Porky Pies and other Lies

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The Police
1983
Pen, brush mouth atomiser and ink on paper

On 14 January 1983, 26-year old film editor Stephen Waldorf was mistakenly shot five times in the head and body by the Metropolitan Police in Earls Court, West London. The police thought he was an escaped prisoner, David Martin. In 1983 two officers were put on trial for attempted murder; they were both acquitted.wp20160924_143010

Margaret Thatcher. The Last Supposition, 1985
Leonardo da Vinci after Ralph Steadman has had a go at it..
New Statesman, 11 October 1985
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Reagan’s Latest Close-Up
New Statesman, 7 March 1980
Pen and Indian ink on paper

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”The Peacekeepers Are Coming!
The Peacekeepers Are Coming!”
1983
Pen, mouth atomiser and ink on paper

In October 1983 thousands of US troops and helicopter gunships invaded the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada after a left-wing coup. Reagan’s incursion into Grenada, a Commonwealth country, was the only occasion on which Margaret Thatcher and the US president had a serious fallout.

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Donald Trump – Porky Pie!!!
New Statesman, 17 December 2015
Pen, brush, mouth atomiser, acrylic and gesso on paper

This porcine portrait of the real estate billionaire, reality TV game-show host and presidential hopeful [and, by now, President] Donald J. Trump accompanied an article by Laurie Penny, ”There is nothing funny about a Donald Trump rally”. ”By lying through his teeth”, she writes, ”he has managed to persuade thousands of people that he is the one truth-teller in American politics… Trump is selling fascism with a cartoon face”.

In November 2015, the mayor of Jersey City accused Trump of ”shameful politicizing” after the Republican made unsubstantiated claims that in 2001 the watched on TV ”thousands and thousands” of Arab Americans in New Jersey cheering the attacks on the World Trade Center.

”Porkie pie”, or ”porky”, is Cockney rhyming slang for ”lie”.

From A Retrospective: Ralph Steadman exhibition, held at The Society of Illustrators between September-October 2016.

September 24th, 2016

The Society of Illustrators

September was a month of transition: just moved in from Brussels, apartment hunting, new office, new life. It was also the busiest month at work, I was quick to find out. Looking for a cool distraction amid the frenzy, I somehow happened upon an ad promoting Museum Day Live! hosted by Smithsonian magazine, which offered free entry to a number of participating museums.

One of these was the Society of Illustrators which, at the time, was hosting a major retrospective to celebrate the work of the rather wonderful Mr. Ralph Steadman.

Mr. Steadman’s drawings had taken over almost the entire museum, its galleries, corridors and even part of the charming café on the top floor.

I could not have asked for a better free gift – nor a cooler distraction for that matter!

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Hunter S. Thompson, 1937-2005. Rolling Stone, 24 March 2015.
Collage, Conté chalk and ink on board. Illustration by Ralph Steadman.

[It was February 2005 and to Hunter’s great dismay, George W. Bush had just been inaugurated for a second term. Now in his late sixties, Thompson was suffering from many ailments. There were the after-effects of hip replacements and other surgery. He had to have daily physiotherapy and was in significant pain. On 20 February 2005 he took his Magnum .44 and shot himself in the head. A month later Rolling Stone marked the passing of the one of their greatest contributors with s special memorial issue.]

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The Society of Illustrators
128 East 63rd Street

September 24th, 2016

Four Cats and a Mouse

Looking at those little wonders of skill and craftsmanship that are the works of Henri-Charles Guérard, on show at the New York Public Library, is a pure pleasure and an excellent introduction to the artist. But the fact that felines (and other animals) were featured prominently in his work, warmed me up to the person too.

Here are the three stages of a Cat on a Newspaper:

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Henri-Charles Guérard, Chat sur un journal (Cat on a Newspaper), before 1887. Etching and drypoint, unique proof impression
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Henri-Charles Guérard, Chat sur un journal (Cat on a Newspaper), before 1887. Etching and drypoint, unique proof impression.
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Henri-Charles Guérard, Chat sur un journal (Cat on a Newspaper), before 1887. Etching and drypoint, unique proof impression.

A Cat’s head sealing an announcement by the Black-and-White Society:

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Henri-Charles Guérard, Tête de chat noir (Head of a Black Cat), before 1888. Etching and drypoint on found paper.

And a mouse:

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Henri-Charles Guérard, Rat in a Vase Gazing at the Moon, ca. 1886. Colour etching and aquatint.

Accompanying caption: [Although Westerners generally have an aversion to rats, the creatures play an important role in Japanese culture, for the rat, or nazumi, is thought to be the messenger of the god Daikoku. It is said, moreover, that if rats eat the New Year cakes, there will be a good harvest. Guérard’s endearing treatment of this rodent climbing out of a vase decorated with Japanese motifs seems more closely aligned with Japanese than Western sentiments.]

A small consolation to weary New Yorkers, little impressed at the thought of having to share their homes, parks and subway with millions of them creatures…

A Curious Hand: The Prints of Henri-Charles Guérard (1846-1897)

New York Public Library
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
476 Fifth Avenue (42nd St and Fifth Ave)

New York, NY, 10018

November 27th, 2016

A Curious Hand: The Prints of Henri-Charles Guérard (1846-1897)

These and a lot more from ”the engraver of curiosity par excellence” can be viewed at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building until February 26th, 2017.

Don’t go in a rush, the exhibition is more extensive than one might expect; although this was supposed to be an added bonus to my visit, it quickly became apparent that it merits a lot more attention than a mere skimming through.
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Henri-Charles Guérard, Porte-bouquet et crabe (Vase and Crab), 1882, Colour etching

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Henri-Charles Guérard, After Diego Velásquez. Portrait du cardinal infant Don Fernando (Portrait of Cardinal Infante Don Fernando as a Hunter), 1888, Etching

[Beginning in the 1870s, Guérard assisted Édouard Manet with biting and pulling his prints, and their working relationship eventually blossomed into a friendship. In 1879, Guérard married Eva Gonzalès, Manet’s favourite pupil, who died in childbirth in 1883 shortly after Manet’s own death. Manet was not only a friend and colleague of Guérard’s but also an important source of inspiration.]

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Eduard Manet, Printed by Henri-Charles Guérard. The Boy with Soap Bubbles, 1868-69, Etching
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Henri-Charles Guérard, Soleil couchant (Setting Sun), 1895-96, Woodcut

[The image, which shows a troop of tiny Japanese men climbing energetically over a woman’s shoe of Western style, captures the droll and occasionally baffling behaviour of the figures in Hokusai manga. Women’s feet and, especially, their shoes have long been fetishized in both the West and the East, and the conduct of the ”assailants”, which includes a figure clambering on the slipper’s ruffled pompom, is suggestive. The impression shown here reveal Guérard experimenting with jaunty colours, one hot pink, the other bright yellow.]

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Henri-Charles Guérard, L’Assaut du soulier (The Assault of the Shoe), ca. 1888. Etching, drypoint and aquatint with roulette in pink and yellow

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[Guérard designed these multipurpose sheets for menus or notecards. They exhibit a whimsical mashup of Western and Japanese art and include a number of his favourite motifs, including the monkey spilling ink, the marionette, Japanese masks, and even his dog, Azor. References to cooking, including the buffoonish figure in an apron and the men wearing chef’s hats, make the connection to menus.]

All notes are from the accompanying captions and brochure (available also on-line).

New York Public Library
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
476 Fifth Avenue (42nd St and Fifth Ave)

New York, NY, 10018

November 27th, 2016

Woman with Dog

Whichever way you look at her she seems as real as the woman next door. Well, perhaps not Manhattan next door but a smaller city or town like, for instance, my other adoptive home Brussels. She could definitely be the lady that runs the bakery on the ground floor in my building in Brussels.

And yet, although the artist worked on real models making casts directly from their bodies, his sculptures are not really images of specific people. For example, the letters on her lap are addressed to Minnie Johnson, but the model was someone else who lived near Hanson’s studio in Florida. Woman with Dog is therefore a hyper-real figure constructed from different features and, because of that, doubly real in my eyes.

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Duane Hanson
Woman with Dog, 1977

Acrylic and oil on cast polyvinyl with clothing, hair, eyeglasses, watch, shoes, upholstered wood chair, dog hair, leather collar, woven rug, postcard, letters, and envelopes

The Whitney Museum of American Art

September 10th, 2016

Simon Starling: At Twilight

If curators at The Japan Society were seeking to communicate the perfect example of a cross-cultural fusion in arts, they could not have made a better choice than hosting Simon Starling’s project.

Starling took ”At the Hawk’s Well”, a dance play composed by Irish poet W. B. Yeats one hundred years ago amidst the horrors of World War I, and re-imagined it for us, contemporary audiences.

The exhibition/installation unfolds in two parts. These photos are only a few examples from the first gallery where masks and costumes, made in collaboration with Yasuo Michii and Kumi Sakurai, are placed in a darkened room in front of a screen. The masks represent fictional or real characters whom Starling has connected with ”At the Hawk’s Well”. On the screen at the background, one can watch a newly choreographed version of the climactic ”Hawk Dance” from the original play. The ”Hawk” headpiece stands next to the masks and the dancer’s costume can be seen (and touched) in the second gallery, before walking into a larger room with displays featuring those Western Modernist and traditional Japanese Masterworks that inspired Starling’s designs, with notes about each character or object and the role they played in the project.

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Nancy Cunard

Born into the  British upper class, Nancy Cunard was a writer, publisher and political activist who, through her vibrant intellect and characteristic style, became a muse of artists and writers such a Wyndham Lewis, Aldous Huxley, Ezra Pound, James Joyce (both Pound and Joyce were in the audience of ”At the Hawk’s Well”) and Louis Aragon.

Noted for her passion for African artefacts, she was often photographed wearing typically flamboyant bangles and necklaces – a style that became known as the ”barbaric look”. Nancy, whose capacity for alcohol and affairs became legendary, felt the need to dress in disguise when she went out wearing costumes of her own making. Once she was arrested for swimming at dawn in the Serpentine, emerging before the authorities drenched in a homemade outfit of velvet, chiffon, ribbons, feathers, spangles and artificial flowers.

Ezra Pound first met Nancy at her mother’s home in Cavendish Square as Pound and Yeats were preparing the performance of ”At the Hawk’s Well”. She was astonishingly beautiful and elegant regardless of what she was wearing. From the beginning Nancy found Pound physically and intellectually appealing. Later, when she became critically ill, Pound remained at her side, and their long love affair began.

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W.B. Yeats

Between 1913 and 1916, Yeats and his fellow poet Ezra Pound (”a stimulating yet irritating friend”) spent three winters together in the Sussex countryside. Pound, twenty years his junior, was nominally Yeats’ secretary but as well as teaching the elder man how to fence, he was in large part responsible for introducing Yeats to Japanese Noh theater. In February 1916, Yeats began work on ”At the Hawk’s Well”, the first of a number of Noh inspired ”dance dramas”, which tells the story of a young Celtic warrior and his search for the well of immortality.

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Michio Ito

Michio Ito, a Japanese dancer and choreographer with little formal training, arrived in London from Paris at the outbreak of World War I. He gained notoriety for his work at the Coliseum Theatre in 1915, creating a ”furore” with his hybrid European/Japanese dances, inspired by the Ballets Russes and Nijinski. He attracted the attention of a small group of avant-garde artists and writers and was asked by Ezra Pound and W.B. Yeats to recreate a semblance of a Noh performance. After the war, Ito moved to New York, where he established a career in both commercial and avant-garde dance, most notably working with Martha Graham between 1923 and 1925.

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Ezra Pound

Vital to Yeats’ initiation into the ways of Noh theater was Pound’s fearless or perhaps foolhardy involvement in the completion of the American philosopher, art historian and economist Ernest Fenollosa’s groundbreaking work Noh, or Accomplishment: A Study of the Classical Stage of Japan (1916), which was entrusted to him by Fenollosa’s widow following her husband’s sudden death in 1908. It is clear that Pound’s knowledge of the Japanese language and of Noh plays was extremely limited when he started on the manuscript that Fenollosa had left. Pound himself wrote: The Vision and the plan are Fenollosa’s. In the prose I have had but the part of literary executor; in the plays my work has been that of translator who has found all the heavy work done for him and who has but the pleasure of arranging beauty in the words.

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Old Man

Arriving at the Well of Immortality, the young warrior Cuchulain finds a withered old man who has been waiting some fifty years on the desolate mountainside for the waters to rise from the dry well. This obstructive old man (the waki, or supporting actor in Noh plays), who like Cuchulain was young in mind and body when he was blown there by what seemed like a lucky sail, has been constantly frustrated in his attempts to drink from the well, which only releases its life-giving waters when he falls asleep. In part out of self-interest, in part out of pity born of hard-won experience, he warns the confident young man about wasting his life in the vain pursuit of immortality.

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*All captions are excerpted from the brochure accompanying the exhibition.

I found ”At Twilight” a stimulating experience, successful in bridging cultures, artistic styles & languages, history & mythology, merging impeccably the wisdom of ”then” with the urgency and creativity of ”now”.

Still on for a few days until Sunday January 15th, 2017.

The Japan Society
333 East 47th Street
New York, NY 10017

January 06th, 2017

This Gentleman

wp20160910_194957Edward Hopper
Self Portrait, 1925-30
Oil on canvas

Edward Hopper’s wife Josephine was the model for this painting. She was 78 at the time but Hopper chose to depict a much younger version of her.

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Edward Hopper
A Woman in the Sun, 1961
Oil on linen

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Study for Office at Night, 1940
Fabricated chalk and graphite pencil on paper

A precious albeit brief encounter. Always a pleasure dear Sir!

September 10th, 2016 at the Whitney

M x M – The Whites

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House of Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld Wedding Ensemble, A/W 2014-15, haute couture. Manus & Machina. Made from scuba knit, a synthetic material, the dress is hand molded, machine sewn and hand finished.
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M x M
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Iris van Herpen, Ensemble, S/S 2010, haute couture, 3-D printed with machine-sewn white goat leather, hand-cut acrylic fringe
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House of Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, Wedding Ensemble, A/W 2005-6, haute couture. Made by hand from start to finish, covered entirely with flowers. Despite the sense of ethereal case, the artificial flowers, embroidery and featherwork together required seven hundred hours of handwork.
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Irish Wedding Dress, ca. 1870. Hand-crocheted cream cotton lace with three-dimensional motifs, including roses, lilies of the valley, hanging fuchsias, morning glories, buds and berries, and flat and folded leaves and ferns. Incomparable!

From the ‘Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology” exhibition, at The Met.

The skill, the superb craftsmanship

The artistry, the stitching, the minute attention to detail

The hours of work, the zealousness, the passion, the tears

The vision

Integrating modern technology into fashion and using it to transform garments into wearable sculptures

The fun trying to tell Manus from Machina and failing

The joy in being free to photograph

Simply Sublime

August 27th, 2016 at The Met