Thursday, November 26, 2020

Robert Boyd's Book Report: Alright, Alright, Alright: The Oral History of Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused

 Robert Boyd


Today I look at Alright, Alright, Alright: The Oral History of Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused by Melissa Maerz. I've written about Linklater before on this blog.

Thanksgiving with William Burroughs

 Robert Boyd

Happy Thanksgiving. It's a bummer that we can't get together with our families this year. Here's a little William Burroughs to keep you company.


And here is the Burroughs recording that inspired the name of this blog.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Revisiting Old Favorites at the Museum of Fine Arts

 Robert Boyd

I went to the Kinder building at the Museum of Fine Arts here in Houston last Saturday--the first day it was open to the general public. For many viewers, what was exciting was that they pulled so much art out of storage. Some were things that had never been on permanent display before (and some piece may never have been displayed before). For me, that meant that a few old favorites that I had not seen in a long time finally got pulled out of the garden shed to be seen again. 

Claes Oldenburg, Giant Soft Fan -- Ghost Version, 1967, canvas, wood, polyurethane foam

 This sculpture by Claes Oldenburg used to be in the front lobby of the Caroline Wiess Law Building (the curved part that faces Bissonnet , designed by Mies van der Rohe). I saw it many times when I was was in high school and college. Ironically, it seemed like part of the furniture there. Always waiting for me to walk in and see it. But sometime in the past 25 years, the museum moved it into storage.


Claes Oldenburg, Giant Soft Fan -- Ghost Version, 1967, canvas, wood, polyurethane foam

 Aside from being an amusing and ironic piece of art, it reminds me of when I was a baby art-lover. The entryway to the Mies building is a spectacular space and seeing this classic piece of pop art made me feel at home. I know it's meant to be an oscillating fan, but the base always reminded me of a antique phone receiver. Because the blades of the fan are drooping, that conical shape is kind of the dominate shape. 


 
Claes Oldenburg, Giant Soft Fan -- Ghost Version, 1967, canvas, wood, polyurethane foam

 I know Oldenburg was creating what to him seemed like ordinary household items, but many decades later, it feels like Oldenburg is depicting antiques. Who uses an oscillating fan anymore now in the age of air conditioning? And I am starting to feel like an antique, too. Perhaps that is why I was so moved to see this piece again.

Another piece that used to be displayed in the Caroline Wiess Law Building that was pulled out of storage is this huge Louise Nevelson wall. In the new Kinder building, they have it displayed in a hallway where it is impossible to back up far enough to fit it into a photo on my phone. That isn't really a criticism of how they are displaying it--just a comment on how big it is!

 

Louise Nevelson, Mirror Image 1, 1969, painted wood

I've always liked how Nevelson stacked up wooden boxes in a way that announced, "This is art." The materials seem so humble--literally wood scraps. According to the information card, she reused wooden boxes that had once been pedestals. A little band saw, a few nails, some black paint and you have an art! Even as a young guy I was impressed.


Louise Nevelson, Mirror Image 1, 1969, painted wood

My photos lighten the color of the piece. It is much more black than it appears in these images. 

 


Louise Nevelson, Mirror Image 1, 1969, painted wood

Looking at this piece after so many years reminds me of Nevelsons I have seen since. There is a huge public Louise Nevelson a few blocks away from my apartment (cast in metal). I am also reminded of a short story by comics artist Megan Kelso called "Queen of the Black Black" from 1997. When she did her first book collection, she titled it Queen of the Black Black. It was an entirely fictional story about Louise Nevelson as an older woman lording it over her servants whose job it is to clean her dusty sculptures and otherwise assist her--and listen to her stories about how she was a young, beautiful, promiscuous New York artist. In an afterward, Kelso admits "it is not in any way biographical." However, it works as a story, and keeping Nevelson's sculptures dust-free must be an on-going nightmare for museums.

Megan Kelso, Queen of the Black Black cover, 2011

This issue of keeping Nevelson's sculptures clean is the subject of Kelso's cover to her collection.


Dawolu Jabari Anderson, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Tar, 2009, Latex, acrylic, and ink on paper
 
This one was hard to photograph because it was under glass. I've only seen it displayed in the MFAH once, and it was in a show of black art. But what they do in the Kindle building is to literally integrate the "black art" with the rest of the collection. It is no longer relegated to token status. 

Dawolu Jabari Anderson, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Tar, 2009, Latex, acrylic, and ink on paper
 
This image is from the MFAH's website. It's not a great photo, but at least you don't get the glare of the glass.

Dawolu Jabari Anderson is, as far as I know, living in Houston, and I've seen his work several times over the years. But I haven't seen anything from him in the last few years. Has he moved away? Stopped making art? I don't know. I would love to see what he is working on. I love these pastiches of old comic book covers combined with African-American folk characters. He was a part of the collective Otabenga Jones & Company (which was in a Whitney Biennial a few years ago), and like a bunch of African American artists about his age from Houston, he's obsessed with comic books. But where is he now?

 The next few images are not artworks that have been in storage for decades, like the Nevelson and the Oldernberg. They were, until a few weeks ago, over in the Beck Building with other 20th century artworks--many of which have moved to the Kinder Building now.

Lyonel Feininger, Self-Portrait, 1915, oil on canvas

Feininger was apparently living in Berlin when he painted this bilious, cubist self-portrait. The wall card describes him as being an "enemy alien" at the outbreak of World War I, but I think that is an error. Feininger was born in the U.S.A., and the U.S.A. didn't enter the war until April 1917, long after this painting was done. But it does raise the question--what did Feininger do between April 1917 and November 1918, during which time he really was an enemy alien? I don't know, but as soon as the war was over, he became one of the first teachers hired by the Bauhaus.

I became a fan of Feininger because of his short-lived comic strip, The Kin-der-kids, which was exceptionally well-written and beautifully drawn. Feininger had been working as a cartoonist in Germany and France since 1894, and his studies of avant garde art leaked into his cartooning. The Kin-der-kids was the first cubist comic strip. It was collected into a book, The Comic Strip Art of Lyonel Feininger: The Kin-Der-Kids and Wee Willie Winkie's World,  by the defunct Kitchen Sink Press, and apparently reprinted by Fatagraphics. But what hasn't been collected (in English, at least) are his German and French cartoons. I would buy that book, if some publisher wanted to publish it.


 Elie Nadelman, Tango, c. 1918-24, cherrywood and gesso

I don't really know much about Elie Nadelman. This sculpture was always kept in a gallery of 20th century American art in the Beck building, but now it lives in the Kinder building. It looks like a piece of folk art, but it's not. Nadelman had studied art in Europe and knew avant garde artists there, but moved to the U.S. and became interested in folk art. His own work melds his training and his interest in folk art.

 Elie Nadelman, Tango, c. 1918-24, cherrywood and gesso

This sculpture has long charmed me. The thing about an educated artist like Nadelman imitating a folk style is that he can never be truly naive. But so what? It works and is lovely--what else do we need?


Monday, November 23, 2020

Robert Boyd's Book Report: I, René Tardi, Prisoner of War in Stalag IIB: After the War

 Robert Boyd

Today's report is on I, Rene Tardi, Prisoner of War at Stalag IIB Vol. 3: After the War, the third volume of Jacques Tardi's biography of his father as a soldier and prisoner in World War II. I've reviewed volume 1 and volume 2 earlier on this blog. Here is everything I've written about Jacques Tardi on this blog.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Robert Boyd's Book Report: The Super-Fun-Pak Comix Reader

 Robert Boyd


Today I look at The Super-Fun-Pak Comix Reader by Ruben Bolling. This is a collection of occasional strips that run in his weekly comic strip called Tom the Dancing Bug, which can be read online in various places. One thing I didn't mention in the video is that I read ever single page of this book on the can. It turns out that an anthology of clever but light-hearted short comics is a prefect counterpart to shitting. Who knew?

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Robert Boyd's Book Report: Grip

 Robert Boyd

Today's book report is about Grip by Lale Westvind. I found out about this book from the podcast Comic Books Are Burning in Hell, where they ranked the then unfinished work as one of the 10 best comics of 2020.

(Addendum: Someone told me that Lale's name is pronounced La-Ley and that Westvind uses they/them pronouns. So given this, I mispronounce their name throughout and misgender them--for which I apologize. What can I say? It's hard to find information about Westvind online.)

(Addendum 2: Westvind responded below and writes "I do not use they, them pronouns... And my name is pronounced Lah-leh.")

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Robert Boyd's Book Report: Pinko Joe

 Robert Boyd


This video is about Pinko Joe, by Christopher Sperandio. Sperandio has made guest appearances on this blog on several occasions. He is a professor at Rice University and frequently partners with English artist Simon Grennan on projects--including a remarkable series of comics. (I wish I could link to a place where one can buy these comics, but I don't find any such place on the internet--Chris and Simon, you need to correct this!) They have an excellent blog about their partnership, but I wish it included a shop. I reviewed Simon's solo graphic novel Dispossession a while back and I'm glad to be able to do the same for Sperandio.

(Also, please note that in the video, I fault Sperandio for not giving credit to the original artists whose work he appropriated. However, he did--on page 92 of Pinko Joe. he lists the issues of old comics he used as raw material and, where possible, credited the artists. For the record, the artists were Fred Guardineer, Ralph Mayo, Alex Schomburg, Louis Zansky, Leonard Starr, Murphy Anderson and Jim McLaughlin. And work from three comics where he could not identify the artists.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Robert Boyd's Book Report: Haiku

Robert Boyd

Today's book report is about Haiku, written by Diane di Prima and illustrated by George Herms. Haiku was published by X Artists' Books, which has it's own interesting story.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Robert Boyd's Book Report: Yves the Provocateur

 Robert Boyd


 

This week I read Yves the Provocateur: Yves Klein and Twentieth-Century Art by Thomas McEvilley. McEvilley was a professor of mine when I was an undergraduate at Rice University, and I've written about him before. I wrote this post when after he died, and it is good introduction to his writing (if I say so myself). I have mentioned him in several other posts.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Robert Boyd's Book Report: The American Mainstream

 Robert Boyd


Matt Seneca is one of the hosts of the podcast, Comic Books Are Burning in Hell and has written for The Comics Journal. Unfortunately, The American Mainstream appears to be sold out, but perhaps Seenca will print some more.I have written in the past about Jack Kirby, but not about Wally Wood or Elex Toth.