Unreal Nature

November 18, 2015

A Subject in the Drama Rather Than a Witness

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:55 am

… my distance slips, the arrogance and illusion of immunity falters.

This is from Larry Sultan: Here and Home organized by Rebecca Morse (2015). All of the following are quotes from Sultan, and all of the photographs shown are from his Pictures From Home:

… If I know too much, if the narrative is too well-formed, I’m making pictures that are illustrative and as a maker, that’s not interesting. As a viewer, that’s not interesting.

Mom in Curtain, 1991

… I want to investigate the stereotype … and complicate that stereotype, make it a richer field, something that isn’t filled with the assumption of generic lives.


… The house is quiet. They have gone to bed, leaving me alone … Years ago I would have gone through my mother’s purse for one of her cigarettes and smoked in the dark. It was a magical time that the house was mine.

Tonight, however, I am restless. I sit at the dining-room table, rummage through the refrigerator. What am I looking for?

All day long I’ve been scavenging, poking around in rooms and closets, peering at their things, studying them. I arrange my rolls of exposed film into long rows and count and recount them as if they were loot. There are twenty-eight.

What drives me to continue this work is difficult to name. It has more to do with love than with sociology, with being a subject in the drama rather than a witness. And in the odd and fumbled process of working, everything shifts; the boundaries blur, my distance slips, the arrogance and illusion of immunity falters. I wake up in the middle of the night, stunned and anguished. These are my parents.

Mom Touching Wallpaper, 1986


… A good artist has a single vision that kind of unravels in a very elegant way throughout time.

… very few people make a living as an artist, why not just do what you want to do? Instead of conforming to the model of what one thinks one should do, why not just do it? Just get all of those demons out of one’s system and all of the pleasures and all of the fantasies and just run with them; and that has been terrible for my career but wonderful for my soul.

Mom Peaking Out of Curtain, 1989




November 17, 2015

The Freedom Granted to Those Who Refuse to Worry Over Imperfection

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:54 am

… and choose instead to fully inhabit it, just as they do the misshapen forms and blotched and rumbled skin to which humans are inevitable heir. They are no less beautiful for their exquisite awkwardness.

This is from Think with the Senses: Feel with the Mind: Art in the Present Tense by Robert Storr, who was the Director of this 52nd International Art Exhibition (the 2007 Venice Biennale) to which this book was the accompanying catalog, which features a commentary and (optional) statement or quote from the artist. The following is from Storr’s commentary on Franz West:


… In his art the body is by definition ungainly, and therefore slightly pathetic and more than slightly ridiculous.


West’s free-standing papier-mâché and mixed-media monoliths, and his gravity bound steel lozenges parody the sleek biomorphism of Arp and Moore, and the painted steel arcs of Calder as well as the industrial-strength elegance of other modernist precursors, while at the same time rescuing public sculpture from standardization and bogus site-specificity by embracing their status as ‘plop-art’ with impertinence and comic candor.


… the processes and effects that in Richter bespeak an uneasy skepticism about the continued possibility of the modernist project of purifying the medium, in West seem to celebrate the freedom granted to those who refuse to worry over imperfection and choose instead to fully inhabit it, just as they do the misshapen forms and blotched and rumbled skin to which humans are inevitable heir. They are no less beautiful for their exquisite awkwardness.


From Lawrence Weiner, this quote:

Sculpture by virtue of its state
Presents a material reality that by its presence
Changes the inherent meaning of whatsoever place it finds itself
Bringing about a change in the relationship of human beings &
objects & producing a change in the ambiance
Caveat emptor: it can at times block the way




November 16, 2015

Some Undefined Apocalyptic Dream

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… he believes that his is the one true and authentic hat, and he wears it not with a dandy’s flair but with a Mennonite’s stubborn faith.

Continuing through High & Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture by Kirk Varnedoe and Adam Gopnik (1990):


… There was a moment in the late sixties when Crumb’s imagery was so omnipresent that, for many, it still remains difficult to separate his art from his moment: a generation found its bliss listening to the Grateful Dead’s Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty while reading Crumb “comix.” Crumb’s signature imagery belongs not to the high happy point of San Francisco culture but to a moment just after that, to 1968 and 1969, to the retrenchment of rock music in its country “roots,” and the glum recognition by the counterculture of its future in urban squalor and rural drudgery.

[line break added to make this easier to read online] Crumb anatomized the counterculture at a moment when it had come to recognize itself as fundamentally un-serious, or at least essentially impotent, torn between a nostalgia for American rural and ethnic styles, particularly the Delta and Chicago blues, and some undefined apocalyptic dream of social revolution.


… Like all puritans in art, he is a relentless tastemaker, and many of his comic strips are simply moralizing lists of what is decent and what is fake in American pop culture. He is convinced that all matters of taste are matters of principle. The comedy of his work derives from its monomaniacal dependence on a wistful, secondhand, already defunct comic strip style to express this fervent impulse to truth.

… The element of conscious protest in Crumb’s comics is addressed less to the social system, which is always imagined as unavoidably malignant (its opponents are imagined as insanely naïve), than at the previous style of comics. Crumb’s style is clearly a protest against the florid banalities of the superhero comic book. The same set of clichés that Lichtenstein had celebrated as a whole folk style only a few years before were now seen as just a part of a larger culture of lies.

… What is distinctive in Crumb is that the grotesque style is treated so matter-of-factly. Crumb shows us a world that looks as if it had been made in the imagination of Basil Wolverton, yet presents it as a simple, stubborn, inarguable truth. Crumb identifies not with the urbane and self-consciously stylish caricature tradition but with older traditions of peasant art, in which archaic folk form and close observation are inextricably mixed.


Crumb transformed comic style into a slow, dragging net in which all the navel lint and dust of the world is caught and scrutinized. Insistently banal, his art protests all the enforced cheerfulness of American official style. He despises the cleaned-up, perfect surface that is the beau ideal of all American popular culture. And yet he has a deep and touching faith in the truthfulness of the low, grotesque style that evolved in the margins of that culture.

Crumb, as much as any appropriation artist, uses a style as borrowed and secondhand as an old hat; yet he believes that his is the one true and authentic hat, and he wears it not with a dandy’s flair but with a Mennonite’s stubborn faith. It is the improbable passion and fervor that Crumb brings to his archaic style that gives his work both its intense conviction and (as he knows very well himself) its monomaniacal absurdity.

[line break added] As passionately as Blake convincing himself that the cheap neoclassical prints on which his imagination fed could picture eternal cosmic forces, Crumb regards the carnival of comic-book grotesques that he saw in his moment of vision in 1966 as a permanent legation of the American collective unconscious.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




November 15, 2015

The Flutter of Closing Wings

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:49 am

… when he observes things, he does it for the sake of things, and when he describes something, it is the thing itself that describes itself.

This is from the essay ‘Literature and the Right to Death’ found in The Gaze of Orpheus and other essays by Maurice Blanchot, translated by Lydia Davis (1981). I have posted from this same essay before: see this post:

… Literature is a concern for the reality of things, for their unknown, free, and silent existence; literature is their innocence and their forbidden presence, it is the being which protests against revelation, it is the defiance of what does not want to take place outside. In this way, it sympathizes with darkness, with aimless passion, with lawless violence, with everything in the world that seems to perpetuate the refusal to come into the world.

[line break added to make this easier to read online] In this way, too, it allies itself with the reality of language, it makes language into matter without contour, content without form, a force that is capricious and impersonal and says nothing, reveals nothing, simply announces — through its refusal to say anything — that it comes from night and will return to night. In itself, this metamorphosis is not unsuccessful. It is certainly true that words are transformed.

[line break added] They no longer signify shadow, earth, they no longer represent the absence of shadow and earth which is meaning, which is the shadow’s light, which is the transparency of the earth: opacity is their answer; the flutter of closing wings is their speech; in them, physical weight is present as the stifling density of an accumulation of syllables that has lost all meaning.

… because they are not interested in the world, but in what things and beings would be if there were no world; because they devote themselves to literature as to an impersonal power that only wants to be engulfed and submerged. If this is what poetry is like, at least we will know why it must be withdrawn from history, where it produces a strange insect-like buzzing in the margins, and we will also know that no work which allows itself to slip down this slope towards the chasm can be called a work of prose. Well, what is it then?

… Now here is a man who does more observing than writing: he walks in a pine forest, looks at a wasp, picks up a stone. He is a sort of scholar, but this scholar fades away in the face of what he knows, sometimes in the face of what he wants to know; he is a man who learns for the sake of other men: he has gone over to the side of objects, sometimes he is water, sometimes a pebble, sometimes a tree, and when he observes things, he does it for the sake of things, and when he describes something, it is the thing itself that describes itself.

… Where in the work lies the beginning of the moment when the words become stronger than their meaning and the meaning more physical than the word?

… Literature is language turning into ambiguity. Ordinary language is not necessarily clear; it does not always say what it says; misunderstanding is also one of its paths. This is inevitable. Every time we speak we make words into monsters with two faces, one being reality, physical presence, and the other meaning, ideal absence. But ordinary language limits equivocation. It solidly encloses the absence in a presence, it puts a term to understanding, to the indefinite movement of comprehension; understanding is limited, but misunderstanding is limited, too.

[line break added] In literature, ambiguity is in some sense abandoned to its excesses by the opportunities it finds and exhausted by the extent of the abuses it can commit. It is as though there were a hidden trap here to force ambiguity to reveal its own traps, and as though in surrendering unreservedly to ambiguity literature were attempting to keep it — out of sight of the world and out of the thought of the world — in a place where it fulfills itself without endangering anything.




November 14, 2015

The Bite

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:58 am

… You need some sort of spark between that vague idea, the material and the finished image. For me, the material or the form of the printmaking is essential for that thinking.

This is first is from the essay ‘The Other Side of the Press’ by Rosalind Krauss in A Universal Archive; William Kentridge as Printmaker (2012):

… The break-up of the sugar-lift’s shape into the stipple of aquatint creates an unpredictable cloud. Perhaps Goya had learned to foresee it, but the process of sugar-lift makes this difficult. The sugar for sugar-lift comes from the condensed milk the artist mixes with India ink to make a drawing directly onto a metal plate. The drawing is then covered with acid-resistant varnish.

[line break added to make this easier to read online] Lowered into hot water, the bath penetrates into this figural ground, where it expands the sugar and lifts it off the plate. Fine-ground resin settles onto the now-exposed areas of plate. The plate, lowered into acid, is then ‘bitten’ — the acid eating around the particles of resin. The value (from light to dark) of the resulting shape will depend on the length of the ‘bite.’

Throughout his drawings for projection — his creation of animated film through the progressive erasure of an initial drawing — Kentridge has been intent on the representation, or figuring-forth, of the medium with which he works.

The following is from a conversation between Kate McCrickard and William Kentridge found in the same book:

Kate McCrickard: If you take a throw-away sketch made on paper, transcribe that sketch into drypoint on copper and print it onto a sheet of fine paper, one might say that the emerging image is imbued with a certain legitimacy. … [Y]ou have said that, ‘On the hard copper, it is expected that an image take responsibility for itself.’ Do you think that the press can authorize an image?

William Kentridge: That’s a hard thing to do — to make me responsible for things that I said! But, yes. It’s also a way of saying that one should look at, and really see, this provisional sketch. There is something about the labor and time that goes into the transformation of a sketch into a print: the cleanness of the sheet around the image, the embossing mark where the plate hits the paper — all of those things around the image focus one’s looking.

[ … ]

WK: I think one of the key elements of printmaking is the ‘given,’ the necessary nature of your materials. For me, the starting point for an etching is the physical size of the plate. I’ll often start by taking the plate and tracing it onto a sheet or onto many sheets of paper to get the scale. … Something about the actual, physical, cold hardness of the pink copper and the sheet of paper and the scrape of the pencil around the edge of the copper … these are all things which, on the one hand, are completely outside of the finished image, but which are vital to thinking of it. They provide a material space for projection, for imagining what the image could possibly be.

[ … ]

WK: … External constraints such as size of the plate and printing technique are a provocation, not just a restraint.

KMc: External constraints provide a useful resistance to making?

WK: Stranger and harder than just resistance. When you’re making an image, there’s something that happens between the thought in your head and the sheet of paper or piece of copper. You need some sort of spark between that vague idea, the material and the finished image. For me, the material or the form of the printmaking is essential for that thinking.




November 13, 2015

He Juxtaposes

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:33 am

… A convention is a set of conditions … which the author involuntarily sets between himself and those to whom he is sending a message.

This is from Bowstring: On the Dissimilarity of the Similar by Viktor Shklovsky; translated by Shushan Avagyan (1970; 2011):

… What is the riddle’s answer? It is derivation of meaning. According to Hegel, the riddle consists of “individual traits of character and properties drawn from the otherwise known external world and, as in nature and in externality generally, lying there scattered outside one another, they are associated together in a disparate and therefore striking way. As a result they lack a subject embracing them together [as predicates] into a unity …” This disparity of signs hinders the immediate solution as to which whole they all belong to.

In veiling the whole, the riddle forces us to rearrange the signs of a given object, thus showing the possibility of diversity, the possibility to combine the previously irreconcilable in new semantic arrangements.

The great Sancho Panza said that he would rather be given the answer first and the riddle afterwards.


[ … ]

… An artist creates his own structures of art. Consciously and sometimes unconsciously in his attempts to discern reality, he selects structures, defines the borders and interrelations of selected, juxtaposed meanings. He juxtaposes and compares the various structures of art, transferring the laws of one structure into the realm of another …

… You will frequently come across the word “convention” in this book. It should not be confused with the concept of structure.

A convention is a set of conditions through which structures correlate with one another, and which the author involuntarily sets between himself and those to whom he is sending a message.

My previous post from Shklovsky’s book is here.




November 12, 2015

A Parallel World

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:56 am

… a fantasized, projected alternate self — played a large role in the psychic life of both … They were “other” to each other.

This is from the author’s interview with Amie Siegel in Avant-Doc: Intersections of Documentary and Avant-Garde Cinema by Scott MacDonald (2015):

[ … ]

MacDonald: What exactly do you mean by “unstable ethics”?

Siegel: Unstable ethics are inherent in non-fiction filmmaking. So many documentary films purport to represent singular, objective truths, rather than an entire messy world of subjective gray zones.

[line break added] Often, little attention is paid to the coerced or scripted performance of documentary film subjects, or to the use of third-world subjects for the benefit of a privileged first-world western gaze, or to the claim that fly-on-the-wall cinéma vérité filmmaking removes the maker from the mix, when in fact cinéma vérité is really an exaggerated subjectivity on display (the best of the vérité bunch recognize and even play to this), or to the complex web of projection and identification the viewer experiences: that is, how watching a film’s horrific events and human conditions “there” can unconsciously reify one’s sense of privilege, of being safely, comfortably “here.”

It’s not that I don’t love cinema; I am passionately attached to so much about cinema. But for me this attachment does not exclude a critical eye on its formulaic governing and even unconscious practices. … [W]hat is the boundary between filming as an art and film as an act of surveillance and control?

I included in the film many of the “accidents” and candid moments that other filmmakers would be likely to leave out. For example, one can often see the microphone intruding into the frame or reflected in the glass of a picture on the wall.

[ … ]

Siegel: … The things that sometimes keep me up at night are the many tangents that could have been included, but were eliminated during the shooting or editing. Though DDR/DDR is a broad constellation of intertwined ideas, many things that felt relevant, including things that got said in interviews, didn’t become part of the finished film; they haunt me.

I love your construction of the interviews as sets of doubles. I see that too. I wonder if doppelgängers, binaries and doubles don’t unconsciously suggest roads not taken, choices we could have made. Certainly this arises towards the end of DDR/DDR where the Stasi psychologist confesses that what he really wanted to do was be a filmmaker, or where another former Stasi operative admits that there were things they did — he did — that shouldn’t have been done.

But of course the largest double at play here is that of East and West. What would my life have been had I been East German? Or West German? I suspect that this sense of a parallel world — and a fantasized, projected alternate self — played a large role in the psychic life of both East and West Germans. They were “other” to each other.

My most recent previous post from MacDonald’s book is here.




November 11, 2015

Between Fascination and Repulsion

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

Sometime in the mid-1950s, a movie company rented our house to use in a television commercial. The entire front lawn was filled up with large lights and reflectors, a crane, cameras and crew. [ … ] When they finished lighting the front of our house it was floating in a soft, miraculous glow. It was a dream house. I thought that all of the neighbors who were crowded into our driveway were there to watch our house become a movie star.

The actual filming lasted only one day and consisted of Jane Wyman, dressed as a housewife in high heels, opening the front door to greet all of the television viewers. She would whisper some mysterious words and then close the door and open it up for another take. [ … ] Again and again, pause, smile, whisper, close the door. That’s all we saw. It was a commercial for Purina dog food. — Larry Sultan

The following is from the essay ‘The Enigma of the Visible’ by Stephan Berg found in Larry Sultan (2015):

Dog at Night, Mission Hills, 1999

… What interests the artist [in The Valley] are not the more or less acrobatic acts of copulation and their stimulatory potential, but the context in which these naked images arise. This group of works attains its dialectical tension from the fact that it confronts an image-producing industry, which wants to show everything and hence by definition is committed to absolute public revelation, with a point of view which, in emphatically casual manner, seems to touch only upon the fringes of what is taking place.

Child’s Bedroom, Calabassas, 2001

[line break added] What Sultan records are the pauses in filming, the gaps, the moments of boredom and waiting. But above all it is the sites of filming themselves which become the main protagonists of The Valley. The respectable, middle-class houses with worn-and-torn couch ensembles, kitschy wall decorations, plushy children’s rooms, and carefully kept-up lawns. These are sites of everyday, middle-class domesticity which appear in The Valley as a filmic-surrealistic backdrop landscape, as the sham surrogate of a domestic coziness that long ago ceased to exist.

Cabana, 2000

[line break added] Here as well, Sultan experiences that which already made the work on Pictures from Home challenging on the one hand, but on the other hand also so aesthetically productive. “And by photographing this I’m planted squarely in the terrain of my own ambivalence — that rich and fertile field that stretches out between fascination and repulsion, desire and loss. I’m home again.”

Off Sepulveda, 2001

It’s not about porn, it’s about furniture.Larry Sultan




November 10, 2015

Standing Outside

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:51 am

… I recognize a good painting when I recognize that privacy.

This is from Think with the Senses: Feel with the Mind: Art in the Present Tense by Robert Storr, who was the Director of this 52nd International Art Exhibition (the 2007 Venice Biennale) to which this book was the accompanying catalog, which features a commentary and (optional) statement or quote from the artist. The following is from the commentary on the artist, Raoul De Keyser:

In the current art world there seems little place and even less patience for ‘slow burners’ and ‘late bloomers.’ To be ‘contemporary’ an artist must assert himself early, be on the move, produce abundantly and throw himself into the midst of the action. At 77, Raoul De Keyser has done none of those things. However, he is very much a painter of the moment precisely because of what he is not, and on the mind of younger artists because of his stubborn devotion to his aesthetic vocation.

Raoul De Keyser, Oskar 4, 2005

… For the most part De Keyser’s paintings are small, even tiny, and for the most part they are lightly brushed as if a sun shower of liquid pigment had broken over the surface and then drained away. Or they may be gently marked by soft charcoal as if dusted by winds carrying soot and ash. No matter how soft the touch of how subtle the chromatic admixtures, his paintings glow, and in glowing take over more space visually than they occupy physically.

Raoul De Keyser, Traum, 2006

It is relevant to note here that in the artist’s bare bones studio sit several large cages containing a variety of birds. Asked why he keeps such noisy company, De Keyser answered ‘so that there will always be color and movement’ — which is to say color in motion.

Next is from a quote from artist Guillermo Kuitca:

Guillermo Kuitca, Diario, 2006

… In painting I think there is a very private nucleus and this is the element that is eventually revealed for the viewer. I recognize a good painting when I recognize that privacy. What I mean to say is that there’s an established world between the painting and me. [On the other hand … ] Photography and some installations open shared worlds. A good painting is that which opens up a link in which there is nothing else. This is why we are so lacking in confidence, and why we are so lonely in front of a painting.

Guillermo Kuitca, Diario, 2005-06

Last, this is a quote from Bruce Nauman:

… Standing outside and looking at how something gets done, or doesn’t get done, is really fascinating and curious. If I can manage to get outside of a problem a little bit and watch myself having a hard time, then I can see what I’m going to do — it makes it possible. It works.

… There is a tendency to clutter things up, to try to make sure people know something is art, when all that’s necessary is to present it, to leave it alone. I think the hardest thing to do is to present an idea in the most straightforward way.

What I tend to do is see something, then re-make it and re-make it and try every possible way of re-making it. If I’m persistent enough, I get back to where I started. … [H]ow to proceed is always the mystery.

Bruce Nauman, Venice Fountains [detail], 2007

My previous post from this book is here.




November 9, 2015

Popcorn Tears

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:55 am

Pop art saved the comics.

Continuing through High & Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture by Kirk Varnedoe and Adam Gopnik (1990):

… the romance and war comics were made not by inert institutions but by young staff artists, and these artists had of course ambitions of their own — if not for their “art form” or the genre, then at least for their own careers. Basically their ambition was to demonstrate enough talent to get a job doing something else.

… The ambitious, upwardly mobile illustrators who drew romance comics at D.C. particularly admired and imitated an artist and illustrator named Tony Abruzzo, both the Chuck Yeager and the Utamaro of the lovelorn. Abruzzo had invented — or at any rate was given credit among other illustrators at D.C. for having invented — the Heartbreak Face: the girl with parted lips, head tilted at a slight angle, possessed of a surprisingly strong and even masculine jaw, and having enormous, unnatural, liquid eyes.

[line break added to make this easier to read online] Abruzzo also discovered that while slightly parted lips are pleasing, teeth are not, and he helped codify the solution — the aesthetic cuirass of the love comic — by which teeth are represented by a streak of unvariegated white. Above all, Abruzzo taught that expression didn’t have to be coherent to be moving; you could add beautifully shaped tears — illustrators called them “popcorn tears” — to a face that showed no other signs of emotion, and still get an effect.

Panel from “Run for Love” in Secret Hearts, 83 (November 1962), Tony Abruzzo, artist

… Almost without exception, Lichtenstein’s comics paintings from the early 1960s (as Lichtenstein, of course, could not have known; all of the romance and war comics were unsigned) were adapted from the work of a small handful of ambitious comic-book artists. … High art on the way down to the bottom met, without quite knowing it, low art struggling to find its way back up.

Lichtenstein recast his found images in complicated ways. Ironically, he had to aggressively alter and recompose them to bring them closer to a platonic ideal of simple comic-book style — he had to work hard to make them look more like comics. The effects that make Lichtenstein into Lichtenstein involved not the aestheticizing of a consistent style through mechanical displacements, but the careful, artificial construction of what appears to be a generic, whole, “true-folk” cultural style from a real world of comics that was by then far more “fallen” and fragmented. His early pictures work by making the comic images more like the comics than the comics were themselves.

Roy Lichtenstein, Hopeless, 1963

Lichtenstein discovered in the comics a whole set of representational clichés and compositional schemata that he was already inclined to recognize as art. If he had to recompose the art of the “good” comic book artists to make them look more like comics, he still recognized in their work the debased style of fin-de siècle narrative painting. The platonic ideal of the comics that Lichtenstein struggled to realize from his low sources was, in its origins, inseparable from memories of the museum, Gauguin’s imagination gone to earth in the manner of Irv Novick.

… The effect of Pop in general and Lichtenstein in particular on the comic books was intense and immediate. Pop art saved the comics. The most successful comic books in the stunning and unlooked-for comic-book boom of the sixties, those produced under the editorship of Stan Lee at Marvel, enthusiastically took up the elements of Lichtenstein’s style — its rejection of “realistic” detail, the emphasis on undulating black curves, the whistling, plunging spaces, the irony — and began to apply them to the mass-culture objects as they were being made.

[line break added] Lee, for instance, soon would instruct his artists (who before long included many of the more talented members of the D.C. stable, among them John Romita) to draw pages of action without any plot — the Fantastic Four tearing apart a space station, say, with no plot in mind or purpose in sight — to which Lee would only later add dialogue that was deliberately, ironically at odds with the action. (“Hey Strecho, didja remember to turn the stove off?,” the Thing might cry as he pitched a villain in Plastic Man’s direction.) The ironic disassociations of tone that Lichtenstein had achieved through his arsenal of transformations were quickly incorporated into the style of the comics themselves. Marvel even produced a line of “Pop” comics.

The conventional story insists on Lichtenstein’s as the archetypal Pop surrender to the forces of anonymous mass-cult style, with the individual imagination capable only of a few mechanical ironies of scale, and a few helpless aestheticizing gestures, in the face of the big, irresistible media machine. The truth is almost the direct reverse: “mass-culture” in this instance turns out to be a handful of young artists hanging on for life; it was high art that had the live ammo, and it recreated popular culture in its own image.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




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