Monday, September 28, 2009
Kand at the Goog
I've never been a huge Kandinsky fan. I mean, he's no Max Beckmann, right? But I like him: Kandinsky possesses a (fairly dusty) shelf--along with Klee--in my mind's warehouse of influences. There was something comforting--even logical--in his move into abstraction--the way he flattened and folded recognizable elements onto a single plane, then finally did away with the recognizable features and worked with mosaics of color and line, and then began working with these little scarab-like glyphs and symbols that seemed to suggest a kind of narrative. Kandinsky's writings, his career at the Bauhaus, his whole music/painting connection. Like I said, I like him. So I was looking forward to the show.
Friday was the last Summer Friday and I struggled with going to see Kandinsky or settling down for a comfy nap on my turquoise couch. But I pushed myself out the door. Then I hit the platform just as the R pulled away. Twenty-five minutes and two V trains later, another R train came and dropped me at the 6 platform . . . just as that train pulled away from the platform. Then I got off the 6 a stop too early--I can never remember exactly where the Guggenheim is--and had to walk further than I remembered. None of this is terrible stuff, of course, but by the time I got into the museum proper ($15 with student discount using my faked up SVA ID--highway fucking robbery), a furzy scrim of distract and annoyance had settled over my brain. As a result (maybe?), I had a hard time with this show.
I started at the bottom and worked my way up. The show was presented chronologically as the spiral widened. I just could not penetrate any of the paintings. I switched music a few times to see if I couldn't get something that opened up the paintings--and settled on Thelonious Monk. I thought he might have the right about of structure and abstraction/dissonance to kick something loose but he didn't help either. The paintings were filled with static, there were too many tourists, and I hate the bathroom situation at the Guggenheim. A side room on the second floor (sort of) held thirty or forty of Kandinsky's drawings from throughout his career. These works were taut and neat and by far the material I related to the most. The painting in the museums's spiral had a lushness, a looseness that suggests improvisation; the drawings were more like movie storyboards or the demo tapes of the band Jellyfish--they demonstrate the amount of effort and planning that went into making the final product look so easy.
Also, there was a woman--lumpish, pink dress and pink too-tight shirt, filthy white athletic shoes--who was gesticulating wildly, mumbling to herself, and she reeked--and I mean reeked--of the unholy smell of stale, rotten piss. The Piss Mistress smelled like the entrance to a subway, and that smell punched me in the face from 30 feet away. She was wearing the free headset that came with admittance so she apparently was lucid enough to buy a ticket. On whiff of that nose pollution, I was out of there.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I'm huge in China. Fucking huge. An massive, unstoppable, pre-historic Godzilla-like force rampaging my way across the art scene in China. Wait, Godzilla was Japanese, right? Fuck. My analogy falls apart.
Okay, bear with me here. Imagine that I am some kind of Chinese version of Godzilla--only think of me as the American version of the Chinese version of Godzilla--rampaging my way across the art scene in China. You know, stopping on the little plastic tanks of irony, melting the little trains of pomposity with my atomic breath, and fighting to the death the King Ghidorah of Profoundly Uninteresting, Text-Based Conceptual Art. Can you imagine all of that? Good. Because that's me. Beebezilla. Godbeebe. Either/or.
So back in the spring, I spent an afternoon with CYJO (aka Cindy Hwang), a photographer and journalist. She shot some images at P.S. 1 and interviewed me. She then accepted an invitation to visit the studio proper as it's only a five minute walk from P.S. 1. Most of the images in the article are studio shots, plus the Ape Machine drawings. (I'm getting a lot of milage out of that work, aren't I? Time to make some new drawings.) She just sent me the results this morning. (You can read the original English interview here.)
Monday, September 21, 2009
On the walk to work: Tony Bennett. He was somehow involved in the creation of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts thing that's been slowly climbing up in our neighborhood over the last three or four years. I saw a standing rank of artist's easels on the top floor. So I guess they're ready to teach those kids something? Like how to make art? How to drink, deal with isolation (by drinking, naturally) and how to learn to love being ignored, perhaps? Good luck, kids! A bright and shining future awaits you!
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
I managed to take a photo of the last drawing (An Evening Glass of Cheer) when it was still under control. You can look at the incoherent finished drawing here.
Yesterday, I walked over to the studio during my lunch break. As I approached the corner of Jackson Avenue and Queens Boulevard in Queensboro Plaza, two (what I assumed to be) unmarked cop cars--with red flashers on the dashboard and even that little suction cup flasher thing you put on the roof--pulled up in front of a parked cab. Four guys wearing yamulkas and business casual leaped out and headed over to the cab. A few seconds later, a fluorescent yellow Hatzolah ambulance pulled in behind the faux-cop cars. (I can't really find a photo of one but this and this allow some idea. Fill in the blanks with your brains, squires.) As I got up on the cab, I saw an obviously Orthodox lady standing to the side of the cab--long gray skirt, black sweater, sting of pearls, wig. She was young, talking into her cellphone while gently rolling back and forth a monster double stroller with chockfull of kids. The rear passenger-side door of the cab was open; I could see just the legs (thick gray hose, sensible shoes, hem of a gray skirt) of a women kneeling into the cab--kind of like she was praying on the backseat of the cab. She was kneeling on a pink-and-white blanket. The car door hid the rest of her form so I couldn't tell what else was going on. The paramedics spent a few minutes arguing about the best way to maneuver the stretcher (is that the right word? that cart on wheels?) over to the side of the cab. And then the light changed and I went on about my business.
(I was confused about this whole incident until I googled "hasidic ambulance service nyc" and found the Hatzolah entry on Wikipedia. It's sometimes startling how much information we've got at our fingertips now. Ten years ago, I just would've wondered about that incident and that shrugged it off. Now I just wonder, shrug it off, and then google the fuck out of it the next day.)
Anyway, I was at the studio to drop off a few drawings and a six-foot straight edge ruler, and pick up a few pens to take with my on my SF trip. I'm packing heavy for the twelve hour, round trip flight--some drawings supplies, two books and a magazine, a dozen podcasts and the all of the new episodes for Mad Men. I picked up lunch at the Oh So Good! Deli (kim bap) and has a slug of gin mixed in with some seltzer for dessert. Then back to the office.
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
I was in the studio yesterday by 11 am. Stayed there until 8 pm. So a full day. Got in about three straight hours of Otis Redding before pulling out a few albums that you can play from beginning to end--Dark Side of the Moon, Millions Now Living Will Never Die, Winter Hymn, Country Hymn, Secret Hymn, Cease to Begin--and a few other new ones that probably wont make the classic list: Boris's Pink, Mew's No More Stories Today . . . I'm Sorry, They Washed Away. (It takes longer to recite the album's title than it does to listen to it. Jesus.)
Finished two drawings: the one I started the day before and yet another postcard drawing. I had the first (Silas sitting) drawing nailed down but then just blew it. It's still an okay drawing but I want to get the crosshatching to be part of the design--a way to define the form as much as a way to define value--and I had that in balance for bit but then lost it. I think I'm going to have to draw out the hatchmarks in advance rather than just jumping in. How tedious.
Sunday, September 06, 2009
Quick ride over to Roosevelt Island before the studio today. Work for a few hours and made my way through an old favorite: Spilt Milk by Jellyfish. It's not quite as flawless as some of my other favorites but it has a thing to it, you know?
Finished up at the studio and went to Ted's for Ethan's backyard 40th birthday party. Korean and Mexican food, all kinds of stuff, then a dusk screening of Harold and Maude.
Anyway, summer's over. It was a cool night in the backyard. I'm hoping to get thing started again in the studio and pick up again with the writing. Blah blah blah.
Saturday, September 05, 2009
I found the quote below while poking around in old sketchbooks this afternoon. I think I got this quote from a Dada exhibition at the Neue Gallerie back in early 2005 or so. Nope, sorry. I just looked it up. I was an exhibition of German humor art called Comic Grotesque: Wit and Mockery in German Art, 1870—1940. (As I recall, German "humor" art wasn't particularly funny.) Anyway, here's the quote . . .
In such cases, crying is in essence only a clumsy, amateurish, childish form of laughing: infants cry before the smile and laugh; laughing, even bitter laughing, requires more maturity than crying, which will, one hopes, soon be considered an atavism. And the goal will be to free laughing of any gall and learn to transform, bee-like, the gall into honey.
Makers of grotesques take the whip to everything humans hold sacred in order to replace it, at lease invisibly, with the divine.
--Salomo Friedlaender (aka Mynona)
Usual routine today. Up early, over to Gantry Plaza to read for a few hours. I left, got some sushi, a minneola and few peanut butter cookies, came back and self-picnicked. Then over to the studio to pick at a few things and watch the sun go down on the roof. Like I said, usual routine.