What makes the world go round?

Today’s Zippy starts with Zippy and Griffy at Universal Studios Hollywood, reflecting on what is worthwhile in our lives:

(#1)

Griffy inventories some of his passions, in high culture and popular culture (including sports and food):

Beethoven, Alice Neel, Miles Davis, Tiger Woods, Ernie Bushmiller (the Nancy cartoonist), tuna melt

And Zippy, being a cartoon character,  follows with a catalogue of his own cartoon favorites:

Gerald McBoing Boing, Baby Huey, Yosemite Sam, Popeye the Sailor Man

Lots of stuff in these lists, but most of it is either in the cultural commons or treated in previous postings on this blog. The standout exception is the uncompromising portrait painter Alice Neel. She will lead us to a number of her subjects: the art critics Gregory Battcock and David Bourdon; the Greenwich Village eccentric Joe Gould; and the poet Frank O’Hara. It will end in naked men and some flagrant mansex, but I’ll warn you when this material looms.

The setting. This is where Zippy and Griffy reflect on the state of the world:

From Wikipedia:


(#2) Universal Studios Hollywood: the fountain

Universal Studios Hollywood is a film studio and theme park in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles County, California. About 70% of the studio lies within the unincorporated county island known as Universal City while the rest lies within the city limits of Los Angeles, California. It is one of the oldest and most famous Hollywood film studios still in use. Its official marketing headline is “The Entertainment Capital of LA”. It was initially created to offer tours of the real Universal Studios sets and is the first of many full-fledged Universal Studios Theme Parks located across the world.

(Current attractions at the theme park include The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and a Jurassic Park attraction.)

The fountain in #2 incorporates a version of the Universal logo, a globe, originally your standard sphere with a map of the world superimposed on it, as here:

(#3)

But then an image based on a “big blue marble” photo taken from space:

(#4)

[Digression on the original space photo, from Wikipedia:

(#5)

The Blue Marble is an image of Earth taken on December 7, 1972, from a distance of about 29,000 kilometers (18,000 miles) from the planet’s surface. It was taken by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft on its way to the Moon, and is one of the most reproduced images in history.]

[Digression: some other studio logos — the MGM lion, the Warner Brothers WB shield, the Paramount Pictures mountain peak, the Columbia Pictures woman (Columbia, personifying the US), the 20th Century Fox searchlight.]

[Digression on Love makes the world go ’round. I don’t know the history, but the expression was already a platitude when W.S. Gilbert incorporated it into the song “Faint Heart Never Won Fair Lady”in Act 2 of the Gilbert & Sullivan opera Iolanthe in 1882. As a commenter on the Wordcraft site on Iolanthe on 4/6/08 put it:

In [“Faint heart never won fair lady”], two lords encourage a third to pursue the woman of his dreams …  Each of the three sings a verse, each verse followed by a chorus of all three together. One subtle, amusing aspect is that the choruses are entirely platitudes, every line a familiar saying. What a tour de force of writing! … [the relevant chorus:]

Nothing venture, nothing win –
Blood is thick, but water’s thin –
In for a penny, in for a pound –
It’s Love that makes the world go round!

Alice Neel: some basics. From Wikipedia:

Alice Neel (January 28, 1900 – October 13, 1984) was an American visual artist, who was known for her portraits depicting friends, family, lovers, poets, artists, and strangers. Her paintings have an expressionistic use of line and color, psychological acumen, and emotional intensity. Neel was called “one of the greatest portrait artists of the 20th century” by Barry Walker, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which organized a retrospective of her work in 2010.

Now, something deeper, from artcritical (“the online magazine of art and ideas”), “Thriving on Drama and Discordance: The Life of Alice Neel” by Stephen Maine on 8/2/11, a review of Phoebe Hoban’s Alice Neel: The Art of Not Sitting Pretty:

In 1974, a decade before her death, Alice Neel was the subject of a career retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Spanning the previous 40 years, the exhibition included 58 portraits, the genre for which, then as now, Neel is best known. In her absorbing biography, Phoebe Hoban quotes Neel on her approach to her work and her interest in the dark side of her sitter’s psyche: “I am never arbitrary. Before painting I talk to my sitters and they unconsciously assume their most typical pose—which, in a way, involved all their character and social standing; what the world has done to them and their retaliation” (p. 305). Such is the unending fascination of her work: her knack for getting under her sitter’s skin, behind the façade of physiognomy and comportment, and expose something raw and real. The reader of Hoban’s study gathers that Neel’s portraiture was, sometimes quite consciously, itself a form of retaliation against what the world had done to her.

… Her portrayals of the innocent and beloved could be tender, as in her paintings of her sons, Hartley and Richard, and of her neighbors in Spanish Harlem where she lived and worked for twenty years. Her nonfigurative work is often richly introspective, as if an elevated train track or snow-covered fire escape might symbolize human aspiration or frailty. And in portraying Andy Warhol (1970) she gives herself over to her subject’s predilection to remain a cipher; drawing his eyelids closed, he displays his lurid scars and his pristine footwear.

But her most brutal portraits combine the grotesqueries of Ensor, the bleakness of Munch, and the subtlety of a sledgehammer. She renders the unpopular director of the WPA’s Artist Project, Audrey McMahon (1940) in joyless grays and browns, as a sort of desiccated vampire with eyes like trapdoors, a nose like a newel post, and a clenched, lipless mouth. Ellie Poindexter (1962), a dealer who did not warm to Neel’s professional advances, looks, with her beady eyes, slit of a mouth, and prominent breasts, like a python who has just swallowed a pair of hamsters. Even Frank O’Hara, the much-liked poet and curator whom Neel sought out in the hopes of interesting him in her work, comes in for some rough treatment in a 1960 portrait.

She is famous for female nudes, including portraits of naked pregnant women and women in old age. As it happens, however, the first portrait by her that popped up on my screen was an uncomfortable portrait of a couple.

David Bourdon and Gregory Battcock (1970). From a Blanton Museum of Art, Univ. of Texas, Austin, blog piece “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” from 2/9/12:


(#6) Battcock on the left, Bourdon on the right

Alice Neel is known for her uncanny ability to represent subjects as if depicting them from within, not only rendering their exterior self. In David Bourdon and Gregory Battcock [1970] she represents a gay couple sitting next to one another. Bourdon, portrayed in elegant attire, was an art critic and writer, and Battcock, appearing unshaven and dressed in underwear and a pair of red socks, was an artist and a critic. Neel rendered the pair of lovers as if they were in different rooms, averting each other’s gaze, and sitting on chairs that occupy different spatial planes. Writer Richard Flood spoke of Neel’s assertive depiction by describing how the painting projects a sense of despair and devastation characteristic of a relationship that has gone wrong. Indeed, he was right, for Neel had sensed a breakup and prophesied it on her canvas.

In addition, Neel portrays Battcock as both sexually available — he is described, quite accurately, in some accounts as “sexually voracious” (mostly as a bottom) — and dissolute in appearance, a reflection of his sluttish inclinations rather than his actual presentation as a very handsome man, also well-dressed when he wasn’t cruising for sex.

From the publisher Taschen’s page on Bourdon:

David Bourdon [1934-98] was an art critic who was closely involved in the innovative Manhattan art world [from] the early 1960’s. Bourdon wrote for many art magazines and was a frequent contributor to Art in America. Among his books were studies of the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Alexander Calder, and Andy Warhol.

But then Battcock, an art critic, art historian, and painter who was associated with Warhol’s Factory and appeared in three Warhol films. He was highly critical of the role of galleries in controlling the art world. Also, as a passionate hobby, he cruised for sex. Here we veer into bodyparts and mansex, so if you’re a kid or sexually modest, you should exit this posting. Here’s a page break for you to do so.

Two items from the announcement of the Marian Goodman Gallery (London) exhibition from 6/21 to 7/29/16, “Joseph Grigely – The Gregory Battcock Archive”, using a trove of private materials from 1952-80 (Battcock was the victim of an unsolved murder in Puerto Rico in 1980):


(#7) Photo from a personals ad in the Advocate magazine, advertising his services as an enthusiastic bottom


(#8) Page from his cruising journal, detailing a few of his memorable encounters

Joe Gould (1933). From the blog “my daily art display” on 8/30/16 about the Joe Gould painting:

[In 1933] Alice Neel completed a somewhat controversial painting of Joe Gould. For over three decades Gould, who was a homeless Harvard graduate, and a Greenwich Village eccentric who went from bar to bar telling those who would listen to him about the book he was writing. It was not just any book, he said it was to be the longest book ever written, entitled An Oral History of Our Time. There must have been something appealing about him as he was well supported by the Greenwich Village artists, poets and writers of the time.

The stories of his large tome spread and a journalist, Joseph Mitchell, on the New Yorker wrote a couple of pieces about Gould and his famous book. Sadly for Mitchell the book was just a figment of Gould’s imagination! However, Gould became a local legend thanks to all the publicity and it went to his head as he truly believed that his fame was well deserved and that now he was a great attraction especially for the women. It was probably because of his belief that he was such a lady’s man and a great lover, again, like the book, probably a figment of his imagination, resulted in the way Alice Neel depicted him in her 1933 controversial painting, Joe Gould, which an art critic described as “a symphony of cocks”

I can’t get away with reproducing this painting here, but it’s available as #1 in an AZBlogX posting today “On the art patrol: Alice Neel, Larry Rivers”. From the blog “my daily art display” on 8/30/16 on Joe Gould

[In 1933] Alice Neel completed a somewhat controversial painting of Joe Gould. For over three decades Gould, who was a homeless Harvard graduate, and a Greenwich Village eccentric who went from bar to bar telling those who would listen to him about the book he was writing. It was not just any book, he said it was to be the longest book ever written, entitled An Oral History of Our Time. There must have been something appealing about him as he was well supported by the Greenwich Village artists, poets and writers of the time.

The stories of his large tome spread and a journalist, Joseph Mitchell, on the New Yorker wrote a couple of pieces about Gould and his famous book. Sadly for Mitchell the book was just a figment of Gould’s imagination! However, Gould became a local legend thanks to all the publicity and it went to his head as he truly believed that his fame was well deserved and that now he was a great attraction especially for the women. It was probably because of his belief that he was such a lady’s man and a great lover, again, like the book, probably a figment of his imagination, resulted in the way Alice Neel depicted him in her 1933 controversial painting, Joe Gould, which an art critic described as “a symphony of cocks”

My characterization on AZBlogX:

An Alice Neel painting of Greenwich Village eccentric Joe Gould from 1933 — Gould as a triphallic celebrant, with phallic acolytes on either side

So, five cocks in all.

The two 1960 paintings of Frank O’Hara. On the poet on this blog, in a 12/25/11 posting “Poet among the painters” (with brief mention of his great gifts of friendship, his advocacy of artists he admired, his outflowing of short poems every day, and his enormous enthusiasm for sucking cock). A photo of the poet, from the cover of the paperback edition of his Collected Poems:


(#9) A face of interesting planes and an eagle’s-beak nose, captured in tons of photographs

The AZBlogX posting has (in #2 there) a famously scandalous Larry Rivers painting of a naked O’Hara with a hard-on and workman’s boots and nothing else; I’ll get to it in a separate posting on O’Hara. Here, Neel’s takes on O’Hara, in two paintings from 1960:


(#10) A side view, emphasizing the nose


(#11) A front view, bringing out what I see as campy extravagance, to the point of obsession, and maybe O’Hara’s orality as well; O’Hara just hated this painting

In O’Hara’s own words:

(#12)

And for campy extravagance, his fabulous “Poem (Lana Turner has collapsed!)”, from Lunch Poems (1964):

Lana Turner has collapsed!
I was trotting along and suddenly
it started raining and snowing
and you said it was hailing
but hailing hits you on the head
hard so it was really snowing and
raining and I was in such a hurry
to meet you but the traffic
was acting exactly like the sky
and suddenly I see a headline
LANA TURNER HAS COLLAPSED!
there is no snow in Hollywood
there is no rain in California
I have been to lots of parties
and acted perfectly disgraceful
but I never actually collapsed
oh Lana Turner we love you get up

3 Responses to “What makes the world go round?”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From a Facebook friend:

    in the quoted part about “David Bourdon and Gregory Battcock [1970]”, I was a bit startled by the phrase: “averting each other’s gaze”: I’ve always thought one averted one’s own gaze.

    My response:

    Probably a blend error: each averting his gaze from the other PLUS each avoiding the other’s gaze.

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    I asked on the American Dialect Society mailing list about the history of the formula Love makes the world go ’round (not the general idea, but the specific formula). Today, from ADS-Lers with newspaper archives at their disposal:

    John Baker:

    It’s from an old song, “Oh, ‘Tis Love.” The initial lines are “Oh! ’tis love, ’tis love, ’tis love, That makes the world go round.” Lloyd’s Song Book for 1847 gives the full text on page 59 and says it was published by Wybrow, [link here]

    I don’t see the sheet music online.

    It’s not clear exactly when it was published, but the earliest reference I see is from the New-York Tribune, Dec. 28, 1843, which quotes those lines (except that “’tis love” is given only twice). The lines are also quoted in that form in Alice in Wonderland (1865), giving them lasting currency.

    While the sheet music is not online, it does not seem to have been lost entirely. A bookseller’s catalog, [link here] offers it with some other songs. The catalog suggests that it is from the 1820s (which seems a bit early, considering that there are a number of references to it in the 1840s but none before 1843) and indicates that it is adapted to C’est l’Amour. This is presumably the song quoted in The Water-Babies (1862) as “C’est l’amour, l’amour, l’amour Qui fait la monde à la ronde.” YBQ cites the Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, which apparently dates the song to 1851, but if the song is the source for an English language song that existed by 1843, it must be older.

    And from Peter Reitan:

    New York Daily Herald, December 7, 1837 [link here]. Describes it as an old French song, translated into many languages. French and English lyrics printed.

    Songster published 1826 – with an accompanying illustration: [link here]

  3. [BLOG] Some Friday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky takes a Zippy cartoon and moves on to explore the wider world from […]

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