Table of Contents: Art


The Quintessence of Tempest

temp1

temp2

[RERUN: Hauling this out of the early days of the blog. I’ve been on a protracted vintage video game and pinball bender lately. Atari’s iPad port of my beloved Tempest is damn near perfect and I’ve been playing it a ton. As such this early appreciation of the stone cold perfection of this game has been on my mind. So, here, then…}

The screen graphics of the classic video game Tempest represent a kind of summit of design and beauty –  the finest expression of a very limited language. In the case of Tempest that language was vector based rendering. Vector monitors were used in video games from the mid 70’s to the early 80’s. The technology was derived from oscilloscopes – the image is projected by an electron beam onto the glass. Image a laser light show sped up to produce a lasting image and you’ve got it…

Many classic games were made using this technology – Asteroids and Battlezone as well as the first Star Wars game. While they all had their aesthetic charms, Tempest is in a class of its own. All vector games have a certain elegance and simplicity. The problem order vicodin uk arises in the crudity of the renderings – the poor approximations of tanks, asteroids, and X-wings forever marks these games as primitive gestures of an evolving technology. Tempest is exempt because it is derived from the technology itself.  What would a world defined by glowing geometric unshaded lines look like? Pretty much like Tempest.

Its beauty lies in the fact that it is in harmony with its own rules and limits. Hence the extremely elegant compositions – uncrowded, with a well balanced sense of scale. The color scheme is vibrancy itself, strong underlying blues, wonderful pops of pink, green, red, and yellow. And the physics of the electron beams give everything a deep saturated glow.

That same harmony extends to playing the game as well. Most games rely on clumsy and stunted translations of real world movements like running, jumping or flying an ostrich. Tempest moves in accordance with its nature – spinning and firing. That’s what makes it so satisfying. Once you understand its strange parameters you have a complete experience on its terms – a dynamic, I think, that is fundamental to the idea of art.

An Epic Burlesque: Kotlyarevsky’s Eneida

These plates are from an edition of Ivan Kotlyarevsky’s 1798 poem Eneida, a ribald retelling of Virgil’s Aeneid. Kotlyarevsky transposed Aeneas, the Trojans, and Greek mythology into the folklore of Ukrainian Cossacks. It is among the first major works written in Ukrainian, and is a cornerstone of Ukraine’s national literature. Wonderfully, it also defines the very notion of a burlesque – vulgarizing lofty notions like love, family, faith and battle, feigning seriousness in the face of absurdity, and is packed to the gills with slapstick humor, comic skits, bawdy songs, and, natch, healthy portions of friskiness…

This particular version, printed in 1969, in Kiev, Ukraine, is, simply stated, one of the most beautifully designed, illustrated, typeset and produced books I’ve ever seen. Sturdy and stout, clad in a satisfyingly course gray canvas, it opens onto a corker of a title page. From the swashbuckling script of the authors name, the elemental block-y-ness of the title, and the illustration of a muscular and languid Cossack/Trojan, it’s a bravura opening gesture. From there, graphically, the book never flags – block after block of typeset verse on heavy cream paper. But the heart of the book lies in the illustrations, by A. Bazylevych, whose style is a deft hybrid of wood block engravings, thick-lined expressive cartooning, and abstract color blocks.

My recollection of the book from childhood is profoundly visceral. I can recall my father reading vignettes that swirled thrillingly in a noggin already stuffed with mythological adventures. But it’s the illustrations that left an indelible impression. It’s a phantasmagoria of soldiers and sieges, gods and devils, maidens and crones, battles and scraps, feasts and revelries, a cosmos of melodrama. Looking at them again after a span of decades, my recollection is immediate and electric – what’s vital in art, in fiction, and in life seems to spring forth in an exuberant, lusty, unruly parade.

Gerard Schlosser

Over the weekend I scored Martin Amis’ The Pregnant Widow. What a knockout cover! What stuck me was the how powerful both the formal and narrative aspects of the painting were. The composition was riveting – this tightly packed moment given epic scale – and the weight of shared experience slung between the two figures was palpable. From what I know of the book’s plot and themes, which follow the tumultuous vicissitudes of a group of friends spending the summer in a remote Italian castle, it seemed a note-perfect choice – marred only by completely ham handed typesetting and design.

The painting, Il ne se plaignait jamais… (He never complained…), from 1976, is the work of the French painter Gerard Schlosser. Schlosser is most closly associated with the Narrative Figuration movement, a distinctly French mash-up of Pop and Photorealism.

His early work was rooted far more in a sexy cartoon pop aesthetic – like a combination of Guy Peellaert and Tom Wesselmann. As he evolved the work became more overtly photo-realistic, but just as meticulously staged – details are purposefully buy vicodin hp online exaggerated, extraneous objects removed, everything is framed and arranged for as much narrative impact as any comic book panel. One critic described this dynamic perfectly, that for Schlosser, “framing is never a trivial gesture. It tightens the most significant narrative element, the small detail that summarizes the essence of a moment.”

What I love about his paintings is that they transmit on four equally powerful frequencies. They are wonderfully composed realist abstractions. They contain a powerful dose of concentrated storytelling. They celebrate the figure as landscape. And they frame a vantage point that is the very definition of intimacy – conversational, sexual, relational – in a way that is incredibly potent and evocative. They’re artful, moving, brazenly sexy, and, as Blackadder might say, as French as a pair of self removing trousers.

(Schlosser’s work is scattered about the web. Most of the sites are in French. No English monograph seems to exist. There are at least three French ones, a bit pricey and all difficult, it seems, to obtain)

Herman Miller Picnic, Textiles & Objects


Some Herman Miller curios… Came across a few of these posters last weekend hanging in a excellent restaurant in Cincinnati. They were from a celebrated series of posters created by Herman Miller designer Steve Frykhom from 1970 to 1989 to announce the company’s yearly staff picnic. It began as an offhand assignment from an executive and Frykhom’s desire to satisfy a screen printing jones. The first salvo won that years AGIA award. In 1980 the Museum of Modern Art added seven posters to its permanent collection. Very few images abound online, the best are these can i buy vicodin in the uk tiny guys from the Herman Miller blog.

Below these are invitations to the 1961 opening of Herman Miller’s short-lived and Textiles & Objects Shop. It was overseen by celebrated designer Alexander Girard. It was a notion well ahead of it’s time – a rigidly curated mix of found objects as well as products and textiles he designed for Herman Miller. Both announcements feature remarkably original design styles that have come to be profoundly influential these days. Again, very little by way of imagery or further history about the shop sloshing around online.

More Cake, Please…

cake1

cake3

{RERUN: Originally Published Apr 1, 2009}
 In the crowded field of choice rock obscurities the Cake rank among the choicest. Musically they were a strange hybrid of Phil Spector-esque girl group, baroque folk, and weirdly medieval psychedelia – the Ronettes crossed with a a distaff Left Banke. Their considerable aura was further intensified by a wicked fashion sense and enough personal melodrama to out-beyond Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

Besides their sonic adventurousness, the Cake is worth celebrating for the splendid design of their two sole records. The logo is a typographic masterpiece. Set in ornate hand crafted blocks and nearly square, each letter reads as both a decorative tile and as type. The motifs are a motley mix of psychedelia, Eastern European embroidery, and circus signage – a fine metaphor for the band’s composite sound. The sophomore record ups the ante with a splendid Carnaby street pop cartoon worthy of anything by Guy Peellaert or Hapshash and the Coloured Coat.

After years of scarcity, Rev-ola finally reissued both records on a single CD with generously thorough liner notes that do justice to their sound and their story.

For your pleasure, some selections.

Baby That’s Me:

Rainbow Wood:

Annabelle Clark:

 

 

Standards

Robert_McGuire_Aphrodite
Aphrodite by Robert McGuire, Berkley Books

By now we have been thoroughly disabused of the notion, so heavily advocated by Clement Greenberg, that abstraction was, at last, a pure art “inflated by illegitimate content,” as he claimed in the November 1949 issue of the Partisan Review. Abstraction would therefore be able to cleanse the world of the intellect of any contamination by low-level kitsch. But most of us have since come to understand that kitsch inevitably contaminates every form of human creativity. There is so much heartless and mindless abstract kitsch found on the walls of mansions owned by the rulers of the universe that it is no longer possible to privilege abstraction over any other form of artistic expression. It is therefore meaningless to brand as kitsch only illustration – or comicbook art, or pulp magazine covers. Most of it is, but so is most of contemporary “high” art: the popular arts still have at least certain technical standards that can help us separate the kitsch from the corn.
– Bram Dijkstra

Frank Frazetta, Esquire Profile

Frazetta_main

Posted below, is the complete text of a June 1977 Esquire Magazine profile of Frank Frazetta. Consider it a small bit of public service for those of us so inclined — as far as I know it is unavailable anywhere on the internets. What a gonzo article, too, a perfect example of the macho free associative style of “the New Journalism” so in vogue back then. The opening roll call of pop cult, fantasy and sci-fi cuties is hysterically engaging — Thuvia, Dejah Thoris, Ayesha, Dale Arden, Vampirella, Barbarella, Taia, Morgan Le Fey, culminating in — flabbergastingly — Homer’s Helen of Troy. It then settles into a comprehensive profile of Frazetta’s life and work. Then there’s the classic oh-so-Esquire moment where they wake Tom Wolfe up from bed (!) to opine about, high art, snobby modernism, and the muscular vitality of commercial illustration. Perfectly entertaining, and to those of us entranced with Frazetta, indispensable. Enjoy. (On screen pages below, downloadable PDF here.)

Frazetta_Esquire_1Frazetta_Esquire_2Frazetta_Esquire_3Frazetta_Esquire_4Frazetta_Esquire_5Frazetta_Esquire_6Frazetta_Esquire_7Frazetta_Esquire_8Frezetta_Esquire_9

Recipie

SAVILLE POSTER-YELLOW

tumblr_med5idZ86W1rc22qso1_1280

petersaville_gtf_gagosianposter_web

All designs by the inimitable Peter Sevillle (Factory Records, New Order, OMD, Durutti Column, Ultravox, Duran Duran, King Crmison…) It a’int my manifesto to buy vicodin exactly, but I’m stirred nonetheless by its brash glitz cut with a swoon for the assembly line.

Perfect Storm

PerfStr

Simply wonderful illustration by the crushingly deft Tomer Hanuka. Perfectly evocative of the languid coziness of city snowstorms. Also happens to be an uncanny rendering of my old bedroom window overlooking Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It takes a lot to make me miss living in New York City. Well done.

BLUE JAY

Illustrations of animal and wildlife

Reader, look at the plate in which are represented three individuals of this beautiful species — rogues though they be, and thieves, as l would call them, were it fit for me to pass judgment on their actions, See how each is enjoying the fruits of his knavery, sucking the egg which he has pilfered from the nest of some innocent Dove or harmless Partridge! Who could imagine that a form so graceful, arrayed by nature in a garb so resplendent, buy mexican vicodin should harbour so much mischief;—that selfishness, duplicity, and malice should form the moral accompaniments of so much physical perfection! Yet so it is, and how like beings of a much higher order, are these gay deceivers! Aye, l could write you a whole chapter on this subject, were not my task of a different nature.

John James Audubon

John James Audubon, Birds of America, Plate 102 – engraved by R. Havell

 

thomas wilmer dewing

Thomas_Wilmer_Dewing_-_The_Spinet_-_ca._1902

Thomas-Wilmer-Dewing-xx-The-Fortune-Teller-xx-Private-Collection

Thomas Wilmer Dewing - The Recitation 1891

Thomas-Wilmer-Dewing-xx-Summer-xx-Private-Collection

The_Gossip

tumblr_m2ow91mj4w1r3fkjno1_1280

I recently took a pal to the Isabella Garder Museum in Boston. It is simply one of the most beautiful, sublime environments to take in art — it’s an indelible reminder of how central decor & architecture are to the experience of a particular artwork. That experience is especially powerful and acute in the famous “Yellow” and “Blue” rooms, where furniture, small doodles, ephemera, exquisite wallpapers, surround and mingle with masterworks by Rossetti, Sargent, Whistler and Degas.

My collegue was particulary taken with a smallish, glittering portrait of a woman (above) by Thomas Wilmer Dewing. Further research hauled up a lovely cache of paintings — most stranger & more fetching than the one in the Gardner. Turns out Dewing was a tonal painter heavily influenced by James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s work, especially his famous Nocturnes (which I also dig. I wrote about them a few years back, here. There’s also one in the Yellow Room) There’s a gauzy texture to his paintings I absolutely adore & sets them well apart from the usual parade of society portraiture and pastoral vingettes. Enjoy.

435

 

Flight Risk

Flight_Risk_Martin_Schoeller

Riveting cover photograph by Martin Schoeller for the New York Times Magazine. He also shot the best photo ever of Jeff Koons, below. It’s the best photo because it trumps the billions of words this cat has kicked up in his wake and lays http://www.mindanews.com/buy-effexor/ bare the artifice, calculation, perfection, mischievousness, & joy that makes Koons at all worthwhile. Also, the ski cover looks like a vérité Phil Noto, below, below. Phil Noto? Folks… Phil Noto.

Martin_Schoeller_Jeff_Koons

 

Phil_Noto_Jet_Seven

 

 

Some Swedish Type

Swedish_Record_Typography_2

Swedish_Record_Typography_3

Swedish_Record_Typography_1

So, recently I was over in Sweden visiting IKEA HQ (more on that, later-ish…) IKEA is located in Älmhult, a small picture postcard of a town. Quaint cobblestone square anchored by statue of Carl Linnaeus (you remember Linnaean taxonomy, yes? — three kingdoms, divided into classes, orders, families, genera, and species, eighth grade or so, feathered hair, Toughskins jeans, 3/4 black sleeved Cars T-shirt…sorry, pardon my corduroy reverie…)

Anyway, I’m wandering around and happen upon a gas station / burger & ice cream hut / thrift store (!) where, between fan belts, spark plugs, a row of swedish potboilers, needlepoint, and axel grease, I spot these 10″ records in a crate.

What a score! Each one of these Swedish type compositions is gorgeous — and each anchored by a contrastingly dense, filagreed record label. Häftigt!