Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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May 03, 2007
I get it I get it I get it

One of the most fascinating pieces in a v. cool current gallery show of the complete prints & multiples of Blinky Palermo is called "Flipper" (1970 version).

It looks like this.

I assumed that the title referred to, probably among other things, the riveting way that the "foreground" and "background" flip, wrestle for primacy, or toggle back and forth in the eyes of the viewer.

But now, thanks to the tremendous Art in America piece by Brooks Adams from summer 2005 about Palermo, I learn this delightful fact:

But this was the artist who made Flipper (1965), a geometric abstraction (not in the Barcelona show) that, as we learn from Gonzalez's essay, was a direct transcription of the graphics on the side of Palermo's favorite pinball machine.

MOMA's website includes an image of "Flipper" and the factoid about the pinball machine.

So now I finally "get" the title.

But I wonder what the original machine looked like. It must have been pretty cool to inspire an artwork. And did Palermo really like the design on it so much that he reproduced it as an artwork exactly?

The above sources do not give any specifics to identify the pinball machine that so inspired Palermo.

However the wonders of the Internet reveal that the machine seems to have been the Gottlieb Company's "Sky Line" pinball machine, released in January 1965.

An image of the original "Sky Line" machine can be found among the photos of the apparently much-loved vintage pinball machines on PinballHQ, hosted by one marvin3m. Go here, and check out the top photo.

The pattern is identical. It's like a checkerboard designed by Mondrian in the colors of the USA flag.

marvin3m's exhaustive pinball machine chronology here shows that the graphics on the machine were created by great pinball artist Charles Leroy "Roy" Parker.

Everything you wanted to know about "Sky Line," including how the game plays, with lots more photos of it, is here, on the mighty, mighty Internet Pinball Database.

The machine was released during the period when Palermo apparently was a student of Beuys in Düsseldorf. I wonder if he saw it there.

The only outstanding question in my mind is whether, to produce his screenprint, Palermo went so far as to trace or reproduce the exact scale of the grid as it appeared on the machine. Let's see, if the canvas is about 86 cm tall and it contains about 5 squares of equal height, then each is 17.2 cm tall, which is 6 or 7 inches, which, when you look at a picture of the squares on the side of the pinball machine in relation to a human hand, eh, I dunno. But the guy's interest in replication and measurement makes me hope that the answer is "yes."

I appreciated Adams' article also for its reminder of the show a few years back in which life-side busts of Palermo and Hans Richter faced each other from across an empty room. I remember how, even though the eyes of the busts were closed, Palermo and Richter both seemed to be regarding each other or staring each other down with a calm, constant, lazer-beam-like intensity. I remember how I felt, as the only other live "viewer" in the gallery, as if I were intruding on Palermo and Richter's private conversation. I remember how apologetic I felt when I passed in between the two busts, and "broke" their gaze with each other, as I always similarly am whenever I am forced to pass between two people who are conversing from opposite sides of a hallway that I have to walk down.

A fascinating website that explains the physics of pinball, by a seemingly diferent "Marvin," is here.

Finally, it should be confessed that, yes, the title of this post was stolen from the very addictive Le Tigre tune about underappreciated artists, "Tres Bien."