The most electrifying dance I ever saw was a 1999 performance of "Cool Hand Luke" - a piece Bob Fosse originally created in 1968 for Gwen Verdon to perform on the Bob Hope Special. (Got all that?) I had forever given up any hope of seeing the piece again until thanks to the miracle of You Tube - I found not just one but two clips - each only viewed by about 300 people! The first is from an un-named and un-located rehearsal, and in spite of the mildly shaky camera work I like the rawness of this rendition. The second, I think, is from the actual Bob Hope Special.
Bob Fosse died young (age 60), and while his choreography and trademark turned-in, articulated-limb style created a bridge between modern dance and Broadway, the more time passes the more it looks like high art. Fosse became a choreographer when premature baldness ended his career as an actor and dancer, and apparently his trademark use of hats as props came from his self-consciousness about his own appearance. He had an interesting life, remaining married to Gwen Verdon long after they separated and through his relationships with Ann Reinking and Jessica Lange.
As a film-maker he was also no slouch. His 1979 "All That Jazz" won four Academy Awards and was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director. Fosse's last film "Star 80", a 1983 biopic of Dorothy Stratton got mixed critical reaction at the time (although Richard Schickel of Time and Rex Reed gave it rave reviews) but has since acquired a strong cult following.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
I'm always surprised that the greatest hits of photography still make it into every auction sale and continue to fetch record prices. One would think there would be a law of diminishing returns. But at least this mentality offers the more adventurous collector a great opportunity to pick up bargains. However, the nice thing about the auction catalogs that come to me regularly (from both the well-known auction houses and places I've never heard of) is the inexhaustible supply of fresh images. The photographs below come from the Bassenge Auction to be held in Berlin on December 5.
This image is by Ulrike Rosenbach - one of Joseph Beuys' star pupils in the late sixties. Titled "Art is a Criminal Action" it was made in 1972 and consists of Rosenbach's image copied on to Warhol's "Double Elvis". An early appropriation work with Dada and feminist subtexts, it packs quite a punch. (Estimate - $5760)
This image by Alex Stocker was taken at the 1927 premiere of Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" at the Ufa Pavilion in Berlin. The film was the most expensive film made at the time and the picture exudes a sense of the excitement and drama of opening night. While "Metropolis" is acknowledged today as one of the great masterpieces of cinema, it turned out to be a critical and financial flop, driving it's film company to financial ruin. (Estimate - $1,700)
Lastly is this 1956 portrait of the young Steve McQueen by Roy Schatt. Schatt studied painting with N.C. Wyeth, before moving to Greenwich Village, becoming an actor and then a photographer. Seeking the unguarded, emotional moment Schatt defined himself as a "method" photographer - and his connection to the changes sweeping through theater and film were confirmed when Lee Strasberg named Schatt the official photographer of the Actor's Studio. (Estimate - $1,400)
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
The picture above is not a Kara Walker. It's a Katharine Wolkoff commissioned portrait and if you look closely around the neck you might be able to see that it's actually a color photograph. Katharine devised the complex lighting set-up for these silhouette portraits a few years ago and many have since been acquired by museums and collectors. She does her own printing - a rarity these days - and the finished prints are stunning especially when printed at their largest size of 30 x 40 inches.
A 2002 Yale MFA graduate, Katharine refuses to be pigeonholed and her two latest projects were a look at post-Katrina New Orleans in the context of the Southern landscape, and a special issue of 2wice Magazine where she photographed the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in the grounds of the historic Vizcaya estate in Miami.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Two pictures of the Louvre. The first appeared in the New York Times this summer illustrating an article about how the Sarkozy government is considering making all museum entries free. The photographer, who I have not previously heard of, is Ed Alcock. The second is from Thomas Struth's famous museum series. I like them both in different ways - the Struth because it is so deliberately and thoughtfully conceived, and the Alcock because it is unwittingly artful.
With MoMA admission now infamously at $20, the free admission idea seems timely and is already working in England where there has been a 50 percent rise in attendance recorded since the measure was introduced in 2001. An intelligent alternative is the Metropolitan Museum's where there is a "suggested donation" of $20, but you can pay nothing if you wish.
Friday, November 23, 2007
One of things I love most about You Tube are the dazzling variety of versions, tributes, iterations, etc. of any given subject. You start at a given point and then move laterally or haphazardly around, mining for gold.
This summer I came across the song - "Hey Boy" by Teddybears STHLM - a Swedish rock/electronic band. (Never heard of them? Neither had I, but according to their Wikipedia entry Iggy Pop and Neneh Cherry guested on their last album.) Anyway, from there it was just a hop to CutieMish whose tribute clip as well as having an accidental similarity to Laurel Nakadate has now been seen over a quarter of million times (compared to Teddybears' 78,000 views) and made her the kind of You Tube minor celebrity Andy Warhol would have loved. Apologies for the four letter words that open her clip but enjoy the shooting, editing, and energy.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
I've been a huge fan of Idris Khan's ever since seeing his work at Miami Basel a couple of years ago. This 29 year old British photographer creates multi-layered images by repeatatively photographing and superimposing like images - usually appropriated from art and books - so that he ends up with a single photograph of things like every page of the score of Beethoven's sonatas or every William Turner postcard from Tate Britain.
It's conceptual and somewhat insidery but Khan's pictures are powerful, original, striking, and usually quite large. Strangely he does not seem to have made a huge impression in the States yet in spite of shows at Fraenkel in San Francisco and a recent three week show at Yvon Lambert in New York that came and went without notice.
Here are four images - his Turner piece - "Every ... William Turner postcard from Tate Britain", "Every ... Nicholas Nixon's Brown Sisters", "Every... Bernd and Hilla Becher Spherical Type Gasholders", and "Every ... Page of the Holy Koran".
Monday, November 19, 2007
Not every much photographed beauty becomes a muse. In fact we seem to be somewhat short of muses at the moment, at least compared to the 30s and 40s and subjects like Lee Miller, Charis Weston, Lisa Fonnsagrives, and Eleanor Callahan, not to mention the movie stars photographed by Hurrell, Bull, etc.. But if I were to identify the muses of our time they would have to be Jessie Mann and Kate Moss.
Jessie, as most people know, came to fame as one of Sally Mann's extraordinarily striking family. Jessie has written about how hard it was to be so much and so controversially in the public eye, but re-emerged a few years ago to begin a collaboration with Len Prince in which she is both the subject and co-author of the images. A show of their recent work just opened at the Fay Gold Gallery in Atlanta. Here is a picture that's so new it's not even in the show, but combines the best of three worlds - Jessie's art direction, Prince's photographic skill, and the updated classical/pictorial tradition begun by mama Sally.
Kate (who I'll try to refrain from writing about too often) has a presence that seems to inspire most every photographer she works with to great heights. There is something inherently non-commercial in her look so that pictures of her appear more like personal work than advertising or editorial, and she's never vain. Anyway, here are a 1996 Irving Penn shot and a 1994 Paolo Roverso polaroid both coming up for sale tomorrow at Phillips in London. The Penn is estimated at $30,000 - $40,000 and the Roversi at $3,000 - $5,000 - which would certainly qualify as my steal of the week.