual frequencies on recording-studio monitors. There is a musical flow to the works, which the artist has said are meant to reveal the passage of time and the importance of memory.

In each of Ida’s works, the careful, adroit use of color and his perfect abstract shapes form a harmonious visual music. There is a sense of containment and a vibrant sense of aliveness in each of his images, as if beneath the surface the colors and lines could break free or transform. Ida is working with ideas of connectivity, of perfection and imperfection, of the complexity of life itself. One of the most interesting things about these paintings is how geometrically perfect they are, and yet there is the sense that each image was caught in a single moment of perfection, one which could shift into another form in a heart-beat or a breath.

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Working in acrylic and mixed media, Ida has created work that is subtle yet intense, images of renewal and change so precisely defined that there is a sense of both isolation and splendor. If these are evocations of memory and language as the artist suggests, then who is to say what secrets and inchoate longing are kept here; what we contemplate and what we can express.

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Examining the rich blues and greens of “Unseen and Unimaginable,” viewers are studying the thin, perfect lines of a strange bird, its skeletal wings and body spinning outward through a wheeling universe dotted with stars, planets, or perhaps the glow of tiny microbial creatures. This is all about motion, symmetrical lines in flight against a soft, somewhat unfocused, peacefully pulsating unknown world.

Similarly, in “Transient Layers and a Quickening Pulse,” we have what could be a layered city skyline above a pattern of dimensional, floating platforms and upright, thick lines which could themselves be towering skyscrapers. These images are themselves filled with tiny, pulsating shapes that remind the viewer of creatures in video games or Chinese calligraphy. These are the patterns of life, the raw essence a landscape contains, the formal shapes we have superimposed over them. Ida has painted an intricate, complex work from the hues of his palette to the shapes within shapes.
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The fluidity of Ida’s work seems to speak of transition, change, and a barely contained spirituality. In “Immersion,” there is what appears to be a beautifully textured puzzle of interlocking rounded wooden pieces in a gentle rainbow of colors. This could be a gate or a door, a maze of pipes, or merely an abstract pattern. Whatever it may be, it is marked by a bright central circle of light, a large clear spotlight that lightens the center of the painting like a portal illuminated within the circle of a flashlight’s beam. The title can be viewed as every meaning of the word: involvement – whether physically within a substance, or through the mind or culture; the teaching of a foreign language. Ida’s language here is not exactly foreign: it is familiar yet mysterious, somehow known and unknown.

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Two other artists share the George Billis gallery space with Ida. Taylor Montague’s “Oblique Views of Suburbia” offers wavering, beautifully glowing images of architecture in a beach-town environment. The coastal color palette from the gold light of the sun to the intense blue of the sky near the sea contrasts with sand-colored buildings and dark electric wires. This is the world of the California coast, and of dreams.

Gina Minichino takes intensely modern subjects such as Easter peeps and ketchup packets and renders them with the perfection of a Dutch still-life. Like Montague and Ida, Minichino also creates her own symbolic language, here through lush renderings of common images, infusing them with meaning.

I Spy: Espionage Tonight DWF20 Filmmaker Profile

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I spy…a lot of laughs and action in Rob Bralver’s Espionage Tonight, a wild, zany, dark, funny film that casts a spy thriller as a reality series. Bralver started out as an editor, transitioned to a writer/director and he’s now directed more films than he’s edited, but his sense of story is honed in the editing room, taut and well-paced.
“I always wanted to make a spy movie. My career prior to this film was in documentaries, and I became very familiar with the crafting of narratives and the business of entertainment. I noticed a lot of similarities between that world and the D.C. world of politics and espionage, which I’m equally fascinated by. There’s a lot of overlap between the two in terms of tradecraft. Sleight of hand, disguise, misdirection, PR, all kinds of tools where the only difference is the final product – entertainment or news. This movie was my way of exploring those parallels in hopefully a new and fun way, as we now live in a time where all the barriers and distinctions are gone. Facts, stories, recreations, policies – it’s a free for all, no matter your political orientation. While maybe that’s concerning in terms of possible real world repercussions, it’s also ripe for comedy,” Bralver says.
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Bralver’s previous work includes Cure For Pain: The Mark Sandman Story. “It’s a story about ambition, family, and loss. I learned a lot on that one, lessons that I expect served me well on everything going forward in work or life. There were very similar themes in Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton and Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia,” he relates. “It was not by design, but these very different stories and different people were all in their own way about outsider figures dealing with extreme loss and finding ways to overcome, and building new families and works to value to sort of reformat and re-strengthen their lives. Espionage Tonight was a departure from that kind of story on the surface, but I think at it’s core it’s the same thing on a different scale. The whole national landscape kind of needs to dust off the past and get a clean slate.”
That may sound heavy, but the film itself is pure fun. “Don’t worry too much about the details. Sit back and enjoy being lost for the ride. It’s meant as an impression of our new reality, where distinctions and exposition really don’t matter, lots of things never get resolved or never mattered to begin with, and the only resolution is probably getting on a boat and sailing away. I also hadn’t seen a movie like Airplane or Hot Shots in a while, and wanted us to have a new one. Don’t take it too seriously…but then think about it a week later.”
Put it this way – the lively, scathing, funny film is a lot more Survivor than Survivor could ever dream of being.
– Genie Davis; Photos: Jack Burke
 
 

 

Let’s Go to the Movies Again

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Dances with Films offered an incredibly strong slate of films Thursday through Sunday, the closing weekend of the festival. And our only regret is that the fest is over. Time to hang up our dancing shoes until next year.

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Thursday’s Espionage Tonight was a brilliantly structured dark comedy in which a reality TV show about spies is created to win back the faith of the American public. Audiences go undercover on missions around the globe. Real spy and reality tour guide “Swamp Fox” is alternately deadly and hilarious.

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Director Rob Gordon Bralver says the choice to create a reality style was done to save money, but budget doesn’t show on screen.  “We had tons of locations thanks to producer Amy Child, who made little miracles happen. Music is just me listening to iTunes so I could find what fits, and keep the film in its wierd comedy pocket,” he relates.  Lead actor Joe Hursley says for him, the filmmaking process and the point of the movie itself is “Trust your inner psychopath.”

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The festival’s Grand Jury Winner, One Less God was a harrowing take on the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack on a tourist hotel. Deeply involving, moving, and packed with suspense, the large cast and humanitarian soul of the movie painted a picture of pain, beauty, and love.  Thoroughly engrossing.

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Writer/director/producer Lliam Worthington says “We knew people killed in the attacks, we just wanted to understand what was going on, the loss and the pain, and the people. I wanted to see the people. We have to continue to see people as a global society.” Worthington used some of the actual cell phone communication transcripts between handlers and operatives word for word during dialog for the terrorists; the 63-day shoot which took place off and on for a year never lacks in verisimilitude.

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The strong ensemble cast and sweeping, lush cinematography of Tater Tot & Patton add to a compelling tale of a millennial who escapes her own life at her uncle’s South Dakota ranch, forcing him from his placid, if liquor-drenched, existence. A well-balanced drama that pulses with life.

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Jimmy the Saint is a fresh, Los Angeles-based take on the Russian mob, true love, gambling addiction, and a street scene as authentic and involving as the film’s throbbing, vibrant heart. It’s a film that’s both violent and feel-good, a difficult feat to pull off – but it absolutely does.

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Director Branden Morgan shot “really cheap” in just 13 days, averaging 9 script pages each day. The thriller deals with “identity and liberation. Everyone wants that.” The pitch-perfect cast says the fact that Morgan began his career as an actor paid off. “He constantly guided me through,” lead Zach Hursh attests. And guidance was key, through strong physical action, and the learning of Russian dialog by lead actors.  What’s next for Morgan? “My partner and I sold another weird adult drama to Sony Crackle.”

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Jimmy the Saint above, The Scent of Rain & Lightning below

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The Scent of Rain & Lightning is packed with stunning images in a strongly performed if convoluted story of murder, lust, and revenge set in a fresh Oklahoma setting. Based on a novel, director Blake Robbins deftly visualizes images in an adaptation made by Casey Twente and, Jeff Robinson. Tweetner’s wife heard about the book while listening to NPR and tracked down the author. “I tried to treat visuals like a complicated jigsaw puzzle,” Robbins relates. The film was shot in 21 days and took full and visually stunning advantage of its location. “The 39% tax break rebate from Oklahoma is what made us move the setting of the book from Kansas,” Robbins says. Co-produced with co-star Maggie Grace, the film is moody and noir.

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All I Want is an ensemble piece. A group of friends attend an anniversary party for two of their own, only to find out the couple is quasi-celebrating a divorce. The comedy-drama gives plenty of space to a large cast, exploring relationships with pleasant abandon. Writer/director/producer West Lang says he and star/co-writer Melissa Center wanted to feature a community of great actors. Center notes “We are all buddies in real life, we’re part of a lab of like-minded actors who are all about the craft.”

Until next year – Dances with Films has turned down the music.

  • Genie Davis; Photos: Jack Burke

 

 

Dances With Films 20 – Grand Jury and Industry Choice Award Winner: One Less God

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Above, One Less God director Liam Worthington, DWF’s Leslee Scallon far right
As Dances with Films co-founder Leslee Scallon likes to say, all the films at the festival deserve a “5” – the highest audience rating score on festival ballots. All the same, not every film can win top accolades.
One Less God, an ensemble film inspired by the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai, took both Grand Jury Award and Industry Choice Award.  The tense and heartbreaking film includes points of view within a group of hostages and from the terrorists.
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Liam Worthington, writer/director of the project explains what drew him to the subject.
“I have always had a special affinity for India, having travelled there when I was young. Then when the 26/11 attacks took place, co-producer Nelson Lau and I both had friends who lost people close to them, so we felt a very strong personal connection, and the overwhelming tragedy and sheer audacity of the attacks awoke a deep desire to understand. The news cycle was all about the specifics of what had happened, but what I really wanted to know was why. I wanted to get to the heart of the tragedy, and beyond it, to the people on both ends of the gun. And now the questions we began exploring nearly a decade ago, have sadly only deepened and become even more important and relevant than ever. “
Worthington’s initial training was as an actor. He began writing and directing for the theatre and the circus.
“I founded a theatre company with some other actors and began creating shows and workshops around youth suicide prevention working with mental health organizations in Australia, and also touring. I received grants to run circus workshops for street kids and young offender groups before I had my first opportunity to cross over into film,” the Australian director relates.
“Over the course of a year I was commissioned to work with a group of young people suffering from psychosis, and together we made a 40 minute Star Wars fan film.
Since then its been a pretty typical road of lots of study, shorts, music videos, POC’s and I’ve written, directed, DP’d, edited, VFX’d and belatedly produced.”
While he says he had not previously aspired to produce features, after several projects fell by the wayside following years of development, he decided to make sure the next film could live or die based only on his own decision. That film was One Less God.
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“It’s been an enormous amount of work, but I needed to take my dreams out of other peoples hands. So I committed to gathering my resources, cash in on my good will,
and produce One Less God at all costs, and I was very fortunate to also be able to enlist the help of a team of other great producers.”
The suspenseful, harrowing, and beautifully wrought film is packed with meaning. But asked what he most wants audiences to know about it, Williamson says “I wanted to craft a story that would be a genuine movement towards greater humanism and compassion. One that might aspire to promote healthy discussion afterwards, as opposed to the discourse that takes place in the emotionally charged wake of an actual terrorist attack, and rarely achieves anything except to heighten fear and increase the polarization.”
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The director notes that “This film was made by people of many different faiths: Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Jews, Buddhists and those of no faith as well. I think together we have made a deeply humanist film that also shrinks from nothing, and I think that is vital right now in this divisive political climate. On first glance One Less God may appear to be a film about terrorism, but in truth ,that is just the framing we use to explore our shared humanity, the value of life, and what separates us from love.”
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Genie Davis; Photos: Jack Burke