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Stunning occult posters of magicians from many decades ago
05.12.2015
09:35 am

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Kellar. Thurston. Carter. These names are forgotten to us, but once they motivated throngs of people to attend their mystical performances of occult hoodoo and magic. Their posters are models of the seductive appeal, with their bold names and strange images of impossible creatures. The prominence of the name in these posters is far from accidental—only after years of painstaking labor rising up through the ranks might a magician become one of the select handful whose name alone could draw crowds.

Harry Kellar was called the “Dean of American Magicians” and one of his main illusions was the “Levitation of Princess Karnack,” which trick he pilfered from a rival magician by bribing a member of the other guy’s theater staff. He also had a trick that involved decapitating his own head, which would then levitate over the stage.

Howard Thurston (it does sound more alluring without the “Howard,” doesn’t it?) was a partner of Kellar’s, a master of tricks involving playing cards. You can see that one of the posters says “THURSTON: KELLAR’S SUCCESSOR.” Thurston eventually did become the best-known magician in America.

Charles Joseph Carter perfected the classic “sawing a woman in half” illusion and also had an especially macabre trick in which his shrouded body would vanish just as it dropped from the end of a hangman’s noose.

Some of you might remember a diverting 2001 novel called Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold, a thriller, somewhat like Caleb Carr’s The Alienist, about a fictionalized version of Carter.
 

 
More magicians, after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Poorly Drawn Album Covers’: Your Facebook time waster for the day
05.12.2015
07:23 am

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I have a big weakness for injudiciously liking and joining extremely narrow-purpose Facebook pages and groups, and as such I’m a proud member of “Staring At This Picture Of Dave Navarro Until It Gives Me An Acid Flashback,” at least a dozen groups that consist of nothing but vinyl enthusiasts posting the covers of whatever they’re listening to at the moment, and OF COURSE “The Same Photo of Glenn Danzig Every Day,” which DM told you about last week. But the thing that’s been tickling me this week is “Poorly Drawn Album Covers,” which is exactly what you think. The page’s unnamed admin draws (presumably by him or herself, no artist credits are given), shoddily, in what must be MS Paint or worse, album covers ranging from iconic, instantly recognizable classics (amusingly, their Screamadelica and Songs About Fucking don’t actually look super different from the originals at first glance) to recent indie stuff—and they have quite good taste in indie, IMO. But even if you can’t name the record (they’re not identified for the reader, which I like), it’s still always a giggle. Here are a few samples. There’s plenty more where this came from, and if that’s still not enough for you, these folks have competition on Tumblr.
 

Bjork, Homogenic
 

Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp A Butterfly (which by the way is as good as everyone says)
 

Ride, Nowhere
 
More poorly drawn album covers after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘Song portraits’: What does music by Radiohead, Stevie Wonder & David Bowie LOOK like?
05.11.2015
01:00 pm

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Led Zeppelin, “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” Led Zeppelin III
 
Synesthesia is a fascinating condition experienced by 2% to 4% of the population, wherein a stimulus of one sense (taste, say) is processed and perceived within the framework of another sense (hearing, say). A person with the condition might say “That spaghetti tastes loud,” or “That song is purple.” Some minor crossing of wires that leads to a harmless yet stimulating state of affairs for those who have it. Notable synesthetes include Nikola Tesla, David Hockney, Vladimir Nabokov, Duke Ellington, and Wassily Kandinsky. Nabokov famously felt that each letter had a very specific color, which is a relatively common manifestation of synesthesia. 

Erin Kelly at All That Is Interesting has posted the, well, interesting “song portraits” of a Missouri artist named Melissa McCracken. As Kelly writes,
 

Each of McCracken’s paintings is based on a certain song, and incorporates the song’s notes, tempo, and chord progression through textures, hues and shapes. It is not imperative that one understands the condition’s neurological underpinnings to appreciate the work being done here, but those with a taste for abstract art will perhaps extract the most enjoyment from these pieces.

 
Check them out, they’re quite wonderful. I woulda said the Prince song would have a lot more purple to it, but I suppose McCracken knows best.

(Clicking on a song title will bring you to a YouTube version of that song. Highly recommended to refresh your memory! Hearing the music makes the pictures pop a lot more.)
 

Stevie Wonder, “Seems So Long,” Music of My Mind
 

Etta James, “At Last,” At Last!
 

Radiohead, “Karma Police,” OK Computer
 
More synesthesia after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The cover for Nirvana’s iconic album ‘Bleach’ was based on an accident
05.07.2015
08:20 am

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One of the primary accomplishments of Montage of Heck documentary on Kurt Cobain that aired on HBO earlier this week was to remind me how much I fuckin’ love Bleach. Nirvana’s three studio albums are very distinctive, of course—all three albums are excellent, but in my mind I classify them as “raw (low budget),” “polished (medium budget),” and “raw (high budget).” I really like Nirvana in its “raw (low budget)” state. The whole first half of Montage of Heck consists largely of quasi-animated sequences with Nirvana music churning underneath, and damned if I don’t find “School,” “Negative Creep,” and “Blew” just as galvanizing and toe-tapping as I did when the album became lodged in my CD player back in 1990.

When Bleach was released, a big portion of the mystique of the album derived from its doomy, mysterious album cover. What the hell is a “Kurdt Kobain”? This really cost $606.17? What is happening in the picture on the cover? Why is “Bleach” in quotation marks? And so on. The front cover is a classic, and the tall, serif letters of “NIRVANA” would shortly adorn ten thousand T-shirts as well as all of the band’s official releases, from Nevermind all the way to From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah (but not the B-sides comp Incesticide).

Remarkably, one of the most important decisions of the band’s career—what the logo would look like—was decided by chance, indeed, as Jacob McMurray has written, “mostly by accident.”

Quoting from the indispensable volume edited by McMurray, Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses, which documented the 2011 exhibition of the same name,

The layout for the Bleach cover was created by graphic designer and musician Lisa Orth at the offices of The Rocket, where she also worked. The cover comformed to Sub Pop’s design aesthetic: a stark field of color with bold type and a striking photograph. The photo, by Kurt Cobain’s girlfriend Tracy Marander, was reversed-out as if it were a film negative. It featured the band (including [Jason] Everman, though he didn’t perform on the album) playing at the Reko/Muse Gallery in Olympia, WA, on April 1, 1989. Orth asked The Rocket’s typesetter, Grant Alden, to set the band’s name in whatever was already installed in their typesetting machine. And thus Nirvana’s logo was born, mostly by accident.

That typeface, based on Bodoni Extra Bold Condensed, was called Onyx, and it looks like this:
 

 
The differences between Bodoni Extra Bold Condensed and Onyx aren’t 100% clear to me, but as Caitlin Richards helpfully explains, “The difference between Onyx and Bodoni is that Onyx’s letters are tracked closer to each other.”

Art Chantry gets into the jargon in the book Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses,
 

It was a typeface called Onyx which is a Compugraphic bad design of Bodoni Condensed—really hunky, ugly, and those Compugraphics, if you didn’t use the right kerning programs you had really bad letterspacing. And so Grant Alden basically just sat down, slammed it out, charged Lisa Orth 15 bucks, which she paid out of pocket, and that is where Nirvana’s logo came from.

 
While we’re on the subject of the Bleach cover, here are three fascinating images of the design elements that went into it. I had never seen these before like two days ago (clicking spawns a larger version).


 

 
And finally—my favorite of them all—here’s the cover image in its un-inverted state, which I’ve been dying to see for 25 years:
 

 
Again, if you find this even a fraction as interesting as I do, you really have to pick up Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses.

Photos: Lance Mercer

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
See Frida Kahlo’s wardrobe, locked away for 50 years
05.06.2015
11:43 am

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Traditional Tehuana dress
 
Anyone with the remotest familiarity with the paintings of Frida Kahlo will have noticed that one of her primary subjects is her own physical pain and the fragility of her own body, especially after a life-altering accident with a bus that occurred in 1925. In that accident, the bus she was riding on collided with a trolley car, and the list of the ailments that resulted would give even the staunchest stoic pause: a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, several broken ribs, a broken pelvis, eleven fractures in her right leg, a crushed and dislocated right foot, a dislocated shoulder; an iron handrail pierced her abdomen and her uterus as well.

It wasn’t just her paintings that referenced her broken body (Tree of Hope, 1946, is a good example); her wardrobe inevitably did as well. Her clothes were an expression of her indomitable will as much as anything else—she was determined to live a fulfilled, independent, and creative life, and thus created for herself ad hoc clothes that fused skirts and corset or prosthetic leg and boot, and accommodated her misshapen, asymmetrical legs (as a result of which, she wore long, traditional Tehuana dresses to conceal her lower body). She painted on her body casts (one of them has the Communist hammer and sickle on it).

After Kahlo’s death in 1954, her husband Diego Rivera shut her belongings in a bathroom at their Mexico City home, the Blue House, the marvelous house they shared—and then insisted that it be locked up until 15 years after his death (which, in the event, happened in 1957). In fact, the room wasn’t opened until 2004, when Ishiuchi Miyako was given permission to photograph its intimate contents. The photographs will be on display at the Michael Hoppen Gallery in London from May 14 through July 12.

The best thing that could happen to the Internet right now would be for Etsy to become infected with Kahlo’s distinctive clothing aesthetic. This is a style icon!
 

Cats-eye glasses
 

Full body cast/skirt
 
More of Frida’s fashion, after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Nick Cave meets Dr. Seuss
05.06.2015
09:42 am

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Dr. Seuss and Nick Cave? Two great tastes that taste great together? Sure. Why not?

Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand,” a single from his 1994 album Let Love in is one of his best-loved tunes and long an in-concert staple of his live shows. It can be heard opening and closing series one of Peaky Blinders, the soundtrack to all three of the Scream movies, The X-Files and many other things (including, curiously, a Snoop Dogg documentary.). The “red right hand” referred to in the lyrics is an allusion to a stanza in Milton’s Paradise Lost (not the first time Cave has drawn inspiration from Milton’s epic verse):

“What if the breath that kindled those grim fires, / Awaked, should blow them into sevenfold rage, / And plunge us in the flames; or from above / Should intermitted vengeance arm again / His red right hand to plague us?” (Book II, 170-174)

And now the song’s sinister narrative has been Seussified by Deviant Art user DrFaustusAU... Cave’s lyrical wordplay is suitably Seussian, and it works brilliantly:
 

Take a little walk to the edge of town. Go across the tracks…
 

Where the viaduct looms, like a bird of doom, as it shifts and cracks…
 

Where secrets lie in the border fires, in the humming wires. Hey man, you know you’re never coming back…
 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Lydia Lunch’s sexy ‘Fashion Calendar,’ 1978
05.06.2015
08:19 am

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This “fashion calendar” featuring Lydia Lunch, queen of New York’s no wave movement of the late 1970s, was executed by Julia Gorton for a class at Parsons School of Design in 1978. This was the same year that the seminal No New York compilation was released, including key contributions from Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, of which Lunch was the frontperson.

Gorton, who today is a professor at Parsons, also designed flyers for Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, such the following:
 

 
This calendar appears in No Wave: Post-Punk. Underground. New York. 1976-1980.  by Thurston Moore and Byron Coley. The caption refers to it as “a 1978 Lydia Lunch fashion calendar, assembled by Julia Gorton for a design class at Parsons.” No other information is given.

March and June and October aren’t present—either they were never made or they have been lost to the sands of time; I suspect the former. In any case, the 9 months that are there do not include the days of the week, so you can print them out and use them in any year. If it’s a leap year, hold your nose and stay at home all day on February 29th.

Here’s the calendar in its original layout, followed by the individual months. The first two images, you can click on them to see a larger view.
 

 
Continues after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Hyper-realistic life-size sculpture of special effects pioneer, Ray Harryhausen
05.06.2015
05:53 am

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Ray Harryhausen sculpture
Ray Harryhausen sculpture. Or the real thing?

This life-size sculpture of special effects master, the late Ray Harryhausen, has unsurprisingly been mistaken for a photograph of the man himself. Sculptor and LA-based artist Mike Hill said that his tribute to Harryhausen took about six weeks to complete, but the background work of studying and perfecting every aspect of Harryhausen ‘s image from his teeth to the liver spots on his head, took many more months. At first I thought that Hill had perhaps based the vision for his remarkable sculpture on an existing photograph of Harryhausen. When I asked Hill for some background on the concept, he said that the idea for the sculpture was something he had conceptualized on his own, and that his only goal was to “portray Ray in his element, like a proud father. Which is exactly how he (Harryhausen) looked at his creations.”

And to that I say mission accomplished, Mr. Hill.
 
Ray Harryhausen sculpture with skeletons
 
Joining Harryhausen in this stunning homage are members of the skeleton warriors from two of Harryhausen’s most loved films, Jason and the Argonauts and The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. Honestly, the image of seeing Harryhausen enjoying milk and cookies while admiring his skeletal minions made my eyes a little leaky. I should probably get that checked out. Many more images that will make you do a double-take follow.
 
Ray Harryhausen sculpture
 
Get a better look at ‘Ray’ after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
‘Big Lebowski’ Russian nesting dolls
05.05.2015
02:15 pm

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San Francisco-based designer Andy Stattmiller has certainly won my heart over with these excellent matryoshka dolls that pay homage to everyone’s favorite late-‘90s bowling-themed stoner movie, The Big Lebowski by Joel and Ethan Coen.

Die-hard fans of the movie won’t need to be told that the dolls represent, in descending order, Walter Sobchak, The Dude, Jesus, Maude Lebowski, The Big Lebowski, The Stranger, and the innocent marmot that gets tossed into the Dude’s bathtub.

Wait: No Donny? No Donny??

Actually, Stattmiller accurately points out that Donny is represented by the Folger’s can Walter is clutching.  Walter is also carrying ex-wife’s pomeranian, sans bowling shoes (I assume anyway, it’s in a carrier).
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Shit Museum opens in Italy
05.05.2015
01:09 pm

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The Museum of Shit
 

A milk farm in Northern Italy, located in Castelbosco, is now home to the Museum of Shit, or in its native language, Museo della Merda.

The farm’s owner and the museum’s curator, Gianantonio Locatelli, created the museum to educate people on the the good uses of poop. His farm’s cows alone produce over 100,000 kilos of dung a year, some of which is reused as art in the museum.

Looking to visit this shitty place? Well, don’t delay. It’s only open weekends from May through August 2015, and by appointment only.

 
via Boing Boing, artnet News

Posted by Rusty Blazenhoff | Leave a comment
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