Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Death hides her pale face
In the folds of the skirt,
And bitterly whispers
Into the sallow hem
Her post communist epigrams


(Folk Tales for the Littlest)

This particular book reminds me of the more terrifying side of childhood. Kids are usually afraid of monsters and criminals and clowns. I was scared of poor design. The gloomy existentialist animated films of eastern Europe were beautiful to me, but our imitations of Disney (and western design in general) haunted me in the night.
This certainly wasn't an educated phobia. This was long before i learned anything about drawing. I was one of the littlest, too little to be snooty. These things were just really ugly and they frightened me.


Homecrest Avenue, near Avenue Z.
At least in form, liberallization has set in. A generation after the more talented artists in the Soviet Union had begun to leave the confines of illustration (especially children's books) for still circumscribed but real opportunities for making fine art, a ghetto they had been herded into by bureaucratic edict and the opportunity to feed their families, this hapless piece of generic and bucolic late-soviet kitsch first saw the light of day. The logic of the masquerade. There is sheen, but no authentic polish, no burnishing mark of the artists. This illustration coincides with the moment of exhaustion, of the Ideology as well as the art.
Though one does not want to particullarize this.
These impulses are latent. The communism of cruellty, universal and economically viable.

The Russian skaz, the folk tale. Take this as reversion. The Formalists and Shklovsky,
The perversion of finding this in Brighton Beach... We had come to New York to escape the nightmares of East Europe.


(Contents: "The Tar-Sided Lamb", "The Snow Maiden", "The Fox With a Rolling Pin")