George Herms and some film noir books
December 11, 2014
George Herms is a seminal artist of the California assemblage movement whose career covers many decades from the 1950s to today, and "George Herms: The River Book" (Hamilton Press) is an impressive book—two slipcased volumes—that provides an overview of his life and work.
It's the first comprehensive look at the artist's work from his early ground breaking assemblages of cost off materials, which art critic Dave Hickey calls the worst case of horror vacui he's ever seen in contemporary art. As herms himself notes in the book, "One man's haiku is another man's epic."
There's also a generous selection of archival photos of the artist and his circle of friends, including the poets Diane Di Prima and Michael McClure, as well as the artists Wallace Berman and Ray Johnson.
The volumes also include a DVD of Herms' film, "The Artist's Life," a free jazz "opera" which wasstaged at RedCAt in L.A. in 2011 as well as a slide show of several hundred of his collages. A compelling look at an important artist.
I've long been a fan of film noir with its tales of knights errant and fast talking dames adrift in a world obliquely-angled out of control world. "Film Noir: 100 All Time Favorites" (Taschen), by Paul Duncan and Jurgen Muller, traces the history of the genre from early pre-cursors such as 1927's "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" and 1931's "M" to 2011's "Drive."
Each film is discussed in detail and accompanied by copious stills and production shots. The heyday of the genre, from the mid-1940s through the mid-1950s contains materials on some of the most critically acclaimed examples of noir films including "The Postman Always Rings Twice," "Double Indemnity," "Sunset Boulevard" and many others.
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Of special note is volume's inclusion of "neo-noir," more recently produced films that continue the thematic conceits of the classic noir films. These include films from "Chinatown" (1974) and "Blade Runner" (1982) to "No Country For Old Men" (2007) and "Black swab" (2010). A great overview of a intriguing film genre.
If you only want to take a look at how these compelling films were marketed you can check out "The 101 Best Film Noir Posters From the 1940s and 1950s" (Fantagraphics), edited by Mark Fertig.
This oversize volume does have capsule summaries of the films, but it's the high quality versions of the posters, done one to a page, that gives the book its punch. They are a great course in the graphic design tropes of the period with femme fatales and lurid copy such as the one for "Pickup" — "the low down on a come on girl"—and Humphrey Bogart in "The Enforcer" that "if you're smart you'll come down, if you're dumb you'll be dead."
Kirk Robertson writes about the arts. He may be reached at email@example.com.
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