Saturday, February 27, 2010

Black History Portraits

Pearl Bailey

Archie Savage

Thelma Carpenter

Billie Holiday

Inez Dickerson

Ladybird Cleveland

Carmen De Levallade

Diahann Carroll

Eartha Kitt

Alvin Ailey

I recently had the good fortune of encountering these stunning portraits by Carl Van Vechten, on the blog, Nothing is New. I was absolutely captivated when I first saw them, and I wanted to share them for Black History Month. Be sure to visit Nothing is New for regular servings of unique, historic images. Thanks Kelly!

via Beinecke Rare Book Library

Friday, February 26, 2010

Whitney Biennial

I attended the opening of the Whitney Biennial the other night. Though less riotous than in previous years—that goes for both the work and the guests, it is still quite a party for the eyes, and reliable in providing a sizable amount of visual stimulation.

Above is a rendering of Soft Opening, an installation of lanterns by Jeffrey Inaba that was a commission by the Whitney for the Lower Gallery. Below, are detail.

Under normal circumstances, a stray stocking (I think it was a thigh-high, actually) in the middle of the floor of a museum would be considered odd, strange, unappetizing. Since this was the Biennial, however, there was a chance that this was a work of art, or a prop in a conceptual piece where our interactions with it were being filmed by a hidden camera. I ran into some people I knew in that room, so we got to see the thing migrate around the floor and the reactions of folks once they noticed it.

The gigantic image of whorling smoke, below, traverses the entire wall. It is not a photograph. It’s a tapestry by California artist Pae White, and it’s dazzling.

Installation by sculptor, Hannah Greely, of a dive bar, complete with ripped vinyl booths and gold-veined mirrors. I loved the fake pay phone (fauxn?) with the ancient yellow pages and the peeling fake wood.

Above, Aurel Schmidt’s Master of the Universe: FlexMaster 3000. Below are paintings by Maureen Gallace. They are intimate, yet anonymous landscapes of modest structures that are pared-down to the point of abstraction. I’ve always admired her work, so I was delighted to see it in the Biennial.

The Whitney Biennial ends May 30, 2010 and the website has examples of all the participating artists.
There is an accompanying exhibit of artworks from previous Whitney Biennials, back to the 1930s, that is on view until November 2010.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Frozen in Flight

These photos of ice skaters are all from the Life magazine archive. Interesting, how shots of skaters in mid-air are rare these days. That camera work is left to TV, while still photography seems to be more about capturing an emotional moment.

I'm completely absorbed in the Olympic figure skating this year. Women's long program is Thursday night!

Barbara Ann Scott, 1947

Fashion shoot at the Rockefeller Center rink, 1940

Dick Button, 1948

Carol Lynne, 1945

Husband & wife skating team Narena Greer & Richard Norris, 1949

Carol Heiss, 1955

Dorothy Hamill, c. 1975

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dynamic Duotones

Rosemary’s baby, 1968

A while back, when my research of the Funny Girl logo landed me in the world of vintage movie posters, I was struck by the prevalent use of duotone in posters of the late 1960s and early 1970s. I don’t quite know what the reason was for the trend--there were four-color posters as far back as Birth of a Nation. And it wasn’t just for low-budget movies with lines like “Leaves nothing to the imagination” (Negatives) and ”She uses men like pep-up pills” (Stolen Hours). The poster for Bergman’s Persona was duotone, as was the one for Rosemary’s Baby.
I’m thinking it had something to do with the transition from illustration to photography, as the artwork of preference, but I’d be very interested to find out the real reason, from some one out there in-the-know.

Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, 1971

The Rain People, 1969

Persona, 1966

The Wild Bunch, 1969

Bullitt, 1968

Hombre, 1967; Harry Figg, 1968

Rabbit Run, 1970

Klute, 1971

A Walk with Love and Death, 1969; Because of the Cats, 1973

Stolen Hours, 1963; Negatives, 1968

Funny Girl, 1968; The Loves of Isadora, 1969

The Love Doctors, 1969

Darling, 1965

Monday, February 22, 2010

Found Collages

This lot of vintage labels was for sale on eBay a while back. Frankly, I don’t think Schwitters himself could have improved on the seller’s arrangement, as posted.

It's minimal, but sometimes all it takes to make a brilliant collage, is a perfectly placed price sticker. This 'Queen Victoria' piece is "spot on," in my opinion.

We see random artworks in the subway, all the time. What I found noteworthy here, was that MTA so thoughtfully curated and installed these mixed-media collages as an exhibit. A very well-considered use of the space.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Magazine Covers for Black History Month: The Crisis

If you haven’t been following the magazines posted for Black History Month on Robert Newman Design, you should definitely check out the collection of iconic African American covers. Everything from Fortune Covers by Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden, to Playboy’s first black cover model. It’s a great series co-produced by Linda Rubes of Fortune.

The Crisis was founded in 1910 as the magazine of the NAACP. Bob Newman posted this cover by Harlem Renaissance artist Aaron Douglas. I’d like to share a few more of their wonderful, early illustrated covers.

The Crisis is the official magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and was founded by W. E. B. Du Bois in 1910. The original title of the journal was The Crisis: A Record Of The Darker Races …The title derives from the poem "The Present Crisis" by James Russell Lowell.

Predominantly a current-affairs journal, The Crisis also included poems, reviews, and essays on culture and history. Throughout the Du Bois years The Crisis published the work of many young African American writers associated with the Harlem Renaissance. (From Wikipedia)

I would like to say that the above three covers are by Aaron Douglas, but I have only been able to verify that the bottom two are by him.

In October, 1911, Du Bois wrote that "every argument for Negro suffrage is an argument for women's suffrage." Throughout its history, The Crisis ran a great many issues with women on the cover (check out the online archive here. The March/April 2007 issue, below, features Women’s History Month interviews and a female combatant on the cover.

Images via The Crisis archive and Beinecke Library, Yale
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