Rocker Lenny Kravitz Calls Out Black Media Outlets for Ignoring Him

Rock icon Lenny Kravitz expressed his dismay over black media outlets in a recent interview, claiming they have largely ignored him, and revealing that “to this day,” he has never been invited to a BET event or a Source Awards.

“To this day, I have not been invited to a BET thing or a Source Awards thing,” Kravitz told Esquire, “And it’s like, here is a black artist who has reintroduced many black art forms, who has broken down barriers — just like those that came before me broke down.”

“That is positive. And they don’t have anything to say about it?” Kravitz, who has an upcoming double album, “Blue Electric Light,” added of black media outlets.

The report also pointed out that Vibe magazine, which has featured prominent black artists in its pages since it first began publishing in 1993, waited nearly a decade before it put Kravitz on its cover.

Esquire also noted that rapper Jay-Z told the magazine, “There would be no Tyler, the Creator without Lenny Kravitz,” adding, “We need those moments of inspiration. That pushes creativity and opens up lanes for others.”

“Forty million records sold. Four Best Male Rock Vocal Performance Grammys — in a row. An MTV Video Award from the time MTV Video Awards still mattered. Concerts at the biggest venues on the planet,” Esquire reported.

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While it remains unclear why black media outlets have largely ignored Kravitz, some might surmise that unlike other artists, he has not gotten political
You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and X/Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.

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Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ at 40: How a monster dance became iconic

(CNN) — Start with two eight counts of slow, punch-drunk stomps, paired with sharp head twitches to the right. Next the arms come up; first straight, then a bit jazzy. There’s a series of tight pelvic thrusts before you clap your hands overhead, isolating your head movements as you drag one leg up to meet the other. After a brief shimmy, raise your hands again, now held like claws, from side to side — the move that everyone recognizes as “Thriller.”

December 2 marks 40 years since Michael Jackson released the groundbreaking music video, turning choreographer Michael Peters’ spooky, funky dance sequence into a worldwide sensation. The video, directed by John Landis, is more like a short horror flick: It begins with a 24-year-old Jackson transforming into a werecat and stalking his date, played by Ola Ray, through an eerie, foggy forest, only for a plot twist to reveal it’s a meta, movie-within-the-music-video scene — Jackson and Ray are watching their alter egos during a date night at the theater. As they walk home, though, they encounter a horde of the undead, and Jackson himself turns into a zombie just as the iconic performance begins.

These synchronized dance moves are the climax of the 12-minute scripted narrative. (The music video concludes with Ray woken by Jackson from a nap, as if it were all a dream — though Jackson has the glowing eyes of a werecat once again.)

While there are plenty of visual elements from the music video that have become iconic — particularly Jackson’s red moto suit — the dance sequence has become one of its most imitated aspects, with tight choreography that lends itself to viral social media performances today. Some of the top videos on TikTok include creator Dimitri Beauchamp performing the routine at home in Long Island to ring in fall, and Los Angeles dancer Enola Bedard staging a small boardwalk production for Halloween wearing a jacket like Jackson’s. Flash mobs and other events — such as New York’s annual Greenwich Village Halloween Parade — regularly perform the number.


Two months after Jackson died at age 50 in 2009, 13,597 people performed the dance in Mexico City, setting a Guinness World Record for the largest group to successfully take on the choreography.

Memorable moves

Michael Jackson and his zombie dance crew in “Thriller,” 1983 Allstar Picture Library/Alamy Stock Photo

Vincent Paterson, the video’s assistant choreographer, who went on to work with Jackson for over 15 years, credits the stylish ease of Peters’ most famous moves with why the dance has been copied for decades.

“People don’t have to look like trained dancers to have fun with the movement,” he said in a phone call.

“If we see somebody put their two hands like claws up from one side to the other, we immediately go, ‘Oh, Thriller!’” he said. “I think that made for such a memorable, memorable piece of choreography.”

Paterson’s role was to train Jackson and the dancers for four days in the studio before they filmed — but he also played one of the undead, wearing a shredded suit and tie in the music video.

“I thought (Peters) hit the target immediately,” Paterson recalled of seeing the sequence for the first time. “It was technical to a point. You couldn’t be too technical with Michael Jackson. He wasn’t an extremely trained dancer, but he could pick up things very, very well. But it had a great deal of technique. I thought that the intricacy of the rhythms was so fantastic.”

Industry changes

A trailblazer of ’80s music video choreography, Michael Peters (pictured left) also won a Tony award for his work on “Dreamgirls” in 1983 AP

The third music video released alongside Jackson’s album of the same name, after “Billie Jean” and “Beat It,” “Thriller” debuted in the early days of MTV. It was the album’s final single, but it doubled the already sensational number of album sales, from 16 to 32 million by the end of 1983, thanks in large part to the hype generated by the music video. It premiered in movie theaters ahead of screenings of Disney’s “Fantasia,” became a record-selling VHS tape and is widely recognized as the greatest and most famous music video of all time, including by MTV, VH1, TIME and the Library of Congress.

“Thriller” proved to music industry leaders that the music video format wasn’t just “a gimmick,” according to Brad Osborn, an associate professor of music theory at the University of Kansas, and author of “Interpreting Music Video: Popular Music in the Post-MTV Era.” Instead, it was “a successful strategy for promoting album sales.” It was also important, Osborn added, because it “showed White record executives and people at MTV that there was viability in promoting music videos by Black artists.”

Stylistically, the video was risky too, Osborn pointed out. The album version of the song was only 6 minutes long, less than half of the video length.

One of the reasons the song was expanded was to “add extra time on that disco beat for the dance sequence to unfold — it’s looped over and over again,” Osborn said. The video version also forgoes the standard verse-chorus format, and the song’s structure, building up to a single chorus at the end after a minute and a half of wordless dancing.

“When Michael Jackson, after a minute and a half, looks at the camera and brings the chorus back — Thriller! — that is the one and only chorus we get in the video. It is nine minutes and 41 seconds into the song,” Osborn said. “It makes for this hugely climactic moment.”

But there’s a reason music videos rarely stray from the album formula, Osborn said — which is to engage you with a catchy chorus within the first minute or two. Thriller’s approach was, in theory, “actually a really terrible strategy,” he explained with a laugh. “(Producers) want you to hit the hook straight away. Waiting nine minutes until your chorus hook is just a terrible move — it is really remarkable that it works, to be honest.”

Lasting legacy

Nearly 14,000 people gathered to dance “Thriller” together in Mexico City in 2009, a Guinness World Record-setting performance Dario Lopez-Mills/AP

Peters rose to fame for his work with Jackson, Donna Summers, Lionel Richie and Pat Benatar — with Benatar’s commanding shimmying in “Love is a Battlefield” also debuting in 1983, for example — but he died in 1994, from AIDS, before he could see the full extent of the legacy of “Thriller.”

“Thriller,” as well as the earlier Jackson-Peters collaboration for “Beat It,” set the standard for so many highly choreographed pop music videos that have followed, as 1980s pop stars gave way to the boy bands and girl groups of the 1990s.

Artists like Jackson were “bringing so much dance to music videos at the time. I think it changed everything for choreography,” Paterson said, also citing the impact of Madonna’s performances. That decade “brought (young people) into dance studios because they wanted… a profession as a dancer, and they finally saw a way that it could happen.”

Today, Paterson still occasionally teaches “Thriller” moves. Five years ago, he performed with a large class at the Debbie Reynolds Dance Studios, where the original choreography was created, for the last time before the LA-based studio was demolished. (An offshoot of the studio has since opened in Burbank). Paterson filmed the segment for entertainment channel The Buzz.

“When we created ‘Thriller,’ we had an idea that it would be major,” he said in that video. ”I guess you could say viral before there was something called viral.”

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NGV Triennial 2023 review: plenty of showstoppers – and cheek – in another blockbuster show

There are two teens standing in the central court of NGV International: a girl texting and, a small distance away, a boy with hands in pockets. They’re 12-foot tall and they’re black, and they’re on display as part of the third edition of NGV Triennial: the National Gallery of Victoria’s behemoth exhibition of contemporary international art and design, which opened on Sunday.

These titan teens, the work of UK sculptor Thomas J Price, are a distinctive choice for this central position. While they’re impossible to miss, they lack the spectacle of the colossal reclining Buddha (by Chinese artist Xu Zhen) that occupied this central spot for the inaugural Triennial in 2017, and the supersized swirling digital display (by Turkish-American artist Refik Anadol) in 2020. By contrast, Price’s statues feel anti-monumental; quotidian. They pose the questions: What is worthy of size? What takes up space – in public and in museums? How do these Big Important Things make us feel, as viewers? Is bigger actually better?

Thomas J Price’s 12-foot tall sculptures of teens
Thomas J Price’s 12-foot tall sculptures of teens are a distinctive choice for the NGV’s central court. Photograph: Sean Fennessy

The moment feels emblematic of this latest edition of Triennial, and the show’s shifting nature over nine years. Having proved itself with record audience numbers, and cemented itself as a major event in the national art calendar, the Triennial – which is free to enter – can perhaps now try a little less hard; be more tangential, and playful.

There’s a sense of cheeky provocation in the giant thumbs up sculpture by UK satirist David Shrigley at the gallery’s street entrance, and in the two banners hanging over the building’s entrance: one features a photo of art prankster Maurizio Cattelan’s notorious banana work, the other a photo of UK artist Ryan Gander’s precocious animatronic mouse, its head poking through a tiny hole in the wall. (NGV doubles down on Catellan’s prank by giving the banana its own white-cube space; Gander’s talking mouse occupies an appropriately antiheroic corridor position.)

Really Good by David Shrigley.
From big to small: Really Good by David Shrigley; Ryan Gander’s The End. Photograph: Sean Fennessy
Ryan Gander’s work The End.
Photograph: Sean Fennessy

That’s not to say this year’s Triennial is not a Big Important Show. The numbers alone are overwhelming – almost 100 works or projects by more than 120 artists, designers and collectives, spread over the gallery’s three levels – before you even try to wrap your eyes and brain around the exhibition. (Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to “do the Triennial” in one visit.)

There are show-stopper moments and plenty of famous names: a text-based work by Yoko Ono on the north facade of the building and a participatory installation about mothers inside, a suite of freshly acquired works by Tracey Emin, and a collection of fantastical looks and accessories by Maison Schiaparelli. This year’s Instagram fodder will include Sheila Hicks’s giant blue yarn-like balls (the soft antidote to Ron Mueck’s giant skulls, of 2017) and Swiss artist Franziska Furter’s “weather room”: a hypercolour carpet depicting infrared satellite images of hurricanes, overhung with delicate strands of transparent glass beading that look like rain.

Liquid Skies/Gwrwynt by Franziska Furter.
Liquid Skies/Gwrwynt by Franziska Furter will be among this year’s Instagram fodder. Photograph: Lillie Thompson

But the placement of Price’s teenage figures, at the centre of the Triennial, seems to represent shifting priorities, and the gallery’s responsiveness to worldwide conversations about representation in museum spaces – and specifically, black visibility.

This is backed up by a fulsome strand of excellent art by black artists, including works by US photographer Tyler Mitchell (who shot to fame aged just 23 for his history-making Vogue cover shot of Beyoncé) that “reclaim small moments everyday joy”; and two works by New York-based artist Derek Fordjour (also a favourite of Beyoncé), including his tour-de-force video work Fly Away, in which the puppet figure of a young black man attempts to not only survive but thrive while being manipulated by four white (and human) puppeteers.

Albany, Georgia, 2021 by photographer Tyler Mitchell.
Albany, Georgia, 2021 by Tyler Mitchell.

Textile works also get hero placement in this year’s edition, reflecting a resurgence in the art form. Besides the Sheila Hicks work, a massive room on the ground floor is given over to Mun-dirra: a labyrinthine installation comprised of 10 large panels of woven pandanus that were created over two years by 13 women from the Burarra language group in western Arnhem Land, drawing on customary techniques used to make fish fence traps. Perambulating the channels of this installation, inhaling the grassy smell of the dried pandanus, I was transported; in a daydream moment, I imagined I was a fish.

Mun-dirra, a collaborative work by artists from the Maningrida Arts Centre.
‘In a daydream moment, I imagined I was a fish’: Mun-dirra, a collaborative work by artists from the Maningrida Arts Centre. Photograph: Sean Fennessy

Another standout among the major textile commissions is the epic, 40-metre-long narrative tapestry Conflict Avocados, by Mexican designer Fernando Laposse, which renders a remarkable real-life tale of environmental degradation, human exploitation and Indigenous resistance in disarmingly soft pastel tones, using pigments concocted from avocado pips and marigold flowers.

Conflict Avocados 2023 by Fernando Laposse.
Conflict Avocados, 2023 by Fernando Laposse, a 40-metre tapestry coloured by pigments from avocado pips. Photograph: Sean Fennessy

There are powerful smaller-scale works, too: losing my way in the rabbit-warren collection galleries of the second floor, I suddenly find myself face to face with a striking symbolist tapestry by US artist Diedrick Brackens, woven from hand-dyed cottons and featuring a black figure kneeling on a stark red earth, a strand of chain held between his upheld fists.

Painting is also out in force within this edition, from senior APY artists Iluwanti Ken and Betty Muffler to mid-career Melbourne painter Prudence Flint and Tehran’s Farrokh Mahdavi. There’s a preponderance of works by so-called “ultra-contemporary” artists (born after 1975), including British art-market stars Lucy Bull and Flora Yukhnovich, New York-based painters Chase Hall and Ilana Savdie, and Czech artist Vojtěch Kovařík.

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Among overstuffed gallery spaces where things often jostle for the viewer’s attention, these paintings are often elevated by their presentation: Yukhnovich’s luminous work is juxtaposed with examples of the Dutch floral still life and French Rococo paintings that inspired it; Flint’s suite of uncanny domestic portraits is given a custom-carpeted nook of its own, and placed alongside striking 16th and 17th-century portraits of women by Flemish masters, a style that has informed her practice.

Among several impressive whole-room presentations, including installations by Japanese floral artist Azuma Makoto and Kosovan artist Petrit Halilaj, one of the most gorgeous is devoted to a suite of large, jewel-toned paintings by Melbourne-based artist Richard Lewer, depicting the biblical story of Adam and Eve. Within the darkened space, two sets of six paintings face each other from opposing walls, while the adjacent wall features a breathtaking 16th-century altarpiece painting of the Passion of Christ. At the centre of the room, two church pews have been placed back to back, for quiet contemplation.

Richard Lewer’s suite of 12 paintings depict the story of Adam and Eve.
Richard Lewer’s suite of 12 paintings depict the story of Adam and Eve. Photograph: Sean Fennessy
Richard Lewer’s work
Photograph: Sean Fennessy

As in previous editions of the Triennial, these moments when old and new art are smashed together are some of the most magical, with each work producing strange, thrilling vibrations in the other. New York artist Diana al-Hadid takes top honours with two major new sculptural displays inspired by (and incorporating) ancient and medieval objects and artworks from the NGV collection – including two knockout Renaissance paintings.

Laced with gold, dramatically lit and set within a figure-of-eight-shaped gallery space lined in dramatic black velvet, it’s a coup de théâtre moment.

What remains of the floating man hypothesis, 2023 by Diana al-Hadid
‘A coup de théâtre moment’: What remains of the floating man hypothesis, 2023 by Diana al-Hadid. Photograph: Lillie Thompson

Many of the Triennial’s weakest moments, similarly, come down to design and presentation. While many of the contemporary works are successfully incorporated into collection displays to revelatory effect (within the Chinese and South Asian collections, for example), there are a number of placements that feel baffling, even detrimental. Italian artist Diego Cibelli’s dramatic white sculpture of a throne made from fruit and vegetables feels lost at sea among impressionist landscape paintings and 19th-century portraits. Almost all the contemporary works installed in the much-loved, densely-hung Salon room feel overwhelmed (and consequently, underwhelming), including carved tree scenes by Natsiaa-winning Aurukun artist Keith Wikmunea and Vernon Marbendinar that rightfully should pop.

Next door, an exhilarating hang of vibrant canvases by Guatemala-based artist Vivian Suter threatens to overpower three striking but comparatively understated black-and-white paintings by Pitjantjatjara artist Timo Hogan, with no apparent logic behind the juxtaposition – a feeling compounded by the inclusion in the same room of a 19th-century English landscape by Constable and an 18th-century seapiece by Thomas Gainsborough.

The salon room, featuring – at the back – Keith Wikunmea and Vernon Marbendinar’s sculpture Tee’wiith yot-a! (Plenty of white cockatoos!)
The salon room, featuring – at the back – Keith Wikunmea and Vernon Marbendinar’s sculpture Tee’wiith yot-a! (Plenty of white cockatoos!). Photograph: Sean Fennessy

In an exhibition this large, which represents a vast spectrum of art forms and aesthetics within a comparatively limited space, not every work can be presented to best effect. Inevitably, some will shine and others will not. Having spent hours navigating the labyrinthine NGV galleries to locate every work, my sense was that less art might mean more impact. Maybe bigger is not, in fact, better.

That said, you would be hard pressed to spend even 20 minutes exploring this Triennial and not be rewarded; with this much work, selected with love and attention by the NGV’s entire curatorial staff, finding great art is like shooting fish in a barrel. You simply cannot miss.

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Vibrant Mixed-Media Collages Give a Fresh Perspective on African American Ancestry

Stan Squirewell - We Speak in Rivers

“Mrs. Johnson’s Sunday Best” (mixed media collage, paint, hand carved shou sugi ban frame, 2023)

Artist Stan Squirewell creates richly layered identities and fleshed-out characters in his incredible mixed media collages. After finding an image of his great-great-great grandfather during the Civil War, he was inspired to focus his art on imagery of Black people and people of color as a way to shed light on the diverse narratives of African-American ancestry. His newest exhibition We Speak in Rivers, uplifts the original figures from 1900s documentary photography through a captivating mixed-media approach.

Fifteen of Squirewell’s large-scale works are now on display at New York City’s Claire Oliver Gallery. He likens his creative process to that of a DJ, layering different materials to breathe life into the work. By weaving together fabric, collage, and other adornments, he takes these anonymous figures out of the past and allows the public to view them with fresh eyes. And in doing so, he asks us to reconsider what we know about the past.

“It’s crucial for people to question and explore their own unique stories because, especially within African American ancestry, our narratives are incredibly diverse,” Squirewell tells My Modern Met. “Not all of us share the same journeys—some didn’t arrive on boats, and not all of our forebears were enslaved. For me, exploring my heritage challenged prevailing notions about Black family narratives. I aim for viewers to not only appreciate the aesthetic beauty captured in the photographs but also to cultivate a deeper understanding and acknowledgment of the past.”

The concept of family and community is a running theme through Squirewell’s work. His selection of historical imagery is a personal choice guided by his own upbringing and balanced with the desire to work with material that is visually stimulating. We Speak In Rivers is anchored with family, as we see men, women, and children outfitted to impress for formal portraits. Squirewell’s colorful additions to the scenes honors the care and pride that these historical figures likely took in having their images immortalized by the camera.

“I see my work as reaching back through history, creating a visual conversation with the oft-forgotten subjects of so many old photographs,” states Squirewell. “So much of what we know about history is told through a one-dimensional lens—I aim to give my characters depth, spirituality, and a new kind of legacy—one that was often denied them in their own time.”

We Speak In Rivers is on view at Claire Oliver Gallery in New York City until January 13, 2024.

Stan Squirewell looks to the past with his mixed media artwork created using historical photography.

Stan Squirewell Mixed Media ArtStan Squirewell Mixed Media Art

“Uncle O” (cut photograph collage mounted on canvas, oil, and glitter in hand carved shou sugi ban frame, 2023)

Stan Squirewell Mixed Media ArtStan Squirewell Mixed Media Art

“Bunny” (cut photograph collage, oil, and glitter in hand carved shou sugi ban frame, 2023)

Stan Squirewell Mixed Media ArtStan Squirewell Mixed Media Art

“Aponi & Halona” (cut photograph collage, oil, and glitter in hand carved shou sugi ban frame, 2023)

By focusing on imagery of Black people and people of color, Squirewell sheds new light on their stories.

Stan Squirewell Mixed Media ArtStan Squirewell Mixed Media Art

“My Buddy & Me” (cut photograph collage mounted on canvas, oil, and glitter in hand carved shou sugi ban frame, 2023)

Stan Squirewell - We Speak in RiversStan Squirewell - We Speak in Rivers

“Sunday Roses” (cut photograph collage mounted on canvas, oil, and glitter in hand carved shou sugi ban frame, 2023)

Stan Squirewell Mixed Media ArtStan Squirewell Mixed Media Art

“Lil Clyde & Nyals” (cut photograph collage, oil, and glitter in hand carved shou sugi ban frame, 2023)

“So much of what we know about history is told through a one-dimensional lens—I aim to give my characters depth, spirituality, and a new kind of legacy.”

Stan Squirewell - We Speak in RiversStan Squirewell - We Speak in Rivers

“Daisy” (cut photograph collage, oil, and glitter in hand carved shou sugi ban frame, 2023)

Stan Squirewell Mixed Media ArtStan Squirewell Mixed Media Art

“Thelma” (cut photograph collage, oil, and glitter in hand carved shou sugi ban frame, 2023)

Squirewell’s exhibition, We Speak In Rivers, is on view at Harlem’s Claire Oliver Gallery until mid-January.

Stan Squirewell - We Speak in Rivers InstallationStan Squirewell - We Speak in Rivers Installation
Stan Squirewell - We Speak in Rivers InstallationStan Squirewell - We Speak in Rivers Installation

Stan Squirewell: Website | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Stan Squirewell.

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