Stars and Cards: Time Cycles and the Tarot, Part IV

In Part IV, the revitalizing zest of Pop art and commercial art has a profound influence on tarot development. Warhol and Rauschenberg are examined for specific viewpoints that fed into the early years of the Tarot Revolution in the 1970s.
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  Jim Dine: Shellac on a Hand Roy Lichtenstein: Blam (1962) 1 Stars and Cards by Elizabeth Hazel Time Cycles and the Tarot, Part IV: Pop Icons The article in the Winter issue explored Mark Rothko’s “windows of opportunity” and how thisconcept flowed into tarot spread development. In this issue, the Pop Art Movement of the 1960’sheralds the immanent Tarot Revolution through concepts, techniques and survival skills. By the early 1960’s, Neptune and Pluto were firmly settled into Scorpio and Virgo. The Pop Artmovement precisely coincides with the Uranus-Pluto conjunction in Virgo (1964-66), a combination thatsignals violent convulsions within social structures and values. Pop art embraced the “working art” valuesof commercial art as Pluto travelled through Virgo, the sign of service. Technique was often subordinateto purpose – delivering content and immediate meaning to the viewer. Neptune in Scorpio burrows beneath superficial appearances into the deep psychological and spiritual strata of the culture. Throughthe 1960’s, racial and gender boundaries, sexuality and sexual mores, and the roles and limits of culturalinstitutions became the turf for many social battles. The deeply cynical youth movement criticized thehypocrisy of the old value system, and a multitude of open protests started todissolve and deconstruct the power of the old white boy’s network.Influenced by artists and artwork from Great Britain, young American artistsabandoned the mystical quests of the Abstract Expressionists and embraced anew sort of realism. Pop art is infused with wit, irony, and cynicism, andshamelessly appeals to the mass public. Catching the growing tide of mass production and distribution, ordinary objects like soup cans, hamburgers,flags, and product boxes were elevated from practical, everyday householditems into low-brow high art.Pop artists borrowed media and techniques of commercial production. This broke the rules of serious academic art by defenestrating the “one of a kindmasterpiece” mindset and replacing it with affordable, accessible reproductions. The hard-working,emotionally tortured Abstract-Expressionist artists of the 1950’swere quickly overshadowed by artists who had no problem withmaking money or becoming famous overnight. Celebrity, fame,exhibitionism, and instant success were a key feature of the Popart movement, mirroring the realities of contemporary America.The Pop movement encompassed the growing influence of television, a consumer-driven economy, and the advent of the pop music and the British Invasion spearheaded by the Beatlesin 1964.The light-hearted sensibilities of Pop art and its “kitschepiphanies” have been negated by some critics. HaroldRosenberg described Pop art as being 'Like a joke without humor, told over and over again until it beginsto sound like a threat... Advertising art advertising itself as art that hates advertising.' [1] Elizabeth Hazel c 2011. Originally published in the ATA Quarterly Journal, Spring 2011 issue. All rights reserved.  Warhol: Marilyn Monroe 2Two artists fed the fires of the incipient tarot revolution: Andy Warhol, a Leo, and Robert Rauschenberg,a Libra. These men’s birth charts were super-charged by the Uranus-Pluto conjunction in the mid 60’s,and both made unique advance contributions to the tarot boom of the 1970’s. Andy Warhol Artist, multi-media impresario, and celebrity: how can mere words explain this bizarre person? Warhol began his career as an illustrator, producing drawings for shoe advertisements and the like. He fought to break free from this kiss-of-deathcommercial niche to be taken seriously as an artist. After he escaped the world of advertising, his art shook the world and left corpses – physical, emotional, andspiritual - in its wake. Andy was a highly creative user of people, methods, andthe high priest of the contemporary zeitgeist of the 1960’s. [2]Many of Warhol’s silk-screened reproductions include color manipulations of celebrity photographs:Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, and Jackie Kennedy are some of the famousfaces immortalized through Andy’s Factory production line. Warhol used the commercial method of silk-screen prints to make multiple reproductions of each design. Why sell just one when you can sell dozens? More buyers mean more money.More sales mean more visibility on more walls. More visibility meansmore talk, which leads to fame. Why stop there? Why not shoot the wadand go for celebrity status? Why not turn people into super-starsovernight? And Andy was obsessed with celebrity.The word “iconic” hovers over Warhol’s art. Various dictionarydefinitions of  icon include: a representation of some sacred personage;an image sometimes venerated as sacred; a sign or representation that  stands for its object by virtue of resemblance or analogy; a personregarded as a symbol of a belief, nation, community or cultural movement; a person regarded as a sex symbol or as a symbol of the latest fashion trends. The word’ssrcin is from the Greek  eikón (likeness, image, figure).Although few may be aware of it, Warhol regularly attended mass at an Eastern Orthodox church andwent regularly to confession. He was surrounded by religious iconography, and perhaps this influencedhis artistic choices. Warhol’s iconic portraits are full of content while artistic process is largely absent. Inthe religious use of the term, icons have magical, talismanic and charismatic value, and are laden with acargo of shared emotions, values, and superstitions. An iconic image has the power to reassure the viewer  by validating opinions and beliefs, and by acting as an equivalent of experience when the actualexperience is out of reach. Icons are instantly recognizable and need no explanation. Where religiousicons embody holy saints and scenes, Warhol’s portraits convey his ideas about the sacredness of celebrity.Tarot writers often describe card images as “archetypes.” What’s the difference between and icon and anarchetype? An archetype, from the Latin   archetypon   (an srcinal) and the Greek    archétypon   (a model, Elizabeth Hazel c 2011. Originally published in the ATA Quarterly Journal, Spring 2011 issue. All rights reserved.  Rauschenberg: Breakthrough II (1965) 3 pattern, or first mold) is defined as: the srcinal pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied or based; a model or first form; a prototype; a perfect type or typical specimen; a constantlyrecurring symbol or motif in literature and painting; and in Jungian terms, a collectively inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, or image, universally present in individual psyches .Tarot images are archetypal in the sense that they represent prototypes, typical specimens, or recurringsymbols. The Empress is a Great Mother prototype, the Emperor is a Great Father prototype, etc. Kings,queens, knights and princesses are certainly recurring symbols in art and literature. Yet tarot cards arealso iconic, because they consist of ‘representations that stand for objects by virtue of resemblance or analogy,’ and are intentionally filled with meanings and values, and even magical and superstitiousqualities. Consider the plethora of RWS clones: instantly recognizable images laden with meaning; noexplanation is necessary because the imagery has become a standard coinage for tarotists. In artistic parlance, tarot images are icons of archetypes.Tarot cards are both archetypal and iconic. The conceptual foundation of the symbol-laden imagery isarchetypal, especially in the Major Arcana and Court cards. But the art itself, particularly in decks basedon the RWS, has iconic qualities.Andy Warhol’s contributions to the tarot revolution are two-fold. The first is in the leap from single-work  production to mass reproduction of art; art made accessible and affordable. The second is in elevating andexpanding the role of icons in contemporary visual currency. Rauschenberg Robert Rauschenberg started out as a window dresser in NewYork City. His creations during the 1960’s unite art andmedia, but he brought adifferent set of commercialtools and resources into the mix[3]. Rauschenberg’s main idiomduring this period was collage.He used contemporary photographs from newspapersand magazines to construct his paintings and prints. Diverse photos with different meanings,themes, and size relationships were juxtaposed inchallenging spatial equations. The image clusters allow afree association of images and words, and their non-specificrelationships open the portal for multiple readings andinterpretations.Modes of perception were important to Pop artists. Themode of visual perception leveraged by Rauschenberg iscalled the “vernacular glance.” Traditional art students weretaught a technique called “The Stare,” a method of viewing Elizabeth Hazel c 2011. Originally published in the ATA Quarterly Journal, Spring 2011 issue. All rights reserved.  4 paintings that consists of viewing the whole, noting the composition and details, and returning to thewhole to judge the impact and excellence of the work. Rauschenberg’s work deliberately corresponds tothe impact of the urban landscape on city dwellers. People in urban settings are assaulted by anoverwhelming amount of visual stimuli on a constant basis. The vernacular glance is a visual survivalskill that allows the ambulatory individual to scan surroundings and swiftly process the content. Theemphasis is on instantaneous overall perception, dispensing with hierarchies of importance, distance,direction, scale, and solutions to disorder.Rauschenberg’s collage-combines will feel familiar to tarotists because they consist of arrangements of images. This artist filledRothko’s “windows of potential” with images culled from newspapersand television. His image clusters invite free association andinterpretation, as do tarot spreads. But perhaps the most criticalcontribution of his work was in acknowledging the changing demandsof visual comprehension, the vernacular glance. Tarot starts withimagery and arrangement, but it succeeds when the tarotist has theability to quickly scan the contents of the cards and produce a coherentverbal interpretation. Although the skill of the vernacular glance had been in development since the influx of people into urban centers, theartists of the 1960’s were the first ones to recognize it and make it a part of their artistic language.To summarize, Pop artists contributed four things to the cultural matrix that immediately preceded thetarot revolution:1.Quality reproductions of art work 2.A cultural value for iconic art work laden with meaning3.Collage, a technique for juxtaposing and constellating images, with the consequent freeassociation of words and meaning that could be derived from these image clusters4.The vernacular glance, an urban survival skill grafted into artistic expression Pop-Eye Exercises The Etiquette of Vision Shuffle a tarot deck and lay out a familiar tarot spread where you can leave it in place. Look at it for 5minutes a day for five days. Write notes after each viewing. On the last day, collate your notes andexamine how your interpretation has changed over time.Do a second tarot spread. Look at it quickly, and gather up the cards (you may jot down the card names or draw out the spread). Write down immediate impressions of the reading. Return to your notes about thisspread for the next five days. Recall it with your memory, and make a note of further impressions. This isa method for comparing latitudinal versus longitudinal viewing and interpreting techniques and for noticing perceptual decay over time. Card Memory Elizabeth Hazel c 2011. Originally published in the ATA Quarterly Journal, Spring 2011 issue. All rights reserved.  5Think of one tarot card in a specific deck. Write a list of every item, figure, clothing, landscape details,colors, etc. that you can recall. Pull that card out of the tarot deck, and see if you’ve missed anything. Collage of Meaning Find a glossy magazine filled with lots of photographs and ads in your recycling bin. Cut out several full pages. At random, pinch several pages together and use scissors to cut a stack of tarot-sized rectangles.Put the pieces in a pile without examining them. Shuffle a tarot deck. Take 5 to 7 of the magazine slicesand place them in a tarot spread arrangement. Place a tarot card face down on each magazine slice.Turn over a magazine slice and tarot card at the same time. Use the content of the magazine slice tosupply a position meaning for the tarot card, either through printed word content or through interpreting photos or art images. Allow only 10 seconds to derive a position meaning from what you see. The position meaning can be based on anything on the magazine slice; the point is exercising your capacityfor the vernacular glance. Repeat this process through all of the magazine/tarot card pairs.Do you define positions differently if the magazine slice is covered with text or images? Does text makeit easier or more difficult? How do words or images impact your choice of position meaning? What is theimpact of magazine content (articles, images) versus commercials (slogans, images)? Does commercialcontent devalue or change the value of the accompanying tarot card? Or do commercials make it easier toassign position meanings because of their focused messages? Meaning Full Shuffle a tarot deck and spread five cards in a row. Scan the sequence once, very quickly, and write downwhat it means. Swiftly scan the sequence again, and write down another meaning. How many meaningscan you derive from a sequence of five cards? Does one card tend to stand out or become a focal point ina quick scan? Do your meanings subsequently hinge on that particular card? Or can you merge them inyour mind to make a whole? What cards tend to be neglected from your quickie interpretations? Why? Tarot Billboards Shuffle a tarot deck and fan it out on a table in front of you. Close your eyes and imagine you’re drivingdown a long road in the countryside. You drive past a series of billboards. Each billboard features onetarot card. Draw a tarot card from your deck, hold it in front of your face and take a quick peek roughlyequivalent to the one or two seconds you might look at a billboard while you’re driving.Return to your imaginary car and repeat this process. You may wish to start with three cards, and increaseto five or seven after your first experiment. Set the cards aside, face down.Stop your imaginary car on the side of the road. Recall the tarot billboards you saw. Open your eyes andwrite down your immediate impressions. Do you remember all the cards clearly? Can you list them in theorder you drew them? Did any of the objects or figures on the cards jump out at you during your quick  peek? What features in the cards made the most memorable impressions?This isn’t an exercise to derive meaning from the cards, but to get a sense of how the vernacular glanceworks. If you don’t like the idea of driving down the road past tarot billboards, visualize yourself walkingdown a sidewalk past several shop windows. A tarot card is in each shop window display.Try this exercise with different tarot decks. Do bright colors help you remember the card images? Crisper images? Less cluttered images? What makes a strong impression on quick viewing? Endnotes Elizabeth Hazel c 2011. Originally published in the ATA Quarterly Journal, Spring 2011 issue. All rights reserved.
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