Art Review, Don Eddy, Red Mercedes

3 Jan

As always, you may look the painting up in google.  I don’t post them because I don’t have the rights and also, I think you can find a better view than I could make in a tiny window in this blog.

It’s funny what things become nostalgic.  Like in Red Mercedes, at the time Don Eddy was only drawing what was literally there.  If I take the nostalgia factor, we see a man taking popcorn out of a box, apparently on his way out of a movie, crossing in front of a red mercedes parked in the parking lot.  Between him and it are a post and a chain.   I’m impressed at how Don Eddy takes a picture of the everyday and makes it interesting.    For one thing, the man’s head is cut off, so all we really see is stuff.  His clothes, the way his shirt is tucked in, the oranges and yellows of what he is wearing not only makes the area drenched in sun, but also emphasizes his fashion.  He’s dressed this way to show off what he has.  Also the almost blinding brightness in this picture, the slice of pure blue sky in the background.  The shadows only directly under the car, but there they are so deep that the car almost floats wheel-less in the air.

I could certainly make a full-on essay about the emphasis on things, and the possible dehumanization here, for instance the chain between the man and the car,  the prominent Benz logo, and how the environment seems one giant concrete box, grey and formless, almost designed to make the things in it seem more colorful by comparison.

However, I think that Eddy was not going for that, or in any case ONLY that.  Look how lovingly the Mercedes is painted, almost like a sculpture.  How the eye seems drawn to the grill jutting out into the painting, how closely the chains might look like the ropes used to keep people away from precious works of art.  How the man and the post seem to block our view of the car more than be something to be seen in their own right.  Might the man be out there eating popcorn to see these cars?  Might a vehicle such as this, in 1970 anyway, be seen as a work of capital A Art?

Of course it might, and car enthusiasts would clap at such an insight, but it’s also interesting that a mass produced object could bring about such awe, as general wisdom tends to go, part of what makes art special is its one-of-a kindness.

Curiously, this painting means something different  now than it did in 1970.  Everything dates so quickly, particularly with mass production.  A factory will make things until people don’t buy them and then they don’t make them anymore, which is why in our time we have such distinctive looks for relatively short periods of time.  1979?  Everybody had a shag rug, until they realized that everybody had one and then they didn’t anymore.  1959?  Greasers were around, but that look got copied too much, so the world moved on.  The strange world where people acquire mass produced things to express their originality is so twilight-zone gaga when you think about it, but it’s so much in our environment we don’t really think about it at all.

And that’s where we hit nostalgia.  Nostalgia is the packaging of an era by showcasing its stuff. So we see California 1970, concrete, big cars, the kind of popcorn box they don’t make anymore, clothes people don’t wear anymore, and while I don’t think anyone in 1970 would say that life was simple, people now would say that life in 1970 was totally simpler, and music was better, and things were funner.

Partially, for those who lived then, they were young, so a lot of the world is seen through young eyes, which are simpler, and young ears, which are less discerning of music, and as time goes by these things acquire meaning through familiarity.  Also, nostalgia is a sort of lie, because we’re looking at the past right now, knowing what matters and what doesn’t matter and how everything turns out.  At that time, the people didn’t have a cheat like that, so things looked like they always do in the present, complicated and uncertain.

So this painting subverts itself in the end, instead of us looking at brand new, but familiar, things with the distance that a painting can afford us, we’re now looking at dated, out-of-fashion things, mulling about why a series of items from a specific time frame has this effect.  Fascinating and wonderful.

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