Max Ernst’s favourites

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The cover for the Max Ernst number of View magazine (April, 1942) that appears in Charles Henri Ford’s View: Parade of the Avant-Garde was one I didn’t recall seeing before. This was a surprise when I’d spent some time searching for back issues of the magazine. The conjunction of Ernst with Buer, one of the perennially popular demons drawn by Louis Le Breton for De Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal, doubles the issue’s cult value in my eyes. I don’t know whether the demon was Ernst’s choice but I’d guess so when many of the De Plancy illustrations resemble the hybrid creatures rampaging through Ernst’s collages. Missing from the Ford book is the spread below which uses more De Plancy demons to decorate lists of the artist’s favourite poets and painters. I’d have preferred a selection of favourite novelists but Ford was a poet himself (he also co-wrote an early gay novel with Parker Tyler, The Young and Evil), and the list is still worth seeing.

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Poets: Charles Baudelaire, Friedrich Hölderlin, Alfred Jarry, Edgar Allan Poe, George Crabbe, Guillaume Apollinaire, Walt Whitman, Comte de Lautréamont, Robert Browning, Arthur Rimbaud, William Blake, Achim von Arnim, Victor Hugo, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, William Shakespeare, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lewis Carroll, Novalis, Heinrich Heine, Solomon (presumably the author of the Song of Solomon).

Painters: Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Giovanni Bellini, Hieronymus Bosch, Matthias Grünewald, Albrecht Altdorfer, Georges Seurat, Piero della Francesca, Paolo Uccello, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Hans Baldung, Vittore Carpaccio, Leonardo Da Vinci, Cosimo Tura, Carlo Crivelli, Giorgio de Chirico, Henri Rousseau, Francesco del Cossa, Piero di Cosimo, NM Deutsch (Niklaus Manuel), Vincent van Gogh.

I’ve filled out the names since some of the typography isn’t easy to read. Some of the choices are also uncommon, while one of them—NM Deutsch—is not only a difficult name to search for but the attribution has changed in recent years. The list of poets contains few surprises but it’s good to see that Poe made an impression on Ernst; the choice of painters is less predictable. Bruegel, Bosch and Rousseau are to be expected, and the same goes for the German artists—Grünewald, Baldung—whose work is frequently grotesque or erotic. But I wouldn’t have expected so many names from the Italian Renaissance, and Seurat is a genuine surprise. As for Ernst’s only living contemporary, Giorgio de Chirico, this isn’t a surprise at all but it reinforces De Chirico’s importance. If you removed Picasso from art history De Chirico might be the most influential painter of the 20th century; his Metaphysical works had a huge impact on the Dada generation, writers as well as artists, and also on René Magritte who was never a Dadaist but who lost interest in Futurism when he saw a reproduction of The Song of Love (1914). Picasso’s influence remains rooted in the art world while De Chirico’s disquieting dreams extend their shadows into film and literature, so it’s all the more surprising that this phase of his work was so short lived. But that’s a discussion for another time.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Viewing View
De Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal
Max Ernst album covers
Maximiliana oder die widerrechtliche Ausübung der Astronomie
Max and Dorothea
Dreams That Money Can Buy
La femme 100 têtes by Eric Duvivier

Alice’s Adventures in the Horse Hospital

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A few snapshots of the exhibits from Wednesday’s sold-out event at the Horse Hospital, Bloomsbury, London. As noted here before, the impetus for the event was Paul Guest’s printing of my series of psychedelic Alice pictures (above) as blotter prints, sheets of blotting paper having been a common medium for the delivery of LSD doses in the late 60s and 1970s. Since my pictures are relatively small and only filled out one of the walls the rest of the exhibition space was filled with Alice art of a similar tone. The opposite wall also featured a variety of fascinating period artefacts from The Psychedelic Museum, including a few original (and rare) blotter sheets. My time was taken up preparing for the discussion so I wasn’t as diligent as I usually try to be in documenting all the artists involved.

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The discussion itself went really well. The audience was receptive and small enough to be easily communicable, while the talk never strayed too far from the subject at hand. My thanks to my fellow participants—Nikki Wyrd, Jake Fior, Sophia Satchell-Baeza and Andy Roberts—and huge thanks to Vyvy and John and the rest of the Horse Hospital staff for making the event run so smoothly.

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The exhibition continues through to Saturday (Feb. 4th), noon to 6pm; entry is free. My blotter prints will remain on sale at the exhibition, and they can also be ordered from Paul at Blotterart.biz, either as single prints or a collected set of 12. For serious collectors the set of 12 will be available as a boxed edition of signed and numbered prints (limited to 100 sets) with a lid design adapted from my 2010 Alice calendar. I should note that the print quality is excellent, and web reproduction doesn’t do justice to the colour or the detail.

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Continue reading “Alice’s Adventures in the Horse Hospital”

Alice’s Adventures in the Underground: Feed Your Head

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My work will appear in two exhibitions in the new year. The first hasn’t been announced yet so this post concerns the second event which will take place in London on 1st February:

“Feed your head…” An evening discourse on all things Wonderland, with John Coulthart, Andy Roberts, Nikki Wyrd and Jake Fior (facilitator).

This event marks the opening of a three day exhibition hosted by the Horse Hospital, featuring John Coulthart’s psychedelia-themed ‘Alice’ artwork, printed for the first time as (drug-free) blotter art. John’s depictions of the twelve chapters of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ view the 1860s through the iridescent lens of the 1960s; Victoriana refracted through a psychedelic prism. Come along for a discussion of the links between psychedelic art and music, and the persistent fascination of Lewis Carroll’s books. There will be talk of many things, not only cabbages and kings, but far more than you can possibly imagine before breakfast.

Signed blotter prints will be on sale.

Psychedelic artists – particularly in the 60s – and many other outsider creative types (before and since that influential decade), have drawn their inspiration from the well of imagery found within the ‘Alice’ books. As well as John’s artwork, there will be Alice themed creations by other artists on show. In addition, the Psychedelic Museum will be holding its second pop-up museum display, with particular focus on the 60s counterculture.

The event was suggested by Paul at Blotterart, a specialist in quality printing on the perforated blotting-paper sheets that used to be (and possibly still are) the commonest carrier for doses of LSD. My psychedelic take on the Lewis Carroll books was a reaction to the way in which psychedelic culture had adopted Alice and co. as part of the larger collision of childhood and Victoriana that was so prevalent at the end of the 1960s. So in that respect blotting sheets are a much more fitting medium for these pictures than the calendar pages they filled originally. As noted above, I’ll be talking about the artwork and related matters, and will also be on hand to sign things. I’ve been involved with a number of exhibitions recently but they’re not all as close to home as this one.

The Horse Hospital website has the ticket details. Those who can’t make it but are interested in the prints should know that they’ll be for sale online at some point. Further details will be posted here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Psychedelia and Other Colours by Rob Chapman
LSD-25 by The Gamblers
More trip texts
Listen to the Colour of Your Dreams: Part Six
Listen to the Colour of Your Dreams: Part Five
Listen to the Colour of Your Dreams: Part Four
Listen to the Colour of Your Dreams: Part Three
Listen to the Colour of Your Dreams: Part Two
Listen to the Colour of Your Dreams: Part One
Trip texts
Acid albums
Acid covers
Lyrical Substance Deliberated
The Art of Tripping, a documentary by Storm Thorgerson
What Is A Happening?
My White Bicycle
Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake
Tomorrow Never Knows
Enter the Void
In the Land of Retinal Delights
Smashing Time
The Dukes declare it’s 25 O’Clock!
A splendid time is guaranteed for all
The art of LSD
Hep cats

Psychedelia and Other Colours by Rob Chapman

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My mother thought well enough of The Beatles in the 1960s to buy two of their albums—Beatles For Sale and Help!—and she continued to enjoy the Fab Four’s songs up to the point when (in her words) “they went funny”, by which she meant the period after Rubber Soul when they dropped the beat stylings, picked up sitars and took to recording drums and guitars in reverse. They were also taking drugs, of course, hence the funniness, and this rapid evolution—from loveable moptops to freaked-out weirdos in a matter of months—is the subject of Rob Chapman’s huge study of psychedelia as a cultural phenomenon, the period from around mid-1965 to late 1969 when Western youth “went funny” en masse.

This isn’t an undocumented era but Chapman’s book provides an overdue counterweight to the American focus of earlier studies such as Jay Stevens’ Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream (1987). Psychedelic art evolved in San Francisco but it’s an irony of the form that many of the wildest, most typically psychedelic concert posters were promoting acts that were only marginally psychedelic in their sound or, in the case of the older jazz, soul and blues acts, weren’t psychedelic at all. Chapman is more interested in the multi-media light shows than the poster art, and he reaches back in his early chapters to the origin of the San Francisco light shows in the avant-garde art of the Modernist era (especially László Moholy-Nagy’s Light-Space Modulator of the 1920s) and the art schools of the 1950s; he also traces the familiar journey of LSD from the Sandoz laboratories in Switzerland and the clinics of America to the front pages of newspapers and magazines. One of the most remarkable and unlikely aspects of psychedelia was the way in which a short-lived poly-cultural phenomenon maintained an aura of danger and illegality late into the 1960s even while psychedelic aesthetics were filtering into every facet of mainstream life: films, fashion, decor, advertising, even children’s television—all bloomed briefly with vivid colours and melting typography.

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Playboy gets hip to the trip, December 1967. Art by Wes Wilson.

Chapman touches on all of this but the bulk of his study is concerned with the music which was always the core of psychedelic culture, even if many of the artists involved were only following a trend (or, to be less charitable, jumping on a bandwagon). American groups are given their due, and Chapman has some smart things to say about the often neglected surf boom of the early 60s; as noted here last month, the first piece of popular music to use “LSD” in its title was LSD-25 (1960), a surf instrumental by The Gamblers. Surf bands and garage bands mutated into psychedelic groups but there was often little change in the overall sound beyond adding an effect or two to the instrumentation. Adulterated or processed sound is what I usually look for in psychedelic music, the psychedelic experience being one of distorted or exaggerated perception. Adulteration (or lack of it) is the most obvious factor that differentiates American psych from its British equivalent: White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane is a great song (its final line is fixed to every page of this blog) but is psychedelic only as a result of its lyrical context. Musically, the song is a simple rock bolero next to which Strawberry Fields Forever sounds like a broadcast from another planet.

Continue reading “Psychedelia and Other Colours by Rob Chapman”

More Brothers Quay scarcities

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Look What the Cat Drug In (Long Way Down) (1992).

More short films by the Brothers Quay that haven’t yet appeared on their DVDs. Look What the Cat Drug In is a music video for Michael Penn that I was unable to find last time I did a YouTube trawl. It’s a good one.

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Dolls (1994).

A 30-second warning about the perils of AIDS, made for the Partnership for a Drug Free America. Watch for the bizarre detail of a puppet snorting coke. The Quays made a lot of commercials and idents during the 1990s but few of them surface.

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Black Soul Choir (1996).

A music video for 16 Horsepower featuring animated nails and pieces of chalk.

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Alice in Not So Wonderland (2008).

Another short warning—climate change this time—made for Live Earth. How much of the message makes it through the surrealism is debatable but it’s good to see the Quays’ take on Lewis Carroll.

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The Metamorphosis (2012).

Mikhaïl Rudy plays a piano piece by Leos Janácek (the subject of an earlier Quays film) while Gregor Samsa deals with his traumatic awakening. The previous scarcities post found a trailer for this piece which apparently runs for 33 minutes. The version linked here is only the first 5 minutes but it gives a better idea of the film as a whole.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Eurydice…She, So Beloved, a film by the Brothers Quay
Inventorium of Traces, a film by the Brothers Quay
Maska: Stanislaw Lem and the Brothers Quay
Stille Nacht V: Dog Door
Quay Brothers: On Deciphering the Pharmacist’s Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets
Brothers Quay scarcities
Crossed destinies revisited
Crossed destinies: when the Quays met Calvino
The Brothers Quay on DVD