Rise of the Machine! — Updated!

I never thought it would happen, but lately I’ve developed a certain appreciation for the widely-derided art and general sensibility of the Image artists. No, really. Yeah, Even Rob Liefeld… No shit.

The eye-opener, so to speak, is a German graffiti artist, KACAO77, whose art book Universes was published earlier this year and has since been burning its way through the graff community, into a soon-to-be-published second printing.

Judging by his alias, KACAO77 is a couple of years younger than I. He was therefore probably more receptive to the Image “revolution” than I was, back in the early 90s when Spawn, W.I.L.D.Cats, Youngblood and the other Image books hit the shelves, wowing many a youngster — and even more speculators — with their razzamatazz.

I was a little too old, I think, and was never quite won over by these books, even if I found especially the work of Todd McFarlane attractive and owned three copies of his Spider-Man #1. Nowadays, we all know how these fanboy artists contributed to the boom and bust of the American comics market through the 90s, and showed the world that the crreation of amateur comics were not solely the domain of grade school recess, but could actually be big business.

Move Over Liebowitz, I’m Driving!

In alternately, at times simultaneously, entertaining and disquieting ways Frank Miller has been losing it in slow motion over the last ten years or so. Despite its qualities, Sin City was one slow degeneration of the storytelling instincts of one of the truly great writers in mainstream comics of the last 25 years. An ongoing condensation of elements always present in his work, the series represented a fascinating, if often disheartening artistic development that now seems to be flatlining into irrelevance.

Hollywood and mainstream fame unfortunately do not seem to have provided the rejuvenation one might have hoped for. On the contrary; his films are mostly transpositions of what he does in comics to a medium on which he is much, much less proficient. The Spirit is awful, as predicted, but really it is not much worse than — or indeed all that different from — the Sin City flick: they share their stilted direction, sluggish pacing and lack of storytelling rhythm, a tin ear for what animates a given scene — whether it be action or talking heads — which results in several sequences dying on the screen, not to mention the strange belief that one can transpose untreated something that works in a comic into live action.

Hype: The Dot and the Line

If you’re in Virginia, the Migration Gallery in Charlottesville is currently showing works by Warren Craghead and Brian Mallman.

Mallman I didn’t know anything about — his work looks interesting — but I’ve been pushing Craghead’s for a while. He will be showing pages from several recent books, including How to Be Everywhere, one of the most notable, recent boundary-pushing comics, and also has a new book, The Dot and the Line available for download from the gallery’s site, so go get it!

Freddie Hubbard RIP

I always loved Freddie Hubbard’s energetic and authoritative, yet airy and tender trumpet playing. His vigorous playing on the classic Ready for Freddie (1961), the way he takes the lead on Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage (1965), his strong, equilibrist, if still outshone compliment to Coltrane on Ascension (1965), and his early somewhat fluffy but impeccable work for CTI. And so many other things. Later he became less interesting, but his passing marks the end of the great career of a great player.

Check out his amazing soloing on this 1962 version of “Moanin'” with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, where he had replaced the great Lee Morgan the previous year.

Photo of Hubbard in Rochester, New York in 1976, from Getty Images.

The Spark of Life

For lovers of Italian Renaissance art, this has been a pretty stellar year in terms of exhibitions. Amongst the major ones, the Rome/Berlin Sebastiano del Piombo show over the summer was an eye-opener, and this autumn’s double whammy of Andrea Mantegna in Paris and Giovanni Bellini in Rome offered strong contributions to this museum-goer’s sweet hangover this year.

I haven’t had time to write much about the former here on the Bunker, unfortunately, but suffice to say that it is an enormously impressive show — a formidable showcase of a great artist that makes a number of controversial claims, but at the same time is presented with enough scholarly responsibility that one is encouraged to make up one’s own mind.

Presenting an equally remarkable, if more limited selection of works, the Bellini show provides the viewer with an impressive overview of the oeuvre of this, one of the greatest of masters of European painting. It is astonishing to follow the development of this great bringer of light to painting, from his earliest works in tempera to the late, glorious Christian syntheses of natural and divine illumination, wrought in luminous oil.

It is now Christmas, which has given me something of a breather, and what better way to celebrate than to think some about Bellini?

The Listening: Ludacris, Game, T.I., Kanye

If anything, this has been a year of top name releases in mainstream hip hop, with one heavyweight after the other dropping marquee-style albums they all seem to hope will be game changers for them. Earlier in the year, we had Lil Wayne making his superstar status official (pity he hasn’t been up to much that makes sense since), Nas frustratingly delivering unconvincingly on an ambitious promise, and Young Jeezy upping the ante as a convincing rap star.

Now is the season to be jolly, of course, and come recession or high water, we have been flooded with big records from the rest of the biggest names: The Game, Ludacris, T.I. and Kanye West. The only ones missing from that list, I guess, are Jay-Z and Chamillionaire, and they’re excused by having dropped albums last year. I couldn’t be less interested in how many units these people move — they’re probably doing reasonably well, all things considered — but kind of wanted to check the pulse on the tottering behemoth that is mainstream rap, in terms of, well the quality of the music they’ve released.

Shoeman the Human

I know it’s been everywhere today, but I just can’t resist posting it. There’s something fitting to the fact that presumably one of the last memorable images of the lame duck president is him having a pair of shoes thrown at him in a small room. I mean, what could be more pathetic? Well, I guess if he had been hit, but his impressive duck is rather fun in itself. Poignant even.

Den japanske forbindelse

Når tegneserierne i disse år også herhjemme så småt er ved at finde fodfæste på parnasset, skyldes det i ikke ringe grad den massive indflydelse, som japansk kultur i almindelighed : og japanske tegneserier og :film i særdeleshed : har haft på de seneste årtiers kulturelle output i Vesten. Mangaens egenartede æstetik og emblematiske dynamik har vundet indpas i alt fra billedkunsten til musikvideoen, og har ikke mindst sat sine spor i måden, hvorpå tegneserier undfanges og opfattes på disse breddegrader. Den 8. oktober slog kunstmuseet Louisiana i Humlebæk dørene op for en stort anlagt udstilling, der på fornem vis både tegner de historiske konturer af en udtryksforms udvikling, og sætter fokus på den nutidige krydsbestøvning der finder sted indenfor andre billedmedier.

Picks of the Week


The picks of the week from around the web.

Slightly slim pickings this week, owing to the fact that I’ve been on internet-free holiday. I do however have these recommendations for you:

  • Warren Craghead: “A Flame Expelled.” Top Shelf hosts this short lyrical comic from one of the most compelling experimental comics makers at the moment.
  • Prospect: “A Second Tulip Mania”. Great, sarcastic article on the boom and bust of the contemporary art market of the last decade or so, even if the conceit of the title is a little obscure. (Thanks, Dirk).
  • Format: This is pretty funny, if rather silly. If you’re a hip hop head, check it out: 20 more or less classic covers recreated in Lego…