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[the horses]

I wanted to ask how do I do this how do I keep doing this

how do I stop I once required the moon no once your voice

moved the moon for hours across the skylight and the stove

burned itself out and the stars followed suit eight hours passed

and the moon passed the glass filled instead with clouded day

with light and distance and both of us so tired my ear days later

still red and tender the hot phone I held going down again into

the cold house the one the baby squirrels came all that winter

into for warmth caught and taken in the box kept for nothing

but that to the barn and set down in the hay and fallen feed

the horses retired to other homes the barn where tack hung

in the shapes of backs necks mouths and brows as though

the horses had not gone but become instead invisible I had

never been happier disliked the intervals of silence and sun

I no longer own a barn a skylight full of the moon a house

that squirrels seek out we both still own the means but what

keeps happening is the moon the day and the moon again

and it wasn’t the horses turning into ghosts it wasn’t

–Leslie Harrison

A big fan of Harrison’s work, I have posted poems by her on this blog before: The Four Elements, The Day Beauty Divorced Meaning, and How I Became a Ghost. This one appeared on Zócalo Public Square, and is IMHO another clear knock out.

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(Photo: Gabriela Maj/Getty Images)

The rumors are not true. Jerry Saltz is neither leaving New York magazine nor is he shutting down Saltz Nation on his infamous Facebook page.

This was his notice on the NY Mag site:

Jerry Saltz Responds to Rumors of His Departure

Yes, the rumors are true, and I’m leaving New York Magazine. The editors made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: They gave me $106 million in severance because they couldn’t get me the 1932 Picasso, and they threw in the $28 million Jasper Johns “Flag,” and an apartment in the East 80s overlooking the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Plus cashews for life. (I love cashews.)

But seriously. In response to the funny widespread “news” that I’m quitting New York and scrapping my Facebook page: Neither is true, and that “farewell” post was not written by me. If I leave the magazine, I’m going out feetfirst (because I’m dead) or headfirst (because they’re throwing me out). They had me at, “We have cashew Fridays,” and now I’m addicted to getting e-mails from editors proposing “just one more revise” of my column, or blog entries that they want in 45 minutes, and constantly going to galleries out of sheer deadline pressure. And anyway, those limited individuals who structure their inner lives around hating my work, both on New York’s online-comment threads and in the blogosphere at-large, all seem to need me more than I need them. I may be keeping them off the streets, which might be viewed as a public service.

As for scrapping my Facebook page, alas: My wife says this pastime keeps me out of her hair and has, relatively speaking, a “calming effect” on me. It’s staying around, too.

It’s a good thing since Jerry is one of the few people I follow who actually makes the art world fun (and funny.) And if there was ever need for some levity, it is now.


Outside a Hindu shrine in Maharashtra, India

In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.

–David Foster Wallace

If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world, and a desire to enjoy the world. That makes it hard to plan the day.

— E.B. White

Two excellent quotes to begin a day, any day. Thanks to Meehan Rasch for both of these.


Dutch architects MVRDV’s design for a cantilevered holiday home in Suffolk, UK.

We all admire heroic acts, but this is one I hadn’t expected. Author Alain de Botton (Consolations of Philosophy, The Art of Travel, among others) is commissioning architects to build purposefully experimental homes that he will make available for holiday rentals on a not-for-profit basis. His purpose is to “to help people get over the dichotomy that modernism equals awful and antiquated equals great”.

This is advocacy we need more of. The project was inspired by the Landmark Trust in England, a program that blends vacationing at a beautiful property combined with an educational experience. “You are more than just sleeping there – you are looking around and learning about modern architecture.”

The houses are designed by leading architects from various European countries and are deliberately experimental. The goal was to challenge preconceptions of what constitutes a holiday home in 21st-century Britain.

“The inspiration is the Landmark Trust [which lets interesting historical properties] – for people interested in a good holiday, but also an educational experience while they are in the property,” De Botton claims. He is calling the initiative Living Architecture.

The first group of houses are being designed by MVRDV (Danish), Nord Architecture (Scotland), Peter Zumthor (Swiss) and Sir Michael Hopkins (U.K.)

From an article in the Guardian by Robert Booth:

De Botton said he was inspired to launch the project when he was researching the Architecture of Happiness, his book and TV series which is a tour through the philosophy and psychology of architecture aiming to change the way we think about our homes. Visitors will be given an information pack about each building’s design, setting out what the architects hope to achieve, the historical precedents for the design and its influences.

“We have got a group of world-class architects to do projects that they wouldn’t normally do,” said De Botton. “These are probably the smallest and cheapest buildings they have done. They are realistic buildings, but they try to push boundaries and explore things.”

Alain de Botton’s project, Living Architecture, can be viewed in more detail here.


(Image: Courtesy of Sally Reed, Butter and Lightning)

One of my favorite set of brains and eyes, Sally Reed, has initiated her first foray into the personal blogdominium with her new site Butter and Lightning. I’m excited. She’s my kind of thinker, with a wicked sense of the absurd while still keeping her heart wide open. It all makes for the best kind of reportage—full bodied and rich.

Here’s a sampling from her first post:

My butter and lightning originates in a remarkable piece of writing, a speech in the form of a prose poem, by Spanish poet García Lorca, Theory and Play of the Duende. If you know the speech, you’ll probably be familiar with its best-known image, “But intelligence is often the enemy of poetry, because it limits too much, and it elevates the poet to a sharp-edged throne where he forgets that ants could eat him or that a great arsenic lobster could fall suddenly on his head . . . .” Lorca’s duende is a dark and mysterious power, an untranslatable force. We need it desperately, for in duende, with its “wings made of rusty knives,” we have the cure for bloodless, anesthetic art — art which deadens and numbs us. And duende admonishes us that we must never, ever forget that arsenic lobster.

You will find my phrase buried in the middle of the piece … “Those moon-frozen heads that Zurbarán painted, the yellows of butter and lightning in El Greco…”

Destined to be a juicy ride.


Siva drinking World Poison, Nandalal Bose (Photo: National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi)

I have been participating in an ongoing conversation with my friend Supratik Bose about the nature of creativity. Over dinner a while ago he told me he didn’t believe something could be deemed creative unless it demonstrated market value. Bose, trained as an architect and the grandson of India’s most beloved artist of the 20th century, Nandalal Bose, doesn’t make that statement lightly. I on the other hand will argue that point for the rest of my life.

Our debate is lively and robust however, so I don’t want it to come to a “agree to disagree” stalemate. I told Bose to read Lawrence Weschler’s unforgettable account of one man’s mission to transform an artist laboring for years in obscurity to international renown. (“Shapinsky’s Karma” is a chapter included in Weschler’s book, A Wanderer in the Perfect City.) Bose told me to read Nancy Andreasen’s The Creative Brain, which I am currently doing. And this weekend he sent me the link to an article in the New York Times, Charting Creativity: Signposts of a Hazy Territory, by Patricia Cohen, which is full of timely news on this immense, unfathomably complex and provocative topic.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Creativity is kind of like pornography — you know it when you see it,” said Rex Jung, a research scientist at the Mind Research Network in Albuquerque. Dr. Jung, an assistant research professor in the department of neurosurgery at the University of New Mexico, said his team was doing the first systematic research on the neurology of the creative process, including its relationship to personality and intelligence.

Like many researchers over the past 30 years or so, Dr. Jung has relied on a common definition of creativity: the ability to combine novelty and usefulness in a particular social context.

As the study of creativity has expanded to include brain neurology, however, some scientists question whether this standard definition and the tests for it still make sense. John Kounios, a psychologist at Drexel University, argues that the standard “has outlived its usefulness.”

“Creativity is a complex concept; it’s not a single thing,” he said, adding that brain researchers needed to break it down into its component parts. Dr. Kounios, who studies the neural basis of insight, defines creativity as the ability to restructure one’s understanding of a situation in a nonobvious way.

Everyone agrees that no single measure for creativity exists. While I.Q. tests, though controversial, are still considered a reliable test of at least a certain kind of intelligence, there is no equivalent when it comes to creativity — no Creativity Quotient, or C.Q.

While Rex Jung and others are doing their scientific level best to come up with some kind of meaningful measure—Jung calls it a “Composite Creativity Index”—I’m going with the naysayers who say it can never be nailed down, dissected or completely comprehended.

I like the description of the difference between creativity and intelligence:

One study of 65 subjects suggests that creativity prefers to take a slower, more meandering path than intelligence.

“The brain appears to be an efficient superhighway that gets you from Point A to Point B” when it comes to intelligence, Dr. Jung explained. “But in the regions of the brain related to creativity, there appears to be lots of little side roads with interesting detours, and meandering little byways.”

Although intelligence and skill are generally associated with the fast and efficient firing of neurons, subjects who tested high in creativity had thinner white matter and connecting axons that have the effect of slowing nerve traffic in the brain. This slowdown in the left frontal cortex, a region where emotional and cognitive abilities are integrated, Dr. Jung suggested, “might allow for the linkage of more disparate ideas, more novelty and more creativity.”

And bless that Bose. One has to be a class act to send along an authoritative collaboration of the opposing point of view since this claim also appeared in the article:

Dr. Kounios…said that Dr. Jung was doing original and interesting work, but he maintained that trying to find a correlation between creativity and a single area of the brain is an “old-fashioned approach.”

“Creativity is a collection of different processes that work in different areas of the brain,” Dr. Kounios said, so the creative act must be broken down into tiny pieces. He also rejects utility as part of the definition, arguing that there can be brilliant and creative failures — what he calls near misses.

I’ll take all of them in—the near misses, the creative failures, the byways and the detours.

***
__________

A bit of background on Nandalal Bose from the San Diego Museum of Art which mounted a traveling exhibit of Bose’s work for the first time outside Asia in 2008:

Nandalal Bose was born in Bihar, India, in 1882. At the beginning of his career in 1905, he was one of many artists and visionaries who sought to revive the spirituality and cultural authenticity of Indian art after 50 years of colonial rule and westernization. In 1919, Bose became the first director of the art school at the new university founded by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore in rural Bengal. Here, traditional Indian teaching methods were favored over British-style education.

For the following three decades, Bose began to experiment with a variety of indigenous Indian, Japanese, and Chinese techniques. His work consisted more of scenes of nature and tribal and village life, as well as devotional subjects. It was his portrayal of village India without dependence on Western materials or styles that captured the attention of Gandhi and catapulted Bose to the status of national icon as the only artist Gandhi patronized.


Nandalal Bose

After the St. Francis Dam

Concrete mostly, fractured spans of
handrails in their new rust, insistent
brown rabbits. Downstream from the floodwave,
now someone’s house, green lawn, the sun
thick with its own agenda.
More rabbits. Ghosts from here
to the ocean though I know days aren’t
made from holding back and watching
bunnies. To think his hand in hers
means the rest of it, entire weeks
unaware of animals burrowing in weeds or
the sound of stone cracking. Of course
Mulholland blamed himself. All the canyon
a scar, a stain, all heat and bare nerve,
the restlessness that comes with waterless places.

–Lisa P. Sutton

My friend LP, AKA Lisa the Poet, came into my life around a lecture delivered by artist Jenny Saville at BU. The rest is history. This poem was recently featured on Zócalo Public Square, the best place to find poetry these days according to LP. I’m not arguing with that since I think this is a fabulous, evocative, hauntingly present poem. LP, I need more of this.


Japanese calligraphy, beautiful in its inexplicable mystery (From the LACMA collection)

***
Beauty is not a concept. …Beauty harmonizes consciousness from top to bottom. It is as organically vital as digestion. Beauty is, or ought to be, no big deal, though the lack of it is. Without regular events of beauty, we live estranged from existence, including our own.

—Peter Schjeldahl

Yesterday I had an engaging and thoughtful conversation with art impresario/gallery directory/arts and community advocate/photographer Martine Bisagni. Ever the visionary, Martine’s latest project is the Brooklyn Workshop Gallery and associated Brooklyn Workshop Gallery Foundation. More about that undertaking will be forthcoming here.

Our conversation was far ranging but of course (it seems to be my inevitable proclivity) we touched down on beauty. I’ve written about this particular portion of the art terrain many times on this blog (do a search on beauty for a long list of posts). This quote from the New Yorker‘s Schjeldahl seems like a good addition.


New York Studio Gallery (Photo: NYSG)

My Facebook friend Agni Zotis sent me a notice for this event, the Unaffordable Art Fair. Here’s the copy from the event’s FB page:

Several years ago, my friend took a collector to Julian Schnabel’s home in Montauk with $10,000 ready to spend right there and then. Mr. Schnabel responded, “What do you want from me? A postage stamp?” I respected that man, that larger-than-life artist ever since.
– de la Haba

The arts are a major economic driver, for everyone except artists. Artists are increasingly being called upon to support the economy by lowballing our work or with outright contributions for which we cannot claim fair market value. The benefit of exposure that is said to accompany these sacrifices is a myth; unique objects are not good products with which to generate buzz and, quite frankly, most professional artists refuse to participate in all but the most worthy causes due to unfavorable tax laws. We, the artists of the Unaffordable Art Fair, ask- How do you value art? Remember: you get what you pay for.

Get the facts:

“Artists now play a huge but mostly unrecognized role in the new American economy of the 21st century” – NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. http://www.nea.gov/news/news08/ArtistsinWorkforce.html

“Orthodox micro-economists dismiss concern for artists’ relatively low earnings given their high educational attainment as simply a case of market over-supply…. But vis-à-vis stimulus, artists turn economic orthodoxy on its head. Compared to most other groups of workers, artists are more apt to spend what they make rapidly and on other goods and services in the local economy…. [and] artists enhance product design, employee relations and marketing in many industries.”
http://www.giarts.org/article/economics-arts-artists-and-culture

“Section 1221(3) of the Code explicitly provides that artistic property is not a capital asset and, thus, not entitled to long-term capital gain treatment.” (Meaning artists cannot deduct fair market value for contributions of artwork.)
http://www.aamd.org/advocacy/tax_rec.php

“Artists’ personal characteristics, in particular their average educational attainment, more closely resemble those of other professionals than other occupational groups. However, artists tend to experience labor market outcomes more adverse than those of most other professionals.”
http://www.arts.gov/research/Researcharts/Summary40.html

“Most artists have relatively low incomes, even though the majority (62%) are college graduates and hold at least one additional paying job.” (1/3 reporting under 40k; another 1/3 reporting under 20k.)
http://eleetmusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Selected-Findings-Artists-and-the-Recession-Survey-2009.pdf

So if you are in or near New York City this weekend, might be worth a visit:

THE UNAFFORDABLE ART FAIR
Coordinators: Gregory de la Haba & CJ Nye

HOURS: Friday, noon – 8:00pm & Saturday, noon – 6:00pm
COCKTAIL PARTY: Saturday, 6:00 – 9:00pm

New York Studio Gallery
http://www.nystudiogallery.com
154 Stanton Street at the corner of Suffolk, 2nd floor
New York, NY 10002
(212) 627-3276
Subways: F, M, J, Z to Essex St-Delancey, V to 2nd Ave-Lower East Side

PARTICIPATING ARTISTS:

Agni Zotis, Bernard Klevickas, Billy the Artist, Carrie Villines, CJ Nye, Dalton Portella, Elizabeth Hendler, Erik Pye, Francesco Masci, Gregory de la Haba, Jim D’Amato, Jsun Laliberte, Juan Hinojosa, Lee Wells, Lina Puerta, Mat Szwajkos, Peter Fox, Piotr Shtyk, Robert Preston, Stephen Madden, Stephen Woods, Tara Misenheimer

Facebook page link here.

A few notes and comments:

From the web

***

Norkae 1, mixed media on wood panel

My work is being featured on Design Squared, a visually stunning blog written by Barbara Ashfield and David Hansen. Located in San Francisco, Ashfield and Hansen are both designers who possess fine sensibilities, and I am honored to be covered by them.

***

John the Baptist Preaching to a Levite and a Pharisee, 1506-11

My daughter Kellin, art historian by training, has guest posted on a smart and well crafted art history blog, The Art Daily with Lydia. She has written about Renaissance artist Rustici (in two parts), titled John the Baptist Preaching to a Levite and a Pharisee.

Part I and Part 2.

From print

From Karl Kirchwey’s New York Times review of Derek Walcott’s latest publication, White Egrets:

But the kinship with Eliot, for Walcott, extends beyond genre. In his essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent” (1919), Eliot opined that “the more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers and the mind which creates.” Walcott has deliberately avoided the confessional path pioneered by his early friend and supporter Robert Lowell, choosing instead a post-Romantic voice, closely allied with landscape, in which the particulars of a life are incidental to a larger poetic vision, one in which the self is not the overt subject.

Refreshing thought, especially in our current era of overdone memoirs and unchecked confessional forays.

***
From Peter Kramer’s review of Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things, by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee:

Hoarding has been linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder and its variants, and Irene, who displays contamination fears, probably meets criteria for O.C.D. But studies show that the genetics of hoarding differ from the genetics of obsessing. And while obsessionality is painful, Irene [a hoarder] finds enjoyment in acquiring and revisiting her holdings. It is this pleasure in objects…that distinguishes hoarding, in Frost and Steketee’s view. They suggest that hoarders may “inherit an intense perceptual sensitivity to visual details,” and speculate about “a special form of creativity and an appreciation for the aesthetics of everyday things.”

This upbeat account of hoarding’s basis has a humane ring: hoarders are discerning. But then, Irene can be indiscriminate, according every possession equal worth, whether it’s a newspaper clipping or a photograph of her daughter. Frost and Steketee are too thoughtful to give a simple account of what drives Irene. Possessions help her preserve her identity and relive past events. The objects make her feel safe and allow her to express caring. Newspaper clippings point outward, speaking to Irene of opportunities in the wider world. Irene is depressed; collecting promises relief. Irene displays perfectionism and indecisiveness, character traits that have been linked to hoarding. When there are so many motivations, no single one seems central.

I read this and had to wonder: So many artists, like me, have an “intense perceptual sensitivity to visual details”, with a “special form of creativity and an appreciation for the aesthetics of everyday things.” Is something keeping us tethered from crossing over into the zone of reality shows and shock value? I can only hope so.

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