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Woody Woodpecker: Bird of the absurd

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There’s a fascinating article in the New York Times, That Noisy Woodpecker Had an Animated Secret, about Shamus Culhane, a pioneer of modern animation, who slipped homages to avant-garde artists into several Woody Woodpecker cartoons in the 1940s.

Sixteen years ago Tom Klein was staring at a Woody Woodpecker cartoon, The Loose Nut, when he started seeing things. Specifically, Mr. Klein watched that maniacal red-topped bird smash a steamroller through the door of a shed. The screen then exploded into images that looked less like the stuff of a Walter Lantz cartoon than like something Willem de Kooning might have hung on a wall.

“What was that?” Mr. Klein, now an animation professor at Loyola Marymount University, recalled thinking. Only later, after years of scholarly detective work, did he decide that he had been looking at genuine art that was cleverly concealed by an ambitious and slightly frustrated animation director named Shamus Culhane.”

Culhane was an admirer of experimental film makers, Eisenstein in particular, as well as abstract painters and managed to work some of his artistic obsessions into his commercial work.

High art meets popular art inThe Loose Nut when Woody “is blown into an abstract configuration…a convergence of animation and Soviet montage.”
 

 
In lowbrow mode, Culhane enjoyed pranking Universal Studios and Walt Lantz by throwing not-so-subtle sexual imagery into his cartoons. In The Greatest Man In Siam, Culhane’s libido goes nuts in a veritable onslaught of genitalia. You don’t need to be Freud to notice the erect phalluses and vaginal doorways. At the 4:36 point in the clip, there’s a glimpse of a pink passageway that incorporates both yin and yang.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black: ‘Bring Back the Night’

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Above, artist Kembra Pfahler and friend.

Glamorous new video from Dangerous Minds pal Kembra Pfahler, it’s The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black’s new song “Bring Back the Night.” Directed by Bijoux Altamirano. Might be NSFW.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘Particles’: Trippy and beautiful art installation

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Particles is an “illumination installation” by Japanese artists, Daito Manabe and Motoi Ishibashi, which presents:

...seemingly floating lights that create a fantastic afterimage, this work centers around an organically spiral-shaped rail construction on which a number of balls with built-in LEDs are rolling while blinking in different time intervals, resulting in spatial drawings of light particles in all kinds of shapes. The illumination’s three-dimensional design, achieved through a fusion of the rail construct’s characteristic features and communication control technology, takes on various appearances depending on the viewer’s position. Look forward to an exciting new work that combines generally entertaining ideas and sophisticated information technology in everything from LED devices and other hardware to programming.

Particles is currently on display at the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media, Japan.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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James Bidgood’s sumptuous and subversive ‘Pink Narcissus’, 1971

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The film was credited to ‘Anonymous’, which led some to think it was by Andy Warhol, and others, Kenneth Anger. The mix of kitsch and beautiful imagery pointed to both, however, they were wrong. For years no one knew who had made Pink Narcissus, that was until the writer Bruce Benderson became obsessed with this subversively erotic film and decided to track down its director - James Bidgood.

Shot on Super-8, Pink Narcissus is a sumptuous film that depicts the erotic fantasies of a gay male prostitute (Bobby Kendall), as he visualizes himself in various homage to “gay whack-off fantasies”.

Bidgood arrived in New York in 1951, where he worked as a female impersonator, hairdresser, set designer and then photographer. Bidgood started taking pix for Adonis and Muscleboy, but was at first disappointed with the results, as he told the New York Times:

“There was no art,” Bidgood laments. “They were badly lit and uninteresting. Playboy had girls in furs, feathers and lights. They had faces like beautiful angels. I didn’t understand why boy pictures weren’t like that.”

So, Bidgood made his own erotic tableaux, which mixed beauty and kitsch. His first Watercolors presented a young man swimming through a fabulous, shimmering grotto - all of which he built and photographed in his cramped apartment, as he explained to Butt magazine:

“Models were not that easy to find especially for the kind of work I was doing which called for more of the subject’s time than a pose or two wearing less than two square inches of jersey and some elastic and leaning against some fagelas elaborate mantelpiece. In the time I needed to do one shot they could turn ten tricks. And there weren’t all that many great beauties around willing to be photographed nude or semi nude in homoerotic situations. Remember this was before being gay and/or being a ‘male escort’ or pornography, quasi or otherwise, were as acceptable or mainstream as they are now.”

Bidgood had his own distinct style, which later inspired the careers of Pierre et Giles, and David La Chappelle.

From this Bidgood started work on Pink Narcissus, which he shot in his Hell’s Kitchen apartment, between 1963 and 1971. Again, Bidgood designed and made the sets, provided the make-up and costume, and used the neighborhood hustlers as his cast. It was an incredible undertaking, and one that eventually led his frustrated backers to take the film from Bidgood and finish it themselves. And this was why Bidgood took his name off the finished film.  

“See, why I took my name off of it was that I was protesting, which I’d heard at the time that’s what you did…. I’d take my name off and then they’d go “Mr. Bidgood took his name off because…” But it turns out they kept me in the closet, and all you had to do was ask anybody who’s been in it and they’d say, you know, “Jim did this.” It wasn’t like a big mystery, but you would have thought, and then years later I was ‘outed’.”

 



 
Previously on DM

Early Gay Cinema: Jean Genet’s ‘Un Chant d’Amour’


 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Another Michael Jackson sculpture unveiled

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This one is controversial for very different reasons to Mohammed Al-Fayed;s Michael Jackson statue. Fans of the King of Pop have been bombarding Premises studios in East London with hate mail after it unveiled the new work by Swedish artist Maria von Köhler, a recreation of Jackson’s infamous “baby dangling” moment. This makes me wonder if these same fans were angry with Jackson for the incident itself, or just upset at being reminded of it. Ironically von Köhler said she intended the work to be a commentary on fandom. Personally, I think it’s better than the other one, even if it makes MJ look more like Naboo from the Mighty Boosh.
 
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Via the Daily Mail, of all places.

Previously on DM:
Soccer fans can go to Hell, as Michael Jackson statue unveiled

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
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Wilford Brimley riding a giant cock
04.04.2011
08:34 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Art

Tags:
Wilford Brimley

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“Wilford Brimley’s Epic Mount” by artist Cory Loftis.

(via reddit)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Gorgeous photographs of Golden Ray migration
04.04.2011
03:13 pm

Topics:
Animals
Art
Environment

Tags:
Golden Rays
Sandra Critelli

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In 2008, amateur photographer Sandra Critelli captured these stunning images of a mass migration of Golden Rays while looking for whale sharks off the coast of Mexico. She said, “It was an unreal image, very difficult to describe. The surface of the water was covered by warm and different shades of gold and looked like a bed of autumn leaves gently moved by the wind.”

Beautiful.   

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More images after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Sad Stuff on the Street
04.04.2011
01:54 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Art

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Sad Stuff on the Street

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Sad Stuff on the Street is a Tumblr dedicated to lonely and forgotten items trying to survive on the mean streets of America. Those poor fuckin’ hot dogs. Just look at ‘em! 

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Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Scott Bartlett’s revolutionary short film OffOn (1967) and the making thereof
04.04.2011
11:01 am

Topics:
Art
Drugs
Heroes
Movies
Music

Tags:
OffOn
Scott Bartlett

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Although it may look quaint to our presently ultra-digitized visual awareness, Scott Bartlett‘s OffOn (1967) is a powerful,resourceful and successful conveyance of the psychedelic experience in sight and sound. It doesn’t hurt that the synth score by one Manny Meyer is pure proto-industrial brilliance. Really bold. I’ll say it again: It’s wonderful to have things like this available to all when once it was only viewable by academics and institutions. Included here also is a making of/re-creation of OffOn produced in tandem with a class taught by Bartlett at UCLA in 1980.
 

 

 
Moon 1969 by Scott Bartlett after the jump…

Posted by Brad Laner | Discussion
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1966 psychedelic Life Savers TV commercial by Terry Gilliam ?

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There’s no absolute proof but brilliant Los Angeles pop culture historian Domenic Priore believes this 1966 commercial to be the work of a young pre-Monty Python Terry Gilliam. I say it’s true. (Oops, it’s not. See below…)  Gilliam did after all attend high school in my beloved San Fernando Valley and worked at Carson Roberts advertising agency (along with Pet Sounds lyricist Tony Asher) in Los Angeles before finding his ultimate destiny in the U.K. There is unfortunately no official record or listing of Gilliam’s early TV commercial work, though there are doubtless many more such examples out there.
 

 
Update: Terry Gilliam’s co-worker at Carson Roberts, one Mike Salisbury has claimed creator-ship of this clip. He says: ”...Ed Ruscha worked there also. One of the first TV spots I did was there, for Baskin Robbins ice cream . Terry Gilliam and I worked on some things together but this one I created, wrote and animated. They gave us a lot of freedom. (it was a fun place to work—the in-house producer was the model for Mr. Magoo.)...” Also this from DM facebook friend Susan Pile: This direct from my pal TG: “...I had nothing to do with the commercial. And no idea who might have been the clever bastard. I’m up to my neck in my first opera: Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust. All foolishly backed by the English National Opera. Luckily I’m surrounded by real pros that are keeping me from drowning….”  So there ya go !

Posted by Brad Laner | Discussion
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