Monday, May 26, 2008

Cool: A Mash-Up

My pre-teen daughters recently excavated my high school yearbook from the archives and have been poring over it with dedicated concentration. Which both takes me back to those years in hell, and also puts me in mind of the whole concept of Cool, as I've felt the need to come to the defense of 80s trends that, in retrospect, are just plain ridiculous (e.g., rainbow suspenders, the Farrah flip, and boys stealing the Shaggy style from Scooby Doo--how did a nation of youth go so terribly wrong, I wonder. Lemminglike, we all shimmied into crayon-colored Ditto jeans and burned our hair with curling irons) by saying that it seemed Cool at the time.
It's not always easy to distinguish What Is Cool from What Is Not; sometimes the Not becomes Cool when placed in a new context, particularly if the context be fresh. However. We can definitively say that the 80s styles were Not. For one thing, those styles reek of effort and scream for attention, and nothing is less Cool. Cool is effortless (or at least appears as if it is). Cool doesn't care if you look or not. Cool needs nothing from you. And let us add to the criteria, that Cool is forever.
A mash-up of Cool Past and Present may now be viewed at the Oakland Museum in Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury and Cool Remixed: Bay Area Urban Art + Culture Now. NPR did a little piece on the exhibition, and just as I was sighing, "Ah, me" upon hearing the exhibition was put together by the Orange County Museum of Art (which, by the way? Looks as if it's got some banging stuff going on right now, but I confess to a partiality for disorderliness), came the welcome surprise: the exhibition is here May 17 through August 17.

We did go, on Sunday, and we were especially charmed by what would fit in the center of the Venn diagram of Curvy + Cool if such a diagram existed. One of my daughters asked why furniture is not always as beautiful as, say, the Verner Panton stacking chair.

P.S. Speaking of mash-ups, I am still waiting for a mash-up with some hiphop beats and "Fat Bottom Girls."

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