The Cabinet of Mabuse

Portrait of a Merchant (Jan Jacobsz. Snoek?), c. 1530, oil on panel, 63.6 x 47.5 cm. Washington DC, National Gallery of Art

Flemish Renaissance painting is known for its sharp focus on reality. The first great master of oil painting, Jan van Eyck (active 1422, died 1441), was widely admired in his day for his ability illusionistically to reproduce the seen.

The Week

The Week in Review

Amidst the turmoil in Brussels, which I’ve found rather hard to make sense of, one piece of less equivocally positive news emerged this week, namely that Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has spent thirty years on death row in Pennsylvania has finally had his death sentence revoked in favor of life behind bars. This is a major symbolic victory in the struggle against the death penalty and in his personal efforts to prove his innocence. Convicted in 1981 for the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner on the basis of highly dubious evidence and testimonies, his has become something of a cause celèbre for opponents of the death penalty and critics of the American penal system, a speaking, highly-articulate symbol of all that’s wrong with both (hear him talking about the “prison-industrial complex” in the clip above).

Abu-Jamal has faced execution several times in his three decades as a prisoner and each time he and his counsel succeeded in postponing what seemed inevitable for the longest time. To have the sentence deferred this way, especially after the disgraceful recent execution of the similarly dubiously convicted Troy Davis, is a victory for human rights. Abu-Jamal may be guilty, but he hasn’t been given a fair trial. The Philadelphia District Attorney didn’t seem disposed toward giving him one anytime soon when he announced the news, but we may still hope that it will happen eventually. For him and the many other people who share his fate in the American penal system.

This week’s links:

  • Peter Mandelson on Britain’s Euro veto. Excellent analysis of Britain’s predicament.
  • For Danish readers: Georg Metz om lækagesagen. Som altid er pennen skarp og som ofte er tonen tæt på det skingre, men sagen kalder ligesom på det.
  • Christopher Tayler on Murakami. A review of the new novel, 1Q84, taken as an opportunity incisively to examine the oeuvre. Good reading!
  • Ligeledes for danskerne: Rhymesayers MC og troende muslim Brother Ali snakker om Muhammedtegningerne i et interview fra Roskilde sidste år.
  • KOLOR KLIMAX-signering i Fantask på fredag

    Kom til signering af den nye store nordiske tegneserieantologi KOLOR KLIMAX — Nordic Comics Now på fredag d. 25 november i tegneseriebutikken Fantask, Skt. Pedersstræde 18, København, kl. 16-19. Mød tegnerne Peter Kielland, Johan F. Krarup, Mårdøn Smet og Thomas Thorhauge, der alle har bidraget til bogen, samt undertegnede, der har redigeret den.

    Læs mere om KOLOR KLIMAX her; se billederne fra sidste uges reception på Din Nye Ven her.

    KOLOR KLIMAX Sneak Release — The Photos!

    Johan F. Krarup, Henrik Andreasen and Marianne Eskebæk Larsen at the release party.

    As mentioned here previously, last Thursday saw the Danish sneak release of the Nordic comics anthology KOLOR KLIMAX (to be released in the US and internationally by Fantagraphics Books in March). It was a fine evening; lots of Copenhagen comics folk turned out. Here are some photos hastily snapped at idle moments. Enjoy!

    Same day saw a fine review by Bart Beaty, published at Comics Reporter. I was happy to see that he noticed not only some of the consolidated talents, but some relatively new ones, Johan F. Krarup and Mikkel Damsbo/Gitte Broeng, who I also think contributed really outstanding pieces to the book. Here’s a pull quote from Bart:

    “Ultimately, there is no way not to recommend Kolor Klimax. It showcases a wide range of extremely talented cartoonists, and will open your eyes to a whole world of comics that get far too little attention. Something to anticipate for Spring.”

    The Week (A New Day)

    As I was writing this, my wife went into labor. Our child arrived nine days earlier than expected. It may have been the bass. I’m lost for words, except to say that publishing this, in a sense, is the best way for me to mark here at the Bunker this singular event in our lives.

    Attended two great concerts this weekend, both featuring key players in the independent hip hop movement of the early naughts. Sole, formerly of Anticon, performed at Stengade 30, alone with a laptop, on Friday, while the Rhymesayers collective (featuring Greives and Budo, Blueprint, Brother Ali, Evidence, and Atmosphere) ended their European tour at Store Vega this night.

    Attending these shows in such close succession recalled for me that very special moment in hip hop in the early naughts when the genre was expanding in so many different directions at once, seeing white suburbia embrace it on an artistic level theretofore unknown outside the inner cities and with an entirely new set of sensibilites. It seemed then, suddenly, that the sky was the limit for the art form. Eminem was only the most visible exponent of a watershed in hip hop that ran the gamut from his confessional hardcore to the hermetic abstractions of Anticon.

    Atmosphere were at the center of this, defining a midwestern hip hop sound on the balance between boom bap and breaking form, while Anticon created an avant-garde within the avant-garde with their heady lyrics, abstract flows and arrythmic production.

    Problem was it kind of ebbed. Only a few of the innovators of these years have kept up the steam they were building from grains of salt in those years. They foundered and lost their way as they got older and life became more complex, and as hip hop once again shifted in character and its prime innovations increasingly came southern fried.

    Atmosphere are one of the few exceptions to the rule. They have continued to grow, releasing music that reflect their age and experience, and they still rock a show like few others in hip hop. Although we sadly lost their early associate, the insanely gifted Eyedea, last year, they continue to surround themselves with solid talent. Brother Ali, a born stage performer if a somewhat weak songsmith, tends to steal the show as did he this night, but Blueprint and the new Rhymesayers signee Evidence (of Dilated Peoples) held their own too.

    Sole, who left Anticon last year and currently resides in Colorado has had a more difficult time of it, but then his artistry has always been grounded in personal difficulty, and he has kept releasing some high quality music, much of it under the collaborative moniker Sole and The Skyrider Band. He has become more politically aware, less introspective, but has also lost some of the personal nerve that made his first two albums, Bottle of Humans and Selling Live Water, classics. His barebones setup on Friday in no way impeded an intense performance which at times seemed defiant assertion that his approach to hip hop, an approach that has all but been eclipsed today, is still a vibrant alternative.

    No links this week. It’s all been a little hectic.

    Leonardo i Weekendavisen

    Portræt af Cecilia Gallerani ('Kvinden med hermelinen'), ca. 1488, olie på træ, 54,8 x 40,3 cm., deponeret på Nationalmuseet, Krakow.

    I denne uges Weekendavis kan man læse min anmeldelse af den forrygende Leonardo-udstilling, der netop er åbnet på National Gallery i London. Se den udstilling hvis du overhovedet kan.

    Desværre har avisen ikke fundet plads til at gengive et af de billeder jeg diskuterer indgående, nemlig portrættet af Cecilia Gallerani, i fuld størrelse (det reproduceres i beskåret form i topmenuen på kultursektionens forside). Men her er det så.

    KOLOR KLIMAX /// Sneak Release /// 17 November /// Copenhagen

    Join us this Thursday, 17 November from 5pm, at
    Din Nye Ven, Skt. Pedersstræde 34, Copenhagen, for the sneak release of KOLOR KLIMAX, the new Nordic comics anthology helmed by the Finnish Comics Society, edited by yours truly and set for American release in March from Fantagraphics Books.

    The release will see the participation of the Danish contributors to the book, copies will be available for sale, and there might even be a little something for early birds. See you there!

    KOLOR KLIMAX on Facebook. Follow KOLOR KLIMAX on Twitter @Metabunker.

    The Week

    The week in review.

    Another fine week. Spent a few days in London for work and had the chance to see a number of the exhibitions on display there. I will return to the landmark Leonardo show at the National Gallery presently and hopefully also to the eye-opening Degas show at the Royal Academy, and perhaps even the enjoyable John Martin retrospective at the Tate. Here, however, I just wanted to attach a few words to the Gerhard Richter retrospective at the Modern.

    Extremely well-received critically as well as commercially, Richter is no doubt one of the heavy hitters of contemporary painting. It is easy to see why. Clearly an intelligent artist, he speaks directly to central aspects of postmodern discourse, engaging in his work trauma (the Holocaust) and ideological violence (Rote Armee Fraktion), art history (from Titian to Mondrian), as well — and most essentially — his own medium. His art, which merges the techniques of photography and painting in innovative ways and alternately emphasizes and suppresses the author’s hand simply screams META!

    Essentially, however, he is a purveyor of kitsch. Yes, he can emulate strikingly the look of a photograph, but beyond the theoretical reception his subversion of mechanical reproduction enables, these pictures are self-importantm, dim reiterations of his paragons, from Friedrich, Redon and Hammershøi to Duchamp and De Kooning. Gimmicky but decorative — hi-fi bank art, fit for the transnational corporate penthouse. Where he really shows his hand, however, is in his abstract art, particularly his squeegee paintings. Loud and garish, they lack any real sense of color or expressive touch. The work of an intellectual, not a painter.

    The week’s links:

  • Not really a recommendation, but the distinguished T. J. Clark provides a lengthy counterargument to my little rant above in this panegyric to Ricther.
  • R. Fiore on Will Eisner’s instructional comics for PS Magazine. The Comics Journal‘s venerable critic is in fine form here in this essay on one of the puzzles of Eisner’s career.
  • The legendary hip hop producer marks the sad passing this week of golden age great Heavy D with a great mix of testimonials (and often rare) gems from the Hevster’s career.
  • Above: Gerhard Richter, Cage 4 (2006).