Monday, August 24, 2009

24 August 1955 “Art and a Movie”

JasperTarget 1955

Here is Jasper John’s 1955 work ‘Target’. I had not thought about this work for a long time. Having studied Art History at University, I was subjected to so much visual imagery, it all began to blur and meld. Now, looking at this piece as a new piece, maybe I would even have a chance to travel to New York and see it, how would it speak to me. I definitely know how it speaks to me now.

This really makes me think, if an artist does his ‘job’ (and yes I do BELIEVE has a job to do other than just exist for itself) it can almost be a sort of time machine. Certainly, it should and is often a mirror of it’s present society, but too, as I think in this case, it is a glimpse into our future.

There it is, that big target, the masses; US. The faces, the consumers. The underpinnings of the ads and newspaper hidden but slightly visible. I think if I were to make this piece today, I would put a row of hands coming out of the bottom. In a way, we have been made targets, but we have asked for it and we continue to. We are becoming homogenized in a way.

Peggy Guggenheim asked, “Does economic capital drive cultural capital?” and I think, today, we have the answer: YES.

Well not sure how it would fit into the idea of it. There is a way to go about it for sure but not certain. There is a fixed point in time when it becomes apparent who we are and then we move both forward and backward from that point creating our reality. That point is immutable and immovable unless we let it slip.

Here you can see two images of young women in very mannish and strong poses. Most certainly Rockwell was referencing or adapting Michelangelo's Cybil in his representation. In fact, Michelangelo actually used men as models for these women.

sybil 1 rockwell_rosie

It is interesting the difference from this girl and her 1955 counter part here.bloom

Yet, here even the man himself has an almost effeminate quality. The work of strength and war is gone and the office worker and homemaker of the suburbs is the ideal. The western world is moving from the physical to the mental.

Now, I fear, we are moving from the mental to the stimulant. The incessant need to be plugged in, tuned on, and passively entertained. What would Norman Rockwell paint of us today? Would there be a middle class nuclear family stretched out on the sofa, watching TV? No, actually it would have to be a canvas separated into four parts, each representing a room in the house. There is mother on the computer, piles of books on organizing strewn at her feet, unopened packages from the ‘packing store’ amongst the piles. Her face, cast in the glow of the computer, has an odd glare and transfixed smile. There is sonny, at the TV, video game plugged in. He is dressed sloppily, as is mother, and stretched out along the arm of the sofa, empty soda cans and chip bags and the tiniest hint of his rotund flesh sticking out from under his printed t-shirt. There is father, in another room with another TV, half-asleep in a recliner while some reality show is on, he half awake gaze is lit by the glow of the large flat screen TV balanced on some boxes, there in the corner stands, unopened, the mounting equipment for the TV. He can’t be bothered, his hand in a bag of chips and a half full bottle of beer. But, wait, where is sis? Oh, she is not in front of the TV nor the computer, but what is that? Oh, there she is tattooed, pierced and wearing her false anger as a badge representing nothing. There is nothing left to rebel against, her grandmother and mothers generation already did that. She sits, slumped upon her bed, various macabre posters blazoned on her wall as she types furiously upon her cell phone. There is a glimmer of a smile as the small green box-shaped light cast from her phone sends an eerie glow upon her eyes. And, perhaps there is a fifth part to this painting. The kitchen in the center. It sits piled with dishes. There are empty boxes of various prepared food boxes sitting about. The latest most expensive stainless steel appliances and stone countertops sit oddly sparkling, as if just removed from their box, almost untouched, but wait the microwave is a map of handprints and last minute attempts at heating food. The modern family, 21st century. Sort of bleak, I know, but that is what I would paint if I were Rockwell today and who would want a calendar of that?

Well, enough of that. While I am on the subject of passive entertainment, I thought I would at least send something good to watch in such a state. Unfortunately you have to go through Hulu to watch it (NO, I am not getting paid to advertise them but it is a good source for some old shows/movies) The movie is from 1954 and it’s called A Woman's World. Here is the movie poster.womans world movie poster It deals with corporate America and has an interesting message, of course unheeded today, but it is a good movie none-the-less. Maybe make a 1950’s movie date with popcorn and your hubby to watch it.


  1. I found you from the Bread and Roses blog's bloglist. I wonder if you are watching Mad Men. A bit later than 1955 but it sure seems a real depiction of the late 50s-early 60s.

  2. Another great post dealing with modern progress and the resulting living environments. Visual images, especially advertising, usually profile the history of society. If you look at a magazine advertisement for a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air, you will see a pleasant car with a certain amount of style and design. It was meant to take a family to the beach, to a park for a picnic, shopping, or to take a man and woman to a dance or party. Yes, in the 1950's adults did go to dances complete with formal or semi-formal clothes. Compare that to an advertisement for a 1959 Cadillac ---the space age had arrived---and your will see a more aggressive , "fast forward" design. Then compare it to current designs that are meant to be "living/family rooms" on wheels. Considering the amount of time many people spend in their cars, it might be their most comfortable space. To be honest, I often refer to modern car design as "blobs" , often like tanks, meant to "plow" through traffic. Please know I mean no offense to anyone who loves their car that is so essential to current life. Art and design certainly reflect the ideas and mental attitudes of its' time. Has anyone ever been to Rockwell's Stockbridge? We were there in autumn almost two years ago and really enjoyed ourselves. Here's hoping the moving is going well and always Best Wishes from Dianne

  3. Wow, how eye-opening this morning! I'm afraid I must agree with much of your non-Rockwellian depections of modern family life.

    And that glow you talk about? A few years ago the lighting in commercials took an eerie turn. It was like people were sitting in front of glaring screens. Do you know what I mean? Eyes were dark pinpoints and faces were washed out. It wasn't until I saw The Matrix that I *think* I figured out where this new style of lighting originated.

    Along those same lines...I kept trying to put into words how women's upper lips didn't look quite right to me anymore--on various sitcoms and commercials. Then I heard about Botox. (sorry-not really relevant)

    I believe all these electronics make us jittery and leave us unsatisfied with our lives and ourselves. It feels unnatural, yet we are addicted.

    One upside, I think, is that the new batch of kids are wiser to advertising ploys and are more conscious of where their food and clothes come from.

    A few years ago it was all about bling. Now, it seems that frugality and natural living are en vogue. Yay!

    Working hard at

  4. Thanks once again 50sgal for an insightful post. The pleasing aspect for me is that with all the negative depictions of what the current Rockwell painting might include with it's various passive entertainment activities being imbibed by separate family members, I know it doesn't have to be this way. It wasn't for our family. Our children were free to have an interesting, creative childhood fully engaged with family and friends or intricately involved in their own fulfilling pursuits of the moment.(They were homeschooled so had plenty of time for this.)We don't have to live in front of screens.We can be productive while having fun and with plenty of relaxing solitude as well.

    We can learn from examples you've described, knwoing what we don't want. We can then endeavour to strive and create what is healthy and enjoyable in our own lives which consequently influences others...It really is a wonderful, fruitful way of life. Thanks for your inspiration Donna. One apron string at a time girls..

    From, Linda

  5. This is a fantastic post! I agree 100%!!!

  6. I witnessed an extremely wealthy, successful co-worker take an end of day call from his teenage son, asking him what he wanted from a fast food chain restaurant; the "family dinner" was being ordered. I found it deeply sad, and I know that you would, too!

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