Monday, 28 January 2013

The African Sartorialist

Solange's clip Losing You is blowing me away.

Solange Knowles, Losing You

How fun is that? The clothes first made me think of Malick Sidibé's photos of 70's fashion in Mali. 

Un Jeun Gentleman, 1977

With my new bag, 1975

Young Shepherds, 1972

Then it occured to me that I had seen Solange's dance partners some time ago, in Gentlemen of Bacongo. The collection of photos chronicles the style of the Sapeurs (Society for the Advancement of People of Elegance) from Congo's Brazzaville, and already inspired Paul Smith back in 2009.

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Turns out, Beyonce's sister recruited the book's photographer Daniele Tamagni for her clip. Which is why the whole thing looks so reliably sharp. Go girl. 

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Museum Hunt

Whenever friends asks me about things to do in Paris, I say: Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature.

A meeting

Housed in a 17th century hôtel particulier in the Marais, the private museum of hunting and nature might seem like a dusty choice. There are rooms filled with taxidermy, gun collections, and curiosities like medieval dog collars.

 Hôtel de Guénégaud

But really, this is a secret meetig place of animal paraphernalia and contemporary art. That old tat on the mantelpiece can easily turn out to be a Jeff Koons, and you might just miss a tiny room where owls cover the ceiling like wild frescos. On a recent visit, I am pretty sure I saw the head of a boar talk. 

Just don't tell anyone about it. 

The taxidermy room
Installation by Françoise Pétrovitch

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Sergei's Point

Ukrainian artist Sergei Sviatchenko is playing with my mind this morning. It's like John Stezaker is simultaneously dating Dazed & Confused and the Architect's Journal.

The whole promiscuous body of work here. The pattern is hazy, but that may be Sergei's point. 

Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Biggest Splash

Seeing David Hockney's A Bigger Splash in real life is like the opposite of seeing Dalí's Persistence of Memory or the Mona Lisa: It's overwhelmingly big.

David Hockney, A Bigger Splash (1967). Courtesy of the Tate

The painting currently hangs in Tate Modern's "A Bigger Splash - Painting after Performance" exhibition, wetting you when you enter. With 2,5m x 2.5m, you can't step back enough to make it look like a postcard. The real splash is bigger, and it's in your face. 

On closer inspection, the brushstroke of the main splash is also surprisingly rough. Together with the naked edge of the canvas and the assymetry of the painted square (see the upper right and lower left borders sagging) the piece manages to balance and contradict its Californian smoothness. 

And speaking of surprises, a projector adjacent to the painting shows scenes from the 1973 semi-fictionalised documentary A Bigger Splash. Naked boys jump into a pool on loop, making huge you-know-whats. 

From A Bigger Splash (1973) by Jack Hazan

Check out 2:33-2:38 for a sample, and ponder. 


Other discoveries from the show soon. 

Monday, 14 January 2013

Human Scale

You might need a second to know what you're looking at.

Hong Kong, in "The Architecture of Density" by Michael Wolf.

So don't complain about London. 

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Photo Jetlag

This week I went to check out "Everything Was Moving" at the Barbican, and I walked away thinking "Hm".

Untitled, Shomei Tomatsu (1979)

The exhibition deals with the photography of the 1960s and '70s, presenting twelve photographers from around the globe. It's an ambitious attempt to depict how the world was changing in front and behind the camera, and it contains staggering diversity. But there is both too much and not enough going on.

Raghubir Singh,  "Below the Howrah Bridge.." (1968)

Too much, because travelling around the world in twelve photographers induces jetlag/overkill.

Too little, because some photographers got several rooms (ex. David Goldlatt), while others barely got a couple of images (ex. the excellent Graciela Iturbide, below). 

Graciela Iturbide, Mujer Angel, Desierto de Sonora (1979)

The upshot of it all: I discovered, amongst others, Boris Mikhailov's clever and naughty impositions (below), projected onto friends' walls during parties, at a time when nude photography was forbidden in the Soviet Union.  

Once the jetlag overcome, one is glad to have travelled. 

Friday, 4 January 2013

A Victorian Hipster

Few things will make me cycle to Walthamstow, but William Morris is one.

The textile designer, painter, writer and social activist grew up in this district of North East London in the middle of the 19th century (then the countryside in Essex). His childhood home now houses the excellent William Morris Gallery

What struck me most during the visit is how curiously close Morris' values were to today's Hipster/Bobo/Wholefoods movements: 

He came from a privileged background, rejected the mass production of the industrializing Victorian age, and longed to return to the aesthetics and working methods of the past (vintage!). 
He also wore a beard, hung out with artists (Pre-Raphealites), and founded an alternative design company (William Morris & Co)

William Morris (right) with his friend, the Pre-Raphealite painter Edward Burne-Jones

Any doubts? Without having foreseen their mass reproduction, Mr. Morris might just be the forefather of all hipsters. 

So go, 
on your pilgrimage to Walthamstow.