How German Artist John Heartfield Pioneered the Use of Art as a Political Weapon, and Took on Hitler

The sto­ry of artist John Heart­field — born Hel­mut Franz Josef Herzfeld in Berlin in 1891 — begins like a Ger­man fairy tale. In 1899, his par­ents, ill and pover­ty-strick­en, aban­doned Hel­mut and his three sib­lings in a moun­tain cab­in at Aigen, near Salzburg. The hun­gry chil­dren were dis­cov­ered four days lat­er by the may­or of the town and his wife, who took them in and fos­tered them. Mean­while, their uncle, a lawyer, appeared with a trust from their wealthy grand­fa­ther’s estate to fund their edu­ca­tions.

Hel­mut trained at sev­er­al art schools in Ger­many, even­tu­al­ly arriv­ing at the School of Arts and Crafts in the bohemi­an Berlin of the 1910s, where he aban­doned his dream of becom­ing a painter and instead invent­ed huge­ly effec­tive anti-war pro­pa­gan­da art dur­ing World War I and the rise of the Nazis. As The Can­vas video above explains, Heart­field­’s work point­ed­ly encap­su­lates the “anti-bour­geois, anti-cap­i­tal­ist, anti-fas­cist” atti­tudes of rad­i­cal Berlin Dadaists. He was “one of Hitler’s most cre­ative crit­ics.”

Herzfeld began his anti-war art cam­paign by angli­ciz­ing his name to counter ris­ing anti-British sen­ti­ment at the start of World War I. As John Heart­field, he col­lab­o­rat­ed with his broth­er, Wei­land, and satir­i­cal artist George Grosz on the left­ist jour­nal New Youth and the rev­o­lu­tion­ary pub­lish­ing house, Malik Ver­lag. After the war, they joined the Ger­man Com­mu­nist par­ty. (Heart­field “received his par­ty book,” writes Sybille Fuchs, “from KPD leader Rosa Lux­em­burg her­self.”); they also became “found­ing mem­bers of the Berlin Dadaists,” devel­op­ing the pho­tomon­tage style Heart­field used through­out his graph­ic design career.

John Heart­field, War and Corpses, the Last Hope of the Rich

“Pho­tomon­tage allowed Heart­field to cre­ate loaded and polit­i­cal­ly con­tentious images,” the Get­ty writes. “To com­pose his works, he chose rec­og­niz­able press pho­tographs of politi­cians or events from the main­stream illus­trat­ed press.… Heart­field­’s strongest work used vari­a­tions of scale and stark jux­ta­po­si­tions to acti­vate his already grue­some pho­to-frag­ments. The result could have a fright­en­ing visu­al impact.” They also had wide­spread influ­ence, becom­ing an almost stan­dard style of rad­i­cal protest art through­out Europe in the ear­ly part of the 20th cen­tu­ry.

On rare occa­sions, Heart­field includ­ed pho­tographs of him­self, as in the self-por­trait below with scis­sors clip­ping the head of the Berlin police com­mis­sion­er; or he used his own pho­tog­ra­phy, as in an unglam­orous shot a young preg­nant woman behind whose head Heart­field places what appears to be the body of a dead young man. The 1930 work protest­ed Weimar’s anti-abor­tion laws with the title “Forced Sup­pli­er of Human Mate­r­i­al Take Courage! The State Needs Unem­ployed Peo­ple and Sol­diers!”

John Heart­field, Self-Por­trait with the Police Com­mis­sion­er Zörgiebel

Heart­field­’s direct attacks on state pow­er were allied with his sup­port for work­er move­ments. “In 1929, fol­low­ing ten years of activ­i­ty in pho­tomon­tage and pub­lish­ing,” The Art Insti­tute of Chica­go writes, “John Heart­field began work­ing for the left-wing peri­od­i­cal Work­er’s Illus­trat­ed Mag­a­zine (Arbeit­er-Illus­tri­erte-Zeitung [AIZ]).” This week­ly pub­li­ca­tion “served from the first as a major organ of oppo­si­tion to the ris­ing Nation­al Social­ist Par­ty.” Heart­field­’s provoca­tive cov­ers mocked Hitler and por­trayed the pow­er of orga­nized labor against the fas­cist threat. He trav­eled to the Sovi­et Union in 1931 under the mag­a­zine’s aus­pices and gave pho­tomon­tage cours­es to the Red Army. His style spread inter­na­tion­al­ly until the life­less pro­pa­gan­da paint­ing of Social­ist Real­ism purged mod­ernist art from the par­ty style.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly for Heart­field, and for Europe, the Ger­man left failed to present a uni­fied front against Nazism as the KPD also became increas­ing­ly dog­mat­ic and Stal­in­ist. The artist and the edi­tors of the AIZ were forced to flee to Prague when Hitler took pow­er in 1933. (Heart­field report­ed­ly escaped a “gang of Nazi thugs,” writes Fuchs, by leap­ing from his bal­cony in Berlin). In Czecho­slo­va­kia, he con­tin­ued his counter-pro­pa­gan­da cam­paign against Hitler through the cov­ers of the AIZ. When the Nazis occu­pied Prague in 1938, he fled again, to Lon­don but nev­er stopped work­ing through the war. He would even­tu­al­ly return to Berlin in the ear­ly 1950s and take up a career as a pro­fes­sor of lit­er­a­ture.

Heart­field is a com­pli­cat­ed fig­ure — an over­looked yet key mem­ber of the Ger­man avant garde who, with his broth­er Wei­land and artists like George Grosz rev­o­lu­tion­ized the media of pho­tog­ra­phy, typog­ra­phy, and print­ing in order to vir­u­lent­ly oppose war, oppres­sion, and Nazism, despite the dan­gers to their liveli­hoods and lives. You can learn more about the artist’s life and work at the Offi­cial John Heart­field Exhi­bi­tion site, which fea­tures many of the col­lages shown in the Can­vas video at the top. (See espe­cial­ly the fea­ture on Heart­field­’s rel­e­vance to our cur­rent moment.) Also, don’t miss this inter­ac­tive online exhi­bi­tion from the Akademie Der Kün­ste in Berlin, which con­trols the artist’s estate and has put a num­ber of rare pho­tos and doc­u­ments online.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Edu­ca­tion for Death: The Mak­ing of the Nazi–Walt Disney’s 1943 Film Shows How Fas­cists Are Made

Stephen Fry on the Pow­er of Words in Nazi Ger­many: How Dehu­man­iz­ing Lan­guage Laid the Foun­da­tion for Geno­cide

Watch a Grip­ping 10-Minute Ani­ma­tion About the Hunt for Nazi War Crim­i­nal Adolf Eich­mann

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

The Photo That Triggered China’s Disastrous Cultural Revolution (1966)

In 1958, Mao Zedong launched the Great Leap For­ward. Eight years lat­er, he announced the begin­ning of the Great Pro­le­tar­i­an Cul­tur­al Rev­o­lu­tion. Between those two events, of course, came the Great Chi­nese Famine, and his­to­ri­ans now view all three as being “great” in the same pejo­ra­tive sense. Though Chair­man Mao may not have under­stood the prob­a­ble con­se­quences of poli­cies like agri­cul­tur­al col­lec­tiviza­tion and ide­o­log­i­cal purifi­ca­tion, he did under­stand the impor­tance of his own image in sell­ing those poli­cies to the Chi­nese peo­ple: hence the famous 1966 pho­to of him swim­ming across the Yangtze Riv­er.

By that point, “the Chi­nese leader who had led a peas­ant army to vic­to­ry in the Chi­nese Civ­il War and estab­lished the com­mu­nist Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Chi­na in 1949 was get­ting old.” So says Cole­man Lown­des in the Vox Dark­room video above. Worse, Mao’s Great Leap For­ward had clear­ly proven calami­tous. The Chair­man “need­ed to find a way to seal his lega­cy as the face of Chi­nese com­mu­nism and a new rev­o­lu­tion to lead.” And so he repeat­ed one of his ear­li­er feats, the swim across the Yangtze he’d tak­en in 1956. Spread far and wide by state media, the shot of Mao in the riv­er tak­en by his per­son­al pho­tog­ra­ph­er illus­trat­ed reports that he’d swum fif­teen kilo­me­ters in a bit over an hour.

This meant “the 72-year-old would have shat­tered world speed records,” a claim all in a day’s work for pro­pa­gan­dists in a dic­ta­tor­ship. But those who saw pho­to­graph would­n’t have for­got­ten what hap­pened the last time he took such a well-pub­li­cized dip in the Yangtze. “Experts feared that Mao was on the verge of kick­ing off anoth­er dis­as­trous peri­od of tur­moil in Chi­na. They were right.” The already-declared Great Pro­le­tar­i­an Cul­tur­al Rev­o­lu­tion, now wide­ly known as the Cul­tur­al Rev­o­lu­tion, saw mil­lions of Chi­nese youth — osten­si­bly rad­i­cal­ized by the image of their beloved leader in the flesh — orga­nize into “the fanat­i­cal Red Guards,” a para­mil­i­tary force bent on extir­pat­ing, by any means nec­es­sary, the “four olds”: old cul­ture, old ide­ol­o­gy, old cus­toms, and old tra­di­tions.

As with most attempts to ush­er in a Year Zero, Mao’s final rev­o­lu­tion wast­ed lit­tle time becom­ing an engine of chaos. Only his death end­ed “a decade of destruc­tion that had ele­vat­ed the leader to god-like lev­els and result­ed in over one mil­lion peo­ple dead.” The Chi­nese Com­mu­nist’s Par­ty has sub­se­quent­ly con­demned the Cul­tur­al Rev­o­lu­tion but not the Chair­man him­self, and indeed his swim remains an object of year­ly com­mem­o­ra­tion. “Had Mao died in 1956, his achieve­ments would have been immor­tal,” once said CCP offi­cial Chen Yun. “Had he died in 1966, he would still have been a great man but flawed. But he died in 1976. Alas, what can one say?” Per­haps that, had the aging Mao drowned in the Yangtze, Chi­nese his­to­ry might have tak­en a hap­pi­er turn.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Col­or­ful Wood Block Prints from the Chi­nese Rev­o­lu­tion of 1911: A Gallery of Artis­tic Pro­pa­gan­da Posters

Won­der­ful­ly Kitschy Pro­pa­gan­da Posters Cham­pi­on the Chi­nese Space Pro­gram (1962–2003)

Long Before Pho­to­shop, the Sovi­ets Mas­tered the Art of Eras­ing Peo­ple from Pho­tographs — and His­to­ry Too

Why the Sovi­ets Doc­tored Their Most Icon­ic World War II Vic­to­ry Pho­to, “Rais­ing a Flag Over the Reich­stag”

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

Oscar-Winner CODA and Deaf Representation in Film — Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #130


The 2022 Oscar win­ner for Best Pic­ture was CODA, a sto­ry about a musi­cal­ly inclined girl with a deaf fam­i­ly. Kam­bri Crews, her­self a CODA and author of a much dark­er sto­ry about this called Burn Down the Ground, joins your Pret­ty Much Pop host Mark Lin­sen­may­er, writer Sarahlyn Bruck, and jack-of-many-intel­lec­tu­al-trades Al Bak­er to talk about how deaf cul­ture inter­acts with film.

Films tend to show deaf­ness as trag­ic, which is not nec­es­sar­i­ly how the deaf com­mu­ni­ty views them­selves. We talk about bal­anc­ing the demands of a sto­ry, how real life works, and the need for pos­i­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tion. Also, deaf bowl­ing!

In addi­tion to CODA, we talk about The Sound of Met­al, A Qui­et Place, Chil­dren of a Less­er God, Mr. Hol­land’s Opus, See No Evil Hear No Evil, Eter­nals, Dri­ve My Car, and more.

Note that this dis­cus­sion was record­ed in May but got bumped with all the shows wrap­ping up at that time and sum­mer movies launch­ing.

If you liked this, see our pre­vi­ous episode on dis­abil­i­ty rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

Hear more Pret­ty Much Pop. Sup­port the show at or by choos­ing a paid sub­scrip­tion through Apple Pod­casts. This pod­cast is part of the Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life pod­cast net­work.

Pret­ty Much Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­cast is the first pod­cast curat­ed by Open Cul­ture. Browse all Pret­ty Much Pop posts.

When Helen Keller Met Charlie Chaplin and Taught Him Sign Language (1919)

Char­lie Chap­lin had many high-pro­file fans in his day, includ­ing some of the lumi­nar­ies of the ear­ly twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. We could per­haps be for­giv­en for assum­ing that the writer and activist Hellen Keller was not among them, giv­en the lim­i­ta­tions her con­di­tion of deaf­ness and blind­ness — or “deaf­blind­ness” — would nat­u­ral­ly place on the enjoy­ment of film, even the silent films in which Chap­lin made his name. But mak­ing that assump­tion would be to mis­un­der­stand the dri­ving force of Keller’s life and career. If the movies were sup­pos­ed­ly unavail­able to her, then she’d make a point of not just watch­ing them, but befriend­ing their biggest star.

Keller met Chap­lin in 1919 at his Hol­ly­wood stu­dio, dur­ing the film­ing of Sun­ny­side. This, as biog­ra­phers have revealed, was not one of the smoothest-going peri­ods in the come­di­an-auteur’s life, but that did­n’t stop him from enjoy­ing his time with Keller, and even learn­ing from her.

In her 1928 auto­bi­og­ra­phy Mid­stream, she would remem­ber that he’d been “shy, almost timid,” and that “his love­ly mod­esty lent a touch of romance to the occa­sion that might oth­er­wise have seemed quite ordi­nary.” The pic­tures that have cir­cu­lat­ed of the meet­ing, seen here, include one of Keller teach­ing Chap­lin the tac­tile sign-lan­guage alpha­bet she used to com­mu­ni­cate.

It was also the means by which, with the assis­tance of com­pan­ion Anne Sul­li­van, she fol­lowed the action of Chap­lin’s films A Dog’s Life and Shoul­der Arms when they were screened for her that evening. When Keller and Chap­lin met again near­ly thir­ty years lat­er, he sought her feed­back on the script for his lat­est pic­ture, Mon­sieur Ver­doux. “There is no lan­guage for the ter­ri­fy­ing pow­er of your mes­sage that sears with sar­casm or rends apart coverts of social hypocrisy,” Keller lat­er wrote to Chap­lin. A polit­i­cal­ly charged black com­e­dy about a bigamist ser­i­al killer bear­ing lit­tle resem­blance indeed to the beloved Lit­tle Tramp, Mon­sieur Ver­doux met with crit­i­cal and com­mer­cial fail­ure upon its release. The film has since been re-eval­u­at­ed as a sub­ver­sive mas­ter­work, but it was per­haps Keller who first tru­ly saw it.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Helen Keller Writes a Let­ter to Nazi Stu­dents Before They Burn Her Book: “His­to­ry Has Taught You Noth­ing If You Think You Can Kill Ideas” (1933)

Mark Twain & Helen Keller’s Spe­cial Friend­ship: He Treat­ed Me Not as a Freak, But as a Per­son Deal­ing with Great Dif­fi­cul­ties

When Albert Ein­stein & Char­lie Chap­lin Met and Became Fast Famous Friends (1930)

When Mahat­ma Gand­hi Met Char­lie Chap­lin (1931)

The Char­lie Chap­lin Archive Opens, Putting Online 30,000 Pho­tos & Doc­u­ments from the Life of the Icon­ic Film Star

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

Damien Hirst’s NFT Experiment Comes to an End: How Many Buyers Chose Digital Tokens Over Physical Artworks?

Damien Hirst is into NFTs. Some will regard this as a reflec­tion on the artist, and oth­ers a reflec­tion on the tech­nol­o­gy. Whether you take those reflec­tions to be pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive reveals some­thing about your own con­cept of how the art world, the busi­ness world, and the dig­i­tal world inter­sect. So will your reac­tion to The Cur­ren­cy, Hirst’s just-com­plet­ed art project and tech­no­log­i­cal exper­i­ment. Launched in July of last year, it pro­duced 10,000 unique non-fun­gi­ble tokens “that were each asso­ci­at­ed with cor­re­spond­ing art­works the British artist made in 2016,” as Art­net’s Car­o­line Gold­stein writes. “The dig­i­tal tokens were sold via a lot­tery sys­tem for $2,000.”

Hirst also laid down an unprece­dent­ed con­di­tion: he announced “that his col­lec­tors would have to make a choice between the phys­i­cal art­work and its dig­i­tal ver­sion, and set a one-year dead­line — ask­ing them, in effect, to vote for which had more last­ing val­ue.” For each buy­er who choos­es the orig­i­nal work, Hirst would assign its NFT to an inac­ces­si­ble address, the clos­est thing to destroy­ing it. And for each buy­er who choos­es the NFT, Hirst would throw the paper ver­sion onto a bon­fire. The final num­bers, as Hirst tweet­ed out at the end of last month, came to “5,149 phys­i­cals and 4,851 NFTs (mean­ing I will have to burn 4,851 cor­re­spond­ing phys­i­cal Ten­ders).” Hirst also retained 1,000 copies for him­self.

“In the begin­ning I had thought I would def­i­nite­ly choose all phys­i­cal,” Hirst explains. “Then I thought half-half and then I felt I had to keep all my 1,000 as NFTs and then all paper again and round and round I’ve gone, head in a spin.” In the end he went whol­ly dig­i­tal, hav­ing decid­ed that “I need to show my 100 per­cent sup­port and con­fi­dence in the NFT world (even though it means I will have to destroy the cor­re­spond­ing 1000 phys­i­cal art­works).” Per­haps this was a vic­to­ry of Hirst’s neophil­ia, but then, those instincts have served him well before: few liv­ing artists have man­aged to draw such pub­lic fas­ci­na­tion, enam­ored or hos­tile, for so many years straight — let alone such for­mi­da­ble sale prices, and not just for his stuffed shark.

“I’ve nev­er real­ly under­stood mon­ey,” Hirst says to Stephen Fry in the video above. (You can watch an extend­ed ver­sion of their con­ver­sa­tion here.) “All these things — art, mon­ey, com­merce — they’re all ethe­re­al,” ulti­mate­ly based on noth­ing more than “belief and trust.” Return­ing to the tech­niques of his ear­ly “spot paint­ings” — those he made him­self before farm­ing the task out to stead­ier-hand­ed assis­tants — and mint­ing the results into unique dig­i­tal objects for sale was per­haps an attempt to get his head around the even less intu­itive con­cept of the NFT. All told, The Cur­ren­cy brought in about $89 mil­lion in rev­enue. More telling will be the price of its tokens on the sec­ondary mar­ket, where they’re chang­ing hands at the moment for around $7,000: a price impos­si­ble prop­er­ly to eval­u­ate for now, and thus not with­out the thrilling ambi­gu­i­ty of cer­tain mod­ern art­works.

via Art­net

Relat­ed con­tent:

What are Non-Fun­gi­ble Tokens (NFTs)? And How Can a Work of Dig­i­tal Art Sell for $69 Mil­lion

Bri­an Eno Shares His Crit­i­cal Take on Art & NFTs: “I Main­ly See Hus­tlers Look­ing for Suck­ers”

The Art Mar­ket Demys­ti­fied in Four Short Doc­u­men­taries

Mark Rothko Is Toast… and More Edi­ble Art from SFMOMA

Damien Hirst Takes Us Through His New Exhi­bi­tion at Tate Mod­ern

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

Three Female Artists Who Helped Create Abstract Expressionism: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning & Helen Frankenthaler.

The three artists that gal­lerists James Payne and Joanne Shurvell have cho­sen to rep­re­sent New York City in their series Great Art Cities Explained are as refresh­ing as they are sur­pris­ing.

Andy Warhol?


Kei­th Har­ing?


Jean-Michel Basquiat?


These gents would be the obvi­ous choice, though only one of the three — Basquiat was a native New York­er.

Instead, Payne and Shurvell aim their spot­light at three NYC-born Abstract Expres­sion­ists.

Three female NYC-born Abstract Expres­sion­ists — Lee Kras­ner, Elaine de Koon­ing, and Helen Franken­thaler.

These wom­en’s con­tri­bu­tions to the move­ment were con­sid­er­able, but Kras­ner and deKoon­ing spent much of their careers over­shad­owed by cel­e­brat­ed hus­bands — fel­low Abstract Expres­sion­ists Jack­son Pol­lock and Willem de Koon­ing.

The New York-based Abstract Expres­sion­ism deposed Paris as the cen­ter of the art world, and was the most macho of move­ments. Kras­ner, Franken­thaler, and Elaine de Koon­ing often heard their work described as “fem­i­nine”, “lyri­cal”, or “del­i­cate”, the impli­ca­tion being that it was some­how less than.

Hans Hof­mann, an Abstract Expres­sion­ist who ran the 8th Street ate­lier where Kras­ner stud­ied after train­ing at Coop­er Union, the Art Stu­dents League, and the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Design, and work­ing for the WPA’s Fed­er­al Art Project, once praised one of her can­vas­es by say­ing, “This is so good you would not believe it was done by a woman.”

Payne and Shurvell detail how the socia­ble Kras­ner, already estab­lished in the NYC art scene, shared impor­tant con­tacts with Pol­lock, with whom she became roman­ti­cal­ly entan­gled short­ly after their work was shown along­side Picasso’s, Matisse’s , and Georges Braque’s in the piv­otal 1942 French and Amer­i­can Paint­ing exhi­bi­tion at the McMillen Gallery.

She was an ener­getic pro­mot­er of his work, and a cheer­leader when he flagged.

They mar­ried and moved to Long Island in an unsuc­cess­ful bid to put the kibosh on his drink­ing and extracur­ric­u­lar affairs. He com­man­deered a barn on the prop­er­ty for his stu­dio, while she made do with a bed­room.

While Pol­lock ranged around large can­vas­es laid on the barn floor, famous­ly splat­ter­ing, Kras­ner pro­duced a Lit­tle Image series on a table, some­times apply­ing paint straight from the tube.

MoMA’s descrip­tion of an unti­tled Lit­tle Image in their col­lec­tion states:

Kras­ner likened these sym­bols to Hebrew let­ters, which she had stud­ied as a child but could no longer read or write. In any case, she said, she was inter­est­ed in cre­at­ing a lan­guage of pri­vate sym­bols that did not com­mu­ni­cate any one spe­cif­ic mean­ing.”

After Pol­lock died in a car crash while dri­ving under the influ­ence — his mis­tress sur­vived — Kras­ner claimed the barn stu­dio for her own prac­tice.

It was a trans­for­ma­tive move. Her work not only grew larg­er, it was informed by the full-body ges­tures that went into its cre­ation.

Ten years lat­er, she got her first solo show in New York, and MoMA gave her a ret­ro­spec­tive in 1984, six months before her death.

In a wild­ly enter­tain­ing 1978 inter­view on Inside New York’s Art World, below, Kras­ner recalls how ear­ly on, her gen­der didn’t fac­tor into how her work was received.

I start in high school, and it’s only women artists, all women. Then I’m at Coop­er Union, woman’s art school, all women artists and even when I’m on WPA lat­er on, there’s no — you know, there’s noth­ing unusu­al about being a woman and being an artist. It’s con­sid­er­ably lat­er that all this begins to hap­pen, specif­i­cal­ly when the seat moves from Paris, which was the cen­ter, and shifts into New York, and I think that peri­od is known as Abstract Expres­sion­ism, where we now have gal­leries, price, mon­ey, atten­tion. Up ’til then it’s a pret­ty qui­et scene. That’s when I’m first aware of being a woman and “a sit­u­a­tion” is there.

Elaine de Koon­ing was an abstract por­traitist, an art crit­ic, a polit­i­cal activist, a teacher, and “the fastest brush in town”, but these accom­plish­ments were all too often viewed as less of an achieve­ment than being Mrs. Willem de Koon­ing, the female half of an Abstract Expres­sion­ist “it cou­ple.”

Great Art Cities Explained sug­gests that the twen­ty year peri­od in which she and Willem were estranged — they rec­on­ciled when she was in her late 50s — was one of per­son­al and artis­tic growth. She took inspi­ra­tion from the bull­fights she wit­nessed on her trav­els, turned a lusty female gaze on male sub­jects, and was com­mis­sioned to paint Pres­i­dent Kennedy’s offi­cial por­trait:

All my sketch­es from life as he talked on the phone, jot­ted down notes, read papers, held con­fer­ences, had to be made very quick­ly, catch­ing fea­tures and ges­tures, half for mem­o­ry, even as I looked, because he nev­er sat still. It was not so much that he seemed rest­less, rather, he sat like an ath­lete or col­lege boy, con­stant­ly shift­ing in his chair. At first this impres­sion of youth­ful­ness was a hur­dle, as was the fact that he nev­er sat still.

Like Kras­ner and Elaine de Koon­ing, Helen Franken­thaler was also part of an Abstract Expres­sion­ist gold­en cou­ple, but for­tune decreed she would not play a dis­tant sec­ond fid­dle to hus­band Robert Moth­er­well .

This sure­ly owes some­thing to her pio­neer­ing devel­op­ment of the “soak-stain” tech­nique, where­in she poured tur­pen­tine-thinned oil paint direct­ly onto unprimed can­vas, laid flat.

Soak-stain pre-dat­ed her mar­riage.

After a vis­it to Frankenthaler’s stu­dio, where they viewed her land­mark Moun­tains and Sea, above, abstract painters Ken­neth Noland and Mor­ris Louis also adopt­ed the tech­nique, as well as her pen­chant for broad, flat expans­es of col­or — what became known as Col­or Field Paint­ing.

Like Pol­lock, Franken­thaler scored a LIFE Mag­a­zine spread, though as Art She Says observes, not all LIFE artist pro­files were cre­at­ed equal:

The dia­logue between these two spreads appears to be a tale of social­ly-deter­mined mas­cu­line ener­gy and fem­i­nine com­po­sure. Though Pollock’s dom­i­nant stance is a key part of his artis­tic prax­is, the issue is not that he is stand­ing while she is sit­ting. Rather, it is that, with Pol­lock, we are allowed to glimpse into the inti­mate sides of his tor­tured and ground­break­ing prac­tice. In stark oppo­si­tion, Parks’ images of Franken­thaler rein­force our need to see women artists as high­ly curat­ed, pol­ished fig­ures who are as com­plete as the mas­ter­pieces that they pro­duce. Even if those works appear high­ly abstract­ed and vis­cer­al, each stroke is per­ceived, at some lev­el, to rep­re­sent a cal­cu­lat­ed, per­fect­ed moment of visu­al enlight­en­ment.

We’re intrigued by Frankenthaler’s 1989 remark to the New York Times:

There are three sub­jects I don’t like dis­cussing: my for­mer mar­riage, women artists, and what I think of my con­tem­po­raries.

For those who’d like to learn more about these three abstract painters, Payne and Shurvell offer the fol­low­ing book rec­om­men­da­tions:

Ninth Street Women: Lee Kras­ner, Elaine de Koon­ing, Grace Har­ti­gan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Franken­thaler: Five Painters and the Move­ment That Changed Mod­ern Art by Mary Gabriel  

Women of Abstract Expres­sion­ism by Irv­ing San­dler 

Abstract Expres­sion­ism by David Anfam 

Three Women Artists: Expand­ing Abstract Expres­sion­ism in the Amer­i­can West by Amy Von Lin­tel, Bon­nie Roos, et al.

Lee Kras­ner: A Biog­ra­phy by Gail Levin 

Fierce Poise: Helen Franken­thaler and 1950s New York by Alexan­der Nemerov

A Gen­er­ous Vision: The Cre­ative Life of Elaine de Koon­ing by Cathy Cur­tis

Elaine de Koon­ing: Por­traits by Bran­don Brame For­tune

Watch a playlist of oth­er Great Art Cities Explained here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

The Female Pio­neers of the Bauhaus Art Move­ment: Dis­cov­er Gertrud Arndt, Mar­i­anne Brandt, Anni Albers & Oth­er For­got­ten Inno­va­tors

The For­got­ten Women of Sur­re­al­ism: A Mag­i­cal, Short Ani­mat­ed Film

How the CIA Secret­ly Fund­ed Abstract Expres­sion­ism Dur­ing the Cold War

A Quick Six Minute Jour­ney Through Mod­ern Art: How You Get from Manet’s 1862 Paint­ing, “The Lun­cheon on the Grass,” to Jack­son Pol­lock 1950s Drip Paint­ings

The Nazi’s Philis­tine Grudge Against Abstract Art and The “Degen­er­ate Art Exhi­bi­tion” of 1937

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

13 Glorious Minutes of The Ramones in Kansas City, Captured on a Super‑8 Camera (1978)

Thir­teen min­utes was an awful long time for The Ramones, since they could play an entire album of songs in a quar­ter of an hour. Thus, when Ramones fan Mark Gilman snuck a Super‑8 sound cam­era into the Grena­da The­ater in Kansas City in July of 1978 to secret­ly film the band, he man­aged to cap­ture an awful lot of The Ramones on film before he was forced to shut it down. The band, as you can see above, was in top form.

I exag­ger­ate a lit­tle.… Ramones albums are longer than this film clip. Their self-titled 1976 debut is over twice the length at 29 min­utes, which is still three or four min­utes shy of the short­est LPs of the time (back when albums only meant vinyl). Into that almost-half-hour, the ulti­mate 70s New York punk band crammed 14 songs, at an aver­age of two min­utes each: no solos, no filler, no extend­ed intros, out­ros, or remix­es.…

That’s exact­ly what we see above: mops of hair and a sweaty, leather-and-den­im-clad wall of pure, dumb rock ’n’ roll, played blis­ter­ing­ly fast with max­i­mum atti­tude. It’s qual­i­ty, audi­ence-lev­el footage of about half a clas­sic Ramones show, which usu­al­ly spanned around 30 min­utes: no ban­ter, chat­ter, tun­ing up, requests, or encores. This is what you came for, and this — full-on assault of bub­blegum melodies, thud­ding chants of “I wan­na” and “I don’t wan­na” played with chain­saw pre­ci­sion — is what you get.

They seemed ful­ly-formed, walk­ing and talk­ing right of the womb when they hit stages out­side the New York clubs that nur­tured them. But four years ear­li­er, their first audi­ences did­n’t see a dis­ci­plined rock ’n’ roll machine; they saw a sham­bling mess. Ryan Bray describes the impres­sions of long­time tour man­ag­er Monte Mel­nick on first see­ing them in 1974:

Musi­cal­ly, songs like “Now I Wan­na Sniff Some Glue” were already in the band’s reper­toire, but the songs were plagued by errat­ic tem­pos, blown notes, and oth­er sort­ed son­ic mis­cues. Between-song bick­er­ing also marred the band’s ear­li­est shows. For a sec­ond, Dee Dee and Tom­my seem like they’re almost ready to come to blows when they can’t agree on what song to play next.

“I did­n’t like them at all,” Mel­nick remem­bers. “It was pret­ty raw. They were stop­ping and start­ing and fight­ing. They could bare­ly play.” They did­n’t meet a dev­il at a cross­roads in the years between these ear­ly gigs and their 1978 live album It’s Alive (record­ed at Lon­don’s Rain­bow The­atre on the last day of the year as the band fin­ished a 1977 UK tour). They played a hell of a lot of gigs, and pushed them­selves hard for a rock star­dom they’d nev­er real­ly achieve until their found­ing mem­bers died.

All­mu­sic’s Mark Dem­ing describes the band in 1978 as “relent­less.… a big-block hot rod thrown in to fifth gear” and calls their live album of the time “one of the best and most effec­tive live albums in the rock canon.” Watch them play “I Wan­na Be Well” at the Rain­bow The­atre, just above, and catch a rare bit of stage ban­ter from Joey regard­ing the pre­vi­ous night’s chick­en vin­daloo.

via Boing Boing

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Dave Grohl & Greg Kurstin Cov­er The Ramones “Blitzkrieg Bop” to Cel­e­brate Han­nukah: Hey! Oy! Let’s Goy!

Talk­ing Heads Per­form The Ramones’ “I Wan­na Be Your Boyfriend” Live in 1977 (and How the Bands Got Their Start Togeth­er)

CBGB’s Hey­day: Watch The Ramones, The Dead Boys, Bad Brains, Talk­ing Heads & Blondie Per­form Live (1974–1982)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

A Brief History of Dumplings: An Animated Introduction

Dumplings are so deli­cious and so ven­er­a­ble, it’s under­stand­able why more than one coun­try would want to claim author­ship.

As cul­tur­al food his­to­ri­an Miran­da Brown dis­cov­ers in her TED-Ed ani­ma­tion, dumplings are among the arti­facts found in ancient tombs in west­ern Chi­na, rock hard, but still rec­og­niz­able.

Schol­ar Shu Xi sang their prais­es over 1,700 years ago in a poem detail­ing their ingre­di­ents and prepa­ra­tion. He also indi­cat­ed that the dish was not native to Chi­na.

Lamb stuffed dumplings fla­vored with gar­lic, yogurt, and herbs were an Ottoman Empire treat, cir­ca 1300 CE.

The 13th-cen­tu­ry Mon­gol inva­sions of Korea result­ed in mass casu­al­ties , but the sil­ver lin­ing is, they gave the world man­doo.

The Japan­ese Army’s bru­tal occu­pa­tion of Chi­na dur­ing World War II gave them a taste for dumplings that led to the cre­ation of gyoza.

East­ern Euro­pean pel­menipiero­gi and vareni­ki may seem like vari­a­tions on a theme to the unini­ti­at­ed, but don’t expect a Ukrain­ian or Russ­ian to view it that way.

Is the his­to­ry of dumplings real­ly just a series of bloody con­flicts, punc­tu­at­ed by peri­ods of rel­a­tive har­mo­ny where­in every­one argues over the best dumplings in NYC?

Brown takes some mild pot­shots at cuisines whose dumplings are clos­er to dough balls than “plump pock­ets of per­fec­tion”, but she also knows her audi­ence and wise­ly steers clear of any posi­tions that might lead to play­ground fights.

Relax, kids, how­ev­er your grand­ma makes dumplings, she’s doing it right.

It’s hard to imag­ine sushi mas­ter Naomichi Yasu­da dial­ing his opin­ions down to pre­serve the sta­tus quo.

A purist — and favorite of Antho­ny Bour­dain — Chef Yasu­da is unwa­ver­ing in his con­vic­tions that there is one right way, and many wrong ways to eat and pre­pare sushi.

He’s far from prig­gish, instruct­ing cus­tomer Joseph George, for VICE Asia MUNCHIES in the prop­er han­dling of a sim­ple piece of sushi after it’s been light­ly dipped, fish side down, in soy sauce:

Don’t shake it. Don’t shake it! Shak­ing is just to be fin­ished at the men’s room.

Oth­er take­aways for sushi bar din­ers:

  • Use fin­gers rather than chop­sticks when eat­ing maki rolls.
  • Eat­ing pick­led gin­ger with sushi is “very much bad man­ners”
  • Roll sushi on its side before pick­ing it up with chop­sticks to facil­i­tate dip­ping
  • The tem­per­a­ture inter­play between rice and fish is so del­i­cate that your expe­ri­ence of it will dif­fer depend­ing on whether a wait­er brings it to you at a table or the chef hands it to you across the counter as soon as it’s assem­bled.

Explore TED-Ed’s Brief His­to­ry of Dumplings les­son here.

For a deep­er dumpling dive, read the Oxford Symposium’s Wrapped and Stuffed Foods: Pro­ceed­ings on the Sym­po­sium: Foods and Cook­ery, 2012, avail­able as a free Google Book.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Japan­ese Restau­rants Show You How to Make Tra­di­tion­al Dish­es in Med­i­ta­tive Videos: Soba, Tem­pu­ra, Udon & More

How to Make Sushi: Free Video Lessons from a Mas­ter Sushi Chef

How the Aston­ish­ing Sushi Scene in Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Was Ani­mat­ed: A Time-Lapse of the Month-Long Shoot

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the author of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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