Tuesday, June 07, 2005

I thought we won the Cold War

Some things defy comment:

From Articulatory Loop (via Wonkette) comes this photo of a poster for the MARC commuter rails between Baltimore and our nation's capital. I'm speechless.


Anonymous bambino said...

This is America. :P

6/07/2005 12:07:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I know bambino.

You probably can't understand how shocking it is to see our authorities use this style of poster, but it's amazing to us.

6/07/2005 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger Hans said...

But the poster looks ironic,
as the people look like going on a demonstration ;-)

6/07/2005 03:05:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...


That was certainly my first thought as well, but when I stopped to think about how serious the message is, it made me question how appropriate it is for the poster to be ironic.

6/07/2005 03:42:00 PM  
Anonymous crionna said...

Well, at least it's multi-gendered/ethnic...

6/07/2005 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I think most Soviet posters were multi-gendered, no?

6/07/2005 06:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Macallan said...


That sort of heroic perspective and propagandist style was not the exclusive purview of the Soviets.

It's interesting though that people have come to associate it that way. For instance if one word were removed from this poster, I bet most people would assume it to be Soviet. I think the style is more of that period than a country or government.

Just my 2 cents.

6/07/2005 06:50:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Yeah Mac,

other's pointed that out as well. It does immediately say "Soviet" today though. Especially the faces all lined up in the same direction (see this image...which also addresses crionna's point about multi-ethnic).

6/07/2005 07:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Macallan said...

It does immediately say "Soviet" today though.

I wonder why. If you look at Soviet propaganda art, its many variations aren't that out of sync artistically and stylistically with its period counterparts here and in Europe. Both political and advertising posters of that period had wide varieties of styles none of which strike me as uniquely Soviet.

So why do we retrospectively label it Soviet?

6/07/2005 08:40:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

possibly because although the art in other nations evolved, that style fossilized in the USSR. When I visited there in 1985, for example, that style was still everywhere.

6/07/2005 08:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Macallan said...

Yeah, but everything fossilized over that period in the USSR.

6/07/2005 09:05:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

yes it did...like travelling back in time going there...

6/07/2005 09:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Macallan said...

...see that's the problem. It would be like seeing a crumbling concrete wall and declaring it uniquely "Soviet".

I'm particularly fond of 30's "commercial" art, so I don't like that characterization…

hmmm…let me see if I can explain…

…ever notice that some of the most unique and intriguing homes and buildings in the U.S. were built in the 30's? My theory is that many of the artists of the 20's become the artisans of the 30's out of necessity due to the Depression. Same with commercial art, and is likely why poster or propaganda art from that period is so rich; you had more talented people than you had patrons/customers. Those artists found expression in seemingly more pedestrian pursuits, but brought talent and passion to those crafts.

As Americans, we live in a period where it is nearly impossible for us to understand the sacrifices and choices that our counterparts would be forced to make in the 30's; the swallowing of pride, the evocation of sculpture in the most mundane because it was the only avenue for its release, and so on. In some ways it is personal, my dad left school in 1926 because his father died and he had to care for young siblings and his mother, years later he saved enough to go to art school but was called to active duty shortly before his first day. He, like many of his generation, had to make choices of survival and commitments. You see those choices and the artist's struggle for expression in 30's commercial art and architecture.

6/08/2005 12:23:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Wow. That's a very rich theory Mac.
Sounds like a much longer diary or regular post in that. Regarding your father, I had no idea, but that does connect some dots for me. Do you have any of his work today?

I'm almost afraid to ask whether he returned to the studio after he returned.

In that context, it does make the artists who never have to work because they're financially independent seem blessed beyond comprehension. (I don't have any in my gallery, but I know some.)

I agree you get better architecture and better art within the mundane day-to-day objects when the economy is terrible and the most talented folks of that generation must earn a living outside the highly useless realm of studio practice for its own sake (consider the commercial work Warhol did before he "hit big" as an artist...it's some of the best in the last half century).

6/08/2005 07:14:00 AM  
Anonymous bambino said...

well, i can tell you that those posters are hot, you can see them selling almost on every corner in Soho, and people buy it. Plus you might have seen them (maybe not exactly same, but similar) in TV show "Friends"

Without getting into political point of view, it's fine by me.

6/08/2005 02:02:00 PM  
Anonymous crionna said...

My wife and I love these posters. About 5 years ago we puchased a large one advertising Vermouth for a large stairwell.

I agree with Mac's theory and hope that if his Dad is alive, he'll give it another go.

I guess what's important to me too is whether the poster is effective or not. If not, I don't care who created it or how beautiful it is, the purpose has not been met. If it is, well, outside of badly characterizing a specifc race I'm fine with whatever style works.

6/08/2005 02:35:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Had 9/11 never happened. Had the Homeland Security department not been created ("HOMELAND" security????), had the PATRIOT ACT not be enacted, in short, had the shadow of totalitarianism not fallen across the United States in the past 4 years, I too would be wildly enthusiastic about this poster for its craft, nostalgia, and humor.

Given that, sadly, in our post 9/11 world, security is nothing to be glib, ironic, or even stylish about, this poster strikes me as bad taste at best and down right frightening at worst.

6/08/2005 02:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Macallan said...

I'm almost afraid to ask whether he returned to the studio after he returned.

Short answer… he didn't.

Keep in mind, I didn't even know about his art inclinations until very late in his life, and when I asked if he had anything from then he said, "I left all that in New York" which I think he meant both literally and figuratively. If I understand it correctly, after WWII while he was in the reserves he contracted Scarlet/Rheumatic Fever and was told to move to a warmer climate in order to fully recover, and that may have been the last straw. He set aside his aspirations to step in for his father, then a depression, a war, and then his health. He'd work on Wall Street and back then finding that kind of job "out west" wasn't likely so he had to start his own business, then finally his own family. He was nearly 70 when I left for college and never really retired until his health started to decline in his late 80's.

When I finally found out and we talked about it, he didn't express any regret… but then that was his nature. He always exuded contentment and if the choices of his life left any scars they had long since healed and been reconciled.

Incidentally, my theory about 30's artisans was formed before I ever found out about Dad's sidetrack. My first house was a modest little place built in 1937, and I always marveled at the details and craftsmanship put into such a small and inconsequential house. That got me to thinking…

6/08/2005 04:02:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

My first house was a modest little place built in 1937, and I always marveled at the details and craftsmanship put into such a small and inconsequential house.

You'll find the same from other periods in other countries, but usually under similar economic conditions. Excellent craftsmanship available for rock-bottom wages is the only way to realize that sort of quality.

Your father sounds like he would have been remarkably interesting to talk to Mac. I'm happy you got to learn that about him, even if he didn't keep any of the art he had made. In the end, art too is about legacy...he's got an impressive one all the same.

6/08/2005 04:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Macallan said...

Dang... I miss him.

6/08/2005 05:24:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Yeah...I get that.

6/08/2005 07:35:00 PM  

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