The title was taken from the caption of this newspaper clipping. Harry "The Hunchback" Riccobene was an old school Philadelphia mobster and one very tough little monkey. He was very short, four foot eleven inches tall and had a hunchback. Despite his physical problems he was extremely charismatic and funny. He was initiated into the mob at the age of sixteen. He had a good working relationship with then mob boss Angelo "The Gentleman Don" Bruno and his underboss Phillip "Chickenman" Testa. They shot Bruno in front of a South Philadelphia restaurant which removed his high ranking protector. He was still in good stead with the mob hierarchy when Testa took control. Unfortunately Testa's reign didn't last long. He was blown up while entering his home. The blast was so strong that it ripped the porch right off of his house. "Little" Nicky Scarfo became mob boss after Testa. Scarfo and Riccobene hated each other and it wasn't long before Scarfo began plotting to kill The Hunchback. On June 8, 1982, Harry Riccobene, then 72 years old, was standing in a in a glass enclosed phone booth talking to his 22 year-old girlfriend. On Scarfo's orders beefy 5-foot-10 Wayne Grande jogged up to the booth and shot Riccobene five times. Riccobene, tough as a bull, charged out of the booth, wrested the gun out of his assassin's hand before he collapsed on the sidewalk. Grande fled. When the police got there they asked Harry how he managed to commandeer the gun. Harry's response: "He was done with it. It was empty." There was another attempt on his life that year. Gunmen found him sitting in his car, waiting for his girlfriend to come out of her house. They emptied their pistols into Harry's car. None of the shots hit their intended target. The cops arrived and asked him why his car was full of bullet holes. He said he didn't know. "Probably neighborhood vandals" was his response. In the year 2000 he died in prison at age of 89.
I will be okay not watching European football on every bar television in Philadelphia for a while.
I hope that they don't fill the time slot with poker tournaments because that is the damn dumbest shit imaginable. Poker isn't a sport. While I am at it either is NASCAR, the favorite of peckerwood suburbia. Watching golf on TV is a close third.
When my friend Scot and I were kids, we couldn't make any noise while going through the living room of his family home if Scot's father was watching golf. The guy was scary. He was a first generation emigre from Scotland with a thick head of white hair. He wore glasses and a permanent scowl, the quintessential dour Presbyterian with a hair trigger temper for extra points. The old man was glued to his Barcolounger all day Sunday watching golf. The Scotsman found the American announcers annoying (he found most things annoying, particularly me) so he would sit all day Sunday watching golf with the sound turned off. Can you imagine? The horror...
This is an awesome 8 bit version of Das Lied Der Deutschen.
DESIRE AND LOSS was the opening salvo of THE HERETICAL SOCIETY. THE HERETICAL SOCIETY was an anonymous group critique of the culture industry in Philadelphia. It was the conscience of an art system that had none. THE HERETICAL SOCIETY used humor as a cudgel. The group was founded in 1997 and disbanded in 2001.
In January of 1998, THE HERETICAL SOCIETY sent out 300 elegant announcements to the art cognoscenti asking them to attend DESIRE AND LOSS, A CRITIQUE IN EXHIBITION FORM CONCERNING THE STATE OF CONTEMPORARY ART IN PHILADELPHIA. The address was 1911 Walnut Street on Rittenhouse Square. The Theosophical Society and the Philosophical Society are located on this block so the possibility that THE HERETICAL SOCIETY was also there seemed reasonable. The only problem was that there was no building at that address, no exhibition and no HERETICAL SOCIETY. It was simply a rubble-strewn lot bordered on the eastern and western sides by tall buildings. At the open ends of the lot there was a chain link fence with a locked gate, rendering the lot inaccessible. As people arrived to see the exhibition that wasn't there we videotaped them from a surveillance van with blackened windows. We watched their emotions bounce from confusion to anger. The video was then posted on THE HERETICAL SOCIETY website. For a three year period we were loved and hated. The Philadelphia Weekly said in their awards issue that we were the Worst Art Activism Group in Philadelphia. We said we agreed with them but we were also the Best Art Activism Group in Philadelphia since we were in fact THE ONLY ART ACTIVISM GROUP IN PHILADELPHIA!
Since that time there have been several development proposals submitted for the lot but one after the other failed. It was as if we salted the earth and doomed its development with ancient Druidic spells. Eventually someone cleared the rubble from the lot and planted grass. I love what they did with the place.
It was the first of many provocations executed by THE HERETICAL SOCIETY.
Although the image looks similar to past work, it is a significant departure. The most radical difference is physical. It is actually a painting, not an image appropriated from the Internet and manipulated in Photoshop to resemble a painting. It is the first painting that I have done in at least twenty years. For the past few weeks I have been thinking about the notebooks I assembled during the 80's and 90's. The pages of the notebooks are filled with newspaper clippings. Most of the images are of political figures and events. Any images without any political content were saved on the strength of their weirdness. I had no idea where the notebooks were stored so it took several hours to locate them. It took several hours to locate the binders since they were all in different locations. I love the divine mendacity of Photoshop. It was not the limitations of Photoshop that led me away from it; the physicality of painting and its seductive beauty called me. In painting it was the same as it had been with my sculpture in the past. I have always preferred an Arte Povera approach to material over more costly solutions. Proletarian materials always seemed more appropriate to use given my working-class background and my avoidance of creating decorations for the homes of an oligarchy that repulsed me with their hoarding and their greed. Even if the accursed share would inevitably would end up with the ruling class, I preferred not to contribute to the problem. A painting is much cheaper to produce than work manufactured by photographic process. The printing, mounting and laminating of the Photoshop images were cost prohibitive to bring to fruition. It has been so long since I painted that the old has become new again, a novelty has emerged from the past rather than from futuristic technological advances. Despite the seemingly paradoxical nature of this situation I haven't been this excited about making art in years. I chose the title of this painting, CULTURAL DEVOLUTION, as a nod to the failure and terror of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China. The Cultural Revolution began with the publication of the "little red book" by Mao Tse Tung in 1966. It became an icon of radical Maoist thought and it was waved at rallies and during clashes with the "Capitalist roaders". The book called for China's return to orthodox Communism (in fact a form of Stalinism with all its brutality and purges rather than the economic system of Karl Marx) and the banishment of Capitalist and bourgeoise elements from the political structure. Ironically the Cultural Revolution was the antithesis of the forces that today make China a major financial superpower. The Cultural Revolution spawned the Red Guards, a brutal paramilitary force that terrorized what they perceived as reactionary citizens and politicians for ten years. The Red Guards were the street enforcers of Maoist dogma and the Gang of Four led by Mao's wife Jiang Qing intellectually strong-armed the political elite. Both groups forged the cult of personality that evolved around Mao. After ten years of brutality and right after Mao's death, the Gang of Four were arrested and tried for a variety of crimes. Jiang Quing and one other associate were sentenced to death. The sentence was later commuted to life in prison. The images in CULTURAL DEVOLUTION are not from the notebooks but instead were torn from the pages of a copy of the 200 QUOTATIONS OF MAO, the official title of "the little red book." I acquired this copy years ago but I haven't the slightest idea where it came from. Oddly enough it was a French translation. The painting was done with cheap poster paint on cardboard. I mounted it on a wooden frame to reduce warpage. I like the look of mundane materials because they avoid the precious quality of most art. DEVOLUTION in the title refers to using cheap low tech materials after years of relying on high technology to create images. The schematic of the new work is consistent with that used in the images in my Abstract Depressionism series and the Scrapheap of History work.
This Google+ post is dedicated to Chris' mentor and close friend Phil Sparagna.
It is a television news feature on the the "Mayor of South Street" himself, Chris Wall. Chris overcomes ore hardships in an afternoon than most of us endure in a lifetime and for that I truly admire him. He is one tough little monkey. You read it here first; Chris is a hell of a lot tougher than I will ever be. That's right, I said it. Before we get carried away with all this praise, let it not be said that Chris isn't capable of being a pain in the ass sometimes but, jokes aside, at the end of the day Chris is loved by the entire South Street community.
The former professional wrestler George "The Animal" Steele is an American hero.
He was born in 1937 as a homunculus. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homunculus It is not known whether this specific homunculus was the result of natural selection or if it was an aberration of experimental science. What is known is that "The Animal" was a foundling rescued by Mr. James Steele of Madison Heights, Michigan while the man trespassed on the well manicured lawn of the Madison Heights Institute of Alchemy and Hermetic Research. http://www.levity.com/alchemy/home.html Rumors of arcane scientific experiments have dogged the Institute since its inception. Steele scanned the campus for potential witnesses. Finding none, he furtively plucked the humanoid from the dewy turf and nonchalantly stuffed it in the pocket of his simple jacket of proletarian design. The rest is history. Unfortunately the history of the proletariat is the history of 99% of the population, an underclass whose only possession of significant worth is the ability to serve the oligarchy also known as the 1%. The proles commonly refer to the oligarchy and the economic system that sustains it by it's nickname, "Tits on a Bull". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proletariat
The Steele family kept the little homunculus in an aquarium for several months for the amusement of their children. After the novelty subsided, "The Animal" was released back into the wild. Contrary to plan the young homunculus followed the scent back to the Steele household and was reunited with the Steele family after just a few days. George was already a tubby little bastard and he had grown quite fond of Mrs. Steele's culinary skills. Once reunited with the Steele family and reacquainted with the marvelous meals prepared by Mrs. Steele, George refused to budge from their kitchen. He grew at an alarming rate and soon no one was strong enough or tough enough to force George to do anything at all. His lifelong love of food caused him financial ruin later in life. He invested heavily in an ill-fated chain of restaurants called STEELE TURNBUCKLES. Turnbuckles, like whiskey, are said to be an acquired taste except that no one but George "The Animal" Steele ate turnbuckles. But even this was only a temporary setback. George chewed contentedly on his inventory for many years to come at wholesale rates. He was raised with the six children of the household as if he was a much larger version of the others.
Once he grew into his oversized feet, head and hands, he developed into an accomplished scholar. While attending Michigan State University he played varsity football. After graduation he was hired as a high school teacher at a nearby prep school. Although George was highly intelligent, his feral nature would sometimes eclipse his intellect and override rational thoughts. After a series of destructive rampages and some close calls with the law, he and school officials decided to part ways amicably. He was dangerous but lovable. Now unemployed, George became desperate to find gainful employment.
He soon discovered his field of expertise within the confines of the squared circle. In 1962 he began his career as a professional wrestler. He quickly rose to the pinnacle of his profession. George enjoyed thirty years of success in the trade.
Despite all his success, George "The Animal" Steele endured a period of sufferation when Annunakian drone saucers incessantly stalked him. Blessed with the abnormal strength and tenacity of a great wrestler, Steele defeated the alien forces. He dispatched the Annunaki and their Illuminati lackeys with his signiture battle cry, "YOU GO. NOW!" As a result of his glorious victory over the forces of darkness, the tattered remnants of the Annunaki resistance retreated into the strip malls and swamps of southern New Jersey. It is known that Annunaki headquarters are marked by their distinct signage advertising such organizations as Rotary International, The Loyal Order of Moose , The Kiwanis, The Lions Club International, The Elks, Weight Watchers and The Committee to Elect Chris Christie for President. Avoiding these organizations should significantly reduce contact with the aliens. Beware, the Annunaki were beaten but not eradicated. Credible reports emerge citing that the Annunaki have increased risk of alcoholism, prescription drug abuse and crippling depression since relocating to South Jersey,
“We're artists too, but we do a good job hiding it, don't we?” - Roberto Bolaño
I don't look like an artist. Recently a woman on the street told me that I look like Picasso, but I don't. I more closely resemble the former WWF wrestler George "The Animal" Steele than Picasso. Steele was the guy that had a green tongue and ate turnbuckles. I would rather look like a professional wrestler than an artist that purportedly put a cigarette out on the face of his girlfriend. Eating turnbuckles is a much more civilized activity than misogyny.
Appearance aside, I am in fact an artist and a writer. A voracious reader since childhood, I keep an extensive library of my favorite books in my home. The collection constantly expands, making it is necessary to cull the herd once or twice a year.
I was trained as a sculptor at Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts) but I am a literary autodidact. I began writing much later in life.
The truth is that most art leaves me cold. Facile painting is a bore and it is not nearly as difficult as it appears to the uninitiated. If slavish reproduction is the goal of art, painting lost the battle with photography during the last century.
I am disinterested in viewing or making an art doomed to be hoarded as decorations in wealthy homes. The entire art system is built on a moribund nineteenth century model that is no longer relevant. The culture industry is entirely the provenance of wealth and is propped up by the dysfunctional and bloated bureaucracies that perpetuate its existence. It is unconscionable to create work for the elite group that holds an accursed share of society's wealth while the vast majority of us barely subsist on a meager wage. Unless the culture industry adopts an inclusionary strategy rather than an exclusionary one, it is doomed to collapse under the weight of it own corruption and greed. The ever dwindling and aging audience for this shell game will insure its disappearance.
Technology is the tool to circumvent the culture industry's rotting corpse. Work can now be produced cheaply and in abundance. It can be distributed in bulk, anonymously or attributed, a Potlatch with few goals beyond making people think. For the first time the other 99% of society will have the ability to own artworks. These new distribution networks exist outside of the taste and jurisdiction of the ruling class. The suburban gated communities where the rich huddle in fear of the rabble from the cities will be an unlikely point of distribution. The exclusion of the lower classes from these communities, except as servants, guarantees their isolation. The unwillingness for the rich to perform even the most basic of tasks results in a reliance on lower class factotums to do the work. This inequitable system also guarantees that the presence of servants will guarantee distribution within these communities should the need arise. The cowardice and racism that fostered these gated communities will result in their exclusion from a rigged game of their own making, victims of their own tactics, losing hand after hand of three card monte and swallowing their own tails like Ouroboros. The ruling class will retreat further into the shadows, unaware that the city has transformed itself into a Pirate Utopia except by rumor. A Temporary Autonomous Zone can rise from the ashes of oppression, one that they can only view from the safety of their armored vehicles through narrow slits. Bell Hooks rightly postulated that oppression is the absence of options. Options will have to be taken, they will not be awarded through grants given by the lumbering bureaucracies left behind after the culture industry falls. In fact, the only remnant of the former system that will exist long after its stated purpose will be these organizations. Their only purpose, solipsistic in nature, will be the survival of the bureaucracies, parasites without the benefit of a host.
Literature, like language, is an extension of reality. As Guy Debord noted, gypsy culture permits lies in any language other than the language of Roma.