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Archive for the ‘Video’ Category

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I never made a person look bad. They do that themselves.

-August Sander

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I came across a video this morning that I want to share. It is a PBS produced film called What This Photo Doesn’t Show and delves into the backstory and meaning of the photo shown here, Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance, taken by the German photographer August Sander in 1914.

It’s an a provocative photo, one that provides plenty of material for one to create narratives in their imagination. So, to learn more about the young men and the story behind the photo adds an additional layer of interest.

August Sander (1876-1964) was considered the most important German photographer of the of the early 20th century. Sander was widely recognized for a collection of portfolios of his portraits taken over a couple of decades. Titled People of the 20th Century, it contained hundreds of his photos that documented a wide spectrum of the German people of that era, from the working classes to the more privileged classes to the homeless and forsaken.

He also produced a book in 1929, Face of Our Time, that contained a group of 60 of these portraits. Under the Nazi regime a few years later, this book was banned and the printing plates for it destroyed. He was allowed to continue working as a photographer but kept under the radar. His son, as a Socialist, was sentenced to ten years in a German prison, where he died in 1944, near the end of his sentence.

That same year, 1944, a bombing raid destroyed Sander’s studio, destroying many of his negatives. Two years later, an accidental fire destroyed the remaining archived negatives of his work. It was said there were around 40,000 negatives at that time. Sander basically stopped working as a photographer at that time until his death in 1964.

The August Sander Archive, even with the great loss of the fires, contains about 5000 photos and 11,000 negatives.

If you have about 9 minutes, take a look at this video. I think you’ll find it interesting and informative.

 

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I am sharing a favorite of mine for this week’s Sunday morning music selection. It’s from composer Philip Glass and is a piece originally from a soundtrack of the 1985 film Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. The full title of this particular selection is String Quartet #3 Movement VI (also called Mishima Closing) and is performed by the Dublin Guitar Quartet. I have listened to this piece performed by a variety of artists and groups with different instruments and all are wonderful. But I like this version and it just seems to fit this morning.

The story behind the film that this piece is taken from concerns the life of the Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima. Born in 1925, Mishima was considered one of the most important writers of modern Japan. That would be notable enough on its own but it was the end of his life that more often than not associated with his name.

Mishima was an avowed nationalist of sorts and for many years trained physically and mentally according to the bushido, the code of the samurai. He formed a civilian militia with the purpose of defending the emperor in the event of a communist revolution and takeover. On November 25, 1970, Mishima and four members of this militia, the Tatenokai or shield society, entered a military base in Tokyo and barricaded themselves in the office of the base commandant, who they detained, tied to a chair.

Mishima then went out onto the balcony and delivered a manifesto he had prepared to the soldiers of the base who were gathered below. His speech was intended to inspire a coup within the ranks that would restore the powers of the emperor.

But the soldiers only mocked and jeered at Mishima.

Finishing his manifesto, he went back into the commandant’s office and performed seppuku or harikari, a suicide ritual in which he would stab himself and then be beheaded with a sword by one of his aides. The aide failed in three attempts at the task of beheading Mishima and another took over the task. This aide then performed the same act on the first aide who had failed in his original task.

It was a strange event and one of which I have to admit I was not aware until several years ago. I also have never seen the film but Glass’ soundtrack is powerful and beautiful. Give a listen and have a good Sunday.

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Have a lot of things to get at this morning so I wasn’t planning on  writing anything. But I came across a painting from an artist unknown to me that I thought I would share. The artist is Todros Geller, a Jewish American printmaker/painter who was born in Ukraine in 1889 and, after immigrating to Canada in 1906, in 1918 moved to Chicago which remained his home until his death in 1949. I don’t know much about Geller but found this painting intriguing along with some of his other works which I urge you to look into.

Strange Worlds, above, is a 1928 painting which depicts an older man, most likely a newspaper vendor under the steps of the elevated rail in Chicago. The composition really pulled me in as did Geller’s treatment of his colors and tones. Just a wonderful piece.

I also found a nice video on this work that better interprets the painting and explains the background and history behind it. I am normally not thrilled with these kinds of interpretative art videos but this was well done and really felt that the information provided here filled out this particular painting nicely. Please take a few minutes to watch and see what you think.

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… With your majestic and superior cackling hen 
Your people I do not understand, 
So to you I shall put an end 
And you’ll never hear surf music again

–Jimi Hendrix, Third Rock From the Sun

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It’s said that that the final line from the spoken word section of Jimi Hendrix’s Third Rock From the Sun in 1967 was a response to hearing that Dick Dale, the King of Surf Guitar, was gravely ill with colon cancer. Well, Dick Dale got past that dangerous episode and continued his reign for another 50+ years, passing away yesterday at the age of 81.

His background hardly pointed to his rise as the King of Surf Guitar. Born in Boston, Dale (the name he adopted for the stage– his real name was Monsour) was of Lebanese descent and was raised playing Middle Eastern instruments which provided the basis for his style of playing. You can really hear it in his most popular song, Misirlou. It was revived with its prominence in the film Pulp Fiction.

Dale had a great run promoting himself as the King of Surf Guitar through the years, even as surf music faded into a its niche as a nostalgic reminder of its popularity in the early 1960’s. But Misirlou had staying power beyond nostalgia. It’s just good stuff that can still get people on their feet.

So, here’s to you Dick Dale. Your music will live on. Here’s a performance of Misirlou from Dick Dale in 1995.

 

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A Little Frida

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Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away.

–Frida Kahlo
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I have been wanting to feature Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) for some time now. Her work is a unique and deeply personal voice in the world of art, one that touches on her identity as a Mexican, as a woman and as a political being. Her body of work might well be the the most overtly biographical collection done by an artist. Her famed self portraits make up about a third of her output.
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I have no doubt that most of you have seen her work and are somewhat aware of her story. She has become an icon in modern art, the story of her all too brief life– the debilitating pain she suffered from childhood polio and a later accident, the turbulent and loving marriage to the painter Diego Rivera, her political beliefs, her affairs and much of her personal life– captured in books and film.
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So, I am not going to spend a lot of time on that. Instead, let’s just take a look at a few of her paintings. As I said, they are unique and deeply personal but there is something in them that appeals to aspects in many of us. There is also a short film with more of her paintings set to a song about her.
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I came across an interesting short video from the Frick Museum with details about one of my favorite paintings, a portrait of Sir Thomas More done by Han Holbein. I thought I would show it along with a repost of a blog entry from back in 2009. Take a look.

You run across a lot of people who are completely dismissive of anything from the past. They feel that we at the moment are the leading edge of humanity’s progress, that we are the culmination of all that has come before us and thus, anything created long before our time can not have equal value  now. There’s this sense that only the modern can fully express the complexity of our world.

When I see this painting of Sir Thomas More painted by Hans Holbein the Younger in around 1527 I realize what flawed logic that is.

Here is a painting that was painted nearly 500 years ago that, when seen in person at the Frick in NYC, has surfaces that are absolutely beautiful. It still glows with its sumptuous colors. All the years of technical progress have not produced materials that could accomplish any more than Holbein did with the materials of his time.

holbein_henryviiiI could stand and look at this piece for hours, marveling not only at the beauty of the paint but at the way Holbein captured More’s humanity and the sense of the time in which it was painted. For me, this painting really illustrates, gives life to, an important figure in history. More was the ultimate man of conscience, refusing to give in to Henry VIII‘s will that he endorse Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon so that he might marry Anne Boleyn. It ultimately cost him his head and cost the world a wonderful mind, one that gave us the concept of Utopia.

It is obvious to me that Holbein felt warmly towards More in the way the piece is painted and the way he captures his persona. In the painting Holbein  did of Henry VIII (on the left) I get a different sense. It’s meant to be large and strong, to be a display of regal power and that it is. But there’s a coldness in the piggish eyes and an arrogance in the stance. Oh, it’s a beautiful painting, on many levels, but when you compare the two it’s obvious where Holbein’s sympathies lay.

This is art and history coming together at single points. It captures the humanity that is contained in all of us and remains unchanged even to the edge of our time. Good stuff. No, great stuff…

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Snowing like made still. Been out plowing for a couple of hours already this morning, just trying to keep the driveway open, and there is definitely a few more hours of plowing ahead. But I thought I’d take a break, drink some coffee and try to throw out some music for a snowy Sunday morning.

Came up with an old song, Valley of Tears, written and performed originally in 1957 by Fats Domino and covered by a number of other artists over the years. Buddy Holly did a version that charted in 1961 that had a skating rink/ magic organ quality to it but I really like this version from the late great Solomon Burke accompanied by one of my favorites, Gillian Welch, and her husband David Rawlings.

Solomon Burke was one of the early greats in the transition period between R&B and Soul. He was a real preacher and blended the spiritual and the physical aspects of soul– the sex and the salvation– into his music. He never got the acclaim as some of the other big names of 60’s Soul but he is is revered.

This is a great, heartfelt performance of the song. Give a listen while I get back to my own valley of tears. If you consider the falling snow tears, that is. Have a good day.

 

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