Paul Gorman is…

“Because it’s so damn good!” Extracts from my exclusive interview with pioneering illustrator/photographer Jim French, who has died aged 84

Jun 18th, 2017

//Jim French. Photo: SHOWStudio//

The American illustrator and photographer Jim French – best known for his pioneering endeavours in the field of homoerotic art – has died at home in Palm Springs at the age of 84.

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Was it The Fool or Alexander Trocchi? The mystery of Warhol Waking at Kensington Town Hall in May 1971

Apr 22nd, 2017

//Front of folded flyer, 6.5 x 8″//

Graphic artist, musician, fashion and interiors designer and all-round all-rounder Ian Harris has granted me access to more items from his amazing archive; this is in the intriguing category –  a flyer for a most unusual art project he visited in the early 1970s.

Warhol Waking was staged over one day in the foyer of Kensington Town Hall in west London in the spring of 1971. This tumultuous period of creative experimentation in public and private spaces was later described as representing either “the immense variety and talent of the London arts scene or its condition of cultural confusion” by artist and art historian John A. Walker.

The installation/intervention proved challenging for visitors: it comprised a typical domestic bed with sheets and blanket drawn back to reveal excrement juxtaposed with a towering orchid which drooped as the day passed and flies gathered.

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Eight Young Photographers: David Parkinson’s mould-breaking contribution to the 1971 exhibition

Nov 22nd, 2016
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//David Parkinson in the Eight Young Photographers catalogue, 1971. Image courtesy Mark Trompeteler//

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//Front, catalogue/fold-out poster, for the show which ran at the Photographers Gallery in Great Newport Street from April 6 to May 2, 1971. Courtesy Mark Trompeteler. No reproduction without permission//

Eight Young Photographers was the third exhibition to be held at the newly-opened Photographers Gallery at its original premises in Great Newport Street in London’s West End.

The gallery opened in January 1971 with a group show entitled The Concerned Photographer featuring, among others, Robert Capa, and followed that by simultaneously staging three exhibits, including a display of Polaroids taken by Andy Warhol.

Visitors to Eight Young Photographers, which ran during April and into early May that year, recall it as being an important staging post in the acceptance of photography as a subject worthy of artistic appreciation. Among the contributors was the late David Parkinson, about whom I have written often. He showed work alongside Mark Edwards, Meira Hand, Roger Birt, Sylvester Jacobs, Tim Stevens, Bob Mazzer and Mark Trompeteler (who has kindly retrieved the catalogue/poster for me from his archive).

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//From the Photographers Gallery listings. The show was preceded by an exhibition of Andy Warhol’s Polaroids//

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Andy Warhol’s Silver Factory: Ben Kelly’s choice for 111 Inspirational Interiors

Apr 13th, 2016
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//Warhol poses for photographer Jon Naar on the famous red couch in his studio on E. 47th Street in midtown Manhattan, 1965//

Designer Ben Kelly, chair of interior and spatial design at University of the Arts London, has chosen this photograph of Andy Warhol’s Silver Factory for his exhibition 111 Inspirational Interiors.

Kelly has curated the show – which opens tomorrow at Windows Gallery 1 at Central Saint Martins  in Kings Cross, North London – after inviting 111 creatives to each select an image of an interior which is important to them.

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Lipstick: Read Perry Ogden on the style magazine he launched at Eton in 1979

Aug 3rd, 2015

 

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//Front cover, Lipstick, 1979//

The next instalment of SHOWStudio’s cult magazine series PRINT is an interview with photographer Perry Ogden about the extraordinary circumstances which led him to launch the style magazine Lipstick while he was an 18-year-old attendee at Eton College.

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‘Our assumptions of Pop have become narrow. That word needs to be shaken open a little bit’ Derek Boshier in International Pop at Walker Arts Centre, Minneapolis

Apr 12th, 2015

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Over time our assumptions of Pop have become more narrow. That word needs to be shook open a little bit. That history needs to be displaced a little bit. To allow for the diversity you have to go back to a more open idea of what Pop could be.
Darsie Alexander and Ryan Bartholomew, curators, International Pop

Today’s New York Times features Derek Boshier’s 1961 painting Special K as part of the newspaper’s coverage of International Pop, the new exhibition which addresses the fallacy that the movement was the preserve of the US and Britain.

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A Strong Sweet Smell Of Incense: Derek Boshier at the Robert Fraser show

Feb 16th, 2015
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//Sam Spade, Derek Boshier, 1966, on the back wall of this recreation of the office at Robert Fraser Gallery, Duke Street, London W1//

Derek Boshier’s 1966 work Sam Spade is given prominence in A Strong Sweet Smell Of Incense, the exhibition dedicated to the connoisseurship of the late art dealer Robert Fraser.

Boshier was a client until he foreswore painting for a decade or more in 1968. This was a particularly difficult period for Fraser, who was jailed over the infamous Redlands drug bust at Rolling Stone Keith Richards’ house the previous year.

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//From Pace’s exhibition guide. The work in the background looks to be another of Boshier’s from the Sam Spade period//

Boshier has recounted how he became so frustrated over Fraser’s unwillingness to pass on payments in the 60s that he and his friend, the poet Christopher Logue, once broke into the Duke Street gallery and retrieved works Fraser had refused to release in lieu.

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Malcolm McLaren’s 1969 Goldsmith’s paintings go on show for the first time

Oct 7th, 2014
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//Berries – 8 Yellowy Green Female Forms, Malcolm McLaren, 1969. Mixed media,
5 x 4’. Photo (c) Barry Martin/Malcolm McLaren Estate//

“I started out in art school as a painter. I studied there for eight years and most of my education was based around the visual arts. I learnt all my politics and understanding of the world through the history of art.”

Malcolm McLaren speaking on British arts documentary series the South Bank Show, 1983

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//I Will Be So Bad, Malcolm McLaren, 1969. Oil on canvas, 15 x 12”. Photo (c) Barry Martin/Malcolm McLaren Estate//

Among the exhibits at Let It Rock, the Malcolm McLaren room at this autumn’s group exhibition Art In Pop at Magasin in Grenoble, are never-previously exhibited photographs of the late cultural iconoclast’s paintings taken by his teacher Barry Martin during McLaren’s student days in the 60s.

These are discussed in this extract from the exhibition introduction:

In the summer of 1969, at the end of his first year of the fine art course at London’s Goldsmith’s School Of Art, the 23-year-old student Malcolm Edwards showed 10 or so gestural paintings, mainly oils on canvas with some integrating text statements and others used as the basis for mixed media experimentation incorporating chicken wire, hammered wood planks and, in one case, an inverted paper envelope against depictions of leaf forms.

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//Map Of British Isles With Yellow Star And Hole, Malcolm McLaren, 1969.
Oil on canvas, 7 x 4’. Photo (c) Barry Martin/Malcolm McLaren Estate//

During a 90-minute critical review by his teacher Barry Martin, Edwards (soon to revert to his birth-name of McLaren) declared his rejection of the limitations imposed by traditional art forms, in particular painting.

McLaren subsequently destroyed all but one of the works. In a symbolic statement the exception, the largest canvas – the 7ft tall Map Of British Isles With Yellow Star And Hole, into which he had already kicked a sizeable hole – was left to rot in the summer rain in the yard at the back of the college. Eventually it was torn apart and taken away by the dustbin-men.

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//The Intangible Manipulation Of Minds, Malcolm McLaren, 1969. Mixed media, 4’6″ x 4’6”. Photo (c) Barry Martin/Malcolm McLaren Estate//

McLaren dedicated his remaining two years at Goldsmith’s to organization of events and film-making, one about his hero, the early British rock’n’roller Billy Fury merged into an unfinished commentary on consumerism centred on the history of London’s main commercial thoroughfare, Oxford Street.

In doing so McLaren was inserting himself into the lineage back to Duchamp which included such figures as the Dutch Situationist Asgar Jorn, who had proclaimed “Painting is dead” in 1958, and in particular Andy Warhol, who explained his sponsorship of The Velvet Underground in 1967 by saying: “Since I don’t really believe in painting anymore we have a chance to combine music and art.”

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//Leaves, Nature And Cuts, Malcolm McLaren, 1969. Mixed media, 4 x 3’. Photo (c) Barry Martin/Malcolm McLaren Estate//

McLaren later described his decision to open the boutique Let It Rock in London’s King’s Road on exiting the art school system in 1971 as “jumping into the musical end of painting”; here McLaren blazed the trail dictated by his formidable art education by creating new artworks as fashion pieces out of the juxtaposition of found objects.

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//Words Trapped In Brick Compartments With Prostrate Figures, Malcolm McLaren 1969. Oil on canvas, 5 x 4’. Photo (c) Barry Martin/Malcolm McLaren Estate//

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//14 Pink Figures On Moving Sea Of Green, Malcolm McLaren, 1969. Oil on canvas, 12 x 15”. Photo (c) Barry Martin/Malcolm McLaren Estate//

Thanks to Barry Martin for his insights and assistance in putting together the Malcolm McLaren segment of Art In Pop. Martin continues to practice as an artist and sculptor; this is his website.

Art In Pop, which opens on Saturday, is curated by Magasin’s Yves Aupetitallot with John Armleder, Young Kim of the Malcolm McLaren Estate, John Miller and I. The exhibition runs until January 4, 2015 at Le Magasin, Site Bouchayer-Viallet, 8 Esplanade Andry Farcy, 38028 Grenoble.

Details here.

 

 

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All The Way From Louisville: Leee Black Childers

Apr 7th, 2014

The last time I saw photographer/manager Leee Black Childers – who has died aged aged 69 – was fleetingly, a year or so ago at the crowded launch of his book and exhibition at London’s The Vinyl Factory.

The first time I saw Childers was at The Speakeasy at a March 1977 concert by his charges The Heartbreakers. The poster for that gig, featuring his London rooftop portrait of the band, hangs behind me as I type.

That night and for the rest of his London stay over the next couple of years this Southern gent could be spotted at such haunts as The Ship in Wardour Street, his presence notable for lacquered pompadour, authentic sharkskin suits and slick black winklepickers, his reputation bolstered by the knowledge that Ian Hunter had dedicated Mott The Hoople’s All The Way From Memphis to Childers – who, in fact, was raised near Louisville, KY – and that he created the apocalyptic collage on the inner gatefold of David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs LP (which now appears spookily prescient of the devastation of 9/11).

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//The inner gatefold of my well-worn copy of Diamond Dogs showing Childers’ apocalyptic photographic collage//

Childers appeared awfully frail at the Vinyl Factory launch, so news that he had been rushed to LA’s Cedar Sinai hospital during another bout of book promotion a few weeks back was worrying but not unexpected.

In conversation in 2009 Childers revealed a promotional plan for his book then in preparation: he wanted it to be published after his death so that he could be utterly honest about his extraordinary life and set of acquaintances. The promotion would consist of a series of pre-recorded chat show appearances, all ready for broadcast as soon as he expired. He wondered whether the likes of Jay Leno and David Letterman would be up for it.

Well, it wasn’t to be. The book came out and though unwell he appeared to be enjoying being back in the spotlight.

I am told Childers’ archiving was ramshackle and can find no website dedicated to his photographic work. This is shame because no one was embedded in and simultaneously chronicling the demi-monde of glitter, glam and punk, of Warhol’s Manhattan, Iggy’s LA and McLaren’s London, in the manner of this charismatic soul.

Sayonara Leee.

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The origins of the Tits tee: Robert Watts + Products for Implosions Inc

Feb 28th, 2013
Robert Watts, Implosions Inc, 1966.

//Robert Watts in front of Products by Implosions Inc. Photographer: unknown//

Malcolm McLaren’s adaptation of the infamous Tits t-shirt is one of punk’s most familiar designs, as applied by he and Vivienne Westwood to shirts sold in SEX and Seditionaries, worn by members of the Sex Pistols and replicated hundreds of thousands of times since.

Such is its distorting androgynous power that a version was chosen along with another McLaren/Westwood design – the Cowboys shirt – to represent the core aesthetic of the movement when the forthcoming Costume Institute exhibition Punk: Chaos To Couture was announced earlier this month.

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