Category Archives: artists

This and that No. 4

Billy Monk photos. From a nightclub in Capetown in the mid-60s.

Billy Monk, The Catacombs, 23 February 1968

Billy Monk, The Catacombs, 23 February 1968 at Michael Stevenson Gallery.

Billy Monk, The Catacombs, 1967

Billy Monk, The Catacombs, 1967 at Michael Stevenson Gallery.

Billy Monk, The Catacombs, 1967

Billy Monk, The Catacombs, 1967 at Michael Stevenson Gallery.

They’re silver gelatin prints. Via The Guardian and a commenter there. Very much worth reading; he sounds like an interesting guy. It’s a review of a new book, Billy Monk:

De Villiers dubs Monk ‘the seedy eye of the 1960s’, but he was more than that. He had an eye for the revealing, the intimate as well as the brazen, and he often caught both in the same instant. A bleached-blonde woman in a white trouser suit, holding a bottle of brandy in each hand, shouts or sings across the room, while beside her a sad-looking man sits in quiet contemplation. Another woman, a love bite visible on her neck, gazes lovingly at the bottles of brandy and coke on an adjacent table, while her escort slumbers blissfully on her shoulder. Bottles of brandy and coke are a constant in his photographs, as are short dresses, cheap suits and comatose customers. Monk’s relentlessly intimate reportage often captures the edginess of the hard-drinking life: the steely-eyed gaze of a punter who resents his camera’s intrusion, the defiant stare of a woman baring her breasts for the punters – and Monk’s camera.

This is a glimpse here, too, of another South Africa, an underground scene in which the taboo of inter-racial sex is flaunted. Ultimately, though, Monk’s brilliant snapshot aesthetic adds up to a portrait of wild people having a wild – though not always a good – time. His job, and his reputation as a bruiser, gave Monk the freedom to poke his camera where he wanted, but his eye for the revealing moment was extraordinary. In a short foreword, Goldblatt notes: ‘Monk’s non-judgmental, even cool-eyed awareness of the photographic possibilities of the bizarre pervades the work, and yet this awareness is never denigratingly exploitative.’

*****

Sally Cruikshank, “Quasi’s Cabaret” trailer, 1980. Described on YouTube as: “Nightclub of the future with live alligators and a tipsy train that serves drinks.” So exciting it’ll make you dizzy! First encountered in an animation class I took in college.

This and that No. 3 is here.

No. 2 is here.

And No. 1 is here.

Friday afternoon video art show : Alyce Obvious

I can’t recall how I stumbled across Alyce Obvious’s work because it was several years ago now. Every so often I remember to look at her website and inevitably I find something thoughtful, inventive, heartening, and fun to look at. She makes all sorts of works, much of them concerning sound, music and sustainability — e.g., she’s been working with sonic fabric woven from cassette tapes for over ten years — but the easiest kind of art to share in a blog post art show is video art.


This is a listening pillow she made for an art pillow show. The YouTube description says it was “inspired by a patent filed in 1964 for a ‘listening pillow’ . . . designed to facilitate listening to music in stereo while lying on one’s side.” Alyce “updated [this apparatus] considerably to appeal to modern, nature-deprived audiences. The pillow is worn as a headpiece, with the tuft of copper wool serving as a conductor between the ear of the wearer and natural objects.”

This is called “WAVES become MATTER: improvisation for flute and ruben’s tube.” The tube “makes visible the effect of sonic vibration on compressed gas.” I told my friend who plays the drums that she needs one of these but I take it back, I think she’d burn down her rehearsal space.


I love this, this is the sonic fabric factory in action. The fabric is made on an antique loom in a New England textile mill.


This is her latest video. It’s called southern pacific suite: music for train horns: part 4: longing trains. It’s from “projects for prepared ear” and it’s a flute and guitar reconstruction of the two most commonly-heard Amtrak horn chords in Marfa and Alpine, Texas.

If you are excited by the sonic fabric today is your lucky Friday, because right this very moment Alyce has a project you can support at USA Projects. Cough up a bit of cheddar and you can get a swatch of sonic fabric ($10), a flag ($100), a whole yard of the stuff to make what you will or a necktie ($200), and / or assorted other sonic goodies. Don’t dawdle if you’re interested because the deadline for the project is September 8th and that’s SOON.

at the Boggsville Boatel

I was so moved by those amasan photos I found that I decided to get my sea legs ASAP at the Boggsville Boatel, a hospitality experience / art experience happening at Marina 59 in Far Rockaway, Queens this summer.

BOATEL

Actually no, this wasn’t a spontaneous thing — it was kind of difficult to get a reservation after the NY Times article came out, and I was ridiculously excited when my time on the waiting list finally paid off with a night aboard The Crumb. It did not disappoint! We had a genuine seafaring adventure and the very next day we became big in Japan as a result.

aboard The Crumb

It was raining when we arrived at the Boatel so there would be no movie or lecture at the boat-in theater that evening, but we had a terrific time hanging out in our boat.

our bell aboard The Crumb

It has a very cozy cabin (entered via a sweet little curtained door), a giraffe mascot, and some inspiring art.

The Crumb

inside The Crumb

inspirational art in The Crumb

(We’re pretty sure those tuff ladies were part of a sea-going rival gang to the Van Dykes).

where we slept in The Crumb

We slept in that sleep-space there, in the bow. It’s dark, I know. There’s no electricity in these boats. We brought a lantern and a flashlight but didn’t use them — there were plenty of candles in our cabin, along with a battery-operated boombox and a handwritten note explaining that drunk guests would be sent to bed rather than fished out of the spaces between the boats. We had plenty of sheets and pillows and, most importantly, no leaks. It rained all night but the atmosphere at the Boatel was charming, lit with just the blue of the neon sign and the orange glow of candlelight in everyone’s cabins. We drank prosecco and my friend iPhone-DJed Northern Soul, and I took a terrible photo with my Blackberry.

nighttime at the Boatel

At some point there was a liquor run with other guests. The neighborhood is what one might call seaside scuzzy — there are housing projects next to the marina on one side and a school bus parking lot on the other, or possibly a labor camp for kids who were really bad on the bus — but we went out in a group and nothing bad happened. To give you a feel for the surrounding environs, my friend and I wandered over to a pizza place we’d noticed on our way to the liquor store the following afternoon, and the pizza didn’t look so good so we stood by the window for a moment, wondering whether we ought to try the Chinese place across the street instead. We hadn’t been looking out the window for more than a few seconds before another pizza customer asked “what’s wrong, the police out there?”

It really is pretty amazing that there’s an incredibly cool marina with all sorts of fascinating arty stuff going on one block from the A train. It makes me very happy to live within a subway ride of this place. (A long ride, but still). It’s exciting in a way that very few parts of NYC are anymore, and Rockaway Beach is just a block away from the train in the opposite direction.

The next morning we awoke to a sky still peachy around the edges and promptly went out to sea in a rowboat.

morning at the Boatel

The Princess Ladyboat

rowboat

heading out to sea

No, no, it’s dumb to go to sea in a rowboat. We just went to have a look at a rusty old abandoned tugboat.

abandoned tugboat

And to look at nature. Those are mussels there, and a crab way in the back. We didn’t get crabs in Queens because we’re entirely / mostly vegetarian, but we saw people getting crabs all day long. Note the oars for the boat are made from police barricades — an excellent use for them.

mussels

It’s Queens so the wildlife is all mixed up. In addition to mussels and crabs we saw beautiful shorebirds in the marina and at the beach, one big fat rat (which is sometimes reassuring to New Yorkers, being a reliable indicator one has not strayed far from home), one pet iguana on a leash (sunbathing atop a parked car near the beach), and, living in the marina, a family of goats. The baby one there was born at the marina in May and is already really good at doing goat stuff (i.e. eating trash). There’s a dad goat too; later on we walked past the goat family again and he ran over to stand next to the baby.

marina goats

I’m leaving out an important part of our day here, which is that before we went out in the rowboat, Connie — artist Connie Hockaday, creator of the Boatel — told us a Japanese teevee crew would be coming by that afternoon to do a live broadcast, and we should stick around and meet them. OK yes!

In the meantime we went to Rockaway beach.

Rockaway Beach

vinyl forever

YES.

fat little beach bird

On our way back from the beach, after not getting in trouble with the law at the pizza place, we bought some sugarcane juice from this guy at a hefty white people-mark-up. I think. My friend is part Mexican but doesn’t look it and she thought this was a terrible injustice but I wanted some juice, and sort of didn’t mind contributing to the local economy.

sugarcane juice guy

Have you been wondering where did we go pee in this crazy place, this place WNYC referred to as a “floating flophouse”? Jesus. We weren’t roughing it that rough. Marina 59 has a really nice little building with very clean, very new-looking bathrooms and a shower. No fish-scaling allowed!

absolutely no fish scaling in here

When we returned from the beach the teevee crew had arrived and were starting to set up for their broadcast. They were from NHK, which is the PBS of Japan. They were all really nice people. I think you have to be pretty good-natured to work in or on live television because all sorts of strange shit could go so wrong. We made like teevee starlets and retired to our trailer (CRUMB) to practice our lines and drink beers.

the Japanese TV crew setting up

There’s the NHK presenter practicing her lines aboard the deck of the Ms. Nancy Boggs while we do the same in The Crumb.

NHK TV host

We explored our boat a bit more thoroughly in the daylight. We think it’s probably from the 1970s because the sleeping area has what appears to be an authentic vintage 1970s sex strap. I’m not quite sure how it works but I bet one of you people will know. Is there an attachment?

in our boat

We also found a bottle of Entertainer’s Secret, so we had everything we needed to become famous.

found in our boat

We toured the other boats too. Ours was our favorite but the Ms. Nancy Boggs is a close second. It’s got a cozy seating area, a spacious sleep area, and a sympathetic gazelle.

inside the Ms. Nancy Boggs

inside the Ms. Nancy Boggs

We did a couple of run-throughs with the NHK crew before the broadcast. It was an action-packed set-up: it would begin with the presenter sitting on the deck of the Ms. Nancy Boggs, follow her to an interview with Connie on the Zenobia, and end at the boat-in theater, where I was having an infinite BBQ. There the presenter would ask me how I liked the Boatel, and naturally I would say it is lovely, transporting, etc. My friend sat next to me having infinite beers as I piled BBQ goodies onto her plate. On my other side was Ari the marina owner and Milly the marina dog, who was exceptionally good about not snatching anything off the grill. Behind us a couple of kids from the neighborhood did infinite somersaults into the water, and on the other side there were some people doing an infinite rowboat tour.

NHK TV crew

I’ll update this post with a link to the NHK clip as soon as I can find one. Apparently it was seen by millions and millions of viewers! It’s got to turn up on the internet sooner or later.

If you have an interest in happenings on boats, you really ought to read Log of the S.S. The Mrs Unguentine by Stanley Crawford. It’s one of my favorite books and I thought of it often while at the Boatel. It’s about a couple who spend forty years on a gigantic, impossible, heavily-customized barge, never once going ashore. They plant a garden on board their ship, build an enormous greenhouse around it, and, if my memory is correct, eventually replace all of the leaves on all of the plants with handmade glass ones, for some compelling reason or other. And so forth. It’s relentlessly inventive and beautifully written, and it also happens to be an accurate depiction, somehow, of what it’s like to be very close to someone — at sea with them and them alone — and not have any idea What Is Going On With Us / What Is Going On With You.

Log of the S.S. The Mrs Unguentine

The Boatel is all booked up for the rest of the season but you don’t have to be an overnight guest to attend the boat-in theater, and there are tons of other interesting things happening at Marina 59 and elsewhere on the water this summer. Go!

the blue god

Staying with the Russian theme for one more day, here are some works by Russian painter, set designer and costume designer Léon Bakst. Many of these costumes were for the Ballets Russes.

the blue god
Costume design for “Le Dieu Bleu,” 1912, watercolor, gouache and gold paint.

Design for the costume of a pilgrim
Costume design for pilgrim (in “Narcisse”?), 1911, pencil, watercolor, gouache and silver paint.

more after the jump:

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free tour departing now

If you have approximately 35 minutes to spare, Jean Cocteau would like to give you a tour of his friend’s villa in Cap Ferrat. The tour is in French but mostly you’ll be looking at artwork, and it’s still perfectly lovely and transporting without subtitles. There is no slush there; instead there is greenery and good-natured camera tricks, filmed in Kodachrome.

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“La Villa Santo Sospir” (1952) via UbuWeb here. (If you’re having trouble watching the embedded video above, try watching there).

a good browse

I spent much of Thursday evening browsing the Spring 2010 D.A.P. catalog. I’d never seen their catalog before and found it nearly as engrossing as my perennial favorite at this time of year, the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog, which has over 230 varieties of tomato for 2010, including the rare Russian Emerald Apple, the Barnes Mountain yellow, the Caspian pink, the Cherokee purple and the Henderson’s Crimson Cushion. I don’t have any space to grow tomatoes but I could make room for a couple of these books.

Starburst: Color Photography in America 1970-1980

Starburst: Color Photography in America 1970-1980. This is out at the end of April.

Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers

Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers. This one’s out at the end of May. It’s being published in connection with a Klein retrospective at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden. There hasn’t been a major Klein exhibit in the US in many years and I think it’ll be kind of a big deal.

Treatise on Elegant Living

Honoré de Balzac, Treatise on Elegant Living. I’ve read quite a few of Balzac’s novels but not anything in the way of essays or aphorisms. He’s great with villains, frauds, and all manner of people on the make so I’m guessing an epigrammatic style suited him nicely. This is the first English translation of this title and the catalog describes it as “marking an important shift from the early dandyism of the British Regency to the intellectual and artistic dandyism of nineteenth-century France.” The official date on it is Feb. 28 but you can get it from Amazon now.

Utopics: Systems and Landmarks

Utopics: Systems and Landmarks. A “glossary of utopian structures, zones and acts in art and beyond.” Edited by Simon Lamunière; text by Nicolas Bourriaud, Fabienne Bideau, Philippe Cuenat and Ildiko Dao. Out at the end of February. I was thinking it sounded like a good nightstand book even before I got to the part about it being “bound in a glittering night-sky cloth.”

Pedro Friedeberg

Pedro Friedeberg. Pop-surrealist artist and designer monograph, out in March. In the meantime there’s some interesting stuff on his site.

Sound in Z

Sound in Z: Experiments in Sound and Electronic Music in Early 20th-Century Russia. Edited by David Rogerson and Matt Price. I don’t really know anything about theremins and whatnot but but the intersection of science and music and kooky 20th century inventors is promising subject matter. (Exhibit A: a quick peek at Mr. Léon Theremin’s Wikipedia page reveals that he also invented a big wooden box called “The Thing,” which was presented to the US ambassador in Moscow by Soviet schoolkids and then used to eavesdrop on his office for the next five years or so, and a dance platform called the terpsitone that converted dance moves into tones). I’m also intrigued by the reference in the book’s description to “Avraamov’s ‘Symphony of Sirens,’ an open-air performance for factory whistles, foghorns and artillery fire first staged in 1922.” Out at the end of March.

Birgit Jürgenssen

Birgit Jürgenssen. Edited by Gabriele Schor. Text by Abigail Solomon-Godeau, Elisabeth Bronfen and Sigrid Schade. Yes please, about time. I have saved several images of Jürgenssen’s work over the past few years with her name in the back of my mind, used them as desktops and that sort of thing, but without ever following up. The short story is that she is an Austrian artist, born 1949, died 2003, but stay tuned for a Birgit Jürgenssen blog art show here sometime soon. This monograph is out in the US at the end of March; it looks like the German edition was out in 2009.

A Stick of Green Candy: Stories by Jane Bowles and Denton Welch

A Stick of Green Candy. Stories by Jane Bowles and Denton Welch. I’ve been meaning to read some Jane Bowles for a while now and this illustrated collection of four of her stories seems like an interesting place to start. Out at the end of March.

Clicking on any of the images above will take you to more info about the books on D.A.P.’s site.