Archive for June, 2009

Artists to my mind are the real architects of change, and not the political legislators who implement change after the fact.

June 30, 2009

Wiiliam S Burroughs

William Seward Burroughs II was born 5 February 1914, in St. Louis, Missouri, into a world of relative wealth and comfort from the profits of the Burroughs Adding Machine Corporation. His grandfather, after whom he was named, was the inventor of the adding machine.
At 8 years of age, uses his first gun, writes first story, “The Autobiography of a Wolf.” Refuses editorial advice of parents to change autobiography to biography.
When Burroughs is 13, he discovers the autobiography of Jack Black, You Can’t Win, and becomes enamored of the outlaw, underground lifestyle. Black introduces him to the idea of the being a member of the Johnson Family.
First published in the John Burroughs Review in 1929. A short essay entitled “Personal Magnetism”. He considers it an early attempt at debunking control systems.
Sent to Los Alamos Boys School in New Mexico. Later claims the only thing he learned there was a hatred of horses.
He is graduated from Harvard in 1936.
In New York, 1939, cuts off left little finger. Shows it to his analyst at the time, who takes him to Bellevue. Burroughs tells a psychiatrist there that he did as part of “an initiation ceremony into the Crow Indian tribe”.
In the Summer of 1942, moves to Chicago, takes job with A. J. Cohen, Exterminators. “I go into an apartment and I know where all the roaches are,” he later claims.
Moves to New York the next year. Befriends Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Lucien Carr and David Kammerer around this time.
On 13 August 1944, Lucien Carr kills David Kammerer in self defense. Kerouac and Burroughs are arrested as material witnesses because they did not initially report the murder. Later, they collaborate on a novel based on the events, And the Hippos Were Boiled in their Tanks. It was rejected by several publishers at the time and has never been published.
Burroughs meets Joan Vollmer. Along with Ginsberg and Kerouac, they begin experimenting with drugs and extreme behaviors. Meets Herbert Huncke around this time. Kerouac introduces Joan to Benzedrine inhalers, to which she soon becomes addicted.
Sometime in 1946, Burroughs injects himself with a morphine Syrette. Discovers junk ecstasy, begins addiction. In the midst of junk despair, Burroughs has a vision of a cocktail waitress bringing him a skull on a tray. “I don’t want your fucking skull,” he says. “Take it back!”
Moves in with Joan, they become lovers. Joan tells him that he “makes love like a pimp.”
In April of 1946, Burroughs is arrested for obtaining narcotics through fraud.
Joan is committed to Bellevue for acute amphetamine psychosis. Burroughs attempts to rescue her from New York. William Burroughs III conceived.
Convinces her to move to East Texas with him. Huncke eventually moves in with them. All three live in a small house near New Waverly, growing marijuana and laying low. On 21 July 1947, William Burroughs III is born.
Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady visit in August of 1947.
The Burroughs’ move to New Orleans in 1948. Kerouac and Cassady visit, as immortalized in On the Road.
Burroughs is arrested in New Orleans for possession of drugs, elects not to stand trial, moves family to Mexico City in 1949.
On Thursday the 6th of September, 1951, at a desultory party, Burroughs suggests that he and Joan do their William Tell act. Joan balances a highball glass on her head, turns her head to one side, saying, “I can’t watch this- you know I can’t stand the sight of blood.” Burroughs shoots and hits Joan in the side of the head, killing her. Later he states: “I am forced to the appalling conclusion that I would never have become a writer but for Joan’s death.”
Burroughs travels to Columbia in 1953 to find the entheogenic vine Yage, meets Richard Evans Schultes, who councils him about the plant. Writes to Ginsberg about his experiences, which are later published as The Yage Letters.
In 1954, Burroughs moves to Tangiers, Morocco. Introduced to Paul Bowles. Meets Brion Gysin, who becomes a pivotal catalyst for Burroughs. Begins initial forays into unleashing his word hoard and deeper addictions to junk.
Kerouac, Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky visit him in 1956. Kerouac helps Burroughs to organize the “routines” that would later become The Naked Lunch, the title from a suggestion of Kerouac’s years before.
Early in 1958, sick of Tangiers, he leaves to stay with Ginsberg in Paris. Meets Maurice Girodias of Olympia Press, who decides to publish The Naked Lunch in 1959.
Moves to London in 1960. Back in Tangiers in August of 1961, with Ginsberg and others, meets Timothy Leary who gives them all mushrooms. Burroughs doesn’t enjoy the experience, saying: “Urgent warning. I think I’ll stay here in shriveling envelopes of larval flesh… One of the nastiest cases ever produced by this department.”
Writes prolifically and lives nomadically throughout 60’s, returns to New York in 1974. He has not lived in the US for 24 years. Meets James Grauerholz, who becomes Burroughs’ life manager, helping him to organize and publish his writings.
Burroughs’ son, Billy, dies in a ditch after a hard and lonely life on 3 March 1981.
Burroughs moves to Lawrence, Kansas with Grauerholz.
In May of 1982, Burroughs is inducted into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
Died on 2 August 1997 of a heart attack in Lawrence, Kansas. He was 83 years old.

Originality depends only on the character of the drawing and the vision peculiar to each artist.

June 29, 2009

Georges Seurat


Le chahut 1889-1890

(b. Dec. 2, 1859, Paris–d. March 29, 1891, Paris)
Painter, founder of the 19th-century French school of Neo-Impressionism whose technique for portraying the play of light using tiny brushstrokes of contrasting colours became known as Pointillism. Using this techique, he created huge compositions with tiny, detached strokes of pure colour too small to be distinguished when looking at the entire work but making his paintings shimmer with brilliance. Works in this style include Une Baignade (1883-84) and Un dimanche après-midi à l’Ile de la Grande Jatte (1884-86).

A French painter who was a leader in the neo-impressionist movement of the late 19th century, Georges Seurat is the ultimate example of the artist as scientist. He spent his life studying color theories and the effects of different linear structures. His 500 drawings alone establish Seurat as a great master, but he will be remembered for his technique called pointillism, or divisionism, which uses small dots or strokes of contrasting color to create subtle changes in form.

Georges-Pierre Seurat was born on Dec. 2, 1859, in Paris. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1878 and 1879. His teacher was a disciple of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Young Seurat was strongly influenced by Rembrandt and Francisco de Goya.

After a year of military service at Brest, Seurat exhibited his drawing Aman-Jean at the official Salon in 1883. Panels from his painting Bathing at Asnieres were refused by the Salon the next year, so Seurat and several other artists founded the Societe des Artistes Independants. His famous canvas Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grande Jatte was the centerpiece of an exhibition in 1886. By then Seurat was spending his winters in Paris, drawing and producing one large painting each year, and his summers on France’s northern coast. In his short life Seurat produced seven monumental paintings, 60 smaller ones, drawings, and sketchbooks. He kept his private life very secret, and not until his sudden death in Paris on March 29, 1891, did his friends learn of his mistress, who was the model for his painting Young Woman Holding a Powder Puff.

It is very good advice to believe only what an artist does, rather than what he says about his work.

June 28, 2009

David Hockney


A Bigger Splash 1967

David Hockney, CH, RA, (born 9 July 1937) is an English painter, draughtsman, printmaker, stage designer and photographer, based in Yorkshire, United Kingdom, although he also maintains a base in London. An important contributor to the Pop art movement of the 1960s, he is considered one of the most influential British artists of the twentieth century. His older sister who lives in Yorkshire, Margaret Hockney, is also an artist of still-life photos.

Art is nothing but the expression of our dream; the more we surrender to it the closer we get to the inner truth of things, our dream-life, the true life that scorns questions and does not see them.

June 27, 2009

Franz Marc


Two Cats 1912

Franz Marc was born on February 8, 1880, in Munich, Germany. He studied at the Munich Art Academy and traveled to Paris several times where he saw the work of Gauguin, Van Gogh, and the Impressionists. With Kandinsky, he founded the almanac “Der Blaue Reiter” in 1911 and organized exhibitions with this name. He was a principal member of the First German Salon d’Automne in 1913. At the beginning of World War I, he volunteered for military service and he died near Verdun, France, on March 4, 1916.

Franz Marc was a pioneer in the birth of abstract art at the beginning of the twentieth-century The Blaue Reiter group put forth a new program for art based on exuberant color and on profoundly felt emotional and spiritual states. It was Marc’s particular contribution to introduce paradisiacal imagery that had as its dramatis personae a collection of animals, most notably a group of heroic horses.

Tragically, Marc was killed in World War I at the age of thirty-six, but not before he had created some of the most exciting and touching paintings of the Expressionist movement.

In a world filled with hate, we must still dare to hope. In a world filled with anger, we must still dare to comfort. In a world filled with despair, we must still dare to dream. And in a world filled with distrust, we must still dare to believe.

June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson


June 25, 2009 – Michael Jackson, one of the most widely beloved entertainers and profoundly influential artists of all-time, leaves an indelible imprint on popular music and culture.

Commenting on his passing, Sir Howard Stringer, Chairman, CEO and President, Sony Corporation, said: “Michael Jackson was a brilliant troubadour for his generation, a genius whose music reflected the passion and creativity of an era. His artistry and magnetism changed the music landscape forever. We have been profoundly affected by his originality, creativity and amazing body of work. The entire Sony family extends our deepest condolences to his family and to the millions of fans around the world who loved him.”

Rolf Schmidt-Holtz, CEO, Sony Music Entertainment, said: “Michael Jackson’s unsurpassed artistry and beloved music brought joy to every corner of the world. We join today with his millions of fans in expressing our profound sadness and we offer our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones. It was a true privilege for all of us in the Sony Music family to work with one of the most talented superstars in the history of music. We will miss him greatly.”

Martin Bandier, Chairman & CEO of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, said: “Michael was the kind of amazing talent that comes along once in a lifetime. He was an incredible recording artist, an insightful businessman, an unmatched performer, and a true icon. To all of us at Sony/ATV Music Publishing, he was also a trusted and passionate partner, who was very proud of our accomplishments. He will be dearly missed. We wish his children and entire family our deepest condolences.”

Five of Jackson’s solo albums – “Off the Wall,” “Thriller,” “Bad,” “Dangerous” and “HIStory,” all with Epic Records, a Sony Music label – are among the top-sellers of all time. During his extraordinary career, he sold an estimated 750 million records worldwide, released 13 No.1 singles and became one of a handful of artists to be inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Guinness Book of World Records recognized Jackson as the Most Successful Entertainer of All Time and “Thriller” as the Biggest Selling Album of All Time. Jackson won 13 Grammy Awards and received the American Music Award’s Artist of the Century Award.

Michael Jackson started in the music business at the age of 11 with his brothers as a member of the Jackson 5. In the early 1980s, he defined the art form of music video with such ground-breaking videos as “Billie Jean,” “Beat It” and the epic “Thriller.” Jackson’s sound, style and dance moves inspired subsequent generations of pop, soul, R&B and hip-hop artists.

One eye sees, the other feels.

June 25, 2009

Paul Klee


The Golden Fish 1925

Swiss painter, watercolorist, and etcher, who was one of the most original masters of modern art. Belonging to no specific art movement, he created works known for their fantastic dream images, wit, and imagination.
A German citizen, Klee was born in Münchenbuchsee, near Bern, Switzerland, on December 18, 1879, and in 1898 moved to Munich, where he studied art at a private school and at the Munich Academy. He grew up in a musical family and was himself a violinist. After much hesitation he chose to study art, not music, and he attended the Munich Academy in 1900. In 1906 he married the pianist Lili Stumpf and settled in Munich, then an important center for avant-garde art. He join Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), an expressionist group that contributed much to the development of abstract art. After World War I he taught at the Bauhaus school . In 1931 he began teaching at Dusseldorf Academy, but he was dismissed by the Nazis, who termed his work “degenerate.” In 1933, Klee went to Switzerland. There he came down with the crippling collagen disease scleroderma, which forced him to develop a simpler style and eventually killed him.
The paintings of Klee is difficult to classify. His earliest works were pencil landscape studies that showed the influence of impressionism. Until 1912 he also produced many black-and-white etchings; the overtones of fantasy and satire in these works showed the influence of 20th-century expressionism as well as of such master printmakers as Francisco Goya and William Blake. Klee often incorporated letters and numerals into his paintings, but he also produced series of works that explore mosaic and other effects. His late works, characterized by heavy black lines, are often reflections on death and war, but his last painting, Still Life is a serene summation of his life’s concerns as a creator. Klee was a teacher at the Bauhaus, Germany’s most advanced art school, from 1920 to 1931.
A trip to North Africa in 1914 stimulated Klee strongly toward using color and marked the beginning of his fully mature style, in which he declared himself possessed by color. His paintings and watercolors for the next 20 years showed a mastery of delicate, dreamlike color harmonies, which he usually used to create flat, semiabstract compositions or even effects resembling mosaic, as in Pastoral. Klee was also a master draftsman, and many of his works are elaborated line drawings with subject matter that grew out of fantasy or dream imagery; he described his technique in these drawings as taking a line for a walk. Twittering Machine, for instance, with its fluid, wiry, birdlike motifs, is a composition of interconnected lines and circular shapes, with an evocative effect that is much greater than its spare means.
After 1935, afflicted by a progressive skin and muscular disease, Klee adopted a broad, flat style characterized by thick, crayonlike lines and large areas of subdued color. His subject matter during this period grew increasingly brooding and gloomy, as in the nightmarish Death and Fire.
Klee died in Muralto, Switzerland, on June 29, 1940. His work influenced all later 20th-century surrealist and nonobjective artists and was a prime source for the budding abstract expressionist movement.

Art is creative for the sake of realization, not for amusement: for transfiguration, not for the sake of play. It is the quest of our self that drives us along the eternal and never-ending journey we must all make.

June 24, 2009

Max Beckmann

 Falling Man 1950

Max Beckmann, a metaphysical protagonist of reality, expressed in his own terms, crudely, softly, finely; which ever the subject demanded. But the subject did not dictate, Beckmann held the brush!
Beckmann was born in Leipzig on February 12, 1884, to farmer parents from the farming area of Braunschweig. After Max’s birth they gave up the farm and moved into Leipzig where his father, Carl, worked as a real estate agent and flour merchant. Later he took work in a laboratory making artificial meerschaum. Young Max preferred drawing to schoolwork, and began his formal studies in 1900 at the Weimar Art Academy.
In 1903 he married Minna Tube and they both moved to Paris. Beckmann was never influenced by any art movement, or the work of any artist. That is a hard thing to say and mean about any artist living or dead. Oh yes, he studied the classics, but had so very real an energy, so real a need to express himself that imitation of any kind, outside the Aristolean meaning, would never have satisfied his lust or vision.
He painted freely.
Beckmann probably painted more self-portraits than any other artist. He painted subjects from the entertainment world, many portraits of family and friends, and countless allegorical compositions with characters symbolic of ancient myths.
Beckmann was drafted into the First World War and wrote much of what it was like:
“I went across the fields to avoid the straight highways, along the firing lines where people were shooting at a small wooded hill, which is now covered with wooden crosses and lines of graves instead of spring flowers. On my left the shooting had the sharp explosion of the infantry artillery, on my right could be heard the sporadic cannon shots thundering from the front, and up above the sky was clear and the sun bright, sharp above the whole space. It was so wonderful outside that even the wild senselessness of this enormous death. whose music I hear again and again, could not disturb me from my great enjoyment!”
Beckmann spent the years of World War Two in Germany, outlawed by Hitler from exhibiting, but his paintings, though branded as “degenerate by the Third Reich, were never confiscated or destroyed. He was drafted, but rejected as unfit. After the war he came to America where he and his wife lived in Missouri. Beckmann was a Painter in residence at Washington University in St. Louis.
In the late ’40s he moved to Manhattan, where he died of a heart attack enroute to see his work in a show at the Metropolitan Museum on December 27, 1950. many say he was merely walking his dog, but at any rate he was caught in the middle of living.
Nothing meant more to Max Beckmann than his own originality, as a human being, and as an artist. He was a deeply spiritual man, with his own ideas, and we end with this quote, the one we started with, for it sums up this man entirely: “The greatest mystery of all is reality.”

Richard E. Schiff ASL

I just try to live my life and do my thing.

June 23, 2009

Robert Mapplethorpe


Calla Lily 1986

Robert Mapplethorpe was born in 1946, the third of six children. He remembered a very secure childhood on Long Island, which he summed up by saying, “I come from suburban America. It was a very safe environment, and it was a good place to come from in that it was a good place to leave.” He received a B.F.A. from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where he produced artwork in a variety of media. He had not taken any of his own photographs yet, but he was making art that incorporated many photographic images appropriated from other sources, including pages torn from magazines and books. This early interest reflected the importance of the photographic image in the culture and art of our time, including the work of such notable artists as Andy Warhol, whom Mapplethorpe greatly admired.

Mapplethorpe took his first photographs soon thereafter, using a Polaroid camera. He did not consider himself a photographer, but wished to use his own photographic images in his paintings, rather than pictures from magazines. “I never liked photography,” he is quoted as saying, “Not for the sake of photography. I like the object. I like the photographs when you hold them in your hand.” His first Polaroids were self-portraits and the first of a series of portraits of his close friend, the singer-artist-poet Patti Smith. These early photographic works were generally shown in groups or elaborately presented in shaped and painted frames that were as significant to the finished piece as the photograph itself. The shift to photography as Mapplethorpe’s sole means of expression happened gradually during the mid-seventies. He acquired a large format press camera and began taking photographs of a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. These included artists, composers, socialites, pornographic film stars and members of the S & M underground. Some of these photographs were shocking for their content but exquisite in their technical mastery. Mapplethorpe told ARTnews in late 1988, “I don’t like that particular word ‘shocking.’ I’m looking for the unexpected. I’m looking for things I’ve never seen before…I was in a position to take those pictures. I felt an obligation to do them.”

During the early 1980s, Mapplethorpe’s photographs began a shift toward a phase of refinement of subject and an emphasis on classical formal beauty. During this period he concentrated on statuesque male and female nudes, delicate flower still lifes, and formal portraits of artists and celebrities. He continued to challenge the definition of photography by introducing new techniques and formats to his oeuvre: color Polaroids, photogravure, platinum prints on paper and linen, Cibachomes and dye transfer color prints, as well as his earlier black-and-white gelatin silver prints.

Mapplethorpe produced a consistent body of work that strove for balance and perfection and established him in the top rank of twentieth-century artists. In 1987 he established the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to promote photography, support museums that exhibit photographic art, and to fund medical research and finance projects in the fight against AIDS and HIV-related infection.

If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.

June 22, 2009

Marc Chagall


I and the Village 1911

Marc Chagall was born in 1887 to a poor Jewish family in Russia. He was the eldest of nine children. Chagall began to display his artistic talent while studying at a secular Russian school, and despite his father’s disapproval, in 1907 he began studying art with Leon Bakst in St. Petersburg. It was at this time that his distinct style that we recognize today began to emerge. As his paintings began to center on images from his childhood, the focus that would guide his artistic motivation for the rest of his life came to fruition.

In 1910, Chagall, moved to Paris for four years. It was during this period that he painted some of his most famous paintings of the Jewish village, and developed the features that became recognizable trademarks of his art. Strong and bright colors began to portray the world in a dreamlike state. Fantasy, nostalgia, and religion began to fuse together to create otherworldly images.

In 1914, before the outbreak of World War I, Chagall held a one-man show in Berlin, exhibiting work dominated by Jewish images. During the war, he resided in Russia, and in 1917, endorsing the revolution, he was appointed Commissar for Fine Arts in Vitebsk and then director of the newly established Free Academy of Art. In 1922, Chagall left Russia, settling in France one year later. He lived there permanently except for the years 1941 – 1948 when, fleeing France during World War II, he resided in the United States. Chagall’s horror over the Nazi rise to power is expressed in works depicting Jewish martyrs and refugees.

In addition to images of the Jewish world, Chagall’s paintings are inspired by themes from the Bible. His fascination with the Bible culminated in a series of over 100 etchings illustrating the Bible, many of which incorporate elements from folklore and from religious life in Russia.

Israel, which Chagall first visited in 1931 for the opening of the Tel Aviv Art Museum, is likewise endowed with some of Chagall’s work, most notably the twelve stained glass windows at Hadassah Hospital and wall decorations at the Knesset.

Chagall received many prizes and much recognition for his work. He was also one of very few artists to exhibit work at the Louvre in their lifetime.

How can we live and die and never know the difference?

June 21, 2009

Clyfford Still


 1947 -J 1947


Clyfford Still was born November 30, 1904, in Grandin, North Dakota. He attended Spokane University in Washington for a year in 1926 and again from 1931 to 1933. After graduation, he taught at Washington State College in Pullman until 1941. Still spent the summers of 1934 and 1935 at the Trask Foundation (now Yaddo) in Saratoga Springs, New York. From 1941 to 1943, he worked in defense factories in California. In 1943, his first solo show took place at the San Francisco Museum of Art, and he met Mark Rothko in Berkeley at this time. The same year, Still moved to Richmond, where he taught at the Richmond Professional Institute.

When Still was in New York in 1945, Rothko introduced him to Peggy Guggenheim, who gave him a solo exhibition at her Art of This Century gallery in early 1946. Later that year, the artist returned to San Francisco, where he taught for the next four years at the California School of Fine Arts. Solo exhibitions of his work were held at the Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, in 1947, 1950, and 1951 and at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, in 1947. In New York in 1948, Still worked with Rothko and others on developing the concept of the school that became known as the Subjects of the Artist. He resettled in San Francisco for two years before returning again to New York. A Still retrospective took place at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, in 1959. In 1961, he settled on his farm near Westminster, Maryland.

Solo exhibitions of Still’s paintings were presented by the Institute of Contemporary Art of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in 1963 and at the Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, New York, in 1969–70. He received the Award of Merit for Painting in 1972 from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, of which he became a member in 1978, and the Skowhegan Medal for Painting in 1975. Also in 1975, a permanent installation of a group of his works opened at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, gave him an exhibition in 1980. Still died June 23 of that same year in Baltimore.