Satiating the Soul
The Southgate House Gallery serves up a hearty collection of paintings in Jarrod Becker’s exhibit Brüder. Like a Russian borsch on a stormy night, these works satiate the soul with a hint of melancholy. Webmaster by day, Becker wanders through the corporate world with a head swimming with ideas. While he manages the Web site for WKRC Channel 12 Becker plots out his next painting.
He fills his canvases in black paint instead of white gesso.
“I sketch the image with white conte crayon,” Becker says. “Over that, I draw a thick line of charcoal and from there begin applying the layers of color.”
From this murky background he extracts striking color — blue moons, neon orange Halloween pumpkins, red roosters, all wrapped in a black outline. Becker’s characters float out of windows in their bedclothes. They fight with chickens and run from their fears, they are devoured by their past.
Becker pits man against the forces of nature in “Monsters and Men.” Electric blue waves jostle a boat carrying four men. One man stands languidly, wearing a tuxedo and smoking a cigarette. Another man plays the violin. The last two men battle with the sea. One man braces the end of a rope, trying to reel in a giant sea creature by the tail. The beast flails violently and gnashes its teeth. The moon illuminates its red skin. The rope that is wound around its tail is actually tethering a kite that whips around in the air. The kite is so out of place that its significance cannot be ignored. The kite could represent luck or it could stand for brotherhood. This fits the title of the show, Brüder, which means brother.
Becker is really into African art, and he was reading Kurt Vonnegut and Edward Abbey while working on his show. But I also see the influence of two artists from Belarus: Marc Chagall and Chaïm Soutine must have visited Becker in his dreams.
One of Becker’s finest works in the exhibit is also one of his darkest. In “The Feast,” a man sits shirtless before a table of half eaten food. He appears to be wearing a hat but it is immediately apparent that a man is standing behind him, biting into his head. An alternate title for the painting is “Don’t Eat Henry Lightcap,” inspired by Edward Abbey. In Abbey’s book Fool’s Progress, Lightcap is a broken man. He has no real hunger for his present life and he is consumed by his past. But the painting is also life-affirming. “The work is about feasting on one’s life and not being totally consumed by our fears and our regrets,” Becker says.
Brüder runs through Saturday at the Southgate House. 859-431-2201. (See Art.) — SELENA REDER
WEDNESDAY 26 - TUESDAY 01
As usual, movie studios have saved their best for last. Yes, "awards season" is upon us, a period that offers a gold rush of stellar movie options as well as the typical dose of well-meaning Oscar bait (I'm thinking of you, The Kite Runner). The last month has given us a number of the year's best films (like Before the Devil Knows You're Dead and No Country for Old Men), and the last week has unleashed the largest onslaught of releases in memory (14 to be exact), including such anticipated, diverse fare as JUNO, THE SAVAGES, ATONEMENT, MARGOT AT THE WEDDING, CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR and SWEENEY TODD. From a singing Johnny Depp to three doses of Philip Seymour Hoffman to Noah Baumbach's latest self-lacerating black comedy, there should be something to entice even the most finicky of moviegoers.
WEDNESDAY 26 - SUNDAY 30
With the New Year hovering in, it's the perfect occasion to explore the TAFT MUSEUM OF ART's current exhibition, Jewels of Time: Watches from the Munson-Williams-Proctor Art Institute. The show features 80 watches, European and American, spanning the generations between the Renaissance and the early 20th century. Two brothers -- Thomas and Frederick Proctor -- from Utica, N.Y., put together the collection around the first decade of the last century. The collection remains one of the largest, most distinguished and most comprehensive of all American timepiece collections. Curators have divided the show into 11 categories of watches, and each category boasts its "opulent masterpieces." According to the Taft: "This exhibition is the first to explore watches within the history of decorative arts and jewelry as opposed to the history of their engineering." And yet dawdling among the ornate decorations, you can't help but stumble on the brilliance of these little works of art -- machines encased in beauty, each ticking away our own moments. Jewels of Time is on view through Jan. 27. Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. Closed Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. 513-241-0343. (See Art.) -- LAURA JAMES
THURSDAY 27 - MONDAY 31
Some comics have a trademark bit that they either develop or, more often, stumble onto by accident. Cleveland native TAMMY PESCATELLI has had the latter happen, but has steadily expanded on her discovery. "I started this little bit called 'What the Hell's wrong with you?' and it's completely evolving as I knew it would. It's almost like my 'You might be a redneck,' in the sense that I don't ever need to put it away as long as I keep updating it." She has seemingly struck the proverbial goldmine. "Every day someone does something dumber than the next." The idea is moving beyond the stage, too. "We're getting ready to open a Web site for (it), so people can send photos and different things that have happened to them." Pescatelli performs at The Funny Bone on the Levee in Newport. $15 Thursday-Sunday, $45-$50 Monday. 859-957-2000. (See Onstage.) -- P.F. WILSON
FRIDAY 28 - SATURDAY 29
If you haven't been to the MARX GALLERY yet, you should! The space encompasses two large floors of gallery space in Covington's growing art district. The gallery's curators and directors showcase their own work, including paintings, collage, sculpture and other multimedia art pieces through Jan. 4 -- when there will be a closing reception coinciding with Covington's First Friday. Prepare to be impressed when you visit the collective show put together by this talented team of artists. Called All the Usual Suspects, the exhibition features Bekka Sage, Keiko Taka, Jim Guthrie, Laura Goebel, Rob Dreyer and Jennifer Baldwin. The Marx Gallery is dedicated to providing a forum for the growing diversity of talent in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area. 859-750-9226. (See Art.) -- ELIZABETH WU
In a music scene that is pretty self-contained, without drawing a lot of "outsiders" (i.e. suburban folks who don't go out after sunset, folks who just go to dance clubs, folks who only want to hear cover bands), THE NEWBEES might just be one of the most recognizable original bands in the entire community. But the band's cheeky jingle in that Gold Star Chili commercial is pretty far from what the band actually does on its CDs and live shows. While still pretty playful, there's a richness, masterfulness (in songwriting and performance) and ear-dizzying diversity on display on the band's latest, Amsterdam, the third part of the Newbees' "accidental trilogy," which follows the exploits and dilemmas of a "burned-out, overworked Rock band" in the never-sober Dutch city. The band's Pop songs are especially impressive, recalling The Beatles and early ELO in the best way possible. But they're also pretty damn good playing Jazz (the smoldering "Molly"), and the barroom strutter "Are You Kidding Me" sounds like Nina Simone going postal on a brassy Broadway show tune. Don't let the chili ad fool you -- this is one talented band. The band's CD release party is Friday at the Poison Room with guests Mike Fair and the Adventure Seekers and Chaselounge. And if you like free stuff, they've got you covered -- the band is offering all of their merchandise (including all three of their discs) at no cost at the show. 513-333-0010. (See Music.) -- MIKE BREEN
Hey, daddy-o, play it cool! Real cool. That's what the CINCINNATI SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA will be doing on New Year's Eve at Music Hall when they offer a special concert, BERNSTEIN'S NEW YORK STORY. In case you missed it, 2007 was the 50th anniversary of the landmark musical West Side Story, so the rivalry between the Sharks and the Jets and the tragedy that ensues will be the focus of the evening. (In case you forgot, composer Leonard Bernstein, lyricist Stephen Sondheim and director/choreographer Jerome Robbins were inspired by Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.) More tunes from Bernstein open the program -- the melodic overture to Candide and a jazzy piece by Duke Ellington, Harlem, which was Bernstein's stylistic inspiration. If that's not enough, here are a few more enticements: On the podium will be Paavo Jrvi's kid brother Kristjan (making his CSO debut following a very successful outing last summer with the Cincinnati Opera). And if you really want to make an evening of it, there's a gala post-concert party in Music Hall's ballroom to ring in the new year. You can get a ticket for the concert only or go for the whole evening with a ticket that includes the concert and the party. 513-381-3300. (See Onstage.) -- RICK PENDER
The XAVIER/KANSAS STATE basketball game at U.S. Bank Arena was supposed to be a chance for Bob Huggins' supporters to see the former Bearcat coach take on UC's crosstown rival with his new team. An outpouring of support for the man who revived UC basketball from the depths of NCAA mediocrity would surely have stuck it to the administration that so rudely forced him out of town. But Huggins has already evacuated the state of Kansas and taken up residence in an only slightly less terrible place -- West Virginia. He left behind a number of quality ballers at Kansas State, however, including one of the best players in the country in 6-foot-9-inch freshman forward Michael Beasley. Xavier looks tough this year and will benefit from playing such a talented team. $32-$55. 513-745-3000. (See Sports.) -- DANNY CROSS
Can't quite keep your eyes open until midnight but still want to celebrate New Year's Eve? The WOODLAND MOUND SEASONGOOD NATURE CENTER rings in 2008 early with a family-friendly event perfect for children -- or grown-ups -- who sleep through the ball drop. Start the night off with Paul Ingram's storytelling and Jordan Hughes' magic and juggling show. The event includes crafts, games, balloon sculptures, face painting, boomerang demonstration and snacks. End with a sparkling grape juice toast and countdown to the "new year." The clock has been forwarded by three hours, so the ball is set to drop at 9 p.m. Live music from a small band follows the drop. $3 for children; free for adults with a paid child. A valid Hamilton County Park District Motor Vehicle Permit is required to enter the parks. Pre-register online at www.hamiltoncountyparks.org/events or by calling the naturalist desk at Winton Woods at 513-521-7275. (See Holiday.) -- SUSIE SHUTTS