Wednesday, April 27, 2011

As neat as the pantry

(Nicole Eisenman, Death and Maiden, 2009, oil on canvas, 14.25 x 18 in.)

What about the free American woman? In movieland, what are our prospects?

After the age of 40 you can be Maude as in Harold and, with a wonderfully uplifting spirit, but you’ll commit suicide so as not to face old age – and also, you’ve just had enough. Or you can grab your friends Thelma and Louise and drive off a cliff. If you’re upper middle, it’s probably better to be a ball-busting shark or plain old good mom.

And what about the free American woman as artist?

If you want to compete with the guys, you’ll have to be as butch as possible – at the very least, an outspoken feminist. Otherwise, you’ll have to be quirky, lyrical or psychological and preferably the wife of another artist. The monumental is off-limits. But don’t worry: once you die, you can be marketed for the ages.

I'll stop being flip.

Art by women is different than art by men. I don’t see that as the problem. Let’s just broaden the categories and expand the notions of destiny.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Jeune et Belle

(Natalie Baye in "A French Gigolo")

I have a soft spot for mainstream French movies, the kind that aren’t really trying to be film, but that just tell a story and let you spend ninety minutes in the French mindset and in Paris if you’re lucky. It’s as refreshing as some time away, and you don’t have to take a plane.

This past weekend's selections from Netflix instant watch were about love, the true kind versus the kind that you pay for, for convenience sake. These were upper middle class scenarios, so no down and dirty prostitution and tales of societal misery. Just good clothes and the struggle between personal freedom and intimacy.

In “I do: How to Get Married and Stay Single,” a perfume nose hires Charlotte Ginsburg to be the perfect fiancée so his family will leave him alone. “Priceless” is the tale of two young beauts – a man and a woman - who hunt down older partners in order to mooch off of their well-heeled life along the Riviera. The best though, was “A French Gigolo,” which endearingly tells the story of being the older woman asking for such services (yes, let's acknowledge that that perspective would likely not be considered on this side of the "pond").

France is a country that prides itself on its sensuality, on breeding the femme fatale, on coining the term “ménage à trois,” and accepting the open marriage (how many times have you been reminded that both Mitterand’s wife and mistress were at his funeral). But all that is facade. The French are the most tradition-minded, family-oriented people I know. And every single one of these movies reaffirms it. In the chilling voiceover that ends “A French Gigolo,” the woman “of a certain age” declares, “I am a free woman.” That she is, but lest anyone think otherwise, the free French woman is lonely and will live to regret it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Miserable Authenticity

(Kirk Hayes, Stairs (For Kelson), 2006)

(Philip Guston, Untitled, 1980)

I was immediately attracted to this piece by Kirk Hayes in Gumption, a group show now on view at ZieherSmith. But is it the particular work that I like or the appeal of the association I make? That’s certainly reminiscent of a Guston pink and the roughhewn foot is part of Guston’s vocabulary (anyone who has been reading here a while knows, I like my Philip Guston.) Hayes’s other oil on panel in the exhibition rings more true to me. The line between influence and imitation is fine indeed.

With my own drawing, it’s so hard to tell when something is enough my own. If the question pops into my head, I probably have my answer: I’m too close. If I’m wracked with insecurity because I’ve never really seen anything like it, then I’m probably in the right zone of authenticity, miserable authenticity. Only with time does the sting wear away into a “maybe that works.”

All this said, with an almost-Guston my wall, I could be a happier person.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Lazy Monday

Today, more photographs, less words.

What is that painting behind Obama?

Wouldn’t this make a great drawing in oil stick? I’ll lose the Blonde in my version.

I still like them.
(Demonstration for the release of Ai Wei Wei yesterday in front of the Chinese Embassy).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


This is the most memorable work I saw today at the American Folk Art Museum. It's by a well-known self-taught artist named Bill Traylor, who was born into slavery and started drawing in his 80s. I still find it awkward to have work by "marginals" in a museum that institutionalizes "the marginal" (marginal to me).

As museum goers and art lovers, we tend to only learn about an artist's background if the artist is black, a woman or poor beyond can't-pay-back-my-loans. Sure, personal history is interesting and certainly does add dimension to seeing work. But we tend to chose what personal history matters. For some reason, we don't think the fact that Julian Schnabel has a new model girlfriend "matters." Nor does it "matter" that Molly Stevens found the deductions necessary to reduce her taxes to $4400, down from $10,400.