Picture of the Week #80: Raymond Waters’ Haute Couture

I’ve wanted to revive the popular Picture of the Week feature for a while, but needed a spur to do so. A couple of years ago, I featured a beautiful artwork by Raymond Waters, which featured a print of Charlie Chaplin‘s The Gold Rush arranged with fairy lights. So, when Waters drew my attention to his latest exhibits, I was only too happy to show them off here once more. The dress pictured above is from the Haute Couture series, and is made of strips of film from Chaplin’s Modern Times: a closer view will reveal more:

As well as such bona fide classics, Waters creates vivid coloured outfits using particular films, including John Carpenter’s Vampires, which is clearly better to wear than to watch:

Waters’ commitment to treating the film itself (a disappearing commodity in the digital age) as aesthetic content in itself, rather than the raw material for the more important projected image, offers a genuinely novel angle on film history. We already carry films, in the form of memories of films, around with us at all times: making films into clothing gives physical expression to that fact, just as it manifests the longstanding relationship between film and fashion.

[Read more about the work of Raymond Waters here.]

Picture of the Week #79: Gallery 1988’s Crazy 4 Cult Show

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Gallery 1988 was opened in Los Angeles in 2004 by Katie Cromwell and Jensen Karp. Since then, it has built up an avid following for its annual Crazy 4 Cult exhibition of work by new artists focused on popular cinema. Many of the ‘cult films’ beloved of the shows contributors are comedies and fantasies and fantasy comedies from the late 80s and early 90s: there’s a lingering love for Tim Burton, Back to the Future, The Goonies, the Evil Dead sequels, Pee Wee Herman, Donnie Darko and The Big Lebowski. Colourful and accessible, perhaps their attraction is that they treat with nostalgic, loving care the movies that mattered during the childhood and adolescence of the gallery’s target demographic, movies that were themselves often reverently referential to their predecessors. Here’s a sample of recent exhibits [Click on any image for a larger view]:

Picture of the Week #70: Krassimir Terziev’s Double King Kong

These two paintings come from Bulgarian artist Krassimir Terziev‘s ‘Missing Scenes’ series. His work often reconsiders and appropriates the history of cinema, as in Double King Kong (2007), which collapses the temporal gap between Kong’s 1933 and 1976 imaginings, to show the big ape doomed to repeat the same tragic ending against the backdrop of an indifferent city. The Fall of King Kong (2007, below) is, hopefully, self-explanatory and poignant:

Picture of the Week #66: John Stezaker

John Stezaker’s collages of postcards and studio portraits and film stills are eye-catching to say the least. Apt, but imperfect, imprecise but resonant matches are the hallmarks of these pairings of pictures that fit together uneasily. Like bad photo-fits and good art, they distort the familiar and frame the strange. Old publicity photographs, intended as guarantors of a star’s identity and accessible public image, provide much of his raw material, and he effortlessly transfigures them from something sweet and composed into something surreal and fragmented.

[Click on a thumbnail to view larger images, or see slideshow below.]

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Picture of the Week #49: “But What I Really Want to Do is Paint…”

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A while ago I posted some paintings by film directors. To cut a(n already not very) long story short, here are some more. See if you can guess who painted the the pictures in this post without looking at the captions. Match the pictures to the directors who created them: Alfred Hitchcock, Satyajit Ray, Jan Svankmajer, Peter Greenaway, Dennis Hopper, Jean Cocteau, Akira Kurosawa, Federico Fellini, John Huston, Josef von Sternberg, Mike Figgis and Sergei Eisenstein. Some are more obvious than others.

These are selections taken from Karl French, Art by Film Directors (London: Mitchell Beazley, 2004)

Picture of the Week #46: Eadweard Muybridge at Tate Britain

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If you’re passing by Tate Britain between 8th September and 16th January, you’ll have the chance to catch an exhibition of photographs by Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904), pioneering chronophotographer and proto-animator, creator of the zoopraxiscope. The exhibition promises to cover the full range of his art, though he remains most famous for his sequential studies of human and animal locomotion, produced using an array of cameras timed to record the incremental the stages of a catalogue of movements and activities. It promises to be a wonderful opportunity to examine his work in more depth, and especially to see a 17-foot panoramic photograph of San Francisco, rather more impressive than the version shown below (click for a large, but not that large, view):

Picture of the Week #17: Film-makers who Paint

The discovery that Anthony Hopkins has been working away at some figurative paintings (see image above) inspired me to dedicate Picture of the Week to film-makers who also paint. And I wonder if you, dear reader, can work out which is which. You’ll find paintings by Sylvester Stallone, Akira Kurosawa, David Lynch, Takeshi Kitano, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Tim Burton, and Derek Jarman below (or after the break). Rolling your mouse over the image (in some cases you can click for a larger view) will reveal the name of the artist. And if you know of any more film-makers, actors and the like who have a portfolio of paintings I can add to this little gallery, please let me know and I’ll build up a collection.

Click to see more…

Picture of the Week #12: Ed Ruscha

The Picture of the Week feature was meant to be a gentle way to blog my way into the weekend with an eye-catching image and a brief comment to make some sense of it. I’ve turned out to be not very good at it, because I tend to post more than one image at a time. There are just too many pictures in the world. This week, I’m reminding myself of the marvellous Ed Ruscha exhibition I saw at London’s Hayward gallery before Christmas. It closed last weekend, so I’m afraid you can’t even pay a visit if you like what you see here. Sorry. Ruscha’s blunt-statement paintings match perfectly with the Hayward’s brutal, boxy architecture, especially things like his famous “OOF”, which I photographed at MOMA a couple of years ago. Anyway, I was particularly taken with his movie-related paintings such as The End (above, 1991) and Exit (below, 1990). Making something the subject of a painting gives it a special emphasis, a new status, and Ruscha likes to grant that promotion to the bits of text we’re not supposed to celebrate – the sign that points to the way out of the cinema, for instance, like an “off” switch for the movie, or the text that marks the conclusion, in this case the stuttering, scratched breakdown of the film itself as well as its finish. “Deathly but wry” is what I would write on the poster if it was my job to write posters…

Alternatively, you might find Ruscha taking iconic text and bringing it down a peg or two:

Nowhere Boy

I don’t get on well with biopics. I don’t like the pre-fab structure that they all seem obliged to follow, and I wince at the dramatic irony of the little moments that wink at you to indicate a shared foreknowledge of what’s going to happen. Particularly in those films that deal with artists, musicians etc., we are offered a series of obstacles to their “becoming” the celebrity we recognise, finding their voice/muse/inspiration through a series of miniature origin stories. The indignities and problems they tackle are set into context by the greatness we know they will go on to achieve – we are expected to be fascinated by John Lennon’s youth not because of what it tells us about Britain in the 1950s and 60s, but because of how it stands in contrast to Lennon the self-possessed megastar adult. There’s a moment at the beginning of Nowhere Boy when a group of schoolchildren are walking to school through the park. There’s a cut to the sign that tells us what we really need to know: STRAWBERRY FIELDS. It’s a heavy-handed, early reminder that this has meaning because it will one day become meaningful. I was also tempted to claw my own flesh every time a moment was designed to gain force from it’s understatement – the casual introduction of Paul McCartney, Kristin Scott Thomas forgetting the name of the new band that will shortly take over the music world.

Click here to read on…

Picture of the Week #10: The Gold Rush

I was looking for a movie-related image that could adorn Spectacular Attractions tonight and mark the beginning of the New Year. The Gold Rush popped into my head immediately, and I couldn’t think of any more beyond that. Can’t top The Gold Rush. It is in Chaplin’s 1925 masterpiece that he celebrates New Year’s Eve alone, imagining himself to be entertaining a roomful of beautiful women, performing the ‘dance of the rolls’:
Read on…