FALSTAFF the art, culture & junk magazine
virgin issue | fall 2012
The Gentle Art of Art Why Is It Called Turning Out Tricks Censorship: Are you Novelist Bernard Cooper Interview with Writer, Actor, Missionary Anyway? F*cking Kidding me? Writes on Why Pop Art is Still Relevant Today
Everything You Didn’t Want to Know About S-E-X
Director & Cinematic Wizard Richard Ayoade
Censorship in 2012 & Other Depressing B.S. Facts
I’M SORRY, ART. I DO LOVE YOU, TOO, BUT...
I’D RATHER JUST START READING MY FALSTAFF.
REINVENTING THE MEAL • HOW ART WILL SAVE HUMANITY • AB GROWTH GAMES • DOGS & DAWGS • THE HUSH SOUND • 10 REASONS WHY GRAPHIC DESIGN IS THE NEW FINE ART
Mario Batali Henry David Thoreau suggested eating only one meal a day. Then again, he also said “Simplify, simplify, simplify,” instead of just “simplify.” Modern experts show why he was full of crap.
FALSTAFF LIST: DESIGN AS ART
Michael Bierut Graphic Design is becoming more and more popular and widespread every day. With designers featured in museums and more interesting, creative and important than contemporary artists, Falstaff lists why Graphic Design is the new fine art.
Kee Chang, Helen Cowley, Jack Giroux, John Lopez, Alexis Petridis Falstaff and several others interview actor, writer, director and magician Richard Ayoade, known by many as Maurice Moss in The IT Crowd, the director of Submarine, and Jamarcus in The Watch, though it’s possible no one knows him from The Watch.
WHY IS IT CALLED MISSIONARY?
Doctor Drew Pinsky & Ron Jeremy Falstaff explains various sex terms and myths you never cared about and didn’t know had an answer. If you’re not motivated enough to read this article still, we’ll help. Boobs.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
REINVENTING THE MEAL
CENSORSHIP: ARE YOU F*CKING KIDDING?
John Danz Jr. & Carlos Perez It’s 2012 and yet we’re still asking whether it’s pornography or art, self-expression or self-destruction, and thanks to things like SOPA, PIPA, and other stuff we really don’t understand, even try banning the internet. Falstaff columnist Arthur Crowley asks if censorship is ever justified. And the answer is no.
CONTENT OF TABLES 96
Austin Beckstrom The Indie band no one heard of but everyone loved is back together because they love their fans almost as much as they love getting paid for what they do. Fortunately for us what they do is make beautiful music together. Enjoy this infographic, Falstaff’s first.
THE GENTLE ART OF ART
Bernard Cooper, Charlotte Valantine, Carrisa V, Bridget Steadman Pop Artist Bernard Cooper talks about how he learned to love art in the sixties, and why Pop Art should and is making a comeback. Then he just blabs for about 2 pages and then it gets interesting again. We don’t want to give too much away but we need to take up a little bit more room in this paragraph, not sure how much it’s going to motivate you to read it but you never know, you know? Pop Art like so many things, originated in the United Kingdom and was stolen and popularized in the United States.
) INTERCOURSE (
I C H A R D AY OADE “Don’t Let the Glasses Fool You. I am Actually Quite Stupid.” Falstaff Interviews Actor, Director, Writer, & Amateur Magician Richard Ayoade an interview pastiche by Kee Chang, Helen Cowley, Jack Giroux, John Lopez, Alexis Petridis & Austin Beckstrom
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winter 2012 â€˘ 45
) INTERCOURSE (
Richard Ayoade is best known in the states as Maurice Moss in the IT Crowd. He’s recently debuted his first feature film as writer and director of Submarine, based on the novel by Joe Dunthorne, & is appearing in 20th Century Fox’s The Watch. But the truth is Ayoade’s also an up-and-coming auteur. He’s directed music videos for Vampire Weekend, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, & even good bands like Arctic Monkeys. He also directed the Critical Film Studies episode of Community. (The one you thought was going to be about Pulp Fiction but was instead about My Dinner With Andre, also known as “one of the really good ones besides the paintball and zombie ones). Falstaff got to him last & he only agreed to answer questions he’s already answered before.
you say they’re influences, you’re somehow saying you’re in their category, but you know he’s one of them. He’s one of the great masters. I also love Bergman, Fellini, Kurosawa, & all the people everyone likes, Truffaut & Godard, Eric Rohmer. FS: So French New Wave is big for you? RA: Oh yes. FS: What are you working on now? RA: I’m working with Avi Korine on an adaptation of “The Double” by Fyodor Dostoevsky. FS: Where do you think your career is headed? RA: It’s so difficult to know what you’re going to be able to do because you’re only really able to do things that people will allow you to do. RA: It all depends on what comes up, what you’re suited for and what feels right at the time. FS: You started out doing standup comedy. How would you describe your sense of humor? RA: The things that I find funny might not be indicative of my sense of humor. I like Woody Allen, Buster Keaton & Richard Pryor. I really don’t know what my sense of humor is. Hopefully, it’s not the same in all the things I’ve done. It probably comes out without too much conscious thought. You really only try to focus on the demands of what you’re currently doing rather than trying to work out how to distill something. FS: Was it difficult in The Watch where you had to compete with comedy showboats like Ben Stiller & Vince Vaughn & the fat Jewish kid? RA: It’s actually really easy. You just go, “This scene will be fine, it’s got Ben Stiller & Vince Vaughn & I can just look at the ground & get through it.” Some of my best work’s done looking at the ground. FS: You’re very funny when you look at the ground. RA: Well, yes, within the repertoire of ground-based humor. FS: True, you’re often the funniest one, in my opinion. Is it because you’re British? RA: I don’t know about that. But look at Britain and America. How many people are in America? Over 300 million. So, you
FALSTAFF: First I gotta say, big fan of the IT Crowd. Do you mind if I call you “Moss?”
RICHARD AYOADE: I’d prefer you did not. FS: Very well, Richard. I suppose you’re tired from repeating the same stories over and over. RA: Yeah, I don’t even have any stories worth repetition, so it’s just me trying to be boring in an individual way. FS: Well, you did a good job of it in the IT Crowd – sit really eemed to work there! RA: Oh, yeah, thanks. FS: So, besides the IT Crowd, let’s talk The Watch & Submarine. RA: Ah, something new & different. In The Watch, what was it like to have R. Lee Ermey yell at you? RA: It was pretty great, actually. I asked him about Kubrick all day, that was one of the most exciting things. He’d say “Stanley was just a pussycat,” and I’d think Yeah, compared to you! FS: Would you count Kubrick as a directorial influences? RA: Well, I think there are just people whom I really like. If
“Some of my best work’s done looking at the ground.” have five times the population. So if every fifth person people find funny is British, that’s a fine ratio. FS: I feel it might be more than every fifth person. And then there’s the quality. RA: Well, yes, Monty Python is sort of like The Beatles, really, aren’t they? They kind of did everything that can be done in comedy and they just did it in three years, and that was it. FS: Speaking of, I know you came from Cambridge’s Footlights theater group— which birthed the Pythons, among many others. What’s it like following in those shoes? RA: What’s strange is you’re aware that you’re in a very privileged position because you’re able to put on shows based on
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) INTERCOURSE (
FUN FACTS ABOUT RICHARD...
the fact that these geniuses were in that club at some stage. And every so often there are further geniuses like Stephen Fry & Hugh Laurie. But the main thing you feel is a kind of shame you aren’t one of those, & an embarrassment & hubris that you even dare to draw breath. Also, speaking personally, I was just the pits at that stage & had no idea what I was doing & produced unpardonably shoddy stuff. FS: Really? RA: I was terrible. Also, for us at the time — I did stuff with John Oliver, who’s always very funny — but essentially everyone just wanted to be Chris Morris, and I can’t say at 19 that made for a pretty sight. FS: Onto being a director for a bit. If you hadn’t
RA: Well stilton is fine... Cheddar, I like cheddar. FS: If there were 3 deceased people who came back
anaged to break into your field, were there any people who mentored you? How important are these kinds of relationships? RA: Virtually everyone you work with helps in some way. I haven’t done anything that hasn’t had some kind of collaboration and they’re all very important. FS: What single piece of advice would you give to a person trying to break into your discipline and get noticed? How do you stand out from the crowd? RA: I don’t know how to get people to notice what you do. That seems to lie in the murky world of PR, an area that’s completely mysterious to me. FS: Now some new questions. RA: I said I wouldn’t answer any. FS: Don’t fight it. How are you liking being interviewed all the time now? RA: Yeah. I mean, I don’t know who the people are I’m talking to, but it’s good. FS: Do you like mouldy cheese like stilton? What cheese is the best on a cracker?
FS: Well, if you did, how is a magician like a pros-
from the dead, who would you like to meet? RA: And they wouldn’t be zombies? FS: They wouldn’t be zombies. RA: I would like to meet Martin Luther King Jr., Joan of Arc, Akira Kurosawa and Freddie Mercury. FS: That’s four. RA: Right, so if you’re allowed to bend the rules of life and death I feel justified to break the rules of arithmetic. FS: Fair enough. In what way would you say being a magician is like being a prostitute? RA: I wouldn’t say that.
A Y O A D E :
His favorite Cheese is Stilton & Cheddar He wrote & directed his first plays while at Cambridge (that’s a school in England) His passions include French New Wave, Directing, and listening to the Arctic Monkeys He doesn’t know we conducted this interview He looks even better with a mustache sans glasses
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titute? RA: I suppose they both perform acts in exchange for money to an audience that doesn’t fully understand them, and can occasionally do things that others didn’t think were possible.
“I would like to meet Martin Luther King Jr, Joan of Arc, Akira Kurosawa & Freddie Mercury.” FS: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. It’s been illuminating. RA: No, thank you. FS: Really? RA: Not really.
) FLICKS (
CENSORSHIP? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
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John Danz Jr. & Carlos Perez
It’s 2012 & yet people still get their panties in a ruffle over ruffled panties
ITS. COCKS. ASSES. TONGUES. PUSSIES. INDEPENDENT THOUGHT. BUMS. Every day more & more of what we like to call art & expression is being censored. Why is this still a problem? What did our ancestors fight for if not the right to get naked & say fuck without fear?
IN THE UK
The news of Britain’s Prince Harry, allegedly appearing nude on a US web site during high jinks in Las Vegas has prompted comments from a Newroom contributor who finds a link to media related events in Panama. British newspapers have been threatened with lawsuits from the Royal Family if they publish the photographs . They would be classified as “invasion of privacy.” With the country still reeling from phone hacking sc&als largely attributed to UK newspapers owned by US citizen Rupert Murdoch, the media has taken the threat seriously. Mark Scheinbaum, a former UP newsman & professor at Louisville University in Panama writes: The hacking sc&al of the UK now seems to have had its chilling effect on what most Western democracies would have considered normal news flow re Harry’s nudity. There are serious issues of why security did not search party goers to his suite for cameras, guns, or cell phones before entry. There are questions about a military officer getting caught in an ungentlemanly situation regardless of whether or not “everyone does this stuff all the time in the military.” Everyone is not a Royal & everyone does not get caught on camera. Oh, yeah, everyone does not double dip the Exchequer as soldier & Royal ward of the taxpayers. I mostly have refrained from my shock & disgust of Panama’s “calumny” laws; arrests of TV videographers, deportation of resident foreign journalists, & in the past three Presidential administrations the culture of a President who has veto power against newspapers & reporters who just plain annoy him.
Investigative reports lead to the economic & destruction of a press outlet. This in the “progressive” era of Panama politics. I mostly “refrain” or perhaps restrain myself because I want to keep a low profile of my business, civic, & personal activities in a host Country, & because compared to Ecuador, Venezuela, Guatemala & elsewhere, Panama these days is Censorship Lite. But here in the USA we have gone down the road of “self regulation.” The motion picture producers & studios were allowed to compromise freedom of speech v obscenity issues by an industry dominated “rating system.” Studios regularly tweak dialog, a scene here, a nuance there for a more family friendly rating, but quite often for a more shocking & controversial money-making R rating. The Justice Department, Treasury Department & SEC long ago h&ed lots of financial regulatory discipline & dispute resolution to “SelfRegulatory Organizations.” I participate in these & think when the system works
“Do we really need to be censored in the country that allows freedom of speech?”
it has been dealing with myriad issues in a cost effective manner which can bring more alacrity to problems solving than the Courts. But when SROs fail, as with Bernie Madoff, the results can be irreparable. We have really verse journalistic practitioners, academics, & both. The Harry incident should spark more than jerks like me making snide remarks & my usual puns & double entendres. I was exposed to the preachings & teachings of John Seigenthaler Sr on several occasions at V&erbilt U at the Gannett-founded Freedom Forum program. He often tackled the macro philosophical issue of defending the First Amendment even when writers or broadcasters spewed stuff that would make a Veracruz sailor barf. It was sort of the same rationale of devoted ACLU folks who look at the larger issues of freedom. Listening to the BBC overnight & discussions of Her Royal Highness making
an inquiry with the industry-sparked press control board about the Harry story, sent a bit of the chilling effect down my own spine. And quite possibly an erection.
IN THE USA
When you censor someone, you potentially censor their ability to freely express themselves. However, there are many who take it upon themselves to incessantly scrutinize & block that which doesn’t appeal to them. It may be for religious, moral, or other personal reasons. Those who enjoy the material are censored from it themselves. Do we really need to be censored in a country that allows us the freedom of speech? One of the more famous examples of censorship got the United States Supreme Court involved. George Carlin, a comedian whose material is usually edgy & not accepted by certain audiences, was involved in a case in 1978 (FCC vs. Pacifica Foundation, April 18, 1978) stating that indecent material should not be played on the radio or television. A man was riding in the car with his son when the routine “Filthy Words,” a routine which discusses the seven dirty words you can’t say on television, was on the air. He heard the routine & complained to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC.) They then, in turn, issued a sanction against the radio station that played it for “airing indecent material.” Pacifica filed an order with
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RECENT ARTISTS THAT HAVE BEEN CENSORED The Belarus Free Theater: for producing plays of a sexual nature Jafar Panahi: for making a film criticizing the Iranian Government Dhondup Wangchen: filmmaker producing films against the Chinese Govt Aron Atabek: written poetry highly critical of President Nursultan Nazarbayev
Justin Timberlake: for exposing said boobs P. Harry England Showing his little prince Michelangelo Buonarotti Allen Ginsberg Jack London Mark Twain Madonna Pink Floyd Rolling Stones
“Your kids will probably see a breast every now & then & it’s okay. There are worse things out there for them to see.”
sary. You also assume that they don’t have the capacity to choose what they want to watch or hear in accordance with their convictions. Others say that freedom of expression is directly correlated with freedom of speech, which is granted to us by the provisions of the First Amendment to the Constitution. They believe their opinions should be able to be freely expressed, as well as their artistic & creative ways. Censorship undoubtedly constricts creative expression, as you must limit what you put in your material in accordance with the FCC. However, degree is a different story. You can still entertain people without obscenity - its been proven since the advent of TV & radio. One of the more famous forms of failed censorship was the “wardrobe malfunction” on February 1, 2004 during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII. At the end of the song, a portion of Janet Jackson’s top was ripped off, revealing her breast. Soon, 500,000 complaints rained over CBS. The FCC, naturally, sprang into action, fining the network $500,000 - a fine that was later contested, dropped & now being reconsidered. Soon after, things got a bit more PG on the television. Rear male nudity on soap operas - which was considered appropriate - was edited out. Halftime shows & performances for other sporting events were
cleaned up & stripped of any sexual innuendo or references, including lyrics. My favorite rock radio station in Michigan changed their format to soft rock in the wake of the controversy. Laura Bush said that “our kids don’t need to see that on TV.” Millions in the US echoed that sentiment. Thanks to Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson & her star-adorned breast, TV & radio became even more unbearably restricted. All the uproar over a breast flashed for two seconds. Nah, we didn’t have a conflict in Iraq to worry about or other injustices & things of pertinence to put higher in the queue - just a two-second shot of a breast. Your kids will probably see one every now & then. That’s where the “right from wrong” thing comes in. Parents could always explain what happened at that moment. They could tell them that sort of thing isn’t supposed to happen; just like in life, unexpected things happen. I’d like to meet a parent like that. Judging by the number of complaints, these kids were swiftly whisked away to bed & told never to speak of it. The September 11 attacks also called for censorship. Clear Channel Communications released a list of songs that radio stations shouldn’t play. The list included “Hells Bells” by AC/DC, “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins, or any song that had a title or subject matter dealing with fire, the sky, air, tickets, ducking & running, rockets, etc. I found it to be pretty ridiculous. I guess the nation needs more censorship after a traumatic event? Do we become more sensitive? Obviously, because there was no major uproar following the release of that list. I find that sad. The censorship debate will continue for years to come, but don’t let it make you stop enjoying the entertainment you seek today. & remember kids, once you hit 18, the adults can’t censor everything.
for Censo rs
Janet Jackson: for showing her boobs at the Super Bowl
radio & television. Why couldn’t the man have simply changed the station? It was obviously something he didn’t enjoy, so why not do without & listen to something more suitable? Does a government run body really need to regulate what we see & hear? Some will say yes, as children could be exposed to such coarse material. However, with the advent of child blocks & parental controls, parents have the choice to block out that which is considered unsuitable for them. Parents can also teach their children proper manners & inform them as to when certain words & phrases are deemed acceptable. Parental concerns are greatly understandable; they don’t want the younger generation exposed to filth. Yet, by imposing an appointed body which censors media, you assume that people don’t have the logic to watch what they say among mixed company, or in other places where coarse material would be considered unneces-
Political Protest Vulgarity
began as random jam sessions between friends Bob Morris (guitar) and Greta Salpeter (piano/guitar) eventually grew into the Chicago indie pop quartet the Hush Sound. A classically trained pianist since age three, Salpeter was introduced to Morris by mutual friends when they were in in Jr. High School. The two played together whenever free time would allow, and by winter 2004/2005 they had seriously begun writing songs. Originally called "the Hush" ("Sound" was added later upon discovering a rapper shared their name). Morris got in contact with friends from the local Chicago scene, Darren Wilson and Chris Faller, who were both looking for a new band to play with. Wilson was well. Impressed by what he saw, Faller quit his other February 2005.
hiatus & return classical beatles
jazz jangle pop
The Hush Sound went on hiatus on 11 October 2010, Greta Salpeter announced via her Twitter account that the band would play a one time reunion show in Chicago on 26 December 2010. However, The Hush Sound has recently begun touring again, with dates scheduled in October and November, 2012, in the United States. The band has announced that they have reformed, and their new album is expected to be released in the spring of 2013.
| greta salpeter | chris faller | darren wilson
SINGLES crawling towards
the sun, we intertwined, wine red, honey, medicine man
facebook 132,401 likes
myspace 148614 friends
so sudden 13 songs
like vines 11 songs
sold over 50 thousand albums
Produced by Pete Wentz, Decaydence imprint, Fuel By Ramen company
on billboard 200 for two weeks
FALSTAFF â€˘ 95
THE GENTLE A Pop Artist recalls when he first fell in love with art, and if art reciprocated. by Bernard Cooper. Photography by Charlotte Valantine
he windowless room is dark except for static sputtering on a video monitor. Beside the monitor, on one of the stackable chairs, sits Jim, a gaunt young man who stares at his knees and pounds them again and again with his fists. His assault is as unrelenting as the static. That must be the point, I think, but my conviction quickly fades. I shift in my seat and look around to see if anybody appears to understand what’s happening. Postures of contemplation emerge from the gloom: chins propped on hands, jaws grinding gum. Several students lean forward, mesmerized by the granulated light and the steady thwacks of impact. The year is 1973, and our instructor, the conceptual artist John Baldessari, stands in a corner. Six foot seven, with shaggy white hair and beard, he wears an expression t hat is, as always, inscrutable, his hands buried in the pockets of his jeans. He knows that the aesthetic value of any object or activity cannot be measured hastily; the history of the avant-garde is the history of critics who rushed to judgment, whom time proved oolish. Here at the California Institute of the Arts, we must inch toward, rather than jump to, conclusions. Jim continues to pummel himself and no one speaks. Words would be brutish and premature. And so we s tare in a kind of numb reverence until a secretary from Admissions barrels into the dark room to deliver a phone message. She squints against the gloom and plunks herself into a chair beside Jim, holding out a folded note. “Your mother wants…” He shushes her, punishes his knees. She straightens her skirt and waits a moment. “Jim,” she says, “I haven’t got all day. Your mother wants you to…” His fists stop midair, and he looks up from his lap. “I’m doing a performance,” he hisses. Just as the secretary turns and finally sees a roomful of students staring back at her, Jim lurches to his feet and hits
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ART OF ART the monitor’s off switch. Static evaporates. “Your mother,” she continues in utter darkness, “wants you to phone her after class.” Jim opens the door and stomps into the hall, the secretary hurrying behind him and wagging the message in her outstretched hand. Darkness again when the door slams shut. The rustlings and murmurs of my classmates. I begin to wonder if the secretary’s intrusion was planned, like a certain performance in the Ice Capades that thrilled me as a child, the skater’s phony falls and failing props eliciting gasps from the audience. Maybe Jim’s temperamental exit was part of his performance, a comment on the fragility of artists’ egos. I can hear the instructor patting the cinder-block wall, groping for the light switch. Outside, sunlight is
“I found myself longing for ordinary, unselfconscious arts.” shining on the freeways, gas stations, fast-food chains, and tract homes surrounding the Valencia campus; whether or not Jim finishes his piece, the world will plod on. I can’t admit this aloud to anyone in the post-studio program, to do so would be considered retrograde and bourgeois, but I find myself longing for ordinary, unself-c onscious acts—scratching an itch, swatting a fly—acts without the aftertaste of art. Only days after receiving my MFA from CalArts, I abandoned my ambition to become an artist. I’d long been a secret reader of starkly emotive poets like Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, and I’d decided to apprentice myself to writing poetry, a move that, in hindsight, was merely trading in one set of career uncertainties for another. “Decided,” in fact, may be the wrong word; it would be like saying I’d “decided” to sneeze. Still, the impulse had a logic of its own: If art could be freed from its embodiment in an object, as the tenets of conceptualism suggested, then writing, with its intangible images, with its people and places manifest in language, was yet another step in what art critic Lucy Lippard called “dematerialization of the art object.” This was as
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) L’ARTE (
Model by Carrisa Valantine
“Ethel thought I was crazy when the stove arrived.” post-studio as a guy could get, though a love of visual art, and my days studying it, would become a recurring subject in my books. My awakening to the world of avantgarde art had taken place ten years earlier in my junior high school library. Light slanted through the venetian blinds. Rotary fans turned overhead, stirring currents of warm air. Every now and then the librarian quieted talkative children as she rolled a cart through the stacks. These details come back because, in a lifetime of generally sluggish and imperceptible change, there followed a moment of such abrupt friction between who I was and who I would become, it’s a wonder I didn’t erupt with sparks. Instead of looking up the major exports of Alaska for my geography report, I slouched in a chair and leafed through
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an issue of Life magazine. A boldface headline caught my attention: “You Bought It, Now Live with It.” The article profiled the handful of New York art collectors who were among the first to buy the work of pop artists. Although pop art was routinely savaged by critics for exalting the banal—billboards, supermarkets, Hollywood movies—this “new breed of collector” didn’t care. “All that other stuff,” grumbled collector Leon Kraushar, referring to the sum total of art history before pop, “it’s old, it’s antique. Renoir? I hate him. Cézanne?
Bedroom pictures. They’ll never kill pop, they’ll just be caught with their pants down.” They, Kraushar seemed to imply, were a bunch of stuffed shirts, scoffers and doubters, the self-appointed enemies of fun. Kraushar was shown in his Long Island house, lounging on the couch next to a stack of Andy Warhol’s Brillo boxes. Behind him stood a life-size plaster jazz trio by sculptor George Segal. The musicians held real instruments, their bodies frozen into a white glacier of
“It was difficult to tell the difference between a kitchen and a painting of a kitchen.”
“But now she won’t let anyone else touch it.” improvisation. Collector Harry Abrams, publisher of coffee-table books on art, watched the real television set that was embedded in Tom Wesselmann’s painting Still Life with Live TV. “Whether it’s on or off,” marveled Abrams, smiling from his recliner, “the painting is different every time I look at it.” Cleo Johnson, the Abramses’ maid, appeared undaunted by modern art; she took a bemused, sidelong glance at the clock in a huge, messy painting by Robert Rauschenberg. According to the caption, the clock worked. So did Cleo, who wore a starched uniform and carried a plate of piping hot corn bread. Robert and Ethel Scull were perhaps the most avid collectors. Pictured in their immense Manhattan apartment, Mr. Scull, a taxicab magnate, watched his
wife dust the plump enameled ham that sat atop Claes Oldenburg’s Stove with Meats. “Ethel thought I was crazy when the stove arrived,” Scull said, “but now she calls it ‘my emerald’ and won’t let anyone else touch it.” On the next page Mrs. Scull beamed while standing in front of the portrait she’d commissioned from Andy Warhol—innumerable mugging, multicolored Ethels. As I turned the pages and stared at the photographs, it was difficult to tell the difference between a kitchen and a painting of a kitchen, or a man opening a door and a sculpture of a man opening a door. Reality was up for grabs, and my sudden unknowing made me giddy. I’d always thought that art sat mutely in a museum, but pop blared commercials, told the time, and had to be plugged into an electrical socket like an ordinary
Makeup by Bridget Steadman
appliance. Yet the word ordinary didn’t apply; a soup can or a comic strip were more mesmerizing than I ever thought possible. Even advertisements in the magazine that featured, say, a box of frozen peas seemed otherworldly, lit from within. Up until that day in the library I hadn’t known or cared much about contemporary art. What little I knew I had gleaned from the art in my parents’ house. I liked the Parisian street scene in our hallway; the pedestrians, with a few deft strokes, were reflected in the rain-soaked pavement. In our tropical-themed den a reproduction of a painting by Diego Rivera hung above a bamboo bar; a man with a basket strapped to his back was carrying fresh flowers to an open-air market, his body bent low by the weight of fuchsia blossoms.
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) L’ARTE ( noticed. I stood inches from the surface and couldn’t move. What other secret messages were embedded in the world? Could they be revealed by the act of looking? A reclusive boy, especially now that my older brother had left home, I began to spend hours drawing with the pastels Ron had given me as a birthday gift, fascinated by the greasy lines, the hues blended by smudging the page. The nature of the medium—sticks of pigment as dense as clay—lent itself to landscape.
But the most unsettling painting in my parents’ “collection” was a portrait by my older brother, Ron, of our eldest brother, Bob. The portrait had been hanging in the living room since Bob’s death from Hodgkin’s disease four years earlier. Ron painted as a hobby, the bedroom he’d once shared with Bob redolent of turpentine and linseed oil. A wooden easel was stationed by his bed, ready, I used to think, should he jump up inspired in the middle of the night. Despite Ron’s limited technical skills, his portrait of Bob perfectly, if inadvertently, captured the physical essence of our brother’s illness; something in the thinness of the pigment, as grim as watery soup, never failed to remind me how chemotherapy had turned Bob’s skin translucent, as if he were stripped of all protection layer by layer, his ailing insides harder to ignore. My parents had hung the portrait in a heavy gold frame, their way of containing Bob’s memory forever, of paying him homage. In that sense the frame was like a headstone, strangely funereal for a portrait in which a 21-year-old boy with a flattop is
“Oh Bob,” Ron wrote on the tie. “Poor Bob.”
dressed in a dapper shirt and tie, his eyes conveying the hope that he’s handsome. But none of these qualities in itself accounted for what turned out to be the painting’s revelation. One afternoon I sat in the living room, steeped in the idleness that, at the age of nine, I regarded as a calling. Light from the bay window struck the portrait at an odd angle, and I noticed that the dots running down the center of Bob’s tie were more than decorative daubs of white paint. As I rose and walked closer, the dots resolved into tiny letters. “Oh Bob,” Ron had written on the tie. “Poor Bob.” Ron had moved away from home to attend law school shortly after Bob’s death, leaving me, the late child, to grow up alone. Now he had his own car and apartment and part-time job—triumphs that exempted most young men from unhappiness, or so I supposed. Yet there it was in the afternoon light: the keening of one brother for another, a grief so precise, so carefully encoded, you had to stare long and hard before you
Jon Gnagy, the exuberant art teacher on the TV show You Are an Artist, set up his easel every Saturday morning and gave lessons on how to render “majestic” mountains, “fleecy” clouds, and “babbling” brooks. A not-too-woodsy plaid shirt became Gnagy’s sartorial trademark and added a note of gravity to an artsy panache. He sported relatively long hair for the day, along with a pointy Vandyke beard that anyone who harbored doubts about art might have found a tad satanic. Years later, when I first saw Marcel Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q., a mustachioed and goateed reproduction of da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, it was Jon Gnagy who sprang to mind. Dubbed “America’s first television art teacher,” Gnagy sketched and painted each landscape in a race against time; the show lasted only about 10 minutes, not counting commercials. While drawing along with Gnagy—or rather, while trying to keep up with him—I seemed to
“Paintings by pop artists presented a point of view entirely different... Pop was enamored of a world in which all that’s lost or obsolete is simply replaced by a newer model.” 100 • FALSTAFF
float above the paper, a disembodied observer looking down into a world I was able to enter once it achieved enough depth and detail. The successful replication of a tree or a barn filled me with the thrill of omniscience. Yet despite the satisfaction in making those landscapes, they were, in the end, someone else’s idea of beauty, nothing more than quaint imitations. Not until I came upon the article in Life did I see that art’s subject matter could spring from the city, from our very own
home. Paintings by pop artists presented a point of view entirely different from Ron’s mournful portrait of Bob; pop was enamored of a world in which all that’s lost or obsolete is simply replaced by a newer model. Pop was based on unjudgmental wonder, without a trace of the suffering I was too young to know we each must bear, griefs as abundant and burdensome as Diego Rivera’s flowers.
Eager for more to read, I searched through the art section of Pickwick Bookshop on Hollywood Boulevard (it was here that musical comedy star Ann Miller was reputed to have asked for ten yards of yellow books to match her living room walls). Newly published, Pop Art by John Rublowsky was among the first American publications to document the phenomenon of pop. The frontispiece was dominated by a photograph of artists Claes Oldenburg, Tom Wesselmann, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, and Andy Warhol posed at a group exhibition of their work. The wan fashion model Jean Shrimpton stood among them, mascara-ed and miniskirted, her hair molded into the stiff, symmetrical curls of a “flip.” In another photo of the show, a few bewildered art patrons wandered among a roomful of Warhol’s Brillo boxes as if they’d stumbled into an industrial warehouse. Rublowsky’s book was prescient in that it treated these five artists as the celebrities they were to become, capturing for posterity their every brush stroke and contemplative pause. Each of them was given his own chapter and shown mixing paint or hefting rolls of canvas, hard at work in his cavernous studio. Each of them, that is, except for Andy Warhol, who reclined on a couch, relaxing like a sultan.
“Warhol’s multiple images numbing, but they dazzled me, like the stutter of TV channels when I twisted the dial.”
P O P A R T T O D A Y
He turns everyday objects into icons and rips off pop art in other ways too. He also likes taking pictures of himself having sex.
He creates toilet brushes and copies ideas of others finally dead so he can profit from them. But he’s French and no one understand him anyway.
Not a pop artist, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the king of pop. This is actually another Jeff Koons sculpture, a porcelain and gold Michael with Bubbles.
Like the artists before who copy the Pop Artists, so too did the pop artists copy Dada. At least Bernard Cooper acknowledges the theft in this rambling article. winter 2012 • 101