Saturday, November 25, 2006


..there will be a game held at 2pm Eastern Standard time. Matt's machine in DC will serve as a backup server in case we have more firewall problems, so the game is guaranteed to get going in a timely manner this week.
Link to the Shield Lands vault page...
I went to Manhattan yesterday to look at art. I shall write about that shortly.

"That is a seriously weird career."

The coolest software mogul. He has vacationed as a cosmonaut.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Episode 61: Kerry James Marshall

At the end of October Kerry James Marshall was interviewed on the radio podcast show Bad at Sports in Chicago. He talks a lot about the trajectory and influences in his own work and the economics of being an artist. Apparantly, Bad at Sports got a grant and a space to do their show for a limited period of time. They seem to be taking advantage of it with higher profile guests, much more interesting shows, and less cleverly inane chatter.
This is the best interview of theirs that I have listened to.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Pavel Filonov

Conspicuously there is not much art by Russians in the Hermitage, this is primarily due to the creation of the Russian Museum in 1898 which exclusively houses work by artists born and bred there. The permanent collection is primarily 19th Century heroic paintings about the manifest destiny of Mother Russia and early Modernist paintings by the “avant-garde” (see Kazemir Malevich and Nicholai Roerich). Russian ex-patriots are little represented (Kandinsky) or entirely absent (Chagall). There was also a big temporary exhibit of late Socialist Realism (1960s through the 1980s.)
Wandering around this museum, I stumbled into a totally black exhibition hall with a great density of paintings each of which hanging under a warm spotlight. In the background was an eerie music that added to the dramatic effect as much as it mildly distracted ones ability to take in the whole exhibition. This was from a wacky “music machine” which was essentially a pre WWI Futurist robot that, with a painting in it, generated sounds appropriate to the picture.
I was dumbfounded, and shortly there after began running back and forth through the exhibit trying to figure out who these paintings were by, there being no name on the placards. This was an exhibit of the majority of works by Pavel Filonov of which the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg holds almost all of due to a donation by the artist. I find these paintings stunning in visual impact and complexity.
He was primarily a teacher at the art academy and never received much recognition internationally due to a rather ascetic nature which led to him denying any attempt by foreign collectors to purchase his paintings (he lived on a meagre state pension most of his life) and a clamping down of the censors in the times of Stalin which marginalized his work as it was difficult to categorize in the emerging state definition of art. Throughout his life he pursued a somewhat singular project and artistic philosophy termed “Analytical Art” which seems to take some of its roots from analytical cubism but has the intensity turned up to an extreme and is much more encompassing and complex. The result is works primarily of oil on paper (that have since been relined on Whatman) with a lot of colour, minutely detailed compositions and spaces, filled with a fusion of entirely abstract forms with sometimes disturbing figures and heads. The overall effect is hypnotic and I found the work challenging by contemporary standards of painting, while he was cranking these out starting around 1910. Pavel Filonov died in 1941 of starvation during the Siege of Leningrad.
Other than a retrospective at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 1989 it appears that Filonov is largely unknown and shut out of “The Official Art History Canon(tm)” which I think is regrettable. What is available in images and text in cyberspace is rather poor, but I highly suggest at least a casual glance at this artist if the opportunity arises.

Note: The only decent biography I was able to find on the internet (at the above link) appears to be experiencing technical difficulties. Here is a site with more images ( a little bit washed out), but atrocious translation and writing.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Bob Jones University Collection of Art

It is interesting that the collection was started just after WWII. I heard when you purchases art from NAZIs they give you a great deal.

A Conversation About Art

Much of the art in the Hermitage Museum from the 20th century collection was taken as spoils from underground bunkers when the Soviet army ended World War II (translated from Russian as the Great Patriot War) in Europe by capturing Berlin. These paintings were part of a broad program of purges from German art museums that later became the “Entarte Kunst” (Degenerate Art) exhibit that premièred in Munich in 1937, organized by the Nationalist-Socialists to highlight the aesthetic, idealogical, and moral depravity of modern art. After this huge travelling exhibition ended, what was not sold at auction in Switzerland or taken as private property by military officers was buried away under the city. There is notoriously no official documentation of how the works ended up in the Hermitage.

A deep sense of irony gripped me after a museum venture in Saint Petersburg when a rather heated conversation sprang up with one of my travelling companions in which it was insisted that the production and exhibition of such art works as what is in the modern art displays at the Hermitage, especially abstract painting, was “offensive.” A litany of defences to that opinion was produced that sharply mimicked most of the important points in the concept of Degenerate Art; rather by accident I believe and minus the theories of racial conspiracy. That someone would find modern, and by proxy, contemporary art relevant enough to be morally outraged on such a broad scale fascinated me at the same time that it dismayed me and I never would have expected someone specializing in business administration to demand that a return to the populist, heroic, and nationalist Romanticism in the art of 19th century Europe be universally instituted. To say the least, after years of witnessing people shrug their shoulders in disinterest when touring a modern art museum, I was caught quite off guard by a rather reactionary and aggressive aesthetic philosophy that in essence hearkened back to the romantic precursors of fascism. Even more so by someone born and bred in Berlin, being the relativist cultural capital that it is today.

Anyone ever encountered something like this?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Malachi Ritscher's Immolation

This was recovered by the Chicago Reader (article here), but was buried in the Sun Times (article here) and was not really covered as a serious act of protest. Merely a suicide, except he set himself on fire on the side of the Kennedy Expressway during rush hour and even videotaped himself doing it (supposedly).
Also here is the link to his website with the mission statement (so his website says) or suicide note (as it was called in the papers) and obituary... that he wrote himself.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Hermitage

and the travel brochure continues . . .

My greatest art stop in Saint Petersburg was at the Hermitage, the largest art museum in the world, with a collection of no less than 3 million objects, primarily housed in what used to be the Winter Palaces of the czars; which are interesting in themselves. It took me two entire days to get through what was on display, and the museum is impressive not only in quantity and variety but in the quality and historical importance of particularly the paintings on display. A highlight for me was an entire hall of just larger Rembrandt paintings including the “Prodigal Son.” Both the Italian and Dutch Renaissances are highly represented, as well as the 18th and 19th century French painting that dominated the tastes of the czars, and Baroque painting from Spain, Holland, and Italy. Other things of interest included many halls of varied craft objects from Eastern European antiquity that were almost entirely devoid of visitors.

On the upper floors is a collection of paintings from the early 20th century that includes work from just about every movement and famous artist that makes up the early Modernist canon of art history. People crowd in daily to get a look at Monet, Pisarro, Cezanne, Gauguin, Matisse, and early Picasso paintings among other things.

I found an interesting virtual tour of the collection. It is well made, but incredibly slow on my end.

Vote please...

...even if you're just going to write in "Satan" like Bob = 666 will. Image via The Propaganda Remix Project.