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Posts Tagged ‘art

“I traveled far and wide through many different times”*…

Fifty years ago this month Harold D. Craft, Jr., published a remarkable black-on-white plot in his Ph.D. dissertation at Cornell University. A stacked series of jagged lines displayed incoming radio waves from pulsar CP1919, as detected at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Several months later the chart appeared as a full-page visualization in Scientific American, this time with white lines on a field of cyan [above]…

Scientific American

In 1977, the image was included in The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Astronomy

… where, two years after that, Factory Records graphic genius Peter Saville discovered it and adapted it as the cover art for Joy Division’s debut album, Unknown Pleasures. He reversed the image from black-on-white to white-on-black, against the band’s stated preference for the original. “I was afraid it might look a little cheap. I was convinced that it was just sexier in black.”

It has, of course, become an icon.

* Joy Division, “Wilderness,” from Unknown Pleasures

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As we tap our toes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1985 that the U.S. Senate held hearings on what they called “porn rock.” The session was convened at the urging of the Parents Music Resource Center, a group founded by Tipper Gore, wife of Senator and later Vice President Al Gore; Susan Baker, wife of Treasury Secretary James Baker; Pam Howar, wife of Washington realtor Raymond Howar; and Sally Nevius, wife of former Washington City Council Chairman John Nevius, and devoted to forcing the music industry to affix Parental Advisory stickers– “warning labels”– to albums and CDs deemed to contain morally challenged material (like the “Filthy Fifteen” songs the group condemned).

Three musicians– Frank Zappa, John Denver, and Dee Snyder– testified in opposition to the proposal at the hearing… which was in the end moot, as the industry, afraid of negative publicity, agreed voluntarily to begin the labeling.

It is unclear that the “Tipper sticker” was/is effective in preventing children from being exposed to explicit content. Some, citing the “forbidden-fruit effect,” suggest that the sticker in fact increases record sales, arguing as Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind & Fire has: “for the most part [the sticker] might even sell more records… all you’ve got to do is tell somebody this is a no-no and then that’s what they want to go see.”

Tipper Gore at the hearing

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“If you could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint”*…

Studies of various types of water bird, swimming and diving among river weed. This work seems to have been intended as a kind of picture thesaurus.

One of the world’s most important collections of art has re-emerged after having been lost for more than 70 years.

The corpus – 103 original drawings by the non-Western world’s most famous artist, the 19th century Japanese painter, Hokusai – came to light in Paris and has now been bought by the British Museum.

The newly discovered artworks appear to have formed part of one of the most ambitious publishing projects ever conceived – a Japanese plan to create a huge pictorial encyclopaedia.

Known as the Great Picture Book of Everything, it was conceived by Hokusai (best known for his most famous work – The Great Wave) – but was never completed.

Published at around the same time as Hokusai was producing the 103 recently rediscovered drawings, The Great Wave is the artist’s most famous painting

The project was abandoned in the 1830s – either because of cost or possibly because Hokusai insisted on reproduction standards that were difficult to attain.

The Great Picture Book of Everything was to have been a comprehensive way for the Japanese to have access to images of people, cultures and nature around the world – at a time when virtually no Japanese people had been allowed out of Japan for some two centuries –  and virtually no foreigners had been allowed into 99 per cent of the country.

In that ultra-restrictive atmosphere, the project was to have given people an opportunity to explore a highly stylised printed version of the outside world as well as Japan itself…

The full story (and more examples of the work) at “Hokusai: More than 100 lost works by non-western world’s most famous artist rediscovered“– the artist’s abandoned attempt to create Great Picture Book of Everything.

* Edward Hopper

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As we picture that, we might send challenging birthday greetings to Hans Peter Wilhelm Arp; he was born on this date in 1886. A sculptor, painter, and poet (who also worked in other media such as torn and pasted paper), Arp was a friend and associate of Hugo Ball and a regular at the Cafe Voltaire, where he helped create the Dada Movement; at the same time he was associated with the Surrealists. But he broke with those movements to found Abstraction-Création, working with the Paris-based group Abstraction-Création and the periodical, Transition. Beginning in the 1930s, he expanded his efforts from collage and bas-relief to include bronze and stone sculptures, and to write and publish essays and poetry. Examples of his work are here.

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“All poets write bad poetry. Bad poets publish them, good poets burn them.”*…

 

Thunderstorm with the Death of Amelia 1784 by William Williams active 1758-1797

Thunderstorm with the Death of Amelia, by William Williams, 1784. Photograph © Tate (CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0).

 

Readers may recall an earlier nod to William Topaz McGonagall, widely considered to be the worst published poet in British history.  McGonagall, best known for his widely-excoriated verse recounting of “The Tay Bridge Disaster,” distributed his poems, often about momentous events, on handbills and performed them publicly (often, it is reported, to cat calls and thrown food).  And he collected his verse into volumes including Poetic Gems, More Poetic Gems, Still More Poetic Gems, Further Poetic Gems, and Yet Further Poetic Gems.  Imagine your correspondent’s surprise and delight to find a learned appreciation of McGonagall’s place in poetic history:

Not unjustly, McGonagall is rarely mentioned without an epithet: some version of “the worst poet in the English language.” And by any reasonable account, any judgment based on the most universally shared values of poetics, prosody, and taste, there is little to admire in McGonagall. The rest of his corpus shares—replicates, really—the faults of “The Tay Bridge Disaster”: its lapses into bathos, its involuted syntactical structures, its rhymes so slanted as to be more or less horizontal.

There have been worse poets, of course, and as such it would be more accurate to describe McGonagall as the worst famous poet in the English language, a testament in part to the man’s powers of self-promotion and the caprices of literary history. But McGonagall’s notoriety still owes much to the singularly strange power of his own badness. There’s something, I think, in poems like “The Tay Bridge Disaster”—as well as McGonagall’s many poems on his great themes of death and destruction—that is worth examining; something that might redeem him, ever so slightly, from the annals of amusing semi-obscurity; something unsettling about his ostensibly blinkered artistic vision that might help to account for why he lingers as the patron saint of misbegotten verse…

On William Topaz McGonagall, the worst famous poet in the English language: “The Disaster Poet.”

(Readers will find a selection of McGonagall’s poems here.)

* Umberto Eco

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As we bathe in bathos, we might spare a thought for the decidedly more-accomplished poet (and playwright, artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and philosopher) Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; he died on this date in 1832.  Probably best remembered these days for Faust, he was “the master spirit of the German people,” and, after Napoleon, the leading figure of his age.

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Written by LW

August 28, 2020 at 1:01 am

“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!”*

 

Dr S 1

 

In “Dr. Strangelove Dr. Strangelove,” Kristan Horton imitates the glorious satirical film Dr. Strangelove, using common household objects to re-create the world created by Kubrick—silverware become an airplane, plastic and coffee grounds become the sky…

sky

Dr S 3

radar

The sublime, recreated with the mundane: “Dr. Strangelove Dr. Strangelove,” via the ever-illuminating The Morning News.

See also the “3-D Rooms Project.”

* Peter Sellers as President Merkin Muffley, one of three roles he played in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, produced, directed, and co-written (with Terry Southern, very loosely based on a novel by Peter George) by Stanley Kubrick

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As we ride it down, we might recall that it was on this date in 1883 that the volcano at Krakatoa (Krakatau) erupted with full force.  The sound was heard over 2,000 miles away (that’s over 7.5% of the earth’s surface– the equivalent of an explosion in New York City being heard in San Francisco); tsunamis caused by the great blast killed 36,000 people in Java and Sumatra.

But there was another sense in which Krakatoa was importantly “the sound heard ’round the world”:  While news of Lincoln’s assassination (only 18 years earlier) had taken almost two weeks to reach London,  Europe and the U.S. knew of Krakatoa in about four hours.  In the years between 1865 and 1883, there had been three interrelated developments: the global spread of the telegraph, the invention of Morse Code, and the establishment of Reuter’s news agency… and the world had become much smaller.  (C.F., Tom Standage’s marvelous The Victorian Internet for the details– both remarkable and altogether resonant with today.)

As big as the explosion was, it was not the biggest in history: experts suggest that Santorini’s eruption in 1628 BCE was three times as powerful.

300px-Krakatoa_eruption_lithograph source

 

Written by LW

August 26, 2020 at 1:01 am

“Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast”*…

 

royal-albert-hall-1974

… or not.

Consider the Portsmouth Sinfonia…

an English orchestra founded by a group of students at the Portsmouth School of Art in 1970. The Sinfonia was generally open to anyone and ended up drawing players who were either people without musical training or, if they were musicians, ones that chose to play an instrument that was entirely new to them. Among the founding members was one of their teachers, English composer Gavin Bryars. The orchestra started as a one-off, tongue-in-cheek performance art ensemble but became a cultural phenomenon over the following 10 years, with concerts, record albums, a film and a hit single. [source]

For your corespondent’s money, the apex (nadir) of their work was their performance of “Also sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss:

 

And then there’s the performance pictured above: “the Piano Concerto in A,” by Tchaikovsky, at Royal Albert Hall– a run to which thousands of tickets were sold:

 

The best of the worst: The Portsmouth Sinfonia.

* William Congreve, The Mourning Bride (often misquoted as “music hath charms to soothe the savage beast”).  The same play gave us “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned,” often misquoted as “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

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As we embrace enthusiasm, we might send more melodic birthday greetings to Constant Lambert; he was born on this date in 1905.  A composer, conductor, and author, he was the founding Music Director of the Royal Ballet, and (alongside Ninette de Valois and Frederick Ashton) he was a major figure in the establishment of the English ballet as a significant artistic movement.

Lambert is also remembered as the inspiration and model for the character Hugh Moreland in his close friend Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time (especially in the fifth volume, Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant, in which Moreland is a central character).  Lambert’s son, Kit Lambert, was one of the managers of The Who.

Constant_Lambert_by_Christopher_Wood

Christopher Wood‘s portrait of Lambert (1926)

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