Art, Books November 25, 2009 By Valerie Palmer
crumb cover2 Crumb
Chapter 1, The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb 2009. Ink and correction fluid on paper. Courtesy of R. Crumb, Paul Morris, and David Zwirner, New York.

fillers8 Crumbcrumb title Crumb

In the beginning, there was Crumb. One of the founding fathers of the underground comic movement in the U.S., he first came to our attention back in the 1960s chronicling the colorful adventures of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural. His latest project, The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb, might come as a surprise to some but actually it’s not really such a big leap. There’s enough salacious material in the Bible to make even his Devil Girl blush.
     Crumb, who’s been living in France with his wife and daughter since the late 1980s, spent five years on this project, working with a magnifying glass and a pot of black ink on all 207 illustrations. Despite his inclination for controversy over the years, Crumb stayed true to the text and approached the work as a straight illustration job, incorporating every word from all fifty chapters of Genesis. Avoiding any temptation to poke fun at the material, the result is an incredibly detailed and fresh look at some of the oldest stories known to the human race. Crumb did extensive research for this project to make sure he got everything just right. Words that all alone on the page might have seemed dry and didactic have now been transformed by Crumb’s pen into a story with all the drama of a telenovela. In the book’s introduction, Crumb calls Genesis “a powerful text with layers of meaning that reach deep into our collective consciousness, our historical consciousness.” In this unique edition, he has done justice both to that cultural context and to his own inimitable style. The wrath of God has never been this much fun.


Books August 27, 2009 By Valerie Palmer

cover2 Berlin   Lou Reed + Julian Shnabel
berlin title Berlin   Lou Reed + Julian Shnabel

West Berlin was ripe with glam rock, urban blight, and Baader-Meinhof terrorists in the 1970s. A walled city cut off from the West, its inhabitants simmered in a pressure cooker of art, drugs, and leftist politics, so it’s no surprise the place captured Lou Reed’s imagination. Back then, he had never set foot in Berlin, but the city became his muse for a while; its dilapidated post-war rubble, drug-fueled dysfunction, and the massive concrete wall that ran through its heart inspired a story. Except for Reed, the story was about the walls that come between people or, more specifically, couples.
     The Berlin in Reed’s mind took on operatic proportions, as did the album he named for the city, which chronicles the rise and fall of a love affair, and the requisite drugs, domestic abuse, sex, and suicide you can expect from the patron saint of the underground. Over the course of Berlin’s ten songs, things go from bad to worse for the narrator as his love, Caroline, does too many drugs, goes a little nuts, and tries to kill herself.
     When Berlin was released in 1973, it achieved zero critical success, but thirty-three years later its moment arrived. Reed’s homage to dysfunctional love and self-destruction finally got its due in 2006 when he performed the album in its entirety with a thirty-five-piece ensemble at a warehouse in Brooklyn. Artist/filmmaker Julian Schnabel captured it all on film, and now Rizzoli has captured the film in a book.


Books July 23, 2009 By Valerie Palmer
coverplease After Frank
Courtesy of

afterfrank title After Frank

Throughout history there are distinct turning points, an indelible before and after, like the discovery of electricity or onset of the Internet age. Back in 1959, one of those moments occurred when Robert Frank’s seminal tome, The Americans, forever changed the landscape of modern photography. As mentioned in a previous PLANET post, that same collection of photos is currently criss-crossing the country in celebration of its 50th anniversary, so it’s only fitting that a discussion about Frank’s relevancy continues. Philip Gefter’s new book Photography After Frank does just that. In over three dozen essays, the New York Times writer and former picture editor offers his readers brief meditations on contemporary photography, using Frank’s gritty, highly subjective documentary style as his starting point.
     In accessible prose, Gefter’s short essays manage to trace Frank’s influence from the likes of Lee Friedlander and Nan Goldin to Stephen Shore and Ryan McGinley. All along the way, he offers readers brief snippets — many of the pieces have been taken from the Times or Aperture magazine, so they’re no more than four pages — on individual photographers and subjects like photo-realism or the market’s effect on art-making.

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Art June 15, 2009 By Valerie Palmer
robert1 Robert Frank

robert title Robert Frank

Last summer, PLANET writer Sarah Coleman covered Steidl’s re-release of Robert Frank’s The Americans to commemorate its 50th anniversary. This landmark collection of photographs was first released in France in 1958 — no American publisher would touch it — and only after its European success was it released Stateside in 1959.
     Fifty years later, three of the most respected art museums in the country are marking the anniversary of The Americans with a traveling exhibition. Like Frank’s original journey, funded by a Guggenheim grant, this museum show zig-zags across the country, starting at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC and then moving on to San Francisco’s MoMA, where it’s currently showing, and heading back east to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in the fall. The show, which contains the original 83 photographs in the same order as they appear in the book, harks back to a country of segregated buses, drive-in movie theaters and mink stoles. Swiss-born Frank’s photos expose a culture deeply divided, from the devoutly religious South to the pioneer spirit of the West to the glittery socialites of Manhattan. In other words, not much has changed.

Looking In: Robert Frank’s “The Americans” runs through August 23rd at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and runs September 22–December 27, 2009 at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Design June 1, 2009 By Valerie Palmer
anti1 Antibodies
Stool, Pom Pom, 2002. Photography by Fernando Laszlo. All Images © Estudio Campana

anti title1 Antibodies

For Fernando and Humberto Campana, economic necessity turned into a creative blessing early on in their career. By celebrating the materials that the rest of us discard — such as scraps of fabric, plastic hoses, or carpet padding — they invented a vibrant, energetic and definitively Brazilian approach to design. Fast forward twenty years, and they’re considered two of the most significant designers in today’s Latin America and still going strong, collaborating on projects both large and small. While many of the Campana’s creations are for international manufacturers of furniture, lighting and home accessories, the majority of the work coming out of their São Paulo studio consists of custom-made designs. These one-off objects for the home display the brothers’ playful sense of humor, their clever combinations of materials and a vibrant palette that comes straight from sunny Brazil. For instance, random bits of wood they found on the street make up their Favela Chair, their Sushi Chair is inspired by the patchwork quilts in São Paulo’s slums, and their Vermelha Chair consists of brightly colored cord tied and woven around a metal frame.

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Art May 21, 2009 By Valerie Palmer
ra11 Sun Ra
Images courtesy of Philly's ICA

ra title1 Sun Ra

George Clinton, Afrika Bambaataa and Bootsy Collins can all trace their creative lineage back to Sun Ra. His space age philosophy, flowing capes, and Egyptian headdresses paved the way for their own colorful personas decades later. More than a man before his time, Sun Ra transcended time. Nestled in between the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of his day, Sun Ra’s message was about more than race; it was about enlightenment on a cosmic scale, and he spread his message primarily through music but also through words and art. A disciplined musician since childhood, Sun Ra headed his Arkestra, an ever-changing line-up of jazz musicians, from the mid-1950s up until his death in 1993. His prolific output spanned poetry, music, and album cover art, much of which is exhibited at Philadelphia’s Institute of Contemporary Art in Pathways to Unknown Worlds: Sun Ra, El Saturn & Chicago’s Afro-Futurist Underground, 1954-1968.
     Born Herman Blount in 1914, Sun Ra claimed he was abducted by aliens in the early 1950s, a story he maintained throughout his life. On this intergalactic journey, he visited Jupiter and Saturn, and upon his return to Earth he christened himself Sun Ra (Ra is the Egyptian god of the sun) and formed his Arkestra, a clever play on words.

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tree Yellow Treehouse
Photography by Lucy Gauntlett

tree title Yellow Treehouse

Treehouses are one of our very favorite things. And The Yellow Treehouse Restaurant, just north of Auckland, New Zealand, offers diners a unique treehouse experience. Wrapped around a Redwood, this small eatery serves up to eighteen guests with a full dinner menu, but its setting is the main attraction. With a cocoon-like form, its simple oval shape melds organically with the tree’s trunk, lighting up at night like a lantern hanging in the forest. New Zealand architects Peter Eising and Lucy Gauntlett created this woodsy retreat — a simple structure wrapped around the trunk and structurally tied at top and bottom — so the vertical fins would mimic the trees surrounding it and allow the structure to blend in as if it were a natural growth. Work began on the structure in September, and by early January guests were enjoying their meals with a bird’s-eye view.


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Art, Events April 17, 2009 By Valerie Palmer
younger1 Younger Than Jesus
Bright Eyes, 2007 by Tala Madani

younger title Younger Than Jesus

No, the New Museum hasn’t found religion, unless you count the worshipful gaze an open bar can inspire or the frenetic devotion to iPhones and Blackberries practiced by many of its patrons. Younger Than Jesus, which opened officially last Wednesday, offers a glimpse of tomorrow’s art today, and on a global scale. With fifty artists from twenty-five countries, all of whom are under the age of 33, the New Museum attempts to capture the spirit of the next generation. Hailing from countries including Algeria, China, Colombia, Germany, India, Lebanon, Poland, Turkey, and Venezuela, many of these young artists are showing in a museum for the first time. As you might guess, their work is as diverse as their homelands, with mediums including photography, digital media, performance, sculpture, and painting.
     For instance, there’s New York City-based Tauba Auerbach’s almost mathematical approach to art in Shatter III, Paris-based Mohammed Bourouissa’s vibrant photograph of a boxer in La fenêtre and Berlin-based AIDS 3-D with their pyrotechnic installation OMG Obelisk. There’s a little something for everybody, even if the show might feel like it’s just skimming the surface. How can it not? Just look at the numbers. This demographic — those born around 1980 — is the largest generation to emerge since the Baby Boomers in the United States, and in India half the population is less than 25 years old.

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ace Ace Hotel
Photography by Jeremy Pelley

ace title1 Ace Hotel

Once again, Ace Hotel proves that elegance and simplicity go hand in hand. Similar to their Seattle and Portland locations, Ace Hotel New York offers a wide range of options for the enlightened traveler — everything from bare bones rooms with rates to match up to rockstar suites for those who wish to indulge. All of this comes in a package that’s one part modern and one part traditional, a crossbreed particularly apt for New York City, where opposites collide on a daily basis. Ace Hotel celebrates this wonderful collision and draws on the grit and glamour of New York’s history to make guests feel right at home.
    Of course, the masterminds behind Ace don’t just barge into a neighborhood and open up a hotel, rather they note the building’s history — in this case, the former Breslin Hotel, built in 1904 — and observe the local culture as their plan takes shape. This means they’ve maintained the integrity of the original building whenever possible. This comprehensive approach applies to not just the décor and types of rooms; it also influences the way Ace collaborates with local designers, artists, and independent businesses.

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Architecture, Design November 9, 2008 By Valerie Palmer
zaha Zaha
Photography Courtesy of Established & Sons

zaha title Zaha

The Swarm Chandelier is just another example of Zaha Hadid’s genius. Once again the Iraqi-born, London-based architect pushes the boundaries with a piece that defies convention. This time she’s created a chandelier that isn’t technically a chandelier — it has no internal light source — but more of a hanging sculpture. Her Swarm Chandelier, limited to an edititon of eight, resembles a flock of birds or a swarm of insects moving together yet separately. It seems to capture their busy motion in a snapshot, suspended in midair. This still sense of transience is achieved with 16,000 suspended black crystals, each strung by hand on individual wires. The subtle interplay of light reflected on the crystals makes this chandelier come alive, like a hive bustling with activity. Always inventive, Hadid’s designs race on ahead of the pack, surprising us with their extraordinary beauty.