‘FLANNERY O’CONNOR: THE CARTOONS’ (Fantagraphics, $22.99). Flannery O’Connor drew cartoons? She did, early in her life, before issuing collections like “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” and the prints collected here are droll and strange. One depicts a wallflower at a school dance. She smiles and thinks to herself, “Oh, well, I can always be a Ph.D.”
‘SWIMMING STUDIES,’ by Leanne Shapton (Blue Rider Press, $30). This book — part pointillistic memoir, part lovely art object — is from a former competitive swimmer turned illustrator. She recalls details like the smell of her long-ago situps partner: “Tide, milk, terrier and grape Hubba Bubba.” The winning drawings will please the Maira Kalman fanatic in your life.
‘GET JIRO,’ by Anthony Bourdain and Joel Rose, with art by Langdon Foss (Vertigo, $24.99). This is a Tarantino-esque comic book set in a future Los Angeles where chefs rule like crime lords — don’t they do that already? — and customers will kill to get a table. I can’t give away the ending, but I can give away the twisted last sentence: “Love those California rolls, dude!”
‘TALKING PICTURES: IMAGES AND MESSAGES RESCUED FROM THE PAST,’ by Ransom Riggs (It Books, $16.99). Mr. Riggs has combed junk stores and yard sales, raking up evocative photographs that have been cast aside. This collection has a ghostly beauty. Across the top of one black-and-white photo of an aging black woman someone has written, as the old song put it, “Saddle your blues to a wild mustang.”
‘BRING THE NOISE: 20 YEARS OF WRITING ABOUT HIP ROCK AND HIP-HOP,’ by Simon Reynolds, the English music critic (Soft Skull Press, $16.95). This one is actually from 2011, but I like it so much I am shoehorning it in here. It’s a hefty collection of Mr. Reynolds’s best stuff — there are essays about Radiohead, P. J Harvey, the Beastie Boys and many others — which means that it’s very good stuff indeed.
‘THE BEAUTIFUL ANTHOLOGY: ESSAYS, STORIES AND POEMS,’ edited by Elizabeth Collins (TNB Books, $14.99). Like a David Cronenberg movie, this offbeat anthology zeros in on beauty’s dark and complicated side. Another bonus: it mostly features good writers you’ve never heard of.
‘ALIEN VS. PREDATOR,’ by Michael Robbins (Penguin Poets, $18). “My neighbor’s whales keep me up at night./They may not mean to, but they do./I turn on Shark Week, plan a killing spree./I’m all stocked up on Theraflu.” This volume, from a young poet out of Topeka, Kan., is Nabokovian in its ecstatic wordplay.
‘EAT WITH YOUR HANDS,’ by Zakary Pelaccio (Ecco, $39.99). From the chef behind the New York City restaurants Fatty Crab and Fatty ’Cue, this may well be 2012’s best cookbook. It expertly covers the only four food groups that matter: salty, spicy, crackly and fatty. Mr. Pelaccio’s recipe for a “full-fat pork shoulder” is a show (and heart) stopper.
‘NICE WEATHER,’ by Frederick Seidel (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $24). Mr. Seidel’s new poems, like his old poems, are so crisp and funny and mordant that they deliver a contact high. “Open the champagne,” he writes in one. “There’s too much joy. There’s no stopping.”
‘DRINKING DIARIES: WOMEN SERVE THEIR STORIES STRAIGHT UP,’ edited by Leah Odze Epstein and Caren Osten Gerszberg (Seal Press, $16). Worth it for Elissa Schappell’s essay alone. This book delivers smart women, small glasses and big, dark fun. It makes you wish to pour two fingers of something and utter that strange and underused old toast: “Here’s to the confusion of our enemies.”
When Saint Francis of Assisi staged the first ever nativity scene in a cave in 1223, with a simple manger, ox and an ass, he could have had no idea what he was starting. Almost 800 years later, his humble tableau has been transformed into everything from miniature toy sets that grace mantelpieces around the world, to gigantic plastic lawn ornaments and theme-park sized attractions.
The scene of the holy couple, shepherds, wise men and attendant livestock – which is not in fact biblically accurate – has become so widely reproduced that it can now be understood even by a simple arrangement of blocks, as a recent wave of minimalist nativity sets has shown.
Sebastian Bergne’s Colour Nativity is five identically-sized wooden columns – which stand in for the wise men, Joseph and shepherd, each in their characteristic colour – alongside a shorter blue block for Mary and a white oblong for the baby Jesus. A slender golden pillar completes the set as the Star of Bethlehem.
“The project makes use of our learned experience from exposure to thousands of images, toys and Christmas cards over the years,” says Bergne. “Each of the characters is recognisable by its colour, proportion and place in the composition.” But the price tag is anything but minimal – the set is available for £85 as a limited edition of 250.
The Colour Nativity pieces pack snugly into a box that doubles as the stable. Photograph: Sebastian Bergne
If all these bright colours are too much for your home’s neutral interiors, help is at hand in the form of German artist Oliver Fabel’s Minimalist Nativity – which takes the form of 11 wooden Jenga-like blocks, printed with each character’s name – yours for €26 (around £21).
Oliver Fabel’s Minimalist Nativity. Photograph: Oliver Fabel
Emilie Voirin’s Minimal Nativity. Photograph: Emilie Voirin
Online crafts emporium Etsy is brimming with alternative nativity sets, like this one by Little Sapling Toys, which features the cast of characters engraved on to each block.
Nativity set by Little Sapling Toys. Photograph: Little Sapling Toys
At the other end of the scale, Americans have been going all out this year with several drive-thru nativity scenes on show across the States. One of the most elaborate, in Avasu, Arizona, features live animals – a camel, six sheep and some lambs.
“Every year we try to enhance the scene to make it more realistic,” event co-coordinator Carol McDougal told the Havasu News. “We want people to feel like they’re travelling in Bethlehem” (an illusion that might be somewhat shattered by looking from the window of an SUV).
The ‘world’s largest nativity scene’ in São Paio de Oleiros, Portugal
Meanwhile, building on its displays of previous years, the parish of São Paio de Oleiros in northern Portugal has put on what it claims to be the world’s largest ever nativity scene: a 2,000 sq m area filled with 7,000 figurines. The vast undertaking requires 50km of electric cables and 3,000 LED lamps, “not to mention a good few tonnes of stones, nine waterfalls and three truck loads of clay, sand and black earth,” volunteer Joaquim Silva told the Portugal News.
As well as the usual religious tableaux, it includes scenes of the governor of Madeira dancing with the President of Portugal, and the late Fado singer Amália, among other well-known local characters. See a 360° panorama of the display here.
The contentious nativity display in Santa Monica, California. Photograph: Danny Moloshok/Reuters
But nativity scenes have not gone without controversy. This year, a lifesize nativity display in Santa Monica’s Palisades Park was the subject of a lawsuit that has finally seen it removed, following a campaign by atheist activists who objected to a religious display on public property. The campaign, which began several years ago, was ramped up last year with rival scenes in the park, including a supposed homage to the “Pastafarian” religion complete with its Flying Spaghetti Monster deity.
The controversial ‘homosexual nativity scene’ that appeared on Facebook. Photograph: kienyke.com
Similar outrage was recently sparked in Colombia when images of “a homosexual nativity scene” appeared on Facebook. The scene, featuring two Josephs but no Mary, was created by a gay couple in the hope that it would help bring about reform in the country’s gay marriage laws – but the catholic church has declared it “sacrilege”. Thousands of Colombians have also taken to social networking sites to slam the pair, with many saying they show “a lack of respect to God and all Christians.”
True, it may not be biblically accurate – but neither is having the holy family dressed in Mexican folk costume, or even having the shepherds and wise men at the scene at the same time. And it was an immaculate conception after all.
The Edvard Munch show at Tate Modern was a riot of colour, an exhilarating display of what paint can do; it was also profoundly moving and often dark. Munch’s sister died of tuberculosis when he was 14, and one large room was hung with his reworkings of that loss: his sister propped up in bed, their mother’s head bowed in grief, the two figures almost drowning amid heavy, green furnishings. Munch worked on variations of The Sick Child for more than 40 years; at the Tate, their cumulative effect was claustrophobic, a painful return to an open wound.
Munch also liked photography, and a good portion of this show dealt with his enthusiasm for the new medium. He liked to take self-portraits, holding the camera out at arm’s length – we got a lot of the artist’s heroic chin and profile, and some striking nudes (Munch again, sucking in his tummy). These were fun, and pointed to a possible sense of humour – but were nowhere as radical or compelling as the paintings. There were rare screenings of Peter Watkins’ three-hour 1974 biopic Edvard Munch (the DVD of the film became a gallery shop bestseller).
Munch’s photographs suggested a sense of humour … Self-portrait on Beach, 1907. Photograph: Edvard Munch/© Munch Museum/Munch-EllingsendGroup/DACS 2012
There was no Scream, and you didn’t miss it. The paintings were extraordinary: haunting, lurid, swooning, strange. In The Lonely Ones, a blonde woman in white looks out to sea as a man approaches (this was another image Munch visited and revisited). In Ashes, which could almost be a reverse view of the same scene, a woman in white appears to wade towards us out of the canvas; a man in black, head in hands, hunches in the corner. There were powerful pre-echoes of painter Peter Doig‘s work: the same deep shadows, a similar palette (foregrounds flecked with mauve and white and lime green), people merging into water, woods or one another. Somehow The Scream would have seemed too obvious here – Munch’s weirdness made kitsch through over-familiarity. (It is now on show at MoMA in New York, where the city is plastered with posters advertising the arrival of a single work.)
If there is a certain vanity to his photographic self-portraits, Munch never spared himself when it came to painting. He showed himself drunk, sick, taking aim at a rival with a gun through a window. In his 60s, he suffered a haemorrhage in his right eye and embarked on a series of paintings about his damaged retina, or of what it looked like from the inside: abstract images, like solar flares; portraits of friends and lovers obscured by spots and phantoms.
An unbearably naked portrait of the artist nearing death … Munch’s Self-portrait Between Clock and Bed, 1940-42. Photograph: © Munch Museum/Munch-EllingsendGroup/DACS 2012
Munch’s eyesight improved, and he continued to work until his death at the age of 80. A final self-portrait showed the elderly artist standing between a grandfather clock and a bed, two harbingers of the end, his suit loose on his shrinking frame, his features barely there. The canvas is crammed with details – the paintings in the room behind him, the patterned bedspread – but as a portrait it is almost unbearably naked: the artist’s hands hang loose and unoccupied. He knows his number’s up. It was a fitting conclusion to a tremendous show, curated by Clément Chéroux and Angela Lampe of the Centre Pompidou in Paris: emotional, exhausting, generous. Next summer, Norway celebrates the 150th anniversary of Munch’s birth with twin exhibitions in Oslo; their challenge will be to top this.
AMSTERDAM (AP) — With the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam closed for renovations until April, the world’s second-largest collection of the tortured Dutch master’s work is stepping into the limelight.
The Kroeller-Mueller museum in the eastern Netherlands is not as well-known but is still considered a jewel among connoisseurs. It has revamped the layout of its central rooms, giving more space and more focus to its very best works.
“Van Gogh really stands central now, both physically in the museum and in the collection as a whole,” director Lisette Pelsers said in a telephone interview.
This week the museum announced “Vincent is Back,” because after a time in which many of its 91 Vincent Van Gogh paintings, 180 drawings and other works have been on loan, they are set to return in style.
It has opened “Native Soil,” the first of a two-part exhibition looking at the spectacular changes that Van Gogh underwent in his artistic career, which took place almost entirely in the decade from 1880 to 1890. The appropriately wintery exhibit focuses on Van Gogh’s formative years in the Netherlands, with a dark palette and simple, somber subjects.
“Native Soil” culminates in what is widely regarded as Van Gogh’s first great masterpiece, the 1885 “Potato Eaters.” It also shows smaller works that presage the colorful brilliance to come, such as the 1885 “Head of a Woman Wearing a White Hat,” which may have been part of Van Gogh’s preparations for “Potato Eaters,;” and the emotive 1882 study “Sorrowful Old Man” in black chalk.
The marketplace for Cuban art has finally come of age. Today art galleries, museums, music venues, and the like are all filled with the beautiful expression of Cuban artist. From New York to Paris, interest has gained momentum and an increasing number of artists are discovering a thriving market for their work. Let’s take a look at a few well-known Cuban artists.
One of the most prominent musicians of the present alternative, contemporary-music scene, Roberto Carcasses has an outstanding musical lineage. His father is the famous jazziest Bobby Carcasses. Following in the footsteps of some of the great Cuban pianists like Gonzalo Rubalcava and Emiliano Salvador, Roberto changed from percussion to piano-composition and the jazz set right after graduating. Since hooking up with other influential artist in the early 90s, he continues to enthuse and provide a secure, but refreshing foundation for them and many others. His music is a mix of hip-hop, jazz, rock, and blues known as Timba-Funk.
José Manuel Mendive
The eccentric and legendary universe of African creeds with its mysterious and emblematic language, along with an intentional youthfulness and use of color is what comprises this artist’s focus. José Mendlve graduated from the well-respected Academy of Fine Arts San-Alejandro in 1962 in Havana with honors in painting and sculpture. His work can be viewed in galleries and museums in various countries such as the Modern Arts-Museum of Cartagenas of the Indies, as well as museums in Somalia, Norway, Congo, Russia, Finland, Denmark, and the United States.
A talented singer, songwriter, bassist, and guitarist, Yusa, has been stirring crowds in Cuba, Japan, and Europe. Frequently personal and subdued, and other times erratic and livid, Yusa’s funky bass-playing and free style singing are a modern amalgamation of Brazilian, Cuban, R&B, and jazz. Even though today she feels the need to focus on a milder form of her music. Her extensive and intimate friendships with Descemer Bueno, Roberto Carcassés, and Pàvel Urquiza, continues to be a motivation for her. Yusa is a unique guitar and bass player with a sensitive, soulful voice. She is signed with the TUMI label.
Engraver, painter, sculptor, drafter, and ceramist, Nelson Dominguez’s rather conceptual work, is discernible by his knowledge of narrative disposition and color. A native of Baire, Santiago de Cuba, Nelson studied at the Cubanancan National Art-School. He has a trail of prestige and honor in his wake. He is a member of the UNEAC, Union of Writers and Artists-of-Cuba, and the AIAP, International Association of Plastic-Artists. In addition, Nelson has been awarded the Alejo Carpentier award and the National Cultural award. Patrons say, “Nelson Dominguez is similar to a chemist that waits for responses and determinedly explores matter in the vast laboratory of his mind with no restriction to artistic expression.”
Photo by Anders Rising
A young, gifted pianist/composer, Aldo Gavilan is popular with both the contemporary and classical fusion scene. Considered a young-prodigy, and hailing from one of Havana’s most well known families, he started composing at the age of five, playing at six, performing and accepting honors at the age of 12, and at 17, playing Prokofiev with Cuba’s National-Symphonic-Orchestra. In addition, Aldo plays jazz at Cuba’s International Jazz Festival.
If you would like more information on the music and art of Cuba, we offer a Free Cuba Brochure and Music of Cuba CD. This also details our very popular Cuban Music and Art Tour. To request info on this trip, simply call or fill out a request form.
Dec 4- 9, 2012. NADA is held in parallel with Art Basel Miami Beach and is recognized as a much needed alternative assembly of the world’s youngest and strongest art galleries dealing with emerging contemporary art. It is the only major American art fair to be run by a non-profit organization. NADA looked for new ways to lower costs for younger galleries. Moving to North Beach allowed NADA to lower overall booth costs and discounted prices on hotel rooms. The 2010 edition of the fair was its second year at the Deauville Beach Resort and another great year for NADA exhibitors. Many galleries completely sold out their booths by the end of the Opening Preview. The Deauville Beach Resort. 6701 Collins Avenue. Miami Beach, FL 33141. www.newartdealers.org
Simplicity breeds adoption, especially when it comes to online advertising and marketing.
“In an ideal world complexity wouldn’t exist; a product would be so simple every small business could use it,” said Dan Levy, the social network’s lead for small business, at the BIA/Kelsey interactive conference. “Until that day comes, we think there’s a lot of third-party service providers that can help companies use Facebook with tools and services.”
Levy said it’s important for Facebook to understand what these companies provide, and how the social network can make it easier for small companies to connect with their customers. Levy also said Facebook will look into supporting third-party companies that offer services, extending its network beyond the preferred marketing developer program it offers today for large and small businesses.
It all comes down to helping smaller companies create a Facebook page, with a lot of attention given to mobile, advertising and real-time location.
About one-third of the 100,000 small businesses that have published Offers are new Facebook advertisers, and about 30% are claimed on mobile devices. Levy said about 2.5 million posts have been promoted since the product launched in June, and that 75% of daily Promoted Posts are purchased by repeat customers.
Facebook supports more than 13 million small and local business pages. Active Pages grew about 40% this year, and the number of Pages owners — businesses self-identified as local — who bought advertising nearly doubled. About 150 million people visit Pages daily, and nearly half of those visitors come from mobile, which now contributes 14% to Facebook’s global revenue.
The recently launched Promoted Posts aims to provide a simplified way for businesses to reach consumers without using Facebook’s more complex ad system. About 300,000 pages have used the solution to write a status update and prompt it. About one-quarter are new advertisers on the site.
The local-mobile model plays nicely into Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg’s description of a recommendation engine for the social site. In the past, he has described the ultimate Facebook search engine as a cross between a recommendation and Q&A tool. “Friends ask friends for recommendations, so if you follow the theme we hear about listening to customers, there’s clearly opportunities,” Levy said.
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