Howard Hampton

  • Nice Work If You Can Get It

    A riddle: What’s made of mink-coated totems, toothpaste Lolitas, Thunderbirds, middlebrow colas, Kotex napkins, and Versace decadence? Answer: Avedon Advertising (Abrams, $125), a three-hundred-and-fifty-page collection of wall-to-wall, in-your-face ads—a dizzying exercise in optic overload. Richard Avedon’s impossibly long-running, far-ranging advertising work—created alongside his fashion and portrait photography—amounted to a sixty-year-long research project. How many forms of mild contradiction could he juggle inside a strictly commercial picture? How many suave anomalies could fit in an

  • Andrey Tarkovsky, Life and Work: Film by Film, Stills, Polaroids & Writings

    THE SPIRITUAL AND AESTHETIC DIMENSIONS of Andrey Tarkovsky’s cinematic universe might easily produce a daunting tome with the heft of a life-size, ready-to-bear cross. Yet Andrey Tarkovsky: Life and Work succeeds in compressing the late Russian director’s monumental legacy into portable form—a slender volume a pilgrim could easily slip into a backpack. The book succeeds in distilling Tarkovsky’s sound-and-visionary, contrarian essence with an approach that is at once capacious and compact: It’s more imagistic gospel than catalogue, more consecrated poetry than academic contextualization.

  • Eye and I

    Imagine Manny Farber’s double career—unparalleled vernacular-modernist movie critic and tenaciously evocative, obliquely iconographic painter—as a board game. Dub it Polyopoly, an incessantly self-revising, once-upon-a-time-in-America contest of chance, mental play, and adventure. Like the kindred gamesmanship of filmmaker-photographer-writer Chris Marker, Farber’s output remains elusive: It’s hard to tell whether he was so far ahead of his time he overshot it or so far behind he caught up with it on the rebound.

    The intricate sprawl of Farber’s pictures wasn’t coded autobiography but homebrewed

  • Holy Waters

    Like Jayne Mansfield in The Girl Can’t Help It, John Waters arrives with ample mystique preceding him. His inflammatory post-Warhol oeuvre now elicits de rigueur hosannas, and it endures precisely because it boldly went beneath—and beyond—anywhere Pop, camp, conceptual art, or Valley of the Dolls had gone before. Waters synthesized gloriously impure conceptual trash: Sins of the Fleshapoids, dreamy Jean Genet, sassy Paul Lynde, the Chelsea Girls, et al.

    The sleazeballsiness of Pink Flamingos (1972) has assumed canonical stature, and Waters’s comrade-in-harm Divine has achieved the posthumous,

  • Hardy Boy

    Landing in the cratered, tawdry New York City of the 1970s, Duncan Hannah was a distracted art student who became a fitfully aspiring painter-illustrator. Before maturing into the stylish throwback artist he is today—the Evelyn Waugh of painting, beautifully reimagining Bridesheads past and bygone movie stars—he cut a resplendently androgynous figure on the CBGB scene, as both a born bon vivant and a straight sex object who wouldn’t give his gay patrons a tumble. (“A cocktease,” grumped his disgruntled harassers, who were legion.) At one point, he thought of calling this book Cautionary Tales

  • Roxy Muses

    In the jet-set portrait extravaganza Slim Aarons: Women, the captions home in on a subject's status like surface-to-air missiles:

    Mrs. A. Atwater Kent Jr. (the former Hope Hewlett Parkhurst) at H. Loy Anderson's pool, Palm Beach, circa 1955. A. Atwater Kent, her father-in-law, was the inventor who pioneered the home radio.

    Lady Daphne Cameron sits on a tiger pelt in the trophy room of Laddie Sanford's Palm Beach house, 1959.

    The first lady of the Philippines, Imelda Romuáldez

  • Sensei of Wonder

    Always considered an art form on the outskirts, magic sits at the crossroads of entertainment, pseudo-miracle, sophisticated prank, and con game. The word magician may have once borne connotations of the magi, secret knowledge, and supernatural feats, but now it abides at the junction of Vegas lounge acts, tiny gatherings of semi-legitimate hobbyists-cum-cardsharps, and the sort of dubious, handkerchief-dabbing gentlemen of no fixed address for whom confidence modifies trickster as surely as night follows the day.

    But let’s now raise the stakes, complicating this velvet paint-by-numbers picture

  • Dreg King

    You have to hand it to Michael Peppiatt’s Francis Bacon in Your Blood: That acute title calls up an entire juicy slice—slab?—of modernist antiquity. Emerging from London’s queer-Dickensian gutter like a pestilent hedgehog from an air-raid shelter (or sewer, his detractors said), Bacon saturated the starched fabric of English art with images of, in the words of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, “Blood, Devastation, Death, War, and Horror.” (In other words: What’s not to love?) Say what you want about the man—crown him first runner-up to Picasso in the artistic Mr. Universe pageant of the twentieth

  • politics October 07, 2015

    Design for Living Dangerously: On the Situationist Text 'Mémoires'

    The sun is shining, angry birds are tweeting, bees are dropping like flies: ’Tis a good day for a picnic in the graveyard of honor and humanity. Let us go and pay our disrespects at the tomb of 1959. A bygone age, suffused with the cologne of the quaint. Underneath lies an anarchic spirit waiting to be born again. Or snuffed out once and for all. The spirit in question can be summed up in a saying Graham Greene once procured from Gauguin: “Life being what it is, one dreams of revenge.”

    This idea was given its funniest, most wraithlike expression within Guy Debord and Asger Jorn’s short,

  • No Problem

    JUMPING INTO THIS VOLUME, an expanded exhibition catalogue covering the give-and-take between the Cologne and New York art scenes in the late 1980s, is like touring sister ghost towns. Beneath the curated relics and cultivated dust bunnies loiters a vibrant, unwholesome, and hazardous synergy, crawling with devil-may-care specters. Have zeitgeist, will travel, this compact but hefty coffee-table book promises: an exchange program from an overcaffeinated period when “yuppie scum” meant a target instead of a target demographic. No Problem showcases artists like Martin Kippenberger, Cindy Sherman,

  • A Slit in Time

    In 1976, Viv Albertine was a twenty-two-year-old Brit punk looking to shock and awe the general populace: “I walk around in little girls’ party dresses, hems slashed and ragged, armholes torn open to make them bigger, the waistline up under my chest. . . . Pippi Longstocking meets Barbarella meets juvenile delinquent. Men look at me and they are confused, they don’t know whether they want to fuck me or kill me. This sartorial ensemble really messes with their heads. Good.”

    A year earlier she had been just another halfway-disaffected girl in art school dreaming of a way out of an aimless,

  • Swamp Thing

    Early in Noah Isenberg’s biography of the legendary filmmaker Edgar G. Ulmer—ultimate auteur of the desperate, no-budget, seventy-minute feature, the proverbial Eisenstein of Poverty Row—the author plucks the phrase “fever swamp” from one of the director’s later efforts, a purple western called The Naked Dawn (1955). The farther Isenberg dives into the blissfully cursed recesses of that swamp, the more Ulmer’s career seems like a perverse figment of a cigar-chomping imp’s imagination. It might have sprung fully deformed from an unproduced Coen brothers script (The Amazing Transparent Director