I made this piece (1983-84) first by making a hand-drawn litho of that face from a famous 1940 photo of the “crying man” as Nazi tanks rumbled into Paris in 1940. Then, on the same paper I rolled on the color with litho ink, blanking out the face and then painted the gestural strokes, printing the whole thing all at once. The piece seemed to need a swash of color, so on a separate paper I rolled out the blue-orange, cut it out and laid it on the plate just at the moment of printing. I was in an experimental mode to see what complexity I could accomplish in an all-at-once pass through the press.
That is the how of this piece. The what only appeared when the whole thing came off the press. That twist we feel when dominated by ignorance, helpless in the face of raw power. The when happened in the early 80’s when this picture was created, it seemed we were sliding to the time of blindness in a “neo-conservative” revolution of posture over policy. Cable news was in its ascendancy, with the punditry of spin-doctoring as Reagan, the teflon president seemed impervious to the critical mind. The “Not Sees” had gained a lot of traction as Reagan stripped off the solar panels Carter had installed on the White House. It was a dark time for the creative mind, and environmental justice, and to my mind, environmental concerns were/are the only existentially potent political movement as money-culture dominated the the biosphere and creative life. Remember James Watt, Reagan’s (you’ve seen one Redwood, you’ve seen ’em all) Secretary of the interior? The joke was, how much power does it take to stop a million environmentalists? One Watt. I don’t know why it’s so hard for people to remember we are embodied in life. Mr. Not See knows. Go ahead with your profligate ways, the Not Sees will have us living in self-made concentration camps of gated communities as income inequality foments a rising tide of “the Hungry”, hungry for basic goods and services and a descent life.
The sadness of that face seems apt as we slide toward a diminishment of the democratic ideal with dump trucks of money distorting things post-the Citizen’s United Supreme Court decision. To sell your life for money seems a formula for real weeping sadness. Money can be a radioactive substance turning your insides to powder if you are blind, if you choose to become a Not See. At the 1/6 hearings we are seeing the reasonable, conservative and liberal alike aghast at the loss of the precious reason that has made our republic. Not See means intelligent, Ivy-educated legislators who have turned a blind eye to reason in a cockamamie will to power. Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley—smart guys, Ivy Leaguers, who should know better, but they become the great orange witch’s flying monkeys, and, this just in, Lindsey Graham goes on Fox threatening violence if his witch’s feathers get ruffled. Is there any doubt about this flying monkey business? Those monkeys cathected to the malignant narcissist. They will do his bidding at any cost to themselves. And now here’s this kerfuffle over the stolen National Security Documents which seem to contain the names of operatives working in secret, now outed and some now, turning up dead. Did Trump sell those names? Or trade for favors? This puts reasonable people in a rage.
And the choice of that red rage behind Biden as he gave a nationally televised address on rise of fascism in MAGA-land was perfect. It put the Fox punditry in a swivet, who in turn called Biden a fascist himself, for placing Marine guards at the entrance to Independence hall. But dude!, “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli…we will fight our country’s battles in the air and land and sea.” Old Joe did rise to the occasion, but (again), dude! It would have carried the message so much stronger if that had been Barak who’s oratory could rise up a tsunami of pure feeling. We miss Barak.
To bring up the fact that we are entranced by criminals-in-charge—Tony Soprano, Goodfellas, Once Upon a Time in America, On the Waterfront, Casino…the list is the list including of course The Godfather. We seem to love criminals—when they are in our fictions. But the founding fathers constructed a system to keep the criminal mind checked and balanced, and now we are watching the gears of our venerable constitution grind exceeding fine. It’s an interesting time, ain’t it? Stay tuned for the October hearings.