The front yard snow will be gone by the close of business hours on Monday. The back yard snow is a hard ceramic crust that keeps its cold to itself, stores it like a dark battery, but it will relent - and I intend to go out with a blade and hack it up like a partisan dealing justice to a collaborator after liberation. The evening has gained an hour. The projected temp for next Monday is 63 degrees. Wife bought some plants. Kids were out on the sidewalk on their trikes and big wheels; the rags are by the door to clean off dog paws. Everyone is happy.
If stern rebuke for our hubris hits in late March and buries the world anew, it’ll be a joke. Hah! Fine, we need the moisture. If it happens again as April opens we will mutter. If we get a third blizzard at the absolute end of the season shoulders will slump and expressions grow haggard - but I don’t think that will be so. There have been winters that were longer and colder and just plain cruel; this one has respected its boundaries. I think we’re safe.
What a fool I am to think such things.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is one of the jewels of the city, a citadel of culture facing an urban oasis of trees and walkways. So a bored tourist brochure writer might put it. The truth is something different: it is the artistic diadem, putting the Walker Museum to shame, and it faces a park that was, and possibly still is, home to all sorts of regrettable human dealings in the dark. The neighborhood is on the way up, and it’s nothing like it was in the bad old days, but there’s still the occasional serrated edge to remind you how the area has declined from its heights. The old stone mansions still stand, but there’s a good chance they’re a half-way house. The hot-sheet motel was razed. Some new apartments. Artists and indigents, and in the middle of it all the grand entrance:
That’s a model of the proposed museum, only part of which was built. The front door is no longer the front door. The portico is a wall, and you have to enter on the side in the 70s addition, which everyone is supposed to love. I don’t hate it. I’m used to it.
Inside it’s paradise. Daughter had an art class on Saturday. She’s had a few here in the same studio, and I like the fact that she regards the place with familiarity.
She texted me in the afternoon about how the old art gave her an eerie vibe but she loved it. She was in the medieval section, where round-faced Madonnas cradled babies who had old-man faces. It’s odd - at this point in my life the art of the Renaissance seems closer than ever. No longer artifacts from an almost inscrutable time of change - now you can imagine the politics and the patronage and the noise of the studio, all the underlings touching up a piece of propaganda that put the local boss in a posture of piety, offering thanks to some wizened pope while a sheet-clad saint stands off to the side and points to the tableau, as if to say “you’re seeing this? Get a load of this guy.” When I first saw these paintings I had only the neighborhoods of Fargo for context; having walked a few old streets in Rome and Florence and other places, it’s easier to imagine a culture whose citizens may not have thought the things we think, but had the same emotions and needs and worldly perspectives. Having seen the altar pieces in context in dim cool churches soaked with centuries, they mean something different - even if they’re hanging on a white wall in a Minnesota building.
Sculpture still astonishes me. It’s the one thing I do not know how they did.
A painting of a woman having her hair brushed, a yippy beady-eyed dog in her lap, had a detail in the corner that was just the artist showing off. Or rather asserting that he could do it too. This was, for them, the equivalent of virtual reality.
Then the modern rooms, which were depressing. Not the abstract rooms of the 60s, but the Honest Work of the Twenties, when artists were released from old notions like beauty and realism, and turned out endless series of glowering proles. I suppose it’s a hangover from WW1 / Lost Generation and all that, but you’d think no one had any fun in the 20s. Then comes the Ensor and Beckmann and it’s a long braying parade of grotesques, because the people who were having fun were deserving of mockery. (I love Hopper’s quiet aching loneliness, because I was 22 once too, but like the rest of the Fine Art of the 20s, there doesn’t seem to be the possibility of contentedness and satisfaction, even for a moment. The Alienation of the Machine Age seeps into everything - even though it didn’t, at all. Only in the art. The art was determined to find something dark and ragged.
The men and women who could work cheerful? They went into magazine illustration.
A detail of a painting of a burlesque show:
Most of the painting concerns the strip-tease dancer on stage. The card on the wall explains that this work reveals the institutional sexism in the American culture at the time. Interesting take. I looked at the picture and saw an entire theater full of men who would do anything for that woman, if only for a while. She’s the most powerful figure in the room.
I stood there looking at it, trying to resolve the geometry - where is she? Where is that stage? Why are the guy turning around? More to the point, why isn’t anyone smiling? This would be a liquored-up crowd hootin’ and whistlin’ and giving the gal a round of applause as she mae-wested stage left.
In the European modern section, an old friend. I’ve always loved Mondrian. For some reason I looked at this and imagined him painting it and standing back, and it seemed as if it could have been yesterday.
BZZ BZZ text: daughter was ready to be picked up. We drove to the office, where I parked in the forbidden lot so I could bring down a box of stuff that wouldn’t make the move to the new place. Because nothing is making the move to the new place. She saw the box of clay sculptures she made a few years ago, which I had on the window sill, and amused herself critiquing her past work. I wonder what will happen to them. They’ll be put away in storage, and some day she will find them and perhaps remember when she made them, when she had a mania for crafting tiny pieces of food out of modeling clay. The day will come when she only remembers how she remembered them, and they will seem like something made by someone else. One or two saved; the rest consigned to a stratum of the landfill. But for three years they sat on the sill of a building that stood for six decades before it was demolished in 2015, and because this entire site will be laid to rest some day in the Internet Archive, that tableau will be preserved.
There’s no excuse these days for not saving everything in some fashion.Today is tomorrow’s museum. We build a new wing every time we throw off the covers and set to work.
And now, because the Internet has no authoritative collection of Hinde & Dauch cardboard box ads:
Leaving aside the gross racial imagery, and the fleeing slave's gigantic size relative to the Snidely-Whiplash type pursuing her, we can consider two things: "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was still a relevant cultural touchstone in 1950, and directional signs were placed in the middle of the river
Of all the industrials and promo films I've seen, this is the harshest one yet:
It's intended for local distributors, and while the original intention was to inspire them to sell more and take advantage of a new nationwide ad campaign, the narrator is like a boot-camp drill instructor. He is not kidding around. For God's sake, even the theme sounds like German army music.
YOU THERE! SELL! PABST MUST RULE THE WORLD!
We'll hear more from him in a bit. First we see examples of the ad campaign, with its emphasis on the upscale aspirational nature of Pabst:
CITIZENS ! THESE ADS WILL BE PLACED IN AMERICA'S QUALITY MAGAZINES.
In case you're curious:
Oh to have been there to see it all in color. This next one . . .
. . . was by Robert O. Reid, a brilliant illustrator. More examples here, with the color version.
I'm sure that one exists, but I'm not finding it online. Back page ad for the Grace Line ships; the Grace company was in the news last month for its decision to concentrate mostly on concrete-related chemicals. How things change.
SEVEN OUT OF TEN HOUSEHOLDS WILL SEE THE ADS IN THESE MAGAZINES!
For all we've heard about the death of print, most of these titles are still around. Colliers closed in '57 but was restarted a few years ago. The Spur is gone.
Pabst will also be running billboards with this ad campaign, which will be seen by millions of people going to . . .
I can never see enough of that Fair. I've no idea how much film exists but it's not enough. Anyway, those people will be thirsty. DO YOU HAVE ENOUGH BEER AND IS IT PROPERLY STOCKED
I'm serious about the haranging narrator. He doesn't let up.
IT SHOULD AND IT MUST
We see the idea sitution for bringing Pabst to the customers. They should be happy to see you:
DO NOT ASSUME YOU CAN CHARM HIM WITH DETAILED PLANS
ARE YOU WORTHY
Lighten up, Francis. Finally, we follow a distributor who drops in on a client at a hotel, to murder him for not selling enough beer:
Well, no, but it is rather noirish. The man is selling Andeker, an all-malt that appeals to sophisticated tastes. Well, whatever you choose, it adds up to . . .
That'll do for today, no? Strong start, tapering off as the week goes on. You know the drill. See you around ~