Sunday, May 17, 2015

Aesthetic Ontogenesis of this Author

To decline from social-history and ethos, to the subjective history of the self and the self’s aesthetic compulsions, that is, myself, this legacy of the popular art-forms of my childhood, long spurned in search of literature high and philosophy sophisticated, when re-entreated now, lets rush an anamnesis which colors me with the vague imagery of my childhood head, or of Proust’s olfactory instance triggering memory.*

To behold Warren publications issues of Comix International devoted to emerging underground cartoonist Richard Corben, will place me at my earliest self-conscious memory. I will sharply feel the impact of a montage of disturbing imagery with sexual underpinnings, and the light of day is the sunny seventies which is the congenital world in which I came to comprehend! The esthete has not much of a credible position in the current theoretical dispositions in the fine-arts, nevertheless, my proposed ontogenesis requires a firm basis in perception, aisthesis, and so if we look about for a framework within which to consider the esthete, I can think of none more specific than the first half of Kierkegaard’s Either/Or, where the “aesthetic-life”, as positional, is elaborated.

The examination of the imperialist implications of the popular imagination from the late 19th century into the mid-twentieth, (Kipling, Haggard, E.R. Burroughs, et al) and my aesthetic ontogenesis, are not such ungainly disparities when considered under one’s personal political curriculum vitae. (Which hopes to have a margin for socio-political consciousness, whereas the margin of activism may be relatively scant.) Yet it is this background of Imperialist motive, financing every expedition which would provide the material for all exoticist adventure, all frontier romanticism with which the popular literature of the late nineteenth century would lay the thouroughly subjective ground for the pulp periodical and later, comic-book serial, lays a political question at the feet of fantasy.**

Yet Fantasy, as a popular genre, as opposed to its congenital character as mythology, proved it could wield political content in a jarring manner via Ralph Bakshi’s animated film, Wizards, of which I  discuss elsewhere. But if this writing is to purport to be an ontogenesis, I must first begin to present a scene as close to the ontogenetic instance of my aesthetic development which contains no objective content, as is feasible. What follows attempts to do so. I came into semi-conscious existence within the second quarter of the year 1972. Early, quite early then, (4 or 5 years of age), amongst a view of the carpet, the smell of urine and the designs upon the drapes, I recall also the media. That is, media which first presents us, born in the late twentieth century, with complex representations, primarily, television and printed matter. Among these my aesthetic sensibility emerged. Already, beyond the general encouragement a child is given to draw, my brother demonstrated to me in his drawings the very artistic act of appropriating by ones own means the stuff of being (ontology). His exposing me to Warner Cartoons on Television would immediately demonstrate the degree to which one could reproduce the world. But the drawing, as drawing, was immanent, and the burden seemed to lay to it. Upon my brother’s wall was a poster, Vaughn Bode’s pictorial rendition of the Wizard of Oz, with each character sporting the appropriate genitals, composed of the appropriate material, (flesh, cloth and metal). All excepting Dorothy, who gave no such satisfaction, betraying only the cliché panties of the Minnie Mouse variety. I remember freely debating whether to interpret the form as panties, or as cow utters, another female erogenous symbol. I contemplated this picture endlessly. It represented an ideal toward which to strive, the dressing to give shape to all the unshaped torsions of my imagination. It also congenitally fused my raw aesthetic capacity to the effect of the Underground Comic, (Bode being an underground cartoonist) which appropriates the alleged innocent form of the cartoon, and with it radically perpetrates the extremities of the Id: The Pleasure Principle (sex) and the Death Drive (death), to bandy the elementary terms of psychoanalysis. This is say, 1977. I wouldn’t see any material in the form of underground comics in any volume until about 1983, with the exception of some more or less mild issues of Gilbert Shelton’s The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. My brother created a subject for composition he called “Hippy Vans”,wherein he drew Shelton-esque hippies in rather decadent RV’s, smoking pot, sunbathing, swimming, watching television. This unconscious irony, I believe, wasn’t completely lost on us, even as children. Besides the Freak Brothers, my brother had the Warren issues of Will Eisner’s, The Spirit. Eisner drew new covers for these Warren editions, which reprinted strips from the late forties and fifties, covers which were increasingly macabre, and suited the Warren editorial esprit. They terrified me, making a great impression. 

Two artists, Eisner and Bode, stand at the ontogenetic forefront of my aesthetic development, and between these men and the unconscious attraction to other artists, who themselves would come to reveal many connections to Bode and Eisner. There was another poster in my brother’s room during that time. A movie poster for Ralph Bakshi’s animated film, Wizards. I made the connection of the stylistic affinity between Bill Stout’s illustration of the film’s principly symbolic character, Peace, and Bode’s denizen’s of Oz, the most conspicuous being the dilating calf merging into an enormous foot. For several years, the duration of the 70’s no doubt, that poster would loom as with a threat and a promise, and I anticipated when I might see the film, myself.
Wizards, important as it is for me ontogenetically as an artist, could not readily be experienced.  To experience the film one had recourse only to potential re-release in secondary venues. I would like to expand upon how elusive it was to get material for study, for the film, and in general. Today, our access to both esoteric and exoteric material is unprecedented. Beginning with home-video and continuing to the Web, a kid may obtain rather easily a reproduction of a certain cultural item. The 'digital revolution' has increased the availability of cultural effluvium, in the incongruous selective transference to digital media (for example, the early nineties were very active transferring vinyl and tape to disc) strange artifacts endure, giving perhaps broader life to such, or at least preservation enough for the aging devotee. In fact the number of esoterica revived through digitization often outweighed more recently produced successes. Before these developments, I was able to see Wizards in about 1980 or ’81. I would be 8 or 9 years old. To fleetingly capture the moments of Bakshi’s animation for study of style and character with one shot, attending a screening on the university movie circuit, where Wizard’s might show up once annually upon the latter’s midnite-movie program, and then the return to anticipation. No ability to access it frame by frame, nor watch it exhaustively at home. Memory already began to endow the thing a greater creature than indeed, perhaps, it was. Obtaining lobby cards and stills had the circumstantial flavors of a quest, which always threatens culminating, at least, in never apprehending the object. And the stills, if obtained, deprived of movement, fell like pieces of a sentence, syntactic fragments, and began to gnaw at the idyll which desire and memory had embellished. Today the general economy of availability exhausts our appreciation for the objects we access. However, approaching my adolescence, and well into it, then, it seemed only deprivation and/or dissolution of the aesthetic object was the course. The result is the same. This is something Freud invokes in Civilization and its Discontents , where he first proclaims his inability to experience moments of metaphysical immensity, and then categorizes the aesthetic experience as a mere tonic to a potential psychological crisis requiring much greater forms of treatment. We always run through the aesthetic, no sooner does it appear again taking us unawares. This is what endows it with the necessary ingredients for compulsion. And this is what gives it the character of the myth of the feminine. Freud has here already implicitly established the profound connection between experience and aesthetics, and between aesthetics and metaphysics.

* Proust, in his minor articles and essays, expounds his practice of attempting to be sensitive to chance sensations which provoke rich, specific memories. Often by way of places and smells, he would wave on his friends accompanying him so as to immerse himself in the moment of memories transpiring.

**It is this question which comic-book writer Alan Moore has sought to deal with, within the medium, attesting to a critical development mentioned above, expanding a literacy and self-consciousness heretofore absent, in comics.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Storyboards: Boardwalk Empire, season 4; (part4).

(click on images for scrutiny)

These boards come from episode 6 of season 4, "The North Star"; directed by Allen Coulter.
Allen reduced the drawings even further, absent the block toning I'd done for the boards of the previous episode.

Below, I wanted to include some frames of shots from this episode which were altered or cut, however which I kinda like as drawings...


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Storyboards: Boardwalk Empire, season 4; (part 3)

These boards come from episode 5, "Black Sedan" season 4. Directed by Tim Van Patten.

(Click on images for scrutiny) 

After the experience of working with Tim, (also director of episode 1, where the boards previously posted, below, derive) I was encouraged by the latter to simplify the drawings. I cut the shading and rendering of the frames and supplemented a more graphic, comic-strip approach.  This was a happy bit of direction because the turnaround on these assignments was so fast, any labor saved was welcome.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Storyboards: Boardwalk Empire, season 4. (part 2)

(click on images for scrutiny)

More boards from episode 1, "New York Sour," season 4; scenes 32 & 33.  Directed by Tim Van Patten