Sunday, February 19, 2017

Everything was art and fun all the time

Below Jeff is with Bob Ganong, artist and friend. Jeff had created a paper Mache squid for the Daily Catch restaurant - they'd surreptitiously conveyed his paintings to his Bromfield Gallery opening, during the '78 Blizzard martial law. 

And Jeff paid back with squid to hang on their wall. Several of us carried it down Hanover
St., as in a Madi Gras parade, one March morning

It is possible to see a poem I wrote on the event attached - it
recalls a man, encountering sea urchins for sale in baskets on the street. 

Squid Day
how long I aint seen these 
- like this I used to eat - 
sea urchins on Hanover Street.
-Jack Vaughan

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Missing Jeff Hull

Jeff Hull was always tremendously creative. I am missing him now* – this week after he passed away. When you went to his studio (really, if you just ran into him in the street, too) he was always full of doing something new. I am remembering he did a series of what I took to be kinetic black ink drawings – The black ink drawings, to me they seemed to move. They hung across his loft ceiling rafters, a loft full of color and work. So, a few moons ago, inspired, Jacob and I took pictures, put them into a video editor, and added some music by John Cale and Terry Reilly. My brother Mike helped me retrieve this video from the blogspot object heap. Now it is on Youtube. Jeff always was about ‘make it new’ – something of him I would like to carry forward in my heart. -J.V.

As the bible says:

Sing to the lord a new song.

For this and a compilation of Jeff Hull material on Moon Traveller, click here.

*Missing: The Giant Squid event, Titanic Transmissions, the Atlantic Monthly Gallery show, Suffolk Downs, Group potlucks. The music: Preacher Jack, Abudulah Ibrahim, Jr Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis, Al Vega, Matthew Hull at Walleys....

Titanic Transmissions PDF Redux

This is one of those things. It was a long form monograph done over several weeks in discussion with Jeff Hull. It was posted as a PDF to Netcom site I guess in 2008 or so, and so went missing. I found a manuscript version, which I am posting here. There is much I would dearly like to change, and maybe I will. (Truth be told, I am in a bit of a health funk in Feb 2017, and less gets done.) Actually did scrub out the original ending.

Doing this for the record. Jeff Hull died last Monday night at the age of about 64. He was a true pal, and we had some tremendous times together. Am putting together a Hull page on the site here. More to come.- Jack Vaughan

Walk the streets of a village within the city and hear the children singing The Ship Went Down, The Ship Went Down. A folk song. . .it will stick. Tells a story like the blues. The picture of the ship, its radio transmitting. It was always there. Titanic. Dit-dit-da-dit-dit dashes, arc sparks portending. Like an image from Jeff Hull in [[Title: Titanic Transmissions]]. It’s Saturday Night at the Movies. A Night To Remember. Dispatches and Discourse. Titanic Telegraphic Transmissions.

* * *

The artist draws a thing from the stream and sets about to share it. It was there. And he got it. Hull bicycling down city alley hears the same sirens as the Edison man or the South End beautician or Harry the Greek, but the pictures adhere and he goes back to the loft with a vision - an itchin’ in the aorta. Drawings and paintings ensue. How do you do? There are all these old posters, sequenced, faded precisely on a wall, like marquee bulbs. He saw them – in Boston - and now it is aloft. Elektra! Bijou!

* * *

Okay, so it’s in the air anyway.

In the day-o I talked with Mingus colleague and Son of Wooster Jaki Byard. Asked him where the images emerged that informed that sound. Might as well have talked to a fish about a helicopter -- or so I thought at first. How penetrate veil? There aren’t words for this stuff. Same with Jeff – words were like pulling teeth. The paint talks.

But back to our story – Jaki was at the Conservatory, bug-eyeing me like I was a crippled crab without a crutch. The sound? Where’s it come from? I stood my little plot of ground, probably empleading scowlfully.

Then Byard came around to the idea. Where does this stuff come from? It intrigued him. Back in Wooster I’d walk behind bands marching, digging on their rhythm, Jaki Byard said. The rhythm of the Lunceford Band. Movement was what he was about.

Bluesman Sunnyland Slim told me he’d hear birds sing. . .where does this stuff come from? That he’d remember men walking behind mules farming. These drifted into the music form. It was there and it found me said Irish bardster Van Morrison. Slack Key Ray Kane described a flower he could never forget. It was here before I was, said Bob Dylan. It’s the thing – it is not so much the thing as the thou from the stream to experience. From that which underlies the bubbling underground. With jets of cascading objects flowing, telecommuno-telepathico. Sproing! Spring? What’s Hull say?

* * *

I talked with Jeff Hull. Where’s it come from? Across Hull’s studio hanging on a sagging clothesline: drawings on clothespins. . .fluttering Chinese flags in space, like birds on a wire, if you read them, playing a song. He gets up in the morning and holds on to that Plow. The Plow of Paint, Color and Forms. They detonate, like the movie marquees. Moon Travelers!

Tossed and driven by an angry sea storm of life raging –
They are ink on paper - first think in the morning and often they call out the shape of something to pursue. Sometimes he will pursue a recognizable figure in oil. A hand. The Titanic. Nevertheless, the figure you can verbally grasp swims in an unutterable image pool. Might be looking for you too. There are few atheists in a lifeboat.

The discourse of the distant light bulb marquee. . .the rat-a-tat of the news dispatch. . . lifeboats are floating as the Titanic is sinking. By reckoning they meet a visual correspondent in recent works of painter Hull. Canvases represent anew the omnivorously pregnant image stream of the present day - in vividly exploded patterns – in marvelous animations of paint. Look out baby, there’s a planet coming!

* * *

The paintings have bursts, areas that pop and expand (Hull admits), whirling impressions that put the literal against the mysterious – a swirl and Miwok People laugh in echo.

In this exhibit, he acknowledges, the shapes, many of them, are cleaner, broader, than many of his before. Some of them can resonate from the surface in startling manner – the viewer can visit these portions and rest for a while there. But the cool press of film objects are flipping celluloidoid at the edges too.

Jeff Hull’s paintings cut through and explode, exotic, rich and watery. And they swing like American music. The ordinary world is here, and is seen in a universe of visual indications.

As poet Ginsberg once called Corso a box of crazy toys. I call Hull [Title: Titanic Transmissions]. Cells of modern mind float on canvas, one painting entering another. Troglodyte images flopping along side stones emanating molecular progressions. Color is all over the place, and you are on a ride. This art is feedback in the visual plane - music on the Hull side in the domain of the eyeball.

* * *

Active in terms of paint and stroke. The paint now more modeled, worked on, more traveled and fluid. The stuff pops up at you in spectral neural displays. It comes through the surface like lightning. You attach what you bring. Ferns, orbs, dripped shapes, and brain comets, not to mention an expressionist conch or two. All on the slide in time.

A Madonna becomes a sponge. Animated pearls talk Japanese baseball with papier-mâché tear ducts. The weather: Well, Jack, it is Extremely Cellular. Hull art glows with starfish pieta biological. Shapes. That Shuffle and organs that phantom on a Saturn night.

Shifting symbolisms that you can intercept, or walk in.

* * *

There was a gentle fence between the circus of contemporary reality and the experience of art as recently as 50 years ago, but Hull is not about the fence. Unless it is lights shining. There in the fence days gone by-o there were lights on the fence in the nights of Weegee, Pollock, Monroe and Cornell. Movie goers, just as they entered the Bijou or Rialto, were briefly blinded by sequencing light bulbs on marquees. That was back in time.

Today these images, supplied for your pleasure by cyclist Hull, once experienced, remain - flash fractal tree limbs on retinas afterwards.

We are all in the swin - there is no wall, no usher’s partition. There is a sweet relief in knowing the Lord will make a way in the cloud to see somehow. Telegraph: Keep your hands on the Plow To Remember!

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Tore Up Anecdote

Earl Hines with Charlie Carpenter, WWII.
This is brief anecdote, one I have discussed with Sam B. There was a fellow who used to visit Slim. I’d be staying there and, about mid-morning he’d come by. We remember him as “Pumpkin” or “Punky,” didn’t know his proper name. Not too tall, had an eye that looked the other way, was relaxed and mellow. He’d been involved in Vaudeville, perhaps, Came over most mornings for coffee. I have come to wonder what his full name might have been.

Sam remembers him as a decent piano player – boogie woogie style, but slow and harmonic , maybe a bit of time breaker.
For my part, I have always remembered something  Punky told me. We may have been just chatting, and he or Slim mentioned perhaps that he’d known Louis Armstrong. Punky (as I recall his name, memory is hazy) then told me he’d been in vaudeville and met Bing Crosby.

He told be a story about meeting Bing in the 1920s, and then again later on. The story stayed with me. He meets Bing Crosby in vaudeville days and the Bingster is pretty blotto.

Punky sees him years later, and he tells him he recalled him from the old days, saying “You were tore up.” 

And Bing responds, “Why yes, in those days I probably was…”

That’s it.  But it stayed with me.

As it happens, staying at my mothers’ a few weekends recently, I begun to read a Bing Crosby bio by Gary Giddens that was laying around. Quite a good book, and good for me at the moment, as history, my usual genre for reading, seems to be pulling a nutty. Bing, it seems, was a poster boy for the Roaring 20s and prohibition, and getting sauced. He roomed for a time with Bix Beiderbecke (his major influence along with Al Jolson and Louis Armstrong). Bing and Bix would spend between shows in speakeasies, but found time to lunch with Ravel. I remembered what Punky said.

Anyway…  I am reading Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams, The Early Years, 1903-1940. Getting to the part where Bing is in Chicago, on tour with his partners, The Rhythm Boys, and hanging out a lot with Louis Armstrong (who was a major influence on his singing style). I read you a passage…

One night Armstrong took Charlie Carpenter, his valet and subsequently a lyricist (“You Can Depend on Me”) and Earl Hines’s manager, to the Grand Terrace Ballroom, which stayed open until 4:30 a.m. The Rhythm Boys stopped by at 2:00, after finishing their own gig. Charlie was too young to drink but marveled at Bing’s thirst. When ran into Bing thirty years later on a television soundstage he told him, “I haven’t seen you since 1928, Bing, but I still remember you were tore up.” Bing launched and said, “I probably was, because in those days I was really putting it away….” From Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams, The Early Years, 1903-1940, P.181
The passage is footnoted. Attributed to The World of Earl Hines by Stanley Dance. [Ed Note: A darn good book.] The same exact story, phrasing and everything.  And it makes me wonder if Punky’s real name was Charlie Carpenter…. anybody out there know? - Jack Vaughan

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