Category: Books

What I’m Reading.

Conquest of the Useless: Reflection From the Making of ‘Fitzcarraldo,’ by Werner Herzog, the German-born filmmaker’s reflections — drawn from his journal — on the making of what amounts to one hell of an impossible film.

P. 195 (from the first edition hard cover):

Mauch was operated on by Dr. Parraga, with our extraordinarily skillful cook putting in the sutures. Since all the anesthesia had been used up during the almost eight hours it took to operate on the two people wounded by arrows, Mauch was soon in agony, and even analgesic spray did not do much good. I held his head and pressed it against me, and a silent wall of faces surrounded us.

Mauch said he could not take any more, he was going to faint, and I told him to go ahead. Then he thought he was going to shit in his pants from the pain, but he could not decide between the two options, and in the end did neither. On a hunch I sent for Carmen, one of the two prostitutes we have here because of the woodcutters and boatmen. She pushed me aside, buried Mauch’s head between her breasts, and comforted him with her lovely soft voice. She rose above her everyday existence, developing her inner Pietà, and Mauch soon fell silent. During the operation, which lasted almost two hours, she said over and over, ‘Thomas, mi amor,” to him, while the patient yielded to his fate. As I stood watching, I felt a deep affection for them both.


C-Mon Giveaway Extravaganza: 3-D Art Book edition.

Hey Folks:

I have a little treat from Prestel for giveaway purposes: Tristan Eaton’s 3-D Art Book, complete with trippy imagery supplied by more than a hundred artists — from Ron English to Miss Van. It comes equipped with two pairs of 3-D glasses. A good way to spend a stonerrific afternoon…

Leave a comment below and this little puppy could be all yours.


What I read on my summer vacation.

Occasionally, there’s a graphic novel that comes along that grabs you by the eyeballs and doesn’t let go. David B.’s Epileptic would be it — a memoir of the author’s youth that is centered on his family’s struggle against his older brother’s all-consuming epilepsy. All I gotta say is: Read. It. Now. (Thanks to Douglas Wolk for pointing the way on this one. Find his New York Mag review of the book right here.)

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Flying High.

I have an interview over at WNYC with art critic Ken Johnson about his new book, Are You Experienced? which chronicles the influence of 1960s drug culture on the last half century’s worth of art. Also included: tips on the best New York museum to be stoned in. (Image of the painting Rabbit, by Judith Linhares,  featured in the book, comes courtesy of Prestel.)

C-Mon Giveaway Extravaganza: Beyond the Street edition.

Hey Folks:

I’ve got a copy of Patrick Nguyen’s and Stuart Mackenzie’s Beyond the Street: The 100 Leading Figures in Urban Art to give away (courtesy of the kind folks at Gestalten). It’s a who’s who of street art’s scene-y scene. Y’all know the drill. Leave a comment and this puppy could be yours.

As always, muchas gracias for reading C-Mon.


What I’m Reading: PRISM Index.

Get This Now: PRISM Index, Issue #1.

I have been seriously remiss for not writing about this sooner: PRISM Index, a lovingly crafted, hand-made art and culture magazine straight outta Columbus, Oh. Not only does it feature an original silkscreen cover by artist and founder Jeffrey Bowers, it comes bursting with goodies: drawings, stories, photography, excerpts of graphic novels and a funny, stand-alone mini-comic called Horror of the Hodag! Oh, and did I mention the multimedia components? A CD and DVD chock full of music and video compilations — the latter of which contains Jay Rosenblatt‘s must-see I Just Wanted to Be Somebody. I’m still going through all of the pieces (this is the sort of publication you chew on in bits), but if I had to pick one reason to pick up this wonderful magazine, it’s for Trent Harris’s moving essay on his friendship with artist Bruce Conner. It left me gasping.

Find the first issue via the magazine’s website, along with a short list of bookstores and galleries that also carry it. It is worth every penny of its $22 cover price.

List of Lists: A book of artistic miscellany.

Ad Reinhardt’s list of desirable and undesirable words for describing art. Sadly, ‘ridiculosity’ did not make his list. (All images courtesy of the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art and Princeton Architectural Press.)

Any regular reader of this blog will know that I am partial to lists. One, because they’re handy. Two, because they can convey great meaning in just a few words. And, three, because they can reveal so much about the person that creates them. Which is why I’ve really enjoyed thumbing through Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts and Other Artists’ Enumerations, by Liza Kirwin, who serves as curator of manuscripts at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art.

As part of her job, Kirwin combs through the files that she receives from artists’ estates or from the artists themselves, cataloguing important letters and diaries. Almost every single collection is accompanied, she says, by lots of lists. “Some have thousands,” she explains, from lists that chronicle artworks shown at a particular exhibit to lists that record day-to-day gallery business. Though often considered ephemera, these can often be invaluable. “One of our treasures in the archives is the list by Picasso of artists that he recommends for the 1913 Armory show.”

Her book, published last year by Princeton Architectural Press, contains a wide gamut of highly intriguing lists, by artists both well-known and forgotten. This includes Franz Kline’s liquor bill for a 1960 New Year’s Eve party. (He spent a sum total $274.51 for an extravagant quantity of booze — that’s more than $2,000 in 2011 dollars). There are Ad Reinhardt’s tidily organized lists of words on index cards, from 1951, in which he creates a schematic of art language. (Shown above, and after the jump.) And there are the lists of painter Adolf Konrad (1915-2003), who once created a pictorial packing list for a jaunt through Egypt and Rome in the ‘early ’60s (see below). “When this came in,” says Kirwin, of Konrad’s watercolor list, “I made a photocopy of it because I said to myself, ‘If I ever do a book, I want to include it in there.’ I just loved it. And now it’s the cover.”

One of the pieces Kirwin found particularly meaningful were the to-do lists of painter and collagist Janice Lowry (1946-2009. “She died of liver cancer,” says Kirwin. “She was working out a lot of issues with her family in her lists. She told me that she could look at the list and see which things she was really avoiding because she would migrate it to the next list. A lot of these had to do with going to the doctor and getting blood tests. She felt intuitively that something was wrong her.”

As technology changes, so does the nature of lists. More contemporary submissions to the archives, says Kirwin, often arrive on discs. These raise all manner of preservation questions: Do you preserve the list in its original formatting? Or strip it down to simple text? How do you store it? “It’s something we’re grappling with,” she explains. “But the lists, they’re not as much fun, for sure.”

See more sample lists below. Click on images to supersize. Want to see more? The Morgan Library in New York will display these, and many others, starting in June.

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