An Omnivore essay from the 100th issue.
In the coming skirmishes over the legitimacy of color photography, the image would take on a great symbolic significance. This minor, inexplicable moment—in which a photographer had pondered a light bulb in the Mississippi Delta—would come to be understood as a shot across the bow of art-world atrophy.
There are no great books about the Everly Brothers. No classic documentary films. Despite their influence on American pop music, which would be difficult to overstate, or the great, gaping beauty and sadness of their music, we are left with no lasting monuments to their catalog beyond the catalog itself. That, and—along with other personal tributes—this sad, ugly, perfect collage by Ray Johnson, who finished the piece by scratching large Xs across its surface, some weeks before filing it away in a box, folding over a thousand dollars in cash into the pocket of his windbreaker, and diving off a bridge that January night.
It’s sunny in California. A thousand poets spin around each other, singing their verses into each others’ ears while spectators, smiling, sip their cocktails. Back in the South, a painter touches up a historic, complex mural—long weathered by thundering spring storms. At the newsstand nearby, the owner opens up the latest issue of his favorite weekly, the Arkansas Times.