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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: the arts and the black revolution II

Roditi, Edouard
Editorial comment: for an American jubilee of surrealism,   pp. 455-[465] PDF (10.6 MB)

Page 456

456      who happen neither to be already represented
in the Museum's own permanent collections
nor by any major New York gallery had
been neglected.
True, much of this recent way-out art of
the Pacific Coast may soon prove to be
of a very ephemeral nature. In a culture
that, as ours in recent years, publicizes so
widely any novel art-style that happens
to tickle its omnivorous but effete palate,
the frontier that might divide pure art
from applied art, or art in general from
mere news of joyous goings-on in the art
world, can no longer be traced very clearly.
Within a few months of the New York
successes of OP Art, a few years ago,
slick merchandizing had already made it
possible to buy a black-and-white chequered
men's sport-shirt, with a Vasarely-style
pattern, from a medium-priced department
store in West Berlin, or to eat a pizza off a
similarly patterned plate in a Los Angeles
espresso lounge. In Los Angeles, ultima
Thule of our culture whose mixed blessings
include Napalm, LSD, the psychedelic
art-nouveau posters of the Jefferson Airplane
and our President's many all too optimistic
and even soporific statements about
Vietnam, a home-furnishing store at the
Corner of La Cienega Boulevard and
Melrose, for over a year, has now been
displaying a whole window full of
Spreadmobile bedspreads that can disguise
an ordinary divan-bed as a racing-car or a
speedboat. This remains, of all Le Cienega
Boulevard as a major art-center, the best
and most convincing example of Pop Art
seen there for a long time.
Other and more subtle examples of this
kind of marriage between art and commerce
- mythical nuptials that might well
be celebrated in a sculptured group of
nudes such as those that decorate some
Nineteenth-century Belgian post-offices -
are readily available for inspection in other
West-Coast art galleries. Should you happen,
for instance, to own a gigantic featherweight
Oldenburg hamburger bun, specially
constructed for easy air-travel, you would
surely need something to protect such a
valuable possession against the hazards of
rought handling, since you would scarcely
consider entrusting it like a pet cat to your
neighbors while you follow, hypocritical
reader, mon semblable, mon frere, your
present critic on his year-round jet-set
wanderings from Providence to Paris, from
Katmandu or Kabul to Kansas City, from
Melbourne or Port Moresby to Milano. But
your problem, thanks to the tireless
ingenuity of our avant-garde, has already
been solved: a few months ago, at the
Rolf Nelson Gallery, formerly of 736 N.
La Cienega but recently deceased, a
Canadian virtuoso of applied Surrealist
humour noir, lain Nelson, President of the
N.E. (Any) Baxter Thing Co. of Vancouver,
British Columbia, was exhibiting a collection
of his "things," mainly made of vinyl, that
included a Duffelbag for Oldenburg Sneakers,
Water for Oldenburg's Soft Toilet, a
Bagged Landscape and a Bagged Seascape
with Green Cruiser, the latter being a
translucent plastic bag containing some
water and a toy boat. For a mere nothing,
lain Baxter would indeed supply you with
a custom-made plastic container for your
Oldenburg hamburger bun. For
suburbanites who hanker after a cloud in
their otherwise too cloudless living room,
he offers moreover several attractive
models of his own Ersatz for a cumulus or a
cirrus formation.
Such masterpieces, one must despondently
conclude, risk becoming mere conversation
pieces or expendable toys for the moody
adults of a self-destructive society that has
sold its Faustian soul to the Devil of
Conspicuous Display. Too many of Baxter's
"things" are fun only in what an
Aristotelian would call a "second-intentional"
manner: if one happens to know only
ordinary toilets and has no idea of what
an Oldenburg soft toilet might be, there's
nothing particularly amusing, as a
thing-in-itself, about a plain vinyl bag which,
one is told, has been made specially to
contain this unknown object. Indeed, are
Baxter's "things" still likely to be here in
four centuries, to be admired in
contemplative wonder and reproduced in
color in some future Life Magazine, like the
murals of the Sistine Chapel? On the
contrary, they are all too likely to end,
like toys given to a spoiled child on
Christmas, in the ashcan by Epiphany,
together with the balding Christmas tree.
Yet Baxter's works are full of a wry and
complex wit that offers us an apt comment
on some of the more absurd aspects of our
affluent society which has survived
Armageddon and now awaits its Day of
More immediately useful and less defeatist

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