Di, hard

To every age, every culture, an appropriate art form: The Elizabethan English had blank-verse tragedy, the elegant imperial Austrians had the string quartet; we moderns can claim credit for the computer game, the exercise video, and the infomercial. A sophisticated exemplar of the latter genre is taking shape right now in Seattle. Producer-director Greg Palmer, best known for his PBS documentaries on death and vaudeville, will start shooting in June for a half-hour program plugging $130 replicas of an Italian sculptor's medallion portrait of the late Diana Spencer Windsor.

See end of article for related links.

Palmer's script calls for a visit to the artist's Tuscan studio, chaperoned by an art connoisseur played by veteran local actor Brian Thompson, noted for his aquiline profile, elegance of manner, and beautifully modulated voice. "I gather I was cast because Greg saw in me a certain resemblance to Vincent Price," says Thompson. "If Price was available, I would have tried for him," says Palmer.

For Thompson and the rest of the infomercial crew, business is nicely blended with pleasure: Production involves a trip to Italy and two-week location shoot in Florence and the scenic hills above.

The Holl enchilada

As soon as he addressed them in person, said Bellevue Art Museum director Diane Douglas, the search committee charged with selecting an architect for their new building knew they had their man. If Steven Holl's pitch was anything like his presentation to the press and distinguished guests assembled last Thursday to see initial designs for the 36,000-square-foot facility, it's not hard to see why they were wowed. Tossing off references to phenomenology, the right-hand rule in electrical engineering, Aristotelian logic, Keplerian laws of motion, and the mysterious power of the number 3, Holl had the crowd eating out of his hand.

Fortunately, Holl is a fine architect as well as a master of the smooth snow job. He's managed to sell Bellevue on a remarkably rough, tough approach to the presentation of art: a cambered and grooved rust and brushed-aluminum box with an "urban-oriented" street level crafted to accommodate everything from the usual cafe-cloakroom-gift-shop activities to live dance and performance art, and a third story composed of three interpenetrating, enchilada-shaped exhibition spaces openable to the elements and flanked by terraces, pools, and vegetation.

Created on a very tight budget, the new BAM makes a virtue of spareness (though three stories of uncarpeted concrete floors, however tastefully stained in shades of umber and soot, are likely to give shin splints to the guards). The building, unlike Holl's elegantly cool chapel for Seattle University, has the kind of nervous energy and sense of potential waiting to be fulfilled that make converted spaces like Frank Gehry's Temporary Contemporary in Los Angeles or New York's Dia Foundation such exciting places to experience art.

Musical rumors

This June, if you think you see the Beastie Boys in line at the 7-Eleven, don't be surprised—it could be the real deal. The Beasties, whose first record of new material in four years is due July 14, reportedly will visit Seattle sometime in late June to rehearse for their summer tour. It's our cheap rents, y'all.

And it's official: Honorary Seattle band Afghan Whigs have parted company with Elektra Records. In a statement released May 6, the label said the separation was "mutual and amicable." Since the Cincinnati exports recently played an inspired set at Sub Pop's 10th anniversary party, could the band be returning to the Sub Pop fold?

Nope. According to those in the know, the Whigs have Columbia Records in mind.

Note to the anonymous creator of the "Retire Kathleen Wilson" contest flying through e-mail boxes around town: Cheap shot, reeks of sour grapes and sexism. If you've got a problem with Wilson's writing, start your own music zine. God knows we're no fans of The Stranger, but this kind of we're-gonna-get-you crap is lame.

Related Links:

Brian Thompson's page

http://www.geocities.com/~lmscully/Brian_Thompson.html

Stephen Holl's page

http://www.walrus.com/~sha/

Smart kids go crazy for the Beasties - with great links

http://www.yale.edu/bboys/

The Afghan Whigs page

http://www.elektra.com/alternative_club/afghanwhigs/afghan.html

 
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