I have no idea how I stumbled on archive.org's collection of home-improvement catalogs, but it occupied most of the evening. It’s incredible, if you like that sort of thing. Daughter doesn’t - I was showing her some rooms in the brochures, and she thought they were quite ugly. Glad to know she meant the linoleum patterns, not the 60s furniture, or we would have had a disinheriting ceremony right there in the dentist’s office.
Over lunch I was thinking “this would make a good website,” but of course it already is a website: archive.org. No, it would make a good addition to the 30s and 40s websites . . . but hold on. Hold on. Let’s take a look at a representative linoleum square from 1939, and yes I know you’re tired of people saying that today.
I thought: what if this was art?
Why couldn't it be?
Why isn't it?
I'm not saying it's good, but what if there actually was an artist who worked in this style, and created dozens of work?
What if these 50 examples I’ve just snipped and resized from the Armstrong catalogue could be presented as the work of an obscure American painter? So I banged out a fake bio.
There’s no chance this site will be up until 2020, and you’ll have forgotten it by then, so here’s the story so far.
John Carson Brassfort was an American painter whose work spanned the period between realism and abstraction. Virtually unknown today, his latter-period paintings were the most reproduced works of his day, and had a place in millions of American homes and businesses. He has been called “the most trodden-upon artist” of the 20th century. The originals of his work disappeared decades ago, and even reproductions are difficult to find.
This site attempts to provide a complete account of Brassfort’s major works from his most productive period, 1937 - 1939, when he created more than 50 pieces in his “Repetitions” series.
At the start of his career, he worked in the late Ashcan School, then joined the offshoot Ashtray School before breaking with its founder over the spelling of “Ocher”; he then joined the Ashheap School, mostly known for impressionistic studies of historical events, concentrating on the losers of these conflicts.
His sudden move to modernism came when he met Piet Mondrian in a New York bar frequented by policemen and Dutch painters, the Copper Still.
“As I watched Mondrian draw on a napkin, I marveled at the exquisite perfection of his line. The way the horizontal and vertical elements intersected with unstudied perfection. Then, to my astonishment, he drew a line that had a 45 degree angle - something that never occurred in his work - and immediately pierced it with another from the other direction, so this contrary symbol seemed to destroy the ordered precision of the grid he had made.
“But what happened next truly changed my life. Mondrian looked up at me, and said ‘Your move, young man.’ I was stunned.
||"He had shown me the way in which his art could be changed for the better, and was trusting me to carry on. I took the piece of paper and put it in my pocket, which seemed to surprise him - perhaps he had made this challenge to others, but they lacked the courage to take him up on his offer.”
Tic-de-tac, Piet Mondrian 1922
Brassfort’s first few Mondrian-inspired works were, by his own admission, somewhat derivative.
Over time, though, his art would evolve into -
Well, you'll have to wait for the site for the rest of the story.
Mister . . Akten. There had to be a hidden message there, and no one got it.
When Lance appears, criminals not only confess - a minor detail, best gotten out of the way the moment his keen intellect pierces their deception - but they want to know. How? How did you know?
One of the staples of early radio sci-fi was the Noble Alien. You could tell they were high-minded and ethical because they did not use contractions, and spoke like high-school thespians. In this episode, a crazy colonial adminstrator deals with the locals and their "barbaric" sacrifice rituals, but really, who is the savage here? (Hint: they are)
You can almost see the groupies sighing with awe as Charlie Manson picked out the first few arpeggios.
No, the Visa approval hasn't been sent from the crack fast Brazillian civil service. Next week: additional agita.
See you Monday. Thanks for dropping by, and bearing with it all.