After Dirk Leach earned an M. A. in phenomenology, (the philosophical description of axiomatic intuition that enabled existentialism), he published TECHNIK*, a photographically illustrated expose of nihilism at Daimler Benz, in 1986, (on sale at Ehler’s store and donated to the Vaughn Library), and began teaching in New York, first philosophy, then English as a second language. The slate chalkboards of Bushwick High School became for him a fundamental resource and muleta, promising focus for 25 classes a week, and over his teaching career he found steady confirmation of the universal suspicion pictures are the finest art, deciding some of his own efforts on the blackboard deserved a lifespan of more than 50 minutes.
In 1995, an excerpt of the sequel to Technik, Propaganda, was published in the German magazine “West und Ost.” In 2002, the head of film criticism at UCLA, Peter Wollen, made an excerpt of Technik the core essay for his characteristically phantasmagoric anthology, Autopia, Cars and Culture. In 2005, AGNI magazine of Boston University’s Creative Writing Department published Leach’s art historical scoop, “Popeye Hemingway,” on line. (Dispensed as a brochure by a painting in this exhibit entitled “Popeye was Hemingway’s Old Man” and available free on the internet.)
When it became possible to venture into graphic art full time, Leach moved to Cornucopia and this exhibit contains nearly all of the work he’s done since December, 2007. The first 18 months saw the creation of his hometown-Guernica, “Blow Up,” a suite of docu-pop paintings concerned with 1960’s fast film photojournalism, and the entire show could illustrate autobiographical non-fiction, including two, unpublished memoirs, the Bildungsroman, Punk in Germany,** and Punk in Brooklyn,** a logbook of contemporary, destabilized, urban pedagogy, which includes a thousand illustrations, lesson plans, and photographs.
Leach makes real-world compositions from life or from photographs. He understands that “action” is the theme common to all modern art, action in “action painting,” action in collage, in irony, in abstraction, action, basically, in the sense of the demonstrative trace, IN the work, of the free ACT that created the work. Modern art doesn’t cover its tracks but teaches its own creation, invites and requires participation from the viewer in finishing itself. Decadent art, on the other hand, polishes its image to an entrancing gleam, requiring merely awe from the viewer. Late nineteenth century Symbolism and the Disney look are examples. Modern art seeks to break this trance and empower honest sight by showing how its own image evolved. Such art resists the current of what Jacques Ellul called the psychologically subversive universe of mass media, the manipulative artificiality of contemporary life, and teaches radical independence, just like John Henry.
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