Thursday, December 02, 2010

Art Miami

Next to the word oxymoron in the dictionary are two other words: Art Miami.

My own experience is that art is a butterfly. It goes where it likes and you can't hold it. It is also a little like what I would imagine God would be like if there was a God; more likely to have hung out with Henry David Thoreau than at the Vatican. We go to museums to see dead butterflies pinned to the walls and hope there is still a little life left in them. And that is all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


First off I've been consumed by a major project since April. It is just starting to turn the corner.

I've also just curated a show at Bow Street in Harvard Square, called STICKY CRAW. The idea of the show is complicated. It involves the subtle influence of the Funnies on art. The Funnies, Saturday morning cartoons, comic books, etc. The kind of subtle and unconscious influence that could almost be considered subversive. The kind of subtle and unconscious influence that could be considered negative or undesirable, and therefore negative and undesirable and controversial to even mention or reference. As I said in the essay, it is not like the German Expressionists or Picasso claiming African art as an influence. Everybody is cool with that. But let's face it, the cartoon world is much more prevalent and even pleasant in that way that we get pleasure from it, even if it is just the contact high we get from kids enjoying it. It is a happy subculture.

So looking at late Guston and seeing cartoons is a no-brainer. R. Crumb where are you? Looking at Marsden Hartley and seeing cartoons seems downright sacrilegious. But all you have to do is look. I was very uncomfortable luring artists into this show and then having them find out they were in something that might not be a positive connotation. I did it anyway. Nina Nielsen didn't think humor had anything to do with her work for example. Turns out Brian Washburn was comfortable with the association. Larry Deyab(Lawrence de Yab) was right there. I get the feeling everyone else, Margrit Lewzcuk, Mike Carroll, would have preferred not to have the association. Rory Parks I don't know. I've hit sort of a sour note on this one. Went too far. Trusted my gut and got busted. OK, I still think it's a great show. People, including Nina, really like the look of it. As I always say, just an excuse to hang some work.

I guess I should have just put myself in it. Jon Friedman observed that my images came from that kind of cartoon reality in a review he wrote of my work in ARTS Magazine almost thirty years ago. I wasn't so sure about it then either, especially since I had grown up in Europe without television, but on some level it was OK. My color and way of looking at form was not of this world, and humor played a very big role in that work. It was definitely more Marsden Hartley than Pearlstein. Next time I'll just speak for myself. My own sticky craw.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Larry Deyab: Return of the Native

Larry Deyab has reached a really important place in painting; a place where painting can't really start until you get there: nowhere. No one really wants to end up there, but when you do, well, you let out a sigh. Milton Resnick once told Deyab that that is how you know a good painting: it makes the sound of a sigh.

Deyab is serious about painting. So much so that out of the MFA program at Columbia in the early Eighties he apprenticed himself to two of the best we've had, two painter's painters, Bill Jensen and Milton Resnick. As their assistant he mopped up, all the while soaking up their greatness.

Greatness was his destination back then, it was the plan, plan A, the only plan, the don't mess with my plan plan, but now that he has matured, and it is nowhere that lets him not only paint, but be himself, and make the paintings that he knew were inside of him, perhaps even the greatness that he knew was inside of him.

He looks back on that work he did when he was caught up in being great, when he was a New York painter, and he sees contrivance. He looks at the paintings he is doing now in Cambridge, the place of his upbringing(home?) that has for the moment inconveniently derailed him and he sees paintings that just are: just right.

These are the paintings he has always wanted to paint. In them he sees it all, paintings that tap into it all and reflect it all: dreams, culture, politics, poetry, religion, yes, all of humanity, love, fear, longing, suffering, and humor. A lot of humor. Surprising humor. Sly humor. Sardonic humor. Absurd humor. Ironic humor! The outright shake your head at the crazy way life does its thing humor. Black comedy stalking The Divine Comedy.

Deyab has a wry smile for life. He smokes his cigars. Sometimes he drinks alone. In fifteen minutes he might do a painting that if he spent fifteen years on it wouldn't look any different. As Whistler pointed out: fifteen minutes, yes, but a lifetime of experience.

Deyab is still serious about painting, but most of his images strangely enough come from the movies. Movies that tell us about ourselves; that tell us about each other. Images that he steals for himself, to speak for himself.

Is the work cinematic? Yes. Videographic? Yes! Motion? Yes! Still? Yes! Blur. Blurred in ways that keeps the eye in flux like a camera that can't establish automatic focus. Framed. Framed tight. The spray-painted surface flies in and out--from sharp to soft and fast and slick to brittle and rough and scattered.

The freshest canvasses are black and white house paint with some red spray paint. Weeks or days old. They are painted in natural light on his back porch, sometimes with very little, almost in darkness, studied in darkness, like the glow of a tv screen. They work on us that way, stamped on our retinas that way. Imposing themselves. Iconic phosphorescence. They conjure up words like Purgatory, graffiti, refugee, haunting, urban, and ear!

And then Larry Deyab reads-- all the time, mostly biographies, mostly about artists. He is looking for clues. Clues about the mystery ride that is art and about the riders, what made them go, what made them great. Right now he's staying up late, taking painkillers, and reading a new book on Turner. And he's stuck, stuck in Cambridge. Waiting to get back to somewhere, anywhere: Paris, Berlin, New York. Hoboken even. But right now, right now nowhere is a pretty good place to paint after all. From the looks of things, maybe as good as it gets.

Addison Parks, Cambridge
-- Post From My iPhone

Friday, February 05, 2010

Non-Refundable YES!

Faith is the non-refundable "yes!" Think about it. If you had had a non-refundable yes for that thing, that dream you bailed on in high school or college or later, and someone said to you, sorry, you can't be an artist, you would have said, sorry, NON-REFUNDABLE YES! With maybe a "get out of my way!" If when you got knocked down, when you hurt and it didn't seem worth it: sorry, NON-REFUNDABLE YES! Gotta get back up and keep going. Keep on Keepin' on, as this wise old West Indian woman I once knew used to say! Muriel. She was like God or Gandi she was so wise, and there she was, a maid for a spoiled English family.

I know people who are determined that someone else pay for that thing they want to do, like getting investors instead of taking the money out of their own pocket. Why would you do it any other way? You want to make a movie, get someone else to pay for it. It is the inevitable conclusion of artists who are always trying to sell their work, so that they can recoup their investment, get someone else to pay for it, get a refund! That would justify it. Right!

Wrong! A non-refundable yes! Pay for it. Therapists always say you get more out of therapy when you pay for it. Of course they would say that, but maybe they're on to something. You want to do something; pay for it. No refunds. And keep on keepin' on. That's how you keep the faith!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

No big deal!

I like painting. I like the place painting takes me. I like looking at painting. I even like thinking about painting and talking about it.

I like the freedom that comes with it. I like the freedom I find in getting there and being there. And, I like painting in general, not just my painting. It is a chicken and egg thing; because it happened when I was so young, I don't know which came first, liking painting or liking paintings!

But I find freedom in painting, doing it, looking at it, loving it. The world of color and mark and imagination and light and seeing and feeling and vibrancy and intensity. Seeing. Feeling. Dreaming. Flying. Freedom.

Not many people see it this way, of course. The world is dog eat dog. The world has agendas. It makes it turn, apparently. I can live with that. Especially because I have painting.

The art world means business, which is why it has nothing to do with art, or painting. There is no getting around this, no having your cake and eating it. Make no mistake; let there be no confusion about this. The art world means business.

I was sort of shocked yesterday when I checked out a show on line. Held and Pearlstein. There were all these pronouncements and proclamations. Manifestos that made long lists of nos. Entirely about what it wasn't about as though there was such a thing.

I was once interested in the Brights, an athiest organization. The problem was, they focused on what they weren't instead of what they were, and that did not interest me.

It was as though Pearlstein and Held felt like they needed to make all these rules about why they weren't in order to be legitimate and important and powerful. Of course I think it is just the work of critics and dealers. Like me, they just liked to paint.

But if I have to prove something to be a painter, forget it. Not going to happen. Who cares? I would rather be free, which is why most painters just take their paints and go somewhere. Anywhere. Anywhere they can be free. Anywere they can paint.

Otherwise you just get a lot of people with agendas, with opinions, with rules and restrictions and punishments. If you want permission to be free, to paint, you have to give it to yourself, and keep giving it to yourself, and if you do that, if you give it to yourself, then no one can take it from you, can they? And how cool is that?

-- Post From My iPhone

Your lap!

It is really hard to embrace the responsibility that being an artist entails. Most artists would turn back if they realized the truth. But the truth is not a bad thing. Quite the contrary. The truth will not only set you free, as they say, it will save you.

Now we all know that artists get warned before they choose a life of art: it will be hard, it will be a struggle, it will mean suffering. As though some other life can somehow side step these things. What they don't tell you is why!

Why is it going to hurt? Why? Why is devoting your life to this mystery called art going to hurt so much?

Before I get to that, sorry, I want to talk about something totally connected to that pain. False expectations! False expectations dog the would be artist from day one! False expectations are laid at your feet, stuffed in your pockets, dropped in your drink! They are everywhere. I remember one of the first stuffed in my pocket: "when you're famous..."

People were always being kind when I was a boy, and asking me to sign things so that they would have them when I was famous. Harmless enough. But right there is the information that being an artist inevitably leads to fame, that art and fame go together, that maybe you can't have art without fame.

But that's not the half of it. Artists seem to inherit a boat load of expectations. Like getting support for spending time making art, instead of for spending 40 or 50 hours a week in a cubicle, or a factory, or on a construction site, or in the office. Like people are supposed to show your work, or buy your work, or like your work, or even care about it. Like it is supposed to matter or be important. I know of very few artists who are not psychotically obsessed in this regard.

An artist's responsibility is not to make others care about their work. But who knew? It is very hard to get around this for most people. People are supposed to want to help artists in their quest for fame. Right?

Being an artist hurts because artists believe all the crap they see and hear along the way. Even successful artists fall prey to this stuff in a quest for more: more support, more attention, more celebrity. How many times do you hear about artists leaving one gallery to go to another because they didn't think that they were being treated well enough. Or well-known artists who are depressed because they aren't more well-known?

Art is a gift. That gift is a responsibility. Gifts are for giving. Again, remember why you did it in the first place. Stay close to the bone. They don't call it the razor's edge for nothing.

Is it time for a "Moment of Tuttle?" No. Maybe later. In the meantime. Keep your expectations where they belong. Squarely on yourself. In your lap!

-- Post From My iPhone