Danny Lyon: A Cult Figure

by Kim Steele

There is an aspect of my encounters with young photographers that seek rebellion and adventure – it comes with the territory. Danny Lyon personifies this dynamic. I had the honor of participating in a workshop he taught in the seventies and was very moved by his conviction to the medium, and his irreverence as well.

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Lyon’s first significant retrospective in the U.S. is now on view at the de Young Museum in San Francisco until April 30, 2017. Photography is a rare art form where one can teach one self, as exampled across town with the Hernandez exhibition at SF MOMA. With no formal photographic training, Lyon studied at the University of Chicago – in another field (1963), but soon thereafter published his first photographs working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He was fortunate to publish extensively.

His photographs of political dynamics are highly memorable. The early series of the Chicago Motorcycle Club produced some of Lyon’s best work. His most famous image is of the biker crossing the Ohio River, Louisville, (seen above)  is in this writer’s opinion, his most powerful image. There are tape recordings in the exhibition, videos on the wall that speak to his commitment to ‘story telling’ on a global scale.  This is instructional.

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In this era of reinventing Journalism into media and story telling employing various media methods, including Instagram, blogs, Twitter and YouTube, Lyon’s methodology should become a model. He knows how to tell a story. He dug into the culture of the bikers in Chicago, becoming one of them – with his own bike-a TR3, in the Outlaws Motorcycle Club, hard-riding and hard-drinking gang, to “glorify the life of the American bike rider.” (de Young Museum). Before the current era of ‘self-publishing,’ he was able to publish his own work through small, progressive publishers at an early stage of his career, publishing The Bikeriders (1968; Aperture Foundation).

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When committed to thematic subjects, Lyon excels. In the exhibit, there is a smattering of random portraits and renditions of situations he encountered that are rather mediocre, but when committed to exploring a body of work, of which he did many, he brought his formidable talent to bear. This is now more elegantly evidenced in his work in a number of his significant collections,  displayed in his The Destruction of Lower Manhattan (1969), published by Macmillan Publishers in 1969. 

In fact, in this series, Lyon includes a self-portrait in a devastated building which eventually gave rise to the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan: all sixty-six acres of destructed 19th century architecture. Lyon befriended the ‘destruction workers’ during this series. He did benefit throughout his career via some public funding. In the Lower Manhattan series, he received a grant from the New York State Council of the Arts. “I wanted to inhabit [the buildings] with feelings and give their demise a meaning.”  That area has taken on a powerful new meaning since 9/11.

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When committed to a project Lyon reaches deeply in his soul. Of the images of the prisoners in Texas prisons he states, “I tried with whatever power I had to make a picture of imprisonment as distressing as I knew it to be in reality.” This is his mantra. From this commitment to the art, he was invited to join the prestigious agency Magnum in 1967 (and never became a full member). A book followed: Conversations with the Dead (1971).

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“A seminal work in the modern photography canon” –Time Magazine

 

 

There was a new movement afoot in the 1960’s in journalism, labeled “New Journalism,” spearheaded by Hunter S. Thompson and Norman Mailer, both of whom did their best work in this stylistic vernacular. The gist of the approach was  inserting oneself, as the ‘reporter’ into the story narrative, as a type of protagonist, to urge on the dialogue. Lyon pursued this approach unwittingly.

Throughout his career, Lyon formed a bond with his subjects, most vividly expressed in his films. I viewed his compelling film, Willie, at the DeYoung Museum, for the second time, poignantly focusing on a young man by that name, in their mutual home state for the last thirty years, New Mexico. A second generation Mexican who lived on the fringes of society, and who eventual succumbed to the pressures of its weight. Starting as a young boy to his young manhood, Willie suffered from progressive physiological maladies, described in today’s lingo as ‘bi-polar.’

The fringe is where Lyon felt most comfortable. From the bikers, to the construction works, and most pointedly, the Texas prisoners, he could empathize and interpret their human condition.  This writer views this as a lost art form in photography.  The wave of current darlings have no interest in telling ‘your’ story…but rather telling their own. James Casebere builds little models of imaginary locations, James Welling creates situations with aluminum foil or paper, and Thomas Demand sets up strange theatrical sets.  This list could go on indefinitely, but the point is that none of them are interested in reality.  Lyon lives there.

This film and his body politic of work, displays the commitment Lyon exercised throughout his career to understand and participate, very personally, in the content of his images.

As in the Lower Manhattan series, he strove to ‘give meaning’ to his subjects as if to imbue a raison d’etre into the buildings; for an otherwise apparent meaningless purpose of destruction and urban growth.  Lyon augmented his recording with detailed journals that reflected the same passion for his subjects. He was very emotionally involved it them. His early involvement in the Civil Rights movement in the South exhibited the same stuff.

Lyon was fortunate to have garnered support from important photographic curators, like Hugh Edwards at the Art Institute of Chicago, who provided two one-man shows in his early stages; and Lyon was granted two Guggenheim Fellowships.

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Lyon’s work is unheralded by the auction houses and high priced gallery walls, but in the photographic annals he will be revered.  He leaves, though not deceased, a legacy of vision, heartfelt involvement, and a piercing eye of the world around him.

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Italian mosaic from Corinth, photograph by Kim Steele

The goal of The Boulevardiers is to bring art to life in the context of culture and design.  Sometimes it has been humorous, sometimes very sober.  But the guiding force has been our view of beauty and how it sustains life.  There have been many assaults on art over the years, from many fronts.  Recent conviction, for the first time in history, of a criminal act held accountable for destroying an ancient temple in Timbuktu, Mali (Palmyra is close behind), has brought light to the importance of art and beauty in our lives.  There are arguments that there are more pressing matters–food, shelter, freedom and safety, which are very valid.  

But we celebrate here the contribution of art to our civilization.  In the West, Greece is a touchstone to our artistic history.  We assembled a potpourri of images from our recent travels in Greece that simply impart beauty and vision.  Many objects are breathtakingly gorgeous and astonishing for being created thousands of years ago.  They still resonate with creativity and the spirit of humankind to transcend our mortal boundaries.

Kim Steele, Publisher

 

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Anthropomorphic bronze, photograph by Kim Steele

 

 

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Battle scarred bronze helmet, photograph by Kim Steele

We perceive, in fact, that the only matter upon which any worker, other than the artist, can congratulate himself, whether he be manual-worker, brain-worker, surgeon, judge, or politician, is that he is helping to make the world tolerable for the artist. It is only the artist who will leave anything behind him. He is the fighting-man, the man who counts; the others are merely the Army Service Corps of civilization. ~A.A. Milne

 

 


A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened. ~Albert Camus

Any great work of art… revives and readapts time and space, and the measure of its success is the extent to which it makes you an inhabitant of that world — the extent to which it invites you in and lets you breathe its strange, special air. ~Leonard Bernstein

 

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Bronze mini centaurs, photograph by Kim Steele

What was any art but a mold in which to imprison for a moment the shining elusive element which is life itself — life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose. ~Willa Cather

Glorious gold jewelry, photograph by Kim Steele

Glorious gold jewelry, photograph by Kim Steele

The artist’s world is limitless. It can be found anywhere, far from where he lives or a few feet away. It is always on his doorstep. ~Paul Strand

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Gilt death mask, photograph by Kim Steele

Why should you think that beauty, which is the most precious thing in the world, lies like a stone on the beach for the careless passer-by to pick up idly? Beauty is something wonderful and strange that the artist fashions out of the chaos of the world in the torment of his soul. And when he has made it, it is not given to all to know. To recognize it you must repeat the adventure of the artist. It is a melody that sings to you, and to hear it again in your own heart you want knowledge and sensitiveness and imagination. ~W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence, 1919 (Chapter XIX, spoken by the character Dirk Stroeve)

Art holds fast when all else is lost. ~German Proverb

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Marble gryphon guard, photograph by Kim Steele

 

 

 

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. ~Aristotle

A great artist is always before his time or behind it. ~George Moore

Art is long, and Time is fleeting. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Ornate ceramic animal storytelling, photograph by Kim Steele

 

 

 

 

 


No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist. ~Oscar Wilde

Everything in creation has its appointed painter or poet and remains in bondage like the princess in the fairy tale ’til its appropriate liberator comes to set it free. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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Massive marble head, photograph by Kim Steele

 

 

 

 

Art, as far as it is able, follows nature, as a pupil imitates his master; thus your art must be, as it were, God’s grandchild. ~Dante Alighieri, Inferno

 

 

 

 

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Gold ladies body adornment, photograph by Kim Steele

Inspiration is everywhere for me…most especially in ancient Greece, and our images capture only a fraction of the beauty we saw. I read once that history is the path, and art is the flowers which are the border…here’s to the beauty of art that is the ultimate sustenance to our eyes.

Sally Steele, Muse

Ancient carved vessel, photograph by Kim Steele

Precious alabaster carved vessel, photograph by Kim Steele

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Greek Game of Thrones — Acrocorinth Castle

by Sally Steele

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Acrocorinth apex, photograph by Kim Steele

Who could resist the temptation whilst in ancient Greece to visit a mysterious site, the Temple of Aphrodite, at Acrocorinth, marked only with a lone column, where legend reveals that more than 1000 sacred prostitutes associated with the temple. Acrocorinth is the acropolis (the upper or higher town) of ancient Corinth. When The Boulevardiers arrived in Corinth, we couldn’t stop looking up, wayyyyy up, at this castle on the hill–Acrocorinth indeed. It’s mesmerizing, something you see mostly in CGI today. We asked everyone and were told to go there in the early morning, to revel in its history, quiet, energy and majesty.
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Acrocorinth outer walls, photograph by Kim Steele

Acrocorinth has a fractuous history of occupation, from ancient times through the 19th century: Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders, Venetians and Ottoman Turks perched there. Saint Paul is supposed to have stayed there on a mission of preaching to the citizens of Acrocorinth. It served as a sentry point for minding marauders to the town below and to all of The Peloponnesus. Everything happened here, from peace to war to trade to intrigue.

From Gadling.com: “Its strategic location close to the Isthmus of Corinth, the narrow strip of land connecting the Peloponnese with the rest of Greece, makes it one of the most important castles in the country. The Corinthians even built a seven mile track of wood to transport their ships from one body of water to the other. Acrocorinth is such an obvious point for defense that there’s been a castle here for more than 2,500 years. The ancient Greeks built a temple to Aphrodite at the top and built walls made of massive stones to serve as a refuge for the Corinthians against pirates and invaders.”

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Acrocorinth watch tower,  photograph by Kim Steele

Corinth has it’s own beyond rich history – the intersection of mythology and archaeology is almost unimaginable as well. Wikipedia: “Neolithic pottery suggests that the site of Corinth was occupied from at least as early as 6500 BC, and continually occupied into the Early Bronze Age, when, it has been suggested, the settlement acted as a centre of trade. According to Hellenic myth, the city was founded by Corinthos, a descendant of the god Helios (the Sun), while other myths suggest that it was founded by the goddess Ephyra, a daughter of the Titan Oceanus, thus the ancient name of the city (also Ephyra).”

“According to Hellenic myth, the city was founded by Corinthos, a descendant of the god Helios (the Sun), while other myths suggest that it was founded by the goddess Ephyra, a daughter of the Titan Oceanus, thus the ancient name of the city (also Ephyra). There is evidence that the city was destroyed around 2000 BC. Some ancient names for the place are derived from a pre-Greek “Pelasgian” language, such as Korinthos. It seems likely that Corinth was also the site of a Bronze Age Mycenaean palace-city, like Mycenae, Tiryns, or Pylos. According to myth, Sisyphus was the founder of a race of ancient kings at Corinth. It was also in Corinth that Jason, the leader of the Argonauts, abandoned Medea. During the Trojan War as portrayed in the Iliad, the Corinthians participated under the leadership of Agamemnon.”

The Romans under Julius Caesar took a constructive interest in Corinth, who refounded the city as Colonia Laus Iulia Corinthiensis (‘colony of Corinth in honour of Julius’) in 44 BC, shortly before his assassination.

Wikipedia: “In a Corinthian myth recounted to Pausanias in the 2nd century AD, Briareus, one of the Hecatonchires, was the arbitrator in a dispute between Poseidon and Helios, between the sea and the sun. His verdict was that the Isthmus of Corinth belonged to Poseidon and the acropolis of Corinth (Acrocorinth) belonged to Helios. Thus, Greeks of the Classical age accounted for the archaic cult of the sun-titan in the highest part of the site.

Gadling.com: “In AD 146 the Romans destroyed Corinth and its castle and for many years they lay abandoned. The temple was replaced by a church in the 5th or 6th century AD. By this time the Western Roman Empire had collapsed and the Eastern Roman Empire, known as Byzantium, was a powerful Christian state ruling over much of the eastern Mediterranean with its capital at Constantinople, modern Istanbul. Corinth and Acrocorinth became important again as a Byzantine regional capital. The Byzantines had their hands full fighting Muslim armies and were seriously weakened when they lost most of what is now Turkey. Little did they expect the next blow to come from fellow Christians. As knights from Western Europe set out on the Fourth Crusade, they originally planned on retaking Jerusalem from the Arabs. Instead they diverted to Byzantium and sacked Constantinople in 1204. The Crusaders surrounded Acrocorinth but saw that an assault would be foolhardy and settled down for a long siege. Acrocorinth was defended by the Greek lord Leo Sgouros. For four years he kept the Crusaders at bay, but the strain of living within the walls eventually drove him mad. One day he mounted his horse and galloped over the cliffs to his death. This didn’t deter his garrison, however, and they continued to hold on until 1210, when the situation became so hopeless that they finally surrendered.”

Acrocorinth, photograph by Kim Steele

Acrocorinth, one of the three gates protecting the city, photograph by Kim Steele

“The French knight William de Villehardouin built a castle on Acrocorinth and strengthened the walls. The Byzantines slowly pushed the crusaders out of their empire and Acrocorinth was retaken in 1395. The ravages of the Fourth Crusade permanently weakened Byzantium. The Ottoman Turks were moving in from the east and took Constantinople in 1453. The Peloponnese held out for a time and Acrocorinth didn’t fall until 1458 after a long siege during which Greek soldiers snuck through Turkish lines and climbed the cliffs to bring supplies to the beleaguered defenders. The Venetians took the castle from the Ottomans in 1687 and many of the walls visible today are their handiwork. After a long war, the Ottomans retook Acrocorinth, only to lose it for good to the Greeks in 1823 during the War of Independence.”

Acorcorinth Map

Acrocorinth Map

FeelGreece.com: “The moat and the first gate were built around 14th century. The Venetians built the second gate and placed a large tower next to it. The third gate is flanked by two towers, with few more towers along the big stone walls. Most of the last gate and walls date back to Byzantine times. Once behind the walls there is flatter area where settlement developed with houses, barracks, churches, mosques, water cisterns, fountains and baths. On the rocky high southwest side there is Frankish castle with a keep. On the highest hill point there was the Aphrodite temple, succeed by church and later by mosque. The Upper Peirene spring is in the southeast plateau part.”
Acrocorinth, photograph by Kim Steele

Acrocorinth cobblestone path to gate, photograph by Kim Steele

The Upper Peirene Spring is featured in many legends. One tale says that Zeus gave it as a gift. Other legend says that the mythical winged horse Pegasus touched the ground and created the spring. The spring is an underground chamber, protected by arches. It has crystal blue water and never dries up…this water fed Acrocorinth and the City of Corinth below…Áriston mèn hýdōr. “Greatest however [is] water” — Pindar, Olymp. 1, 1.

Acrocorinth, photograph by Kim Steele

View to Gulf of Corinth from Acrocorinth, photograph by Kim Steele

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Photograph © Leonardo Finotti.

Mineral roof garden, Banco Safra headquarters, São Paulo, designed by
Roberto Burle Marx, 1983, Photograph © Leonardo Finotti

There was much trepidation as the 2016 Olympics approached; everything from security, Zika, to running water and accommodations. Several stories appeared in The New York Times about assaults, and robbery. As the date approached, the Torch Bearer was stoned and ridiculed because of all the offenses to the citizens of Brazil — the displacement of people from the favelas; and the expenses to host, which could be better spent on the citizens. The most remarkable element was the political turmoil — the past President was impeached and the current one is under investigation for bribery.

This aside, now a days into it, things are going well. The “Dream Team” (US basketball team) is lollygagging on a luxury yacht. And, this is a good time to focus on one of the greatest designers of the last century: Roberto Burle Marx, now exhibiting at the Jewish Museum in New York until September 18th then traveling to Berlin, and then to Museu de Arte do Rio, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Rarely has a designer left such a deft mark on a landscape as Roberto Burle Marx did in Rio de Janeiro. I remember gazing down from my hotel, many years ago on the Copacabana shoreline, at the mesmerizing sidewalk he created that serpentines along the shoreline…wondering who created that?

© Hedgecoe/TopFoto/The Image Works

Portrait of Roberto Burle Marx, courtesy of The Jewish Museum, New York, © Hedgecoe/TopFoto/The Image Works

Burle Marx’s art inhabits a rare space between the rational and the lyrical. Nature’s variability was for him a liberating force: in a sixty-year career he designed over two thousand gardens worldwide, discovered close to fifty plant species, advocated passionately for the environment, and made paintings and objects of exuberant, rare beauty. Burle Marx, who called himself  “the poet of his own life,” left the world a poetic legacy. (source: Jewish Museum, NY)

Burle Marx was a true Modernist from the 1930’s. Embracing various media and stylistic modalities: Nature, Industry, Graphics and Color. He created very unique and inviting natural spaces that are as vital today as they were in the 1950’s. He elevated Landscape Architecture to a new level, pushing old vernaculars (European) to fresh ground-eschewing symmetry, and introducing a primeval energy that resonates with jazz and folk art.

Burle Marx was a painter and sculptor; a designer of textiles, jewelry, theater sets, and costumes; a ceramicist and stained-glass artist. Born to a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, Burle Marx’s first landscaping inspirations came while studying painting in Germany, where he often visited the Botanical Garden in Berlin and first learned about Brazil’s native flora.

He gained prominence by collaborating with Brazil’s most prominent artists of the day, specifically the tile artist Cândido Potinari, and Oscar Niemeyer-to design the Pampulha in Rio, in 1942.

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Pampulha Architectural Complex, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, newsinslowportuguese.org

Burle Marx began taking expeditions into the Brazilian rain forest with botanists, landscape architects, architects and other researchers to gather plant specimens.

At least 50 plants bear his name.

His style borrows from Cubism and Abstraction, but his greatest inspiration was: Anti-mimesis, a philosophical position that holds the direct opposite of Aristotelian mimesis. Its most notable proponent was Oscar Wilde, who opined in his 1889 essay The Decay of Lying that, “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.” In the essay, written as a Platonic dialogue, Wilde holds that anti-mimesis, “results not merely from Life’s imitative instinct, but from the fact that the self-conscious aim of Life is to find expression, and that Art offers it certain beautiful forms through which it may realize that energy.”

© Burle Marx Landscape Design Studio, Rio de Janeiro. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved

Victoria Amazonica Water Lilies, Garden of the Fazenda Vargem Grande, Clemente Gomes residence, Areias, 1979

His 1979 plan for the private garden of Fazenda Vargem Grande (Clemente Gomes residence on the grounds of an arid coffee plantation) in Areias highlighted the remarkable and expansive Victoria Amazonica water lilies. Throughout his life, Burle Marx advocated passionately for the environment. To this day, Sítio Roberto Burle Marx, the artist’s former home, preserves his collection of tropical and semitropical plants-one of the largest in the world.

Burle Marx collaborated with the great design minds of his day, including Le Corbusier.

Copyright© Burle Marx Landscape Design Studio, Rio de Janeiro

Roberto Burle Marx with Le Corbusier during a luncheon in the architect’s honor at the home of Burle Marx, 1962, Copyright© Burle Marx Landscape Design Studio, Rio de Janeiro

While studying in Berlin he soaked up Picasso, van Gogh’s elaborate landscapes, and most importantly the German Expressionism movement. Upon returning to Brazil in the 1930’s Burle Marx turned his attention from painting to horticulture. One of his teachers, Lucio Costa, (future designer of Brasília), a modernist architect, secured him a commission to design his first garden. He realized that plants and ink both express art forms.

Burle Marx’s first most prominent design, with Le Corbusier as his advisor, was the Gardens of the Ministry of Education and Health, designed by Costa, with assistance by young Oscar Niemeyer. Here for the first time, he employed only indigenous vegetation, and introduced his hallmark sensuous curves.

Photo: Cesar Barreto

Gardens of the Ministry of Education and Health, designed by Roberto Burle Marx, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Here began Burle Marx’s love for saturated colors. Adopting this pallet, he then created his most memorial project, The Avenida Atlântica along the infamous Copacabana shoreline, in Rio. He created a canvas of extravagance, employing and abstract pattern of quilting white, black and earth-toned paving stones into an undulating wave of a magic public space–like a musical score that became the symbol of Rio and now the 2016 Olympics.

Credit Burle Marx Landscape Design Studio, Rio de Janeiro

Avenida Atlântica, designed in 1970 for the Copacabana shoreline in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

 

 

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Advil on a silver platter…

July 31, 2016

Rick Owens, always Fashion Week fabulous

One of the joys of life these days, and I know I am ultra-privileged, is that my life offers me the opportunity for international travel, with my learned and adventurous spouse, and, oh!, the places we go! I’m in London and Paris each year, and I’m determined to go to a Fashion Week show. The […]

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Josef Sudek – a passionate man: Jeu de Paume

July 10, 2016

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Rarely does a photographer look so inward to create his or her images. In the many years I have viewed photography, I have not been so emotionally moved by the sentiments of a series of images depicting the inner sanctum of a visual artist. The range is extreme here in this retrospective: well hung and […]

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The World is my Oyster ~ artist Ahmed Alrashid

June 26, 2016

ProfileofArtist

  The ‘Global Village’ is a clique. But in the world of design, be it architecture, graphic or product design – it is a global market. Jordan tennis shoes come to mind. Working from the Middle East, based in Kuwait and traveling to Dubai, Ahmed Alrashid, has struck a note that resonates throughout the world, […]

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Gem in the Desert, Museum of Islamic Art ~ Doha, Qatar

April 30, 2016

Night skyline view with Museum in foreground, photograph by Kim Steele

Approaching the cubistic building along a path of luscious palm trees, I knew there was something special inside this Museum. In my travels across the Mid-East, there was an alarming dearth of cultural artifacts. The National Museum in Kuwait City was appalling, and impossible to find, as well. The excuses for cultural artifacts were dark […]

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Saved by Ivana…

March 12, 2016

Trump for TimeMagazine84 1

  From our Boulevardier & Publisher, Kim Steele: I shot a portrait once a week for Time magazine, Business section, in the 1980’s, and hit all the major players, including The Don. Trump was the most difficult, made me wait for hours, hurried me, until Ivana came in and said, “The reason you don’t like […]

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Biggest Scam in the Art World in a Century: Greed shows it’s teeth

March 4, 2016

Charles L. Knoedler (1863–1944), the youngest son of Michael Knoedler, at the gallery's fourth location, a rented brownstone at 170 Fifth Avenue and 22nd in New York, Getty Images photograph

  Forgery is not an offense under the law of Scotland, but here in the U.S. it has caused quite a stir. The distinguished Knoedler Gallery in Manhattan has shuttered it doors after one hundred and fifty years. Knoedler dates its origin to 1846, when French dealers Goupil & Cie opened a branch in New York, as […]

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Coralie Bickford-Smith — A Love Story

February 12, 2016

Designs by Coralie

        The Boulevardiers have a new friend, Coralie Bickford-Smith ~ the book designer.  When you read about Coralie and her magnificent work, if you don’t know Coralie yet, you will be envious of our friendship. Don’t despair, it’s ok to fall in love, read on…!     In Coralie’s words from her […]

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DAVID IRELAND – San Francisco’s Most Famous Art Home

January 17, 2016

David Ireland with Broom Collection (1978)

  The first time I had the honor to walk into the home at 500 Capp Street of the renowned artist in 2001, about whom I knew very little, I realized it was a special place. I was introduced by the Director of Crown Point Press, Valerie Wade, a friend of Ireland. Ireland was elderly […]

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Albertopoulis…the V&A…and an “extremely capacious handbag”

December 25, 2015

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  Happy & Beautiful Holidays to all our Boulevardiers & Readers…thank you for another inspiring year!   The Boulevardiers recently did London, from top to bottom, Shakespeare to the Houses of Parliament, to Bond Street & Saville Row, to museums, many, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, which is really one of the wonders of […]

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MICHAEL HEIZER: The man who moves mountains

October 27, 2015

Michael Heizer on his desert ranch  with Potato Chip
Credit:  Isaac Breeken, New York Times

  THE MOST PROMINENT EARTH SCULPTOR IN THE WORLD, Michael Heizer has experienced a resurgence in his work, as evidenced by his recent exhibition at Gagosian Gallery in New York this summer, which The Boulevardiers had the pleasure of viewing. As a neophyte in art reviewing, just awarded my NEA grant as an ‘emerging critic,’ […]

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When in Milan … Expo 2015

September 19, 2015

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The Boulevardiers have been to EXPO 2015. We were impressed, surprised, entertained, humbled, underwhelmed, treated to a world-class press tour of the Switzerland pavillion, in awe of the Korea pavilion, left with big thoughts, and big questions. Sustainability, the ifs ands and buts are resoundingly evident at EXPO 2015, more here. Does this drive all […]

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Flaming June, and other Pre-Raphaelites

July 19, 2015

Sir Frederic Leighton’s 1895 painting Flaming June. Photograph: Museo de Arte de Ponce

“PAINT the leaves as they grow! If you can paint one leaf, you can paint the world.” John Ruskin The Guardian, Friday, May 1, 2015: A remarkable study for Flaming June, one of the best known of all Pre-Raphaelite paintings, has been discovered hanging discreetly behind a bedroom door in an English country mansion. I […]

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John Heartfield…Abandoned in a field by his parents as a child…

May 29, 2015

Nascido Helmut Herzfeld

  “I lost my parents in 1899 and thereafter lived as an orphan with different families.”   John Heartfield managed to rise to a distinguished career as a graphic designer after a very challenging childhood, founding a publishing house, Malik-Verlag in 1917, with the renowned artist George Grosz, one of this publisher’s favorite artists.  Both […]

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Emancipation & Esteem

May 27, 2015

Juneteenth Flyer Musician

65th Annual SF Juneteenth Celebration Commemorates the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation “The Journey Continues” Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day, Freedom Day, or Emancipation Day, is a holiday in the United States that commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the U.S. state of Texas in June 1865, and more […]

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Save the date: May 9th, 2015 ~ Fondazione Prada

May 8, 2015

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On May 9th Fondazione Prada, Largo Isarco 3, Milano, will be open to the public from 10 am to 9pm.     Once a former distillery, in the industrial south section of Milan–8,900 square meters, it is now the home of the biggest, and arguably, this city’s most exciting contemporary art space. The new location […]

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In the Studio: Photographs

April 11, 2015

Photograph by Constantin Brancusi, 
View of the studio: Plato, Mademoiselle Pogany II, and Golden Bird, c. 1920; © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

  An ambitious exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery on Madison Avenue, curated by Peter Galassi, rustles up many issues. As Roberta Smith quoted in the New York Times: “…trophy-curators. Clout is definitely on display here, contributing to that heady combination of overt excellence and subtle vulgarity that may be something of a Gagosian specialty.” The […]

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“I would rather sleep in a bathroom than in another hotel.” Billy Wilder

March 8, 2015

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    Just In Case The Raphael is Booked                                                      …by Jerry Bowles                                                                         There is nothing quite as deliciously self-indulgent or decadent as a great hotel. Hemingway wasn’t whistling Dixie when he said “Whenever I dream of afterlife in Heaven, the action always takes place at the Paris Ritz.” Papa loved the […]

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William Randolph Hearst ~ Boulevardier of the Year

January 18, 2015

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~~~~~~     WILLIAM RANDOLPH HEARST Don’t be afraid to make a mistake, your readers might like it. ~WRH   One of the most telling descriptions, for better or worse, is the fact that his Senator father, George Hearst, willed his entire fortune upon his death in 1895 to his wife, Phoebe, stating that his […]

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How to be Successful in the Arts 101… Shear Madness

December 31, 2014

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    “I’ll never forget my first words in the theatre. Peanuts. Popcorn.” Henny Youngman     What happens when 2 actors from upstate New York decide to pursue their dreams, buy the rights to a murder-mystery written in German, by Swiss playwright Paul Portner for $50,000, turn it into a comedy, and spend another […]

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Boulevardiering — the verb

December 12, 2014

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  The Boulevardiers are proud of and bemused by the mileage and velocity we are encouraging via our use of the term Boulevardiering (our Twitter name). We are Boulevardiers, indeed Chesterfieldian, flâneurs, fops, walking-stick nuts, so are most of our friends, and garnering that curiosity and energy is the reason we started this publication over […]

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Arnold Newman – Master Class in Portraiture

November 25, 2014

Arnold Newman, Sir Cecil Beaton, photographer and designer, Broadchalke, Salisbury, Wiltshire, England, 1978.

Photography of Photographers   Portraiture is about revelations.  Either for the subject or the artist.  So often in painting, El Greco, or Singer Sargent – exemplified by his most famous portrait, Madam X, the subject is somewhat incidental, especially out of the cultural context of the era.  But in photography, the subject is paramount.  Some […]

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The Era of AREA ~ New York’s most revered club

October 31, 2014

AREA partygoers, from Photos from Area--1983-1987, by Eric Goode and Jennifer Goode, Abrams Books, photograph by

In 1983 a nightclub opened in Manhattan unlike any before it. Minimally named “AREA,” the club would set a new precedent not only in the nightlife world, but also in the art world. More precisely, during its relatively short reign from 1983-1987, AREA represented a heady commingling of these two worlds. While its chronological precedent […]

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“Nothing should be noticed.”

October 12, 2014

Marella Agnelli, Truman Capote, and Bunny Mellon, with unidentified man, lunching at Lafayette the day after Capote's Black and White ball

“I don’t know what I’ve done that has made people so interested in me, more than anyone else.” Imagine being Bunny Mellon. From Listerine heiress, to Paul Mellon’s wife, to designer of the White House Rose Garden, to age 103 and upon her death 1000+ items from her collection donated to the National Gallery of […]

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Elwood Smith – Today’s Dagwood

September 28, 2014

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    Elwood H. Smith is an illustrator who speaks a language that appeals to various strata of readers.  I can remember my father laughing out loud at the comics. I have read The New York Times for thirty-five years, and they deign to include the ‘comics’ for it’s low brow aesthetic.  That is fine […]

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Italy: Non abbastanza monete nella fontana…

September 11, 2014

La Dolce Vita, and the Trevi Fountain

  Non abbastanza monete nella fontana…not enough coins in the fountain! Italy has the highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, currently 75. In a country which bleeds culture, history is an irreplaceable natural resource. We have seen first-hand that Italy is crumbling. To the rescue come some legendary names in fashion […]

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Portrait of a Photographer as a Young Man

August 26, 2014

Self-Portrait, Monument Valley, Utah
1958, Photograph by Ansel Adams, Collection Center for Creative Photography, © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

  ANSEL ADAMS FORMATIVE YEARS     Born at the turn of the century, Adams grew up in the hinterlands of dunes and beaches of the City of San Francisco.  Descending from Maine stock, originally from Northern Ireland, the Adams Family created a niche in the physical and social scene of San Francisco.  Ansel could […]

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Comic CONsciousness

August 10, 2014

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“The great thing about the comics industry is that it’s driven by passion …it isn’t driven by money.” Royden Lepp, graphic novelist, The New York Times, 7/28/14 The New York Times: Armed Animals Don’t Invent Themselves ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Character Creators Fight for Cash and Credit “Like millions of moviegoers over the weekend, Bill […]

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Good Days and Bad Hair Days

July 29, 2014

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  I never knew that April 30th is National Hairstyle Appreciation Day … but that’s another day and a different story. I’ve been thinking about hair, and styles, and reminiscing. The options are numerous, and hysterical, and just plain ridiculous. Some are so bad, they’ve morphed to good, great or even legendary (in their own […]

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CASANOVA: (Catalan or Latin, casa ‘house’ + nova ‘new’) Lover; a man who is a promiscuous and unscrupulous lover

July 12, 2014

Giacomo Girolamo Casanova, painting by 
Alessandro Longhi

    Giacomo Girolamo Casanova: Synonymous with lovemaking charm and persuasion, even since Casanova’s death in 1798, his name evokes and defines the same person to this day. In today’s vernacular, “Womanizing.” Despite his impoverished condition and position at his death in Bohemia, Giacomo Girolamo Casanova’s memoir fetched a stunning figure in 2010 by the Bibliotheque […]

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Fair Cecily, and other fair-weather friends

June 29, 2014

Rex Whistler; Cecil Beaton; Georgia Sitwell; Sir William Turner Walton; Stephen Tennant; Zita Jungman; Teresa Jungman, photograph by Cecil Beaton

  All I want is the best of everything and there’s very little of that left. Never in the history of fashion has so little material been raised so high to reveal so much that needs to be covered so badly. What is elegance? Soap and water! …quotes by Cecil Beaton   I have an […]

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An Ephemeral Awareness — Death and the Coming of War

June 21, 2014

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When we arrived in Lagos, Nigeria, in January, 1966, one of the most unusual thing that we saw were tanks in the streets and soldiers behind sand bags around government buildings.  In the following days we learned that some government officials, senior military leaders and the Sultan of Sokoto had been killed during a coup […]

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Machu Picchu — “The First Tourist”

June 9, 2014

Machu Picchu, prior to excavation

      “The Explorer” by Rudyard Kipling, “Something lost behind the Ranges.  Lost and waiting for you. Go!” The Boulevardiers have been to the mountain, and climbed it. Machu Picchu, the Old Peak…and Huayna Picchu, the New Peak, to be exact. Sources noted below have reviewed its “discovery”. There is no clear and definitive […]

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Black Mountain College ~ America’s Most Creative Art School

May 10, 2014

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The New York Times has titled Black Mountain College as one of “six nodes of progressive culture in America.”  Founded in 1933 by John Andrew Rice,  there were innumerable renowned artists that pasted through these hallowed halls for such a  limited period of existence, including Robert Rauschenberg, Ben Shahn, and Joseph Albers — who brought the […]

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Whitney Biennial ~ a meaningful surfeit

April 14, 2014

There was a time when the Whitney Biennial was the much-anticipated barometer of the state of American art…   Whether praised or reviled, everyone could be counted on to have an opinion. This year, as has been the case for some time, the Biennial is just another blur in the bombardment of art as excess […]

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