Friday, July 04, 2008

I've always loved Victor Hugo as a writer, the well-known works yes, but particularly a couple of lesser known novels, "l'Homme Qui Rit" (The Man Who Laughs) and "Quatrevingt-Treize" (Ninety-Three). But when I've come across them, I've also been amazed and fascinated by his drawings. Hadn't thought about them for a while before arbogast went and posted the striking ink drawing of a gallows, so I went a-googling.

Delacroix reportedly told Hugo that had he devoted his career to the visual arts, he would have been one of the century's greatest; maybe so. He combines a kind of gothic romanticism with an amazing degree of abstraction--these are from the 1850s to 1870s. There was a certain amount of tradition, even among academic painters, to be fairly loose and abstract in their studies for finished paintings--there are some by as polished a painter as Bouguereau that would surprise many. But even as you get a sense that they're tempted in that direction, few seemed to really relish and investigate the area for its own virtues as Hugo. I'm sure there are others, but the only roughly contemporary painter I can think of who explored this proto-abstract area seriously (and, again, pretty much only in drawings and watercolor sketches) was Gustave Moreau. I guess you could make a case for Turner as well.

Anyway, here are a few:


Picked up yesterday:

Morton Feldman - The Viola in My Life (ECM)
(Various) Drums, Chants & Instrumental Music of West Africa (Nonesuch)
(Various) Witchcraft & Ritual Music of East Africa (Nonesuch)
Fela - Zombie


Murray Bookchin - The Ecology of Freedom

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