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The Last Dinosaur Book/Show
Dear Tom, George, Dan, Jeff, and other friends,
Rather than talk about what divides me from Tom Mitchell's
philosophy, let me bring forward the long section in his Last Dinosaur
Book about "Paleoart" which made me (a kind of Pop Artist) defend the
book to many of you online and off as an important book for us.
He begins by noting that paleoart exists in the art world only "as
'scientific illustration' and it is not generally seen as serious art,
the sort of thing that could make it into the Museum of Modern Art." He
identifies the culprit: "The exclusion of the dinosaurs from the spaces
of the art world-- from the studio, the gallery, and the fine arts
museum-- exemplifies one of the central principles of high modernism."
He uses that exclusion to critique high modernism's cult of the
"elite, refined, purified object d'art" ending with a vision of paleoart
entering the sacred spaces: "The sleek modernist facade of the Museum of
Modern Art, the temple of high modernism and aesthetic purity, is torn
open by the dinosaurs that are filling its galleries." (275)
Tom, here's a concept for you. You be the one to bring that art into
the temple. In the Last Dinosaur Book, you have already curated, as if
were, a conceptual show. Physicalize it, sell great stacks of your book
as its catalog. Take the LDB public.
If you could acquire a tenth of the art showcased in LDB
(particularly the Mark Dion installation) it would be a blockbuster. Also
(and this was one reason why I thought you'd like this list) you are
already in touch here with the best working paleoartists in the world. If
exhibit gaps developed from availability, you're already in touch with
exactly the people who could fill those gaps.
The LDB already supports the show with strong theory; therefore if I
were pitching it to a wavering art museum, I'd point out to them what the
science museums already know: dinosaurs are the champions at "outreach"
to children. If you do the Last Dinosaur Show, every child in Chicago
will discover where the art museum is; indeed, that there is such a thing
as an art museum. Entire communities, previously alienated, would be
dragged in by their children.
Having dinosaurs is like having Van Gogh. Hang out the sign, stand
I can think of many chances for corporate sponsorship. Our friends
at Disney have a $200 million dollar dinosaur animated feature in the
works. And Universal, where I am, is the Dinosaur House and proud of it.
(new website just launched: http://www.dinosaurextinction.com )
George J. Leonard, Ph.D.
Professor of Interdisciplinary Humanities
San Francisco State University
530 Humanities Hall
1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, California, 94132
Ph: (415) 338-7428
FAX: (650) 366-5045