The Japan Society of New York is showing a wonderful collection of popular woodblock prints from the mid-19th century. The subjects range from myth, to history, to pretty women in daily life, and it is easy to see why the artist, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, is considered a major influence on contemporary Japanese manga, or comics. A great show!
Ignatz fashions himself a boomerang brick and shows it to Officer Pup. Ever mindful of Krazy’s welfare, Pup “get’s rid of it” by hurling it off a magic mesa. From that point, or even before, we know what will happen, and here it is in the image above.
Somehow, without explanation or comprehensible mechanism, the scene has shifted. This primal drama of love, longing, and anxiety is being played out…on a stage! See the boards, the curtains drawn aside, the lamp? And Ignatz, like the character in Bunuel’s Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie who suddenly realizes that the dinner party he is attending is in front of an audience, catches the situation and tries to apprise Krazy of it. “Pssst…let’s go!“ Pup will suffer the dramatic consequences of the prologue, and they don’t want to be around for it.
As they make their escape, the theater seems to have disappeared, or is it always there? May I paraphrase Marlowe’s Mephistopholes in his response to Faust, who asks him, “Tell me, where is this place that men call hell?”
The Stage hath no limits, nor is circumscrib’d one self place; for where we are is our stage, and where this stage is, there must we ever be.
click image for full strip
From it’s completion in 1913 until about 1930, the Woolworth Building, funded by all those drugstore nickels and dimes across the country, was the world’s tallest. A “cathedral of commerce” it was promptly dubbed, and a monument it truly is. The entire facade is clad in white terracotta, intricately sculpted in a dizzying array of ornamental shapes. The lobby is a stunning melange of gothic and byzantine sytles, with gorgeous gold and azure blue mosaics. Every little piece of architectural furninture is created with brilliant gothic detail.
The structure was built quickly, and paid for in cash. Click on the drawing here, from The Building of Manhattan by Donald MacKay, to get a detailed view of the innovative foundations that hold it all up. (I heartily recommend this book for any urban infrastructure fanatics.) The topmost surface of the bedrock in Manhattan is not on an even plane; it dips and rises in folds. To some extent, this subsurface geology is responsible for the clustering of high-rises in midtown and downtown, with a relative slough in between. The bedrock on the Woolworth site was said to be deep, too deep to excavate the entire pit down that far, so the caisson tubes were sunk instead. Well, deep is a relative term, and what was deep in 1913 might not pose a problem today. Thus, I daily watch over the huge “bathtub” of the World Trade Center site, excavated down to bedrock. (See this post for a video a bedrock blast.)
Here are two views of the tower from the conference room where I work. Nowadays, here in the United States of Fear, you can no longer visit the lobby of this great building. Since 9/11, a sign posted on the sidewalk warns away tourists, and guards won’t let you in the door. Yep, I’m sure those Islamic terrorists are busy scouring the AIA Guide to NYC for landmarks to target.
The golden ball on a pedestal is on the top of the AT&T Building, the lobby of which is shown below. The building was erected in stages: in 1927 the Broadway portion, faced in white, severe and enormous Doric columns was finished. The entry is a vast space with the feel of a temple, and includes a memorial to the dead of WWI. The contrast with the Woolworth Building, just across the street, is extreme
And while we’re at it, here’s a Krazy Kat strip illustrating the need for gun control.
Crazy about Krazy! The more I read, the more I love it. He plays endlessly with ideas, the meaning of words, illusion and reality. There is satire of politics, intellectuals, and wildly inventive disruptions of the panel scheme – nothing is out of bounds. Krazy bleaches himself white, Ignatz must dye himself black. Ignatz sees a portrait of Krazy – zip! a brick hurtles towards it. Yet Krazy loves the little angel, Ignatz. Is he male, female? Ignatz is married, with children! What planet do they inhabit!?
And that wonderfully simple answer to all questions comic – a brick to the head to crease Krazy’s bean!
Jason Lutes’ first of his trilogy, Berlin – City of Stones is a brilliant effort. If anything deserves the moniker of graphic novel, it is this. He writes with the sensitivity and scope of a novelist, and tells the story panel by panel with a wonderful ligne claire style – think the “clear-line” style of Tin Tin. We follow several plots lines in the turbulent Berlin of the late 1920s: some poor, Red workers struggling to survive, and sometimes dying in street fights; a bohemian but bourgeois couple who are trying to figure out what’s happening…what will happen; and a hard-bitten policeman who did his time in the trenches and informs his partner, a young ‘un attracted to the Nazis, that “those Jews” fought and died like the rest of the soldiers, dying for Germany.
Lutes must have done a ton of pictorial research on Berlin at that time, because his images ring true, from street scenes, to the clothing in crowds, to parties, to interior decoration. The terrifying chaos of the period is palapable: poverty and urban decay are widespread; the moderate governing forces are weak, vacillating, and uncommitted to anything but their own perpetuation; and the extreme parties don’t shrink from, indeed, they embrace street violence. At the time, the National Socialists were just one of a few contending for influence...who knew? Better to throw in your lot with them in order to stop the Bolsheviks, eh? After all, they can be controlled, they’re just thugs…
A powerful aspect of the multiple plot threads is Lutes’ skill at evoking the state of mind of the various characters in different social strata. How did they perceive the chaos? What did they fear, want, hope for? Why on earth would a working class stiff be attracted to the street gangs of the National Socialists?
But it’s not all politics. The love story between the older, nearly burned-out journalist, and the younger art student, struggling to find her way outside the sphere of her military father in “small town” Cologne is handled with tenderness and subtlety.
You can click on the images to enlarge them…