“Rose Gold,” an exhibition of photographs and a film by Sara Cwynar, is at Foxy Production through May 14. Cwynar, who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York, took the title of her show from Apple’s most coveted iPhone color, introduced in 2015. In the film at the center of the show, also called Rose Gold, two voices, one male and one female, offer observations about consumer desire, at once pointed and disaffected: “I keep finding watch advertisements where all the clocks are set to 8:20 … what time was it really? I go to check what time the Apple Watch is set to and end up wanting one … Several male artists have told me that I’m having a moment, as if the moment will pass soon. Rose Gold is having a moment, too … What is the right way to talk about something? People understand more if you communicate through things bought and sold.” Cwynar also examines Melamine, a brand of luridly colored plastic kitchenware from the fifties—the plastic was supposed to be unbreakable, but over time it grew brittle and faded. Her photos include studio portraits of her friend Tracy overlaid with found objects and detritus; and a set of shiny Avon “presidential aftershave” bottles from the seventies. Robbed of their caps—i.e., their golden presidents’ heads—they look denuded, as if forcibly neutralized.
- Oh, to own one of the first cameras—to approach photography without any preconception of what a photograph could or should do. To take the first portrait, the first landscape, the first dick pic—what a rollicking time that would be. Louis Menand, writing on the Clark Art Institute’s new exhibition “Photography and Discovery,” conjures the bumptious energy of the medium’s earliest days—and the unlikely corners into which the first cameras looked: “The albumen print, the collotype, the cyanotype, the daguerreotype, the Woodburytype, gelatin silver prints, gum dichromate prints, platinum prints, salt prints, halftones, photogravure: all these reproductive technologies are represented in the show, and each yields a different visual texture. The effects can be stunning … My favorite in the show is a picture of potatoes. The label explains that the photographer, Charles Jones, was a gardener who worked on major estates in nineteenth-century Britain, and who had a practice of making photographs of things he grew, arranged as still lifes. His photographs were discovered in 1981 in a suitcase in an antiques market. And there they are, six potatoes on a plate—nature’s most plebeian foodstuff looking as pleased with itself as any duke. And the best thing about the piece, in case you miss the point, is the title, Potato Majestic.”
- Jorie Graham, talking to Sarah Howe, elaborates on the difficulty of facing the blank page in times like these: “Increasingly now, it’s a matter of using poetry to try to find a way to keep the proportions right, to not be overwhelmed by grief, horror, fear, shame, rage; to use this precious medium I trust to guide me to find at least a way to ask the right questions, a way to hold ‘reality and justice in one thought’—as Yeats admonished me to do when I was a young poet … Our enemies are despicably small, but their actions are capable of destroying the earth now, not just civilization. So, like every poet writing today, what I ask of my poetic tools now feels more urgent than ever, what I ask of the blank page. Not just urgent, but baffling. I have never written so slowly—each poem an attempt both to try to understand how to reenter the current of existence with some understanding of what will suffice—what will permit one to go on as if there were a purpose—and to try to understand what poetry is for under these conditions.”
We’re away until January 3, but we’re reposting some of our favorite pieces from 2016. Enjoy your holiday!
Judging by its austere style, this picture might have been taken by a member of the Crewe Circle, a group of British spirit photographers active in the early twentieth century. It could possibly be the work of Ada Emma Deane (1864–1957), who was in her late fifties when she first started taking photographs that included the faces of the dead. Her career was tumultuous and brief. Although she apparently managed some two thousand sessions, fame and consequent downfall came to her in 1922, when she photographed the annual Armistice Day ceremony at the Cenotaph in London. The resulting picture shows the scene blanketed by a sea of faces, purportedly those of the war dead, hovering in vapor. The Daily Sketch, however, matched many of the faces with those of living athletes, including some as famous as the Senegal-born boxing champion Battling Siki. Despite her insistences and the support of the consistently credulous Arthur Conan Doyle, she became an object of public ridicule and retreated to her suburban faithful, whom she photographed with their “extras” for a few more years before fading into complete obscurity.
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This week, Taschen is publishing a new, photographic edition of Tom Wolfe’s 1968 classic The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, for which he embedded with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters for their transcontinental (and very psychotropically enhanced) bus tour. Printed in a limited run of 1,968 copies, the new edition features never-before-seen facsimile reproductions of Wolfe’s manuscript pages; excerpts from Ken Kesey’s jailhouse journals; handbills and ephemera from the period; and photo-essays from Lawrence Schiller and Ted Streshinsky, who covered “the acid scene” for Life magazine and the New York Herald Tribune, respectively.
Below are a few of the photos and documents from the book. Tomorrow evening, Tuesday, November 29, Wolfe will appear in conversation with Paul Holdengräber at the New York Public Library.
Gregory Crewdson is a photographer, but he calls himself a storyteller. He has spoken of his belief that “every artist has one central story to tell,” and that the artist’s work is “to tell and retell that story over and over again,” to deepen and challenge its themes. True to this, Crewdson’s most recent body of work, Cathedral of the Pines, shares the aesthetic that has defined his career—cinematic scenes of domestic life in the Berkshires—but the images have quieted down. While once Crewdson burned down houses or called the police on himself in order to photograph officers, his concerns have shifted lately from the spectacular to the murky and internal.
The hallucinatory images for which Crewdson is best known—sod laid on living room carpets, crop circles and house fires, or tight beams of light emerging from a blank sky—evince the magnetism of catastrophe and the titillation of the strange. Those older works defined Crewdson’s signature style of cinematic production values applied to suburban surrealism and made him one of the most recognizable and influential contemporary photographers. To give a sense of his stature, his gallery is Gagosian, he was the subject of a feature-length documentary, and he directs the graduate photography department at Yale. Read More
- Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize in Literature, prompting a massive spike in acoustic guitar and harmonica sales at Sam Ash Music stores around the world as writers rush to recast themselves as musicians, tearing their elbow patches off and discarding their tweed sport coats, smashing their typewriters and casting whole drawers of freshly sharpened Ticonderoga pencils into the street, as it finally dawns on them that they’re working in an outmoded medium facing dwindling interest from the culture at large, with not even the promise of prestige or elite status to sustain them. Don DeLillo is seeking a twelve-album contract with Columbia Records. Haruki Murakami is tripling the line breaks in all his novels and reissuing them as “Collected Lyrics.” Philip Roth sits cross-legged in silk pajamas, trying to play a major scale on the harmonica for about five minutes—he gives up, masturbates. Milan Kundera promises to go electric at next year’s Newport Folk Festival.