Monday, August 15, 2011

John Akomfrah's Handsworth Songs (1986), on the 1985 civil disturbances in Birmingham, seems more relevant than ever...

Eileen Gray's iconic E.1027 house is being restored. Edwin Heathcote tells "one of the most extraordinary stories in modern architecture," in the FT:

"The house that was one of the most perfect products of the modern movement, the cryptically christened E1027, was designed by Eileen Gray, an Anglo-Irish designer, a woman in a man’s world who had been excluded by the artistic and avant-garde establishment.

Le Corbusier, the leader of that architectural avant-garde, was either in love with or incensed by the presence of this house and scrawled a series of sexually charged murals to Gray’s great chagrin. She was slightly consoled when the German soldiers who later occupied the villa used the abstracted figures for target practice. The house that had tormented him as he had tormented it was perhaps the last thing Le Corbusier ever saw – he drowned in the sea outside in 1965. For years it lay abandoned, one of the great houses of the modern era desecrated in one of the countries that most valued its modernist past – while Le Corbusier’s houses were lovingly turned into temples, museums of modernity."
(Read more...)

Julian Bell's NYRB review of Manet: Inventeur du Moderne, "an exhibition full of heat and light and erotic animus," recently on view at the Musée d’Orsay, displays the kind of acuity that makes for great writing about art. Julian Barnes' brilliant review in the Guardian touches on just this issue in relation to looking at Manet's masterpieces--while exploring the curatorial approach of the exhibition in significant detail--"the risk being that we can no longer see, only take for granted." Interestingly, both also focus on Manet in reproduction:

"Outside Paris’s Musée d’Orsay, lines are currently shuffling under tall billboards that reproduce, some eight times life-size, L’Amazone by Édouard Manet. An amazone is a horsewoman, and by extension the tight-fitting black riding habit she would wear in the nineteenth century, matched by a black silk top hat. Thomas Couture, Manet’s teacher, noted how this “pretty costume…chastely delineates the forms of the upper body,” and Manet’s image dramatizes the tug of interests implied in his words.....Manet, you can make out, went at his subject with a brisk attack, springing from paint swipe to paint swipe--here jostling, there blending---as he moved in on that succulent fresh face...The momemtum of his excitement carried through as he switched brushes to bash a mess of blues and whites around the outline of her head and shoulders..."(Bell, Sudden Sensuous Dazzle..)

"Much of Manet's achievement you can understand by reading the books and looking at the colour plates; much else is apparent only in front of the pictures themselves. "Manet black" reproduces fairly well; "Manet white" very poorly. Olympia, aside from its continuing erotic challenge, is also a Whistlerian "Symphony in Off-White" (subtle exchanges between flesh, coverlet, bedclothes, flowers and – the sharpest white of all – the paper in which the flowers are wrapped). In the portrait of Zola, a central patch of white blazes out: it comes, appropriately, from the pages of the book the novelist is reading. "
Jimmie Durham performing at the Reykjavik Experiment

Feynman on philosophy, mathematics, and the "why question..."


FORMER WEST features an interesting interview with Beirut-based artist and playwright Rabih Mroué. Mroué's exhibition 'The People are Demanding,' responding to the demonstrations in the Middle East, was recently on view in London.