Sunday, May 3, 2009

Contemporary Noir on the Net: Part 1

Underground Voices Magazine

One of the most important aspects of the Internet is the opportunity afforded to various talents to showcase their unique works outside of the mainstream media.  Though corporations and their marketing adjuncts are now fully vested in the limitless power and reach of the Internet, their efforts, thus far, have not hindered the ability of a certain class of innovative artists to present works particularly edgy, dark, and raw.  Foremost among this list of creative daring is "Underground Voices Magazine," an LA-based print and online literary magazine.  

Gripping the viewer instantly on UVM's home page is a monthly feature of a visual artist who, for the site's May 2009 issue, is Russian born George Grie.  The fact that Grie's work is displayed so prominently, to such an extent as to marginalize even UVM's own introductory header and navigational panes, is a testament to UVM's commitment to the artist.  Grie's digital 3D neo-surrealist rendering, entitled "Mind scape or virtual reality dreamscape," is a captivating collage of provocative and playful imagery full of paradox, alienation, and tension: observe as an 18th century ocean vessel sails through an arched window and out towards an unknown horizon of vaunted mountains.  All this is placed against a foreground of aristocratic furniture, spiraling staircases, and hanging Gothic chandeliers.  

Once the visual impact subsides, however, the two rectangular index windows that edge the sides of Grie's impressive work are neither the most intuitive nor in keeping with the stylistic content of the site's larger body of works featured.  The left-hand side of the page displays the site's genre categories, though to the far right, and completely disassociated from the genre to which each author belongs, hover the names of the month's contributors.  It would be nice if the two were merged.  Furthermore, only after fortuitously scrolling around does it become apparent that under Grie's work are listed the titles of monthly features, but again, no indication of authorship.  Lastly, though the choices of font color (alternately white and red) and the background color (black) allows for easy reading and a fairly streamlined appearance, overall the layout fails to capture the unconventional energy and intriguing titillation that distinguish the works themselves. 

In the category of Fiction, Zachary Amendt's "Marvelous Time Starving," is a respectable attempt at modern noir in its portrayal of a sell-out, booze swilling novelist full of calm sarcasm and self-deprecating, yet uncannily honest, irony.  Zachary's narrative, though in need of some minor editorial shearing, is generally strong and refreshing:  In an example of his brightly colorful literary illustrations, he describes the dive bar "Taqueria Arandas" as "cheap beer and deep leather booths and saucy Canadian fishermen, grizzled and hulking, Baffin Bay and the St. Lawrence Seaway to Loreto and the Sea of Cortez."

UVM's May 2009 poetry submissions are equally varied in style and content, ranging from Michael Shorb's gratuitous political poetry, "Rush Limbaugh Smokes a Cuban Cigar, Alone on the Balcony of his Florida Mansion," to Paul Hellwig's poetry of wry self affirmation, "Confessions of an Amateur Drunk," and most notable, Sinta Jimenez's penetrating, yet measured, poetry depicting the enduring and haunting experience of racial and ethnic discrimination. 

The artists whose works Underground Voices Magazine brings forward are commendable.  To most submissions, UVM adds a complementary image as an extension of the author's content, a nice touch and one whose collaborative potential I am always eager to see tested.  Though UVM's layout lacks the originality reflected in the depth of its content, this literary magazine succeeds in establishing itself as an appropriate forum for those writers, visual artists, and readers interested in publication oriented around material that is fearless in its exploration of the darker shades of the human psyche. 

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