Paolo Veronese, The Conversion of Mary Magdalene, about 1548, oil on canvas, 117.5 x 163.5 cm. London, The National Gallery.
In a couple of weeks’ time, we’re opening the first major show
of the works of Venetian Renaissance artist Paolo Veronese in decades at the National Gallery. Although it falls within my area of responsibility and will therefore occupy much of my time for the next few months, it’s an exhibition I have had nothing to do with, having started at the gallery only a few months ago. But needless to say one I’m looking forward to immensely: it’s a privilege thus to be dropped into the midst of a great project on an artist of immense generosity.
It’s not just that his pictures pull out all the stops, that his art is a rarely paralleled display of elegance, magnificence, and virtuosity, it’s that there is something profoundly touching about those qualities in his work. He is one of the few artists who really understood the lessons of Raphael. His immaculate sense of composition, his grasp of form, two- as well as three-dimensional, his sensitive use of gesture, and the subtlety of his portrayal of human interaction are all elements in what seems to me a distinctly civilising art, to paraphrase Kenneth Clark’s characterisation of Raphael. Contemplating Veronese is not only a joy, it makes you feel better about life and who we are.
That’s the high register. Keep an eye on the NG website for further thoughts and more concrete analysis during the course of the exhibition. I’ll keep you posted here and on twitter.
“There Are Good Guys and Bad Guys.” Bhob Stewart’s classic essay on/obituary of Wally Wood reprinted at the Comics Journal to mark the passing of its author. RIP. Read it, it is one of the most evocative, personal texts of its kind in comics. Really brings the great, flawed cartoonist to life.
Nikoline Werdelin interviewed. Arguably the greatest living Danish cartoonist, Werdelin has rarely if ever been interviewed about her comics (she has often talked to journalists about other things — life, style, death, and everything in between), so this in-depth, work-oriented interview by Thomas Thorhauge is a major scoop. Unfortunately it is only available in Danish, as is indeed the case with most of her work. English readers can sample her in From Wonderland with Love.
Finally, this uncredited photo, from the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, is arresting, sobering, terrible. A reminder that something has to be done there. A no-fly zone blocking the government’s use of their air force remains a good place to start.
Illustration by Trondheim of the Angoulême mascot (designed by him) and Bill Watterson's Calvin
The Comics Journal, I’ve just posted a small article on the recent changes to the Grand Prix awarded at the Angoulême comics festival, this year to Bill Watterson. It is arguably the greatest formal honor bestowed in the comics world, and any change brings with it controversy, of course. I asked the great cartoonist, and member of the Grand Prix awarding body, Lewis Trondheim to help me out a bit. Check it out.
Once again, Paul Gravett has taken a trip around the globe for his annual survey of the best in world comics. And as usual, I’ve contributed a small list of what I consider the best/most notable Danish comics of last year. Read the full list here and here, but just in case, here’s my contribution: Continue reading ‘Danish Comics of the Year 2013′
From Jim Woodring's Fran, a comic Joe McCulloch made me appreciate more, even if the cartoonist's recent work has left me a bit cold
Once again, Ng Suat Tong has posted an overview
of some of the best comics criticism published online in the year gone by over at the Hooded Utilitarian. In previous years, he has gathered differing juries consisting of a fairly wide range of critics, but this year he has dispensed with that in favor of just selecting a bunch of pieces on his own.
And once again, I’m flattered to be included on his list, especially considering just how little I’ve written in the past year. I’ve kept wanting to, but other things just kept getting in the way, and much as I want to say things are going to be different, that probably won’t change much in the coming year. Anyway, it was nice to see my piece on Abel Lanzac (aka. Antonin Baudry) and Christophe Blain’s Quai d’Orsay and Willem’s Degeulasse, written for The Comics Journal last August, mentioned. Especially since so many really excellent pieces (as well as some fairly mediocre one, it has to be said) were included.
Suat’s taking stock, which has now been running for five years, remains a valuable service to the corner of the comics internet interested in serious writing about the art form, and I for one am grateful that he still makes the effort. Also, he continues to write outstanding comics criticism himself: from the last year, I particularly liked his critique of Michael Deforge(‘s critics), his appreciation of The Trigan Empire, his essay on Daniel Clowes’ because of Shia Laboef now rather famous “Justin M. Damiano”, his examination of Suehiro Maruo’s The Strange Tale of Panorama Island, and his head-scratching dissection of a particularly lauded xkcd story.
Now, don’t waste more time here — go check out the list.
I Informations bogtillæg fra i fredags stod min anmeldelse af Marcel Ruijters De hellige, udgivet på dansk af forlaget Forlæns, at læse. Du kan se den her.
I fredags publicerede Information en artikel om kvinder i tegneserier i deres specielle bogtillæg sammensat i anledning af Bogforum. Den var skrevet af mig. Desværre havde jeg været så letsinding at sende dem en kladde, der bestod af flere halvfærdige og senere slettede afsnit, som kun til en vis grad hang sammen. Dog nok til at den kunne trykkes.
Ret foruroligende at kunne konstatere, at man er så defekt, når man sidder og arbejder til deadline. Heldigvis er det nu en ny uge, hvilket betyder at bogtilægget er historie og de fleste eksemplarer sandsynligvis er smidt ud (eller snart bliver det) af læserne, og på avisen har de i mellemtiden været så flinke at uploade den rigtige, færdige version af artiklen, som bl.a. indeholder anmeldelser af Margaux Motins Egentlig ville jeg så gerne have vaeret antropolog… (billede ovenfor), Marten Vande Wieles Paris og Aben Malers dagbogsantologi Jeg tegner, når jeg skriver, såvel som korte omtaler af Maren Uthaug og Stine Spedsbergs tegnede blogs.
Primært er artiklen dog et forsøg på meget kursorisk at skitsere en væsentlig udvikling indenfor tegneserien, set med danske øjne — med alt hvad der følger af kønsdiskurs og -kontroverser.
Hele herligheden kan læses her.
I fredagens bogtillæg til dagbladet Information stod min anmeldelse af Jiro Taniguchi og Hiromi Kawakamis Senseis mappe at læse. For jer, der ikke har papirudgaven, kan den også læses på nettet.
Just thought I’d collect links to a number of writings on comics I’ve done over the years on comics history and aesthetics, as well as some of the great or otherwise significant works that have shaped it, here and elsewhere. Hopefully it will be interesting or useful to anybody interested in the subject, not the least students that I’ve bored with it in the seminar room. Anyway, here’s an overview: Continue reading ‘On Comics History and the Canon’
Here in the United States we are experts in the knowledge that editorial cartooning is a dying art. In other areas of the world, however, it is an art that people die for.
– Dr. Robert Russell
The week in review
The execution, earlier this year, of cartoonist Akram Raslan is another reminder of the untenable situation in Syria, of the kind we who are especially attuned to cartooning notice. As if we needed it. It is great that the deal to eliminate the country’s chemical weapons so far seems to be going ahead (though, what about the chemical weapons in Egypt and Iran?), and good to see that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this week. But I fail to see how the Assad regime can be regarded as anything but illegitimate by now. I realize the complexity of the situation in the region, how delicate affecting regime change would be, and the power vacuum any removal of the current despot in charge would cause, but how can one seriously contemplate having dealings with these mass murderers in the future? How will the region ever be more stable if they remain in charge? After a while, fear of change just becomes cynicism.
I really shouldn’t be giving it any attention, but the new “Leonardo” find this week is symptomatic of a rising trend toward sensationalist PR stunts in the art world, where often dubious pieces are trotted out as genuine works by one of the great masters. Another example is the recent, silly attempt to upgrade a Velasquez copy at Kingston Lacy. The press clearly laps it up, but in the long run it has to be a problem for anybody taking seriously the study and facilitation of knowledge of art, as well as to the market. And it clearly makes one wary even of more serious proposals, such as that of the new, possible Titian I wrote about the other day.
Speaking of new finds, the sensationalist rollout of the fantastic Van Gogh discovery by the Van Gogh Museum last month is scrutinised and found wanting by Gary Schwartz.
And speaking of Nobel Prizes, the one for literature of course went to Alice Munro, whom I suppose is deserving and all, but when is the committee finally going to give it to Bob Dylan? Bill Wyman made the by now long stated case once again before the prize was announced.
Pusha T’s new album My Name is My Name, seems poised as contender for album of the year if the singles are anything to go by. The Kendrick Lamar-featured “Nosestalgia” is hot, and “Pain”, released this week is Fyah! Also, check David Drake’s pre-release analysis here.
If you read Danish, Louise B. Olsen’s smart and elegant essay on Krazy Kat is a nice way to celebrate the centenary of that greatest of comic strips.
Oh, and this article on how the city of London has become an international tax haven for real estate speculators is just a depressing peek into the workings of global capitalism, not the least to somebody like yours truly who will soon be moving to that city.
Totally forgot to post this here in good time. It’s been a little crazy around these parts lately. Anyway, I’m organising this colloquium in Cambridge tomorrow. If you happen to be around, and are interested in the topic (slim chances, I know!), then by all means show up!
You may remember me writing about the Ping Awards in this space. But briefly: the Ping Awards are awards given annually to comics in Denmark at an annual gala show. There was an older award of the same name, a reference to one of the great Danish cartoonist Storm P.’s (1882-1949) most famous characters, but the present incarnation was founded in 2012 by the comics website Nummer9 in collaboration with the Danish Comics Council, the international comics festival Copenhagen Comics, and the comics magazine Strip!
Works are nominated in six categories by comics critics from Nummer9 and Strip! and the winners are selected by a jury comprising representatives from each of the founding bodies, as well as a number of independent critics, writers, artists and comics professionals. You can read much more on the Ping website, albeit only in Danish. (Sorry).
Anyway, this year’s Ping Awards were given out at a show at Lille Vega held in conjunction with Copenhagen Comics on 1 June in Lille Vega Copenhagen. It featured appearances from such international luminaries as Jaime Hernandez and Jill Thompson, as well as hilarious acceptance letters from awards winners Chris Ware and David Mazzucchelli. A sampling of the event has now been made available by the Ping team in the video above. Enjoy, and get in touch if you would like to know more about the Ping Awards.
I Informations bogsektion har jeg i dag en anmeldelse af Emmanuel Guiberts mesterværk Alans krig. Læs den!
Over at RapSpot, I’ve just reviewed Chicago speed rap veteran Twista’s incredibly poor showing in Pumpehuset, Copenhagen this past Saturday (in Danish, unfortunately). A large part of my criticism is the fact that he lip synched almost his entire concert, which ties in with the reservations I recently expressed about the Wacka Flocka show at the same venue. The difference was that Twista for over twenty years has marketed himself as the fastest rapper alive and in this represents the kind of virtuoso technique that one has to be able to deliver on stage as well as in the booth in order to retain artistic credibility, whereas Wacka Flocka has not and does not. Also, Twista’s show was lazy and poorly conceived. A shame, but the real issue seems to me that this kind of approach to performaning live is proliferating in hip hop.
Photo: Klaus Køhl.
As most of you are no doubt aware, Detroit is bankrupt, and one of the worse ideas the city has for keeping its creditors at bay is selling off the treasures in the Detroit Institute of Arts, one of America’s finest art museums. Deaccessioning masterworks from the collection, or dissolving it entirely, would be a great loss to the public, and to the city: no longer the industrial hub of yesteryear, Detroit needs to redefine itself in order to remain a vibrant city and and an attractive place to live and visit. Focusing on culture and other soft capital doesn’t appear like the worst way to achieve this, and in the DIA the city has an internationally significant cultural institution and a natural node of interest in such an endeavour, it seems to me. Besides, whatever money might be raised from selling off the collection is dwarfed by the city’s debt. It would be like pissing your pants to stay warm.
Anyway, enough pontification. Jeffrey Hamburger from Harvard University has organised an online petition to convince the city of Detroit to leave the DIA alone. I encourage you to sign it, and leave any comments you may have.
(Such petitions can make a difference, however small. Hamburger’s petition to convince the city of Berlin to leave its collection of old masters at the Tiergarten Gemäldegalerie may not have been the deciding factor, but it cannot have had an adverse effect on the recent, happy decision not to move the collection).
Image: The Wedding Dance by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1566), one of the great works in the DIA.
The week in review
This week the rap game experienced tremors when Big Sean released the song “Control” online. It featured a verse from the still-young, still gunning Kendrick Lamar on which he not only claimed for himself as many indices of hip hop royalty as he could — ‘Makavelli’s offspring’, the ‘Black Beatle’ or ‘Marley’ and, evidently most galling of all ‘King of New York’, he also named names, placing himself in the august company of the current paragons (Jay-Z, Nas, Eminem, Andre 3000) and calling out a selection of his contemporaries, warning them that whether they are homies or not, he is trying to make their careers history (or ‘murder’ them, to be exact) in the true, competitive spirit of hip hop. This touched of a frenzy of responses from all over the rap world, with dis tracks coming at Kendrick left and right (and mostly from New York emcees, as one would expect). Several prominent artists reacted positively, stating that Kendrick has made hip hop exciting again by rekindling the focus on lyrics.
This is the kind of verse that’s an immediate jaw-dropper, and not even mainly because of the presumption of naming of names. It’s in the performance. Kendrick here sounds as hungry as he ever has, pouring more aggression into this one verse than his entire, already impressive body of work can muster. We’re hearing a new side of him here. It’s not really about the lyrics, despite what everyone has been saying. Kendrick pushes some easy buttons and simultaneously makes sure not to piss off the establishment too much (why not include Jigga, Nas, et. al. on his hit list while he’s at it? It would be in the spirit). (incidentally, I like that Kanye is nowhere mentioned!). And frankly the rest of the verse is kind of incoherent, lacking in evocative simile and too busy with the name checks. No, what makes this verse of a different order than just about all the responses and most of what one hears in rap at the moment is the conviction he brings to it. It is truly exciting to hear a rapper spit with such passion. The words matter, of course, but only because they are delivered with such fire, such promise. In one verse, Kendrick has done much to dispel the very reasonable fear that he might experience sophomore jinx after his masterful major label debut good kid m.A.A.d city of last year.
XXL and MTV both provide nice overviews of the responses to the verse; Brandon Soderbergh has the best critical take on the song.
In other news, you have to read this incredible piece on how Edward Snowden established his contact to filmmaker Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald.
Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz on Detroit’s plight and what one might learn from it.