Howard Sherman's Bogus Rating System
Artspace—It may be a somewhat off-the-wall association, but Howard Sherman's paintings remind me of Marlon Brando and, I suppose, James Dean. I'm thinking about the way those actors are so often described as being on the edge or dangerous. The kernel of this idea has to do with their capacity to be so in the moment that they surprise us. They're unpredictable.
I see that quality in Sherman's large-scale paintings, on view through tomorrow at Artspace in Raleigh. They're exciting and kind of violent. They're bad for you, but you can't help yourself: those spatters, those metalic globs, that bit of masking tape. From one canvas to the next, there's no telling how the artist is going to handle his paint—which is not to say that his work isn't coherent from one work to the next as he explodes narrative and articulates abstraction.
Sherman's day job is as a cartoonist, and the thick black lines that define the space of these works are dead giveaways of that fact. Which doesn't mean that he's not 100 percent legit as a painter. You've only got until today to meet up with these works. They're restless and need to move on. Visit www.artspacenc.org. —Amy White
John Howie Jr., Brian McGee
The Cave—Nearly two years after the demise of the Two Dollar Pistols, frontman John Howie Jr. continues to ply his trade—a rich twang and weepy honky-tonk tunes—with The Rosewood Bluff. Also touching on the Gram Parsons-flavored cosmic country rock that its name references, Howie's post-Pistols unit features guitarist Dustin Miller, pedal steel whiz (and Indy employee) Nathan Golub, ex-Pistols drummer Matt Brown and bassist Jesse Huebner of Tres Chicas and Patty Hurst Shifter. Kindred spirits at times, Asheville's punk-informed Brian McGee & The Hollow Speed puts sudsy ballroom ballads alongside gritty outlaw country and raw rockabilly. The heartbreakers and toe-tappers start at 10 p.m. See www.caverntavern.com. —Spencer Griffith
Golden Dragon Acrobats
Carolina Theatre—In Ocean's 11, Brad Pitt and George Clooney attend a Chinese acrobat performance to scope out a potential accomplice for a Vegas casino heist. While it's doubtful that rakish criminal masterminds will be casing tonight's show in Fletcher Hall, the mad skills of the Golden Dragon Acrobats have been established for years. Founded in 1967 in Hebei, China, the trouple has performed in more than 65 countries. You can bet the performance will weave in lots of history from China's 2,500 years. Tickets are $18–$26; shows are tonight at 7:30 and tomorrow at 2:30 and 7:30. Visit www.carolinatheatre.org. —Sarah Ewald
Quail Ridge Books & Music—If Letter to My Daughter were a food, it would be organic tortilla chips, the kind you might idly snack on if you were at home writing a confessional letter to your daughter right after the two of you had a fight and she fled the house—which is exactly what the narrator, Laura Jenkins, is doing.
All milled corn and processed cheese, the book purveys uninflected generica quite deliberately and earnestly. It's widely aimed at the diaspora of moms who are at home missing their daughters and/ or worrying that they might have failed them—and also at their daughters, fugitive or not—for the purpose of providing solace and hope. And there's something thoroughly wholesome about the ingredients, too, which are concocted into palatable and healthful results, even in the yuckiest of moments, and which have had most of the sex and gore expeller-pressed out of the product for the sake of Laura's adolescent reader.
"Go ahead, roll your eyes if you want," she writes early on, unaware that we already have, and often, such as at the younger Laura experiencing her inaugural sexual arousal while watching her first boyfriend stoke her living room fireplace with a poker. (Guess what happens next?) Later, banished to Catholic school for her hearthside transgression, she is exhorted by a Sister to "avoid sentimentality at all costs." In a book positively covered with the stuff—Laura and that same Sister later bond over Browning's gushy "Sonnet 43"—that line may constitute the first and only wink from its author, UNC-Wilmington-trained George Bishop, who keeps an otherwise straight face throughout his 148-page debut.
It may or may not be all that, but Letter to My Daughter is a bag of chips to satisfy that craving for the familiar and comfortable. You'll have a chance to ask Bishop how many grains of salt you should add to your consumption of his book when he visits for two readings: at The Regulator Bookshop March 4 at 7 p.m. and at Quail Ridge Books tonight at 7:30. Visit www.regulatorbookshop.com and www.quailridgebooks.com. —Adam Sobsey