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Cleaning Out the Fridge

A. D. Coleman, 2010. Photograph copyright by Willie Chu.

I accumulate a stockpile of ideas, leads, snippets as part of my working method for generating this blog. From that mulch heap I choose the ones that seem worth pursuing, a selection process involving arcane and idiosyncratic techniques. Inevitably, a lot of promising material never moves to the front burner. Some of it, however, seems worth passing along before it succumbs to the information equivalent of freezer burn. This is my way of cleaning out the fridge.

Before I start, though, let me note that I’ve decided to take social media more seriously as a component of my project. So I’ve revamped my heretofore stagnant Facebook Fan Page, where I encourage you to “like” me. (I’ll convert my FB Profile page into a space for family and close friends.) I’ve updated my pages at LinkedIn. And I’ve created a Twitter account (@ADColeman1), and have sent out my first tweets. May God have mercy on my soul.

The CCP Wants You

Center for Creative Photography logo

Desperately Seeking Someone Dept.: My, my. Here we are in the middle of a severe economic depression, and the Center for Creative Photography can’t fill the post of Chief Curator, even with a $94,981 annual salary plus full benefits package. (For the job description and other details, click on the preceding link and search for Job #49311.) Apparently, the call they put out in spring of 2011 didn’t bring in enough of a candidate pool to yield a worthy successor to Douglas Nickel and, after him, Britt Salvesen. Clearly they’ve opted not to give the job to Rebecca “Becky” Senf, appointed Acting Senior Curator of the CCP when Salvesen resigned in 2010; had they planned to promote from within, they’d have done so by now. So the search continues.

Carla Stoffle portrait

Dean Carla J. Stoffle

I don’t keep my ear to the ground re the availability high-paying curatorial jobs, so of course it’s entirely possible — even at a time of economic crisis, with the arts sector particularly hard-hit — that there’s a glut of $100K curator slots in photography, making it a buyer’s market. That’s one possible explanation for the fact that this position remains unfulfilled after the first round of the search, which began on April 26, 2011.

Another, of course, would be that, recession/depression be damned, no reputable curator wants to work in that snakepit, whose writhing vipers — among them the Univ. of Arizona-Tucson’s President Emeritus John P. Schaefer, Dean of Libraries Carla Stoffle, and Ansel Adams Trust managing trustee William “Wild Bill” Turnage — I’ve described in detail in a series of posts here at Photocritic International. All of them remain in place as of this writing, so, as I said when passing along the notice of the first round of this search, caveat emptor.

William Turnage says "Off with her head!"

William Turnage, managing trustee, Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

Let me add that I would not and will not castigate anyone for accepting this position. The state of the economy aside, the CCP is a unique repository and a major institution in photography. Running it, whether as Director or Chief Curator, is a dirty and dangerous job, subject to the well-documented machinations of a cluster of verifiable weasels. But someone’s got to do it.

I’ll suspend judgment on anyone who steps in to fill that role, and I recommend that attitude to others. Someone needs to clean up the mess created by Schaefer, Stoffle, and Turnage, and restore the honor and reputation of the CCP’s internal hierarchy. CCP Director Katharine Martinez has decided to stick it out despite the abounding treachery; I admire her gumption. My one advisory: If you decide to sign on, don’t just take Schaefer’s word, and Stoffle’s, that your duties won’t include kissing Turnage’s ass. Make them put it writing. Forewarned is forearmed.

Fascist Art (in Depth)

Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung (GDK)A report by Julia Michalska in the December 6, 2011 issue of The Art Newspaper, “Research sheds new light on Nazi-era art ,” led me to a wondrously vast and strange internet archive. Here’s how Michalska describes it:

“Images documenting the Nazi-sponsored Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung (GDK) have been made available to the public for the first time in an online catalogue created by Munich’s Central Institute for Art History. More than 100,000 photographs, categorised by artist, genre, theme and, remarkably, buyer, have shed new light on the annual art exhibition, giving an insight into officially approved art of the Third Reich and the collecting taste of its citizens.”

Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung (GDK) albums

Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung (GDK) albums

In a nutshell, you’ll find installation shots of Nazi-organized and Nazi-approved art exhibitions in Germany from 1937-44; individual documentation photographs of most of the original works; schematics of exhibition layouts with proposed traffic patterns; even the purchase prices for which the works sold. You can browse online versions of the leather-bound volumes in which these records were kept scrupulously, or search the database by artist’s name, medium, and other terms.

At present the site’s text appears exclusively in German; perhaps they have multilingual plans for it. But you can navigate it without much difficulty. I have two years of college German under my belt, mostly forgotten, so I managed. You can too, with the help of Google Translate if necessary.

Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung (GDK) installation

Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung (GDK) installation

The documentation is mostly photographic, but photography as a visual-arts medium didn’t make it into any of these exhibitions. There were separate shows of Nazi-approved photography during that period, of course. Yet apparently, despite the international prominence of the German pictorialist and modernist movements and their distinguished photographers, the Nazis (unlike their Soviet counterparts) didn’t consider photography an art.

It’s a fascinating glimpse of what the totalitarian mind considers acceptable in art, unnerving when you realize that — the occasional Nazi uniform aside — it’s exactly the kind of art the vast majority of our fellow citizens consider worthy of the name and would hang on their walls or want to see in a museum. “Scratch a good American,” as my late friend Richard Kirstel used to say, “and you’ll find a good German.”

This year our local celebrity groundhog, Staten Island Chuck, has predicted an early spring— as distinct from his more famous relative, Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil, who called for six more weeks of winter. My daily walk around the neighborhood tells me to put my money on Chuck.

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1 comment to Cleaning Out the Fridge

  • Dear Allan

    As usual lots of interesting stuff. I particularly identified with the remark pointing out the similarities of the US with Germany at that time.

    On a day to day level, I, a 62 year old citizen, get 18 year old sales clerks asking me for ID for a beer or the occasional cigar.

    I was in the supermarket the other day and the cashier asked the chap in front of me for his ID. He dutifully handed it over. He was about my age. I said to him, “You went along with that easily.” His response, “It’s the law.”

    Actually the law says you can’t sell alcohol to folk under 21. It does not say you have to ID senior citizens. I pointed this out. He looked at me as if I were mad.

    Occasionally I put up a fight and say outright that this unthinking obedience has in the past led to the murder of millions in a society of law-abiding, obedient and otherwise decent, people. Again, blank looks.

    In the past we have had the war on poverty, the war on drugs etc. When, I
    wonder, will they announce the war on commonsense?

    Any day now I suspect.

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