The Unexpected Professor

Written on February 27, 2014 by Admin in Literature

unexpectedJohn Carey has been, among other things, a professor of English at Oxford, a prominent reviewer and book-prize judge, and an ardent bee-keeper. He tells us that he considered writing a history of English literature but decided instead to write “something more personal – a history of English literature and me, how we met, how we got on, what came of it”. This, then, is his autobiography, but one in which books – books he read, books he wrote, books he admired, books he reviewed – play an unusually large part.

At times it feels like a series of free-standing disquisitions on individual books tied together with a fetching thread of reminiscence. He doesn’t just mention them: he quotes long sections, he discusses aspects of their language or imagery, he explores why they move or appeal to him. It is for the most part very skilfully done. We follow him into what we think is going to be the secret garden of personal revelation, only to find we are given a brisk tutorial on Browning’s dramatic monologues or the sound of Milton’s verse. As with a lot of teaching, we attend through the less exciting bits because we’re drawn to our teacher, curious to know what it all means for him.

The melding of the books and the life works particularly well when recalling the kinds of author who opened his mind when young – Chesterton, Shaw, Daudet, Horace (the whole book is a conscious tribute to a particular kind of 1950s grammar-school education, as these names suggest). But it starts to feel more contrived in later sections, above all when he remorselessly summarises the reviews he wrote of some 20 assorted books, mostly non-fiction. Perhaps this was meant to illustrate something of the randomness of the reviewer’s life, or Carey’s omnivorousness as a reader, but in practice it engenders much the same feeling as it does when someone gets you in a corner and starts telling you, at length, about books you haven’t read or films you haven’t seen.

The best bits, as so often in autobiographies, come when he writes with real affection – whether about playing as a child during the second world war, or about his happy marriage, or about gardening at his cottage in the Cotswolds that “seems deep in the country”. Or about his bees. These hardworking creatures prompt him not just to admiration – “almost everything about bees is amazing” – but to some of his most winningly poetic touches, as when he recalls “the sight of bees on the landing board waddling up into the darkness of the hives, the orange pollen-packs on their back legs shining like brake lights”. These are moments of pastoral when the groundedness of a more rural existence is invoked to show up the shallowness of literary London or the futility of academic politics; after all, he has found a better class of buzz.

Continue reading in The Guardian


Paco de Lucía, guitar virtuoso, dies at 66

Written on February 26, 2014 by Admin in Music

deluciaPaco de Lucía, the brilliant guitarist who pioneered the fusion of flamenco and jazz, has died suddenly of what preliminary reports suggest might be a heart attack. He was 66.

The native of Algeciras (Cádiz) was playing at the beach with his children in the Mexican resort of Cancún, where he owns a home, when he suddenly felt ill, according to his close friend Victoriano Mera. He died on his way to hospital.

The city of Algeciras has decreed three days of mourning and will assist the family in bringing the body home.

De Lucía was a globally admired artist who won the 2004 Prince of Asturias Award for his tireless exploration of the possibilities of flamenco. He will also be remembered for his association with the late flamenco singer Camarón de la Isla during the 1960s and 70s.

The musician had been living in Palma de Mallorca for several years, although he also spent periods in Cuba and the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico. Those who knew him back in Mallorca say he had been less keen about playing the guitar of late. De Lucía preferred to spend time with regular people rather than join intellectual and artistic circles. He also devoted a lot of his time to his two young children.

Born Francisco Sánchez Gómez in 1947, De Lucía, shunned his own legend. Fame came early, in 1975, with his by-now famous rumba Entre dos aguas. It was the last track on the album of the same name that made its way into hundreds of thousands of Spanish homes as society was beginning to shake off the dark dust of the Franco dictatorship.

His association with Camarón alone – the pair released over 10 albums of traditional flamenco together as well as a flamenco-pop-rock fusion record – would have been enough to make De Lucía famous. But there was a lot more to come. His flirtation with jazz earned him accusations of bastardizing flamenco, but he kept on pushing the limits of his music and by the mid-1970s he had formed a sextet that included his two brothers, Pepe de Lucía and Ramón de Algeciras, as well as Jorge Pardo, Carles Benavent and Rubem Dantas. This musical group introduced the Peruvian cajón, a percussion instrument comprising a tall wooden box, into flamenco. Since then, it has become a staple of the genre.

De Lucía also incorporated blues, Indian music, salsa, bossa nova and Arabic music into his own sound. His performances at the Teatro Real opera house in Madrid helped blur the border between high-brow and popular music.

“Everything that can be expressed with the six strings of the guitar is there in his hands,” said the jury that handed him the Prince of Asturias award.

As published in El Pais (26/II/2014)


Schirn_Presse_Rehberger_Ausstellungsansicht_Foto_Miguletz_19With the large-scale exhibition “Tobias Rehberger. Home and Away and Outside,” the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt pays tribute to one of the most influential German artists of his generation. Born in 1966 and living and working in Frankfurt am Main, Tobias Rehberger is internationally renowned for his trenchant and witty works. Numerous awards and exhibitions honor the artist whose complex oeuvre occupies an outstanding position within today’s art production.

Showing more than sixty works, the Schirn presents Rehberger’s first major exhibition in Frankfurt from February 21 to May 11, 2014. Developed in close collaboration with him, the presentation sheds light on his work’s variety in terms of media, subjects, and contexts as well as on his development as an artist on an area of over 700 square meters. Rehberger has conceived an elaborate solution for the exhibition architecture integrating exhibits from his work of the last twenty years.

The beginning is made with a continuation of his award-winning work Was du liebst, bringt dich auch zum Weinen (2009) for the 53rd Venice Biennial. The entire hall of the Schirn has been furnished with an installation whose optical flicker recalls the spirit of Op art for which Rehberger relies on the camouflage technique of dazzle painting mainly used for ships in World War I. In sharp contrast to it, the second chapter of the presentation unfolds as a completely white architectural landscape, which blurs the boundaries between platform and base, seating facility and walking area and extends across the entire West gallery. The third part of the exhibition features a new large-format sculpture developed for the freely accessible Schirn Rotunda. Thematically divided into three sections, the show highlights the manifold nature of Rehberger’s oeuvre with exceptional works from the purported design quotations of his Kamerun- und documenta-Stühle (1994) and his vases based on the originally nine-part series one (1995) to the group of works titled Fragments of their pleasant spaces (in my fashionable version) (1994/1996/2009), which resulted from a joint authorship – one of the basic themes Rehberger has dedicated himself to.

“As former student and present professor at the Städelschule, Tobias Rehberger has made a name for himself in the international arena starting from Frankfurt and ranks among the most important contemporary artists today. This is why we are particularly pleased to show this longdue survey of his work in his adoptive city,” says Max Hollein, Director of the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt.

“Particularly important to me is the metaphorical elegance with which Tobias Rehberger conceives pictures of today’s social reality and unmistakably presents them as an aesthetic translation. The preparation of such a complex and comprehensive show exhibition has also challenged the artist to create a specific signature for each of the three areas, as if a different artist were responsible for each of them,” Matthias Ulrich, the curator of the exhibition, points out.

Tobias Rehberger, born in Esslingen on the Neckar River in 1966, studied with Thomas Bayrle and Martin Kippenberger at Frankfurt’s renowned Städelschule from 1987 to 1993. He has been teaching as a professor of sculpture there since 2001. He was awarded his hitherto most prestigious international prize with the Golden Lion for best artist at the 53rd Venice Biennial in 2009, which he received for a room-spanning overall installation he designed as a cafeteria for the Biennial in the Palazzo delle Esposizione and which is used as a permanent functional space. Rehberger’s works have been presented in solo exhibitions at the Leeum Samsung Museum in Seoul (2012), the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (2008), the Museum Ludwig in Cologne (2008), the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid (2005), the MCA Chicago (2000), and at other venues, as well as in numerous group and gallery shows like in New York, Tokyo, London, Paris, Milan, Rome, Brussels, Berlin, and Antwerp and are to be found in today’s most important international collections.

Continue reading in Art Daily


IVAM a quarter century of being modern

Written on February 24, 2014 by Admin in Arts & Cultures & Societies

ivam“Today is a historic date,” said Antonio Saura, the great informalist painter, at the inauguration of the Valencian Modern Art Institute (IVAM) exactly 25 years ago. Time soon proved him right, as one of Spain’s first modern and contemporary art centers quickly became an international reference point, despite having a tight budget from the word go.

Created by the government of Valencia as a showcase of newly achieved regional powers, IVAM developed a knack for detecting the dark angles that were bypassed by the art market and soon created a niche of its own made up of historic avant-garde movements, photography, pop art and informalism.

The museum’s growth over the last quarter-century is reflected in a new, commemorative exhibition that was inaugurated on Tuesday by Queen Sofía. The show aims to provide a bird’s eye view of art from the 20th century to the present through 412 artworks culled from the museum’s holdings. IVAM director Consuelo Ciscar assigned the critic and philosophy professor Francisco Jarauta to the daunting task of sifting through IVAM’s 11,000 artworks. The end result is a chronological journey through the work of some of the world’s leading artists.

The first of three rooms that hold the exhibition displays the wonderfulHombre-cactus (Cactus Man) by Julio González. “This room is devoted to the great avant-garde sculptor and his friends, with works by Torres-García, Brancusi, Matisse and David Smith,” explains the curator. In fact, the Julio González pieces were the original pillars that the museum’s collection was built upon. They were purchased by IVAM’s first director, Tomás Llorens, who believes this center contains “the most important collection of 20th-century art in Spain” after the Reina Sofía museum in Madrid, which he also headed.

The show goes on to explore the intellectual tension created by World War I, which resulted in futurism first and the Dada movement later. Artists represented in this room include Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Jean Arp and Sonia and Robert Delaunay. Next come the artistic-social solutions offered by Gropius’ Bauhaus, and experimental creations by Moholy-Nagy, Hélion and Alexander Calder. Manifestos, magazines, books and illustrations played a vital role in the avant-garde movements, and this too is reflected in the show.

“The IVAM made some smart purchases when Soviet power disintegrated,” says Jarauta, standing in front of the room containing Russian constructivism (Rodchenko, Stepanova, El Lissitzky and Malevich).

“At first the IVAM noticed important artists whom the market hadn’t yet put the spotlight on,” explains Vicente Todolí, former director of Tate Modern, who had previously headed IVAM between 1989 and 1996. Todolí says that his period at the helm of the Valencian institution was remarkably free of political interference.

However, politics do figure prominently in the spectacular room devoted to the Spanish Civil War and World War II, when posters and other related graphic material were at the service of political agitation and propaganda. Heartfield’s magazine covers for AIZ, Grosz’s Ecce homoand Renau’s anti-fascist photomontages share space with an allegorical sculpture by Lipchitz, the work of the Spanish collectives Equipo Crónica and Equipo Realidad, shots from the front lines by the photographer Agustí Centelles and a poster by Joan Miró.

Continue reading in El País


“Dallas Buyers Club”

Written on February 21, 2014 by Admin in Film

dallas-buyer-s-club-poster04Terrific performances by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto elevate this socio-medical drama out of the realms of the ordinary into something quietly remarkable. While McConaughey’s dramatic weight loss may make attention-grabbing headlines, there’s much more to his performance than the mere shedding of 30-odd pounds. Continuing the reinvention (dubbed the “McConaissance”) which has seen him lay the ghost of grizzly romcoms such as Failure to Launch with harder-edged roles in Magic Mike and Killer Joe, McConaughey is utterly convincing as the ravaged rodeo redneck who is given 30 days to live after being diagnosed with Aids, but who stubbornly refuses to lie down and die. Despite very strong competition from Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave, odds are that McConaughey will take the Oscar for best actor next month, with Leto similarly triumphing with best supporting actor. Both wins would be thoroughly deserved.

“Inspired by” the real-life story of Ron Woodroof, Dallas Buyers Club walks a delicate line between fact and fiction as it pitches an accidental antihero against the machinery of both the medical establishment and the government, the latter embodied by the lumbering behemoth of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Diagnosed HIV-positive in the mid-80s, and responding badly to AZT (at that time, the only officially approved medication), Woodroof circumvented FDA regulations by importing unlicensed drugs that he distributed “for free” through a club, which instead charged an “admission fee”, a loophole that meant technically he wasn’t selling the medication. The operation was a scam, but the results were impressive, as David France’s Oscar-nominated documentary How to Survive a Plague powerfully points out; people with HIV/Aids often knew better than the medical establishment what was good for them, self-medication playing a key role in the fight against the disease. While the FDA was fatally slow in responding to new treatments, it was those with no time to lose who were at the cutting edge of research and buyers clubs played a significant (if controversial) part in that process.

Continue reading in The Guardian

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