Monday, November 17, 2014

Count Ossie

Count Ossie
18" x 9", oil on wood, 2014
Not long before he died Count Ossie, with his band The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, produced with the three-record-set Grounation his magnum opus.  He was 50 when he died in 1976 in a car accident. He had lived a storied life. As a rastafari in the early fifties he had problems finding work in the music business. It was Marguerita Mahfood who gave him his first break, and his first record was produced by Prince Buster in 1959. Oh Carolina is by some critics considered to be the very first ska record made. In the early fifties Ossie (Oswald Williams) had started a rastafari community in Kingston near Wareika Hill, introducing it to many of the Kingston musicians. The painting illustrates Ethiopian Serenade from Grounation.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Sergei Rachmaninov (w/A. Schönberg and K. Perry)
20" x 16", oil and acrylic on canvas, 2014
That the Schönberg painting (superimposed on a Katy Perry portrait) wasn't going to survive was clear ever since its inception. But instead of aborting the idea of painting one portrait on top of the other, I repeated it. Sergei Rachmaninov then was painted on top of the Schönberg/Perry combo. A 1965 Russian issued recording of Rachmaninov's Vespers Mass was the impetus for the choice. If I were to add yet another portrait of a classical composer to the mix the focus of the painting would surely shift back to Katy Perry again. But I won't do that: this painting is officially the illustration for the Vespers recording in the 2013/14 edition and exhibition of the top 100. Vespers is a wonderful choral work in fifteen parts divided over four sides of a double album. Steeped in the Russian Orthodox choral music tradition but with Rachninov's 20th century sensibility the piece breathes life. The fifteen parts of the choral work "are based on ancient chants such as the Znamenni, Kiev and Greek." (liner notes) I'm paying special attention to this because in the Spring I'm thrown in front of a class wanting to learn about the art history of the world up until the 15th century (yikes!) One of the last images in the textbook the class will be using is the famous 14th century German wood carving Vesperbild (Pietà).

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Surrealist Techniques (5)

Did a fun little workshop yesterday on the topic of Surrealist techniques. So here are a couple more of my experiments with xeroxes that were source materials for paintings.
Mariko Gotō

Pounding maize

Sergej Ryabtsev

Poly Styrene

Macedonian woman

Pussy Riot

S.E. Rogie

Delia Derbyshire

Arnold Schönberg

Arnold Schönberg (w/Katy Perry)
20" x 16", oil and acrylic on canvas, 2014
Well, the paintings aren't getting any better, are they? Looking for a surface to paint a portrait of Arnold Schönberg on, I stumbled on this two-year old acrylic painting of Katy Perry. It once functioned as a demo in a portrait class with young people (thought they may appreciate that). My wife is a Katy Perry fan but she didn't like the painting. So I painted over it. That was the intention at least, but couldn't make myself cover up those pretty lips of hers. So here's the painting then stuck behind two thoughts. The Top 100 entry for Schönberg is his second string quartet.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Art and music, music and art

Christian Marclay
22" x 7", oil on wood, 2014
Five categories are distinguished when comparing artists and musicians:

1. The avant-garde artist. From Luigi Russolo, John Cage, Laurie Anderson, to Christian Marclay, these artists blur the distinction between the two media. Art is music, music is art.
2. The artist who also plays in a band: Walter Dahn, Sadie Bennett, Mike Kelley, and others. The history of this category goes back to the post-punk (the D.I.Y.) era. The graphics (and videos) for these bands are considered fine art.
3. The musician who becomes an artist (mostly painters): Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Captain Beefheart, and many more. Musicians who become “Big” have a certain responsibility in culture as a whole. To be taken seriously as a bonafide cultural torch bearer many musicians expand their activities into the field of the arts. This presumes a higher standard on the hierarchy scale of culture. The latest to come through in this respect are Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg. The description doesn’t quite do justice to the initial three examples whose paintings are reproduced on some of their album sleeves). It should mentioned too that the composer early 20th century composer Arnold Schoenberg was also a painter and that important writers such as Goethe and Strindberg produced significant experimental works of visual art.
4. Bands with a background in art schools (especially in Britain): The Beatles, Stones, Who, DEVO, etc.
5. Many artists have an affinity with certain music and musicians. They end up producing visuals for them. I’m thinking here of Andy Warhol mainly, but artists like Raymond Pettibon and Mike Kelley come to mind too. The English anarcho-punk band Crass considered visual artist Lee Vaucher a band member.

Then there are songs about art, but maybe not as many as you would expect. Even though there is a clear affiliation between contemporary art and (rock) music, most band shun the topic in their lyrics. The songs there are about contemporary art are almost without exception songs full of anxiety (and full of cliches too).
1. Art Brut: Modern Art
2. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Art Star

Songs about famous paintings.
1. Mona Lisa
2. Don McClean: Starry Night

Songs about famous artists.
1. Jonathan Richman: Pablo Picasso
2. David Bowie: Andy Warhol

Songs about being an artist.
1. Michael Hurley: I Paint a Design
2. Terry Allen: The Waitress

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Men with mustaches

Lazar Radak
13" x 9.5", oil on wood, 2014

Mukim Tahir Oturan
12" x 6.5", oil on wood, 2014
The wonderful thing about the research in the music of the past, and the research of music from far away places is that one is confronted with a humanity that is so strange yet so familiar. Considering the now widely accepted assumption that people from long ago and far away places had the same mental capacities than we have, it tells us a lot about our own identity. Through otherness, or through negation, we can see a more completed picture of what it means to be a creative human being. We can see historical connections and understand better how the culture is evolving. In the arts we conclude now that the work that was made 40,000 years ago in caves in France, Indonesia, and Australia, was as cognitively advanced as what is produced in the present. Music is more difficult because recordings only go back a little over a hundred years. Music notation has been around longer but not nearly to extent that we witness in visual art. We have to do with approximation then, which gets harder and harder in the current global culture. There is however a wealth of historic recording that provide a glimpse into what music could have been like ages ago. Early ethnomusicological recordings document societies that did not have contact yet with western civilization and whose music, it can be assumed, was relatively unchanged throughout the centuries. Early recordings also bear witness to a fast vanishing oral poetry tradition. The music and poetry from the more remote areas of classical Greece, such as Macedonia, that tradition was alive well into the 20th century. An insight in the workings of oral poetry provides invaluable information for the ongoing debate of originality, authorship, copyright, and plagiarism in western discourse. Listening to oral poetry performed by Balkan musicians strikes a chord of timelessness into the listener. In a similar vein it explains the durable character of old blues recording (that also stem from an oral tradition). The two men with mustaches depicted here come from areas with a long Grecian tradition. Macedonian Lazar Radak performs an epic poem in the Homeric tradition accompanied by the customary one-string gusle, while Mukim Tahir Oturan hails from Şanlıurfa in Southeast Turkey. His music stems from ancient Islamic traditions.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Harmonica Frank (Facebook)

Harmonica Frank Floyd
11" x 9.75", oil on wood, 2014
Harmonica Frank Floyd
10.5" x 8", pastel on wood, 2004
The invitation postcard for The Top 100 2004 exhibition featured this image of Harmonica Frank. His song Swamp Root was #2 that year. That same image became my avatar when it was time to give in to the Facebook lure. He still is my alter ego there, never changed the avatar. Ten years later Harmonica Frank is in the list again and I used the same photo to create the painting from (top). The song this year is not Swamp Root but Mosquito Bay Britches. The version is from a German TV broadcast, and the German subtitles are hilarious but meant so serious. I love it when they do that (and they always do: Johnny Rotten becomes Johnny Verdorben). The song is hilarious too, I had no idea as to how Harmonica Frank pays his harmonica. Watch below to find out for yourself how he does it.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Surrealist Techniques (4)

Janet Hsieh

Kitty Gallagher

Ahmad Ehbadi


Jolie Holland/Fayza Ahmad

Sviatoslav Richter/Naseebo Lal

Chikaha Rahma/Nico

John Lomax/anon. Nigerian musician in London

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Rachid Taha

Rachid Taha
8" x 10"
oil on canvas panel, 2014
Sometimes there is a name in the list of the 100 songs that makes you wonder how in the hell it got there. Who is this? But the top 100 is objective and a painting is made for every song. Here's then one for Khalouni/Ya Oumri by the Algerian musician Rachid Taha. I don't even know how I found the song (it must have been through the blog Bodega Pop that I follow.) Of course, like most recordings, you can find it on YouTube. I found it, and after playing the video I realized why it is in the top 100. For a second I thought it was a Sex Pistols song when the video started playing. And to answer my earlier question (he also has a Wikipedia page): Rachid Taha is 56 years old, born in Sig, Algeria, residing in France. His music is a blend of Raï, funk, and punk. He was influenced by the Clash. It was mutual, his early music (with a band called Carte de Sejour, that I will try to find next) apparently inspired the Clash to write Rocking the Casbah. And yes, despite the deluge of photographic images that you may seen pass the review, I still paint, can't give it up. Mr. Taha's portrait took little over an hour to paint, probably the fastest painting in oils that you see in this year's list. The portrait of this handsome Algerian simply formed itself on top of this ridiculously bad flower still life painting that I'd produced teaching a one evening flower painting class in Bonita (ouch!)

Surrealist Techniques (3)

The Vivian Girls
Cat Power/John Storm Roberts
Kel Hamza
The Flaming Lips
John Storm Roberts/Klezmer group
Jessica Lea Mayfield
Pounding maize
Nina Simone
K.B. Sundarambal

Antoñita Romero

Antoñita Romero
4" x 2.5", surrealist techniques and
digital manipulation on photograph, 2014
The series of works using surrealist techniques are still going. They count to nearly 100 now and the first one to be designated to be part of the Top 100 2013/14 is this image of Antoñita Romero. For the exhibition of the 100 works I plan on rephotographing this piece, print it bigger, mat it, and frame it. I painted Ms. Romero before (in 2010) and I wasn't going to do it again. It's a lovely painting, the one from 2010, but I don't understand why I didn't paint her characteristic fan sticking out from the top of her head. Antoñita Romero is Spanish and the style of music she sings is flamenco. The song Bereberito is a bit poppy compared to the deep serious emotional music flamenco is known for. I have it on a 45 and whenever I'm a party deejay I'm sure to include it in the playlist. Before this year I haven't been a party deejay since 2010, hence the omission in the in between years.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Surrealist Techniques (2)

Makes you think...50 images constructed in less than a week. Here's a second selection of of images created using surrealist techniques.

Egyptian woman with child

Egyptian women/Maria van Boekel

Busta Rhymes

Mark E. Smith/Khatereh Parvaneh

Naseebo Lal

Nadya Tolonnikova


Cat Power