24 November, 2010

24 Nov - Hubert's Museum + Diane Arbus

LAUNCHPROJECTS - I found myself engaged in a bizarre and fascinating conversation while visiting a friend's law firm this week. One of the law partners began to describe an experience in the 1960's at Hubert's Museum in New York City involving well heeled audiences, poisoned darts, and a man called Voodoo Jungle Snake Dancer. A living "museum of freaks," Hubert's was established in the 1930's in the basement of what was then an extraordinarily unsavory Times Square. Retired circus performers and all manner of misfits performed, danced, and showed their freakiness to paying crowds. They swallowed fire, shot darts at the audience, wrestled snakes, directed Flea Circus', and strutted in drag. Hubert's closed its doors in 1965 but, to quote Jerry Eberle of Booklist, "Hubert’s seedy past remains culturally significant because it offers a peephole view of a less-sanitized America. Also, it was one significant artist’s portal and first foray into the world of freaks—photographer Diane Arbus".

In 2003, a rare bookseller came across a trove of "lost" photographs by Diane Arbus shot at Huberts in the 60's. With a bit of research I found the book Hubert's Freaks: The Rare-Book Dealer, the Times Square Talker, and the Lost Photos of Diane Arbus. The book relays the true story of this man's discovery of the photographs, his quest for authentication by Arbus’ estate and auction houses, and his simultaneous descent into madness and institutionalization.

After reading the unhinged and bizarre details of Arbus' life in Patricia Bosworth's Diane Arbus: A Biography I am eager to know more about Hubert's Museum and Diane Arbus' close relationship to its performers. Hubert's Museum was the physical manifestation of an intriguing and complex artistic underbelly of mid-twentieth century New York that captivated Arbus throughout her life and prolific career. Hubert's was a venue that celebrated the deviant and marginalized, "a mecca for millions, from the high-toned, tuxedoed Broadway theatre crowds of the 1920's and 30's ... and immortalized by A.J. Liebling, Joseph Mitchell, Diane Arbus, Lenny Bruce, Tiny Tim, Andy Kaufman and many others, Hubert's was a worldonto itself" (taken from Hubert's website).

22 November, 2010

22 November - Robert Motherwell: Open

LAUNCHPROJECTS - Robert Motherwell, who died in 1991, was the youngest member of the Abstract Expressionists who also included Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and Barnett Newman. Robert Motherwell: Open, released this past April, is the first extensive examination of Motherwell's Open series. Motherwell began this series in 1967 and continued it throughout his life.

The Open paintings are fields of color marked with faint charcoal lines that seem to indicated a door or a window. These paintings are utterly pared down and minimal, and a significant rupture from his Elegies series, for which he is probably best known. This book contains previously unpublished paintings as well as works in public collections, this monograph--the most comprehensive and best-illustrated book on Motherwell currently in print is a gorgeous collection of some of Motherwell's most compelling and enigmatic pictures.