The Young Toreros

from The Guardian UK

Deaths in the afternoon

An 11-year-old breaking a bullfighting record is no surprise in a world where maestros start young

In the spring of 1999 a matador called Julián López Escobar – El Juli – was gored by a bull called Ostrero in the ring at Seville. The afternoon had been cinematic, almost implausible, in its drama – El Juli, a young and already much-admired torero, takes risk after risk until he is gored, drops to the sand and is helped up by Enrique Ponce Martinez – Spain‘s leading matador and his partner for the afternoon’s corrida. 

El Juli, bleeding from his thigh, shrugs off the maestro’s assistance while his support team, the cuadrilla, lure the bull away. At this point El Juli allegedly tells Ponce: “If you want to help me, get them out of here. I have a bull to kill.”

It was the stuff of legend, a wounded man staring down a wounded animal before the kill is made with a single thrust. Both stood one swaying moment more then fell. The bull was dragged from the ring, the man was carried shoulder-high to the infirmary amid an unheard-of tumult. I was there to see it because I was researching a book on bullfighting, and I lingered with the rest of the crowd outside la Maestranza bull ring, waiting for news of El Juli’s injuries. And in the crowd? Boys. So many boys. Boys lost in the solemn and passionate seriousness that only children and lovers seem able to sustain. One child standing close to me, he was probably seven or eight, sported a thin pigtail – a coleta – the mark of a torero – the mark of a dream.

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John McClean @ Poussin Gallery

from The Spectator UK

The abstract painter John McLean celebrates his 70th birthday this year, and the enterprising Poussin Gallery (Block K, 13 Bell Yard Mews, 175 Bermondsey Street, SE1) has mounted a show of his recent prints in recognition (until 14 February).

The abstract painter John McLean celebrates his 70th birthday this year, and the enterprising Poussin Gallery (Block K, 13 Bell Yard Mews, 175 Bermondsey Street, SE1) has mounted a show of his recent prints in recognition (until 14 February). McLean is an inventive printmaker and when paired with a master craftsman, as he is here — work produced at the Cambridge studio of Kip Gresham — the results are first rate. 

McLean’s introduction to the little catalogue accompanying the show is a fascinating and lucid account of his techniques, which range from screenprinted monoprints to carborundum etchings via drypoints and woodcuts. They come in different sizes and prices (from about £400 to £3,000), vibrant images dancing with a variety of emotions, most of them uplifting. Taking an apparently simple approach to the relationship of roughly geometric shapes, McLean stacks and disperses his wedges and blocks of vivid colour in wonderfully subtle and audacious ways. A delight, but check opening times — Wednesday to Saturday, afternoons only — to avoid disappointment.

[  click to continue reading at The Spectator ]

Requiem By A Heavyweight

from the NY Times

Requiem

updike2.pngIt came to me the other day:
Were I to die, no one would say,
“Oh, what a shame! So young, so full
Of promise — depths unplumbable!”

Instead, a shrug and tearless eyes
Will greet my overdue demise;
The wide response will be, I know,
“I thought he died a while ago.”

For life’s a shabby subterfuge,
And death is real, and dark, and huge.
The shock of it will register
Nowhere but where it will occur.

 JOHN UPDIKE

click to read at NYTimes.com ]

Rabbit Gone

from CNN

Famed author John Updike dies of cancer at 76

(CNN) — Author John Updike, regarded as one of the greatest and most prolific writers in modern American letters, died Tuesday, his publicist said. He was 76.

updike.pngUpdike passed away Tuesday morning after battling lung cancer. He lived in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts.

“He was one of our greatest writers, and he will be sorely missed,” said Nicholas Latimer, vice president of publicity at Updike’s publisher, Alfred A. Knopf.

Updike was a rarity among American writers: a much-esteemed, prize-winning author whose books — including “Rabbit, Run” (1960), “Couples” (1968), “The Witches of Eastwick” (1984) and “Terrorist” (2006) — were also best-sellers. Updike won the Pulitzer Prize twice: for “Rabbit Is Rich” (1981) and its successor, “Rabbit at Rest” (1991). iReport: Share your tributes to John Updike

The “Rabbit” series, about an angst-ridden car dealer in a town much like Updike’s hometown of Shillington, Pennsylvania, spanned four novels, a novella and four decades. In the books — which also included 1971’s “Rabbit Redux” and a 2001 novella, “Rabbit Remembered” — onetime basketball star Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom negotiates marriage, divorce, wealth and health problems, never quite understanding the larger forces shaping his life.

“Rabbit is not a character calculated to inspire affection, but he is an unflinchingly authentic specimen of American manhood, and his boorishness makes his rare moments of vulnerability and empathy that much more heartbreaking,” wrote Time’s Lev Grossman in naming “Rabbit, Run” to Time’s “All-Time 100 Novels” list.

[ click to continue reading at CNN.com ]

Ramos & The Devil Doll

from the NY Times

The Image Is Erotic. But Is It Art?


WALKING out of a Mel Ramos exhibition the other day, my companion remarked on how benignly amusing his paintings now seemed. Back in the 1970s, when she was a younger, more fiery feminist, his works infuriated her.

“Devil Doll” by Mel Ramos. Courtesy Louis K. Meisel GalleryTimes have changed, although Mr. Ramos evidently has not, judging from a small (19 pieces) career survey at Louis K. Meisel Gallery in SoHo that includes paintings from the early ’60s to the present, as well as luminous painted cast-resin sculptural versions of some of his classic images.

Mr. Ramos is still painting naked, pneumatic women emerging “Birth of Venus”-like from candy-bar wrappers and banana peels, riding oversize cigars like horses and otherwise toying with the lubricious responses of his viewers. What is different is that a 50-year history of ever more sexually provocative imagery in art and popular culture at large makes Mr. Ramos’s paintings now seem comparatively innocent and even wholesome.

Although he seems to be continually hovering just outside the club door, the serious art world’s velvet ropes have never been let down for him.

Mr. Ramos always painted on the teasing edge between acceptable and unacceptable taste. In the early ’60s he made Pop-style paintings of Amazonian comic-book heroines like Wonder Woman and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. Thickly painted in vivid colors within sharp contour lines, statuesque women in scanty costumes appear in posterlike compositions with their names spelled out in big, graphically charged letters. In the current exhibition, Cave Girl poses in a white fur-trimmed leather one-piece suit in front of the monumental letters of her name, which look as though they were carved from stone.

Unlike the women in Roy Lichtenstein’s paintings, Mr. Ramos’s sirens were not just enlarged, slightly modified copies of comic-book images. His innovation was to model their bodies on those of real women — movie stars like Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe or anonymous magazine models. So despite their nonrealistic comic style, Mr. Ramos’s women had an erotic presence that comic-book women of the day never had.

[ click to continue reading at NYTimes.com ]

Dina Vierny Gone

from the LA Times

Dina Vierny dies at 89; sculptor’s muse, artists’ model

Dina Vierny

Louis Carre / AFP-Getty Images

Dina Vierny, seen in 1944 with French sculptor Aristide Maillol, began modeling for him at age 15. She was his greatest devotee and the leading force in making his acclaimed figurative bronzes available to the public.

Associated Press

January 22, 2009

Dina Vierny, muse to French sculptor Aristide Maillol and model for painters Henri Matisse and Pierre Bonnard, has died, her sons announced Wednesday in Paris. She was 89. 

Vierny, who began modeling for Maillol at age 15, died Tuesday morning at an undisclosed location.

Vierny was Maillol’s greatest devotee and the leading force in making his acclaimed figurative bronzes available to the public.

Born in 1919 in what is now the Moldovan capital, Chisinau, and was then part of the Russian empire, Vierny fled Stalinist Russia with her family, settling in France.

Through a family friend, she was presented to Maillol, becoming his model in 1934. She collaborated with the artist until his death in a car accident in 1944, inspiring sleek, bold works like “La Montagne” (The Mountain)“L’Air” (Air) and “La Riviere” (The River), one of his last works.

She was a member of the French Resistance during World War II and was arrested. After helping to obtain her release, Maillol sent her to southern France to stay with his friend Matisse, reportedly instructing him to use her as a model.

[ click to continue reading at LATimes.com ]

Doug Aitken’s “Write-In Jerry Brown President”

from artforum

After the opening [for Doug Aitken’s latest art book, Write-In Jerry Brown President], a group of us caravanned to Lucques for the gallery dinner. Anderson regaled her tablemates over plates of salted cod and lamb-shank with tales of her genius preteen son, apparently being “recruited by the Pentagon.” Pamela Anderson dominated Richard Prince throughout the dinner, though she wasn’t the only power-player at the table. Wherever Prince is, Larry Gagosian isn’t far behind.

Left: Dealer Stellan Holm with musician Anthony Kiedis. Right: Writers James Frey and Bret Easton Ellis. 

Bret Easton Ellis finally broke from his seat, bookended by Anderson and James Frey, to join editor Karen Marta and me over a couple of glasses of wine. Ellis’s latest tale of ’80s hedonistic excess, The Informers, premiered at Sundance days before amid some controversy, a topic that seemed to bore Ellis to no end. He was much more excited about his most recent project, a screenplay on the mysterious suicides of Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan, two onetime Angelenos who died in New York. Having recently said goodbye to all that to return to the West Coast, he still seemed to be suffering ennui. “I moved back and live here now permanently,” he said, looking askance at the glamorama crowd. “But somehow I thought it would be different.”

— Andrew Berardini

 [ click to read full piece at artforum.com ]

Grand Theft Dali

from The Guardian UK

Spanish police seize fake and stolen Dalís

£1.1m bronze elephant among 81 works confiscated in raid on Costa del Sol hotel

 

Salvador Dali and his wife, Gala, photographed in 1954

Salvador Dali and his wife, Gala, photographed in 1954. Photo: Bettmann/Corbis

Spanish police are seeking the owner of a £1.1m bronze elephant, possibly sculpted by Salvador Dalí, that was stolen with a major haul of work purportedly created by the mustachioed master of the so-called paranoid-critical method.

The three-metre-high elephant was impounded with 81 works that had been on display at a hotel in the southern Costa del Sol region. It was not clear whether the pieces were stolen, genuine or fakes.

The works, which included sculpture, bas reliefs, lithographs, textiles, furniture and cutlery had been transported to the hotel in Estepona from France and were due to be auctioned there. The asking price for the elephant sculpture, believed to be a work known as the Space Elephant, was €1.2m (£1.1m) .

Police said they were investigating reports from around the world that up to a dozen pieces similar to those on display had been stolen. The robberies had been reported in the United States, France, Belgium and Spain. An unidentified Frenchman was arrested and charged with fraud and faking documents, they said.

[ click to continue reading at The Guardian ]

Still Publishing

from TIME Magazine

Books Unbound

Here’s a literary parable for the 21st century. Lisa Genova, 38, was a health-care-industry consultant in Belmont, Mass., who wanted to be a novelist, but she couldn’t get her book published for love or money. She had a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard, but she couldn’t get an agent. “I did what you’re supposed to do,” she says. “I queried literary agents. I went to writers’ conferences and tried to network. I e-mailed editors. Nobody wanted it.” So Genova paid $450 to a company called iUniverse and published her book, Still Alice, herself.

That was in 2007. By 2008 people were reading Still Alice. Not a lot of people, but a few, and those few were liking it. Genova wound up getting an agent after all–and an offer from Simon & Schuster of just over half a million dollars. Borders and Target chose it for their book clubs. Barnes & Noble made it a Discover pick. On Jan. 25, Still Alice will make its debut on the New York Times best-seller list at No. 5. “So this is extreme to extreme, right?” Genova says. “This time last year, I was selling the book out of the trunk of my car.” (See the top 10 non-fiction books of 2008.)

Something has changed, and it’s not just the contents of Lisa Genova’s trunk. We think of the novel as a transcendent, timeless thing, but it was shaped by the forces of money and technology just as much as by creative genius. Passing over a few classical and Far Eastern entries, the novel in its modern form really got rolling only in the early 18th century. This wasn’t an accident, and it didn’t happen because a bunch of writers like Defoe and Richardson and Fielding suddenly decided we should be reading long books about imaginary people. It happened as a result of an unprecedented configuration of financial and technological circumstances.

[ click to continue reading at TIME.com ]

Contradicting Rich

from The Guardian UK

How the web is undermining reading

From Plato to Guitar Hero, we have always been wary of change – but the internet poses a serious threat to society’s ability to read

 

Homer

Rembrandt’s Aristotle with the Bust of Homer. Photograph: Corbis

For as long as humans have been developing new technology, we’ve been worrying that our inventions will cause our brains to decay.

Even the development of writing was seen as a threat to the memory skills that enabled ancient poems to be passed from teller to teller –many scholars believe Homer‘s epics weren’t written by a single man, but were the product of a long tradition of oral poetry. Arguably civilisation gained something better in exchange, but there were still those who bemoaned the loss of the memory skills of the oral culture; in Mary Renault’s novel The Praise Singer, master-memoriser Simonides worries that his student’s memory will become hazy because he is writing things down.

There are some signs that we may be approaching a similar cultural moment, although perhaps with fewer reasons to be cheerful. Reading has been on the decline for the past half-century – largely, it seems, because television has replaced reading in our leisure time. I love television: even with the slew of boring reality shows currently broadcast, TV still offers some very enriching cultural experiences. But the loss of reading – that is, not purely literacy but reading for pleasure – could have wide cultural implications. Reading brings with it a host of other skills and benefits, the loss of which would leave our society poorer, including the ability to absorb information quickly, to think through complex problems or to compare points of view.

And it’s not just television that poses a threat to reading, it’s the internet too.

[ click to continue reading at The Guardian ]

Caveat Emptor

from the Wall Street Journal

Asking the Artist for a Do-Over 

Art is long and life is short, according to the old Roman saying, but sometimes art doesn’t hold up its end of the bargain. The canvas warps, the metal bends, the paper turns brown: New artworks may look like old works in a short period of time, leaving their buyers perhaps feeling as though they have been had. One such collector brought back to New York gallery owner Martina Hamilton a painting she had purchased there by the Norwegian artist Odd Nerdrum that now looked as though the “painting was falling off the canvas,” Ms. Hamilton said.

Art is sold “as is” by galleries or directly from artists. (Can you imagine Consumer Reports reviewing art?) Still, dealers hope to maintain the goodwill of their customers, and artists don’t want to develop a reputation for shoddy work. But it’s not fully clear what responsibility artists bear to their completed work, especially after it has been sold. That’s particularly the case for artists who purposefully use ephemeral materials in their art (bee pollen, banana peels, lard, elephant dung, leaves, mud, moss and newspaper clippings, to name just a few examples) — isn’t it the buyers’ responsibility to know what they are getting?

[Asking the Artist for a Do-Over]
Barbara Kelley

David Novros, a Manhattan artist, was asked in 2006 what to do about a 1965 acrylic lacquer painting in the Menil Collection in Houston that had extensive “cracks, canyons and fissures” all over the surface, and he decided “to remake the work with the same materials as before.” The work, “6:30,” is now dated “1965/2006.” Back in 1990, the Museum of Modern Art had come to Mr. Novros about a 1966 painting in its collection whose canvas had discolored, also affecting the handmade plywood stretcher. He scraped off the old paint and put on new. The museum labels the work, titled “VI.XXXII,” as “1966 (repainted in 1990).”

Artists’ experimenting with materials is only one reason contemporary art may not hold up even in the short-run. Another is that the training of artists nowadays rarely includes educating them about the properties of the materials they use. Sometimes, artists shortchanged their own art because of a lack of money, a problem not unique to artists alive today. Early in their careers, Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siquieros and French cubist Fernand Léger both painted on burlap sacks, while Marc Chagall made designs on bed sheets and Franz Kline worked on cardboard. And sometimes the artists simply lacked the technical know-how to make their art last.

[ click to continue reading at WSJ.com ]