Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Price of Beauty

by Gregg Chadwick

Utagawa Hiroshige (Ando)
Sudden Shower Over Shin-Ohashi Bridge and Atake (Ohashi Atake no Yudachi)
(#58 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo)
Sheet: 14 3/16" x 9 1/8" woodblock print 9th month of 1857
Brooklyn Museum
Photo Courtesy The Brooklyn Museum

Japanese fiction is a great love of mine. My taste ranges widely from the postmodern antics of Murakami, to the quiet intellectualism of Endo, to the luminous spaces of Kawabata, and to the pent up rage of Mishima. In a culture which traditionally values quietly getting along even when catastrophe strikes, fiction allows a space for readers to wail with those who hurt and lash out at those who would oppress. Japanese novels of mystery and horror provide such a space to ponder the darker recesses of humanity. Mystery writer Keigo Higashino, originally from Osaka and now resident in Tokyo, is currently one of the best selling authors in Japan. Reading "The Devotion of Suspect X" provides understanding of his popularity. Higashino's prose is both quietly poetic and noir like in its straightforwardness.

"The Devotion of Suspect X" is set in 21st century Japan and describes the plight of a single mother with a young daughter as she takes drastic action to escape an abusive, estranged husband. A brilliant math teacher who lives down the hall comes to her aid. Or does he?
From there the story takes off. Make sure you read the book until the very end.

In much Japanese writing, an evocation of place is of utmost importance. This setting creates a mood in which the characters move and interact. The first chapter of "The Devotion of Suspect X" finds us in Tokyo near the Shin-Ohashi bridge, which is memorable for its depiction by the brilliant 19th century Japanese woodcut artist, Ando Hiroshige, in "Sudden Shower Over Shin-Ohashi Bridge and Atake" (Ohashi Atake no Yudachi) from his One Hundred Famous Views of Edo. A Japanese reader, and those quite familiar with Japan, would likely find Hiroshige's memorable image, of figures huddling under straw umbrellas as they scurry across the bridge in an effort to hide from a driving. slanting rain, pop into their head. I know I did. And this image provided a rich backdrop of life under pressure from time and nature.

I enjoyed "The Devotion of Suspect X" very much and now have a new Japanese author to follow - Keigo Higashino.

More at:
Keigo Higashino
Hiroshige's "Shin-Ohashi Bridge"

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Artist Gilbert 'Magu' Lujan's Magical Hollywood and Vine Metro Station

Take a video tour through Gilbert 'Magu' Lujan's Hollywood and Vine Metro station.

I am heartened to see the appreciation that Magu is receiving after his death. It seems that Los Angeles does remember its own.

More at:
Appreciation: Gilbert 'Magu' Lujan's Hollywood and Vine Metro station

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Chicanismo (for Gilbert "Magu" Lujan)

Chicanismo (for Gilbert "Magu" Lujan)
Gregg Chadwick
Chicanismo (for Gilbert "Magu" Lujan)
22"x30" monotype on paper 2011

With great sadness, the city of Los Angeles mourns the passing of the trail breaking artist Gilbert "Magu" Lujan. Please read Peter Clothier's heartfelt words on the Huffington Post:

Followers of the contemporary art scene -- and indeed Chicano art enthusiasts everywhere -- will want to hear of this opportunity to come to the support of one of its most important pioneers and practitioners. Gilbert "Magu" Lujan is currently in a life-and-death battle with cancer, and is caught up in the pernicious web of our national health care nightmare. Friends and family are staging a series of fund-raising events in August to help with medical costs and the preservation of Magu's legacy. Please continue at Gilbert "Magu" Lujan: A Benefit

Brecht's Song

Brecht's Song
Gregg Chadwick
Brecht's Song
30"x22" monotype on paper 2011

In memory of Amy Winehouse.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Winehouse Memories

Amy Winehouse
Back to Black
BBC One Sessions

Singer Amy Winehouse died today in London at 27. Her struggles with addiction were well documented. But against all odds her voice broke through the pain and called to us to live our lives with soul. She will be greatly missed.

Photo Getty Images

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Problem We All Live With

Norman Rockwell
The Problem We All Live With
36” x 58” oil on canvas 1963
Collection The Norman Rockwell Museum
(Currently on loan to the White House through October 2011)

Civil Rights icon Ruby Bridges visited the White House on July 15, 2011 to view Norman Rockwell's 1963 painting, The Problem We All Live With, which depicts Ruby as a young girl on her way to first grade after the school board mandated the desegregation of two New Orleans schools in 1960. Six year old Ruby Bridges was escorted by Federal Marshals to New Orleans' William Frantz Public School as its first African American student, ushering in the integration of the local public school system.

President Barack Obama, Ruby Bridges, and representatives of the Norman Rockwell Museum view Rockwell’s "The Problem We All Live With,” hanging in a West Wing hallway near the Oval Office, July 15, 2011.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Norman Rockwell's The Problem We All Live With will be on display in the West Wing of the White House outside of the Oval Office until October 31st. Another Rockwell painting, donated to the White House by director Steven Spielberg in 1994, hangs nearby. Norman Rockwell faced harsh criticism by some when his painting first appeared as the cover illustration on Look magazine's January 14,1964 issue. Over time, the painting has become a defining artwork in the continual struggle for human rights for all.

More at:
Norman Rockwell’s “The Problem We All Live With” Continues to Resonate as Important Symbol for Civil Rights

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Monday, July 18, 2011

Calvino's Elephant

Calvino's Elephant 30"x40" oil on linen 2011
Gregg Chadwick
Calvino's Elephant
30"x40" oil on linen 2011

"In fact, the elephant recognizes the language of his homeland, obeys orders, remembers what he learns, knows the passion of love and the ambition of glory, practices virtues “rare even among men,” such as probity, prudence and equity, and has a religious veneration for the sun, the moon, and the stars."

- From Man, the sky and the elephant pp. 315-330 of The Uses of Literature by Italo Calvino, Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, New York, 1986.

Pliny the Elder identified the elephant as the animal spiritually “closest to man.” The phrase “Maximum est elephas proximumque humanis sensibus” opens Pliny’s Historia Naturalis, Book VIII.

In turn this inspired the brilliant Italian writer, Italo Calvino, in his introductory essay to Pliny’s Historia Naturalis. And I am again reading WS Merwin's recent book of poems - The Shadow of Sirius - and thinking deeply about the mystery of our place in the universe. I had a chance to chat briefly with WS Merwin after his wonderful reading at the Hammer Museum on October 29, 2009. We spoke of elephants and mystery and nature. Inspiring stuff.

More on WS Merwin:
WS Merwin Profile

More on the Hammer Museum:
Watch and Listen

More on elephants and why we must protect them:
Elephant Reflections - from UC Press
Photographs by Karl Ammann and Text by Dale Peterson

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy Fourth of July

Jasper Johns
42 1/4" x 60 5/8" Encaustic, oil, and collage on fabric mounted on plywood
1954-55 (dated on reverse 1954)
Gift of Philip Johnson in honor of Alfred H. Barr, Jr.
Museum of Modern Art, New York
© 2011 Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

"In its stilled lucidity lurk half-readable stories: the small-fry stuff of yesterday's papers, or important events? Do they add up to some secret meaning? There is the sense of many lives, many narratives hidden beneath the common identity of Americans. This painting, this artwork, is like a great American novel. It captures in its monumental ghostly depths the intricate truths every simple facade conceals. Who are Americans? What are they like? The truth lies deeper than the stars and stripes."
- Jonathan Jones (The Guardian)

More at:
The truth beneath Jasper Johns' stars and stripes

Friday, July 01, 2011