Michael C. Hsiung can do no wrong. He has a new t-shirt out, based on an amazing drawing called On wild and adventurous Penny-Farthling riders. This work contains all the essential elements of a Hsiung masterpiece: portly, hairy-chested man, horizontally striped pants, top hat, moustache, generic bottle of beer, and deliciously antiquated form of transoportation: the penny-farthing. And it’s on a t-shirt? Sold! Inspect this marvelous drawing up close after the jump.
He’s an 83-year-old queer experimental filmmaker, they’re the sprawling Italian family responsible for making the world’s greatest knitwear. This is the fantastic video that brings them together. Kenneth Anger shot the Missoni family frolicking in a series of Italian courtyards in this ad for their Fall/Winter 2010 collection, and it’s kind of beautiful. I’m amazed how similar in its aesthetics and visual conventions this is to Anger’s work from the late 1940s and 50s, and yet how effectively mesmerizing the magic of Kenneth Anger remains. Once you find that sweet spot in your work, sometimes it’s a good idea to just linger there forever.
Successful blogging relies on a set of conventions that limit its own potential. Frequent posting keeps readers interested but tends to discourage in-depth analysis. Cross-platform compatibility restricts layout design to single-column vertical scrolls. Font options are scant, low-resolution images reign and non-linear flairs are frowned upon.
All that is slowly changing, and web journalism is starting to look more like, well, journalism. These cautious baby steps towards a prettier Internet are arriving through the advent of Apple’s “apps,” which allow designers to work within the fixed canvas of an iPad screen, as well as boutique websites that shun daily RSS traffic and search engine optimization in favor of paced-out content that’s as well written as it is visually appealing. The transition is not without its pitfalls– emulating a newspaper layout can easily veer into the realm of tacky 1994 CD-ROM design. Grain & Gram is one of the few sites getting it right.
It’s a brand new “gentleman’s journal,” built around beautiful photo essays that focus on one man, his work, and his personal style. Combining elements of blogs like Backyard Bill and The Selby with the rare class of fashion magazines like Fantastic Man, Grain & Gram is a promising new entity both as a style blog and as a design inspriation. Breaking the rules and transcending them in the process, its in-depth portraits of contemporary men are supplanted with intimate interviews, side-column tangents, and gorgeous video content, like the clip below from their feature on scruffy motorcycle-riding printmaker Nick Sambrato.
The spectacular textile/sculptural piece pictured above, entitled The Shaman Suit, has been featured on a few different blogs recently, so it’d be natural to assume the artist behind it is a dedicated designer of conceptual couture pieces. And while yes, she is that, Nadine Byrne is also much more. She’s a 23-year-old Swedish artist whose staggering body of creative handiwork spans across nearly every medium: fashion, sculpture, video, drawing, zine-making and beautiful experimental music. Whatever the format, Nadine Byrne’s work is largely characterized by a sinister yet glamorous sense of enigmatic Nordic mysticism.
Her band is called Ectoplasm Girls. (Even the name blows my mind). They make music that’s somewhere between drone, disco punk, and the type of near-spiritual kinetic noise that Lucky Dragons has honed into an art form. On Ectoplasm Girls’ MySpace page, they aptly note that their music sounds like the soundtrack to everyone’s favorite heroin addict teen-angst classic, Christiane F., if Christiane F. had been directed by Kenneth Anger.
Los Angeles-based cassette-only label Living Tapes distributed Ectoplasm Girls’ Forever Nothing album last fall in a limited run of 100 tapes that are available at Amoeba and Family. Aaron Aldorisio of Living Tapes (and occasional internet-ordained minister) described Forever Nothing thusly:
Utterly mind-destroying, dark, synth-heavy pop (but not synth-pop) experiments by two shadowy sisters from Sweden. You can’t really pigeonhole what the Ectoplasm-Girls do because they do a little bit of everything while somehow, magically, retaining a completely unique sound. Some songs are done in an electro-forest-folk-style (think Fonal), while other jams are more aggressively experimental. One cut even evokes the idea of an ultra-crude black metal artist taking a stab at drum and bass!
Aside from Ectoplasm Girls, Nadine Byrne has another music project called The Magic State, an audiovisual experience where “every concert is a screening and every screening is a concert. The Magic State is sound and moving images, suspension of time, transcendence, mysticism, rituals and poetry. A magical state of mind and a physical sovereign place.” Sounds rad to me! The stills from The Magic State’s video component look amazing– they bring to mind one of my favorite Olaf Breuning video pieces,Group. With any luck, Nadine Byrne will come stateside sometime soon and we’ll be able to check out her video and performance work firsthand.
I know Labor Day’s come and gone and the Autumnal Equinox is only days away, but Patrik Ervell’s Spring/Summer 2009 collection is making me want to get all dressed up for an oceanside stroll. Or go for a leisurely bike ride in Stockholm or Tokyo– or Auckland, where it’s just starting to get warm.
Even though he won the fancy Turner Prize in 1999 and the Caméra d’Or at Cannes earlier this year, I’d never heard of Steve McQueen until I found myself flipping through the photos from Yohji Yamamoto’s latest men’s collection runway show. Perhaps the venerable Japanese designer was following the fashion world’s recent shift towards self-congratulatory open-mindedness (i.e. Vivienne Westwood’s creepy muscle-bear runway model, or Italian Vogue’s much-lauded all-black issue– which was promptly followed by a return to the vanilla status quo), or perhaps Yamamoto simply decided that at the age of 65 he can pretty much do whatever the hell he wants, but in any case, the runway was strutted by a hodgepodge of highly unusual models. Amongst the de facto mop-topped pixies and intimidatingly high-cheekboned youngsters, the audience was treated to a handful of grandfatherly models (including one with a gimp leg) and– in the words of style.com writer Tim Blanks– the “defiantly chunky” British artist Steve McQueen.
I can’t help but think that Yamamoto had some irony in mind when he chose the handsomely robust McQueen as his proxy for a statement on the politics of body size: after all, McQueen’s much-acclaimed debut feature, Hunger, is all about using the human body as a political weapon. Centering on the final weeks in the life of of imprisoned IRA member Bobby Sands, McQueen’s film examines the passion and struggle that fueled the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike. The film has been ruffling a few feathers in the UK over its seemingly sympathetic portrayal of Sands, but McQueen himself refuses to take sides. Confronted by a reporter who baits, “I would argue, [Sands] comes out looking heroic,” McQueen responds, “Not for me … If he’s in a movie, people walk around thinking he’s heroic. It doesn’t matter what he’s doing in the movie, he will be thought of as heroic. That’s the movies. You put anyone in a movie, and people think that person’s heroic.”
In fact, Steve McQueen has built a reputation for not taking a position on his own work. 1993′s Bear, the silent short film that put him on the map, depicts a naked wrestling match between two black men (one of whom is McQueen). “Narrative and visual contexts, however, are absent,” wrote David Frankel in ArtForum, “this nude wrestling match has neither origin nor outcome, and happens in seeming darkness. What remains is the play of the men’s feelings – there is smiling and laughter, but also challenge, caution, tension, alarm, and a certain erotic buzz as the sparring goes through its phases.” Pulling the viewer into the film’s all-around ambiguity by forcing them to watch it in a completely darkened gallery room, McQueen doesn’t clarify any of the questions he raises, leaving his audience to construct their own point of view.
McQueen’s unyielding distance from his own work has always stood in stark contrast to the indulgent autobiography of his “Young British Artist” contemporaries like Tracey Emin, who became a press darling when she was shortlisted for the Turner Prize with her hopelessly self-absorbed work “My Bed” in 1999, the year McQueen won. “His victory was greeted by the London Evening Standard with a cover photo of Tracey Emin ‘not winning the Turner Prize.’ McQueen was tucked away on page five,” wrote Iain Aitch on GettingIt.com.
McQueen finally found himself in the public spotlight in 2007 with a work which, like Hunger, raises questions about the problematic position of the human body in modern politics. Selected by the semi-governmental Imperial War Museum to act as the nation’s official “War Artist,” McQueen’s resulting piece, Queen and Country, is simply a series of postage stamps depicting 98 armed service members who have died in Iraq. In a time in which images of the war dead have been banned in the media, when governments choose to sweep the idea of these unwanted corpses from an unpopular war under the rug, the UK’s Royal Mail service has quietly refused to turn McQueen’s work into real commemorative stamps– even after an outpouring of public support for the project.
That McQueen has been able to cause such controversy by doing something so benign– something that isn’t explicitly pro-war or anti-war, and might actually honor these casualties– demonstrates the beauty of McQueen’s detached perspective. Placing himself in opposition to the self-centered delusion fostered by micro-blogging, reality television and tabloid minutiae, McQueen steps away from himself and acts as an apolitical provocateur, presenting uncomfortable questions and allowing the audience to take their own positions.
Also, he’s adorable! Let’s hope he continues to pursue a career in modeling– I can definitely picture him as the new face of Dior Homme.
Last night I went to the Blood is the New Black party/pop-up store/makeshift art gallery at a warehouse in Silver Lake. Mainly planning to check out the artwork by my friend Jesse, I stayed for the performance by Abe Vigoda, and ended up going home with the t-shirt pictured above.
Blood is the New Black is a T-shirt label that promotes artists of the “up-and-coming” variety by selling shirts with their designs on them. The one I got was designed by Patrick Jilbert, a Kentuckyian sketchbook artist who draws distorted figures with a maniacal urgency that isn’t that far off from the world of Neckface‘s adorable demons.
The line features collaborations with Keith Shore, Josh Slater, and of course, the luminous Jesse Spears, amongst many more rad artsy types. At the moment, they’ve got a “blind bargain bag” deal happening online where you can get 5 random shirts from the artist that strikes your fancy for a mere $25. Nice!
In the wake of Al Gore’s Oscar win, the importance of environmental consciousness underwent a swift transformation in the arena of public opinion. Suddenly, “going green” had changed from a lame punchline about aging hippies to the hot new trend, quickly emerging as a marketing tool to sell everything from Saturday Night Football to Walmart. I initially feared environmental consciousness would soon be ushered out the door it had flown in, relegated to the trash heap of forgotten cultural movements like pet rocks and Beanie Babies. But the trend seems to be sticking, and there have actually been a lot of positive things to come out of this newly imbued American sense of social responsibility. For instance, convenient and (relatively) affordable applications of solar energy:
The rolled up sheet of flexible solar energy to the left is a Brunton SolarRoll, which for $479 provides 14 watts of energy– enough to re-charge most laptops in a couple of hours, and of course cell phones, digital cameras, iPods and all the rest of those fun portable toys. Also, it’s waterproof– so you can shove it in your pack and take it to the great outdoors, or blog while you’re living on a mountaintop in a tree house (assuming said treehouse is Wi-Fi enabled).
The handsome backpack to the right is a Voltaic Solar Bag. At the low price of $199, it comes with 11 different adapters for easy connection to handheld electronics. Supplying you with 4 watts of solar juice, you’ll never need to come home and charge a phone again. And it’s only 2.9 lbs, including the battery and solar panels! Anyone want to get me this totally unnecessary, but absolutely rad bag for Christmas?
This past month I’ve been interning at Mean magazine. My friend Mya, who I met through Johnny Rogers, is a completely rad film director and journalist who created the movie Teenius, and recently became editor at Mean. She liked Future Shipwreck enough to invite me on board, and I’ve just completed my first two assignments for the magazine!
Last week was Los Angeles Fashion Week, so I went to the Jeremy Scott and Brian Lichtenberg fashion shows (which were both hella rad), took pictures, and put together a couple of write-ups that you can read in the “Web Exlcusives” section of Mean’s website.
Read the write-ups and then click on “continue reading” below for more fun photos taken at Jeremy Scott’s Spring 2008 show, “Men at Work”.
Marc Jacobs is an American designer who has spent the majority of the past decade establishing a reputation for himself as the hippest, most refreshingly unconventional designer around. From his early work with Takashi Murakami for Louis Vuitton, to collaborations with Sofia Coppola, to his distinctive Jurgen Teller-shot ads (which have featured every hipster from Chloe Sevigny to Sonic Youth to Winona Ryder)– Marc Jacobs quickly defined himself as one of the only truly cool designers out there. Tom Ford may have the sex appeal, but the world of Marc Jacobs has been marked by depth and refinement, with an ample shot of youthful playfulness. Jacobs is cool because he understands how Lil’ Kim and Cindy Sherman are far more iconic and relevant than Gisele Bundchen or Heidi Klum.
I used to look up to Marc Jacobs as a gay role model. He’s one of our generation’s most prominent and relevant gay artists, and he (used to) refuse to pander to gay cultural conventions in his personal style or behavior. Finally, I thought– a high-profile gay man who’s self-confident enough to not care about waxing and tanning and looking like the archetypal Chelsea Boy. He was famous for his shaggy, bohemian appearance and oversized, bookish glasses. He looked every bit a Wes Anderson character come to life, and that was kind of groundbreaking for a gay celebrity. Marc Jacobs was untouchable. Everything was going peachy, until the Marc Jacobs we knew and loved vanished, replaced by an awful robotic replica.
At least that’s what I figure happened, because I can’t come up with a more valid explanation for the transformation that Jacobs has undergone this last year. Let’s break it down. Spring 2006: Marc Jacobs is on top of his game. For reference, here’s a flattering 6-page article from New York magazine calling him the “coolest, most influential designer”. He declares that awkward is nice, and triumphs nerdiness over de facto sex appeal. Not long after, Jacobs entered his mid-life crisis. He fell in love with a slick-looking young prostitute named Jason Preston, and quickly mutated into some horrible hybrid of avant-garde cool and West Hollywood cool. You can see the transposition of stomach-churning WeHo aesthetics at work in the side-by-side below:
The worst part about this whole sordid transformation is that in the Perez Hilton-dominated blogosphere, Marc’s new persona was deemed an upgrade. It seemed to be the consensus amongst gay bloggers that Jacobs had finally come to his senses and adopted the culture he was destined for all along. One excited South American commenter wrote, “Jesus Christ!!! How can Marc look even better each day?!? We love him down here, in Brasil!!!”
Then, early this year, Jacobs checked himself into rehab. For a moment, there was hope. Maybe, I thought, they’ll hit him on the head with a frying pan and reverse the traumatic spell that he’s been under lately– this whole thing could be a terrible Meth side effect they don’t warn you about in school! Much to my dismay, Jacobs came out of rehab looking even less recognizable than when he went in. Soon, he was posing on the cover of Out magazine, showing off those gross abdominal lines that every gay porn star/2xist model constantly uses to rape gay culture.
He had his big spring show for the Marc line a couple weeks ago, and it seemed to reflect the schizophrenic schism that must be tearing the designer apart inside. Many of the looks were hybrids of two pieces sewn together down the middle, like some juvenile Project Runway competition. Most of the clothes weren’t even cute on a conceptual level. And I won’t even get into those fucked up heels he made for the Marc Jacobs line. I guess my point here is: Is Marc Jacobs a real life Two-Face, straddling the line between his formerly hip, intelligent self, and the hegemonic West Hollywood world that Jason Preston/meth/mid-life crisis/The Illuminati/Scientology is pulling him towards?! And if so, is there anything that can take him back from that hideous place? Or is Marc Jacobs gone for good?