Blackpaint 143


Yesterday, went on DLR to Excel Centre at Custom House for the BJA Championships.  It was part of a big martial arts exhibition, with jiu jitsu, various karate forms, mixed martial arts (cage fighting) and muai-tai (is that how its spelt?); great, and humbling, to watch these men and women battling bravely, some clearly way outclassed and exhausted in a way that only a fighter, who has to respond to the rhythms of an opponent at close quarters, can become – and yet, they fight on, never give up.  It was riveting and inspiring.

On the way, the train was full of youngsters in Japanese-style gowns, some with swords in cases, who I assumed were doing some obscure form of kendo.  then, at other stations, they were joined by other kids dressed as characters from, Alice, Star Wars, Alien – the alien him/herself, in fact.  Outside the Excel centre, there was a great concentration of them, including strong contingents of young Japanese girls; in the middle of them were small knots of tough blokes in Gracie T shirts, looking bemused.  There was a  fantasy film convention taking place in the same venue.

So, what’s the connection with art?  Nothing, except that I wished I’d had a camera on the train but I realise that, even if I had, I probably wouldn’t have had the nerve to take pictures – even though this lot were  exhibitionists and would have posed happily.

Exposed at Tate Modern

Which brings me to the above exhibition.  Some of the photos were taken on the NY subway by Walker Evans, and many others, most in fact, without the knowledge of the photographed.  actually, there is very little that I haven’t seen before, sometimes many times.  the Evans, the Robert Franks, the Winogrands and Weegees… The Cartier Bresson of the cyclist passing at the foot of the winding staircase is probably the best – there is a Dane which has several things happening at once, like most CB’s, and also like Winston Link’s set-up shots of trains, planes and movie screens (although no Links in this show).

There is the most beautiful large picture of a young girl in the very first room, with shining hair and an expression of curiosity, that looks impossible to have got without her knowledge, but clearly was.  Some pictures, by contrast, are absolutely horrifying; the series of the woman jumping to her death from the burning hotel being the worst.  I missed the one of Ruth Snyder in the electric chair, but I’m familiar with it – her kicking one leg up as the current hits and that blurred, touched-up quality I remember from True Detective magazine back in the 50s and 60s.  The Weegee photo of the faces of children at the murder scene is staggeringly good; they look feral and “wired”; they remind me of the photographs of crowds at lynchings and tell you a lot about human nature.  

Enough for now; more on the exhibition and other stuff at the Tate modern tomorrow.

Since we started with judo, we’ll end with it; what or who is the connection between this greatest of sports and 1.  modern French painting 2.  English photography?  



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