Posts Tagged ‘Great Depression’

Armin Landeck Cats Paw 1934

Armin Landeck- Cat’s Paw 1934

I have often featured the work of  artists here who work in black and white, mainly printmakers who work in forms of etching or lithography.  For myself, I like seeing the pattern and rhythm of these compositions without the influence of texture or color.  Probably because I am always looking for a new way of looking at the normal and these give me a clear view of their construction, their bones.  There’s something very pure in that.

Last week I wrote bout Martin Lewis who achieved some success with his wonderful etchings in the 1930’s only to fade into obscurity in the 40’s until the end of his life.  Today I want to feature a contemporary as well as an associate of Lewis, Armin Landeck.  Born in Wisconsin in 1905, Landeck came to New York City in the 20’s to study architecture at Columbia University.  He and his wife traveled to Europe  from 1927 until 1929 where he studied art and  became interested in printmaking, producing his fist body of prints there.  Returning to the states and not being able to find work as an architect, Landeck turned his complete attention to printmaking.

Armin Landeck Pop's Tavern 1934

Armin Landeck- Pop’s Tavern 1934

Like Lewis, he documented the New York of the early 30’s, the tonal nature of his black and white etchings creating a perfect atmosphere for the gritty urban landscapes.  The nature and popularity of their work eventually brought Lewis and Landeck together.  Together they opened The School for Printmakers in 1934 but it quickly became a victim of the Great Depression, closing in 1935.  As I noted, it was during this time that Lewis left NY and work soon fell from favor in the post-war years as Abstract Expressionism and other new trends in art took over the city.  Lewis never regained his footing.

Armin Landeck Chair and Table 1980

Armin Landeck- Chair and Table 1980

Landeck, on the other hand, let his work be influenced by the new atmosphere in the art world, adopting more and more elements of abstraction in it.  Without really altering his own unique perspective, his work continued to expand and evolve, remaining vital until his death in 1984.

I like that while I love this work there is also a lesson to be learned here about allowing new influences into your work, not simply cutting yourself off or settling at a plateau at a certain point in time.  I will ponder that while I continue to look at Mr. Landeck’s beautiful work.

Armin Landeck Fish 1963 Armin Landeck Rooftop and Skylights 1969 Armin Landeck Restaurant


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You come across some goofy stuff when you’re looking up things.  I was looking up some info on screen icon Robert Mitchum, for instance, and ran into some really interesting nuggets that surprised me.  I’ve always been a fan of Mitchum and his distinct brand of movie masculinity, the sort of which is absent in today’s cinema.  He looked like a man, not a movie star.  Moral ambiguity was not present in his screen portrayals.  The good guys he played were good guys and the bad guys bad.  Really bad. 

He was the first Max Cady, the evil ex-con intent on destroying his prosecutor ,  in Cape Fear and brought new meaning to the word menace without the embellishments that Robert DeNiro needed in his portrayal.  Then there was his lead in the beautifully creepy The Night of the Hunter as Reverend Harry Powell, the serial killing minister with the words “love” and “hate” tattooed on his knuckles.  He brought a realism to these parts that took away all implausibility.  I saw both of these films as a kid and they scared the hell out of me because, unlike horror films where you could rationalize away the fear, the evil in these films could be right outside your door with a smile on his face.

Okay, he was a great actor.  But it was some of the other details of his life that caught my eye.  I discovered he was one of the “wild boys of the road” during the Great Depression, young men and women, often no more than 15 or 16 years old, who were cut loose from their families during those dire times, told that they were a burden on the family and that they must go out on their own.  It was estimated that during the peak years of the Depression, when unemployment was over 25%, that there were over 250, 000 of these wild boys riding the railroad boxcars and hitchhiking around the US seeking work and a better life.  It was a life of violence, depravation and hardship, one that is a little known footnote to the history of that time. 

After leaving this life as a hobo (the term is supposedly derived from hoe boy when migrant workers followed the crops by riding the boxcars) Mitchum found himself in the world of movies and never looked back.  He was a star of the highest magnitude for many decades until his death in 1997.  Part of his legacy are a few albums he recorded of  songs from his films,  including the title song from  Thunder Road, which was a country hit for him in the 50’s.  And no, it’s not the same song as the Springsteen song.  But my favorite album of his has to be Calypso- Is Like So…

Mitchum came to know and love the music of the Caribbean  while filming there in the 50’s.  Whether this love required him to make such an album is questionable but the fact remains, he did.  It may not be your taste but credit the guy for not giving a damn what you might  think and just doing it.

Give a listen…

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