As Crazy As Your Conscience Allows

Writer’s block results from too much head. Cut off your head. Pegasus, poetry, was born of Medusa when her head was cut off. You have to be reckless when writing. Be as crazy as your conscience allows.
—-Joseph Campbell

Metal bas-relief in a stairwell at Union Station, Dallas, Texas

There is amazing art all around you, where you least expect it. All you have to do is look.

It was cold and raining tonight as I left the DART train line at Union Station to walk over to the Bishop Arts Streetcar… but I stopped and took a photo of an amazing bas-relief… it looked like aluminum over a concrete wall over a stairwell leading to the underground tunnel under the station platform. It’s an obvious reference to Pegasus – one symbol Dallas uses to refer to itself. I don’t know the history or the artist – will have to do some research.

Advertisements

Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski

 

“Thus, when I say about myself that I am a genius, it is not self-praise, but a statement to describe a type of mind that: whatever it does in any field, it does well. A mind that peruses in many fields will comprehend better, and many things more, than one that is absorbed in only one. It becomes a universal mind.”

—–Stanislav Szukalski

Struggle, a sculpture by Stanislav Szukalski

 

We cut the cord today. Bye Bye to cable television. Good riddance. I have watched the Boob Tube… the Idiot Box too much all my life.

I still watched too much – there is still Netflix… and Amazon Prime Video…. and Sling… and a multitude of crazy channels available through the Roku … and even the antenna. I finished off an episode of Doctor Who (I have a strange yet slight crush on the New Doctor, as long as I don’t watch too much) and an episode of The Alienist.

Then, checking the documentary section of Netflix, I chose a Netflix Original Documentary, Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski.

Holy Moly… what a rabbit hole.

Stanislav Szukalski was a sculptural prodigy born in Poland in the late eighteen hundreds who showed great promise even though he was partially blind from staring at the sun. At 12 he moved with his family to Chicago.

This began a bifurcated life – of an eccentric artist in the United States and a fervent nationalist in Poland. He developed an unfortunate streak of racism and anti-antisemitism in Poland in the 1930’s. He became well known and successful until everything was destroyed in the German bombing of Warsaw in 1939. Other than a few small sculptures in American hands – his entire body of work, thousands of sculptures, drawings, and other artworks – was destroyed. He and his wife escaped at the last minute with only two suitcases and moved to Los Angeles.

Penniless, he survived on doing odd jobs for the film industry, and became friends with famous screenwriter Ben Hecht and the family of George DiCaprio, Leonardo DiCaprio‘s father. In 1971 Glenn Bray, a publisher and collector of oddball art, became fascinated with the story and work of Szukalski and was stunned to find out he was not only still alive but living 5 miles away from him. They became fast friends, Bray introduced him to a circle of artists, mostly underground comics illustrators, and began to film extensive, lengthy interviews with him.

And now, all this has led to Leonardo DiCaprio producing this Netflix Documentary using a lot of Bray’s interview footage. It’s a wild and woolly tale, with references all the way from the Nazis to Zap Comics to The Church of the Subgenius to DiCaprio to Easter Island.

Yeah, Szukalski thought that all  human civilization originated in Easter Island and that all evil was the result of interbreeding with the Yeti. Really.

Not a big fan of his ideas here – but I love his art. There isn’t much out there – one bronze has been recently cast, but so much of his work was destroyed in the destruction of Warsaw. He whole life, ideas, and artistic output was warped beyond recognition by the terrors of the twentieth century.

Shame really – there is real talent there… eccentric talent, to be sure… but enough artistic genius to go around. I would like to see his work. Maybe a trip to Chicago – there is some stuff at the Polish Museum of America there.

A Pretense Of Happiness?

“One night, as I was sleeping, Norman appeared to me and told me to relax, that he was fine. Then, but I’m not sure if this was in the dream or when I woke up shouting, I realized that Norman seemed to be in Mexican heaven, not Jewish heaven, let alone philosophy heaven or Marxist heaven. But what was goddamned Mexican heaven? A pretense of happiness? or what lay behind it? empty gestures? or what was hidden (for reasons of survival) behind them? A little later I started to work at an advertising agency.”
― Roberto Bolaño, The Savage Detectives

Pepper Lamp, Cozumel, Mexico

The Cracked Plate Has To Be Retained

“the cracked plate has to be retained in the pantry, has to be kept in service as a household necessity. It can never be warmed on the stove nor shuffled with the other plates in the dishpan; it will not be brought out for company but it will do to hold crackers late at night or to go into the ice-box with the left overs.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-Up

State Street Gallery, Dallas, Texas

The Only Truth Is Creation

There is neither painting, nor sculpture, nor music, nor poetry. The only truth is creation.
—-Umberto Boccioni

Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, by Umberto Boccioni, Cole and Blackburn, Dallas, Texas

I like sculpture. Though I am not picky – I especially like a certain flavor of sculpture. I don’t know what it is called, but I know it when I see it – modern, yet semi-representational, it has to have a certain strength and a feeling of movement.

One example is The Drummer in The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, New Orleans Museum of Art.

The Drummer, Michael Sandle

Another is, arguably my favorite sculpture, Large Horse, by Duchamp-Villion.

Horse by Raymond Duchamp-Villon

Large Horse by Raymond Duchamp-Villon

So, that is not the only thing I like, but it is something that I always like.

One day, a while back, I was on a bike ride from downtown through Uptown, Dallas. I was with a fairly large group, riding downhill, riding fast, when out of the corner of my eye I caught an unexpected glimpse of a sculpture. A sculpture I liked. In a flash, it was gone. I didn’t even remember the street I was on – only the general part of town I was in. It took a long session of exploring with Google Maps until I found the sculpture at the corner of Blackburn and Cole.

Today I had to drive Nick down into Uptown to pick up his car and on the way out I stopped and took a couple of photographs. Then I had a web search to find the sculpture – it’s a famous one, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space by Umberto Boccioni. It’s a Futurist sculpture – with a well-known version in The Museum of Art, New York.

From the museum website:

Umberto Boccioni
Unique Forms of Continuity in Space
1913 (cast 1931)

Boccioni, who sought to infuse art with dynamism and energy, exclaimed, “Let us fling open the figure and let it incorporate within itself whatever may surround it.” Breaking with the tradition of self-contained sculpture, Boccioni opens up the silhouette of this marching figure, who forges ahead as if carved by forces such as wind and speed. While born of Futurist aspirations, it also remains evocative of an ancient statue: the wind-swept, striding Victory of Samothrace in the Musée du Louvre in Paris.

I have no idea how this cast (or reproduction) came to be placed in front of a high-end apartment complex in Uptown, Dallas. It’s cool, though I seem to be the only person aware of it.

Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, by Umberto Boccioni, Cole and Blackburn, Dallas, Texas

Iron And Coke, And Chromium Steel

“Well we’re waiting here in Allentown,
For the Pennsylvania we never found,
For the promises our teachers gave,
If we worked hard,
If we behaved…
So the graduations hang on the wall,
But they never really helped us at all,
No they never taught us what was real,
Iron and coke,
And chromium steel,
And we’re waiting here in Allentown…
But they’ve taken all the coal from the ground,
And the union people crawled away…”
― Billy Joel

‘Tatlin’s Sentinel’ by John Henry, Arts District, Dallas, Texas