Sunday, November 30, 2008

With a name like “Fat Lava,” it has to be good!

(Above) West & East German Pottery: Makers Marks & Form Numbers
New book by Kevin James Graham (available July 1, 2009)
174 pages, over 300 color photographs, thousands upon thousands of form numbers, over 200 companies are contained with, with year/era of introduction plus additional designer data, written in English.

(Above) From Spritzdekor to Fat Lava
New book by Kevin James Graham.
(available July 1, 2009)
262 pages, 658 full color photographs, further 282 color marks photographs (940 in all). Details of 108 West & East German pottery makers from 1930s to 1998 are contained within, including the designers, decors with dates of introduction, includes some never seen before companies. This is the first book of its kind available in English.

(Above) Book by Mark Hill.

HERE’S SOMETHING that you will either love, or absolutely hate. I haven’t made my mind up quite yet, but I am definitely leaning towards the “hate it” side. When I first saw a collection of this pottery at the home of a well-known NY art collector who has an exquisite eye, I have to admit that I was taken back a bit. “What was this collection of kitsch doing here?” I thought to myself? It was prominently displayed in a few key places in their lovely town house. So, obviously I had to inquire about it. They told me it was West German studio ceramics from the 1960s and ’70s—affectionately called “fat lava” by collectors. It was gaudy stuff, bright colors, shapes going here and there— almost verging on butt ugly to my thinking.

What I am showing you today is the more organic stuff in the pottery line. Out of all the fat lava styles, this is the line that I like best— well, I can tolerate it without getting queasy. Believe me, if you google “fat lava” you’ll see tons of it— and then you can make up your own mind. And, btw, it’s getting kinda pricey too. I'll bet that out here in the hinterlands of the midwest you can still find it cheap at garage and estate sales, flea markets, etc. (we’re the last to know what’s cool, anyway). But hey, maybe you can be the first on your block with a collection of “fat lava” ceramics.

There’s a book out on it now, by a guy named Mark Hill (see photo), and two new books by Kevin James Graham (July 1, 2009). You can probably get an of these books on Amazon. For the real pottery, you might have luck at your local Salvation Army Thrift Store or Goodwill stores.

And, there is a free forum about fat lava, pottery and glass that is on-line. Learn more by going here.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Two vernacular photos from the collection. The airplanes are German, WWI, c. 1918, never before published actual action photograph. The second image, a simple snapshot of an elegant dive by a young girl, c. 1955.


One of the things I like about writing this blog is that it gives me a place to put things that I have been carrying around in my head for a long time. Perhaps it’s presumptuous of me to think anybody out there cares what I think, or that what I have to say is even worthy of sharing. Given that, please consider this blog as an archeological site of beautiful, interesting and thoughtful things—all of which you are welcome to dig through, discover and take home if you want.

Two years ago I spent a few days in Brooklyn, NY on business. At the end of my visit, I was in a cab on my way to the airport when I spotted a simple, black and white sign for a yoga center. I wasn't able to photograph it, but I have never forgotten it for it’s simple and economical way of communicating what they do. I recreated it for you today from the font Futura, which to my recollection is closest to the font as I remember it. I really do not know if this is an original idea, or if it was ripped off from someone else’s ingenuity or from a back issue of Print Magazine, but it stuck in my brain permanently as wonderful. As the sign quickly passed my vision, I remember smiling and thinking, "Bravo!"

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wooly Chaps

You NEVER know when you’re gonna need a pair of wooly chaps, do you? I sure don’t. You can get these 1915 fur, leather and canvas babies this Sunday at Garth’s Auctions in Delaware, Ohio. The Randau Collection; November 28, 2008.

“Twin Peaks” guy adjusts pressure in year 2050

1950s Science Illustration ROCKS! In this illustration, the well-groomed “she-male” adjusts the water intake valve (above), allowing water to flow into the red thingy, which is then dispersed into the smaller thingy’s which, when poured into the tan, spray-painted gas can with added funnel (YOU CAN'T FOOL ME!) can be weighed by the blue scale. Oops, the green clock says it’s 11:30, time for lunch and that TV Dinner!

You might note that in the far distant future, science has reverted back to a vacuum-tube and heavy industry style of research. Who am I to question? 

Monday, November 24, 2008

The World Was Just as Strange 150 years Ago

(Above) IRON BOOTJACK: Here’s a very unusual cast iron bootjack in the form of a devil, whose horns are shaped to aid in the removal of tall boots. Simple and very graphic. The identical bootjack is pictured in Jean Lipman’s Flowering of American Folk Art, pg. 257. Size is 10-1/4 inches. www. onegoodeye

(Above) SYPHILIS GLASSES: Also from onegoodeye, is a rare set of green tinted four-lens spectacles commonly worn by sufferers of syphilis in the early 19th century. The design was patented by J.R. Richardson in 1797 and these ‘double D’ frames were hand made somewhere between 1800 and 1820.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

R. Ege Antiques, St Louis

Whatever the season, Rick Ege's storefront window is worth stopping for. 
Here, I'm sorry to say you probably won't find anything your grandmother had... except maybe if your grandmother was Gertrude Stein or wa-aaay ahead of her time.

Rick Ege Antiques is located at 1304 Sidney Street in the historic Soulard District in St. Louis, and is by far my favorite place to look for great stuff. Rick's eye is one you can trust. If Rick has it— it's good, it's worthy, it's rare and it's wonderful. Normally, you would have to go to New York, Chicago or L.A. to find this level of quality. Rick is open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Stay tuned here, because in future posts I'll show you more great things.  The number to the shop is: 314.773.8500.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ralph Lanning Garden, Republic, MO

This painted concrete sign faces the roadway as you enter the Garden.
“ANGEL GABRIEL,” blowing his horn. You can begin to get the idea of the art environment in this photo.
Here’s Ralph, just back from laying Gretchen to rest, showing me a doll that he and Gretchen collaborated on.
One of many stone carvings on the Lanning property.
“LADY GODIVA,” a massive concrete sculpture. It’s at least 20 years old.

Yesterday, November 21, 2008, was the funeral of Ralph Lanning’s wife Gretchen. Gretchen was 91 years old, and Ralph is 92. They have had a great creative partnership for so many years—Ralph with his garden of life-sized concrete figures and smaller stone carvings—Gretchen inside working on her father’s 100-year old loom and crocheting. Together, they made quite the pair. Lanning Garden is situated on just over 6 acres of land on the east side of Republic, Missouri. He loves visitors, and now that he is alone, visitors will be especially welcome. Ralph is one of the few (and rare) self-taught "stone carvers left. It’s a very difficult art form.

Ralph built the house he lives in by hand— himself. As a kid, he sold sassafras door-to-door and later, as a young man, worked for the WPA building bridges and dams. During WWII, Ralph came ashore at Normandy as part of the American and British invasion. He began his garden like so many art environment builders, to share with the world and leave a lasting legacy. He has accomplished that— and more. On the other side of the “Lanning Garden” concrete heart sign you see pictured above, are the words: “IF HEAVEN IS HALF AS BEAUTIFUL AS HERE ON EARTH, THEN I DON’T WANT TO MISS IT.” No need to worry Ralph, you won’t. Learn more here: Raw Vision Magazine

Friday, November 21, 2008

Perfect Match

CHARLES EAMES (1907 - 1978) for HERMAN MILLER: SURFBOARD TABLE: black laminate top and bright zinc legs. 10 x 84 x 29 inches. & EVA ZEISEL (b.1906): Pitcher, mottled beige pottery with white interior, 7 -3/4 inches. 
Selkirk's Modernism Auction, November 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Patriotic Young Man With a Flag

DIANE ARBUS: AMERICAN (1923 - 1971) “Patriotic Young Man With a Flag, N.Y.C”., 1967; (Printed later by Neil Selkirk)
© with estate stamps and numbered 50/75; 19-7/8 in. x 16 in. sheet; Gelatin silver; Rago Auctions; Lot #1227 November 21, 2008 Photography Auction, with works from the Dan Berley Estate. See more photos here.

Shepard Fairey “Duality of Humanity” Exhibition

Shepard speaks to the press at the September 2008 opening of his exhibition at White Walls Gallery in San Francisco.
SHEPARD FAIREY: "BIG BROTHER": 44 x 60 in.; stencil collage on paper © 2008 (sold)
SHEPARD FAIREY: "AK 47's": 44 x 60 in., stencil collage on paper © 2008 (sold)
SHEPARD FAIREY: "MONKEY POD": 44 x 30 in., stencil collage on canvas © 2008  (sold)
SHEPARD FAIREY: "MOLOTOV GIRL"; HPM, Silkscreen on album cover © 2008 (sold)

One of my favorite artists is Shepard Fairey, Obey Giant, who is the man behind the very cool Barack Obama red, white and blue "HOPE" image you may have seen as posters during the presidential campaign. Anyhoo, Shepard had an exhibition at White Walls Gallery in San Francisco. WWG is owned and run by Justin Giarla and Andres Guerrero, two cool cats who have almost 30 years of experience in the urban art world. ( They are leaders in the world of bringing more respectability to street and graffiti art. I started documenting Shepard's "OBEY- Andre the Giant" face stencil art with my camera in New York City at least 14 years ago. At the time I had no idea who was doing it, but it stood out and I liked it. Now, Shepard is a rock star of urban art but has remained true to his roots. He sells his signed, limited edition art on his website for a normal, decent price of around a hundred bucks. They sell out in an hour. Shepard could raise his prices in a heartbeat and people would pay it. (His art shows also sell out.) After a new print is released on his website, the next week, those same prints are being resold on ebay for three times or more their regular price.  Shepard has expressed how much he dislikes this, but there really is not a lot he can do about it.  (He does try NOT to sell to those people anymore, because he feels that the unscrupulous bastards are just in it for the quick buck). 

If you were lucky enough to have purchased a signed limited edition Barack Obama poster a year ago, well, last time I checked on ebay one was bid up to over $7,000, and over 60 people were fighting it out to be the winner! I have never met Shepard personally, but I plan to — someday.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Recent Round Things

From Selkirk's recent MODERNISM AUCTION, November 15 - 16, 2008 in St. Louis -

Top: PABLO PICASSO, SPANISH (1881 - 1973) VISAGE NO. 197, 15/500, Madoura glazed pottery plate, signed and numbered verso, 10 inches. Estimated at $4,000. to $5,000; Lot was passed.
Middle: JOHN M. DONOGHUE, AMERICAN (1953 - 2004) 1993, partial glazed earthenware platter; signed, dated and numbered verso, 24-3/4 inches. Estimated at $400. - $500; Lot was passed.
Bottom: HERBERT KRENCHEL, DANISH KRENIT BOWLS, eight enameled steel bowls, flat black with high gloss monochromatic interiors; 1953/1960's.  Lot sold for $160.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

St. Louis Gateway Arch

I never tire of looking at our Arch, designed by Eero Saarinen in 1947! Construction wasn't started until 1963 and was completed in 1965. It stands 630 feet tall and 630 beet wide at the base.  Photos copyright 2008 by John Foster.

Found Playing Card

I found this six of spades playing card on a sidewalk in NYC. I've had it sitting on my desk for a while. You know, you have to love something as mysterious and wonderful as this. Is this a clue to the coming of the robot culture? Whatever. I like it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Murder in the Bathtub, c. 1932

If you like extraordinary and incredible works on paper (great vintage photographs, odd ephemera, prints and the like) then my friend David Winter in New York is the man for you. His gallery, "Winter Works on Paper" is one of the best galleries in NYC. I once lusted in a bad way for this painted press photograph, but alas, it was sold. Great things don't hang around long. But, there's plenty for everyone. You could spend a day there and only scratch the surface of his collection. It's a museum where you can buy stuff. [Anonymous press photograph, c. 1932; 7" x 10"] See link to the right to his gallery.

Jack Dempsey's Arm, c. 1920

I have always loved this painted press print of boxer Jack Dempsey's arm (anonymous, c. 1920; 6" x 8"), also from David Winter's gallery. Unfortunately, it too is sold. But we can enjoy the surreal beauty it exudes as the newspaper retouchers from that period applied their craft for newspaper publication. This is an awesome photo.

X-Rays as Art

Sunday, November 16, 2008

St. Louis Old School Tattoo Expo 2008

This weekend was the "4th Annual St. Louis Old School Tattoo Expo," featuring tattoo artists from around the country and world. Considering the fact that this was the first tattoo expo I have ever attended, I thought it was pretty cool. Saw some early original tattoo flash art, and talked to lots of people. On my way out the door I met two beauties, Simone von Wageningen (from Holland) and (right) Michelle Legg, who were nice enough to pose for a photo. It turns out that Michele is a model who lives in Indiana, and if you google her, you can see more of her photos as a model.    

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Los Angeles

Here's a few snaps from a trip to LA. LA is just cool. California light is soft and long, and save the smog, has inspired painters and artists for generations.

Decay is Good

I dunno, when you see things like this, where the natural course of decay is taking its toll, it can be really beautiful. Except on my car. I don't need any more rust.

Bauhaus on Steroids

Okay, I know I am out of my area of expertise here, but this building next to an abandoned mine outside of Marquette, MI just had me scratching my head. I know, form follows function and there has to be a very good reason why this building looks the way it does. I am not sure I really need to know. I just love its quirky-ness, and how it emerges from the hillside like some bizarro world monstrosity. I think the square part on top must be where all the corporate suits sit. Yea, that's it. Corporate headquarters on top— with the principals getting a window office.  

Brick Chair Rocks

Here's a wonderful reinterpretation of the chair, upholstered in red brick. My friend and artist Howard Jones made this. It sits on a concrete pedestal in his garden. 

San Francisco Flea Market

This flea market near San Francisco was incredible. If you didn't have the the dough to buy anything, there was plenty to photograph. Stay tuned for more flea market finds on this blog.

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