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The psychedelic madness of Louis Wain’s cats
10.29.2014
04:18 pm

Topics:
Animals
Art
Unorthodox

Tags:
cats
Louis Wain
Schizophrenia

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Though I do prefer dogs, I cannot but help but love Louis Wain’s cats—those beautiful playful wide-eyed felines that slowly evolve (disintegrate?) into psychedelic creatures of the electric night. These paintings have inspired considerable speculation with the oft-cited suggestion that Wain’s paintings show his gradual psychosis and descent into schizophrenia.

Louis Wain was born into a working class family in Victorian England in 1860, and died just prior to the Second World War in 1939. He was born with a cleft palate and was kept off school during a large part of his childhood. When he did eventually go to school, he spent most of his time playing truant, wandering the city, people watching. However, he must have been clever for he attended the West London School of Art and became a teacher. When his father died, Louis became the chief breadwinner and decided to make his living as an illustrator for the various top line London magazines. He had his own style and wit, and produced satirical cartoons and illustrations of cats in various human situations: playing golf, singing opera, having a tea party, singing carols, eating cake. He explained the inspiration for his work:

I take a sketch-book to a restaurant, or other public place, and draw the people in their different positions as cats, getting as near to their human characteristics as possible. This gives me doubly nature, and these studies I think my best humorous work.

Yet despite his success, Wain was always in financial difficulties—some of his own making, but most by those business people around him who exploited, used and literally stole from him.

When he was thirty, his sister was committed to an insane asylum—it was the first rumble of the fate that was to befall Wain. He continued providing for his mother and sisters, but he spent long seasons in asylums caused by his psychosis and schizophrenia.

News of his circumstances were publicized by H.G. Wells, who organized the funds to move Wain into a nicer hospital with a colony of cats, along with Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald who personally intervened on Wain’s behalf.

There has been some speculation that Wain’s schizophrenia was caused by toxoplasma gondii—a parasite found in cat’s excreta. Whatever began the illness, Wain was incarcerated in various asylums and mental hospitals for years at a time. The changes to his life were reflected in his art. His paintings of cats took on a radiance and vitality never before seen: the fur sharp and colorful, the eyes brilliant, and a wired sense of unease of disaster about to unfold.

But these paintings look normal compared to the psychedelic fractals and spirals that followed. Though these are beautiful images, startling, stunning, shocking—they suggest a mind that has broken reality down to its atomic level.

Though it is believed that Louis Wain’s paintings followed a direct line towards schizophrenia, it is actually not known in which order Wain painted his pictures. Like his finances, Wain’s mental state was erratic throughout his life, which may explain the changes back and forth between cute and cuddly and abstract and psychedelic. No matter, the are beautiful, kaleidoscopic, disturbing and utterly mesmerizing.

Beginning in the late 60s, Wain’s work came into fashion again and has become sought after by collectors. In 2009 Nick Cave, a Wain enthusiast since the late 70s, organized the first showing of Wain’s work outside of England when he exhibited his work as part of the All Tomorrow’s Parties concert series in Australia. Artist Tracy Emin and musician David Tibet are also prominent collectors of Wain’s work.

For images from Louis Wain’s children’s books check here and for more cats check here.
 
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More of Louis Wain’s fabulous cats, after the jump…
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Nasty notes and other ‘Hate Mail’ by Mr Bingo
10.28.2014
11:06 am

Topics:
Amusing
Art

Tags:

Mr. Bingo and his Hate Mail
 

I probably started taking risks when I was ten when I went to school dressed as a girl.

 
UK artist Mr Bingo has been working in the commercial illustration industry for over a decade. In 2011 he sent a postcard to a man named Jonathan Hopkins that said “Fuck you Jonathan, fuck you and fuck your shit legs’” and Mr Bingo’s “Hate Mail” was born.

Since that fateful day, Mr Bingo (who never uses his real name in public, so I won’t be bringing it up here either) has sent more than 500 pissed off postcards to his “customers” that pay a small fee to be admonished by Mr Bingo via snail mail. So popular are the acidic communications that 100 of the artist’s favorites have been published in the 2013 book, “Hate Mail”.
 
Mr. Bingo's Hate Mail to Matt
 
Every year Mr Bingo opens up his “Hate Mail” request line for people to order a postcard to be delivered to themselves or a recipient of their choosing. According to his Twitter (highly recommend), “unless something goes wrong on the Internet”, “Hate Mail” will once again be open to the public starting on Monday, November 3rd. For now, the service which costs about forty quid (plus postage) is only available in the UK. When one of Mr Bingo’s prospective customers complained that the price for the service had gone up, Mr Bingo responded by posting the question and his response, “Fuck off you tight fisted cunt, this is still very affordable “art”.” to his FAQ page on his website. Well done, Mr Bingo. Well done.

The best of the worst of Mr Bingos’ “Hate Mail” correspondence (NSFW) follows.
 
Mr. Bingo lazer cats Hate Mail
 
Mr. Bingo You are Nothing Julian Hate Mail
 
Mr. Bingo Fuck You soup can Hate Mail
 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Cherrybomb | Discussion
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Future Feminism: Antony and the Johnsons’ stunning new concert film, ‘TURNING’


 
On November 10th and 11th, the new CD + DVD of Antony and the Johnsons live in concert TURNING film (co-directed by Antony Hegarty and video artist/filmmaker Charles Atlas) will be released respectively by Rough Trade in the UK and Europe and the Secretly Canadian label in North America.

TURNING is stunning, a magnificent and moving arthouse documentary/concert film of a fall 2006 tour of Europe. That live show featured Atlas’ live video portraiture of thirteen women in close-up as they were spinning on a human-sized turntable, like a nicely updated version of Andy Warhol’s “13 Most Beautiful Girls” screentests. These projected portraits are the backdrop of nuanced performances—alternately tender and forceful, joyous and bittersweet—by Antony and the Johnsons (Antony, Maxim Moston, Rob Moose, Julia Kent, Parker Kindred, Jeff Langston, and Thomas Bartlett), captured in London, Paris, Madrid, Rome and Braga.

You can watch the trailer for TURNING here.
 

 
I asked Antony and Charles some questions about TURNING via email.

The feminine energy that’s celebrated in TURNING isn’t entirely biological. I was wondering if you could clarify what your (preferred) definition of “femininity” is?

Antony: We all have bodies that naturally produce estrogen and testosterone, so I am a bit confused by your assertion about biology. My definition of femininity, which is always evolving, has partly to do with motherhood and the impulses of motherhood, to treasure, to protect, to nurture, to give selflessly. I have observed femininity often manifest as a greater sensitivity to one’s relationships with one’s surroundings, a heightened sense of oneself within space. I often think of the word femininity as congruous with creativity. Another feminine archetype is the capacity for intuitive and emotional intelligence.  On the other hand, there are the Kali-esque faces of femininity. But for me, even when femininity is destructive, as in the case for instance of a natural disaster, there is something essential about it; Nature is not frivolous in her violent manifestations. And inevitably, pastoral life flourishes in the the shadows of volcanic eruptions and tidal waves.
 

 
You’ve screened the film at festivals over the past two years. It’s not merely a concert film, there’s something deeper and much more profound going on; however the reviews I’ve read, some get it, and some plainly just didn’t. There’s that scene where the French press called the TURNING performance a “transsexual manifesto” which obviously illustrates this somewhat, but the New York Times focused on this as well in their brief review. Did you find that some audiences and critics were confused by what the “message” of TURNING is?

Antony: One of the reasons we made TURNING is because we were not sure we “got” TURNING ourselves! The form was mesmerizing and we just kind of fell into it. It came to mean a lot of different things to different people. For me, what is interesting and relevant about TURNING today is its intuitive embrace of the intersection between trans-feminism and “Future Feminism”, a genre of feminism that I have been working with several of the women involved in TURNING to articulate over the last few years.  At the heart of TURNING is the impulse to form a circle of community and create space for each other, to witness and empower one another.

Charles Atlas: Another reason we took charge of the filming and production of the TURNING film ourselves (rather than accepting offers from TV companies to make the film) was precisely to allow all of the meanings of TURNING to emerge. At the public screenings I attended and the follow-up Q & A’s, I felt the audience came away with the feeling of the universality of the message of self-actualization.
 

 
Aside from the beautiful production values, which I thought was stunning on every level—I mean THE BAND!—the backstage preparations, traveling and “sisterhood” aspects of the project were so fascinating. The thing that was so riveting to me—and I know some of the women who were onstage with you—was watching the faces of each of them as they listened to the lyrics, as if the songs were about them and about their own lives, struggles and triumphs. There seemed to be a “psychodrama” aspect to the performance for the “beauties.” The Puerto Rican girl, Nomi, at the beginning seemed like she’d experienced a sort of beatific transcendence about herself and her place in the world. Connie Fleming also seemed very deeply in thought in front of a few thousand people. Can you discuss this?

Antony: The process for the participants was intimately meditative and at the same time extroverted and performative. To be watched in a state of stillness, from every angle, challenged each of the subjects in different ways. There was a tremendous sense of support for each other amongst the models. Each person seemed to develop her own inner narrative that guided her on the pedestal. And for each of us, different things emerged from the process. In the concert itself, the models appeared anonymously; there were no life stories (besides mine, embedded in the song lyrics), only images of women from many ages, backgrounds and experiences. Behind the scenes, many feelings and ideas started to stir.

Charles Atlas: For me, the individuality of the women and their variety of experiences—in concert with Antony’s music, was deeply inspiring. At each performance I entered into the world of Antony’s music and was moved to create video mix portraits in the moment that attempted to rise to the level of beauty of that potent combination.
 

 
Below, Antony and the Johnsons perform a stunning version of “Twilight” while Johanna Constantine turns:

“The performance artist Johanna Constantine appeared as one of the 13 subjects in TURNING. Johanna and I met in our first year of university in California and she has been a huge influence on my life and work.  We moved to NYC together in 1992 and co-founded a late night performance collective called Blacklips. We have always considered ourselves two sides of a whole: she seems to present a threatening, alien, armored face, while as a singer I exhibit a vulnerable interior. As the years have worn on, we have subliminally exchanged these roles, even from minute to minute. Johanna Constantine is also a founding member of an exhibition project we are now working on called Future Feminism. We first coined the term “future feminism” to describe the work of a handful of female artists from NYC that work on a frontier by themselves, using their bodies as material, exploring themes of violence, femininity, alienation, innocence, eco-collapse and survivalism.”  Antony Hegarty

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘Cathy’: Kate Bush as a young girl
10.27.2014
10:32 am

Topics:
Art
Music

Tags:
photography
Kate Bush
John Carder Bush

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A rare book of photographs of Kate Bush as a young girl entitled Cathy is to be re-published next month. The book contains an incredible selection of beautiful black & white images of Kate taken by her brother the poet and photographer John Carder Bush.

Cathy was first published in a limited edition of 500 copies in 1986 and is now to be re-published with new previously unpublished photographs and additional text. Copies of Cathy can be ordered here.

The following images come from the original 1986 publication of Cathy via the site Cat Party.
 
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More pics of young Kate, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Smashing Pumpkins: Impeccably sculpted Halloween creatures
10.27.2014
08:19 am

Topics:
Art

Tags:
Halloween
pumpkins

Pumpkins by Jon Neill
 
The work of master pumpkin carver Jon Neill has been featured in movies and television for years and right now Neill is a contestant on the Food Network show, Halloween Wars. The California resident and toy and prop designer also holds workshops on pumpkin carving and creates one-of-a-kind pumpkins for seasonal events or by request. It can take Neill over six hours to create one of his mind-bending gourd designs, and the results speak for themselves. Photos of Neill’s impossibly ornate pumpkins follow as well as a time-lapse video of the master carving one of his signature gourds in about three-minutes.
 
Angry pumpkin by Jon Neill
 
Clown pumpkin by Jon Neill
 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Cherrybomb | Discussion
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After ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’: A gallery of Peter Blake’s pop art album covers

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The ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ tableau
 
British pop artist Peter Blake still receives copies of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album in the mail with a fan request to add his signature and send the iconic cover back by return of post. It’s because the cover to Sgt Pepper’s is Blake’s most famous artwork, one made in collaboration with his then wife Jann Haworth.

In 1967, the year of Sgt. Pepper’s, Blake was the leading light of the British pop art movement, exhibiting alongside his fellow talents Pauline Boty, Derek Boshier, R. B. Kitaj, Peter Phillips, Richard Hamilton and David Hockney (until he moved to Los Angeles). What made Blake’s work special then (as it is now) was his ability to create an iconic and identifiable style of representation (through collage, paint and installation) that fully captured that swinging decade. His mix of pop culture ephemera (pop stars, soccer players) together with the semi-autobiographical self-portraiture (of artist as lapel-badge wearing kid in grey short trousers) maintains a traditional narrative form within a highly individual and modernist style.

Blake has continued to produce iconic and memorable art over the decades, and long after Sgt. Pepper’s he is still in great demand as a designer of album covers. This selection ranges from his early work for Liverpool Poet Roger McGough, to his work for his former art school pupil Ian Dury (Blake was, by the singer’s admission, his most important mentor) to Oasis and Paul Weller. Blake has also worked with Eric Clapton on three separate projects though briefly thought he had lost the job on his first Clapton commission (24 Nights) when he ‘fessed up to “Slow Hand” that he couldn’t abide long guitar solos.
 
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Roger McGough: ‘Summer with Monika’ (1967).
 
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The Beatles: ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ cover designed by Peter Blake and Jann Haworth, 1967.
 
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Pentangle: Sweet Child’ (1968).
 
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The Who: ‘Faces Dances’ (1981). Designed by Peter Blake, with portrait paintings of The Who band members by Bill Jacklin, Tom Phillips, Colin Self, Richard Hamilton, Mike Andrews, llen Jones, David Hockney, Clive Barker, R. B. Kitaj, Howard Hodgkin, Patric Caulfield, Peter Blake himself, Joe Tilson, Patric Proctor and David Tindle.
 
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Band Aid: ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas Time?’ (1984).
 
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Paul Weller: ‘Stanley Road’ (1995).
 
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Various: ‘Brand New Boots and Panties—Tribute to Ian Dury’ (2001).
 
In 1962, director John Schlesinger approached Peter Blake to make a documentary for the BBC about British Pop Art. From the outset, the pair did not get on—Schlesinger had ambitions to make a movie (he did, it was called Billy Liar). Schlesinger left the project and was replaced by the young Ken Russell, who was fast becoming the star director at the BBC’s Monitor arts documentary series. Russell and Blake hit it off immediately and the two developed the documentary into something bigger and better. Russell brought in artist Pauline Boty, who he had wanted to make film with, while Blake brought in artists Peter Philips and Derek Boshier. Under Russell’s directorial guidance the four artists collaborated on a dazzling and highly original film that captured elements of each artist’s personality. The title Pop Goes the Easel was apparently Blake’s suggestion, but the film’s style is all Russell.
 

 
More Blakean covers, after the jump….
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Mingus, Monk and more: Portraits of jazz greats painted on drum skins
10.24.2014
05:54 pm

Topics:
Art
Music

Tags:
jazz
Charles Mingus
drums
Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk drum skin art by Nicole Di Nardo
Thelonious Monk
 
Twenty-seven-year-old Toronto based artist Nicole Di Nardo says her desire to paint portraiture on drums skins was inspired by “tondos” or “circular” works of art whose origins have been traced as far back to 500 BC in ancient Greece, then were popularized again during the Renaissance in the 14th century and in the 15th century by Sandro Botticelli. Di Nardo gives used drum skins she obtains from the Humber College of Music in Ontario a new life by hand painting images of jazz greats, especially drummers, on skins that have been worn in a way that helps illustrate the musical passion that drove her subjects to create their music. Here’s a little bit more from Di Nardo’s bio on her creative process:
 

I source skins that are beaten to the point of near uselessness by eager young musicians. I then repurpose the skin by selecting it based on its unique design, which corresponds to the portrait I wish to render. I am interested in painting portraits of musicians who have fire in their bellies, those that reach a transcendental state while performing which is reflected in their expression. During these moments, I believe the tarnish of life fades away and the human spirit is evident most clearly.

 
Di Nardo’s subjects also include a few rockers like Janis Joplin and Tom Waits, but it’s her portraits of Charles Mingus, legendary percussionist Max Roach, and modern day timekeeper Questlove that really shine. Di Nardo’s works run around $180 dollars each over at her Etsy store.  Images of Di Nardo’s works follow. Dig it, Daddy-O.
 
Charles Mingus drum art by Nicole Di Nardo
Charles Mingus
 
Max Roach drum art by Nicole Di Nardo
Max Roach
 
Elvin Jones drum art by Nicole Di Nardo
Elvin Jones
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Discussion
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Knick-knacks of the damned: Infernal ceramic children that will haunt your dreams
10.24.2014
12:13 pm

Topics:
Art

Tags:
ceramics
porcelain


 
Danish artist Maria Rubinke creates porcelain figurines of children. Terrifying children. Children of netherworldly terror. These hellish Hummels manage to contrast a traditionally refined medium against cutesy schlock and supernatural horror. Rubinke’s classical skills were honed at the The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, specifically the School of Glass and Ceramics on Bornholm—a Danish island popular among tourists for its scenic nature and tradition of craftsmanship. And don’t these pieces just scream “quaint, bucolic holiday?”

It’s the combination of her skilled hand the formality of porcelain that makes these surreal little cherubs so haunting. Behold, Beelzebub’s babies, for theses are surely Satan’s tchotchkes!
 

 

 

 

 
More of Maria Rubinke’s macabre porcelain figurines after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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The amazing old Paramount Records ads that inspired R. Crumb


 
The story of Paramount Records is a fascinating one—the beginning is set about 100 years ago, in a Wisconsin furniture company that began pressing records in hopes that’d help them sell record players, which in their early years were indeed whoppin’ big ol’ pieces of furniture. The middle sees that furniture company curating and releasing a jaw-dropping and still legendary catalogue of classic early jazz and Delta blues 78s by the likes of Charley Patton, Ma Rainey, and Blind Lemon Jefferson. The end of the story sees the closing of the company and disgruntled employees flinging those now priceless shellac records into the Milwaukee River and melting down the metal masters for scrap. The whole story can be found in greater detail online, or in the books Paramount’s Rise and Fall and Do Not Sell At Any Price.

What concerns us here are the label’s print ads, which ran in The Chicago Defender. I’ve tried mightily to find the names of the artists who drew these. People in a better position to know than I assure me their identities are lost to the years, though they may have been staff illustrators at a Madison ad agency. The loss of that knowledge is a damned shame, because without knowing it, those artists altered the history of underground comix, by serving as an acknowledged influence on that form’s grand pooh-bah, Robert Crumb. Even a superficial glance at some of these ads reveals a precursor to Crumb’s famous signature style (it’s strikingly evident in the slouching posture of some of these characters), and Crumb paid direct homage to these artists in a series of trading card sets that have been compiled into the book R. Crumb’s Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country—the comix artist’s abiding passion for the music of the early recording era has never been a secret.

Here are a few of those ads. Where the ad copy is adequately readable, I encourage you to give it a look, because some of this stuff is priceless—I’m wondering how many old blues songs weren’t about wangs and adultery. Bear in mind, please, that the ads I chose to post here weren’t necessarily selected for resemblance to Crumb’s work. Some I simply felt like sharing because they were just too much!
 

 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Horrifying masks give you EXTREME plastic surgery look
10.23.2014
11:06 am

Topics:
Art
Pop Culture

Tags:
plastic surgery


 
From a wild art installation titled “Too Good to be True” by German artist Meike Harde. Meike designed these masks in order to raise questions about contemporary beauty standards. The work asks: How much is too much plastic surgery?

The installation Too Beautiful To Be True was developed on the occasion of the exhibition Fine Arts in Saarbrücken, Germany. Masks which picture the eye and mouth area correspond to the current ideal of beauty. When put on, however, they cause a contortion of the face. This is meant to show that artificially produced beauty is not always beautiful; instead it can evoke the very opposite. The pictures with the masks should be allegorical for effect of artificially produced beauty.

I noticed there were no plastic surgery-style masks for men. Apparently, Meike has never seen Bruce Jenner’s or Kenny Roger’s mugs. Men can take it too far too, ya know!
 

 

 

 

Below, the video for “Madame Hollywood” by Miss Kittin and Felix Da Housecat.

 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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