Repainting the Tenderloin: Mona Caron’s Meta-Mural “Windows into the Tenderloin”

Where did the name “The Tenderloin,” come from? Stories abound, but the one I first heard was that the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco was so full of homeless people, drug addicts and prostitutes that the police get “hazard pay” to work there, which makes it possible for them to afford the better cuts of meat. Another story is that the police can afford fancier meat because they accept bribes from the entrepreneurs in the hood. Perhaps the name is a reference to the soft, vicious underbelly of San Francisco. Or to the tender loins of the prostitutes who work there. Or did we borrow the name from New York City’s Tenderloin, which has a similar reputation? Whatever the origin, the Tenderloin is not considered the choicest cut of San Francisco’s neighborhoods.

(Photo from Mona Caron’s website.)

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The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City: Diego Rivera’s Meta-Mural

Diego Rivera Making of a Mural

In 1931, Diego Rivera (actually Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez — whew, what a name!) painted The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City at the San Francisco Art Institute. The mural is a meta-mural because it is a mural about murals and because it represents its creators in the act of creating the fresco itself.

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A Meta-Mural on Clarion Alley: Lo Llevas por Dentro by Jet Martinez

Clarion Alley in the Mission District of San Francisco used to be a shady street where junkies would shoot up. In October 1992, a volunteer collective of residents organized the Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) to bring art and color to the alley. The murals of Balmy Alley, which are focused on Central American struggle, inspired the project, but the murals of Clarion Alley are generally more playful and cartoon-like, although they deal with serious social issues as well (“What I Know is What I Owe,” said one mural and another challenged the “Demonocracy” of the United States–both of these are now painted over). Many murals explore the rich culture of the Mission, especially, of course, the predominate Latino culture.

(Photo from Clarion Alley Mural Project)

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Abstract Paintings are Meta-Paintings

Abstract paintings are meta-paintings. A meta-painting is a painting about painting. A meta-painting may represent itself, the process of its creation, its materiality, the conventions of art, the gallery where it is hung, the artwork around it, and the place of art and artist in society. Diego Velasquez’s Las Meninas does all these things and more, but Velasquez’s painting is a meta-painting because of its subject matter, rather than its form or style. Most other paintings by Velasquez are not meta, but are naturalistic representations. Abstract paintings, in contrast, are inherently meta. (You can see Velasquez’s painting below.)

Constructivist Painting No. 8 by Joaquin Torres-GarciaAbstract paintings are meta because they are about themselves. The titles of many abstract paintings show that they are their own subject matter, for example Constructivist Painting No. 8 by Joaquin Torres-Garcia from 1938. The metapainting also emphasizes the process of its creation, namely its construction in the word “Constructivist.” Similarly, Jackson Pollock’s Square Painting refers to paint being poured into a square (the process being what matters most for Pollock). All abstract paintings are meta-paintings.

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The Lack of Blank Spaces: Cage’s 4’33” and Rauschenberg’s “White Paintings”

Well, that didn’t work. I intended to leave this post blank — thirty empty lines followed by the “more” function (“Read the rest of the entry”), then two hundred and sixty three blank lines, another “more,” and one hundred sixty lines, each line representing a second of silence in John Cage’s famous song  “4’33,” three movements of no music totaling four minutes and thirty three seconds, composed for any instrument or combination of instruments. However, WordPress will not allow any blank lines. Although cyberspace is relatively cheap and there is an apparently limitless supply of it, the program edits out the empty spaces. On WordPress, I can write anything I want, except nothing. So, I will have to break the silence Cage created.

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If Not a Pipe, Then What?: Magritte’s Meta-Painting The Treachery of Images

When first I came across René Magritte’s famous painting La trahison des images (The Treachery of Images), which says underneath a pipe in French “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”: “This is not a pipe,” I was quite confused. Of course it is a pipe. Just look at the painting!

I propose a simple test to check whether or not it actually is a pipe: put something in the pipe and smoke it. You can’t? Why not? If not a pipe, then what is it?

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Las Meninas: A Meta-Painting

Las Meninas is a meta-painting, a painting about paintings. I decided to post Velasquez’s masterpiece with a quick explanation of what makes it meta, but as I have been studying the (digitally reproduced) oil painting and writing about it, I have noticed more and more self-references and so my explanation keeps expanding. At this point I count at least 23 meta aspects. Take a look at the painting yourself and see if you can identify them:

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