Sunday, 9 September 2012

Yet more Quay covers

Previously: one, two. And there's lots of their drawings and graphic work to be seen in this exhibition catalogue.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Wallace Smith revisited

Julien Gorbach, who's writing a doctoral dissertation on Ben Hecht, very kindly sent me some images and articles by Wallace Smith (see this previous post) from the Chicago Literary Times, a paper established by Hecht in 1923. Some of these are credited to "Vulgus", but I'm pretty sure they're by Smith, whose Beardsley-esque line is far better suited to fantastical visions than to caricature. Julien describes Smith's articles as being " like the kind of thing you might see from the last few decades in an underground 'zine or comic mocking urban hipster culture," so the following is from one of his "Wise Cracks by Joe Blow" columns:
"They tell me where you have been hanging out with these Bohemians, like they call 'em," charged Bitter Bill, "and I look to hear any day where you have wrote a book or done a old master painting."
"Somebody has gave you a very wrong steer about the jolly land of Bohemia," replied Joe Blow. "Otherwise, you will be next where true Bohemians don't do the kind of things."
"I am on to these Bohemians account of some one tells me where they're making a book over on Washington Street. Naturally I mosey over to see if some new handbook bloke has opened up a racket. I am very dumb to make this play. Because it ain't a gambling joint at all, only a place where they print novels and poems named after colors and literature."
"But while I'm in there, i run into my friend, Language McCarthy, and the next thing I know I am eased into a crowd of these Bohemians. They ain't foreigners, like you think. Although now and then you do hear some very heathen dialects, at that. And I get into some artist studios and meet some of the girls and boys with bobbed hair.
"But I never do catch one of these jobbies doing any writing or any painting. The long suit of the Bohemian blokes is heavy conversation. The main privilege of being a Bohemian is telling off-color stories in a mixed crowd and getting away with it. And talking about things which usually are left to the sewing circle clinics.
"Besides that, they gab most about literature and painting. They are strong for free thinking, like they call it. You can see right away where the kind of thinking they use ought to be free; or, at least, have no very hefty price mark on it.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Fred Tomaselli

Having recently finished TechGnosis, Erik Davis's fascinating exploration of the various esoteric and mystical currents lurking within our supposedly rational technological society, I'm currently reading Nomad Codes, a superb collection of articles by the same author on, among other subjects, Philip K. Dick, Terence McKenna, Goa trance, African trickster gods, Lee Perry, H.P. Lovecraft, and Burmese transvestite "spirit mediums." The cover features the extraordinary psychedelic art of Fred Tomaselli, who incorporates pills and herbs (legal and otherwise) as well as fragments of found images into his paintings before coating them in resin and varnishes. His work also adorns the excellent Wounded Galaxies Tap at the Window LP by Cyclobe (bottom). See more at James Cohan Gallery and White Cube.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Das Kabinett des Jan Švankmajer

A while ago I complained that the art of Jan Švankmajer wasn't easy to come by. This exhibition catalogue rectifies the situation with numerous reproductions of his collage chimaeras, photos of his "natural history cabinet" of fantastical creatures made from found objects, and stills from his short films and features.


Form Is Void recently posted an animated short, The Torchbearer, by Jan's son Václav Švankmajer, and it's a remarkable piece of work. Below are some of his paintings and collages, more of which can be found here.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Eduard Wiiralt

I came across the Estonian artist and illustrator Eduard Wiiralt (1898-1954) in S.A. Mansbach's Modern Art In Eastern Europe, which has this to say about him:

Wiiralt's artistic career was conducted principally through the graphic arts, whose various media effectively employed to reveal disturbingly mystical and erotic incidents that he had imagined while in Paris. In his print Cabaret, the artist detailed well-attired men and diaphanously dressed women dancing in a club that might have been owned by a latter-day Hieronymous Bosch. Similarly disconcerting in its juxtaposition of the overcarefully observed and the extraordinarily imagined is the aptly titled Hell, where in the crowded jostle of heads we find contorted physiognomies and mechanical beings that might have been conjured by an obsessed modern Giuseppe Arcimboldo. Clearly, the optimism that informed the group of Estonian Artists in the 1920s had diinished significantly by the early 1930s, when Wiiralt presented his alternative to the constructed world of [Arnold] Akberg and the latter's philosophy of progress.

There's an interesting article on Wiiralt at the Baltic Times, as well as two posts on 50 Watts (which I realised having spent quite a bit of time gathering these images! Oh well). Some of Wiiralt's work isn't a million miles from the German Neue Sachlichkeit art of George Grosz or Otto Dix, while the aforementioned article describes him as "Estonia's original surrealist." There would appear to be an inexhaustible supply of bizarre, uncategorizable art from Eastern Europe.