It’s an ambitious — and somewhat risky — undertaking to try to capture the center of our solar system with bare eyes, but one photographer, Elijah Gowin, did just that in his supernal series Into the Sun. Comprised of several images shot straight at the brightest of stars, the pictures are a collection both dreamy and impressionistic, sort of like Monet via a camera: lens flare and distortion contribute to the artistic — as only nature can be — end result. One critic wrote that Gowin’s work “confronts the impenetrability of the world and the challenge of representing it.” Flirting with blindness, he finds new ways of seeing the light. (The exhibition, online here, is at New York City’s Robert Mann Gallery through October 22.)
What a difference a year makes. Watching a replay on the Tennis Channel of Monday’s incredible championship final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at the U.S Open, an epic battle with a misleading ultimate score of 6-2, 6-4, 6-7, 6-1, was like witnessing two gladiators engaged in a relentless duel of prodigious proportions. Had to experience it again just to make sure that my initial impression of the match as one of the greatest I’d ever seen in men’s tennis was justified. It was.
Tables turned from 2010, defending champion Nadal nevertheless played at his absolute best (and got nowhere). It crystallized Djokovic for me as something of a sui generis tennis creation, perhaps unlike anything seen previously in the sport: a double whammy of power and shotmaking finesse, along with a seemingly endless wingspan between one leg and the other that conjures Batman spreading his cape, allowing him to get to balls outside conventional human reach. He displays awe-struck bafflement after executing particularly spectacular shots, seemingly as surprised at his legerdemain as the spectators themselves. The 24-year-old’s remarkable results in 2011 are now being called the most impressive calendar-year record in the annals of tennis. (“The greatest year in the history of our sport,” according to John McEnroe.)
Supernova or short-term shooting star remains to be seen, but for the moment, the sensational Serbian is something to watch. (And an unexpectedly good dancer, too.)
There’s been a bit of buzz about the MAC cosmetic line’s announcement of the face (or faces, actually) for its latest advertising campaign, that of the edgy and iconoclastic self-portrait photographer Cindy Sherman (right). Set to launch at the end of this month, some are lauding the collaboration as a perfect fit, others lament it’s a sell-out by a serious and highly regarded conceptual artist.
It wouldn’t be the first case. Sherman joins a line of noted predecessors whose talents traversed the crass landscape of merchandising. One was Norman Rockwell, who had a long history of creating art for advertising, spanning from 1914 to 1976. A must-see and creatively outrageous example from the 1960s is the Salvador Dali commercial for Alka-Seltzer (video left), a strangely disturbing concoction that ends with the Surrealist genius’s voice-over: “Alka-Seltzer is a work of art. Truly one of a kind. Like…Dali!” In the ’80s, Absolut Vodka featured a memorable series consisting of bottles painted by such cutting-edgers of the art realm as Andy Warhol, Edward Ruscha, and Keith Haring, below.
A surprise for me was learning that even that goddess of artistic purity, Georgia O’Keeffe, had a brief foray in pedestrian commercialism. In the ‘40s, she spent some time in Hawaii as part of a commission for Dole’s “Hawaiian Pineapple” brand; O’Keeffe being O’Keeffe, she produced a papaya instead. (A problem, as papayas were the purview of Dole’s prime competition.) It all worked out in the end (ad — with her pineapple bud — below left).