Thursday, April 1, 2010

Did Marina Get a Boob Job?

I'm in New York now, a place any arts editor should be half of their life. This silly comparison of LA vs NY in the art world goes through my mind almost every time I'm here. Most of the time I feel Los Angeles is up to par. This time though, I have to say New York beats out Los Angeles. But...most of the artists are from LA! And that can easily change with the rotation of shows next month. 

My first stop in the Big Apple:
The stellar show by Marina Abramovic at MoMA was a must see, and I'm glad I must saw. It was funny, horrifying, hard to watch and silly too. When you first enter, there's a big screen (pictured) of her brushing her thick brunette mop on a screen near the top of the ceiling. It's just her upper torso on black-and-white film. You first think, oh, another good-looking dame, doing autobiographical art about her, her, her and lots of her great body nude. She's attractive (natch) and there she is, preening for all to see. But then she starts to brush her hair more and more, harder and harder, swinging her head with the beat of the brush, sweeping her thick luscious mop, from side to side, then in front of her face and back behind. And VERY hard. It looks like it hurts. She moans when she's doing it. It starts to be hard to look at. You think she's going to literally tear her hair out, clumps by clumps. I change my mind about the good-looking exhibitionist artist. I don't want to watch anymore. I can't bear to watch her tear her hair out. I'm not sure she does.

I move to the black-and-white films/videos?, three of them, off to the side. One is her (presumably), where she's wearing a cloth draped over her face like a mask or veil, and she's naked. (note: if she's not naked, I will mention it, otherwise, assume she's naked). And she's sort of dancing and bouncing around. Over and over. Kinda funny. I like that piece. Not sure why. It's fun to see her be-bopping with a mask on and watch her tits bounce up and down. She's slender and small breasted (more on that later). The other one is where she's lying down face up, and we just see her upper torso with her head almost coming off the bottom frame of the film. She's screaming. Screaming at the top of her lungs. It's agonizing. It goes on and on. You can hear it throughout the gallery. It doesn't stop. You try to drown it out—and you sort of can. I liked that part. Like a crying baby. Like the '50s parents that were told to let their child just scream until they go to sleep on their own. I felt like that parent in the '50s. If I make believe it's not happening, I won't hear it.

Then there's the two naked people at the doorway. The two that stand close to each other, and the only way to get by is to squeeze through them. I had heard about this piece. This is an early work that is reenacted by other performers. I wasn't sure I wanted to do it, but then saw someone else do it, so I grabbed my husband and said, "Let's do it. We can't go to this show and say we didn't do it." So we did it. It was no big deal. If I brushed against his dick or her breasts, it was hard to tell. I had too many clothes on. The models were indifferent and wouldn't make eye contact, so really, what was the big deal? I said, "Excuse me," they said nothing.

The next room was a more recent work, where there was a picture of her in a white lab coat surrounded by bloody bones. The bones looked like big cow bones. Then they were piled high around her. Whether they were cast bones or real ones, it was hard to tell. This was okay work. I guess it was heavy, like the other stuff.

Then we went to another room, and we're back to the earlier black-and-white films, which I like a lot. There's a naked guy who runs full force into a rope, like a sling, and is bounced back. He does this over and over. It's funny. We laugh. I ask why does he have to be nude? My husband replies, "Because no one would watch it otherwise." I thought that was a good answer. It's good to take non art people to shows. They actually come up with smarter ways of looking at things. They take things at face value, and I think that's a real honest evaluation of art.

There were other things about this show. Like the piece in the public space, where the artist herself is doing a live performance where she stares at volunteers who sit in a chair facing Abramovic, and they have a stare down. I was perplexed to know which was the real artist the first time I saw it. The two at the table were sort of the same age. One was much better at staring, she didn't blink her eyes once. I was impressed. She had long dark hair, looked to be middle-aged and well-preserved. Turned out is was Abramovic. But she had large breasts. That is something I really want to talk about.

Did this artist have a boob-job? That is completely ridiculous if she did, but with all the documentation of her nude in the '7os, it is most clear that she did indeed get a boob job. That seems to go against everything she purportedly is for. I am most disappointed if this is a reality, and how can it not be? The girl got her boobs done. How lame is that?

If anyone out there knows this to be true, then I need to reassess this artist's work. Is this like Orlan, where she has plastic surgery under the guise of performance art, when really, it's just about vanity and her fear of getting old, and perhaps looking old.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Scaredy Cats

The new May issue of Artillery is out now. It was a bitch to get out, but it's done and I haven't heard too many negative comments. In fact, quite the opposite. So if you're reading this, quick, go out and get your new Artillery.

NOTE: I wrote the above last week, and was interrupted. So there's an update on that positive note. Actually, there's been a few negative comments. I've been applauded for my editor's letter, cutting no slack for our advertisers that dropped out because of our last SEX issue. I'm still quite puzzled about that. I mean, this is the art world, right, that Artillery covers. WTF, is all I can say. 

But now, apparently some people are upset because we covered the MOCA controversy, concerning the hiring of Jeffrey Deitch. WTF again, I say. Are we supposed to put our head in the sand and not talk about this? Was our coverage just supposed to be all positive and cheery and STUPID? The art world is indeed a funny place. So many people to please, that it's impossible to please everyone.

So, obviously we do what one does in that situation. Please themselves. My job--to cover things in the art world that ARE controversial. And present both sides if we can. I felt that's what we did with the Deitch coverage. 

If folks can't handle that, then we are in a very bad way. When I get flack for speaking honestly, that fuels me to go forward, and tells me I'm on the right track. There's a lot of scared people in the art world. I feel sorry for them.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Going through the Motions

It's been a week now since I've left Spain. What a whirlwind of art. The mixing of time periods did a number on me. Just seeing the history of all that art made my head spin. It made me think of what kind of art history are we creating now?

My last visit in a museum in Madrid was at the Thyssen-Bornemisza. We visited the early modern collection which was just stellar. Most of the collection was paintings. There was an early Willem de Kooning that was to die for, Hombre Rojo con Bigote (1971), pictured.  Edward Goldman, of the Art Talk KCRW fame accompanied me, and he was a joy to go around and look at art with — especially in the museums, and especially in Europe.  There was a bench in front of the de Kooning, and we sat down and stared deeply, and blankly, into the painting. Then Edward began to tell a story about how de Kooning had Alzheimer's for the latter part of his life, but kept on painting. How the assistants would wheel him in front of an empty canvas, have his palette ready (colors that they were very rehearsed in mixing), then lift his hand with the glob of paint on it, and set his hand in motion, sort of a kick-start. Then Willem would be off and running. 

These latter paintings received mixed reviews. One would say that de Kooning was literally just "going through the motions." Of course art dealers and auctioneers would say they were just as important, but as we stared at the painting before us, with the colors dripping and mixing and moving, it was hard to imagine someone painting without their mind. Edward argued that one does need their mind to paint, as the hands of a painter are just their tools. 

I agreed with him wholeheartedly, being a painter myself (back in the day). We swiveled in our seats to see the Rothko painting on the other wall. We looked at that, and wondered what is it about Rothkos! I said that maybe we're supposed to go to the Rothko chapel to really "see" what all the fuss is about.

That was my last day at a museum in Madrid. The next day I took off a day of art, and went around eating, shopping, walking, dodging in and out of cafes to avoid the sporadic rain, and it was a glorious day in Madrid. Every time the sun came out, we'd say, "Oh look, the sun's coming out and it's not going to rain again." The five minutes later, there'd be a downpour. 

Life doesn't get much better.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Meaning of life and art

Still in Madrid, and not being a very devoted blogger. The Internet situation at our hotel was intolerable. Very slow, hard to get on, frustrating. I started giving up. Now at a much cheaper hotel, and the Internet hookup much better. We're staying at the center of the city, Plaza del Sol, near the Prado, Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum. I visited the Prado earlier, and was so taken with Goya; the Bosch's were amazing too. 

The contrast of the art fairs (contemporary art) with the early period art was a much needed potion. Art fairs can do considerable damage to one's spirit, and being in Europe with that history clarifies the meaning and importance of art — something I deeply need reminded of periodically. I cannot express how moved I was by the Goya. I loved his latest period, where he seems to be going a bit crazy. I'm not well-informed of his state of mind, so I won't speculate, but something was definitely going on. I do know his work at that time was work for himself, meaning not commissioned work.

I kept asking myself questions like: Why does this work move me, and art being made today, does not have that ability to do so? Am I just not being exposed to it? Is it just not out there? Does it have to live through a couple of centuries to obtain that status? Were the Goyas moving and spectacular at the time they were painted?

Spending time at the glorious Prado (much too little time I might add) was an experience that I needed to sort out the meaning of life and art.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Primera Noche en Madrid

Dear Art Lovers,
I'm in Madrid now, at yet another art fair, ARCO. This year though is extra special as Los Angeles is the featured CITY. Previous years countries were featured, not cities. So, Los Angeles should be honored. Seventeen galleries were selected by Christopher Miles and Kris Kuramitsu. I am told that these 17 galleries could have been galleries that were the ones that "accepted" the honor. There are a few caveats to being the chosen ones: you still have to pay for your shipping and flights and hotel. A few gallerists were not so happy about their invitation—and I'm curious who might have turned down the invitation. But, all in all, LA art looked pretty good. Was I blown away by anything? No. But, I've seen all this stuff before, so it's hard to be objective.  

Tomorrow I will visit the rest of the fair, and see how LA measures up.

But, on to another subject. I haven't been able see any of Madrid, the city, yet. Our first night we visited the Museo Reina Sofia with a retrospective of Thomas Schutte that was, quite frankly, amazing. On first viewing, we entered a gallery that featured minimal art, lots of cut-out circles on a wall. It was not that impressive, but not offensive either. But then we started going through all the other rooms, and the work started getting more and more creepy. The "German" started coming out. The ugliness of mankind started creeping up. The Holocaust was hard to ignore in this German artist's work. I'm especially fond of the Michelin Tire guy sculptures (who was influenced by who?) This was a very powerful show, and being in the spacious beautiful old building (the first hospital in Madrid), only added to this formidable exhibit.  

We also so a great exhibit our first night in Madrid, at the Ivory Press gallery. The work was  Claes Oldenberg's. It was later work that dealt with writing tools. It was okay. But the space was really great, and as we wandered through the other galleries, we stumbled upon a room of Damien Hirst's early work. My husband and I were actually blown away by the over-the-hill-over-the-top artist. This only proved to us what fame and fortune can do to an artist. Truly, don't get me started on Damien. 

Not a bad introduction to the art world in Madrid. More later. Ciao.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Same Old Fair

Finally ALL the LA fairs are over. This fair business is getting tiresome. When is the trend going to end? There were three fairs in Los Angeles this year. First, Photo LA, then the FADA fair (Fine Art Dealer Association), then Art Los Angeles Contemporary fair. They all happened on separate weeks, but consecutively. I wasn't sure if that was better or worse. If they happened all at once, then you can get them over all at once. But it's hard to be all places at once, especially in LA. So, that's the main reason I haven't been blogging, because I've been shlepping magazines, spilling wine at the opening receptions and putting on art shows.

But I wanted to talk about my impression of the art fairs. Now that they are over, I'm sure that my assessment is colored by my weariness and the banality of it all. I'm tired of fairs, and I mean that both physically and emotionally. But this last art fair really brought out the ugl
iness. There was nothing in particular wrong with the art or the layout or the people or the lighting. It was actually all of it together! The same people, the same art, the same magazines, the same wine, the same food, the same crap. And the same overpriced drinks. 

With all the fairs in LA, there was just too much familiarity. I'm not sure I want to see certain people EVERY week. It was all just too much. So with that sort of negativity in mind, I just sort of lost it with the last fair, which was at the Pacific Design Center. 

If you're not familiar with PDC, it's basically laid out like a mall. Every front entrance is floor to ceiling glass. I haven't done much investigating, but apparently there's a few floors that are completely unoccupied. It was a brilliant idea of ALAC director Tim Fleming's to put his fair there. It's a readymade. So, that sounds great—right? Well not exactly, in my mind. I couldn't get past the "mall" atmo. So that, coupled with my sheer exhaustion of the fairs before (not to mention Miami fairs a previous month), put me in a foul mood towards art fairs in general.

Why are we still having them in this troubled economy? Why this persistence? I think it's obvious that fairs aren't the cash cows they once were a few years ago. The art world is so stubborn that way. The art world never really wanted to admit they were caught up in the recession, and that bullheadedness persists with the perennial art fairs. What is the desire? It can't be just money, or can it? Do people really want to go through that much torture?

The answer is yes. The art market has slowed, and the fairs provide a glimmer of hope. But now they just seem to be going through the motions. No fanfare. And even if there was, would it be welcomed?

And guess what? I'm off to Spain next week for yet another art fair, ARCO. I guess I need an attitude adjustment. I'll be blogging more regularly, and hopefully the new atmosphere will give me a lift.

Above photo: Artillery Publisher Paige Wery (the tall one), and moi. Wine always helps attitudes too. Photo by Lynda Burdick


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Coitus Interruptus

I promised (to whom, I'm not sure) that I would continue blogging about sex and art. But I got interrupted. Would that be coitus interruptus? The newly appointed MOCA director, Jeffrey Deitch, was the culprit that stymied my sex talk. After reading the deluge of ink on his new position here in the Los Angeles art world, I am reserving the right to wait and see. My previous blog was highly skeptical, but after the MOCA press conference, and his phone call to me, I've become somewhat sedated. Maybe it's not a bad thing after all. The one thing that has convinced me to not jump to conclusions, is the fact that Deitch is giving up an awful lot to come to LA. He had quite a lucrative thing going, and that won't be the case as much. Being the director of MOCA I'm sure comes with a few perks (understatement of the world), but his monthly income will surely be substantially lower. And do I really care? Of course not. But I'm impressed that he was willing to part with some of his millions for us, here in LA. I mean, that's sort of a sacrifice in this day and age — in our age of avarice and lust for attention.

So, we shall wait and see. On another completely different note. I will be going to Madrid, for the ARCO Los Angeles art fair. It was a complete surprise for me, but it's happening. I just learned of this news a couple of days ago, and I'm still reeling from it.