Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Vintage Subway Etiquette Posters


Vintage Subway Etiquette Posters Reveal Manspreading Has Always Been Annoying

Japan, 1976
Poster by Hideya Kawakita, Japan (1976) (image courtesy Tokyo Metro Cultural Foundation/New York Transit Museum)
When the New York Transit authority rolled out a courtesy campaign targeting manspreading last year, Men’s Rights Activists and angry netizens accused “anti-spread” crusaders of being whiny “pseudo-feminists.” More debate followed when the word “manspreading” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. But though the word itself is new, the practice of manspreading — whereby a man spreads his legs while sitting on public transit, taking up too much space — has apparently been pissing people off since around the time public transit became a thing.
Manspreading, NYC, 1947
Amelia Opdyke Jones, anti-manspreading poster for New York City subway (1947), New York Transit Museum Collection
In the New York Transit Museum’s current exhibit, Transit Etiquette or: How I Learned to Stop Spitting and Step Aside in 25 Languages, courtesy campaigns spanning decades and continents reveal a nearly universal anti-manspreading sentiment. A poster on the New York City subway in 1947, featuring cartoons of flagrant manspreaders in fedoras, implored commuters not to be “space hogs” or “leg pests.” Another ad simply labels manspreaders “BAD!”. Both these designs were by cartoonist Amelia Opdyke Jones, who signed her work “Oppy.” From 1946 to 1966, Jones illustrated etiquette posters with Monopoly-like characters for the “Subway Sun,” a faux-newspaper plastered in train cars. The term “litterbug” is said to have originated from one of Oppy’s subway posters. The New York MTA’s current “Dude… Stop the Spread” campaign, which caused so much internet kerfuffle when installed, is only a watered-down rehash of these earlier designs, with boring pictograms instead of Oppy’s retro comic book flair.
Subway Sun, NYC, 1953
Amelia Opdyke Jones, Subway Sun, New York City (1953) (image courtesy the New York Transit Museum Collection)
And manspreading is an international plague, according to the designs on view: A disturbing poster on the Japan Metro in 1976 depicted Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator as “The Seat Monopolizer,” squishing smaller Charlie Chaplins seated next to him. An ad from Tokyo trains in 2012 featured a cartoon manspreader encroaching on the space of a child inexplicably wearing a bear suit. “I’d like to sit too. There should be enough room,” she says.
Tokyo (2012) (image courtesy Tokyo Metro Cultural Foundation)
If you’re a Men’s Rights Activist and these ads hurt your feelings, please get some help and don’t freak out at the New York Transit Museum: The exhibition also features retro ads scolding “Birdy Big Bags,” discouraging what’s now called “she-bagging,” whereby people (according to some, mostly women) hog seats with their bags. There’s also a poster from the London Underground in 1986, depicting a rare example of womanspreading: A female punk with a rainbow mohawk splays her legs on a bus seat while an elderly gentleman stands and waits for a chance to sit.
London Underground, 1986
London Underground (1986) (image © TfL from the London Transport Museum collection)
The rest of the exhibit, with posters from Barcelona, Brussels, Chicago, London, Madrid, New York, Philadelphia, Rio de Janiero, Taipei, and Tokyo, colorfully illustrates the laws of how not to be an asshole on public transit, laws that apparently transcend time and place.
Subway etiquette posters by Amelia Opdyke Jones at the New York Transit Museum, installation view (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)
SEPTA, 2014
Trinh Loi, poster for Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (2014) (image courtesy the New York Transit Museum)
Transit Etiquette Exhibit Logo
Transit Etiquette at the New York Transit Museum (image courtesy the New York Transit Museum)
Transit Etiquette Or: How I Learned To Stop Spitting And Step Aside In 25 Languages continues at the New York Transit Museum in the Gallery Annex at Grand Central Terminal (89 E 42nd St, Midtown East, Manhattan) through October 20. 

For Fluxus Artist Alison Knowles, Anything Can Be Art


For Fluxus Artist Alison Knowles, Anything Can Be Art

Archive Red Objects
Alison Knowles, “Archives of red objects from Celebration Red by Alison Knowles, Carnegie Museum of Art” (May 19, 2016) (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)
PITTSBURGH — There are hardly any figures in the Alison Knowles exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art, but the presence of bodies, especially that of the artist, resonates throughout the prints, scroll books, and multimedia installations. The show features the artist’s work starting with the Fluxus movement, which she helped found in the 1960s, to her participatory “event” scores, or series of written instructions for participatory performances, transforming the gallery into an artful playland.
Knowles performed during the opening night, including a renewed “Celebration Red” (1962), one of her notable instructional “event” scores. For the occasion, hundreds of Pittsburghers brought found red objects, including shoes, an album cover, and candy boxes (Knowles brought her own tiny, red rose), creating “Archive of red objects” (2016), now brightly arranged in the vast entryway. The pristine grid arrangement of the nostalgic, random items in Fluxus spirit exemplifies that everything is art.
“The Boat Book” (2014–15), installation view at the Carnegie Museum of Art, wood and metal frame with screenprinting, digital print on silk, handmade paper, collage and assemblage elements, personal ephemera, beans, books, fishing net, photographs, ship anchor, fabric tunnel, electrical lights, and audio recording
Knowles’s voice is heard throughout the exhibition, emanating from an audio recording in the provocative installation “The Boat Book” (2014–15). The eight-foot tall wood book, bound to a central spine, is derived from Knowles’s original “The Big Book” (1966), where visitors climbed through the structure in order to read. Knowles, now 82 years old, scaled the new multimedia work on opening night, and dedicated the piece to her fisherman older brother through the personal ephemera adorning the work: books, toys, shipyard items, and beans. Though viewers cannot touch this nautical-themed work, one can get up close, hearing Knowles tell stories about the ocean, the sounds of waves and seagulls, and becoming engrossed in the artist’s persona.
Book Jacket
“Book Jacket” (2006), installation view, clothing with collage elements and found objects, ink and graphite on paper, cotton, handmade flax paper, pins, paperclips and string, courtesy the artist and James Fuentes Gallery, New York (click to enlarge)
Such tactile and personal work fills the tight gallery space, allowing the viewer an intimate encounter with the artist and the breadth of her art. The multigenerational works, displayed alongside one another, demonstrate the artist’s persistent interest in collage and traditional printmaking, and the beauty in everyday simplicity. “In and Out the Window (Banner)” (2010), a 33-foot long collaged scroll, is installed along a wall, with “Bean Rolls” (1963), a series of tiny paper scrolls of found text set beside an open can of beans (one of her early experimentations with the sculptural potential of the book), displayed in a glass pedestal underneath. Above hangs “Shoe Print” (1972), a sepia blueprint paper depicting a single used shoe. And, nearby, is “Book Jacket” (2006), a collage of found objects, such as ink and graphite on paper, cotton, handmade flax, pins, paperclips and string, all framed in a wood rectangle without a distancing glass frame. Together these works emit Knowles’s presence and compilation of life, literature, and art.
Knowles asks us to physically experience the now, which is refreshing in a society with a relatively short attention span. Viewers are invited into “Bean Garden” (1976/2016) a large wooden box filled with navy beans, a favorite and reoccurring item in her work, as well as a common meal of her upbringing. Feeling the beans between your toes, you feel closer to the earth, sharing a giggle with other gallery-goers. Each shuffle echoes via microphones at the bottom of the bin, each movement audibly present around every corner of the exhibition. Tiny beans scatter across the floor, like sand after a beach trip, a reminder of the carefree moment that has passed.
More is to be observed: the ephemera and slides from Knowles’s Spring Street studio in New York; her handmade flax paper instruments and ghostly, gorgeous screen prints of everyday objects; and her poetry, including a collaboration with fellow Fluxus artist Philip Corner.
Bean Garden
“Bean Garden” (1976/2016), wooden box, navy beans, and contact microphones with amplifier and speakers (photograph features the author)
Knowles continues to create and perform profoundly, seemingly around mostly men (though she has collaborated with Yoko Ono). While this isn’t a story about another overlooked female artist, perhaps the most renowned Fluxus members are Knowles’s colleagues, George Maciunas, much credited for solely founding the movement, and Allan Kaprow, Joseph Beuys, and Dick Higgins. As an artist who happens to be a woman, Knowles began her career during a time period also known for socially minded, innovative feminist art, though there is no explicit indication of gendered inquiry in her work. There is no mention of feminism or gender in any of the exhibition text, which instead often refers to collaborations or relations with her male cohorts. There is, however, a small Venus of Willendorf replica inside “The Boat Book” installation, perhaps a quiet reminder of women’s strength and art historical precedents, whether ancient or her contemporaries.
Knowles’s work strikes me, above all, as being approachable. Calming and humble, the work bridges art and life in a way in which viewers can coolly connect with, and maybe walk away with a new outlook, if subconsciously, for seeing art in the everyday.
objects editions ephermera from studio
“Objects, editions, ephermera, and 35mm slides from Alison Knowles’s Spring Street studio, New York City,” dates vary
Alison Knowles continues at the Carnegie Museum of Art (4400 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh) through October 24. Various participatory activities will take place throughout the duration of the exhibition. Please visit the museum website for hours and information. 

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