Monday, April 23, 2007

some images of downtown Detroit

When I was a child I had recurring dreams of a dark labyrinthine city. The city was never specified; I remember tall buildings, narrow streets - it wasn't necessarily day or night. What time was it?
Much later in life my dim memories were invoked by a strong resemblance of downtown Providence RI to my dreams. If anyone has been in Providence in the afternoons, after the banks close, when the streets are empty, those narrow 17th century streets, dwarfed by the modern buildings - perhaps that is as close an approximation as any to what little I now recall.
The photos of Detroit are about my memories, but they are also about the destruction of my memories, the obsolescence of my memories. What I can remember - the trips downtown as a child (lunches & visits to Santa Claus at J.L. Hudson's - a building imploded in 1998, a company that no longer exists) & so on, persist, but the streets are now the wreckage of such memories, ruins. I am reminded of the moldering foundations of Miss Havisham's house at the end of Great Expectations, but on a metropolitan scale.
2 thoughts:
1) what if I had stayed in Detroit? What would my life had been like?
2) somewhere Jean Stafford described her stories as being about "people who are homesick for a place they would never go back to"

Friday, April 20, 2007

Miss Mexico 'war gown' toned down

A dress set to be worn by Miss Mexico in the Miss Universe pageant is being redesigned - because it is too violent, not because it is too revealing.

The original flowing dress depicted scenes from a Roman Catholic uprising against Mexico's secular state in the 1920s, in which thousands died.

It provoked uproar, with critics saying the theme was inappropriate for next month's competition in Mexico City.

Designers now say the dress is being modified as a result of the concerns.

The original outfit was chosen by designers ahead of nearly 30 other gowns, in order, as they put it, to represent Mexico's culture and history.

Miss Mexico, Rosa Maria Ojeda, wore the dress in public, showing off the billowing, hoop skirt adorned by scenes from the 1926-1929 Cristero War.

Among the images were Roman Catholic rebels hanging from posts, and a man facing a firing squad.

The outfit was completed by rosaries and scapularies hanging from a bullet-studded belt, topped off with a crucifix necklace and a wide-brimmed sombrero.

Designer Maria del Rayo Macias told La Jornada newspaper: "We are descendants of Cristeros. Whether we like it or not, it's a part of who we are."

But critics said the use of such images was in poor taste and inappropriate.

"It would be like Miss USA wearing a dress showing images of the Ku Klux Klan in the Deep South, with their hoods, their burning crosses and beer cans," wrote a columnist for La Jornada, Jorge Camil, in a recent article.

"A beauty contest is very far from being the right place to vent political and religious ideologies," he wrote.


Church officials also expressed concern at the use of images from the Cristero War.

"This traditional outfit alludes to events that opened deep wounds," Monsignor Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel told La Jornada.

The secular government that emerged from the Mexican Revolution tightened anti-clerical laws, provoking a conflict in which churches and convents were closed and foreign priests expelled.

The dress is now being redone to remove the offending images and scenes of death, the designers said.

The outfit due to be worn by Miss Mexico in the competition on 28 May will now include images of the Virgin of Guadalupe and of women who participated in the Cristero rebellion, reports said.

I went to an opening for the new Greek & Roman galleries at the Met with Deirdre Donohue.

The collection is large & varied. Openings are not appropriate venues for intensive viewing; still we got an eyeful.

The reinstallation indicates the perimeters of some of the renovations of the pieces, with diagrams. Also in the reinstallations of the rooms, gaps between the fragments of wall decorations are painted in, to effect a more seamless, whole sense of the complete entity of the spaces. This provoked a discussion between us about the museological ethics (is that too strong a word?) of presenting fragments in an illusory sense of being more finished than their actual state. Some of the work has restorations from previous times (17th - 18th century) noted: in which case the restorations themselves become historical. Such methods, whether discrete or obvious, are still,perhaps, the closest approximations of our attempts to see or understand the work of the past, despite any instincts that this is a kind of Disney-vision of antiquity. In this sense it seems like a bit of an abyss: museums are strange.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

re Miroslav Tichy

Tichy's images (what little I have seen) remind me somewhat of Garry Winogrand's Women Are Beautiful work. The Winogrand images have always seemed rather odd to me, perhaps in their "photographic" qualities (format, focus, depth-of-field, composition, tonality) which is their justification as Important Photography. They seem very machine made, & yet the images are also driven by what seems to be a possessive, acquisitive sex drive, imbued with an ocular puritanism which justifies itself with a kind of visual violence. What is "beautiful" about the women isn't necessarily in the images, but in the inventory of what counts as "woman" & "beautiful": facial shapes, hair color & length, body type, age, skin color (I may be mistaken but I believe all the women in the book are white). There's a creepiness to the images in that they seem so ebulliently stolen, furtive yet flamboyantly on display, ultimately, as Photographs, as trophies.
I can see a similar voyeurism in Tichy's work, but the processes, the cameras, the chemistry, the paper - the processes themselves have a libidinious quality which seems more equitable with whatever scopophilic drives generated the work. The photos seem still wet, as if they were still being made. The photos have a connection to Tichy's body (perhaps, somehow). In this I a reminded of the thoughtographs of Ted Serios, or the pinhole camera images made in Ann Hamilton's mouth. Also, the images seem more grounded, slower. Winogrand is in motion, in flight, perpetually, in his photos, & there is not the slightest hint of any connection other than a quick glance (wham, blam, thank you, m'am). The title of the Winogrand book as well could very well be a barroom boast, or locker room chatter - it's about men in charge. There are Tichy images which if not pornographic, are at least more directly sexual in their situation. The ragged paper, the hand-drawn matts, the stained images - it's all much more openly fetishistic. There is a cult of Image as a hallucination (as opposed to a product which is how I would perceive the economy of Winogrand).

Moravia Unveils Its Most Famous Unknown Photographer

Portrait of a man: Moravia unveils its most famous unknown photographer Gallery Review By Tony Azuna For The Prague Post May 31st, 2006

Tichý's blurry, evocative images have attracted international attention.

When a new star arrives on the international art scene, the Czech Republic is generally not the first to know about it. Still, when an 80-year-old photographer from Kyjov who is gaining acclaim in the West remains unknown in his own country, something is obviously amiss.

The mysterious oeuvre of Miroslav Tichý has created a sensation in prestigious circles abroad; last year he had a huge retrospective in Kunsthaus Zurich, and since then has had solo exhibitions at high-end galleries in New York City, Berlin, Antwerp and London. This would be remarkable for any artist, let alone one who only started to get noticed a few years ago — first at the Seville Biennial in 2004, and then at last year's prestigious art festival in Arles, when he received the Discovery Award.

The current extensive exhibition of Tichý's photographs, drawings and paintings in Brno is his long-overdue debut in the Czech Republic, not counting his limited participation in group exhibitions of Brno painters in 1956 and 1958. Miroslav Tichý was born in Nětčice (now a suburb of Kyjov) in 1926. He studied drawing and painting at the Prague Academy of Fine Arts between 1944 and 1948, dropping out of school when the communists took over. After finishing compulsory military service, he stopped painting and became an outcast, best-known for his wild, unkempt appearance and dirty clothing, in particular a long coat that he wore in all seasons. Because of his unstable mental condition, Tichý was not able to hold a job. But he was vocal about his politics, openly showing disdain for the communists. As a result, he was routinely arrested (particularly each May 1), and spent a total of eight years in prison. He was also in and out of mental institutions. A psychiatrist who treated Tichý during this time, Harry Buxbaum, was also a former neighbor and friend from Kyjov. They remained friends even after Buxbaum emigrated to Switzerland in 1968. Through the 1960s and '70s, Tichý continued his drawings (mostly of women), but he showed these to no one. And he began taking random photographs. He wandered the streets of Kyjov, snapping the beautiful and banal. He particularly enjoyed capturing on film the women he encountered: in the shops, at bus stops, sitting in the town square, walking down the street. In the summer, like a voyeur, he shot women and girls at the swimming pool or sunbathing in their yards in bikinis or in the nude. Tichý took most of his photos secretly, with the camera hidden under his long coat or by an oversized sweater. They are all distinguishable by their lack of professional composition and the blurriness of the image. Nevertheless, they capture a state of naturalness, a complete unawareness of the camera. In 1981, Roman Buxbaum, Harry's nephew, began returning to Kyvoj to visit his grandmother, in the course of which he became friends with Tichý. Buxbaum was fascinated by Tichý's photos and drawings, which he found thrown around with total disregard, many corroded or crumpled, caked in dust for years on the floor. Some had chintzy frames colored by the artist; sometimes he would even draw highlights on the photo. Tichý's equipment was equally decrepit. Since he had no money, he used plastic Russian cameras, and later made his own from cardboard scraps and assorted refuse. His handmade cameras worked remarkably well; some even had extendible lenses. Mostly with these, he amassed a secret archive of the women of Kyjov, all the legs and bodies of daughters and wives immortalized in a blur. In the 1990s, Roman Buxbaum began writing articles about Tichý's work and eventually organized an exhibit in Germany. But the work remained obscure until only a few years ago. What it finally hit, it hit big. Tichý's untitled photographs have been purchased for the public collections of the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. As part of the events for his opening in Brno, the acclaimed modern composer Michael Nyman performed a solo piano concert with Tichý's images overhead. However, as if to underscore the irony of Tichý's fate in his homeland, a recent issue of Photo Art featured photos by young, unknown Czech photographers, among which is a shot of a wild-eyed old man in long beard and tattered clothes. The black-and-white shot, by Jaroslav Březina, is most certainly of Miroslav Tichý. Yet it is simply titled Portrait of a Man.

Monday, April 16, 2007

a rainy Sunday afternoon at AIPAD, in the Park Avenue Armory. what interested me: various prints by Gustave Le Gray, Charles Marville, Louis De Clerq, Julia Margaret Cameron, Tina Modotti, Edward Steichen, Rudolph Koppitz, Clarence White, Heinrich Kuhn, George Seeley, Walker Evans, Man Ray, some vernacular images (including press photos from the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald), spirit photos, & Miroslav Tichy, whose work I don't know.
the Nor'Easter (for a Midwesterner such as myself, still an exotic term - it sounds like 19th century dialect - how Mark Twain) wet & loud-

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Friday, April 13, 2007

While I regret that by posting the YouTube advertisement for the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council gala I am inadvertently promoting the thing; still I find it ominous and alienating, and as such , of note: the conflation of real estate, politics, entertainment, art. The new New York, as it were. Also, perhaps this will be the greenest we will ever see NYC; but alas it is only the color of money.