Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

A Short History of America

Tip for applied researchers: if you’re going to calculate marginal effects by hand, using the Delta method to secure standard errors, do it with something simple. Don’t use, say, back-transformed coefficients from Beta regression. For example.

Meanwhile, some R. Crumb, from the Guardian’s week-long celebration of the man and his work (originally found, by way of trivia, while looking for his infamous Joe Blow comic, read about earlier while in fact reading a Doonesbury book. Trudeau had said that Crumb had written that he’d made that comic just to be a punk, which makes sense).

A Short History of America, parts 1 and 2 (I hope he draws a part 3 one day):

part 1

part 2

Penny Arcade

I’m not really doing anything today. Inspired by a recent book, breakfast was (vegan!) madeleines, and now I’m solving the Riemann Hypothesis. Actually that second part might not be so true – and, no, Madeleines do nothing for my memory. They kind of remind me of the Transporter, but I doubt that was what Proust had in mind.

My wife bought me Penny Arcade’s book 4: Birds are Weird. This contains, amongst other things, 2003’s strips – I’m pretty sure I began reading PA prior to this year (the year 2003), but maybe not. This is the year I remember most well, in any event, so I’m leaving you with this, for the day:


If you don’t know Penny Arcade already, there really is something wrong with you.

Off the Wall: A Portrait of Robert Rauschenberg

New book! Having marked my way through 175 Eco 1 mid-terms, Economics doesn’t interest me so much at the moment. So, art:

off the wall cover

Calvin Tomkins first discovered the work of Robert Rauschenberg in the late 1950s, when he began to look seriously at contemporary art. While gazing at Rauschenberg’s painting Double Feature, Tomkins felt compelled to make some kind of literal connection to the work, and it is in that sprit that “for the last forty years it’s been [his] ambition to write about contemporary art not as a critic or a judge, but as a participant.” Tomkins has spent many of those years writing about Robert Rauschenberg, whom he rapidly came to see as “one of the most inventive and influential artists of his generation.” So it seemed natural to make Rauschenberg the focus of Off the Wall, which deals with the radical changes that have made advanced visual art such a powerful force in the world.

Off the Wall chronicles the astonishingly creative period of the 1950s and 1960s, a high point in American art. In his in his collaborations with Merce Cunningham and John Cage, and as a pivotal figure linking abstract expressionism and pop art, Rauschenberg was part of a revolution during which artists moved art off the walls of museums and galleries and into the center of the social scene. Rauschenberg’s vitally important and productive career spans this revolution, reaching beyond it to the present day. Featuring the artists and the art world surrounding Rauschenberg–from Jackson Pollock, and Willem de Kooning to Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol, together with dealers Betty Parsons, and Leo Castelli, and the patron Peggy Guggenheim–Tomkins’s stylish and witty portrait of one of America’s most original and inspiring artists is fascinating, enlightening, and very entertaining.

Bloody fascinating. I picked it up at Jasper Johns: Gray, an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. An exhibition all about the use of one colour by one artist – who’d have thought? If you’re in NY it, too, is entirely worth your time.

The book covers a very large and long period in American art, through the 20th century. I’m a big (big) Jasper Johns fan, so the Rauschenberg/Johns/Castelli nexus of abstract expressionism/etc. is of most interest to me. You can pull up a lot of this book over at Google books. E.g.

off the wall cha12

off the wall ch13

Which is somewhat mis-representative. The book is about Rauschenberg, but its location of his life and art within (and, often, without) his community, through collaborative work with Cage and Cunningham, various dealers before Castelli, Johns, etc. makes for a truly fascinating insight into his career.

Brian Wood’s Public Domain design book can be downloaded

I’ve mentioned, previously, Brian Wood and the wonderful things he does. Anyone who’s seen my laptop may recognise some of his art on its cover. Now, the design book for Channel Zero (and, one would expect, Jennie One – both incredible pieces of graphic novelisation) is free to download (donation recommended).

Public Domain 1

Public Domain 2

Burning Man

Mostly I just wanted an excuse to share with you this wonderful installation from this year’s Burning Man:

Wired pic burning man

Provided by the Underwire blog at Wired, the former covering the event.

“When people stand under it and see a big truck hovering over you, it should give a sense of danger and fear and that something is wrong,” Ross says. The piece also provides a real sense of constriction from the oil economy as attendees climb up the inside the tankers, crawling through what looks and feels like a truck’s filthy undercarriage. They gingerly feel their way up and down through random cross pipes and structural corners, trying not to step on the hands of people below. The occasional plastic plant wrapped among the metal summons the trapped aura of nature into the cramped trucks.

It isn’t that I don’t trust the architects – but you’ve Buckley’s of getting me climbing in that thing. The installation “Crude Awakening” is very good, also.

underwire burning man crude awakening

The interesting part (besides the big trucks) is this year’s controversy (premature Man-burning, and, yes: that’s a petrol tanker truck underneath – fucking idiot), as well as the green theme (also lightly mocked in that Valeywag link as “corporate sponsor appeasement).

The theme, while good enough in a world under the rule of Commodification Rides With Identification (not, as many believe, Cash Rules Everything Around Me. If you’re living by that one, you’ve lost, you sucker), and therefore where ethical consumption is as popular as it is meaninglessly ill-defined, deserves some context. Such as what happens at night-time:

underwire burning man night 1

underwire burning man night 2

And of course our friends with the truck:

In the Burning Man spirit of art on the fly, how the piece will even leave the playa, much less where it might live afterward, is still up in the air, Ross says.

I’m just saying: merely being able to clean up a desert after you’ve been there hardly means you’re the environment’s BFF. This event uses, as said, petrol trucks, cranes, etc. It’s generating waste which will be disposed of the same as that of everybody else. Lights burn through the night (and those sure looked like tungsten, rather than ‘efficient’ or LED). I’m not criticising the value of what’s there, or suggesting people are wasting resources on their art (last head count was 44,000, after all). I think Burning Man is very cool. I just think calling the theme “Green” gives the wrong impression that somehow the event itself is “Green”.