Bob Schwartz

Category: Art


iTunes Graphic Novel

Masterful comic artist R. Sikoryak has created one of the most unique works ever. Ever. ITUNES TERMS AND CONDITIONS: The Graphic Novel.

Sikoryak is known for his ability to faithfully reproduce the style and characters of many famous comic book and graphic novel creators. What he has now done is take the entire long, dense and absurdly legalistic mandatory iTunes Terms and Conditions and made it the text of a graphic novel. One new page a day is being released on Tumblr.

Each page is done in a different style (from Chester Gould (Dick Tracy) to Herge (Tintin) to Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey) to Charles Schulz (Peanuts) to Dan DeCarlo (Archie) to Todd McFarlane (Spawn) to Scott Adams (Dilbert) and on and on). The featured “hero” of each page is, naturally, Steve Jobs.

iTunes Graphic Novel - Heck and Romita

You can read an interview with Sikoryak in The New Yorker.

It is an astonishingly simple idea to the point of genius. All it takes to turn the ridiculous (such as the iTunes T&C) into the sublime is artistic vision and talent. Thanks to Sikoryak for gifting us with his.

Mad Men: This Is the Way the World Ends

The Real Thing

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

T.S. Eliot
The Hollow Men

Readers and viewers know whether they like or are satisfied with the way a novel or movie ends. But they may not recognize the burden of creating those endings, not just to short forms, but to sagas and epics, where possibilities are exponential, and where those dutifully following the tale and trail may be looking for those elusive treasures: resolution and meaning.

It is not surprising that the final episode of Mad Men was written and directed by the show’s creator Matthew Weiner. How could it have been otherwise?

Mad Men is a work of literature disguised as a television show. There are a number of hallmarks of literature and art, including the engagement of those who see and hear. But maybe even above that is coherence, holding together as a work, from one corner of the canvas to another, from the first to last note of the symphony.

Mad Men doesn’t fit it into any particular artistic category: impressionistic or expressionistic, realistic or fantastic, Freudian or Jungian. If anything, it delves into magical realism, where ghosts are real and real people are ghosts and anything can happen and make sense.

Or not make sense. The story of Mad Men in essence begins with the death of the original Don Draper in Korea. Over time, others die, couples come together and apart, people have sex, families are raised, business are started and bought and sold, jobs are lost and found, money is made and spent, some are miserable while others are happy, some grow and all just grow older.

All of it makes just enough sense to be a story. None of it makes enough sense to defy reality, gravity, or time. What more could you ask for? Meaning? What more were you expecting? It’s just the real thing.


Salvador Dali - The Persistence of Memory

Driving down a country road, a man sees a farmer. The farmer is holding up a pig so that the pig can eat apples from a tree. The man stops and says to the farmer, “You know, that’s not very efficient. If you put the pig down, shook the tree and let the apples fall to the ground, it would save a lot of time.” The farmer says, “You may be right, but what’s time to a pig?”

The result of our thinginess is our blindness to all reality that fails to identify itself as a thing, as a matter of fact. This is obvious in our understanding of time, which, being thingless and insubstantial, appears to us as if it had no reality.

Indeed, we know what to do with space but do not know what to do about time, except to make it subservient to space. Most of us seem to labor for the sake of things of space. As a result we suffer from a deeply rooted dread of time and stand aghast when compelled to look into its face. Time to us is sarcasm, a slick treacherous monster with a jaw like a furnace incinerating every moment of our lives. Shrinking, therefore, from facing time, we escape for shelter to things of space. The intentions we are unable to carry out we deposit in space; possessions become the symbols of our repressions, jubilees of frustrations. But things of space are not fireproof; they only add fuel to the flames. Is the joy of possession an antidote to the terror of time which grows to be a dread of inevitable death? Things, when magnified, are forgeries of happiness, they are a threat to our very lives; we are more harassed than supported by the Frankensteins of spatial things.

It is impossible for man to shirk the problem of time. The more we think the more we realize: we cannot conquer time through space. We can only master time in time.

Abraham Joshua Heschel
The Sabbath

At the time the mountains were climbed and the rivers were crossed, you were present. Time is not separate from you, and as you are present, time does not go away.

As time is not marked by coming and going, the moment you climbed the mountains is the time being right now. If time keeps coming and going, you are the time being right now. This is the meaning of the time being.

Does this time being not swallow up the moment when you climbed the mountains and the moment when you resided in the jeweled palace and vermilion tower? Does it not spit them out?

Zen Master Dogen
The Time-Being
The Essential Dogen

Art: Chris Roberts-Antieau


There’s a lot of art in the world. A lot in New Orleans. A lot on Royal Street in New Orleans. But nothing in the world, in New Orleans, or on Royal Street, like the art of Chris Roberts-Antieau.


Having just discovered her work, I would say much more. But instead I’ll just say that she works in fabric. That she does what artists should do: delight you, inspire you, deliver the combination of joy and thoughtfulness that can be mistaken for mere craft or whimsy but is nothing less than art.


Only a few examples are shown here, but just visit the website of the Antieau Gallery. Visit the gallery on Royal Street in New Orleans (as if you need an excuse to visit New Orleans). See her work at various museums or at the homes of folks such as Oprah Winfrey or Bill Clinton, if you happen to be visiting them. You will be delighted you did.


Random Beads

Random Beads - Bob Schwartz

Every picture supposedly tells a story. Actually, every picture is a story.

Beading is a glorious craft. In the hands of a talented artist, the results can be beautiful and enlightening.

But like all art, it can be a messy business. In the case of beads, this can mean tiny items underfoot, and with bits of wire, pretty painful ones. Particularly where barefoot is the custom.

A quick post-beading cleanup led to quite a collection of such detritus, like shells on a beach. Tossed in a white bowl, they looked like something. And so the photo above.

If you are a fan of randomness—and we should all be—you will see in this totally spontaneous display any number of things. Gregory Bateson said, “I am going to build a church someday. It will have a holy of holies and a holy of holy of holies, and in that ultimate box will be a random number table.” Exactly.

Here is a beader in her natural habitat, the largest bead store in New York. It is filled with beads mostly from China which, as in most things, is able to provide whatever we want or need in seemingly infinite supply. So it is all together: geopolitics, economics, ancient tradition, minerals, pottery, glass, color, art, craft, and, of course, beauty. Note, however, that in this emporium, the beauty of the beader outshines all of the beads.

Bead Store

Return to the Four Freedoms

Four Freedoms

As we approach the holiday season, we might think about the big metaphorical American family gathering around the big metaphorical American table. One thing you notice, as with a lot of families and tables, is that there’s going to be a few disagreements, some pretty heated.

But at some point, in keeping with the spirit of the season, the family will be looking for common ground, those shared ideals that unite us. Unfortunately, we seem to be losing sight of those ideals because, to be honest, it isn’t always clear what they are.

In early 1941, while war was already raging in Europe, but almost a year before Pearl Harbor, FDR gave one of the most famous speeches of the era and of American history. It was the 1941 State of the Union address, but it will always be known as the Four Freedoms speech. To bolster American support for our almost inevitable involvement in the war, he enunciated the Four Freedoms we would be fighting for: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, Freedom from Fear:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants — everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor — anywhere in the world.

Art turned out to play an important role in keeping these ideals front and center, especially as the prospect of American sacrifice became a reality. The most famous example may be a series of paintings by Norman Rockwell (above), who was then and maybe still the greatest American illustrator. The Library of Congress explains:

Taken from Franklin Roosevelt’s 1941 speech to Congress, the “Four Freedoms” –Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear–became a rallying point for the United States during WWII. Artist Norman Rockwell created four vignettes to illustrate the concepts. Rockwell intended to donate the paintings to the War Department, but after receiving no response, the painter offered them to the Saturday Evening Post, where they were first published on February 20, 1943. Popular reaction was overwhelming, and more than 25,000 readers requested full-color reproductions suitable for framing.

Some will say that these Four Freedoms are today “controversial” because we don’t seem to be able as a nation—as an American family—to agree on the strategies to maintain and attain those ideals. Those disagreements are undeniable, as are the related invective, disparagement, and even hatefulness that goes with them. But those disagreements can’t make us give up. On the contrary, they should send us back to the words of FDR, getting past the ideologies and labels, and really look within and at the family of Americans.

Do you really believe that these ideals are exclusive to you, and not shared by others of good will? Are your principles and affiliations so very important that you would sacrifice those ideals to be “right?” Or can we come to the table, dig deeper, and not leave until we have given up a little of our own self-importance and focused instead on getting a little closer to the country and world envisioned in the shared Four Freedoms? And maybe just a little closer to each other?

Record Store Day 2014

Record Store Day 2014
That’s not a record store:


This is a record store:

Amoeba Records

Record Store Day
Saturday, April 19, 2014

“I think it’s high time the mentors, big brothers, big sisters, parents, Guardians, and neighborhood ne’er do wells, start taking younger people That look up to them To a real record store and show them what an important part of life music really is. I trust no one who hasn’t time for music. What a shame to Leave a child, or worse, a generation orphaned from one of life’s great beauties. And to the record stores, artists, labels, dj’s, and journalists; we’re all in this together. Show respect for the tangible music that you’ve dedicated your careers and lives to, and help It from becoming nothing more than disposable digital data.”
– Jack White

Oxford English Dictionary Names Selfie Word of the Year

Arbus Mapplethorpe Selfie
The Oxford English Dictionary has named “selfie” the Word of the Year. At least one journalist covering this issue spoke in praise of the selfie, offering a few rationales:

Selfies are in the centuries-old tradition of artists making self-portraits.

This is an age of memoirs and selfies are part of this phenomenon.

So for all those who do take cover in these explanations, be aware:

Above are self-portraits by two modern masters of photography, Diane Arbus and Robert Mapplethorpe. Photography is blessedly democratic, easy and fun. But when looking at any of the millions of selfies, consider whether artistry applies.

As for modern memoirism, chronicling every moment, whether overshared or not, we might be looking at the range of those chronicles, from deeply examined reviews to diaries to nothing more than barely annotated calendars. Here are some questions:

Would you rather have your good, great and remarkable moments go unnoted and unrecorded?

Or would you rather have your ordinary, unremarkable moments go public and get attention?

Or is the point of modern sharing to elevate ordinary life to a special place where it has always belonged?


Days of Holocaust Remembrance: Different Trains

Holocaust Train Car
Monday was Yom HaShoah, the Day of Remembrance for victims and heroes of the Holocaust. In the United States, the entire week marks the National Days of Remembrance.

The phenomenon of the Holocaust has demanded the work of historians and others to record and chronicle. That mission moves ahead, and every year—more than seventy years later—adds new dimensions to the story. It has also demanded the work of activists, whose mission is transform the basest experiences into a brighter and more humane future.

But the artists are different kinds of workers and alchemists. They know that when we read or hear the details, or see the photos, we are apt put up a psychic wall, because we can take only so much. Enough: we are human, as were the victims and the masters of madness. Artists approach us, and the Holocaust, differently. Even if our psyches want to put up a wall, to give us some rest from the onslaught, we don’t know where to build it. So we are tricked into watching, listening, and learning in a different way with different senses.

Steve Reich is one of the masters of modern music. He composed a suite, Different Trains, inspired by the Holocaust. Each of the three movements represents the experience before, during and after the War.

Here is a YouTube video of a performance of the second movement, Different Trains – Europe-During the War. The composition features the recorded voices of Holocaust survivors.

If you are a Spotify user, you can listen to Different Trains.

At the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., there is an actual train car used to transport Jews (above). This extraordinary museum contains artifacts and educational displays, the cumulative effect of which can be overwhelming. You might feel your spirit broken, tears in your eyes, and then, miraculously, your spirit begins to be healed, a little.

That’s why we have the historians, the activists and the artists. They are the doctors dedicated to healing the soul of a badly wounded world and trying to make sure it doesn’t get so sick, ever again.

The Postal Service Loves Modern Art

Postal Service - Modern Art
We are becoming inconstant cultural historians. History, cultural and otherwise, requires more than knowing what happened when, or even knowing its significance. Real history is about an overwhelming sense of appreciation for just how major something was, both in its time and as a precursor of today.

This trajectory is unwelcome but not surprising. We have never lived in a time when the trip from new to newer to newest is as breathtakingly fast, which means that the past exists as a distant dot, visited on a need to know, need to show basis.

One hundred years ago, an art exhibition was held in New York that changed America. The International Exhibition of Modern Art, better known as the Armory Show, took place in February and March of 1913. It is the most important art exhibition in American history and an inspirational watershed for culture of all types.

Armory Show

The exhibition was organized to showcase the state of the art—the contemporary work that was being done by European and American artists, work that was well ahead of what most American audiences were familiar with and had yet seen. It would be years before a major American museum took up the mission: the Museum of Modern Art in New York did not open until 1929.

This is from the New York Sun newspaper in 1912, announcing the upcoming event:

Show of Advance Art Promises a Sensation

Futurists and Cubists Will Be Featured Here in February

Whole Room of Cezannes

Founder of Post Impressionism Is Hardly Known in New York

Cezanne is virtually unknown in America except by his name, and there will be great curiosity…

Matisse has been seen and shuddered at in the little New York gallery of Photo-Seresston…

Every art museum and art program should be giving at least a nod to this, if not a full-blown celebration. Some are, some aren’t.

Here comes the U.S. Postal Service to the cultural rescue. Ironic, because the Postal Service itself is in dire need of rescuing. But when it comes to celebrating modern art, and this particular moment, there it is.

On March 7, the Postal Service will issue a set of stamps called Modern Art in America 1913-1931. They explain, “In celebration of the triumph of modern art in America, the U.S. Postal Service commemorates 12 important modern artists and their works, 100 years after the groundbreaking Armory Show opened in New York in 1913.”  On the full sheet of stamps is a quote from Marcel Duchamp, one of the more than 300 artists who exhibited at the Armory Show: “American is the country of the art of the future.”

The set includes stunning reproductions of works by Stuart Davis (House and Street),  Charles Demuth (I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold), Aaron Douglas (The Prodigal Son), Arthur Dove (Fog Horns), Marcel Duchamp (Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2), Marsden Hartley (Painting, Number 5), John Marin (Sunset, Maine Coast), Gerald Murphy (Razor), Georgia O’Keeffe (Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico / Out Back of Marie’s II), Man Ray (Noire et Blanche), Charles Sheeler (American Landscape), Joseph Stella (Brooklyn Bridge).

Through its stamps, the Postal Service has served for decades as a chronicler of culture, well-known and less-known. This year alone we have muscle cars, Johnny Cash, Rosa Parks, Grand Central Terminal and Lydia Mendoza (one of the greatest stars of Tejano music). And, of course, the Armory Show.


Marchel Duchamp - Nude Descending A Staircase

Celebrate the Armory Show this month. Revel in art, its past and its present. Visit galleries. Buy some art. Visit an art museum. Join an art museum. And then go to the post office (yes, there are still post offices). Buy a couple of sheets of the Modern Art in America stamps ($5.20). Keep one, and maybe frame it and hang it on a wall. Use the other stamps on letters or even bill payments. It’s an easy way to make the world more beautiful and interesting, and to show that art still and always matters.