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Posted inBooks

Wheel Life: Paul Scheerbart’s Quest to Build a Perpetual Motion Machine

My favorite shelf in the home library is where Raymond Roussel, the Comte de Lautréamont, E.T. A. Hoffmann, Leonora Carrington and other writers form a brilliant phalanx of eccentricity and marvel. I turn to it like a five-hour energy drink, sampling a few pages of, say, Raymond Queneau or Heinrich von Kleist when in need of a shot of alternative reality (I’m waiting for cable to start producing surreality shows in which men and women practice automatic writing while in trances).

So what fun to add Paul Scheerbart and his perpetual motion machine to the line-up, an altogether delightful addition to the foule folle. A German writer who was born in the Prussian port of Danzig and lived in Berlin for much of his life, Scheerbart (1863-1915) was a jack of all genres — art critic, playwright, novelist, poet, etc. — with many muses.

Posted inArt

Without Elaboration (Part 2)

In 1981, Bess was reintroduced (or, for many of us) introduced by way of a small one-person exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Barbara Haskell organized the show and there was a small pamphlet available for free. According to the pamphlet, the symbols in Bess’ work were based on “obscure sexual references” and there was something “lurid” about them.

Posted inArt

Second Sight: The Photographs of George Hendrik Breitner

It’s unlikely, half a century from now, that a shadow oeuvre will appear among the personal effects of many contemporary artists, a secret body of work that parallels or even exceeds their public output. This is what happened with the Dutch painter George Hendrik Breitner (1857–1923), whose several thousand photographs emerged from obscurity only in 1961 and might plausibly have been lost forever.

Posted inArt

Without Elaboration

Forrest Bess was born in Bay City, Texas on October 5, 1911, one year before Agnes Martin (1912-2004) and Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) joined him on this planet. Martin’s entry point was Macklin, Saskatchewan; Pollock’s was Cody, Wyoming. Martin and Pollock moved to New York in order to study, and left in order to preserve themselves. Both made the paintings by which they became famous after leaving New York.

Posted inOpinion

Required Reading

This week, Keith Haring journals on Tumblr, the follies of suburbanism, looking for Kraftwerk, starchitects in New York, China’s architectural gold rush, art critics pick faves, Louise Bourgeois at the Freud Museum, the evolution of the Houston and Bowery “graffiti” wall, the National Gallery of Art releases 20,000 images online and more.

Posted inArt

When I Hear the Word Poetry, I Reach for My Frequent Flyer Miles

AWP, or the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (that’s actually AWWP, but we’ll let that slide), is billed as an annual celebration of authors, teachers, writing programs, literary centers and small press publishers. Every year these bibliophile masses descend on a North American city (Chicago, this year) to promote, mingle, fraternize, frolic, freak out, fight, deal, dole and drink. The book fair is the centerpiece, the polestar of the conference; a nerve-jouncing nerve center of tables and stalls and booths tucked away in the belly of the Chicago Hilton hotel on South Michigan Ave.