April 2010

malcolm mclaren 22 january 1946 – 8 april 2010

– photo Olivier Zahm

on the hill there stands a gate
where some come early and some come late
the young ones rush to reach the crown
they meet the old ones coming down

their mouths are open
their eyes are wide
they tell no tales of the other side

because none of them ever will
speak of the gate upon the hill

(malcolm mclaren, after processing through the streets of london in a horse drawn hearse, was buried at highgate cemetery april 22)

CAPITAL CAPITAL CAPITAL
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pique-assiettes

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pipes & padlocks

National Scandal
porte-parole
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taps in frame, St. James

detraque
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stage door, St. James

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sleeping cubicle, St. James

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St. James

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theatricality

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by Lord: Giacometti’s prostitutes, Surrealist police and the provenance of Christian Bérard, house of Dior (with some admirable photos of Bettina Rheims I’ve perverted)

– photo by Bettina Rheims

Alberto’s first mature sexual experience established a pattern. Prostitutes became the simplest solution to a problem that had no solution. It was not necessary to justify this expedience. Physical deliverance did that. But the time would come when he felt constrained to explain repeatedly in public and private why whores made the most satisfactory mistresses. It was courageous of him to do that, because, while the reasons he gave were serious and sincere, none of them hinted at the true reason. But perhaps he was in no danger of being obliged to understand. His work fulfilled the function of understanding.

– James Lord, Giacometti: A Biography, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1985, p. 48

– photo by Bettina Rheims

While the function of appropriation to the clichés and platitudes of psychotherapeutizing biographical exploitation is reserved by Laurie Wilson, according to this link, in abject contrast to the profound and elegant work on his subject, an undertaking of some fifteen years, done by James Lord.

NB: What can any of us wish but that the work fulfill the function of understanding.

Lord notes in passing that of the Surrealist triumvirate, Paul Eluard, André Breton and Louis Aragon, the latter two were the sons of policemen. [Ibid., p. 113]

The worlds of art and fashion being both intermingled and interdependent, success in one often goes hand in hand with success in the other.

– Ibid., p. 124

– photo by Bettina Rheims

A creative self-server of exceptional talent, Cocteau was known as the most captivating conversationalist of his time, and he certainly had a prodigious way with words. It may have been his undoing, however, as he became so fascinated by his capacity for fascinating others that he sacrificed much talent to the blandishments of great fame. The paintings of Christian Bérard were neither original nor important, but they were supremely stylish and found appreciative buyers. Bérard also had a distinguished career as a designer for the theatre and, after the Second World War, contributed considerably to the brilliant success of the couturier Christian Dior.

– Ibid.

– photo by Bettina Rheims

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theatricality

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Raymond Mason on Balthus, excerpts – penetrated by beauty & ‘fantastic class’

I was on intimate terms with several important families, and for some time was penetrated by the beauty, still more the grace, of a society which ten years later had ceased to exist. …

Whiskey … was firmly established at the drink indispensable to conversation, and everyone smoke Gauloises, having never heard it said how harmful, even deadly, those little marvels were. In fact, while art brought us together and politics at times divided us, the atmosphere was largely dominated by laughter, and of this company of brilliant and witty men – and women, of course – the most amusing was without contest Balthus. …

– Raymond Mason, At Work in Paris: on Art and Artists, Thames and Hudson, New York, 2003, p. 75

Balthus represented the great attempt at permanence in a neurotic avant-garde climate committed to perpetual change. In the years that followed, when painters would alter the rules a thousand times in order to succeed more quickly, Balthus would take up the challenge of equalling the great painters of the past. To find a new solution to the problem, you have to keep the problem intact.

– Ibid., pp. 76-77

In the note: The closest contemporary to Balthus is Francis Bacon (born in 1909). I see them as the duality of the classical and the romantic encountered elsewhere within a single generation.

– Ibid., p. 76

I recognised in Balthus the second pillar, with Giacometti, on which a new art of the figure and of the figurative world could be built.

– Ibid., p. 78

Balthus’s painting immediately struck me as the epitome of breadth, with, from one edge of the canvas to the other, form rolling about form, cheeks well-rounded, eyes wide-set, the gesture monumental and ample. With, transcending that space, the artifice of composition, that sublime intellectual activity which I consider to be the ne plus ultra of art.

This plenitude, which was the first thing to captivate me in his work, and which captivates me to this day, is that of the theatrum mundi. The stage in his work is large.

– Ibid., p. 78

Without him, I think, sentiment would have died. Because the ‘what’ has the edge over the ‘how,’ people think him somehow not modern. The manner today must be perfect, and in many artists’ work it is. But the temptation of the great and the complex, even if this means failing, would be far more salutary in an age which oversimplifies everything.

– Ibid., p. 79

Picasso, a great one for pacing the stage, admired Balthus (and vice versa, let us note). They were two sides of the same coin, he said. There is his customary genius in that remark. They do curiously have the same histrionic gift. Two men of the theatre – dramatic, poetic, no matter. The theatre presupposes an audience, it is intended for others.

We are that audience.

– Ibid., p. 80

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luz es tiempo
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theatricality
theatrum philosophicum
Trans-European Express

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candour & make-believe: James Lord in company with Balthus, Giacometti, Beckett

Creation goes hand in hand with revelation, and the fullest measure of the former comes from a candid profusion of the latter, while common sense advises that the creator’s life is paltry stuff compared with the great existence expected of his his work. Having created it, moreover, the very best thing he can do by it is to die.

Balthus was not his real name. But reality, to be sure, never very bearable to any of us, was a matter of exceptionally minor moment to him. All artists inevitably lead their lives in a continuum of imagination and make-believe. They see the world through eyes conditioned by their commitment to reveal a highly personal and unique vision of it. Balthus has been an extreme example of this disposition in an era little prepared to understand or encourage it.

– James Lord, Some Remarkable Men: Further Memoirs, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1996, p. 146

I had written and published in the press a long, moralizing letter to Picasso, denouncing his failure as a committed member of the Communist Party to condemn the brutal Soviet oppression during the Hungarian uprising. When I next visited the studio after publication of the letter, Alberto glared at me in pursed silence by way of greeting. When I said hello, he didn’t answer. Plainly, much was amiss. Aware I would not be spared knowledge of what this was, I kept silent. After a moment, which seemed itself as long as a crime, Alberto said, “You did wrong.”

“I suppose you mean the letter to Picasso,” I said.

“To write it was possible. To publish it should have been impossible.”

“Why?” I asked. “Is Picasso above criticism? You yourself are constantly saying how much you disapprove of him personally and dislike his art.”

“That may be so,” Alberto acknowledged. “I have a right to opinions. But I have no right to pass judgement in public, given the fact that I myself am a menace to public welfare. Like you. And like Picasso. You see, Plato was right about artists, and I don’t want to argue the point. You did wrong. Whether Picasso is right is irrelevant. Do you take issue with the logic of irrelevance?”

– Ibid., p. 227

Beckett on Giacometti: “He was not obsessed but possessed.” … “I suggested that it might be more fruitful to concentrate on the problem itself rather than struggle constantly to achieve a solution. That is, by accepting the impossibility of what he was struggling to achieve and by developing the inner nature and exploiting the natural resources of that very impossibility, he might achieve a result of greater complexity and richness than by continuing over and over to struggle to do what he knew to be impossible: the creation of an illusion as real as reality. But Giacometti was determined to continue with his struggle,trying to progress even it it was only by so much as an inch, or a centimeter, or a millimeter.”

James Lord: “But in the absolute, … a progress of a millimeter is infinite.”

Beckett: “If possible.”

Lord: “It has often been suggested … that there are parallels between your work and Giacometti’s, that both illuminate the solitude, alienation, and despair which characterize the world today.”

Beckett: “I’ve never felt that painting or sculpture can express the same things as literature. I don’t see any parallel between the two arts. Often I felt that Giacometti’s artistic effort was very like a child’s game of trying to catch with one hand a finger of the other, which is determined not to be caught.”

– In ibid., p. 289

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cocoa room sink

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