Tag Archives: New York

A Little Bit About Pollock, Kerouac and Beatniks

29 Dec

To whom shall I hire myself out? What beast should I adore? What holy image is attacked? What hearts shall I break? What lies shall I uphold? In what blood tread?‘ (Arthur Rimbaud, A Season in Hell – The Drunken Boat)

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAJackson Pollock in 1949

If you’d take a moment to think about the 1950s culture (in USA), I bet that the first things that would pop up in your mind would be film-stars such as Marylin Monroe and James Dean, drive-in cinemas, television, milkshakes, baby boom, suburban homes… Today, the 1950s seem like an idyllic decade, especially if we observe the cultural products of the time. Well not really. It was quite a restrictive and claustrophobic society to live in. Below the surface, this perfect society was hiding the beginning of the cold war, nuclear threats, McCarthysm, racial segregation etc. American reality of the 1950s was a picture of duality and hypocrisy. Medias portrayed it as they wished it to be, but something deviant and magical lay hidden beneath the surface. Every society has outsiders, the misfits, individuals that don’t belong. As an alternative to the perfect ’50s world, a different reality emerged, mostly related to artists, musicians, writers, actors and bohemians from the East and West coast of the States. This group was later named Beat generation, after a quote by Jack Kerouac.

1950. Lavender Mist Number 1 - Jackson PollockLavender Mist Number 1 – Jackson Pollock, 1950

World of Beat generation was a forerunner of the hippie counterculture that characterised the 1960s. World of Beatniks is a world of real characters immersed in Jazz, Be-Bop, marijuana, opium, amphetamine, Native American tradition of enjoying hallucinogenic substances, Mexico, prostitution, race mixing, reveries about Europe; it’s a world whose members have a strong desire to live, and are thus in conflict with the Western world which is striving for possession of material goods. Besides the well known beat generation authors such as Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, there were other artists unrelated to Beat generation who lived and created in the same spirit and embraced same ideas.

1948. Jackson Pollock, No. 6, 1948 - Jackson PollockJackson Pollock, No. 6, Jackson Pollock, 1948

One of those young people was Jackson Pollock, an important figure in abstract expressionism or ‘action painting’. He believed in the necessity of spontaneous impulse.The way Pollock painted is specific; he would put large canvases on the floor, meditate over them, and finally he would drip fluid paint on the canvas. As the canvases were large, he would walk right into them, becoming a part of the painting, rather than the creator of it. He said himself: Every good painter paints what he is.

Just like Chinese calligraphy, these paintings needed to be painted fast. They mustn’t be pre-devised, on the contrary, they must resemble a spontaneous outburst. Behind this requirement of artists and critics lies the influence not only of Chinese art, but the influence of all Far East mysticism, especially of Zen Buddhism. Part of the doctrine of Zen Buddhism is that one can’t be enlightened unless one is radically kicked out of routine of rational way of thinking. Opening quote by Arthur Rimbaud was written on the wall of studio of Lee Krasner, Pollock’s wife and a fellow painter. Poets like Rimbaud never go out of fashion because what they wrote can be translated in any era. Unfortunately, Lee neglected her career in order to help Pollock in his.

Whilst writing this post, Kerouac’s long poem ‘Mexico City Blues’ lingers in my mind. I am about to read it, and I thought it would be interesting to get in the mood of Beatniks for the occasion. Here are some pictures that remind me of beatniks and Kerouac’s novels:

1946. Café Scene - Raphael Soyer Café Scene, by Raphael Soyer, 1946

1940s Beatnik style ladyBeatnik style lady, 1940s

1953. Joyce Holden 'Girls in the Night', Universal, beatnikJoyce Holden ‘Girls in the Night’, Universal, 1953

1958. London Beat girl~ baggy jumper and pencil skirt to the knee. Late 50s-early 60s style, beatnikLondon Beat girl, 1958

1946. Too much liquor in Kansas, beatnikToo much liquor in Kansas, 1946

1950s Parisian Beatniks Hanging Out on Bank of the SeineParisian Beatniks Hanging Out on Bank of the Seine, 1950s

1950s Jackson Pollock and Lee KrasnerJackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, 1950s

1950s Helen Frankenthaler and her paintingsPainter Helen Frankenthaler sitting amidst her art in her studio. Location New York, 1956

For the end I’d like to share a quote by Helen Frankenthaler, a fellow abstract-expressionism painter who died a few years ago: There are no rules. That is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about.

New York’s Young Design Scene 1967

10 Dec


”Canary lips, chalk-white skin, flaming hair – is this really what’s happening, baby? Not quite. The clothes are designed to be worn by young people under 21, but the colours are something else. They are the doing of an inventive photographer, himself equally young, who achieved his bizarre effect by using infrared film. As if seen under the madly shifting lights of a discotheque, red turns to yellow, blacks to red, blues to purple and reality to fantasy. Fledgling fashionmakers some not yet out of school, are responsible for the designs shown here. Produced by their creators on a one-of-a-kind basis, they are sold at a New York boutique called Abracadabra.” (Life Magazine, August 1967)

1967. New York's Young Design Scene 1 1967. New York's Young Design Scene 2

And what costume shall the poor girl wear
To all tomorrow’s parties
A hand-me-down dress from who knows where
To all tomorrow’s parties
And where will she go and what shall she do
When midnight comes around
She’ll turn once more to Sunday’s clown
And cry behind the door.” (The Velvet Underground – All Tomorrow’s Parties)

1967. New York's Young Design Scene 3

1967. New York's Young Design Scene 4

Here she comes, you better watch your step
She’s going to break your heart in two, it’s true It’s not hard to realize
Just look into her false colored eyes
She builds you up to just put you down, what a clown
‘Cause everybody knows (She’s a femme fatale)
The things she does to please (She’s a femme fatale)
She’s just a little tease (She’s a femme fatale)
See the way she walks
Hear the way she talks
You’re put down in her book
You’re number 37, have a look.” (The Velvet Underground – Femme Fatale)

1967. New York's Young Design Scene 5 1967. New York's Young Design Scene 6

There she goes again
She’s out on the streets again
She’s down on her knees, my friend
But you know she’ll never ask you please again
Now take a look, there’s no tears in her eyes
She won’t take it from just any guy, what can you do
You see her walkin’ on down the street
Look at all your friends she’s gonna meet (…)

She’s gonna bawl and shout
She’s gonna work it
She’s gonna work it out, bye bye
Bye bye baby
All right” (The Velvet Underground – There She Goes Again)

1967. New York's Young Design Scene 7 1967. New York's Young Design Scene 8

These photos were scanned by Sweet Jane from Life Magazine August 1967, and the photographs were taken by Barry Kaplan. Besides the fact that I adore the 1960s fashion, I think these photos make a great art statement, and the use of infrared film is so avant-garde, at least for that time, and so is the Velvet Underground which inevitably comes to my mind when I think of the ’60s New York. Therefore I decided to include their lyrics too, and hopefully you’ll give their music a try, in case you still haven’t.

Jean Shrimpton took over Manhattan!

4 Jul

Hey, I just watched the film We’ll Take Manhattan and I  can’t believe I haven’t seen it before! It’s amazing; I love the story, the actors who did a wonderful job, everything!

jean shrimpton movie 3

The movie simply captured the atmosphere of the changing times; the beginning of the youth culture, new fashion for mini skirts that had evolved from Mary Quant’s mind, matrons having a hard time accepting the new style… This movie portrays Jean Shrimpton and David Bailey’s trip to New York that eventually served as a prelude to ’60s Swinging London as we know it now. Opening lines give a rebellious edge to the movie:

‘In 1962. no one had heard of The Beatles.

No one expected to be famous, who was not born rich or titled.

And there was no such thing as youth culture.’

Another thing that I love about the film is how it portrays Jean as a shy, innocent and inexperienced girl whereas you see real Jean in the photos looking confident and aware of her beauty but in reality it wasn’t like that. I enjoyed Karen Gillan as Jean for I’ve seen her earlier in Doctor Who. I don’t really need to say that Aneurin Barnard was brilliant as David Bailey; always in tight black trousers, with dark eyes and messy hair. In the opening scene David and Jean board on the plane; David all in black again and Jean wearing a simple black dress, black leather trench coat and a pair of black thigh-high boots. I was wowed by the first scene and needless to say that all of Jean’s apparels were as brilliant.

jean shrimpton movie 4

I usually like films that concentrate on one moment; one month, week or so because they’re reliable when it comes to atmosphere of the time. This film is a detailed portrayal of their trip to New York and you can really feel the changing mood of the time, the fashion, even the city, just everything that happened at the moment. Since I love the 1960s I was thrilled to see the movie, particularly the garments. Though I prefer the later ’60s fashion, 1967. being my absolute favourite amongst all the years of the decade, I relished in Jean’s extraordinary dresses and David’s black jacket with sunglasses; not just the clothes; the way they wore them.

Both Jean and David look so cool; so modern as if they’re announcing the upcoming Swinging London. A conflict between the old and the new draws through the whole movie and, at the end, the new wins; the gateway to the Swinging 1960s are finally open, let the party begin! I just love to learn more about that big change for I know that London did not change over night, things were gradually becoming more and more youth oriented until the youth earthquake had shaken the society.

jean shrimpton movie 5

In New York Bailey photographs his young, shy and naive lover and a muse – The Shrimp, as she was later called, in modern and youthful poses. His rather different approach to fashion photography was not embraced by most people in the Vogue magazine. However, this New York photo shoot, though not the most successful, proved to be crucial in developing the 1960s culture. So, this film tells the story how it all begun. If you like early 1960s fashion with a slightly rebellious touch, you’ll enjoy the film a much as I did.

Also, Jean’s vivid green dress in simple cut, said to be designed by Mary Quant, is one of my favourites for it looks so modern compared to her earlier, stiff garments. Still, the beauty of her black airport ensemble is unbeatable. As far as Bailey is concerned, his garments were ahead of their time; he wore messy Beatles-like hairstyle before even they got famous.

And here are the real photos of Jean Shrimpton in New York:

1960s Jean Shrimpton 32

1960s Jean Shrimpton 33

1960s Jean Shrimpton 34

1960s Jean Shrimpton 35


1960s Jean Shrimpton 39

1960s Jean Shrimpton 40

1960s Jean Shrimpton 41

1960s Jean Shrimpton 44


1960s Jean Shrimpton 45