Monday, August 20, 2012

That dirty old bastard

 I love Picasso.   Not because he was a celebrity when I was a child, between Warhol and Picasso, the two…

I love Picasso’s late work, its abrasiveness, its brashness, its playfulness and in the end despite everything being so garish, it works, it works for me.   It excites me, it thrills me, it puzzles me, it sits on my mind.  

I am writing this in response to Mark at Henrimag and Paul from Paulcorio and the mysterious Anonymous who some of us know quite well not only because of his pertinent commentary but also because we’ve spent many nights and days talking about art and getting drunk both literally and figuratively.

I have a problem with Modernism and hence Post-Modernism.  To me they are interesting theories of cultural production and arts placement in culture at large.

The problem with Picasso or Miró for that matter is that they don’t fit into convenient categories of modernist art production, nor does Duchamp for that matter.   The American version of Modernism has Clem Greenberg’s shadow still haunting it, at least for someone of my age and generation, because we or I, was over-steeped in it from schooling.   The conceptual and minimal works that came out of it owe more than a passing debt to Clem, even if as reaction.   Not surprising too because painting as an “avant-garde” practice was pretty much exhausted by 1920 and the rest since, mining familiar territories.   

By 1920 cubism had morphed into synthetic cubism, Matisse had gone to Nice and began riffing on Cezanne and his own work, now that I think of it, the proto-Soviets were the ones who radicalized vision along with the Dutch.   By 1920 Malevich and Rodchenko had along with the De Stijl group of Mondrian et al had given the non-objective a face and their work in particular was one of revolutionary import, they were radicals who desired to shape and change culture through their art.  The French and I include Picasso and Miró in this, not so much, I mean what’s wrong with Café culture?

Listen I don’t want to delve into some deeper analysis but my feeling and my head tell me that what is dead, is not so much the avant-garde or modernism or post-modernism because they were never alive to begin with, they are nothing more than anthropomorphic descriptions of historical processes, made by man for man in an attempt to understand and come to grips with the working processes of other people coming to grips with themselves through their work within certain time frames that at once shaped and defined them and then they tried to break through those limitations, limitations put on by the expectations at large and the ones that they had imposed on themselves and of major importance but rarely discussed is the death of god and the poetic, what is dead is what was never alive, a theory or theories.

What the various artists had in common despite the incredible variety of visual expression was each artist was trying to come to grips with the ghost of art and the substrate in which it can be hung within.   The various stories or myths that each artist had, whether it was Duchamp and the fourth dimension and more and the eros that many rarely talk about but he hinted at consistently Rrose Sélavy, Mondrian’s Theosophy, the relationship between Constructivism and Russian Icon painting, Picasso with the history of art and Matisse with the arcadian joie de vivre.

Their art was an art born out of life, not naïve life (maybe at times) but also a love of art. 

Today’s art gymnastics, the kind that fills us with dread is the post-mortem, cynical market place driven drivel.  One, driven by an academy of dead wood and no better than the church in trying to force an ideal or idea of what it is without the love or poetry, two concepts too fuzzy and akin to ‘feeling.’

The problem with theory is that it takes place in words, don’t get me wrong I love words, look ma, I’m using them now but the best wordsmiths and the best painters artists etc know when they are having fun with their media in trying to expand the field of expression not for the accolades but because they or we are trying to find the best way to relay or transmit this weird feeling or idea that we have about the world to someone else.

We don’t make art to fit the academy or the school, October or Artforum, MoMA or the New Museum.   That is where art goes to die, stuffed and on the wall.   This was the point, by the great and greatly misunderstood Marcel Broodthaers.

Oh and Picasso, I’ll try to get back to him shortly as I started writing something but got sidetracked by life.   

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Art in the Age of Depression

I find it hard if not impossible to think about art in these difficult economic times.  The need to keep roof overhead and food on the table when one cannot find sustained work is taxing with the psychological and emotional toll being devastating.   

We live in an ever darkening time, one where our politics, our economics, our whole social fabric has fallen apart, where people don’t care to know or if they do, don’t.   Where unbridled greed and avarice rules, where the destruction of hope (is there any left?) is paramount and those in power play games while Rome burns.   A world which in twenty or thirty years will not look the same due to global warming and the resultant changes in food production will leave millions starving.   It’s too late.  Nothing can be done, the impact is imminent and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men cannot put it together again.  

I sometimes work near the U.N. and I see during my lunch break all the men and women walking back and forth with their briefs, sometimes in heavy conversation and debate with like other determining the fate or so they think of the world.  Meetings, meetings, meetings and nothing changes.  The world at large is run by sociopaths either in politics or business with but one purpose, to gain more power and we commoners, are nothing but fodder, too often in the way of their grand plans, our sole function is to support their state of affairs while they pay little or no tax and purchase either their goods or propaganda without question or protest.

Besides that physical fact is an art world that is irrelevant and an audience non-existent for what one has to say or more what I have to say.   One might as well wander into the wilderness and wail as the result would be the same.

I am and have always been as long as I can remember, even as a child barely able to put words in mouth been disturbed by these inequities and injustices, inequities and injustices perpetrated by none other than humanities hubris and vanity.  Vanitas Vanitatum.

Such as it is I am sometimes reminded despite such dark clouds of personal misfortune of the purpose and function of art, of late that has not occurred by actually seeing art but more in music and literature.   Solace comes in listening to Bach or in reading recently Maupassant’s “Pierre and Jean”, Jean Giono’s “Blue Boy” or now as I wade into Döblin’s “Berlin Alexanderplatz”. 

I find this country intolerable and fantasize about living in Europe, somewhere in the south of France would be nice and I don’t have any fantasy of it being without its own troubles or that the locals would be any different than here, small town minds with there ageless prejudices and distrust are everywhere from the hills of Afghanistan, to Provence to Pennsylvania, New York or the Upper West Side.   But being an outsider in a country where you are not from is somehow in my experience easier than being an outsider in ones own land, the alienation is at least justified there but here in ones own land and native tongue is unbearable.