on Pop Art

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org &
Knatz.com / Personal / Writing / Letters /

The NYT Magazine, 1974 July 21, featured an article on pop art by John Russell. Roy Lichtenstein’s Crying Girl filled the cover in color. Richard Hamilton’s Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing? (1957) was reproduced in grayscale at the top of the middle column of the first page of the article [p. 6]: just below the headings:

The paintings are outliving their subjects.
Hamilton pop

John Russell, a good critic, made a gaff: he said that the male figure was holding a squash racket! I’d addressed my letter below to the editors, but it was Russell himself who assured me in answer that I was not the only reader to catch him.

1974 July 24
pk to NYT, John Russell

What our muscle-man in Richard Hamilton’s Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing? is holding is hardly a squash racket: does John Russell not recall the Tootsie Pops that one could buy for two cents in any candy store in America years ago? It was chocolate centered and candy coated, and in the tumescent size Hamilton gives it, balances perfectly against the canned ham that sit so hear the lap of the nude lady under a lampshade.

The English game of squash rackets was named for the limp sound made by the ball in falling dead off the wall: especially inappropriate for the hard ball games of America. The fine print in the collage even says “Tootsie” above the “POP.” Lollipop. “The return to Father after an abstract 15-year exploration of the Womb.” An explosion. McLuhan says that our media are extensions of our bodies. The paper-packaged goodie that the figure holds close to his hips by its cardboard stick is a marvelous vulgarization and mechanization of ejaculation.

And why are these over-onanized non-lovers looking out at us? Are they like the girl in the advertising copy who is embraced by her lover but who looks seductively at you? Pop may represent the “American Dream, optimistic, generous, and naïve,” but in Hamilton’s hands, it is hardly an uncritical celebration.

Russell comments that if “‘The period after World War II was Edenic for the consumer of popular culture’, What is Eden after all if not a place from which we are excluded?” In sailing west, traditionally associated with death through the setting of the sun, to discover the east (rebirth; salvation; paradise), Columbus led the way for our reentering the Garden by force. Pop is the artful rendering of the lonely and exhibitionistic products of that rape.

1974! I’d written First Week a handful of years before. I’d founded Free Learning Exchange and been running it since 1970: offering the public digital record keeping, public data bases, an unlicensed feedback mechanism, the government’s hands pried from our throats … I’d offered my own modeling for various skills: English, Shakespeare, jazz … But July 1974: had my wife yet left me? She would soon, would soon kidnap our son: remove even bk from my influence!

But there I am, speaking freely, teaching, not pulling punches, punching below society’s self-censoring belt, hypocrisy, misinformation, false imaging preferred.


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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