As a child I had to fight for abstraction (“It’s a besign!” I’d insist to the teachers who challenged me). But everything’s relative. The other night my friend, Alexandra Truitt, daughter of the late sculptor, Anne Truitt, told me that, filled as the family home was with work by Frankenthaler, Morris Louis and Noland, she was nine before she realized paintings could also be pictures. Of things.
She described living in Japan (where her father was bureau chief for Newsweek) and excitedly bringing a book of paintings by Keane, which she’d found at school, to her horrified parents at the dining table:
This was her next crush:
I guess there’s no such thing as a “normal” childhood.
BUT (surprise, surprise!) Shambhala Sun has ads for things that can make it all better, which made me realize that anything can be commodified, even doing nothing.
So I could buy incense, spend $99 to $149 on a meditation timer, take any number of expensive workshops or maybe what I need is a buckwheat-filled meditation cushion with a memory foam insert (I did not make this up)—price undisclosed. Then there’s a series of articles about people who are just too good to be true: so calm, realized and serene that they’re totally boring and by comparison, despite meditation, my life seems complex, convoluted, and so full of drama that it could be the next installment of "Gossip Girl"—and it’s all my fault. One of the articles was a profile of Leonard Cohen, a 40-year student of Buddhist meditation. He used to be screwed up but now, older and wiser, “nothing unsettles him” and he’s worried that his songs are now “too cheerful.” I wonder if he has memory foam.
I once had an affair with a poet who had only one CD; it was by Leonard Cohen and had "Suzanne" on it. I mean I like Leonard Cohen and everything but…it was a short affair.
If anyone ever wanted proof that art is useful, here it is. Apparently this little fly, etched into the porcelain of the urinals at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, improves aim and thereby reduces spillage by 80%. More here. The choice of image is brilliant, the perfect target. Who, besides Albert Schweitzer, has ever looked at a fly without wanting to hit it?
And since we're on the subject, I'll share this poem. Written by a student for my Senior Seminar at Chicago's Columbia College where I did a term-long stint as a visiting artist in 2004, it's an ode to Duchamp's Fountain:
R. Mutt 1917
Commemoration of the family pet, perhaps?
This drain profane
on its back like an insect
Monsieur Duchamp detours
and shows us its other face.
The sensual curves of this prosaic pot
suggestive of the lowly bedpan
It is no throne, for there is no place to sit.
Taken for granted until celebrated
Public, yet removed and indestructible
We join at the communal well
to cleanse, to linger, to dream.
Baptism’s sacred font
to purify the sins of the masculine
He is reborn, revived, renewed
Flushing, gushing fluid
Springs forth the liquid
from one fountain to another
Man makes his way, and voids himself of a night’s refreshment.
Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, as photographed by Alfred Steiglitz in 1917.
Prince covering Radiohead's "Creep" at Coachella last weekend [via BBP] Wish I'd been there. However in 2003, when son Matt wangled me a single ticket for Radiohead's "Hail to the Thief" tour, I drove a couple of hours by myself to the Tweeter Center near Boston, spent at least another hour sitting in concert traffic so that I missed a good portion of the show, but got there in plenty of time to stand in the suffocating August heat and hear Thom Yorke unexpectedly sing "Creep." It was more than worth it.
Iceland, 2006 (Photo: Carol Diehl)
Olafur Eliasson, Eye See You, 2006, lamp, installed in a window at Louis Vuitton 5th Avenue & 57th Street, NYC. (Photo: Carol Diehl)
“But I guess he's like James Turrell—you need to experience it to truly appreciate it, pictures and words just ain't gonna cut it.”
This from a comment on my last post about Olafur Eliasson, which made me think of my first post ever, almost a year ago, about how sometimes the knowledge we have about what to expect from art (or anything) can interfere with the actual experience. There I told about how, when I tried to shush up the guy sitting next to me in Turrell’s Olafur Eliasson, Your Mobile Expectations, 2007. (Photo: SFMOMA)
I'm with Peter Schjeldahl who wrote in The New Yorker: "Here's someone for whom beauty is normal. His character suggests both the mental discipline of a scientist with the emotional responsibility of a poet."
The MoMA exhibition is entitled Take your time…on purpose. And you can only experience Eliasson’s work fully by seeing the installations at both MoMA and PS1, only 15 minutes apart on the E and the V. And if, in between, you need sustenance, there’s the downscale and tasty Gaw Gai Thai Express at 23-06 Jackson Ave, LIC, across and a little down the street from PS1. I think it has an orange awning.
Charlie Finch, "Fake it 'Til You Make It," Artnet
Cynthia Zarin, "Seeing Things," The New Yorker, November 13, 2006.
Carol Diehl, "Olafur Eliasson at Tanya Bonakdar" (review), Art in America, December, 2006.
Carol Diehl, "Northern Lights," Art in America (cover article), October, 2004.
Madeleine Grynsztjen et. al., Take Your Time: Olafur Eliasson (exhibition catalog), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art/ Thames and Hudson, 2007.
[Clarity in art writing] is not something one ought to condescend or resort to, simply in the interest of communicating with the general public – it’s something any theorist or critic ought to be striving for at all times. It’s simply best practice as thinking.
This came as part of a long and pithy comment (which includes a 1992 quote from philosopher John Searle : "If you can't say it clearly, you don't understand it yourself") from CAP on Parsing Martspeak below, and I'm posting it here to make sure it isn't overlooked, as it is at the crux of the entire debate. Reading it I realized that the reason I’m so invested in the subject is because this is the joy of writing about art for me. Some people play Sudoku, I try to figure out what makes Robert Irwin tick.