Paving over the sixth

Not that one, which is already mostly paved over. Except for the lovely jardin envisioned by Madame de’Medici way back when.

Just as she played her role in helping construct a civilization, are we playing ours in paving over an extinction? That it would be the sixth creates a misnomer, as if in reference to a series and not to an end. We aren’t able to recognize ends all that well, though we are frightened of them and the concept has meaning that we connect to negative consequences. And still the paving continues – not building cities but destroying them to build roads. I know:

That doesn’t matter to Maryland governor Larry Hogan, who proudly touts himself as a good Republican (and is being talked up as a primary challenger to Trump next year), even though he can be as squirrelly as the rest of them. His plan to widen this road would cost between $9 billion and $11 billion and, according to one presentation, would improve commute times by an estimated three minutes. That’s $9 billion plus in funds and umpteen years of construction. For three minutes.

‘This road’ is D.C.’s notorious Beltway, but several major highways into poorly planned cities can be substituted for it. Expanding highways with so-called private toll lanes (hint: not private – only expensive and paid for by the public) that do not ease congestion but do cost several fortunes, as nonsensical as it is, represents one of the only forms of acceptable infrastructure expenditure.

Roads. Look at those dollar amounts again and tell me there’s anything more gaudy than that. And they work, though of course, not as intended.

Public, private or purple, more roads do not lessen traffic. More lanes and wider roads invite more traffic. And more traffic happily accepts!

But there is a thing that lessens traffic, and it even throws a [tiny] wrench into sprawling suburbs, that is, of course, until those plucky little suburbs fight back.

Try driving around North Atlanta between noon and midnight (or, if you like, between the hours of midnight and noon) and you’ll see why they were having none of this train stuff. It. Just. Doesn’t… Actually, I don’t know what it doesn’t do but the lovely residents of the area should hope that Tesla fella is full of it because his auto-autos, were they to ever exist, would be sitting right there with them, not moving, on those same roads.

So the bizarre-o metaphors roll on. The apply named Toll Roads. Pay both ways! 3 hours, round-trip. Personal freedom and individual liberty to sit, and stew, burn and rage. It cannot have a logical end, because there is no logic to it. But surely an end shall it have. Closed Road Now Open. Merge. Expected Arrival Time: Mm Hmm.

The Irascibles

It’s akin to a cliché folding in on itself and forming a kind of ironic paper airplane that gets tossed into the future.

the-irascibles

It landed on my table in the form of the Stevens and Swan biography of Willem de Kooning and it’s funny to set aside your naiveté or nostalgia – or invite them both in for a drink – and think about our mid-century art heroes. To set the scene, the Metropolitan Museum of Art decided to include no judges sympathetic to abstract art on the panel of its juried show “American Art Today, 1950”:

The snub was a godsend to the downtown artists: the museum performed to perfection the part of stuffy, blinkered fool, evoking the famous failure of the bourgeois Salon in Paris to include many of the great modernists. The artists around the Club could now, in turn, play the part of the slighted impressionists. They wrote an “open letter,” intended to be widely disseminated, to the president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Dated May 20, 1950, and reported two days later on the front page of the New York Times under the headline, “18 Painters Boycott Metropolitan: Charge ‘Hostility to Advanced Art.” the letter began, “The undersigned painters reject the monster national exhibition to be held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art next December, and will not submit work to its jury.” The artists patronized the Metropolitan – the presumable guardian of eternal values – by offering its leaders a history lesson: “We draw to the attention of those gentlemen the historical fact that, for roughly a hundred years, only advanced art has made any consequential contribution to civilization.” The group also picketed the museum, attracting further attention.

Emphasis mine. Part of that further attention was that Life magazine, “following the actions of the avant-garde with bemused interest since its feature on Pollock,” decided to publish a piece on the opening of the controversial exhibition – including the above picture of the excluded protesters.

Published under the headlines of “The Irascibles,” a name taken from an earlier editorial in the Herald Tribune criticizing the protesters, the photo by Nina Leen portrayed fifteen of the original eighteen painters who signed the letter to the Met. Highly theatrical, the artists were “arranged like a still life, staring into space, their expression serious, skeptical, demanding. Not one smiled.”

Pollock is at the center, very carefully positioned, with de Kooning on the upper left. The only woman is Hedda Sterne. A key to all the people in the photo is here. “Together, the artists seemed to embody their headline, “The Irascibles,” a name that was itself a dramatic piece of public relations that brought to mind every cliché about the struggle between the avant-garde and bourgeois society.”

And yet, can you imagine any subject getting a group of artists on the front pages of national publications today? Wait, don’t answer that.