Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Blue Hat

The Picasso show at Gag in Chelsea is definitely star-studded gallery going. The last time I went, I spotted Brice Marden. All I want to say is that I noticed he was wearing a blue knit cap, which I’m now discovering is part of his everyday wardrobe. See any video on YouTube. This one is particularly interesting because he almost removes it. But he’s just scratching. Plus I like how he talks about painting.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Things are not what they seem; nor are they otherwise

I have a hard time with the concept of individuality.

First, there’s something very tenth grade about the idea of embracing your uniqueness. I picture my friend drawing swirls emanating from a figure, its hands open to the sky. It’s not that I don’t value that sweet expression of a certain concept of self-identity, it’s just that I’m dubious that it’s so unique. I mean, don’t you know someone who drew swirls? (The drawing above is the first that came up under “stoned drawings” in a Google image search)

And then, somehow I’ve learned that I must not confuse a sense of self for uniqueness, because that would be forgetting my privilege. It’s ingrained in my head that any revelation is somehow indulgent and blinded. Don’t feel special, just feel guilty.

Then there are the Buddhists of course and the assertion of no-self. The fragile understanding I have of no-self – the idea that a fixed, intrinsic identity does not exist – in fact can yield a great freedom, because the pressure is off. I am what I am in a context, and there’s nothing much I can do about it, for or against it.

What I am trying to say here? Oh yeah. As artists we have to do our own thing. We can’t be someone else, because we’re not. But, the individual doesn’t exist. So is that a contradiction or what?

“Things are not what they seem; nor are they otherwise.” Sensei Ogui

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Eat it

While we’re on the topic of success…

Last week’s New Yorker had an article about a test in the 1960s that had kids sit in front of a marshmallow. They could eat it immediately or wait ten minutes and earn a second one. Of course it was torture for all, but helped divide the population into “low” delayers and “high” delayers of gratification. Further studies decades later show that the kids able to delay gratification were likely to become “successful” adults.
Carolyn Weisz [high delayer] is a textbook example of a high delayer. She attended Stanford as an undergraduate, and got her Ph.D. in social psychology at Princeton. She’s now an associate psychology professor at the University of Puget Sound. Craig [low delayer], meanwhile, moved to Los Angeles and has spent his career doing “all kinds of things” in the entertainment industry, mostly in production. He’s currently helping to write and produce a film. “Sure, I wish I had been a more patient person,” Craig says. “Looking back, there are definitely moments when it would have helped me make better career choices and stuff.

What bothers me is the value judgment. Carolyn may be “successful” but I bet Craig is a hell of a lot more fun to be with. I bet he’s spontaneous and creative. I bet he’s had some rough falls too. In short, I’d rather know Craig.

I probably would have delayed the gratification, played good girl, and rebelled 30 years later after thousands spent on the couch. But I wish I would have just eaten the marshmallow and then found a way to buy my own goddamn bag. Screw ‘em.

(Image: Claus Oldenburg, 1962)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Beamer me up, Scottie

This post was going to be about how I wasn’t too surprised about BMW ripping off the work of Aaron Young. Because surely I’m not so na├»ve as to think that this kind of thing doesn’t happen. Plus, because I’m so smart, I can tell the difference.

Young is best known for riding motorcycles on gallery floors leaving a trace of the movement. So it’s a tough(er) boy approach to action painting (Pollock, that gang). I like the looks of the raw version, but I’m not so keen on the glitzier one he organized for the Whitney Biennial in 2007 (image of both below).

But then I did some research on the campaign and now I feel a bit like throwing up and a bit like laughing. It started with the tag line, “Not all artists are depressed.” No, true. But I bet a lot of Beamer drivers these days are.

Then we learn that BMW has commissioned this artist from South Africa to drive paint-covered tires on paper (looks like Photoshop to me). Plus, the artist self-describes as a “revolutionary contemporary artist.” Why doesn’t he just call himself “fantastic person?” Did they just make this guy up for the campaign?

Gross-hilarious factor aside, I’m having a hard time really digesting that “success” and “recognition” entails a certain shallowness, a certain in-authenticity – and if it doesn’t, you’re still vulnerable to exploitation. What has me swallow is the realization that I’ve been wanting “success.” I (re)wonder.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

White House Poetry Jam

Meanwhile, in the East Room, the president and the first lady have hosted the first ever White House poetry jam.

Here’s what Mr. Obama had to say:

“We’re here to celebrate the power of words and music to help us appreciate beauty and also to understand pain.’’

That had my draw drop actually. Not run away from pain? See, hear, appreciate something in art that you can take with you to your other tasks? Honestly, what’s not to like about these people?

Monday, May 11, 2009


Someone please go to this and tell me about it. I can’t make it:
"Laying low, aiming high, and keeping the faith in contemporary and emerging art": a panel discussion with art professionals organized by the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA), and hosted by the Drawing Center.
Tuesday May 12, 2009, 6:30pm

Most of this article about the transportation hub at ground zero is interesting. Specially this idea:
The result is a monument to the creative ego that celebrates Mr. Calatrava’s engineering prowess but little else. And it reinforces the likelihood that one day, decades from now, when the site is finally completed, it will stand as a testament to our inability to put self-interests aside in the face of one of America’s greatest tragedies.

Finally, this too sounds pretty interesting, although perhaps too academic.

Considering Forgiveness Book Launch Celebration
Monday, May 11, 2009 – 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
The New School, Theresa Lang Community and Student Center
55 West 13th Street, 2nd floor, New York City
Admission free

Considering Forgiveness is both a literal and a metaphorical meeting. Join us to celebrate the Vera List Center’s first book, edited by New School faculty member Aleksandra Wagner, as many of the contributors discuss the political—and personal—relevance of this controversial term.

What do we mean when we say forgiveness? Are we able to think it, and with what goals and hopes in mind? Forgiveness emerges here not as an agenda offering closure but as a strategy and form of awareness; a legal, sociological, psychological, anthropological, theological and ethical concept that demands engagement.

Speakers include
Ayreen Anastas, An Everyday Judgment of Eternity
Gregg Bordowitz, Admissions
Rene Gabri, When Final Peace Was Not (So) Final
Andrea Geyer, I Beg Your Pardon
Sharon Hayes, Thematic Apperception Test #22: Gay Power
Lin + Lam, Dark Meat or White Meat?
Jeffrey Olick, Times for Forgiveness
Brian Price, Texas 2008
Jane Taylor, Reconciling the Odds
Elisabeth Young-Bruehl. Hannah Arendt on Forgiveness

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Making it

I think my therapist told me a story about a writer she knew who wrote his entire novel – and it got published - with a sign on his typewriter that read “Make it shit now, fix it later.” Funny thing is, I’m actually not sure about the “fix it later” part. Was that really part of the sign did she say? Or is that what I remember she said? The book definitely got published, that I know.

In any case, this past week I’ve been approaching my drawing and painting with only “Make it shit” in my head, inspired somehow by this story that somehow only exists in my head. The good part is that the attitude does get the juices flowing – because you’re trying to break any rule of decorum you catch yourself putting out.

So, here is a shitty photograph of one of the shit drawings and a shitty photograph of the shit painting I’m working on.

Monday, May 4, 2009

When you've got nothing

As you probably already know, for her show at Paula Cooper (a re-do of her pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennale), Sophie Calle has a gazillion women respond – from the standpoint of their profession - to a breakup letter she received. A magician, singers, translators, a riffle shooter, etc., all react to the text in video or through the written word. The array of sturdy women and the solidarity is indeed empowering (probably why she undertook the project), but, oy, Calle must be so annoying! But, I do enjoy spending a little time with her obsessions every now and then.

Next door, at Gag, it’s true, you should see the Picasso show. That’s what they mean when they say moving the paint around. Also, the vigor of the artist’s creative production – up until his death – is nothing short of overwhelming.

The two shows together are safe territory for the blue chips - and viewers too. No one feels like going out on any kind of wobbly limb these days. If you’re something, I guess that makes sense. But if you’re nothing (and you know what I mean), there’s no reason not too. When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.