Archive for the ‘art’ category

The Red Shoes: Art for Art's Sake

David Thomson is one of my favorite film critics, if for no other reason than he’s not above throwing film theory out the window to say, in effect, “I like it because I like it SO THERE.”

I’m always game to read a good shadowplay soapbox from Thompson’s lovably cantankerous pen. The fact that when we differ, oh boy how we differ, makes moments of complete accord all the sweeter.

He hit the nail squarely on the head on this one.

Jack Cardiff‘s decadent cinematography, Moira Shearer‘s elegant dancing, surreal art direction, combined with Powell and Pressburger’s powerful vision… it is an extraordinary, singular, everlasting piece of “art for art’s sake.”

How else do you account for film credit titles quite this beautiful?



A Life in Photographs: Linda McCartney

Hubby Paul. Cover shot from Taschen's Linda McCartney: A Life in Photographs

Oh Taschen. Yummy, delectable, I-want-to-devour-you-whole Tahhhh-Shen. So beautiful. So sumptuous. SO expensive. And yet, somehow, worth every blessed cent. Your anthologies agonize me with want. I covet your sweetly binded spines and secretly despise those who have your volumes proudly displayed on their hand-crafted cabinetry. I’m a hater, what can I say?

I own one Taschen volume, their recent Los Angeles: Portrait of a City, and countless other titles clutter my wish list. (The Stanley Kubrick Archives, anyone?) But their newest release has been automatically scratched from any such “wish” list and sent straight to the top of “must have” indulgences.

My tongue hit the floor when I came across the latest Taschen catalog advertising Linda McCartney: A Life in Photographs … a decadently illustrated 300+ page volume chronicling ’60s Rock photographress supreme and the  Mother of all Rock moms? I am SO on this one.

Linda McCartney‘s life may very well be overshadowed by the incalculably large shadow of her legendary husband (she married a Beatle for goshsakes– and not just any Beatle, but one half of the greatest songwriting team of the 20th Century. And you can quote me).

But Linda was hardly a mere footnote in rock history.

She was a chronicler of it.

They met and fell in love like a good old fashioned romance novel. Down to earth, no-frills artsy girl happens upon society’s most eligible, rich, handsome bachelor, and the two fall madly in love, throwing convention to the wind. (The same, interestingly enough, is quite true of the couple’s acutely avant garde counterpart, John and Yoko; although to quite a different reaction … something that is another post altogether…)

Linda was never really just “Mrs. Paul McCartney.” Although she was an inextricable part of Paul’s life and work, straight up to her tragic death at age 56 from breast cancer, she was not only a wife and mother, but an artist.

A formidable one, in her own right, which this new Taschen anthology documents both exquisitely and authoritatively.

Sir Paul McCartney and his fashion-guru daughter Stella, along with siblings Mary, James and (half-sister) Heather,  have collaborated to present this highly personal tribute to a striking artistic talent, devoted mother, and truly gracious lady.

The publisher’s description sums it up perfectly:

From her early rock ’n’ roll portraits, through the final years of the Beatles, via touring with Wings to raising four children with Paul, Linda captured her whole world on film. Her shots range from spontaneous family pictures to studio sessions with Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, as well as artists Willem de Kooning and Gilbert and George. Always unassuming and fresh, her work displays a warmth and feeling for the precise moment that captures the essence of any subject. Whether photographing her children, celebrities, animals, or a fleeting moment of everyday life, she did so without pretension or artifice.

These photos are only a few from the selection of shots that will thrill any fan of 60s rock culture… or indeed, any true fan of photography itself.

Working Mum

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Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holdling Company

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Jimi Hendrix,1967

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John. 1968. This shot speaks volumes.

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The Rolling Stones-- taken on Linda's fortuitous shoot which secured her future as a rockumentarian goddess.

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Evocative shot of Steppenwolf-- the first band signed under The Beatles' fledgling late '60s' label, Apple Records.

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It's a bird ... it's a plane ... no, it's ... erm ... Paul in hotpants.

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A cluttered desk at the McCartney farm in Scotland-- 1970s.

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The McCartneys, Paul, Stella, James (and Linda behind the lens, of course) at home in Scotland.

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Candid shot of The Beatles from the April, 1967 Sgt. Pepper's press-op. Paul got Linda's number not long after.

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All in all, Taschen’s tribute is endearing, heartfelt, and probably their most sentimental volume to date.

I leave you all with my personal favorite Paul and Linda moment. Paul’s campy but oh-so fun music video featuring Michael Jackson, Say, Say, Say (1983), with Linda very much a part of Paul’s company, pitching in the best she can … bless her darling heart.

We love and miss you, Linda!

Pictorial Palette: Edward Hopper’s New York Movie

“New York Movie” by Edward Hopper, 1939

I have been remiss with my Pictorial Palettes as of late– infuriatingly so, because I truly do love these romantic indulgences of conjecture and color. So I am reinstating the tradition with Edward Hopper’s 1939 piece “”New York Movie.” A departure from our previous palettes, which were full color photo portraits or film stills, this is a celebrated piece of art from one of America’s foremost modern artists.

Edward Hopper’s realistic visualizations of early/mid 20th century America– from “Automat” to “Compartment C” to his seminal “Nighthawks”– are candid, rarely pretty, always pensive and often melancholy. The ominous, dark reality of the brightly lit American Dream, Hopper’s paintings (for me, anyway) are to American art what Charles Bukowski was to American literature and David Lynch is to American film.

“Automat” (1927); “Compartment C” (1938); “Nighthawks” (1942)

Hopper began his career as a rather reluctant  illustrator and, as a freelancer, even designed movie posters. He was an avid movie-goer, and as “New York Movie” shows, was intimately familiar with them. The National Gallery of Art made the observance of this particularly mysterious piece that the movie itself is not the focus here– indeed the image itself is undecipherable– but rather the focus is on the mood and atmosphere of the theater. And, of course, Hopper’s thoughtful usherette. Her interest in the film has, visibly, long since waned and the realities of her own life eat at her there under Hopper’s dim orange glow. Hers is a beautiful, stately silhouette, one you can easily envision draped in a satin gown by Orry-Kelly in an MGM melodrama.

Offset by the ornate movie palace decor of the period, Hopper succeeds in effectively conjuring a figure of  loneliness and melancholy. As Gardner’s Art Through the Ages points out, “motion is stopped and time suspended, as if the artist recorded the major details of a personal memory… [Hopper produced] paintings of overwhelming loneliness and echoing isolation of modern life in the United States.” In “New York Movie,” the movies are still a means of escape to the Depression-era moviegoers in the audience, but for Hopper’s usherette the smoke and mirrors have dissipated and all that’s left is the cold reality waiting outside.

hexes: #4E1120; #A91B17; #083964; #FBB426

Bass. Saul Bass.

Last month, the Kemistry Gallery in London held a show presenting the poster art of legendary graphic artist Saul Bass.

Even if you don’t recognize the name, if you’re a film fan then you know his work well. If I say Vertigo, chances are one of the first things you’ll think of is that iconic movie poster of an angular black silhouette falling into blood red background. Bass is responsible for those marvelously clever, Cubist-flavored film posters from the Cold War era that absolutely summed up the tired-but-true cliche: a picture is worth a thousand words. Bass’ first work on poster art was for Otto Preminger‘s Carmen Jones and, impressed with the results, Preminger pressed Bass for ideas on the title sequences. Bass’ work helped pushed forward the artistic possibilities for opening/closing credit sequences and embarked him upon a highly successful and influential career as one of the preeminent graphic artists working in Hollywood.

I’m gutted to have missed Kemistry’s exhibit, and present a selection of their featured prints below:

Le Vieil Homme et l'Enfant (1967)

Seconds (1966)

The Human Factor (1979)

Advise & Consent (1962)

Donald Urquhart's Melancholy Babies…

The Guardian’s artist of the week is a Scot named Donald Urquhart whose particular area of expertise are pen and ink drawings of Hollywood legends that are not the usual glamorous soft focus fantasies. His movie stars are human and startling: they have mascara that runs, moth-eaten minks, some are ten years past their prime and are quite ready to take their frustration out on anyone in their way. (His Joan Crawford Alphabet is particularly telling: “A is for Axe, E is for Eyebrows, S is for Straight Jacket, W is for Wire Hangers…”) His work captures the bitter reality of being an aging movie star and, if you happen to living in the greater London area, it will be on display at the Maureen Paley and Herald Street galleries until late May.