October 12, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
“I have never been part of the London literary scene,” Christopher Logue said in his 1993 Art of Poetry interview:
My time has been passed with painters, antique dealers, musicians, booksellers, journalists, actors, and film people. I find it natural to collaborate with others on such things as posters, songs, films, shows. This is unusual in literary London.
This collaborative spirit led him to reproduce his poems on all kinds of unlikely surfaces: mugs, beermats, T-shirts, mirrors, Tube station walls, Lake District concrete, and the silk lining of at least one gown. But Logue, who died in 2011, found his biggest success with his poster poems, a form he’s said to have invented. Read More »
October 6, 2015 | by Anna Heyward
William Kentridge’s elaborate danse macabre.
Dance has always been aware of death: it lingers just off to the side of the stage, waiting for the performance to end. William Dunbar’s 1508 poem “Lament for the Makers” describes two “state[s] of man”: “Now dansand mirry, now like to die.” In other words, you’re either dancing or dead. Death in the poem is personified as a sort of efficient businessman, doing his best to knock people out of the dance. The more familiar character of Death—the cloaked, scythe-bearing skeleton who fulfills his duties like an overworked godly employee—was around even before Dunbar, an invention of the medieval period, which remains the most productive time in human history for imagining deathly personifications. People then seemed less resistant to death than they are now, perhaps because the threat was omnipresent: one could die from the plague, childbirth, decapitation, infection, or even of indigestion, as Martin of Aragon did at a feast in 1410.
The danse macabre, or death dance, another medieval invention, was an allegorical way of resisting as well as respecting the force of death. It comprises a chain of dancers, some living and others skeletons, moving together toward a grave—death being the equalizing force that brings all of us together, finally. Some more modern dances, like the tarantella, present themselves as assertions of survival, proving that one is still alive despite mortal injury. When we dance, the thinking goes, we are at the most alive we can be. Likewise, when we stop dancing, we die. Read More »
September 28, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
Six paintings from Matthew Brannon’s “Skirting the Issue,” an exhibition at Casey Kaplan Gallery through October 24. In this series, Brannon uses traditional printmaking methods—letterpress, silkscreening—to depict the domestic and cultural trappings of America during the Vietnam War, when he was born: “I had entered a world battered from events that left the country’s identity in jeopardy,” he writes, “and Luce’s concept of the American Century shattered.” Brannon’s work is consumed with the question of “how America is its own worst enemy.”
September 22, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
The British illustrator Charles Keeping (1924–88) is remembered largely for his work with children’s books. But his morbid style—his first book commission was Why Die of Heart Disease?—often felt better suited to adult fare, and his long career also saw him illustrate Wuthering Heights, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Idiot, and—most impressive—the complete works of Dickens, from Pickwick clean through to Chuzzlewit. The series took him a decade.
In 1982, he contributed these inspired illustrations to an adaptation of Beowulf for ages nine and up. (You can see more of the drawings at Book Graphics.) If your nine-year-old can handle a bleary, ceaselessly gray world in which the sun is a soot-black blot and humans roam the earth in a miasma of hair and stink, have at it. Read More »
September 14, 2015 | by Robert Anthony Siegel
Billy Childish’s sincere, deeply unselfconscious paintings.
Punk rock icon, poet, novelist, luftmensch, wearer of extraordinary hats and Edwardian mustaches—Billy Childish is a multiplicity of things, a British renaissance man. But first and foremost he is a marvelous painter, as can be seen at the Lehmann Maupin Gallery through October 31.
If you’re coming from his unabashedly confessional writing or his music, the restraint in his work might surprise you. Childish’s paintings generally revolve around the figure isolated in landscape: oystermen on heavy flat riverboats; a woman and children riding a sleigh in the nineteenth-century Yukon; the Swiss writer Robert Walser dead in the snow outside the psychiatric hospital where he was a patient. Most affecting, perhaps, is a series of recent paintings of the artist walking with his young daughter through fields or trees, or standing in a lush garden. Typically positioned in the center of the canvas, father and daughter look straight out at the viewer and yet retain a deep emotional inwardness. We take them in, but the mystery of their individuality remains intact. Read More »
September 8, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
Iván Navarro was born in Chile, in 1972, the year before Pinochet came to power. He grew up with the fear of being disappeared, and so it’s fitting, in a way, that he’s chosen light as his medium. From his studio in Brooklyn, Navarro makes sculptures of fluorescent tubes. “I make spaces in a fictional way to deal with my own psychological anxiety,” he’s said. He’s created neon men and doors, neon words and portals. Ladders of light. Shopping carts of light. Fences, basketball hoops, and water towers of light. There’s an unnerving, geometric precision to these objects. Coming away from them, you begin to see doorways and boundaries with their same nefarious glow; every act of exiting and entering becomes freighted. Many of his works seem to stretch into infinity, as if beckoning you, against your will, into another dimension—a mise-en-abyme effect that’s sometimes deliberately disconcerting, as in one work that shows you the word BOMB receding toward the horizon. It’s seductive signage: you want to go toward the bomb.
Through October 18, CorpArtes is hosting his first retrospective in his native Chile. These images are drawn from the works on display there. You can see more of his work at Paul Kasmin Gallery’s Web site. Read More »