In my early childhood, when we visited the fairgrounds in late autumn with a bag of Marroni (roasted chestnuts) warming my little hands, my mum would always tell me about how, when she was my age, the Halbstarke (“half-strongs”/”semi-toughs” – a movement both popularised and simplified by the movie Teenage Wolfpack) used to hang out near fairgrounds, looking intimidating, cool and… desirable.
Growing up in the 80s with unsightly skinny kids in stonewashed neon jeans and perms occupying fairgrounds, it always sounded like a completely different world to me and my imagination turned the Halbstarke into some half-men/half-wolves – pillaging and ravaging everything in their way that hasn’t fainted with hysteria yet.
In my teens – after studying the not unsimilar life and career of Swiss photographer genius and car crash fetishist Arnold Odermatt – I came across the photographic work of self-taught photographer and previous factory worker Karlheinz Weinberger (1921 – 2006 – GIVE THE MAN A WIKI PAGE!) and it took another year or two to link the stories my mother had told me to the hauntingly powerful yet disarming Weinberger portraits and to realise that post-WWII Switzerland really wasn’t just all quaint and perfect but riddled with very diverse youth movements creating their very own eclectic aesthetic. An aesthetic that would some decades later inspire and influence the Swiss punk, post-punk and goth movements.
Until mid-March, Galerie Esther Woederhoff in Paris is showing a vast selection of works by Weinberger in an exhibition entitled Rebels. They’re absolutely incredible snapshots of an often forgotten youth movement – shot partially in Weinberger’s own pretty bourgeois living room - putting them in the very same Bildungsbürgertum environment they wanted to liberate themselves from - or in the great outdoors snogging in forests, riding pimped bikes, displaying their DIY gear, and just generally being totally badass, fierce and very un-Swiss.
A motive that’s particularly prevalent throughout Weinberger’s work is the focus on the display of male genitalia. Halbstarke developed their very own style, distressing jeans by taking zips out, replacing them with bolts or string and therefore setting a very deliberate phallic accent to their attire. Having worked for “Der Kreis” (AGAIN, GIVE THEM A WIKI PAGE!), a homoerotic magazine published by a Zurich club of the same name that even dared to publish highly critical material during the Nazi era, Weinberger was well versed in an aesthetic celebrating the sensuous youthful male.
However, he documented the halbstarke females in an equally admiring way and his portraits of girls with outrageously backcombed hair, kohl cat eyes, animal print or boldly striped jumpers, very tight waistlines and a lot of chuzpe show a great amount of empathetic closeness to their cause. He was on their side without being one of them.
Analysing the stylistic elements that made you halbstark, it’s actually very interesting observing how certain elements broke with gender stereotypes while others enforced them with a shitload of testosterone:
For the guys this meant that the Hollywood version of the quiff was often grown longer and softened to look rather effeminate, jeans and leather jackets were often short and revealing but this was then counterbalanced with the masculinity of scary Hell’s Angelesque back patches and of course the infamous horseshoe used as pendant – which was like the heavyweight 50s grandfather of the safety pin/pentagram/ankh.
The girls too walked a dual path both enforcing and breaking visual gender roles being the hourglass femme fatale only to adapt to a very tomboyish look and borrowing their boyfriend’s horseshoes, jackets and bandanas the next day.
It was a fantastic and great experimentation ground for the days to come and a lot of it has survived until today – particularly in the goth, crust punk and biker movements. A political movement or not, a lot of the Halbstarke later joined the youth revolts of the late 60s and they have changed the visual landscape of Switzerland for good. Thankfully.
Exhibition details below.
On show: Feb 11 – Mar 17, 2012
Address: Galerie Esther Woerdehoff, 36, rue Falguière, 75015 Paris, France, tel: +33 (0)9 51 51 24 50, email: email@example.com
Hours: Tue – Sat: 2 – 6 PM
A Study of “Because Cathy taught him what she learnt” by Hisaji Hara, 2010 – click to enlarge
I think it must have been the lovely Nana Rapeblossom who first introduced me to Hisaji Hara‘s work a few months back and I must admit that it comes as a bit of a surprise to see him showing at Michael Hoppen now.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Hoppen as it’s a fantastic gallery with superb curating and as a matter of fact, they’re also hosting a marvellous Guy Bourdin show at Hoppen Contemporary right now – but it seems I had just subconsciously assumed that for his first solo show on European soil, he would choose a museum rather than gallery context given his penchant for highly composed arrangements and established European painters, especially (and obviously) Balthus.
A Study of “But it was one of their chief amusements to run away to the moors” by Hisaji Hara, 2010 – click to enlarge
There’s softened spatial serenity, composed simplicity, powdered sexuality, layered architecture, and ahistorical frozen theatricality to his works which are all aspects that are becoming ever rarer in a contemporary photography landscape which often seems dominated by the ironic dirty scenester snapshot so it’s a huge joy and inspiration to see such works being appreciated “over here”. Definitely a must-see for all London folks.
Opens Feb 24. Details below.
A Study of “Katia Reading” by Hisaji Hara, 2009 – click to enlarge
On show: Feb 24 – Mar 31, 2012
Hours: Mon – Fri: 10.30 AM – 6 PM, Sat: 10.30 – 5 PM
Very urgent life matters to deal with – no time for this.
I’ll be back. I always am.
Dicky by Stuart Pearson Wright, oil on oval canvas, hand-carved frame, 40 x 50cm, 2011 – click to enlarge
I remember being two days early to the opening reception of Stuart‘s previous I Remember You solo show at the Riflemaker (somehow, those Monday evening opening receptions seem to confuse me a great deal) but the staff was lovely enough to let me in despite being in the midst of show preparation works and I could even say hello to Stuart and get my book signed, yay.
But. I’d be lying if I said that Together in Electric Dreams, his 2nd Riflemaker show, made me want to be there two days early again because well, the works really don’t look nearly as detailed, vibrant and grotesquely distorted as last time.
Maybe too much time was spent on hand-carving the nautical frames? I’m not sure but for me, this is all going a bit too much in the direction of Turf One/Jean Labourdette which is weird because just like John Currin, Stuart’s got a fantastic eye for the caricaturesque and grotesque in human forms, camp postures, hyperbolized sentiments and satirized landscapes.
The press release states:
“[...] The works are presented in neo-baroque frames which have been hand-sculpted in jesmonite by the artist. The painting’s luxurious surfaces are peppered with real diamonds, precious stones and metals, pearls, real hair, make-up, sequins and glitter. [...]“
Which is all very nice – don’t get me wrong – but I just hope he’ll come back to focus on the weird, awkward and uncanny rather than trad tattoos and the burlesque *yawn* – cause that’s really bindun all over the place – particularly in lowbrow/street/new contemporary/whatever-you-call-it art. Stuart’s way better than that.
Show opened on Monday and will remain on view until Feb 15. Details below.
On show: Jan 9 – Feb 15, 2012
Hours: Mon – Fri: 10 AM – 6 PM, Sat: 12 – 6 PM
To wrap up 2k11 on the Wurzelblog, I decided to post the 20 articles you guys liked best – according to likes, shares and reactions – and I must say, you’ve got a rather amazing and futureproof taste in the arts, people.
Many thanks for taking the time to submit stories, comment and interact in the past year(s).
(In order of popularity and ordered into rather random categories. Click on images to read stories.)
ART FEATURES & REVIEWS
HISTORY & SCIENCE
Please excuse the lack of updates in the recent past, gentle reader. It’s due to very bad internet access that pretty much only allows me to update my Facebook with the usual award-winning and highly offensive daily dose of anti-information.
Anyways, because this is an oh-so special time of consumerist rubbishness, I decided that I should really annoy you and your family with some very obnoxious LOLmas videos for absolutely no reason.
Featuring an awesome Jewish kid, a very disappointed non-Jewish kid, Heino, as well as Irish and 3D creepiness. Thanks to PoE for the inspiration and beautiful and very talented Suzanne Walsh for the Moving Crib video from her homeland.
Oh, and if you made it this far without an intracerebral hemorrhage, I suggest you now lock yourself in a pitch-black room with this video projected onto all four walls. Then swallow the key.
Merry Whatever from Wurzeltod. x
Keeping Up the Pureness by Matsui Fuyuko, 2005 (original) and 2010 (reproduction) – click to enlarge
Matsui Fuyuko. Insanely talented, bright, stunningly beautiful. And modest. There’s more than enough reasons to worship this artist but for me personally, it’s the fact that she wrote her doctoral dissertation on The Inescapable Awakening to Pain, through Visual Perception via the Sensory Nerves. *bites lips*
If you don’t want to take my word for it but convince yourself of her many talents, please watch this footage of her working on Carved Limbs on an Altar over here on YouTube (sadly, embedding has been disabled).
I must say it’s an absolute mystery to me why she’s not as big in the occidental art world as back in Japan but it seems that enthusiasm for her work is slowly growing and as every so often, it’s French galleries and publishing houses leading the way. And anyways, it’s not like art appreciation in the West in this apathetic and ironic century still has ANYTHING whatsoever to do with technique, ingenuity, originality, imagination or vision. Sometimes it actually seems like it’s the very opposite that’s in demand.
Anyways, back to Matsui Fuyuko: First of all, Gallery Naruyama in Tokyo in conjunction with Galerie DA-END in Paris has released a beautiful signed and limited edition box sets of Matsui‘s oeuvre containing 20 of her artworks, including the very popular Nyctalopia and Keeping Up the Pureness (above). It can be pre-ordered from Naruyama for JPY 46,000. There’s also a “KIRI” special deluxe set in an edition of 45 only which includes an engraving of the gorgeous Rough Draft for Virgin Specimen (2009, bottom) for JPY 480,000. More details on how to reserve and order here.
And before you go “Uh, that’s very pricey. Bitch!” think about what sums the likes of Mark Ryden sell BOOKS full of repetitive iconography for these days. Also check the edition size on that. Exactly. I rest my case.
And in other brilliant news, Matsui Fuyuko will have an exhibition entitled Becoming Friends with All the Children in the World which opens later this month at Yokohama Museum of Art and will remain on view until March 2012. I know it sounds like a Michael Jackson manifesto, but I’m somehow sure that’s not what it’s about at all. More details about the show below.
Rough Draft for Virgin Specimen by Matsui Fuyuko, 2009 – click to enlarge
On show: Dec 17, 2011 – Mar 18, 2012
Hours: Fri – Wed: 10 AM – 6 PM
© Mirka Lugosi, 2008
I posted an introduction to Mirka Lugosi‘s work only back in October when she was showing her work in Montpellier and well, she’s already having another exhibition entitled L’Homme Invisible on French soil, this time held at Confort Moderne in Poitiers.
© Mirka Lugosi, 2006 – click to enlarge
It’ll remain on display until January 2012 and from what I can see it’s a very comprehensive show focussing on her drawings and presenting works from pretty much the entire past decade of her artistic shenanigans.. but wait, there is more:
“[...] L’exposition au Confort Moderne se construit autour d’un ensemble représentatif de son travail des dix dernières années et inclut d’autres travaux comme des illustrations des années 80 et 90 ou encore des archives des lives du Syndicat. Enfin, quelques photos vintage de Gilles Berquet et des éléments mobiliers qui l’accompagnent lors de ses séances de travail donnent une vue élargie de l’œuvre et du parcours de Mirka Lugosi.”
Ouais! Do go check this out, les enfants! Details below.
From the Le malaise enchanté series by Mirka Lugosi
On show: Nov 19, 2011 – Jan 13, 2012
Address: Le confort moderne / Association L’Oreille est Hardie, 185 rue du Faubourg du Pont-Neuf, 86000 Poitiers, France, tel: +33 5 49 46 08 08, email: box[at]confort-moderne[dot]fr
Hours: Mon – Fri: 2 – 6 PM
A Teardrop and a Flame by Christopher Conn Askew, watercolour, ink, graphite, nail polish & gouache on paper, 18 x 24 inches, 2011 – click to enlarge
96 Tears is one of the very few exhibitions where I don’t even mind looking at the opening photographs because for once, they’re full of beautiful and inspiring people – amongst them, obviously, the brilliant Askew-san himself.
For me, it has become ever clearer over the years that CC Askew is one of those rare artists who – rather than beginning to focus on the easy recipe of iconography that works and recurring themes that sell – constantly expand their intellectual and occult horizons, artistic heritage and understanding of foreign cultures and thus manage to integrate ever new aspects into their works.
In a way, CC has sometimes almost been a bit of a reverse Suehiro Maruo to me because just like Maruo – who has an obsession for blending motives from the Golden Age of Hollywood into his works – Askew does something similar with oriental cultures. And just like a Vania Zouravliov he does it with the utmost respect, admiration and sensitivity.
But this simple analogy would not do the master justice as he’s an iconosynthesist in his own right who has created his very own visual language and narrative codes.
So YEAH, what am I even writing this all for? It’s all pretty self-evident from the two new works posted here that you should absolutely go see 96 Tears if you’re in L.A. before December 10.
And in the meantime, I’ll be sitting here praying to the Elder Gods that Askew will be asked to design Shin Megami Tensei: Persona characters some fine day in the future.
No Golden Years by Christopher Conn Askew, watercolour, ink, graphite, nail polish, gouache & gold leaf on paper, 12 x 27 inches, 2011 – click to enlarge
On show: Nov 12 – Dec 10, 2011
Hours: Tue – Sat: 12 – 6 PM
Just a quick heads up for Londoners that great things will be taking place at the Horse Hospital in Bloomsbury these coming weeks:
From December 1 – 4, the London Underground Film Festival takes place, this year featuring lots of live acts, DJs, an exhibition of Emily Rose England‘s work and great movies such as THUNDERCRACK! presented by the amazing people of Today Is Boring. Check out the full programme here.
And the day before the LUFF starts, you have a chance to see a screening of Of Dolls & Murder the documentary about the fantastic forensic Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death dioramas – I posted about them back in.. Christ.. 2004!