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  • Who Says It Wasn't A Renaissance?

    19 November 2015 -

    Listening through the long ear-trumpet of history, names like Piero della Francesca, Leonardo Da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli sound awfully exotic and flamboyant to us superficial types. But is it just the beauty of Italian names that have people rate the seismic cultural shift that happened in Florence and thereabouts in the 15th and 16th centuries as somehow more significant than the twentieth century Renaissance we are still living in the aftermath of? Try calling what happened in the 1960s a Renaissance with a capital ‘R’, and the eyebrows of the cognoscenti start to raise all round.

     

    This is usually how it goes: 'There’s no doubting the ‘60s were fun and amazing, but a Renaissance, no...' 

     

    Yes, well let's face it, names like Jean 'The Shrimp' Shrimpton, Charlie Watts, or even John Lennon, hardly have the same ring to them as the mellifluous monikers of the Renaissance frescographers. 

     

    Ahem.

     

    What happened in the ‘60s is every bit as important as the cultural revolution of 600 years ago. It wasn’t all just about mini-skirts and pop music either, though they remain culturally significant on many levels. The lurid fashion and the pop/rock explosion often provided the popular stage in which remarkable painters, installation artists and photographers could, as it were, strut their stuff. The most famous record cover in history, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, is a case in point.

     

    ‘The cover was very much a dual effort, and we really out our backs into it: setting it up, working day and night in the studio….I don’t like lettering – it seems to me kind of cold and dead – so I suggested that instead of having The Beatles lettered on the front, they have it done like a civic display. I was thinking of the floral clock at Hammersmith, which is all tight colours, very solid.’ Jann Haworth (pioneer of ‘soft sculpture’)

     

    The team working on the design and shoot of the Sgt Pepper’s cover included artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth, art director Robert Fraser, and photographer Michael Cooper. Blake is a significant pop artist of the period, who has had the rare distinction of having not one but two retrospectives at the Tate Gallery in London. Fraser was in his way a Medici-like figure who had an especially significant gallery in London through the 60s in which he helped further and spark the careers of many people, including Bridget Riley, Gilbert and George, Jim Dine and of course, AndyWarhol. Largely due to Michael Cooper's photographic medium, his pictures of the inner workings of the period have no real Florentine counterpart but they capture the detail, the texture and the intimate personality of what was an amazingly collaborative era. Perhaps it should not be forgotten either that the originality of the work produced in both mid-millenium Italy and the 1960s certainly did not come from artists obsessed with what these days is called ‘risk assessment’. Michael Cooper took his own life in 1973 and this is the note he left for his son Adam.

     

    ‘Don't believe the court when they say that I killed myself when the balance of my mind was disturbed. I just live in a disturbed world, and, as the old poem says, "I hear the sound of a different drum."... I come from what your generation will call the 'Half and Halfs'. A generation that made a few changes, but had to experience too many other kinds of changes they had no control over, so some of us were bound to fall by the wayside. I'm one of those.’  Michael Cooper

     

    As you would all know by now there is no telling what kind of material can come through the door here at Barwon Booksellers. And around this time of year, there is often quite a lot of movement at the station. Nevertheless we were pleasantly surprised recently when two extremely rare boxed editions relating to Michael Cooper, Peter Blake and the 60s Renaissance found their way to us.

     

     

    The first of these is a remarkable production, Blinds & Shutters, a collection of Michael Cooper’s photographs during this period. Nearly one hundred artists, an incredible array of the people Cooper photographed, contribute to the substantial accompanying text of this limited edition. These include Francis Bacon, William Burroughs, Marianne Faithfull, Allen Ginsberg, Carly Simon, Jean Genet, Paul McCartney, Richard Hamilton, Peter Blake, Dusty Springfield, Dennis Hopper, Tariq Ali, just to name a few. The edition is hand signed by Neil Aspinall, Peter Blake, Terry Doran, Marianne Faithfull, Gerard Malanga, John Mayall, Larry Rivers, Carly Simon, Terry Southern, Bill Wyman and Leonard Cohen. It comes in a cloth bound box, 38 x 27 x 5.5 cm, inserted into the cover of which is a pull down mock camera shutter, behind which is a photo of Cooper. The book itself is 368 pages, and though most of Cooper’s photographs are in their original black and white, the pages are lavishly illustrated in full colour with his graphic and collage work. It is bound in black and yellow leather & buckram, with duotone collage endpapers and a strip of film negative tied into ribbon as a bespoke bookmark. This edition is in fine condition. 

     

    Blinds & Shutters - The Story Of The Sixties by Michael Cooper 
Published by Genesis Publications - Signed by: Bill Wyman, and at least 9 other contributors. Fully bound in Leather and Buckram. Silkscreened solander box with unique image inset. No two copies are the same. Forewords by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards; Introduction by Terry Southern. 

    No. 3251 of 5000 Limited Edition -$1650.00

     

    Equally rare, the other production we have is Peter Blake’s visual documentation in book form of Eric Clapton’s '24 Nights' series of concerts at Albert Hall in London. This is a more classical looking production, in Racing Green book-cloth with gold lettering, once again in a boxed limited edition, this time of 3,500 copies, of which this copy is no. 847. The title of the book is '24 Nights TheLimited Edition – The Music of Eric Clapton, The Drawings of Peter Blake’. It contains four separate items: the central ‘scrapbook’, a quarter-bound, 128 page hardcover book containing Blake’s visual record of the concert series. This largely consists of Blake’s charming pencil drawings of the concert scenes, including depictions of the audience assembling, the stage and instruments, as well as the musicians in performance. The ‘scrapbook’ also contains highly collectable ephemera such as ticket stubs, stage passes etc, plus much colour graphic and collage material of Blake’s. The second item in the production is a smaller hardcover ‘commentary’, written by Derek Taylor, most famous for his role as press officer and amanuensis for The Beatles. This is Taylor's 58 page personal account of  '24Nights’. The third item is an envelope illustrated by Blake containing souvenirs from 24 Nights, including a Clapton guitar string, Clapton guitar plectrums, and ‘Access All Areas’ lanyard. Finally the edition comes with a 2 CDset of recordings from the series. This edition is also signed by both Eric Clapton and Peter Blake and is in near fine condition. 

     

     

    '24 Nights'  The Limited Edition - The Music of Eric Clapton/The Drawings of Peter Blake

    Published by Genesis Publications - Signed by: Eric Clapton, Peter Blake. 

    Contributors: Peter Blake, Derek Taylor

    Binding: 1/4 bound in bonded leather with Solander box.

    Extras: A second 64-page volume of commentary by Derek Taylor. 2 CD set of Live recordings including three exclusive tracks: 'No Alibis', 'I Shot the Sheriff', 'Layla' - orchestra introduction. Four of Eric's guitar picks, back-stage laminate pass, button badge & guitar string
. No. 847 of 3500 Limited Edition - $1000.00

     

     

    Some wise card once said that the rediscovery by the Italian Rennaissance artists of the classical world of Rome and Greece meant that they were all plagiarists. Being more of the 'every poet is a thief' school I don't go in for that view, but I daresay there's a few young artists of the 21st century heavily indebted to Peter Blake and Michael Cooper.