Deco Future: The Seductive Draftsmanship of George Stavrinos

George Stavrinos was a fashion illustrator who lived from 1948-1990. Not much is written about him on Wikipedia at the moment, but according to illustrator Thomas Heller Buchanan, “his softly modeled pencil drawings were a mainstay of Bergdorf Goodman and Barney’s fashion ads, though Stavrinos did not consider himself a fashion illustrator. He was an artist, photographer, commercial illustrator, and filmmaker.”

A graduate of RISD, Stravinos was known for his representational style and strong draftsmanship that “created an arresting new look that set the pace for his contemporaries and still continues to be an influence,” according to his bio in the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame. A huge fan of J. C. Leyendecker, Stavrinos crafted striking illustrations that mixed time periods and transcended the world of fashion. He died from pneumonia complications at the young age of 42.

Despite the bizarre scarcity of information available about  Stavrinos on the web, one unlikely source turned up to give a glimse into his life: this auction website. In describing a rare book of Stavrinos illustrations printed in Japan, a person who may have known Stavrinos writes:

When my dear friend George Stavrinos arrived in New York in November 1973, he had but five hundred dollars in his pocket and a portfolio of dreams tucked under his arm. At that time Fashion was the almost exclusive province of the photographic image. Fashion Illustration, which had once flourished under the magical touch of Lepape and Benito, or much later, under Gruau, had devolved into bland, linear sketches of half hearted ads.  … Into this vacuum enters Mr. Stavrinos whose illustrations for Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys New York, brought back a lushly representational style of Fine Art Illustration not seen since the days of Charles Dana Gibson, Howard Chandler Christy, J.C. Leyendecker and Antonio Lopez. The Stavrinos style was characterized by a great attention to detail, an exactness and a symmetry normally associated with classical works. His work revolutionized fashion illustration in much the same way that Bruce Weber, Herb Ritts & Scavullo revolutionized fashion photography. For while his work is highly representational, it’s imagery evokes those tender, tingling feelings of Romance & Longing. Memories of a time that never may have never existed, except in our imaginations.

In addition to his contributions to the fashion world, Stavrinos also has a place in the history of LGBT art. He created a smoldering cover for first edition of The Deformity Lover, a book of queer poems by Felice Picano, his illustrations ran in Christopher Street and Blueboy, two seminal gay magazines of the 1970s, and he may have contributed an uncredited cover for Paul Monette’s “Taking Care of Mrs. Carroll.” His most overtly homoerotic works, The Bather and Lifeguard, appear in the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art.

Previously on Coilhouse:

Jeff Wengrofsky Talks Punk Rock, New York, and Jewish History…and Announces a Film Premiere


Press photo courtesy of The Syndicate of Human Image Traffickers.

Longtime Coilhouse friend and contributor, Jeff Wengrofsky, was recently interviewed for a prestigious podcast series– Long Story Short, presented by Tablet magazine (a recent winner of the National Magazine Award). Two other two guests in the series are eminent writers Vivian Gornkick and Morris Dickstein.

The conversation topic: how punk rock relates to Jewish history. Jeff has been a footnote to the NYC punk scene since 1982. In the podcast, he puzzles about how Jews have made significant contributions to punk, but the same could be said for their involvement in DaDa, feminism, socialism/communism/anarchism/unionism, The New Left, ecology, and the civil rights movement.

Jeff –who has one of the most astounding original issue vinyl collections of punk on the planet– invited podcast host Liel Leibovitz into his Art Deco lair on the Lower East Side for a fascinating conversation. From Tablet’s writeup:

“…in the 1970s, a very different sort of Jewish artist emerged. Joey Ramone, Handsome Dick Manitoba, Sylvain Sylvain and the other founding fathers of punk rock were as disdainful of the culture as their predecessors were eager to help define it. Wearing leather jackets, singing about sex and drugs, and cultivating their status as rejects, they made music that was loud and fast and much more true to the traditional status of Jews as eternal outsiders. touching on how many young, disenfranchised folks of Jewish descent “the other founding fathers of punk rock were as disdainful of the culture as their predecessors were eager to help define it. Wearing leather jackets, singing about sex and drugs, and cultivating their status as rejects, they made music that was loud and fast and much more true to the traditional status of Jews as eternal outsiders.”

Listen here.

As the Director of the Syndicate of Human Image Traffickers, Jeff has been making a series of films at the intersection of art and life. Several of them have appeared on the Coilhouse website.  The sixth film in the series, “The Party in Taylor Mead’s Kitchen,” is an Official Selection of DOC NYC 2011, the documentary film festival of the Independent Film Channel. After reading Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Taylor Mead, the scion of Michigan’s Democratic Party political boss Harry Mead, left his
Grosse Point home and Merrill Lynch sinecure for a life hitchhiking around the US. Upon arriving in San Francisco, his ability to write and perform clever, bawdy, homoerotic poems made Taylor an instant hit with the Beatnik scene. He soon came to personify the “Beatnik” ethic in Ron Rice’s classic film, The Flower Thief, in 1960. After meeting Allen Ginsberg at a poetry function, Taylor moved to the Lower East Side of New York, then the Beatnik capital of the world. Taylor was soon a Warhol superstar and came to be featured, most famously, in Tarzan and Jane Revisited…Sort of, and most notoriously, as the star of Taylor Mead’s Ass in 1964. He has since acted in over a hundred films, has acted for the stage, and has published books of poetry.

Fifty-one years after trading in upper-crust luxury for bohemian art stardom, The Party in Taylor Mead’s Kitchen finds Taylor still living the life of poetry, painting, partying, acting, homo-eroticism, gossip, modest living, and indifference to bourgeois notions of hygiene. We visit the octogenarian in his Lower East Side grotto to find him still brilliant, boyishly cute, and ready to party at noon. The film depicts the romantic beauty and squalid dereliction of the bohemian life while dishing the dirt on Andy Warhol, Jack Kerouac, Ron Rice, Woody Allen, and Tallulah Bankhead. At 85, Taylor Mead is an ambassador of bohemianism from a world without the internet, cable television, surveillance cameras, cell phones, global positioning systems, credit cards or roach spray.


As this film is short, it has been paired with a longer film that also deals with New York City artists of a bygone era: Girl with the Black Balloons.
They will be shown as a double-feature at these times and dates and locations:

  • 7:30 PM, Sun. Nov. 6, 2011 – NYU’s Kimmel Ctr. 4th Floor (Eisner Auditorium) – Buy Tickets
  • 3:45 PM, Mon. Nov. 7, 2011 – IFC Center – Buy Tickets

New Coilhouse Website: What Would You Like to See?

Beloved readers!

First off, great news: Issue 06 of Coilhouse has finally gone to print. In just a few short weeks, it will be hitting bookstores and we’ll be unveiling it here on the site. WOOO HOOO. Finally. We’re already laying the groundwork for Issue 7, and a lot of other exciting projects are in the works. You’ll be hearing about all the latest developments in the months to come.

With all this newness happening, one thing has become clear: it’s time for a revamped website. The current version has just passed the four-year mark, and it’s served us well. But a lot has happened to the web in past four years: HTML5, higher screen resolutions, faster internet connections, the decline of Flash. We’d like to craft a beautiful new website that keeps up with the times: one that’s clean, usable, lightweight, and accessible. And for that… we need your input! And so, we’re conducting a brief survey. Please take the time to answer the questions below. You can answer partially, but the more information we have to go on, the better!

  • Are there any new features you’d like to see on the site? (Ex. larger images, a search bar, ways to tweet/email/share each post)?
  • Do you use the “Categories” section to browse through old posts? Should it remain prominent in the new design?
  • Generally, what are some websites and blogs you think have great design?
  • For comments: should we stick with WordPress comments, or go with Disqus?
  • Any annoying trends we should avoid? Anything you like about this version of the site that we should keep?
Your feedback is hugely important. Let us know your thoughts!

Céline Desrumaux’s “Countdown”

Céline Desrumaux‘s fantastic animated short “Countdown” details, as one might expect from the title, the launch of a rocket. The style here is a combination of flat colors and hard, almost architectural lines, as though it had leapt straight from the pages of Popular Mechanics circa 1958, along with some character animation by Florent Remize. Desrumaux (who is one half of Céline & Yann who produced the delightful series “The Giants”) cites Chris Ware as an influence and that is, indeed, the first person that comes to mind. “Countdown” has a heart-pounding, frenetic quality to it, combining almost abstract shots of dials, meters , and light; and shots of the rocket as it prepares to launch, cropped down into the square, vignetted look associated with, at least, the older exterior NASA footage. All of this is set to the harried pace of Apprat‘s “Granulard bastard”. It all makes for a gripping three and a half minutes.

Via Drawn

The Leporidae-Laden World Of Leontine Greenberg

I first became aware of Leontine Greenberg when I saw her fantastic Dark Crystal piece for Gallery1988’s recent “Crazy 4 Cult” show. Working in watercolors and gouache, her work is fairly sparse, normally a figure or two perched atop a strip of earth. The characters in these little vignettes are animals all, just a few steps outside of their real-world norms. There are tiny, unidentifiable songbirds and gangly, heron-like waterfowl. And there are, of course, the rabbits or, perhaps, The Rabbit; a spindly, hunched creature (or creatures) with a peculiar phonograph obsession — an other-dimensional Nipper.

What I like most about her work (besides the wonderfully rendered figures) is how they seem to hint at but never reveal their world. All these strange scenes appear to take place in some children’s storybook gone sideways — the Hundred Acre Wood and Kenneth Grahame’s pastoral England transposed onto Sam Kieth’s Outback — a world I would very much like to know more about but which is, perhaps, best left up to the imagination.

Marquese “NONSTOP” Scott


via thisiscolossal

Take a few minutes to appreciate this astonishing 29-year-old dancer from Lawrenceville, Georgia, moving to “Pumped Up Kicks (Butch Clancy Dubstep Remix)” by Foster The People. (The entire WHZGUD2 YouTube channel is breathtaking.) NONSTOP is a co-founder of the Remote Kontrol dance crew along with Julius Chisolm and Bryan Gaynor. Glorious.

“My hope still is to leave the world a bit better than when I got here.”


Photograph by Ted Neuhoff

Mission most fully and beautifully accomplished, good sir. And the world still misses you very much. But we’ll keep believing, keep pretending.

Happy 75th birthday, Jim Henson.

 

The Friday Afternoon Movie: The Devil’s Backbone

Today The FAM presents 2001’s The Devil’s Backbone (El espinazo del diablo), directed by Guillermo del Toro and produced by Pedro Almodóvar. Set in 1939, during the Spanish Civil War, it tells the story of Carlos, a young boy recently deposited at an orphanage until, he is told, his father, a Republican war hero, returns. Unbeknownst to young Carlos, Franco’s Nationalists have a distinct upper-hand and his father is dead, making his stay permanent. The orphanage is run by the kindly Dr. Casares and and a curt headmistress, Carmen.

Carlos doesn’t take to the orphanage particularly well and while he makes a few friends — not the least of which is Jaime, the orphanage’s bully — all is not well. There is still the matter of Jacinto, the groundskeeper, I violent, brooding man who was an orphan himself, who is intent on stealing the gold rumored to be stored somewhere in the complex. Of course, there is also the ghost of the boy Santi, who disappeared mysteriously on the night the orphanage was bombed, and now haunts the orphanage and who tells Carlos “Many of you will die”. What happened to him and how is it connected to the cistern in the cellar?

His third film, The Devil’s Backbone features the same juxtaposition of childish innocence and dread found in his other non-Hollywood efforts: 1993’s Cronos and 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth; that latter film continuing the exploration of many of the themes found here. It’s a look at how the unblemished mind confronts the horrors of both reality and the supernatural — a Kids Save the Day movie in the Spielberg vein, forced through a horror movie meat grinder, though del Toro perhaps treats his young characters with a bit more respect.

The horror here is handled deftly as well, the ghost is more often heard than seen outright, softly, mournfully moaning its discontent, keeping it from veering into the territory of silliness that many films in the genre are wont to do. And war, always war. Its looming specter, too, haunts this film as well as Pan’s Labyrinth. War is the real evil in these films, man the main antagonist. Even the depths of del Toro’s imagination cannot eclipse their evil.

Weather Of The Day: Mitch Dobrowner’s Storm Photography

How about some hot, meteorological pornography for your Thursday? Mitch Dobrowner has been photographing storms for only two years, producing stunning images of dark and ominous clouds towering over flat grasslands. The magnitude of these fronts is breathtaking, hulking columns of gas and lightning with the world at their mercy. If you like these, I strongly suggest you head over to lens culture and check out their high resolution slideshow. The detail in these is spectacular.

Coilhouse Can’t Stop Saying THANK YOU. (Epic Post-Fundraiser Gratitude Fest)


The core crew: @yerdua, @nicoles, @ashabeta, @theremina, @nadya, @raindrift, @angeliska, @sfslim

“I am covered in sweat, grit, glitter, leather dye, candle wax, hope & joy. #coilhouse” – @thekateblack, posted the day after. (Exactly how we felt, too.)

This post has been exactly one month in the making, but not because we’ve been flaking on it, trust us. Actually, even in the midst of everything else that’s going on (hoo-whee, there’s a lot going on), we haven’t been able to STOP thinking about it, or adding to it constantly. It’s taken time because we’ve wanted to try our best to give props to every single person who made that fundraising event possible, and beautiful, and memorable. There were so, so many of you. Danged if it didn’t take a friggin’ village.  Thanks for bearing with us, comrades. Thanks for helping us. Thanks for everything. We can’t stop saying thank you.

According to our tabulations, over three-hundred people came out to the Red Lotus Room on Sunday, August 21st, 2011. Most of them braved a torrential summer downpour, sweltering heat, substantial commutes, and a tough time getting out of bed on Monday morning. Approximately two-hundred-and-fifty of these folks were ticket-holding attendees. The remaining fifty-plus consisted of our enormous (mostly volunteer) crew. And let’s not forget the hundreds of others who donated or bid, watched the Livestream remotely, or hung out DJing for us in the Coilhouse Room on Turntable.fm! This was a huge and complex undertaking for all of us, and somehow, it miraculously came together with less than three weeks of planning.


Aerialist Sarah Stewart performs a death-defying drop. Photo by Audrey Penven.

Mer’s take on the whole thing: “I don’t think I’ve hugged that many people, smiled that much or said ‘THANK YOU’ so many times in an eight hour period.” A month later, it already feels like the sweetest, stickiest, sweatiest of dreams. But it wasn’t. It was real. You were real. Because of you, Issue 06 is imminent, and all kinds of new, exciting projects are in the works. Truly, we remain so deeply grateful to all of you, and we want to tell you again, officially and publicly. So here goes….