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O for Orson

Posted on February 24, 2015 by admin

I’ve been on a movie kick, watching and rewatching films and documentaries about art. A must see is from one of my favorite people…

“F for Fake” (1973) is the last major film by the man who himself became a household name through a form of deception. In this film essay/documentary Orson Welles explores the world of a master art forger. It takes one to know one — as you may recall, Mr. Welles, inadvertently or not, pranked a nation with his 1939 radio play based on H.G. Well’s “War of the Worlds”. A master illusionist himself, Welles seems in sympathy with the dapper, aristocratic, polyglot Elmyr de Hory, who claims quite proudly that his work hangs in all the world’s great art palaces.

In the course of filming on swinging Ibiza, de Hory’s home, a third world-class charlatan, Clifford Irving, appears, creating a trio of charming rouges enjoying each other’s company. Also, you’ll behold Oja Kodar, Welles’ companion, and the fourth member of this merry band. Pablo Picasso and Howard Hughes play important roles in this labyrinthine narrative, though not directly involved (they were alive at the time, however, barely). A trailer was produced well after the fact and is mostly made up of footage not used in the film.

Although I’ve linked the film on YouTube, how about procuring a genuine copy from Criterion, with all the bells and whistles. It includes commentary from Oja Kodar, among other things.

And wouldn’t you know it, there are phony fake de Hory’s out there.

A genuine de Hory

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The NEW Shock of the New — 10 Years On

Posted on February 16, 2015 by admin

Here at BetterWall we are re-watching “The Shock of the New”, the classic documentary about the development of modern art. It premiered on British TVs in 1980 and came over the pond in 1981, on PBS of course — the U.S. home of Benny Hill. The wit and intelligence conveyed by the highly opinionated and articulate art critic Robert Hughes still holds up today.

I only recently realized he did a one-hour follow up in 2004 called “The NEW Shock of the New 2004″. I have yet to see it – I’m waiting to finish up the original series – but I’m anxious to hear his take on the likes of Damien Hirst (I bet he’s no fan of pickled shark!). You can watch all 9 in the series on YouTube — between checking out cat videos. The book “The Shock of the New”, a companion to the series is also highly recommended.

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The Shock of the New — 102 Years Ago

Posted on February 14, 2015 by admin

The Armory Show. Feb 17-March 15, 1913. New York City.

They say great art anticipates. On the eve of a great historic spasm, the art world experienced an earth-shaking moment of its own. It was the first large exhibit of modern art in America. What the punters must have thought! And indeed, just as Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” would do in Paris a few weeks later, it offended the sensibilities of many. Roosevelt opined, “That’s not art!”.

This new way of seeing was indicative of the optimism of a new century, yet also foreshadowed the truly offensive horrors to come. The 69th Infantry Regiment, whose armory it was (and still is), would be in France by October 1917. The iconoclasm of the Fauvists, Cubists, and Futurists, heralded a changing of the guard and a toppling of Europe’s old orders. The incident in Sarajevo may have caused the kettle to reach the boiling point, but this exhibit showed that something had been brewing for some time.

And it wasn’t just an all-avant garde, -male, -European affair, as this piece in ArtNews explains.

Would have made a good banner

Rather optimistic

THIS is what they thought

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Low-Brow and “Big Eyes”

Posted on February 3, 2015 by admin

Amy Adams wins Golden Globe for title role in Margaret Keane film.

She’s also nominated for a leading actress BAFTA trophy, coming up on Feb. 8. Here’s hoping for a fellow Coloradan!

An enduring memory growing up in the suburbs in the 60s and 70s were the freaky big eyes staring at me from the walls of friends’ homes. By the 80s these kitsch masterpieces became collectible among hipsters. As it turns out, the artist behind these very popular, money-making images wasn’t Walter Keane at all (though he took all the credit), but his wife Margaret. Tim Burton’s Big Eyes, in theaters now, tells the whole story.

Also, chanteuse Lana Del Rey got a nomination at the Golden Globes for her song “Big Eyes”.

I was watching “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”, the 1962 Bette Davis/Joan Crawford classic, and what did I spy 15 minutes in?

Behind every "great" man, the woman who did all the work

A Keane spotting

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The Most Popular Painting Ever?

Posted on February 3, 2015 by admin

More from the Dept. of Low-Brow Art

The Chinese Girl, aka The Green Lady

Just as I remember big-eyed Keane children in my youth, prints of this painting also hung in many a tract home. Painted in Cape Town, South Africa, by Vladimir Tretchikoff in the early 50s, the original sold at auction for $1.5 million in 2013. The image of Monika Sing Lee was one of the most reproduced of the 20th century.

As far as I know there is no film based on Vlad and his painting. The Green Lady (she looks blue to me) has made several notable media appearances over the decades; including the cover of a Chumbawamba album, and in Hitchcock’s “Frenzy”, on the wall of the killer.

They oughta make a movie!

It must have been something she ate

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When Problem Comes Along, You Must Fix It — Or Not!

Posted on January 27, 2015 by admin

Kintsugi and Marcel Duchamp.

As the banners here at BetterWall are hung outdoors to advertise exhibits, they are exposed to the elements and may have slight signs of wear. Though we always make sure only the finest specimens are sent to our customers, a little scuff only adds to its authenticity and character — yes? Nirvana’s scruff to Devo’s sheen — both have their merits. We’ve all seen the artificial weathering of clothing over the years as a marketing tool, however, there is nothing like a genuinely worn pair of jeans. Even a scratch on vinyl, and the skip it creates, tells you it’s yours. This got me to thinking about Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repair, and the Dadaism of Marcel Duchamp.

Actually I stumbled upon this concept on Wikipedia, so I’ll just go with the definition I found there:

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer resin dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. As a philosophy it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

And then I got to contemplating Duchamp’s “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even” aka “The Large Glass”, which lives at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The story goes that during transport the glass shattered. Marcel, apparently an iconoclast even when it came to his own work, liked the resulting patterns, and decided against repair; much of the Dadaist philosophy being rooted in chance.

And coincident to writing this, and yet another rock’n’roll reference, indie group, Death Cab for Cutie have just announced they are releasing an album called “Kintsugi” this March.

An example of "Golden Joinery"


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Swiss Watch

Posted on January 22, 2015 by admin

Hans-Ulrich Obrist. The art world’s most influential curator?

The man held a film festival in his kitchen cupboard! As an art-obsessed lad who grew up in the middle of Europe, Obrist scraped together what he had to visit as many artists and galleries as he could, mostly by train. He willed himself into expertise in an unorthodox manner, making himself a highly-connected maven of the art world. An interesting character. Check out this article in the December New Yorker.


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Posted on September 15, 2014 by admin

At BetterWall, we’re big fans of Houzz. It’s incredibly addictive even if you’re not in the market for a new home or remodeling one. The visual flow of millions of well organized appealing photographs is more than enough to waste a few hours of your day. Below are some of our recent finds on Houzz.

Julia Child inspired peg board modernist!

Perhaps Burning Man inspired?

Aperitivo anyone?

Bohemian chic

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Rash of Recovered Art Continues in Europe

Posted on September 15, 2014 by admin

Yet another story out of Europe of recovered art. In this case, a man in 1975 buys two “colorful” painting at an Italian auction of abandoned train passenger items only to find out decades later that the art hanging in his kitchen is stolen and valued at an astounding $48 million. A still life by Gauguin and a second painting by Bonnard had been stolen from a London home in 1970. Unlike in our previous story of looted art, the man, a retired Fiat worker, who enjoyed his kitchen art for past 39 years isn’t a suspect in the heist.

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Digital Switcheroo

Posted on September 15, 2014 by admin

English portraitist George Dawe 19th century paintings of Russian generals is the inspiration for an amusing digital switcheroo that places celebrity heads on these military shoulders.
Bob Marley

Clint Eastwood

Eddie Murphy

Brad Pitt

Bob Dylan

David Bowie

Frank Zappa

Sylvester Stallone

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