Vintage Pulp Nov 9 2015
Aren’t you a little old for this sort of thing?

Bernard Wolfe is known for several reasons, not least of them for being Leon Trotsky’s personal secretary in Mexico City, but he was also a novelist of wide-ranging interests. Come On Out, Daddy was his Hollywood book, about a New York author who moves out west to cash in on an easy screenwriting job. While making a couple thousand dollars a week for doing very little he runs into the usual assortment of jaded Tinseltown characters—from big stars to little wannabes—and trysts with an assortment of disposable beauties before of course meeting the woman of his dreams. It’s episodic due to it being partly cobbled together from short stories published in Playboy and Cavalier, but reasonably well regarded as a cultural satire. Life described it as “garrulously and surrealistically told by a huge cast of people in varying stages of corruption.” 1963 on the hardback, and 1964 on the above, with cool cover art by James Meese.


Reader Pulp Mar 16 2013
French painter Jacques Puiseux returns with another batch of pulp influenced contemporary art.

Last year we shared some unusual pulp influenced crate paintings from a French artist named Jacques Puiseux, and this morning we received more scans of his Marxist themed pieces via email. Last time we shared Puiseux’s work, we mentioned that we avoid posting modern art, and that’s true, but we didn’t want to leave you with the impression that we find it inferior to vintage art (if that were true we wouldn't bother to have a "Modern Pulp" category on the website). What we find inferior is modern promotional art—e.g., book covers, movie posters and the like. And obviously we find modern movies inferior, but then who doesn’t? However modern fine art is something we very much like, and more to the point, we like the relationship it has to the viewer. We aren’t art majors or anything, so bear with us while we try to explain ourselves.

When it comes to classic art all the hard work is already done for you by the time you see it. You can go see Picasso’s blue portraits or Monet’s lilies or any run-of-the-mill Diego Rivera and know before you see it that you’re about to experience great art. But with contemporary art the viewer plays a role in deciding its ultimate worth. Certainly gallerists and museum curators have plenty of say, but the public is extremely important, and its influence can cut both ways. Sometimes, the public is wrong, as in the case of artists that never sold anything while alive, but whose flames were kept burning by critics and experts, eventually leading to a reevaluation of the work. Conversely, sometimes art is critically dismissed, but sustained public support brings about a reevaluation. That’s almost a description of the entire field of pulp art.
So, while we glorify vintage art on this website, and in the case of promotional art we don’t think there’s any possible doubt that 99% of today’s efforts are just lame (maybe they should try letting actual artists do the work), we do like contemporary art, which means that when Jacques Puiseux sends us something that exhibits such a strong pulp influence we feel like we might as well throw it out there for you to have a gander at. It’s different from looking at a famous artist’s work—in this case, you actually have a say. And that’s the beauty of contemporary art. So at top is a piece featuring Leon Trotsky called “Embrouille à Tijuana,” just below is our favorite, “Fidèle-au-poste,” and under that are four more interesting efforts, including the last—“Tsar bomba.” For some context on that one, go here. Enjoy.


Intl. Notebook Oct 27 2010
Censored mural making grand reappearance in downtown Los Angeles.

In 1932, during the heyday of pulp and in the midst of the Great Depression, a Mexican artist named José David Alfaro Siquieros was commissioned to paint an 18 by 80 foot mural on a wall above Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles. Olvera Street at that time was a contrived copy of an idyllic Mexican village market, designed mainly to bring tourists to that part of town and help clean up L.A.’s image, which due to gangsterism and police corruption was as bad as those of places like Chicago and St. Louis. The mural’s theme was to be “Tropical America,” and when completed the piece would be partially visible from the street and would fully face City Hall.

But Siquieros was aware that all around Southern California police were breaking up union meetings, beating ethnic minorities and deporting Mexicans—even those who were American citizens—by the boxcar-load. So instead of the idealized tropical mural his benefactors expected him tounveil, he used spray paint and bold colors to create a shocking protest piece. The central figure of the mural was a Mexican or Indian man bound to a strange, double cross with an American eagle perched above, talons extended.

The piece embarrassed city fathers. It was immediately condemned and whitewashed, but not forgotten. Almost from the day of its censoring, Mexican-American activists fought to have the mural restored and now they’re getting their wish. Because of the covering of white paint, the original piece survived where it would otherwise have weathered into nothingness. Now the white paint is being cleaned off, and what remains of the original mural is set to go on display in 2012, with a digital image projected on top to fill out the colors and missing segments.

Siquieros died in 1974 after a long career and many political adventures. For a time, he was forced to go into hiding because of his links to a group that tried to assassinate Leon Trotsky. These activities cost him commissions, yet the quality and influence of the pieces he completed was undeniable, and he continued to grow in stature. Today his art resides in places as far flung as Mexico City, Teheran, and Washington, D.C.’s Smithsonian Institute. To that list, almost eighty years late, he’ll finally be adding L.A.’s Olvera Street. 


History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
March 21
1963—Alcatraz Closes
The federal penitentiary located on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay closes. The island had been home to a lighthouse, a military fortification, and a military prison over the years. In 1972, it would become a national recreation area open to tourists, and it would receive national landmark designations in 1976 and 1986.
March 20
1916—Einstein Publishes General Relativity
German-born theoretical physicist Albert Einstein publishes his general theory of relativity. Among the effects of the theory are phenomena such as the curvature of space-time, the bending of rays of light in gravitational fields, faster than light universe expansion, and the warping of space time around a rotating body.
March 19
1931—Nevada Approves Gambling
In the U.S., the state of Nevada passes a resolution allowing for legalized gambling. Unregulated gambling had been commonplace in the early Nevada mining towns, but was outlawed in 1909 as part of a nationwide anti-gaming crusade. The leading proponents of re-legalization expected that gambling would be a short term fix until the state's economic base widened to include less cyclical industries. However, gaming proved over time to be one of the least cyclical industries ever conceived.
1941—Tuskegee Airmen Take Flight
During World War II, the 99th Pursuit Squadron, aka the Tuskegee Airmen, is activated. The group is the first all-black unit of the Army Air Corp, and serves with distinction in Africa, Italy, Germany and other areas. In March 2007 the surviving airmen and the widows of those who had died received Congressional Gold Medals for their service.
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