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Art History

Bad Retail: A Romantic Fiction (excerpt)

[…] these quilted snatches are viewed as past moments – of clarity, beauty, civilization, and spiritual elation – that must somehow be retained and restitched in a sense, spliced onto the present, […] as if they were alive, as if they were types of intelligent, deathless energy, and this so as to allow the past, with a nourishing insistence, to feed the present.

(Oppenheimer 1998: 84, ‘Goethe and modernism’) Read more →

Where Dalí Meets Disney

In 1945, after a chance encounter with Disney at a cocktail party in Hollywood, Salvador Dalí was invited to collaborate on a short animated film entitled Destino. The project was eventually terminated in its preparatory phase, but a whole array of conceptual paintings (executed by Dalí himself) remained in the Disney archive, and, in 2003, the Walt Disney Company hired a team of French animators to complete the film based on the surviving sketches.  This was the version that toured in a number of highly publicised exhibitions, including the retrospective ‘Dalí and Film’ staged at the Tate in 2007, among other international venues. Read more →

The Sentimental-Sublime

In the autumn of 1927, Salvador Dalí wrote to his friend Frederico Lorca denouncing the much-admired contemporary Spanish poet, Juan Jiménez. The latter, according to Dalí, is a ‘putrid marasmus’ who ‘has never ever seen anything, only receives mangy emotions from things’ (qtd. Ades, 1994: 139).  Dalí was especially outraged by Jiménez’s famous story Platero y Yo (1914), an account of the poet’s beloved companion Platero, a donkey, and their bland sojourns through pastoral scenes.  As Dawn Ades has speculated, Dalí’s violent dislike of this gentle, sentimental story may have contributed to the appearance of the rotting donkey as a visual image in such paintings as Honey Is Sweeter than Blood and as a verbal parody in written communication between Dalí and Lorca. In one such letter dated early December 1927, Dalí signs himself… ‘your ROTTING DONKEY’ and adds, ‘may…Platero…die’ (qtd. Ades, 1994: 139).

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The Head of Barbie Antoinette

Cover of American Vogue, September 2006

The American artist Karen Kilimnik, who depicts bourgeois fantasies of aristocratic ‘decadence,’ has been hailed as ‘frothy, fun and the antithesis of everything great art should be’ (Neal, 2007: 100).  Her portraits of movie-stars and celebrities posed as fairy tale characters and ancien-regime aristocrats include an image of the global heiress Paris Hilton in the guise of Marie Antoinette – ‘the teen queen who rocked versailles’ according to American Vogue (Vogue ed., 2006), though history knows her as a monstrous figure of decadence (a profligate spendthrift at a time of national bankruptcy) or a tragic scapegoat for the failures of the pre-revolution monarchy.  Clichés both malevolent and tragic fade from Kilimnik’s and Sophia Coppola’s respective interpretations in which extravagance appears as a form of creative rebellion—‘the party that started the revolution’ as the poster-art for Coppola’s film exclaimed! The latter unfolds like an epic-scaled pop-video (the life of an 18th century ‘It Girl’); with not a severed head in sight and little allusion to the hardships of the peasant class. Whatever we might say about these historical blind-spots (Coppola’s Antoinette, though, appeared prior to the global economic crisis), there is no denying their negation of dramatic interest, suggesting that unchecked frivolity is as fatal to art’s powers of absorption as it is to its ethics.  A similar candy-coated torpor infects Kilimnik’s practice which Donald Kuspit described as ‘hand-me down populism, a populism that has become so routine, even art-slumming populists find it boring’ (Kuspit, 2008: 8-9). Read more →

Lotte Gertz

Gertz’s latest series of paintings and prints were made in a studio that occupied the same space as her general living-area and are full of the sense of immediacy that results from an artist’s direct response to ‘close-at-hand’ materials and objects.

Gertz’s sources include those items she ‘stumbles-upon’ again and again in the intimate chaos that surrounds her as she works: a space where ‘living’ encroaches upon ‘making’, where  discarded playthings (a stuffed panda-toy or a wooden Pinocchio-figure) might be found side-by-side with DIY tools, painting and printmaking materials, half-eaten slices of fruit or cheese, still-to-be-drunk cups of tea, and photographs of famous artworks from books and magazines. Read more →