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  • feedwordpress 09:01:57 on 2019/02/11 Permalink
    Tags: Anish Kapoor, art, balck, , , , , , Stuart Semple, ,   

    “Friends share things”*… 


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    Black header

    Readers may recall that (R)D has contemplated black before [and here], more particularly, the emergence of the (then) “blackest black,” Vantablack.  Here, via the always-amazing Imperica, an update:

    I’ve featured Stuart Semple and his work in here quite a lot over the past few years; this is the latest in his gloriously petty (but also actually sort of serious) one-man project to annoy Anish Kapoor by creating a paint as-black as Kapoor’s famously VERY black Vantablack (if you want the background to the story you can read all about it [at the link below], but basically Semple thinks that Kapoor is a pompous, self-important arsehole and, by all accounts, Semple is absolutely 100% right). Anyway, if you want the chance to own some of the blackest paint EVER MADE, here’s your chance – the Kickstarter for it is 3x funded with over a month left to go, so this is definitely happening, and it’s worth backing it purely to have the chance to draw ACME-style Wil E Coyote-esque fake tunnels on walls all over London…

    Semple says, “we’ve created a paint that absorbs 98-99% of visible light, we want to share this black hole in a bottle with all artists and creators.” Learn more– and but some of your own– at “The blackest black paint in the world! Black 3.0.”

    * Pythagoras

    ###

    As we get dark, we might spare a thought for a man who did his best to dispel a different kind of darkness:  René Descartes, the French philosopher and mathematician who thought and therefore was; he died on this date in 1650.

    Many contemporaries (perhaps most notably, Pascal) rejected his famous conclusion, the dualist separation of mind and body; more (Voltaire, et al.), since.  But Descartes’ emphasis on method and analysis, his disciplined integration of philosophy and physical science, his insistence on the importance of consciousness in epistemology, and perhaps most fundamentally, his the questioning of tradition and authority had a transformative– and lasting– effect on Western thought, and has earned him the “title” of Father of Modern Philosophy.

    “In order to improve the mind, we ought less to learn than to contemplate.”
    – Rene Descartes

    Frans Hals’ portrait of Descartes, c. 1649

    source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:05 on 2019/02/03 Permalink
    Tags: , art, , , John Butler Yeats, , , , William Butler Yeats   

    “I don’t like the ALPHAbet. I’m going to wait for the BETA version.”*… 


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    alphabet zoomable version here

     

    The chart shows how the letters used to write English (and many other languages) evolved from Proto-Sinaitic, through Phoenician, early Greek and early Latin, to their present forms. You can see how some letters were dropped and others ended up evolving into more than one letter…

    From Matt Baker of UsefulCharts, this chart traces the evolution of our familiar alphabet from its Proto-Sinaitic roots circa 1850-1550 BC.  As Kottke observes, it’s tough to see how the pictographic forms of the original script evolved into our letters; aside from the T and maybe M & O, there’s little resemblance.  Helpfully, Baker also produced a video:

    * Anthony T. Hincks

    ###

    As we follow the thread, we might spare a thought for John Butler Yeats; he died on this date in 1922.  An artist many of whose works are displayed in the National Gallery of Ireland, he was the father of poet William Butler Yeats (and his accomplished siblings Lily YeatsElizabeth Corbett “Lolly” Yeats and Jack B. Yeats).

    202px-william_butler_yeats_by_john_butler_yeats_1900

    W. B. Yeats, by his father J. B. Yeats [source]

    183px-john_butler_yeats,_by_john_butler_yeats

    Self-portrait, J. B. Yeats [source]

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:51 on 2019/01/29 Permalink
    Tags: Albert O Hirschman, art, , , , , Jeremy Adelman, John Gay, The Beggars Opera, ,   

    “Emergencies have always been necessary to progress”*… 


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    economy

    The 2008 financial crisis continues to plague the world economy and our politics. It’s also messing with how we understand our narratives of global integration. Until recently, going global implied exuberant stories about one-world connectivity and technocratic togetherness. Now, it’s the other way around: the stories of our times are consumed with collapses, extinctions and doom. It’s a playbook for nativists, who see interdependence as a recipe for catastrophe.

    Our big narratives were once capable of more nuance than the pendular swing from euphoria to dysphoria. For every 18th-century Enlightenment story of hope, there was a shadow of decline; in the 19th century, liberals had to joust with conservative and radical prophets of demise. Some even saw crisis as an opportunity. Influenced by Karl Marx, the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter in 1942 made a virtue out of ruin. There could be something creative about bringing down tired old institutions. The late German-born economist Albert O Hirschman thought of disequilibria as a potential source of new thinking. In 1981, he distinguished between two types of crisis: the kind that disintegrates societies and sends members scrambling for the exits, and what he called an ‘integrative crisis’, one in which people together imagine new ways forward…

    Jeremy Adelman, the Henry Charles Lea professor of history and director of the Global History Lab at Princeton, argues that we should look for opportunities in our travails: “Why we need to be wary of narratives of economic catastrophe.”

    See also: “The Three Revolutions Economics Needs.

    * “Emergencies have always been necessary to progress. It was darkness which produced the lamp. It was fog that produced the compass. It was hunger that drove us to exploration. And it took a depression to teach us the real value of a job.”                               – Victor Hugo

    ###

    As we search for silver linings, we might recall that it was on this date in 1728 that John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera premiered at the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre in London.  It ran for 62 consecutive performances, the longest run in English theater history and second longest run in the Western world up to that time (after 146 performances of Robert Cambert’s Pomone in Paris in 1671).

    260px-william_hogarth_016

    Painting based on scene 11 Act III of The Beggar’s Opera; by William Hogarth, c. 1728 [source]

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:30 on 2019/01/27 Permalink
    Tags: art, , , Birds of America, , lichen, , , ,   

    “It is a good day to study lichens”*… 


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    lichen

    Wolf lichen

    Science is sometimes caricatured as a wholly objective pursuit that allows us to understand the world through the lens of neutral empiricism. But the conclusions that scientists draw from their data, and the very questions they choose to ask, depend on their assumptions about the world, the culture in which they work, and the vocabulary they use. The scientist Toby Spribille once said to me, “We can only ask questions that we have imagination for.” And he should know, because no group of organisms better exemplifies this principle than the one Spribille is obsessed with: lichens.

    Lichens can be found growing on bark, rocks, or walls; in woodlands, deserts, or tundra; as coralline branches, tiny cups, or leaflike fronds. They look like plants or fungi, and for the longest time, biologists thought that they were. But 150 years ago, a Swiss botanist named Simon Schwendener suggested the radical hypothesis that lichens are composite organisms—fungi, living together with microscopic algae.

    It was the right hypothesis at the wrong time. The very notion of different organisms living so closely with—or within—each other was unheard of. That they should coexist to their mutual benefit was more ludicrous still. This was a mere decade after Charles Darwin had published his masterpiece, On the Origin of Species, and many biologists were gripped by the idea of nature as a gladiatorial arena, shaped by conflict. Against this zeitgeist, the concept of cohabiting, cooperative organisms found little purchase. Lichenologists spent decades rejecting and ridiculing Schwendener’s “dual hypothesis.” And he himself wrongly argued that the fungus enslaved or imprisoned the alga, robbing it of nutrients. As others later showed, that’s not the case: Both partners provide nutrients to each other…

    Gorgeous and weird, lichens have pushed the boundaries of our understanding of nature– and our way of studying it.  Learn more at: “The Overlooked Organisms That Keep Challenging Our Assumptions About Life.”

    * Henry David Thoreau, A Year in Thoreau’s Journal: 1851

    ###

    As we contemplate cooperation, we might spare a thought for John James Audubon; he died on this date in 1851.  An ornithologist, naturalist, and artist, Audubon documented all types of American birds with detailed illustrations depicting the birds in their natural habitats.  His The Birds of America (1827–1839), in which he identified 25 new species, is considered one of the most important– and finest– ornithological works ever completed.

    Book plate featuring Audubon’s print of the Greater Prairie Chicken

     source

    Happy Birthday, Dante, Mozart, and Lewis Carroll!

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:08 on 2019/01/26 Permalink
    Tags: art, , , , Hogarth, longest fall, , , Vesna Vulović   

    “What’s in a name?”*… 


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    46611234662_eb1d9e9f9a_o

     

    Familiar to many will be that exasperating feeling that arises when accused of being that very thing you pride yourself on not being. It’s a feeling the English artist William Hogarth evidently felt acutely when critics derided him for being a mere “caricature” artist. So moved was he by this ongoing slight, that he produced this 1743 print explaining the difference between characters and caricatures — which Hogarth saw as radically different — and demonstrating his style as being firmly aligned with the former. For Hogarth the comic character face, with its subtle exploration of an individual’s human nature, was vastly superior to the gross formal exaggerations of the grotesque caricature…

    More on Hogarth’s defense of his self-perception at “Characters and Caricaturas.”

    * Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

    ###

    As we lament labels, we might recall that it was on this date in 1972 that Vesna Vulović entered the Guinness Book of Records.  A stewardess for JAT Airlines, she survived a fall of 33,330 ft. when (what is believed to have been) a briefcase bomb exploded on her flight, and she was sucked through the resulting hole i the fuselage.  She was the sole survivor of the incident.

    220px-vesna_vulovic source

     

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:57 on 2019/01/25 Permalink
    Tags: art, Elvis Presley, , , jacket, Jailhouse Rock, Melchior Tersen, , patches, rock music,   

    “Full Metal Jacket”*… 


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    metal jacket

    Heavy metal is a vast and complex subculture, with supremely elitist followers and heavily codified attire, impenetrable to those outside of its fanbase. As heavy metal’s influence continues to spread throughout culture, from Justin Bieber’s Purpose Tour imitation of Pentagram’s logo to Tommy Genesis wearing Toxic Holocaust merch,  Melchior Tersen’s timely and impressive book, Killing Technology [here], documents the frontline of its symbolism: patches and patch jackets, DIY garments that fans build up themselves, sometimes over many years. Patches are bought at festivals, on merch tables at gigs and from record shops and online distros. Sites like T-Shirt Slayer exist both to trade in rare items and, more importantly, to show off collections of rare items. The breadth of the genre is overwhelming, but most true metal fans would be able to size you up immediately by the patches you wear on your jacket…

    metallica

    Metal style was a fashion in the 90s. Now we are in an era that’s more based on reblogging than pure avant-garde creation.  Still, metal visuals fascinate a public that’s not necessarily into metal as music. A consideration of the form– and more photos– at Paper Journal‘s interview with Tersen: “Killing Technology.”

    * (the title of a Stanley Kubrick film)

    ###

    As we get loud, we might recall that it was on this date in 1958 that Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock” become that first single to enter the U.K. pop charts at #!.  The record (the B-side “treat Me Nice”) would stayed on top for three weeks.

    220px-jailhouse_rock source

     

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:49 on 2018/12/08 Permalink
    Tags: Adam and Eve, art, , Immaculate Conception, Original Sin, , , The Fall, , , Virgin Mary   

    “There’s no such thing as an original sin”*… 


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    adam_and_eve

    Paradise, by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1530, now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

    Still…

    … The philosophical ideas behind the concept of Original Sin were explored in detail by St Augustine, developing the seminal thinking of St Paul, who saw Original Sin as a concept of radical equality; that no one speaks from a position of strength. All are flawed and when mankind seeks perfection, it is setting itself up, literally, for a fall.

    Though fundamental to Christianity, the concept survived the Enlightenment, despite Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s argument that man was born innocent. The rationalist philosopher Immanuel Kant, for example, wrote of the ‘crooked timber of humanity’. Two centuries later, Sigmund Freud offered a secular version of Original Sin, tracing the  dark forces that lurk within the subconscious. Original Sin is a tenacious idea…

    The fall of humankind and the concept of Original Sin: “Adam and Eve.”

    Original thought is like original sin: both happened before you were born to people you could not have possibly met  – Fran Lebowitz

    * Elvis Costello, “I’m Not Angry”

    ###

    As we sort out sin, we might recall that today is The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a solemn celebration in some form in most Christian faiths, of belief in the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.

    290px-Rizi-inmaculada

    Mary’s holy and immaculate conception, by Francisco Rizi

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:59 on 2018/11/20 Permalink
    Tags: art, , , , , , , ,   

    “There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary numerals, and those who don’t”*… 


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    Guide to Computing

    From a collection of vintage photos of computing equipment by “design and tech obsessive” James Ball…

    Guide to Computing

    More at Docubyte

    [TotH to Kottke]

    * vernacular joke, as invoked by Ian Stewart in Professor Stewart’s Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities

    ###

    As we rewind, we might spare a thought for Christian Goldbach; he died on this date in 1764.  A mathematician, lawyer, and historian who studied infinite sums, the theory of curves and the theory of equations, he is best remembered for his correspondence with Leibniz, Euler, and Bernoulli, especially his 1742 letter to Euler containing what is now known as “Goldbach’s conjecture.”

    In that letter he outlined his famous proposition:

    Every even natural number greater than 2 is equal to the sum of two prime numbers.

    It has been checked by computer for vast numbers– up to at least 4 x 1014– but remains unproved.

    (Goldbach made another conjecture that every odd number is the sum of three primes; it has been checked by computer for vast numbers, but also remains unproved.)

    Goldbach’s letter to Euler (source, and larger view)

    (Roughly) Daily is headed into a Thanksgiving hiatus; regular service will resume when the tryptophan haze clears…  probably around Monday, November 26.  Thanks for reading– and have Happy Holidays!

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:38 on 2018/10/04 Permalink
    Tags: art, , Grandville, , , Piranesi, ,   

    “What is admirable about the fantastic is that there is no longer anything fantastic: there is only the real.”*… 


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    surreal

    “Let’s Put Out the Light and Rekindle the Fire!,” from La Silhouette, June 24, 1830

     

    The poet Charles Baudelaire greatly admired the graphic arts, writing several essays about the major caricaturists and illustrators of his day. He found something positive to say about each of them with one exception, the artist Jean-Ignace-Isidore Gérard, known simply as Grandville (1803–1847). And yet, despite Baudelaire’s antipathy, Grandville is arguably the most imaginative graphic artist of the nineteenth century, as well as the most influential on subsequent generations. Baudelaire was well aware of Grandville’s gifts, but his aversion was that of a true classicist:

    There are superficial people whom Grandville amuses, but as for me, he frightens me. When I enter into Grandville’s work, I feel a certain discomfort, like in an apartment where disorder is systematically organized, where bizarre cornices rest on the floor, where paintings seem distorted by an optic lens, where objects are deformed by being shoved together at odd angles, where furniture has its feet in the air, and where drawers push in instead of pulling out.

    Baudelaire’s comments were perceptive: these are the very characteristics that, while making him uncomfortable, appealed to the next century’s surrealist artists and writers who saw in Grandville a kindred spirit who shared their interest in the uncanny, in the dream state, and in the world of imagination…

    With its dreamlike inversions and kaleidoscopic cast of anthropomorphic objects, animals, and plants, the world of French artist J. J. Grandville is at once both delightful and disquieting. Patricia Mainardi explores the unique work of this 19th-century illustrator now recognized as a major precursor and inspiration to the Surrealist movement: “Grandville, Visions, and Dreams.”

    * André Breton

    ###

    As we revel in the revolutionary, we might send finely-drawn birthday greetings to Giovanni Battista (also Giambattista) Piranesi; he was born on this date in 1720.  An Italian artist, he is best known for his etchings of Rome and of fictitious and atmospheric “prisons” (Le Carceri d’Invenzione).  The latter, with their Kafkaesque, Escher-like distortions, influenced Romanticism and perhaps especially Surrealism.

    Carceri Plate VII – “The Drawbridge”

    source

    Self-portrait

    source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:43 on 2018/09/12 Permalink
    Tags: art, , Ben Shahn, , , , , Jo Mora, ,   

    “I have long, indeed for years, played with the idea of setting out the sphere of life—bios—graphically on a map”*… 


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    Carmel

    A Jo Mora carte of Carmel-By-The-Sea, made in 1942. Larger image at David Rumsey Map Collection

     

    Joseph Jacinto Mora knew all the dogs in Carmel-By-The-Sea, California. He knew Bess, a friendly brown mutt who hung out at the livery stables. He knew Bobby Durham, a pointy-eared rascal who, as Mora put it, “had a charge [account] and did his own shopping at the butcher’s.” He knew Captain Grizzly, an Irish terrier who went to town with his muzzle on and invariably came back carrying it, having charmed a kind stranger into taking it off.

    If you spend time with Mora’s map of the town—which was first printed in 1942—you’ll know the town dogs of that era, too. They’re all stacked in a column on the right side, lovingly described and illustrated, and looking as natural as those items you’d be more inclined to expect on a map: streets, land masses, the compass rose. On this particular map, those elements aren’t so typical either: the streets are strewn with tiny houses, and both the land and sea are peppered with busy people. The compass rose is rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise, and—as befits an artist’s town—is helmed by a painter, a performer, a writer, and a musician.

    Such is the way of a Jo Mora map. Over the course of his life, the “Renaissance Man of the West,” as some have called him, packed history, geography, and personal details into a series of maps of different parts of California. Although well-known in his time—“Mora has produced works of art which have told their story to more persons, probably, than have the works of any other Californian,” columnist Lee Shippey wrote in the Los Angeles Times in 1942—he has largely fallen out of the public consciousness. But a few minutes with one of his maps plunges you back into his era, and his own worldview…

    Jo Mora poured the state’s whole history—and his own life—into his incredibly detailed, whimsical maps.  More of his own extraordinary story at “The Cowboy Cartographer Who Loved California.”  Browse a wonderful selection of his works at the glorious David Rumsey Map Collection.

    * Walter Benjamin

    ###

    As we find our place, we might send delightfully drawn birthday greetings to Ben Shahn; he was born on this date in 1898.  A photographer and artist, known for his social realism, he earned acclaim in a variety of fields:  Edward Steichen selected Shahn’s work, including his October 1935 photograph The family of a Resettlement Administration client in the doorway of their home, Boone County, Arkansas, for MoMA’s world-touring The Family of Man which was seen by 9 million visitors; he was selected as a painter to join Willem de Kooning in representing the United States at the 1954 Venice Biennale; and his commercial illustration (like his well-known 1965 portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr. on the cover of Time) earned him membership in the Art Director’s Club Hall of Fame.  His published writings, including The Biography of Painting and The Shape of Content, have ben enormously influential in the art world.

    220px-Ben_Shahn_artist source

     

     
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