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This issue’s cover features a detail of The Virgin by Andrew Wyeth, ‘the star’ of a Wyeth retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, one of ‘A Quartet of Spectaculars’, along with the travelling ‘Treasures of Tutankhamun’ then at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and retrospectives of Robert Rauschenberg at the Museum of Modern Art and Alexander Calder at the Whitney Museum in New York.

It contains a letter from the Publisher Rhett Austell, announcing that with the September issue, Horizon would now be published monthly and would no longer be in hardcover.

In ‘Those Mean and Dirty Streets’, Richard Eder writes about how the city in film in the 70s has become ‘a place of violence, squalor, degradation, and boredom, leaving many an urban moviegoer bewildered about where he lives’:

The pavement vents clouds of steam, which turn the city scene into a hellish murk. A taxicab moves slowly through, like a yellow fish in a heavy sea. Times Square’s cheerful, tacky neon is blurred and drained of life. And the sallow face of Robert De Niro takes in everything and gets it wrong. The walls of his rented room are shiny, the windows are padlocked, there are candy wrappers on the floor, vitamin bottles and Wonder Bread on the shelf.

This is how the movie Taxi Driver sees the city of New York. In a movie of fifteen years ago the cabs would have been clean, shined up, and slightly out of focus: part of the background against which some quirky romance – Breakfast at Tiffany’s, for instance – was played out. Ten years before that Gene Kelly would have climbed out dancing, as the cabbie and passers-by beamed.

…Today, when cameras focus on the nerve-racked faces in Taxi Driver, on the victims and perpetrators of the bank holdup in Dog Day Afternoon, or on the drifters in Midnight Cowboy, they make city life seem more terrible than it is…

The photography and music of Taxi Driver deliberately make the city ugly, sticky, sinister. Each person is isolated, shut in by fear of others, and the only communication is the temporary exchange of delusions. The isolation is most extreme in the case of Robert De Niro. When he and Cybill Shepherd are together, it is not two people touching but fragile and mismatched fantasies.

Also in this issue:

In ‘Dancing in the Seventies’, Jamake Highwater looks at the burgeoning disco scene:

When the rock era ended in the early seventies, it was a fortunate return to normalcy for some. For others it was the triumph of mediocrity. Critics saw the rise of the discos as the decline of political involvement and alternative lifestyles. And the new music – the music of the discos – records played loudly by jockeys with a mania for manipulating their audience – satisfied nothing but the feet. The beat is a straight, soulless 4/4 without any of the subtle inner rhythms that made rock so sensual and complex. The lyrics are pointless at best, tasteless at worst. In “Disco Duck” by Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots, the words disco duck are repeated endlessly by Donald Duck voices.   Dancers cavort to such songs with blank faces, untouched by the mindless lyrics.

Disco sound has not always been like that. Labelle, a three-woman group, now defunct, graced the early dance era with “Lady Marmalade,” and singer Gloria Gaynor has had a few appealing tunes. But on the whole the highly overproduced disco sound has lost all energy as well as every trace of freshness and invention…

 

 

Whereas rock essentially came from England and California, the disco sound was born in New York out of a combination of black and Latin music. Like rock, it has its admirers and critics. David Todd, the baron disc jockey who reigns at Manhattan’s Jouissance Disco, likes it because ‘it really makes you want to dance’. Pop critic Peter Occhiogrosso disagrees: ‘The disco sound reduces music to an automated beat, packaged string arrangements, cooing girl-choruses, and everything else that the classic FM-radio format of the sixties most loathed about AM-radio music. It’s the pits! It’s the triumph of plastic!’

 

 

‘Bringing Bold Splendor to the City’ is a selection of photographs from Henry Moore: Sculpture and Environment by David Finn, which was published that month. Finn tracked down Moore’s pieces around the world in some 495 pictures:

If Moore’s own artistry is taken as evidence, the right sculpture in the right place can be a dramatic focal point for urban space that might otherwise seem stark or bare. And in their vigor Moore’s sculptures in the city testify to the vitality of urban life itself.

 

In ‘Guernica: An Act of War, a Work of Art’ Charles L. Mee, Jr. describes ‘the most renowned painting by the century’s most protean artist’:

The most astonishing aspect of Picasso’s first day of work on Guernica is surely its savage coolness. He does not show bloody bits and pieces of women and children flying through the air; he does not show smashed buildings; he does not depict massive death by fire; the woman with the lamp who leans out of the window is not horrified but rather curious; and the dead soldier lies at peace.

Whatever violent emotions Picasso may have felt have been thoroughly subdued. He does not try to depict the bombing of Guernica, to illustrate it, or even quite to make it into an allegory. Rather, he brings the event deeply within himself, and he responds to it as a unique witness. His first reaction is transmuted, strangely, into the silent whinnying anguish of the horse – a horse that has been injured by the bombing of Guernica, obviously, but more than that; it is a symbolic horse of some sort, a vexingly obscure, seemingly irrelevant, private symbol of some sort, a peculiar association of the sort that springs unbidden to mind.

 

 

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