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NOIR CITY 14: The Art of Darkness, 1/22 - 1/31

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, January 5, 2016 03:41pm | Post a Comment

Noir City 14

The Film Noir Foundation's world-famous yearly film festival NOIR CITY returns to San Francisco's majestic Peeping TomCastro Theatre for its 14th edition January 22-31. This year's theme is "The Art of Darkness," delivering 25 noir-stained films exploring the pressures, pitfalls, paranoia, and pain of being an artist in an indifferent and cruel world. This time the tortured protagonists aren't felons or fall guys, they're writers, painters, dancers, photographers, and musicians. I think we can all relate.

The festival features a fascinating line-up of films, including noir must-sees like Nicholas Ray's In A Lonely Place (1950, with Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame), Fritz Lang's Scarlet Street (1945, Edward G. Robinson, Dan Duryea, Joan Bennett), and Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954, James Stewart) to several welcomed surprises like Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960, Carl Boehm), Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up (1966, David Hemmings), and Howard Franklin's The Public Eye (1992, Joe Pesci).

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A look at Tsukioka Yoshitoshi on his 175th birthday

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 30, 2014 12:32pm | Post a Comment

Kanaki Toshikage portrait of Yoshitoshi

One of Japan's greatest artists, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, was born on this day in 1839, which I reckon makes it as good a time as any to blog about him. For those unfamiliar, Yoshitoshi is widely regarded as one of ukiyo-e's greatest innovators, as well as its last major practitioner. He produced an enormous body of work (about 10,000 pieces by some estimates) although he's best known for his bloody pieces -- which comprise a large chunk of his oeuvre. After falling out of fashion amongst Japanese art collectors, he was "rediscovered" in the 1970s and is now rightfully placed amongst the ukiyo-e greats.

*****

Yoshitoshi was born Owariya Yonejiro (米次郎), in the Shimbashi district of Edo (now Tokyo), in 1839. His father, Owariya Kinzaburō, was a wealthy merchant and samurai. The identity of his mother is unknown, although Kinzaburō's mistress, apparently not wanting the share their home with the child, sent him off to live with an otherwise childless relative, Kyōya Orizaburō, when Yonejiro was about three. At the age of five, after showing interest in art, the pharmacist uncle (or cousin by other accounts) began offering the young boy art instruction.

When Yonejiro was eleven he was apprenticed to the great Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川 国芳) who gave him the art name, Yoshitoshi (月岡 芳年). Yoshitoshi's first print was completed in 1853. Kuniyoshi died in 1861. Yoshitoshi's father died in 1863. In 1863 Yoshitoshi contributed designs to the 1863 Tokaido series, created by the artists of the Utagawa School and organized by another ukiyo-e great, Utagawa Kunisada (歌川 国貞).

Many of Yoshitoshi's best-known pieces are graphically violent and deeply disturbing -- and then as now, audiences loved that sort of thing. Two of his most celebrated series were published in 1865, A Modern Journey to the West and One Hundred Stories of China and Japan. They were followed by the even more lurid Twenty-eight famous murders with verse, completed in 1868.


  
Three of Yoshitoshi's characteristically bloody pieces

The Edo Period came to an end with the Meiji Restoration, which began on 3 May, 1868. As Japan struggled to put the violence of war behind it and hurriedly catch up technologically with the West, Yoshitoshi's macabre woodblock prints fell out of fashion. After his commissions dried up, he and his mistress, Okoto, descended into a life abject poverty. Their situation was exacerbated when Yoshitoshi suffered from a mental breakdown.

In 1873 Yoshitoshi's outlook improved and he began producing more art, which he began signing his works Taiso (meaning "great resurrection") Yoshitoshi (in place of Ikkaisai Yoshitoshi). As newspaper production increased, Yoshitoshi found himself newly in demand as an illustrator, prized for his grisly illustrations which were published in accompaniment with crime stories. Although his work may have increased, he and Okoto still lived in poverty and in 1876 his mistress joined a brothel.

The following year Yoshitoshi began a relationship with a geisha, Oraku. As with Okoto, Oraku sold off her possessions to support the artist and herself and soon she too joined a brothel.

In 1880, Yoshitoshi began a relationship with a former geisha, Sakamaki Taiko, and the two were married in 1884. She had two children from a previous relationship, one of whom (Tsukioka Kōgyo) Yoshitoshi adopted and trained to be an artist.


  
Three of Yoshitoshi's studies of women 

In 1878, Yoshitoshi created a series of bijin-ga that scandalized members of the Imperial court. In 1885 he produced The Lonely House on Adachi Moor. That year a Japanese art and fashion magazine ranked him as the greatest ukiyo-e artist but the art of making woodblock prints was on a decidedly moribund course. Nonetheless, Yoshitoshi taught the dying art to new pupils, including some who would attain a good measure of fame in the 20th Century, including Toshikata Mizuno (水野年方and Toshihide Migita (右田年英).

"Fujiwara no Yasumasa Playing the Flute by Moonlight" from One Hundred Aspects of the Moon

Yoshitoshi's troubles again deepened after his home was burgled. Soon after he was admitted (and discharged) from a mental hospital. Even as he declined physically and mentally, he continued to be prolific and in his last six months of life he completed both One Hundred Aspects of the Moon and New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts. On 9 June, 1892, he died at the age of 53 from a cerebral hemorrhage.

  
Three pieces from New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts 

In 1898, a stone memorial monument to Yoshitoshi was installed in Higashi-okubo, Tokyo. The influence of his style can be felt in the works of writers like Jun'ichirō Tanizaki (谷崎 潤一郎and artists including Tadanori Yokoo (横尾 忠則), Masami Teraoka, and Koren Shadmi as well as a great deal of manga. Numerous books have been published both about Yoshitoshi and collecting examples of his works. Check the Amoeba bookshelves to see what's in stock as well as Yoshitoshi.net.

誕生日おめでとう and follow Eric's Blog

Lucien Levy-Dhurmer -- Artist, explorer, and autumn son

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 30, 2013 02:52pm | Post a Comment
Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer was a Symbolist and Art Nouveau artist who was born on this day in 1865. In France, he is still celebrated in some quarters for his work -- which includes paintings, drawings, ceramics, furniture and interior design -- but he remains obscure, especially outside the Francosphere. Even though there aren't any films about him that I know of -- or even any books that I've found -- I'm hopefully wrong. In that case, let me know so that I can add them to this entry and tell fans to seek them out. In any case, he's also a great artist to look at because he was born in autumn, died in autumn, and most of his most recognizable work has a great, autumnal, crepuscular quality which is perfect for viewing as the nights grow longer and summer fades.


CHILDHOOD AND EDUCATION

Lévy was born 30 September, 1865 in Algiers (then part of occupied French Algeria) to Salomon Lévy and Pauline-Amélie Goldhurmer. In 1879, when he was fourteen years old, Lévy began studying drawing and sculpture at École communale supérieure de Dessin et Sculpture in Paris. He first exhibited in 1882 at the Salon de Paris, where he showed a ceramic piece, La Naissance de Vénus, d'après Cabanel -- a reference to painter Alexandre Cabanel). 

EARLY CAREER 


After school Lévy first worked as a lithographer. Then, from 1887 till1895, he worked as a ceramic decorator in the studio of Clément Massier, in Golfe-Juan. Though Jewish, much of Lévy's early ceramic work bore the more obvious influence of Islamic Moorish art that had surrounded him during his childhood in North Africa.


In 1892 he became the artistic director of Massier’s studio and as such, began signing his pieces "L. Levy." Throughout his stint at the studio he continued using oils and pastels and exhibited some work produced with them at 1894’s Peintres de l'âme collective exhibition alongside artists Edmond Aman-Jean, Émile-René Ménard, Alphonse Osbert, Carlos Schwabe, and Alexandre Séon.


In 1895 he returned to live in Paris to pursue a career in painting, where he met the poet Georges Rodenbach, whose portrait he painted shortly after in a style that, as with other works from the period, suggests the strong influence of Symbolist painter, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. 

 
                              Portrait de Georges Rodenbach (ca. 1895)                                                 La Silence (1895)

After a visit to Italy, Lévy's work revealed an increased interest in German and Florentine Renaissance -- resulting in paintings that fit in well alongside those of the English Pre-Raphaelites.

La Bourrasque (1896)


La Femme à la Médaille or Mystére (1896)


Portrait de Pierre Loti or Fantôme d'Orient (1896)

In 1896 the artist had his first solo exhibit of his work, billed as “Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer," which added part of his mother's maiden name (Goldhurmer) to his given family name. The exhibit included two sanguines, five paintings, and sixteen pastels and was shown at Georges Petit’s gallery. Success quickly followed and his prominent admirers included occultist writer Joséphin Peladan and artists such as Emile Bernard and Gustave Moreau.

In 1897, in the tradition of the Grand Tour, Lévy-Dhurmer began extensively traveling in Europe, Africa, and Asia -- visiting Britain, Holland, Italy, Morocco, Spain, and Turkey. His work from this period began to increasingly focus on landscapes, albeit subjectively idealized ones, and he also depicted the inhabitants of the places through which he passed in portraits. As the fin-de-siècle transitioned into the début-de-siècle, Levy-Dhurmer continued to focus on landscapes and portraits that syncretized the styles of Claude Monet and James McNeill Whistler.

Beautés de Marrakech (1901)

LATE CAREER

Levy-Dhurmer continued to exhibit his work in group exhibitions, salons, and solo shows. Also, between 1910 and 1914 he designed the Wisteria Dining Room at the home of Auguste Rateau (now preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art). In 1914 he married Emmy Fournier (Jeanne Marie Marnière), editor of the feminist newspaper La Fronde.

The Wisteria Dining Room

Levy-Dhurmer's wife, whom he nicknamed "Perla," died in 1944. Levy-Dhurmer died close to his 88th birthday, on 24 September, 1953.

*****

Happy Birthday Wah Ming Chang -- Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 21, 2013 03:13pm | Post a Comment

Wah Chang
was a Chinese-American artist and prop designer. Today he’s most recognized for his iconic designs on the television series Star Trek. He was born on this day in 1917 and with that in mind, it being Asian-Pacific Heritage Month, me planning on going to see the Star Trek Into Darkness tonight, and The Wrath of Khan on in the background, now seems like a good time to reflect on his genius.


EARLY LIFE

Wah Ming Chang (鄭華明) was born 2 August, 1917 in Honolulu, when Hawai’i was still a territory. His father, Dai Song Chang, owned an art store and framing gallery. The Chang family moved to San Francisco in 1919 and the parents opened Ho Ho Tea Room on 315 Sutter Street, which quickly became a popular hangout for artists and bohemians. Wah’s mother, Fai Sue, was an artist and graduate of the California School of Arts and Crafts. As a young child, Wah also displayed a talent for art and at seven, he began a tutelage under artist Blanding Sloan. Wah had his first solo gallery show when he was just nine years old. His mother passed away when he was eleven and his father moved to Europe, leaving the child with Sloan and his wife, Mildred Taylor. Taylor, was a feminist writer, organizer and lecturer who in the 1920s displayed a strikingly non-stereotypical interest in East Asian cultures. Taylor introduced Wah to puppet-making, a skill which he would employ when he eventually began working in film.

After attending the Peninsula School of Creative Education in Menlo Park on a scholarship, the family (including Chang) moved to Los Angeles. At sixteen, Chang worked as a set designer for shows at the Hollywood Bowl. In 1936 the family moved back to Sloan’s home state of Texas. Chang worked with Sloan before starting his own business. After the business closed, Chang returned to Hollywood. Upon news of his father’s remarrying, Chang joined him for a year in Honolulu before moving once again to San Francisco.


AT WALT DISNEY

At just 21 years old, Chang began working for Walt Disney in 1940, when he worked on character designs for Pinocchio and Fantasia (both 1940). After their release, Chang was contracted polio and was sidelined by extended hospitalization and the temporary loss of the use of both legs. In 1941, after regaining the ability to walk, Chang married Glen Taylor in Texas (at the time marriage between Chinese and whites was against California law). In 1942 he worked on Bambi with another great Chinese-American artist, Tyrus Wong.


AFTER DISNEY

He left Disney afterward and began a working relationship with director George Pal, beginning with the film Tulips Shall Grow (1942). In 1945, with Gene Warren, he created his own production company. In 1947 he worked as the cinematographer and producer on the animated The Way of Peace (a collaboration with Sloan) and contributed the Puppetoon section of The Variety Girl (also 1947).


CENTAUR PRODUCTIONS




Again working with Warren, Chang next formed Centaur Productions, which made commercials, costumes, props, and toys. They also worked on Hardrock, Coco and Joe: The Three Little Dwarfs (1951) and Suzy Snowflake (1953).


MONSTER MOVIES



Besides making children’s cartoons and animating Christian parables, Chang worked un-credited on several B-movies. He created the spider puppets for Cat-Women of the Moon (1953) and Tarantula (1955). Keeping with the arachnida theme, he also designed titular Black Scorpion (1958). He also designed the mutated wasps from Monster from Green Hell (1957).


PROJECT UNLIMITED & GEORGE PAL

Though its name sounds like an early ‘90s Eurodance group, Project Unlimited, Inc was another company formed by Chang, Warren and Tim Baar in 1956. Together they designed costumes, make-up, puppets, sets, and special effects, notably for George Pal’s Tom Thumb (1958), The Time Machine (1960), Atlantis, the Lost Continent (1961), and The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962). The company won Academy Awards for its work on The Time Machine.



OTHER EARLY WORK

Other key work done by Chang included on films such as The Lady Says No (1951), The King and I (1956), Spartacus (1960), Can-Can (1960), La vendetta di Ercole (1960 – released in the US as Goliath and the Dragon), Master of the World (1961), Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), Voyage to the Seventh Planet (1962), Cleopatra (1963), and 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964).


WORK IN TELEVISION & STAR TREK


Chang’s first work on television was for the sci-fi anthology series, The Outer Limits (1963-1965), where he worked for future Star Trek associate producer Robert H. Justman.



Chang was first hired to work on Star Trek in 1964, handling make-up and props on the (first) pilot episode, “The Cage.” He designed the look of the Talosians and the pre-phaser laser pistols used by the crew of the Enterprise. Star Trek wasn't picked up until after a second pilot was filmed in 1965. Star Trek finally debuted in 1966. Chang was once again hired and put to work. He redesigned the phaser. He designed the Starfleet tricorder and communicator. His flip-top design was remarkably similar to my Motorola flip phones of the 1990s (my current phone, thanks to an app, looks even more like Chang’s communicator. He also designed Balok and his ship, the Gorn, the giant from “The Galileo Seven,” the neural parasites from “Operation: Annihilate!,” the Romulan Bird of Prey (and the Romulan helmets), the M-113 Creature, the Vulcan lute, and Tribbles. After “The Trouble With Tribbles,” Chang was let go.


AFTER STAR TREK




After his stint on Star Trek ended, Chang returned to film work, working on Planet of the Apes (1968), The Power (1968), Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women (1968), and Big Daddy (1969).

In 1970, the Chang family left Altadena and moved to Caramel-by-the-Sea, where Chang designed and built their new home. Chang returned to production – and began directing – with Dinosaurs, the Terrible Lizards but primarily focused on sculpting. The following year he worked on The Mephisto Waltz. In 1974 he directed and produced Alphabet Roll Call. He returned to TV designing models for Land of the Lost (1974-1975). In 1985 he directed Magic Pony. In 1987, he worked as a creative artist on The Puppetoon Movie.


LATER YEARS

Life and Sculpture of Wah Ming Chang

Although most of Chang’s work had been done in anonymity, fans and film historians began to reappraise his contributions and he appeared a couple of documentaries, appearing in The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal (1985) and Time Machine: The Journey Back (1993). In 1987 he sculpted, on commission, four life-size bronze sculptures of Dennis the Menace. In 1989, Chang published a book, Life and Sculpture of Wah Ming Chang, co-authored with David Barrow. In 1994, Chang was awarded the George Pal Memorial Award by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror. In 1995 he was the subject of Wah Ming Chang: Artist and Master of Special Effects.

After Glen passed away, Chang began a relationship with Virginia Park. In 2003, the Chinese Historical Society of America exhibited Chang’s and Tyrus Wong’s work. Six days before the end of the exhibit, Chang passed away on 22 December,2003 (age 86) at his home.

For a far more in-depth account of Chang's life and work, click here!

*****


Happy birthday, Edvard Munch

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 12, 2012 05:43pm | Post a Comment
Today is the 149th birthday of Norwegian painter and printmaker, Edvard Munch


Munch was born 12 December in the village of Ådalsbruk in Løten, in 1863. His father was a doctor named Christian Munch and his mother was Laura Catherine Bjølstad. He was often ill as a child and reportedly drew to occupy his considerable time spent in bed.


In 1881, Munch enrolled at Den kongelige tegneskole. Along with fellow students, he had his first public exhibition in 1883. Some of his early work was in the Naturalism and Impressionism traditions. After falling in with nihilist/philosopher/writer/anarchist Hans Jæger, and his circle, Kristianiabohêmen, Munch began attempting to paint from his soul.



Munch's first "soul painting," Det Syke Barn (The Sick Child) depicted his sister Johanne Sophie on her deathbed -- she died from TB when just fifteen.

   
(l-r) Munch's original Munch's last ...and parodies


Munch's piece(s) titled Der Schrei der Natur (usually known as The Scream in English) is his most recognized work and has been referenced, parodied and copied countless times. The first version, done with pastels, was completed in 1893. He created three more versions, one more pastel and two paintings. 


Munch passed away on 23 January, 1944 at the age of eighty years. He is quoted as having said, "Fra min råtnende kropp skal blomster vokse, og jeg er i dem, og dét er evighet" which Google translates as "From my rotting body flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity."






In college I had the opportunity to see Peter Watkins's 210 minute long biographical film, Evard Munch. In addition to my date and I, there was only one other film attendee in the audience. I was utterly enthralled but by the time the film ended, my girlfriend had fallen asleep and the other film-goer had long since taken off. If you'd like to purchase a copy, it is available on DVD


*****
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