Lucy McKenzie
September 20, 2013 – February 2, 2014

The seventh season of The Artist’s Institute is dedicated to Lucy McKenzie (b. 1977), a figure whose work, quite fittingly, plays with both terms—artist and institute. For McKenzie, inhabiting a particular genre or style, be it of painting, fashion, or literature, is an occasion to test the boundaries of artistic work and to play with the armature of how an artist is produced.

McKenzie makes works drawn from the artistic milieu of the cities and social circles she inhabits. Early paintings appropriated the language of 1970s Scottish murals, while more recent projects have reconstructed archetypal domestic interiors by employing faux finishing techniques. McKenzie has also founded a record label, a bar, a fashion line, and is currently experimenting with the field of crime fiction. Each of these forms enables her to construct a world on her own terms, while avidly celebrating and supporting the artistic pursuits of those close to her.

In this new season, we dedicate ourselves not only to McKenzie, but to the coterie of friends and collaborators she brings with her, and to the friends and fellows that have been carrying artists’ conversations forward at The Artist’s Institute over the past three years.

Interview with Lucy McKenzie

Jenny Jaskey: We are about to begin six months together at The Artist’s Institute. We’ve divided your time here into four “episodes,” a nod to television and its unfolding plotlines and rotating cast of characters.

Lucy McKenzie: “Episode” can refer to an incident, unfortunate or otherwise.

JJ: I enjoy that potentially more sinister take on the episode, one closer to how suspense fiction unfolds, or how collaborations can go awry. As with many of your past projects, at The Artist’s Institute you’ve asked a number of long-time friends and collaborators to join you for the season. What attracts you to working this way?

LM: It’s not unusual within the performing or applied arts for people to work collaboratively so it’s surprising that it’s still considered so in relation to visual art. Opportunities can be shared. My collaborators do something I want to be close to. Also, working collaboratively, like with writing, means I can better control how my work is contextualized. … Read more

The seventh season of The Artist’s Institute is dedicated to Lucy McKenzie (b. 1977), a figure whose work, quite fittingly, plays with both terms—artist and institute. For McKenzie, inhabiting a particular genre or style, be it of painting, fashion, or literature, is an occasion to test the boundaries of artistic work and to play with the armature of how an artist is produced.

McKenzie makes works drawn from the artistic milieu of the cities and social circles she inhabits. Early paintings appropriated the language of 1970s Scottish murals, while more recent projects have reconstructed archetypal domestic interiors by employing faux finishing techniques. McKenzie has also founded a record label, a bar, a fashion line, and is currently experimenting with the field of crime fiction. Each of these forms enables her to construct a world on her own terms, while avidly celebrating and supporting the artistic pursuits of those close to her.

In this new season, we dedicate ourselves not only to McKenzie, but to the coterie of friends and collaborators she brings with her, and to the friends and fellows that have been carrying artists’ conversations forward at The Artist’s Institute over the past three years.

Interview with Lucy McKenzie

Jenny Jaskey: We are about to begin six months together at The Artist’s Institute. We’ve divided your time here into four “episodes,” a nod to television and its unfolding plotlines and rotating cast of characters.

Lucy McKenzie: “Episode” can refer to an incident, unfortunate or otherwise.

JJ: I enjoy that potentially more sinister take on the episode, one closer to how suspense fiction unfolds, or how collaborations can go awry. As with many of your past projects, at The Artist’s Institute you’ve asked a number of long-time friends and collaborators to join you for the season. What attracts you to working this way?

LM: It’s not unusual within the performing or applied arts for people to work collaboratively so it’s surprising that it’s still considered so in relation to visual art. Opportunities can be shared. My collaborators do something I want to be close to. Also, working collaboratively, like with writing, means I can better control how my work is contextualized. 

JJ: I am drawn to how you use the art system—which often privileges the individual artist, if only in name—to the advantage of a whole group of interlocutors. So, for example, responding to a solo show invitation with a group exhibition, or channeling resources from gallery sales into a project that won’t be monetized in the same way, like a fashion line. But in your response, I’m also hearing the felicity of finding other people with the same passions. Could you say more about how aesthetic desire carries your work forward?

LM: It’s exactly that, a vehicle to carry things forward. When it comes to materials that get me going, whether that’s illustrations of cats in dresses or right wing interior décor, I’m unabashed, but it has to be in the service of something more dispassionate. Using appealing aesthetic forms to embody concepts means the work gets more complex, both rationally and irrationally.

JJ: In addition to our public program, we offer a seminar at Hunter College with your work as our starting point for considering contemporary art and culture. Art historian Alex Kitnick has given this semester’s course the title “The Artist As…,” which points both to the malleability of the term “artist” and to the search for occupations that might fill it out. The artist as… activist, critic, curator, or laborer, for example. How do you see your practice in relation to using the many channels of cultural production now seemingly available?

LM: Whatever form is best suited to an idea, I am willing to try. Differentiation through naming is not enough though, it’s about how you do it and within what context.

JJ: You once wrote that “Social engagement within contemporary art is itself a form of trompe l’oeil.”

LM: I think the discourse around work with a use and social dimension does not explore its falsity enough. The work of artists like Thomas Hirschhorn or Rirkrit Tiravanija is described as having a kind of transcendence into a realm that is somehow more “real.” It’s not that I think their work is “fake,” rather I am skeptical of the rhetoric around it and would not separate it from other forms that are more honest about control and simulation.

JJ: You continually place yourself in situations where you learn a new skill set or explore a particular subculture. Our pedagogical mission seems well-suited for this, and I’m interested in how your presence here will give a slightly different valence to the possessive of the artist’s institute—that this could be an institute for you to develop your practice too, just as we’re trying to get to know it better. We’ve talked, for example, about using your fashion line, Atelier E.B., as a case study for economics students at Hunter College during our third episode. And in response to your recent work with fiction and archetypal interiors, we’re inviting academics in literature and architecture to speak about style and interiority as they relate to female subjectivity. Given your interest in instrumentalizing the various resources around you, I wonder how you think about the Institute’s role as a vehicle for your practice?

LM: That we can develop something over six months is unusual, and a teaching institution is one of the only places where you can do that. Also unusual is the opportunity to show work with a formalized connection to various groups of students. I like the seriousness, as a balance to the hysteria I generally feel about my chosen subjects.

JJ: I hear that you’re currently working on a two-act play that you’ll stage here in New York. How did that project come about?

LM: I’ll be staging two scenes from a longer play I have developed since Te Kust En Te Keur, a group show I organized for Mu.ZEE in Oostende in 2012, which occupied the façade of the museum, which was formally a supermarket. I want to present something which extrapolates on both the ideas behind that show and the results of the experience. I have commissioned two of the artists who were involved in Te Kust En Te Keur, Lucile Desamory and Caitlin Keogh, to make props for the staging. I envisage writing fiction and drama as an extension of my visual practice, not separate from it, and I want to test ideas by seeing what happens to them if they expressed in text rather than just image. Where you then stage the play is a whole other issue…

JJ: In your second episode for the Institute, we’ll be thinking about pattern, and you’ve invited the designer Anthony Symonds to join you and show some of his recent garment patterns, along with Eric Gjerde, a specialist in origami. How are you thinking about these two contributions in light of your own work on the Alhambra Palace?

LM: Eric’s wife Ioana, also a graduate of the decorative painting school I attended, showed me the film Between the Folds. It’s a documentary about the current renaissance origami is enjoying, its relevancy to design, science, engineering, and art. It also reveals how the origins of the form, like many traditions, are much more specific and recent than one would assume. Eric has friends involved in a recent copyright lawsuit with the painter Sarah Morris, which is a very interesting case study, and origami tessellations have the same geometric roots as Arabic pattern. As a fashion designer, Anthony Symonds’s pattern-making is exceptional and he has had experiences within the fashion industry the polar opposite to my own company Atelier E.B.’s. I wanted to pull these threads together, the complex social implications of something as simple as pattern.

JJ: You’ll also be attending the New York Crime Fiction Academy this fall, and we’ll dedicate our last episode to the outcome of these pursuits. Your decision to go there is not unlike the time you spent studying decorative painting in Brussels. That training was about perfecting a procedure or technique, learning how to make faux-marble or a convincing trompe l’oeil still life. Crime novels are formulaic too. What about the procedural nature of these pursuits interests you?

LM: I find the technical similarities within such different practices as writing and painting extremely exciting. Specifically within these fields, but also for the way recognizing construction and method makes you question procedure in general, received ideas about standards, and guidelines.

JJ: The writer Michael Bracewell will be contributing a series of texts for this season. You both have affection for outmoded genres and bring a certain kind of romanticism to your work. How is the term “genre” relevant for you now?

LM: I think the artist who most shares my curiosity about genre is Lucile Desamory, whose film Abracadabra raids the same trick-bag of signifiers within the genre of “haunted house” as I did with crime fiction for Unlawful Assembly. When she presented the film at Tate Modern, Martin McGeown pointed out that “haunted house” is already implicitly haunted by a repertoire of trapped characters and situations. Genre implies commercial appeal, something which is not at first glance stylistically recognizable as avant-garde. Using genre means playing with structure, and capitalizing on its appealing familiarity. Genre does not die, it changes and adapts. I’m interested in pornography for the same reason: rules.

JJ: Speaking of genre, I wonder if something like “appropriation art” is not itself something now commercial and consumable—or rather, one kind of appropriative strategy has gone from being an avant-garde gesture to a benign one. You’re using appropriation in a different way than artists thirty years ago, and for our first episode, I’d argue that you’ve mapped an entire cycle of appropriation. Specifically when it comes to borrowing imagery, have you noticed this genre changing within your own practice over the years?

LM: I feel too embedded within appropriation to see it clearly enough to define it. It comes from having a history in music and subculture where previous forms are always adapted and sampled as a matter of course. Coming from that realm has made appropriating more mundane and mainstream sources thrilling, like Agatha Christie or Fifty Shades of Grey.

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Note to Self, September 20 – October 20, 2013

Trompe l’oeil painting and crime fiction are not obvious bedfellows, but their mutual reliance on method if of great relevance to Lucy McKenzie. She has long shown an interest in procedural formalism, be it the conventions of classical painting, or thriller novels assembling around formulaic constructs. Formats such as these provide the occasion for her to play with structure and depth and use artificiality to her advantage.

In this first episode, we follow McKenzie’s fascination with style as a kind of simulation. Artist Alan Michael joins her to present paintings and photographs based on their new book of short stories, Unlawful Assembly; Literary scholar Hope Hodgkins speaks about the self-aestheticizing desire of Muriel Spark’s stylish spinsters; Michael Bracewell writes about artists as characters in their own fiction; and Lucy McKenzie gives a talk about herself. … Read more

Trompe l’oeil painting and crime fiction are not obvious bedfellows, but their mutual reliance on method if of great relevance to Lucy McKenzie. She has long shown an interest in procedural formalism, be it the conventions of classical painting, or thriller novels assembling around formulaic constructs. Formats such as these provide the occasion for her to play with structure and depth and use artificiality to her advantage.

In this first episode, we follow McKenzie’s fascination with style as a kind of simulation. Artist Alan Michael joins her to present paintings and photographs based on their new book of short stories, Unlawful Assembly; Literary scholar Hope Hodgkins speaks about the self-aestheticizing desire of Muriel Spark’s stylish spinsters; Michael Bracewell writes about artists as characters in their own fiction; and Lucy McKenzie gives a talk about herself. 

First Letter from Michael Bracewell to Lucy McKenzie

Little Bedham House
Fittleworth, West Sussex, UK
4th September 2013

Dear Lucy,

And so suddenly it’s September and the dead heat of August is finally lifting. Here we woke this morning to intent vertical rain, awakening in its turn the rich scent of wet earth and dripping leaves on the suddenly fresher air.

September exhilarates—don’t you find? I always liked the beginning of the new school year the best: those first few days of what we still quaintly called The Michaelmas Term—invariably hot and sunny—when it seemed that one just had time to glimpse, in the newly scrubbed classrooms, the fading ghosts of the previous year. In his heady foray into literary transvestitism in the early 1940s, writing as Brunette Coleman, the English poet Philip Larkin caught such a mood at the close of his poem, ‘The School In August’: “…and even swimming groups can fade, Games mistresses turn grey…”

But exactly…the school in August…the country in this part of West Sussex is pale and gentle, a succession of mild receding perspectives. The light seems soft and somehow eighteenth century, blowsy above this remote wooded fold, with a view to the North Downs and beyond those, the sea. We are surrounded by the former seats and old schools of British surrealists and neurotically snobbish novelists (Evelyn Waugh was at Lancing College, twenty minutes fast driving away) and Larkin himself, holidaying, was inspired to write ‘An Arundel Tomb’ at Chichester Cathedral, by the fifteenth century monument to The Earl and Countess of Arundel. Those wonderful lines: ‘One sees, with a sharp and tender shock, his hand withdrawn, holding her hand…’

Goodness how sad.

But I didn’t wake up this morning to write to you about Philip Larkin (whom I suppose you will loathe, on ideological grounds, non?) or to eulogize about the English countryside (to a Scot living in Belgium) or the bumper size of the apple harvest (particularly good, this year, the Discoveries) or to pose as a Neo-Geo fogey, replete with sandals, baggy trousers belted with an old silk tie, and a sleeveless somewhat moth-eaten pullover worn loosely over a wash-rotted flannel shirt (to the chatelaine of an auteur fashion label)—which by the way is as much the correct attire for an upper-middle-class apprenticeship in Communism, as tweeds for a grouse moor or khaki for an Atlanta quail shoot.

No—I awoke to these dripping trees (the ones beyond my window, that line the top of the drive, are from the southern states of America and called, somewhat poetically, Liquid Amber; when their leaves fall, they seems to do so with a slowly sweeping, arc-like pendulum motion, elegant roseate curls, in a way which brings the word ‘mellifluous’ to mind, which can mean, ‘flowing like honey’, which gets it) to properly thank you for the remarkable present that you gave to me, quite out of the blue, earlier in the year, the impact of which is still with me, as resonant as one of those imperative, richly toned bells that you can hear almost anywhere except England.

Although it’s more than just thanks: it was the timing (perfect timing) which made me catch my breath upon opening that secure but makeshift portfolio that arrived from your colorfully named street in your adopted city—a city that always makes me think of rain, but in a good way. And yet so unexpected—which I suppose is the basis of perfect timing, or at least a vital element in the formula of synchronicity. For there, pristine and fresh within their tissue wrapping, were your four drawings of four young Englishmen—of the kind who would remember only too well the atmosphere of the school in August, or the blowsy roll of the North Downs—who for their own reasons, as simple and as complicated as you like, became known as spies (glamorous) and then, more ugly, traitors.

Each of these portraits possesses its own distinct personality, in its own style; I know of no other living artist who is as great a connoisseur of Style as yourself—and Style, as we know, is a serious business. It can even lead to treachery, betrayal and worse. But there they are, alive in my chintzy drawing room, amidst back issues of Country Life, Edith Sitwell’s biography of Alexander Pope with the cover by Rex Whistler, and Nicky Haslam’s new book about his hunting lodge (wonderful, by the way). Yes there they were: Anthony Blunt, Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean…. Names I grew up with—names that seem to come from a prep-school register.

Oh, and they look like dependable uncles you could always confide in, or favorite cousins whom you loved to be teased by… And you with youth on your side… And you had drawn each of them as though channeling not only the temper of the subject, but as (or more) important, an idea of the artist: the artist as, might we say, a character in an accumulating fiction of her own creation…

And speaking of Nicky, he very kindly sent me a book the other day—a wonderful old copy of his American brother-in-law’s study and collection of ‘collective nouns’—some resurrected from the Books of Venery enjoyed by style-conscious gentlemen in the fifteenth century (such as our old friend the Earl of Arundel, buried at Chichester, whom we met earlier). The book is called An Exaltation of Larks, which I thought you would like, and it contains amidst 250 charming engravings of the Gothic surreal kind, some 1,100 examples, many arcane, of those terms such as ‘A Murder of Crows’ or ‘A Rage of Maidens’.

Of course, thinking of you, and our correspondence, I rushed to discover the collective noun for ‘artists’—and was rewarded, with another sharp intake of breath, to find the term “An Illusion of Painters”. Reading on, the etymology could not have been more apposite:

‘The term is “Misbeleue”
which, according to the Oxford
English Dictionary,
has more the sense of
“erroneous belief” than
“refusal to believe”;
hence “illusion” in the
sense of “trompe l’oeil”.’
And what could be truer—
of you, of me, of spies
and double agents,
of artists as characters
in their own fiction,
and of this correspondence?

As always I send you my love. To Helsinki I return, to mourn the wounded angel. Work it out. I will write again from there.

Ever,
Michael

List of Works

Lucy McKenzie and Alan Michael, Unlawful Assembly. Numbered edition of 150. Published by the Fiorucci Art Trust.

Art dealer Orran Kirby is up to something more sinister than social climbing on the island of Stromboli. Lucy McKenzie’s extended short story “Shooting Diary” details the charades of Kirby, Wim Dierickx—the wealthy artist Kirby represents—and a group of collectors as they holiday at a rented beachside villa. Dierickx is shooting a pornographic art film, and its star, Teta, is showing signs of despair. Will the young sleuth, Hannah, uncover the island’s secrets?

A petty criminal commits murder and turns his victim into a Hockney sketch. An erotic cartoonist deals in counterfeit money. An artist-in-residence on Stromboli persuades old associates to be his material for a new project. Real and imagined characters are interwoven in Alan Michael’s trio of short stories, “The Nagging Flower,” “Magic Realism,” and “Not Going to Lie,” taking readers on a disjointed journey of illusory depth.

These are the fictions that make up Unlawful Assembly, the first collection of short stories by McKenzie and Michael. Their experiment with suspense writing came from a mutual interest in how the conventions of genres, like crime fiction or procedural painting, can be instrumentalized towards other ends. As they put it, their goal was, “the production of an adequate object—a paperback of stories, functional and narrative, designed to infiltrate the scenery and props of the leisure class at play.”


Alan Michael, Gases Rising, 2013. Oil on canvas. 24.75 x 35.5 inches. Courtesy Vilma Gold, London

Photorealistic painters face a new crisis in the digital age: more than ever, they are being mistaken for photographers on screen. Alan Michael has painted a faithful rendering of a photograph of vinyl exhibition signage that could easily pass for an online installation shot—its wide-angle view catching the glow of a fluorescent light as it bounces off the wall. This obsession with focal depth and a fetish for reflection alludes to the very thing Michael prizes about classical photorealism—its potentially endless, yet ultimately shallow surface fabric: an analogue to the conservative procedural formalism of much crime fiction. Here he re-uses the typography designed for the cover of Unlawful Assembly, taking us full-cycle with his appropriated imagery.


Lucy McKenzie, Quodlibet XXVII. (Unlawful Assembly I), 2013. Oil on canvas. 35.5 x 23.5 inches. Courtesy the artist.

Josephine Pryde, Unlawful Assembly. (Cover Art Print), 2013. Pigmented inkjet print. 12.5 x 18.75 inches. Courtesy Reena Spaulings Fine Art.

In the 1970s, Penguin republished a back catalogue of Scottish novelist Muriel Spark’s fiction, and old standbys like The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and The Girls of Slender Means got updated covers. As might be expected for a writer like Spark, whose books often have female protagonists, the new covers featured a series of portraits of middle-aged women. And yet the figures in these pictures, taken by a commercial photographer named Van Pariser, hardly matched the quick-witted heroines of Spark’s oeuvre. Pariser’s women are shot in soft-focus and look dreamily into the distance. Reminiscent of David Hamilton’s subjects, but as grown women, their vapid expressions are a far cry from Spark’s self-assured heroines.


Lucy McKenzie and Alan Michael, Unlawful Assembly. Book Cover Options, 2013. Digital print. 16.75 x 10.5 in. Courtesy the artists.

Lucy McKenzie and Alan Michael recently completed their photo collaboration with Josephine Pryde for Unlawful Assembly and show a few of the results here. The typography in three of the designs, an oversized courier font, has the look of Spark’s Penguin covers from the 1970s. It riffs as well on the detective novelist writing away on her typewriter—a cliché as well-worn as her trench-coats and dark, stormy nights. The fourth image, shows Pryde’s photograph within the graphic identity of McKenzie and Michael’s first edition of the novel, designed by HIT Studio, Berlin. One of these versions (hint: it has the glint of spring leaves) will be used for the second edition of Unlawful Assembly, forthcoming from Walther König Verlag.


Lucy McKenzie, Stromboli (1 – 3), 2013. Digital prints. All 4 x 6 inches. Courtesy the artist.

If we follow the clues of Lucy McKenzie’s quodlibet close enough, we notice a book turned open to a photograph of four headless acquaintances, or rather four bodies that are captured only from the shoulders down. Novelist Muriel Spark took the enigmatic image in 1988 on a trip to Florence, and it serves as the blueprint for McKenzie’s photographic series Stromboli (1-3).

McKenzie’s images use a similar framing strategy, with an anonymous social scene on the crumbling façade of an Italian villa. The incomplete picture is intriguing, not only for what it lacks, but for the capacity of its surfaces—of legs, hands, feet, and torsos—to communicate affectively with us.

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Generalife, October 25 – December 1, 2013

The repetition and configuration of simple motifs, a model or guide, a form of consciousness made manifest. Pattern is the starting point for the next iteration of McKenzie’s season at The Artist’s Institute. In Motifs from the Alhambra, a new site specific mural, the artist uses stencils from her library of decorative designs. It is a stand-in for the ceramic-tiled interiors of the palaces and mosques of the Arab world. Yet here, in a city basement, it is closer in proportion to the hammams or barbershops found in Islamic neighborhoods everywhere, which use the same classic patterns, just more cheaply rendered. The mural will become a framing décor over the coming weeks for origami tessellations, a paper dress pattern, Playboy architecture, Sol LeWitt murals, and a haunted house.… Read more

The repetition and configuration of simple motifs, a model or guide, a form of consciousness made manifest. Pattern is the starting point for the next iteration of McKenzie’s season at The Artist’s Institute. In Motifs from the Alhambra, a new site specific mural, the artist uses stencils from her library of decorative designs. It is a stand-in for the ceramic-tiled interiors of the palaces and mosques of the Arab world. Yet here, in a city basement, it is closer in proportion to the hammams or barbershops found in Islamic neighborhoods everywhere, which use the same classic patterns, just more cheaply rendered. The mural will become a framing décor over the coming weeks for origami tessellations, a paper dress pattern, Playboy architecture, Sol LeWitt murals, and a haunted house.

Second Letter from Michael Bracewell to Lucy McKenzie

Hotel Kamp
Esplanadi 29
Helsinki, Finland
16th October, 2013

My dear Lucy,

I write to you from the bar of Helsinki’s oldest hotel, where the prices seem reminiscent of those at Tokyo’s smartest hotel and the waiter – who is young and tall and sandy-haired, with a struggling Douglas Fairbanks moustache – is actually called Jesse James. He has pale eyes, small and slanted and a little too close together, and he moves with a slightly stooping tread. The bar itself, like the rest of the hotel, is generic: a seismic rendition of marble and mahogany, with silk on the walls and brass shaded lights above the reproduction oil paintings. I love it all. I find it amniotic. I love the pointlessness of it all…

But it’s a pointlessness that was lost on Lady Egremont (wife of the writer Max Egremont, whose biography of Siegfried Sassoon is so good) when she stayed recently at a friend’s house in Spain: “It has absolutely everything that you might want,” she pronounced “– and none of that dreadful luxury…” And what greater claim can I make for my own deep suburban roots than my corresponding fondness for as much dreadful luxury as possible? But it needs to be dreadful luxury of the right sort – a matter of taste that I know you will understand precisely, and with gradations of subtlety a spectrograph would miss. For it seems to me that as an artist you understand not only the aesthetics of an interior, but more than this, its consciousness. And is not pattern a form of consciousness made visual and manifest?

I suppose I mean, or try to mean, that a room or a hall or a house or an office possess both their visible identity in terms of architecture, design, furnishings, and then what we might think of as their literary identity. Your work exists at the intersection of these things, peopled with collaborator-characters, deep in a psychological crease of craft-aesthetics.

No sooner are these words off my pen than E. M. Forster (and I imagine you recall those elegant young men in the Merchant Ivory adaptations of Forster’s novels, with clean arteries, smooth jaws, and accents of the sort that Christopher Isherwood described in his memoirs as those of the ‘Poshocracy’, mumbling apologies and confessions to one another in a gauzy dream of pure 1980s retro-stately-homo?) seems to stand before me, revealing cosmic disorder (as Greek tragedian as you like) in the symmetrical narrative of a Box Hill drawing room circa 1903: that the greatest tragedy is described by the smallest event – the betrayal of love, and by extension the World, in a tiny, wellbred lie, as there-yet-not-there as the tea table or the curtains that your poor father chose and that we must learn to live with…

This is my second trip to Helsinki in less than six weeks. I am on the trail of an old adventure, which in my personal shorthand I have come to call the Journey to Iceland. I will spare you the reasoning at this point. There are some rather arcane family reasons, too. My father was in Scandinavia during the 1950s, involved in research into Heavy Water (or deuterium oxide) that was then used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons. Later, when he took the steamer from Stockholm, there was a terrible storm and he and a nameless colleague got drunk on whisky and hot water in a presumably hopeless attempt to ward off seasickness. This was just around the time my sister was born, opening her eyes to asphalt and privet some distance from the Cold War. (Patterns within patterns.)

The buildings in this city entrance me, and I think you would like them, too: you know the visual language of their blossoming modernity so well and you long ago captured their myth as a medium, rendered in that time travelling European canon that is yours so totally. In my own small way, as well, I find myself compelled to document them – but usually their least remarkable aspects. The top floors of apartment blocks, the former docks. From the park that surrounds the low expanse of Aalto’s very coolly linear Finlandia building (which is precisely the white grey of monumental masonry) you can look across the lake (the wind is already cold here, hurrying ripples over the black water, towards thickets of nut brown bulrushes) and watch the sleek, bullet-nosed trains heading north to Lapland. The skies here look immense: a north beyond our north, and it seems as though the noise of the world will fall away, once you reach the Arctic horizon.

And here is the extravagance of the jugendstil that tips towards a Walt Disney vision of Old Europe, tinged with modern Futurism – the point where checkerboard exterior decoration and troll hall medievalism meets the Citadel of Evil on the Planet Zog. But to be admired, as a sudden spike in the heartbeat of Finnish culture, around 1895, when young artists and designers and writers joined forces to enable and create a Nordic Arts & Crafts movement and aesthetic, right in the lobby of modernism proper…

Which was expressed of course by the iconic and aforementioned Alvar Aalto, whose self-designed villa I visited in suburban Helsinki just the other month, and whose designs are still going strong and sold to the smart world from Artek, the store I can see from this bar across the sandy walk of the Esplanade – the promenade ground of Helsinki society in the nineteenth century…

Jesse brought the bill and I wondered whether your total artwork – your Guernica, Large Glass, or Death of Actaeon – might take the form of a hybridization of the literary and the architectural, resolved within a trompe l’oeil pattern that doubled as a political thesis in code? “One may as well begin with Helen’s letters to her sister…”

In the end, all of one’s designs are interior in one way or another, and all of your symmetries and folds and cuts. To start a scene, swell a progress or two: Pugin (Augustus Welby) wrote of himself and his work: “It’s not a style; it’s a principle”. And I think you meet him on that, although you wouldn’t necessarily shout about it. When I rose to leave I of course bumped the table and my glass went flying. Jesse rushed to assist. But I am humiliated. I am constantly humiliated. As my mother once remarked, “Water finds its own level”. Even amidst all this dreadful luxury.

Please take much care. I happen to like New York.

And love as ever,
Michael

List of Works

Lucy McKenzie, Motifs From the Alhambra, 2013. Site-specific wall painting. Courtesy the artist.

Over the past fifteen years Lucy McKenzie has appropriated many architectural interiors. The designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Adolf Loos, and Belgian Art Nouveau have all been reimagined in one way or another, and they provide archetypes whose idealisms can be unmoored through reuse. In this new site-specific wall painting for The Artist’s Institute, as well as a series of paintings produced for her show Something They Have to Live With at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, McKenzie has turned her deft hand to the opulent patterning of the Alhambra palace in Granada. For many, the Alhambra represents archetypal perfection. Intricate Arabic patterns cover its surfaces in crimson, saffron, and bright blue, and it’s perhaps no surprise that a Moorish poet once described those ornate interiors surrounded by lush gardens as “pearls set in emeralds.”

The first widely available study of the Alhambra was done in the mid-nineteenth century by architect and design theorist Owen Jones. He documented the architecture and décor of the palace and translated its wall texts. His veneration for Middle Eastern design went against the prevailing consensus at the time, when critics like John Ruskin were promoting Neo-Classicism and Neo-Gothic architecture as the only ones relevant, as a result of their European biases. By contrast, Jones’s seminal handbook The Grammar of Ornament gave equal status to non-Western design.

What Jones identified in his study of the Alhambra is the way monumental pattern, in combination with natural elements, creates atmosphere and harmony—the principles of how repetition functions in space. This influence is apparent in his scheme for the 185 Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London, which used pure primary polychromes systematically throughout its façade. This selective application created, on an epic scale, a unified tone of hazy gray, which softened as it gradually shifted into the distance of the large hall.

Jones’s scholarly and artistic work is an inspiration for McKenzie’s interior. It celebrates the astonishing pattern work and inventive color combinations of Islamic architecture that have been so important to Western design.


Anthony Symonds, Bolshevik Drag, 2013. Courtesy Cabinet Gallery, London.

Anthony Symonds’s designs are akin to the pure geometry and structured drapery of modernist couturiers Madames Vionnet and Gres, yet his materials are basic and utilitarian. This finished piece, one of five unique works in the 2013 collection, references medieval armor while playing with the fetishism of consumption. Though as Symonds points out, “in the end, it’s really just about making some fierce drag!”


Anthony Symonds, Dress Pattern from Pattern Piece Series 1–Bolshevik Drag, 2013. Courtesy Cabinet Gallery, London.

This pattern, which was the basis for Anthony Symonds’s 2013 collection Bolshevik Drag, is deceptively simple. Its rectangular form and precise slits and openings create a system that can generate an infinite number of dresses. These instructions, though simple in appearance, are hardly elementary in concept or rendering. Each creates a unique look at is confirms to its wearer’s body.


Lucy Mckenzie, Bolshevik Drag Dress Pattern Illustrations, 2013. Watercolor on paper. Courtesy Anthony Symonds.

Many an amateur sewer will recall the pleasure of eying the illustration on the envelope of a Vogue pattern. McCall’s and Butterick had them too: women with trim waists and elongated limbs, wearing their hair in a loose bun or the latest bob, living out the fantasy of a pattern completed to perfection. In connection with Anthony Symonds’s work for Bolshevik Drag, McKenzie has hand painted fashion illustrations in the style of 1970s commercial drawings for dress patterns. Her figures wear five of Symonds’s designs, each created from the same rectangular pattern.


Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing #84. A 12-inch (30 cm) square filled in by using all of the Crayola crayons in the pack of 12. Colored crayons. First drawn by: Sol LeWitt. First installation: Brooklyn Bridge Pier, New York. June 1971. LeWitt Collection, Chester, Connecticut. (on display Nov. 20–Dec. 1)

Sol LeWitt once said he enjoyed scribbling because it didn’t require too much concentration. It was something he could do while talking on the phone or watching TV. WD #84 is composed entirely of scribbles. To make it, a drafter uses every single color from the original Crayola 12-pack — Red, Yellow, Blue, Green, Orange, Purple, Black, White, Brown, Carnation pink, Indigo, Gray — and wears down the crayons in their entirety to form a dense twelve-inch square.

WD #84 was first executed by LeWitt for the inaugural exhibition of the The Institute for Art and Urban Resources, the precursor to P.S.1 in Long Island City. It was installed outdoors, on a pier of the Brooklyn Bridge. For the version here at The Artist’s Institute, John Hogan, a senior LeWitt draftsperson installed WD  #84 with the help of students from the Hunter College Art Department. It replaces one section of Lucy McKenzie’s wall painting, providing a playful counterpoint to her intricate stencil work based on motifs from the Alhambra.

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Atelier E.B., December 6 – December 22, 2013

Atelier E.B. is the company name under which artist Lucy McKenzie and designer Beca Lipscombe sign their collaborative projects. Their work to date includes commissioned displays and interiors, textiles, furniture and publishing. In 2011, Atelier E.B. produced its first fashion collection, The Inventors of Tradition, which grew out of its research into the post-1930s Scottish textiles industry. At The Artist’s Institute, the firm present and sell their second collection, Ost End Girls. The clothes and accessories employ the skills of artisans throughout Scotland and Belgium and are sold directly to individuals, keeping costs down and encouraging a relationship with the customer. Sitting somewhere between an art practice and a design business, Atelier E.B. examine the orthodoxies of contemporary production, distribution and promotion that attend the fields of art and fashion today.… Read more

Atelier E.B. is the company name under which artist Lucy McKenzie and designer Beca Lipscombe sign their collaborative projects. Their work to date includes commissioned displays and interiors, textiles, furniture and publishing. In 2011, Atelier E.B. produced its first fashion collection, The Inventors of Tradition, which grew out of its research into the post-1930s Scottish textiles industry. At The Artist’s Institute, the firm present and sell their second collection, Ost End Girls. The clothes and accessories employ the skills of artisans throughout Scotland and Belgium and are sold directly to individuals, keeping costs down and encouraging a relationship with the customer. Sitting somewhere between an art practice and a design business, Atelier E.B. examine the orthodoxies of contemporary production, distribution and promotion that attend the fields of art and fashion today.

Third Letter from Michael Bracewell to Lucy McKenzie

Fournier Street
London E1
December 3, 2013

Dear Lucy,

As you know, the houses along this street are very old—built by Huguenot weavers in 1726 and within two hundred years inhabited mostly by Russian Jewish furriers and their descendants. Indeed, the former owner of this house answered to precisely that description. He had his workshop on the top floor, with its long low line of wooden framed windows letting in the London light that washed over the rooftops as though from high white skies beyond the city, out above the fields of Essex and East Anglia.

And so this is a district that was dedicated, historically, to craft and to clothes— the back room, as it were, of tailoring and manufacture. Wherein I recall how you have made the understanding and the culture of craft so much a part of how you work as an artist—that craft itself, as an ideology, a skill, a mode of living, a political activity, an aesthetic, a history, is for you both subject and process, artistic principle and, almost, the performance of an ideal.

When you joined forces with like-minded spirits to establish a clothing and fashion label, I was thrilled but not surprised by the agility with which you made this a multi-faceted endeavor—rooted, without doubt, in the various talents required to see a garment from idea to point-of-sale, yet also, both clearly and mysteriously, something more… In the first place, your research into the history of textile manufacture and clothing retail, specifically in Scotland, opened up a world as though by time travel; and from their some exponential unfolding—through design history, feminism, pop culture, nationhood, aesthetics.

Yet also something personal, I think—for the literary seems never far away from your concerns, and through the language of fashion, manufacture and retail, it seemed that you were also adding some chapters to an autobiography that might find its place within a greater self-portrait, that is also (as Wystan Auden would have it) the country of yourself.

Too much?

I have questioned myself at length about these claims on your behalf, and do not find them wanting. For the task of the artist (if we believe Bridget Riley quoting Samuel Beckett on Marcel Proust, and who’s to say we shouldn’t?) is to translate the inner text that they carry around within themselves, and give it new form of its own—rendering the personal universal. And I think about the inner text that you must carry around within yourself, which is entirely personal and private to you, and yet which as an artist is ultimately all that you have to work from—for your great act of translation. This text must also be autobiographical. A few splintered shards throw themselves onto the screen: of wet Saturday afternoons spent searching for clothes and records, of wetter Saturday nights or dreary Sundays or ecstatic spring evenings; the conversion of the adolescent bedroom into part laboratory, part shrine, part private theatre, objective—self-recreation as something better, and access to the fourth dimension of romance.

We have discussed many times before the allure of an art-directed lifestyle—the kind of secular aesthetics that put all of the atelier skills of fine art into the service of the serious yet frivolous business of getting ready to go out. (In the early 1980s the soon-to-be Pet Shop Boys once lived in a flat on the Kings Road, in London.

And from their windows they would see the New Romantic poseur musician impresario Steve Strange making his way— in full face-paint and Pierrot costume, hair a gondola-black Siouxsie Sioux shock—most probably (we can only hope) to the supermarket. From this he defined the complete psychodynamic of New Romanticism in Movement and new Arts & all of its street-aesthete extravagance: it was all about getting ready. Once out, the evening had already peaked.)

Now let us run the tape in reverse, away from the high visibility style heroism of the King’s Road, Chelsea to the adolescent’s bedroom in the family home anywhere at all. So many, so many… And of those they all became Quentin Crisp: “I am an auto-fact—self-created.” Pop singles were the hymn tunes in this particular and well-established church, and icons made from pictures out magazines. But it doesn’t do to dwell and get sentimental—and besides, since around 1962 (as Andy, patron saint, observed) we have all grown up in a total Pop world and simply had to get on with it … Drive on any highway, baby…ready was so worth your while. And with that, absurdly, I am unaccountably overcome.

Love as always, and ever,
Michael

Letter from Beca Lipscombe to The Scotsman

The Scotsman Newspaper
Barclay House
108 Holyrood Road
Edinburgh, Scotland
April 2013

To Whom it May Concern:

I am compelled to write this letter knowing that it will not change the fate of the Caerlee Mills (formerly Ballantyne Cashmere), which very sadly went into administration last week, shutting down production 225 years after it first opened. However, I publicly wish to voice my great con- cern and dismay at the way in which another valuable asset to Scotland’s historical and cultural fabric has been allowed to disappear without a trace— leaving a gaping hole in our ever-vanishing textile industry and impacting negatively on yet another Scottish community. This is a community I have had the honor of knowing in my capacity as a director of a small-scale fashion label that produced in Scotland and sells internationally.

This is happening at a time when Scots and the world in general are scrutinizing our ability to survive independently. In this debate, the Scottish textiles industry can be seen as symbolic of the Scottish economy as a whole. In the textile industry I see a deleterious lack of government support.

Scotland was and is a nation famed for its production of high-end knitted and woven textiles. We have produced, and continue to this day to produce, for all the major luxury fashion houses in the world, although this is often done anonymously. These high-end companies come to Scotland because our textiles embody a skill, an understanding and a quality that they wish to see in the fibre from which their products are made. We are not a fashion nation—we leave that to Lon- don, Paris and Milan. However, Scotland does have a role in the continued production of quality textiles; this is what we understand and what we do best.

China is in the middle of an industrial revolution. Our industrial revolution happened so long ago that the Scottish textile industry finds itself housed in buildings that are not appropriate for business today; they are costly to heat and run, and have no apprenticeship schemes to offer and so lack programs of modernization or long-term investment.

I appreciate that we as consumers are at fault for wanting to buy clothing cheap. But if we saw the skilled process that a jumper goes through to be created we would not think its premium cost unjustified. The quality of our textiles transcends fashion. Fashion comes and goes, but a beautifully crafted jumper will always be needed and ours are renowned.

Caerlee Mills was the last mill in Europe predominately to employ the specialist knitware process of hand intarsia.* Some of the staff had worked there for over 40 years; we cannot buy, replace or pass on their knowledge once it has gone. I understand that the closure of Caerlee Mills has come about because of many factors. It should be emphasized, how- ever, that they had substantial orders on their books. Tragically, they were unable to produce these orders as they could not afford to buy the yarn up front. That, coupled with an antiquated building that was too costly to run, equals redundancies and devastation in Scottish communities.

A very different—and much more positive—story is the case of Chanel buying Barrie knitwear. Chanel have been taking over their French ateliers, famed for creating shoes, braiding and so on, because of their fear that once these businesses have gone there will be no-one skilled and experienced enough to do the job. Chanel understands the importance of investment in a skilled artisan workforce.

As a Scot, I realize that we do not always appreciate and value our strength until they have gone, to be appreciated elsewhere, if at all. So I salute the last standing textile companies—you know who you are! As world commerce and consumer patterns change one thing is for sure: unless government invests in and supports our struggling textile industries, very few will remain standing.

China may have might, but we have history, skill and legacy. This is a sad time! There is no one person to blame here
but a succession of unfortunate events: Beeching taking out the rail networks that services Dumfries and Galloway, the rise in yarn prices, antiquated buildings, a cash flow crisis, pension schemes not paying out, consumer patterns, competing industries worldwide, aviation…the list goes on.

I don’t claim to have the answers, I only observe from the outside. My company, Atelier E.B., has done extensive research into the post-1930s Scottish textiles industry, and we have seen for ourselves the tragic scale of what has been lost—Singer, Pringle, Ballantyne to name only a few of the great companies that went to the wall—and in the short time we have been collaborating with Scottish textiles companies we have witnessed much negative change. It all hang on such a fine thread.

Yours faithfully,
Beca Lipscombe
Atelier E.B.

 *Intarsia is the Italian word to describe inlaid patterns in wood. It was Ballantyne that developed this same idea but in knitting, at first using simple Argyll diamonds then growing more bold, depicting everything from the blossom of a cottage garden to the pattern on a Persian carpet. One inlaid panel of an intarisia sweater takes a highly skilled craftsman up to eight hours as each thread must be laid over the needles by hand to form the intricate pattern. The design is built up following the directions on a chart, constantly changing from color to color, laying the yarn into the needles with great care and precision.

List of Works

Atelier E.B.’s Ost End Girls collection contains winter essentials in the form of overcoats and cashmere tracksuits, a working wardrobe of painting coats, and for the first time, summer wear. Dreaming of warm coastlines they present t-shirts and beach throws in delirious colors. The Grecian aesthetic celebrated in classic couture and motifs from Antiquity have been reimagined for simple contemporary sportswear. Cashmere scarves and jewelry, reminiscent of holiday souviners, round out the season. It is a wardrobe for work and play, for men and women alike.

All items are available for purchase at The Artist’s Institute in Atelier E.B.’s first U.S. boutique. While past showrooms have been pre-order only, here in New York customers may enjoy instant gratification. Please contact the Institute to inquire about after-hours appointments.


Lindsay. Detail-less merino wool coat. Available in black / navy, long / short. In collaboration with Steven Purvis, Robert Noble, Scotland and Cleemput, Belgium.

Atelier E.B.’s tailor Steven Purvis has created an overcoat which combines masculine tailored construction with a modern feminine silhouette; the omission of pockets and fastening details enables the fabric to drop dramatically from the shoulders to the ground in an uninterrupted column. Lindsay simplifies the wearers figure. It is the perfect coat to complete an outfit of restrained androgyny or as the sober counterpoint to a flamboyant accessory. Naturally waterproof, durable and stable, Lindsay’s wool cord fabric is woven by Robert Noble of Peebles. It is the coat fabric used for the uniforms of the coachmen to the British monarchy for exactly these qualities.


Babs. Cotton jersey t-shirt dress. Available short / long with Egypt and Running Dog print in black, blue, rust and yellow. Hand printed by Atelier E.B., Scotland. In collaboration with Cleemput, Belgium.

Like Lindsay, the long Babs t-shirt dress streamlines the body into an elegant graphic column. Its Running Dog motif evokes the neo-classicism of Edinburgh’s Carlton hill or the dilapidated Alexander Thomson buildings dotted around Glasgow. Wear with Atelier E.B.s hand printed elastic belt to create an amphora rather than column silhouette. Machine washable cotton jersey, it is the party dress of choice on relaxed summer holidays. Roll up the sleeves and wear with sandals.


Garçon. Cotton jersey t-shirt. Available with Egypt, Gods with Running Dog and Perfume print in black, blue, rust and yellow. Hand printed by Atelier E.B., Scotland. In collaboration with Cleemput, Belgium.

A summer wardrobe basic, the Garçon t-shirt will age in the sun, its print fading from black to grey, its soft cotton jersey becoming worn in all the right places. The Perfume print illustrated here is inspired by the packaging of Cabochard, the 1959 scent by Madame Grès worn by designer Beca Lipscombe’s mother. For winter, combine with the matching Fade to Grès blanket and socks for prodigious cosiness in bed. In case you are wondering, Atelier E.B. do not intend to design a perfume in the near future.


Manet. PK cotton jersey polo shirt. Available with Horus embroidery and Solo Dog print in black, rust and white Solo Dog hand printed by Atelier E.B., Scotland. In collaboration with Cleemput, Belgium.

The polo shirt is the designated attire of the genteel sports. It is also a key style component in mod, skinhead and casual subcultures. Its design and branding has been adopted by Italian, French and American sportswear labels, but it remains irrevocably linked to an idea of “Britishness”. Atelier E.B. finds the complexity of its cultural implications thrilling. Combining their fascination for both classical ornament and knock-off culture they make their own interpretation of this standard garment, eschewing a company logo for a clip-art Eye of Horus. It came out looking like the sports kit for a nice girl’s boarding school in Cairo.


Beca. Backless lambswool jumper. Available in cobble, lupin, tartan scarlet and Victoria. In collaboration with EMB knitwear, Scotland.

The Beca lambswool jumper is named after its creator Beca Lipscombe and is a model she has refined since 2005. The erotic glimpse of bare back that the cut away allows turns this seemingly modest school jumper into something more seductive; the neck band bisects the shoulder blades at the most flattering point. Inject some sensual panache into a modest winter wardrobe; it can also be worn back to front to show off a beloved shirt or necklace. The fine Scottish lambswool from which it is made retains traces of its natural oil and scent well after first wear.


Hyro. Lambswool angora scarf. Navy / yellow reversible. In collaboration with Begg, Scotland.

This hardwearing unisex scarf features cartoon imagery of Egyptian hieroglyphics as bold in colour as a frame from a Tintin bande dessinee. Combine with the Atelier E.B. cashmere jogging suits in furnace, lugano and papaya to create a deliriously colourful ensemble for chilly home or studio.


Edinburgh. Cashmere silk scarf. Available with Bruxelles motif in dark-blue / grey-blue and coral / grey-blue. In collaboration with Begg, Scotland

Like a souvenir for a World Fair that never happened, this scarf is a memento of the immaginative voyage one takes when transforming one’s hometown into a dreamland. Inspired by the boxes of the Viennese chocolate shop Altmann & Kuehne, a living link to the Wiener Werkstatte, they feature Beca and Lucy’s favourite buildings. The Port O’Leith Bar and Saint Columba’s Hospice Shop, Chateau Charles-Albert and the legendary Interferences bar just off the Grand Place. The muted tones of the cashmere silk flatter the complexion as summer tans start to fade. It is light, durable and the ideal companion on a long trip in any season.


How D’You Know Me? Lambswool and cashmere blanket. Available with Emma…and Fade to Grès motifs. In collaboration with Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Panel and Begg, Scotland

These blankets were conceived as merchandise for the Olympic and Commonwealth Games, with the lived experience rather than branding in mind. They are to provide warmth during outdoor events, to relax and picnic on, wrap a tired child in on the journey home. No-one likes to sit on Kingo, the cat depicted on How D’You Know Me? Instead they sit beside and absentmindedly stroke her, the mix of lambswool and cashmere being as pleasing to the touch as a sleeping companion furry or otherwise.


Ettore. Lambswool socks. Available with Grès motif in black and white. In collaboration with EMB knitwear, Scotland.

The work of the Flemish designer Peiter de Bruyne influenced the Ost End Girls intarsia knitwear. His Italian counterpart, Ettore Sottsass, is evoked in the lettering on these unisex lambswool socks. Many of Atelier E.B.’s products are prohibitively expensive because of their fine materials and small production numbers made by local producers. The Grès version of the socks use the same beautiful motif as the luxury blanket, but at an affordable price. An inspired thank-you or Christmas gift.


Cleo. Indian cotton beach-throw with silkscreen print. Hand-printed by Atelier E.B., Scotland

Atelier E.B.s holiday in 2012 on the island of Stromboli was the inspiration for the summer garments in the Ost End Girls collection, for which Cleopatra has become the unofficial mascot. Here she lies, happy as a pig in the mud with her milk snake and with Death on the Nile on her Kindle. Use as a quick drying towel, wear as a sarong or headscarf or bundle one’s possessions into on the black sand. During winter display on the wall as a fabric poster.


Kareen. Leather shoulder bag. Available in navy. In collaboration with McRostie of Glasgow, Scotland.

Following the success of the black model for Atelier E.B.’s 2011 Inventors of Tradition collection, for the shop at The Artist’s Institute, Kareen is reissued in a deep ballpoint-ink navy. Particularly practical while cycling, the ticket collector style provides easy access, yet is ingeniously pickpocket proof for when visiting tourist traps.


Tombraiders. Cotton tote bag with silkscreen print and unique fabric crayon hand colouring. Available with AEB badge. Hand-printed by Atelier E.B., Scotland.

Individually coloured with fabric crayons, these unique bags advertise Tombraiders, a fictitious record shop where the merchandise is so obscure that you’d have to be as intrepid as Lara Croft or Indiana Jones to uncover its hidden treasure. Atelier E.B.s visual identity and commercial ethos is inspired in part by the small independent record labels of the late 1970s and 1980s – Industrial, Factory, Sordide Sentimental and Twilight Records. The ambitiousness of their graphic design expressed an intelligence that activated the music it advertised. This tote book bag pays homage to those experiments.


Nefertiti. Moulded felt and knitted wool hat. Available in black. In collaboration with Muehlbauer, Austria.

The silhouette of Queen Nefertiti inspired this softly sculpted knitted hat fabricated by Austrian milliners Muehlbauer, a family business who have been making head wear since 1903.  Worn on the crown of the head this hat is fit for any 1960s Egyptian movie queen. Combine with sunglasses for chic anonymity.


Ost End Girls. Cotton baseball cap. Available with Cleo and Wave motifs in black, navy and white. In collaboration with Fourth Sector, Scotland.

Everyone likes that yah posh-girl look of baseball cap with a rugby top. Or Norma in the film Carrie – the mean girl with the red cap played by P.J. Soles. Atelier E.B. grew up dancing to The Pet Shop Boys and with the Ost End Girls caps they broadcast this fact unabashed. The rust Wave motif on the black model pays homage to master potter Josiah Wedgwood, it mimics the decorative band around a Jasperware vase.


CHF. 20 Swiss cent coin detail with brass chain / surround. Available also in Lire model with silver chain / surround and as bracelet / necklace. In collaboration with Atelier Elf, Belgium.

This pendant is based on the one Lucile Desamory found at the bottom of her grandmother’s jewelry box once all her relatives had chosen the more costly items for their inheritance. Between exercises to increase precision the trainee metalworkers in the Belfast shipyard that Jonnie Wilkes worked in briefly would cut out Elizabeth II’s head from coins. Atelier E.B. chose to use the portraits on the current 20 Swiss cent and old 200 Italian lire coins because of their antique universality. They simply take advantage of the detail and craftsmanship that pass over counters and into slot machines unnoticed every day.


AEB. Iron / goldplate badge. Available with Cleo motif in enamel / iron. Manufactured by Badges +, England.

Perfecting ones overlapping “bubble” writing on the front of a notebook was a competitive sport in school. With a gentle nod to the postmodernist Memphis group this, along with vinyl-queen Cleo, are the detachable pin labels for Atelier E.B.s latest collection. Atelier E.B. asks the manufacturers they work with to give their garments their standard factory labelling. It is up to the customer if they choose to keep and display the pin that comes with their purchase. Because of their reliance on and appreciation of their manufacturers, Atelier E.B. doesn’t take credit for their products alone.

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Nemesis, January 10 – February 2, 2014

In popular cinema, a geriatric woman rarely finds herself as the lead of a dramatic plot. Left to her knitting, crossword puzzles, and gossip, she is sidelined and desexualized—hardly the harbinger of erotic tension. Yet the four films presented in Nemesis present an entirely different archetype. Featuring middle-aged women in artificially induced states of old age, the characters in these films reveal the seductive powers of their elderly masquerade. In this final episode, we come to discover the instinctive pleasure of deciphering clues, whether at a crime scene or in a trompe l’oeil of wrinkles. … Read more

In popular cinema, a geriatric woman rarely finds herself as the lead of a dramatic plot. Left to her knitting, crossword puzzles, and gossip, she is sidelined and desexualized—hardly the harbinger of erotic tension. Yet the four films presented in Nemesis present an entirely different archetype. Featuring middle-aged women in artificially induced states of old age, the characters in these films reveal the seductive powers of their elderly masquerade. In this final episode, we come to discover the instinctive pleasure of deciphering clues, whether at a crime scene or in a trompe l’oeil of wrinkles. 

Fourth Letter from Michael Bracewell to Lucy McKenzie

The Danny Kaye Suite
Hotel Therme
Vals
Switzerland

Dearest L,

Some years ago I remember having a conversation with Linder, and either she said or I said that it seemed as though she was looking for God, while I was looking for some elderly hairdressers in West Kensington. It was a pivotal conversation, and one that led her to the spiritual practice of Kundalini yoga, based on a 1935 treatise by Sivananda Saraswati, and me to a small mews house at the top of the Kings Road, Chelsea. The house was petite and exquisite and reminded me of some words of advice from our mutual friend, the seemingly ageless and eternally right Peter York, that Tiresias of the glossy magazine, who had said, as I was getting out of a taxi in Marylebone High Street, “You must look for Sloane wallpaper designers and…. women of a certain age…”

And when I looked again, he was a blue caterpillar smoking a hookah, and when I looked again, he was gone.

The occupant of this small mews house was indeed a woman of a certain age, who had heard her first gay sound system in the peeling stucco fronted mansion of a theatre designer in Notting Hill, some time around 1970. She seemed to know everything, and have known everyone, but wasn’t anything like as unbearable as that sounds. And so the point of this story is that she ran through the usual list of suspects, from Hockney to Tim Curry, and then remarked that there had been something in the air back in those days, about people with artistic inclinations wanting to work not in one medium, but across many media; and yet, lo and behold, when one stood back to gaze upon all their works, it seemed as though all of the different media reassembled themselves into one singular artistic statement: that your coffee service resembled your interior design which matched your clothes which gave you the perfect assemblage in which to listen to the music that you made – As Peter had told us: you had the whole kit…

Lucy, are you customised or readymade, heavy metal, trick or treat? Because not far from where this lady, back at home with her Beatles and her Stones, kept house for the survivors of those glamorous times, stood a boutique whose owner recalled that those same people were above all very clever people who were interested in clever things… Part Mod, part magi. They had hurled themselves into art school, and therein realised that if you so chose – which you could – you could find the authorisation of such titans as Duchamp and Warhol to endorse a trans-media art-directed lifestyle in which your singular art comprised a multiplicity of versions. But this was another country, and many of those involved (to borrow a phrase much used by Danny La Rue) are sadly no longer with us…

Sometime around September 2008, I turned into W.H. Auden and went to New York. I had my own “New Year Letter” to write, which occupies me still, and I feel liberated, every day, by the fact that not many people, deep down in their hearts, could really care less what a writer does or doesn’t write. Their indifference can be so enabling – a version perhaps of Stravinsky’s maxim that that which constrained him would be his liberation. For me, I seem to speak most persuasively when there’s not a cat-in-hell’s chance of anybody listening.

And somewhere within this discursive void, I became interested in the idea of revisiting texts that I had written and even published before. I mean, why not? Who would notice? And painters as they grow older may revisit earlier works; and great musicians will record or perform many different versions of the same old standard, mining abstraction – ‘My Funny Valentine’, ‘Time After Time’, ‘Dedicated To You’. The act of reprisal is I believe a powerfully creative act, like Horace’s ‘Writing is re-writing’, like Richard Hamilton’s repeated return to the image of the handcuffed Mick Jagger and Robert Fraser. In the repetition lies the epic; in the return lies the beginning – “Oh here and now our endless journey stops. We never left the place where we were born…”

You saved the best until last, and brought it all together in a ten minute silent film: the detective fiction, the fashion, the art, the music, the interior design, the exhibitionism, the feminism, the department store, the packaging, the retail engineering, the product design, the patterns that expand as they repeat, the humour, the socio-cultural style critique – and you make of it a sly pantomime, a church hall amateur dramatics, a low form for high ideas; a self-portrait in the language of fine art daytime television; and the laughter is on your side…

The translation of the life into the work is as you know a mercilessly demanding path to take, perilous, most probably fatal; you get the applause and the money and the respect, but you give your nervous system in return. (A Beatle said that, and you may or may not agree.) But it’s what you’re doing and few do it better. And moi? I am on a lonely road and I am travelling, travelling… Linder’s astrologer once told her that I would travel until I was too exhausted to continue. I think about that a lot. And you, where next? But one fine day…

Ever and ever,
Michael

List of Works

Lucy McKenzie and Richard Kern, The Girl Who Followed Marple. Silent digital video, 10 min., 2014. With Lucy McKenzie, Alison Yip, Beca Lipscombe, Thea Westreich, Ashley Carr, Suzanne Modica, and Duncan Hannah. Filmed by Richard Kern. Decor by Lucile Desamory and Caitlin Keough. Courtesy of the artists.

Lucy McKenzie’s short film, The Girl Who Followed Marple was conceived and produced in New York this winter with the filmmaker Richard Kern. Part showcase for the fashion label Atelier E.B., part infomercial for a brand of menstrual cup, the film envelopes its commercial underpinnings in the familiarity of a television thriller and the complicit voyeurism that a collaboration with Richard Kern’s entails.

Chief among the products the film promotes is the “Mooncup”, a reusable menstrual cup which McKenzie’s describes with affection: With the Mooncup we encounter fresh menstrual blood not with the alienation of conventional sanitary products, but like high quality paint. As it is diluted with water its Bordeaux tones are edged with Naples yellow, diluting further it becomes traced with light Cornflower blue. In the film the Mooncup is both clue and crime.

The Girl Who Follows Marple is inspired by some of the more inventive ways that products have been marketed to women. It draws on the nineteenth-century fashion for staging plays in department stores, in which the costumes were simultaneously available for purchase, as well as the canny way that women’s hygiene products absorbed the women’s movement in the 1960s.

Milena Dopitova, Sixtysomething, 2003, 5 min. Green Plateaus I, 2003, 3 min. Both single channel color video, edition of 10. Courtesy Polansky Gallery, Prague.

These two films by Czech artist Milena Dopitova are part of a wider project Sixtysomething, in which the artists uses sculpture, film and photography to explore personal identity and the sociology of aging. The artist, who was forty years old when the film was made, uses the physical differences between herself and her twin sister to comment on the marginalization of the elderly in the Czech Republic and other countries of the former Soviet Bloc, who had little provision for their aging poor. In one film, we see Dopitova and her sister in the process of transformation into elderly women, much in the style of a makeover show. In Green Plateaus I, two women dance together in age-appropriate costumes in a provincial grey winter landscape. The disjuncture of this same-sex couple without the usual signifiers of sexual liberation, implies an alternative world in which politics have shifted without rippling the surface of traditional society.

Thriller, Season 4, Episode 2: “The Nurse Will Make It Better.” (US title: “The Devil’s Web”), Television series, 73 min., Original UK airdate, January 11, 1975. With Diana Dors, Michael Culver, Patrick Troughton, Ed Bishop, Cec Linder, Andrea Marcovicci, and Wendy Williams.

Produced in the mid-1970s as a UK-US production, the television series “Thriller” features tales of the supernatural with elements of crime and suspense. Static sets, stock-in-trade characters, and foreseeable plot twists all reassure the audience that it is in comfortable territory. Like much film categorised as “genre”, it is the show’s unselfconscious conveyor-belt quality which gives it its unique atmosphere. In this episode, “Nurse Will Make It Better”, Diana Dors, a 1950s British pin-up actress to rival Marilyn Monroe, embodies the archetypal role of a demonic nurse. The world-famous sex symbol dons a grey wig and latex wart.

 

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Events

February 2, 6pm,

The Girl Who Followed Marple Soundtracks.
Before the invention of “talkies” in the 1920s, silent films were usually accompanied by live music. The scores were typically improvised, and many theater organs had special sound effects that could be used for things like galloping horses or rolling thunder. Though the sound of the human voice could not yet be synchronized, the soundtracks gave cinema goers added emotional cues to what they were viewing on screen. … Read more

February 2, 6pm,

The Girl Who Followed Marple Soundtracks.
Before the invention of “talkies” in the 1920s, silent films were usually accompanied by live music. The scores were typically improvised, and many theater organs had special sound effects that could be used for things like galloping horses or rolling thunder. Though the sound of the human voice could not yet be synchronized, the soundtracks gave cinema goers added emotional cues to what they were viewing on screen. 

Lucy McKenzie and Richard Kern’s film The Girl Who Followed Marple is silent, using title cards in place of prerecorded sound. In step with an earlier era of cinema, she has commissioned soundtracks from composers Martial Canterel, Michael Mahalchick, Robert McNeill, Aaron Moore, and Alex Waterman. On our final evening of Lucy McKenzie’s season at The Artist’s Institute, we will screen the film in repetition, watching the narrative with a different soundtrack option every time it plays.

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January 23, 7pm,

David Greven Talk: “Driving Miss Diva: The Intransigence of the Aging Female Star in 60s Horror and Beyond.”
Horror movies of the 1960s were energized by the emergence of a new sub-genre: the “Grande Dame Guignol”. Movies like What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, Strait-Jacket starring Crawford, and Dead Ringers and The Nanny starring Davis allowed the aging female star to dominate the screen and to pursue sexual conquests with an aplomb and a visibility offered by no other genre. And yet when comparing these films to the 1980s hit Driving Ms. Daisy, it is apparent that in later years the older female star can dominate only if she is desexualized. … Read more

January 23, 7pm,

David Greven Talk: “Driving Miss Diva: The Intransigence of the Aging Female Star in 60s Horror and Beyond.”
Horror movies of the 1960s were energized by the emergence of a new sub-genre: the “Grande Dame Guignol”. Movies like What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, Strait-Jacket starring Crawford, and Dead Ringers and The Nanny starring Davis allowed the aging female star to dominate the screen and to pursue sexual conquests with an aplomb and a visibility offered by no other genre. And yet when comparing these films to the 1980s hit Driving Ms. Daisy, it is apparent that in later years the older female star can dominate only if she is desexualized. 

Thinking through the history of the woman’s film from the 1930s to Lifetime TV, scholar David Greven will talk about the controversial intersection between the aging female star and the horror genre, along with the queer significance of the sub-genre “horror woman’s film” and images of fierce aging femininity in later eras. The title of Greven’s talk is “Driving Ms. Diva: The Intransigence of the Aging Female Star in 60s Horror and Beyond.”

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January 16, 7pm,

Peter Cook and Anna Kerrigan Talk.
They say criminals like to return to the scene of their crimes.  But even those who have committed no guilty act may feel the draw of the soiled site.  Crime television allows for a safe visit, not only to the locations of a transgression, but to the acts themselves. … Read more

January 16, 7pm,

Peter Cook and Anna Kerrigan Talk.
They say criminals like to return to the scene of their crimes.  But even those who have committed no guilty act may feel the draw of the soiled site.  Crime television allows for a safe visit, not only to the locations of a transgression, but to the acts themselves. 

Peter Cook and Anna Kerrigan cast and direct for crime television shows including Royal Inquest, Twist of Fate, Dead of Night, and I’d Kill For You.  From sourcing wigs for actors, to dramatically lighting weapons, to posing questions to those involved with a misdeed, Cook and Kerrigan  reconstruct scenes of unlawful action.  By both withholding and presenting information about a crime already committed, they produce pleasure around an otherwise macabre subject matter.

Cook and Kerrigan will join us to discuss their work in an event organized by Institute Fellows Ylinka Barotto, Maia Murphy, and Sarah Cooper. A special thanks to Tom Blunt.

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January 10, 6pm–8pm,

Exhibition Opening.
Lucy McKenzie premieres “The Girl Who Followed Marple”, a short film she conceived and produced in New York this winter with filmmaker Richard Kern. Part showcase for the fashion label Atelier E.B., part infomercial for a particular brand of menstrual cup, “The Girl Who Followed Marple” envelopes its commercial underpinnings in the familiarity of a made-for-TV thriller and the complicit voyeurism that a collaboration with Kern entails. … Read more

January 10, 6pm–8pm,

Exhibition Opening.
Lucy McKenzie premieres “The Girl Who Followed Marple”, a short film she conceived and produced in New York this winter with filmmaker Richard Kern. Part showcase for the fashion label Atelier E.B., part infomercial for a particular brand of menstrual cup, “The Girl Who Followed Marple” envelopes its commercial underpinnings in the familiarity of a made-for-TV thriller and the complicit voyeurism that a collaboration with Kern entails. 

Two films from artist Milena Dopitova’s project Sixtysomething are also on view, along with an episode of the 1970s television series “Thriller,” in which pin-up actress Diana Dors dons a grey wig and latex wart.

Please join us for the opening of Lucy McKenzie’s final episode on January 10, 2014 from 6–8 p.m.

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December 9, 7pm,

McKenzie, Lipscombe, and Martin: Three Short Lectures.
Lucy McKenzie and Beca Lipscombe of Atelier E.B. join Penny Martin, editor in chief of the women’s fashion magazine The Gentlewoman, for an evening of discussion about their subjective relationship to clothing and the ways that they navigate the ever-intertwined worlds of fashion and art on their own terms. … Read more

December 9, 7pm,

McKenzie, Lipscombe, and Martin: Three Short Lectures.
Lucy McKenzie and Beca Lipscombe of Atelier E.B. join Penny Martin, editor in chief of the women’s fashion magazine The Gentlewoman, for an evening of discussion about their subjective relationship to clothing and the ways that they navigate the ever-intertwined worlds of fashion and art on their own terms. 


Lucy McKenzie, “Just Because They’re Wearing a White Coat Doesn’t Mean You Have To Do What They Say”

Fashion has been a part of McKenzie’s visual art since she first made Soviet leotards as a student in Dundee. Yet rather than merely reference fashion imagery in her work, or allow it to be incorporated as a marketing device by the fashion establishment, she uses fashion – its history, economy, and aesthetics – to generate social events and fictional narratives. She will speak about the associations of the iconic white work coat, which are present in each Atelier E.B. collection and are worn by skilled painters, make-up counter women and scientists alike.


Beca Lipscombe, “Looking at High Taste From a Low Place”

Lipscombe was a teenage Casual. Rejecting the conventional path offered to her as a respected emerging talent at Central St. Martin, London, she returned to Edinburgh after her training, a city with relatively no job opportunities for a young designer and founded her own independent label. She will speak about the life of specific Atelier E.B. garments, from their inspiration and manufacture to how they have been appropriated by others within the fashion industry.


Penny Martin, “Elegant Refusal”

Penny Martin is a respected editor and writer, and noted within the fashion industry for her cerebral and considered point of view. Boasting a diverse career path traversing media, academia and photo curation. Martin worked alongside fashion luminaries Nick Knight and Peter Saville for seven years, editing their online fashion website SHOWstudio, and contributes to magazines such as W, The New York Times Style Magazine: T and Fantastic Man. She will speak about how creating something new and important in women’s publishing today requires a point of view that’s defined by what you don’t do. In discussing how The Gentlewoman has developed over its four years, she will focus on the importance of specificity and opinion versus random creativity.

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December 6, 6pm–8pm,

Atelier E.B. Grand Opening.
Atelier E.B. is the company name under which artist Lucy McKenzie and designer Beca Lipscombe sign their collaborative projects. Their work to date includes commissioned displays and interiors, textiles, furniture and publishing. In 2011, Atelier E.B. produced its first fashion collection, exhibition, and catalog, The Inventors of Tradition, which grew out of its research into the post-1930s Scottish textiles industry. The clothes and accessories employed the skills of artisans throughout Scotland, while drawing on the rich design histories of manufacturers including Singer, Pringle, and Ballantyne. Items were sold directly to individuals through a series of showrooms, keeping costs down and encouraging a relationship with the customer. Through this visually and conceptually complex project, Atelier E.B. examined the orthodoxies of contemporary production, distribution and promotion that attend the fields of art and fashion today. … Read more

December 6, 6pm–8pm,

Atelier E.B. Grand Opening.
Atelier E.B. is the company name under which artist Lucy McKenzie and designer Beca Lipscombe sign their collaborative projects. Their work to date includes commissioned displays and interiors, textiles, furniture and publishing. In 2011, Atelier E.B. produced its first fashion collection, exhibition, and catalog, The Inventors of Tradition, which grew out of its research into the post-1930s Scottish textiles industry. The clothes and accessories employed the skills of artisans throughout Scotland, while drawing on the rich design histories of manufacturers including Singer, Pringle, and Ballantyne. Items were sold directly to individuals through a series of showrooms, keeping costs down and encouraging a relationship with the customer. Through this visually and conceptually complex project, Atelier E.B. examined the orthodoxies of contemporary production, distribution and promotion that attend the fields of art and fashion today. 

For the month of December, Atelier E.B. will present and sell their second fashion collection, Ost End Girls, at The Artist’s Institute. It continues the partnership’s commitment to high-quality knitwear, wovens, and accessories that use the best of Scottish, and now Belgian, manufacturing. Ost End Girls contains winter essentials in the form of overcoats and cashmere tracksuits, a working wardrobe of painting coats, and for the first time, summer wear. Dreaming of warm coastlines they present t-shirts and beach throws in delirious colors. The Grecian aesthetic celebrated in classic couture and motifs from Antiquity have been reimagined for simple contemporary sportswear. Cashmere scarves and jewelry, reminiscent of holiday souviners, round out the season. It is a wardrobe for work and play, for men and women alike.

Please join us this Friday as we celebrate the grand opening of Atelier E.B.’s NYC boutique. Shopping hours continue through Dec. 22nd. The Institute is open Friday through Sunday, 12-6, and by appointment.

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November 20, 6pm–8pm,

Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing.
Sol LeWitt once said he enjoyed scribbling because it didn’t require too much concentration. It was something he could do while talking on the phone or watching TV. Wall Drawing #84 is composed entirely of scribbles. To make it, a drafter uses every single color from the original Crayola 12-pack — Red, Yellow, Blue, Green, Orange, Purple, Black, White, Brown, Carnation pink, Indigo, Gray — and wears down the crayons in their entirety to form a dense twelve-inch square. … Read more

November 20, 6pm–8pm,

Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing.
Sol LeWitt once said he enjoyed scribbling because it didn’t require too much concentration. It was something he could do while talking on the phone or watching TV. Wall Drawing #84 is composed entirely of scribbles. To make it, a drafter uses every single color from the original Crayola 12-pack — Red, Yellow, Blue, Green, Orange, Purple, Black, White, Brown, Carnation pink, Indigo, Gray — and wears down the crayons in their entirety to form a dense twelve-inch square. 

This Wednesday, John Hogan, senior draftsperson and Mary Jo and Ted Shen Sol LeWitt Wall Drawings Installation Director and Archivist, Yale University Art Gallery, will be installing WD  #84 at The Artist’s Institute with the help of students from the Hunter College Art Department. It will replace one section of Lucy McKenzie’s wall painting, providing a playful counterpoint to her intricate stencil work based on motifs from the Alhambra.

Please join us on Nov. 20th at 6:00 PM to view the completed work. Institute Fellows Lindsay Aveilhe, Raphael Lepine, and Michelle Rosenberg, who have organized this event, will be on hand to distribute a walking guide for Sol LeWitt wall drawings in public spaces throughout New York City.

A special thanks to The LeWitt Estate.

 

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November 11, 7pm,

Lucile Desamory’s ABRACADABRA.
As in her current installation, Motifs From the Alhambra, 2013, Lucy McKenzie’s paintings celebrate their decorative function by becoming backdrops for a range of activities. In a recent work, she created an imaginary room inspired by Muriel Spark’s 1963 novella The Girls of Slender Means that, in addition to hanging in a gallery, was used as a film set for Lucile Desamory’s ABRACADABRA. To further explore the performative dimension of McKenzie’s painting practice, The Artist’s Institute in collaboration with Anthology Film Archive will host the U.S. premiere of Desamory’s film. … Read more

November 11, 7pm,

Lucile Desamory’s ABRACADABRA.
As in her current installation, Motifs From the Alhambra, 2013, Lucy McKenzie’s paintings celebrate their decorative function by becoming backdrops for a range of activities. In a recent work, she created an imaginary room inspired by Muriel Spark’s 1963 novella The Girls of Slender Means that, in addition to hanging in a gallery, was used as a film set for Lucile Desamory’s ABRACADABRA. To further explore the performative dimension of McKenzie’s painting practice, The Artist’s Institute in collaboration with Anthology Film Archive will host the U.S. premiere of Desamory’s film. 

ABRACADABRA centers on a reporter named Damien who is haunted by a ghost after winning a game of Scrabble. As the story unfolds through the dark streets of Brussels a bourgeois interior, Damien soon finds himself drawn into the symbolic qualities of the building, only to find he may never escape. ABRACADABRA is partly inspired by the short story The Open Window 1911, by British writer Hector Hugh Munro, a.k.a. Saki (1870–1916), where a fifteen year-old girl frightens a nervous male visitor with a fabricated story about an open French window overlooking her lawn. This interest in reinterpreting the everyday, or the uncanny, is played out and heightened by McKenzie’s trompe l’oeil paintings, which repeat an intertwining of reality and dream in the film and offer Damien another passageway to explore.

To purchase tickets, please visit anthologyfilmarchives.org. Lucile Desamory, ABRACADBRA, 2013, 78 minutes, video.

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November 2, 2pm,

Pattern Workshop with Anthony Symonds.
Anthony Symonds is a British fashion designer influenced by underground fashion, music, and the 80s club scene in London. He has worked as a designer for both luxury labels and the mass market and now makes small couture collections that are exhibited and promoted through the art gallery system. Symonds’s latest collection Bolshevik Drag, 2013, is made from multiple variations on a single pattern. Though made from inexpensive, utilitarian fabrics, his garments are constructed with the ultimate attention to detail. To introduce fashion enthusiasts and novices alike to the clothing construction process, Symonds is holding a workshop where a myriad of dresses in neon stretch jersey will be attempted from the same set of instructions. This event is made possible through the generous support of Cabinet Gallery, London.

October 27, 4pm,

Origami Tessellations with Eric Gjerde.
Origami is an art form in ascendancy, with application in fields as diverse as biochemistry, engineering, and fashion. It is also a craft with a local history far more recent than one might imagine. Though paper folding is an ancient Chinese practice passed between generations, it wasn’t until the mid-twentieth century that its tradition was popularized through how-to books, and eventually, its unique forms became subject to proprietary law. … Read more

October 27, 4pm,

Origami Tessellations with Eric Gjerde.
Origami is an art form in ascendancy, with application in fields as diverse as biochemistry, engineering, and fashion. It is also a craft with a local history far more recent than one might imagine. Though paper folding is an ancient Chinese practice passed between generations, it wasn’t until the mid-twentieth century that its tradition was popularized through how-to books, and eventually, its unique forms became subject to proprietary law. 

Eric Gjerde is an origami artist working with tessellations: abstract repeat patterns, often sculptural, created from the same Arab geometry as the tile work of the Alhambra. He will show Between the Folds, a documentary that explores the vivacious plurality of contemporary origami, and will follow with a talk about his experience in the origami field, including a court case against a contemporary artist using original crease patterns in a series of recent paintings.

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October 25, 7pm,

Beatriz Colomina Talk: “The Total Interior: Playboy 1953–1979.”
Sex, architecture, and design were inextricably intertwined in the pages of Playboy magazine from the very beginning. Architecture was not simply featured in the magazine but was its very mechanism. The sexual fantasies and the architectural fantasies were inseparable. Architecture turned out to be more seductive than the playmates. It became the ultimate playmate. … Read more

October 25, 7pm,

Beatriz Colomina Talk: “The Total Interior: Playboy 1953–1979.”
Sex, architecture, and design were inextricably intertwined in the pages of Playboy magazine from the very beginning. Architecture was not simply featured in the magazine but was its very mechanism. The sexual fantasies and the architectural fantasies were inseparable. Architecture turned out to be more seductive than the playmates. It became the ultimate playmate. 

In response to Lucy McKenzie’s interest in instrumentalized architecture, architectural historian Beatriz Colomina will give a talk, “The Total Interior: Playboy 1953–1979.” Colomina argues that with its massive global circulation and sexualization of architecture, Playboy had more influence on the dissemination of modern design than professional magazines, interiors magazines, and even institutions like the Museum of Modern Art.

As Colomina puts it, “Playboy architecture is all about the interior. The Playboy is an indoors man. The magazine was relentlessly obsessed with the interior and this interior turns out to be infinite. You are invited to dive in into a world without gaps, without cracks, without decay…an infinite perfected interior—a total work of art.”

On Oct. 25th we will gather at The Artist’s Institute to view a new wall painting by Lucy McKenzie at 5:30 PM. Beatriz Colomina will speak a few doors down, at 36 Delancey Street, at 7:00 PM.

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October 10, 7pm,

Lucy McKenzie Artist Talk.
This semester Lucy McKenzie is the Kossak Painting Program artist-in-residence at Hunter College. McKenzie will share her approach to art-making with students over a number of weeks this fall, and will give a public talk about her work to mark the commencement of these activities. … Read more

October 10, 7pm,

Lucy McKenzie Artist Talk.
This semester Lucy McKenzie is the Kossak Painting Program artist-in-residence at Hunter College. McKenzie will share her approach to art-making with students over a number of weeks this fall, and will give a public talk about her work to mark the commencement of these activities. 

Join us on October 10th at 205 Hudson St, Hunter’s new MFA Studio Building in Tribeca, for a conversation between Lucy McKenzie and curator Jenny Jaskey.

This event was made possible by the Kossak Painting Fund at Hunter College.

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October 1, 7pm,

Hope Hodgkin Lecture: “Muriel Spark’s Stylish Spinsters: Miss Jean Brodie Past Her Prime.”
If a spinster is a woman defined by what she lacks, then the oxymoronic stylish spinster disturbs us because she seems, like the author Muriel Spark herself, to privilege style over any realized substance.  Literary scholar Hope Hodgkins argues that in refusing to play games in which female style is only a code for male desires, Spark’s spinsters engage in a Baudelairean dédoublement, dispassionately viewing themselves and others in ways that seem impossible for the men who observe them.  But, she points out, they also wear the signs of their longings, whether for Mussolini or Schiaparelli or death, betraying a self-aestheticizing desire as fully dangerous as the male gaze.

September 20, 6pm–8pm,

Lucy McKenzie and Alan Michael.
Leitmotifs of narcissism, ineffectuality, and paranoia characterize Lucy McKenzie and Alan Michael’s first collection of short stories, Unlawful Assembly. The book was intended as a cheap holiday read to entertain and titillate visitors to the Aeolian Island of Stromboli, all the while reflecting their situation with a measure of hyperbole. The artists anticipated the writing as a means of generating content for their visual art, and so now, the text lives on through a series of paintings and photographs. … Read more

September 20, 6pm–8pm,

Lucy McKenzie and Alan Michael.
Leitmotifs of narcissism, ineffectuality, and paranoia characterize Lucy McKenzie and Alan Michael’s first collection of short stories, Unlawful Assembly. The book was intended as a cheap holiday read to entertain and titillate visitors to the Aeolian Island of Stromboli, all the while reflecting their situation with a measure of hyperbole. The artists anticipated the writing as a means of generating content for their visual art, and so now, the text lives on through a series of paintings and photographs. 

McKenzie and Michael will open the season with an exhibition of this work. Also included, is a new collaboration with Josephine Pryde, a photograph for the cover of their book’s forthcoming second edition from Walther König Verlag.

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Recordings

“Muriel Spark’s Stylish Spinsters: Miss Jean Brodie Past Her Prime,” October 1, 7pm, Hope Hodgkins

“Artist Talk,” October 10, 7pm with Lucy McKenzie

“Artist Talk, Q&A,” October 10, 7pm with Lucy McKenzie

“The Total Interior: Playboy 1953–1979,” October 25, 7pm with Beatriz Colomina

“Driving Miss Diva: The Intransigence of the Aging Female Star in 60s Horror and Beyond,” January 23, 7pm with David Greven