Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Something about hard times, it seems, that makes people want to watch movie musicals. Last weekend Disney’s High School Musical 3 was our nation’s top-grossing film.

I can get into the genre. My all-time favorite movie musical – hands down – is the French Umbrellas of Cherbourg, with Catherine Deneuve, about love unfulfilled. Unbelievably stylized in rich, brilliant colors, every single word of this heartbreaking tale is lightly sung (making the heartbreak all the more breaking). ie: comment ├ža va monsieur Mailman.

Then of course, Hair. Can’t go wrong.

I can easily get into Rent, because it taps into a deep-rooted romantic notion that I have about being an artist and struggling. And it gets me crying, it does.

But what I cannot get into is Across the Universe. Made in 2006, and all set to Beatles songs sung by the actors, the movie aims to be something between Hair and Rent. The story is about a Brit who comes to the US in the 60s, falls in love, his friend is drafted, his girlfriend becomes an anti-war activist and after some strife, love reigns. Julie Teymour directs. So bad. A string of sentimental music videos. Schlock.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The best show in town

Do not miss the Morandi show at the Met, on through 14 December. If you don’t live in NYC, fly in. The work does not reproduce well, so the catalogue is no substitute.

His life-long devotion to exploring still life, using the same objects repeatedly, and his sensitive rendering of the subtleties of changing light and form put a lump in my throat.

From Holland Cotter’s review:

[…] the work goes on. Because it is controllable reality. It is a form of thinking that frees up thought. It is time-consuming, but time-slowing, isolating but self-fulfilling. It is a part of life, but also a metaphor for how life should be: with everything in place, every pattern clear, every rhyme exact, every goal near.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The bad and maybe better

I really expected to like Doug Aiken’s video installation at 303 Gallery because of how it was described: animals let loose in hotel rooms. I was hoping for something like Douglas Gordan’s elephant video Play Dead (2003) (see clip here), which is elegant, a simple but poignant metaphor about the fine line between tame and wild. But I hated it.

There are three screens mounted like billboards for no other reason that I can think of other than it looks video installation-y. Then every shot pretends to be meaningful instead of actually being so. So, you have a lot of slow motion, a lot of animal eyeballs or close-ups of hair, a lot of pregnant pauses, and pseudo-symbolic props (a jigsaw puzzle on a bed, for example). What’s missing is any sense of the unknown, any sense that what you are seeing was not entirely controlled or planned. Even when the buffalo (I think it was a buffalo) butts the bed. We need a little real surprise, a little unknown, a little tension, something like when Joseph Beuys spent three days in a room with a coyote in 1974.

That show is on until November 8, if you must.

Things get a little better – and a little weirder – over at I-20, where Ronnie Bass has a few videos and related objects on view (through Saturday). If I weren’t in a gallery, I might have thought this was cable access TV, some spiritually inflected, low-grade performance for an odd-ball audience. But, I was in a gallery, so I convinced myself there was something more to it. I think there may be, but I’m not sure what yet. Something like James Lee Byars: ordinary but hypnotic. I'm not looking for a quick fix idea here.

I remember seeing another of Bass’s unusual performances at PS1 in the 2005 Greater New York show. The fact that that was three years ago substantiates my hunch that he may not be a passing fad, and that he may be worth keeping an eye on. But the jury is still out.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Act IV, Scene 5

Me: So, translation work is easing a bit, which means I can get back to the studio.

She: That’s right, you can do your personal work.

Me: Well, it’s my professional work too.

She: That’s right. Well, if it makes you happy, we’ll call it professional work. But, I know – and I think you know very well too, deep inside – that until you actually sell something, and until you actually have a gallery – oh, and until someone else tells me you’re any good – we should just call a spade a spade. Anyway…

Me: OK. Well, maybe we can catch a movie next week.

She: Sounds great.

They hang up.

Molly turns back to the stack of white paper. But, first she texts that gallerist who didn’t respond to her email last week.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Salesman

The thing about gallerists – maybe even curators? – I think you have to tell them how great it’s going to be. I think you have to explain exactly what it’s going to look like, what you think it means, how it’s unique. You got to sell it, baby! Because, in the end, they may not actually trust it unless you get excited.

This I hate to do so much. I want an agent.

I’m figuring this out only after an extremely disappointing studio visit last week. I’m actually writing a follow up to said gallerist where I sound like a car dealer. I’ll keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Political Party

What an unbelievable photograph. (Sorry for the blurriness, I re-photographed the invitation). They're laughing at us, right?

Diana Walker, All the President's Men, 1981.

Show at Howard Greenberg opens October 23.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

More on art later

James Wood’s “Verbage: The Republican war on words” in this week’s New Yorker had me laughing out loud.

The article ends:

Hearing [Palin] being interviewed by Sean Hannity, on Fox News, almost made one wish for a Republican victory in November, so that her bizarre locutions might be available a bit longer to delve into. At times, even Hannity looked taken aback; his eyes, slightly too close to each other, like the headlamps on an Army jeep, went blank, as if registering the abyss we are teetering above. Or perhaps he just couldn’t follow. The most revealing moment happened earlier, when she was asked about Obama’s attack on McCain’s claim that the fundamentals of the economy are sound. “Well,” Palin said, “it was an unfair attack on the verbage that Senator McCain chose to use, because the fundamentals, as he was having to explain afterwards, he means our workforce, he means the ingenuity of the American people. And of course that is strong, and that is the foundation of our economy. So that was an unfair attack there, again, based on verbage that John McCain used.” This is certainly doing rather than mere talking, and what is being done is the coinage of “verbage.” It would be hard to find a better example of the Republican disdain for words than that remarkable term, so close to garbage, so far from language.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Maybe the poets will let me in...

I’m applying to a poetry residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts – and as a visual artist, obviously. Because I’m working so much with text, I think it would be exciting, and eye opening.

The “master” Bob Holman sounds interesting. Here’s a bit of spoken work set to music that had my foot tapping.

She never called me back.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What's the big deal?

Artist’s tend to talk preciously about exhibiting their work: don’t compromise about what you show or how you want it shown, because you know best and what you have to say is very meaningful. But, the fact of the matter is, when you show – especially in a group situation or at a screening – it ain’t ever going to be perfect. Life just doesn’t work that way. So, relax people. Until your solo show that is.

On another note, what’s so great about Elizabeth Payton? Calvin Tomkins’s article portraying her in this week’s New Yorker opens,
No artist in recent memory has sailed into the mainstream with work that seemed so far out of it […] Since [a show at the Chelsea Hotel] her vividly painted, lushly romantic images of rock stars, film idols and eventually fellow-artists and friends have brought her the kind of fervid admiration that non-admirers find inexplicable and annoying.
That would be me. I just don’t get it. All I see is hip people and what I consider to be bad painting. And, yes, it is annoying. I will go to the New Museum’s retrospective, though. To be continued.