The Sun Also Rises

new_york_edelman_sebastian.jpgAt moment there’s a rare chance to see a little-known work by Titian in London. Partridge Fine Art is displaying a Saint Sebastian from his hand as part of a a major show of old master paintings (runs till July 18). I haven’t yet been, but I’m familiar with the picture, which I’ve seen in New York. It is quite beautiful and especially the wonderfully evocative, moist evening-lit landscape is remarkable, and leaves no doubt that the master himself painted it, even if assistants may have been responsible for laying in the figure.

Possibly identical with a canvas sent to the duke of Mantua in 1530, and in any case roughly datable to around that year on the basis of its style, the figure of Saint Sebastian as we see him here very close to the one Titian painted as part of his Saint Nicholas altarpiece, now in the Vatican. The most likely scenario is that it was developed for that composition and extracted for the present canvas while the larger composition was still being completed (there is disagreement as to when the latter was finished, but it seems most likely to have been in the mid-1530s). It is thus a prime example of how Titian would recycle his inventions, extracting them from one composition and inserting them in a different context. Though by no means an uncommon practice amongst Renaissance artists, Titian’s way of doing it was highly original and bears witness to a constantly fluctuating creative mind, rethinking and reworking his ideas again and again throughout his career.

Get Carter

tha-carter-3_t.gifThe buildup has been ridiculously protracted and expectations concomitantly bloated, but Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr. aka. Lil Wayne’s long-awaited sixth official solo album, Tha Carter III does not disappoint. It’s no It Takes a Nation of Millions or Illmatic, but could well be a Blueprint. In other words, not a masterpiece as an album, but still a thoroughly convincing statement of ownership on the part of its protagonist, with ample material shooting for classic status. Arguably the greatest, and certainly the most outstanding rap talent of his generation, Weezy here ups the ante of an already impressive career, taking his shit to superstar level.

Back on a Balance

The latest album by the Minneapolis hip hop group Atmosphere, When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint that Shit Gold, seems to mark a fine maturation for the pioneers of suburbia rap. This is not so much due to it being radically different from their earlier work, but rather because it refines some of the elements that has made the group so unique since they first emerged on the scene in the mid-90s. The front man, Slug, has toned down his ironically rakish charm and focuses more exclusively on the propensity for the melancholy and the creative approach to storytelling that have always been amongst his chief strengths. Add to this producer Ant’s foray into live instrumentation and the depth this gives to his rather spartan production sound, which of late had become almost unforgivably repetitive. Surprisingly, however, these new developments were hard to detect at their gig, with labelmate Brother Ali, in London last night.

Natasja under Kreativ Bogføring

natasja_seidel.jpgDansk Folkepartis tilegnelse af Natasjas humanistiske opråb til det danske folk, “Gi’ Mig Danmark Tilbage”, i deres seneste annoncekampagne, er ikke blot udtryk for en usmagelig mangel på respekt for den afdøde protestsangerindes eftermæle, men for to centrale karakteristika ved den propagandastrategi både Folkepartiet og regeringen med succes har benyttet sig af i deres kamp om kulturen, eller “sjælene” som vor Landsfader så malende beskrev det for nyligt.

For det første er der tale om den velkendte strategi, hvor tænderne trækkes ud på ens opposition ved tilegnelsen af dens retorik og politik, og den derpå følgende forvrængning efter egen interesse, ofte til ukendelighed. Dansk Folkeparti er et langt stykke ad vejen bygget på denne idé. For det andet er tildragelsen af Natasjas refræn et typisk eksempel på hvorledes retorikken vendes på vrangen således at det politiske establishment fremstår som som den tapre underhund. Vi hører hele tiden, hvordan pladderhumanismen regerer på bjerget, til trods for at vi ikke har oplevet stort andet end eskalerende materialisme og forråelse af debatten om samfundets svageste de seneste 10-15 år. Hvis det gentages ofte nok, er det sikkert rigtigt.

Det er opløftelsen af den tidligere skatteministers kreative bogføring til styrende princip i kulturkampen. Og nu var turen så kommet til Natasja, der som resultat er blevet overdraget til brug af Enhedslisten. Et måske logisk og i hvert fald forståeligt valg fra hendes arvinger, men unægtelig lidt ærgerligt for en sang der rækker langt ud over partipolitiske skel.

Foto af Natasja v. Carsten Seidel.

Cyd Charisse RIP

One of the greatest sensual dancers of the Hollywood musical has passed away. Indelible in Singin’ in the Rain, where she appears in just one scene — the deliciously surreal dream sequence set piece of the movie — and irresistible in The Bandwagon where she weaves silver screen magic with Fred Astaire (see exhibit A above). Read the New York Times obituary here, and Manohla Dargis’ appreciation here.

Hype: Big Hungry Joe

bhj.jpgThe Danish bluegrass band Big Hungry Joe — amongst whose members you find cartoonists Jesper Deleuran and Tobias Enevoldsen — have just dropped their first album: Hillbilly Hayride!

Listen to some of the new tunes and order the record here. Also, check out their MySpace and their official webpage. Oh, they’re apparently on iTunes too…


That Spidey Sense of Place

I like this page from Amazing Spider-Man #560, published a few weeks ago. Written by Dan Slott and drawn by Marcos Martin, it is at once refeshingly contemporary and delightfully retro. The idiotic continuity reboot of the Spider books last year has led to a series that in large part tries to recapture the energy and charm of the classic 60s/70s series as masterminded by Stan Lee. How well it succeeds I don’t know because I’m not following it, but if this issue is anything to go by, I’d say pretty well, all the while adding a little contemporary freshness to the mix.

Picks of the Week

The picks of the week from around the web.

  • Keith Shocklee. Following up from our recent write-up of Public Enemy’s 20th Anniversary performance of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back in London, here’s a fine, recent interview with Bomb Squad founding member and beatmaker extraordinaire Keith Shocklee: part one, part two.
  • The Daumier Register. A comprehensive archive of the great Honoré Daumier’s litographic oeuvre. Go explore the work of one of the greatest cartoonists ever (that’s his Rue de Transnonain, le 15 avril 1834 above).
  • Al Feldstein on Frederic Wertham. More on the 50s comics clampdown! This time Craig Fischer has gone to one of the still living firsthand sources, EC writer, artist and editor Al Feldstein and asked him about his recollections of having been in contact with the controversial psychiatrist Wertham when EC launched its New Direction titles. Wertham scholar Bart Beaty responds.