August 31, 2014 § Leave a comment
Animation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Tree of Life by artist Daryl Alexsy.
Many in the “Martin House community” are well aware that the famed “Tree of Life” art glass design bears a popular name, one not given by Frank Lloyd Wright or Darwin D. Martin. The term first appears in print around 1968, coinciding with a major exhibition and sale of art glass from the Martin House complex through the Richard Feigen gallery, New York (1968-70). The Feigen gallery bought a number of pieces of Martin House art glass (including one or more “Tree of Life” windows) from John Crosby Freeman, then Curator of the nascent Maltwood Art Gallery at the University of British Columbia, Victoria, BC. Freeman had the enviable task of assembling an “Arts and Crafts” collection for the Maltwood, and had obtained 21 pieces of Martin House art glass from a dealer who most likely acquired them from Darwin R. Martin.
As to the burning question of the origin of the “Tree of Life” term (alternately written “tree-of-life”), Freeman has stated that he thinks the Feigen gallery may have come up with the name as a marketing device – a way to boost sales of the Martin glass by applying an evocative, romantic name. We may never know exactly when the term was first applied, or by whom, but one thing is clear: it stuck. The “Tree of Life” window soon became one of the most iconic of Wright’s Prairie house art glass designs, and this “brand” has been sought by major collections of decorative and fine arts world-wide.
August 29, 2014 § 4 Comments
From 1923 to 1956 Tangier was an International Zone, governed separately from the rest of Morocco by a loose collection of foreign governments. Known as the ‘Interzone’, the promise of cosmopolitan freedom attracted Western artists and writers in the 50s and 60s.
One of the most prolific – yet little-known – Tangier figure was the American poet, photographer, and artist Ira Cohen (1935 – 2011), who lived there during the 60s. Cohen published a literary magazine titled Gnaoua, meaning exorcism. It contained early writings from the including William Burroughs and Brion Gysin. Jimi Hendrix and other artists were portrayed in his “Mylar Images” and he created many record covers. Shamanistic and tantric experiences were technically and conceptually integrated into his photographic work and his work as a poet, musician and filmmaker began at the latest in the 70’s. A work by Ira Cohen was recently presented at Art Basel 38 / Kunst+Film by John Armleder. In 1970 Cohen moved to Kathmandu where he lived for ten years and built up an artist’s colony.
The pictures shot by chance, in spontaneity and irony, refer not only to Dadaism and its nonconformism but also to the anti-authoritarianism and social criticism of the Beat Generation, which also broke many taboos and developed new experimental ways of life. Cohen’s work reflects these influences in a most impressive way.
A sense of cosmic pranksterism pervaded his work; a line in one of his poems pronounces that “subtraction is only a special form of addition”. He was the author of the underground hit volume The Hashish Cookbook, a collection of hash recipes written under the pseudonym of Panama Rose (a twist on Panama Red, a then popular type of marijuana), which was published, inevitably, in 1967 by his own Gnaoua Press. His ‘Gnaoua magazine’, started in Tangiers three years previously, ran to only one edition; significantly, a copy of it is visible in the cover image of Bob Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home LP. Named after the Moroccan black African sect known for ecstatic dancing and possession trances, it was devoted to Beat poetry and showcased the work of Brion Gysin, William S Burroughs, and Harold Norse. “It had great Burroughs stuff, as well as Ian Sommerville talking about the dream machine, which he and Brion Gysin co-invented,” the writer Barry Miles recalled. In Morocco Cohen also produced an LP of Moroccan trance music.
Ira Cohen made phantasmagorical films that became cult classics and published works by authors like William Burroughs and the poet Gregory Corso. He wrote thousands of poems himself. He called himself “the conscience of Planet Earth.” But his most amazing work of art was inarguably Mr. Cohen himself.
August 16, 2014 Comments Off
This Website is a companion to the book, Cultures of the Erotic. Spain 1898-1939 (Maite Zubiaurre, Vanderbilt University Press, 2011), in the same way in which the book is a companion to the Website. They enhance each other when they work together.
The main purpose of the book/website is to unearth the wealth of popular erotic materials that animated the urban life of Spain during the first half of the Twentieth Century, and which was later forcefully repressed and thus “forgotten” during the Franco era. By erotic materials I mean a multifarious collection of cultural artifacts, from the erotic novelette, the philosophical essay, the sexological treatise, and the nudist manifesto, to the erotic postcard, the risqué illustration in erotic magazines, and the first manifestation of pornographic cinema.
August 14, 2014 Comments Off
Stéphane Mallarmé is renowned as being one of the most influential poets in the French Symbolist movement. Born in 1842, his creative and critical work inspired many of the radical artistic movements in the 20th Century, including Futurism, Dadaism and Surrealism.
Notoriously misunderstood, obsessively ‘difficult’, accused of obscurity, pretence and genius: still, Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) was arguably the greatest, and most innovative, of the French Symbolist poets. His story is not as passionate as that of Verlaine and Rimbaud’s scandalous love affair. Neither were his habits as decadent as Baudelaire’s penchant for opium, women and the senses. No; Mallarmé lived in financial and matrimonial modesty, writing as a means to escape and to nourish himself.
With the 19th century being a time of great excitement, and a paradigm shift in French poetry, it is no wonder that ever since his adolescent years Mallarmé had envisaged a life as a poet. Baudelaire had just published his revolutionary Flowers of Evil (1857), free-verse was cracking the shell of traditional versification, and some of the greatest voices of French literature – Hugo, Flaubert, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Valéry, Zola, Balzac – were publishing one masterpiece after another. Mallarmé had married out of some higher sense of responsibility, and he disdained- yet maintained- his job as a provincial teacher. He wanted desperately to take part in this explosive creation.