weekend links: 4:44, stag beetles, Zhang Peili

Zhang Peili
Zhang Peili

Zhang Peili, still from “Document on Hygiene No. 3” (1991). 

Image courtesy the Art Institute of Chicago.

Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib is not just a great poet, but an astute cultural critic. Take, for instance, his insightful analysis of Jay-Z's latest album, 4:44, an album that illuminates the contradictions between expectations of male—particularly black male—and female artists. How do we reconcile his newfound vulnerability and maturity with the allegations that he is confronting? And what do we make of the rags-to-riches superstar when he's got nowhere left to hustle? [Vox] Before Paul Giamatti, pinot noir was not a popular wine. Many experts say that his film Sideways unintentionally changed the California wine industry after its release in 2004. Giamatti plays a pinot noir loving (and merlot hating) winemaker whose strong opinions about the beverage seemed to have sparked a lot of curiosity from the public. A substantial amount of research has actually been done to find a link between the film’s release and the decline of merlot and rise of pinot noir, with pinot noir sales growing by nearly 200% since the movie came out. Who knew that Paul Giamatti could be so influential? [NPR]

Two recent graduates of the Maryland Institute College of Art have received a $25,000 grant to expand their independent publishing group, Dandelion Wine Collective. The two women, Paloma Hernando and Sunmi, are focused on creating a space for underrepresented illustrators to tell their stories through comics. [Creator’s Project]

The European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture is the first of its kind. The Institute is the first space created exclusively for the Roma, or Romani people—Europe’s largest minority group—to display and celebrate their art. It’s set to open fall 2017 in Berlin. [Al Jazeera]

Though stag beetles are commonly kept as pets in Japan, very few of them reach the ranks of becoming Internet Sensations. This quickly became the reality for one Tokyo bug named Spike. His owner (and now manager) explained that her beetle’s talent, creating abstract art, was discovered on accident—one day she put a marker in between his claw-like mandibles and he began to draw. Most of Spike’s work and creative process can be viewed on his Instagram. I wonder where he got his MFA. [The Verge]

Zhang Peili’s exhibit Record. Repeat is open through July 9th at the Art Institute of Chicago. The exhibit is a combination of audio/visual components and large-scale installations. Zhang is known for being the first Chinese artist to work with video as a medium. Most of the content he creates is reminiscent of pop culture from the late 1980s and Communist China. [Hyperallergic]

Denys Johnson-Davies is the man responsible for exposing the West to Arabic literature. Johnson-Davies passed away this week; he lived to be 94 years old. He translated literature from Arabic and into anthologies when no one else would. At the beginning of his career as a translator, Arabic was being taught in the West (if at all) as a dead language. Johnson-Davies played an important role by proving, through Arabian lit that wasn’t Arabian Nights, that the language is very much alive. [The New York Times]

It’s Nice That released its list of eleven “Graduates” this week—some of the best young illustrators, graphic designers, and artists coming out of undergraduate programs in the UK. The Graduates were chosen from a pool of over 1,000 applicants; each of the winners is given a profile on the website and is invited to collaborate with It’s Nice That in the future. We’re all watching to see what great things they do next. [It’s Nice That]

Cheryl Dunye’s first film, The Watermelon Woman, is being re-released for its 20th anniversary. The film features Dunye herself playing a documentary filmmaker trying to make a film about Faith Richardson, otherwise known as the Watermelon Woman. Richardson was a black actress in the 1930s who starred in a number of blaxploitation films that were directed by her white lover, Martha Page. Her story is a fascinating one, and the film is an important document in LGBT cinema. [New Republic]

Chris Lilley is quite possibly Australia’s favorite comedian. It’s hard to imagine that his shows would be as successful as they are—and why is that? For a start, Lilley plays most of the characters himself, switching from one racist stereotype to another with exceptional grace. He calls himself a satirist, but minstrel seems more appropriate. It’s hard to understand why a white actor who has engaged in blackface is still revered as a lovable comedian in the 21st century. Maybe it’s Australia’s history of British imperialism that led to inevitable racism in the media—whatever it is, people are thankfully beginning to become more aware of racism under the guise of “comedic genius.” [junkee]

And we offer a warm hug to Gavin Russom, LCD Soundsystem's keyboardist and synth master, who has recently opened up about her life as a trans woman. She'll be performing at Chicago's Berlin club on July 13, for any Chicagoans who want to celebrate her life and work. [Pitchfork]

—Natalie Walrath

featuresSean Redmond