Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 28 x 44 in. (71.1 x 111.8 cm)
Robert B. sent me this in an email and I thought it was worth sharing.
Avoir l’apprenti dans le soleil [To Have the Apprentice in the Sun], 1914
Rave and Tempo, 2009
Epson K3 archival ink on Epson Velvet Fine Art Paper, archival tape
80″ x 80″, Gordon Schachat Collection
South Africa-born artist Siemon Allen speaks to the communicative power of records:
Records the most current of the collection projects is a massive archive of South African audio material. This ongoing project, currently evolving into a web based audio resource includes the work titled Makeba!, an almost comprehensive collection of the exiled South African singer’s recordings released internationally in the form of vinyl, tapes and CDs, and specifically targeting similar recordings pressed in multiple countries.
Records began when I came across one of Makeba’s early records (1965) in a thrift store in the United States. After reading the text on the cover I was struck by the political nature of its message and became interested in how in the simple act of listening to a piece of music a listener might be made aware of South African political issues. Also of interest to me was the fact that the audio medium was itself instrumental in the distribution of the anti-apartheid message internationally and, perhaps ironically, how the commodity culture of the music industry might become the distributor of a political message and in doing so be an agent of change.
Allen’s currently working on archiving his records collection and making it available on flatinternational:
The South African Audio Archive is a non-profit project developed by flatinternational. This website is dedicated to establishing a visual archive of rare and sometimes unusual South African audio documents as artifacts.
There’s an absolute wealth of information attached to each visually stunning record cover. Absolutely worth a visit.
MEET THE MAHOTELLA QUEENS
KWELA BY GWIGWI’S BAND
The Black Keys
2011 Grammy Award winner for Best Packaging
In Friday’s New York Times, David Browne talks about how size matters in “The Incredible, Inevitable Shrinking Album Cover” subtitled, “As Record Sales Shrink, So Does Album Cover Art”:
Art directors and designers say they’ve never been given blunt directives to be more elementary. Yet they admit the transition to easily grasped images is an inevitable part of the move from 12-inch discs to MP3s. “The album cover has become just a pictographic button, some little thing on a Web site that you can click on to listen to or purchase some music,” said Frank Olinsky, a designer who has worked on covers for Smashing Pumpkins and Sonic Youth. “A thumbnail-size image can’t replace an LP or even a CD cover, but these days I’m not sure that matters to people. It’s what people are used to, and they’re getting more used to it all the time.”
Red Hot Chili Peppers
I’m With You
designed by Damien Hirst
While Browne admits that simple, visually arresting album cover designs are nothing new, he fears we may be losing something bigger:
Yet pared-down album cover art also feels of a piece with another unfortunate digital trend: the inferior sound quality produced by MP3s compared with their analog counterparts. In their respective ways each diminishes some aspect of the listening experience. And to future generations of fans who’ll be accustomed to listening to songs on something other than a home stereo while staring at its accompanying artwork, neither may eventually matter.
Designers point to a few hopeful signs for the survival of elaborate album covers. On the iTunes LP section of Apple’s online iTunes Store, fans can view album artwork in something close to CD-format size. Thanks to the revival of vinyl, many new releases are available in limited-edition LP versions, restoring covers to their former glory. According to Nielsen SoundScan, 3.6 million LPs were sold in the first half of this year. While that figure represents a 37 percent increase from the same period in 2010, it remains a niche market.
It’s worth pointing out, again, that those oft-quoted Nielsen SoundScan numbers do not represent total LP sales. First off, they are restricted to US & Canadian sales and they do not even track LP sales of everyone selling records in the US and Canada. They also do not mention which online stores they do and don’t cover but with single record pressing plants reporting pressing multiples of the yearly SoundScan numbers back before the vinyl revival really took off, we can pretty much be assured that SoundScan’s LP-sales figures are at best a trend indicator*.
“I’ve definitely noticed this shift,” said Donny Phillips, an art director at Warner Brothers Records. “I’ve heard a lot of marketing people and managers say, ‘You have to make it simple because of iTunes.’ People are conscious of this.”
If we couple this bleak outlook for album cover art with the sorry state of metadata (which is what album cover art is from your music management software’s perspective), I’d say that size looks to be the smaller part of our problems.
Steve Jobs at home (a long time ago)
Like it or not, Apple and iTunes are prime-music-market-movers so the market has to move them back to a place that values old-fashioned things like sound quality and art. I hold out hope.
* United Record Pressing of Nashville, Tennessee reported pressing between 20,000 to 40,000 records a day back in 2007
Grove is a very cool company based in Portland, OR that offers plain and laser engraved bamboo cases for the iPhone 4 and iPad. The cooler part is you can upload your art and make a custom case. I think I’ll make one of these – Twittering Machines Audiophile Tree of Life iPhone 4 case. Sweet.
Photographs by Michael O’Brien Poems by Tom Waits
Photographer Michael O’Brien writes:
Taking a photograph’ is a common expression, and indeed, the subject is giving something away to the photographer. But there is reciprocity . . . and in this case, each subject received something tangible – a print that bore testament to a life.
Tom Wait’s writes:
The cars thunder past / As I stick out my thumb / I am just waiting for / My good luck to come
A portrait of the homeless. Published by the University of Texas Press. Hard Ground was inspired by:
The Human Condition
(8 December 1922 – 20 July 2011)
Reflection (Self Portrait), 1981
Reflection with Two Children (Self-Portrait), 1965
Self Portrait: Reflection, 1996
I picked up this floating frame on sale at a local ‘craft’ store for $15. It’s just the look I was after for my limited edition Audiophile Tree of Life Print. There’s still time (and prints) to get your very own and dress it up however you see fit.
The original Destroy All Monsters band, named after the Japanese kaiju-mashup sci-fi film, was Mike Kelley, Cary Loren, Niagara, and Jim Shaw. Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw quit the band and headed to Art School in 1976 and Mike Kelley came out with a degree is attitude and success. I remember seeing his show (1982) containing stuffed animals up to dastardly deeds at Metro Pictures (where Jim Shaw shows as well) and feeling woozy.
Destroy All Monsters Magazine 1976 – 1979 from the very worth-seeking-out-their-other-stuff Primary Information is what it says and it looks deletable.
Destroy All Monsters Magazine was edited by Cary Loren and contained artwork, photographs, and flyers from band mates Mike Kelley, Cary Loren, Niagara, and Jim Shaw. Printed using any papers and techniques available to the band, the issues combine the cut and paste tactics of punk zines with a psychedelic affinity for color. Destroy All Monsters Magazine functions as a kind of manifesto, providing insight into the band through densely layered pages with movie imagery, kitsch, cartoons, delicate drawings, and counter-culture collages. While Destroy All Monsters has been the subject of recent exhibitions and partial reprints, this is the first time that all issues have been reprinted.
From the Sunday New York Times Book Review front page, reviewer Laura Kipnis speaking to The Art Of Cruelty: A Reckoning by Maggie Nelson begins with one of most pointedly satisfying paragraphs I’ve read on the subject,
Well-meaning laments about violence in the media usually leave me wanting to bash someone upside the head with a tire iron. To begin with, the reformist spirit is invariably aimed down the rungs of cultural idioms, at cartoons, slasher films, pornography, rap music and video games, while the carnage and bloodletting in Shakespeare, Goya and the Bible get a pass. Low-culture violence is literal, while high-culture violence is symbolic or allegorical and subject to critical interpretation. Low-culture violence coarsens us, high-culture violence edifies us. And the lower the cultural form, or the ticket price, or — let’s just say it — the presumed education level of the typical viewer, the more depictions of violence are suspected of inducing mindless emulation in their audiences, who will soon re-enact the mayhem like morally challenged monkeys, unlike the viewers of, say, “Titus Andronicus,” about whose moral intelligence society is confident.
“Morally challenged monkeys”…
A thing is a hole in a thing it is not.
In last week’s Economist, the Treasures of Heaven: saints, relics and devotion in medieval Europe Exhibit at the British Museum gets full-page coverage covering objects containing bits and pieces of saints and sons of God surrounded by art, craft and precious metals. “In Byzantine times a simple silver sheath was made to hold a piece of the saint’s arm. In the 14th century when it arrived in Venice, a taller, more elegant reliquary was created for both sheath and bone (though the arm bone was deemed too precious to be put on show in London and has remained at home in St Mark’s in Venice”.
Ralph Lauren Purple Label
White Gold Skull Cufflinks with Diamond Eyes
And in a related story, I spotted these on Selectism where relics aren’t needed in reliquaries to capitalism.
Q. What do you do for a living?
A. I make money.
The Heavenly Ladder / Analysis of the Musical Cryptograms
by Baudoin De Jaer
Belgian composer Baudoin De Jaer has unraveled and deciphered the twisted musical markings of Adolph Wölfli (1864-1930) and he performs 32-songs-worth on violin (Wölfli used to perform them on paper trumpet). I wonder how De Jaer did it – have you ever seen one of the thousands of pages Wölfli created while interned at Waldau hospital in Switzerland?
A challenge to say the least. Comes with a 52 page book which I look forward to reading when I order my very own copy since the story behind this music helps fill out the notes.
I was fortunate to have seen a show of Wölfli’s work at the American Folk Art Museum in 2003 and the multiple floors of wall covering artwork left me completely exhausted.