Monday, December 27, 2010

Tower of Barrels in 1924

This is an AM blast from the past from November 15, 2008.

OK, THIS is totally bizarre... and wonderful. Long before Burning Man was this... a tower of barrels that must be more than 10 stories tall. It's dated 1924, but its the only clue I have. The group of people must be mighty proud of this, how they actually constructed it, is beyond me. This is an art environment or heroic past-time that I can find nothing on, so if anyone has any clues, please let me know.

UPDATE: Thanks to my readers there are several possible reasons for this amazing tower. While I would like to think this nothing more than the whimsical efforts of the gentlemen seated below the picture, this appears to be the case of a “bonfire-to-be.” Perhaps because of alcohol prohibition (1920-1933) these beer barrels were slated to be set ablaze. Read on in the “reader comments” for more information, although, most have to do with the impending torching of the barrels.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Japanese Boro Textiles

(Above) 19th c. Japanese cotton futon cover called “Boro” made from recycled indigo dyed cloth in patches joined together. Click image for larger view.

(Above) 19th c. Japanese Boro. Click image for larger view.

(Above) Detail of above. Click image for larger view.

(Above) 19th century Boro textile. Click for larger view.

(Above) Detail. Click for larger view.

(Above) 19th century Boro textile. Click for larger view.

(Above) Detail. Click for larger view.

(Above) Boro Cotton Kimono, Yamagata Prefecture (Northern Japan) c. 1900

I OWN A SINGLE JAPANESE BORO. IT REMAINS ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL OBJECTS IN MY COLLECTION. Boro textiles were made in the late 19th and early 20th century by impoverished Japanese people from reused and recycled indigo-dyed, cotton rags. What we see in these examples are typical—patched and sewn, piece-by-piece, and handed down from generation-to-generation, where the tradition continued. These textiles are generational storybooks, lovingly repaired and patched with what fabric was available. Never intended to be viewed as a thing of beauty, these textiles today take on qualities of collage, objects of history, and objects with life and soul.

Objects found at, and 1stdibs.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Woman Behind Société Anonyme

(Above) Photograph of Jean Arp with one eye covered, white paint encircling his head, 1926. Click for larger view. © Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

(Above) Photograph of P.Mondrian, undated. Click for larger view. © Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

(Above) Check out this beautifully illustrated and signed letter from “Matta” Echaurren, addressed to “Miss Dreier, N.Y.C.” Note the expressive and creative use of color, circled areas of emphasis and signature. This is letter worthy of framing. Click for larger view. © Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

(Above) Typewritten letter from El Lissitzky, Nov 7, 1926, Moscow, [to] Katherine Dreier, New York. Click for larger view. © Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

(Above) Painted and postmarked postcard, to Katherine Dreier, Paris, from Paul Klee, no date. (1879-1940). Click for larger view. © Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

(Above) Stella. New York, Published by Societe Anonyme, 1923. Click for larger view.
© Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

(Above) International Exhibition of Modern Art (1926-1927: Brooklyn Museum, catalog cover, pencil and paint drawing. New York, 1926. Click for larger view. © Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

(Above) Flyer for New York 1927, Machine-Age Exposition Architecture, Engineering, Industrial Arts, Modern Art. Click for larger view. © Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

(Above) Photograph of Katherine Dreier standing in the middle of exhibition hall at Yale University Art Gallery, c. 1930. Click for larger view. © Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

(You are reading an Accidental Mysteries blast from the past)

ARTIST AND COLLECTOR KATHERINE DREIER JOINED MARCEL DUCHAMP and Man Ray in 1920 to found the Société Anonyme, an organization designed to support and generate awareness of modernist art; the group’s name, a French phrase meaning “incorporated,” highlighted the fact that the organization was not allied with any particular artistic school. The Société Anonyme promoted new artists by arranging exhibitions to introduce audiences to their work and develop their reputations among galleries and collectors. Critics praised the Société Anonyme for its commitment to new artists and its inclusion of their work in exhibits and catalogs. Between 1920 and 1940 they held 80 exhibitions showing mostly abstract art.

Katherine Dreier played an essential role in generating American interest in and acceptance of modern art. She ran the Société Anonyme’s small gallery, curated exhibitions, and wrote essays and gave lectures in support of modern art. Dreier was also an accomplished painter—two of her paintings hung in the legendary Armory Show of 1913.
The Katherine S. Dreier Papers / Société Anonyme Archive documents the life of Katherine S. Dreier and the activities of the Société Anonyme. The collection is part of the amazing Beinecke Library at Yale University. The collection consists of correspondence; manuscripts and notes for articles, books, fiction, and lectures; clippings; brochures; programs; press releases; advertisements; tax records; photographs and artwork; meeting minutes; and ephemera and printed material. The papers span the years 1818 to 1952, but the bulk of the material is from 1920 to 1951. Currently, only a portion of the Katherine S. Dreier Papers / Société Anonyme Archive is available in digital form.

All images copyright © Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Immortal Bettie Page

(The original “grrrrl.”)

(you’re reading a December 2008 replay)

BETTIE PAGE (1923 - 2008): There are a few people I wish I could have met in my lifetime. One was the great Bettie Page. She probably did as much to usher in the sexual revolution of the 1960s than anyone. Bettie died in Los Angeles Thursday, December 11, 2008 from complications due to pneumonia. In our local paper that day was a single paragraph article. I have to admit—I was sad.

The photos I was lucky enough to see when growing up showed this unabashed beauty who loved to frolic as the top cheesecake “calendar girl” of the 1950s. She was every man’s fantasy. Since she retired (actually was driven out of work by anti-porn legislation) Bettie has lived a quiet, anonymous life in California. She was eventually located, but stayed away from the limelight. Though her legions her fans loved her regardless of her age, Bettie felt it best to stay out of the camera’s eye. A movie was made about her in 2005, The Notorious Bettie Page, (starring Gretchen Mol, as Bettie)—and she has been the dream girl of illustrators and underground comics for years. RIP Bettie Page—you are still an icon to millions.

Photos above © by Irving Klaw.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Yankee Fire King, 1834

This article, entitled Yankee Fire King caught my eye, buried on page 2 of The Sun, a very old penny daily from New York, dated January 21, 1834. The entire paper is quite interesting, except for the fact that they use 4 point Roman type for the body text. No wonder they all had bad eyes. I found this paper on eBay, and I paid $9 for it. Given the rate of inflation over 175 years, that’s not so bad.

The paper is quite revealing of a community with the same problems we have today (well, they had it good on one account: they didn’t have to be concerned with the change from analog television to digital). Some articles in the paper report the following:

— “a melancholy event” about two little boys about 7 years of age, who were crossing a frozen river and never seen again; [ very sad. ]

— a woman who sued her suitor for “for seduction.” [ She won and her virginity hopefully reinstated by the court. ]

— an accident, a child by the name of Mary Pease, age six, run over by the mail stage, “badly injured by having one wheel of the stage passing directly over the body, in a manner as will cause her death.” [ So much for hope. ]

— a police report about a chap named Edward Perkins of 31 Park Row, found drunk and clinging to a light pole in Duane Street, near Elm, singing “United We Stand, Divided I Fall.” Perkins, who described himself as "a slack rope” and a “wire dancer” was none too gracious when a passing watchman politely offered him his arm to assist him to jail. As reported, he told the peace officer to “go to the devil!” He was later fined $2 and when he announced to the judge he had “forgotten his pocketbook” was “committed to Bridewell.” [a hell hole of a prison, I assume ]

If the above article is hard to read on your screen, I will transcribe it for my readers below in a slightly bigger font. The article is about a man known as D. Devine, a Yankee doctor, who apparently performed all sorts of incredible gastric feats by swallowing objects one would normally not want to ingest. The language of people during that period was wonderfully formal— the “King’s English” you might say, tempered with a mixture of dialects from numerous other immigrants of the day. It’s great.

Yankee Fire King. —The burning feats of Mons. Chabert are all thrown into the shade by those of a Yankee doctor (D. Devine) in Hartford, Ct., who made his debut in the museum at that place last Tuesday evening, to a large and very respectable audience, and to their surprise performed the following experiments; he commenced by eating sealing wax when burning and dripping from the candle to the floor; the took from a furnace a shovel full of live coals and chewed them as deliberately as though he was supping on good oysters; he then took melted lead in his hands and mouth with a red hot spoon, and washed it with a draught of Florence oil heated boiling hot. The performance closed by baking the Salamander and a beef steak in an oven heated to 230 degrees.”

This man was just born at the wrong time. I am quite sure he could have made it on the David Letterman Show. No question.

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