Sunday, March 27, 2011

Social Realism in the Twenty-first Century: Part VIII

This particular section has been incredibly hard to research because artists that fit my requirements for Contemporary Social Realism are found in various genres. It is all to brief, and certainly not complete.

Alix Smith, States of the Union 23

Cruising the Web, I discover that contemporary Social Realism has nothing to do with Social Realism of the first half of the Twentieth Century. Instead, this new Social Realism aspires to create scenes that might be titled “Domestic Tranquility.” Photographer Alix Smith’s domestic tableau of gay and lesbian families (States of the Union) fits well in the category. At the same time Smith's photographs do have subversive intent. They appear to be ordinary family tableau, but place LGBT families in that exact position while the fight for equality continues. Other late Twentieth Century and Twenty-first century artists that belong here are (though I don’t pretend this list is complete); Peter Worsley, Andrew Wyeth, some of the photorealists, and Leland Bell. I have nothing negative to say about this Postmodern and Post Postmodern Social Realism, though I have a nostalgic longing for art and artists and a movement that aspired to make a better world by helping people to see the wrongs of the current order or at the very lest commented on or demonstrated those wrongs and the social order. However, as a subject it makes more sense as just plain REALISM, showing subjects as they exist in every day life. In fact many of those who claim this type of realism as SOCIAL realism include as its antecedents such artists as Edward Hopper, Winslow Homer and Grant Wood, all marvelous and impressive realists that fit in various other schools; Edward Hopper, Ashcan School, Winslow Homer, American Realism, and Grant Wood, Regionalism.

Kenny Scharf, "Junglive," 1992,

Artists that might actually fit in a New Social Realism include some of the Hyperrealists, like Denis Peterson. Others, from the late 20th Century are the following; Diane Arbus (though she died in 1971), Francis Bacon(deceased 1992), Banksy, Donigan Cumming, Charles Ray (yes indeed!), Cindy Sherman, Robert Longo, Kenny Scharf, David Wojnarowicz. I realize that, once again I am pulling artists from various genres and that the list is terribly incomplete. Never the less, these artists actually created/create art that commented/comments on culture and society. Additionally, this list disproves my thesis question (Is there such a thing as social realism in the Twenty-first Century?) because the artists are from such disparate genres, groups, and times, and there seems to be no consensus in the Art World that these folks and more constitute a New Social Realism. At the same time, the impetus toward Social Realism first expressed by the Mexican Muralists is alive and well in the work of many artists from various genre’s with the exception of those who call themselves “Social Realists.”

Notes and Sources

1 Smith, Alix Website, "Alix Smith," The image incorporated here is thought to comply with the law because it is used for one time academic purpose. The subversive quality of Smith's images makes it possible to argue for inclusion in a category, "Social Realism in the Twenty-first Century." Viewed 10:00 AM EDT, Sunday, March 27, 2011.

2. Scharf, Kennie, "Junglive," 1992, Edition 100, Domberger, in "Ken Scharf" Website, The image incorporated here is thought to comply with the law because it is used for one time academic purpose.Viewed 10:01 AM, EDT, Sunday, March 27, 2011.

Dr. Flip Flopper, Newt Gingrich interview on homosexuality, his possible presidency, and Obama. What country is this?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Why not make it one word, like, Superman. After all, he didn’t even exist, and the super moon did exist for one night plus a “whole nother,” as so many people say these days (that last, a pet peeve of mine). Why can’t people say, “another?” “Another” is easier to say. It is one word versus two. Actually that’s wrong. “Nother” isn’t even a word! What jackass invented “NOTHER?” If he/she can invent “nother,” I can invent the word, “Supermoon.”

So, “Supermoon it is!

I went to the beach on the evening of March 19th, to look at the “Supermoon,” and I took my camera and tripod in order to make some time exposures by “Supermoonlight.” The beach was packed with people, and a carnival atmosphere enveloped me as I walked onto the sand from our local mini boardwalk and pavilion. At first I had a bit of trouble finding all the camera controls in the dark, but adjusted fairly quickly. I heard someone say, “It’s lost all the color now,” and was immediately sorry I hadn’t gotten to the beach early enough to watch, and shoot the “Supermoonrise.” Never the less, I had a great time taking pictures of that huge silver orb, 14% larger than normal. The weather guy on TV had explained that the full moon was at perigee as opposed to apogee in its orbit.

Amazingly, I heard some negative comments about the moon as I was shooting the time exposures. Things like, “What’s so spectacular about this moon?” and, “You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.” I might have thought and said something similar when I was twenty something.

Sleeper awake!

In the photographs shown here, I’ve taken the liberty of superimposing a reduced in size NASA photo of the full moon taken from space onto the burned out hole the “Supermoon” made in the original digital image. The images I shot were taken with the camera set on delay so that I could have hands off the camera while the time exposure was in process for several seconds. The images are quite grainy because I should have set the ISO to 100 when shooting. Instead, I forgot. The camera was set to “auto,” and the little mini-computer set the ISO much higher. Of course, I almost always set the camera ISO at 100 or 200, so why did I forget that night? Whenever the next “Supermoon” occurs, I plan to be on the beach in time to watch the “Supermoonrise,” and take many more time exposure photographs by “Supermoonlight with the ISO set to 100!”

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fishing in south Florida

I don’t.

However, I draw great pleasure being on the beach, and I bet that the guys I see surf fishing draw the greatest part of their pleasure from just being on that beach, though they may not realize it. Why else lug all that equipment, rod & reel, chair, bucket, and tackle box to the car, in order to run to the beach after work in the evening?

Perhaps I should conduct an informal poll the next few times I go to the beach in the evening.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Flight of the Pelicans

The curved line of pelicans served to emphasize the magnificent sky with all those high layers of fleecy cirrus, lower cirrostratus, stratus slabs and mackerel over deepest ultramarine blue.

I was actually shooting the ocean that afternoon, and just happened to look up as they flew over the beach. I set the camera to a shutter speed of 500 and hoped that it would be enough to stop both my motion and theirs without cutting the light so much as to make the exposure too dark. I spun and aimed skyward shooting five images as they went by. How fortunate I was, because the bird’s silhouettes are in focus and clear against those wisps of cotton, and that navy blue ceiling.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Social Realism in the Twenty-first Century:

Number Eight in a Series

Shaqe Kalaj, “Male 1 (Albuquerque) The Faces of ‘Social Realism 2010, * 1

The first entry in this series was posted way back on October 27th, 2010. The second on November 20th, 2010. With the last entry about Paul Cadmus, March 1, number seven in the series, I have completed my review of a few Twentieth Century artists who worked in the genre. I must now take up the following questions. Is Social Realism an actual concern of Twenty-first century Artists and the Art World? Or has it instead become so politically incorrect and / or difficult to point out problems - much less to try to correct them - that it is no longer possible for artists to create socially proactive art or for the Art establishment to place such before the public?

But first, How Would a supposed twenty-first century Social Realism fit into the Post Postmodern (hereafter the Popomo)?

As a person living in the Popomo I do expect that any current movement called Social Realism should be influenced by contemporary ideas. The first item on my list after Googling “Social Realism” does not disappoint that expectation. “Social Realism 2010: Photographs by Thomas McMillen-Oakley, Shaqe Kalaj; Julia DeClerck,” a show curated by Shaqe Kalaj and presented in September, 2010 in Plymouth Township, Ann Arbor, Michigan was described by the reviewer in ways that place curatorial concerns squarely in the Postmodern if not the Popomo.

…because there’s certainly more than enough social and economic strife to be found in today’s America — even if conditions are far different from the late 1920s-1930s. As the gallery’s exhibition statement makes clear, this trio of photographers crafts “contemporary takes on ‘reality’ (that) incorporate irony, wit, and ambiguity.”

This social commonality — rather than the squalid desperation to be found in the 20th century’s social realism — that gives the exhibit its more subtle, wry undercurrent. * 2

The reviewer's key Postmodern terms are "irony, wit, and ambiguity." I contend that these characteristics can be carried forward into the Popomo.

As discussed in past entries, many critics agree that an important ingredient of the Popomo is the infliction of anguish/confusion/pain on the viewer - though interjecting a brief thought about Michael Anne Holly and other Postmodernist rumination on “reception theory” - I’m not sure how that is to be done consistently by any artist. * 3 Many of those who claim to be living in the Popomo are fans of “Salvage Philosophy,” which seems to be a depressed and dysfunctional propensity to pick through a supposed (often virtual) wasteland of kitschy junk in order to reprocess and claim something as one’s own. That, however, to this writer, is pretty much what quite a few Postmodern artists did anyway. * 4 Perhaps the Popomo the Postmodern and the Modern are really one obsessive / compulsive triple singularity, like a dog running in circles, chasing it's own tail. Still another actual characteristic of the Popomo is that there is no outside. Everyone is on the INSIDE, as Arnold Sukenick states writing about hypercapitalism.

The very exclusion of the poor, the homeless, the ethnically alienated is one of the hottest topics in the body informatique, affecting if not defining our sense of them and inevitably their sense of themselves. Nor is the status of ignored ignored in the Popomo polylogue - it's simply a category continuous with various degrees of not-ignored that cycle in and out of attention. There's no place to hide, no dropping out, whatever your situation, it's part of the convoluted incorporations, the "fold-ins," of corporate culture. Paradoxically, we inhabit an inside with no outside. There is no counterforce to the gravity of money that can sustain an exterior. * 5

I am left with a confused notion of what is philosophically to be characteristic of the Popomo, and the status of the poor and/or disenfranchised within that construction. Thus, I will fall back on my own concern, my desire to find contemporary art that does something similar to that which Social Realism of the 20th Century did with social and political concerns of the time. So, this viewer of art wishes to find art that suits his own needs and purpose, something of a “polylogue” Popomo concern in and of itself. Simultaneously, since any all things are on the inside with no outside in the Popomo, a twenty-first century Social Realism must be included in the polylogue, and that is – as the Pennsylvania Dutch would say - ironic, ain’t.

To be Continued


*1 Kalaj, Shaqe, “Male 1 (Albuquerque),” The Faces of ‘Social Realism 2010,’ “ in, Viewed 10:10 AM EST, Friday, March 5, 2011.

* 2 Cantu, John Carlos, “Art and Ideas Exhibit Displays the Faces of ‘Social Realism 2010,’ “ in, Viewed 10:10 AM EST, Friday, March 5, 2011.

* 3 Holly, Michael Ann. Past Looking: Historical Imagination and the Rhetoric of the Image. New York and London: Cornell University Press, 1997.

See also The Three Positions of Interaction with an Artwork," this journal, Wednesday, September 9, 2009.

* 4 “Life After the Oil Crash Forum,”;topic=72983.0. Started by Bones on August 04, 2010, 11:21:34 AM, Viewed 10:57 AM EST, March 4, 2011.

* 5 Sukenick, Ronald, “Avant-Popomo Now,” at Threads, abrinfo, Copyright (C) 1996 The Electronic Book Review and the author. All rights reserved. Viewed 11:01, Friday, March 4, 2011.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

FOX News and Clean Energy

I’ve placed “Clean #1” to illustrate my current entry because “The Waterworks” is about keeping our environment healthy, and so much in our current public dialogue seems to be about back tracking from responsible care of the Earth and our environment.

While working out at the gym day before yesterday, I was "privileged" to watch FOX news latest diatribe against clean energy. Today I’ve checked everywhere in the attempt to see if FOX news claim that one solar company alone plans to layoff 2000 workers is inaccurate reporting of the news. Instead, I've discovered that the problem is much worse than FOX news coverage suggests. The solar industry in general is having to layoff workers. However, the layoffs are due to individual state and Public Utility Commission cuts in subsidies for companies that offer cash back incentives to domestic customers for installing solar. To site but one instance among many, in Colorado, Xcel is under attack by the Public Utilities Commission.

“Xcel has suspended its Solar Rewards program pending a decision by the state Public Utilities Commission on its request to cut subsidies by 47 percent.” * 1

In still other cases, the culprit is the “OUT SOURCING” bugaboo.

Evergreen (Nasdaq:ESLRD) had announced it would outsource its solar panel assembly to China by the end of this year. * 2

I argue that instead of giving 50 billion in subsidies to the rich and all too profitable petroleum industry that must outsource so much of its employment because of location of resources, we should be giving these subsidies to clean energy with the stipulation that jobs be kept in the United States.

Responsible Reporting of the News

Instead of criticizing President Obama for his clean energy program FOX should be reporting the slashing of incentives by Republican governors, state legislatures and Public Utilities Commissions. Thus, the real culprit here is budget slashing, not the solar industry, nor President Obama. The public has to be made to realize that budget slashing is a two edged sword that can and will damage our fragile economy. And, at the very least honest news reporting should present all aspects of this story.


* Read more: Industry says Xcel's request could put 3,000 out of work - The Denver Post
Read The Denver Post's Terms of Use of its content:

* 2 Alspach, Kyle, Evergreen Solar layoffs surprise Devens, Marlborough employees. Massachusetts High Tech, , Viewed 10:00 AM, EST, February 27, 2011.