Saturday, 30 January 2016

Art Deco Complete

Art Deco Complete
Art Deco Complete, by Alastair Duncan, surveys the development of Art Deco furniture, sculpture, graphics, glass, ceramics, lighting, textiles, metalwork and lacquer, and jewellery. (Architecture and industrial design are not included.)

The book is divided into two parts: profiles of the major designers in each medium, and an encyclopedic guide to 500 other designers and manufacturers. It's justifiably subtitled The Definitive Guide To The Decorative Arts Of The 1920s & 1930s.

Art Deco takes its name from the 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes. Duncan notes that the style evolved from pure Deco into Streamline Moderne - "Just as the Art Deco style had supplanted Art Nouveau in France, it in turn began to give way to Modernism in the late 1920s" - though his coverage of Deco is broad and inclusive.

Art Deco was popularised by Bevis Hillier's book Art Deco Of The 20s & 30s (1967), and Hillier later co-wrote Art Deco Style (1997; with Stephen Escritt). The Victoria & Albert Museum's superb exhibition catalogue Art Deco 1910-1939 (2003) is the most comprehensive Art Deco book.

Reviewing Art Deco Complete, Hillier called it "certainly the most luscious, lavish book ever to appear on the subject". However, he also highlighted its author's chequered past: "He was found guilty of conspiring with a grave-robber and... sentenced to 27 months in a Federal gaol." Hillier adds: "Some may feel that this ropey past makes anything Duncan has to say suspect; but I do not" with a hint of the famous phrase from House Of Cards: "You might very well think that. I couldn't possibly comment."

Art Deco Complete contains over 1,000 illustrations, and the UK edition has an elegant dust jacket based on a 1938 design by Georges Levitsky. Its publisher, Thames & Hudson, bills it as "the most comprehensive account of the decorative arts of the Art Deco period ever assembled".

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs, directed by Danny Boyle, is loosely based on Walter Isaacson's authorised Jobs biography. Isaacson praised the products Jobs released but criticised his methods, while the film criticises both. Apple disliked Isaacson's book (and this film) and co-operated with Brent Schlender's more sympathetic Becoming Steve Jobs.

Aaron Sorkin's script is smart and funny, with more laughs than some comedies. The structure - compressing so many events into the moments before three product launches - is artificial but dramatic. As Michael Fassbender (playing Jobs) says in the film, "It's like five minutes before every launch everyone goes to a bar, gets drunk and tells me what they really think."

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Atlas Of Human Anatomy & Surgery

Atlas Of Human Anatomy & Surgery
Atlas Of Human Anatomy & Surgery
De Humani Corporis Fabrica
JM Bourgery and NH Jacob's Trait Complet De L'Anatomie De L'Homme was published between 1831 and 1854, issued as a series of unbound fascicles. In Understanding The World, Sandra Rendgen noted that it "remains the most lavishly illustrated anatomical atlas ever produced." This classic anatomical treatise has been reprinted by Taschen in two volumes, as Atlas Of Human Anatomy & Surgery. (It was previously available in a slightly larger fomat.)

As the editors, Jean-Marie Le Minor and Henri Sick, explain in their introduction, the Atlas "represents one of the most remarkable works in the whole history of anatomy". What distinguished the Atlas from earlier anatomical works was the scale of its illustrations: it had 725 plates, ten times more than its predecessors. The Atlas was also significant for its use of colour: the plates were initially hand-stencilled, though the second edition was (like The Grammar Of Ornament by Owen Jones) an early example of chromolithography.

Leonardo and Michelangelo both dissected corpses and made detailed anatomical drawings, though the first and most significant anatomical publication was De Humani Corporis Fabrica, by Andreas Vesalius (published in 1543, the year of Copernican heliocentrism). The editors of the Atlas describe Vesalius's work as "indisputably the most outstanding book in the whole history of anatomy"; his illustrations were reprinted in 1934 and 1950.

The history of anatomical drawing was presented in the exhibition The Quick & The Dead: Artists & Anatomy, curated by Deanna Petherbridge in 1997. (I saw it at Warwick Arts Centre in 1998.) Today, the most (in)famous anatomist is probably Gunther von Hagens, who created the Bodyworlds exhibition of plastinated corpses later imitated by Our Body and The Body Show.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Roboticlism From Unconscious Mind

Roboticism From Unconscious Mind
Love Machine II
Roboticism From Unconscious Mind
After Carnivalism and Gagasmicism, Thai art has a new 'ism': Roboticlism, a concept devised by Noshpash Chaturongkagul. Noshpash's exhibition Roboticlism From Unconscious Mind opened at Jamjuree Art Gallery in Bangkok on 15th January.

According to the exhibition catalogue, "Roboticlism is represented by robotic machines, mechanical armor, monsters and various creatures." Noshpash's oil paintings do indeed depict robots and monsters, though they are inspired by creatures from Thai mythology such as garudas and dragons. One of these creations, shown in Love Machine II (2014), is a monstrous insect with a vagina dentata.

In addition to the paintings, the Roboticlism concept also encompasses performance (Noshpash sits on a painted throne throughout the exhibition), comic art (a Garuda Lord comic is included in the exhibition catalogue), and graphics (a logo and the theory behind its design). The exhibition will close on 2nd February.

Notes On The History Of Origami

Notes On The History Of Origami
Senbazuru Origata
John Smith's Notes On The History Of Origami was first published by the British Origami Society in 1972, and revised editions appeared in 1973, 1975, 2005, and 2014. As the title suggests, it "is not intended to be a history of paper folding or Origami but brings together what is available with references and notes." Unlike other origami books, most of which are instruction manuals with brief historical introductions, Smith's booklet provides an illustrated guide to the development of origami.

Origami has been practiced and perfected in Japan for more than 400 years, and the first book on the subject (Senbazuru Origata) appeared in 1797. However, there is evidence that paper-folding originated in China and was exported to Japan, just as Chinese penjing influenced the more famous Japanese bonsai. Akira Yoshizawa, who died in 2005, was the most celebrated Japanese origami master, and Smith calls him "the dominating genius".

Robert Harbin popularised origami in the UK and America with his book Paper Magic (1956; illustrated by Rolf Harris, before he became famous as a TV presenter and convicted paedophile). Paper Magic also introduced Akira Yoshizawa's work to a Western audience, and Smith describes it as "one of the most important and influential books on paper folding ever to appear."

Friday, 22 January 2016

Wheel Of A Dark Soul

Wheel Of A Dark Soul
Wheel Of A Dark Soul V
Nipon Jungkina's exhibition Wheel Of A Dark Soul opened at Jamjuree Art Gallery in Bangkok on Christmas Day last year, and will close tomorrow. The exhibition features paintings of monks with muscular torsos, wearing their saffron robes as loincloths. The monks' heads have been replaced by lotus buds, and they are surrounded by naked women.

One especially dramatic painting, Wheel Of A Dark Soul V, shows a monk and a woman embracing, with the woman's mouth resembling a bird's beak. The exhibition is a commentary on Buddhism and morality: the lotus buds symbolise the monks' inability to reach Nirvana as they succumb to sexual temptation.

Representation of monks is a sensitive subject in Thai art. Vasan Sitthiket's painting Buddha Visits Thailand (1992) depicted monks raping women, and his ตัวใครตัวมันนะโยม (2011) shows two monks fighting and having sex. Anupong Chantorn painted monks with beaks (Hope In The Dark, 2009), and his Moral Boundary (2010) depicts a monk with an erect phallus. Withit Sembutr's Doo Phra, a painting of monks crowding around an amulet-seller, was withdrawn from a 2007 exhibition.

Several Thai films - อาบัติ, Headshot, Syndromes & A Century, and The Holy Man II - have been cut due to their 'inappropriate' portrayal of monks. Shadow Of The Naga was not censored, though its distributor delayed its release for two years.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Thai Rath

Thai Rath
Thai Rath
Popular Thai actor Tridsadee Sahawong died on Monday, after contracting dengue fever and spending several months in a coma. At his funeral, Thai paparazzi were criticised for intrusively crowding around his coffin, and the funeral was front-page news for every national newspaper yesterday.

However, only one newspaper, Thai Rath, published a photograph showing Tridsadee's face as he lay in his open casket. (The picture appeared yesterday on page one, below the fold.) On its website, Thai Rath blurred the photograph to obscure the dead actor's face, though the image in the printed newspaper was not blurred.

Thai Rath is Thailand's most popular newspaper, and has a tabloid reporting style despite its broadsheet size. It has a reputation for regularly printing (pixelated) images of car-crash victims on its front page, and notoriously it printed an alleged photograph of actor David Carradine's body at the scene of his death.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Jashn-E Ummeed

Jashn-E Ummeed
Indian comedian Kiku Sharda has been charged with insulting spiritual leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, and sentenced to two weeks in jail. Playing a character called Palak, he impersonated Ram Rahim on the TV variety show Jashn-E Ummeed, broadcast by the cable channel Zee TV on 27th December last year.

video

Thursday, 14 January 2016

20th Century Pewter

20th Century Pewter
20th Century Pewter: Art Nouveau To Modernism, by Paul Carter Robinson, is a history of modern pewter objects from Europe, America, and Japan. The book's glossy photographs (mostly of Art Nouveau works from the 1900s) are its main attraction, though it also profiles significant pewter manufacturers and designers. Whereas earlier studies focused on more functional pewter items, Robinson emphasises its use as a medium for decorative objects and ornaments.

Vanessa Brett's Phaidon Guide To Pewter (1981) is a survey of European and American pewter since the seventeenth century, ending with a chapter titled Art Nouveau To Contemporary. Robinson's book is essentially an expanded treatment of the material in that chapter. He discusses German and British pewter in considerable detail, and also covers pewter from France, Holland, Austria, Scandinavia, America, and (briefly) Japan. Gabriele Sterner's Pewter Through 500 Years (1979) has a useful annotated bibliography.

Killing For Culture

Killing For Culture
Killing For Culture, by David Kerekes and David Slater, was first published in 1994, and a second edition appeared the following year. The book "explores images of death and violence, specifically moving images, and the human obsession with looking (and not looking) at them" and after twenty years it has been updated in a third edition.

The book discusses the use of 'Snuff films' as a plot device in horror films, including Peeping Tom, Slaughter (retitled Snuff), and - in the new edition - August Underground's Mordum and A Serbian Film. It also examines the history of Mondo documentaries (from Mondo Cane to Executions) and the representation of real death in the media.

The new edition is over 600 pages long, more than twice the length of the second edition. The most significant addition is its coverage of the internet as a medium for extreme content. (Despite condemning the media for sensationalising horror films, the book quotes extensively from descriptions of violent material in anonymous chatrooms, which is arguably also sensationalist.)

The previous editions were about the myth of Snuff, though today Snuff films arguably do exist. The new edition, subtitled From Edison To ISIS: A New History Of Death On Film, covers terrorist propaganda videos (hostages beheaded by Al Quaeda and ISIS) and Luka Magnotta's murder video One Lunatic, One Ice Pick.

There are other works dealing with similar topics, such as Sweet & Savage and the Channel 4 documentary Does Snuff Exist? (2006; directed by Evy Barry), though Killing For Culture is the first and most comprehensive study of its subject. (I had to replace my copy of the second edition, after reading it so many times that most of the pages fell out.)

Killing For Culture is a definitive examination of the most extreme films ever made. Kerekes and Slater also wrote See No Evil (an in-depth guide to 'video nasties'); Kerekes wrote Sex, Murder, Art (a monograph on Jorg Buttgereit) and edited the journal Headpress.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Walls

Walls
Walls: Mural, Wood Panel, Stencil, Wallpaper is a survey of decorative wall coverings written by Florence de Dampierre. (The dust jacket adds a further subtitle: The Best Of Decorative Treatments.) After a brief introduction on tapestries, there are substantial chapters on murals, wood panelling, stencilling, and wallpaper.

The chapter on murals includes tempera, Renaissance frescoes, and decorative styles such as Baroque and Rococo. The panelling chapter discusses French boiserie, Italian intarsia (marquetry), and lacquer. The stencil chapter, with a guide to stylistic developments, is especially interesting because little has previously been written about the history of stencilling. In contrast, the history of wallpaper has been covered in much greater detail elsewhere.

Walls has colour illustrations throughout, and many full-page, full-bleed photographs, though it has no index or bibliography. The Papered Wall (edited by Lesley Hoskins; second edition, 2005) is the standard history of wallpaper. A History Of Tapestry (WG Thomson, 1906) was the first comprehensive survey of tapestries, and Tapestry (Barty Phillips, 1994) is a modern history of the subject.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Magician

Magician
Magician: The Astonishing Life & Work Of Orson Welles, directed by Chuck Workman, is a profile of Welles covering his work for theatre, radio, and cinema. It's a broad survey of his entire career, featuring clips from all of his completed films, divided chronologically into five chapters (1915-1941: The Boy Wonder, 1942-1949: The Outsider, 1950-1957: The Gypsy, 1958 to 1966: The Road Back, and 1966-1985: The Master).

Welles wrote and directed Citizen Kane, probably the greatest film ever made. His other films include The Magnificent Ambersons, The Stranger, The Lady From Shanghai, Touch Of Evil, F For Fake, several other features and shorts, and numerous incomplete films and scripts. (Extracts from the unfinished films are included in Orson Welles: The One-Man Band.)

Welles was also a film and stage actor, and one of the most innovative theatre and radio producers of the last century. He wrote newspaper columns and political speeches, directed television documentaries, and even edited and illustrated editions of Shakespeare's plays. But as Magician is only ninety minutes long, there's not enough time for it to cover any of these achievements in much depth.

Magician features interviews with Welles scholars including Joseph McBride (author of Orson Welles), Jonathan Rosenbaum (author of Discovering Orson Welles), Henry Jaglom (author of My Lunches With Orson), and Peter Bogdanovich (author of This Is Orson Welles, edited by Rosenbaum). It also includes contributions from Welles's daughters Beatrice and Christopher, and his long-term partner, Oja Kodar.

Most of Welles's biographical details are provided by Welles himself in clips from his TV interviews, especially the two-part Arena profile The Orson Welles Story (BBC2, 1982). Welles was an excellent raconteur, but his anecdotes were often heavily embellished, so it's a shame that Magician relies on them unquestioningly. Only once is a Welles story challenged, and only on a technicality - whether he received $47,000 or $55,000 for his work on The Lady From Shanghai - and everything else is taken at face value.

Hollywood In Eirinn

Hollywood In Eirinn
In an episode of Hollywood In Eirinn, broadcast by the Irish TV station TG4 on 1st January, Denis Conway interviewed people in Waterford, Ireland, who were involved in the production of Stanley Kubrick's film Barry Lyndon. The programme was produced and directed by Darina Clancy.

The documentary includes plenty of previously unseen photographs of Kubrick on location during the making of Barry Lyndon. Most of the programme's interviewees played minor roles in the production of Barry Lyndon, though musician Paddy Maloney of The Chieftains tells an interesting anecdote about visiting Kubrick's house and selling him the rights to twenty-five minutes of music.

This is the second Irish documentary about the making of Barry Lyndon: the radio documentary Castles, Candles, & Kubrick was broadcast in 2013. Chapters in Stanley Kubrick: New Perspectives, the Kubrick exhibition catalogue, and The Stanley Kubrick Archives also discuss the making of the film.

New Portraits

New Portraits
Photographer Donald Graham has filed a lawsuit against artist Richard Prince at the Southern District Court of New York, alleging copyright infringement. Prince appropriated one of Graham's photographs, Rastafarian Smoking A Joint, as part of his New Portraits series last year.

New Portraits consisted of enlargements of Instagram screenshots featuring photographs posted by Instagram users with additional comments by Prince. Prince did not contact the Instagram users prior to his exhibition, and did not seek permission to reproduce their images.

Graham's photograph, slightly cropped to conform to Instagram's square frame, was posted on Instagram by Jay Kirton. Kirton's post was enlarged by Prince and exhibited at the Gagosian Gallery in New York from 12th June to 15th August 2015.

This is not the first lawsuit resulting from Prince's technique of appropriating existing photographs. In 2009, he was sued by another photographer, Patrick Cariou, who claimed that Prince's Canal Zone exhibition had infringed his copyright by incorporating images from his book Yes, Rasta. That case was eventually settled out of court in 2014. Prince's Spiritual America, his appropriation of a photograph by Gary Gross, caused controversy when it was censored from the Pop Life exhibition and catalogue in 2009.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Seduction Month

Lolita
Lolita
Bangkok's Jam Cafe is hosting a Seduction Month film season this month, which begins on Wednesday with Stanley Kubrick's Lolita. Jam's previous seasons have included Dreams Month, Forking Paths Month, Resizing Month, Banned Month, Doppelganger Month, American Independent Month, Anime Month, 'So Bad It's Good' Month, Philip Seymour Hoffman Month, and Noir Month.