I Think I Only Have A Pair

(Ed note, I think I only have run-on sentences).

I have always loved the anonymous painting, Dogs Playing Poker and so I especially love Silas Kopf‘s take on  it in the below masterpiece, “I Think I Only Have A Pair”.

After an exhaustive and exclusive interview with Silas – spanning days, weeks, decades perhaps, in which I followed him around everywhere he went (at times with leaves taped to my turtleneck, jeans, and  wooden platform shoes, [in keeping with the elements of his work], in an attempt to get some candid anecdotalities), even going so far as to hire muscle to forcibly hook him up to various thought-stealing apparatus’, lie detectors, intravenous truth-serum drips, and the like – I managed a rare act of brevity, summarizing all of my notes into the following quote  from Silas regarding his work and the insinuations in this article:

“Perhaps Mr. Munger sees more than I do, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t subliminal perspective.”

It is yet too soon soon to tell if he will succumb to suggestive thought suggestion tactics administered by said muscle and present this piece to Gnome de Pluehm for his birthday bash tomorrow– which I am overseeing in this blog – but we can all only hold our breath and hop (typo, but I’m keeping it).

From the on-line journal Art In Conflict

By Mr. Selwyn Munger

It is a fine line between Pop Art and kitsch. When Pop first made its way into the art world in the late 1950’s many regarded the movement as kitsch, basically mundane without any real artistic content. What are we to think of an artist who reverses the order, taking kitsch and trying to make it Pop? This is the direction of Silas Kopf’s entry, I Think I Only Have A Pair, in the recent Salon de la Marqueterie Biennial in Marseilles.
Kopf played off the famous painting by C. M. Coolidge of Dogs Playing Poker (1904) (sometimes called “The Bold Bluff”) and turned it on its head by using popular figures apparently involved in a game of cards. I say apparently because there is much more behind the imagery than a simple bit of gambling. At the table are the cartoon figures; Betty Boop, Mr. Peanut, and Daffy Duck. Seated between Duck and Peanut is the pop icon Marilyn Monroe. And does that shock of white hair at the bottom of the picture belong to Andy Warhol himself?

At first glance this appears little more than a cute image of characters engaged in a game of poker. Closer examination reveals many levels of complexity in this deftly executed wooden panel. We rarely see craftspeople draw on art history in executing their works, but it is obvious that Kopf has more than a passing familiarity with Hogarth’s The Rake’s Progress. It won’t be evident to many that Kopf is also referencing the 14th Egyptian Dynasty mural from the tomb of Rehkmire of men playing a game of senet.

Kopf’s gamblers make an odd grouping. Those familiar with his work from the last decade won’t be surprised to see the return of Mr. Peanut and Betty Boop. They were first seen in his 2004 piece, The Gladiators (which was a minor hit on internet porn sites). One wonders if I Think I Only Have A Pair is a sequel or a prequel. The tension in the current work is palpable. Boop appears to fidget nervously unsure of the game. Peanut rises to his full haughty grandeur, jauntily tipping his hat, knowing he is in control. And why shouldn’t he be confident. He has most of the chips! Kopf seems to be making a statement about corporate America and how one of its most important symbols is in charge. He has control of the game and the purse strings and therefore he is dominating the lives of those around him. Is Peanut a cheat? Just what might he be hiding under that top hat?

Poor Marilyn Monroe (literally poor, as she is almost out of chips). Is she a bad player or have others simply taken advantage of her innocence? It is clear that Peanut and Boop don’t have a monopoly on the sexual tension in the picture. Monroe and Duck are sharing more than a side of the table. Each has a hand below the table. Passing cards or copping a feel? You be the judge. Duck’s leering at the pair of the title will make most viewers more than a little uncomfortable. It is difficult to attach a racial aspect to the picture, but it is equally difficult to imagine that an artist of Kopf’s thoughtfulness would have used a black duck and the symbol of white female sexuality unconsciously. Why not the white Donald Duck or the less curvy Olive Oyl? It should be noted that both Daffy Duck and Marilyn Monroe gained fame in the 1950’s, when inter-racial dating was considered somewhat scandalous. Boop and Peanut both came from the swinging twenties, making I Think I Only Have A Pair encompass the sweep of twentieth century America.

The final bit of iconography involves money, wealth, fame, along with sex (isn’t sex really about the money?). Peanut is slowly growing his fortune. The individually colored stacks have grown so large that he is no longer able to keep them organized. He will stop at nothing to dominate the “weaker” sex. Boop seems vulnerable to Peanut (although The Gladiators depicted her holding her own and on top, bringing into question the prequel/sequel issue. No doubt that discussion will have to wait for a longer monograph on Kopf’s career). Although Daffy Duck has quite a bit of the money he is living up to his name, and his chips are all ajumble. The one player whose chips we can’t see is Warhol. Perhaps it is he who has the most chips by parlaying Pop Art into the money making machine that it turned out to be.

2 Responses to “I Think I Only Have A Pair”

  1. anne burton Says:

    ok, the “chippies” don’t have as many chips. But, they do have sexual characteristics, unlike Mr.Peanut and Daffy, who are only presumed to be males, but have no physical sexual identities. So what makes them male is their: Wealth? Luck? Leer? Cupidity? Lack of human characteristics?
    If the gals coyly say “I Think I Only Have a Pair” they are probably referring to the pair which have been capable of manipulating and dominating the actions of those Guys. Warhol not only doesn’t show his chips, he never shows his hand. And Warhol is watching you not the game.

  2. Hey, great blog!. How do I subscribe to your RSS feed to ensure I get notifed when you make new posts? Thanks

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