Required Reading

This week, Basquiat is remembered by those close to him, art school bs, US political comics today, how a Houston museum prepared for a hurricane, what artists should do with waterlogged belongings, and more.

Spanish furniture designer Fernando Abellanas has a new “creative home” under a highway underpass in Valencia and it looks hilarious. (via Colossal)
  • Jean-Michel Basquiat is having his first solo show at a UK museum (unbelievable, right?) and the Guardian speaks to people who knew him well:

So perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that everyone I talk to who knew Basquiat when he was alive, from girlfriends to collectors, musicians to painters, speaks about him as special. Still, it’s noticeable that they all do. Basquiat – even before he was acknowledged as an artist – was seen by his friends as exceptional.

“I knew when I met him that he was beyond the normal,” says musician and film-maker Michael Holman, who founded the noise band Gray with Basquiat. “Jean-Michel had his faults, he was mischievous, he had certain things about him that could be called amoral, but setting that aside, he had something that I’m sure he had from the moment he was born. It was like he was born fully realised, a realised being.”

“He was a beautiful person and an amazing artist,” says Alexis Adler, a former girlfriend. “I recognised that from the get-go. I knew he was brilliant. The only person around that time I felt the same thing about was Madonna. I totally, 100% knew they were going to be big.”

  • The title says it all:

The Most Important Skill I Learned at Art School: How to Bullshit

Ok, here’s some more:

The first few months at art school dramatically changed my perception of where I fit in on the class scale. I was easily one of the poorest kids on campus. Of course there were other poors, like me. These were people taking on massive amounts of debt, who wouldn’t allow themselves to purchase a cup of coffee, and who wore clothes their grandma had bought them before their freshman year of high school. The poors blended in pretty well, though. Art school is a great equalizer. Intentionally insane and disgusting attire was expected and encouraged, found objects counted as fine art, and eating cheap microwavable garbage was viewed as good time management. Plus, no one assumes you are poor when you’re attending a college that costs $30,000 a year. No one is looking at you for clues of your poverty.

When Benjamin Franklin decided to draw his famous “Join or Die” artwork and submit it to the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1954, he started what is now known as the modern day political cartoon. Since then, political cartooning has not only provided a way for artists and writers to express themselves, but they also have been able to do so freely under the First Amendment.

From the President’s tweets to natural disasters to the resurrected argument refuting science and claiming that the world is actually flat, there is literally no shortage of material for the satirical medium. And they are no longer regulated to just the back of the newspaper. Now political comics are available in webcomic format, as ebooks and yes, even in print. Many artists are using their talents to criticize, protest and report. Often with a bird’s-eye view of society.

Shemon Bar-Tal, the chief technology officer, was there to keep data flowing across the facilities. (Even the parking lots are connected to the digital system.) He could move infrastructure if necessary. And he double-checked the disaster-recovery site he’d installed since Tropical Storm Allison, when the museum lost most of its communication equipment.

The team would split 18-hour shifts, sleeping six hours if they could, in their offices or designated quiet zones. The freezer was full. Air mattresses inflated. Ample water supplies ready. And each of them had a handy-dandy list of emergency contacts (including first and second responders) in their pockets, printed on a slip of waterproof Tyvek, just in case.

The first step is to get your belongings to safety and get them clean. That will keep mold at bay and will go a long way toward saving your flooring, furniture, textiles and other things.

While many people recommend using bleach water for cleanup and mold prevention, Pine and his colleagues – experts at preserving museum-quality valuables – prefer a mixture of 7 parts alcohol and 1 part water.

However, the process is not as simple as driving to a church, snapping a few photos, and reading a handy historical marker to learn its history.

“The church stories and histories are widely scattered, and a lot of it has been lost. It’s very difficult to retrieve it, especially so in African-American communities,” Seals laments. Armed with a network of volunteer photographers who live in all parts of the state, the organization has documented more than 200 churches that are, in many cases, in danger of disappearing. They find the history in local libraries and oral histories. Frequently, however, it’s a struggle to compile a complete history.

Mass sperm whale strandings have been recorded since the Middle Ages, but Vanselow was specifically interested in one that occurred in the winter of 2016, when 29 male sperm whales washed ashore in Germany, Britain, France and The Netherlands. Autopsies revealed that the whales were all healthy aside from some debris in nine of their bellies, not enough to kill them.

Vanselow realized that many animals, including cetaceans, navigate via the Earth’s magnetic field (he has studied the effect of magnetic anomalies on whale behavior in the past). The team collected data on the magnetic field’s strength and the angles it made with the Earth, and noticed that just before the strandings began, some measuring stations recorded magnetic field changes from solar storms, flares of particles blasting off of the Sun and streaming at Earth. He and his co-authors published their findings in the International Journal of Astrobiology last month.

Simeon Wright was only 12 at the time. He was sharing his bed with Emmett the night of Aug. 27 when two white men — Carolyn Bryant’s husband, Roy, and his half brother, J. W. Milam — abducted Emmett at gunpoint.

It was Simeon who identified Emmett’s ring for the police a few days later, after his cousin’s beaten body, one eye gouged out, had been fished from the Tallahatchie River, weighted down with a 75-pound cotton gin fan tethered to his neck with barbed wire.

And it was Mr. Wright who five decades later would donate a sample of his DNA, helping federal prosecutors prove that the disfigured body — the one the nation saw in shocking photographs of the open coffin — was Emmett’s. (The defendants had claimed they could not be convicted because the victim was never conclusively identified.)

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning ET, and is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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