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Artist Spotlight: Alan Macdonald

The commercialization of heaven, or what 17th century painters know about Diet Coke that we don’t.

Many have criticized the commercial burden of modernity, but few have done it with such quiet, haunting precision as painter Alan Macdonald.

His portraits populate the world of 17th century oil paining with contemporary brands, creating a sense of uncomfortable anachronism that drives us to such existential questions as the purpose of our modern lives and the void we’re all looking to fill with consumerism.

Marathon Man

The paintings often feature lyrics from pop culture’s most iconic songs, immaculately chosen to deepen the impact of the imagery.

Drug Run

Much of his work is an explicit social commentary on vice culture, exposing drugs and alcohol as the true Mephistopheles of modernity.

The Vices of Venus

The Ghost of Saturday Night

And while some of his work has a sense of humorous sarcasm about it, perhaps the most unsettling thing about is the reverse Woody Allenesque comic distress that oozes from it — we may be making a mockery of it all, but deep down we know we’re still headed straight to the very peril we are laughing at.

The Bird Brain

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In other news…

We interrupt this program to bring you an utterly off-topic, yet utterly amusing message:

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History, Animated, Quick and Uneuphemistic

The moon hoax, why Nixon lost the debate, and what dinosaurs have to do with Gerald Ford and a chicken.

Despite our general dismissal of history as a boiling pot of mistakes that humanity never learned from, we have to admit it offers a great and telling tale or two. And the History Channel is out to prove it.

The Great and Telling Tales of History is a brilliant series of 1-minute films in which history’s walking encyclopedia, historian Timothy Dickinson, tells us, in a grandfatherly voice and an endearing British accent, little-known and fascinating facts about the history of politics, pop culture and the world at large.

Jimmy Carter and the Killer Rabbit

But what makes the films truly marvelous is that we’re taken through the unexpected twists and turns of history by artist Benjamin Goldman‘s wonderful animation — dark and delightful at the same time, every bit as full of unexpected twists and turns as the stories themselves.

The Brain

The talks aren’t just mere recaps of history, either. They’re full of Tim Dickinson’s own, often unapologetic and unorthodox, theories about the world — like the rather snarky short on drugs, in which he shares this uneuphemistically true sentiment about human nature:

The point is, we are fundamentally dissatisfied with our standard biological condition, and we’ll find one way or another of altering it.

Jimmy Carter and the Killer Rabbit

Some of our favorites: Jimmy Carter vs. the Killer RabbitThe Brain, The Strange Case of Mary Toft, and Charles Darwin.

Charles Darwin

>> via Coudal

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Retro Revival: The Depths of Soul

An elderly Englishman, a copyright violation, and 25,000 explorations of music’s deepest obscurity.

Retro revival is everywhere. We see it today’s web design trends, we see it in Fashion Week’s latest output, and we see it in retro-inspired artists taking SXSW by storm. But the only way to do the trend right is to be inspired by all the right things, the deepest and most authentic roots of what we now call “retro.”

That’s where Sir Shambling’s Deep Soul Heaven steps in — an immense archive of rare and unreleased “deep soul” (a unique musical genre that explores deep human emotion and existential philosophy in the unlikely realm of “popular music) from the Golden Age of soul between 1960 and 1980.

Sir Shambling's Collection

The project comes from an eccentric elderly Englishman who goes by “Sir Shambling” and whose obsession with black music began about 35 years ago and resulted in a personal collection of over 25,000 records. Most of them are B-sides and rarities from music history’s most indulgently obscure heroes. And many of them are available as free mp3’s, digitized from the original 45’s for your culturally enriching pleasure.Blind Am I

As you can guess, this goes against the legal grain of copyright law and P2P filesharing — but Sir Shambling shares a certain conviction with us:

The widest possible exposure to music is the best way to keep it alive, to promote interest in the artists themselves and to generate activity in the legitimate reissue business.

Well said, Sir.

The collection spans an enormous spectrum of music — from such impossibly obscure records as the 1969 “Blind Am I” from Chicago-based group Uptight Sound Creation‘s first and only record, to Tommy Soul‘s unexpected cover of classic soul ballad “I Need Someone (To Love Me)” from the mid-60’s. Then there’s the astounding vault of articles that an leave any music geek paralyzed with exuberance.

So go ahead, dive into the heart of soul — you’ll be mesmerized and bewitched and inspired in ways you didn’t know existed.

via Very Short List

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