Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Poster Art: Moon

Poster Wednesday time again and for this one I've opted for a new release, albeit one with its flag planted firmly in mid-20th century art and design. This poster for Duncan Jones' Moon has been all over the tube network in London recently and it can do seriously odd things to your eyes. Those concentric circles trigger that great throbbing Op Art effect, like a Bridget Riley masterpiece or Paul Newman's buzzing face on this Cool Hand Luke classic. 
     In fact it's a real return to - or rather update of - those vintage Hollywood posters, when all you needed was a person, a title and a clever geometric design. Sure, those circles represent the moon itself, but they also evoke the disorienting experience endured by Sam Rockwell across the course of the film and the echoing emptiness of his surroundings. It's design motif as message. I love it. 
     If anyone knows anything of the artist or has a favourite vintage film poster in a similar style that they'd like to share, it'd be good to hear your comments...

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Alex Kanevsky: Alla Prima

Alex Kanevsky, Anunciation, 2007

This guy came up via a great little art book called Alla Prima. It's a new American title from Watson Guptill that details the finer points of painting wet-on-wet, but also delves into the history of the medium, tracing its usage from El Greco and Velazquez, via Edward Hopper and right up to contemporary talents like Alex Kanevsky.
     The finish of this painting reminds me of Adrian Ghenie's earlier work, thanks to those vast fields of colour and the glitchy vertical splashes, but much of Kanevsky's other work tackles distorted nudes in a similarly inventive way. He uses plenty of clinical, bleached-out passages of bluish whites, yet the contrast with the darker foreground here really draws your eye back in - it's those contrasts again, like modern film noir shadows. Check out his full portfolio here.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Poster Art: The Taking Of The Pelham 123

I need to get this one out of the way sharp-ish, before they sully the memory of one of the 1970s greatest movies with the pitiful-looking Tony Scott remake that is due out in the UK next week. This poster does a sweet job of summing up the dynamics of the original, with the orderly geometry of the subway map disrupted by the great sweeping graphic of the train.
     Really though, it's the film that is the inspiration for several of the Art Of The City posts, from the subject matter (rattling trains, city streets and commuters) to the overall aesthetic (strip lights, shadows, all those vintage beiges and browns). And with such sharp dialogue, it's saying something that I'd even watch the film with the sound off...

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Julius Shulman: Respect Is Due

Respect is due to the photographer Julius Shulman who died on Wednesday, aged 98. A photographer best known for capturing the golden age of Californian modernist architecture, he spent the post-war years shooting public and private projects by the likes of Mies Van Der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright. They may have designed the homes but it was Shulman that brought them to life, letting shadows dance across their interiors or capturing them in the context of a glittering city skyline.
     Amazingly, Shulman continued to work until very recently, bequeathing more than 250,000 prints to the Getty Research Institute in 2005 and giving an interview to Metropolis magazine two years ago for the publication of his three-volume Taschen retrospective. I'd known some of his best known images for years but only put a name to them with the Birth Of The Cool exhibition and catalogue. Anyway, as a mini Hip Walk tribute, here are three of my Shulman favourites:

Chuey House, Los Angeles, California, 1958

Case Study House #20, Altadena, California, 1958

Case Study House #22, Los Angeles, 1960

Friday, 17 July 2009

Andre Kertesz: Reading Rituals

Andre Kertesz's On Reading opened at London's Photographer's Gallery today and amazingly this is the first time that the Hungarian photographer's collection of bookish snapshots have been exhibited in the UK. 
     It's a clever little collection, full of unwitting members of the public caught in private moments; sprawled out on balconies with a novel, inspecting the bargain bins of Fourth Avenue book stalls or ignoring passersby like the man in Pont Des Arts, 1963, pictured left. 
     The exhibition - like Elliott Erwitt's Handbook - underlines why a cute concept and a sense of humour are a million times more important than staged gimmicks or superior finishes. However, revisiting the collection more than 90 years after Kertesz began taking the first images included here also lends the display a nostalgic edge, and one which got me thinking later on.
     Subconsciously, I had left the book-themed exhibition and headed to Borders, around the corner from the gallery on Oxford Street. The flagship store was closing down, with all stock being sold off at a 50% discount. While this is no doubt due in part to the effects of online retailers and supermarkets undercutting them through bulk purchasing, I can't help feeling that it also could be as a result of people increasingly turning to digital means for their information fix. And wouldn't On Reading have been a far less interesting collection if all it showed was people huddled over laptops, iPhones and other assorted gadgets? 
     Now of course, I am an avid blogger, but I also love cracking the spine of a fresh paperback or grabbing the paper on my bleary-eyed sprint to work each morning. Maybe it's the relaxing ritual of it all, like making a cup of tea? Or maybe it's because you can never truly get lost in a story when you are reading it on a machine that is hooked up to millions of other people? Who knows. If you only one other thing on this rain-sodden evening, make sure it's grabbing yourself a good book - for Kertesz, if not for me. 

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Poster Art: The Beatles

Buzzed by posting the large reproduction of North By Northwest last month, I want to start hipwalking classic and stylish modern posters every week. For the first of this series, I've turned to Richard Hamilton's Beatles photo collage that accompanied the original copies of the Scousers' "White Album".
     Now, I'm no Beatles nut but their 1968 double album not only contained their best songs (Dear Prudence, Helter Skelter, Happiness Is A Warm Gun) but also one of the finest pieces of music-related Pop Art ever made. Hamilton suggested the poster as a means of contrasting with the austere, individually-numbered conceptualism of the album's cover. "I began to feel a bit guilty at putting their double album under plain wrappers," he recalls in Barry Miles' The Beatles Diary. "I suggested it could be jazzed up with a large edition print, an insert that would be even more glamorous than a normal sleeve."
     A huge fan of the then 46-year old artist, Paul McCartney spent the best part of a week driving to Hamilton's house in North London to assist with the collage. Contemporary photographs by John Kelly and Linda Eastman were neatly arranged alongside childhood snaps, before Hamilton pasted in white paper to give the composition room to "breathe" and tie it in with the off-white album sleeve. McCartney was taken aback at the simplicity of the gesture: "It was beautiful and I remember being very impressed with the way he put this negative space on - it was the first time that I'd ever seen that idea."

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

*Complejo: Mysterious Hipster

He's a fan of Diane Arbus and David Lynch, he lives in Barcelona and he goes by the name of *Complejo. Other than that, I can't tell you anything much more about this hipster's work, but everybody needs a little mystery in their lives once in a while, no?

Adorote, 2006

City And Colour VI, 2009

Wait, 2009

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Ian Giles: After Cravan

Last year, Chelsea graduate Ian Giles recreated the death of the Dadaist artist Arthur Cravan - alone, at sea, off the coast of Mexico in 1918. As Giles notes:
"It’s an imaginary finale because Cravan’s death is mysterious, never confirmed by a witness standing on the shore, not documented photographically, only mentioned fleetingly in texts."
Giles recreated it for the benefit of a video installation, off the coast of South Wales. On a day when I've had some sad family news, I've got really mixed reactions to this defiant, rather poetic act of self sabotage, but it is an undeniably striking image nonetheless.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Olaf Heine: Lonely Men

Barfly, Cuba, 2006

Bret Easton Ellis, Chelsea Hotel, New York, 2005

This Is The Day Life Leaves Me Again, Los Angeles, 2008