Mondo QT Presents
PEEP 3: The Nutcracker, My SweetCarola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
Publisher and Editor
Before beginning, a word to new QT subscribers: PEEP is QT's take on art. If culture leaves you cold fear not. The world, the flesh & the devil return apres Xmas. But now tis time for
Paint By Number Masterworks/ Paula Jesgarz: Lost In Mail Art Heaven/The Effervescent Rudi Wilderjans/The Secret Nudie Pics of Mao Tse Tung/George Beam's Home Improvement Dream/Jewels From Kiyotei's Den/Plus Another eye popping PEEP Cover. Works referenced in text can be viewed via links at end.
Though Andy Warhol collected paint by number pictures and the National Museum of American History recently exhibited them, it's still possible to find masterpieces of the genre for under five dollars. Way under. This June I paid one dollar for a paint by number "Last Supper" at a yard sale. But attention investors. A few months later I saw the identical painting at a church rummage sale for two dollars. 100% appreciation! The word on the street is "buy". Particularly if you're in it for the long haul. And ultimately, aren't we all?
In this paint by number Last Supper, the ornate decor typical to high art depictions is simplified. Doors and windows are unframed rectangles. Interior colors are the muddy green and dim maroon made popular in the Big 80's. Jesus and his Apostles look like they're dining in a public housing community room, or the lobby of a condo palace. The figures strike classic Last Supper poses but gestures and features are reduced to iconic simplicity, which, along with the accidentally contemporary setting, makes the painting feel lively and immediate. In contrast to its ultra static technique. I also have a paint by number landscape with waterfall. The water hangs suspended, fixed in a succession of neatly delineated moments. Ancient Greek philosophy kicked around the theory that motion and change are non existent; a mistaken interpretation of what we think we see. That each moment of seeming change is in fact, an entity complete unto itself. In that light, paint by number is a visualization of hitherto unseeable reality.
The technique of collage is at the other end of the spectrum. One event flows into the next, or is juxtaposed in a jump cut. Collage is akin to musical sampling: both point to the future while referencing the past. Medieval artists copied sections of each other's paintings light heartedly. Most medieval art was unsigned anyway, since who the art was made about, was more important than who made the art. Classical and Romantic composers regularly lifted themes from competitors and folk musicians; the sharing of content was not seen as stealing, though appropriating an entire work would have been. Attempts to fix creative content in pricable moments, evoke paint by number rather than collage.
Paula Jesgarz was a mail artist active in the 80's. She lived in Gelsenkirchen, West Germany. Her specialty was collage. Paula combined images wildly and densely, yet with great coherence and elegance. After photocopying her original, she often hand tinted the copies and/or added swaths and splatters of paint. Her work was spiritual exuberant tragic sexy funny lonely sad. All at the same time. Paula and I traded art and letters. When I last heard from her, she conveyed that problems, both personal and health related, loomed large. Going back over her work, I'm once again struck by her talent. I've looked for her in Internet Mail Art circles with no success. A friend writes he thinks she's gone. I hope not. In the mid 80's I presented Paula's work in a group show of 4 mail artists at the Life Café in New York City. Another artist in the show was Rudi Wilderjans from the Netherlands. As opposed to Paula's dense images, Rudi's works were deceptively simple. But when looked at longer, the sharpness of insight and the grace of their combinations bloom. Rudi's collage work is effervescent, sophisticated and precise-- as if Fred Astaire had abandoned dance for scissors, glue and copy machines.
The poster for the Life Café show, sported a considerably altered Mao Tse Tung, with the title "Great In Bed". Part of a collage series of my own, culled mainly from political propaganda and pornography. The propaganda was communist, mostly from China, featuring idealized depictions of Mao; his skin airbrushed Max Factor Golden Glo, with enigmatic smile and plump cheeks tinted rosebud. A baby spot seemed to light his signature wart. The wart was obviously not seen as a defect, but a piquant accent; like patches worn by court beauties. Some of the porn was Japanese, yet was sold in NYC's Chinatown. Unslick pics of what looked like secretaries or salesgirls lounging around cheery studio apartments giving the camera amateur come hithers. "That Girl" goes X. Other porn sources were USA mainstream; cold eyed pros strutting their stuff, available on every newsstand. Completing the geographic circle, the Mao series was shown at the Networking Space in Japan, in a show organized by Shozo Shimamoto. From my text: "Pornography and propaganda function by similar methods. Both rely on the longing for a state of perfect satisfaction and on the repeated arousal of that longing. Both rely heavily on ritualistic repetitions of specific vocabularies and imagery." In other words, with propaganda it's the Mighty Will Of The People. With porn, it's the Mighty Something Else. My own private Maos were meant as a meditation on how seeming disparates often share basic assumptions. Spinning off into how solutions can be just another face of the problem.
Speaking of solutions, consider the strange case of George Beam, as evidenced in the photo of "Mr. Beam & House". Mr. Beam lives in Mentor, Ohio. He tried to get a little home improvement courtesy of HUD. A disaster ensued. Mr. Beam has hammered on official doors for many a moon, being remarkably persistent in his efforts to find justice in the Twilight Zone. Along the way commenting: "I hear them all talking but WE live in this mess! I tried to trust every part of the system and it stole my house, health and happiness". A lament, with variations, heard across a society which has developed serious corruption cracks in its foundation. Let's hope 2003 brings true home improvement for Mr. Beam. And for the rest of us as well.
Last but absolutely not least, drop in on Kiyotei's Den. An art website chock full of dark, rich, intoxicating images. Like a rum drenched fruit cake, it's best savored in thin slices. Kiyotei's images are available as Mail Art. Kiyotei will send them to you. Imagine getting "Mocemi, Hermaphrodite Goddess of Mutangi" as a postcard. Your mailbox would be transformed. Reaching in for patriotic credit card bills, or generic holiday greetings, you'd feel a sudden sharp tug. Presto! There you'd be- - in a vast space filled with singing voices, standing before a glorious throne. Holding aloft a golden bowl of glittering, red and green candied cherries.
Merry Christmas friends. And may your New Year be sweet.
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Paint by Number: Accounting for Taste in the 1950's
COMING IN EARLY 2003: deepqt on the best damn neighborhood in the whole wide world/ QT Special Features. Heads Will Roll, Part Two: Mortgage Fraud Update, Prague Tales, & Online Journalists Stateside /PEEP 4 with more Corn-temporary Art & featured Mail Artists/Plus the new, improved Mondo Links
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