Miniature in the Mail #20: "Fitting in and Standing out"

"Fitting in and Standing out," 5" x 5", oil on panel
Yesterday I was in L.A. and sat in a park to eat a sandwich with a clear view of the Hollywood sign. It's never as great as you imagine itto get to the park I passed multitudes of homeless folks and stepped over broken syringes and glass pipesbut it was still, in its way, pretty.

Anyway, I've been watching old neo-realist films lately and got to thinking about how alien they are from the stuff on offer today. With their non-professional actors and focus on the concerns of everyday life, it feels almost heretical to be watching them.

One essay included in the package of Bicycle Thieves talked about the "passionate commitment to the real" and "moral urgency" of these films. They renounced "egoism for collective concern" and "served as a chastening, dis-illusioning rejection" of fantasy and vain distraction. Huh?

In art, too, you have a similar forking: expressionism and abstract expressionism with their romantic longings and self-involvement, and Neue Sachlichkeit, with its crude practical engagement with the world and repudiation of sentimentality. Of course, both tendencies were branded "degenerate" and squashed by the Nazis.

Today's mini lacks the boldness of these colossal debates but gets at the idea, still, of finding balance between the good of the self and the good of the group.

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