Madfunk Art After Xmas: The Hairy Who

Screamin Jay.jpg

I admit, there’s a couple Roy Lichtenstein works I like a great deal. They’re sculptures. I always disliked his comic-book art from the first time I saw it because, undeniably, it argued that his source material was commercial junk and that his treatments transformed trash into Fine Art. Flooosh. All the vitality and wit in the works sprung from the originals, not Lichtenstein’s re-dos. And it constituted a narrow, square view of what comics could do. No weirdos. No underground.

The first time I encountered work by a Hairy Who artist was when I picked up a Screamin’ Jay Hawkins LP late in my Missoula era that featured the above as a cover illustration. In the language of the day, I thought it was way outta sight. But I believed it was just ace art done by the record company. Hah. (By Karl Wirsum, as it turns out.)

So we’ll skip a couple-three hairy Hairy Who encounters over the years and get to my Art Book present to myself this holiday: The catalog of this exhibit I would love to see in Chicago.

Now, these days Art Books have a real problem. Too small and too-cheap reproductions are the norm. This book is an exception. While I would like it to be inches bigger on all sides, the reproductions are beautifully precise and color-lively and include media like ceramic dolls and photos of the artists at those dazzled-’60s art shows that I had no idea about.

This gets down to it: the raging passions of comics and design and funk and rock&roll had a deranging delight that could be represented in the gallery. Sometimes with downright ominous tones.

If you like what you see, like they say: go, go, gogo.

Half the Air Is Still and Half the Light Is Cool #1

Goblin, The Ultimate Collection (Pick Up Records)

The first disc is Goblin for the Dario Argento World and it is continuously weird and wondrous and flowing — the perfect Gothic Prog. You wonder if he told them what he wanted to hear and that shaped what came out. An enveloping atmosphere with distorted sounds and faces and moods that keeps you fascinated and a little scared.

Disc two, The Other Worlds of Goblin, which is part soundtracks and part not is way, way more uneven. Good chompy tracks (“Stunt Cars”), but clots of Europrog with bad rhythm section and even a few quite corny cuts. (Never think of doing anything “C&W” again, okay guys?)

For the Record: Denouncing a Boneheaded Idea About Pop Music

An unfortunate, lingering side-effect of the persistent remnants of high-culture arrogance 30 years ago was the following “reasoning”:

Theater and classical music were Serious Art best explained by serious writers for a serious, intelligent audience.

Films and jazz had earned a seat at the lower end of the Serious table, but they had a essential commercial streak that made denouncing big hits something to avoid.

Popular music was garbage and nothing but commerce. So a serious writer who took on pop was a fool. Writing for a tiny audience of other fools. The correct move was dumb writing for dumb people, which would attract a huge audience.

Of course this never worked in practice. (Pointing out that those who read about pop music were already the intellectual fans didn’t seem to make any difference.) So the nonsense has fallen out of favor.

What has replaced it is the notion that gossip and celebrity-drooling will make a lot more bucks than serious discussion. And that, sadly, is hard to deny.

There’s Not a Riot Going On

This is the piece that put a huge crack in the foundation of my reverence for Malcolm Gladwell (yes, it’s about school shootings). I’m not sure Winkler’s recommendations at the end of the piece add up to much, either, but there’s no question she’s right about the flaws in comparing school shootings to riots. Since reading this, I’ve noticed Gladwell often has the fatal structure of superficially compelling argument based on a messed-up premise. Of course, the New Yorker goes ahead and reprints his essay about school shootings as though nobody had said nothing.