Wednesday, January 06, 2010

One of the great truths of painting...

My home subway station is the Prospect Ave. stop on the R line in Brooklyn. It's just your shitty, garden variety local subway station. One long track and platform, little windows in the far wall so you can see the D train (an express) steaming by you and wish you lived near an express stop. And, of course, behind you there are a number of advertisements glued to panels attached to that wall. Plus some benches.
The urge to write the words "Benches! We don't need no stinking benches!" is overpowering.
I can see how it would be. Do you feel better now?
Yes. Thank you.
No, thank you.
And usually you don't pay that much attention to the ads. New movies, maybe. And I do think the Mamma Mia! people do a lovely service to New Yorkers by attaching their ad to the top of a map of the subways. Very handy. But most of the time it's just part of the visual cacophony.

All of which leads me to this, taken with my camera on my phone:

These are two separate ads--one for the Georgia O'Keefe show at the Whitney on the left; one for the David Mamet play Race, starring James Spader (of whom I'm fond), John Boy from the Waltons, another guy, and Kerry Washington.

I remember when my mother learned the word 'juxtaposed.' With it comes, I suppose, 'juxtaposition' as well. Anyway, I have this vivid childhood memory of her, out of the blue, juxtaposing this and admiring the juxtaposition of that. Usually this was in relationship to furniture in our living room.

At the same time, my father seemed hung up on the phrase 'dynamic symmetry.' This had something to do with the arrangement of stuff on our mantle; the idea being that you didn't have to put one candlestick on one side and the other on the other (a more mundane version of symmetry). You could, in fact, put the set of candlesticks on, say, the far left, and put a set of, say, family photographs on the right. Or perhaps an old clock. This created a symmetry of a more dynamic sort.

Anyway, all by way of saying that when I saw they had replaced the ad on the left side of the panel with the Georgia O'Keefe poster, I laughed out loud in the face of this juxtaposition.
What do you think the actual definition of juxtaposition is?
Hmmm. I love trying to come up with dictionary prose. It's harder than you think.
Yes it is.
Were it me, and not Funk or Wagnall, I would define juxtaposition as the arrangement in close proximity of two dissimilar objects in order to stimulate the mind in some way.
Wow. That's strong.
Thank you.
No, thank you.
So the point of the story, the reason I laughed, is that the Georgia O'Keefe painting is, obviously, female genitalia masquerading as a flower. This, to my mind, is good clean fun and something she was famous for and got a lot of mileage out of. And to its right is, essentially, a photo of (I assume) Kerry Washington's genitalia, sheathed in a short, red, sequined dress. In the flesh, so to speak, it's a very sexy photograph. And if this wasn't obvious enough, a helpful graffito was nice enough to outline, in magic marker on the face of the poster, the rough shape of what one could vulgarly call Ms. Washington's pussy.

So I'm loving, every time I grab the R train, staring at the arrangement in close proximity of these two posters and feeling the stimulation of my mind. Every time I do, I wonder if the guy who put the Whitney poster up stepped back and smiled. Prolly not.

Funk and Wagnalls, by the way, defines juxtaposition as "the act or an instance of placing two or more things side by side. Also: the state of being so placed." Which I don't like. I don't like how they've left out (in my humble opinion) the notion of choice or intent in the act of juxtaposing whatever it is you are juxtaposing.
This has something to do with painting, doesn't it?
Yes it does.
There's a great truth in here somewhere, isn't there?
Yes there is.
Hiding, if you will, in plain sight


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