30 Ways to Stop Smoking
Exhibition extended through Friday, August 2nd
Vince Aletti of the New Yorker puts it well when he describes New York photographer Alfred Gescheidt's work as "equal parts Madison Avenue and Mad magazine." In the 1950's and 1960's Aletti excelled in a world of print culture; his work appeared first as a two-page spread in Life Magazine in 1950. In the years that followed his work splashed the pages of U.S. and European magazines, pocket paperbacks, calendars, postcards, cards, and album covers. It is memorable, catching, and humorous. Photomontage became his calling card and his notable 1964 series 30 Ways to Stop Smoking is prime example for how and why his work was so immediately and has been so lastingly powerful.
The series is as much about a specific bad habit as it is the practice of overindulgence. Smoking indeed becomes foil for consumer-culture. The work's sarcasm is direct and cutting. It can conjure a laugh or act as outright warning. Titles like Get A Job Where Smoking Is Frowned On, which features a train-car sized propane tank and a man's head; Make Lighting Up A Traumatic Experience, an image of a man lighting his cigaret with a bundle of dynamite; or Reinforce Your Will Power, a frame where a cobra guards a hoard of cigarettes are all dark but humorous. These works draw a chuckle because they are absurd and even a little explosive- literally. Other images, like Smoke, But Only In Bed When You Are Very Tired of an iron-framed bed teetering on the upper story of a burned-out building's remains are darker still and more haunting. Gescheidt went farther yet in other images- Acquaint Yourself With Smoking's Ill Effects or Think of How You Appear To Your Loved Ones are ghostly and more directly invoke the shadow of death. The graphic quality of the photomontage technique, its high contrast and often cartoon-like humor, allow a lightness to the series and its subjects- directly towards smoking and indirectly as parallel to desire, greed, and indulgence.
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