Basquiat and the return of history

19th April 2018

Our colleague TOM ALLEN reflects on postmodernism and history, on the ideas of Frederic Jameson and Karl Marx, and on the art of Vincent Van Gogh, Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

I was recently re-reading the first chapter of Frederic Jameson’s book Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Jameson contrasts Vincent Van Gogh’s “A Pair of Shoes” (1886-87) with Andy Warhol’s “Diamond Dust Shoes” (1980) as an example of the difference between modernism and postmodernism, and what I found striking about this distinction was how we could use this definition as a way to understand the artistic relationship between Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

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Links

24th February 2018

My new approach to Links seemed to work reasonably well, at least for a few days. So this is version 2, with some of the previous links, and many new ones – although I am still uncertain about when and how to jump from an old page to a new one. Anyway, in eight categories I am listing up to five recommended links. I add to them as and when I feel like it, and when I post a new one, one of the others will drop off. New links from the most recent updating are indicated, and I sign off this introduction with the time and date when I last visited.

These are the things that I’ve been reading and thinking about in the past few days…   11.50, 24 February 2017. read more »

The Angel of the North turns 20

15th February 2018

Today marks the twenty-year anniversary of the installation of Antony Gormley’s work The Angel of the North. Gormley’s work is now iconic and the Angel is probably his most famous work.  It is estimated to be seen by 33 million road and rail travellers every year or 90,000 drivers a day, which works out as more than one person every second.

The Angel, which Gormley has described as a ‘totem poll for the North East’, measures 20 meters high and 54 meters wide from wing tip to wing tip, and was made from corten weathering steel by the Teeside manufacturer Hartlepool Steel Fabrications. It sits on a hilltop overlooking the A1 motorway over what was formally a coal mine.

Despite its iconic status now, the project was initially greeted with hostility and doubt: not least of all by the artist himself who at first turned down the project saying, ‘I don’t do sculptures for motorways’. There was local opposition too; some locals claimed it would spoil the view alongside the usual voices that lamented the waste of the £800,000 it would eventually cost. read more »

Links

14th February 2018

A time there was, when I posted here regularly, that each week I compiled a set of Sunday links. I fell out of the habit, but now I am trying the new approach below. In eight categories I am listing up to five recommended links. I shall add to them as and when I feel like it, and when I post a new one, one of the others will drop off. New links from the most recent updating will be indicated, and I will sign off this introduction with the time and date when I last visited. There are other wrinkles to consider, but let’s first try this for a while.

These are the things that I’ve been reading and thinking about in the past few days…   06.55, 16 February 2017. read more »

Sunday links

19th November 2017

Links from the past week, with the usual thanks to those who prompted them via Twitter and in other ways, and apologies for not acknowledging you individually. In this dim and dismal world, one welcome piece of news was that Manfred Eicher’s wonderful recording label ECM has finally made the company’s wondrous catalogue available for streaming, including on Spotify. So I’m starting with a couple of related articles.

Jazz and classical treasures from the digitized catalogue of ECM Records: Richard Brody for The New Yorker writes about the unique ECM sound and picks some favourites.

Now streaming – the musical treasure trove of ECM: recommendations from the estimable Geoff Andrew.

… and here’s a 2015 ECM video about one of my favourite releases (of which there are very many), Anthony de Mare’s Liaisons. Re-Imagining Sondheim:

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Sunday links

12th November 2017

It’s unlikely that anyone will have noticed, but whether about links or anything else I have not posted here for some six weeks. Moreover, my contributions in the months before that were, well let’s just say… sporadic. Maybe they are destined ever to remain so, but the run-up to Christmas looks less insanely busy and so my intention is to return here more often. Let’s see. But at least I can contribute today a new list of links to recent articles and videos that I have found interesting. With thanks, as always, to those who alerted me to many of these, whether on Twitter or in other ways.

• Putin’s Russia wrestles with the meaning of Trotsky and revolution: Joshua Yaffa for The New Yorker on a new Russian television drama series about Trotsky, which complements…

• Revolution, what revolution? Russians show little interest in 1917 centenary: … Shaun Walter’s Guardian report from St Petersburg.

• St Petersburg – the city of three revolutions: Owen Hatherley on the traces of history, for The Architectural Review.

Warren Beatty’s Reds: ‘A long, long movie about a communist who died’: Tim Pelan for Cinephilia & Beyond on Beatty’s 1981 masterpiece about 1917, co-written with Trevor Griffiths; this invaluable post includes a bunch of great photos and a .pdf of the script; here’s the original trailer:

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Monday links

18th September 2017

I have just returned from a fascinating three-day trip to St Petersburg (of which more tomorrow), so the Links post is a day late [and still a bit of a work in progress]. In other respects it is much as I try (but too often fail) to do each week, highlighting things that have intrigued and interested me in recent days. My thanks as always to those who, on Twitter and elsewhere, alerted me to many of these.

Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA: anyone fancy paying me to write about this remarkable new group of exhibitions in Los Angeles co-ordinated by the Getty Center? I’d love to go. This is the third Pacific Standard Time initiative, and on this occasion it’s ‘a far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles’. Spread across 70 institutions, it also offers a good deal of fascinating stuff online, some of which I will focus on in the coming weeks. In the meantime, here is their trailer and a few initial press responses:

• Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA – the perfect exhibition for Trump’s America: Lanre Bakare for the Guardian.

• The beach, the border and Donald Duck doing the samba: inside Pacific Standard Time LA/LA: another Guardian piece, from Paul Laity.

• In a heated political moment, the ambitious Latino art series Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA opens: Matt Stromberg for the Los Angeles Times.

• Datebook – Pacific Standard Time in full swing, with video, photography, sculpture and pre-Columbian artisanry: Carolina A. Miranda, also for the Los Angeles Times, on the first batch of shows.

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Peter Hall put the RSC on screen

13th September 2017

Much is being written about the truly extraordinary achievements of Sir Peter Hall, whose death at the age of 86 has been announced. Mark Lawson’s piece for the Guardian is already a highlight: deeply informed, admiring but far from uncritical. And Michael Billington’s obituary is here. I feel especially close to one strand of his work with the RSC, which he brought into existence in 1961, since I am writing a book about film and television adaptations of the company’s work. Soon after Peter Hall transformed the Stratford Memorial Theatre company into the RSC he was pushing for it to do television and a little later in the decade he was one of the key figures that led to the setting up an – ultimately unsuccessful – film partnership.

Even if some of the television broadcasts with which he was involved no longer survive, we do have – in large part thanks to Peter Hall – remarkably rich moving image traces of the RSC in the 1960s. And part of his legacy is a number of major adaptations, including a 1959 television (which was never broadcast) and a 1969 movie version of his Stratford production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a compelling version of Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming, and a television masterpiece, The Wars of the Roses (which we were thrilled to release on DVD last year). read more »

Jean-Michel and us

11th September 2017

Opening later this month at Barbican Art Gallery is Basquiat: Boom for Real (21 September – 28 January) . The first substantial retrospective in this country of the work of Jean-Michael Basquiat, it is one the hot exhibition tickets of the autumn. Advance press is already offering some really good reads, a selection of which is included below (and which I’ll update over the coming weeks). Illuminations has a greater interest in this show than in most because in October 1985 we filmed with Jean-Michel in New York for our Channel 4 series State of the Art. You can purchase here a DVD of the 6 episodes of State of the Art (Jean-Michel is in the final programme), and we are also delighted to be distributing in this country Jean-Michel Vecchiet’s recent film biography of the painter, which is available here. All in all, the material we filmed back in 1985 has had quite an afterlife, with – for starters – extracts on view in the exhibition and a few frames in this Barbican trailer.


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Sunday links

10th September 2017

Links to articles that have intrigued, interested and informed me in the past week. Grateful thanks to all those who pointed me towards them, and apologies for not including more than this collective credit. I’ll start with one of the best, and best-written, pieces of political analysis of recent days..

The first white president: for The Atlantic, Ta-Nahisi Coates on Tr*mp.

The risk of nuclear war with North Korea: remarkable reporting from Pyongyang by Evan Osnos for The New Yorker.

• Kate Millett, ground-breaking feminist writer, is dead at 82: Parul Sehgal and Neil Genzlinger for The New York Times do a good job explaining the significance of Sexual Politics, published in 1970. And as my friend Billy Smart mailed me to recommend this piece:

People will still be reading Sexual Politics for generations, but I can’t say too emphatically that she was a terrific memoirist – Flying, Sita and The Loony Bin Trip are indelible exercises in emotional honesty that capture interior understanding of how betrayal, or sexuality or mental illness actually feels with a sensitivity that can be breathtaking to read.

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