Monday, June 20, 2011

The Challenge of Pulp Art

“Pulp Art: The Robert Lesser Collection” is the current exhibit at the Society of Illustrators in New York City. Ninety pieces from the Lesser collection are currently displayed at the Society of Illustrators.

Lesser (left with his Bride of Frankenstein collectible) is a pulp art collector and author of the book by that name (right) that recognizes pulp art as a valuable part of American cultural heritage while some find it offensive garbage. Pulp Art is definitely identified more closely with Visual Culture than it is Art.

Lesser was a pioneer in recognizing the value of pulp art with the collection of original paintings and the corresponding printed publications he started in the 1970s. He now has the most comprehensive collection of pulp art in America. Pulp art, which was often destroyed after it was created, is now an extremely rare highly collectible commodity.

Pulp art, along with folk art, needs the qualifying first word to distinguish it from "fine art" which often is referred to simply as "art". Much confusion would be minimized if "art" always had a qualifying term like "pulp", "folk", or "fine" to clarify the categories. Pulp Art is often thought of as the working man's art, a true American art form, with no European, high society pretensions.

Lesser is unapologetic about his love for Pulp Art, even while revealing that many of the painters themselves refused to sign their own work and never expected it to be of any value. Thinking about the art world's low esteem for such work provides a good opportunity to draw clear distinctions between Visual Culture and Fine Art and helps us clarify the strict rules and requirements established by the fine art world.

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