Spontaneity in the work of Jackson Pollock, Charlie Parker, and Jack Kerouac

During the decade following World War Two, a body of artistic work was created that clearly articulated for the first time, a distinctly American aesthetic, independent of European models. This is not to say that celebrated works like The Great Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises, Appalachian Spring and Roy Harrisʼ Third Symphony are not recognized as American masterpieces; but their American characteristics are expressed through content, rather than form or methods of production. Fitzgerald and Hemingway all furthered their apprenticeship in Europe during the 1920s while Copland and Harris studied in Paris with Boulanger. It remained for the next generation of the avant garde, living for the most part in New York, to create original schools through the modes of Abstract Expressionism, the new chromatic jazz of Be Bop, and the literature of the Beats. The singly most important characteristic of the new American expression was the central role played by spontaneity and improvisation yielding works of astonishing vibrant surface detail.

The emphasis on the spontaneous as an alternative to the careful and rational reflected larger cultural and philosophical issues. In seeking a subjective, existential view of reality, honesty, authenticity, were prized over the objective world view, process over product. Whether expressed in gesture painting, spontaneous bop prosody, or the chromatic flights of bebop, the emphasis was on the experience, rejecting the academic craftsmanship of revision as antithetical to the glorification of the now.This emphasis plus the incorporation of elements from African and Native American sources were interpreted as an attack on the privileged hegemony of the Anglo-American academy. Beat writers were ridiculed by proponents of the New Criticism who vaunted T.S. Eliot as their model. Kerouacʼs spontaneous prose was dismissed as “mere typing” by Truman Capote. While mainstream journals such as Life magazine devoted some attention to abstract art, it was more often of a patronizing nature, referring to Pollock as “Jack the Dripper”. The new jazz faced opposition even within its own ranks, even prompting a revival of New Orleans music, now called “Dixieland”. Louis Armstrong dismissed bop as making about as much sense as “Chinese music”. So with its fusion of modernist complexity with vernacular) or “street”) immediacy the new art represented a third alternative to European elitism and mainstream pop culture. In an even larger context, the avant garde of the late 1940s represented a reaction to Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and the Gulag – the latter having a dampening impact on the leftist Communist idealism of the 30s. Whether implicit in words or explicit in painting and music, the avant garde became a central voice in the new bohemian counterculture criticism of United States political and corporate globalization with its strategy of cold war xenophobia and domestic consumerism. The full effect of this will not be fully realized until the mid 1960s when the civil rights movement and opposition to the war in Viet Nam galvanized many to question the policies of the government.

 

Jackson Pollock photographed by Arnold Newman for LIFE Magazine, 1949

 

Charlie Parker, at the Carnegie Hall, New York. Photo by William P. Gottlieb, 1947

 

Jack Kerouac in his Long Island home displaying one of the scrolls on which he composed his books, unidentified photographer, 1964.

 

Three artists, Jackson Pollock (1912-1956), Charlie Parker (1920-1955), and Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), play a central role in the emerging post war avant garde, each incorporating elements of spontaneity to their arts. The outline of their biographies shows many similarities. Roughly of the same generation, each were born and raised in provincial settings, Pollock in Cody, Wyoming, Parker in Kansas City, Missouri, and Kerouac in Lowell, Massachusetts. Each came from working class blue collar maternally dominated families, with dysfunctional (Pollock and Kerouac) or nonexistent (Parker) relationships with their fathers, Pollock and Kerouac becoming highly misogynistic. Each produced their most important work in New York beginning around 1945, where they all habituated the same Lower East Side and Greenwich Village neighborhoods, often hanging out in the same bars and coffee houses. All three experienced difficult personal lives, cut short from substance abuse resulting in early deaths (Pollock at age 44. Parker at 35, and Kerouac at 47). What is of great interest is the mutual interest and influence among the artistic intelligentsia of the period. Much of Kerouacʼs innovative spontaneous prose sketching achieved most notable in Visions of Cody and The Subterraneans were heavily indebted to his sophisticated knowledge of jazz. Several of the “choruses” in Mexico City Blues are profiles of Parker, Lester Young, and other musicians. Lee Krasner, Pollockʼs wife, has documented the painterʼs interest in jazz as well as classical music. Night Clubs, such as the Five Spot, doubled as jazz venues as well as art galleries.

 

 

A Pollock painting illustrates the cover of Ornette Colemanʼs, Free Jazz, released in 1959. Some artists worked in several disciplines, most notable saxophonist Larry Rivers who became a prominent painter, composer-novelist Paul Bowles, pianist-poet Cecil Taylor, and poet-painter-composer Weldon Kees. Poetic recitation with jazz, begun with Kenneth Patchen and Charlie Mingus included performances at the Village Vanguard with Kerouac who recorded with tenor men Zoot Sims and Al Cohn as well as recited on television with Steve Allen backing him up on piano. The image of these performances, with their “beards,bongos and beatniks” became simplistic cultural clichés in the late 1950s. perpetuated by the mainstream media in an attempt to trivialize and ridicule the movement. To reiterate the central thesis of this argument, the main thread that unites this rich period of American creativity is the use of improvisation for the purpose of creating art characterized by great emotional and intense expression.

 

American Zeitgeist: Spontaneity in the work of Jackson Pollock, Charlie Parker, and Jack Kerouac
Randall Snyder
(Excerpt)

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Coltrane as A Religious Figure

“Let us sing all songs to God.

Let us pursue Him in the righteous path. Yes it is true: “Seek and ye shall find”

 
 

Coltrane icon at St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church

 
 

After John Coltrane‘s death, a congregation called the Yardbird Temple in San Francisco began worshipping him as God incarnate. The group was named after Charlie Parker, whom they equated to John the Baptist. The congregation later became affiliated with the African Orthodox Church; this involved changing Coltrane’s status from a god to a saint. The resultant St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church, San Francisco is the only African Orthodox church that incorporates Coltrane’s music and his lyrics as prayers in its liturgy.

Samuel G. Freedman wrote in a New York Times article that “the Coltrane church is not a gimmick or a forced alloy of nightclub music and ethereal faith. Its message of deliverance through divine sound is actually quite consistent with Coltrane’s own experience and message.” Freedman also commented on Coltrane’s place in the canon of American music:

In both implicit and explicit ways, Coltrane also functioned as a religious figure. Addicted to heroin in the 1950s, he quit cold turkey, and later explained that he had heard the voice of God during his anguishing withdrawal. […] In 1966, an interviewer in Japan asked Coltrane what he hoped to be in five years, and Coltrane replied, “A saint.”

Coltrane is depicted as one of the 90 saints in the Dancing Saints icon of St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. The icon is a 3,000-square-foot (280 m2) painting in the Byzantine iconographic style that wraps around the entire church rotunda. It was executed by Mark Dukes, an ordained deacon at the Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church, who painted other icons of Coltrane for the Coltrane Church.[43] Saint Barnabas Episcopal Church in Newark, New Jersey included Coltrane on their list of historical black saints and made a “case for sainthood” for him in an article on their former website.

Documentaries on Coltrane and the church include Alan Klingenstein‘s The Church of Saint Coltrane (1996), and a 2004 program presented by Alan Yentob for the BBC.

The Rimbaud Complex

Paul Verlaine (far left) and Rimbaud (second to left) in a painting by Henri Fantin-Latour, 1872

 
 

Perhaps the best model to explain the artistic ideals of both the jazz musicians and the Beat writers would be the late 19th-century French poet Arthur Rimbaud. Rimbaud’s attitudes towards the artist’s duty to create was quite similar to that of the jazz musician and the typical Beat poet (though it is likely that the Beat poet would purposefully imitate Rimbaud while the jazz musician would be unaware of any similarities).

Rimbaud drank heavily, wrote poetry at a young age, and “burned out” much like a number of drug-using jazz musicians. Rimbaud’s dedication to his art was so fervent that, around the age of 21, he arrived at the point where he could do no more. Beats claimed Rimbaud as another “Secret Hero,” much like Charlie Parker or Miles Davis. The “Rimbaud complex” was an attitude that both the jazz musicians and the Beats shared.

Many Beats used heroin, Benzedrine and other drugs in adulation of the jazz musicians which used them, hoping that the drugs would do for them what they supposedly did for greats like Parker. Jack Kerouac wrote his most famous book On the Road, frequently heralded as the definitive prose work of the Beat era, on a three-day stretch fueled by a Benzedrine binge. William S. Burroughs used his dependency on heroin as an inspiration for books such as Junky and Naked Lunch. This is a tale with no moral, nevertheless, we know the high price they had to paid for getting into “artificial paradises” that later became “a season in hell”.

Attracted to Bebop

“I never know how to describe my work. It’s not always the same thing. It’s like asking Miles, ‘How does your horn sound?’”
Jean Michel Basquiat

 
 

Portrait of Miles Davis, date unknown

 
 

Discography II, 1983

 
 

What attracted Basquiat to bebop is the way it used repetition, reproduction, and improvisation to transform, or “artistically other”, the shape and meaning of somebody else’s originals, and to do so in the name of black protest against the restrictive social structures of American Racism. For LeRoi Jones, what most characterized bebop was its “antiassimilationist sound”, its rapid improvisations, its jagged time shifts, its wild solo flights, its embrace of melodic and rhythmic dissonance-its willfully harsh resistance to being swallowed up into the unisonance of American harmony. Bebop musicians understood the importance of communicating their racial difference from the American mainstream through their music.

While bebop was the music Basquiat inherited from the radical past, it was the radical present of hip-hop that he was born into. Basquiat was coming up as a painter and graffiti tagger on the streets and subways of New York City just as the music culture of hip-hop was being born on the very same streets and on the very same subways. In many ways Basquiat was hip-hop’s first galley artist, the first audiovisual hip-hopper to be legitimized, popularized, and substantively supported by the official New York art world.

To Honour Charlie Parker

“Since I was seventeen I thought I might be a star. I’d think about all my heroes, Charlie Parker, Jimi Hendrix… I had a romantic feeling about how these people became famous.”

Jean-Michel Basquiat

 
 

Bird on Money, 1981

The painting is an homage to one of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s heroes, jazz saxman Charlie Parker. Rather than a conventional portrait, Basquiat portrays Parker as a chicken, or yardbird, which was one of the musician’s nicknames. It’s painted in a loose, neo-expressionist style the artist helped pioneer in the 1980s.

“Para Morir,” in the bottom right, means “to die.” At left, the words “Green Wood” are set above a diagram for Green-Wood Cemetery, located in Brooklyn, N.Y., where the artist was born in 1960, collector Mera Rubell told a Raleigh, N.C., reporter in an article. That is not where Parker is buried but, eerily, it’s where Basquiat was laid to rest seven years after he made this painting.

 
 

CPRKR, 1982

 
 

Charles The First, 1982

 
 

Discography I, 1983

 
 

Horn Players, 1983

The “ORNITHOLOGY” of Basquiat’s Horn Players references a Charlie Parker composition of the same name, a song that Eric Lott’s has called “the national anthem of bop”. But Ornithology is a reproduction and repetition of the jazz standard How High the Moon, but in its repetition of it and reproduction of it, Parker creates something new, a new sound, a new music born from iteration that is anything but silent.

 
 

Arm and Hammer II, 1984

The one on the right – Warhol’s – is a faithful reproduction of the iconic logo, with a beefy arm brandishing a hammer, while on the right, Basquiat presents Charlie Parker with a saxophone at his lips as the logo’s centerpiece.

 
 

Bird of Paradise, 1984

 
 

Untitled (Estrella), 1985

 
 

Now’s the Time, 1985

 
 

To listen to Charlie Parker’s Now is the Time, please take a gander at The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228

A Quick Killing in Art

By Phoebe Hoban

“If you had only twenty-four hours left to live, what would you do?”
“I don’t know. I’d go hang out with my mother and my girlfriend, I guess.”

 
 

 
 

Friday, August 12, 1988. On the sidewalk outside 57 Great Jones Street, the usual sad lineup of crack addicts slept in the burning sun. Inside the two-story brick building, Jean-Michel Basquiat was asleep in his huge bed, bathed in blue television light. The air conditioner was broken and the room felt like a microwave oven. The bathroom door was ajar, revealing a glimpse of a black and tan Jacuzzi tub. On the ledge of the tub was a small pile of bloody syringes. There was a jagged hole punched in the bathroom window. Beneath it was scrawled the legend “Broken Heart,” with Basquiat’s favorite punctuation, a copyright sign.

Kelle Inman, Basquiat’s twenty-two-year-old girlfriend, was downstairs writing in the journal that Basquiat had given her. He usually slept all day, but when he still hadn’t come down for breakfast by midafternoon, Inman got worried. When she looked into the bedroom to check up on him, the heat hit her full in the face, like a wave. But Basquiat seemed to be sleeping peacefully, so she went back downstairs. She and the housekeeper heard what sounded like loud snores, but thought nothing of it.

A few hours later, Basquiat’s friend Kevin Bray called. He and Basquiat and another friend, Victor Littlejohn, were supposed to go to a Run-D.M.C. concert that evening, and he wanted to make plans with Jean-Michel. Kelle climbed back up the stair’s to give Basquiat the message. This time, she found him stretched on the floor, his head Jean-Michael on his arm like a child’s, a small pool of vomit forming near his chin.

Inman panicked. She had never seen anyone die, although Basquiat’s drug binges had made the scenario a constant fear. Now it seemed like the worst had happened. She ran to the phone and called Bray, Littlejohn, and Vrej Baghoomian, Basquiat’s last art dealer.

“When I got there,” recalls Bray, “Kelle said she had called an ambulance. She took me upstairs. Jean-Michel looked like he was comfortably out cold. He was on the floor, lying against the wall, as if he had fallen down and didn’t have the strength to get up, and was just taking a nap. There was a lot of clear liquid coming out of his mouth. We picked him up and turned him over. We shook him, and we just kept trying to revive him. It took a long time for the ambulance to arrive. But for a while, after the guys from the Emergency Medical Service came, we thought he was going to be okay. They were giving him shocks and IV treatment. Victor had to hold Jean-Michel up like this so the IV’s would drain,” says Bray, stretching his arms out in a cruciform.

Bray couldn’t take it anymore. He went downstairs, where Inman, and two assistants from the Baghoomian gallery, Vera Calloway and Helen Traversi, were trying to stay calm. “We tried to take his pulse. His skin was so hot,” says Calloway. Baghoomian called the studio just as the paramedics arrived. He was in San Francisco and Helen was forced to act in his stead.

“It was almost like it was some sort of business transaction,” says Bray. “They put a tube in his throat and they brought him downstairs. They wouldn’t tell us whether he was dead or alive and they took him outside. He had this beautiful bubbling red-white foam coming out of his mouth.”

“We all hoped some miracle would happen,” recalls Helen, who begins to cry at the memory. Outside on the pavement, a small crowd had gathered in horror and fascination. “I was about to leave on vacation with my wife,” says filmmaker Amos Poe, who was a friend of the artist. “We watched as they loaded his body into the ambulance. I saw his father pull up in a Saab. I kept saying to my wife. `Jean-Michel is dead.’ He really lived out that whole destructo legend: Die young, leave a beautiful corpse.”

Basquiat was buried at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn five days later. His father invited only a few of the artist’s friends to the closed-casket funeral at Frank Campbell’s; they were outnumbered by the phalanx of art dealers. The heat wave had broken, and it rained on the group gathered at the cemetery to bid Jean-Michel goodbye. The eulogy was delivered by Citibank art consultant Jeffrey Deitch, lending the moment an unintentionally ironic tone.

Blanca Martínez, Basquiat’s housekeeper, was struck by the alienated attitude of the mourners. “They were all standing separately, as if it were an obligation,” she says. “They didn’t seem to care. Some looked ashamed.” People began to leave the cemetery before the body was buried. Ignoring the objections of the gravediggers, Martinez tearfully threw a handful of dirt onto the coffin as they lowered it into the grave.

Basquiat’s mother, Matilde, looking dazed, approached Baghoomian to thank him for his help to her son during his last days. Gerard Basquiat later admonished his former wife not to talk to the art dealer. The scene was already being set for a bitter battle over the estate of the artist.

The following week, appraisers from Christie’s set to work taking inventory of the contents of the Great Jones Street loft: finished and unfinished paintings, other artists’ works (including several dozen Warhols and a piece by William Burroughs), a vintage collection of Mission furniture, a closet full of Armani and Comme des Garcons suits, a library of over a thousand videotapes, hundreds of audiocassettes, art books, a carton of the Charlie Parker biography Bird Lives!, several bicycles, a number of antique toys, an Everlast punching bag, six music synthesizers, some African instruments, an Erector set, and a pair of handcuffs.

There were also a number of paintings in warehouses: following Andy Warhol‘s advice, Basquiat had tried to squirrel some of his work away from his ever-eager art dealers. According to Christie’s, Basquiat had left 917 drawings, 25 sketchbooks, 85 prints, and 171 paintings.

Artist Dan Asher walked by his old friend’s loft and was astonished to see a number of Basquiat’s favorite things in a Dumpster: his shoes, his jazz collection, a peculiar lamp made out of driftwood, Sam Peckinpah‘s director’s chair. Asher salvaged a few items; he sold the chair to a collector.

It would be another year before Gerard Basquiat ordered a tombstone for his son. But for several weeks after the artist’s death, he was commemorated by a small shrine some anonymous fan had placed by his door. Shrouded in lace, it held flowers, votive candles, a picture of Basquiat, some carefully copied prayers, and a Xerox of a David Levine caricature of the artist, complete with a caption: “In an age of limitless options and limiting fears, he still makes poems and paintings to evoke his world.”

A formal memorial service was finally held at Saint Peter’s Church in Citicorp Center, on a stormy Saturday in November. Despite the rain, wind, and bleak gray sky, several hundred people crowded into the church. Behind the pulpit hung a portrait of the artist as a young man, superimposed on one of his faux-primitive paintings. One by one, his former friends and lovers remembered Basquiat.

Gray, the band with which Jean-Michel had played at the Mudd Club, performed several songs. John Lurie played a saxophone solo. Ingrid Sischy, editor of Interview magazine, read a eulogy. Ex-girlfriends Jennifer Goode and Suzanne Mallouk tearfully read poems. And Keith Haring, AIDS-thin, reminisced about his friend. “He disrupted the politics of the art world and insisted that if he had to play their games, he would make the rules. His images entered the dreams and museums of the exploiters, and the world can never be the same.”

Fab 5 Freddy, who knew Basquiat from his old graffiti days, “interpolated” a poem by Langston Hughes. “This is a song for the genius child. Sing it softly, for the song is wild. Sing it softly as ever you can–lest the song get out of hand. Nobody loves a genius child. Can you love an eagle, tame or wild? Wild or tame, can you love a monster, of frightening name? Nobody loves a genius child. Free [sic] him and let his soul run wild.”

After the service, everyone went to M.K., the bank-turned-nightclub on lower Fifth Avenue. Owned by Jennifer Goode’s brother, it was one of Jean-Michel’s favorite places. In fact, it was his last destination the night before he died. He had come to the club looking for Jennifer. Now people stood around the big television set, sipping champagne and watching a flickering black-and-white video of Basquiat. A photographer from Fame magazine snapped pictures of the known and not-so-known: the jewelry designer Tina Chow, and her sister, Adele Lutz, David Byrne‘s wife. Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch. It was the perfect send-off for the eighties art star; part opening, part wake.

To The Rhythm of Jazz

Bebop en Cave Vieux Colombier, photo by Robert Doisneau, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris, 1951.
After the Second World War, this Parisian neighborhood became the center of intellectuals and philosophers, actors and musicians. Existentialism co-existed with jazz in the cellars on the rue de Rennes.

 
 

Bebop or bop is a style of jazz characterized by a fast tempo, instrumental virtuosity, and improvisation based on the combination of harmonic structure and sometimes references to the melody. It was developed in the early and mid-1940s. This style of jazz ultimately became synonymous with modern jazz, as either category reached a certain final maturity in the 1960s.

As the Beat movement was getting underway, bebop was already going strong, especially in New York City, where 52nd Street was bustling with activity in jazz clubs up and down its length. Bebop was an innovative style of jazz which saw its heyday in the ’40s, characterized by smaller combos as opposed to big bands and a larger focus on virtuosity. Bebop’s renaissance came about in the heart of New York City, where musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Max Roach and Miles Davis were ushering in a new era for jazz music.

Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and friends spent much of their time in New York clubs such as the Red Drum, Minton’s, the Open Door and other hangouts, shooting the breeze and digging the music. Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis rapidly became what Allen Ginsberg dubbed “Secret Heroes” to this group of aesthetes.

Why did jazz suddenly become such a driving force behind the writings of the Beat authors? What similarities can we find between jazz musicians and the Beats? Perhaps the most obvious comparison we can make is indicated by the very word “beat.”

“The word ‘beat’ was primarily in use after World War II by jazz musicians and hustlers as a slang term meaning down and out, or poor and exhausted”. Kerouac went on to twist the meaning of the term “beat” to serve his own purposes, explaining that it meant “beatitude, not beat up. You feel this. You feel it in a beat, in jazz real cool jazz”.

The Beat authors borrowed many other terms from the jazz/hipster slang of the ’40s, peppering their works with words such as “square,” “cats,” “nowhere,” and “dig.” But jazz meant much more than just a vocabulary to the Beat writers. To them, jazz was a way of life, a completely different way to approach the creative process. In his book Venice West, John Arthur Maynard writes:

 

Jazz served as the ultimate point of reference, even though, or perhaps even because, few among them played it. From it they adopted the mythos of the brooding, tortured, solitary artist, performing with others but always alone. They talked the talk of jazz, built communal rites around using the jazzman’s drugs, and worshipped the dead jazz musicians most fervently. The musician whose music was fatal represented pure spontaneity.

 

Thus, without the Beats, the jazz movement would probably have rolled right along. But, as we have seen, the Beat movement relied heavily upon the genius of great such as Charlie Parker and Miles Davis for the inspiration that produced such valuable works like Kerouac’s On the Road and Ginsberg’s Howl. How fortunate that the two movements coincided at just the right time.

Display of Brilliant Friends

Self-portraits

 
 

George Platt Lynes was an American fashion and commercial photographer. Born in East Orange, New Jersey to Adelaide (Sparkman) and Joseph Russell Lynes he spent his childhood in New Jersey but attended the Berkshire School in Massachusetts. He was sent to Paris in 1925 with the idea of better preparing him for college. His life was forever changed by the circle of friends that he would meet there. Gertrude Stein, Glenway Wescott, Monroe Wheeler and those that he met through them opened an entirely new world to the young artist.

He returned to the United States with the idea of a literary career and he even opened a bookstore in Englewood, New Jersey in 1927. He first became interested in photography not with the idea of a career, but to take photographs of his friends and display them in his bookstore.

Returning to France the next year in the company of Wescott and Wheeler, he traveled around Europe for the next several years, always with his camera at hand. He developed close friendships within a larger circle of artists including Jean Cocteau and Julien Levy, the art dealer and critic. Levy would exhibit his photographs in his gallery in New York City in 1932 and Lynes would open his studio there that same year.

By 1946, he grew disillusioned with New York and left for Hollywood, where he became chief photographer for the Vogue studios. He photographed Katharine Hepburn, Rosalind Russell, Gloria Swanson and Orson Welles, from the film industry, as well as others in the arts among them Aldous Huxley, Igor Stravinsky, and Thomas Mann. While a success artistically, it was a financial failure.

By May of 1955 he had been diagnosed terminally ill with lung cancer. He closed his studio. He destroyed much of his print and negative archives particularly his male nudes. After a final trip to Europe, Lynes returned to New York City where he died in December 1955. He was just 48.

 
 

Dorothy Parker

 
 

Jean Cocteau

 
 

Gloria Swanson

 
 

Christopher Isherwood

 
 

Yul Brynner

 
 

Tennessee Williams

 
 

Paul Cadmus

 
 

Henri Cartier-Bresson

 
 

Alfred Kinsey

 
 

Salvador Dalí

All The World Is a Stage

Take a Bow is a midtempo pop ballad with a “Sukiyaki”-like Japanese touch, performed by American singer-songwriter Madonna. It was released as the Bedtime Stories‘ second single on October 28, 1994. The song also appears on her compilation albums Something to Remember (1995), GHV2 (2001) and Celebration (2009).

Following the release Madonna’s first book publication, Sex, the erotic thriller, Body of Evidence, and the album, Erotica, in the early 1990s, the media and public’s backlash against Madonna’s overtly sexual image was at a peak. Released in early March, 1994, her first musical release after Erotica was the tender ballad I’ll Remember from the soundtrack of the film With Honors. When Madonna appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman on March 31, 1994 to promote the single, her coarse language and behavior—which was provocative, seemingly random at times, full of double entendres (at one point asking Letterman to sniff her panties), profanities, and ended with a refusal to leave the set—caused yet another large public controversy. Following this, Madonna decided to tone down her image and move her career into a new direction. Musically, she explored new-jack R&B styles with a generally mainstream, radio-friendly sound. This new R&B sound was reflected in Bedtime Stories. For Take a Bow, Madonna wanted a more “romantic vein” so she worked with Babyface on the track because he had proved himself to be very successful in his previous works with smooth R&B, working with other artists such as Whitney Houston, Boyz II Men, and Toni Braxton.

The chorus expresses the theme of saying goodbye to a lover who had taken her for granted. The title plays upon the verse in the song “all the world is a stage and everyone has their part,” a reference to the line by William Shakespeare in his play As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women mere players”. In his book Madonna: An Intimate Biography, J. Randy Taraborrelli describes the song as a “somber, sarcastic, all-the-world’s-a-stage song about unrequited love… [about a subject] whose phoniness might have fooled everyone else, but not her.” He goes on to say that in the song Madonna tells the subject of her unrequited love to take a bow for “rendering a great, transparent performance in life and love.”

The music video for Take a Bow was directed by Michael Haussman, and is a lavish period-style piece filmed from November 3–8, 1994 in Ronda and in the bullring of Antequera, Spain. It was outfitted by famed stylist Lori Goldstein who received the VH1 Fashion and Media award for best styling. The plot, set in the 1940s, depicts Madonna as a neglected lover of a bullfighter, played by real-life Spanish bullfighter Emilio Muñoz. Madonna’s character yearns for the bullfighter’s presence, with erotic heartbreak. A total of three different bulls were used during the production of the music video. It generated controversy with animal rights activists who accused the singer of glorifying bullfighting.

 
 

 
 

In the video Madonna wears fitted, classic suits by British fashion designer John Galliano. In an interview with MTV’s Kurt Loder on the set of the music video, Madonna said that when she was initially writing Take a Bow the inspiration for the song was an actor, but she wanted the male character in the video to be to be a matador instead because she wanted the video to be about an “obsessive, tragic love story that doesn’t work out in the end” and a matador would be more visually effective in expressing the emotion of the song. The style of the music video has been compared to Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar‘s 1986 film Matador, starring Antonio Banderas.  The music video for Madonna’s 1995 single You’ll See is considered a follow up to the Take a Bow music video, as Madonna and Emilio Muñoz reprise their roles. In that video Madonna’s character walks out on Munoz’s (bullfighter) character, leaving him behind in despair. Madonna’s character is then seen on the train and later on a plane, while Munoz’s character tries to catch up with her in vain.

Madonna requested that Haussman give the video a Spanish theme because, at the time, she was lobbying for the role of Eva Perón in the film version of Evita. She subsequently sent a copy of the video to director Alan Parker as a way of “auditioning” for the role. Madonna eventually won the role of Perón.

The music video for Take a Bow inspired Justin Timberlake‘s video for SexyBack (Michael Haussman, 2006) and was later tributed by Britney Spears‘ video for “Radar” (Dave Meyers, 2009). Madonna won Best Female Video honors at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards for the Take a Bow music video. It was also nominated for Best Art Direction in a Video, but lost to Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson‘s Scream.

To watch Take a Bow music video, please take a gander at The Genealogy of Style’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228?ref=hlt

The Madcap Maestro of American Haute Couture

Portrait of Isaac Mizrahi by Annie Leibovitz. Published in Vogue, December 1995

 
 

Isaac Mizrahi was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1961, of Syrian Jewish heritage. He is the cousin of rock guitarist Sylvain Sylvain, former player in the New York Dolls.

When Isaac was eight, his family moved to the middle-class Midwood section of Brooklyn. He contracted spinal meningitis during this time and his confinement was spent eating junk food and viewing television, especially old movies. The 1961 remake of Back Street, about an affair between a fashion designer and a married man, was a pivotal event in Mizrahi’s development. The glamour of the fashion industry depicted in the movie became an inspiration to him to design clothes.

Around 1971, young Isaac steals money from his mother to buy fabric and trimmings. At eleven, he saves up babysitting money and purchases his first sewing machine—a secondhand Singer from the 1920s—and begins stitching clothes for his puppets. He later says, “I felt like a total outcast. I used to sit and make these puppets and watch a lot of television and a lot of movies on television. My mother was really worried about me. Everybody was worried about me.”

After struggling to fit in at Yeshiva of Flatbush, an Orthodox Jewish private school (where he is caught sketching fashions in his prayer books and doing rabbi impersonations), Isaac transfers to New York’s High School of Performing Arts. “It was a setting free,” he will later say. Dabbles in acting. October: At Isaac’s bar mitzvah—to which he wears “sky-blue shantung” —his father presents him with a pair of scissors engraved with his name.At 13, Isaac was designing clothes for himself, his mother, and a close friend of his mother, Sarah Haddad.

Isaac makes an appearance as Touchstone in the singing-and-dancing-teens film Fame (Alan Parker, 1980), based on the competitive atmosphere at his performing-arts alma mater.

His earliest design influences stemmed from his his mother’s all-American wardrobe, which included clothing from Halston, Geoffrey Beene, Claire McCardell and Norman Norell.

1982 Graduated from Parsons School of Design, New York. Among his fellow students is Marc Jacobs, two years his junior. “At Parsons, everyone thought he was incredibly talented,” Jacobs later recalls.

Worked for Perry Ellis, and said he was a major influence who taught him how to cut a dress, and many lessons in life. After this, he worked with Jeff Banks and Calvin Klein.

After leaving Calvin Klein, in June 1987 he and Sarah Haddad-Cheney pooled $50,000 each and opened Mizrahi’s own womenswear company. They occupied a loft on Greene Street in SoHo. Seven stores bought the first season’s collection. By the first collection show in April 1988 Haddad-Cheney had secured additional financing from the owners of Gitano Jeans company. In 1990 the company’s workrooms and showroom moved to an expanded space on Wooster Street. Mizrahi’s menswear collection premiered in April 1990.

1990 Isaac Mizrahi is presented with the CFDA designer of the year award for his women’s wear collection.
The year 1997 proved to be a milestone in Mizrahi’s career. He announced an unprecedented deal with three major Asian markets in Japan, Singapore, and Korea which included freestanding stores, in-store shops, wholesale distribution, manufacturing, and sublicenses in Japan and shops and distribution in Southeast Asia, an online ABC source reported. The deal was estimated to generate at least $150 million in retail sales by the year 2000.

Mizrahi has made appearances in numerous television shows and movies since the 1990s. In 1995, a movie was released about the development of his Fall 1994 collection called Unzipped made by his freind Douglas Keeve. In fall 2005 the Isaac show debuted on Style Network. He previously had a show on the Oxygen network. His new less-expensive line ISAAC, opens in 34 locations around the USA. Each boutique will show his new logo, a Silver Star.

He often appears on many of E!’s programs and has become well-known for being flamboyant and considered by some to be rude. He also appeared as himself in the episode “Plus One is the Loneliest Number” of the fifth season of Sex and the City.
He also guest starred on the American dramedy series Ugly Betty (based on Fernando Gaitán‘s Colombian telenovela soap opera Yo soy Betty, la fea), in which he played a reporter for the cable channel Fashion TV in the episode “Lose the Boss“.

Mizrahi also appeared as himself in The Apprentice season 1 (episode 6) as one of the celebrities auction for The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

He made a series of comic books called Sandee, the Adventures of a Supermodel, published by Simon & Schuster.
Mizrahi is currently the spokesperson for Klein-Becker’s StriVectin anti-wrinkle cream.

He is developing “The Collection,” a one-hour scripted project that draws on the experiences of the designer for The CW Network.

Known for his magnetic personality and witty style, Mizrahi has won four Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) awards. He is famous for his use of colour and the clean flattering lines of his designs. Chanel, who was financing him, pulled the plug and Isaac had closed his own fashion house in 1998. He started his own TV show interviewing celebrities.

However in February 2003, Mizrahi entered into a new partnership with New York based Hip retailer TARGET. Isaac created an exclusive collection of classically designed fashion sportswear and accessories for style conscious women. The collections are named “Isaac Mizrahi for Target” and he unveiled his debut collection in April 2003 in Minneapolis at the Walker Arts Center. Target is putting the designer back on the fashion map in a major mass-market way.

When he was interviewed, Isaac said he was very happy working with Target. Certain aspects of the couture scene and the constant rush to try and make money, just made him unhappy. Now he is making clothes for ordinary Americans at reasonable prices, and they are “racy, fun and crazy” and very popular.

But Isaac’s heart has always been with fashion shows, and in June 2004 he put on his first show in six years, and it was really successful. The show celebrates Bergdorf Goodman’s decision to devote space in its American couture collections for Mizrahi’s label.

The Fine Art of the Red Border

At many points in its almost 91-year history, TIME has offered up its iconic red border as a canvas, and asked renowned artists to illustrate the top stories of the day. From the striking Roy Lichtenstein pop art that accompanied a June 21, 1968 cover story on “The Gun in America” (see below) to Marc Chagall’s self-portrait that began our July 30, 1965 issue, readers have become accustomed to seeing cover images that have been painted, sculpted, collaged and transformed by some of the world’s most visionary talents.

 
 


December 14, 1936: Surrealist Salvador Dali

Artist: Man Ray

 
 

April 12, 1937: Virginia Woolf

Artist: Man Ray

 
 

May 7, 1945: Adolf Hitler

Artist: Boris Artzybasheff

 
 

April 6, 1962: Sophia Loren

Artist: René Bouché

 
 

January 10, 1964: R. Buckminster Fuller

Artist: Boris Artzybasheff

 
 

January 29, 1965, Today’s Teenagers

Artist: Andy Warhol

 
 

March 5, 1965: Jeanne Moreau

Artist: Rufino Tamayo

 
 

March 19, 1965: Martin Luther King

Artist: Ben Shahn

 
 

April 16, 1965: Rudolf Nureyev

Artist: Sidney Nolan

 
 


July 30, 1965: Marc Chagall

Artist: Marc Chagall

 
 

March 3, 1967: Playboy’s Hugh Hefner

Artist: Marisol

 
 

September 22, 1967: The Beatles

Artist: Gerald Scarfe

 
 

December 8, 1967: Bonnie and Clyde

Artist: Robert Rauschenberg

 
 

May 24, 1968:  Robert F. Kennedy

Artist: Roy Lichtenstein

 
 

June 21, 1968:  The Gun in America

Artist: Roy Lichtenstein

 
 

July 11, 1969: The Sex Explosion

Artist: Dennis Wheeler

 
 

November 28, 1969: Raquel Welch

Artist: Frank Gallo

 
 

February 16, 1970: Jane, Henry and Peter: The Flying Fondas

Artist: Andy Warhol

 
 

November 29, 1976: Rauschenberg by Rauschenberg

Artist: Robert Rauschenberg

 
 

March 19, 1984: Michael Jackson

Artist: Andy Warhol

 
 

>March 30, 1987: America’s Agenda

Artist: Robert Rauschenberg

 
 

March 16, 1992: Jay Leno

Artist: Al Hirschfeld

 
 

Source: TIME Turns 90: The Fine Art of the Red Border, from Warhol to Lichtenstein

By: Amy Lombard

They Sing The Body Electric

“…If any thing is sacred, the human body is sacred,
And the glory and sweet of a man, is the token of manhood untainted;
And in man or woman, a clean, strong, firm-fibred body, is beautiful as the most beautiful face…”

I Sing The Body Electric

(Fragment)

 
 

I Sing the Body Electric is a poem by Walt Whitman from his 1855 collection Leaves of Grass. Its original publication, like the other poems in Leaves of Grass, did not have a title. In fact, the line “I sing the body electric” was not added until the 1867 edition. At the time, “electric” was not yet a commonly used term.

Whitman here explores the physical body at length. In other poems he has established the interconnectedness of the body and the soul; here he celebrates the primacy of the body and its importance in forging connections between people. This is yet another poem of lists, which again imply a democratizing force at work. Whitman’s egalitarianism is a particularly important aspect of this poem, for it allows him to argue against the kind of valorization of the body implicit in slavery.

The lists alternate with anecdotal and propositional sections, which allow Whitman to work out some of the issues surrounding the body. This makes “Body Electric” one of his more highly structured poems. Just as various organs and features come together in the greater structure of the human body, so too do the various bits and pieces of Whitman’s poetry come together in a greater whole.

 
 

In 1969, author Ray Bradbury published I Sing the Body Electric, a science fiction anthology named after the poem and including a short story by the same title. The short story was based on a 1962 Twilight Zone episode that Bradbury had also written.

 
 

“…The man’s body is sacred, and the woman’s body is sacred;
No matter who it is, it is sacred;
Is it a slave? Is it one of the dull-faced immigrants just landed on the wharf?
Each belongs here or anywhere, just as much as the well-off—just as much as you;
Each has his or her place in the procession…”

 
 

I Sing the Body Electric is the title and first line of a song from the 1980 musical film Fame (Alan Parker, 1980)

 
 

The Body Electric, a 1984 song by Rush off the album Grace Under Pressure

 
 

“…Have you ever loved the Body of a woman?
Have you ever loved the Body of a man?
Your father—where is your father?
Your mother—is she living? have you been much with her? and has she been much with you?
—Do you not see that these are exactly the same to all, in all nations and times, all over the earth?…”

 
 

The song, Body Electric by Lana Del Rey, alludes to Walt Whitman in the lyric, “Whitman is my daddy.” The song’s chorus of “I sing the body electric” is a direct reference to his poem. Del Rey has cited Whitman as an inspiration, recalling his chapbook Leaves of Grass as instrumental to her songwriting.

Born to Enjoy/ Born to Die


Although directed by Yoann Lemoine, the concept for the Born to Die video was also written by Del Rey in the form of a treatment she titled, “The Lonely Queen”. The video was intended to be set in Heaven, metaphorically represented by a Romanian castle.

 
 

While the narrator was flanked by tigers, she would recall memories of being with her beloved. Lana Del Rey was born on 1986, the Year of the Tiger, according to the Shēngxiào (Chinese: 生肖), also known in English as the Chinese zodiac. It might explain the inclusion of the tigers on the video.

 
 

Born to Die is a song by American singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey, taken from her second studio album of the same name. It was written and composed by Del Rey and Justin Parker, and produced by Emile Haynie. The singer has stated that the song is an “homage to true love and a tribute to living life on the wild side”, theme that is perceived in lines such as “Let me kiss you hard in the pouring rain, you like your girls insane.” Laura Snapes of NME compared the background to “melted chocolate waterslide, buffeted by impeccable production”, with the John Barry-esque “whipping strings” being noted as similar to the music scores of Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939) and Western (Manuel Poirier, 1997). Born to Die was first released in December 30, 2011 as the second single from the album of the same name. It contains a vocal sample of Long Red by Mountain band, which is one of the most sampled drum breaks in the history of hip hop music.

The school of Epicurus, called “The Garden,” was based in Epicurus’ home and garden. It had a small but devoted following in his lifetime. In Dante‘s Divine Comedy, the Epicureans are depicted as heretics suffering in the sixth circle of hell. In fact, Epicurus appears to represent the ultimate heresy. The word for a heretic in the Talmudic literature is “Apiqoros” (אפיקורוס), and Epicurus is titled in Modern Greek idiom as the “Dark Philosopher”.

Epicureanism emphasizes the neutrality of the gods, that they do not interfere with human lives. Epicurus believed that what he called “pleasure” is the greatest good, but the way to attain such pleasure is to live modestly and to gain knowledge of the workings of the world and the limits of one’s desires. It states that gods, matter, and souls are all made up of atoms. Epicurus’ view was that there were gods, but that they were neither willing nor able to prevent evil. This was not because they were malevolent, but because they lived in a perfect state of ataraxia, a lucid state of robust tranquility, characterized by ongoing freedom from distress and worry, a state everyone should strive to emulate; it is not the gods who are upset by evils, but people. For the Epicureans, ataraxia was synonymous with the only true happiness possible for a person. It signifies the state of robust tranquility that derives from eschewing faith in an afterlife, not fearing the gods because they are distant and unconcerned with us, avoiding politics and vexatious people, surrounding oneself with trustworthy and affectionate friends and, most importantly, being an affectionate, virtuous person, worthy of trust.

 
 

In this letter, Epicurus summarizes his ethical doctrines.

Epicurus to Menoeceus, greetings:

Let no one be slow to seek wisdom when he is young nor weary in the search of it when he has grown old. For no age is too early or too late for the health of the soul. And to say that the season for studying philosophy has not yet come, or that it is past and gone, is like saying that the season for happiness is not yet or that it is now no more. Therefore, both old and young alike ought to seek wisdom, the former in order that, as age comes over him, he may be young in good things because of the grace of what has been, and the latter in order that, while he is young, he may at the same time be old, because he has no fear of the things which are to come. So we must exercise ourselves in the things which bring happiness, since, if that be present, we have everything, and, if that be absent, all our actions are directed towards attaining it.

Those things which without ceasing I have declared unto you, do them, and exercise yourself in them, holding them to be the elements of right life. First believe that God is a living being immortal and blessed, according to the notion of a god indicated by the common sense of mankind; and so believing, you shall not affirm of him anything that is foreign to his immortality or that is repugnant to his blessedness. Believe about him whatever may uphold both his blessedness and his immortality. For there are gods, and the knowledge of them is manifest; but they are not such as the multitude believe, seeing that men do not steadfastly maintain the notions they form respecting them. Not the man who denies the gods worshipped by the multitude, but he who affirms of the gods what the multitude believes about them is truly impious. For the utterances of the multitude about the gods are not true preconceptions but false assumptions; hence it is that the greatest evils happen to the wicked and the greatest blessings happen to the good from the hand of the gods, seeing that they are always favorable to their own good qualities and take pleasure in men like themselves, but reject as alien whatever is not of their kind.

Accustom yourself to believing that death is nothing to us, for good and evil imply the capacity for sensation, and death is the privation of all sentience; therefore a correct understanding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, not by adding to life a limitless time, but by taking away the yearning after immortality. For life has no terrors for him who has thoroughly understood that there are no terrors for him in ceasing to live. Foolish, therefore, is the man who says that he fears death, not because it will pain when it comes, but because it pains in the prospect. Whatever causes no annoyance when it is present, causes only a groundless pain in the expectation. Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not. It is nothing, then, either to the living or to the dead, for with the living it is not and the dead exist no longer.

But in the world, at one time men shun death as the greatest of all evils, and at another time choose it as a respite from the evils in life. The wise man does not deprecate life nor does he fear the cessation of life. The thought of life is no offense to him, nor is the cessation of life regarded as an evil. And even as men choose of food not merely and simply the larger portion, but the more pleasant, so the wise seek to enjoy the time which is most pleasant and not merely that which is longest. And he who admonishes the young to live well and the old to make a good end speaks foolishly, not merely because of the desirability of life, but because the same exercise at once teaches to live well and to die well. Much worse is he who says that it were good not to be born, but when once one is born to pass quickly through the gates of Hades. For if he truly believes this, why does he not depart from life? It would be easy for him to do so once he were firmly convinced. If he speaks only in jest, his words are foolishness as those who hear him do not believe.

We must remember that the future is neither wholly ours nor wholly not ours, so that neither must we count upon it as quite certain to come nor despair of it as quite certain not to come.

We must also reflect that of desires some are natural, others are groundless; and that of the natural some are necessary as well as natural, and some natural only. And of the necessary desires some are necessary if we are to be happy, some if the body is to be rid of uneasiness, some if we are even to live. He who has a clear and certain understanding of these things will direct every preference and aversion toward securing health of body and tranquillity of mind, seeing that this is the sum and end of a blessed life. For the end of all our actions is to be free from pain and fear, and, when once we have attained all this, the tempest of the soul is laid; seeing that the living creature has no need to go in search of something that is lacking, nor to look for anything else by which the good of the soul and of the body will be fulfilled. When we are pained because of the absence of pleasure, then, and then only, do we feel the need of pleasure. Wherefore we call pleasure the alpha and omega of a blessed life. Pleasure is our first and kindred good. It is the starting-point of every choice and of every aversion, and to it we come back, inasmuch as we make feeling the rule by which to judge of every good thing.

And since pleasure is our first and native good, for that reason we do not choose every pleasure whatsoever, but will often pass over many pleasures when a greater annoyance ensues from them. And often we consider pains superior to pleasures when submission to the pains for a long time brings us as a consequence a greater pleasure. While therefore all pleasure because it is naturally akin to us is good, not all pleasure is should be chosen, just as all pain is an evil and yet not all pain is to be shunned. It is, however, by measuring one against another, and by looking at the conveniences and inconveniences, that all these matters must be judged. Sometimes we treat the good as an evil, and the evil, on the contrary, as a good.

Again, we regard independence of outward things as a great good, not so as in all cases to use little, but so as to be contented with little if we have not much, being honestly persuaded that they have the sweetest enjoyment of luxury who stand least in need of it, and that whatever is natural is easily procured and only the vain and worthless hard to win. Plain fare gives as much pleasure as a costly diet, when once the pain of want has been removed, while bread and water confer the highest possible pleasure when they are brought to hungry lips. To habituate one’s self, therefore, to simple and inexpensive diet supplies all that is needful for health, and enables a man to meet the necessary requirements of life without shrinking, and it places us in a better condition when we approach at intervals a costly fare and renders us fearless of fortune.

When we say, then, that pleasure is the end and aim, we do not mean the pleasures of the prodigal or the pleasures of sensuality, as we are understood to do by some through ignorance, prejudice, or willful misrepresentation. By pleasure we mean the absence of pain in the body and of trouble in the soul. It is not an unbroken succession of drinking-bouts and of revelry, not sexual lust, not the enjoyment of the fish and other delicacies of a luxurious table, which produce a pleasant life; it is sober reasoning, searching out the grounds of every choice and avoidance, and banishing those beliefs through which the greatest tumults take possession of the soul. Of all this the beginning and the greatest good is wisdom. Therefore wisdom is a more precious thing even than philosophy ; from it spring all the other virtues, for it teaches that we cannot live pleasantly without living wisely, honorably, and justly; nor live wisely, honorably, and justly without living pleasantly. For the virtues have grown into one with a pleasant life, and a pleasant life is inseparable from them.

Who, then, is superior in your judgment to such a man? He holds a holy belief concerning the gods, and is altogether free from the fear of death. He has diligently considered the end fixed by nature, and understands how easily the limit of good things can be reached and attained, and how either the duration or the intensity of evils is but slight. Fate, which some introduce as sovereign over all things, he scorns, affirming rather that some things happen of necessity, others by chance, others through our own agency. For he sees that necessity destroys responsibility and that chance is inconstant; whereas our own actions are autonomous, and it is to them that praise and blame naturally attach. It were better, indeed, to accept the legends of the gods than to bow beneath that yoke of destiny which the natural philosophers have imposed. The one holds out some faint hope that we may escape if we honor the gods, while the necessity of the naturalists is deaf to all entreaties. Nor does he hold chance to be a god, as the world in general does, for in the acts of a god there is no disorder; nor to be a cause, though an uncertain one, for he believes that no good or evil is dispensed by chance to men so as to make life blessed, though it supplies the starting-point of great good and great evil. He believes that the misfortune of the wise is better than the prosperity of the fool. It is better, in short, that what is well judged in action should not owe its successful issue to the aid of chance.

Exercise yourself in these and related precepts day and night, both by yourself and with one who is like-minded; then never, either in waking or in dream, will you be disturbed, but will live as a god among men. For man loses all semblance of mortality by living in the midst of immortal blessings.