Mad Men, the show's mercurial lead Don Draper sits, mesmerized by an abstract painting. Recently purchased from a Greenwich Village artist (a heroin addict caught in the upheaval of the sixties), the painting is standard abstract fare. The artist's husband-of-convenience describes it as motivated by her interest in 'afterimages', giving form to the blurred line between dreams and reality.
Ink has been spilled about the art in, and of, Mad Men before. Era-appropriate art adorns the walls of Draper's ad agency, and the characters are alternately beguiled and intrigued by the emergence of trends like Abstract-Expressionism. I'm more interested in the way the show sometimes gives currency to the art's power.
In the scene above, for instance, something in the painting catches Don's eye. He pulls up a chair and gazes into it as the camera swirls around him, before the shot dissolves into a picture of inspiration as he works up a desperate gambit to save his ad company from sure destruction. The painting functions as a catalyst for thought, pushing him in a new direction as he maps out new ways of working with his world. I wonder what strategies a Gorky, an Eakins, or a Giacometti might have prompted.