In Memory of José Saramago

Jesus is dying slowly, life ebbing from him, ebbing, when suddenly the heavens overhead open wide and God appears in the same attire he wore in the boat, and His words resound throughout the earth, This is My beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. Jesus realized then that he had been tricked, as the lamb led to sacrifice is tricked, and that his life had been planned for death from the very beginning. Remembering the river of blood and suffering that would flow from his side and flood the globe, he called out to the open sky, where God could be seen smiling, Men, forgive Him, for He knows not what He has done. Then he began expiring in the midst of a dream. He found himself back in Nazareth and saw his father shrugging his shoulders and smiling as he told him, Just as I cannot ask you all the questions, neither can you give me all the answers. There was still some life in him when he felt a sponge soaked in water and vinegar moisten his lips, and looking down, he saw a man walking away with a bucket, a staff over his shoulder. But what Jesus did not see, on the ground, was the black bowl into which his blood was pouring.

The Gospel According to Jesus Christ (1991), trans. Giovanni Pontiero

Colour in Line

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I haven’t talked much about my Ph. D. dissertation, “Colour in Line — Titian and Printmaking”, here at the Bunker, despite it having occupied my life more than any other intellectual project for the last five years or so. I guess because it is still very much a work in progress, but I figure it might be fun at least to post the official summary here:

This is a study of the prints by, for, and after Titian, produced in his lifetime. It aims to compile and analyse comprehensively the surviving printed works, as well as the available documentation, so as to add significantly to current understanding not only of Titian’s work in prints, but his art as a whole.

The prints are examined in close relation to relevant drawings and paintings, in order to situate them in Titian’s oeuvre and assess their creative and commercial importance to his art. Although a comparatively minor part of his activity, his continual if varying preoccupation with prints signals their relevance throughout his career. The traditional assumption that prints are a secondary product, mostly derivative of other art forms, is here displaced in favour of evidence that the medium at times constituted an end in itself for Titian, providing him with an important creative venue.

The text is structured chronologically, as an evolutionary narrative in the monographic tradition, presenting an alternative account of Titian’s career from the unfamiliar perspective of his prints. The primary concern is to establish a reliable set of attributions and a chronology of the works, as well as to elucidate their not always obvious application or purpose, although a wider interpretive context is embraced in certain cases, situating the work in 16th-century print culture as well as within contemporary theoretical and aesthetic discourse. In addition to close comparative study of the original works in the tradition of connoisseurship, where relevant and possible, technical means of analysis have been applied in collaboration with a number of paper conservators.

Ultimately, it is a study of Titian’s disegno as it manifests itself in prints, written with a conviction of its artistic singularity and importance, not only for Titian, but for Western art.

It is still awaiting examination and it’s going to be interesting to hear what the two fine scholars who are reading it as its first external audience have to say about it. I’m really excited about the work and can’t wait to take it further!

The image is a woodcut by Giovanni Britto after a lost self-portrait by Titian, published 1550.

Picks of the Week

“Like the attacks by Al Qaeda, the disaster in the Gulf was preceded by ample warnings : yet the administration had ignored them. Instead of cracking down on MMS, as he had vowed to do even before taking office, Obama left in place many of the top officials who oversaw the agency’s culture of corruption. He permitted it to rubber-stamp dangerous drilling operations by BP : a firm with the worst safety record of any oil company : with virtually no environmental safeguards, using industry-friendly regulations drafted during the Bush years. He calibrated his response to the Gulf spill based on flawed and misleading estimates from BP : and then deployed his top aides to lowball the flow rate at a laughable 5,000 barrels a day, long after the best science made clear this catastrophe would eclipse the Exxon Valdez.”

— Tim Dickinson

The picks of the week from around the web.

  • Rolling Stone: “The Spill, The Scandal and the President” a devastating investigation by Tim Dickinson of the Mexican Gulf Oil Spill and the Obama administration’s handling of it. Must read.
  • The Comics Journal: “The Mirror of Male-Love Love”. This extended piece by Dirk Deppey from the week before last is ostensibly about boys’ love manga, but is really more of a confessional essay, and as such it is a gripping, beautiful read. Highly recommended.
  • Gary Shider RIP

    Gary Shider of Plainfield, NJ and long-time funkateer of Parliament-Funkadelic fame, has passed away. He was the one in the diaper, rocking the guitar. Plus he was one of the architects of the P-Funk sound, overshadowed in the earlier years by fellow guitarist Eddie “Maggot Brain” Hazel but was just as important a constituent of the space-heavy, soulful guitar sound of Funkadelic. He co-wrote many of the classics with George Clinton, such as “Baby I Owe You Something Good”, “Nappy Dugout” and “One Nation Under a Groove”, and eventually acted as producer on much of their post-Parliament-Funkadelic work.

    One Nation.

    Images from Comics and Beats 3

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    The third Comics and Beats event in Copenhagen, hosted by the Danish Comics Council and the venue Vega took place last night. Cartoonists Ib Kjeldsmark, Cav Bøgelund and Mikkel Sommer improvised live with markers to the tunes of DJ TribleMe, while Bunker denizen and council chairman Thomas Thorhauge kept them on their toes as the evening’s emcee. A fourth cartoonist, Annette Carlsen was present and documented the event in her sketchbook, while photographer Frederik Høyer-Christensen did his part. See more images at the Council site.

    Al Williamson RIP

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    Just paying respects to one of the great illustrators of comics, one of the masters of texture. The above story, “Food for Thought”, drawn in collaboration with Roy Krenkel for EC’s Incredible Science Fiction (full story available here) is a case in point: though never a great naturalist, Williamson brings the alien world to teeming life. While lacking the grace of his idol Alex Raymond and the energy of his contemporary, Frank Frazetta, Williamson brought an exquisite attention to detail to his work, animating it while never cluttering the pages.

    Read Tom Spurgeon’s full obituary here.

    Androids Can Dream — Robert Venditti interviewed

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    By Andrew Firestone

    A great man once said, “It is no small thing to make a new world.” And he’s only really half-right. It is a rather small thing to make a new world in one’s head. It is an entirely larger accomplishment if one delivers on the artistic and philosophical promise of this new world.

    So while, yes, The Surrogates film starring Bruce Willis may have been a bit of a letdown, Robert Venditti’s consummate vision of a strikingly modernist post-modern future still vibrantly successful, in no small part to his recent prequel The Surrogates: Flesh and Bone. Begun in a mini-series published by Top Shelf in 2005, Venditti’s The Surrogates quite dutifully reimagines the Yeatsian postmodern societal disintegration in a world in which people do away with their physical selves in preference to beautiful idealized androids, which they then live vicariously through. In the first series, Atlanta has already been taken under the spell of this corporate wundermachina; Detective Harvey Greer, the main character, never even sees his wife physically to have dinner. Despite its simple premise, Venditti achieves a contemporary ethos which holds a mirror up to a reality-show culture, summoning the most biting fable of American socio-cultural trends in recent memory. What is most impressive is not that the story is soundly constructed, but how vast an area of area of the American mindscape the story encompasses, yet how personal it feels. These poignant narrative techniques evince the abilities of a great storyteller in the making.