NYC Galleries to Close

“I’m gearing up for a conversation with my landlord,” says dealer Cristin Tierney who operates an eponymous gallery on New York’s Lower East Side.

Read the whole thing here.

(Hat tip to theartnewspaper.com.)

Art

Antisocial: Vindictive Fun!

Interesting review here of Antisocial by Andrew Marantz. Surely one of the vicious books of the season.

So now Andrew Marantz tacked to a new course, and homed in on an irresistibly rancid subject: the viral meme as the seducer and assassin of youth. In Antisocial, he illustrates this notion through two extended case studies. One of them is factual, with actual, verifiable people; the other is so cliché-ridden and evasive that I initially took it to be a fictional composite. The “real” example is an intellectually omnivorous male person who worked in Web development, made podcasts, and gradually migrated from libertarian politics to the Far Right. The other example tells about a young woman in her 20s who was supposedly exposed to racialist politics through her boyfriend, and soon tumbled headlong into the Right-wing rabbithole.

Read the whole thing.

Books, Commentary

The Secret World of Andy Warhol

The Secret World of Andy Warhol thumbnail

Well I see the new Whitney has an Andy Warhol show going on, and I really must get down there, in my fabled guise of Art Reviewer. Stay tuned.

The Atlantic recently did a nice piece on Andy, far superior to most of what one reads in that rag. (I’ll give a link farther down.) But it got me wondering: how much more IS there to know about An-dee?

I met the guy only once, during his last years. He was going around with Rupert Smith one evening around Third Avenue and 13th Street, handing out copies of Interview. Or maybe just carrying copies of Interview. Rupert was in his last years, too. This was maybe April of 1984.

After Andy died I tried phoning Rupert. A friend answered, thought I was trying to collect money he owed me. After a few conversational hiccups, it came out that Rupert was dead too.

Funny thing is, in the late 70s, early 80s, everyday people who were not in the Andy orbit thought of Warhol as a bird that had flown, a Sixties relic who might have been cool in the Edie Sedgwick era, but not anymore. Just a step up from Ed Wood as a practitioner of deliberately bad art.

Nobody saw what staying power Andy would have. Except maybe for Andy.

Here’s a sample of that Stephen Metcalf piece in The Atlantic:

After graduating in 1949, Warhol moved to New York City, and quickly became known as, in one graphic designer’s words, “the best shoe drawer in New York City.” He was hired by the I. Miller company to produce images for its weekly footwear ads in The New York Times. He did illustrations for the slickest magazines and piecework for the biggest corporate accounts, made Christmas cards for Tiffany and perfume ads for Bonwit Teller. He borrowed a technique from the Lithuanian-born American painter Ben Shahn of tracing a sketch in ink, then pressing the wet ink against a piece of absorbent blotting paper to transfer the image. It made for a sensitive line, a line with perceptible temperament, but by a process of reproduction that troubled any idea of an “original” version touched by the artist’s hand.

And here’s the whole thing:
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/01/andy-warhol-pop-art-whitney/576412/

rupert andy

Rupert and Andy on the Fire Island ferry around 1979. I met Rupert about this time. No Andy.

Art

Ask the Family Doctor: Starving the Obese Child

Ask the Family Doctor: Starving the Obese Child thumbnail

Dr Molmar

with Ferenc Molmar, MD

Q. My eldest child, now 11, tips the scales at over 240 lbs and is only 4’9″. Actually that is an estimate, because our bathroom scale stops at 240. At the county fair they have livestock scales that go much higher but the fair doesn’t open till June.

I’m wondering how I can get this child to lose weight. (Before you go blaming this on not getting enough exercise and playing too many vidyagames, let me tell you this child is very active, and we limit vidyagame playing to an hour a day on Animal Crossing Pocket Camp, which is not only low-calorie, but endorsed by AARP.)

Should I get the child’s stomach stapled? My cousin’s neighbor in Schenectady had that done, and she lost 200 lbs, but I don’t think they do it on children.

Or maybe I could put my child on a special diet. I saw a documentary about Lord Byron, and he would lose weight by consuming nothing but soda water and hardtack for weeks on end. Where can you buy hardtack, do you know? Would saltine crackers work, do you think?

I wonder if it’s glandular. 

A. When I was in medical school many years ago it was customary to describe obese children as having a glandular condition. But now there are so many fat children, nobody really cares about glands.

After a lifetime in Family Practice I have come to the conclusion that there isn’t much you can do for fat children, except starve them.

Forget the saltines. A multivitamin pill, plus some grapefruit or sauerkraut juice, is all this child should consume for the next six months. And plenty of water too, to wash the little fat globules out of the body.

I could give you more specific advice if I had a little more information. For example, what is the sex of your child?

 

Q. My wife and I have long debated the pros and cons of getting our children vaccinated. But we hear vaccination is a leading cause of autism. However, I have also read on one of the online doctor websites that children who are vaccinated as infants are much less likely to wet the bed. So there seems to be a trade-off here, between having an autistic child or one who wets the bed. Do you have any opinions on the matter?

A. I’m sure I’ve answered this before. As the old saying goes, a conspiracy theory can go around the world before an honest physician has time to put his galoshes on. So what if vaccination causes autism? So what if 1 out of 20 or even 1 out of ten children become autistic? I’ll take those odds. I’d rather have an autistic child than a homosexual.

Medicins sans frontal-lobes

The Secret to Successful Art

Steve Sailer

Mr Sailer

California humorist Steve Sailer announces astounding findings about the art world, in Takimag:

A new study in Science, “Quantifying reputation and success in art,” documents that in the contemporary art world, it’s less a matter of what you know than whom you know.

Art economist Magnus Resch writes in Art News this week of what he has learned from his database of prices paid for roughly 10 million works of art by half a million artists at more than 20,000 museums and galleries around the world.

Read the whole thing.

flora

Classic illustrations courtesy of Jim Flora.

Art

Perused with Pleasure in 2018: My Top 5 Books

Bernard Levin

Mr Levin

I was using my Spectator-co-uk digital subscription to search for odds and ends in its wonky archive. What, I wondered, did the Speccy have to say about the Angry Young Men in the late 1950s? Better yet, what did they have on Colin Wilson and his friend, the ever-elusive Bill Hopkins?

Not an awful lot, as it turns out. But I did find a hilarious 1958 column by Bernard Levin, talking about end-of-year book-review roundups, and how preposterous they usually are (or were). Colin and Bill appear only as a kind of punchline; by this point they were rumored to be fascist fellow-travelers,  and thus deserving of a sneer and a raspberry from all good-thinking hacks.

Here’s the actual passage. It gives some idea of where the column is going:

The Literary Editor suggested that I take half a dozen books that would not normally have been reviewed at all, put them together and write round them a parody of all those dreary pieces that fill the Sunday Times and the Observer around Christmas-time in which T. S. Eliot says that the best book of the year, as far as he is concerned, was the sixteenth volume of Gschwandkopf’s Geschichte der Norddeutschen Wurstfabriken im Mittelalter and Colin Wilson says his favourites were Stuart Holroyd’s Shaw’s Mysticism as Exemplified in ‘You Never Can Tell’ and Bash ‘Em in the Teeth, the new (and as yet unpublished) novel by Bill Hopkins, whoever he may be. I thought this was rather a’ good idea, and said so.

Mr Hopkins

You’ll notice this also takes a swipe at T.S. Eliot (I see what you did there, Bernard Levin). So Colin Wilson, Bill Hopkins and their mate Stuart Holroyd are at least in excellent company.

Cultural bias notwithstanding, the rest of Levin’s piece is a scream. One of his unlikely choices for review is a book on Nigerian cookery. Levin deadpans that the cookbook is “described by [the] publishers as ‘a book for every Nigerian woman’: It is a commonly made claim; but I think in this instance it is fully justified . . . “

The real fun starts when he gets letters from authors and readers who take the reviews seriously. One of them is Barbara Cartland, all chuffed and fluffed to be praised by that nice Mr. Levin.

Mr Wilson

I’m put in mind of this 1958 Spectator column as I assemble five titles I have read this year. Half the books I’ve read or thumbed through in 2018 were really wretched, in particular those that fill a specialty niche. Books about Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird are hotter than ever, with each new title even more jejune and cliché-ridden than the last. Another big genre of bad books is what you might call Jewish Paranoia Nonfiction. 2018 brought us Fascism, by Madeline Albright (or rather, her ghostwriter), Tailspin by Steven Brill, The Suicide of the West by Jonah Goldberg, Can It Happen Here? by Cass Sunstein, The Corrosion of Conservatism, by Max Boot, and many, many more, I am certain. These are just the ones I actually slogged through on Kindle or deep-skimmed during my visits to Barnes & Noble and the Amazon bookshop.

Of course I’m not going recommend any of the foregoing. And to narrow my selection, I’m not going to list anything that I’ve previously reviewed or discussed in these enlightened pages.

And so, in no particular order:

  1. De Gaulle, by Julian Jackson (2018). In most histories of WW2 and the postwar period, Charles De Gaulle is little more than a name and a (mostly) offstage presence. He sticks his head in briefly during the 1940 Fall of France, when he was junior cabinet member, and then spends most of the next four years sulking in London. But now we cover this familiar ground with the General as the central character, and it’s refreshing and enlightening. He’s not quite as querulous and unpleasant as he’s usually depicted in popular histories . . . although he gets pretty close.
  2. The Spy and the Traitor, by Ben Macintyre (2018). I loved Macintyre’s book on Kim Philby and his circle a few years ago (A Spy Among Friends), but I hesitated to look at this one because it’s about a KGB double-agent I’d never heard of, and takes place in the 1970s and 80s, which don’t much interest me. But I am here to report that this book is a real honey, at least as good as the Philby one. It paints a detailed background picture of KGB operations during the Cold War’s final blaze, when Yuri Andropov seriously believed Ronald Reagan was planning to level Moscow with Pershing II missiles. Our main hero is a KGB lifer named Oleg, who rises to the head of the London station right about the same time that—far away in Langley, Virginia—a CIA officer named Aldrich Ames decides he needs a lot of money. Ames sells a list of CIA/MI6 assets and double-agents to the Russkies for—one million dollars! Shortly afterwards, Oleg is suddenly and mysteriously summoned back to Moscow, where he’s subjected to interrogation, truth serum, and most likely faces eventual torture and death. This book has a happy, but white-knuckle ending: our spook gets smuggled out of the USSR via Finland in the trunk of a car. For years his British friends in Moscow have practiced an escape scenario, against the remote possibility that they’ll have to “exfiltrate” Oleg. The plan involves signaling with candy-bar wrappers, shopping bags, and funny hats; and a dirty disposable baby diaper figures prominently in the escape. If you saw all this in a Hollywood film you might sneer at it as hokum. But it’s all true.
  3. Rendezvous at the Russian Tea Rooms, by Paul Willetts (2015). This is the story of Tyler Kent, Anna Wolkoff, Captain Ramsay and the others in the Right Club circle, in the months leading up to their arrests in London in May 1940. It’s strung along in novelistic fashion, which would probably be useful if you were trying to write a screenplay and needed a ready-built straightforward narrative, but I often found the character descriptions unconvincing and the “plot” a little contrived (even though, as I say, it’s a true story).  I know Willetts has some basic facts wrong, but if I go into them here I’ll bore you to tears and sound like a conspiracy theorist. I read this in conjunction some other books pertaining to the Kent/Wolkoff story, just after I’d been reading a lot about Louis-Ferdinand Céline in the 1930s, including his ridiculous voyage to Hollywood to retrieve a girlfriend and get a movie made from his first novel.  In this book it turns out that Anna Wolkoff and Céline were pen-pals (something I’d never come across before) and in fact the latter was planning to visit her on an upcoming trip to London. That trip to London was going to be in April 1940. What with one thing and another, it never came off.  But it’s delightful to discover that Anna was corresponding with him right around the same time she and her crew were sending coded messages to William Joyce in Berlin.  Just one big happy family!
  4. The Fifties, by David Halberstam (2018). Highly readable, not-too-breezy dissection of American political, social, and technological history from the latter 1940s to about 1960. This book bears very close comparison with William Manchester’s somewhat similar The Glory and the Dream (1973), but Manchester’s book was more concerned with fads, celebrities and nuances of etiquette (e.g., the artificial familiarity that became de rigueur after World War Two, so that you’d address near-total strangers by their Christian names). Halberstam here prefers to delve into such minutiae as the gossip and office politics that surrounded the development of the H-bomb. If that sounds dreary, and sometimes it is, it’s necessary background to the J. Robert Oppenheimer investigation, an early-50s milestone that has always eluded me. Likewise Halberstam is very good at the describing the backwardness of American rocketry and the space program in the 1950s (we had the German rocket scientists, but didn’t do much with them till the Sputnik era).
  5. Railroaded, by Richard White (2011). I was completely oblivious to this book’s existence until this year, but have listened to it now, several times, on Audible. It deals with the real “robber barons” of the post-Civil War era: not oil and steel monopolists, but railway investors who connived endlessly to get Federal money to build western railroads that were completely unneeded, as well as largely unused and often shoddily built.
Books

New Woodward Book Lays Trump Bare

New Woodward Book Lays Trump Bare thumbnail

The new Bob Woodward book (Book & Snake publishers, $29.99) has DC a-buzzing. Some of the revelations about President Trump are so fantastic they must be made up. Highlights:

National Security Advisor Byron McCrohn calls Trump “a moron…two pancakes short of a full combination plate…I wouldn’t sell him to my mother.”

quackyAssistant Chief Secretary of Housing Belinda Bree Liddell revealed that the President is so mentally handicapped he couldn’t even figure out how a toddler’s Fisher-Price pull-toy worked. “I put Quacky the Duck on his desk one afternoon when no one was around. Later on I looked in. Instead of pulling the toy around the Oval Office, the President kept turning it over and over, like he wanted to see where the batteries went. It’s a damn pull-toy! It doesn’t have batteries! How stupid can you be?”

Other senior advisers report finding Trump sitting outside the Oval Office at six in the morning because he was locked out and the janitor wasn’t around to let him in. “He tried to lie about it and say he was afraid of ghosts, and maybe it was ghosts who locked the door, as they sometimes do in the Executive Mansion, but the ghost story was just a cover-up.”

Commentary

Noguchi’s Back, and Garson’s Got ‘im

With two complementary exhibitions, New York’s Noguchi Museum pays tribute to the legendary Japanese-American artist’s innovative lanterns.

(courtesy of Departures)

Noguchi in “Appalachian Spring”

One of the most influential artists of 20th century, the Japanese-American sculptor and landscape architect Isamu Noguchi was widely known for his inventive and diverse body of work—from home furniture (like his 1947 Noguchi table, which was sold by Herman Miller) to public sculptures and gardens in cities like New York and Paris.

This February, New York’s Noguchi Museum will pay homage to one particular strain of the artist’s iconic designs: his Akari light sculptures, or collapsible lanterns made of paper, bamboo, and metal.

Noguchi planning a satellite.

Starting February 28, the museum will host two complementary exhibitions. The first, Akari: Sculpture by Other Means, will include approximately 60 of Noguchi’s lanterns (including 40 individual models), plus archival materials like vintage photographs, advertisements, and brochures; the second, Akari Unfolded: A Collection by YMER&MALTA, will include 29 Akari-inspired lamp designs created by the French design studio. In conversation, the exhibits explore the lanterns’ history, as well as their continued influence on designers.

Read the whole thing here.

Art

Do You Make These Mistakes in English?

Poor grammar not only makes you look stupid—it can get in the way of your career!

Even highly intelligent people with a lot of “horse sense” get mistaken for Big Dummies when they say things like this:

“Between you and I, Aunt Fanny’s gotten a lot more fatter since last picnic.”

“I am quite adversed to money matters and business, in fact I’m quite financial indeed.”

“I never seen a girl get ruined by a book.”

“All my children are real eager to rake the yard every Fall, but somehow Sally always gets less leaves than Bob and Sue.”

Chances are—you’ve said things just like this, every day, and had no idea people were laughing at you behind your back! [continue reading…]

Commentary

Wally Wood Technique

Early Wally Wood, c. 1949. Impossible to contemplate today without seeing it as some kind of latter-day retro parody.

Some comic illustrators of the 1980s and 90s, notably Charles Burns and “Coop,” painstakingly imitated the zigzag highlights technique you see in the foreground coiffure. [continue reading…]

Art

Restoring the American Girl

The Guardian‘s recent slash-and-burn job on Taylor Swift (see Steve Sailer here, Nov. 25) pointed up a couple of home truths about race discussion in the media. One is that, as Sailer put it, “It’s Not Okay to be White” in such fever-swamp precincts as The Guardian‘s editorial board. The other is that—hate her or love her—the image of La Swift continues to serve as both whipping-girl and icon of traditional American whiteness.

Tenney Grant, with Boyfriend Logan

Consider this. After years of Diversifying its brand into utter meaninglessness, the American Girl Doll collection recently introduced a girl-singer doll into its lineup. Named “Tenney Grant,” and sporting a miniature acoustic guitar and denim-and-lace outfits, this new entry is quite clearly a proxy for Taylor Swift (or at least the country-singing Taylor of a few years back).

“She’s a breakout songwriter finding the heart to be herself,” reads the catalog copy. “Ready for a true taste of Nashville? Tenney Grant is determined to shine by being just who she is.” To round out her character, the all-American Tenney has even been given a boyfriend, Logan Everett. He’s got  brown hair and blue eyes, and is American Girl’s first-ever boy doll. [continue reading…]

Commentary

Liz Smith Is Dead at 94

Liz Smith Is Dead at 94 thumbnail

Liz Smith, veteran Broadway and theatre columnist, died yesterday of a drug overdose. She was 94.

Frank Sinatra once famously called her a “two-dollar whore” while shoving a pair of greenbacks into Liz Smith’s old-fashioned glass. But others had favorable memories of the legendary gossip scribe.

An old friend, actor Richard Gere, described her thusly: “Liz Smith was the kindest, warmest, bravest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my lift.”

“You mean in your life?” a reporter interjected.

Smith in 1945

“No, my lift, my elevator! We lived in the same building on Central Park West. She always had a smile for me,” Gere noted with a shrug.

Elizabeth Penrose Smith was born in Stamford, Connecticut in 1923, a fact that surprised many people who thought she came from Texas. The Texas accent was an affection, acquired during World War II when she worked as a “Hospitality Girl” at the Navy base in Galveston.

Liz Smith in later years, with Iris Love and a young person

Prior to that, Smith had graduated from Ethel Walker, and spent one year at Smith College, dropping out after freshman year. “There were too many lesbians,” Smith explained. “Smith girls didn’t know how to dress or even how to do their hair.”

After the War, Smith landed a job at the world-famous Herald-Tribune newspaper in New York City, where she wrote about restaurant openings, society shindigs, and the Philadelphia World’s Fair of 1948.

That year she married newspaper heir Hogwood Patterson Medill III, whom she divorced in 1962. They had four children, three of whom survive her.

“Hog and I had many of the same tastes,” Smith explained, “but he disapproved of my slumming with celebrities. Which is pretty weird, seeing as he went on to marry Monique van Vooren. Go figure!”

Frank Sinatra

With her background in society reporting and celebrity conviviality, Smith was a logical choice to replace gossip columnist Hedda Hopper when she retired. Smith subtly altered the column’s style, making it “jazzier,” as she liked to say.

In 1965 she was the first to break the news that 50-year-old Frank Sinatra was bedding down 18-year-old Peyton Place starlet Mia Farrow.

“Go buy yourself a new pair of overshoes,” said a drunken Sinatra when he encountered Smith in Las Vegas a few years later. Sticking a pair of banknotes into Smith’s drink glass, Sinatra added that she was “a two-dollar whore.”

Richard Gere

With her children in boarding school, Smith no longer needed an apartment of her own in New York, so moved in with her longtime friend, archaeologist Iris Love.

Smith and Love frequently went on digs together, sometimes accompanied by Smith’s children, or Smith’s close friend Richard Gere. During a 1983 expedition to Great Britain they discovered the jaw of Piltdown Man, which they donated to the British Museum.

Fashion