December 28, 2020

Deborah Eisenberg: Your Duck Is My Duck

You have to read a Deborah Eisenberg short story as carefully as you should have read your lease. Otherwise, the ending is like an eviction without notice. Can she do that? Um, yes.

July 1, 2020

Perry Mason

'50's TV Perry Mason was tightly scripted and elegantly choreographed - a major advance in TV drama at the time and one the best series, ever. HBO's prequel is a bloated, pandering abomination. World War I trench warfare! Murdered tots with eyes sewed open! The young Perry shellshocked and alcoholic (and vigorously heterosexual)! An origin story for Raymond Burr's Perry is completely unnecessary --- but it is worth pointing out '50's Perry was sexually ambiguous, lived alone and never had a girlfriend. Raymond Burr was in a committed gay relationship most of his adult life. Wouldn't it have been more interesting to chart Perry's development from shy, gay teenager to prominent criminal lawyer? Also, Raymond Burr solved a crime each week in 50 minutes -- looks like prequel Perry will take the whole mini-series. And, Burr was cool -here's a screen grab from S1, E15 The Case of the Fan Dancer's Horse (December 28, 1957). Perry is meeting a client in a record shop listening booth -- Miles Davis's 1957 'Round About Midnight prominently displayed.

June 8, 2020

More Perspective on 'Looting' from HYPERALLERGIC

“Looting”: The Revolt of the Oppressed
by Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali Zamindar
HYPERALLERGIC (June 5, 2020)

"The genesis of the term “loot” in colonial India has racist origins. Now, after the US president called for the killing of those “looting,” its origins become increasingly significant .... " (continue reading here )

Perspective on 'Looting'

"the real hustlers steal billions
From the unsuspecting millions
That's programmed to think they can win"
- Jalaluddin Mansur Nuriddin a/k/a Lightnin' Rod (but I always think of Melle Mel)

June 2, 2020

Emory Douglas ...

Emory Douglas (born 1943)

William Gropper ...

William Gropper (1897-1977)
Little Steel (c.1938) 
Oil on canvas, 33¾" x 44½"

Louis Lozowick ....

Louis Lozowick (1892–1973)
Strike Scene (1934)
Lithograph,  11" x 9"  

Lynd Ward ...

Lynd Ward (1905–1985)
Untitled (Breaking up the Demonstration (1932)
wood engraving
6" x 4"
from the book Wild Pilgrimage, consisting of 108 wood engravings

"Wild Pilgrimage (1932), perhaps the most accomplished of [Ward's six wordless novels], is a study in the brutalization of an American factory worker whose heart can still respond to beauty, but whose mind is twisted in rage against the system and its shackles." -- Library of America

December 31, 2014

New 'Redskins' Diorama for Natural History?

Diorama for a future Natural History Museum?  ('There once lived in this area a tribe that used racial epithets to name its sports franchises. They were known as the Whites Without Faces.’) 

(DCA, 12/25/14, Southwest Airlines gates)

December 12, 2014

time to take another look at Leon Golub

Interrogation I (1981) 

Interrogation II (1981) 

Interrogation III (1981) (detail)

White Squad (El Salvador) IV (1983)

February 14, 2014

Amazon: Gatekeeper of the art world?

 Dürer is selling his art on Amazon; Helen Frankenthaler too, but Hans Haacke 'did not match any products.'  The new 'gatekeepers' in the world of so-called fine art? Look at Amazon's new beta art site  and read George Packer's New Yorker article about Amazon (2/17/2014 issue). Who, in the future, will tell us whether a given artist/work of art is good? Will you buy an abstract painting from Amazon or Gagosian? Who will ship it free, tax free? Moreover, Bezos can hire even more art historians to talk the talk .... and, consumer reviews will surely be very instructive. "I looked at it twice and it stopped working."

Kennicott's blues

Sorry to see the otherwise admirable Philip Kennicott come down with art-critico-valetudinarianism: “… for art, if there is such a thing anymore." Yikes. There’s really nothing wrong with the art world that a good revolution wouldn’t fix (or maybe just a change in the tax code).

November 13, 2013

Francis Bacon triptych $142,400,000 at Christie’s

As to the Bacon triptych price: The money is idle, stolen capital looking for a place to hide ... a fine demonstration of the flaws of slavery-capitalism. Does profit really fuel investment and progress or does it just mindlessly accumulate? That 'value' -- the price of the picture -- represents the work of our ancestors reaped over centuries and now tucked into an oil+canvas safe. It's odd. But don't blame the painting. Don't even blame the art world. Blame the system that allows the theft and mummification of our labor through economic exploitation and obscene inequities in income distribution.   

Still some bargains out there. At left, iPhone cover from the Bacon Estate gift shop.

August 15, 2013

Deloitte Art Investment Program in Worst-Best Logo Finals

What is a worst-best logo? It’s a logo that tells the truth without meaning to.  It’s a logo that self-deconstructs. Using Barthes' semiological analysis, a worst-best logo fails miserably at second order (myth) meaning. According to Barthes, the mythological content of a sign may be patently false, but the falsehood is shrouded, obscured, sugarcoated so it goes down without protest. A worst-best logo -- by virtue of ham-fisted design  -- triggers simultaneous comprehension of a third (truth) meaning that negates the pernicious falsehoods the artist meant to convey.  

The grand prize winner is still the (abandoned) logo of the US Chamber of Commerce (see below, Flag as Roadkill and the USCC). By appropriating an image of the US flag, the organization meant to associate its work with patriotism and the interests of US citizens. The clumsy design, however, depicted a desiccated, mangled looking flag and the words “American Free Enterprise. Dream Big.”  The unavoidable upshot was that USSC and its capitalist fantasies undermine the values the flag represents – a truth that the client and designer wished to conceal. For a runner up, see Maid to Clean.

Now comes Deloitte with its Art and Finance program. Though Deloitte promises thoughtful analysis and conservative investment in top tier markets, a more blatantly venal approach to aesthetic delectation is impossible to imagine. Trumpeting the unregulated nature of the art market, they are selling the idea of art works as safe and largely off-the-books placeholders for large amounts of cash. The potential for capital appreciation is a bonus. To convey all that in a logo requires finesse and subtlety. So, let's proceed ... If there’s a bull market in the arts, I guess Wall Street's bull should be represented. And, we should have something to indicate art. How about a picture frame? Let’s make it gold and ornate to suggest 19th century oil paintings. Next … how shall we connect the bull-and-frame dots? Obvious: Why not have the bull-symbol ramming its horn through the art-symbol?  After all, nothing whispers aesthetic intelligence, care and prudence like a fucking bull full on fatally goring the fragile surface of a prized work of art.

All the pretense, all the highfalutin’ conferences, the slicky catalogs, the efforts of the unctuous, compliant art historian-consultants are undermined, cancelled by a dreadful logo that wants to confess.

“We are vandals,” says Deloitte.

(image courtesy of Steve Wynn Branding and Design, Inc.)

July 21, 2013

Interference Archive, Brooklyn

I've been re-reading Steven Heller's Design Literacy and Design Literacy (continued) this summer in preparation for teaching a design theory class next year. Heller's works, among other things, underscore the huge contributions left-wing and counterculture publications have made to graphic design. In that regard, there's a good article in the New York Times today (Sunday, July 21, 2013, page 25) by Maya Lau about Brooklyn’s Interference Archive. The Archive collects and stores publications, posters and other documents and ephemera generated by left and labor politics in the US. Staffed exclusively by volunteers, it also hosts exhibitions, panels, screenings and other events.  The Archive welcomes visits, participation and donations. The Times article gives some interesting background on the organization's founders. 

July 20, 2013


Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric swirling around the Detroit bankruptcy. We get the sense that Detroit’s problems are a consequence of bungled public policy, bad schools, greedy public sector unions, etc., all conveyed with the usual racist undertones. Sorry, no … not the case. This is about vulture capitalists picking the bones they were never happy about leaving on the table in the first place … taxes and pensions. This is about Republicans snatching what’s left of the public sector to deliver it to their clients and cronies, who will sell it back to us in the form of privatized schools, security, bridges, roads and water. Detroit is an example of one thing only: business socializing the costs of production and keeping the profits. Modern cities didn’t sprout from the frontier like wild flowers. Detroit grew in order to serve the automobile and other industries. Every dollar the public sector and unions were able to wrench from business was marked by struggle. And, when other venues became convenient for the absorption of social costs without collective bargaining and modest contributions to the public sector, the corporations fled. Well, guess who’s back.

image: Detroit Industry Murals, Diego Rivera (1932-33) (detail)