Modern Art USA: Men, Rebellion, Conquest, 1900-1956

By Rudi Blesh | Go to book overview

12. Termite, Time Capsule, and Pedestal

In 1939 the Time Capsule lay fifty feet down in the mud of Flushing Meadows, launched on its sedentary "5000-Year Journey" into the future; a large and costly building was opened for the Museum of Modern Art; Hitler marched into Poland and then almost immediately sat down in front of the French Maginot Line; a host of famous modern artists was fleeing from Europe to the United States. These events are not listed in the order of their occurrence or necessarily in that of their importance. They are merely happenings in another chapter of the drama: Change against Permanence, or, Time against Man.

Poland was ancient in a sort of off-and-on way: once more it had been; now, once again, it was no more. The Maginot Line was "permanent, impregnable"--we would be finding out about that soon enough.

As for the Time Capsule, people crowded around the narrow open well to gawk down at the slim seven-and-one- half-foot copper alloy cartridge awaiting the day when the well would be sealed as the bugle blew "Taps." The contents were common knowledge: a woman's hat, a razor, cigarettes, a toothbrush and cosmetics, hybrid seeds, dictionaries, a microfilm packed with current lore. The magazine Time called it "a miniature museum." No one knew, however, whether Westinghouse Electric's "memento to the future" would ever be dug up. For time the termite worked in the mud around it; change was sealed in the capsule together with all those perishable souvenirs of a harried yet hopeful day.

The new Museum building, designed in the International Style by architects Philip L. Goodwin and Edward D. Stone,

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Modern Art USA: Men, Rebellion, Conquest, 1900-1956
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • 1. the World Stirs in Its Sleep 3
  • 2. Home Life on the Other Side of the Moon 9
  • 3. Plot in an Attic 23
  • 4. Rebellion in an Amory 41
  • 5. Aftermath 57
  • 6. Independents' Day 68
  • 7. Dada and Despair 85
  • 8. Modern Art's First Museum 103
  • 9. Art in a Skyscraper 114
  • 10. the Artist is the Man Next Door 131
  • Ii. Passage to Permanence 145
  • 12. Termite, Time Capsule, and Pedestal 162
  • 13. Isms and Wasms 185
  • 15. Go West, Young Art, Go West 222
  • 16. Arriving 241
  • 17. Presences 262
  • 18. the Present 282
  • Index i
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