Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Books: The House Of Habsburg By John Abbott

(Drivebycuriosity) - Do you like "Game of Thrones", the violent & bloody fictional medieval struggle about power? Then you might enjoy, the real thing: The House of Habsburg" by John Abbott (amazon). This non-fiction book describes the history of a family who ruled most of Europe for centuries. History is much more violent and gory than fiction.

The Habsburg story starts around the 13th century. Like in the fictional "Game" the world is ruled by ruthless & murderous men and the most ruthless rules them all were the Habsburg. So they could acquire and control Austria, Hungary, Spain and many other kingdoms & duchies - and many of the Habsburgs became emperors of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. The books is filled with intrigues, assassinations, bloody revenges & murder.

Referring to the year 1492 Abbot writes: "In those dark days of violence and of blood, every petty quarrel was settled by sword. All over Germany the clash of steel against steel was ever resounding. Not only kings and dukes engaged in wars, but the most insignificant baron would gather his few retainers around him and declare formal war against the occupant of the adjacent castle. The spirit of chivalry, so called, was so rampant that individuals would send a challenge to the emperor".

And: "The Lord of Praunstein declared war against the city of Frankfurt, because a young lady of that city refused to dance with his uncle at a ball."

There was a sheer endless row of wars, inflamed by ruthless princes who behaved like highway robbers. I was surprised how irrational, superstitious & hypocrites many of the Habsburg emperors & kings behaved. The celebrated Maria Theresia, who gave birth to 16 children, was no exception. Her offspring was just currency in her quest for power.

I learned that life for an ordinary person in these time was just misery and that people were just worthless pawns in the bloody games of kings, dukes, bishops and other so-called nobles.

Abbott wrote the book in the early 19th century, therefore the book ends around 1792. The author had a peculiar style, which is sometimes amusing and he clearly showed his dislike of all the predators who had controlled the world. I learned a lot from this book, especially how much the world has changed over the centuries. At the time of writing the kindle version costs just 99 cents. Buy and read it!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Contemporary Art: Celebrating David Hockney @ Metropolitan Museum New York

(Drivebycuriosity) - David Hockney belongs to the most influential contemporary artists. His delightful paintings are unique and a pleasure to see. I was pleased that New York`s majestic Metropolitan  Museum of Art had Hockney retrospective and displayed most of his most iconic works from  1960s to the present (metmuseum ).

The curators claim: "The exhibition offers a grand overview of the artist's achievements across all media, including painting, drawing, photography, and video. From his early experiments with modernist abstraction and mid-career experiments with illusion and realism, to his most recent, jewel-toned landscapes, Hockney has consistently explored the nature of perception and representation with both intellectual rigor and sheer delight in the act of looking".

Obviously many shared my interest. As you can see in these images the show attracted quite a crowd.  And watching the crowd was part of the fun. Btw the February day was unusually warm, the mercury column climbed to 28 F (25 C ) on a February day. Some where already in summery mode.

The people above this paragraph are inspecting "American Collectors (Fred and Maria Weisman)" (1968, Acrylic on canvas). There is a funny story behind it. The curators explain: "The double portrait resulted from art collector Marica Weisman`s request that Hockney paint her then-husband. Hockney disliked commissions but offered to paint both of them, as he was interested in their relationship. They are carefully posed as the works in their collection. A totem pole from the Pacific Northwest stands far right (Hockney emphasized its slight resemblance to Mrs. Weisman - one of the reasons, perhaps, that she refused to hang the finished portrait).

The following painting is called "Man in Shower in Beverly Hills" (1964, acrylic on canvas). Hockney used a photograph which he had got from Bob Mizer, the publisher of the Athletic Model Guild. The third painting in this row - "The Room, Tarzana" (1967, Acrylic on canvas) - got a lot attention.  It shows the artist´s lover Peter Schlesinger, a young art student then. Critics compared this work to the eroticized odalisques of the French painter Francois Boucher (1703-1770).

                                                   Boys & Swimming Pools

Hockney was born in rainy West Yorkshire (England) but he moved to sunny Los Angeles in the late 1960 apparently attracted by weather and light and inspired by his interest in boys and swimming pools. The girl on the top of this paragraph observes "A Bigger Splash" (1967, Acrylic on canvas). It took Hockney nearly two weeks to finish just the flash. The curators call the image "One of the most iconic depictions of a certain upscale Californian lifestyle".

The next painting is called "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures" (1972,  Acrylic on canvas) followed by "Pool and Steps, Le Nid di Duo" (1971, Acrylic on canvas) which show`s a part  of movie director Tony Richardson`s hilltop estate Le Nid di Duo (Owl`s Nest) near Saint-Tropes in South France. The image below that is named "Gregory Swimming Los Angeles March 31st 1982" (Composite Polaroid), then follows the terrace to his home in Los Angeles, which almost looks like a pool.

In the recent years Hockney discovered his interest in landscapes & abstracts.

Hockney`s portraits are a reference his mastery. Above "Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy" (1970-71, Acrylic on canvas). These were "dear friends" of the artist, talented designers and fixture of the London scene. It took almost nine months to complete the painting!

The work is followed by the portrait  "Henry Geldzahler and Chrisopther Scott" (1968-69, Acrylic on canvas). The painting shows Henry Geldzahler, another dear friend and curator at the Metropolitan Museum and his lover, the artist Christopher Scott, in their New York Seventh Avenue Apartment. Hockney incorporated some psychological tensions. While Geldzahler sits in the center (on a very pink and soft couch) , Scott stands at right wearing a trench coat, as if he has just entered or is about to depart.

The last painting in this row is "Christopher Isherwood and Don Barchardy" (1968, Acrylic on canvas).

I indulge into the use of colors & light in these paintings, especially in the combination of warm yellow & red with the cold blue in the image on the bottom. And the cat`s fur is shining as well as  Barchardy`s skirt.


Friday, February 23, 2018

Science Fiction: The Dark Forrest By Cixin Liu

(Drivebycuriosity) - I just finished reading "The Dark Forrest", the second part of the "Three Body Problem" trilogy by the Chinese author Cixin Liu (amazon). As usual this post doesn`t have spoilers, but I presume that you have read the first book and I need to refer to it.

We learned in the first book that humans have to prepare for the invasion of aliens with a superior technology which is supposed to happen in about 400 years. The invaders use particle physics and quantum mechanic effects to block science on earth and to observe humans, which puts them into a deadlock.

In book 2 the author describes how the world is responding to the thread and how humankind is changing under the pressure. The books has basically 2 parts. The first part (about 60%) happens somewhat in the presence, the second about 200 years later. Many who lived in the first part are still around thanks to hibernation.

I found the first part tedious and disappointing. Humankind tries to develop elaborated strategies against the space invaders which causes conflicts between the followers of different philosophies. Cixin`s narration of these developments are too extensive for my taste. I like the second part much better and found the described technological, political & social advances interesting and plausible. The plot gains speed and develops into a wild space odyssey and into a roller coaster on a grand scale. There the author unfolds again his huge imagination and sparks fireworks of scientific founded ideas.

Even though book 2 is not as outstanding as the first one I am looking forward to read the third part of the trilogy: Death`s End". .

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Contemporary Art: Chelsea`s Galleries Are Always Worth A Visit

(Drivebycuriosity) - I love contemporary art. Therefore I visit frequently art galleries. Manhattan`s classy Chelsea district is always worth a visit. On my recent foray there I spotted awesome works by the Chinese artist Zhang Enli (here my report) and some still lifes by Tom Wesselman (driveby ). But there was much more to discover.

Above some paintings I found @ Unix Gallery (523 W. 24th Street New York unixgallery ). On top of this post you can see "As Tres Amigas" by Os Gemeos (detail, 2008, Acrylic and spray paint on panel, 96 x 96 x 5 in | 244 x 244 x 13 cm) followed by Ellen de Meijer`s "Face Book" (2015, Oil on Canvas, 78 x 40 in,  200 x 100 cm); Justin Bower`s "Tabula Rasa" (2015, Oil on canvas, 7 x 6 ft | 2.1 x 1.8 m) & a painting by KwangHo Shin.

Above this paragraph images from Klein Sun Gallery (525 West 22nd Street, New York
kleinsungallery ). It seems that all these works are created by contemporary Chinese artists

Above and below images from gallery Danese/Corey (511 West 22nd Street New York danesecorey ) starting with April Gornik`s "Approaching Night" (2001, oil on linen) and his "Creation Storm" (2017, oil on linen).

 Above "Kumming" by Matthias Meyer (2014, oil on canvas) & "Seascape" by Elise Ansel (2017, oil on linen).

Above "22:00" by Dozier Bell (acrylic on panel) & "Zweige" by Matthias Meyer (2013, oil on canvas).

To be continued

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Economics: Will Saudi Arabia`s Oil Strategy Cause A New Recession?

(Drivebycuriosity) - The US economy seems to be in a good shape. But there is a growing danger - the climbing oil price. Oil is getting more expensive because there is more demand thanks to a stronger global economic growth. The oil price rally is also fueled by many hedge funds who are betting on climbing oil prices and are buying futures on the financial markets. But the main culprit is Saudi Arabia and their OPEC gang, who have reduced oil production in order to achieve higher prices.

"Thanks to OPEC-led production cuts, crude prices are double their level two years ago", writes Bloomberg  (bloomberg). And Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih wants to go even further. According to Bloomberg he declares that the oil producers should keep cutting for the whole year, even if it causes a small supply shortage, Al-Falih said. “If we have to overbalance the market a little bit, then so be it,” he told reporters in Riyadh last week (opec).

Unfortunately the US economy is very sensitive to oil prices. It seems that the Americans are addicted to driving and gasoline consume. In January the US retail sales already dropped because Americans spend more money on the gas pumps and bought less other goods & services. If the oil price rises to fast and too high the damage could get worse.

                                               Nine Out Of Ten  Recessions

Nine out of ten of the U.S. recessions since World War II were preceded by a spike up in oil prices, writes Prof. James D. Hamilton, University of California, San Diego ( pdf econweb). Another study by Prof.  Hamilton shows that the oil price shock from 2008 - from summer 2007 through July 2008 the oil price spiraled from about $50 to $147 -  turned the economic slowdown into a severe recession (econbrowser).: "The oil price increase over 2007:H2-2008:H1 should be regarded as a key development that turned the slowdown in growth into a recession" (archives).

Other researchers came to the same results: "Oil prices played a role in eventually bursting the US subprime bubble....In 2003, the average suburban household spent $1,422 a year on gasoline, which rose to $3,196 in 2008 (oilprice). "Rising household energy prices constrained household budgets and increased mortgage delinquency rates" (oilprice). Low income suburban homeowners suffered most from the rising gas prices.  Poor homeowners are called "subprime" and their delinquencies are known as "subprime crisis."

We are still far away from the danger zone, which certainly hovers above $100. But history also shows that oil price rallies attract speculators, including hedge funds, who purchase oil futures on the financial markets as a bet on further price gains, the so-called momentum players. Their herding behavior causes snow ball effects like the oil price spike of 2008.

But there is hope. The US oil production is rising - thanks to fracking (cnbc). There is a chance that the US oil production is able to compensate the reckless strategy of the Saudis and their OPEC gang and avoid the next oil crisis.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Contemporary Art: Zhang Enli`s Garden @ Hauser & Wirth New York

(Drivebycuriosity) - I am fascinated by the rise of China. The country is gaining back the global role she once owned. A population of about 1,3 billion people is a huge base for any kind of talent. No wonder that Chinese artists are getting more & important and are gaining more importance in the global art word. I try to see as much Chines art work as possible.

The gallery Hauser & Wirth has now a show with works by Zhang Enli, who lives and works in Shanghai: "The Garden" (548 W 22nd Street New York through 7 Apr 2018 hauserwirth). The artist focuses on the familiar and often overlooked everyday objects and environments he encounters on a daily basis, viewed from a unique perspective (wikipedia). The curators explain: "For the paintings on view in ‘The Garden,’ Zhang Enli has drawn inspiration from the gardens that populate the industrialized cityscape of Shanghai, articulating his impressions of their organic forms through expansive, immersive paintings that envelop viewers in an uncanny sense of recognition" (exhibitions). Anyway, the large paintings are awesome.

On top of this post you can see "The Garden" (2017, Oil on canvas, 250 x 300 cm / 98 3/8 x 118 1/8 in) followed by a detail shot.

I also enjoy the color composition in the painting above, it looks like a glance into a tropical jungle.

The red/green painting is called "The Gold Arowana" (2017, Oil on canvas, 250 x 250 cm / 98 3/8 x 98 3/8 in). So beautiful. I don`t know the name of the other painting.

The green painting is called  "The Parrot's Wings" (2017, Oil on canvas, 200 x 180 cm / 78 3/4 x 70 7/8 in) 

Above "Grey Parrot" (2017, Oil on canvas, 250 x 200 cm / 98 3/8 x 78 3/4 in).

Stay tuned.