Advisable or not, I’ve created a new section in my Etsy store where I’ll be posting vintage photographs, prints and other kinds of “what-have-you” that might be charitably called art. Right now, I’m mining my inventory of mostly 19th-century photographs that I have collected over the years. Since I live in a tiny 50’s ranch, there’s not as much wall space as I would need to exhibit them properly. So I think it’s time to share. It’s difficult to part with antique photos, even if you never do get to clap eyes on ’em. Somehow it feels like you’re disposing of the dead. But perhaps it’s even better karma to put these faces into circulation.
My favorite found object caused me a lot of speculation and confusion, but I still love it to this day. While writing a dissertation on the “flaneur” or urban stroller, I was well-immersed in the art and literature of the picturesque landscape-you know, the bucolic painter or writer who gazes in the distance and freeze-frames the scene. There was a long tradition that became even more fervent as industry started to encroach on the countryside. For example, while Rousseau waxes ecstatic about the pleasures of botanization, he interrupts his poetic speech when he hears a recurrent clicking sound. This turns out to be a stocking factory humming busily in a clearing. Oh well.
At any rate, these stories had been on my mind although I embarqued on the more Surrealist quest to find baffling found objects in the flea market, on this day, Vanves. I was near finished, a bit discouraged because most of the vendors that day were flogging overpriced trash and there were few cheap thrills to be found. But then I spotted a large 19th-century print in ragged condition on a ragged blanket. The landscape artist was priced even less than I would hope.
I feigned boredom and quickly paid up. Then, after moving further away to examine the loot, I saw the signature-NADAR-and near swooned. This was a providential piece of luck. I imagined the worth of my prized found object, but could also scarcely imagine parting with it.
I’m also hardly a sucker for this things. I was skeptical, sure. But it didn’t look like a cheap poster, even a vintage one. The backing was old and slighly moldy. It had been made well and preserved competently, at least for a while in its history.
When I set out to verify I got acquainted with the commercial antique world and consulted a number of experts. Most hemmed and hawed. The signature was exact. Nadar’s writing was notable for even a few laymen. He had been such a showman that his flourish in everything he did was legendary.
Finally, however, I found a photography expert in the Marais who delivered the blow with a fair degree of admiration for what it was. It was not real. But the counterfitter had gone through a large amount of trouble and expense to photograph the photograph with the best equipment of his time. The image was blurred in the places that pointed to picture of a picture. And it was backed and blown up with care. The signature forgery was expert, perhaps a bit too dark and the ink too thick. But still a masterpiece.
I was not overly disillusioned at my loss of the great lifetime find. In fact, the reversal made my object all the more worth cherishing.
Nadar was obsessed with all kinds of technical derring do in photography-aerial shots, portraits of difficult divas, you name it. He was an afficionado of urbanism yet made his country painter a significant subject. An anachronism that was appealing enough to counterfeit for a city customer.
The moral of the story has something to do with the counterfeit nature of nostalgia.
Waiting for a dangerous thunderstorm while groovin’ to the work of Chris Held and his concept of the hacked object. It would quicken the heartbeat of any resurrected Dadaist, but his work goes a step further since it not only creates a montage, it creates a strange yet newly functional object. Do check it out. It’s got me to rethinking some of the lesser-loved junk I have in the household.
Perhaps thingbox should start a section of upcycling supplies?
From the blog, Junkculture, which is a blog I will be following loyally from now on:
Every retail establishment needs a theme, doesn’t it? And “thingbox” and “thinghotel” find inspiration in the work of Joseph Cornell, a man whose life is proof that scavenging for joyful objects is not an utter waste of time.
My favorite part of this brief bio, written by the dealer Joseph Feigen of E. 69th St. NYC:
“Like the French Surrealists, Cornell’s work relied on the concept of irrational juxtaposition as it forayed into the realm of both Pop and installation/ conceptual art. His varied series of boxes centered around succinct, albeit vague titles from “Bird” to “Observatory,” and “Hotel.” Cornell, despite or because of his shyness, maintained endearing infatuations with Hollywood starlets including Lauren Bacall, even going to far as to send boxes dedicated to them. Other influences included Stéphane Mallarmé and Gérard de Nerval as well as dancers Marie Taglioni and Fanny Cerrito.”
Irrational juxtaposition is a great practice to strive for. I often imagine the creative impulse to be an act of pouring the kids’ sorry toy baskets on the floor and figuring out what to build with all that junk. This is where the cheap and broken McDonald’s jewjaw begs for kinship with the exquisite educational toy. The boy often joins forces with his friend to oblige the yearning objects and I am usually pleased with the results. For awhile.
Another visionary part of Cornell’s psyche is also apparent from the list of his admirees-Anyone who idolizes Lauren Bacall plus Stephan Mallarme and Nerval is genius. No doubt about it.
Here is the bio in its entirety:
This review of artists Nikki Wynnychuk and Maggie Madden at the Dublin City Hall Lab Space push all my buttons in a very favorable way. MM’s work especially intrigues since the scale is miniscule-not easy with found objects:
“There’s a metaphoric richness to the way the same principle applies through a range of scales in her work. Her pieces refer us to systems and networks of many kinds, from tiny organisms, say, to the vast infrastructure of transport and communications in modern cities. Running through everything is a sense of the underlying precariousness of systems and processes. Some of her most breathtaking pieces are tiny and scarcely visible from any distance, particularly the intricate geometric constructions of coloured fibre optic strands. ”
It’s nice that she integrates updated materials such as fiber optic cable into her work, which is a nice update from the “classical” stuff put together in the Dada days.
More on this exhibit:
Kitsch but in that old-world charming kind of way, rather than in the Jeff Koons in-your-face kind of way. Sentimental. Tiny cars in the background vouch for the vintage nature of the box. The sky is always blue in Paris souvenirs.