Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Macy's Parade - Old Pictures

In the 1920s many of Macy's department store employees were first-generation immigrants. Proud of their new American heritage, they wanted to celebrate the United States holiday of Thanksgiving with the type of festival their parents had loved in Europe.

In 1927, the inaugural parade (originally known as the Macy's Christmas Parade and later the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Christmas Parade. was staged by the store. Employees and professional entertainers marched from 145th Street in Harlem to Macy's flagship store on 34th Street dressed in vibrant costumes.There were floats, professional bands and live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. At the end of that first parade, as has been the case with every parade since, Santa Claus was welcomed into Herald Square. At this first parade, however, the Jolly Old Elf was enthroned on the Macy's balcony at the 34th Street store entrance, where he was then "crowned" "King of the Kiddies."With an audience of over a quarter of a million people, the parade was such a success that Macy's declared it would become an annual event.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Artist: Nat Finkelstein, nicknamed “Nat the Hat

The photographer Nat Finkelstein, nicknamed “Nat the Hat”, was best known for his memorable chronicling of Andy Warhol’s Factory.
“I stayed at the Factory from 1964 till 1967,” Finkelstein told an interviewer in 2001. Then later, “I watched pop die and punk being born.”

His photographs of Warhol and his exotic acolytes are almost as recognisable as the artist’s own works. They include celebrated shots of Warhol with Bob Dylan, of Edie Sedgwick chewing her necklace, of the Velvet Underground with the German model Nico, and more.

Nathaniel Finkelstein was born in Coney Island in 1933; his father was a New York cab driver. He graduated from the respected Stuyvesant High School, Brooklyn, in 1950. He had artistic aspirations but, being entirely unable to draw, was uncertain how to achieve them. Then, in 1952, he bought a camera and enrolled at the Brooklyn College to study photography. There, inspired by such great photographers as Edward Steichen, Finkelstein found his métier behind the lens. He also developed his militant political tendencies, to the extent that he was expelled during his final term after hurling a filing cabinet through a window while protesting at the college’s censorship of a racy college rag.

All was not lost. Another of his tutors, the Russian émigré art director of Harper’s Bazaar, Alexey Brodovitch (who famously brought Cocteau, Chagall and Man Ray to illustrate the magazine), had taken a shine to the feisty Borough boy and gave him a placement assisting on fashion shoots. Eventually Finkelstein developed this into regular assignments as a photojournalist on Sports Illustrated. There he specialised in photographing the mundane — bridge tournaments, chess matches and dog shows — because, he said: “I was the only one who could make them visually compelling.”

By his early twenties Finkelstein was well on the way to establishing himself as a bona fide photographer. He was signed up by the PIX and Black Star agencies (the latter supplied Life magazine with much imagery) through which he met his idol, the war photojournalist Robert Capa, and he spent time with such famous photographers as Eugene Smith and Andreas Feininger.

Finkelstein also capitalised on his knack for being at the right place at the right time, specialising in spotting and recording the rich and varied subcultures of New York City, in particular the burgeoning Harlem jazz and soul scenes.

“I used to sell Ella Fitzgerald and Errol Garner weed,” he told an interviewer. “That was like a golden passport into that world.”

In September 1962 Finkelstein got the break that would define his future. He was commissioned by Pageant magazine to do one of the first articles on Pop Art, entitled “What happens at a Happening?”. He found himself documenting a Claes Oldenburg “happening” in Greenwich Village.

Two years later Finkelstein was at a party at Warhol’s Factory and met the artist along with his crowd of beautiful malcontents. He was unable to tear himself away, and he spent the next three years photographing all and sundry. He took the first photographs of the Velvet Underground (whom he nicknamed “the Psychopath’s Rolling Stones”); he shot Warhol with Marcel Duchamp; Salvador Dalí and Allen Ginsberg introduced him to Valerie Solanas, the radical feminist who shot and wounded Warhol with a handgun in 1968.

The relationship with the Factory suited both parties — Warhol enjoyed having a photographer to record his every nuance, and for Finkelstein there was no shortage of memorable subjects for his camera.

While diving in and out of the Factory, Finkelstein was also busy with other matters. A staunch political activist, he helped to co-ordinate civil rights rallies and anti-war demonstrations. This activity brought him into an association with the Black Panthers, for whom, according to his widow, Elizabeth, “he organised, trained and sourced munitions”.

As a consequence, in 1969 a judge issued a federal warrant for the arrest of Finkelstein in connection with an old drugs charge. Fearing for his life, he claimed, he fled the US and lived as a fugitive for the next dozen years. For some time he followed the hippy trail through the Middle East, selling hashish to make ends meet.

Eventually, the charges against him were dropped, and in 1982 Finkelstein returned to the US and its booming counterculture. He became involved in the New York punk music scene, briefly managing bands such as Khmer Rouge, and developed an addiction to cocaine, which prompted frequent visits to Bolivia to supply his needs more conveniently.

It took the death of Warhol in 1987 to persuade Finkelstein that he needed to claw himself back from the brink of over-excess. He pulled himself together, dusted down his negatives and published his second book, Andy Warhol: The Factory Years, 1964-1967. An exhibition at the V&A followed and prompted him, at the age of 56, to pick up his camera in earnest.

He moved first to London — where, in baseball cap, bomber jacket and sneakers, he was a constant presence on the rave scene — then to Amsterdam and back to New York, where he shot a generation of New York club kids for his book Merry Monsters (1993). Finkelstein now found himself in demand, travelling and exhibiting his work worldwide. He had more than 75 solo and group shows at museums and galleries, including Tate Modern, the V&A, the Whitney and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Pompidou Centre in Paris. His photographs appeared in such magazines as Life, Time, Sports Illustrated, Harper’s & Queen, Vogue, The New York Times Magazine and the British broadsheets.

There is a retrospective exhibition of his work at the Idea Generation Gallery, London, from December, and his work will also feature in the exhibition Who Shot Rock at the Brooklyn Museum, New York, from the end of this month.

In his last years Finkelstein moved from his beloved Brooklyn to Shandaken in upstate New York to finish writing his memoirs, entitled The 14 Ounce Pound.

Finkelstein was married five times. He is survived by his wife Elizabeth.

Nat Finkelstein, photographer, was born on January 17, 1933. He died from complications of pneumonia and emphysema on October 2, 2009, aged 76

From October 17, 2009

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Murakami - Macy's Parade Artist

Art Inflation: Macy’s Murakamis - New York Times - Thanksgiving

It is not uncommon for people to react with awe to their first up-close encounter with a balloon from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. But when Takashi Murakami saw his contributions to Thursday’s event, he bowed. Twice.

On Wednesday afternoon, on a stretch of West 81st Street in Manhattan where brightly colored, 30-foot-tall inflatable versions of his characters Kaikai and Kiki were wriggling and writhing underneath a huge net, Mr. Murakami, the Japanese pop artist, held a brief Shinto ceremony for purity and luck. He stood at a table where he poured out a glass of water and a glass of sake in front of two plates, one of white rice and one of sea salt. He gave two bows and clapped twice, then declared the ritual complete.

Kaikai, a childlike character in a rabbit costume, and Kiki, an impish figure with three eyes and two dangling fangs, were ready to greet the parade-watching public.

In an interview after the ceremony Mr. Murakami, his bushy hair tied in a knot, seemed exuberant. He said he was less concerned about whether Kaikai and Kiki — who do not promote any television cartoon shows or breakfast cereals, and are merely ambassadors of Mr. Murakami’s own playfully esoteric art — could hold their own in the Macy’s parade than about Thursday morning’s weather.

“I was thinking about sunshine,” Mr. Murakami said in his broken English. “Tomorrow the report is a little bit rainy. But I already talk with my feng shui master in Taiwan, and he already take care about that.”

For the organizers of the Macy’s parade the addition of Mr. Murakami and his characters to its lineup is the fulfillment of a longtime goal and several years of work.

Robin Hall, the executive producer of the parade, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Murakami was one of a handful of artists Macy’s sought out when it started its series of balloons designed by internationally recognized artists in 2005.

The parade, Mr. Hall said, “is a snapshot of American culture.” While much of its roster is dedicated to readily identifiable figures like SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer, he said, “I do believe there’s room in this parade — and have always believed this — for high art.”

In that spirit the sculptor Tom Otterness created a Humpty Dumpty balloon for Macy’s in 2005, depicting that nursery-rhyme character suspended upside-down in a perpetual tumble. In 2007 the parade added a shimmering silver rabbit designed by Jeff Koons, and the following year incorporated a giant Keith Haring figure holding up a heart, to mark what would have been the artist’s 50th birthday.

In 2008 Macy’s also began communicating with Mr. Murakami, who in the global art scene is known as much for his inflatable sculptures of psychedelic anime-style cartoon characters as for the Louis Vuitton handbags and Casio watches he designs. But at that time he was preparing for a retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum and could not immediately contribute to the parade.

This year Mr. Murakami sent word that he wanted to create balloons of Kaikai and Kiki. In response to e-mailed questions, he explained that the characters “in many ways represent the aesthetic philosophy behind my work.”

“They are cute yet fearsome,” he wrote, “modern and yet connected to the past. They embody eccentric beauty.”

The Macy’s parade studio in Hoboken, N.J., had only a few months to work on the designs with Mr. Murakami. Of particular concern to John Piper, the vice president of the studio, was whether the balloonified characters, with their gigantic heads and teeny-tiny limbs, would be able to achieve what he called free lift — meaning, Mr. Piper said, “that there’s enough helium inside the balloon to not only compensate for its weight but to make it fly.”

At an accelerated pace Mr. Piper and his team exchanged sketches with Mr. Murakami and his staff, and over the summer Mr. Piper chaperoned two small clay sculptures of the balloons on a trip to the artist’s Tokyo studio. (The sculptures, Mr. Piper said, traveled in “a very big, very sturdy piece of luggage, inside of which was a whole other steel structure to absorb any shock.”)

The completed balloons were flown for the first time this month at a Macy’s testing facility in South Dakota, but Mr. Murakami — who plans to accompany them in the parade wearing a flower costume of his own design — had not seen the finished works until Wednesday.

Nor, for that matter, have the thousands of children who will watch the parade live — or the millions who will watch on television — Thursday morning, and have likely never heard of Mr. Murakami.

Mr. Hall acknowledged that Kaikai and Kiki’s mix of cuteness and weirdness was pushing boundaries for Macy’s. “There are details about them that, I think in isolation, as they’re described, sound kind of grotesque,” Mr. Hall said. But, he added, “the final thing is not so bad.”

Ultimately, Mr. Hall said, Macy’s criterion for its parade balloons is “not a question of: Will the kids recognize it?”

“Our rule here,” he continued, “is whether the kids understand it or not? Will the kids like it?”

Watching the inflation of Kaikai and Kiki on 81st Street, Tami Marsden and her son Alex, 6, were less sure about what they were seeing.

“We don’t know who that is, but he knows Kung Fu Panda,” Ms. Marden said, indicating another nearby balloon. “I thought it was a Pokémon thing.”

She added: “I hate to say it, but boys really don’t like anything that’s pink.”

Sunday, November 21, 2010



Laura Fisher, a textiles dealer in Manhattan, knew that the e-mail announcement for her winter show would often end up in spam filters. She nonetheless gave it an attention-getting title, “Male Enhancements,” based on Viagra ads.

Her 30 quilts in the show are made of fabric from men’s clothing, including socks, neckties, long johns, shirt and pant cuffs, haberdashery labels for brands like Wear-Weev and Man-Brooke, and military uniforms and ribbons. Ms. Fisher, who runs her gallery out of overflowing storage units inside Hayes Storage and Logistics on East 61st Street, finds the artifacts full of “mystery and unanswered questions,” she said.

An Indian tailor working for British colonial regiments perhaps studded her checkerboard of pastel uniform scraps ($19,500) with sequins and gold braid. A church group may have raised funds by selling a quilt with rectangles from men’s suits ($3,800), embroidered with religious slogans and congregants’ names in spidery letters.

On a brown and tan blanket ($1,275) stitched for a toddler named Wesley, pink embroidered butterflies, cats and fruit contrast improbably with the macho fabric palette. Shimmering rayon used for vest linings runs along the back of a tweedy textile ($4,000), as if the quilter set out to imitate pragmatic suit construction. The squares on a brown and ivory quilt ($3,500) are arranged in giant bowties, as if in homage to the menswear theme.

“I look for the compositions that have thought, concept and planning behind them,” Ms. Fisher said. “They aren’t just sewn together.”

New York , New York -- 26 October 2010

Detail of "Roman Stripe"
Detail of "Roman Stripe"
(Laura Fisher at Fisher Heritage)
"Eye Dazzler"

click to enlarge

"Eye Dazzler"
(Laura Fisher at Fisher Heritage)
"Log Cabin"

click to enlarge

"Log Cabin"
(Laura Fisher at Fisher Heritage)

New York City antiques dealer Laura Fisher will present visually distinctive antique quilts pieced from menswear suiting in an autumn exhibition and sale “MALE ENHANCEMENTS: Suit-able Quilts." The collection pays homage to the design inventiveness of quilters who turned woolen menswear fabrics into powerful American textile folk art. They will be available at FISHER HERITAGE, 305 East 61st St, 5th Floor (the Hayes Warehouse), October 11 - December 31, 2010; Monday-Friday, 11:00 am - 4:00 pm.

"This year both in fashion and home furnishings, menswear is suddenly 'hot" say editors who seem unaware of the history of menswear in America. For over a century in NYC’s garment industry, for example, manufacturing had flourished in every aspect of menswear production from fabric to finished garment. Sadly today most of that industry has disappeared overseas. These suiting quilts are thus a unique legacy and a powerful link to that heritage," Fisher notes. And, to thank the American Folk Art Museum for designating NYC's “Year of The Quilt", these antique suiting quilts are a cheeky acknowledgement to the good news that despite its financial issues, the Museum remains open for business.

Wool suiting, work clothing, or military uniforms make up these darker, some nearly monochromatic, quilts. They are unfamiliar to and had been dismissed by a collecting public for whom the quilt stereotype is one fashioned from pretty calico prints. But according to Fisher "menswear quilts are a new discovery for collectors, and at last are accorded respect across the globe as an indigenous textile art."

These materials were typically salvage -- what would be hailed as 'green' today - because they recycled waste woolens such as: suiting swatches from which the clients of tailors and fabric houses chose material for coats and pants; or cutting room remnants left from clothing manufacture; or no longer wearable family garments. Resources for the twills, tweeds, serges, gabardines and scotch plaids were outdated swatch books, or sacks of scraps from clothing construction that factories offered to workers and quilters. In some droll examples we can recognize the shape of the pants cuffs or sleeve ends that a tailor removed when shortening garments! And of course quilters used worn clothing, including even sturdy khaki from military uniforms no longer in service.

Often suiting quilts are a symphony in texture and weave rather than color contrast. The rectilinear compositions in charcoal gray, navy, black, camel or olive call to mind the modernist art work of painters like Sean Scully. While many antique ‘swatch’ quilts were simply set in rows without any design plan that might capitalize on the scraps' color variations, examples in this exhibition are dramatic graphic exceptions.

The menswear quilt phenomenon had a brief but historic presence in the U.S. It paralleled the emergence of the ready-made clothing industry across the country during the Industrial Revolution, and ebbed about a century later. Today because nearly all textile and clothing manufacturing operations have moved overseas, this menswear quilt style can never again reemerge here as it had proliferated from the mid-1800s through the mid- 1900s. As a result, this historic quilt bounty is newly appreciated. Transcending their utilitarian origin, thanks to their handsome palette and tonal sophistication they are a studied aesthetic with a fascinating back story.

Artist: Alberto Cerriteño

Alberto Cerriteño is a Mexican illustrator & designer who has lived in America; Portland for nearly four years now. Strongly inspired by urban vinyl toys, alternative cartoons, and the pop surrealism movement, Alberto Cerriteño has developed his own very personal technique and style, having always present a delicate hints of traditional Mexican artistic influences in his management of rich textures and decorative patterns. These contrast strikingly with the blending of desaturated colors and ink, sometimes featuring a vintage coffee finish.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

Still Life with Animated Dogs

Dog is my co-pilot

Paul on Czech street The dogs you are about to see in this film are not the only ones I have ever owned; but they are the special ones - the ones who have shared something crucial with me. - Paul Fierlinger

In STILL LIFE WITH ANIMATED DOGS we meet Roosevelt, Ike, Johnson and Spinnaker, the canine companions who helped shape Fierlinger's evolution as an artist and as a man. Vivid animation illustrates the adventures of the endearing dogs who shared their owner's 40-year journey from despair to wonder.

Living in Stalinist Prague, Czechoslovakia in the 1950s, a young artist named Paul Fierlinger was angry, depressed and rebellious against the political regime where the Communist government had been in power since the end of World War II.

Fierlinger drew attention to himself by being overtly different in a place where sameness was the law of the proletariat. Living in his unlocked attic apartment was illegal. He grew a beard, which was unusual and therefore suspicious on a young man. The "strange paintings" he created were disdained because art was supposed to be realistic. And he owned a dog at a time when only peasants had dogs for barking at strangers. To make things a little harder, he named his Scottish Terrier Roosevelt. While Fierlinger was loudly belligerent, Roosevelt learned how to stay out of the spotlight. He taught Fierlinger a valuable lesson in civil disobedience: "When it comes to authority, get sneaky and do everything under the table. It never failed [Roosevelt] 'till the day he died." Fierlinger eventually sought freedom using this important lesson as a tool.


After Roosevelt passed away, Fierlinger heard of an "uncontrollable" dog in need of a new home. A woman gave him a feisty and beautiful dog with boundless energy, who Fierlinger promptly called Ike. In order to take Ike everywhere, Fierlinger created a badge that falsely certified himself as a seeing-eye dog trainer. "Having to take care of a dog made me hold on to the last trace of decency and self-worth left in me," he said. Though commercial dog food was nonexistent and meat was scarce, some of the finest restaurants in the city served Ike choice leftover meats because of his special badge. The man and dog never separated for one minute in six years, until Fierlinger escaped from Communism's choking grip.

By forging documents to trick the Ministry of Internal Affairs into granting him an exit visa, Fierlinger finally found an opportunity to leave the country in the late 1960s.

Not surprisingly, the artist soon found another loyal companion after he settled in the United States. Johnson, a charismatic and quirky Boston Terrier and his first dog as a "free man, " introduced Fierlinger to a part of himself he never knew existed. Once, when a client he was meeting for the first time approached Fierlinger's car at the train station, he commanded Johnny off the front seat, growling, "Get in the back!" The client, who resembled Hitler's stronger brother, meekly whispered, "Oh, oh, all right...sure," opened the car's rear door and slithered in next to Johnny. "I now knew that I possessed commanding powers over people," Fierlinger mused.

At the film's completion, Paul Fierlinger is an award-winning animator living in the Philadelphia suburbs, where he owns a much-loved terrier named Spinnaker, who came to live with him after it was picked up by a woman on her way to a Dog Rescue Society picnic. "Spinnaker registers every nuance of my behavior, especially when it has to do with his own desires or fears," says the artist. Through his daily walks and on sailing trips, Fierlinger muses about the unspoken bonds between animals and humans and about the divine powers of nature.

Dogs have always animated Fierlinger's life, reminding him to love in even the bleakest of times. At once a portrait of the artist, an historical perspective, and a meditation on the wonders of nature and intimate connections between species, STILL LIFE WITH ANIMATED DOGS is a playful and moving ode to man's best friend.

My Dog Tulip

A Dog Film That's Actually About a Dog

A Dog Film That's Actually About a Dog 1

New Yorker Films

The British author J.R. Ackerley, voiced by Christopher Plummer in the movie My Dog Tulip, was well into his 50s when he acquired Tulip, and in this ebullient animal the distant Englishman encountered the ideal friend for whom he had been searching all his life.

New Yorker Films

A Tender Love Story Between Man and Dog

Those words, spoken in devotional tones by the film’s British narrator, distill with an elegant succinctness the bond between human and pet when the human is a lonely gay man who has all but given up on finding the longtime companion that the narrator calls his “ideal friend.”

That narrator, voiced by Christopher Plummer, is J. R. Ackerley (1896-1967), the British man of letters whose 1956 memoir, “My Dog Tulip,” chronicles his 15-year-relationship with Queenie, a German shepherd renamed Tulip for the book.

When Ackerley was “quite over 50,” and Tulip was 18 months old, he acquired her from a family that had kept her imprisoned indoors. The slender volume is a classic of animal literature for the refinement of its prose, its dry wit, and its close, unblinking attention to the subtleties of human-animal interaction.

Consider this observation, by the discreetly misanthropic Ackerley as he marvels at his new pet’s exuberance: “It seemed to me both touching and strange that she should find the world so wonderful.”

The film’s hand-drawn animation by the directors Paul and Sandra Fierlinger (they are married) and Mr. Plummer’s understated conversational voice combine to make “My Dog Tulip,” which opens on Wednesday at Film Forum in the South Village, one of the most sophisticated dog movies ever created.

The animation, consisting of 58,320 drawings, involves four graphic concepts: finished-looking color drawings that portray Mr. Ackerley’s day-to-day life; simpler drawings in the elongated style of a New Yorker cartoon that evoke Mr. Ackerley’s fantasies; black-and-white line illustrations of his distant memories; and fanciful yellow-pad scribblings.

The movie only fleetingly succumbs to anthropomorphism in line drawings that show a half-human Tulip in a dress, holding court. John Avarese’s agreeable light-jazz score, which occasionally dips into a classical mode, lends the film a jaunty buoyancy.

Besides Ackerley, “My Dog Tulip” (whose title character is mercifully never given a human voice) is peopled with eccentrics, each given an astutely chosen actor and a sharply drawn personality by the animators. Lynn Redgrave, who died in May and to whom the movie is dedicated, plays Ackerley’s sister Nancy, who moves in to be Tulip’s daytime caretaker while Ackerley is working and competes with her brother for Tulip’s affection.

A veterinarian of astonishing empathy with animals is voiced by Isabella Rossellini. Examining Tulip for worms, she gently explains to Ackerley: “Tulip is a good girl. You are the trouble. She is in love with you.”

Brian Murray plays the dual roles of Ackerley’s indolent World War I army buddy, Captain Pugh, whom he visits at his country farm with an unruly Tulip in hand, and Mr. Blandish, a dog owner whose proud German shepherd, Max, is rebuffed by Tulip.

With its meticulously detailed observations of Tulip’s excretory rituals and anatomical changes when in heat, “My Dog Tulip” might almost be called a dirty movie. It unblinkingly observes the messes Tulip makes and shows her being mounted while in heat.

One of the most embarrassing messes takes place in front of the store of a green grocer whose wife (Redgrave) is so irate that she refuses to thank Ackerley even after he cleans it up. Another is made in an off-limits area of Ackerley’s home after Tulip finally produces a litter and senses that Ackerley intends to kill the pups. Their father ends up not being a male with a pedigree but Dusty, the “disreputable dirty ragamuffin” from next door.

In a final printed statement scrolled across the screen, Ackerley contemplates a dog’s frustration at trying to understand the human mind. As his imagination soars, he wonders if thousands of years ago, humans came under the protection of dogs, which tried to tame them and failed.

Directed and animated by Paul and Sandra Fierlinger; written by Mr. Fierlinger, based on the book by J. R. Ackerley; music by John Avarese; produced by Norman Twain, Howard Kaminsky and Frank Pellegrino; released by New Yorker Films. At Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, west of Avenue of the Americas, South Village. Running time: 1 hour 23 minutes. This film is not rated.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Artist: Ray Caesar

Roundabout (2006)
14 x 14 inches
Varnished Ultrachrome on Panel

Silent Partner (2009)
30 x 40