Saturday, July 31, 2010

Streets of Girona

The smaller cities of Spain are also well decorated with surprisingly strong street art. I captured photos of these pieces and many others over a few hours in Girona, an industrial city north of Barcelona.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tour de Fat

You'll rarely hear me saying anything like this, but the New Belgium Brewing Company is a truly responsible corporate citizen. They strongly encourage their employees to bike to work, and they put a tremendous amount of time, money and energy into bike advocacy effots across the country. And despite being a national brand with a reputation to uphold, they manage to do it with a festive energy that feels truly subversive. The pinnacle of their organizing efforts is the nation-wide "Tour de Fat", which returns to Gasworks Park on Saturday, July 31st.

The show begins at 10:00 am with a bicycle parade and continues with music and performances all afternoon at Gasworks. The Park is also the setting for a bicycle themed carnival complete with jugglers, beer, games with prizes, a dress up tent with free costumes and beautifully weird bikes you are welcome to ride. And on top of it all, all money raised at the event goes to two awesome local non-profits - the Bicycle Alliance of Washington & Bike Works. Check it out.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Today is the birthday of poet John Ashbery, born in Rochester New York on July 28, 1927, and raised on a farm near Lake Ontario. Ashbery first published poems as a student at Deerfield Academy, including an early poem that was published in Poetry magazine under the name of a classmate who had submitted it without Ashbery's knowledge or permission.

Ashbery attended Harvard University, where he was a classmate of Robert Creeley, Robert Bly and Peter Davison. He was awarded the Yale Younger Poets Prize in 1956, selected by W. H. Auden, for his first collection Some Trees. In the late 1950s Ashbery's avant-garde work was associated with that of Kenneth Koch, Frank O'Hara, James Schuyler and others as part of the "New York School," a loosely affiliated group of poets whose work was direct, immediate and spontaneous, drawing inspiration from the avant-garde art movements then blossoming in New York City. From the mid-1950s, when he received a Fulbright Fellowship, through 1965, Ashbery lived in France.

During the fall of 1963, Ashbery became acquainted with Andy Warhol during a poetry reading tour that took him to New York. When he returned to live in New York in 1965 he was welcomed with a large party at the Factory. He became close friends with poet Gerard Malanga, Warhol's assistant.

Increasing critical recognition in the 1970s transformed Ashbery from an obscure avant-garde experimentalist into one of America's most influential poets. His 1975 book Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror won all three major American literary awards - the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. In the early 1970s he began teaching at Brooklyn College, then moved to Bard College, where he was a Professor of Languages and Literature until 2008 when he retired. He was the Poet Laureate of New York state from 2001 to 2003, and also served for many years as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Ashbery's poems vary from self-consciously difficult to eloquently prosaic. He often employs a gentle and familiar tone, though one can find voices in his work from news reporting, advertising, bureaucracy, business memos, scientific reports, newspapers, psychology textbooks, and more. He plays often with juxtapositions of colloquial language and soaring grace, sometimes shifting quickly from one mode to the other. Ashbery once said that his goal was "to produce a poem that the critic cannot even talk about."

Mottled Tuesday

Something was about to go laughably wrong,
whether directly at home or here,
on this random shoal pleading with its eyes
till it too breaks loose, caught in a hail of references.
I’ll add one more scoop
to the pile of retail.

Hey, you’re doing it, like I didn’t tell you
to, my sinking laundry boat, point of departure,
my white pomegranate, my swizzle stick.
We’re leaving again of our own volition
for bogus patterned plains streaked by canals,
maybe. Amorous ghosts will pursue us
for a time, but sometimes they get, you know, confused and
forget to stop when we do, as they continue to populate this
fertile land with their own bizarre self-imaginings.
Here’s hoping the referral goes tidily, O brother.
Chime authoritatively with the pop-ups and extras.
Keep your units pliable and folded,
the recourse a mere specter, like you have it coming to you,
awash with the new day and its abominable antithesis,
OK? Don’t be able to make that distinction.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Jardinet dels Gats

On a brief trip to central Barcelona in search of English language books I came across a surprising little garden. In the courtyard of a small stone church, just yards from the tourist-saturated Rambla, stands a garden of park benches, jungle gyms and old furniture, all of it being used by dozens and dozens of cats. The Jardinet dels Gats was founded in 2008 on the donations of a rich and eccentric cat lover in the heart of the Ciutat Vella - some of the planet´s most expensive real estate. The volunteer-run cat santuary is dedicated to caring for and relocating street cats. Through the bars of the garden I saw maybe 30 cats - all of whom seemed happy and well fed. Who knows how many more cats were living inside the ancient church itself?

In a city which has sold so much of its soul to international tourism, it was a pleasure to stumble across such a kind, humble and local enterprise. Meow.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Montana / Escif

Montana Colors is arguably the world´s finest maker of spraypaint. The paint is made exclusively in Barcelona, in an insanely huge range of colors, can sizes, and paint pressures. Since first coming across Montana years ago I´ve always sought it out, often paying top dollar to have the stuff shipped from NYC. When in Europe I buy the little "Montana Alien" cans when I see them, and stuff them in my pockets until an opportune moment presents itself. In 2002, Montana got big enough to move beyond their simple factory and warehouse and opened a retail store and gallery in central Barna which features beautiful and large displays of street artists from around theplanet.

Now that Montana paint is freely available in Seattle, mostly courtesy of the fine people at Art Primo, I no longer suffer with the temptation of bringing a suitcase full of spraypaint on the airplane home. However, I´m looking forward to another trip to the shop and gallery, not least because the end of my vacation coincides with a new exhibition by Barcelona graffiti hero Escif, known for his graphically simple but conceptually complex images of discourse and dissent.

The show runs from July 29 to September 13. Lots more from Escif here and here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Patti at the Porta Ferrada

The Porta Ferrada International Festival, which began back in 1962, takes place every summer in Sant Feliu de Guíxols' Roman-era monastery. For the last 48 years the festival has brought international stars of theatre, music, and dance to the little seaside city. This year's line up includes chanteuse Natalie Cole, Spanish cultural icon Joaquín Sabina and jazz hero Chucho Valdés with his band the Afro-Cuban Messengers. This Friday night, none other than punk hero Patti Smith performs, facing the Mediterranean Sea while the rest of us watch with the red cliffs of Sant Feliu forming a back drop. The show is sold out but Pepita and I have had tickets for months, and baby Nico is spending the night with her yayos. Very much looking forward to this one!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Streets of Barna

As always, truly gorgeous art from the streets of Barcelona.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Part You Throw Away

I want a beggar's eyes
A winning horse
A tidy Mexican divorce

St. Mary's prayers
Houdini's Hands
And a Barman who always understands

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cards Of Wu

Cards of Wu is designer Eric Nadler’s fictitious deck of divination cards. The images from the steadily growing deck are a perfect combination of woodcut aesthetic and Hieronymus Bosch insanity. Every bit as potent and nuanced as the cards in a tarot deck, these are the cards used by fortunetellers in forgotten or imaginary lands. More here.

Friday, July 9, 2010

New and Improved Obsolescence

DIY Engineer Jack Zylkin's new USBTypewriter is a "groundbreaking innovation in the field of obsolescence." It allows devotees of old fashioned manual typewriters (like your humble Gurldogg) to use them as keyboards for any USB-capable computer. The modification is relatively easy to install, with a minimum of messy wiring, and doesn't change the outward appearance of the typewriter at all, except for the usb adapter itself.

At this website, you can buy a USB Typewriter of your own, or you can buy a kit to make one yourself. You can also send Zylkin your beloved typewriter to customize.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Jean Cocteau

Today is the birthday of Jean Cocteau. The poet, novelist, dramatist, designer, boxing manager, playwright, artist and filmmaker was born on July 5, 1889.

Cocteau was born into a wealthy family in Maisons-Lafitte. He left home at 15 and published his first volume of poems, Aladdin's Lamp, at the age of 19. In 1915 Cocteau met Pablo Picasso, who became a lifelong collaborator and friend. Along with the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, Cocteau was a witness at Picasso's first wedding. In 1917 Russian ballet-master Sergei Diaghilev commissioned Cocteau to write the book for a ballet that became the avant-garde milestone Parade, with sets by Picasso and music by Erik Satie. Parade has been hailed as one of the symbolic beginnings of modern art, though audiences at the time were appalled. "If it had not been for Apollinaire in uniform," wrote Cocteau, "with his skull shaved, the scar on his temple and the bandage around his head, women would have gouged our eyes out with hairpins."

After serving as an ambulance driver in WWI, and publishing several books of poetry about his experiences, he turned to writing deeply disturbing psychological novels, among the best known of which is Les Enfants Terribles, and collaborated on a number of plays and operas.

In the 1930's Cocteau began to make films, the first of which, The Blood of a Poet, was an exploration of his private mythology. As the result of a bet with the newspaper Paris-Soir, Cocteau completed the itinerary imagined by Jules Verne in Around the World in Eighty Days, depicting his travels in the film My First Voyage. Over 20 years Cocteau produced such cinematic masterpieces as Beauty and the Beast and Orphée. He continued leading an active life until 1953 when ill health forced him into semi-retirement. In his last decade Cocteau worked in a wide variety of graphic arts. At the age of 70 he painted frescos in the town hall of the French town of Menton and in the chapel of Saint-Pierre at Ville-franche-sur Mer. Cocteau's mural at Notre-Dame de France in London was finished in 1960.

On October 11 1963, Cocteau was preparing a radio broadcast in honor of Edith Piaf when he heard she had died. He exclaimed: "Ah, la Piaf est morte, je peux mourir," ("Ah, Piaf has died, I can die"), had a heart attack, and died. Edith Wharton described Cocteau as "a man to whom every great line of poetry was a sunrise, every sunset the foundation of the Heavenly City."

Friday, July 2, 2010

Crumb's Genesis in Portland

All 207 individual pages from Robert Crumb's Book of Genesis are on display this summer at the Portland Art Museum. The book was the comics event of 2009, and seeing the artwork in person is awe inspiring. The obsessively perfect brush strokes fill the page with black ink, yet all of his forms are rendered so clearly and naturally. It’s also great to see the human touches on the page, little dabs of white out, a bit of the pencils underneath, the precision and passion that Crumb brings to his work.

In a 2005 public interview with Robert Hughes at the New York Public Library, partially transcribed at Time‘s website, Crumb discussed the challenges of drawing the character of God:

He has a white beard but he actually ended up looking more like my father. He has a very masculine face like my father. My problem was, how am I going to draw God? Should I just draw him as a light in the sky that has dialogue balloons coming out from it? Then I had this dream. God came to me in this dream, only for a split second, but I saw very clearly what he looked like. And I thought, ok, there it is, I’ve got God.

Admission to the Portland Art Museum is free on fourth Fridays from 6-8pm. Check their schedule for a full list of events, including an appearance by film maker Terry Zwigoff and guest speakers from the comics community through August. The show is up now and runs through September 19.