Leonor Fini

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I’ve been hoping for years that a proper documentary about the enigmatic Argentinian artist might surface, and here one is at last. Leonor Fini (1987) was directed by Chris Vermorcken, and as a portrait of an artist it’s almost as good as the films the BBC used to produce for the Arena arts strand. I say “almost” because the Arena template tended to blend a biographical sketch with the life of the artist or writer at the present moment. Vermorcken encourages Fini to tell us about her early years in Trieste up to her meeting with the Surrealists in Paris, after which the discussion meanders to her vast company of Persian cats and the various forms of her painting and drawing.

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Unlike most other films about Fini, this one is subtitled throughout so we can enjoy her reading from some of the stories that accompany her drawings, and also find out which films she liked. (Fellini’s Casanova was a favourite.) There’s also an appearance by Konstanty Jelenski, one of the points of the bisexual ménage à trois formed by Jelenski, Fini and Count Stanislas Lepri, all of whom lived together in the cat-infested house. Essential viewing here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Leonor Fini: comment vivre sans chat
Angels of Anarchy: Women Artists and Surrealism
The art of Leonor Fini, 1907–1996
Surrealist women

Weekend links 401

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TIME, June 21st 1968. Cover by Roy Lichtenstein.

• “Forget the democratic processes, the judicial system and the talent for organization that have long been the distinctive marks of the US. Forget, too, the affluence (vast, if still not general enough) and the fundamental respect for law by most Americans. Remember, instead, the Gun. That is how much of the world beyond its borders feels about the US today. All too widely, the country is regarded as a blood-drenched, continent-wide shooting range where toddlers blast off with real rifles, housewives pack pearl-handled revolvers, and political assassins stalk their victims at will.” The TIME magazine feature with the famous Roy Lichtenstein cover (prompted by the assassination of Robert Kennedy) will be fifty years old in June.

• “Where do we feel at home? What do our cities look like? How do we see? In 1908, architect and theorist August Endell set out to answer these deceptively simple questions.” Endell’s The Beauty of the Metropolis is coming from Rixdorf Editions in May.

Beardsley 120: The Death of Pierrot is a series of events in Aubrey Beardsley’s birthplace, Brighton, taking place throughout the month of March.

Like the Bloomsbury Group and the Beats, the Surrealists could be incestuous, choosing lovers from inside the circle and often remaining close to their exes. When [Max] Ernst and [Leonora] Carrington reached Paris, he introduced her to Leonor Fini, his friend and former lover. Tall, dazzling, and bejeweled, Fini cultivated a baroque theatricality; every day with her was a masked ball. Recognizing Carrington as “a revolutionary,” she claimed her as an astrological twin—a feat possible only because Fini lied about her age. “This chronological charade, combined with later cosmetic surgeries, sustained the image of youth and beauty that remained vital to Leonor’s self-image, the sexuality and her sense of her place in the world,” writes Chadwick:

Imperious and mercurial, she was also generous, loving and happy to share her rich intellectual life with the younger woman she considered her double. Like Leonora, she believed that cats possessed highly developed psychic powers, that horses had mythological powers that identified them with the feminine, and that painting was an alchemical process.

Regina Marler reviewing three new books about Leonora Carrington and the women artists of the Surrealist movement

As Serious As Your Life: Black Music and the Free Jazz Revolution, 1957–1977 by Val Wilmer receives a welcome republication next month.

• At Dangerous Minds: Occultism, cinema and architecture: How a ouija board built the Bradbury Building.

• When Books Read You, a Defence of Bibliomancy by Ed Simon.

• Ä Brïëf Hïstöry Öf Mëtäl Umläüts by Mike Rampton.

Joey Zone Illustration – Art from The joey Zone.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Brad Dourif Day.

Alva Noto‘s favourite albums.

Eddie Campbell, Dammit!

• Metropolis (1978) by Edgar Froese | Metropolis (1979) by Motörhead | Under The Gun (Metropolis Mix) (1993) by The Sisters Of Mercy

Weekend links 351

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Herald on Griffin (1516-1518) from The Triumphal Procession of Emperor Maximilian I series by Hans Burgkmair the Elder.

• My design and illustration work for Pirate Utopia by Bruce Sterling continues to gain favourable comments, a novelty when reviewers often pass over the visual component of the books under their consideration. One of the most recent examples is in the latest edition of Locus Magazine; this can only be read in full by subscribers but the Tachyon Tumblr has an extract.

Paul La Farge on the complicated friendship of HP Lovecraft and Robert Barlow. Related: The Night Ocean, a short story by Barlow & Lovecraft. Meanwhile, Lovecraft enthusiasts are still raising money for a Providence statue (spot my art and design work in the photo of the Lovecraft Art and Sciences Council).

• At The Quietus this week: Children Of Alice talk to Patrick Clarke about audio collage and English Surrealism, Lottie Brazier enters The Strange World of Annette Peacock, and Manuel Göttsching tells Robert Barry how Ash Ra Tempel became the loudest band in Berlin.

• “Mind the doors!” Eight reviewers pick ten films featuring the London Underground. Not a bad list but choosing a Doctor Who film while ignoring the great Quatermass and the Pit (1967) is an error.

• Mixes of the week: Swedenborgian Hobos by acephale, Secret Thirteen Mix 214 by Fabio Perletta, and a mix for NTS by Six Organs Of Admittance.

• More Surrealism: Leonor Fini, Surrealist Sorceress, a lecture by Dr Sabina Stent, will take place at Treadwell’s Bookshop, London, on 19th May.

• “Michael Chapman’s road-weary guitar resonates with a new generation,” says Joel Rose.

A Journey Round my Room (1794), a book by Xavier de Maistre.

Lyrical Nitrate (1991), a film by Peter Delpeut.

The Sorcerer (1967) by Miles Davis | Impressions Of Sorcerer (1977) by Tangerine Dream | Venom Sorcerer (2014) by Cultural Apparati

Weekend links 350

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Transition H50 (2016) by Jessica Eaton.

• One of my weekend posts in 2012 contained details about Taking Tiger Mountain, a low-budget feature film put together in 1983 by Tom Huckabee using footage originally shot in Tangier and Wales in the 1970s. Huckabee’s film is a strange “experimental” work of science fiction, based in part on William Burroughs’ Blade Runner script (no relation to the Ridley Scott film apart from the title), and described here as “a psychotropic apocalyptic odyssey”. The most notable aspect of the film for many will be the presence of a young Bill Paxton in the lead role, something I was reminded of when Paxton’s death was announced earlier this week. Five years ago there was only a short clip of Taking Tiger Mountain available on YouTube but since then a full copy has appeared; watch it here while you can. (The widescreen frame is cropped, and the sound is all in one channel but it’s still watchable.) Tom Huckabee talked about the film’s production (and the Burroughs connections) to Beatdom. A curio that deserves wider attention.

• “With Biller, the references come thick and fast. In The Love Witch, she channels, among others, 50s Hitchcock, Douglas Sirk’s lurid lushness, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s deadpan gaze, Nicholas Ray’s poetry, Sam Fuller’s tabloid style and Todd Haynes’s revisionist sexual politics. […] Then add the Technicolor, widescreen, haute-Hollywood “women’s pictures” of the 50s, a touch of Hammer Studios, The Wicker Man, Rosemary’s Baby and any number of studio melodramas and musicals.” John Patterson talks to director Anna Biller about her new film, The Love Witch.

• Mix of the week is the Anxious Heart Mix by Moon Wiring Club, another excellent blend of electronica, industria and dialogue samples from the outer limits of the televisual sphere. Also of note this week: VF Mix 83, an Adrian Sherwood selection by Pinch, XLR8R Podcast 479 by Chris SSG, and Secret Thirteen Mix 213 by -N.

• “Anthropologically, this was going on all around me: it was amazing and nobody was dealing with it like that, so I just went for it.” Hal Fischer on his photo-art series, Gay Semiotics, which is on display at Project Native Informant, London, until 1st April.

• Coming in May from Luaka Bop, World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, the first-ever compilation of Alice Coltrane’s scarce releases on the Avatar Book Institute label.

Cinephilia looks back at Robert Wise and Nelson Gidding’s film of The Andromeda Strain (1971).

• Psychedelic Speed Freak: Remembering the blistering experimentalism of Hideo Ikeezumi.

• More witchery: S. Elizabeth talks to Pam Grossman about art, film and hex power.

• At The Quietus: Harry Sword on the strange world of Surgeon.

Leonor Fini playing cards

The Feathered Tiger (1969) by Kaleidoscope | Taking Tiger Mountain (1974) by Brian Eno | Plain Tiger (1985) by Cocteau Twins

Essex House book covers

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I’ve known the name of American publisher Essex House for many years but the books they published, all of which appeared in a frenzy of activity from 1968 to 1969, have never been easy to find in the UK. The company is chiefly of note today for having three original Philip José Farmer novels on their list, all works of fantasy with the erotic side more dominant than in Farmer’s previous work. Erotic fiction with a generic slant was the Essex House speciality, and while the Farmer covers have appeared here before, I’d not seen any other Essex House covers until the discovery of this page which collects 38 of the 42 published titles.

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It’s immediately evident looking down the list that the (uncredited) designer managed to forge a distinctive identity for the books at a time when any cover would suffice if the written material was sufficiently pornographic. Many of the covers borrow (or mutate) pre-existing artworks, while others emulate the watered-down psychedelic style that by the late 60s was visible everywhere in the US and much of Europe. These aren’t all great pieces of design but the graphics on erotic titles in the 60s either played safe by favouring text-only covers or sported technically crude emulations of paperback illustration. (For an example of just how technically crude, see this post about some of the many gay pulps on sale in the US.)

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Essex House may not have been around for long but they seemed to be attempting something different, at least where the covers were concerned. I’ve only read the Farmer books so I can’t vouch for the other titles but the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction writes that

…about half the 42 titles published by Essex House were sf/fantasy; they included novels by Philip José Farmer, Richard E Geis, David Meltzer (perhaps the most distinguished), Michael Perkins and Hank Stine…of which a number were ambitious, some literary, and most somewhat joyless—even emetic—and redolent of 1960s radicalism.

Pornography as a tool of radical politics had a brief vogue in the late 60s and early 70s, something that’s particularly evident in the underground magazines of the period. The results may be “joyless” to some but then I find a lot of the alleged classics of science fiction joyless so it’s all a matter of taste. There was no equivalent of Essex House in the UK but in the 1970s France had the Chute Libre imprint which not only published all of the Essex House Farmer titles but did so with a collection of equally striking (or “joyless”) cover designs.

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Artwork is a solarised version of Le Bout du monde (1949) by Leonor Fini.

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