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American Grotesque: William Mortensen, Photographer as ‘Antichrist’


 
This is a guest post from Feral House publisher Adam Parfrey regarding two fascinating new books related to photographer William Mortensen.

Now that smartphones have become the camera of choice, it seems strange that photographers once belonged to divergent schools that battled one another, and sometimes quite viciously at that. The style that integrated painterly techniques with film technology was called Pictorialism. The “modernists” who dismissed complex photo techniques called themselves Group f/64 before they enlarged their influence, ultimately becoming known as “Purists.” For the Purists, sharp focus was the only natural way to photograph an image, and nature itself was the preferred subject.

Purists like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston did brilliant work in their careers, but it seemed important to them to remove Pictorialism from textbooks, galleries and museums. Their bête noire was none other than William Mortensen, who had for decades published many instructional manuals and reproduced his work in major photo magazines of the time, most notably Camera Craft. Mortensen specialized in a style that emphasized a grotesque look, which tended to feature many nudes. Compared to the trees and mountainsides that Ansel Adams shot, Mortensen’s work was accused of being exploitative and distasteful.

Purist hate was so intense that Adams even referred to Mortensen as “the antichrist.”

I had first heard of Mortensen from Anton LaVey, who had a photograph called “Fear” hanging in his Black House kitchen. In this photo a distressed woman is enveloped by a black-cloaked demonic entity. Anton acknowledged that Mortensen’s book The Command to Look: A Master Photographer’s Method for Controlling the Human Gaze changed his life, teaching him the basics of what he called “Lesser Magic.” LaVey also co-dedicated The Satanic Bible to Mortensen.

When Photoshop techniques and manipulated digital photography took hold in recent decades, the Pictorialist style once again became quite prominent though by then the Purists had long ago successfully bounced Mortensen out of public recognition. This was the reason I found it important to publish both Mortensen’s The Command To Look, which also includes Michael Moynihan’s article on Mortensen’s influence on occult researcher Manly Palmer Hall and Anton LaVey. We have also published a Mortensen monograph called American Grotesque: The Life and Art of William Mortensen, that includes an illuminating biography by Larry Lytle, a great deal of heretofore unpublished images and Mortensen’s textual battles with Purists from photo magazines. We hope that this evidence of William Mortensen’s brilliance once again revives his reputation and cements his rightful place in the history of the Photographic Arts.

—Adam Parfrey.

Here are some examples of William Mortensen’s work from American Grotesque
 

“Fear” aka “Obsession”
 

“A Family Xmas, 1914” 1932
 

“The Strapado”
 

“Belphagor”
 
More Mortensen after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Amazing vinyl toys of Bill Murray, Mighty Boosh, IT Crowd, The Shining & Christopher Walken


Tubbs & Edward from The League of Gentlemen

UK-based advertising and design company A Large Evil Corporation has these amazing vinyl dolls they’re creating daily for their blog to get into the Halloween spirit. I’m completely drooling over the The League of Gentlemen and Mighty Boosh vinyl toys. I never thought in a million years I’d see Tubbs and Edward dolls! They’re just brilliant!

Keep checking out A Large Evil Corporation’s blog as they’re adding new ones all the time. I’m curious as who or what they’ll do next (and if one can purchase these masterpieces? It’s unclear.) Maybe a Jill Tyrell figure (played by Julia Davis) from the dark British comedy Nighty Night?


What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
 

Christopher Walken
 

The Hitcher from The Mighty Boosh
 

The Torrances from The Shining
 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Can you spot all of the Star Wars icons discreetly tucked away in these photographs?
10.21.2014
07:38 am

Topics:
Art
Movies

Tags:
Star Wars
photography


 
Photographer Thomas Dagg created his “Star Wars” series as a sort of homage to his childhood, a time when the films pervaded his imagination on a daily basis. As a kid, he would draw space ships onto magazine photography; this work is merely a more sophisticated version of that same sort of superimposition. It’s the subtlety of the shots that really make the pictures interesting, as if the characters and vehicles are unremarkable details in a mundane setting. Some of them you have to strain to find.

Most of the scenes feature Dagg’s own childhood toys and action figures, only two use shots from the movies. (Careful buddy, that’s the kind of thing that will get you sued!) Honestly, even before noticing the ewoks and AT-ATs, the pictures themselves are beautiful, with a use of light and contrast that creates a quiet intimacy.
 

 

 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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King Tut—would the ladies love him?
10.20.2014
02:44 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Art
History
Music

Tags:
King Tutankhamun
King Tut


 
Steve Martin cashed in on the Tutankhamun mania with his 1978 novelty hit “King Tut,” which reached #17 on the U.S. charts and poked fun at the pop culture phenomenon the boy pharaoh had become after the massive Treasures of Tutankhamun traveling exhibit that toured the United States at that time. Martin told us that the “ladies love his style,” but would King Tut in fact be considered so dreamy today? Science suggests no, he’d have been something of an Uncle Fester-like loser, at least if his physical appearance by 21st-century standards is any indication.

BBC One undertook a “virtual autopsy” of the legendary pharaoh in preparation for a documentary called Tutankhamun: The Truth Uncovered, and the results were a surprise for anyone who can recall “Tut Fever.” The process required the use of over 2,000 computer scans as well as a genetic analysis of his parents, who were, ahem, brother and sister.
 

 
If you were dating him, you would have gotten a man who controlled everything in the Egyptian empire in roughly the year 1330 BC, but you would also have had to put up with buck teeth, a club foot, and a generally saggy build. Wide hips, manboobs, a tendency to wear diapers and frequent use of a cane aren’t the kind of traits you ordinarily see men bragging about on OKCupid, but I’m going to surmise that some guys probably brag that they “rule.” With this goofball, though, he’s not bragging.

All of this new “information” about Tut is just speculation, of course, but it’s fun to think about. King Tut’s allure a couple of generations back was just as much based on guesswork, mainly stemming from the breathtaking mask of Tutankhamun’s mummy, who cut a dashing figure indeed, equally seXXXy in 1330 B.C. and A.D. 1977.

The next thing you’ll tell me, King Tut wasn’t even born in Arizona.
 

 
via Gawker

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Insane Salvador Dalí haircut & other follicle follies


Salvador Dalí
 
San Antonio-based artist and hair stylist Roberto Perez AKA Rob The Original creates these pretty nutty haircuts with the scalp as a blank canvas and a photo of the subject to work off of for reference.

A lot of Rob’s subjects crafted on heads are of pop stars, sports stars and reality TV dum-dums (none of which I care about). I did, however, find of few of his works I really dig like Salvador Dalí, Bruce Lee, Cesar Chavez and a few others. I’d imagine the two dudes who got the Cheech & Chong hairdos would always have to stand together though, because it would be rather confusing to onlookers if they were separated with just a Tommy Chong on the one head. Where’s Cheech, dammit?!

I would also like to see these haircuts after two weeks of hair regrowth. Do they all turn into the Wolfman? I mean Tupac as the Wolfman would be kinda of hilarious and inexplicable to sport on yer head, no? You’d still have a lot of explaining to do. 


Bruce Lee
 

Cesar Chavez
 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Think Pink: Angelyne, the billboard queen of Los Angeles
10.20.2014
07:34 am

Topics:
Art
Movies

Tags:
Angelyne
Robinson Devor


 
All over Los Angeles in the mid-1990s were high-hoisted billboards in tribute to a pneumatic blonde named “Angelyne,” who peered over sunglasses to her admirers below. This was when I first visited the city in fall of 1994 and found that no matter where I traveled there was always a giant monument to Angelyne, the billboard queen—or as I thought of her, Our Lady of Los Angeles. When I asked who and what and why? no one knew much other than to say in that kinda laid back Angeleno way, “Oh, that’s Angelyne—she’s famous for being famous,” as if this somehow explained everything.

Famous for being famous?

I suppose it did in some kind of a way make sense and captured something of the hope people have for the great American dream, where anything or everything is supposedly possible. And in an unconsidered way, she seemed an appropriate metaphor for LA and Hollywood. For many years Angelyne’s billboards were LA landmarks, even earning her a cameo (via one of them) in the opening to the 80s TV series Moonlighting with Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd.
 
ang2billelynebrdla.jpg
 
Angelyne is an actress and a model and a singer and an artist and… she even ran for governor of California in 2003, where she polled 2,536 votes. She still sometimes appears in movies and exhibits her childlike portraits in galleries across LA, but no one really seems to know any more about her than they did back in 1994, or even 1984 when those giant pink “Angelyne” billboards first blossomed over Sunset. (For instance WHO was footing the bill for these billboards?)

In 1995, a young filmmaker named Robinson Devor made a short film about Angelyne. Devor is a highly talented, genuinely brilliant maverick filmmaker whose work includes the movie The Woman Chaser and the disturbing award-winning hybrid documentary Zoo about the death of a man after intercourse with a horse. But long before all this (and sadly many other unrealized projects), Devor shot a grainy B&W documentary on Angelyne, which looks almost like a taster tape for a longer doc—but still its five minute + running time probably says all that needs to be said about Our Lady of LA, Angelyne.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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This photographer went to a Biblical theme park in Florida, so you don’t have to


Going through the metal detectors… just like Jesus used to to do
 
Photographer Daniel Cronin traveled far from his secular home of Portland, Oregon to the ancient and sacred land of Orlando, Florida to visit The Holy Land Experience, a Biblical theme park owned and operated by the Trinity Broadcasting Network (the station now run by that half-assed, pink haired Tammy Faye knock-off, Jan Crouch). It’s is about as chintzy as you’d expect—lots of suspiciously Nordic-looking Jesi, a disorienting sense of anachronism with costumed employees running the snack stands and metal detectors, the gory crucifixion reenactment, a slightly Rococo color palette—the works, really.

As with all televangelist ventures, The Holy Land Experience (which is legally a non-profit) has been mired in controversy. Founded by Marvin Rosenthal (who was born Jewish before his conversion, if you hadn’t guessed), the park attracted the ire of the Jewish Defense League who protested its opening believing it to be a ploy to convert Jews to Christianity. Of course it wouldn’t be Christian edutainment without some alleged misappropriation of funds—the HLE manages to avoid paying property taxes (amounting to $300,000 a year) by reclassifying itself as a “museum,” as opposed to, you know, a theme park. Also, HLE Director and CEO Jan Crouch has been accused (by her own granddaughter, no less) of ripping off both the Trinity Broadcasting Network and the park. For two years during The Holy Land Experience’s construction, her two pampered pooches (both Maltese, a toy breed) got their own luxury hotel room adjoining her own.

You know… just like Jesus’s pups!
 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Unplugged: Controversial Xmas ‘Tree’ sculpture deflated by vandals
10.18.2014
07:05 am

Topics:
Activism
Amusing
Art

Tags:
Paul McCarthy
Christmas tree
Tree

xxfrgsnktrepmcc.jpg
 
This morning Parisians awoke to find Paul McCarthy’s controversial sculpture “Tree” looking like a discarded giant prophylactic after it was deflated by vandals at the Place Vendôme, Paris, during the night.

Since its installation the art work has divided opinion with many Parisians outraged by the 80 foot sculpture’s similarity to an… er… adult novelty item. Well, it now turns out that “Tree” was indeed inspired by that very item as artist McCarthy told Le Monde newspaper that “It all started as a joke.”

“...I realised it resembled a Christmas tree, but it is an abstract work. People can be offended if they want to think of it as a plug, but for me it is more of an abstraction.”

The “abstraction” was lost on some Parisians with one irate passerby slapping the 69-year-old artist in the face and shouting:

“You’re not French and this has no place in the square.”

McCarthy was allegedly dazed but unhurt by the assault and asked:

“Does this sort of thing happen often in Paris?”

The sculpture was specially created by the artist for Paris’s International Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC) that is being held in the city between 23rd-26th October. McCarthy’s previous work includes an enormous Santa Claus with what some critics claim is an unfeasibly large implement in his hand and a sculpture of former US President George W Bush getting intimate with pigs.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, vandals climbed the metal fence surrounding the giant sculpture before cutting the power supply that pumped air into the inflatable and slashing the tether that kept it upright.

According to the Daily Telegraph, McCarthy said he did not want the sculpture re-inflated or repaired. However, the paper also reported that organisers at FIAC said the sculpture would be “re-installed” as soon as possible. Now, that sounds painful…
 

 
Via the Daily Telegraph

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Nope, not trash but meticulously made… ART (see for yourself if you don’t believe us)
10.17.2014
10:22 am

Topics:
Art

Tags:
Tom Pfannerstill


 
Tales on message boards that are unlikely enough to elicit significant doubt are often followed by “Pics or it didn’t happen.” In the case of the work of Tom Pfannerstill, we could update that to “Didn’t happen until I touch it.” The works in his “From the Street” series are pieces basswood carved into shapes and then painted to resemble, incredibly, folded and stained pieces of mass-produced detritus like beer cans and KFC containers. They’re close enough to pass for the real thing on first glance, for sure. Only when you look very carefully are traces of hand-painted type evident. My favorite is the legal pad.

Anyone who takes this much painstaking time and effort on artworks of this type has earned the right to expound a little on their meaning, which Pfannerstill does on his website. Here’s an excerpt:
 

Each of these objects was at one time a near-perfect clone of millions of others of it’s type. It was designed and manufactured to exacting standards. By the time I find it, it has become a tiny study of opposing forces. Mechanical geometric precision is altered by organic twists, bends and folds. The inherent rationality is overlaid with elements of chance. The sparkling clean surfaces are smudged and marked by everyday dirt, grit and grime. No two objects have exactly the same journey , so no two are marked in exactly the same way. Each wears a record of its own particular history, has become unique. It is this difference, this particular story of this particular object that I attempt to capture.

 
I almost wish we were Buzzfeed so that I could write a headline like “PAINTED WOOD AMAZING BLAH BLAH. NUMBER FOUR WILL BLOW YOUR MIND.”
 

 

 

 

 

 
More astounding pieces of carved and painted wood that will BLOW YOUR MIND after the jump…..

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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No butts, it’s a Christmas tree?
10.17.2014
06:58 am

Topics:
Amusing
Art

Tags:
Paul McCarthy

xmssc3435ghapmcc.jpg
 
I know what some of you are thinking—but you’re wrong: this is a giant inflatable Christmas tree. Well, an installation actually (or is it sculpture?) by American artist Paul McCarthy.

The clue is in the title: “Tree” and its color—green.

McCarthy specifically designed “Tree” for the Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain (Fiac) or the contemporary art fair being held in Paris between the 23rd and 26th October.

However, it appears this 80ft erection (stop sniggering…) in the stylish Place Vendome has been “making passers-by feel a little uncomfortable” because, as France TV Info reports, many Parisians are unable to associate this festive installation with “the magic of the holidays”(!)

Understandably, this confusion led to much jocularity on Twitter.
 

 

 

 
And the usual seething outrage from the far-right groups like Printemps Francais who tweeted their disgust about the work:

“Taxpayers – this is where your money goes!” said one post, while another claimed the Place Vendome had been “disfigured” and Paris “humiliated”.

Meanwhile the British free newspaper Metro is running a poll on exactly what their readers think the piece represents.

I am sure the 69-year-old artist McCarthy is probably used to this kind of debate over his art. Last year, McCarthy outraged/amused the Chinese with his giant “turd” installation “Complex Pile” in Hong Kong—which when put together with “Tree” does suggest a vague theme going on his work…
 
trprssclp.jpg
 
xmstrprspmc.jpg
 

 
Via France TV Info
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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