Thursday, January 31, 2013

Lily Shows Loyalty

Two fairly identical lily plants grow in clay pots in the kitchen at Spencer Alley. They put out three or four blooms every summer but seldom put out any in the winter. I noticed this single surprising prospect last week and was amused and superstitiously pleased that it actually opened today, on my birthday. Equally pleased to have found a way to document it in the narrow, fast-moving beam of light from the setting sun.


In 1935 the artist Balthus (1908-2001) painted the 22-year-old Lelia Caetani. She belonged to the family that owned the small ruined medieval town in central Italy called Ninfa, with its streams and lakes and surrounding meadows. Ninfa had been abandoned as a functioning town for about 500 years, mainly due to local problems with malaria. It was Princess Lelia who conceived and carried through creation of a hybrid water-garden, incorporating partially standing Renaissance structures and fragments. Her American mother and her English grandmother had both married Caetanis and had begun the transformation of the gardens in the informal and romantic style that seemed most congenial to all three generations of ladies. After Lelia Caetani's death in 1977 the Giardino di Ninfa passed into the custodianship of a foundation. The gardens now open to small groups of the public on a few designated days per year.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Consumerism on Acid

Ant and Bee Go Shopping by Angela Banner was published in 1972 by Kaye and Ward. A complete scan of the whole work can be viewed here (or at least it could when I made this report, even though the sudden and unannounced disappearance or alteration of sources from our wondrous internet is more the rule than the exception). After I read the scan, I decided that I preferred the condensed version, with its stimulating leaps of narrative.The display of shapes with wide red borders against yellow appears on the book's back cover (having nothing to do with anything on the inside of the book, so far as I can tell.) But I rejoice that in addition to common shapes like BALL and PYRAMID, the illustrator added BRICK and EGG and  CAN.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Styling The Self

Back in the Seventies, Peter Berlin was the first  gay celebrity sex-icon – a campy yet mysterious visual presence. People referred to him later as a porn star, but the description didn't really fit. Peter Berlin's reputation did not depend on the very few, short and mediocre sex films he made. It was the ongoing series of elaborately contrived self-portraits. He costumed and styled and staged and photographed himself, then sold the results through the mail as individual prints. After that, the pictures found their way into gay magazines and spread the fame.

In 2005 Jim Tushinski made a biographical documentary (poster above).

Below, two Peter Berlin portraits NOT photographed by Peter Berlin.

Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1999) made the reticent, deflated picture immediately below. It doesn't look like a Mapplethorpe. It hardly looks like Peter Berlin. I couldn't actually recall any other Mapplethorpe photograph of equal vulnerability and empathy or any other Peter Berlin photo of equal passivity.

At bottom, a pencil drawing by Tom of Finland (1920-1991). Tom charged Peter $300 to make this drawing. "And that was a lot of money in the Seventies," as Peter Berlin complained in the 2005 film. He thought Tom of Finland should have been paying him.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Radiant Images

Images originate with Flowereye in Instanbul.

Unpredictable mixtures – blue furniture, pink and gold housefronts, glowing mirror in glowing room, glowing tea set, big red carpet, film stills – everything weathered, everything surviving.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Laborious Simplicity

Belgian artist Kris Martin (b. 1972) spent five months in 2005 working daily to produce the book above. Word for word he hand-copied the whole of Dostoevsky's long 19th century novel The Idiot, altering the text in only one respect – every time the name of the main character, Prince Mishkin, appeared on the page, Kris Martin substituted his own name.

His current show at Kestner Gesellschaft in Hannover brings together only about a dozen of Martin's spare sleek enigmatic installations, allowing them to interact with one another from safe distances. "With minimal interference and reduced means he alters found objects to create blank spaces which viewers can fill with their own interpretations." 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Winter Playground

In black and white, without the brightness of Mabel's clothing, the winter quality of the San Francisco daylight is more apparent