Mark Ryden seen here in the process of painting “Incarnation” in 2009 via time-lapse photography. If you’re a fan of his work (hand raised!) this is an incredible thing to see.
I’ve examined a lot of Mark Ryden’s paintings “in the flesh,” so to speak, and I gotta tell you, it’s always been impossible for me to figure out how he “does” it. When I first saw his work, I just assumed that he used an airbrush and was one of the greatest airbrush artists of all time. Nope, he gets his signature effects using a regular brush. Even though you can “see” exactly how he works here—and it’s fucking fascinating—after watching this, the artisan magic of what Mark Ryden does to a canvas was still very much a mystery to me. I think it’s best kept that way, don’t you?
Lady Gaga should hire Mark Ryden to do a portrait and repay the favor… After all, she got a lot of mileage out of one his best-known ideas.
This Friday, March 25, 20011, The Society of Illustrators is presenting “R. Crumb: Lines Drawn on Paper,” an exhibition of his original artwork spanning the past four decades. Both R. Crumb and Aline Kominsky-Crumb will be in attendance at the opening. On Saturday night, Crumb will be performing with the East River String Band, but that performance has already sold out.
This 90-piece exhibit showcases seminal covers and interior pages from ZAP, HEAD COMIX, THE EAST VILLAGE OTHER, MOTOR CITY COMICS, BIG ASS, HOMEGROWN FUNNIES, SAN FRANCISCO COMICS, and much, much more.
This retrospective, curated by BLAB! magazine founder Monte Beauchamp, editor of The Life & Times of R. Crumb (St. Martin’s Press), presents key pieces culled from the private art collection of Eric Sack, with contributions from John Lautemann, Paul Morris, and David Zwirner.
Society of Illustrators, 128 E. 63rd St., NYC, March 25, 7:00pm-10:00pm
Below, The Confessions of Robert Crumb documentary:
At his lowest ebb, it was the book that kept Ken Russell believing in his talents.
Alone, unrecognized and poor, the struggling, young film-maker found faith, during the 1950s, in a slim biography of the Vorticist sculptor, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. The book, Savage Messiah by H. S. Ede, consisted of letters from the young artist to his soul mate, the older, writer Sophie Brzeska. Of the artist’s life, Russell later said:
“I was impressed by Gaudier’s conviction that somehow or other there was a spark in the core of him that was personal to him, which was worth turning into something that could be appreciated by others. I wanted to find that spark in myself and exploit it for that reason.”
Born in 1895, H. S. Ede became a curator at the Tate Gallery London, in 1921, where he promoted works by Picasso, Braque and Mondrian. Ede often found himself frustrated by the more conservative tastes of the gallery directors. However, the position allowed Ede to become friends with many avant garde artists, and, more importantly, offered him the opportunity to obtain most of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska’s work through the estate of Sophie Brzeska. An event that helped ensure Henri’s art and reputation.
Gaudier-Brzeska was one of the leading artists of the Vorticist Movement, formed by Wyndham Lewis in 1913. Vorticism developed from Cubism and was linked to Futurism and Impressionism. However, Lewis and some of the other Vorticists, saw themselves as separate - a group of artists focussed on Dynamism, or as the Vorticist and poet, Ezra Pound wrote in his memoir on Gaudier-Brzeska:
“It is no more ridiculous that a person should receive or convey an emotion by means of an arrangement of shapes, or planes, or colors, than they should receive or convey such emotion by an arrangement of musical notes.”
“Vortex :- Every concept, every emotion, presents itself to the vivid consciousness in some primary form. It belongs to the art of this form.”
Vorticism is art before it has spread itself into flaccidity, into elaboration and secondary application.
Gaudier-Brzeska’s early sculptures had a hint of Rodin, though this wasn’t to last, as the dynamic young artist soon adapted Chinese and Japanese prints and paintings for his needs, before using the processes of Cubism to develop his own unique artistic vision. As Pound later wrote, Gaudier-Brzeska, “had an amazing faculty for synthesis…” which, Pound believed, had the Gaudier-Brzeska lived, would have made him as famous as Picasso. He didn’t. But the fact he produced so much work, “a few dozen statues, a pile of sketches and drawings, and a few pages about his art,” in just a few years (whilst living in desperate and impoverished conditions), only confirms Pound’s belief.
Henri Gaudier-Brzeska : after months of fighting and two promotions for gallantry, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska was killed in a charge at Neauville St. Vaast, on June 5th, 1915.
He was twenty-three.
Born in 1891, the son of a carpenter, Gaudier had been a translator, a forger of paintings, and a student, by the time he met Sophie Brzeska in 1910. Brzeska was almost twice Gaudier’s age, but there was a connection that kept them together for the next 5 years. To mark their bond, they adopted each other’s surname, and became Henri and Sophie Gaudier-Brzeska.
Sophie’s life until meeting Gaudier, had been one of misery and heartbreak, a tale no author of Gothic romantic fiction could have conceived. Sophie was a writer with ambitions to publish her autobiography, Matka, of which she wrote several versions. With intentions to revolutionize art, the pair moved to London, and began their creative life together.
It wasn’t easy. Henri worked by day and sculpted by night. Sophie wrote and rewrote, worked and kept house. Henri forged his own tools, and carved directly into stone. He used off-cuts and (allegedly) a marble headstone to make his sculptures. One story goes, that after an idle brag to an art dealer, who he told he had three new statues ready for show. Henri worked through the night to deliver the statues. When the dealer didn’t turn up at the expected time, Henri carried his sculptures round to the dealer’s gallery and hurled them through its window.
Gaudier-Brzeska was passionate, industrious, creative and dynamic. You can see the attraction Henri’s life and work would have to a young Ken Russell.
In London, Henri met and mixed with Pound, Lewis, and Edward Wadsworth, who together exchanged ideas and loosely formed the short-lived Vorticist group. It was through his association with Vorticism that Gaudier-Brzeska formed his own ground-breaking maxims about sculpture, which he published in the Vorticist magazine Blast:
“Sculptural feeling is the appreciation of masses in relation.
Sculptural ability is the defining of these masses by planes.”
Henri was re-defining sculpture, using “the whole history of sculpture” as his Vortex, to give a “complete revaluation of form as a means of expression.”
As Henri slowly flourished, Sophie started to weaken. Her health was poor, and their bond constricted. While Sophie recuperated outside London, Henri enlisted in the French army. They never saw each other again.
Even on the front line, Gaudier-Brzeska sketched, carved small statues from the butt of a German rifle, and wrote down more of ideas:
With all the destruction that works around us nothing is changed, even superficially. Life is the same strength, the moving agent that permits the small individual to assert himself.
After his death, Sophie went slowly mad, and wandered the streets of London, her fingers knitting together, distraught over the loss of her love.
Henri Gaudier-Brzeska at work in his studio.
In 1972, having succeeded in establishing himself as the best and most original British director since Alfred Hitchcock, Ken Russell repaid the debt he felt he owed to Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, and that slim volume by H. S. Ede, by adapting Savage Messiah for the screen. Russell made a beautiful and inspiring film, with a cracking script by poet Christopher Logue, set design by Derek Jarman, and sterling performances from Scott Antony as Henri, Dorothy Tutin as Sophie, along with Helen Mirren and Lindsay Kemp. As Joseph Lanza noted in his biography of the director, Phallic Frenzy:
...Russell draws bold battle lines between artists and society, as well as true art and commercialism…
Or, as Russell explained:
“Gaudier’s life was a good example to show that art, which is simply exploiting to the full one’s natural gifts, is really bloody hard work, misery, momentary defeat and taking a lot of bloody stick - and giving it…If you really want to show the hard work behind a work of art, then a sculptor is your best subject. I was very conscious of this in the sequence when Gaudier sculpts a statue all through the night. It’s the heart the core of the film, the most important scene to me.”
As the book Savage Messiah had inspired the young director, so Russell’s film inspired me. Though I doubt I will ever be able to pay back this debt, as Russell did so beautifully for Henri Gaudier-Brzeska.
Ken Russell’a film Savage Messiah can be watched here on Veoh.
The Vorticist magazine Blast, with contributions from Gaudier-Brzeska, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot and Wyndham Lewis, is avaiable as a PDF. Issue 1 can be found here and issue 2here.
So I watched this 45 second time-lapse video (above) of a cigarette burning in reverse called “Chasing Smoke.” After watching this, I got curious and wondered if it was actually possible to smoke an entire cigarette in less than 45 seconds? Well, it is. The gentlemen in the video below demonstrates how to finish off a smoky treat in just 40 seconds! Quite a… uh… talent! Must’ve taken years of practice and years off his life…
Here’s a great collection of live performance clips, programmed by one of today’s foremost experts in the field of electronic music, Keith Fullerton Whitman via the appropriately named Network Awesome:
1. Laurie Spiegel “Improvisations on a Concerto Generator” live at Bell Labs, 1977. Here Laurie is manipulating the Bell Labs Digital Synthesizer, aka the “Alles Machine” (or just “Alice”) in real time. I love how baroque this is ; the pulverizing 16th-note motorik starts to blur together until all you hear are the lovely arpeggiated chord-shapes.
2. Speaking of motorik ; Can “Paperhouse” live in 1972, at the peak of their powers ... You often think of Can as this freak-out group, but here they sound as restrained & musical as ever ... of course Jaki is on fire throughout, but I’m more impressed by Holger’s timekeeping in this clip !!! One of Damo’s best performances to boot, perfect Karoli guitar tone ; I could watch this on repeat, all day, every day ...
3. Seeselberg “Synthetik-1” , ca. 1975 c/o WDR. Seeselberg were two brothers (“Eckhardt” & “Wolf-J”) who issued a lone LP in 1973 of some of the most bewitching, non-denominational electronic music ever committed to tape. This feature-ette shows them jamming in front of a small gallery crowd, then at home in the studio ; cut with some rather Brakhage-esque direct-film experiments ... Sounds like a million bucks !!!
4. Bembeya Jazz National “Petit Sekou” live at the RTG studios in 1979. Slays me every time. Top-notch interplay, jagged but never showy guitar ... Love the VHS / helical scan wobble in the intro as well ...
5. Short film of Céleste Boursier-Mougenot’s commission for The Curve at the Barbican Center in London, 2010 ; Incredible idea, gorgeously executed ...
6. Great clip of Moroder actually performing “The Chase” from “Midnight Express” on a MiniMoog in 1979 ; proper synth freakout in there as well ...
7. Harry Bertoia Sound Sculptures, performed by his son, Val in 2001. About 5 years before this was filmed, I made the pilgrimage out to rural Bally, PA to witness these for myself ... since Harry’s passing in 1978, the sculptures have been standing in a barn, largely untouched, for the last 30 years; this is a rare document of their majestic forms / sounds ...
8. Pink Floyd “Echoes Part II” ; never was a big Gilmour fan, but I’ll rate this as the best bit from the later “Stadium” Floyd’s reign ...
9. Erkki Kurreniemi “Computer Music” ... mid-60’s film showing Erkki’s process for composing with computers. Typewriter? Check. Scads of jumbled up paper tape? Check. Composer falls asleep, dreams of psychedelic spinning landscape, rife with paranoid overtones? All there. As close as you’ll get to a valid “performance film” of early Computer Music ...
10. The Voice Crack trio of Norbert Möslang, Andy Guhl, and Knut Remond performing a set of their trademark “Cracked Everyday Electronics” in a gallery in their hometown of St. Gallen, Switzerland, 1989 ... I hear this not only as the blueprint for every “pedal noise” performance of the 90s / 00s, but as the invention of a few different languages that make up a large part of our current experimental music vocabulary. These guys are VISIONARIES ...
This book is about a single serpentine fact: late in 1976 a record called Anarchy in the U.K. was issued in London, and this event launched a transformation of pop music all over the world. Made by a four-man rock ‘n’ roll band called the Sex Pistols, and written by singer Johnny Rotten, the song distilled, in crudely poetic form, a critique of modern society once set out by a small group of Paris-based intellectuals.
Lipstick Traces, well, traces the critique of capitalism from the Dada art movement through the Situationist International and the May 1968 uprisings in Paris, through to the Sex Pistols and the punk rock explosion. In other words, it is the hidden history of the artistic opposition to capitalist society. It was heavily influenced by the revolutionary avant-garde punk zine “Vague” (a parody of Vogue, if that’s not obvious). I was reading “Vague” from my late teens—I still have most issues—and it had a great deal to do with shaping how I see the world. Marcus cribbed a lot from Tom Vague for Lipstick Traces, which is not to take anything away from Greil Marcus at all, but to simply give credit where its due.
Although I can recall a lot of criticism that was leveled at Lipstick Traces by reviewers when it first came out, the book’s thesis was, in my opinion, on pretty firm ground. It has certainly stood the test of time and has remained in print to this day. I’m told that it’s often used in college courses, which is unsurprising. A twentieth anniversary edition of Lipstick Traces was published by Harvard Press in 2009