Saturday, August 6, 2016

Albright, Tchelitchew, and The Geography of the Imagination


Research for Part 2 of my book brought me to the above. Observe the dark, Fruity Pebbles-flavored phantasmagoria that is Ivan Albright's rendition of The Temptation of Saint Anthony from 1946.

I encountered this through my study of Salvador Dali's version of the Saint Anthony story (the focus of my book). A contest in 1946 brought together a dozen of the period's greatest painters to render the Temptation of Saint Anthony. Dali, despite creating one of his most iconic works, finished in fourth. Max Ernst won, deservedly so. Albright had previously won a similar contest, getting his Picture of Dorian Gray into a film rendition of Wilde's novel.

Albright finished an impressive second in the contest. His version is astounding to me. That look on Saint Anthony's face, once you make it out through the enveloping phantasms, is so perfect. Albright's work often seems to be beautifully, horrifically gross. In Saint Anthony, the gross is turned down, and the beautiful ramped up by a vibrant color selection.

The awestruck response I had to this painting led me to look into Albright's work where I found another painting I've been rapturously gaping at recently, Poor Room.




Ivan Le Lorraine Albright (February 20, 1897 – November 18, 1983) was an American magic realist painter and artist, most renowned for his self-portraits, character studies, and still lifes. His dark, mysterious works include some of the most meticulously executed paintings ever made, often requiring years to complete. (wiki)
Albright's work rewards a microscopic focus and is macroscopically pleasing to the eye. That corroded frame in Poor Room draws me right in. His technique and execution is phenomenal. And the dude was from Illinois, of all places.

Despite possessing no national pride to speak of, I'm always pleased to encounter great modern American minds and creators I've never known of before, like author and essayist William Gass, also of the midwest, whose work I've been very intrigued with lately. Gass writes savory essays on art, among so many other things, and loves Joyce and Finnegans Wake. Another American essayist of utmost prose-crafting ability, Guy Davenport, has been inspiring and educating me lately via his treasure trove, The Geography of the Imagination. Therein he synthesizes arts and artists through a collection of 40 essays. (He also waxes in praise of Joyce and Finnegans Wake frequently.)

Davenport has an especial affinity for Pavel Tchelitchew, a Russian-born painter who was a contemporary of Albright (and Dali et al) in the first half of the 20th century. Davenport has an essay on Tchelitchew, more specifically a glowing review of a newly published biographical study of the artist entitled The Divine Comedy of Pavel Tchelitchew: A Biography (1967), and otherwise sprinkles Tchelitchew into his writings often.

Throughout Geography of the Imagination, Davenport frequently lavishes praise and appreciative analysis on an enormous painting called Cache-Cache or Hide-and-Seek (1942). I'd seen this image once before many years ago but lately have been deeply absorbed in it. There is a magic to this painting. I can stare it for hours and hours. I regret somehow missing out on it during my last trip to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.


This enormous painting is a pictorial equivalent of the method of Finnegans Wake. All of its images are puns which resolve into yet other punning images. First of all, it is a giant oak tree against which a girl presses herself: she is the it in a game of hide-and-seek. The hiders are concealed in the tree itself, so many children, who are arranged like the cycle of seasons, winter children, summer children.  
These children, seen a few paces back, become landscapes, and eventually two folded arms, as the tree itself resolves into a foot and hand; and, further back, the face of a Russian demon, mustached and squint-eyed. Further back, the whole picture resolves into a drop of water---Leeuwenhoek's drop of water under the microscope in which he discovered a new world of little animals; the drop of crystal dew on a leaf at morning which acts like Borges' aleph or Blake's grain of sand or any Liebnizean monad mirroring the whole world around it; Niels Bohr's drop of water the surface of which led him to explain the structure of the atom. 
This is a very modern picture, then, a kind of metaphysical poem about our non-Euclidean, indeterminate world. But at its center there is the one opaque detail in the painting: the girl in a pinafore hiding her face against the tree.- Davenport, The Geography of the Imagination, p. 24 

Later on, in weaving a web of interrelated artists (as he does so well all over this book), Davenport tells of a visit William Carlos Williams paid to Tchelitchew's studio in 1942 where the painter was at work on another gigantic epic painting, Phenomena.


This painting is iconographically a Temptation of St. Anthony, with monsters of all sorts, monsters which, as Dr. Williams, a pediatrician, observed to the painter, are all
teratologically exact. - Davenport, p. 49 

Monday, July 11, 2016

New Audio Interview: PQ Interviewed by Media Ecologist Gerry Fialka

Street art in Spain by PichiAvo.



Part of the MESS (Media Ecology Soul Sessions) Interview Series

Some of the topics covered: 
James Joyce, Wu-Tang, Baseball, Marshall McLuhan, Frank Zappa, Reality vs Perception


Listen to this alongside some chill instrumentals like these for full effect: 



Gerry Fialka is a friend of mine from Venice, CA who has hosted the Venice Finnegans Wake & Marshall McLuhan Reading Group for nearly 20 years. From his website's bio:

"film curator, writer, lecturer, and paramedia ecologist has conducted interactive workshops from UCLA to MIT, from the Ann Arbor Film Festival to Culver City High School. Fialka gave two major lectures at The 2001 North America James Joyce Conference at UC Berkeley. His public interview series MESS (Media Ecology Soul Sessions), with the likes of Mike Kelley, Alexis Smith, Abraham Polonsky, Mary Woronov, Paul Krassner, Ann Magnuson, Heather Woodbury, Norman Klein, Chris Kraus, P. Adams Sitney, Hunter Drohojowska-Philp, Kristine McKenna, Ann Magnuson, John Sinclair, Grace Lee Boggs, Firesign Theatre's Phil Proctor, Van Dyke Parks, Orson Bean among many others, began in 1997 and continues at different LA venues including Beyond Baroque and the Canal Club. Fialka's interviews have been published in books by Mike Kelley and Sylvere Lotringer. His William Pope.L interview was published in ARTILLERY magazine."

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Brother


Was blasting this song on full volume driving through Times Square with my friend Spit during last visit to Shaolin a few weeks ago. 

Happened to be going on a driving adventure one Tuesday night from Staten Isle to heart of Manhattan with the fresh excitement of a brand new piece of music from my favorite artists, the Cross brothers, Kevlaar 7 speaking from beyond the grave in his posthumous finale solo album A Beautiful Soul produced and arranged by his mourning brother and beat maestro Bronze Nazareth.



A Beautiful Soul speaks directly to what's going on today (the same subjects of oppression and racism and police brutality Kev has talked about since his debut EP Who Got the Camera? in 2011) while cementing the statue of a master poet---"after my death lifts a statue/ in the holiest city/ I scold the warship committee"---in a beautiful, honest, deep and extremely dope sounding piece of hip hop mastery. 




I walk Pongua falls with monks comparing, 
Life to waterfalls, we must've ignored it all




Ignorance is killing us quicker than English erasing Natives
Self hate is the greatest ultimatum




Series of serious flashes expose another Brother's end



Tears stream down, like God spilled his cup
Cuz you spilled a shot that entered his chest like an air duct
Lungs collapse, like his mom on the news that struck




Is we blind? or oblivious?
Non-chivalrous to a civilness?
No difference, blanketed images
I've traveled across Bogota bridges
Built my way past 
KwaZulu henchmen
The linchpin
is the axis of the earth 
Birth survival like a cactus
Vital to the H2O balance
Bearing talons and talent by the gallons
We all be walled in a palace
Kings and Queens 
speaking the same language
Bangin this beat with malice
Til we ashes


*


There is also now a deluxe bundle package featuring the new album A Beautiful Soul, alongside a mix of some of Kevlaar's best work, and a brand new 7-track instrumental EP from Bronze Nazareth called Instrumental Mourning that features some of the deepest, most personal work I've ever heard from Bronze. You can purchase that bundle here




Monday, July 4, 2016

Reviewing a Baseball Reading Odyssey: Some Thoughts on Ten Baseball Books Consumed This Year

My baseball literature cup runneth over.

Every year with the return of baseball, I indulge in a period of fairly intensive baseball reading. This year it got a little out of control. My excitement about the game combined with an insatiable reading habit and a batch of new (or newly acquired) books leading to a gluttonous binge that began in late January stretching into the summer with ten books polished off and a few more lingering. Somehow, after absorbing so much information about baseball through this stack of books (in between watching baseball games and reading baseball articles), my appreciation for the game stands as heightened as ever.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts on this year's baseball reading binge.


Baseball Prospectus 2016

A recent trip home to the isle of Staten in New York where my full baseball library resides reminded me that I've been picking up the Baseball Prospectus annuals since 2003. During that time I've become a fairly obsessive and very particular reader of these gigantic info-dense texts, always closely scrutinizing their quality and making comparisons to the book's glory days. Like every other organization, the BP conglomerate of writers has experienced plenty of transition over the last 15 years so the book has inevitably evolved. There was a distinct fallow period leading to the abominable 2013 edition that had diehard readers like myself flipping out. Since then, a new crew of overseers has guided this unique annual book back to prominence.


This latest edition of the BP annual is one of their finest books ever. I love just about everything about it down to the physical presentation and quality of the paper. What we diehard readers tend to look for in this book is a perfect blend of intelligent insight and witty levity. When executed correctly, this combo can propel a reader straight through the 600-page behemoth and that's exactly what happened for me this year. The book arrived earlier than usual in late January and I was through the entire thing in a few weeks. The great thing about the BP annual is that, even after you've read it all, it becomes an essential reference book for the next six months.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Bloomsday '16 Recap

Mural of Joyce's everyman Leopold Bloom at Blooms Hotel Temple Bar in Dublin.


This year for Bloomsday I had the privilege of participating in an event at Austin's finest independent bookstore Malvern Books on 29th Street and Guadalupe. There was homemade genuine Irish food made by Irish people, a cluster of fellow humans who have read and loved Ulysses, some yapping by yours truly about the intricacies in James Joyce's most famous book, and passages introduced and read aloud by a half dozen different people including the store's owner Joe hilariously rendering the bizarre opening of the Oxen of the Sun episode. (Video below.)

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