Thursday, 12 January 2012

I missed this on Hallowe'en. Cal's Girl friend Chloe Turner dressed up as a Lichtenstein painting, complete with speech balloon attached to her hat. Brilliant!


One cannot say Lichtenstein any more without hearing shouts about plagiarism My mind turns to a couple of recent lawsuits that I didn't follow to their conclusions. Firstly, Richard Prince daubed paint on Patrick Cariou's Photographs and called them his own. The judgement of March 2011 went against Prince, but he's appealing:

NY Times December 28, 2011
In March a federal district court judge in Manhattan ruled that Mr. Prince — whose career was built on appropriating imagery created by others — broke the law by taking photographs from a book about Rastafarians and using them without permission to create the collages and a series of paintings based on them, which quickly sold for serious money even by today’s gilded art-world standards: almost $2.5 million for one of the works.

What were Mr. Prince’s intentions in re-using the Rastafarian pictures taken by the French photographer Patrick Cariou and why did he choose them? For the sake of parody? For criticism? Or did he just pick something that inspired him, for reasons as difficult to plumb as any those of many postmodern artists?...

Mr. Prince replied, “The message is to make great art that makes people feel good.”

He also made it clear that he was not making art that commented on Mr. Cariou’s work itself. (Judge Batts ruled that for a work to be transformative it must “in some way comment on, relate to the historical context of, or critically refer back to the original works” it borrows from, a test she said Mr. Prince’s work failed.)

In an interview Daniel Brooks, Mr. Cariou’s lawyer, said that if such a subjective principle for borrowing as Mr. Prince’s were to become the legal standard — and in parts of the art world it is already much more subjective in practice — there would be no way to protect copyright.

“It can’t just be random, that he ‘liked it,’ because there’s no practical boundary to that,” he said.

It is also noted: "In many ways the art world is a latecomer to the kinds of copyright tensions that have already played out in fields like music and movies, where extensive systems of policing, permission and licensing have evolved." Two years ago Australian pop band Men at Work were sued for stealing five or six bars of the tune titled 'Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree'. they lost that but the appeal came up in October last:

The Australian October 07, 2011
The High Court denied the band's bid to appeal a federal court judge's earlier ruling that the group had copied the signature flute melody of Down Under from the children's classic Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree.

Kookaburra was written more than 70 years ago by Australian teacher Marion Sinclair for a Girl Guides competition. The song went on to become a favorite around campfires from New Zealand to Canada. The wildly popular Down Under remains an unofficial Australian anthem.

Ms Sinclair died in 1988, but publishing company Larrikin Music - which now holds the copyright for Kookaburra - filed a copyright lawsuit in 2009.

Last year, Federal Court Justice Peter Jacobson ruled that the Down Under flute riff replicated a substantial part of Ms Sinclair's song.

The judge later ordered Men at Work's recording company, EMI Songs Australia, and Down Under songwriters Colin Hay and Ron Strykert to pay fove per cent of royalties earned from the song since 2002 and from its future earnings.

The court didn't specify what the five per cent penalty translates to in dollars. Larrikin wasn't able to seek royalties earned before 2002 because of a statute of limitations.

It remains arguable where the line should be drawn but for now, Larrikin are 'greedy opportunists' in the words of Hay, and Prince is a wanker. That was my word.

Still on the subject, I was re-reading an interview with Comic book artist John Romita made by a couple of old small press pals of mine, Ridout and Ashford, and published as a hardcover book by Marvel in 1996:
Romance was quite dull stuff. We called it the popcorn genre. A lot of guys had gotten into the habit of doing the tears in the shape of popcorn. then we were getting ripped off by guys like Lichtenstein, blowing up our panels and representing them as their own art, and we were pissed off. We almost had a class action suit. Not only that, I heard there was whole school of German artists blowing up the panels like Lichtenstein and cashing in in Europe. I saw some of my panels line for line.

I wiil say one thing, Lichtenstein actually didn't stick religiously to it. In fact, he was almost critical. he picked out some things and made fun of them in his panels. he not only blew up the dots, but he made ragged lines where there weren't ragged lines; he made them look bad, almost when he's blow them up the lines would get ragged and blotchy. He was sort of saying that this is trash and i will now turn it into quality art. that was his philosophy and I respected that in a way., but from what I could see of the german artists, they were taking panels and blowing up religiously, following every line and making them clean. I remember one. The girl's hair was blowing in the wind and I had this pathetic expression on her face. Well, this guy did that panel. Every single shape including the placement of the balloons, everything was exactly as I did it. he blew it up and did it in the same color, only with the dark more visible. I saw a picture of my panel and the painting together in the museum of Modern Art.

So we went through that period, and a lot of guys- Bernie Sachs and a few others- wanted to get together and file a class action sit against Lichtenstein and some of the other artists. I was not too interested. I said first of all, i don't want to contribute money to lawyers. I didn't want to get involved in it. I even foolishly told them that I was somehow flattered by the fact that they would consider these panels so good that they felt it was worthy of a painting. And, of course, the thought I was crazy. "Flattered?! they're ripping you off!" I never felt ripped off. I felt like it was a different art form. I wished they would say 'from a drawing by...', but they never did.

About four or five years ago (1990) the Museum of Modern Art had an exhibit for the express purpose of showing the connection and the similarities and the derivation. We spent hours being interviewed: they got all sorts of copies of my panels and the dates and the paintings. They said they were going to have an exhibit finally showing who inspired all these paintings. I thought, well, thirty years after the fact, we were going to get some kind of credit and tribute. The exhibit ended up being clalled 'High and LOw'. Another slap in the face.

They got all their facts wrong. They attributed artwork to the wrong artists, they got the dates wrong, everything was wrong. The fact that they called comic art 'low' drove me crazy!. And then if you'd gone to the show, the bulk of the comic book part of the exhibit was down in the basement, which was on the lower level. So we were really given another slap.
I went there. they gave me an invitation. I got a tux and everything. It was a wonderful dinner. I shook hands with Garry Trudeau. He thought it was great thatw e were given some time. But by the time the dinner was over and I looked at the book and heard some of the speakers- they were putting us down again... I was just so hurt by the whole thing.
I found Moma's fact sheet for the event. And this review by Hilton Kramer, critic with a modernist bias who, it should be noted, is the same generation as Romita:

The New Criterion, December 1991
Now with the debacle of the exhibition called “High & Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture,” which Mr. Varnedoe has organized in collaboration with Adam Gopnik, his former student at the Institute of Fine Arts in New York and currentiy the art critic for The New Yorker, this roster of disas ters that have already been visited upon the museum in a very short time begins to look like a mere skirmish in the war against moder nism that is now in progress at MOMA. Both in its conception and in its realization as well as in its reigning ethos, the “High & Low” exhibition is the kind of full-scale event that signals a new era at MOMA—an era in which, among other things to be deplored, the achievements of modern art are subor dinated to a sociological analysis of them. Taking his cue from the ideological initia tives that have lately reshaped the study of all the humanities in our colleges and univer sities, Mr. Varnedoe has clearly set the museum on a course that conforms to the practice of supplanting aesthetic categories of thought with those drawn from the social sciences. By this approach, art becomes a mere coefficient of material culture, and is thus denied precisely that element of aes thetic autonomy and transcendence that has been one of the hallmarks of the modernist spirit.

What this means for museological practice is perfectly clear. The epoch of the anaes thetic curator is upon us. In the “High & Low” show we are given a vivid demonstra tion of what results from a view of art that is completely removed from aesthetic con siderations. There is a great deal of intellec tual passion at work in the exhibition and in the massive—and massively foolish—cata logue that accompanies it, but very little of this passion is guided by aesthetic intelligence. At every turn in the history of their subject, the curators are so utterly agog over the minutiae of popular culture—so in fatuated with what might be called the ar chaeology of it—that its role in shaping modern art ceases to make a primary claim on their attention and becomes a merely inciden tal aspect of a headlong compulsion to ex plore the archaeology itself. Not only modern art but art itself is accorded an indif ferent and precarious status in this inquiry. All the energy is elsewhere engaged.

8 Comments:

Blogger Ian Thal said...

Interesting, I just wrote a review of John Logan's play, Red which is about Mark Rothko, but has a scene in which Rothko not only rips into pop-art but specifically singles out Roy Lichtenstein for his appropriations of comic book panels.

12 January 2012 9:56:00 pm GMT-5  
Anonymous Myck White said...

Yeah but, you would, wouldn't you?

15 January 2012 1:04:00 am GMT-5  
Anonymous Myck White said...

(That is; you would appropriate comic-book panels for gallery-art purposes, if you were a hip young fine-artist in the early 60s, wouldn't you?)

16 January 2012 9:43:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger h.n. said...

So where does that put Kaz' Underworld appropriation of Philip Guston's appropriation of comic strip mannerisms? And is this not largely an American phenomenon, where people would get on their high horse about this because money is being made?

It strikes me that this really the 'Is it arT (cf Campbell)?' in another guise. For art you may pay top dollar, if you can afford it. But you're a fool to pay top dollar for not art.

Is every subject art-worthy? You could say Roualt was a precursor for the sad clown genre. Would you downgrade Roualt's re-sell value to the proliferation of the genre?

17 January 2012 2:55:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger mr ed said...

Things came full circle when Tony Hendra took around a hundred Lichtenstein paintings and constructed a Romance comic book out of them called "Brad '61"

patrick ford

19 January 2012 9:37:00 am GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am I reading this right, that Hilton Kramer felt that the "High and Low" show paid too much attention and respect to the comics?

My first impression is to be so shocked that I can't believe it. But on further reflection, I guess somebody has to stand up for that point of view, defending high art in its purity from any raggedy interlopers who might be seen as pulling it down from its pedestal in any way.

I guess I'm equally surprised to hear that John Romita was offended and felt looked-down-upon by that same exhibition.

As a young comics fan and art buff, aged 21, I attended that same "High and Low" show, and I think I still own the magnificent hardcover catalog from the show (or maybe it ended up at my sister's house, not sure really). At the time, it seemed to me like a revelation, like an opening up of possibilities, like an armistice in the war between my two great loves, allowing them both to flourish and to find inspiration in one another. I'm surprised to learn now that some people felt it was just another battle in that same war.

But thanks for the information all the same, Mr. Campbell, it was time that I learned. And it's not like my dreams are entirely dashed; I still hold out hopes for that armistice someday.

Peter Urkowitz,
Salem, MA, USA

23 January 2012 11:21:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Simon_at_Boing said...

Loved your stuff since the days of Beem and Flypapers, Eddie. So please allow me to point you to my own recent Lichtenstein ponderings (partly inspired by this): http://simonboing.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/roy.html

14 August 2012 3:07:00 pm GMT-5  
Anonymous Lindsey said...

Nice post which The judge later ordered Men at Work's recording company, EMI Songs Australia, and Down Under songwriters Colin Hay and Ron Strykert to pay fove per cent of royalties earned from the song since 2002 and from its future earnings. The court didn't specify what the five per cent penalty translates to in dollars. Thanks a lot for posting.

27 August 2012 7:57:00 am GMT-5  

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