To Some Extent, Women


Edith Gregor Halpert, the pioneering art dealer, wearing a brooch and ring designed for her by Charles Sheeler, in a photograph for Life magazine in 1952. She is joined by artists she was promoting that year: Charles Oscar, Robert Knipschild, Jonah Kinigstein, Wallace Reiss, Carroll Cloar and Herbert Katzman. Credit…Estate of Louis Faurer; Time-Life Archive/Getty Images; via The Jewish Museum.

… Edith Gregor Halpert (1900-1970), was a formidable, feisty and sometimes manipulative self-starter with an ecumenical eye, a passion for art and an inborn instinct for sales and promotion. Halpert was central to establishing the market for between-the-wars American art and thought that everyone should own art. She liked to keep prices low, would sell on the installment plan and staged annual holiday sales. She also thought that anyone could make art, an idea that was crucial to the folk art revival of the 1930s. For her time, she was unusually open to artists of color and, to some extent, women.

(Roberta Smith, “A Forgotten Pioneer’s Art World Is Resurrected at the Jewish Museum,” NYTimes, 11-7-19)

Halpert’s low-balling of price, and her notion that “everyone should own art,” mark her as a visionary for her time and a relic for ours.

(c) 2029 JMN

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What Huge Imago


Detail from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel painting.

On this Veterans’ Day I salute military persons past and present who have honored their country, including my son, a Navy man currently serving on a far shore.

I’ve undertaken my periodic re-memorization of W.H. Auden’s epoch-spanning poem “September 1, 1939.” In the diurnal crossing of the DMZ between sleep and reality, where horror and dread do their morning jog, it comforts me to meditate on images from the poem before I open my eyes.

… Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence

What huge imago
Made a psychopathic god:

In our debased twitterverse of facebookery and tomfoolery the appeal to scholarship of any stripe, accurate or not, rings sweet and quaint, like the mantra “Pray for peace” chanted in a bygone time during another of our lost wars.

However, it’s the “imago” that arrests attention. A wiki-dip of quasi-scholarship yields two meanings for the term:

(Entomology) The final and fully developed adult stage of an insect, typically winged.
(Psychoanalysis) An unconscious idealized mental image of someone, especially a parent, which influences a person’s behavior.

A full-blown insect doesn’t spawn something else. Auden guides us, of course, to sense 2 with his mention of a “psychopathic god.” It nudges us, in contemplation, to the driven psyche of a child-god’s pathological parent-worship, or something along those lines.

This single image goes a good way towards explaining the scriptural weight in 2019 of Auden’s 99 lines from 1940.

(c) 2019 JMN

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“I’m a Bit Worried”

bit worried

“You’re trying to get people to buy into an alternative world,” Jim Kay says. “The more you can seat it in apparent reality, the better it works. ”Credit…Charlotte Hadden for The New York Times.

Jim Kay, who lives in Sussex, England, talks about his work as an illustrator of Harry Potter novels.

How would you say your style has evolved over the years?
I haven’t found a style yet. I’m desperately trying to find a style. I’m a bit worried.

I think in black and white… so I surround myself with beautiful colors to make me push myself a bit harder. Otherwise everything I draw will look like a movie from the 1920s.

Sometimes if I’m working on a painting and there’s a piece of paper next to it that I use to clean my brushes on, I’ll often get rid of the painting but keep that piece of paper with the brush marks…

I really struggle with drawing, still, so it’s great to have something in front of you… The people who do the best drawings I think are sculptors… Henry Moore’s drawings… look solid, like they are occupying space…

Which character is the hardest for you to draw?
Harry by miles… Children are difficult anyway.. But Harry, also because he wears glasses and glasses are a nightmare to draw…

(Alexandra Alter, “How a Harry Potter Illustrator Brings the Magical to Life,” NYTimes, 11-6-19)

(c) 2019 JMN

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A Week of Orgisms


Kazimir Malevich self-portrait. and Getty Images.

I’ve recently seen mention of cubism, orphism, synchromism, and now suprematism. This last is what Kazimir Malevich called his movement. Art history is a geyser of isms. This article illustrates the masterpiece-or-fake-ism that sprinkles journalism.

Internationally [Malevich] is probably most famous for Black Square – a work that epitomises his love of abstract forms, in a radical break from figurative art rooted in recognisable reality. Malevich finally created four versions of Black Square.

(Tatsiana Yanutsevich, “Kazimir Malevich: A mystery painting, either masterpiece or fake, puzzles experts,” BBC News, Belarus, 2 days ago [sic])

black square

“Black Square” by Malevich. and Getty Images.

Yanutsevich informs us that “Malevich is one of the most popular modern artists internationally, his works are cherished by galleries and they fetch eye-watering sums at auctions.”

That Malevich created four versions of “Black Square” is itself eye-watering.

Here, eclipsed by viewers, is the mystery painting at the center of the “puzzle.”

man with shovel

BBC/TATSIANA YANUTSEVICH. Man with a Shovel went on show in a gallery in the Belarus capital Minsk in June.

Why is the unsigned painting attributed to Malevich? And why should it be presumed to be a “fake” trying to pass as a Malevich if it were determined not to be his? These are the true mysteries.

(c) 2019 JMN

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Humbug Goes Virile

pumpkin 2

Rights groups also say that an increasingly bitter political climate surrounding Brexit has fueled the flames — as did recent remarks by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the treatment of female lawmakers… In a parliamentary debate in September, Mr. Johnson dismissed such threats as “humbug” and said that lawmakers had only themselves to blame for the hostile political climate.

(Megan Specia, “Threats and Abuse Prompt Female Lawmakers To Leave U.K. Parliament,” NYTimes, 11-1-19)

Two cocks hatched in the Big Apple humbug the hens. Perhaps the hens will return the compliment.

pumpkin 1

Both images: Credit pumpkin artist Ray Villafane of Queens, New York.

(c) 2019 JMN

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Shades of Black


Stories in today’s press foster a rumination about “misconduct.”

The monarch of Thailand banished two courtiers from his entourage for “extremely evil misconduct.”

Unpacking the phrase’s implications suggests there may be three shades of misconduct:

Misconduct (White)
Evil misconduct (Grey)
Extremely evil misconduct (Black)

The stabbing death of a Maryland man in an argument over a Popeye’s chicken sandwich is white misconduct. Brutish and violent, but too stupid to be evil.

The man who attacked a Syrian immigrant for speaking Arabic on a San Diego trolley committed grey misconduct. Brutish, violent, and stupid, yes — but also poisonous.

The Thai story doesn’t specify the sin. Being a monarchy, it was probably either sexual or financial — more white than black except to kings.

Here’s where it gets grim.

A country teetering on failed narco-state status has seen the ambush and slaughter of three women and six children. The failing state borders the world’s largest market for psycho-active intoxicants. No authority in that market stems demand. No authority in the failing state stems supply.

If this post were really about grammar I would ask: What is a color of “misconduct” blacker than black? One that matches a massacre where toddlers burn to death strapped in car seats with mother shot dead point-blank in the chest?

(c) 2019 JMN

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Get the ‘Lead’ Out

Adverbs Ahead

Grammar Ahead

She has lead the way, but all the candidates need to come clean about their health care proposals.

(Elisabeth Rosenthal, “Elizabeth Warren Throws Down the Gauntlet,” NYTimes, 11-4-19)

The error in the NYTimes subheading is more exciting than usual. It allows me to theorize that the dastardly “read,” with its homographic past participle, has betrayed by analogy Ms. Rosenthal and her editor. I do not celebrate or mock in the least what I know to be an inadvertent solecism in a publication that adheres to high standards.

Has English shied away from “read-red-red” in parallel with “lead-led-led” because of overlap with the color? It seems a poor excuse for the tradeoff in potential ambiguity.

“I read every day.”

Absent context, who knows how that sentence should be read or said?

(c) 2019 JMN

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