Thursday, December 15, 2011

Events and non-events

By now everyone knows that TIME’s Person of the Year for 2011 is “The Protester” and that Shepard Fairey created the cover. Those who’ve followed this blog for a while know that I worked as a consultant for TIME on the covers for over 20 years, and introduced Fairey to TIME in 2007, when he created an image of Putin that ran on the inside (see post here).  While the Person of the Year, along with the magazine itself, no longer has much cachet, I’m still glad TIME made a good call (over, say, Kate Middleton for getting married or Steve Jobs for dying) as it represents formal recognition that this is a massive, worldwide movement—unlike the New York Times, which is still waiting for Occupy to go away so no one will notice that they haven’t been covering it.

I admire Shepard Fairey and feel his success is deserved; I have absolutely no patience with the kneejerk reaction that commercial success = sellout (Coldplay remains a favorite, and I’m glad Radiohead left their major label so they, too, don’t have to be a guilty pleasure). However, if I still worked for TIME, I wouldn’t have recommended Fairey for this cover simply because the protests represent the new and unknown, where his now-ubiquitous style is associated with the known, the past, and is simply too sleek and realized (again, nothing wrong with that per se) to represent the nascent, unformed and gritty surge that is this movement. If they’d asked, I would have looked for the street artist who is now what Fairey was in 2007. It's no one I could name off the top of my head. Because a TIME cover has very specific requirements, that would require the research that was once my job. I might, however, start here:

Although it’s had the Internet on fire for weeks and was a headline today in Britain’s Guardian, another event the New York Times (along with the rest of the mainstream media) hasn’t covered is the hasty passing—ironically on 220th anniversary of the Bill of Rights—of the latest iteration of the National Defense Authorization Act, which many feel compromises our most basic American rights to due process. But you can learn about it on the Huffington Post, and if you need a laugh to mitigate the fright, on The Daily Show.

Meanwhile, in the art world, I received a press release today announcing that Gagosian will be showing ALL of Damien Hirst’s dot paintings (they call them “spot” paintings) in ALL of the eleven Gagosian Galleries throughout the world—Paris, Athens, Geneva, Hong Kong, London, Rome and New York. Now there’s an event to stay home for. My opinion as a critic is, if you’ve seen one dot painting, you’ve seen them all. You can quote me.

Banksy's take on Hirst's dot paintings.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Weeds and Weed

When I went to the Yucatan a few weeks ago, I was reminded of a trip I made there with my friend, Jeff, in the late eighties, when the “Mayan Riviera,” as it’s now called, was still wild. Tulum is one of the few places I’ve been that’s actually been improved by development (the coast at Folkestone, England is another). Back then, a walk along the beach meant navigating piles of seaweed and plastic garbage thrown overboard by boats. Now the numerous but modest eco-lodges that line the beach (“eco-lodge” is short for “electricity and water that goes randomly on and off”) keep the white sand sparkling clean.  Jeff and I stayed near Playa del Carmen at a resort called El Capitan Lafitte, now Petite Lafitte but, I hear, much the same (a good thing).  One day as we were going out for a walk, our neighbors in the next cabana told us that the Federales were out looking for marijuana smugglers and we might find some bales washed up on the beach. Oh sure, I thought, they tell that to all the tourists, but then a mile or so down the beach we came across, in all its majestic glory, the biggest, most water-logged bale of weed you’d ever hope to see—which, if we’d been of a more enterprising bent, could have supported us for a good long time.  Did we smoke any? I’ll never tell.

Jeff wrote today that he’s been back to Playa del Carmen about four times since, and once took a trip all the way down the coast to Xcalak, almost to Belize. He said he didn’t find any weed washed up, but did see this Federale helicopter flying overhead at dawn, looking for some.

 Photo: Jeffrey Rubin

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Satyagraha, Act IV

It had to happen. Following the final performance of Satyagraha at the Met Thursday night, opera-goers found the story continuing in real life as police tried to shoo them away from the OWS gathering outside—which included the composer Philip Glass, who used OWS’s “human mic” technique to recite a quotation from the Bhagavad Gita. In true “minimalist” tradition (which means, counter-intuitively, that you say things more than once), Glass repeated it three times:

When righteousness
Withers away
And evil
Rules the Land
We come into being
Age after age
And take visible shape
And Move
A man among men
For the protection
Of good
Thrusting back evil
And setting virtue
On her seat again

I think we could make something of the fact that, along with Naomi Wolf’s arrest at OWS downtown, this story never made it to the New York Times, where both Glass and Wolf’s cultural contributions have been more than amply covered (including Wolf’s delightful dissertation on little girls’ obsession with princesses, published this weekend). I first learned about the Lincoln Center protest on the LA Times website (via Facebook, of course), and recommend this thoughtful coverage by Seth Colter Walls at The Awl

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Today it was announced that Art Vent was awarded a major grant from the Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation:

Designed to encourage and reward writing about contemporary art that is rigorous, passionate, eloquent and precise, as well as to create a broader audience for arts writing, the program aims to strengthen the field as a whole and to ensure that critical writing remains a valued mode of engaging the visual arts.
In its 2011 cycle, the Arts Writers Grant Program has awarded a total of $565,000 to twenty-three writers representing twenty projects. Ranging from $8,000 to $50,000 in four categories—articles, blogs, books and short-form writing—these grants support projects addressing both general and specialized art audiences, from scholarly studies to self-published blogs.
As you know, Art Vent has been a labor of love since 2007, and would not have continued without your consistent support and feedback. This generous grant will enable me to improve the site and keep going! 
Thank you, thank you, thank you!