PRINT September 2005


Donald Urquhart

The work of London-based artist Donald Urquhart was recently included in the two-part group show “I Still Believe in Miracles” that opened last May at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. He was shortlisted for the 2005 Beck’s Futures prize earlier this year.

  1. JAYNE COUNTY When Jayne County lets rip on a performance, she gives an unflagging 200%, and then some. She never fails to surprise and inspire. In March, I saw her first London gig in twelve years, and she was top of the range as usual, thrashing around, “bathing in the blood of rock ’n’ roll,” as she puts it. Her 1995 book, Man Enough to Be a Woman, traces her adventures through the New York of Warhol and Stonewall to the punk scene in Europe and back again. It should be compulsory reading on every school curriculum.

    *Jayne County performing at the Underworld, London, 2005.* Jayne County performing at the Underworld, London, 2005.
  2. DAN PERJOVSCHI I came across Dan’s work only recently in Paris, and was immediately awestruck. Few artists make work that coaxes me into laughing out loud, but Dan can. At first glance, his cartoons look like men’s-room graffiti, but upon closer inspection, they are sophisticated social and political comments. He has the deft touch and fuzzy simplicity of James Thurber and, coming from me, that is as high as praise can go. I am gagging for a book to appear.

    *Dan Perjovschi, _My home, my car, my credit card, me,_ 2003,* black marker on pavement, dimensions variable. Dan Perjovschi, My home, my car, my credit card, me, 2003, black marker on pavement, dimensions variable.
  3. CHRISTIAN MARCLAY, VIRTUOSO, 2000 A twenty-five-foot-long accordion? Of all the curios that have ever been assembled for gallery shows (it recently appeared at the Barbican as part of the artist’s traveling retrospective), this one excites me the most. Can you play it? How? How many people does it take to hold and squeeze it? Do they get their fingers trapped? What does it sound like? I want it. My inner child needs it.

    *Christian Marclay, _Virtuoso,_ 2000,* altered accordion, approx. 25’ long. Christian Marclay, Virtuoso, 2000, altered accordion, approx. 25’ long.
  4. ANITA LOOS, GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (1925) Quicker and cuter than William Makepeace Thackeray’s ruthless siren Becky Sharp, Lorelei Lee doesn’t have to part with much to get men to part with their diamonds. Written in diary form, novelist Loos has fun with Lorelei’s dreadful spelling and wickedly sends up the ridiculous world of the extravagantly rich in the flapper era. The Marilyn Monroe/Jane Russell film version—camp and delicious as it is—doesn’t quite hit the same breathless pace or provide as many belly laughs as the book. Lorelei’s wiseacre pal Dorothy (played by Russell in the film) is one of the most psychologically healthy characters in modern fiction and is the subject of a sequel, But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (1928). She carries an armadillo handbag with its tail clasped in its mouth. I once had a chance to buy one like it, but was afraid my parents wouldn’t understand.

  5. JOHN CASSAVETES, OPENING NIGHT (1977) In this harrowing metaphysical shocker, Cassavetes’s wife Gena Rowlands plays an actress suffering a Margo Channing–like age crisis during rehearsals for a play. She starts drinking. Backstage dramas take a supernatural turn when she believes she is being visited by a dead girl—a fan she saw killed in a road accident. Too much for most people, but I can’t watch it enough. My first short film, L’Entr’acte (due in October), is an homage of sorts to this incredible movie.

    *John Cassavetes, _Opening Night,_ 1977,* still from a color film in 35 mm, 144 minutes. Myrtle Gordon (Gena Rowlands). John Cassavetes, Opening Night, 1977, still from a color film in 35 mm, 144 minutes. Myrtle Gordon (Gena Rowlands).
  6. FLEISCHER BROTHERS CARTOONS Dark, quirky, and surreal, Fleischer Brothers cartoons have their own brand of humor. Songs like “Be Human” (1936, illustrated by a man whipping his dog mercilessly) and Betty Boop’s sexy ode to the garbageman in “Any Rags” (1932) are singularly Fleischer material. The nightmarish “Bimbo’s Initiation” (1931), where poor Bimbo the dog is hounded by evil men in hoods holding candles and chanting, “Wanna be a member?” is one of the scariest things I have ever seen.

    *Three Fleischer Brothers characters.* (Betty Boop, Bimbo the dog, and Koko the clown). Three Fleischer Brothers characters. (Betty Boop, Bimbo the dog, and Koko the clown).
  7. THOMAS KINKADE Top print-selling U.S. artist Thomas Kinkade (“Painter of Light”) paints the American dream deluxe in jaw-dropping color. Thankfully absent from his rustic scenes are poverty, hunger, disease, and horror—we get enough of that elsewhere. Here, American hometown life of the good old days is rendered painstakingly pretty, illuminated with a gaslight-and-sunset glow, and I believe you can even add customized highlighting (should you prefer) when you buy a print. Like Kathleen Turner’s character says in John Waters’s Serial Mom, “Life doesn’t have to be ugly.”

  8. JUSTIN BOND Currently working on a master’s in scenography at Central St. Martins, London, Justin first came to my notice via his “Pantychrist” recordings (1999), which are bitter, drawling, paranoiac, sadistic, and raw—very uneasy listening indeed. But “Pantychrist” was a mere prelude to the birth of a bigger monster: Bond’s deranged, dead-on-her-feet, cabaret-chanson-chewing diva persona, Kiki. Gamely accompanied by her retarded pianist, Herb, she sings paeans to the triumph of delusion and determination over reality. Even quaint Christmas songs turn into soul-baring, chest-beating, hell-and-back death rattlers. There’s no “heart,” no sentiment, and no looking back. Bond is working on new characters. Be very afraid.

  9. MURIEL SPARK My favorite writers are all women: Loos, Dorothy Parker, Lillian Ross, Patti Smith, Edith Sitwell, Louise Brooks, Queen Elizabeth I, Jacqueline Susann—and my fellow Scot, Muriel Spark. Spark’s talents are too many and various to list succinctly. She writes with certainty, clarity, elegance, economy, wit, and grace. My favorites are the stories “The Seraph and the Zambezi” (1951) and “Bang-Bang You’re Dead (1982)” and the novels The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961) and Aiding and Abetting (2000). I am in the middle of reading the recently released All the Poems of Muriel Spark (2004) and eagerly await the follow-up to the first part of her autobiography Curriculum Vitae (1992).

  10. PEGGY LEE, MIRRORS (1975) Written by Leiber and Stoller, this classic album is all I would need on a desert island. Here, La Lee uses her incomparable voice to best effect on the grudging “Ready to Begin Again (Manya’s Song),” where she puts on her wig, false teeth, and a load of make-up and gets on with life. She is chilly and eerie on “Case of M. J.,” and she creaks the rafters with the bizarre “Professor Hauptmann’s Performing Dogs.” I’d like to think it’s what my drawings would sound like if they were pieces of music.