In September, the art historian Douglas Crimp was speaking about his new book, Before Pictures, at the Whitney Museum when the slide projection was turned off and the screen rose, revealing the sunlight bobbing on the Hudson River and a view of Pier 52. It was there that, forty years prior, Gordon Matta-Clark had carved his monumental and illicit work Day’s End in an abandoned warehouse and Crimp had gone cruising for sex. The piers were known to be dangerous, Crimp writes, but at the time he had no fear of them, except the anxiety that their lure was distracting him from his work. Now the seventy-two-year-old was backlit against a thoroughfare of joggers and Citi Bike riders along Eleventh Avenue. The “vast and hauntingly beautiful” structures he describes had long ago been flattened into a parking lot for the Department of Sanitation. Read More
- Given our newfangled penchant for the darker arts, it’s probably time for a James Merrill revival. I do not mean this literally: we should not raise James Merrill from the dead. Still, we might commune with him. To aid our spiritual discourse, Dwight Garner points out, we should turn to the Ouija board, the supposedly harmless instrument Merrill used to write The Changing Light at Sandover. As it happens, Merrill’s own biographer, Langdon Hammer, recently dusted off his Ouija, although he was too ravaged by paradox to contact the poet: “We didn’t try [to commune with Merrill]. I guess it seemed beside the point. Who had invited us to the table and sat us down at the board if not James Merrill? We were already in contact … Looking back now, I think the board had a point to make. Using it puts you in touch with the soul. But it’s not the soul as we normally think of it—something singular and deep inside you. According to the Ouija board, it takes two people to create the soul, and it exists out there, between and beyond them.”
Since 1964, The Paris Review has commissioned a series of prints and posters by major contemporary artists. Contributors have included Andy Warhol, Helen Frankenthaler, Louise Bourgeois, Ed Ruscha, and William Bailey. Each print is published in an edition of sixty to two hundred, most of them signed and numbered by the artist. All have been made especially and exclusively for The Paris Review. Many are still available for purchase. Proceeds go to The Paris Review Foundation, established in 2000 to support The Paris Review.
Through September 15, our readers in Boston and Cambridge can head to Aesop Harvard Square, at 49 Brattle Street, where seven of our favorite prints are on display:
- Andy Warhol, 1965, silkscreen
- Robert Motherwell, 1965, silkscreen
- Christo, 1982, lithograph poster (available for purchase)
- Sol LeWitt, 1983, silkscreen, signed (available for purchase)
- Aram Saroyan, 1989, silkscreen (available for purchase)
- Alex Katz, 1991, silkscreen, signed (available for purchase)
- Louise Bourgeois, 1994, intaglio
Aesop consultants will be available to provide tours. Read more here.
- Flush your antidepressants, fire your therapist, and deaccession your self-help library: Cervantes is the only mood elevator you need. “Eduardo Guerrero, head of Mexico’s prisons system, told Radio Imagen that when El Chapo was recaptured earlier this month after escaping six months ago, ‘he arrived depressed, and more than depressed, tired—tired of being on the run.’ In the last few days, said Guerrero, the prisoner had been given a copy of Don Quixote to read, ‘because we believe it is an excellent book, and we have to start giving him such notions.’ ”
- In the late eighties, Lex Kaplen launched Wigwag, an ambitious magazine that lasted for only fifteen issues, perhaps because of its unlikely name or its strange agenda: “The Wigwag office was in SoHo, on Spring Street, downstairs from a place where a man dealt in geological survey maps, two blocks from the Spring Street Natural. Lex set the tone for the office. His favorite outfit was Bermuda shorts and a cardigan sweater … Wigwag was a general-interest magazine that included some of the same kinds of things that The New Yorker ran—reporting, fiction, columns on the arts—along with quirkier features: a bedtime story, a map contributed by a reader (‘Dogs of Westhampton, Mass.’), a Family Tree of, say, TV sitcom writers or celebrity hairdressers. Its heart was a section called Letters from Home, in which writers from towns big and small (Baltimore; Dripping Springs, Texas) kept readers abreast of the local goings on.” The theme for one issue was polka dots.
- The best way to remember Clarence Reid, the R & B rabble-rouser better known as Blowfly, is to read a few of his song titles: “My Baby Keeps Farting in My Face,” “Electronic Pussy Sucker,” “Shitting on the Dock of the Bay,” “Spermy Night in Georgia” … you get the picture. Reid died last week at seventy-six. “In both his parodies and his original compositions, Mr. Reid was lascivious but good-natured. Even at his most extreme, there was nothing harsh about him. While his songs painted him as a libertine and rascal, in real life he was religious—he had memorized the Bible, Mr. Bowker said—and rarely drank or did drugs … As Blowfly, Mr. Reid created an implicitly radical counternarrative to the more polite strains of soul that were popular at the time.”
- If you want your very own National Magazine Award, it’s time to start being systematic. Just follow a few simple steps and that handsome copper elephant statuette can be yours, all yours! You’ll want to go long (no fewer than 6,500 words) and stick to the past tense. Write in the second person and try not to cuss too much …
- Or you can liquidate some of that capital you’ve got tied up in Andy Warhol. Most of us have dozens, if not hundreds, of Warhol artworks just lying around the house, quietly skyrocketing in value. The time to sell is now, and the man to see is Geoff Hargadon, who operates a storefront in Boston called Cash for Your Warhol. “Hargadon, a financial planner by day, has been pretending to buy Warhols since 2009, when the recession spawned an influx of bandit signs promising ‘Cash for Your Home’ and ‘Cash for Your Gold.’ Fascinated by the sheer bluntness of the signs, Hargadon started collecting them. At some point, while thinking about markets left untapped, ‘the phrase [Cash for Your Warhol] just popped into my head,’ he says. He set up a hotline (617-553-1103), designed his own line of signs, stickers and billboards, and stuck them all over major cities from Kentucky to Pennsylvania.”
“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
- Fact: there are men still walking the earth who have shared a meal at Denny’s with Orson Welles. “One day in 1974, Orson Welles, John Huston, and the comedian Rich Little were sitting in a Denny’s near Carefree, Arizona, about to order a meal … A waitress approached the table where the three men sat. She recognized Little right away. After bantering with the impressionist for a bit, she nodded toward Welles and asked Little, ‘Who’s your fat friend?’ Huston, saving the day, answered for Little with a straight face. ‘You know, we don’t actually know this man,’ he said, indicating Welles. ‘We picked him up on the highway and he seemed undernourished. We’re going to feed him and then send him on his way.’”
- Today in the sex lives of whalers: few things speak to the hardships of a whaler’s life than dildos, which were ubiquitous (or, okay, maybe just not uncommon) in the New England homes such men abandoned for the seas. At least one such dildo survives to this day, all plaster and memories. “By 1830, the average length of a whaling voyage was thirty months, but they were often longer—Nantucket wives were dubbed ‘Cape Horn widows,’ because their husbands might be gone for eight years. In Moby-Dick, Captain Ahab tells his first mate, Starbuck, that of the past forty years of ‘making war on the horrors of the deep’ he’d only been ashore three, leaving only ‘one dent in [his] marriage pillow.’ ‘[W]ife?’ Ahab rages, ‘wife?—rather a widow with her husband alive!’ The dildos, called ‘he’s-at-homes’ in some books on the history of the Yankee whale fishery, were meant to be some insurance of fidelity for a husband who was rarely present.”
- Halloween is coming, which means it’s time to practice an age-old ritual: reading online essays about books bound in human skin. Bonus points if you go on to give them to trick-or-treaters. “The earliest examples of books bound in human skin date from the seventeenth century and were produced in Europe and the United States … Many of the earliest examples relate to punishment. England’s Murder Act of 1751 stipulated that those convicted of murder would not only be executed but, as an additional deterrent, could not be buried … making items out of criminals’ skins provided yet another way to ensure the body stayed aboveground. A famous example of such punishment was the body of William Burke, who, with his accomplice William Hare, killed sixteen people in a ten-month period in 1828 in Edinburgh, Scotland, and then sold the bodies to medical schools. After being caught, executed, and dissected, some of Burke’s skin was used to make a pocketbook as a final—and lasting—humiliation.”
- Back in the sixties, Kaiser Steel, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, RAND, and Lockheed Aircraft started a program to match artists with corporations—a kind of late-model patronage system. “Some of the collaborations resulted in successful projects. Working with the magazine publisher Cowles Communication Inc., Andy Warhol created holographic photographs of daisies … Claes Oldenburg’s Giant Ice Bag (1969) was produced in collaboration with WED Enterprises, the design and development branch of Disney. The pink sculpture was designed to undulate and twist as it deflated and inflated, in accordance with Oldenburg’s interest in objects that broke and then reconstituted themselves … Richard Serra, who was matched with the Kaiser Steel Corporation, created stacked sculptures that did not differ radically from his usual output. In contrast, Robert Rauschenberg, who collaborated with the industrial company Teledyne, created an installation that split from his best-known assemblage work but was consistent with his later interest in viewer-activated spaces.”
- Andrew DeGraff’s Plotted: A Literary Atlas makes maps from great literature, allowing you at last to visualize, say, every nook and cranny of the bleak terrain in Waiting for Godot. Hours of fun await. “DeGraff’s book … raises the question of the way we tenuously hold fictional universes in our minds. Absent anything concretely visual to latch onto, we create messy, complex maps to maintain a grip on the disorienting profusion of information coming at us. If we could transcribe these mental representations, they would probably look less like DeGraff’s thorough, well-executed images and more like those medieval maps, with small pockets of knowledge surrounded by huge swaths of emptiness. In literature, as in life, we can’t see everything. We can’t keep track of all the details, nor can we truly envision specific geographies, even ones we’ve visited before.”