The Joy of Cooking was clear. The joy of cooking. Not The Joy of Being a Cook.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The Joy of Cooking was clear. The joy of cooking. Not The Joy of Being a Cook.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
opening, is that besides never accepting another drink, you just never
know; life will surprise you everytime.
Last Friday I went to Pierre Menard to see Duncan Hannah's show:
Cautionary Tales. Initially I was there to apologize for my hanging of
his work almost 30 years ago in the NewYork/New Wave show at PS1.
DH has to be in every way the anti-Resnick. Why should I have been
surprised? It has been my experience that nevermind what the work
looks like; every artist of even the most minute consequence is a
blowhard and a bully. DH was just like his paintings: mild mannered/
well mannered, and quizzical.
What a pleasant surprise. I wished I hadn't geared up with liquor
because I ended up being the other.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
The sun shines brightly when you're up on a pedestal. It is hard not to enjoy it; it is hard not to want it. The sun shines brightly when you're on up on a pedestal, and it is a temptation that is very hard to resist.
Friday, October 17, 2008
There is the fork in the road. We never have much more than a split second to make the right turn, the right decision. Similarly there is that point where we are faced not with a decision, but a challenge. It is that point where we are literally facing a hurdle, where we can charge forward and jump as hard and high as we can in order to clear it, or we can balk, and stare at it and go back.We can run away! It is the four point turnaround in basketball. It is the difference between living and dying!
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Joan Snyder; Seed Catchers, 2007, Oil, acrylic,
berries, paper mache, burlap on canvas, 36 x 48"
Saturday, April 26, 2008
A few months ago someone who worked for the Obama campaign pointed out in answer to a query on foreign policy that the candidate had taken a course on the very subject in college. The interviewer laughed, and rightly so. The interviewee was offended. Life is strange.
I laughed too, of course, because my immediate thought was that maybe the person who taught the class might be more qualified to run for office. Then of course the little voice in my head said: those who can't do, teach, and then I was back where I started.
Experience does matter. I come from that school. The Jimi Hendrix are-you-experienced school. Experience is everything!
But wait, there's more. Apparently dyslexia is a "condition" that separates those who are more comfortable with hands-on(read: true life experience) with those who prefer the theoretical(read: fantasy). And the theoreticians want to call the shots!
After reading about dyslexia it turns out I'm their poster child, and, apparently so is George Bush. What is comforting, and not surprising, is that dyslexia experts and specialists disagree, violently. Gee, didn't see that coming.
Not entirely unrelated is the whole concept of reading. My wife is a very fast reader. I'm not. She was instructed in reading. I was not. They told her that speed was everything. They told her to just keep reading even when she didn't understand what she read. She was taught to read down the center of the page, every fourth word, that kind of stuff. Who are these people? If I don't understand something I don't move on until I get it. I will read something over and over until it sinks in. I don't care if it is poetry, philosophy, or instructions for operating a band saw. I read for content, comprehension, and results! I've always been fascinated by how my wife has nothing to say about the four hundred page novel she just ripped through. If I only read the first page of a book I can tell you about it. But apparently I'm dyslexic.
I love how everything is a condition. Apparently we're not just different. Apparently there is an ideal, a perfect model, and the rest of us are deviants. Sounds vaguely familiar, doesn't it? Hitler! I always love it when you find out that these perfect models were the real deviants: males judges wearing women's underwear under their fancy robes. It was like the dysfunctional craze; turned out we were all dysfunctional.
Apparently art is the big tent for everyone that doesn't fit it. Welcome on board! Crazy isn't it(we're going crazy; want to come along)? John Lennon sang about it. Herbert Read wrote about it. Carl Jung even made it seem normal. Then again, it's all a Catch 22, no? Hobson's Choice, or Morton's Fork. We're either psychotic or normal-neurotic. One kind of dilemma or another. Take your pick.
So who do you want? Who do you want to be? Do you want to have taken a course in flying a plane, or have actually flown a plane? Do you want the pilot to be someone who took a course or someone who has actually flown? Choose wisely. Do you want to learn about love and sex from someone who read a book, or someone who actually has been in love and had sex. Do you want to learn about sex from nuns?
I talked to an artist not long ago who was doing an exhibition about the war in Iraq.I can't remember his name. Harvard and Yale ties I think, which should apparently be enough. I said, oh, wow, have you been over there? He said no. He didn't think that that was important. I wondered aloud what he possible had to offer on the subject. Needless to say I was not convinced. Sex from nuns. Who are these people?
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Life kisses us. It just happens. Think about it. Ok, maybe it also kicks us in the pants or teeth. But more importantly, no matter what, no matter what a jerk we are, life kisses us. Life kisses us, and to paraphrase Lauren Bacall, it's even better if we kiss back.
Kiss back. Not much going around since the perfect storm of this white house and the twin towers. People aren't kissing back, they are kicking back, but it is time for a change. Am I guilty of kicking back? Absolutely! I like the three strikes rule, but that's not turning the other cheek. I can't say it was ever easy even embracing the idea of turning the other cheek, but to actually do it? I get it now. Turning the other cheek is less an invitation as a preemptive forgiving.
Yes is the price of admission. An artist is just someone with a yes for making magic alchemically. And it isn't about the magic object but the magic experience, and we accept the object as a vessel for that. ALL the artist has to do is say yes and then, even harder, keep saying it. It doesn't matter what anyone else says. We know that, but it's still hard, like turning the other cheek.
Making art is kissing back. Not kicking back. Sometimes we are confused. Kiss back. Kiss back even when it feels like life isn't kissing. Just kiss for kiss sake!
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Charred, ashes, a swath of detritus spread across miles and miles of a scorched earth, flotsam and jetsam littering a muddy shore, left behind by the tide or a storm, it doesn’t matter. The elephant in the room, the desperate inner child, the man on fire; these all come to mind standing in the glow or wake or shadow of John Walker’s always epic and often towering paintings. On the other hand we get the kind of chalky radiance of frescoed starlight, the closest thing to Giotto these eyes have seen in this world, in this place, in this muddy messed up twenty-first century where less and less is what it seems, where real, the real, is anathema and truth is a joke, scoffed at, ridiculed, kicked in the gutter. And for what?
That’s probably what John Walker would like to know. Can anyone tell him? Instead he’s getting hammered, a hammer the size of a wrecking ball, driving him into the ground, driving a shaft the size of a tree trunk down his throat, telling him that lies are truth and shit is fresh cream.
These many years, these many paintings, tell this story. The call of starlight; the promise of starlight. The shit/mud/magma/primordial ooze that we stand in as we look to the stars. The shit/mud/magma/primordial ooze of a species that cares only about outward things, about power and pretense and position and posturing and primacy and prestige. That pees on everything. He is holding up a mirror. He is holding up a lamp. A lighthouse on the distant shore. Yes, it is shit. Embrace the shit if it brings you closer to the earth. Lie down in it. Lie down in darkness. But look to the heavens. Look to our better selves. Look for salvation and light.
John Walker carries his paintings in his paintings along with everything else in his life. They are of course part of his story, part of his personal mythology, so why wouldn’t they be there. Bits of shapes, words, figures of sorts that reference the things that matter to him, scars from loss and from experience, like falling from a tree or being scorned by a loved one or being bitten by a snake; and wrinkles on our face, smiles or frowns, that we get from what life washes onto our shores or rains down on us. These are all there in the paintings; relics, touchstones, stains, souvenirs, heirlooms, mementos. All the things that shape his life.
There are also his beliefs, his dreams, his hopes, his heartbreaks. It is a kind of world according to John Walker. Not much different from what we get from every artist, really, but today we’re talking about him. Because he has been there, been around, from Birmingham to Melbourne and back again. Because he has been painting and hanging it out there and leaving his mark and defying the odds and getting up and getting knocked down and getting back up again and painting and painting and painting. And it is all in the paint; trapped in its amber, laid out on its mud flats, singing its song, for all who will listen whether we're listening or not!
The first time I saw one of his paintings was almost thirty years ago. Circa 1979. A painter friend of mine and I were looking through a gallery window. A closed gallery somewhere in downtown New York. This is what I remember. We were awed by his painting. We knew his work and he was already legend. The painting was one of the monument shape series. The sort of erect phallic obelisk in the landscape that looks like something broken, at once organic and geometric. It was a figure/ground of sorts. Figure in a landscape. He wasn’t the only person doing this at that time. Other painters come to mind. But it was almost like a sculptor’s painting. Strong, powerful, solid. And yet it was also abstract. Fiercely abstract. Fiercely ephemeral. Real bravado paint; juicy, sensuous, wet, flying. Constable/Turner meets Brancusi/Stonehenge. Again, landscape and figure--horizontal and vertical. Don Quixote's windmills (the later paintings invert the shape, now female, of rebirth and resurrection, pushing down instead of up, below the high horizon--Ahab's white whale, or the pass at Thermopylae).
Over the years he has found new reasons to paint, new memories, new shapes, new dreams, new landscapes, and his legend has grown as the mythology inside the work has grown. His oeuvre has always been intense. And intensely abstract in the way that we come to them. They just act abstract. Maybe skulls, lambs, words, horizons, but abstract. They are landscape but they are flat. They have light and depth but they seem to be much more about surface and texture. They are thick and heavy and dark even brooding but they shine. These are not qualities unique to the world of painting. These are not paradoxes unique to the world of painting. Spanish painting comes to mind. Goya, El Greco, Velasquez, even Picasso. They were not afraid of darkness and they used it to make light. So does Walker. If as Richard Tuttle once reminded me, black speaks about white, and despair speaks about hope, etc, and viceversa, then this is the ground we stand on with Walker. His sprawling scatological crusts of dark paint frame the light, his little crumbs of rainbow lead us down a crevasse.
Is there rage in these paintings? It causes tectonic shifts beneath their surface, and strikes out of nowhere like a mid-western tornado. Is there longing, and poetry, and a gentle hand? Surely. Like God or Shakespeare, Walker feels all things, and gives all things. Love is like the dew, it settles on the horse turd and the rose alike--Larry McMurtry once wrote something to that effect. In John Walker’s paintings the love also falls on both. We stand before his “frescoes,” his Giottos, we look up at them, like we watch Rembrandt’s side of beef, or Lear or Macbeth splayed before us on the stage:Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
We are happy to witness this in the paintings. It is his plight, and in the end it is our plight. Life is a dubious experiment, as Jung said. Can we find peace with this? Should we find peace with this? Or should we be trying to talk to the manager, or whoever’s in charge? After all, what the hell is going on? Right? I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore! Help us, Dante, help us Tom Cruise. What is this Divine Comedy? What is this existential joke/nightmare? John Walker serves up a slab of paint. It is as cathartic as Aeschylus and as searing as the deep blue sea. It rocks us. We walk away changed, and no matter whether he or anyone else knows it, we remember. Thank you, John Walker, and rock on!