27 September 2011

What's up

It is interesting that for both Dana Schutz and Daniel Richter, two figurative artists that have been noted in proximity with the phrase "the return of painting," James Ensor has been a primary inspiration.

Actually I recently found online an alternate oil version (left) to Richter's The Owner's History Lesson (right) from a couple years back:

I also suspect Schutz' influenced by Sigmar Polke, or that they both have internalized Guston in their own way. While Daniel's non-relation Gerhard strictly demarcates between the figurative and non-figurative, the line between the two becomes less clear in Schutz' canvases in ways that tend to work differently in each one, especially as she says she is moving from Guston to looking at Johns, Dubuffet and Charline von Heyl*. Since Giovanni Bellini conspired against the younger Giorgione there's also been a tight/ loose brush stroke dichotomy, both in figurative and Abstract Expressionism, with Caravaggio and Helen Lundeberg amongst others representing the hard-edge. Before Neo Rauch was known in the US, Arthur Danto used a critique of the hard edge to call Surrealism "retrograde," citing Magritte, the sort of statement like his prattle about "the end of painting" that he typically gets burned on.

The last time Schutz was up at Zach Feuer I thought I would go in reading as little as possible ahead of time to see if I liked her or not, and by the second long visit in two hours I was roasting marshmallows in Camp Schutz. I have noted here my interest in Daumier's dramatic tableaux, and my favorite Charles Demuth is the early illustrations, so you may have figured that I can't get enough of the dramatic tableaux, which Schutz serves up in large portions no two alike, historical dimensions with ambiguity that soaks its way into the brush stroke. Yau says "Schutz’s drawings begin in abstraction—a gouache band or ovoid stain, a thick or thin line in ink and dry brush, a stained field of black dots. Each linear addition brings further definition until finally a figure emerges," a method similar to Ernst's use of frottage and decalicomania to deal with the white canvas.

I mention this because she has a museum show in Purchase, NY (to go with a gallery show in Not-for-sale, NJ) of 42 works which opened this past Sunday, which will make its way to Miami and Denver.

Also, that Hesse girl is showing oils in Brooklyn, apparently the fiberglass isn't selling.


I mentioned Dubuffet's writings recently on this blog but in the end I find them good for a painter and not for a writer, and he says at one point that painting is better than writing. He says that because he's a painter and he's not much of a writer, although he expresses himself thoughtfully and originally. Friends of Artaud say he thought writing was 'pigshit' because he was too drugged out to be Proust, which is true on some level, but it freed him up to escape the laws of writing and express something else. Art Brut's appeal to the economic base is its infantilism. Infantilism and bureaucracy can work together well. The Visionary Museum in Baltimore inevitably has begun to have shows of MFAs, just as the MFAs enforce infantilism in literature.

But this quote of his is interesting: "You think you control the things you're interested in and choose to hold dear; what if you are completely mistaken? What if the things you claim to like, that you are convinced you love, are actually and ultimately alien and indifferent to you, whereas other things, unsuspected, which you would be quite astonished to learn play a part in your life, were actually of prime importance, were essential movers in your existence? It's not out of the question. When people affirm their liking for this or that, be careful not to believe a word of it, since they know the least about their taste: the floor of a room, the head of a stairway - they claim they've never noticed them and hardly realize they even exist...

"The things we truly love, the things forming the basis and roots of our being, are generally the things we never look at. Wherever collusion is deep and an attachment is solidly established, the eyes and the conscious mind can mind their own business. Consciousness requires a certain distance... The conscious deals with the unfamiliar or inadequate experience: the moment we're deeply imbued, we're done with the conscious. The objects we isolate clearly within our field of gazing are those still foreign to us. As we grow to like them, they pass into, and no longer before, our eyes, and we are no longer aware of their presence."


At the moment Wall Street has eclipsed Soho and Chelsea for the best art show in town and Piri' Miri Muli' wouldn't think for a moment to suggest otherwise. A video of two women participating in Occupy Wall Street getting pepper sprayed has gone viral, and police brutality of a more widespread sort is what induced the Sorbonne students to march in solidarity with the Nanterre students in May '68. In fact, I'm concerned that the shift of creative vitality from Soho and Williamsburg to Wall Street will lead to rising real estate prices that will drive out current Wall Street residents. Media coverage started to appear on Saturday with the usual columns framing arguments on behalf of the economic élites, taking the protesters to task for not having a specific demand. The march organizers had made the decision long ago to open the "occupation" to discussion over what such a demand would be, a welcome development in contrast to protest organizers that are wont to say "I need bodies," betting that such a process for a demand could constructively emerge. I would suggest this: public funding for elections. Protests for the overturning of Citizens United are sorely needed, as there is bipartisan opposition to the Supreme Court ruling among the rank and file of the two major parties and predictable apathy in Washington to pass the necessary legislation, but if/when it is overturned you're left with the same old campaign finance system that not only didn't work but made things like Citizens United and the Iraq War possible.

You can expect public financing of elections to cost a little more than what is spent on campaigns today, though it doesn't have to, but even if it does, the public can well afford it: 2-5 billion a year for all the races in the country. What we can't afford is all the candidates that take a bribe of a nickel from a corporation and pay them back a dollar of corporate welfare from the public funds - we've tried that for years and it got us a Super Congress for debt reduction, along with cuts in the Securities and Exchange Commission and similar agencies. Our congress with an historically low approval rating knows that they owe their careers to the current system of funding, so the public must take the initiative.

Also, Pasolini's comment from '68: "When you clashed with the policemen at Valle Giulia, I sympathized with them. Because policemen are children of the poor" applies here. An NYPD policeman told Michael Moore in solidarity that Wall Street stole their pension fund, but they know Michael is a regular guy. I agree with those columnists that say there's too much effort spent by college kids heckling the cops, when they should be discussing policy. That said, the cops are ordered to represent the interests of what is being protested and I've experienced how tear gas makes you angry and talkative, to go with the brutality the protesters have witnessed from the hands of some like Officer Bologna. I don't think Pasolini would have liked Officer Bologna, he was Roman.

(Update 9/29: CA Conrad weighs in inside a grey polygon on Huffpost)

I don't agree with Arthur Danto's view that the essential art is in New York, though I note both that Wall Street is in New York and that there have been supportive protests elsewhere. I'll let you know when I agree with him about something.


Criterion came out with The Complete Jean Vigo on August 30, so if I label this a New on dvd citation it is only because a certain mail rental company that has wallowed in the negative attentions of the masses recently, a company that makes no attempt to offer all of Criterion's titles in concert with a larger cultural push to dumb down cinematic audiences, releases it to its subscribers tomorrow. Complete means all of Vigo til his death at 29, including a documentary juxtaposing the idyllic port of Nice with its corruption, no less relevant today, and Zero for Conduct, for which my longstanding adoration has thankfully not affected my good attitude for school. And of course the restoration of L'Atalante (on Youtube sans sous-titres en Anglais), the only comedy and the only film before World War II to make my Top 15. This is not to say I have thought long and hard what the best comedy ever is, because I don't seek out comedies for the same reason goats don't shop for sweaters, but it would be on any short list of the best comedies, adding to the genre - which has caused critics to say the story line is not characteristic of a 'classic' - so much that is completely unique to Vigo and his imitators. I can, however, with more certainty give it award hardware in other categories:

* Best barge movie: I don't think I've seen another canal barging movie but there could be one some time in the right hands; I find memoirs of barge trips amusing and read them often;
* Best cat movie: This perhaps also relates to how many cat movies you've seen and what your needs are in a cat movie;
* Best love triangle movie: Would have to research the extent to which this set forth the French genre of love triangle movies but whatever that may be, it is a parody of all of them that came later;
* I think I had more but I can't think of them. I will update this while I'm watching it again. Also I have recently commenced my fascination with Otar Iosseliani films and he's interviewed on the extras.

* von Heyl has a 10 year retrospective in Philly til Feb 19

14 September 2011

Dream journey: An Armory-like art show that I entered with a friend in the evening, someone who goes to these things infrequently. It was based in an old Gothic revival campus that was otherwise unused, either out of session or permanently, and the surrounding area that was landscaped into wooded paths like a zoo. The first exhibition I entered in the zoo area was a tea garden and plantation house with a field of plastic leaves. There was a tour of the plantation house with free tea, and a place to sit that was more like a cafeteria than a tea house, where a guy who was dispensing napkins at the table and selling $30 plastic sculptures affected that he was the gallery owner but that he was too coy to say so, but I decided later he wasn't. The young man said "my job is to make you endure the impossibilities" and "joy is what you feel when you have expended all anguish." There was then a corridor with smaller galleries which repeated shows I was familiar with, until the heart of the campus where the Gothic revival brick and ivy dorms had large DayGlo insects climbing up them, and a cartoon animal that was going to jump off a balcony with cartoon animals on the ground consoling it with a trampoline, again things I considered predictable. The campus had a large chapel, and the interior was impressively covered with video screens of mostly abstract, kaleidoscopic patterns, and mechanical works by five different artists. I went to a rest room and a trio of women were making cryptic jokes about being on hallucinogens and going to the woods to do more and I spoke to them briefly. Then I entered a corridor and every one in attendance was made to crowd into that single corridor, and I made a loud joke and no one laughed. Then we were made to get on buses for reasons I wasn't told, and basically drove around the block for a half hour and returned to the show. On the bus there was the view of a walking area by a river that had long been out of style, with people trying to rent out paddle boats and no customers, and there were about 12 floating art works in different directions that could be seen from the bus, 9 kites and several other mechanisms.