Friday, May 1, 2009

A Saturday in May

The Kentucky Derby is tomorrow, and for the first time in recent memory we won't be watching the race at our friend Susan's place in Brooklyn. Susan's hospitality is second to none, and we're especially sorry to be so far away on this Derby Day, when Susan and her husband Steve will also be celebrating their wedding with a reception at Belmont Park (Congratulations!).

Strath at Belmont, 2008

I grew up riding horses and when I was little I read just about every book about horse racing that I could get my hands on, but I've never followed the sport as an adult – except when the Triple Crown races roll around every year. Despite the fact that horse racing too often seems to serve up tragedy and beauty in equal measure, there's something about the tradition, the pomp and circumstance, and the hope against hope that this year will be the year that produces a new Triple Crown champion that is undeniably all somehow seems to me like Spring incarnate.

Strath has previously recommended John Jeremiah Sullivan's Blood Horses, part memoir of Sullivan's father, a sportswriter, and part history of horses and thoroughbred racing. I won't add to that except to agree that if you're looking for a great read this May, look no further – and to share a passage from the book that I always think of this time of year. In it, Sullivan describes watching footage of Secretariat winning the final leg of the Triple Crown at Belmont in 1973, decimating the previous world record time for the distance by 2 3/5 seconds and finishing 31 lengths ahead of the second place finisher, Twice a Prince:
There is a passage on the tape that I noticed only after watching it dozens of times. It occurs near the end of the race. The cameraman has zoomed up pretty close on Secretariat, leaving the lens just wide enough to capture the horse and a few feet of track. Then, about half a furlong before the wire (it is hard to tell), the camera inexplicably stops tracking the race and holds still. Secretariat rockets out of the frame, leaving the screen blank, or rather filled with empty track. I timed this emptiness – the space between Secretariat exiting and Twice a Prince entering the image – with my watch. It lasts seven seconds. And somehow each of these seconds says more about what made Secretariat great than any shot of him in motion could. In the history of profound absences – the gaps in Sappho's fragments, Christ's tomb, the black panels of Rothko's chapel – this is among the most beautiful.

Secretariat, the Belmont Stakes, 1973

So, tomorrow we'll be raising a mint julep or two (recipe below) to our two- and four-legged friends here and elsewhere, to Spring, and to the hope that this year is the year. Cheers.

Hey, how's it goin'

Me, You and Steve from Erika Lindhome on Vimeo.

[via SLOG]

All The News That's Fit To Link

Recently, as a cost-cutting measure, Emily and I have been considering scaling back our daily subscription to The New York Times to Sundays only. I'm not sure if it's because of that dim prospect or because the paper has just been extra good lately, but this week I have taken an extraordinary amount of enjoyment from reading the Times every morning. Today's was particularly genius. Here are some highlights:

Claudy Jongstra (Photo: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

A review and a slideshow on Fashioning Felt, the new fabric design exhibition at the Cooper-Hewitt. It looks great, I hope to see it next time we're there. Coco Howard should be in this show.

Kenneth Paul Block

At Parsons there was a professor I particularly hated by the name of Hively. He was an asshole to everyone and he was full of shit, but he was right about one thing: I remember him saying that when you get a little older you read the obituaries with great interest. Today was a blockbuster in that department, with remembrances of renowned fashion illustrator Kenneth Paul Block and Manhattan Doll Surgeon Irving D. Chais.

A review of Pathways to Unknown Worlds: Sun Ra, El Saturn & Chicago’s Afro-Futurist Underground, 1954-68 at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia. Another good reason to be in Philly right now.

Kate Gilmore (American, b. 1975).
Still from Blood from a Stone, 2009.

Ken Johnson reviews a new show at the Brooklyn Museum of Art that looks (maybe a little suprisingly) good: Reflections on the Electric Mirror: New Feminist Video.

There's a good article about shucking oysters at Hood Canal, with a slideshow. That's an hour and a half from my house, so suck it, everyone in New York.

The Nam June Paik archives go to the Smithsonian: "Clunky black-and-white television sets and 1960s record players; early video projectors and decades-old Polaroid cameras – things that were long ago relegated to the electronic graveyard – are precious and priceless in the world created by the artist Nam June Paik (1932-2006)."

There's a review of the new film about Miss Indigo Blue's Academy of Burlesque in Seattle, A Wink and a Smile . It's a little lukewarm, but hey, as WWWWD quotes, "Don't pay attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches."
[–Andy Warhol]

From David Brooks' op-ed: "Ben Franklin would take essays from The Spectator magazine and translate them into verse. Then he’d translate his verse back into prose and examine, sentence by sentence, where his essay was inferior to The Spectator’s original." Interesting.

And finally, a bunch of stuff about the Kentucky Derby.

Kentucky Derby favorite I Want Revenge, left
(John Sommers II/Reuters)

I don't think we're canceling that subscription quite yet.

Your Weekly Mr. Littlejeans

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Everything's Gone Green

Magazines, magazines, and more magazines. Point Dironie is a large-format publication produced by Agnes B. that we picked up at the Henry the other weekend. Issue no.47 features these photographs by the Korean-born, Paris-based artist Koo Jeong-A.

Each issue of Point Dironie features the work of one artist (Martin Parr, Gilbert & George, Lawrence Weiner, Harmony Korine, Louise Bourgeois, Matthew Barney, Tacita Dean, Ed Ruscha, Yoko Ono, Richard Prince, Damien Hirst, Robert Crumb, Jonas Mekas, many more), beautifully printed on loose-leaf paper.

Printed pieces can feel like a great luxury, even when they are given away free. More info here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Father of Us All

Paul Cezanne, Self-Portratit (1879-82)

Any basic survey of modern art starts with Paul Cezanne (1839-1906), the post-impressionist whose distinctive approach to traditional subject matter helped define what is aesthetically "modern," and whose focus on geometric shapes and planes of color is widely accepted as paving the way for cubism – a deconstruction of form which in turn significantly shaped the development of 20th century art. If we were still in New York, I would be jumping a train for the City of Brotherly Love to catch the Philadelphia Museum of Art's well-received show, Cezanne and Beyond, before it closes at the end of May.

Paul Cezanne, Mont Sainte-Victoire (1904-06)

The show e
xplores its namesake's legacy by highlighting the influence Cezanne has had on individual artists of all stripes, from Picasso to Jasper Johns to Ellsworth Kelly to Jeff Wall, displaying Cezanne's work alongside the generations who succeeded him. If that sounds overly didactic, it is nonetheless pretty awe-inducing to consider the thought of one person's sensibility having inspired so many other artists who are titans in their own rights. Matisse, who owned one of Cezanne's "bather" paintings for over 30 years, reportedly said upon finally donating the work to the Petit Palais in Paris, "It has sustained me morally in the critical moments of my venture as an artist." If I said that hearing that didn't bring a tear to my eye, I'd be lying. Now that's a hero.

Paul Cezanne, The Bather (1885)

Cezanne and Beyond runs through May 31 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sticks & Circles

Just a quick endorsement of the most recent new incarnation of Interview magazine, art directed by M/M (Paris). You kind of have to see a few issues before you can decide what you think, and now that I've seen a few, I think the new design is really good [somewhat irritating youngsters on both covers notwithstanding].

The typography feels very formal and there's a strong grid throughout, but the handwritten titles break things up and give the feature openers a more carefree feel.

There are also interesting uses of the grid. People who don't design magazines might take this stuff for granted or think it's not a big deal, but to me a spread like this (above) is really refreshing.

The photography and styling throughout Interview are right up there with that of any top fashion magazine.

It's a little smutty too – as it should be, being a magazine that attempts to embody the spirit of lower Manhattan.

I like this ongoing feature, wherein they ask notable people to send in their cell phone photos from around the world.

Left: I like how they do the table of contents. This is not an easy thing to do well. Right: The back page of each issue features a clip from a back issue (here, Matt Dillon at 15). Interview's website also has an extensive archive.

There are great one-pagers throughout as well.

I've featured Interview many times on the blog, which is maybe a little strange, but it was largely responsible for forming my ideas about what a magazine should be when I was a kid. I am still obsessed with magazines – I still get excited to open the mailbox – and I'm glad that Interview is still a great way to stay up on new music, movies, art, etc., all for only $12 a year.

In other magazine news:

Did you know that Google Books has every back issue of New York magazine archived online?

Not to mention Popular Mechanics. And Jet.

Monday, April 27, 2009

More than meets the eye

The website on Rem Koolhaas' Prada Transformer in Seoul is worth checking out – using a crane, the building can be lifted and have its configuration changed to suit different purposes (fashion show, art exhibition, cinema, etc.) It's kind of trendy or whatever but it's still an interesting new way to think about what a building can do for people.

Live Rust

[for no reason in particular... just was looking at this photo the other day of me with my mom and my dad, october 1972. apparently rust-colored shirts were all the rage.]