B12 Solipsism

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Archive for the ‘Arts’ Category

Art news from all over (not including film arts and music arts)

UrbanSeens Gallery Show at Spellerberg Projects

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As some people know, I have an upcoming gallery show in Lockhart, Texas, April 1st at Spellerberg Projects, 103 S Main St, Lockhart TX.

UrbanSeens Opening Reception

UrbanSeens invitation

I’d be honored if you attended, but I realize many people have other things to do, like washing their individual hairs in a custom built sink, or alphabetizing their sock drawer. So I forgive you in advance if you don’t make the opening. Or the 30 or so other days in April when the gallery will have my images on display without strangers gawking and pushing each other to gain a better view.

If you actually cannot make it to Texas on such short notice, the prints I’ve chosen to display are also available to view at Flickr, or at a dedicated photoblog I created for the occasion – UrbanSeens.com  (still a work in progress at this time)

Hope to see you there, or there, or there…

As an aside, deciding what images to display and print was a crazily complicated process. I’ve been taking photographs for a long time, decades in fact, and while I consider myself more adept these days, photos taken when I was first seriously exploring the photographic medium have a certain nostalgic gravity. Also as I scrolled through the nearly 13,000 photos processed and uploaded to Flickr (12,903 at this moment not to mention the nearly 100,000 total photos in my Lightroom catalog), I kept finding images I liked or wanted to include, but could not. Maybe in the next show? Or I could print them just for you?

Flickr Stats 2017-03-16 at 11.09.58 PM
Flickr Stats 3-2017.PNG

Written by Seth Anderson

March 16th, 2017 at 10:21 pm

Obama Versus Art

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McLinlock Court - Art Institute of Chicago
McLinlock Court – Art Institute of Chicago

What an asinine criticism of the President. There are plenty of valid criticisms of Obama, from both right and left wing perspective, such as drone strike killings without due process, the fact of marijuana still being a Schedule 1 Narcotic, etc., but not doing “more for the arts”? What is he, a Medici?

The Obama image turned out to be misleading. All evidence points to the president being indeed thoughtful, even perhaps too thoughtful, if one believes critics who say he intellectualizes problems that demand more visceral responses. But there is little indication that Obama regularly indulges the particular relationship to art that this photograph implied: solitary contemplation of the inherited canon of paintings, sculpture, music, dance or theater. He is interested in culture, to be sure, but it is the living culture of our time, often the celebrity culture of popular music and commercial theater, but rarely the stuff people used to call “high” culture. Or that, at least, is the image his handlers have crafted.

So Obama didn’t visit the National Gallery of Art during his presidency (at least so far), and first lady Michelle Obama has been only once, and that late in the last term. The Kennedy Center reports that the first family hasn’t taken much advantage of the presidential box, and the president’s visits have been mostly limited to the annual Kennedy Center Honors. The president has also begged off attending an annual gala at Ford’s Theatre that has been a standard for his predecessors. If one adds to this the long periods that he left the chairmanships of both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities empty, his desultory picks for other important cultural positions, his choice of a librarian of Congress who doesn’t come from the tradition of the belles-lettres or serious scholarship, his record on culture is dispiriting at best.

That has caused some significant cognitive dissonance among people in the arts world who are otherwise full-throated champions of the president. Indeed, the arts offer some of the friendliest territory for the current administration, full of mainly left-wing coastal types who cherish values they believe the president embodies: intelligence, education, tolerance, cosmopolitanism, and a welcome embrace of ambiguity and complexity when parsing political and social problems. The dinner party consensus is thus: He is one of us, so why hasn’t he done more for the arts?

(click here to continue reading The arts community embraced Obama — but he never truly embraced the arts – The Washington Post.)

The dinner party consensus? Really, I guess the dinner parties I’ve gone to in the last eight years must have been filled with rubes and philistines, as I’ve never once heard anyone sob tearfully in their hors d’oeuvres that “Obama needs to do more for the Arts”. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, remember him? Big arts guy, right? Bush always listened to Stravinsky and John Cage at high volume while watching football games with the commentary turned off, went to the opera every Wednesday with his daughters, even dabbles in painting himself. And if the universe hates us and Donald Trump becomes the 45th president, the arts will flourish like never before.  

Caravaggio Medusa
Caravaggio Medusa

Written by Seth Anderson

September 15th, 2016 at 9:48 am

Posted in Arts,politics

Tagged with ,

Photography As Art

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Analog Light Meter
Analog Light Meter

There is a trend towards so-called authenticity in many fields. Reuters and perhaps some other news organizations no longer accept photos shot as digital RAW files. If you want your photo published by Reuters, you have to use your camera only as a recording device:

Reuters, the news and photography agency, has issued an outright ban on photographs captured and submitted in RAW format. Instead, freelance contributors must now only submit photos that were processed and stored as JPEG inside the camera.

According to Reuters, there are two reasons for this move. First, there’s the matter of alacrity: RAW images need to be processed by the photographer, which takes time—and when you’re reporting on a breaking story, sometimes you don’t have time. The second reason is much more contentious: Reuters wants its photographs to closely reflect reality (i.e. be journalistic), and it’s concerned that some RAW photos are being processed to the point where they’re no longer real.

“As photojournalists working for the world’s largest international multimedia news provider, Reuters Pictures photographers work in line with our Photographer’s Handbook and the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles,” a Reuters spokesperson told PetaPixel. “As eyewitness accounts of events covered by dedicated and responsible journalists, Reuters Pictures must reflect reality. While we aim for photography of the highest aesthetic quality, our goal is not to artistically interpret the news.”

(click here to continue reading Reuters bans submission of RAW photos: “Our photos must reflect reality.” | Ars Technica.)

Many photographers on Flickr and elsewhere boast about how little processing they perform on their photos. Perhaps this is a natural reaction to the digital photography world, filled with HDR photos looking like SciFi films, or over-saturated to the point of eye bleeding, or Instragram images where a photo is often tweaked with a filter with but a few seconds consideration. It is true that new photographers often over-process their photographs, yet that doesn’t make processing a tool to shy away from, only that someone has not yet learned to process well. I remember when I first starting fooling around with Photoshop with scanned prints: it was so easy to make gaudy, weird and obviously digital manipulations, I was learning how to use the tools. None of those experiments are online, or few, but I consider it part of the process of learning.

There was this example too:

You’ve probably heard by now that Steve McCurry is the latest to be caught up in a manipulation scandal. PetaPixel has reported that several examples of excessive Photoshopping of McCurry photos have come to light. A Facebook user named Gianmarco Maraviglia found this example:

Steve McCurry processing example
Steve McCurry example

Study that for a couple of minutes and you can see how deep the changes go. Not as bad, arguably, as the example of the soccer-playing boys on PetaPixel where a whole person was removed. A photograph is in part a witness, and that’s part of what makes it unique: At that moment, that boy was there. He might not have been, but he was. The look of the world is inconvenient to our picture-contriving intent. But that’s part of what makes it so mysterious and rich.

By the late 1970s, the fundamental difference between photography and all the other methods of creating visual art had been worked out more or less completely. Photography was a matter of “hand and eye,” in the words of John Szarkowski, of recognition followed by the recording of the lens image more or less in an instant, and more or less as the lens saw it. Painting and other “plastic” (i.e., malleable) arts involved a back-and-forth over time: look, contemplate, evaluate, make changes; look, contemplate, evaluate, make more changes; and so on over and over, a process that could continue for days or weeks or even years.

(click here to continue reading The Online Photographer: The Ugliness of Beautification.)

Fruit Basket Still Life
Fruit Basket Still Life

Capturing the decisive moment is important, but much of what makes a photo a piece of art is more than just the mechanics. There is no one, perfect way to paint an apple or the curve of a woman’s hip, similarly, there is no ideal way to take and process a photograph. Art is expression, every artist has a different vision, whether or not they are new to the craft, or a seasoned professional, or somewhere in the middle, like myself.

Let The Words Roll Off Where They May
Let The Words Roll Off Where They May

Most black and white photos you see these days are actually shot in color, that’s a manipulation. Digital cameras capture red, green, blue, that is not the same as an analog film camera with different kinds of film stock.

Nearly 98% of the time, I crop a bit or a lot (I typically use a 5×7 ratio to crop, a 1.4 ratio, my camera is more like 16 x 11, a 1.5 ratio), 99% of the time, I enhance color contrast, and boost saturation. I don’t usually remove elements – other than by cropping – but I have occasionally removed a distracting car fender, or telephone wire. Composition is more often handled at time of photograph, but sometimes as a street photographer, you don’t lots of time to frame and mentally crop. Photoshop allows me to continue the work at a later time. I use filters to change the dominant color mood of a photo – turning water from brackish green to aquamarine for instance; or use a filter to emulate various film stock: Velvia, T-Max, Tri-X 400, or Ilford, sepia, cyanotype, etc.

I reject that photography has to be journalistic and nothing else. Speaking for myself, of course, I’m more interested in artistic expression, using the language of film, and the language of poetry to capture the myriad facets of the world around me, in all its ragged, incomplete glory. 

 

Written by Seth Anderson

May 27th, 2016 at 9:03 am

Posted in Arts,Photography

Tagged with

Cyanotype, Photography’s Blue Period, Is Making a Comeback

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Lake Street Bridge During A Blizzard
Lake Street Bridge During A Blizzard – toned blue.

I’ve made digital cyanotypes as long as I’ve used the Alien Skin “Exposure” plugin for Photoshop, but I’ve never made an actual one. The faux, digital versions are much different than actual cyanotypes. I’m intrigued though, the emotional impact of a blue-toned photograph is compelling.

The Phoenix artist Annie Lopez wanted to stand out among her contemporary peers. Instead of trying to invent something utterly new, she has been turning to a 174-year-old photographic printing process — cyanotypes, once used for copying architectural drawings — and giving it her own distinctive twist.

Making a cyanotype involves placing a negative image — which could be a photographic negative, or an object, as in a photogram — on treated paper or fabric. (Ms. Lopez took from her own life and her father’s battle with Alzheimer’s, using photocopies of medical books as well as comments made by family members.) After an iron-based solution is brushed on, the paper is placed under ultraviolet light, or in direct sun, to develop.

“One of the best-selling points of this exhibition is that cyanotypes are both underrepresented and trendy at the same time,” said Nancy Burns, who organized the Worcester show with Kristina Wilson of Clark University. “It’s very hip in contemporary art, when you start looking for it.”

The cyanotype process — from the Greek cyan, or “dark-blue impression” — was invented around 1842 by the British astronomer and chemist John Frederick Herschel (1792–1871). The benefits of the format were evident from the start.

(click here to continue reading Cyanotype, Photography’s Blue Period, Is Making a Comeback – The New York Times.)

I’ve also heard cyanotypes called “sun prints”:

Maybe you remember sun prints (also known as cyanotypes) from childhood. You set a leaf or flower on light-sensitive paper and exposed it to the sunlight for a few minutes. Your parent or teacher probably rinsed the print and showed you the results as they developed. A shadow of the specimen emerged—the color of the paper shifted from white to light blue. The final result was a white or bluish-white silhouette on dark blue paper.

When I first started paying attention to cyanotypes, I loved how they rendered familiar objects and shapes as bluish, shadowy abstractions. I also wondered why they reminded me of x-rays or architectural drawings. A description of the cyanotype process from Encyclopaedia Britannica shed some light.

(click here to continue reading Celebrated Summer: Making Sun Prints with Transparencies | Britannica Blog.)

Like I said, I’ve never made an actual cyanotype, yet. The images on this post are simply “toned blue” as a reminder to myself1 that I need to make a real cyanotype. 

Loren Squints Blue
Loren Squints Blue

You’ve Got Everything, Polapan Blue
You’ve Got Everything, Polapan Blue

Across The Evening Sky All The Birds Are Leaving - Copper Blue
Across The Evening Sky All The Birds Are Leaving – Copper Blue

Just A Restless Feeling By My Side
Just A Restless Feeling By My Side

Minister of Design and The Future, Blue
Minister of Design and The Future, Blue

Take the Blue Train
Take the Blue Train

Thistled and Scorned
Thistled and Scorned

Empty Blue Number 2
Empty Blue Number 2

Phil Looks Cold - Blue
Phil Looks Cold – Blue

Footnotes:
  1. like so much of my blog []

Written by Seth Anderson

February 7th, 2016 at 12:56 pm

Posted in Arts

Tagged with ,

The NBA Team That’s Bullish on the Opera

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Civic Opera Building
Civic Opera Building

Personally, I’d be happy to run into Pau Gasol at the Lyric Opera of Chicago or similar location, he seems pretty cool, probably an interesting conversationalist. Not all athletes are dumb jocks, especially not those who have made it to the professional level. Those mouth-breathers we all knew in high school might have been muscle-bound knuckleheads, puffed up on testosterone and vainglorious, but they didn’t have the intelligence and drive to make it to a professional sport career, or at least none of the idiot jocks I knew in high school.

Anyway, despite this not being one of the Chicago Bulls better seasons, so far, I do hope that Pau Gasol re-signs with the team this summer.

NBA players have too much time and too little to do. When they’re not in a basketball arena, the rest of their days are spent watching television, refreshing Twitter and fine-tuning their ability to fall asleep faster than almost anyone on earth.

Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic would rather go to the opera. Or the symphony.

This season, for the first time, Gasol and Mirotic both have been starters for the Chicago Bulls. But around town, they’ve become known as something else: the city’s biggest patrons of the arts. Gasol and Mirotic are regulars at the opera house. They have been backstage guests of the symphony orchestra. Officials from the city’s highbrow cultural institutions say they can’t remember professional athletes coming to any of their performances—let alone as many as these Bulls.

No one in the NBA is as openly obsessed as Gasol. The 7-foot all-star keeps Mozart and Chopin recordings on his phone, and he needs to think carefully before naming some of his favorite operas: “Carmen,” “La Traviata” and “Tosca,” which he has seen three times. He may be the only professional basketball player ever who says he enjoys watching operas evolve.

Opera Reminiscence’s 1829
Opera Reminiscence’s 1829

The abundance of culture in Chicago is actually one of the reasons Gasol plays for the Bulls. Gasol grew up around music in Barcelona, but it was only when he was with the Los Angeles Lakers that he went to the opera for the first time. It turned out to be something of a day spa—a place where he could escape from the world. “Especially during the season,” he said. “It takes my mind off basketball.”

Gasol, who is friends with the legendary tenor Placido Domingo, has made the arts such an essential part of his life that they played into his decision to sign with the Bulls as a free agent last year, he said. Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf introduced Gasol to the right people at the Lyric, and it wasn’t long before he was a familiar face at operas, concerts and musicals across the city. “I’m a big supporter of arts and culture,” Gasol said. “I think they’re traditions that we need to continue to pass on to younger generations.”

(click here to continue reading The NBA Team That’s Bullish on the Opera – WSJ.)

Ruled by Bureaucracy
Ruled by Bureaucracy

Unload the Culture Truck
Unload the Culture Truck

The Civic Theatre - TRI-X 400
The Civic Theatre – TRI-X 400

Civic Opera Hovse
Civic Opera Hovse

Written by Seth Anderson

February 1st, 2016 at 8:31 am

Posted in Arts,NBA,Sports

Tagged with ,

Photography Is A Two Part Process

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Photography in the digital age is different than most other art forms. Here is why.

Seeming To Be
Seeming To Be

First the photographer must take the photo. What does this action entail? A whole litany of things, beginning with identifying something interesting enough to photograph, then properly framing the interesting aspects, composing the shot, deciding about depth of field, shutter speed, and more. Depending upon the kind of photograph, you may have time to think through all these implications, but for the kind of photography I usually practice, instinctual, learned reactions are best, or else the moment may be lost. In the pre-digital days, there was also the complication of what film you had in your camera at the moment. I guess if you were a professional, you maybe didn’t mind switching out rolls of film mid-stream, but that was probably unusual. In the digital era, ISO settings can be tweaked from shot to shot.

Ok, you’ve captured something interesting, now what?

The second part of the process1 is processing the image. Currently my digital darkroom contains two main tools: Adobe Lightroom, and Adobe Photoshop CS 62. I have all of my digital images stored in Lightroom3 and when I’m in the proper mood, I browse through them, searching for an image to work on. I use Smart Collections in Lightroom, which is a way to automatically sort images into groups: by camera, by lens, by aperture, by year taken, by kind of image4, and so on. Sometimes I’ll work on photographs that I took recently, especially if there is some topical, photojournalism reason5, but more often I’ll work on an image I took long ago. During the photographing session, I may think I’ve taken a good photo, but later when I’m looking at the image while sitting in front of my computer, perhaps I see a flaw6, or perhaps I stumble upon something I took long ago but forgot about and work on that instead.  

In the pre-digital age, I would make contact sheets of images from a particular roll of film, then decide which of these to work on in a darkroom, having Lightroom eliminates that tedium. Not to mention that the chemicals required in a darkroom cannot be good for one’s health!

Don't Say I Never Warned You
Don’t Say I Never Warned You

Once I decide, I open the image in Photoshop, adjust exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, cropping, angle, whites, blacks, clarity, vibrance, saturation, white balance, lens distortion, and other tweaks. Some images are easy – they are what they need to be without much brainwork from me, many images take longer. I often convert color images to black and white, sometimes rather easily because that is what the image wants to become, but sometimes this process takes quite a while. I currently use two third party filters: the Nik Collection7 for color and contrast tweaking, and Alien Skin’s Exposure – which emulates film stock from various films.8

The second part of creating a photograph is a much different process than the first. In fact, the two processes use quite different skill sets, and require a much different state of mind. I prefer to wander the streets, headphones on, snapping photographs. Traveling to somewhere new helps focus the eye, but as Heraclitus noted, “δὶς ἐς τὸν αὐτὸν ποταμὸν οὐκ ἂν ἐμβαίης.”9. I guess this is why I don’t take that many portraits: portraits require many photos of the same subject, I get bored by that. My style of photography is to snap only one or maybe two photographs of any particular subject at any particular time.  For the processing aspect, I have to be able to concentrate at my computer, ideally without distraction, not always an easy request.

Other art forms are not the same. Painters may sketch what they are going to put down on canvas, or not, but the sketch is only tangentially related to the finished work. Writers might create characters, and back story, but again, the finished work is a different thing. Musicians practice, create riffs, but playing the song is in the moment of the song. Photographers work differently. I guess you could argue that the photographing process is collecting raw material, but that’s not quite accurate because if you don’t take a good photograph, you aren’t going to be able to save it in your digital darkroom, you just won’t.

Don't Say I Never Warned You
Don’t Say I Never Warned You – Hipstamatic

A final thought: there is another type of photography that doesn’t involve processing images much. Namely, instant photographs, or in the digital age, images created with smart phones. I use the Hipstamatic app, but there are other similar photography tools, and part of the fun is that the photograph you’ve just taken is finished. You don’t have to go home and work on it, the image is already ready to be shared

Footnotes:
  1. and this is for me, how I work, you may handle this differently []
  2. the last version available without having to pay a monthly fee []
  3. nearly 50,000 DSLR photos as of now []
  4. segmenting the photos from my DSLR from my iPhone snapshots, for instance []
  5. protests, parades, weather []
  6. out of focus, weird crop, whatever []
  7. now owned by Google, I mostly use Color Efex Pro, rarely Silver Efex Pro, and once a year the Analog Efex Pro plugin []
  8. Kodak T-Max 100, Agfa Scala, Fuji Neopan, etc. []
  9. You can never step twice in the same river []

Written by Seth Anderson

January 5th, 2016 at 8:45 pm

Posted in Arts,Photography

Tagged with ,

After 36 years, Neo leaves a changing Lincoln Park

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Smoke Break in the Neo Alley
Smoke Break in the Neo Alley.

Sasha Geffen interviews Callin Fortis about the closing of Neo.

When Callin Fortis took over Neo in 1982, Lincoln Park had no Gaps, no pet boutiques, and no day cares. It was a nightlife hub, with cheap rents and 4 AM bars and 24-hour diners—”like New York,” says Fortis. His own nightclub, one of the last of its generation in the area, is now sandwiched between a preschool and an Urban Outfitters in an alley on Clark Street, just south of Fullerton Avenue, less than a mile west of the Lincoln Park Zoo. Neo had been open for just two years when Fortis moved in, and at the end of July, it will close its doors after 36 years in operation. The preschool that occupies the storefront of the same building will move into the space that has served as a late-night hangout for Chicago’s misfits since 1979. “The neighborhood has changed dramatically,” says Fortis over the phone from Miami, where he now lives. “Lincoln Park was still residential, but it was much hipper than it is now. It was still filled with art and cool stuff. Now, it’s not. Urban Outfitters is still there. That’s probably the coolest thing there is.”

Fortis and the owner of the building where Neo is housed, John Crombie, recently failed to come to an agreement on a new lease for the space, forcing the club to relocate. Currently, no new venue has been pinned down, although Fortis says he’s had offers come in from across the city, and that he’s eyeing a space in Wicker Park.

(click here to continue reading After 36 years, Neo leaves a changing Lincoln Park | Bleader | Chicago Reader.)

NEO - shutting down

I never claimed Neo as one of my spots, but I have been inside a few times, and always enjoyed myself.

Neo’s Neon

Written by Seth Anderson

July 28th, 2015 at 2:54 pm

Bob Dylan Hates Purple Throated Vocalists As Much As I Do

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Trio of musicians
Trio of musicians

Long time readers of this humble blog might remember a discussion or two about singers who over-sing. Artists like Whitney “permanent orgasm” Houston, for instance, who constantly ululate over and around the melody until it makes your ears bleed. There’s probably a better way to describe this style of singing, but I call it purple throated, in homage to the phrase “purple prose”.1

Bob Dylan is many things, but one of my favorite aspects of his persona is his love for music, and his propensity to speak the unvarnished truths about musicians.

Such as in his speech at the MusiCares Person of the Year event yesterday:

Dylan was gracious enough not to identify by name the singer who was the recipient of his sharpest barbs. But he seemed to be referencing Ambrosius, who has had several R&B hits, most notably 2010’s Far Away, sang the national anthem at a 2012 Floyd Mayweather-Manny Cotto fight.

“Critics say I mangle my melodies, render my songs unrecognizable,” he said. “Let me tell you something: I was at a boxing match a few years ago, seeing Floyd Mayweather fight a Puerto Rican guy. And the Puerto Rican national anthem, somebody sang it. And it was beautiful, it was heartfelt, it was moving. After that, it was time for our national anthem, and a very popular soul-singing sister was chosen to sing it. She sang every note. That exists. And some that don’t exist. Talk about mangling a melody. Take a one-syllable word and make it last for 15 minutes.  To me, it was not funny. Mangling lyrics, mangling a melody, mangling a treasured song. No, I get the blame.”

(click here to continue reading Dylan disses Merle Haggard, others, in MusiCares speech.)

If you want to torture your ears, here is the YouTube of that rendition of the US National Anthem, available at the moment.

Dylan also discusses another my favorite songs, Sunday Morning Coming Down. I’m partial to the Kris Kristofferson version, but the Johnny Cash cover is pretty spot-on too.

Dylan recalled reading an interview with Tom T. Hall, the country singer and songwriter noted for story songs like Harper Valley PTA and (Old Dogs, Children And) Watermelon Wine, during a Nashville recording stint many years ago. In the interview, Dylan said, “He was (complaining) about some kind of new song coming in. And he couldn’t understand what these new kinds of songs were that were coming in or what they were about.”

“Now, Tom, he was one of the most pre-eminent songwriters at the time in Nashville. A lot of people were recording his songs, including himself. But he was on a fuss about James Taylor and a song James had called Country Road. Tom was going all off in this interview: ‘Well, James don’t sing nothing about a country road; he just says that he can feel that ole country road. I don’t understand that.”

“Now some might say Tom was a great songwriter, and I’m not going to doubt that. At the time, during his interview, I was actually listening to a song of his on the radio in the recording studio. It was called I Love. And it was talking about all the things he loves. An everyman song. Trying to connect with people. Trying to make you think he’s just like you and you’re just like him. We all love the same things. We’re all in this together.”

“Tom loves little baby ducks. Slow-moving trains and rain. He loves big pickup trucks and little country streams. Sleep without dreams. Bourbon in a glass. Coffee in a cup. Tomatoes on a vine and onions.”

“Now listen, I’m not every going to disparage another songwriter. I’m not gonna do that. I’m not saying that’s a bad song, I’m just saying it might be a little over-cooked.”

Dylan said that Hall and a few other writers had the Nashville scene “sewn up” — until Kris Kristofferson came along and started writing songs like Sunday Morning Comes Down, which Johnny Cash turned into a No. 1 single.

“That one song blew Tom T. Hall’s world apart,” Dylan said. “It might have sent him to the crazy house. God forbid he ever heard one of my songs.”

“If Sunday Morning Coming Down rattled Tom’s cage and sent him into the looney bin, my songs surely would have made him blow his brains out.”

(click here to continue reading Dylan disses Merle Haggard, others, in MusiCares speech.)

Bob Dylan - Shadows In The Night
Bob Dylan – Shadows In The Night

By the way, Bob Dylan’s latest album, Shadows in The Night, is actually pretty good, in a melancholy sort of way. Very down-beat, but in a quiet mood, I like it. I’m guessing I might not have appreciated it as much when I was 17, insistent that every song I heard be guitar-driven, but now that I’ve expanded my musical palette a bit, I can appreciate songs by Frank Sinatra, Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, et al.  Also, Dylan’s voice sounds much better than it did on that lame Christmas album2 released a few years ago.

Footnotes:
  1. In literary criticism, purple prose is prose text that is so extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw excessive attention to itself. []
  2. Christmas In The Heart []

Written by Seth Anderson

February 7th, 2015 at 11:51 am

Posted in Arts,Music,Suggestions

Tagged with

Early Morning, Cold El animated GIF

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An animated GIF created in Photoshop CS6, with photographs from Hipstamatic’s new “burst” option.1

Early Morning El
Early-Morning-El.gif

Footnotes:
  1. apologies to The Who’s Early Morning, Cold Taxi []

Written by Seth Anderson

October 8th, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Posted in Arts,Film

Tagged with , , , ,

Sit Down And Be Counted was uploaded to Flickr

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Borders

A few of Steinunn Thorarinsdottir “Borders” sculptures in Grant Park.

“Borders” — hosted by the Chicago Park District in conjunction with the Grant Park Conservancy and the Icelandic Ministry of Culture, and sponsored by Bloomberg — will remain through spring, the sculptures looming with pupil-less gazes over park visitors. (Each aluminum piece weighs 180 pounds; each iron piece weighs 440 pounds.) Thorarinsdottir, who sometimes “stands and peeks” at passers-by, said she enjoys watching her art evoke different reactions from people.

And that’s the fundamental idea of this exhibition: Viewers make what they will of it. The pieces can be poked, stroked, cuddled — so long as the art stimulates some kind of mental and physical response, Thorarinsdottir said she considers her mission accomplished.

Her artwork, which took two years to complete, was first installed in 2011 at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Thorarinsdottir said she consciously placed her figures in that socially and politically charged environment, and her choice to install them in Chicago’s Solti Garden was just as careful and deliberate.

Days before “Borders” was installed, she sat on one of the garden’s benches for hours considering how her sculptures would fit into her surroundings. She recalled listening to the languages spoken by people of all sizes and colors, and she knew she had found her gallery space.

“I wanted the installation to relate to people that wherever we come from, whatever our life experiences, we’re all connected in shape and spirit,” she said. “This garden was my first choice, a natural choice.”

The park, situated just south of the Art Institute of Chicago, provides the intimacy of an enclosed room in an area heavy with foot traffic. The lattice of tree trunks forms the walls, brambly branches netting up into a leafy canopy.

“Some sites are too big, but this garden had a nice body. I like that it forms a natural ‘border’ that the viewer can cross and connect,” Thorarinsdottir said.

Thorarinsdottir purposely left her androgynous figures “neutral.” Some may be sitting, a couple kneeling, others standing, but their faces are left enigmatic. Her Icelandic background influenced her philosophy, she said: “In Iceland, it’s an island with lots of space, very few people, tons of organic nature. So everyone in Iceland gives this feeling that what you are, what you do, matters. We are individuals, but we are also all connected, we are all part of humanity.”

more: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-08-07/entertainment/ct-ent-0808-borders-sculpture-20130808_1_art-institute-sculptures-exhibition…

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/oAJasz

I took Sit Down And Be Counted on June 26, 2014 at 07:17PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on August 05, 2014 at 02:38PM

Written by eggplant

August 5th, 2014 at 7:53 am

The Elegance of Clattering Machines

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All Work And No Play Makes Jack A Dull Boy
All Work And No Play Makes Jack A Dull Boy

Speaking of nostalgia, will this exhibit trigger a typewriter renaissance like the vinyl record resurgence? I’m ancient enough to have written nearly all of my college papers and other writings  on typewriters; computers were not common tools until my senior year, and I never owned a computer myself until after I moved to Chicago. I took a typing class as a freshman at Travis High School1 so I always felt comfortable with my fingers on a keyboard. As an aside, before Mac OS X, when it was easier to crash your computer by adding system extensions and control panels, I had an INIT that made typing on my Mac sound like the click-clack of a typewriter. At least you knew when you pressed a key…

The labels alone make a racket: Meiselbach, Blickensderfer, Bar-Lock. No wonder the show-namers at the New Britain Museum of American Art call their fabulous little exhibition of antique typewriters “Click! Clack! Ding!”

The nickel-plated Odell No. 2, an 1890s machine made in Chicago, looks like a cross between a meat slicer and a sextant. The Lambert No. 1, a 1902 invention that retains its handsome wooden case, resembles an old-fashioned telephone and is about the same size. Even some of the typewriters featuring keyboards and more familiar designs are not what you would describe as “user-friendly”: Where exactly is the paper supposed to go? Why can’t I see the ribbon?

It turns out that the earliest typewriters were “blindwriters,” like the 1876 Sholes & Glidden No. 1 that is the oldest item in “Click! Clack! Ding!” A large and ornate cousin of the sewing machine, the Sholes & Glidden did not permit the typist to see the surface of the paper, which was imprinted — uppercase only — from below. (The operator could enjoy the golden garlands and rosy blossoms delicately painted on the machine’s black casing, however.) As for the specimens without keyboards, they were the very first portables. Known as “index” typewriters, they work with a pointer-like device that selects a letter and another that presses it into the paper — a perfect machine for the two-finger typist.

These early technologies soon gave way to improvements — uppercase and lowercase in the Smith-Premier No. 1 and the Bar-Lock No. 2; “visible” typing in the Williams No. 4 and the Meiselbach Sholes Visible. “Click! Clack! Ding!” conveys some of the history and significance of the typewriters on view, selected from the nearly 300 owned by a Connecticut collector, Greg Fudacz. There is another Connecticut connection as well: Hartford, the home base for Royal and Underwood, was once called “the typewriter capital of the world.” Other brands came from other towns, including Bridgeport, Derby, Middletown, New Haven and Waterbury.

The 1906 Chicago Model 1 looks less antique than the 1922 Noiseless Portable. And you can’t help wondering what today’s computers would look like if the Odell No. 2, with its circular base and saw-tooth bar of letters, had won out in the turn-of-the-century marketplace for writing machines.

(click here to continue reading A Review of ‘Click! Clack! Ding! The American Typewriter’ at the New Britain Museum of American Art – NYTimes.com.)

Underwood Typewriter
Underwood Typewriter

Dominion Typewriter Co.
Dominion Typewriter Co.

Footnotes:
  1. my only B, possibly preventing me from being valedictorian – I ended up 8th in my class. If I hadn’t gotten that B, perhaps I would have tried a little harder as a Senior. Or not. Being 16 has its own logic. []

Written by Seth Anderson

April 27th, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Posted in Arts,Business

Tagged with , ,

On Boycotting Woody Allen’s Films, Hate the Artist, Love the Art

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9 great movies
9 great movies

For many years I’ve heard many variations of the question answered here by the New York Times Ethicist columnist, Chuck Klosterman; whether moral failings or even alleged moral failings are reason enough to avoid the work of certain offending artists.

I was discussing with a friend whether it is permissible to boycott Woody Allen’s films in the wake of the sexual-abuse allegations. We both thought it would be wrong to further empower someone who may have sexually abused a child. But our legal system is built on the principle that the accused are innocent until proved guilty, and preserving that value is important whether or not you believe the allegations. Is it permissible in this case to boycott, or should we presume innocence? J.K., NEW YORK

When news of Dylan Farrow’s accusation against Allen resurfaced earlier this year, I received many emails that were all different versions of the same question: “Is it acceptable to continue watching (and re-watching) Allen’s films if any part of me believes he may have molested his adopted daughter?” Your query is both similar and different; you’re wondering if it’s O.K. to stop watching his movies, even if he has been convicted of absolutely nothing and insists that he’s innocent.

My answer to both questions is yes.

There are many who find themselves wondering if they can still love “Manhattan” or “Crimes and Misdemeanors” if the allegations against Allen are true. It’s highly unlikely, however, that those same people would wonder if they needed to move out of a house if they discovered the carpenter who built it had been accused of the same offense. This is because of art’s exceptionalism — we view artistic endeavors as different from other works. But it’s this same exceptionalism that allows a person to consume art by people they see (rightly or wrongly) as monstrous: What you know about an artist can inform the experience you have with whatever they create. A film is not just a product that has one utility; it’s a collection of ideas that can be weighed and considered in concert with one another.

Watching a movie is not a tacit endorsement of the person who made it.

(click here to continue reading On Boycotting Woody Allen’s Films – NYTimes.com.)

Johnny Depp and some psychoactive mushrooms
Johnny Depp and some psychoactive mushrooms

Can you separate the artist as an individual from their work? I settled this question long ago, for myself, by agreeing to let myself read and enjoy poetry written by Ezra Pound. Ezra Pound seems like he was a virulent anti-semite, a Nazi-sympathizer, and so on, and yet his poetry is intriguing. Roman Polanski admitted having drugged and screwed a 13 year old girl, and yet “Chinatown” is still a great film, as is “Knife in the Water”. John Lennon might have hit Yoko Ono a few times, does that mean I can never listen to “Working Class Hero” again? What about David Bowie’s Third Reich fixation during the time of the recording of some of his best albums? The list goes on and on: artists who were assholes, thugs, sexual deviants, or even worse, Scientologists! Does it matter if Henry Ford was a Nazi-sympathizer? Would you still drive a Ford car? Like Mr. Klosterman says, would you boycott your house if you discovered one of the carpenters who worked on your kitchen did some vile thing ten years ago? Where does it stop? 

It’s a variant of the old cliché: Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner, in this case, Hate the Artist, Love the Art. Or not, it’s your own choice, and your choice alone to make.  

Written by Seth Anderson

March 15th, 2014 at 11:04 am

Slaves of the Internet, Unite!

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This Way To Prosperity
This Way To Prosperity

If you recall, for a while I blogged the requests I received to use my art without compensation. I’ve been lax in documenting them lately, but make no mistake, not a month doesn’t go by without someone requesting something, sans payment.

Obviously, this is a frequent problem. Tim Kreider begins his rant on the subject thus:

NOT long ago, I received, in a single week, three (3) invitations to write an original piece for publication or give a prepared speech in exchange for no ($0.00) money. As with stinkbugs, it’s not any one instance of this request but their sheer number and relentlessness that make them so tiresome. It also makes composing a polite response a heroic exercise in restraint.

People who would consider it a bizarre breach of conduct to expect anyone to give them a haircut or a can of soda at no cost will ask you, with a straight face and a clear conscience, whether you wouldn’t be willing to write an essay or draw an illustration for them for nothing. They often start by telling you how much they admire your work, although not enough, evidently, to pay one cent for it. “Unfortunately we don’t have the budget to offer compensation to our contributors…” is how the pertinent line usually starts. But just as often, they simply omit any mention of payment.

A familiar figure in one’s 20s is the club owner or event promoter who explains to your band that they won’t be paying you in money, man, because you’re getting paid in the far more valuable currency of exposure. This same figure reappears over the years, like the devil, in different guises — with shorter hair, a better suit — as the editor of a Web site or magazine, dismissing the issue of payment as an irrelevant quibble and impressing upon you how many hits they get per day, how many eyeballs, what great exposure it’ll offer. “Artist Dies of Exposure” goes the rueful joke.

(click here to continue reading Slaves of the Internet, Unite! – NYTimes.com.)

For A Drop of Blood, It Could Be Bought
For A Drop of Blood, It Could Be Bought

Mr. Kreider continues:

I’ve been trying to understand the mentality that leads people who wouldn’t ask a stranger to give them a keychain or a Twizzler to ask me to write them a thousand words for nothing. I have to admit my empathetic imagination is failing me here. I suppose people who aren’t artists assume that being one must be fun since, after all, we do choose to do it despite the fact that no one pays us. They figure we must be flattered to have someone ask us to do our little thing we already do.

I will freely admit that writing beats baling hay or going door-to-door for a living, but it’s still shockingly unenjoyable work. I spent 20 years and wrote thousands of pages learning the trivial craft of putting sentences together. My parents blew tens of thousands of 1980s dollars on tuition at a prestigious institution to train me for this job. They also put my sister the pulmonologist through medical school, and as far as I know nobody ever asks her to perform a quick lobectomy — doesn’t have to be anything fancy, maybe just in her spare time, whatever she can do would be great — because it’ll help get her name out there.

 and then concludes with a more succinct version of the refusal than one I linked to a couple years ago:

Here, for public use, is my very own template for a response to people who offer to let me write something for them for nothing:

Thanks very much for your compliments on my [writing/illustration/whatever thing you do]. I’m flattered by your invitation to [do whatever it is they want you to do for nothing]. But [thing you do] is work, it takes time, it’s how I make my living, and in this economy I can’t afford to do it for free. I’m sorry to decline, but thanks again, sincerely, for your kind words about my work.

Feel free to amend as necessary. This I’m willing to give away.

Written by Seth Anderson

October 27th, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Posted in Arts,Photography

Tagged with , , ,

Photographing In Museums Is Not A Crime, Nor Even a Misdemeanor

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Warhol DRM
Warhol DRM at the MCA

About time museums figured this out

Deborah Solomon writes:

Nonetheless, the vogue for digital photography is a constructive development that, for the most part, enhances our experience of art. First, there is the eye factor. A visitor who photographs van Gogh’s “Starry Night” echoes, however wanly or casually, the basic mission of visual art: to celebrate the act of looking. When you gaze through a lens, you are likely to consider the world more deeply. You frame space and take note of composition, the curve of a line, the play of light and shadow. As the photographer Dorothea Lange noted, “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”

As an aid to art education, smartphone cameras are preferable to older devices. Consider Acoustiguides, which offer a blizzard of facts in the place of soulful communication and create a buzzing sound in the galleries that can cause you to wonder, “Am I hearing voices?”

Unlike Acoustiguides, photographs go home with you and offer long-term benefits. For art-history students, iPhone photographs are an earnest reference aid, a crystalline substitute for hard-to-decipher notes.

For everyone else, digital photographs work in much the same way as art postcards did in their heyday a half-century ago when museum gift shops devoted more display space to them. On a recent trip to the Museum of Modern Art, I admired a plastic handbag in the gift shop, peeked at the price — $595, an Issey Miyake! — and ached for the humble Picasso postcards of my childhood.

Astoundingly, there are still a handful of museums that prohibit photography altogether.

 

(click here to continue reading Hey ‘Starry Night,’ Say ‘Cheese!’ – NYTimes.com.)

Violence Inherent in the System
Violence Inherent in the System

Flavin tunnel with Marty Spellerberg
Flavin tunnel with Marty Spellerberg at the MCA

Speaking for myself, I like to take photographs of paintings and other museum pieces occasionally, to study the art at my leisure, or otherwise use the photograph as a memory guide. I try to be respectful of other patrons, and of course, not use flash – which some have plausibly asserted will damage an artwork over time. Some museums are simply unfriendly to photographers however, and treat patrons as criminals or vandals in need of a stern lecture.

Ms. Solomon continues:

Museums have lately begun to rethink loan contracts and to encourage lenders to be less possessive with their artwork. “In the past year we have been making strides to loosen our policy,” Maxwell L. Anderson, the director of the Dallas Museum of Art, noted in an e-mail. “We now routinely attempt to negotiate with all of our lenders to allow photography of their works while on display in the galleries. We have included that express permission in our own loan letters and contracts.” The change, he notes, should put an end to confrontations between guards and visitors. “It is far more important for our gallery attendants to focus on the safety of the works of art and our visitors than to have to constantly admonish our visitors, ‘No photographs!’ ”

As subtle as that point may seem, the new loan arrangements represent a sea change. Or rather a see change. We are at the tipping point where art museums are poised to become copying centers whose every single artwork can be reproduced in digital form a million times every day.

I say hooray. When we photograph, e-mail, tweet and Instagram paintings, we capitalize on technological innovation to expand familiarity with an ancient form. So, too, we increase the visual literacy of this country. Much can be gained. Nothing can be lost. A photograph of a painting can no more destroy a masterpiece than it can create one.

 

Max Ernst - Spanish Physician
Max Ernst – Spanish Physician

Madonna of the Splinter - Vatican Museum, 1993
Madonna of the Splinter – Vatican Museum, 1993

Looking At Lolita (Sue Lyon)
Looking At Lolita (Sue Lyon)

Written by Seth Anderson

September 29th, 2013 at 10:46 am

David Bowie art exhibit coming to the MCA

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Hunky Dory
Hunky Dory

Cool, we’ll have to go to this…

David Bowie is the Thin White Duke, Ziggy Stardust, Major Tom, as well-known for his five decades of music as for his slippery personas. David Bowie begat the shape-shifting of Madonna, who begat Lady Gaga. David Bowie, who earlier this year released his first album since 2003, is also likely not touring any time soon.

But “David Bowie is” … coming to Chicago.

“David Bowie is,” the blockbuster retrospective on the life and influence of the iconoclastic artist — which closes Sunday at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London — will open at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in September 2014. Right now, the MCA is the only U.S. stop for the exhibit, which travels to Toronto next month and has drawn more than 300,000 visitors to the V&A since it opened there in March.

The show, which features 300 objects culled from the artist’s personal 75,000-piece archive, will include set designs, video installations, music-video storyboards, handwritten lyrics, photos and, of course, decades of his wardrobes — including pieces from designer Alexander McQueen and Bowie’s legendary Ziggy Stardust tour. The show, which unfolds as a kind of biography, aims to place the singer in a larger context, reflecting on Bowie’s own avant garde influences while pointing toward Bowie’s prescient merging of sound and vision.

…Asked if the MCA would try to recruit Bowie — who has lived in New York City for many years, and become increasingly known for his reclusive, elusive, J.D. Salinger-esque existence — to attend the Chicago opening, Darling said: “Of course. Of course. We will do everything we can, but then, I don’t know …”  

(click here to continue reading David Bowie art exhibit coming to the MCA – Chicago Tribune.)

from the MCA website:

David Bowie is presents the first international retrospective of the extraordinary career of David Bowie—one of the most pioneering and influential performers of our time. More than 300 objects, including handwritten lyrics, original costumes, photography, set designs, album artwork, and rare performance material from the past five decades are brought together from the David Bowie Archive for the first time. The exhibition demonstrates how Bowie’s work has both influenced and been influenced by wider movements in art, design, theater, and contemporary culture and focuses on his creative processes, shifting style, and collaborative work with diverse designers in the fields of fashion, sound, graphics, theatre, and film. The exhibition’s multimedia design introduces advanced sound technology, original animations, and video installations to create an immersive journey through the artistic life of one of the most iconic figures of our time, David Bowie. This exhibition was organized by the V&A Museum in London.

(click here to continue reading David Bowie is | Exhibitions | MCA Chicago.)

Written by Seth Anderson

August 7th, 2013 at 7:51 am