Mocking Abstract Art in 1963; Was it really all that farfetched?
|Why It's Interesting|
The 1963 film The Wheeler Dealers mocked modern painting by having an artist paint by attaching funnels of paint to tricycle wheels and riding on the canvas. He completed hischef d’oeuvre by stepping in painting and doing a flamenco dance.
Were the filmmakers aware that Robert Rauschenberg had made his 100′ print ten years earlier using a car tire? Were they familiar with Yves Klein’s having female models roll around in paint on his canvases or how he attached a canvas to the roof of his car and rode around in the rain to create his painting?
Life has more than caught up with this scene. In 2009, BMW introduced its new Z4 roadster by having artist Robin Rhode use its tires to paint a 100′ X 200′ canvas. The video documentation of this is on You Tube.
The act shown here may have been my first introduction to modern art. I got to see this movie at Radio City Music Hall, Thanksgiving 1963, on my first visit to New York. I never forgot it, and I highly recommend this hilarious movie. The star, James Garner, advised by the artist shown here, corners the market in German Expressionist paintings and parcels out interests in them to his Texas oil friends using the kinds of participations and royalty overrides common in oil deals. Oil paintings were thus treated like oil lands. The actor shown here with the artist plays an art critic who spouts aesthetic gibberish in the name of Baudelaire.
This website seeks to encourage researchers and collectors to discover and study obscure ephemera that document American culture and life. Worldcat reveals that most of the items that I post cannot be found in more than a few research libraries–often none at all. Alternately, research libraries do not bother to catalog ephemeral publications like these. I believe, however, that because these were distributed free, or at nominal cost, to consumers, they were the publications most likely to make their way into homes and be read by large numbers of Americans.
I acquire pre-1960 examples of the kinds of publications that prove so useful when scholars study 19th-Century America. The limited competition that I encounter for them suggests that libraries, which could easily outbid me, have little interest in post-Civil War and 20th-century ephemeral publications in general.
I try to anticipate what materials future historians will find useful. Being an historian first and a collector second, I organized this website to encourage others to do this too—even if this means new competition for me. I am aware that I could be wrong in prizing particular ephemera or even whole classes of ephemera. I may even be wrong to encourage scholars to study obscure ephemeral publications; these may be obscure for good reason.
Ephemerastudies.org will permit me to share with others the information and imagery that I am acquiring, and to benefit from the knowledge, intelligence and experience of other scholars and collectors. Please contact me with your impressions of the site.