PeterSebastianChesney Annotations

Open Analytic

Friday, December 14, 2018 - 8:36pm

I was not assigned Jon, so I'll keep these reflections a little bit brief. The allusion to the photographic art books of Ed Ruscha comes across clearly, to me especially because I work on Ruscha. Jon and I already discussed in person, and I will add here, that he's playfully captured two sensibilities Ruscha prioritized. One is the ironically humorous. Some of you might find this project a little shaming, and I imagine Jon means it to be just that. Ruscha too used to photograph the things people look at a lot without thinking about them, I find, because he wanted them to reflect on what they take for granted. What more hilarious way to achieve just that by dressing it up as "Pop Art" and getting rich people to spend loads of money (on experiences they tended not to have because they would have servants take the car over for fuel instead of doing so themselves and personally). The other sensibility is what Ruscha and his contemporaries called "deadpan." That is the photographer's manner of snapping a picture instead of laboriously and skillfully setting up and staging the scene to capture the perfect angles, the perfect lighting, and the perfect framing. Ruscha seemed to think of deadpan as being more honest, less artificial, more authentic. These nods toward objectivity, of course, achieved anything but "true" objectivity. Nonetheless, Ruscha thus attempted to justify his (in the immortal words of Mike Davis) mercenary tendencies. There was hardly anything blatantly political about Ruscha's work. And when he rose too close to the sun, which is staking out a political position (see his LACMA on Fire, 1965-1968, imho a response to Watts), he denied it and mocked people for assuming he had politics. That said, the privilege of making apolitical art is in and of itself a remarkably political stance. It's just conservative. And Ruscha was a little conservative. And making fun of students for being sloppy drunks is also a little conservative. And maybe a little conservatism is helpful here and there, now and then. Thanks Jon - great work!

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