Wednesday, December 22, 2010

On hiatus...

 The canals of Pasadena

...until January. I got to LA in time for a couple of days of sun, and then this epic week-long storm during which the area has gotten more than half its annual rainfall--continuous sheets of pummeling rain like I've never seen before, today the worst, no point in going out. So I've got a fire going in the fireplace, am doing drawings, and not planning to have any Big Thoughts until 2011. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Exit Music

I’m off to LA on Friday until the end of the month, and never know what that means for blogging. Could be more, could be less.

I’ll leave you with this link to an article about the MFA creative writing culture that Ken Johnson posted on Facebook, saying, “With minor changes, it could be about art.” Both are institutional programs whose primary objective is self-perpetuation. The only difference, really, is that we don’t have two visual art cultures—everything goes through New York. Or does it? Can you get a teaching job with a local reputation? Where the writing programs concentrate on more easily achieved short stories, rather than novels, visual art programs encourage the art equivalent by not being nearly rigorous enough. It always amazes me what gets by.

I wasn’t going to mention Steve Martin ever again (really!) except that in his apologia in the Times on Saturday (where he errs on the side of earnestness—a boring piece about whether or not he was boring is rather likely to make us think he was) he refers to Times writer Deborah Solomon, as an “art scholar.” I won’t say any more. Yes I will. I first got on her case when I wrote a review (ARTnews, May, 1997) of Utopia Parkway, her biography of Joseph Cornell, where she delved into the details of the artist’s sex life, quoted from his very personal diaries, interviewed ex-girlfriends, and went on at some length conjecturing about what it took for the man to achieve orgasm. An art scholar would have known better.

And finally, apropos of nothing, I’ll share some quotes from Thom Yorke I found when I was looking for another quote and didn’t find it, something to the effect that “when you get famous you go up your own arse.” But these are also worth repeating even though, because it’s the Web, no one feels the need to tell us where they originated:

My girlfriend has this quote in her sketchbook: "Remain orderly in your life so you can be free and chaotic in your work." I think basically you lose it when you destroy your brain or destroy yourself emotionally or burn yourself up.

It's easy to be miserable. Being happy is tougher - and cooler.

People sometimes say we take things too seriously, but it's the only way you'll get anywhere.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

An Object of Beauty

The reason I’ve been reading so much lately is because I’ve been laid up with a cold. However yesterday I read a book that was guaranteed to make me sicker: Steve Martin’s novel about the art world entitled, An Object of Beauty. Really, Martin should have stayed in the role of lovable dork rather than expose his lack of art sophistication to inevitable ridicule. Woody Allen he is not.

OMG, there are not enough words to describe just how bad the book is on every level, but basically it’s a high school art appreciation course interspersed with sex scenes—a lofty attempt whose only redeeming quality is that it serves as a reminder of how great Anthony Trollope and Edith Wharton, masters at entwining narrative with social history, really were.  And since through this post I’m saving you at least $9.99 (for the download) and several hours of your time, I expect that when you see me next you’ll treat me to lunch.

The first implausible thing is that the narrator makes an actual living writing freelance for ARTnews.

Another is that street traffic, rather than carefully nurtured relationships with numerous collectors, translates into gallery sales, as in: “Lacey timed her second opening to coincide with Serra’s…and when a thousand art lovers showed up for Serra’s opening, giving Chelsea an unexpected kick start, her place hummed along with the spillover.  Pictures sold and sold, to collectors, not friends."

Some random excerpts (and I mean random—as opposed to choice—since my intention is to spend as little time leafing through this book as possible):

A conversation between a collector and a gallery owner:

“Do you know Joseph Beuys?” Ben said.We bought one of his felt suits.

Lacey knew. Her days at Talley’s (art gallery) always paid off somehow.


“Look," said Hinton, “up to the seventies, art proceeded in movements. Cubism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, so everyone, including me, was on the lookout for the next movement. But instead art in the eighties was at an evolutionary moment when it split into chimps, birds, fishes, plants and cephalopods all at once. Saul, artists can make a living now as a bad painter. I’m not kidding. You ask them what they make and they’ll say “bad art.” And they can put the implied quotes around it, too, with just their voice. And you know what? It’s bad, but it’s not that bad.

“Do you have any?” said Brooke (supposedly art collector, Hinton is saying this for the enlightenment of Peter Schjeldahl’s wife during Art Miami, at a star-studded dinner at Joe’s Stone Crab hosted by ARTnews).

“We’ve got a roomful of it,” said Cornelia.

Hinton went on, “We sure do, and sometimes the bad stuff can make the so-called good stuff seem boring and stiff.”


Then there are the scenes of sex and romance:

And when I kissed her good night, it seemed as if little animated larks circled around our heads.


Then Agent Parks came inside the condom that was inside Lacey and let her know it by stopping midstroke and squeezing her waist with both hands.

On his way out, the receptionist said….

On his way out? Of where? Lacey’s vagina has a receptionist?

The only believable line in the entire book is where Schjeldahl "whose art criticism goes down like wine, says, ‘Huh?’”

Note validation in today's Times article describing how Steve Martin and Deborah Solomon's talk at the 92nd Street Y bombed to the point that attendees were monetarily compensated. The reason given was that they talked too much about art, but given how little understanding of art both have demonstrated in their writing, methinks it was the content rather than the subject that sank them.

Another concurring review.