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Posts Tagged ‘portraits’

Ulysses S. Grant Repaired My Parents’ Dryer

August 3, 2016 | by

Revisited is a series in which writers look back on a work of art they first encountered long ago.

He’s always watching.

In 1974, when they were honeymooning in Atlanta, my parents bought a portrait of Ulysses S. Grant—not the one pictured above, but something close enough. They spent fifty bucks on it: cash they’d won on a bet with my grandfather, wagering that Nixon would not see out his term.

The painting hung above our fireplace in northeast Ohio when I was a girl. It matters only peripherally that Grant was an actual man who lived and died in the nineteenth century; who was the eighteenth president of the United States; and who, as commanding general of the United States Army, led the Union Army to victory over the Confederacy in the Civil War. What matters is how single-minded I found his gaze, his eyes staring down at me—to say nothing of the distinguished crinkle of the eyebrows above them, those bright buttons on his jacket, that thick beard and head of hair, sculpted like cake frosting. Read More »

Self-Portraits by Raqib Shaw

July 15, 2016 | by

In his new exhibition at White Cube, “Self Portraits,” the painter Raqib Shaw insinuates himself into classics by the Old Masters. You’ll find him in the canvases below—carefully modeled after work by Antonello da Messina and Hendrick van Steenwyck the Younger, among others—posing as a joker, a mime, and a ghost lying in his own coffin. Shaw, born in Calcutta, was raised in Kashmir and moved to London in 1998. In his paintings, the critic Norman Rosenthal has written, “Color achieves an almost blinding intensity and precision that exists in both a horrific, and beautiful universe derived from personal experience based on self-knowledge and dream psychology … mixed with a profound love and understanding of the history of visual and poetic culture of both East and West.”

Raqib Shaw’s self-portraits are at White Cube through September 11.

Raqib Shaw, Self Portrait in the Study at Peckham, after Vincenzo Catena (Kashmir version), 2015, acrylic and enamel on birchwood, 39 3/8" x 51 3/16". © Raqib Shaw. Photo © Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd Courtesy White Cube.

Vincenzo Catena, Saint Jerome in his Study, ca. 1510.

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Babyland

June 30, 2016 | by

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Vincent van Gogh, Portrait of Marcelle Roulin, 1888.

Kathleen Ossip’s poem “Babyland” appeared in our Summer 2002 issue. Her latest collection is The Do-OverRead More »

Words in Light, and Other News

April 18, 2016 | by

Jenny Holzer, Xenon for the Peggy Guggenheim (detail), featuring Henri Cole’s poem “Blur” projected on the Palazzo Corner della Ca’ Granda, Venice, Italy, 2003.

Lost Downtown

January 25, 2016 | by

Peter Hujar, Candy Darling on her Deathbed, 1973, digital pigment print, 20" x 16".

Peter Hujar: Lost Downtown” opens this Thursday at Paul Kasmin Gallery. The exhibition chronicles Hujar’s time on the Lower East Side between 1972 and 1985, when he photographed his friends and acquaintances, including Susan Sontag, John Waters, Andy Warhol, David Wojnarowicz, Paul Thek, Edwin Denby, Divine, Fran Lebowitz, and William Burroughs. “There was something about him that invited a personal intimacy,” the writer Vince Aletti said of Hujar, who died in 1987. “He was very allowing. He allowed people to be themselves.” Hujar’s photos are on view through February 27. Read More »

Urgent Questions for Librarians, and Other News

June 2, 2015 | by

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A question to an NYPL librarian from October 1976. Photo: NYPL, via the Guardian

  • “My idea of hell on earth,” Philip Larkin wrote once, “is a literary party.” He had in mind the Oxford parties of his era, which, much like the Oxford parties of this era, comprised “a lot of sherry drill with important people.” But what if those parties were in fact really entertaining, as at least one guest avows they were? “God, they were fun. Ever since Mrs. Dylan Thomas, at a literary party, stuck her elbow into the bowl of ice cream that T. S. Eliot was eating from, before presenting it to the great poet with the instruction to ‘Lick it off,’ these things have been democratic, argumentative and often memorable.”
  • “Please give me the name of a book that dramatizes bedbugs?” “What is the significance of the hip movement in the Hawaiian dance?” “Is it good poetry where every other line rhymes, instead of having each line rhyme with the one before it?” Questions for librarians at the New York Public Library before there was the Internet.
  • Saul Bellow’s portraitist remembers their encounter: “Bellow talked all the while, about life in New York when he was younger, his cohorts and various writers. What a duplistic moment for me: I had to ask him to be quiet so I could take some close-ups. He was fidgety even while cooperating. He picked up a book of Shakespeare’s sonnets and began reading, first quietly, and then aloud. I listened for a few minutes, and cringing apologetically, shushed him again.”
  • If Louise Erdrich could go back in time, she’d go to prison, as long as the company was good: “I am stranded for a few days in a comfortable jail cell with Walt Whitman and Henry James. I take one side of the room, share a bunk with Emily Dickinson. We listen in on their awkward conversations, exchange sharp glances of amusement.”
  • Max Mathews, who died in April, wasn’t the first person to make sounds with a computer—but his experiments with an IBM 704 mainframe in 1957 were the first to use “a replicable combination of hardware and software that allowed the user to specify what tones he wanted to hear.” He was the first computer musician: “He provided the initial research for virtually every aspect of computer music, from his early work with programming languages for synthesis and composition … to foundational research in real-time performance … Max also helped start the conversation about how humans were meant to interact with computers by developing everything from modified violins to idiosyncratic control systems such as the Radio Baton.”