Friday, May 28, 2021

Real Estate Art: 3201 University Boulevard

 Robert Boyd

When this house was listed, it created a lot of interest on Facebook. People who live near Rice University have long been curious about this house, which I've always privately referred to as the Death Star.

So now, we have an opportunity to see this monstrosity from the inside. And you can buy it for just $4.3 million. Not surprisingly, there is interesting artwork inside, although I could identify none of them.

The first piece is this enormous stone face. Here are a few more views of it.

The interiors are pretty low color. And most of the art seems subdued and grey, mostly abstract.

There you have it--all the artworks I could see in the photos shown on the listing on None of these seem familiar, although the giant head reminds a little of Jaume Plensa, the Spanish sculptor who has pieces at Rice University and at Buffalo Bayou Park

Do you, dear readers, have any idea who created this artwork.

One last image--the back yard. It looks less Death Star than suburban office park.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Real Estate Art: 47 Grand Regency Circle

 Robert Boyd

47 Grand Regency Circle is a mansion in the Woodlands, a planned community north of Houston. It can be yours for just $6,495,000. The art in the photos is not particular interesting as art, but it is interesting to see what a wealthy oil zillionaire chooses to decorate his house with.

This painting is the most interesting piece of art shown in the photos. It has an regionalist feel, similar to Thomas Hart Benton. With its oil field roughneck subject matter, it reminds one of Texas regionalist artists like Jerry Bywaters and Alexandre Hogue. I can't identify the painter by looking at it, but I do wonder if it is contemporary pastiche of regionalism. Can any of my readers identify it?

One can almost make out the signature on this one, but I can't read it.

I'm assuming that the photo in the center is of the couple who owns this house. It feels a little self-absorbed, but if I were a late 18th/early 19th century English lord, I would love to have a portrait of myself by Gainsborough, Reynolds or Romney. I was intrigued by the Van Gogh self-portrait to the right. It can't be an original--is it a framed poster? A painted duplicate?

Another photo portrait decorates the bathroom.

It's hard to see, but there is a sexy photo of the lady of the house (I assume) that wouldn't be out of place on the walls of a dude's college dorm.

I did like the way this black wall in the breakfast room was designed to be written on. The portrait of the woman's face is interesting.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Robert Boyd's Book Report: Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty

 Robert Boyd

Today I report on Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe. The Sacklers are the family that own Purdue Pharma, the company whose aggressive marketing of their highly addictive narcotic painkiller OxyContin caused the opioid epidemic that swept the U.S.A. over the past three decades. The book details the incredible connection to the arts that the Sacklers have long had and how their family fortune is almost totally based on peddling addictive prescription drugs (Valium, Librium and OxyContin). Photographer Nan Goldin, who was addicted at one point to OxyContin, makes a big appearance in the book.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Karl Wirsum, 1939-2021

 Robert Boyd

When I was a mere lad in college taking art history courses, I took a class called "Art Since the 40s". It was the early 80s and postwar art in the art history classes at the time referred mostly to American and some European art. And even that is broader than what was actually taught--there were all kinds of tendencies, styles, movements, and individual artists who didn't make the cut for some reason. And in my class, taught by the great Picabia scholar William Camfield, their were some movements that merited at most a slide or two before the main currents were rejoined. 

One of these movements was Chicago Imagism, which popped up one day in class with slides of art by Jim Nutt and Karl Wirsum. I sat up and took note. I ended up doing a paper on the Hairy Who, one of the Chicago Imagist sub-groups that included both Nutt and Wirsum. There wasn't much written about them at that time (now there are several excellent monographs and books on the period), so I scoured the Rice art library for mentions and reviews. In retrospect, I see how unambitious I was--all of those artists were still alive in the early 80s. I could have called information in Chicago and gotten their phone numbers. It would have been a much better paper if I had talked to the artists themselves. But I was a 20-year-old whippersnapper and that didn't even occur to me.

Karl Wirsum died on Thursday, May 6. I wanted to show a few great images by Wirsum as a tribute to this wonderful, eccentric artist.

Karl Wirsum, Baseball Girl, 1964

Karl Wirsum, Mighty Maniac (Round One), 1967

Karl Wirsum, page from The Portable Hairy Who, 1966

Karl Wirsum, two pages from The Hairy Who Sideshow, 1967

Karl Wirsum, Screamin Jay Hawkins from Hairy Who (cat-a-log), 1969

Karl Wirsum, Measle Mouse Quarantined from His Fans, 1980

poster for a Wirsum exhibit in 1967

These images are all from books that have been published in the last 10 years. I wish I had access to them when I wrote my paper for Dr. Camfield's class. Just for reference, the books are Hairy Who? 1966/1969, Chicago Imagists, and The Collected Hairy Who Publications 1966-1969

Long live Karl Wirsum!

Friday, May 7, 2021

Shary Flenniken's Trots and Bonnie is Finally Here

 Robert Boyd

Back in the 70s, cartoonist Shary Flenniken drew a raunchy comic strip about two 13-year-old girls for the National Lampoon magazine. (She drew this comic from 1972 to 1991.) These strips are kind of a precursor to the animated TV show Big Mouth. It was definitely groundbreaking work. For some reason, Flenniken never collected these strips into a book until now. In her excellent introduction to this new edition, Emily Flake wrote. "What Flenniken understands and brings gleefully to the page is that adolescent girlhood is positively feral and that teenage girls are both threatened and threats themselves." The book is called Trots and Bonnie and was published by New York Review Comics. 

In 1991, I was an employee of Fantagraphics Books, publisher of The Comics Journal. Fantagraphics was located in Seattle, which is where Flenniken is from. Flenniken was married to Bruce Jay Paskow (a member of the folk revivalist band The Washington Squares) and the pair had moved back to Flenniken's family home in Seattle. That's when I got to know her, and we arranged for me to conduct an interview with her. It was published in The Comics Journal issue 146 which came out in November 1991. I was not a great interviewer, but Shary was a great interview subject.

Much of the discussion of the strip has been about its raunchiness and overt sexuality, but one thing not mentioned often is Flenniken's debt to older American comic strips. In the interview, she tells about cartoonist Dan O’Neill's exercises that he had his disciples (who in addition to Flenniken included Bobby London and Ted Richards) do. He would have them draw strips in the styles of early American comic strips. The idea was for them to lose their ego about having a "style". And all of these artists took this comics art education into their published work, including Flenniken. Trots and Bonnie recalls the drawing style of H.T. Webster (1885-1952), who drew The Timid Soul, The Thrill That Comes Once in a Lifetime, Life's Darkest Moment and other slice-of-life strips. Aside from the brilliance of Trots and Bonnie, I always loved that Flenniken consciously evoked the beautiful history of comics. 

I highly recommend this book.