Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee: Erik Mohr's Chizine Design; Deathly Hallows "Three Brothers" Animation

* Erik Mohr is the immensely talented creative director & designer who is responsible for the beauty of the books Toronto-based Chizine Publications produces (CZP is owned and run by Sandra Kasturi and Brett Savory). Full disclosure: CZP published my novel The Choir Boats, the cover of which Mohr designed based on original art made by Deborah A. Mills. So, this is an unashamed plug for a colleague!

This week Mohr put up on his Facebook page all the CZP covers he has done-- a handsome sight.

If you sign in to Facebook, plug in this URL and you will see the covers:!/album.php?aid=2008405&id=1493778832

For more on Mohr, click here. For CZP, click here. For Mills, click here.

* Enjoyed The Deathly Hallows, Part I this week...was most struck by the 3-minute animated "Tale of Three Brothers" segment...beautiful, shadowy puppet-like Swiss animator Ben Hibon...he is slated to direct a new version of Peter Pan...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Thoughts: Laura Battle at Lohin Geduld; Bono and Spiderman; Van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece

[Laura Battle, Numinosum, made 2010; all images by Battle are copyright of the artist, who is represented by Lohin Geduld Gallery, NYC]
[Battle, Charm, 2010]
[Battle, detail from Timeline, 2010]

[Van Eyck's Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, in St. Bavo Cathedral, Ghent, Belgium, completed 1432]

Thanksgiving here in the U.S.A.-- a calm, grey Hudson outside our window as we prepare a feast for friends. We thank the winds and tides that have brought us all together. We thank each other for each other. We thank creators for bringing beauty into the world.

One creator who grabbed our attention earlier this week is Laura Battle, whose third solo show of paintings and drawings opened Nov. 17 at Lohin Geduld. If you are in NYC, make this show a priority--it closes December 23.

Battle takes us to new territories, mapping them with the precision of NASA and the imagination of Paul Klee. (In Battle's deft hands, Klee's "taking a line for a walk" is given fresh discipline and direction.) Her images grip us with their finely balanced tension between exactitude and intuition. She uses color subtly, as the suffused substrate for the trajectories of her lines and glyphs, as the field for controlled wanderings. These are cadastral surveys of new-found places...places we want to go.

For more,
click here and click here.

Another blessing this week: Peter Schjeldahl's article in The New Yorker
on the restoration of van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece ("The Flip Side; The Secrets of Conserving the Wood Behind an Early Masterpiece," Nov. 29, pp. 42-47). Schjeldahl reminds us of "the eloquence of van Eyck's glazes, which pool like liquid radiance," which "generate a sweet and mighty visual music."

His main focus, however, is on the restoration of the altarpiece--the first in over fifty years--being done by an international team of all-stars funded by The Getty Foundation's Panel Paintings Initiative. Schjeldahl details all of the craftsmanship and connoisseurship that goes into making and preserving a piece like the Ghent Altarpiece. The wood bends and exhales, the paint blisters and seams, the restorers battle to mend and prevent.

Schjeldahl emphasizes the tactile nature of art-making and of art's enjoyment, an artisanal turn in a world where sight is privileged. The restoration experts distinguish themselves here "from academics who are numb to the muscular feel of planes and chisels wielded with hair's-breadth precision."

Another item that struck us this week: the Broadway version of Spiderman is nearing its opening, directed by Julie Taymor, with music by Bono and The Edge.

Bono is quoted in the NY Times (Nov. 23, article by Patrick Healy):

“We’re wrestling with the same stuff as Rilke, Blake, ‘Wings of Desire,’ Roy Lichtenstein, the Ramones — the cost of feeling feelings, the desire for connections when you’re separate from others...[...] If the only wows you get from ‘Spider-Man’ are visual, special-effect, spectacular-type wows, and not wows from the soul or the heart, we will all think that we’ve failed.”

I am not sure about Rilke, but I believe Blake would have liked the Spiderman epic...I can absolutely imagine Blake etching, lettering and inking Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson, Doc Oc, and The Green Goblin, maybe including the story in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell or The First Book of Urizen.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee: Sergei Isupov's Narrative Sculpture; Super-Cats Save San Francisco

[As always, all copyright held by the artist, in this case Sergei Isupov.]

Sergei Isupov is draftsman of the enigmatic, a craftsman of the uncanny. (Click here for Isupov's website.) We were enthralled yesterday at his new show, at the Barry Friedman gallery in Chelsea (NYC). We first encountered his magical creations as part of the Ferrin Gallery presentation at the SOFA show in NYC two years ago.

Isupov is hard to categorize, a visual polymath, a throwback to an earlier age of studied technique, connoisseurship, and historical research. He seems first and foremost a Rabelaisian teller of stories, a sketcher of epigram and mysterious vignette...who chose to paint his stories...and who then decided that traditional canvas and paper were not sufficient and so turned to porcelain and stoneware as his main media. So: enigmas draped over and around busts and boots, like minor deities protruding into our world from some other dimension.

His huge stoneware heads are serene, contemplative, but their foreheads and cheeks are covered by human bodies, or small faces, or limbs...and they usually have an utterly different face on the back of the skull. Further adding to the ambiguity are the tableaus painted on the base of the statues, scenes of nets, horses, naked bodies in flight, men and women reaching out uncertainly to one another. The thinker's thoughts made visible, the agitation beneath the surface.

My favorites are his polychromatic porcelain boots, each about two feet tall, with titles like "Flight in the Dreams and Awake." Frequently there are disembodied hands attached to the boot, like the hands of God so typical of religious imagery from the European Renaissance. Boots left by Mercury after a long night's travels, emblazoned with the stories of those he encountered along the way?

Isupov is a warm spirit, his grotesques presented with love and a genuine desire to understand humanity in all our strangeness.

Speaking of strangeness, I cannot resist sharing this image (which I found at io9):

To quote the io9 article by Annalee Newitz: "...a group of San Francisco artists decorated the front of the boarded-up Harding Theater with the greatest work of LOL-based art the world has ever seen.

Aggressive Panhandler's Andrew Dalton is responsible for spotting this artwork with his laser eyes....

Find out more about the artists who created this mural: Bunnie Reiss, Ezra Li Eismont, and Garrison Buxton."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee: Giants in the Earth Appearing Now on a Billboard Near You

While strolling around Tribeca yesterday afternoon, the lobster and the canary came upon this poster...a reminder that fantastical beings and the Old Ones are all around us, if we care to look... which reminded us of a few other Curious Creatures hidden in plain sight:

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Tea: NY Art Book Fair / Kate Castelli

The wonderful graphic designer & illustrator Kate Castelli visited us this weekend-- what a treat to explore The NY Art Book Fair at MOMA/PS 1 with her.

(For more on Kate, see the Lobster & Canary interview August 1, 2010, and her website

In only its fifth year, the NY Art Book Fair, organized by Printed Matter, Inc., has become a "must see" on the fall arts circuit. The show was utterly packed on Saturday afternoon, standing room only in some places...

...for good reason, as c. 300 exhibitors treated us to a riot of interstitial, interdisciplinary, innovative, beautiful, bizarre, and sometimes just plain "huh?"-inducing books, journals, (maga)zines, broadsides, posters, prints, text/object mash-ups, and other less definable items.

Kate, the lobster, and the canary left delightfully overwhelmed. A few notes from a pile of impressions:

The Center for Book Arts (NYC), for their poetry chapbook collaborations (co-curated by Sharon Dolin, who we interviewed here March 13 & May 22, 2010).

Studio on the Square Book Arts Collective (NYC), for crisp composition and stand-out craftsmanship. (The small book entitled "Sacred Tables" glowed with a Klee-like combination of formal gridwork and subtly leaping colors.) Plus, the Studio on the Square's Intima Press featured the "Goddard Declaration of Independence": "Many of the names associated with the Declaration of Independence-John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Samuel Chase-are household names. Another one-Mary Katherine Goddard-is probably not. But Goddard played a central role in this foundational American document-she printed it. At the time she was living in Baltimore and was in fact Baltimore’s Postmistress."

Artspeak (Vancouver) for intriguing dialogue between practitioners and critics. From their website: "Artspeak presents contemporary practices, innovative publications, bookworks, editions, talks and events that encourage a dialogue between visual art and writing."

The Department of Interdisciplinary Arts at Columbia College Chicago, for their Journal of Artists' Books.

Siglio Press for their exquisite productions, especially of work by Nancy Spero and by Denis Wood. From their website: "SIGLIO is a new, independent press in Los Angeles dedicated to publishing uncommon books that live at the intersections of art and literature. Siglio books defy categorization and ignite conversation: they are cross-disciplinary, hybrid works that subvert paradigms, reveal unexpected connections, rethink narrative forms, and thoroughly engage a reader's imagination and intellect."

Proteus Gowanus (NYC) for their boldness, their hints of melancholy and outright morbidity, and the sheer volume & variety of their output. As they put it, they "extend an interesting train of thought into print."

e-flux for international interconnections and clever use of the chalkboard. As they put it: "Established in January 1999 in New York, e-flux is an international network which reaches more than 50,000 visual art professionals on a daily basis through its website, e-mail list and special projects. Its news digest – e-flux announcements – distributes information on some of the world's most important contemporary art exhibitions, publications and symposia".

The Silas Finch Foundation (NYC) for arresting, make-you-think imagery. From their website: "We work collaboratively with artists to produce, publish and promote ambitious photographic projects. We also work to develop and support new platforms for the publication and distribution of photographic art in the 21st century."

De Appel (Amsterdam) for its public art projects. From their website: "Since 1975 it has functioned as a site for the research and presentation of contemporary visual art through exhibitions, publications and discursive events. De Appel also functions as a platform for performances by visual artists, choreographers and theatre makers. [...] It has a special thematic focus on 'context-responsive' curating and the presentator [sic] of art in the 'public sphere'."

And these worthies only head a long list of appealing presenters at the NY Art Book Fair in 2010.