A pristine, as yet not colored in copy of Sixteen San Francisco Artists Present Alvin Duskin’s Vote on High-Rise Coloring Book. Robert Pease & Company, 1971.

I happen to kind of like the Transamerica Pyramid so I don’t think I’m such a great candidate for the honors of coloring it in. Too bad, because it would be divine to do. Allow me to allow Tom Wolfe to explain:

Here I’d like to pick up on Ted Carpenter’s insight: It’s hard to say No with a picture. This coloring book is the work of 16 artists, and I like what they’ve done. (I haven’t written home about it, you understand, but I like it.) But I also like it for what it illustrates about the problems of social protest graphics. A high percentage of the entries for the show fell in that category, and almost all of them show the artists’ natural instincts (Me!) working at cross purposes with the cause he is lending his talent to. This coloring book was created in support of Alvin Duskin’s campaign to stop the spread of high-rise building in San Francisco (“ecology”). . . But most of the artists were obviously far more intrigued by the graphic possibilities of skyscrapers and Heartless Tycoons than of low-rise buildings and the common man. I’m sure that all children who actually used this hook learned to love skyscrapers and were filled with the ambition to build one, or at least go see a few. It may be (vide Carpenter) that there is no way an artist can, with a picture, make a negative statement. But I don’t think most of these artists even tried not to like skyscraper forms. They may not like the phenomenon, but they love the forms. Even the placing of Coit Tower on the cover (I think that’s Coit Tower) is a species of glorification of the high-rise structure. In much, perhaps most, social protest art you find the artist (unconsciously) co-opting the cause or move-ment as a piece of content—and going right ahead with whatever suits the development or demonstration of his own talent. The Ego naturally takes precedence over the Cause—a recurring problem in social protest art and one that used to (maybe still does) infuriate authorities in the Soviet Union. (“Goddamn it,” said Stalin, “you bourgeois egotists are supposed to be engineers of the soul!”)

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