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Modern ancient handiwork at YBCA

Michael's handiwork (and hand)

My old friend Michael Ram­age has a hand in this instal­la­tion in the Yer­ba Bue­na Cen­ter for Art's Sculp­ture Gar­den. He's design­ing and build­ing a pair of domes, made from lay­ers of bricks and mor­tar and styled on ancient tech­niques. The artist behind it is Jew­lia Eisen­berg & Charm­ing Host­ess, and the vision is that the domes will be an out­door venue for music, con­tem­pla­tion, and mind-expand­ing activ­i­ties through­out the sum­mer. I vis­it­ed on Tues­day, and I was struck by the ways that each dome's ocu­lus (fan­cy word for the open, cir­cu­lar win­dow at the top of the dome) framed the sur­round­ing sky and build­ings. That per­spec­tive actu­al­ly kind of made the gener­ic build­ings at 3rd and Howard appear to be some­what cool. Didn't think that would be possible.

inside art the ancient past visual

Paul Rand's business card

Paul Rand business card
Can't imag­ine that it could get much bet­ter than this. Via amass­blog.

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Dream team

Saul Steinberg - Robert Frank - The Americans - Les Americains - first edition

Saul Stein­berg's cov­er for the first edi­tion The Amer­i­cans by Robert Frank. Pub­lish­er Robert Delpire: "The only point of dis­agree­ment was the cov­er. I insist­ed right away on using a draw­ing by Saul Stein­berg, whom I had met and whose work I liked. Frank said, 'It's a book of pho­tos, we could use a pho­to.' I told him, 'You can use a pho­to for the Amer­i­can edi­tion, but let me use a Stein­berg draw­ing.' But when I reprint­ed the book in 1986, I used a pho­to­graph because I had dis­cov­ered, basi­cal­ly, that he was right."

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Robert Frank, The Americans, and grant-writing

Pho­tog­ra­ph­er Robert Frank is known for a few things, pri­mar­i­ly The Amer­i­cans, a ground-break­ing book of pho­tog­ra­phy pub­lished in the late 50's. He is also known for avant-garde film-mak­ing, e.g., Pull My Daisy, and his nev­er-released Rolling Stones doc­u­men­tary with an unprint­able name.We checked out SFMOMA's 50th anniver­sary ret­ro­spec­tive of The Amer­i­cans today, and I was aston­ished at anoth­er of Frank's skills: Grant-writ­ing. In order to fund the gath­er­ing of the pho­tos that became The Amer­i­cans, he applied for a Guggen­heim Fel­low­ship. I've past­ed his clear, sim­ple, two-part essay below. 

Part 1: Frank's brief summary of the proposal

To pho­to­graph freely through­out the Unit­ed States, using the minia­ture cam­era exclu­sive­ly. The mak­ing of a broad, volu­mi­nous pic­ture record of things Amer­i­can, past and present. This project is essen­tial­ly the visu­al study of a civ­i­liza­tion and will include cap­tion notes; but it is only part­ly doc­u­men­tary in nature: one of its aims is more artis­tic than the word doc­u­men­tary implies.

Part 2: The full statement of intent

I am apply­ing for a Fel­low­ship with a very sim­ple inten­tion: I wish to con­tin­ue, devel­op and widen the kind of work I already do, and have been doing for some ten years, and apply it to the Amer­i­can nation in gen­er­al. I am sub­mit­ting work that will be seen to be doc­u­men­ta­tion — most broad­ly speak­ing. Work of this kind is, I believe, to be found car­ry­ing its own visu­al impact with­out much work expla­na­tion. The project I have in mind is one that will shape itself as it pro­ceeds, and is essen­tial­ly elas­tic. The mate­r­i­al is there: the prac­tice will be in the photographer's hand, the vision in his mind. One says this with some embar­rass­ment but one can­not do less than claim vision if one is to ask for con­sid­er­a­tion. "The pho­tograph­ing of Amer­i­ca" is a large order — read at all lit­er­al­ly, the phrase would be an absur­di­ty. What I have in mind, then, is obser­va­tion and record of what one nat­u­ral­ized Amer­i­can finds to see in the Unit­ed States that sig­ni­fies the kind of civ­i­liza­tion born here and spread­ing else­where. Inci­den­tal­ly, it is fair to assume that when an obser­vant Amer­i­can trav­els abroad his eye will see fresh­ly; and that the reverse may be true when a Euro­pean eye looks at the Unit­ed States. I speak of the things that are there, any­where and every­where — eas­i­ly found, not eas­i­ly select­ed and inter­pret­ed. A small cat­a­log comes to the mind's eye: a town at night, a park­ing lot, a super­mar­ket, a high­way, the man who owns three cars and the man who owns none, the farmer and his chil­dren, a new house and a warped clap­board house, the dic­ta­tion of taste, the dream of grandeur, adver­tis­ing, neon lights, the faces of the lead­ers and the faces of the fol­low­ers, gas tanks and postof­fices and back­yards. The uses of my project would be soci­o­log­i­cal, his­tor­i­cal and aes­thet­ic. My total pro­duc­tion will be volu­mi­nous, as is usu­al­ly the case when the pho­tog­ra­ph­er works with minia­ture film. I intend to clas­si­fy and anno­tate my work on the spot, as I pro­ceed. Ulti­mate­ly the file I shall make should be deposit­ed in a col­lec­tion such as the one in the Library of Con­gress. A more imme­di­ate use I have in mind is both book and mag­a­zine publication.

Frank was award­ed a fel­low­ship, which amount­ed to $3,600, and he used this to trav­el in a long loop around the US in 1955–6. That "more imme­di­ate use" that he refers to in the final sen­tence turned into The Amer­i­cans, a stun­ning doc­u­ment that is every bit as inter­est­ing 50 years lat­er. The exhi­bi­tion is cap­tured in an extend­ed ver­sion of The Amer­i­cans, includ­ing con­tact sheets and commentary.

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Seek and ye shall find / Enlightenment helmet

Yes, enlightenment

I could use one of these right about now. Via these genius­es.

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RFK funeral train / A breaking up

Paul Fusco - So-long Bobby

The New York Times recent­ly ran some pho­tos that were tak­en from the train car­ry­ing Bob­by Kennedy's body between Wash­ing­ton to New York. The pho­tos them­selves are amaz­ing doc­u­ments of a nation in mourn­ing, peo­ple from all walks of life lin­ing the tracks, hold­ing signs, salut­ing or just watch­ing, but they're also beau­ti­ful — sat­u­rat­ed and blurred, cre­at­ing the sen­sa­tion that things are mov­ing too fast, that some­thing is irre­sistibly bar­rel­ing on. The pho­tog­ra­ph­er, Paul Fus­co, nar­rates a slideshow on the New York Times site, and it's well worth a view­ing. He's nice­ly describes the expe­ri­ence around the pho­tos, and pro­vides some insight into the mechan­ics (Kodachrome film, of course). He also men­tions that he hadn't planned on tak­ing pic­tures while on the train; he was sim­ply trav­el­ing along with the cof­fin to take pho­tos at the funeral. 

The first thing I saw were hun­dreds of peo­ple on the plat­form … For­tu­nate­ly, I just react­ed. My instinct was: There's some­thing going on, pho­to­graph it … [The train] was a mov­ing plat­form. I couldn't change my view. I couldn't change my per­spec­tive. I had to just … grab it, when I could.

Paul Fusco - Family salutes"Every­one was there. Amer­i­ca came out to mourn." Pho­tos: Paul Fusco/Magnum Photos

Fus­co has a show that's cur­rent­ly at Danziger Project in New York, and a book com­ing out in the fall, too. Looks nice.

inside art lit visual web

Books / Pelican covers

things mag­a­zine has amassed an incred­i­ble index of Pel­i­can book cov­ers from the 1930s through the 80s. The one above is from 1968. Check it.

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Luxe life / Animal drawings at the Fairmont

Last Fri­day night was just anoth­er night in the pent­house of the Fair­mont Hotel for Mara and I. We relaxed in seal-skin robes, shuf­fled around in baby polar bear ear fur slip­pers, snort­ed the finest pow­dered snow leop­ard pan­creas, fed Kobe beef to the pigeons who deliv­ered the New York Times piece­meal in tiny scrolls tied to their feet, and gen­er­al­ly killed time. (While enjoy­ing the Coop­er hol­i­day par­ty). When we emerged from a bliss­ful rever­ie, we noticed that the walls were cov­ered with an unusu­al world map.

Flickr photoIt was paint­ed in 1927, by a guy named Robert Board­man Howard. A lit­tle pok­ing around on the Inter­net reveals that his work is scat­tered across North­ern Cal­i­for­nia — sketch­es at the Merced post office, a design for the phoenix on Coit Tow­er, a relief in front of the Liv­er­more post office.

Flickr photoThe Smith­son­ian did an inter­view with him in 1964, where he talks about anoth­er good Nor­Cal project. "Then there was a small the­atre up at Guerneville that I dec­o­rat­ed. They gave me a free hand. I paint­ed all the natives of Guerneville, their por­traits, includ­ing the vil­lage dog. That was quite inter­est­ing. Good expe­ri­ence." Amen, brother.

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Philly / A few minutes at Space 1026

Flickr photo

I was in Philadel­phia last Thurs­day evening, and I dis­cov­ered that I was stay­ing near Space 1026, a studio/gallery near down­town. Some artists from 1026 had some cool work in a show at Yer­ba Bue­na a while ago, I walked over and spent a few min­utes walk­ing around as the res­i­dents were set­ting up for the place's 10th anniver­sary party. 

It's got a pret­ty great vibe; part punk club, part work­shop, part hobo vil­lage. Sit­u­at­ed above some retail space near the bus sta­tion, there's a nice open space in the front, but the major­i­ty is sec­tioned off into sev­en or eight (or more) most­ly small stu­dios dense­ly packed with art sup­plies, knick-knacks, bikes, and oth­er crap. I didn't get to see much, but I took some pic­tures of the var­i­ous hall­ways and spaces so check em out.

inside art san francisco visual

Clare Rojas at Gallery Paule Anglim

Lots of intrigu­ing stuff at Clare Rojas's open­ing at Gallery Paule Anglim tonight. Wood­land crea­tures, naked dudes in tai chi pos­es, an excel­lent video of Peg­gy Hon­ey­well play­ing a slow sad song at a rag­ing frat par­ty filled with beer bongs and keg stands, Amaze, Bar­ry McGee, and much, much more. Worth it.

Clare Rojas - It's hard out there for a penguinI call this one "It's Hard Out Here For a Penguin."
Clare Rojas - UntitleableI think this one is unti­tled, but it should be called "Unti­tleable."

Gallery Paule Anglim is at 14 Geary in down­town San Francisco.