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.

Alchemy & Inquiry

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The Dust Blows Forward, The Dust Blows Back (2011) by Fred Tomaselli.

Artistic alchemy has been thriving in New York for the past few weeks. Alchemy & Inquiry is a show which has been running at the Glyndor Gallery, Wave Hill, the Bronx, since April, featuring paintings by Philip Taaffe, Fred Tomaselli and Terry Winters. “Alchemy” here is used in its broadest sense:

The word “alchemy” in the exhibition title alludes to transformation on many levels: chemical, magical and spiritual. Creative powers are summoned to transform common elements physically and metaphorically into substances of great value. With practices and insights that prefigure many important discoveries in biology, chemistry and physics, alchemy likewise fascinated and continues to fascinate poets and painters, serving as an allegory for the physical manifestation of immaterial spirit. This tradition unites the work of Winters, Tomaselli and Taaffe. (more)

A PDF catalogue containing commentary by the always enlightening Peter Lamborn Wilson can be downloaded here. A sample:

Certain extra-formal aspects of art cannot be ruled out as irrelevant to our experience of that art or to our understanding of it. A visitor from Alpha Centauri would not know that Tomaselli’s paintings actually contain real pills, maryjane leaves, spore prints, or whatever—real illegal drugs. But we earthlings cannot fail to consider this witty provocation when thinking about Tomaselli’s works. To own one of his paintings—if the Feds ever wanted to make an issue of it—would be, simply, a crime. Is a crime, actually. This fact adds nothing formal to Tomaselli’s art. But, oh, how much it adds, let’s say, conceptually. How much weight? What an aura.

If proof were needed, contra all the puritan anti-drug fascists and priests, that genuine mystical drug states are accessible via entheogenic drugs and various (illegal) ditchweeds, then we could enter Tomaselli’s paintings as evidence. The point is that if drugs could not do this then there would be no reason to make them illegal. Imagine: icons that are also reliquaries, containing edible body parts of vegetable saints, forbidden by the Babylonian Ugly Spirit, the eternal Mind Police.

The NYT reviewed the exhibition but missed a trick in not connecting it to the Alchemically Yours group art show which has been running at Observatory, Brooklyn throughout the past month. That show ends this weekend; Alchemy & Inquiry runs until June 19th. Thanks to Jay for the tip!

Previously on { feuilleton }
Alchemically Yours
Laurie Lipton’s Splendor Solis
The Arms of the Art
Splendor Solis
Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae
Cabala, Speculum Artis Et Naturae In Alchymia
Vision Quest
Digital alchemy

Leonora Carrington, 1917–2011

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Self-portrait (1937–38) by Leonora Carrington.

Imagination and fantasy were two of the tools women artists used in the early decades of the 20th century to force their way into a male-dominated art world. The proliferation of illustrated books provided a creative platform in the Edwardian era for women shut out of art movements whose aesthetics might be avant garde but whose attitudes to sexual politics were either ignorant or reactionary. It was only with the advent of Surrealism that a notable body of women artists emerged in the field of painting and sculpture, not only Leonora Carrington but her almost namesake Leonor Fini, Dorothea Tanning, Remedios Varo, Meret Oppenheim, Kay Sage, Valentine Hugo and others. Part of this was the tenor of the time, of course, but Surrealism had no choice but to be open to anyone who came calling; if you’re going to let dreams and irrationality dictate the debate then everything that was previously fixed is up for grabs including gender dominance and sexuality. Leonora Carrington had a longer career than her contemporaries, and also distinguished herself as a writer of fantastic novels and short stories. Dalí aside, it could be argued that among the original Surrealists it was the women who stayed true to the project in subsequent decades. Max Ernst was a lover of Leonora and later married Dorothea Tanning but he left Surrealism after the Second World War for other styles of painting.

In Carrington’s work, mystical forces and surging instincts overpower the reign of reason. This is rebellion and liberation in the true surrealist sense. It is not the angry, testosterone-driven smack in the face typical of the high-profile showmen of surrealism. Rather, it is a low-key mystic subversion powered by the intrigues of seductive sibyls, sorceresses, and priestesses. (More.)

Among the obituary notices surfacing there’s a piece by Leonora’s cousin, Joanna Moorhead, who wrote a couple of years ago about her search for her celebrated relative, and a notice in the Telegraph. Ten Dreams has a small gallery of her paintings.

For Leonora Carrington by Peter Lamborn Wilson
• Coilhouse: Leonora Carrington – 6 April 1917 – 25 May 2011

Previously on { feuilleton }
Marsi Paribatra: the Royal Surrealist
Angels of Anarchy: Women Artists and Surrealism
Return to Las Pozas
The art of Leonor Fini, 1907–1996
Surrealist women
Las Pozas and Edward James