Morbid menagerie: The opulent death displays of Frederik Ruysch
06:34 am


Frederik Ruysch

The drawings you see are here are from Frederik Ruysch’s Thesaurus Animalium Primus, a ten-volume collection published between 1701 and 1716. Ruysch was a Dutch botanist and anatomist who was appointed chief instructor to all the midwives in Amsterdam in 1668. His position had never existed before, but if a woman wanted to continue her work as a midwife, she now had to be evaluated by Ruysch. Having formerly suffered a dearth of cadavers to study and preserve, he suddenly found himself with access to a profusion of dead babies.

Part scientist, part artist, and part absolute eccentric, Ruysch became famous for his beautiful and morbid displays of embalming and remains, arranging human and animal parts together in the sorts of elaborate scenes you see here. Though he was a respected scientist, these presentations were barely medical, and hardly scientific. The sculptures often positioned the bones of babies in impossible stagings—you’ll notice one weeps genteelly, with a handkerchief. And with the help of his daughter Rachel, a famous still-life painter in her own right, he adorned his works with hair, flowers, fish, plants, seashells, and lace.

Ruysch showed his creations in a private museum (entry free to doctors, paid to layman), and they quickly became world-famous. The museum wasn’t quite a sober affair either—Ruysch would arrange tongue-in-cheek exhibits, like the bones of a three-year-old-boy next to that of a parrot, with the insinuated joke of “time flies.” In 1697, Czar Peter the Great took a tour of Ruysch’s work and became so enamored with one of the specimens that kissed it. He eventually purchased the entirety of the museum. I’m unsure of Dutch cultural norms regarding death around the turn of the 18th century, but the fact that midwives had to answer to a man with a side business in death sculptures suggests, at the very least, a conflict on interest. Still the strange beauty of Ruysch’s work cannot be denied, nor can his scientific brilliance.

His pioneering embalming techniques are what made his work possible, and Peter the Great also paid quite handsomely for the secret recipe to his preservation fluid, an alcohol of clotted pig’s blood, Berlin blue and mercury oxide. A (false) rumor circulated that the sailors transporting Ruysch’s collection to Russia drank all his embalming fluid, but it actually arrived in whole, and some of Ruysch’s specimens are still in perfect condition today—a testament to his brilliance in preservation.

Jan van Neck’s “Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Frederick Ruysch,” where he appears to perform an autopsy for posterity. (1683)







Via The Public Domain Review

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
How Matisse colored our world: ‘With color one obtains an energy that seems to stem from witchcraft’
07:28 am


Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse didn’t need the revolutionary gesture, he believed in art for art’s sake.

Matisse lived through a century of tumultuous change, but none of it had any effect on his work. Unlike Picasso, who compared himself to matadors and minotaurs, and sought public and political endorsement, Matisse believed in the bourgeois values he had inherited from his childhood in his hometown of Le Cateau-Cambrésis and believed art was best appreciated by the middle class.

Matisse was right. His once shocking painting “La Danse”, or his series of gouaches “Blue Nude”, or his collage “Jazz”, now decorate the walls, place mats, and drink coasters of many a middle class home. His art is valued and loved, while “revolutionary” works by Picasso, like “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” or “Guernica” are sold at museums as postcards, rather than prints for the dining room wall.

Matisse believed art should be “soothing”

“What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter—a soothing, calming influence on the mind, rather like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.”

This is not to say Matisse was safe. His paintings were and are still revolutionary in their design, approach and use of color. Moreover, in his final years Matisse produced some of his greatest work - dazzling collages made from cut-out colored paper.

“With color one obtains an energy that seems to stem from witchcraft.”

It was illness rather than witchcraft that played a key role in Matisse’s development as an artist. He first started painting at the age of twenty, whilst recovering from appendicitis.

“From the moment I held the box of colors in my hand, I knew this was my life.”

In 1941, the greatest creative period in Matisse’s career began when he was told that he was dying. He had stomach cancer and was not expected to live. After an operation to remove tumors from his intestines, Matisse struggled through long months of agonizing pain, and surprised the doctors, and nuns who attended him, by surviving against all the odds.

“In those little moments of calm, between two pangs, I imagined the inside of a tomb: a little space, completely enclosed, with no doors. And I told myself, ‘No, I prefer still being around even if it does mean suffering!’”

Matisse believed he did not have long to live (in fact he lived longer than either he or his medics thought), so he worked with a passion and intensity to make the most of this “second life.”

“It’s like being given a second life, which unfortunately can’t be a long one.”

He began to experiment by cutting up painted paper into collages to make startlingly original pictures. He was creating a new language of art that placed him above his rival Picasso.

The most comprehensive exhibition of Henri Matisse’s “cut-outs” opens at the Tate Modern, London, from April 14th until September 7th, 2014.

Art critic Alastair Sooke examines Matisse’s life, art and influence on our world, explaining how Matisse’s work has shaped much of our aesthetics—from color schemes, to fabrics, furniture and design.

Bonus: Hear Matisse speak, plus promo for the Tate show, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
‘Not sure if you’re a boy or a girl’: The androgynous self-portraits of Claude Cahun
06:59 am


Claude Cahun

Self-portrait, 1927. Her shirt says, “I am in training, don’t kiss me.”
While David Bowie will always be my very first cultural touchstone of avant-garde androgyny, it’s Claude Cahun that’s my absolute favorite. And I’m sure Bowie would approve. He once said of Cahun, “You could call her transgressive or you could call her a cross dressing Man Ray with surrealist tendencies. I find this work really quite mad, in the nicest way.” You don’t really get much of a better recommendation than that, and looking as alien and draggy as anything Mr. Rebel Rebel ever dreamed of, her many photographic incarnations are just mesmerizing.

Born in 1894 as Lucy Renee Mathilde Schwob in Nantes, France, she was from a family of artistic Jewish intellectuals. Cahun chose her pseudonym for its unisex ambiguity—the surname was her paternal grandmother’s who raised her, as Cahun’s mother struggled with mental illness. Her life-long artistic collaborator, romantic partner, and step-sister, Suzanne Malherbe, went by Marcel Moore, and together they fostered a true avant-garde community, hosting salons in their Paris home. André Breton, author of Surrealist Manifesto, was a regular attendant. Though photography is her most famous medium, she was also a painter, collage artist, sculptor, novelist, playwright and essayist—many of her published essays pertained to the avant-garde artistic community.

Cahun and Moore eventually moved to Jersey, in the Channel Islands, which was occupied by Germany during World War Two. Cahun and Moore were active in the resistance, feverishly creating protest materials of collage and poetry fliers denouncing the Nazis. The two actually attended German military events to discreetly hide their propaganda fliers on cars, in windows, in the seats of the crowd, and even in the pockets of Nazi soldiers. They were eventually arrested and sentenced to death. They spent some time in prison before the liberation, and though their sentencing was never carried out, Cahun’s death in 1954 is largely believed to have been the premature direct result of health problems she developed in prison. She is buried next to Moore in a church in Jersey.

Le Mystère d’Adam (The Mystery of Adam) 1929

Self-portrait, 1939

Self-portrait, 1929
More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
We Make You Us: Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel’s strange and absurd guerrilla art of the 1970s
05:33 am


Mike Mandel
Larry Sultan

We Make You Us (1985)
Due to some sort of cultural amnesia, Banksy is often credited as the innovator of politically conscious “guerrilla art,” but there have always been weirdos reclaiming public space for social critique. It’s tragic that Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel don’t even get a fraction of Banksy’s name recognition. Sultan and Mandel began collaborating as grad students in 1972, and in ‘73 they began pasting their prints on billboards in the Bay area—sometimes directly over actual advertising. The pair never became very well known outside of the art world, but in 2012 (three years after Sultan’s death) their work was collected for an art book, and now the Stephen Wirtz Gallery in San Francisco is running a retrospective on their Billboards.

The series is irreverent and kind of Dada, the images ranging from strange to absurd to banal, mocking consumerism and wealth with a snide humor. In a world of such high media density, you can imagine walking right past one and not noticing the billboard’s content. It reminds me a little bit of Sean Tejaratchi’s work from Liar Town USA, where he manages to imitate the design cliches with a hilarious accuracy. Of course, Sultan and Mandel’s work isn’t direct design parody, but the subversive farce of hiding in plain sight makes for a biting denunciation. 

A collection of Larry Sultan’s work is also slated to show later this year, at The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Mike Mandel continues to create beautiful works of public art.

Oranges On Fire (1975)

Electric Energy Consumption (1976)
More billboards after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
‘Real-life’ Marge Simpson is jaw-dropping (and kinda terrifying)

This is truly something else. And before you all yell “photoshop” and “fake”—I monitor the comments here on Dangerous Minds sometimes so I’m accustomed to all the usual comment tropes—it’s very real. Moscow-based photographer Alexander Khokhlov captures these extraordinary images with super-talented make-up artists, designers and expert lighting.

While this “real life” Marge Simpson is simply fascinating to look at, she’s still somewhat unsettling and terrifying, right?!?

There’s a video below showing you how Khokhlov and his team created Marge. I highly recommend muting the music. It’s godawful and distracting.

Via Geekologie

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
‘Illness, Madness and Death’: The world of Edvard Munch and ‘The Scream’
07:02 am


Edvard Munch

Edvard Munch described his paintings as his children, and like children he believed they should go off into the world and have their own adventures. He therefore showed little interest in a painting once it was finished. It could be discarded in an outhouse, abandoned to the elements, damaged in its handling, and even on one occasion, a dog jumped through a canvas. Munch felt that these marks and mishaps added to the work.

I wonder what Munch’s would have thought of the exacting restoration of his paintings The Scream and The Madonna, after they had been damaged by robbers in 2004. The paintings had “humidity stains” and were badly ripped after removal from their frames. The restorers sent long, tiring hours ensuring the paintings were returned to their “original” state prior to the theft.

The Scream is Munch’s most famous painting, and it is the one which has taken on a life beyond the original pictures. Today you can buy The Scream printed on clocks, socks, t-shirts, key-ring fobs, notebooks, mugs, dresses, inflatables and Internet memes.

Munch had been inspired to paint the picture after an evening stroll, as he noted in his journal 22 January 1892:

“One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The color shrieked. This became The Scream.”

He later wrote a more poetic version of his inspiration on the pastel version of The Scream (1895):

“I was walking along the road with two Friends / the Sun was setting – The Sky turned a bloody red / And I felt a whiff of Melancholy – I stood / Still, deathly tired – over the blue-black / Fjord and City hung Blood and Tongues of Fire / My Friends walked on – I remained behind / – shivering with Anxiety – I felt the great Scream in Nature – EM.”

But the inspiration for The Scream probably went further back than just one evening in Norway, it likely stemmed from his strange and oppressive childhood. Born into a middle class family in 1863, Munch was brought up in a household of strict religious observance, illness and death. When he was five his mother died of consumption. His sister suffered the same fate when Munch was fourteen. His father then went insane with grief, spending days praying, oblivious to the world. While another sister was schizophrenic and died in an institution. His childhood traumas were to bruise all of Munch’s life, as he later wrote:

“Illness, madness, and death were the black angels that kept watch over my cradle and accompanied me all my life.”

The first documentary gives fascinating examination of Edvard Munch’s life and work, while the second focuses on the story of his most famous painting, “an icon of modern art, a Mona Lisa for our time,” The Scream.

‘The Private Life of The Scream’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
The lost art of surfer movie tickets
02:00 pm


Endless Summer

Movie tickets are not something to which we give a lot of thought from an aesthetic point of view, and really why should we?  They exist to be torn in half within minutes of purchase. The generic, bluish, thermally printed and perfectly utilitarian stubs we’re used to today were preceded in my youth by the classic red “ADMIT ONE” tabs that did the job just fine in the days when most cinemas had only one or two theaters.

So it was a truly pleasant surprise to find The Gallery of Surf Classics’ trove of 1960s surf movie ticket stubs. Many are very plain, but some of the graphic tickets are marvelous. Now, apart from breakouts like Bruce Brown’s classic The Endless Summer, surf movies weren’t nearly as mainstream as the Frankie & Annette beach party movies that simplified the culture for America’s landlocked. (As a Cleveland kid and a great indoorsman who doesn’t doesn’t tend to much get hung up on the whole So-Cal vibe, movies formed the basis of my knowledge of surf culture, to which I’m a consummate outsider.) These were essentially niche sports documentaries that screened in high school auditoria and civic rec centers, so I find it pretty amazing that anyone would have taken the time and expense to craft such elaborate tickets for these films.

The Endless Summer, 1964

Walt Phillips’ Once Upon a Wave, 1963

Grant Rohloff’s Too Hot To Handle, 1963
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
Will robots replace Lady Gaga?

Last week Dangerous Minds’ Martin Schneider posed the question “Will pole dancing robots put human strippers out of work?” After watching the video of this batshit gyrating animatronic by artist Jordan Wolfson I’m inclined to answer “maybe.” I mean I doubt they’ll be wearing bonkers witch masks, but who knows?

According to the description on YouTube:

“The figure incorporates facial recognition technology, allowing her to focus on, and unnervingly follow visitors at the exhibition.”

The piece is currently being exhibited March 6 – April 19 at David Zwirner Gallery in New York. 

Via io9

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
Vinyl Terror and Horror’s jaw-dropping record manipulations
10:31 am


Vinyl Terror and Horror

In some of my earliest days in college radio, in the few years between my getting sick of every goddamn band sounding like R.E.M. and being re-invigorated by rock via Amphetamine Reptile, I and a few other anarchy-minded graveyard shift DJs liked to perform what someone had dubbed “destructions” (possibly after Knížák): two or more of us would patch the production studio into the air signal, doubling the number of reel-to-reel decks and turntables available to us, and we’d then improvise hours-long musique concret pieces with tape loops, prepared vinyl, and any other sound sources we could conjure up. It involved a lot of intensive listening, and real foreknowledge of our source materials, because we didn’t want the pieces to be just a bunch of bullshit noise, though of course sometimes they were anyway.

We fancied ourselves teenaged Christian Marclays, and with a major midwestern university covering the cost of replacing the needles we were savaging, we prepped thrift-store vinyl by drilling off-center spindle holes, cutting records in half and re-attaching them randomly, and strategically blocking off grooves with masking tape or glue to create intentional skips and loops. While the music we made wasn’t the sort of thing most “normals” would care to listen to, it was 3 in the damn morning, so who cared? We were teaching ourselves to break down categorical restrictions and to think of music in uncommonly physical terms!!!

And we would have given anything to have been even half as cool as Vinyl Terror and Horror are today.

VT&H are the Berlin-based Danish duo Camilla Sørensen and Greta Christensen. Their vinyl art incorporates innovations like multi-tiered turntables, upside-down tone arms and the use of precision cutting devices to make literal jigsaw puzzles out of records. They even deploy robotics. The pair related the history of the project to Thump UK:

Sørensen and Christensen met at Copenhagen’s Royal Danish Art Academy in 2001 while studying sculpture, and decided to collaborate on a series of soundscapes. After exploring a shared interest in Hammond organs, they decided that there was little interest in learning how to play a traditional instrument. Using vinyl was convenient as it was readily available from Copenhagen’s charity shops, and interesting as a sculptural item. “In a very sculptural sense, the sound is directly connected to the material alongside the recorded material, which has its own time and its own history,” Christensen says. “The record as an object that you can work with very directly and manipulate. We turn it into something new.”
After relocating to Berlin in 2003, the duo began performing and came upon their moniker by accident. “At a flyer for one of the shows,” Sørensen relates, “we saw a description written underneath our names of what we do: vinyl terror. We added the horror just because we were two – so one could be the terror and one could be the horror.” I press them: which member is the terror and which is the horror? They pause and think carefully over their response, before deciding that there is a bit of both in each of them.
This appears to be the modus operandi of the Vinyl Terror and Horror project – to bring out the unsettling side of record playing by turning the audio format into a living wreck. Christensen admits that this is all done with the aim of a narrative purpose: “It’s a project based on disasters. The sound is about creating disasters.” Alongside Sørensen, she finds discount recordings of operas, classical music and sets about distorting their forms for storytelling purposes. 



More Vinyl Terror and Horror after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
Velvet portraits of wrestling greats
10:23 am


velvet paintings

Hulk Hogan
Velvet paintings and professional wrestling—a veritable chocolate and peanut butter of low culture combos! Artist Bruce White “believes that Elvis and Jesus are not the only icons of the world worthy of being immortalized on a velvety canvas,” and his show “VelvetMania” really captures the personalities of the great wrestling icons of yore. Many of the portraits you see below are for sale, should you be in the market for some fine (and fun) art.

For the unacquainted, professional wrestlers are far more than buff (or even not so buff) actors staging a phony fight—these men are the drag queens of heterosexual masculinity. If you grew up watching wrestling, the appeal is obvious. If you didn’t, I suggest you get right with God and YouTube some classic matches this very minute. If you don’t fall in love with the spectacle, I pity you. But how could you not? The swagger, the bombast, the mullets! The only real question is who to favor? Who will be your champion, and what does it say about you?!?

If you pick Hulk Hogan, you may be attracted to American classics, or you may just be a bore. Jake the Snake and Koko B. Ware (below) may appear to rely on a gimmick of animal companionship, but I assure you, they’re men of great charisma. Then we have Shawn Michaels for the glamor queens, and The Ultimate Warrior—the uber-buff “wrestler’s wrestler.”

You may remember “Rowdy” Roddy Piper from his brilliant performance in John Carpenter’s 1988 dystopic sci-fi classic, They Live, where he ad-libs one of the greatest tough guy lines of all time. Then, for the goth kids, we have The Undertaker—he had great entrances. But I saved my favorite for last—Mick Foley, as his unhinged character, Mankind, and his little friend, Mr. Socko. Fun fact, Mick Foley is a huge Tori Amos fan and does a lot of advocacy for victims of sexual violence. I fucking love Mick Foley, and he’s even a Hoosier, like myself. I’ve included his debut as Mankind at the end—the dude could really put on a show.

Jake the Snake

Koko B. Ware

Shawn Michaels
More of Bruce White’s velvet portraits of wrestlers after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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