Friday, July 24, 2009

A Message for Martin K

I framed this piece with cardboard inspired frankly by the Martin Kippenberger show at MOMA The piece was for a show I did with Rick Parker called The Depression Show . I was very much thinking about secret messages and hobo signs but hobo signs for the twenty first century.

Ceramic Busts

This morning, after yet another restless night with the same headache that has trailed me for the past week, a sinus/dehydration headache that leaves each morning after my breakfast coffee, I recalled a dream where I looked intimately at the work of a ceramic artist who'd put on an impressive show of raku pieces with heavy, earthy, gloopy glazes. He explained in the dream how his old professor had given him his old kiln and I felt envious. I don't talk about ceramics that much, or my desire to make tiles and bowls and cups, ART pottery I suppose, because logistically getting to a kiln or a workshop is not easy. I should make more effort. I did these years ago and still love them. Just fired lumps of clay really that luckily didn't explode in the kiln.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Absent Drinker

My foot was numb. The thunder was loud. I’d left my umbrella on the station platform and I was trying to organize my thoughts. Today I’d do it. I’d gather the addresses and send out copies of my book. You never knew. I certainly never did. For example I didn’t know what I wanted. This makes it hard to target an audience. Trying to do so was the crux of my problem, or was it? I’d never had that fixity of vision, that clear sense of how to proceed, toward which goal, by what date. I was a carthorse who couldn’t see the road ahead. I needed blinkers or I’d end up at the knacker’s yard. Forget Janus. My head was constantly turning 360º but the end result was an infinite short sightedness. I’d see everything briefly in sharp focus before losing sight of it. I could never settle long enough to make sense of what I was seeing. I admire renaissance abilities, Jack of Skill sets but without the focus of long sight those skills cannot be put to work. Focus, business acumen, marketing abilities, the ability to organize, all these stand higher up the ladder of my regard than mere vision or talent. I have the latter. So do tons of people I know. And, like me, they all too often lack the wherewithal to act on them.

So it was that I became an Absent Drinker. I wouldn’t go to a bar and I’d just sit there not drinking the drink I didn’t have. The drink would sit staring back at me, mocking me, untouchable because I wasn’t in my cups. Whilst the rest of me was at home cuddling on the sofa with my kids, chatting with my wife and playing Sorry, this extension of me served a remarkable function. He didn’t go for a drink, and did so with gusto. He didn’t emerge from the pub cussing at the Universe and wagging his fist at mocking youths. He didn’t shoot up and find himself lying in the gutter at three in the morning, or in a strange bedsit next to a woman equally damaged. He was the accumulation of repressed urges, suppressed desire, and like an earnest activist stood up for them, gave them a voice. He would lobby for their well being. He held things in a fragile tensity that kept the electricity in hope alive.

The Absent Drinker didn’t wake up the next morning and go for coffee. Only I did that. That was my drink. If the counter in the coffee shop shone I’d stare into the reflective surface and talk to him–ask how things were going. Crude as always the answer was always the same: Get off your fat arse and do something with your life. I was supposed to take it personally but never did instead persisting with my questions: Did I need money? Did I need help? Was there anything I could do? Then the reception would sour. The Absent Drinker wasn’t drinking again.

But today is a different day. Today I clean up my act. Heavy summer rains wash the senses. There are women everywhere wearing spotty Wellington boots. I’ll tidy up my mind and start fresh. I dry my hair with a paper towel in the men’s bathroom. I think about finding a twelve step program for my alter self. I look in the mirror and try to wipe the ego off my face. I’m staring at a morning after face, a hurried breakfast smeared all over it face. Poor fellow. I’ll get him into a detox or AA. We’d get him back on his feet. We’d deal his cravings for another absent drink one serious, mighty blow.

I was concerned of course as to how this would all affect me. Instead of relaxing in front of yet another old Hitchcock episode with my eldest would I find myself roaming the streets handing out literature on the nature of addiction, leaflets that engaged with despair? Honestly I didn’t know if I had it in me, had the gumption. Would I hit the drink albeit coffee? Would I drink more and more of the stuff just to keep me awake? My work would no doubt suffer. My wife would find herself staring at the red, red eyes of an alien being. But who knew? Maybe the Absent Drinker, his act cleaned up, would instead reach out his hand to me, help me back on my feet saying: Come on. Let’s go home and tie up some loose ends. Sorry if I was rude. When I don’t have a drink I get kind of cranky.

Russell Christian Illustration Now Officially a Museum Piece

I have six different blogs one of which I'm thinking of slowly closing out: The Creative Bloc offered Oblique Strategies to acting on the creative impulse and overcoming creative paralysis. But I'm no sincere Art Therapist. Dividing one's self into categories is tough and tiresome and honestly I'm too busy pinching myself to pinch anyone else. I'll slowly incorporate the best of it into the Bruxist Manifesto or evolve it into a graphics and font, drawn letters site. We'll see.
And so then there were FIVE, five blogs:
The Bruxist Manifesto is the springboard for all the others and remains the Bruxist Collective first port of call.
The Bouncy Banker is alive and well, an artist's absurdist, and occasionally downright angry take on the financial meltdown.
Kristian lurches on (or Kristian negotiates a post-economic planet) will keep doing just that with an occasional entry as my Alter Ego gets out of his malaise and embarks on yet another impossibly futile journey.
Russell Christian's Stone Garden is what it sounds like and I'm fond of it. But since my summer of (stone) love I've developed Mason's Arm and hammering away at rocks, whether I'm using pneumatic chisels or rail spikes, isn't helping any. So it may not grow for a while, not until I develop my cement sculpture skills.
Russell Christian Illustration however is now designated a Museum piece. It is stagnant. It recalls a time when the artist put efforts into making a living as an illustrator. He did reasonably well appearing frequently in both the New York Times and the New Yorker! So what was the problem? These days I more or less sum it up like this: He was looking for an easy way to support his Art habit. Yup! There you have it. He was not a sincere illustrator, was not an illustrator to the bones. He was employing a facility, and not necessarily a conceptual facility (a requirement for a good illustrator), to the wrong ends. Also he could not stand promoting himself, buying pages in illustration annuals, hob knobbing, making the required connections. I wish he'd been good at it. I'd certainly be better off. Not to say he will not continue to do the odd illustration when asked. He still loves to draw. That hasn't changed but he won't draw what you ask for. His output as an illustrator was, and will be, varied and unpredictable, reliably inconsistent.

There is No Point

In a new spate of responsive articles-articles without journalistic merit subjective as they are, and meandering, I find myself writing about Dash Snow, an artist I knew little or nothing about. What one did tend to know concerned his legend as depicted in the Wikipedia article (quoted at the end of this...essay or click on link). I include one image that I responded to found on Google.

Dash Snow died at 27. I don't, or didn't, know Dash Snow from Adam. I'd seen his photo, along with a group of other twenty something artists he worked with, on the cover of New York magazine, or was it Time Out, a while back, and felt vaguely queasy at the time, as calculated shock appeared to be their modus operandi, i.e. method-grab the public by their balls and don't let go. Remember this is all post Aubrey Beardsley, Rimbaud, Chapman brothers, Hermann Nietzsche. What creeps in though is always a sense that someone has to do it, go full tilt at decadence, be a sort of societal safety valve. Then again he probably really didn't care, or saw no point, or meaning, or saw the work as a justification in itself. Did he feel no compunction to explain or justify his work, is this, in essence, courage? This is at the heart of why I am writing this. I strongly suspect I am envious of one thing—the NOT HAVING TO EXPLAIN ONE'S MOTIVES. The question: Why? can kill so much. The question: Why not? can yield such fruit, can be so liberating. It can also kill you but then both these questions can do that. The first seems more tormented, the second more free, and possibly hedonistic. So he was an Art Star who burned bright and furious. His art works were scrappy, flung together, angry, scatological, graphic, used seminal fluids, and were sexually explicit though hardly pornographic. I've no take on how enduring his legacy will be. He certainly hoed his own path but did so, I would suggest, always confident of support if he needed it. He came from a hugely wealthy family who were, are, art patrons. Did they support him, send him the occasional check? Did he categorically reject such props? Having left home to live on the streets in his early teens can we doubt he would have rejected offers of help if he were desperate? He may not have been given a leg up but there always was a leg to stand on if he needed it. I suspect decadence and privilege do go hand in hand. Nonetheless he was a talented artist. There is a beautiful autism at work. On Charlie Rose the other night VS Ramachandran, who has done remarkable work concerning ghost limbs and the brain, said if you pointed at something an autistic child might look at the end of your finger instead of the thing you were pointing out. Why do I apply this to Dash Snow. You tell me.


Snow ran away from home and began living on the streets at 13 or 14, and began taking photographs, he said, as a record of places he might not remember the next day.[4]
He was included in the 2006 Wall Street Journal article titled "The 23-Year Old Masters", which selected ten top emerging US artists including Rosson Crow, Ryan Trecartin, Zane Lewis, and Keegan McHargue.[5]
The artist's photographic work is in a thematically similar mode to photographers Nan Goldin, Larry Clark, Ryan McGinley and Richard Billingham, often depicting scenes of a candid or illicit nature. Instances of sex, drug taking, violence and art-world pretentiousness are documented with disarming frankness and honesty, offering insight into the decadent lifestyle increasingly associated with young New York City artists and their social circles.
Some of Snow's recent collage-based work was characterized by the controversial practice of using his own semen as a material applied to or splashed across newspaper photographs of police officers and other authority figures. However, the suggestive nature of such works did not prevent them from being acquired by influential collectors such as Charles Saatchi, Anita Zabludowicz, Dakis Joannou, [6], The Whitney Museum of American Art and the Brooklyn Museum [7].
He also wrote graffiti as part of the Irak Crew using the name "Sace". [8]
Snow exhibited in galleries and museums such as The Royal Academy in London, the Whitney Museum of American Art's 2006 Biennial, "God spoiled a perfect asshole when he put teeth in yer mouth", Peres Projects, "Day For Night", Deitch Projects, Saatchi Gallery[9], "Babylon"[10] at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery in New York, Palais de Tokyo in Paris, and Bergen Kunsthall in Norway.

A son of Taya Thurman and her former husband, Chris Snow, the artist was also a great-grandson of the founders of the Menil Collection, Dominique de Menil and John de Menil, French aristocrats who were heirs to fortunes based in textiles and oil-drilling equipment.[11] His maternal grandfather is Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman, his maternal grandmother is set and costume designer Christophe de Menil, and an aunt is actress Uma Thurman. He has a brother, Maxwell, and a sister, Caroline.
In 1999 Snow married Agathe Aparru, now known as Agathe Snow, an artist.[11] According to Snow's New York Times obituary, this marriage ended in divorce.[3]
He had a daughter, Secret Aliester Ramirez Messenger Santa Creeper, by Jade Berreau, a model, actress, and photographer, in 2007.[12] (One source states the child's name is Secret Magic Nico.)[13]

Snow died on the evening of July 13, 2009 at Lafayette House, a hotel in lower Manhattan.[2] His grandmother Christophe de Menil was quoted as saying that he died of a drug overdose.[3] Other sources indicated that the cause of his death is still under investigation.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Claes Oldenburg: Happenings Films

Film & Video Exhibitions

Claes Oldenburg Happenings at the Whitney

Claes Oldenburg Happenings at the Whitney

Went to the Whitney to see the movies of Oldenberg’s Happenings. I wasn’t interested in seeing his drawings or sculptures, his own or those in which he collaborated with his wife. I had hoped to see his “The Store” recreated (see color image), but all they had were bits and pieces. All in all the show felt thin and half-hearted.

I did enjoy the movies, all in black and white, and clumsy in a good way. Everyone looked like they were having a good time as they channeled Buñuel, Alfred Jarry, and John Cage. Best of all they looked like they were not taking themselves too seriously. This has become almost a matter of principal for me of late but may just veil my own fear of getting cocky, arrogant, or too comfortable in ones output. I’ve included a couple of pictures but these may be of Happenings by Allan Kaprow. A third shows the cover of a video by Raymond Saroff-“Claes Oldenburg Happenings RAY GUN THEATER-1962”.

The movie I focused on (they had five or six playing at once on different walls) had one woman dressed in a spangled swimsuit marching, saluting, and smiling big time. Then a man came in carrying a chair that he kept starting to sit on, but then he’d pick it up instead and move, and then a man at a table, who was trying to read a paper, kept having to pick up a woman whose head kept falling on the table. A woman behind them began to climb up and down a ladder in high heels that she had to poke through a sheet of butcher’s paper that covered the stepladder. These scenarios repeated and multiplied and the room slowly filled. I came away wanting to make my own little movies. I’d just use the little video component on my camera and use it to grainy effect.

For more on the times go to http// and see previous blog entry for Whitney.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Bottled Emotions/Little Pandemic

Music reviews, book reviews, art reviews? Ensor

Listening to a song called "Home" by a band called Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros I start to write down my thoughts on first viewing of the James Ensor show at MOMA. Funnily enough, earlier today, I caught a spot on Brian Lehrer in which They Might Be Giants sing a song about Ensor. More people should sing about visual artists. They need the back up, especially painters. As my old Aunt Lu used to say: “You can walk around a sculpture but paintings stand still. It is really quite annoying.” She wished paintings moved. I always felt they did but these days they really do. They get attached to whirligigs, are projected onto walls, are in fact videos, do in fact move around the space they are in. As opposed to TMBG Ensor might’ve preferred the sound of a drunken brass band recorded as they walked down the streets in Ostende followed by a triumphant Christ. Maybe not. He did have a sense of humor. Look at his macabre side as one side of his expression, one expression. Each painting in the show at MOMA strikes with a small and potent electric shock, even the somber interiors. In those apparently still lifes there is always a thickly palette knifed spot of color that yells joyfully. I saw bits of Mondrian and Poliakoff. More obviously, later on, one collides with Blake and Daumier having a drunken brawl, and bumps into Constant Permeke Gustave De Smet and Frits van den Berghe (as boys) in his painting of a boy streetlamp lighter. You can see Gustave Moreau hanging on his shoulder and Ensor laughing him off. In one painting, a big one, in which Adam and Eve are banished from Eden, I don’t feel restraint on God’s part. He is telling them to piss off. He isn’t kidding around. The painting though is in no way pious.
Ensor trowels the paint on and scrapes it off gleefully. He plays with gender, and digs deep under the paper in his drawings refusing to make them easy.
A painting called in the Baths at Ostende (1890) reminds me of these books I read as a child published by Country Life about a (marmalade) cat called Orlando. They were written and illustrated by Kathleen Hale and are highly eccentric but I loved the drawings, the same I that responded to James Ensor the first time I encountered him. This though is the deepest show of his work I have ever seen and one I thoroughly recommend. Though he lived to the ripe old age of 89 his best work apparently unfolded before his mid forties. What did he do for the rest of his life? Did he rest on his many laurels? I’ve more research to do but unfortunately the fonts in Wikipedia are coming up all garbled and I cannot currently access more information—not without going to a library—and who can do that in the middle of a work day? Hmmm?

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Doing Lines

Asemic writing