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.
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. 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.