Table of Contents: Art


A Wyeth Echo

This is a weird one, or at least it seems so at the moment. I was checking back in on the work of German photographer Michael Magin the other day. What I love about Magin, who works under the rubric Zeitautomatk, is his gift for framing natural and architectural forms in stark graphic compositions. Color, contrast, negative space, and abstraction are tools that, in his best work, reveal new things about the essential topography of archetypical forms – the female nude, nature, atmospheric vistas, and architectural structures.

In any case, this time, as I looked at his work, certain photos seemed to echo something familiar. After a bit of noggin racking I had it – Andrew Wyeth, specifically, his paintings and studies of his neighbor, German-born Helga Testorf.

Flipping through a Wyeth survey, I found convergence after convergence, echo after echo of poses, gestures, textures, moods, compositions. The weird thing? It’s not exactly clear that these are homages by Magin. The photos are amidst a series with a very different aesthetic agenda, ordered primarily by color tone. The ones that most strongly evoke Wyeth occur randomly in the series. But still, it seems so deliberate. She was German, he’s German… Then there’s the tree… a near twin of the tree from Wyeth’s Four Seasons portfolio.

That what is so intriguing to me, not knowing what’s going on here. I’ve thought about emailing Magin directly. I may, but not just yet. Not knowing keeps this convergence alive, the echos never settling or fading, just pinging back and forth, kept in play by uncertainty.

 

Unseen, Unpublished: Vivian Maier

A little late to the Vivian Maier party, which is fitting, considering Maier never made it to her party either – in fact, knowing her, she probably wouldn’t have gone if she could… Anyhoo – what’s the fuss? It’s that Maier’s photography was discovered in a thrift auction cache a couple of years ago, some 100,000 shots, most not even processed. What scenes! Masterful, poignant and supremely artful street photography, moments equal to and anticipating Eggleston, Winograd, etc… just moldering away in a storage locker on the South Side of Chicago.

Came across her the other day in Slate’s new photo blog, Behold. Besides the sheer impact of the photos, it’s also a nourishing lesson and reminder to anyone who works at making art – that while the desire to show, share and be recognized is a powerful one, the vast share of the satisfaction comes from the privilege of doing.

More of her work here, here, biographical info here, and a great article here. Enjoy.

ED RUSCHA’S TOP TEN TOWNS

I. SAN FRANCISCO. Absolutely the most beautiful city in the entire world. With history, class, and cuisine, it’s a place of astounding mystery. l ask myself why I never lived
there. No answer.

2. WINSLOW, ARIZONA. An excellent stopover on P40 going east or west. Stay at la Posada, an ancient hotel with gardens, a library, art by Tina Mion, a wonderful restaurant called the Turquoise Room, and train tracks outside the back door.

3. RHYOLITE, NEVADA. A beautifully isolated mining ghost town in the dramatic setting of Death Valley. Nearby is Beatty, Nevada, with a homemade mini museum.

4. PAHRUMP, NEVADA. It’s a town that has yet to be built-not many houses, but lots of concrete curbs and partially paved streets. Somewhat of a bedroom town for Las Vegas.

5. NEW YORK CITY. It hits between the eyes. The culture is deafening, and noise is an essential ingredient. It’s the air shaft capital of the world. Everything American starts here.

6. AUSTIN, TEXAS. A beautiful town where bats live under the bridges. Home of lance Armstrong’s bicycle shop, remarkable barbecue, and lora buy vicodin shirt Reynolds’s art gallery. It’s not the musical capital of America, it’s close.

7. AMBOY, CALIFORNIA. Population: two, three, four? It’s, as they say, in the middle of nowhere. The buildings, among them Roy’s Café, are empty but very well cared
for. The post office is next to a tree lull of shoes. Desert winds, quietude…there’s something hospital clean about this tiny stop.

8. HARTSHORNE, OKLAHOMA. A lil’ country town that I always associate with my favorite baseball pitcher, Warren Spahn. It’s in the middle of America, but no way middle American.

9. SELIGMAN, ARIZONA. The Copper Cart café is all I remember. Once the fan belt capital of the world, now the interstate runs through its outhouse. A town where its past
and present are both gone-it’s worth investigating.

10. LOS ANGELES. After Oklahoma it is my adaptive home, but l only care about the central areas like Echo Park, Silver lake, Hollywood, Culver City, and Venice. On
occasion I go up to Mulholland Drive just to smell the ozone and listen to the city throb.

From W Magazine, May 2011

Nemo

Captain Nemo, illustration by N.C. Wyeth from a 1918 edition of The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne. (courtesy of Mike Dubisch)

Meow

Score! The Walter T. Foster art manuals are peerless texts in the instructional techniques of vintage illustration. As a series they’re a subject for a later post. Suffice it to say that anyone trying to reverse engineer the gritty, matte, gestural seduction of pulp paperback illustration should look no further. OK.

Now? Cats! Cats people, cats! This How to Draw Cats is magnificent. Walter Foster’s illustrations nail the scrappy majesty of these creatures. In every sketch I can feel their essential nature – miniature tigers that live with us, mercenary fierceness held tenuously at bay, in total, blissful, ambivalent satisfaction.

Ha!

Blue Box of Death, 2011

This masterwork of smartaleckery comes courtesy of Styron Lundberg, a Parisian designer. More work here, all smart, but this one here’s a homer…

Casanova

Thoroughly fascinating article in Smithsonian Magazine by Tony Perrottet on the overlooked biographical details of that legendary Casanova, Giacomo Casanova. The piece opens with a gob-smacking accounting of the serpentine path his celebrated memoir took, ending in its exalted cubby in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. Suffice it to say it includes a stop during the 19th century in a special cupboard for illicit books in the French National Library, called L’Enfer, or “the Hell.”

The story then turns to a vividly sketched outline of Casanova’s life – establishing a far, far more interesting character than, as Perrottet puts it, “a frivolous sexual adventurer, a cad and a wastrel.” In fact,

Giacomo Girolamo Casanova lived from 1725 to 1798, and was a far more intellectual figure than the gadabout playboy portrayed on film. He was a true Enlightenment polymath, whose many achievements would put the likes of Hugh Hefner to shame. He hobnobbed with Voltaire, Catherine the Great, Benjamin Franklin and probably Mozart; survived as a gambler, an astrologer and spy; translated The Iliad into his Venetian buy vicodin by phone dialect; and wrote a science fiction novel, a proto-feminist pamphlet and a range of mathematical treatises. He was also one of history’s great travelers, crisscrossing Europe from Madrid to Moscow. And yet he wrote his legendary memoir, the innocuously named Story of My Life, in his penniless old age, while working as a librarian (of all things!) at the obscure Castle Dux, in the mountains of Bohemia in the modern-day Czech Republic.

In British terms, let’s say, this is all much more Richard Francis Burton than Flashman. Fascinating, and as Blackadder would say, “as French as a pair of self-removing trousers.”

As far as the art goes, above are some frisky watercolors by Auguste Leroux from the 1932 French edition of Casanova’s Histoire de ma Vie. Leroux was a celebrated illustrator who worked with Huysmans, Balzac, Stendhal and Flaubert… below are some fetching prints by Milo Manara inspired the the 1976 Fellini film. (My appreciation of their finest collaboration, A Trip to Tullum, here.)

Also, for your pleasure, a live cut of Roxy Music’s strutting tribute.

Roxy Music: Casanova:

 

Hilton Kramer

The death of art critic and New Criterion founder Hilton Kramer is sad news down ‘ere… Kramer was among my favorite conservative cultural critics… his passion and rigor were always bracing and worthwhile as either an affirmation or a provocation. His early collection of essays – The Age of the Avant order vicodin online india Garde – has been indispensable, and, frankly, I always find something spot on, or at least worth considering, in every edition of the New Criterion. (Oh, one other thing – the Criterion’s serial cover design scheme is aces…)

Alchemy

All three seen in quick succession at among the endlessly rewarding collections of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The first a machine gathering and harnessing negative space, the second a master class in electrifying it, the third a cabinet for storing it. All together though, they are a healthy reminder that alchemy can occur, must occur, in art – in the way ordinary materials like wood, stone and wire are transformed – as expressive as words in a poem.

For Christopher Hitchens…

The first time I read an essay by Christopher Hitchens it triggered in me an almost magnetic alignment. It is what influence feels like, palpably. Your notions, deductions, biases, obsessions, interests, and proclivities drift, loosely organized in patchwork clumps, downstream. They bump up, shift, and self organize, when suddenly a forceful current snaps them into order. Everything just locks into place.

I wish I could remember what it was about, my first draught of this amazing, lusty, brilliant mind. Maybe it was about the culture of snitching in East Berlin, or the necessary example of Thomas Paine. A full throated and eloquently argued brief against the very notion of the divine. The disgrace of Clinton. The grace of the Kurds. The hangover scene in Lucky Jim. Orwell with a side of Orwell in an Orwell sauce. Later it may have been on poetry, the lovely considerations of Czes?aw Mi?osz, or Fenton, Seidel, and Larkin. Reading Lolita as a father. The rallying, with righteous and sometimes nearly blind fervor, to the fight against Islamofacism. Amidst the pamphleteering, a steady stream of passionate criticism, elegant and lingering appreciations of Wodehouse, Wolf Hall, and, most delightfully, that libidinous rogue, Sir Harry Flashman.

In a way, though, it hardly matters. It wasn’t really about concurring with his arguments; it was following the manner of his thought, tracing its grain. Wanting to think like that, argue like that. In conversation or argument insisting on the significance of the melodramatic flourish, a theatrical toss off… the gregariousness, the bonhomie, the relish…. the decency of it all.

# # #

People disproportionally focus on the atheism, lately. I get it, as it really was the topic that propelled him, like Richard Dawkins, to general fame. It’s a shame, though, because it misses the larger point of it all. It was religion’s ongoing project to extinguish the nourishing legacy of the Enlightenment that fueled his fury. Broadly speaking, Hitch advocated for the credit due to a species that could put aside its animal nature and build and nurture this miraculous idea of civilization. To suppress, punish, or deny humanity this achievement and its benefits was an act of the basest evil – a denial of humanity itself. The stupid, pointless loss, the vandalism – the human cost of all of this idiocy – is what called him to the thick of it. It was a front he never tired of patrolling and a battle he never failed to enjoin.

Hitch’s ultimate argument, then, was to not to advocate against religion but for literature. He resolutely maintained that it was in our poems, our books and our paintings that we really grapple the most honestly, the most subtly, and the most fully with the fundamental questions and dilemmas of our existence.

Oh, and yes, there’s the drinking. And yes, it was herculean. But looking at it through the framing conceit of mere drinking, whether to condemn or to celebrate, is shortsighted and, I think, a little vulgar. Again, we’re missing the essential point of it all. As he put it:

I always knew there was a risk in the bohemian lifestyle… I decided to take it because it helped my concentration, it stopped me being bored — it stopped other people being boring. It would make me want to prolong the conversation and enhance the moment. If you ask: would I do it again? I would probably say yes. But I would have quit earlier hoping to get away with the whole thing. I decided all of life is a wager and I’m going to wager on this bit… In a strange way I don’t regret it. It’s just impossible for me to picture life without wine, and other things, fueling the company, keeping me reading, energizing me. It worked for me. It really did.

Exactly. No, seriously – exactly. This is the wager we enthusiasts make – appetite and curiosity always pushing, unbalancing our keel, lurching into the waves to feel the contour of experience…. Hitch nailed it here. He’s written reams of defiant endorsements of bohemian life before, squarely standing his ground against pious pick-nose hall monitors, amidst a swirl of smoke, clinking glass in hand. This time buy vicodin chicago it’s tempered. Caution enters the frame. The bet has been called. He wagered too much. He didn’t get away with the whole thing. With this last dash of restraint, the recipe is complete. Mix well and enjoy.

# # #

Appreciations of Hitch are always anchored by anecdotes. It seems his essence was in person, when all these aspects were gathered up in the full force of his personality. Like many of this readers, I’m sure, I’d daydream now and then of what it would be like to find myself in his company. Absurdly enough, chance and accident tumbled in my favor one evening in Los Angeles, in the late 90’s.

Hitch was touring his new broadside, No One Left to Lie To-The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton and I went to go see him read. The reading was raucous, funny, and bracing. Afterwords (after the cops led out the LaRouche plant) he held a signing, and when my turn arrived I basically thanked him for the company of his bullshit detector, and, if I remember right, mentioned the Chicago journal The Baffler, with which I was really besotted at the time.. After some appreciative nods Hitch thanked me, and as I walked away, a young Anglo-Indian named Palash Davé, who was filming the reading, asked me if he could interview me for a documentary about the book tour. Sure, I said, and asked him to join me for a smoke outside. After a bit of a filmed banter between me and a young black labor organizer we just started grousing as the crowd dispersed.

I asked him if there was a way I could keep in touch with him to keep track of the project. He said yes, then asked if I would like to have a drink with him and Hitchens that night. Cue all sputtering cliches…

So I end up going back to his hotel room… Hitch greeted us at the door and wolfishly explained that it was the same suite where Clinton stays when he’s in Los Angeles (he couldn’t wait to mark the room with smoke and whiskey). Along with Hitchens and Palash were his wife Carol Blue, Steve Wasserman- the editor at the time of the LA Times book review, and old leftie whose name I can’t recall, and the guy who shot Saturday Night Fever.

Hitchens was an effusive and diligent host. Asked me what I wanted to drink, and then led me out to the balcony, where he and I talked for about an hour, drinking Jack Daniels and smoking his Rothmans’s… Folk began to leave and the night eventually boiled down to me, Hitchens and Palash, drinking and talking until we cleaned out the mini-bar.

What a chat – From Clinton, of course, to the fate of the Left, our generation, Dylan, more on the Baffler and the art/music/politics mafia of Chicago, a long boozy dissertation on the film “Glory,” books and more books, authors (Murry Kempton & John Dos Passos, mostly) and the private tax revolt of home packed cigarettes.

The drink and tobacco exhausted, he offered a round of coffee and room service. I declined, feeling the onset of the mental fog I could no longer hold back. The bill had come due. Home, then.

# # #

There’s a reason we’re anxious about influence. To be shaped by external forces means, as individuals, that we need to yield, to go just a little slack, so our posture shifts, changes, molds. We surrender. We risk being supple for the promise of being shaped. You strike a balance between being propelled and being subsumed.

The exhilaration, though! – when you encounter, and engage such a force, and, under your shaky grip, you let it sweep you away…. His moral clarity, his insistence on literature, and art, really, as the soul of humanity, and the lusty brio with which he lived have profoundly formed and informed me. If all the world’s a stage, he was a character for the ages. We are vastly poorer for his absence. Civilization has lost one of it’s great knights and I have lost one of my brightest guiding stars. Farewell Hitch. That was a damn good show.

The Sherbet Ahh…

hoyland2

hoyland31

John Hoyland is among England’s premier abstract painters. These silkscreens, done in the early 70’s, are an exception to Hoyland’s generally more muscular, scratchy, smeary color field paintings. What perfect constructions! They are worn and faded in the best sense, the pale color of an kitchen soaked in ample sunlight for half a generation. The colors themselves emit a pastelly, sherberty, creamy richness. Together this exquisite balance reminds me of one of the essential characteristics of old, beautiful things – vivid and weathered in equal measure. (Great article on Hoyland here.)

The Adventures of Mr & Mrs Jim & Ron

Flipping through a dense stack of auction catalogs I came across this oddity – an unassuming, glossy softcover book with a cheap, haphazardly typeset title, The Adventures of Mr and Mrs Jim and Ron. It’s a 1970 collaboration between poet Ron Padgett and pop expressionist artist Jim Dine.

The poems are just fantastic – prime specimens of a sort I’m a helpless sucker for. They’re short dreamy little narratives, shot through with strange shifts, breaks and fissures amongst the phrases. Odd juxtapositions emerge, only to be smoothed together by easy grammatical connections. It’s like a slow pan across a radio dial tuned to the psychic landscape of America – pocket buy vicodin reviews dramas, aspirations, product instructions, laconic observations, snippets of philosophy, fragment of bracing truths. They evoke, at times, Lydia Davis’ flash fiction, Ann Magnuson and Laurie Anderson’s brainy free associative monologues, Eve Babitz’s LA stories. Silver Jew David Berman’s poems too, here and there. Based on this book, this Padgett cat should be a joy to explore.

Jim Dine’s artwork is ok. I like Dine fine, and some of it’s sharp and smart (like the excerpts above), but the bulk of it is a too doodle-y and dashed off compared to the well turned poems they accompany. Still, the whole book is well worth tracking down.

Not Again…

Jack Gaughan, preliminary color sketch for Worlds Best Science Fiction, acrylic on board, 4.25 x 7.25

Saturday Night’s Alright…

…Oh, and Saturday night? Sure… It’ll be the usual crowd. Cliff & Vera. Rosa’s pals… Some champagne, some dancing… some ditties around the piano, and yea, Pamela’s bringing the cheetahs again. At the very least, stop by… (Charles Copeland, original interior illustration for Men, May 1960)