While the word “propaganda” has a rather nasty, manipulative connotation, it isn’t necessarily defined as “lies” per se. All that WPA art encouraging people to brush their teeth and get tested for syphilis? Excellent uses of propaganda! And whether you’re trying to organize a community garden or start your own fascist regime, I think the most effective propaganda follows that same model of simple, informative, attractive messaging, easily interpreted by children or the uneducated. Catch ‘em young, and make it pretty, I always say.
Our Lenin, a children’s biography of Vladimir Lenin, does this perfectly. Translated and adapted from a Russian book, the US version of Our Lenin was published in 1934 by the US Communist Party. Although teaching the kiddies to revere Vladimir Lenin uncritically is certainly problematic (to say the least), the book is a beautifully executed piece of messaging, and the illustrations are just exquisite.
World War 1
Would you like a socialist utopia, or capitalist fascism? Pick carefully now, children!
In the puzzling biographical blurb on his website, the artist Diddo claims to have “aroused the curiosity of creators and tastemakers, receiving requests from the likes of Sasha Baron Cohen, Kanye West and Lady Gaga.” It also says that he “was born on the luckiest day since the sixth century (7-7-’77).”
Diddo’s most recent work, “Ecce Animal,” poses provocative questions about the human condition, such as “How much does that fucking thing cost?” It’s a skull measuring roughly 5 x 7 x 8.5 inches—I’m neither a doctor nor a medical examiner, but I’m going to go ahead and call that “life-sized”—and it’s made of “street cocaine.”
In the “Laboratory” section of his website, he drops such risible bon mots as “The analysis started with the preparation of the 100% Cocaine standard and sample solution. An amount of standard was dissolved in a mobile phase followed by a series of trial runs to calibrate and identify the HPLC method that gave adequate separation of the standard. ... The retention time of our sample matched the Cocaine standard, albeit with a much smaller peak. This is because the sample is diluted with so-called ‘cutting agents’. The purity of the Cocaine in percentage lies in the range of approximately 15% to 20%.”
Captain Beefheart aka Don Van Vliet was born on this day in 1941. The Cubist blues howler and great avant garde outsider composer and bandleader retired from his musical career in 1982, to become a widely respected abstract expressionist painter.
If you’ve never seen his paintings (aside from his album covers) why not click over to The Radar Station and have a look. Worth mentioning that most of them are quite big in person, and really impressive. His application of paint is practically as unique as his music is.
Below, Captain Beefheart & Magic Band performing “Sure ‘nuff ‘n Yes I Do” at the Midem Festival, Cannes, France, January 27, 1968:
I found these charming things on the arts site Bored Panda - ceramic sculptor Brett Kern makes dinosaurs and other objects that look for all the world like actual inflatable toys. The only giveaway on first glance that they’re not the real thing is that the valve stems are gilded. His artist’s statement illuminates the obsession and the process:
“Something has survived,” reads the tagline for the 1997 movie, Jurassic Park: The Lost World. Undeniably, something has survived: the infatuation I have with the pop culture of my formative years, during the late eighties and the nineties. It is through these “cultural glasses” that I continue to view and interpret the world, which influences the subject matter and purpose of my work. My predilection for producing collectible objects comes from my training as a potter and my persistent preoccupation with collecting toys, pop memorabilia, and nostalgic items from my youth.
Clay and glaze are essential materials for representing my often disposable and transient subject matter as what it has, to me, truly been: enduring and precious. The mold-making process allows me to cast, out of clay, authentic replicas of meaningful objects. Subsequently, I decide whether these new ceramic objects should be left as is, or manipulated to fit in with casts from appropriated commercial molds in order to subvert the object’s original intent. Glaze helps to emphasize the magnificence of the material as it flows in and out of lines and wrinkles, filling the object’s surface with a wealth of depth and variation within a simplified color scheme. Gold Luster is employed sparingly to highlight specific areas of intimate interactions we have with the objects.
I find that the mold-making process imitates, in a certain way, the fossilization process. Objects are covered in a material that captures their shape and texture and this, in turn, preserves the object as a rock-like representation. Movies, television, toys and games dominated the cultural landscape of my youth. I am a product of this specific time period, and I like to think of my artwork as the fossils that will help preserve it.
Is it disingenuous of him not to have named Jeff Koons in there anywhere? Like even in passing? I mean, he HAS to know, right? But I guess that doesn’t matter nearly as much as the fact that when you scroll down and see his astronaut, you’re totally going to want one.
There’s nothing “ew” about these one-of-kind vintage porcelain dinnerware pieces with realistic hand-painted ants by German artist Evelyn Bracklow. I’ve seen other dishes with ants painted on ‘em before, but not this well executed. In fact, when I first saw these, I gave them a second glance.
A few of the pieces are available at Bracklow’s Etsy shop, La Philie. FYI, they’re not cheap.
According to The Detroit News, rock poster artist Gary Grimshaw, long associated with the MC5 and Detroit’s legendary Grande Ballroom, died Monday morning after a long illness, and several recent strokes, at the age of 67.
In late December I did a post about the fantastic rock posters of the Japanese pop art master Tadanori Yokoo. Even though I referred to a couple of his album covers, I didn’t know that his work in that medium was every bit as extensive. As with the posters, the bulk of his album cover art was in the 1970s, but he dabbled in album covers in the 1980s and 1990s as well.
Artists include Santana, Miles Davis, John Cale, and Earth, Wind, and Fire as well as a panoply of musicians with whom I’m not as familiar, some of them Japanese.
All of these images are a feast for the eyes, something about the genre of rock art unleashed Yokoo’s inner insane collagist. His 1960s pop art work is admirably restrained from a formal perspective. I find these covers fascinating, I can look at them endlessly. The album art for Santana’s Amigos is a particular treat. Enjoy.
Everyone has seen the famous photos of Nico and Andy Warhol dressed as Batman and Robin, and Warhol’s silkscreen of the Batman logo, but evidently the writers for (arguably) the most “pop art” TV show in history were also very well aware of the Pope of Pop’s movements.
In an episode called “Pop Goes the Joker,” a rich society girl by the name of “Baby Jane Towser” is preyed upon by The Joker who has inadvertently become an acclaimed Warhol-esque pop artist after defacing some art ala Marcel Duchamp. “Baby Jane Towser” is duped to lure in millionaire patrons to buy the Jokers art.
Obvious to anyone at the time, the rich girl character was based on one-time fashion model, “It Girl,” Warhol superstar and wealthy young Park Avenue housewife, “Baby” Jane Holzer. Holzer was famously photographed by David Bailey, she made the cover of Vogue and appeared in a handful of Warhol’s early films, such as Couch, Soap Opera and a silent “screen test” where she coyly brushed her teeth for his camera.
“The show hasn’t even started yet, the Rolling Stones aren’t even on stage… Girls are reeling this way and that way in the aisle and through their huge black decal eyes… they keep staring at - her - Baby Jane - on the aisle… Baby Jane, is a fabulous girl. She comprehends what the Rolling Stones mean. Any columnist in New York could tell them who she is… a celebrity of New York’s new era of Wog Hip… Baby Jane Holzer, Jane Holzer in Vogue, Jane Holzer in Life, Jane Holzer in Andy Warhol’s underground movies, Jane Holzer at the rock and roll, Jane Holzer is - well, how can you put it into words? Jane Holzer is This Years Girl, at least, the New Celebrity, none of your old idea of sexpots, prima donnas, romantic tragediennes, she is the girl who knows… the Stones, East End vitality… ‘Andy calls everything super,’ says Jane. ‘I’m a super star, he’s a super-director, we make super epics - and I mean, it’s a completely new and natural way of acting.You can’t image what really beautiful things can happen!’”
Roxy Music later referenced Holzer in the the lyrics to “Virginia Plain” (“Baby Jane’s in Acapulco / We are flying down to Rio” and “Can’t you see that Holzer mane?”). She is today a real-estate developer in Manhattan and an avid and celebrated art collector.
Below, “Baby” Jane Holzer singing Frankie Valli’s “(You’re Gonna) Hurt Yourself,” March 28, 1966, on the Hullabaloo TV show. Apparently this record was never properly released. I suppose you could look at this the same way as Paris Hilton’s short-lived pop music career.
Part one of “Pop Goes the Joker” is below. The second half of this typical Batman cliff-hanger was “Flop Goes the Joker.”
One more Batman/Warhol/Holzer tie-in: In this excerpt from Batman/Dracula a long-thought lost collaboration between Andy Warhol and that icon of the perverse, Jack Smith, “Baby” Jane plays, one can assume, “Catwoman,” with Smith in the title role. This pre-dates the 1966 Batman TV series by two years.
When Lou Reed and John Cale’s collaborative tribute to Andy Warhol, Songs for Drella, came out in 1990, I didn’t love it. I didn’t even like it. It felt really forced. Over time it came to grow on me, but seeing the suite performed onstage, in the form of Oscar-nominated cinematographer Ed Lachman’s video documentation of the piece, really brought it alive.
Songs for Drella was part of 1989’s “Next Wave” festival at BAM and if you’ve ever been lucky enough to see something staged there, well, the lighting design and the general production values are usually more on a level of a Broadway show than a typical rock concert. Songs for Drella is essentially a theater piece and the visuals provide much of the enjoyment as well as a vague narrative. The songs are roughly in chronological order as they tell the story of Warhol’s life, from Pittsburgh, his early days in NYC, getting shot and his worldwide fame. The narrator changes from first person (Warhol’s POV), third person descriptions and Reed and Cale’s own commentary, as both longtime friends and collaborators with the artist.
According to a photographer I knew who shot the two of them around this time, Reed and Cale seemed to absolutely loathe each other. He described them as the two biggest bastards he’s ever been hired to shoot, in fact. Hissing snakes. The pair apparently vowed never to work together again, but they did anyway, for the ill-fated Velvet Underground reunion of 1993.
Shot on December 4–5, 1989 without an audience at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Songs for Drella came out on VHS and Laserdisc, but as yet, has still not come out on DVD. The album itself was recorded in the weeks after this was taped.
Joe Roifer & friend. Apt. 9E, Turner Tower. 135 Eastern Parkway, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, June 20, 1978
In 1976 a woman named Dinanda H. Nooney became interested in Brooklyn, while working as a volunteer for George McGovern’s short-lived presidential campaign (he had lost to Nixon in 1972, of course, and he soon found that the Democratic Party wasn’t interested in a second attempt). Two years later, she used the connections she had made in order to undertake a survey of the borough. Along the way, she got more interested in the people living in some of the homes she was researching, and she began to ask permission to do portraits of families in their homes. Many of these sitters referred other potentially willing subjects to her.
The results of these efforts are nearly six hundred gelatin silver prints of Brooklynites in their abodes, and they are stunning. In 1995 Nooney gave the collection to the New York Public Library, and you can now see the photos on the NYPL website. You can even see them broken out by neighborhood if that floats your boat.
For many of the homes shown here, there are other photos in the collection as well, so be sure to poke around the collection. I can’t get enough of these pictures, I’ve been looking at them all day.
Jerry & Linda Schick. 188 Washington Ave., Fort Greene, Brooklyn, June 10, 1978
Russell McCombs. 315 Eastern Parkway, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, June 23, 1978
Fran Orans. 4715 Surf Ave., Coney Island, Brooklyn, August 5, 1978
Bernice & Beresford Sealy. 145 Maple St. Flatbush, Brooklyn, February 13, 1978
Dr. Robert L. Leslie. 140 Lincoln Rd., Flatbush, Brooklyn, November 10, 1978
Plenty more of these fantastic Brooklyn interiors after the jump….