Language of the Birds: Occult and Art

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Astrological Ouroboros (1965) by Paul Laffoley.

Language of the Birds is an occult-themed art show at 80WSE, New York University, that opened this week and runs to 13 February, 2016. Curator Pam Grossman has assembled a stunning collection of work by artists, occultists, and occult-artists old and new:

Kenneth Anger * Anohni * Laura Battle * Jordan Belson * Alison Blickle * Carol Bove * Jesse Bransford * BREYER P-ORRIDGE * John Brill * Robert Buratti * Elijah Burgher * Cameron * Leonora Carrington * Francesco Clemente * Ira Cohen * Brian Cotnoir * Aleister Crowley * Enrico Donati * El Gato Chimney * Leonor Fini * JFC Fuller * Helen Rebekah Garber * Rik Garrett * Delia Gonzalez * Jonah Groeneboer * Juanita Guccione * Brion Gysin * Frank Haines * Barry William Hale * Valerie Hammond * Ken Henson * Bernard Hoffman * Nino Japaridze * Gerome Kamrowski * Leo Kenney * Paul Laffoley * Adela Leibowitz * Darcilio Lima * Angus MacLise * Ann McCoy * Rithika Merchant * William Mortensen * Rosaleen Norton * Micki Pellerano * Ryan M Pfeiffer & Rebecca Walz * Max Razdow * Ron Regé, Jr. * Rebecca Salmon * Kurt Seligmann * Harry Smith * Kiki Smith * Xul Solar * Austin Osman Spare * Charles Stein * Shannon Taggart * Gordon Terry * Scott Treleaven * Panos Tsagaris * Charmion von Wiegand * Robert Wang * Peter Lamborn Wilson * Lionel Ziprin

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El Nigromante (1950) by Leonora Carrington.

More details for lucky New Yorkers may be found here. In addition, there’s an Occult Humanities Conference that runs through the weekend of February 5th.

Weekend links 281

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Chimère du soir (1961) by Leonor Fini. Réalisme irréel is an exhibition of Fini’s work currently running at the Weinstein Gallery, San Francisco.

• ” ‘Paris invented the flâneur,’ he notes, ‘and continues to press all leisurely and attentive walkers into exercising that pursuit, which is an active and engaged form of interaction with the city, one that sharpens concentration and enlarges imaginative empathy and overrides mere tourism.’ ” David L. Ulin reviewing The Other Paris by Luc Sante.

• “A lot of posters promise so much that how can they ever deliver?” Nicolas Winding Refn talking to Mat Colegate about his book, The Act Of Seeing, a collection of posters for exploitation films.

• “Sexuality is present throughout and often subverts a narrative we might read entirely differently from a straight poet.” Callum James reviews Physical by Andrew McMillan.

This movie will lose a lot of people along the way, but then again, as far back as 1962, Ballard wrote a manifesto for a new form of science fiction, Which Way to Inner Space?, in which he insisted that “from now on, most of the hard work will fall, not on the writer, but on the readers. The onus is on them to accept a more oblique narrative style, understated themes, private symbols and vocabularies.” This is exactly what Wheatley wants from his audience.

Mike Holliday comparing Ben Wheatley’s forthcoming film of High-Rise with JG Ballard’s novel. Ballard’s suggestion for a new SF now seems increasingly like a road not taken. But that’s another discussion entirely…

The Lost Library of John Dee, an exhibition of books owned by the Elizabethan magus, opens at the Royal College of Physicians museum, London, in January.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins has been writing about his illustration heroes including Alexander Alexeieff.

Cameron: Cinderella of the Wastelands. The exhibition has just finished but the art is still online.

• Mixes of the week: FACT Mix 518 by Fis, and Secret Thirteen Mix 165 by Damien Dubrovnik.

• At Dirge Magazine: Tenebrous Kate on Fantômas, the French King of Crime.

• Suitably seasonal: Polish Night Music by David Lynch & Marek Zebrowski.

Kickin’ In, a previously unreleased EP of music by Patrick Cowley.

Jean-Michel Jarre‘s favourite albums.

Seeing It As You Really Are (1970) by Hawkwind | Seeing Out The Angel (1981) by Simple Minds | Seeing Red (1998) by Red Snapper

Weekend links 274

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Lilith Births the Djinn (2015) by Rithika Merchant. Via Phantasmaphile.

Lord of Strange Deaths: The Fiendish World of Sax Rohmer, edited by Phil Baker & Antony Clayton, is a new publication from Strange Attractor. “This is the first extended attempt to do justice to Rohmer, and it ranges across the spectrum of his output from music-hall writing to Theosophy. Contributors focus on subjects including Egyptology, 1890s decadence, Edwardian super-villains, graphic novels, cinema, the French Situationists, Chinese dragon ladies, and the Arabian Nights. The result is a testimony to the enduring fascination and relevance of Rohmer’s absurd, sinister and immensely atmospheric world.”

• More weird fiction: Twisted Tales of the Weird promises “an evening of readings by some of the finest writers in the contemporary scene, a panel discussion about the mode, and a Q&A with the audience” at the John Rylands Library, Manchester, on 23rd October. Writers M. John Harrison, Helen Marshall and Timothy J. Jarvis will be reading from their works. The event is free but space is limited so tickets are required.

• More Lovecraft: “Lovecraft never said his entities were evil,” says Alan Moore discussing his new Lovecraftian comic series, Providence, with Hannah Means Shannon. At the University of Sterling, Chloe Buckley reviews the Ellen Datlow-edited anthology Lovecraft’s Monsters for The Gothic Imagination (with passing reference to my illustrations but no credit for the artist).

• One for completists or those who were there on the night: Earth playing There Is A Serpent Coming at the Columbus Theatre, Providence on 22nd August. I’d almost given up hope that someone might have recorded anything from this event so thanks to Mr Beast Rebel of the Hellscape for the upload. There’s also a song by Elder from earlier in the evening.

A Rose Veiled in Black: Art and Arcana of Our Lady Babalon edited by Robert Fitzgerald and Daniel A. Schulke.

Robin the Fog on Spectral Spools, Amplified Olympia and XPylons.

• Mix of the week: BerlinSchool Mix-A [Beginnings] by Headnoaks.

• At AnOther: Leonor Fini: Female Libertine

The lost tunnels of Liverpool

The Zymoglyphic Museum

Folk Horror Revival

Some Weird Sin (1977) by Iggy Pop | It’s So Weird (1983) by Bush Tetras | The Smallest Weird Number (2002) by Boards of Canada

Temptations

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Exhibition catalogue.

In one of the many recent features about Leonora Carrington I noticed a mention of her Temptation of St Anthony painting from 1945 (see below). This was one of eleven works on the theme submitted by different artists for a competition staged to promote Albert Lewin’s The Private Affairs of Bel Ami (1947), a film adaptation of the Guy de Maupassant novel. Carrington is often mentioned when this competition is discussed, along with the other big names, Max Ernst (the winner) and Salvador Dalí. But you seldom see mention of any of the other competitors, hence this post, an attempt to find all of the competition entries.

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Leonora Carrington. St. Anthony is often shown with a pig companion but only Carrington depicted the animal for this competition. When asked why the saint had three heads, she replied “Why not?”

Albert Lewin didn’t make many films but he had a predilection for arty subjects, The Private Affairs of Bel Ami being preceded by adaptations of The Moon and Sixpence (1942) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945). All three films star George Sanders, and all feature special colour sequences when a painting is revealed. 1945 was the peak of America’s brief infatuation with Surrealism (Hitchcock had Dalí working on Spellbound at this time) so Lewin asked a number of Surrealists to take up the challenge. I was surprised to find that Stanley Spencer was one of the entrants, a name you almost never see in this company; less surprising was Ivan Albright whose painting of the decayed Dorian Gray is one of the highlights of Lewin’s earlier film. Leonor Fini was also asked to take part but she didn’t produce anything. The judges were Marcel Duchamp, Alfred J. Barr, Jr, director of the Museum of Modern Art, and art dealer Sidney Janis. Ernst won a cash prize variously reported as $2500–3000, while the other entrants received smaller sums. The paintings toured the USA and Britain during 1946–7.

As to the film, I can’t say what this is like because it’s one I’ve yet to see but Self-Styled Siren’s witty review goes into some detail. Hollywood apparently had problems with the adult subject matter (Sanders’ character is described as a sexually predatory social climber), and Lewin was forced to tone things down.

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Ivan Albright.

Albright’s contribution is so frenzied and detailed it approaches psychedelia. Best seen in this large view at Flickr.

Continue reading “Temptations”

Leonor Fini: comment vivre sans chat

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“How to live without a cat” is the translation but this short television film is in French so the rest is a mystery unless you can understand the language. As with the Max Ernst film, language isn’t much of an issue when you have an opportunity to see La Fini and her many moggies. Leonor Fini was an obsessive cat owner and cat painter, and she could also look pretty feline herself on occasion. (A piece of typically Surrealist apocrypha has it that the pupils of her eyes were cat-like until she was 4 years old.) The Fini website lists a number of European documentaries about the artist and her work but most remain frustratingly elusive. This one is an official release to YouTube from the Ina.fr archives. At the end of the film there’s a shot of the painting below; Fini’s cats are always very self-possessed.

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Sunday Afternoon (1980) by Leonor Fini.

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