Art Vent

Letting the Fresh Air In


August 27, 2008
Last week I went to see “
Penelope Cruz in "Vicky Maria Barcelona".

P.S. Researching this I found that Pedro Almodovar has a blog, where I read about his migraines and opinion on Penelope Cruz's hairstyle in Allen's film. Also that we share the same birthday.
August 22, 2008
This from Matt Freedman:
I was pleased to see the Lost Puppy pop up on your blog (below), Carol, especially in the context of a post about art storage, self respect, and need for artists to devise schemes to defend their art. The Lost Puppy's only reason for being, as a matter of fact, is to address all those issues. That you snagged it off the Internet on a whim speaks volumes about either the power of chance or your supernatural curatorial eye. Perhaps both. The Puppy was made for artist Adam Simon's Fine Art Adoption Network (FAAN), which he created in cooperation with Art In General. It's a website designed to put artists together with art lovers who lack the means to buy art. Basically the artist posts an image of a piece he or she is interested in giving away. Visitors to the site who like the piece can write the artist and enter into an online conversation with them. If the artist deems the potential collector worthy, they work out a mutually agreeable means of transferring the piece from the artist to the collector. The idea for the project began when Adam realized he could no longer afford to keep a large old painting in storage. It was a good painting, but there was no one around to buy it. Why not find a collector who had the same interest in art that a "regular collector" does, except without the money? The work would be saved, a person who loved art would have a piece they liked, the art world would grow in size and diversity, and the artist would have one less headache in the studio. Everything would be ideal, except of course, the artist would still be broke. Nothing is perfect. Anyway the idea caught on and now FAAN is a pretty thriving operation. It's a brilliant project, I think, and I was eager to join, but my own contribution, the Lost Puppy, was not kicking around the studio taking up space. In fact, it was made specifically to be given away. No one ever said I was practical. I liked the idea of giving work away, but it was the relationship between the giver and the taker that fascinated me more than the opportunity to unload stuff. One of the half-joking objections made to Adam as he was organizing FAAN was that he was simply giving artists the opportunity to learn that they couldn't even give their work away, and I too was drawn to the idea that at its bottom what was really being conducted was a test of the desirability of the work itself. Putting a monetary value on a piece changes it into a commodity—with all the market-driven forces at work outside of its pure appeal coming into effect in determining whether or not someone decides to acquire it. Taking away any monetary value laid it bare, so I felt I had to make a piece that literally begged to be taken in. What could be more desirable than a lost puppy, with big eyes, floppy ears and a crooked tail? Nature designed them to be adorable as a survival mechanism after all. At any rate, it worked and the Puppy was wooed by many suitors, finally ending up with a class of fifth graders in Canada, whose own cuteness worked as a kind of reverse lever on me, prying loose the Puppy after much backing and forthing. It's in a case at the school now, I hear, with a broken ear that the teacher repaired. As long as a work of art resides with the artist, it can be protected; after it leaves the studio it has to fend for itself. I remember back in 1999 Santiago Calatrava was asked to design a time capsule for the Museum of Natural History that would not be opened for 1,000 years. Various schemes where considered to ensure that it fulfilled its function; should the capsule be so big and strong it could never break? Should it be buried deep in the ground to protect it with the hope it would someday be rediscovered? As I recall, in the end Calatrava said the best defense the capsule could have against its own destruction would be that people would value it and take care of it for the 1,000 years of its life, and the best way to ensure that was to make it as beautiful as possible: beauty as survival mechanism. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder of course—sleek swoopy time capsule or lumpy Puppy, take your pick. In the end, we can only defend our art for so long; sooner or later, somebody else has to care too. c

I think it was Lost Puppy’s innate appeal that prompted me to choose it to represent Matt’s art when writing about the care of artworks. A fine example of purpose inherent in the work—hurrah! Needs no explanation. What I didn’t realize until now is that the article I chose to link to when mentioning Louise Bourgeois—one I wrote for Art & Antiques years ago—about the garden sculpture her father collected, is on the same theme. Protected by their value as art, the sculptures survived only until their material—lead—became worth even more when melted down to make bullets for World War II.
August 21, 2008
Yesterday my team of teenage assistants, led by the industrious Leah, helped me to complete the cleaning and reorganization of my painting storage, and it feels as if the studio can finally breathe—although now that everything’s so tidy it hardly looks like a project that would take weeks to do. I found it interesting that when, at Joanne Mattera’s suggestion, I wrote my first post about it, people were moved to comment, underscoring what an issue storage is for artists. Then, as I was sharing my elation at putting this task behind me with my friend, sculptor Matt Freedman, he commented that, “taking care of your work is a way of acknowledging your commitment to it, of being respectful toward it”—something I’d never thought about—and that “conservatorship is the final act of assessing a work’s value.” He was reminded of an anecdote I told him many years ago, about Louise Bourgeois pounding a table and saying, “We must defend our art!” That was in a different context completely—after I’d told her how I’d managed to keep a sexist contributor’s blurb about me from being published—but it works here as well. Yes, we must defend our work. Because if we don’t, who will?
Matt Freedman, Lost Puppy, 2006.
August 19, 2008
It took all of yesterday to buy plane tickets to Berlin for the end of October: one hour to book the reservation and nine more to get over the fact that air fares to Europe have doubled, and because of taxes. The tax on the $480 flight was $560. Figure that one out. Being a Virgin Atlantic fan who’s just finished reading Richard Branson’s energizing autobiography, I felt disloyal doing business with British Air, but we’re stopping over in England and Virgin doesn’t go to Berlin. The agents at BA were much grumpier than the ones I’m used to at Virgin, but maybe everyone’s grumpy now. The good news (it pales next to the bad news, but at least there is some) is that England has lifted its carry-on restriction so that you can now take two bags on board (a handbag or computer case in addition to a suitcase). I’ve decided to cheat and bought a travel vest into which I can tuck even more stuff.
August 18, 2008
Last week I saw the Kronos Quartet perform at Tanglewood, part of wanting to support the festival in going beyond their classical-music-as-usual format, which is treated with such annoying reverence here in the Berkshires. It was the first time I’d been in Seiji Ozawa Hall, which was built in 1994 for $8.7 million and designed by William Rawn Associates in Boston in a manner aptly described by my friend, Scott, as “I. M. Pei channeling Charles Rennie Macintosh.” The relentless woodwork is gorgeous, veering close but thankfully avoiding association with the cheesy faux-Mission look that’s become so ubiquitous in furniture and design in the years since the hall was built. The entire back of the building opens up to include picnickers on the lawn, and exterior stairways contribute to a pleasant indoor/outdoor ambiance. My only complaint is with the decidedly un-ergonomic wooden chairs which, with thin cushions on the seats and none on the backs, are much more uncomfortable than they need to be—especially when listening to challenging music. I was familiar with much of the Kronos’s aggressively adventuresome repertoire, but didn't realize that they’d commissioned over 600 pieces in their 35-year history. While some of their choices push the limits of my tolerance for cacophony—a sound I associate, rightly or wrongly, with contemporary academic composition—there were moments that were completely transporting, among them Flugufreisarinn by Icelanders Sigur Ros (rightly described in the program as “at the forefront of invention in today’s international post-rock scene”), of whom I’m a fervent fan, and Steve Reich’s Triple Quartet.

The Kronos, like many contemporary musicians, make free use of pre-recorded audio, the only part that, for me, was disconcerting. I don’t mind sampling because it’s clear what it is, but I found it distracting to sit there and wonder what was live and what wasn't. This is one of the things I value in—and have learned from—the visual work of Robert Irwin and Olafur Eliasson, who make a point of keeping their means obvious so that the experience is the experience, and not marred by conjecture about how it’s done. One of my companions at the concert, Gregory, suggested that the Kronos might be better off having someone behind the computer up there on the stage with them, just to acknowledge the source of the sounds. But in general I don’t love the combination of canned music with live performance (even with dance)—it reminds me too much of lip-syncing (how about those Chinese?), or the violinists in the subway whose backup orchestra is a CD in a boombox.

I found a YouTube version of the Kronos playing Flugufreisarinn, which hardly does it justice, but can give you a taste. And finally the stunning new Sigur Ros video, Gobbledigook, has been posted, so I can include it here rather than make you go to their site to download it. It was done in collaboration with Ryan McGinley (Scott asked, “Does this mean that now I have to like Ryan McGinley?” and the answer is, "Yes."). Of course this is exactly what it’s like to be in Iceland, but with more trees.

The Kronos Quartet playing Sigur Ros:

Sigur Ros video Gobbledigook

I neglected to bring my camera, so Gregory took these pics of Ozawa hall with his iPhone:

August 14, 2008
Art Vent House Report #2, the Berkshire home of Joe Wheaton, sculptor, and Dick Lipez, writer of, among other things, a series of mystery novels featuring a gay detective in Albany, NY (nom de plume Richard Stevenson), who had a dinner recently for 19 friends in order to reconnect after their extensive travels in Southeast Asia. Joe, who also has a background as a chef, went to cooking school in Thailand and, after travelling to Boston the day before for rare ingredients, recreated a mind-boggling array of tasty dishes. I think sometimes about how the synergy of some couples I know adds up to more than the sum of their parts. Well, in the case of Joe and Dick, in terms of accomplishments, experience, good works, and all round good will--their combined contribution to the world--is that of about 10 people. On top of it, they make everything seem easy and fun. Joe's response to my comment about about much work it would take to pull off a dinner like that was "No problem."



During: a random slide show of Joe's photographs documenting the trip. While not all artists make good photographers, Joe's photographs are gorgeous. More pictures and the story on their blog.
The stairwell:

Sculpture with extras:

The lounge:

Where the magic happens:

August 11, 2008
Last night my Berkshire neighbors, poets Taylor and Marie-Elizabeth Mali, came over for dinner. Taylor and I didn't know each other at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe--he started out in 1995, after I'd turned to other things--but we knew many of the same people. So I got out the anthology, Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe (1994)--with signatures and little notes from friends, it's the closest thing I have to a yearbook--and Taylor read a poem both of us remembered (it would be impossible to forget) by Bobby Miller, although it changed each time Bobby performed it. Written for spoken word, it pales in the absence of Bobby's rapid-fire delivery, but still holds up:

At two years old I whistled at the mailman
and set a pattern for years to come.
At four I danced in the sunshine of our front yard,
an interpretative dance to the gods.
The neighbors swore I was retarded.
At six I told my classmates that I was from another galaxy
light years away.
Mrs. Jackson, our first grade teacher, thought it
was necessary
to alert my parents.
By ten Mr. Grady the art teacher was alarmed by the colors
I chose to paint with,
red, black and purple.
In junior high I was considered weird and neat at
the same
time because I dressed funny and my parents had tattoos
and Harleys.
My ninth grade report card was all D's and F's
except for art and music class.
All written reports from the faculty stated,
" talks too much and daydreams..."
Some things never change.

I watched the Beatles arrive in America,
and decided I wanted to go to England.
I saw hair grow over ears and down over collars and onto
shoulders and backs all over the country.
I walked with the first protest march in Washington
and every other for ten years.
And we still have crooks running the country.

I sat in streets, cafes, corner bars and coffee houses
and listened to the beat of a new generation being born.
I went through puberty with Janis and Jimi
and took LSD when it wasn't cut with speed or poison.
I smoked pot in fifth grade and laughed all day
at a fat substitute teacher named Mrs. Potty.
I dated black boys at fifteen in an all white Klan neighborhood.
I hitchhiked to New York from Baltimore with three queens
in hot pants, clogs and long bleached shags at sixteen
and blew truckers all up and down the turnpike.

I've been addicted to MDA, tequila, LSD, PCP, speed, dope, coke,
pot, mescaline, Quaaludes, nicotine, sex
and the mysteries of the night all my life until I hit twenty-eight.
Now it's only nightlife and sex.
I've walked barefoot on twenty four hundred degree hot coals
and not been burnt.
Greta Garbo grabbed me from behind in traffic and
saved my life.
I've had green hair, blue hair, black hair, red hair, no hair, long hair
and all before 1973. I'm happy to still have hair.
I've walked Sunset Blvd., Polk Street, Forty Second, Hollywood and Vine,
Christopher, Fire Island Blvd., P-town, Key West, Bombay, Miami Beach,
London, Paris, Rome, Milan, Montreal,
and every gay ghetto street listed in the book
and I'm still looking for the perfect lover.
I've lived as a woman for a solid year and had tits,
thank you!
I've dated black men, white men, brown men, red men, yellow men,
and several delicious women.
I've been engaged, married, in love, separated, divorced and brokenhearted.
I've had syphilis, gonorrhea, crabs, scabies, hemorrhoids, hepatitis,
appendicitis, dermatitis and the flu at least fifty times.
And I feel better now at forty than I did at twentyfive.
I've spent the last eleven years meditating, concentrating,
contemplating, applicating, educating, investigating and instigating
a higher ideal.
I've been a born again Christian, a crystal-holding new age
visualizationist, a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Christian scientist,
a Universalist, a bullshit artist, a seeker of truth, a charlatan,
a holy roller, a shamanistic dancer, a guru, a disciple
and an enigma to my friends.
I'm a triple Gemini natural blonde who loves God and takes
time out to smell the roses.
I've been around the block at least ten times and I'm ready
to go again until these feet won't carry me anymore.
I have always believed in the power of love and that the groove lies somewhere between the heart and the genitals.
I have never been deliberately cruel and I've never hit anyone
with my fist. I hope I never have to.
I've been a whore, a saint, a sinner, a healer, a heathen,
an actor, a poet, a drag queen, a straight man, a teenage zombie,
a punk rocker, a greaser, a clone, a faggot, a streetwalker,
a skywriter, a vegetarian, a teacher, a student, a wanderer,
a caretaker, a wild thing, a father, a son, a yogi,
and a fierce hairdresser.
I've been lost, found confused, absolved, punished and rewarded.
I've stared death in the face and wondered why not me. Yet.

I've talked and listened and heard and seen and been shown the way.
I've played follow the leader, pin the tail on the donkey,
five card stud, and Russian roulette with a silver handled .38.
I've lost eight thousand in cash gambling and won
five hundred on a bet in less than a minute.
I've seen the eye of God and been touched by her hand.
I've seen miracles happen and been disappointed dozens of times.
I've been almost everywhere, met almost everyone, seen almost everything,
done almost all of it, and I'm still waiting to be discovered.
The night has a thousand eyes and I'm a gypsy dancer
who's still hungry for more.

Bobby Miller

August 8, 2008
When I ran the post not long ago on musician jokes, I thought about how implicit in them is the assumption that making money at music, although always welcomed, is neither expected nor the goal. You’re a musician because you're a musician. Yet while the odds are no better in the art world, many artists I meet seem to feel that going to school, making art, and having a career should be a natural progression, like studying for the law—which isn't surprising, considering what art schools cost. Thank god, I say, there’s still—a certain Hollywood film not withstanding—no academy for rock musicians. My theory about this is as follows: along with, now, being able to use the Internet to their own best ends, musicians have always met and played in bars. And back when artists used to gather in bars such as, famously, Les Deux Magots, the Cedar Bar, and Max’s Kansas City—for the price of a beer—younger artists could hang out, form associations, and meet older, more established artists. In the eighties, however, when artists started making big money and began to frequent expensive restaurants, such as the Odeon and Mr. Chow’s, off limits to their struggling brethren, art schools took up the slack—and therefore may be seen as simply expensive substitutes for art bars. Looking back on it, a little Brouilly at the Odeon would have been cheaper.

In the August Interview, I read an exchange between filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and Brian Burton a.k.a. Danger Mouse, who achieved international fame at 27 after spending untold hours in his bedroom mashing up the Beatles “white” album with Jay Z’s The Black Album to make the The Grey Album. Intended for his friends and released for free on the Web, it was downloaded, bootlegged and shared by millions until the lawyers got in the way. His collaboration with Cee-Lo, dubbed Gnarls Barkley, resulted in “Crazy”, the song that was the summer of 2006, and he’s produced two of my favorite albums: Gorillaz’s Demon Days and the new Beck, which has a title I wish I’d made up: Modern Guilt.

In the interview, Soderbergh (whose own career began similarly, with international prominence at age 26 for the low budget film sex, lies and videotape), notes that the “traditional models for success are just disappearing” to which Danger Mouse says, “Well, in the history of humans making music, how long have musicians been rich and famous? In the end, I think musicians know that getting up in the morning and making music you love, doesn’t necessarily mean that you deserve billions of dollars or worship from anybody.” Then:

SS: I’ve heard you say that you don’t necessarily believe in talent.

DM: No, I don’t.

SS: But I’m wondering if you’re making a distinction between talent and skill.

DM: I guess I just look at talent as a very subjective thing. I mean, if you’ve never tried playing an oboe, how do you know you’re not the most talented oboe player ever? The point is that if you don’t love it, then it doesn’t matter. No matter how naturally gifted you are, it’s your passion that’s going to make you better and maybe touch some people. There is no genius—there is only love.

Looking for an illustration for this post, I was wandering around YouTube and came across this live video of “Hong Kong”—from the Gorillaz album D-Sides—a song that sends me into a swoon each time I hear it. I don’t think Danger Mouse produced “Hong Kong,” so it’s not exactly related, but then that’s the beauty of a blog, I can go where I want with it. Even though it’s not the absolutely best recording of the song, Damon Albarn will make you swoon anyway, but what’s really special about it is the performance of the beauteous Zhen Zhen on the harp-like guzheng.