Sunday, March 30, 2008


HELLO PEEPS, how are you, and hey, it's time for another topic!
 but first:

TRUTH #1: I really didn't understand everything I saw at the Whitney Biennial
TRUTH #2:  This pisses me off and embarrasses me at the same time
TRUTH #3:  It takes work to stay current and to understand the context of the art worlds latest offerings. 

Okay Whitney Biennial, I didn't get first. So...we went to NY for a few days to drop off some work at the "Bridge" show, which is a MUCH smaller venue that feeds off of the big deal show, The Armory Show. Let's just say right off the bat, NY is AMaZinG! It's a field day of sensory input and stimulation. The smells, the people, the density, the visuals, the food alone is just so damn good! Street pizza......yummmm, and so many restaurants, and the desserts and the wine and, and (I am drooling) the fresh bread, and the pasta, and the coffee and...well you get the picture, but I want to talk about art. Hey, let's eat and drink talk about art. I love that.

First Stop: The Whitney Biennial. We have gone before, and it was wonderful, somewhat challenging, educational, interesting, totally worth the trip. This year, the curators focused on younger artists, which is great.  I must say, we both enjoyed it, but were doing some head scratching. I needed more information. Clearly.  One thing that stood out to me was a short film showing 6 blind people walking up and touching an elephant for the first time. Strangely riveting. Their descriptions were so varied. I felt like I was learning something.  I also loved a guy who filled containers with found stuff and and opaque resin. Then he sliced the blocks of "homemade terrazzo" into slabs. Compelling and strangely good looking. This same artist made simple glass containers, then shipped them via Fed X . He displayed them, with all their cracks and chips from transit, along with their Fed X boxes.
TRUTH #5:  My favorite thing at the Whitney was the coat check guy. yup.

I couldn't see him at first, but I could hear him yelling in a deep, booming barkers voice: "Step right up" "What will it be" "Blue!" "Yes!" "Brown!" "Excellent Choice!" In between his shouting, you heard a giant and beautiful jingling sound, which turns out to be 1000 tinkling metal coat hangers, bouncing off each other as the huge "dry cleaner" type system swung overhead. It was melodic and perfectly choreographed. A surprise and a delight. It played out, over and over, with amazing enthusiasm. I smile just thinking about it.
have I lost my edge?? perhaps. The show was really enjoyable, and I did love being there in the swim of my tribe. I did feel like those other lookers were my peeps, and it was packed. It was interesting, but I wasn't moved. I want to be moved....and not by Fed X.

Can I just say, I like painting and there wasn't much of that. There was tons of installation, which I love, and more good video than usual. On the whole, this was more conceptual stuff. Which is great if you know the concept. And whose job is it to learn about the concepts??? YOURS and MINE!  And how do you learn??? GO TO THE ARMORY SHOW!!!!!! Also, it helps to put an artists work in context, along side their peers and against their previous work. I, as it turns out, am guilty for not taking the time to educate myself. I even allowed all my art mag subscriptions to lapse. They were piling up, and I finally admitted to myself that I wasn't reading them, I was barley looking at the pictures and what about all those trees??

Thank God for the Armory Show. It was brilliant! AND we saw so much more work by the artists who were chosen for the Biennial. This was unbelievably helpful!!! It all started to make sense! I still didn't always GET it, but it was fascinating! a great big, heaping helping of creative thinking. Tons of talent and some bullshit too. all good.

I heard a great quote about art from John Waters today, He said, and I paraphrase, Art is the opposite of movies, with movies you want everyone in the whole world to like them. Art, if everyone likes it in the art world,  then it's TERRIBLE.  He said, "The art I buy is what first makes me angry. All great art you hate at first, you have to learn how to see it."

In 1913, at the very first Armory Show, a Matisse reclining nude caused a scandal. Now it's a masterpiece.
Do tell!




Jamie said...


#s 1-5, you tell true. I notice that I don't keep up with what's up, either. It's a whole 'nother job, and one that would take all the time it takes to do my own work and help others do theirs!

(At least you drag your handsome ass to New York and VISIT--and the coat check guy, well he's just the best. I love him. Did you ask him if he was single?)

So, yes, everything new is new, and freshy-fresh, and all sorts of fabulous, but I find myself drifting along in my own little stream of consciousness, rising to the surface to appreciate and really drink in maybe 14 of the 14 MILLION things that are calling for my attention.

Yeah, I like art. It feeds me. Actually, it feeds my own literary art. Visual work stimulates my word-making capacity. In fact, I tend to SEE things in others' work and talk about that work to those I coach in very visual terms.

But does that mean I have to be on the tippy top of it all all of the time? No. That's a job for curators, for dealers, for drug addicts. (Wait. I didn't mean that last one.)

There's a business called Art, and there's a calling called Making Art, and I believe you Make Art out of the inside of yourself, stimulated by the coat check guys of this world, and, heck, maybe a bit of what you see when you leave state lines.

Glad you're home.

Lynnie said...

for true james! you are such a good writer!!!!! hey, that coat guy was a dandy, I should have asked for you. If only I had checked my coat. I just stood there and smiled. and thanks for reading this unreasonably long post! I just needed to get that out! They did a piece about the Armory Show on Sunday Morning, which is where I heard John Waters speak about art. So, I am l living and learning! yipper, what more could you ask for!!
I do love your point about drinking in only a few of the 14 million things that call to us daily. I think that is WISE beyond belief. life is short, but it's wide.
L lou

Jamie said...


So, I was HOPING for a great "post card" from your trip--and here it is. And I know that I learn vicariously from the hard-won lessons that you and John bring back from checking out the edge.

My selective little brain culls from your experiences and digests them well enough, that, hell, I think, "I was in New York last week, wasn't I? I must have been, 'cause I just LOVED that Armory Show."

And I never even needed to pack.


Unknown said...

On the part about art pissing you off... I must me a lightweight because I want it to give me the feeling that I can't live without it. Which might piss me off because I can't afford it or figure out how somebody DID it. HA! Thats just me.

I love New York. I love it more everytime I go. The first time I went there was an ugly scene that involved me and a hotdog vendor, but I've gotten past that! And Mimi made me drag around a very heavy bag from Metalliferous.

Chicago in a few months!

Claire's Mina said...

Unless the meaning is so overt that cognitive functioning is not required, I likely get 50 percent (or less) of visual art. Maybe, in part, that's what reels me in. I dig a mystery. All I know is that I sometimes love it, sometimes like it, and sometimes just appreciate the effort. I cannot name a singular reason for what I love. Except that there is resonance. That's's all about me! My list of five are:
1. I don't know what it means.
2. I love, like or appreciate it.
3. I feel an intimacy with what I fancy.
4. Language for my fancy is either inaccessable or nonexistant.
5. It means something to me.
I love making art! Didn't you say this blog for inspiration? Oh yeah...and the practice of disapline. I have some of that, just not so much around the venues I want it in. I Love that 20 min. thing. I can do anything for 20 min. Even excersize...well 10 maybe...OK stretch and walk my little man (Toulouse). This is fun, Bean. I'll be back for more Lynnie May! I may even get fresh, Freshie. Love JK

Ziggy said...

Tyler and I were in MOMA one day when he said "all these people were trying to piss off the art world and now look where there work is" hmmm