Sunday, September 26, 2010

Visual Week in Review: The Jets punt, Pinhole "Moonrise," Lost Laughton; and More...

Before the NFL games get started today and I shut down the blogging department for a few hours, let's look back fondly at some of the good, bad, and ugly visual news of the past week.

And why not start with football, since the New York Jets dominated not only the back but also the front pages of New York City's tabloids...again.

This time it was because the team's star wide-receiver Braylon Edwards was charged with a DUI after being stopped in his car in Manhattan early Tuesday morning and blowing a .16, which is twice the legal blood-alcohol limit in our fair state. The tabloids did what they had to do, which was to deliver the message the Jets put out. The organization was red-faced, with large head coach Rex Ryan fuming (now there's a mental image). But Edwards will be dressed for today's big game against division rival Miami Dolphins. His punishment? He won't start. Some commentators attacked the decision; the Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum said the team couldn't do anything to Edwards since he is innocent until proven guilty, which conveniently won't happen until after the season ends. Sports has officially become as cynical as New York state politics, which also made the front page  of the Daily News. What a nice juxtaposition.

Like New York state politics, the art world is also filled with believe-it-or-not stories. Have you heard the one, for instance, about the Polaroid employee who used a mural-sized print of Ansel Adams's famous image "Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico" as a dartboard?

"Moonrise," with moon but without darts
This amazing tidbit comes from the most recent edition of "The Photograph Collector" newsletter, which has a fulsome story about the auction of the vaunted Polaroid Collection of photography last June in New York. Editor and writer Stephen Perloff rightly calls the auction, which brought in $12,467,638, an "unmitigated triumph" for Sotheby's, and for the creditors of the old Polaroid Corporation, a one-time enlightened example of American capitalism that became as obsolete as New York's moderate Republicans.
    One of the lots offered was the "Moonrise" mural, which had hung in the Polaroid HQ cafeteria. Back in the 1960s, long before most people dreamed that there might one day be an art market for photography, a Polaroid employee used the mural as a dartboard ("presumably," writes Perloff, "aiming at the moon as the bull's eye." Alas for said employee, the moon was never hit, though numerous holes were made in the darkened sky around it.)
    Later Polaroid had conservator Robert Lyons repair the damage. At the auction, an anonymous bidder picked it up for $518,500, just above the mural's estimate of $300,000-$500,000.

The New York Times's amazing "Lens" blog this week highlighted portaits made at the newspaper's own photo studio back in the 1920s and 1930s, when, "if you wanted your picture in The New York Times—and almost anyone promoting a Broadway play or a charitable ball or an Antarctic expedition wanted to be pictured in The New York Times—you wouldn’t wait for us to come to you. You’d come to us."
     Among the images featured was this 1932 photo of actor Charles Laughton, who was opening in the play "The Fatal Alibi" at the Booth Theater.

Charles Laughton as Hercule Poirot. Or Gomez Addams?
 The play was based on Agatha Christie's novel "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd," and Laughton was portraying her famous detective Hercule Poirot. (Without changing clothes he could have stepped into the role of Gomez in the current production of "The Addams Family," and, you know what, that would have been brilliant, except that the play is soooo bad.) Sadly, the blog doesn't identify the photographer. But it did include a photo of the paper's old studio. What a place!

The gone but not forgotten Times photo studio

Back to New York state politics. You know how bad it has gotten here? I realized last night, when I saw Governor David Patterson on Saturday Night Live, that we're gonna miss him when he's gone. That's how bad it's gotten. Patterson killed when he joined Seth Meyers and Fred Armisen, who does that  so-evil-why-am-I-laughing? impression of our blind governor. Here's a still that is just funny all by itself:

Meyers, Armisen, and Patterson. Or is that Meyers, Patterson and Armisen?
Patterson scolded SNL for its wicked lampooning of his disability: "You have poked so much fun of me for being blind that I forgot I was black!"
    Now we're going to have to choose between charisma-challenged Democrat Andrew Cuomo and darkhorse-crackpot Tea Party/Republican Carl Paladino. As Armisen/Patterson put it on SNL: "It's like dinner at Olive Garden. No matter what you get, it's gonna be a greasy mess."

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