Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sculpture retrospective: John Chamberlain

John Chamberlain's artworks combine auto parts and other scrap metal in joyful jolts of color; a retrospective exhibit devoted to the late sculptor is at the Guggenheim through May 13. For me, the one at right  conjured up the elaborate layers of ceremonial dress worn by medieval Japanese nobles ( I later discovered it's called "Lord Suckfist").
"Dolores James"

"The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" (an updating of Rodin's "Les Bourgeois de Calais"?; the version below is from the Sculpture Garden at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington)

"Women's Voices"
If sculpture's your bag, we have books from every era, from Green and Roman to Baroque and Modern; from paper to stone; and from East to West.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Kid stuff

I always give my nieces and nephews books and other items from Daedalus to nurture their creativity and love of reading—and it seems to be working! There's a great sale on now of educational toys and books—just go to the banner ad on the home page and start stocking up for birthdays and summer fun. I'm quite taken with New Yorker cartoonist George Booth's illustrations for Starlight Goes to Town, and I think Sophia might soon be the beneficiary!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Belloc's "cautionary tales"

Illustrator Quentin Blake once described Hilaire Belloc as both an overbearing adult and mischievous child. Not surprisingly,  Roald Dahl was a fan as well. Belloc was born in La Celle-Saint-Cloud to a French father and an English mother. After his father died, his mother (who was also a writer) moved back to England, and her son became a British subject in 1902.
In his collection of Cautionary Tales, a series of children suffer outlandish consequences for recurring misdemeanors. The book's lineup of miscreants includes Rebecca, Who Slammed Doors for Fun; Matilda Who Told Lies and Was Burned to Death; Godolphin Horne, Who Was Cursed with the Sin of Pride, and Became a Boot-black; and Jim, Who Ran Away From His Nurse and Was Eaten By a Lion (above & below left, art  by Basil Temple Blackwood from the original edition; right, by Edward Gorey ).
We have a marvelous new version of Jim's story, complete with cunning pop-ups and other elaborate add-ons. The Guardian calls it "deliciously terrifying ... Grey's dramatic paper-folding illustrations add an extra dimension to Belloc's original. Her fold-out plan of the zoo, complete with warnings and comments, is witty and charming." Animals also feature prominently in Belloc's Moral Alphabet. Here's a particularly risible sequence:
Hail! salubrious seat
Of learning! Academical Retreat!
Home of my Middle Age! Malarial Spot
Which People call Medeeval (though it's not).
The marshes in the neighbourhood can vie
With Cambridge, but the town itself is dry,
And serves to make a kind of Fold or Pen
Wherein to herd a lot of Learned Men.

Were I to write but half of what they know,
It would exhaust the space reserved for "O";
And, as my book must not be over big,
I turn at once to "P," which stands for Pig.
Be taught by this to speak with moderation
Of places where, with decent application,
One gets a good, sound, middle-class education.
as I remarked before,
A second cousin to the Huge Wild Boar.
But Pigs are civilized, while Huge Wild Boars
Live savagely, at random, out of doors,
And, in their coarse contempt for dainty foods,
Subsist on Truffles, which they find in woods.
Not so the cultivated Pig, who feels
The need of several courses at his meals,
But wrongly thinks it does not matter whether
He takes them one by one or all together.
Hence, Pigs devour, from lack of self-respect,
What Epicures would certainly reject.
Learn from the Pig to take whatever Fate
Or Elder Persons heap upon your plate.

These recordings of Belloc singing four of his songs/poems were made in 1932.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bookplate art

William Blake: "Europe: a Prophecy"
The dual passions for art and for books merge in the time-honored art of the bookplate. Whole societies are dedicated to celebrating these beautiful miniatures, which exhibit one's aesthetic tastes as well as pride of possession. OK, we all hear that physical books are going the way of the dodo, but something tells us that readers of this blog love books as physical objects, have multiple bookcases that are not filled with designer tchotches, and would enjoy picking out a pack or two from our two-page assortment of fine art bookplates—either for self or for gifts. All of the bookplates on this page and more are available on our website.

M.C. Escher: "Man With Cuboid," 1958; "The First Day of Creation," 1925 (from a series of six woodcuts). Below: C.F.A. Voysey: Seahorses, 1887 (design for wallpaper or silk) / Benson Bond Moore "White Herons at Home"
Except for Blake and Escher, all of the artists in the bookplate collection were new to me, and I very much enjoyed perusing their work. I especially loved Ashevak Kenojuak; her 2008 piece "Grand Entrance," (below left) was used for the bookplate. The Inuit artist lives in Cape Dorset, Baffin Island, Canada, and is known for her vibrant bird and wildlife art. In 1961 she was the subject of a film produced by the National Film Board about her traditional life and art.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Martha Gellhorn

HBO Films has released a teeny tiny trailer for Hemingway & Gellhorn, a TV movie about their tempestuous relationship. A glamorous and highly accomplished writer, Gellhorn (1908-1998) reported on the Spanish Civil War, along with her future husband. From Germany she chronicled Hitler's consolidation of power and the onset of World War II. Like Marlene Dietrich, she defied military authorities to remain in the midst of the action, even sneaking aboard a hospital ship to witness the D-Day landings in Normandy. She sent dispatches from virtually every theater of the Second World War — Czechoslovakia, Finland, Britain, Burma, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Later she covered Vietnam, the Six-Day War in the Middle East, and various conflicts in Central America.

We recommend Selected Letters of Martha Gellhorn for a sense of her life and times, as well as her vibrant personality.
“War happens to people, one by one. That is really all I have to say and it seems to me I have been saying it forever. Unless they are immediate victims, the majority of mankind behaves as if war was an act of God which could not be prevented; or they behave as if war elsewhere was none of their business. It would be a bitter cosmic joke if we destroy ourselves due to atrophy of the imagination.”  

Monday, March 26, 2012

Oddball inventions

Brain Pickings discovered this trove of weirdly cool vintage photos at Holland’s Nationaal Archief.
These boisterous bathing beauties sport suits made of buoyant wood.
A very complacent bondage club? Victims of a balloon clown's ministrations? Au contraire, it's bicycle tires used (rather indelicately) as a swimming aid.
Blast out the Toccata in D major from the comfort of your own recumbent piano bed!
Portable bridge. Would have come in handy at the River Kwai.
Stock market analysts in training? Small fry peruse a 1938 faxed newspaper.
They look like sci-fi death rays, but they're really anti-snow masks. Right, electrically warmed jacket. My Irish cop forbears would have loved this!
We know babies can be smelly, but jeez! (wartime stroller)
A portable radio meant to lull an infant. Those kids look suspiciously fake though. She just wants to read all day with no social repercussions. Don't we all?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The 'Mad Men' Ad Bandwagon

In breathless anticipation of the series' return tonight, vintage ads have become the hot new thing, and print publications have been going all out to cash in on the allure of 1960s Madison Avenue nostalgia. The New Yorker pulled the ads above and left from their archives for an online display, while the beauties below belong to a high-concept initiative by Newsweek (oh that Tina Brown!), in which all of the advertisers in an particular issue were invited to create retro-styled ads à la Sterling Cooper. I picked a few of my favorites, but you can see all of them here.