Friday, March 27, 2009

Into the Mystic

[Stephen Shore's photograph of a billboard in Oregon.]

The New York Times' Ken Johnson has a review today of a new show I'm dying to see at MoMA: Into the Sunset: Photography's Image of the American West. He notes that
The time during which white European civilization expanded into and eventually occupied North America coincides with the invention and development of photography. This is not just incidental. The idea of the West would be informed by machine-made images. That the medium itself can be used both for empirical documentation and visionary expression nicely mirrors the exhibition’s subject: the American West is real, but it is also a set of fantasies.
Johnson observes essentially that early photographs in the exhibition portray the hope and openness of the West, but that after World War II, things turn darker as those initial themes become "cliché for the tourism and real estate industries." The contemporary work in the show seems to reflect that with sometimes ironic cynicism. In conclusion he asks
Why does the exhibition project such a dim vision? Is it impossible for serious contemporary photography to see something better? Is failure and disappointment the real, unavoidable story? Or is it another myth, a paradoxically reassuring narrative to which many high-minded people now unthinkingly accede? If so, what would be the alternative?
[To which I answer: Have you not followed this very blog, sir?! For I am living it, somewhere between success and the skid road!]

And also that of course it's another myth, and worse, a predictable narrative for an exhibition such as this one to portray, if that is in fact what it does. But without having seen the show, I don't want to speculate too much – I'll have to re-visit after making the reverse journey to New York before Into the Sunset closes on June 8th.

Click here to read the New York Times review and see a slideshow of images from Into the Sunset, and click here to learn more about the exhibition at MoMA's brand new website.

Elsewhere in photography, James Danziger has been covering the Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD) show at his blog The Year In Pictures – always worth a look.

Daughter of Migrant Tennessee Coal Miner,
Sacramento, California
, 1936, by Dorothea Lange

Your Weekly Mr. Littlejeans

Jeans and his mama, chilling in the living room.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

International Zone Coaster

Some highlights from a collection of coasters my dad acquired when he was in the air force, stationed in Pakistan and across Europe in the '60s…

My dad in Peshawar, 1963:

The sandals he's wearing were made out of old airplane tires.

Could not be more unrelated:
Leaders of the New School The International Zone Coaster mp3

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fashion Fatigue

Paris Fashion Week was a marathon this year, with 60-odd shows over eight days. Word has it that even some of the editors ran out of energy and skipped town early. Wading belatedly through my picks from the week, I could sympathize – and I followed the action from my desk or couch, not upright in a pair of YSL Tributes or Louboutins.

What it takes. Photo of French Vogue staff via Jak & Jil.

The Paris collections are always exciting to me because they often unveil a fresh idea or new silhouette that changes everything and inspires a new turn in the direction of fashion as a whole. I didn't really see that this season (and maybe given the times and designers' need to justify their bottom lines – no pun intended – that was asking far too much). Still, although from that perspective some designers who have consistently hit home runs in the past (Nicolas Ghesquiere at Balenciaga and Alber Elbaz at Lanvin, to name two big ones) had offerings that disappointed me to a greater or lesser degree, there was plenty to love. Here's a sampling of looks that I thought had that je ne sais quoi (click to enlarge):

Wunderkind, Isabel Marant, Veronique Branquinho, Lacroix,
Collette Dinnigan

Vanessa Bruno, Sophia Kokosalaki, Haider Ackermann, Hussein Chalayan

Miu Miu, Limi Feu, Louis Vuitton, Kenzo


... And finally, for those who haven't seen it already, here are a few of Cathy Horyn's favorite things. Her taste sometimes runs a little toward the matronly for my liking, but she knows her history, has a singular point of view, and always has interesting things to say about fashion. If you weren't following her highly addictive blog during the shows this season, be sure to check it out regularly come September, when everything new will be old again.

People are strange.

The New York Times
ran a piece last week on Millard Kaufman, an accomplished writer who died recently at the age of 92. Among many other things, Kaufman was a newspaper reporter, a decorated Marine, a screenwriter with credits such as the dark western Bad Day at Black Rock, a co-creator of the Mr. Magoo cartoons, and late in life, a novelist published by McSweeney's.

Here's the opening sequence for Mr. Magoo, designed by none other than legendary Los Angeles designer Alvin Lustig:

Click here to read more about the interesting life of Millard Kaufman.

More Mr. Magoo here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A History Of Lovers

Today sees the first-ever American issue of Serge Gainsbourg's best record, the classic Histoire de Melody Nelson – a must-have if it's not in your collection already. Light in the Attic has really gone the distance to make this one the definitive re-release, with a 40-page CD booklet, full lyrics, an extended 1971 interview with Gainsbourg, and, of course, re-mastered sound from the original tapes. Vinyl is limited to 2000 copies and I'm sure it will go quickly.

I was lucky enough to stumble upon the original several years ago, but one should never pass up an opportunity to celebrate Serge and Jane, so last Friday night Emily and I popped Slogan into the DVD player and subsequently had our minds blown. Birkin and Gainsbourg met and fell in love during the filming of the movie in 1969, and their chemistry onscreen is irrepressible. The styling and color are things of great beauty; the music is, to borrow a word from James Lipton, sublime. Have a look:

The soundtrack is now firmly implanted at the top of my want list, and a smartly re-issued DVD is available immediately from Cinema Retro.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I have nothing to say and I'm saying it


[Books from Spine & Crown on Pine Street @ Bellevue Ave, Seattle]