Wednesday, January 31, 2007

What Money Is Doing To Art

Or How The Art World Lost It's MInd.
Big Art Big Blonde Lisa Yuskovage.
THIS ARTICLE SUCKS! This is a pretty thorough article from the New Repulic and I am still reading it, but so far, it is catching my attention. It starts out by riffing on the Vanity Fair ART issue...which I have and keep trying to read the entire thing...and keep falling asleep. Usually Vanity Fair's article's grab me even if I'm not interested in the people or subject, the writing is so good. But this is so far deadly dull. The New Republic article has captured my attention...and I am just making my way through it now. Thanks to my buddy Greg for giving me the heads-up on this one!
Twisting Girl John Currin This article by Jed Perl uses really good artists to say art is "laisse faire", which seesm to me counter-productive. I at one point wondered if Perl was being sarcastic...saying art has become marketed for the largest audience possible: that would be a good thing in my world. Aren't these cool painters? And isn't it exciting that painting the human figure has become controversial at long last AGAIN?

Farm House.

In the 1940's, a farm magazine had a contest for a 100 word analysis of a photo of a deserted farmhouse in a badly gullied feild. This was 1st prize:
Picture show white man crazy. Cut down trees, make big teepee. Plough hill. Water mash. Wind blow soil. Grass gone. Door gone. Whole place gone. Money gone. Papoose gone. Squaw too. No chuckaway. No pigs. No cow. No plough. No hay. No pony. Indian no plough land. Keep grass. Buffalo eat grass. Indian eat buffalo. Hides make teepee. Make moccasin. Indian no make terrace. No make dam. All time eat. No hunt job. No hitch hike. No ask relief. No shoot pig. Great spirit make grass. Indian no waste anything. Indian no work. White man crazy.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A New Room Mate...


About a year and a half ago, Stagg took several sheets of fabric and painted all over them. then he gave them to his friend Danny who created this woman. Isn't she lovely? She moved in last weekend.
I admit, there have been a few times I've walked into the room and jumped. She really has a strong personality and prescence. Her arms are so long and delicate, and kind of remind me of movie arms of aliens...but they also make her seem to stoic. Danny has an art show at the Chicago Tourism Center, 72 East Randolph Street until Feb.28th.
Should we name her? Any suggestions?

Monday, January 29, 2007

A Eulogy From Five Years Ago Today.


Nesta Foxx was one of my best friends. I also had the priviledge of calling her gramma.

Gramma might be best recalled as being a generous, loving host and entertainer. She designed and decorated beautiful spaces and menus. She was a woman of grace, composure and thoughtfulness. She could
paint, sew and garden. She practiced many skills lost to recent generations. She was also more than these talents.

She was one of my idols. She was my confidant and my mentor. She will remain one of the greatest thinkers I have ever met. I could talk to her about anything from politics to sex to religion to love to what wine to cook what meat in.

She had a mind that understood and felt deep emotions yet was pragmatic. She was common sense.

I was a troubled teenager. I suffered tramatic shock disorder and my grandparents were my moral rock and support. I could and would always go to my grandmother for advice when I felt lost and alone, which was the defining aspect of my youth. Even if my grandmother and I had our differences of opinion about various topics we could always talk it out because of her outstanding character and her love. It was through no credit of my own in those days, I am sad to admit. She helped me to learn how to live and be a better person. Both Gramma and Grampa helped teach me how to be happy.

My grandparents were a team. They taught me to believe that family and friends were the best team. They believed in doing the right thing and having fun while doing it. They loved people and loved laughing and visiting. They loved exploring the human condition, from my grandfathers avid reading of military and spy stories to my grandmothers enthusiasm for movies, musicals and baseball players(she thought they were sexy!) and travel. They followed world events with the eyes of people who had particpated and lived through some of historys worst times. Heroically, without being cynical. I believe their attiudes and experience with lifes dark side enabled them to help me learn to be happy. I owe them for that.

They loved music. Grandpa loved Swing and Dixieland and Jazz. Grandma loved Elvis and Wayne Newton and Perry Como and Englebert Humperdink. She went to some of their concerts! I have many happy memories of laying on the living room floor while they spun records.

I admired them.

And they could make me laugh. Fall down funny, both of them.

I remember once, years ago, I decided to wear only cotton or natural fabrics. I told my grandmother this newfangled plan of mine with revolutionary glee. Like an outlaw. She looked at me and said
“Natural? What do you mean natural? Where do you think this came from- Mars?” She pointed to one of her trademark exotic outfits. I laughed so hard. Of course she was correct. Everything made by humans was part of nature!

A typical visit between snacks would include my gramma whispering,”Don’t tell your grandfather” as she slipped me a fifty
dollar bill. An hour later, my grandpa whispering “Don’t tell your grandmother” as he slipped me a fifty dollar bill. I never
understood this ritual, but they were funny characters and many of their mysterious ways were my delight.

I wish I was half the person either of them were.

Together:they were a party!

My sister and I share a foundation of love from our grandparents. We are passing it on to our children.

I never introduced a friend of mine to my grandmother that didn’t adore her. The very rare time I met someone who didn’t enjoy her company was really a reflection on their lack of character. So anyone who was a friend of grandma I hold very dear to my heart and respect from afar. Thank you for coming today and I hope you have a cup of coffee or a beer and a sandwich and a visit. It is what my grandmother would want.

Grampa and Granma's friend T said to me two weeks ago, “She
always wanted to go out with a party”. How true.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Favourite Hang-Out Gave Me A Surprise!




Yes, this is another one of those posts where Candy takes a flash photo inside the public toilet stall. Check out that grafitti.

Old Paintings and A New Couch

Megan and Tiff. The painting on wall is a large folding screen titled "Anita and The Most Unforgettable Women" from 1987.
Megan in the kitchen. The painting behind her is from 1993.
I can't remember the title to this one. It's from April, 2001 and is hanging at Tuffy P and Mister Anchovy's house.
Small folding screen titled "Lotus and Cake", 1987. I should have taken a photo of the other side, it is all black with rain drops.
Sketch/maquette for "Virus I", 1987.
The painting on the wall there is actually one of Mister Anchovy's 1994? Titled "Unfinished Business".

Friday, January 26, 2007

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

by Dylan Thomas

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Desperate and Lonely Time

Gorky.
Yesterday, I posted a couple of quotes from abstract expressionist painters Motherwell and Rothko. Mister Anchovy made an insightful comment "Those guys were onto something. There is a desperateness and loneliness about American art of that period though, don't you think?"

1)Yes, I do Mister Anchovy. One of the main haunting questions I thought about since studying the literature and art of the post Second World War, is why didn't those artists and poets have more fun? Very few contemporary artists have come to fame under the kind of duress that artists of the 50's lived through. If an artist has made it to a level of fame and income, seldom has their story been surrounded by a monumental angst of the kind we associate with Van Gogh, Pollack, Rothko, Plath, and Ginsberg. If Warhol, Koons or Schnabel struggled for their existence and art, it was only for a couple of years till they became stars in the pages of Vogue and Vanity Fair. We have our token struggling artist Basquiat lore, and Joseph Bueys being nobody's fool created a huge mythology surrounding his muses for art-making. Our current struggling artist story is likely J.K. Rowlings period of writing her Harry Potter series without much food, in coffee shops as a single mom. And of course we have the rehab brigade. Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie, the Olsen Twins, Robert Downey Jr, and celebrity feuds highlight and seem to have replaced our struggling artists motifs , at least for the moment.
2)Sylvia Plath.

3)If you are an artist today, or a writer, you are either a nobody, or wildly rich and famous. But is that all you are?




4)Would a writer or artist today rather be a nobody than suffer the kinds of depression and self-esteem issues that Pollack and Rothko set up against overnight fame, and the possible knowledge that they were simply bought by the Establishment to secure cultural supremecy as well as military supremacy for America? CIA theory of government funded art movements.
Hans Hoffman.

But then again...doesn't every writer and artist have a sense of desperation and loneliness? Doesn't every human spirit struggle as it grows with desperation and loneliness?

Or is that only the realm of the crazymad artist and writer?
Riopelle.

5)The question, then, is whether manic-depression and other emotional disorders serve the creative process, or actually impede it. ''Most people who are manic-depressive are more reflective, introspective, can deal with more existential issues when they're depressed,'' Dr. Jamison said. ''And if you think of a classic kind of manic wit, like Lenny Bruce, there's a rapidity of association and an ability to reach instantly back into the mind. It's clear that if you give hypomania [the medical term for the manic state] to an already creative person you give them a big advantage.'' As if to underscore the point, Dr. Jamison helped produce a Los Angeles concert last May entitled ''Moods and Music.'' It featured compositions by Handel, Schumann, Wolf, Berlioz and Mahler - all of whom, she maintained, were manic-depressive.

Dr. Barry M. Panter, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Southern California and the director of an annual conference on ''Creativity and Madness,'' cites a similar chemistry between emotion and creativity. ''The material artists use for their art,'' Dr. Panter said, ''comes from the primitive levels of their inner lives - aggression, sexual fantasy, polymorphous sexuality. What we know about the development of personality is that we all go through these stages and have these primitive drives within us. As we mature and are 'civilized,' we suppress them. But the artist stays in touch with and struggles to understand them. And to remain so in touch with that primitive self is to be on the fine line between sanity and madness.''
From "How Inner Torment Feeds The Creative Spirit" NYTs

6)Is it true all writers and artists are at least half mad?
Allen Ginsberg.


7)Traditional forms and ideas no longer seemed to provide meaning to many American poets in the second half of the 20th century. Events after World War II produced for many writers a sense of history as discontinuous: Each act, emotion, and moment was seen as unique. Style and form now seemed provisional, makeshift, reflexive of the process of composition and the writer's self-awareness. Familiar categories of expression were suspect; originality was becoming a new tradition.

The break from tradition gathered momentum during the 1957 obscenity trial of Allen Ginsberg's poem Howl. When the San Francisco customs office seized the book, its publisher, Lawrence Ferlinghetti's City Lights, brought a lawsuit. During that notorious court case, famous critics defended Howl's passionate social criticism on the basis of the poem's redeeming literary merit. Howl's triumph over the censors helped propel the rebellious Beat poets -- especially Ginsberg and his friends Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs -- to fame.

It is not hard to find historical causes for this dissociated sensibility in the United States. World War II itself, the rise of anonymity and consumerism in a mass urban society, the protest movements of the 1960s, the decade-long Vietnam conflict, the Cold War, environmental threats -- the catalog of shocks to American culture is long and varied. The change that most transformed American society, however, was the rise of the mass media and mass culture. First radio, then movies, and later an all-powerful, ubiquitous television presence changed American life at its roots. From a private, literate, elite culture based on the book and reading, the United States became a media culture attuned to the voice on the radio, the music of compact discs and cassettes, film, and the images on the television screen.
From The Anti-Tradition


8)Johns and his contemporaries were concerned with tackling the problems set out for them by the preceding generation, the Abstract Expressionists. Pollock had died in 1956, and we have only to recall that when Johns was looking for a gallery the following year he was anxious to find a neutral space, that is, one not infected by the second Abstract Expressionist generation. The weight of this generation would have fallen particularly heavily on the younger artists at a time when the Abstract Expressionists were being promoted extensively, at home and abroad, as the "true" American artists. Additionally, Abstract Expressionism had accrued a critical vocabulary and eminent apologists, such as Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg, who regarded it as the true heir of modern art proper and the flagbearer for modernism. Abstract Expressionism and modernism became synonymous.
Louise Nevelson.

The cliche struggles of the artist and writer in modern times, has become a standard for all of us. The very nature of making a painting or writing is about conflict resolution. A novel is incomplete without conflict and conflict resolution. That might be the first lesson in many creative writing courses. Every painting is a history of conflict, and conflict resolution. The mere act of composing an image and reconciling it with the artists inner vision and intent is conflict, and hopefully....a kind of resolution, at least for the maker.
Robert Lowell.

9)This traditionally "artistic struggle" has become marketed for the mainstream. Everyone has a story, and everyone wants to be validated. We know this is true because of the huge business that self-help books generate and the popularity of Oprah.

10)This makes me wonder, if actually, the abstract expressionists, the "anti-traditional" poets of the post WWII era really were living in more desperate and lonely times?
Barnett Newman, Broken Obelisk.

11)It appears as if most of the world is living in desperate times and aware of their own desperation and struggle. Roseanne, in her own strange way has summed this up perfectly. She says, "half the world is starving to death and the other half is on a diet."

12)I also wonder...if it hadn't been for the personal and professional risks that poets, writers and artists like Lowell, Pollack, Rothko and Ginsberg made by diving into their world and looking at the world despite loneliness and desperation...or perhaps because of it...would we have the drive today to expect so much more out of our own lives than what social constructs, family or our society may have tried to drug us into accepting? With a few bucks all of us can go to the book store, or watch Oprah and find tools to work on our own conflict resolution. We can go to the library and borrow poetry to read the lives and challenges of a gay man like Ginsberg or Lowell as they record and code freedom in a society less tolerant than ours right now.

13)And I believe there are artists and writers out there today speaking about our own current desperate times. If Pollack and Rothko can tell us something about their times...isn't it possible someone out there right now, as you read this is painting something that might touch you? Making a sculpture that shares their story and yours? I hope if you are reading this, you will take a small amount of effort and go see a local artists show or studio. Drop by a gallery and talk to the representative and ask them if they could introduce you to an artist or a few artists in your area. Find out when their next opening is, and ask the artist questions, have a glass of wine with them. Look and think about their work...find out if they are telling a story for our times.

And if their work touches you...why not take it home? You'd be surprised how many artists will sell work from their studio for a really good price. Plus, you'll be making a statement too, that the Olsen Twins and Britney Spears bare-butt passion play are NOT our story of the times.

Related Topics
A Brief Renassance
Gerhard Richter
Broken Obelisk
Posters Online


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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Who Looks Romantic Now?

"As a result of the poverty of modern life, we are confronted with the circumstance that art is more interesting than life." Robert Motherwell, 1944.
"The Romantics were prompted to seek exotic subjects and to travel to far off places. They failed to realize that, though the transcendental must evolve the strange and unfamiliar, not everything strange and unfamiliar is transcendental.

The unfriendliness of society to his activity is difficult for the artist to accept. Yet this very hostility can act as a lever for true liberation.Freed froma false sense of security and community, the artist can abandon his plastic bank-book, just as he has abandoned other forms of security. Both the sense of community and of security depend on the familiar. Free of them, transcendental experiences become possible.

Even the archaic artist, who had an uncanny virtuousity, found it necessary to create a group of intermediaries, monsters, hybrids, gods and demigods. The difference is that, since the archaic artist was living in a more practical society than ours, the urgency for transcendant experience was understood, and given an official status. Without monsters and gods, art can not enact our drama: arts most profound moments express this frustration. When they were abandoned as untenable superstitions, art sank into melancholy. It became fond of the dark, and enveloped its objects in the nostalgic intimations of a half-lit world."
Mark Rothko, 1947.

Prince Bits




Magical Thinking

Today's New York Times has an interesting article about signs, postive thoughts and the human mind.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Todays Dinner is Tomorrows Blog


Wat you lookin aat? Tiff picked up a CSI facial reconstruction kit. The girl loves that show! Actually, what a great toy huh?
Well, an aspect for friends of bloggers is, they are always getting their photo taken. Stagg and I have an ongoing phrase "that's bloggable!" when we are out and about. Is this a new occurance, a terrible sign of contemporary life subjecting primal experience to the future? Nah. Bullshit. Some of us idiots have been acting like bloggers for our whole lives. I mentioned earlier that I've always kept sketch books and note boks. I still have a sketch book kicking around from art lessons when I was ten years old in Ottawa. By the time I got to art school after high school...the sketch books had morphed into notes and scraps of paper, concert ticket stubs, photos of friends, and endless quotes and excerpts and poems, either written by me or by someone else. And lots of drawings and maquettes. The above photo is the outside of one such book. You can see my Banff ski passes I've attached to the spine.
I usually have a lot of drawing or sketches in these books. And quotes from things that touched me at some point or made me think. On this page are some drawings I did based on a Christmas Rose, one of my favourite flowers. Let's see, what were the notes on this page..."freedom only being realizable in association with others" Bataille. "obligation happens only if one is free to not accomplish the obligation" Kant. "knowledge kills action" Nietzsche. "idealism is life-killing" Nietzsche. "But what I would really like, when the time comes to break away and jump, is to jump not backwards, not down, but forward to something higher" Andrei Torkovsky in The Glass Bead Game. "Experiment must give way to argument, and argument must have recourse to experimentation"Bachelard. (obviously the notes of a madwoman, hell bent on anarchy)
Some old pics of my paintings mixed in with a photo of Anita and I.
I don't know, it's a scrapbook. A hardcopy blog...go figure. Yes, there are clips of things I like, a young Bruce Springsteen a young John Travolta. And photos from Mister Anchovy and Tuffy P's wedding in 2001. To the right, if you squint you'll see Stagg, Tiff and Anita. Below, you might be abe to see Dolly, Tiff and me (with a customary beer in my hand apparently).
Our first dinner party, the other night. Yep, we finally invited folks over to our place, Marc and Deana were our guinea pigs. We had lots of snacks first with martinis and beer and wine. Some pate, grape leaf rolls (I can't remember their proper name), cheese crackers etc...and I roasted a chicken some butternut squash and asparagus and mushrooms. I went nuts and had also made a caulifower salad but completely forgot to serve it, and had a huge pot of ox-tail soup as a "back-up plan". All the years of cooking and prepping in professional kitchens I can't cook for less than ten people. I've been that way for years. Makes for lots of left overs though and I'm always ready for the apocalypse. ( I am handy with a knife, guns, , making fire, fishing and hunting).
Here is Deana camping it up with a fork full of chicken for me, but I have such a buzz on from two martinis( and a wicked head cold) that I missed the shot. But you get the idea.
Marc and Stagg.
Beautiful delicate Deana and a giant from another planet.
The plastic juice container there was our martini shaker. Stagg went out in the day to about five stores in our neighbourhood to get a martini shaker, but no luck, including a kitchen store and booze store. What's up with that? But the juice pitcher worked just fine. (the big pot in the background? Thats the ox-tail soup)
Now really, our first guests were David here, and Tiff, when they came to town for Madonna, but that's family so it doesn't really count as official dinner guests.
Coffee and couch shopping with Tiff. She was not too pleased with me popping her photo. In fact this is a perfect example of folks around me now saying "You're putting this on your bloody blog aren't you?! ARGH!"
Greek food with Behzad and Anita. (take note, isn't it uncanny how Deana up above and Anita are like twins? I guess I like petite blondes as friends, heh heh, that's must be my type).
Charles Bukowski and one of his babes?
The morning after, breakfast with Megan.