Thursday, December 30, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Monday, December 27, 2010
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
T. Renner, "Warszawa," 2010, acrylic on paper, 4" x 6".
"Warszawa" is one of four paintings I did in response to the four lyric-less pieces on David Bowie's album Low. I had been reading Hugo Wilcken's 33 1/3 book on the making of Low and set out to try to capture some of the feeling of the songs.
Posted by Tony Renner at 7:30 AM
Thursday, December 23, 2010
T. Renner, "Art Decade," 2010, acrylic on paper, 4" x 6".
"Art Decade" is one of four paintings I did in response to the four lyric-less pieces on David Bowie's album Low. I had been reading Hugo Wilcken's 33 1/3 book on the making of Low and set out to try to capture some of the feeling of the songs.
Posted by Tony Renner at 7:41 AM
T. Renner, "Subterraneans, 2010, acrylic on paper, 4" x 6".
"Subterraneans" is one of four paintings I did in response to the four lyric-less pieces on David Bowie's album Low. I had been reading Hugo Wilcken's 33 1/3 book on the making of Low and set out to try to capture some of the feeling of the songs.
Posted by Tony Renner at 1:33 AM
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
T. Renner, "Portrait of Don Van Vliet (After Anton Anton Corbijn)," 2010, gouache on paper, 4.25" x 5.5".
Here's Ben Ratliff's article, "Don Van Vliet, ‘Captain Beefheart,’ Dies at 69," in the December 17, 2010, New York Times:
Don Van Vliet, an artist of protean creativity who was known as Captain Beefheart during his days as an influential rock musician and who later led a reclusive life as a painter, died Friday. He was 69 and lived in Trinidad, Calif.
The cause was complications of multiple sclerosis, said Gordon VeneKlasen, a partner at the Michael Werner gallery in New York, where Mr. Van Vliet had shown his art, many of them abstract, colorful oils, since 1985. The gallery said he died in a hospital in Northern California.
Captain Beefheart’s music career stretched from 1966 to 1982, and from straight rhythm and blues by way of the early Rolling Stones to music that sounded like a strange uncle of post-punk. He is probably best known for “Trout Mask Replica,” a double album from 1969 with his Magic Band.
A bolt-from-the-blue collection of precise, careening, surrealist songs with clashing meters, brightly imagistic poetry and raw blues shouting, “Trout Mask Replica” had particular resonance with the punk and new wave generation to come a decade later, influencing bands like Devo, the Residents, Pere Ubu and the Fall.
Mr. Van Vliet’s life story is caked with half-believable tales, some of which he himself spread in Dadaist, elliptical interviews. He claimed he had never read a book and had never been to school, and answered questions with riddles. “We see the moon, don’t we?” he asked in a 1969 interview. “So it’s our eye. Animals see us, don’t they? So we’re their animals.”
The facts, or those most often stated, are that he was born on Jan. 15, 1941, in Glendale, Calif., as Don Vliet. (He added the “Van” in 1965.) His father, Glen, drove a bakery truck.
Don demonstrated artistic talent before the age of 10, especially in sculpture, and at 13 was offered a scholarship to study sculpture in Europe, but his parents forbade him. Concurrently, they moved to the Mojave Desert town of Lancaster, where one of Don’s high school friends was Frank Zappa.
His adopted vocal style came partly from Howlin’ Wolf: a deep, rough-riding moan turned up into swooped falsettos at the end of lines, pinched and bellowing and sounding as if it caused pain.
“When it comes to capturing the feeling of archaic, Delta-style blues,” Robert Palmer of The New York Times wrote in 1982, “he is the only white performer who really gets it right.”
He enrolled at Antelope Valley Junior College to study art in 1959 but dropped out after one semester. By the early 1960s he had started spending time in Cucamonga, Calif., in Zappa’s studio. The two men worked on what was perhaps the first rock opera (still unperformed and unpublished), “I Was a Teenage Maltshop,” and built sets and wrote some of the script for a film to be titled “Captain Beefheart vs. the Grunt People.”
The origins of Mr. Van Vliet’s stage name are unclear, but he told interviewers later in life that he used it because he had “a beef in my heart against this society.”
By 1965 a quintet called Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band (the “his” was later changed to “the”) was born. By the end of the year the band was playing at teenage fairs and car-club dances around Lancaster and signed by A&M Records to record two singles.
The guitarist Ry Cooder, then a young blues fanatic whose skill was much admired by Mr. Van Vliet, served as pro forma musical director for the next record, “Safe as Milk” (1967), which showed the band working on something different: a rhythmically jerky style, with stuttering melodies. The next album, “Strictly Personal” (1968), went even further in the direction of rhythmic originality.
But it was “Trout Mask Replica” that earned Mr. Van Vliet his biggest mark. And it was the making of that album that provided some of the most durable myths about Mr. Van Vliet as an imperious, uncompromising artist.
The musicians lived together in a house in Woodland Hills, in the San Fernando Valley; what money there was for food and rent was supplied by Mr. Van Vliet’s mother, Sue, and the parents of Bill Harkleroad, the band’s guitarist (whom Mr. Van Vliet renamed Zoot Horn Rollo). One persistent myth has it that Mr. Van Vliet, who had no formal ability at any instrument, sat at the piano, turned on tapes and spontaneously composed most of the record in a single marathon eight-and-a-half-hour session.
What really happened, according to later accounts, was that his drummer, John French (whose stage name was Drumbo), transcribed and arranged music as Mr. Van Vliet whistled, sang or played it on the piano, and the band learned the wobbly, intricately arranged songs through Mr. French’s transcriptions.
“Trout Mask” offers solo vocal turns that sound like sea shanties; intricately ordered pieces with two guitars playing dissonant lines; and conversations with Zappa, the record’s producer. But its most recognizable feature is its staccato, perpetually disorienting melodic lines.
Band members’ accounts have described Mr. Van Vliet as tyrannical. (Both Mr. French and Mr. Harkleroad have written memoirs with dark details about this period.)
Mr. Van Vliet’s eccentricity and his skepticism about the music industry had much to do with why his music remained mostly a cult obsession. His band was offered a slot at the Monterey International Pop Music Festival in 1967, but Mr. Cooder had quit a week before, and Mr. Van Vliet was too spooked to perform. In the following years, when the band was at its creative peak, it played relatively few concerts.
The Magic Band’s first records after “Trout Mask Replica,” starting with “Lick My Decals Off, Baby,” had a more mature sound, but by “Clear Spot,” in 1973, the band had turned toward blues-rock. It later made a few ill-conceived concessions to commercialism, and in 1974 the band quit en masse after the critically panned “Unconditionally Guaranteed.”
After a long falling-out, Mr. Van Vliet reunited with his old friend Zappa to tour and make the album “Bongo Fury” in 1975, then assembled a new band to record “Bat Chain Puller,” which was never released because of contractual tie-ups. Parts of it were rerecorded in 1978 for an album released by Warner Brothers, “Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller).”
When his business affairs cleared in the early 1980s, Mr. Van Vliet made two albums for Virgin, “Doc at the Radar Station” and “Ice Cream for Crow,” with a crew of musicians who had idolized him while growing up. The albums were enthusiastically received.
But “Ice Cream for Crow” was his last record; in 1982 he quit music to focus on his painting and moved to Trinidad, near the Oregon border, with his wife, Jan, who is his only survivor.
In the exhibition catalog to a show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the museum director, John Lane, wrote of Mr. Van Vliet’s work, “His paintings — most frequently indeterminate landscapes populated by forms of abstracted animals — are intended to effect psychological, spiritual and magical force.”
Some of the images were a continuation of his songwriting concerns, especially those involving animals. A lot of his work dwells on the beauty of animals, on animals acting like humans and even on humans turning into animals. In “Wild Life,” he sang, “I’m gonna go up on the mountain and look for bears,” and in “Grow Fins,” an extraordinary blues from the album “The Spotlight Kid” (1972), he threatened a girlfriend that if she didn’t love him better he would turn into a sea creature.
Mr. Van Vliet had rarely been seen since the early 1990s and seldom at his gallery openings.
“I don’t like getting out when I could be painting,” he told The Associated Press in 1991. “And when I’m painting, I don’t want anybody else around.”
Posted by Tony Renner at 12:54 AM
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Friday, December 3, 2010
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
T. Renner, "Homage to Mel Cheren," 2010, acrylic on paper, 4" x 6".
Here's some information about Mel Cheren from the painter Michael Davidson:
Another album cover painting that piqued my curiosity is featured on Archie Shepp’s Fire Music (1965). After inconclusive polling of the “experts” and unanswered industry inquiries, I gave up and bought the damned thing. I discovered that it is a painting by Mel Cheren. The “who?” lead me further, and as I discovered that Cheren continues to paint, but in the 1960s worked for ABC-Paramount and Dunhill Records before starting his own disco label in the 1970s. He now manages a small hotel in Chelsea and continues to work as a gay rights advocate and activist. Cheren is not encoded in the canonical history of art, not even that of a regional, New York history, but like the [Ornette] Coleman's painting [The Art of the Improvisers], created a still-useful sign that is kept alive — owes its freedom of expression — as long as the Shepp record is in production.
And here's Mel Cheren's obitutary from the New York Sun, December 11, 2007:
Mel Cheren, who died Friday at 74, was a founder of West End Records, a spearhead of disco from the mid-1970s.
As a producer for another label, Scepter Records, Cheren was credited by Billboard magazine with inventing the 12-inch single and the purely instrumental b-side, which allowed a DJ to extend a dance song infinitely.
At West End Records, which he co-founded in 1976, Cheren released some of the formative singles of the disco era, including "Hot Shot" by Karen Young and Raw Silk's "Do It To the Music." He also backed a memorable nightclub, the Paradise Garage, where disco dreams played out in the fabulous late 1970s and early 1980s. A 2006 documentary about Cheren's role in the music's early days was titled, "The Godfather of Disco."
All too notoriously, the predominantly gay social scene of early disco burned out in the face of the AIDS epidemic. Cheren became a leader in that cause as well, holding the first fund-raisers and donating the first office space to the Gay Men's Health Crisis in his Chelsea brownstone, a renovated SRO. After GMHC outgrew those quarters, Cheren converted the brownstone into a gay-oriented bed-and-breakfast, the Colonial House Inn.
Born January 21, 1933, in Everett, Mass., and raised in nearby Revere, Cheren got his first job in the record industry at ABC-Paramount Records, where he rose to head of production. Hot acts on the label included Paul Anka and B.B. King, but Cheren left when ABC-Paramount moved to Los Angeles, in 1970. At Scepter, he pioneered long-playing "danceable R&B" formats, and shepherded early disco hits including "Do It 'Til You're Satisfied" by B.T. Express. Scepter folded in 1976, and Cheren and another Scepter executive, Ed Kushins, founded West End Records. The label's first release was a long-playing disco version of an Italian film score title track, "Sessamato," famously used as the first record scratched by GrandMaster Flash. There were other connections to the later hip hop styles, including Taana Gardner's "Heartbeat," a West End hit that has become one of the most sampled tracks.
In 1977, Cheren and his companion, Michael Brody, opened the Paradise Garage, a seminal nightclub on King Street in the West Village in a former parking garage — a ramp led up to the dance floor. Smoke machines and music videos lurked in the corners and one of the most sophisticated sound systems in the city pumped out DJ Larry Levan's selections. As it was a private club and sold no alcohol, the dancing could continue far into the night, sometimes even until noon the next day. The endless throbbing at Paradise Garage is often cited as a precursor to house music and similar modern styles. Despite the onset of AIDS and the "death to disco" or "disco sucks" movement of the early 1980s, the Paradise Garage managed to stay open until 1987. Today it is again a garage.
Cheren first opened his home for GMHC's offices from the organization's founding in 1982, and sponsored its first fund-raiser, at the Paradise Garage. He remained involved, and last January celebrated his 74th birthday as a GMHC benefit. He was also an important benefactor to music industry AIDS charities, including 24 Hours for Life and Lifebeat.
An accomplished painter, Cheren's art was featured on the covers of ten albums, including John Lee Hooker's "Urban Blues" and Sonny Rollins's "East Broadway Run Down." Other paintings, many lit by black lights to bring out the fluorescent paint, lined the halls of his B&B, which remains open.
In 2000, Cheren published a memoir, "My Life and the Paradise Garage:Keep on Dancin': " In the book's prologue, he wrote, "This is a story of my gay generation, the world we built, and the world we lost."
He died of complications of AIDS.
Posted by Tony Renner at 8:13 AM