A Whole Lot’a Shakin’: Reconsidering Midcentury
Cholla Needles Press
The middle of last century, the 1950’s, bore close resemblance to where we find ourselves now. At a time when cool irony has become displaced by cynicism, situational truths have become a tolerance for lies, and historical construction outright denial, we need more from our art. Even midcentury angst is back, as is the turning back toward the arts as something more than social critique. Examining the conceptual underpinnings of our current dislocation isn’t enough. We must find ways to to give it voice and find meaning and hope beyond it. We need to be pointed again beyond.
This set of 17 paintings and accompanying written reflections reconsiders the modernist effort.
(Johnson) presents his memory of the time and its art in the only way that makes sense – – fragmented and disjointed, both celebrating and loathing it. His midcentury is both out-of-control nuclear ambition lighting the night sky and the experimentation of Jackson Pollock. This is the way we experience the world, in pieces and flashes. You are holding a truly admirable collage and collection.
Poet Laureate at Sequoia and
King’s Canyon National Parks
A Midcentury Riff
A lot went on in those post-war times.
Those cats just didn’t have the time
others took for granted so a lot,
just a whole lot went on.
Just a lot going
on during those
Nobody played ironic or blasé;
nobody felt they had time not to care.
Backyard Bomblast Blues
the bomb shelter business is booming underground
sanctuaries concrete blast
door threats of erratic missile
lobbing intransigent clerics
hell-bent on getting nuclear weaponry
impending total collapse
of the global financial system
capable of resisting a barrage of automatic weapon fire
can withstand a 10-kiloton
improvised nuclear device.
so you’re safe
guaranteed to leave a crater in your bank account
Moving Past Ego
I found Pollock
on to something so big it just absorbed him
expression, abstraction, color
material transcending material
Sitting with gesture
standing next to ocean
and once again called beyond.
The Bad News of the Good Times
Fall moon above town
ignoring ten thousand lights
vast darkness beyond.
Standing on just one foot means
there is never enough time.
In the News 1955
Disney bulldozed a 160 acre orange grove to open Disneyland
Ray Kroc purchased a small menu fast food restaurant in San Bernardino, California
James Dean drove his new white Porsche 550 Spyder head-on
into a 1950 Ford Tutor driven by Donald Turnupseed on Highway 41 near Cholame, California
14 year old Emmett Till kidnapped, beaten, tortured and lynched
by a white mob in Money, Mississippi.
Wind shifts toward south
barometers dropping, I
turn off T.V. as
storm clouds darken horizon;
a good night to stay inside.
we drive east over the lonely Mojave
headlights burn pale tunnels into emptiness
somewhere past Barstow on I-40
we change drivers
stepped out of car into indigo
Desert night heat close
red moon rising over ridge
Shadowed volcanic hill haze
silver lost light luminance.