Monday, September 26, 2011

Are You Ready For Some Football?

Football, America’s game, is in full swing. I am not a football-head, nor do I follow a particular team but football is truly something fascinating to behold. This 9 billion dollar industry is the most successfully marketed sports industry and this does matter, especially for those who have any visual cultural wherewithal. Not only does it have the most revenue of any US sport it also has the most eyeballs with 66,957 spectators in its meager 16 game season. Compare that to the 30,135 for baseball’s 162 game season and basketball’s 17,149 visitors in their 82 games. The disparity of the length of the seasons for each respective sport speaks volumes to this marketing blitz as well as the nature of the game. Many critics of the sport think that football is no more then mindless violence. Some think that it represents all that is wrong with this country and with the shockingly base need for its citizens to see a form of combat on the field. To be sure it’s a physically unforgiving game but football, like all sports, has moments of spectacular form and bodily accomplishment. Those that cannot see even a bit of wonderment in this game lack poetic openness and basic admittance that human beings require many things that this sport allows.

As previously admitted, I am a novice to football. I enjoy watching all sports as it makes me giddy to see perfection of form. Because I do not know much about the players or the rules of the game, at many points of the game I linger on the uniforms, the colors, and the formations before the ball is released. From this activity I will now list some choice teams in the National Football League and reflect on their colors, logos and also the history of their names in brief. In addition I will suggest an artist who may function as a cultural mascot. People who think arts and sports are un-mingleable need to just loosen up.

Baltimore Ravens – This most poetic of teams calls themselves the Ravens after their most notable resident Edgar Allen Poe. They have a ghastly designed logo as does so many of today's teams who seem to be using the same horrid graphic designer who makes the mascots and logos look like a 7 year olds lunch box, but I digress. Their colors are predominantly purple and white with a few dashes of yellow. Although they have a perfect literary reference, an additional cultural mascot could be Rirkrit Tiravanija, their purple color makes me think of grape juice or jelly.

Cincinnati Bangles – They have fab uniforms, orange and black and white and they have Tony the Tiger stripes on their helmet and pants. Very sexy. They are named from a pervious team called the bangles and also from one of its early couches previous gig at a high school with the same name. Their art icon would be Kehinde Wiley, bangle wallpaper, grrr.

Cleveland Browns – They have no logo at all, they are just the color orange and a strip here and there. Their name is from the couch Paul Brown, totally boring back story in a way but one can appreciate the minimalism of it all. Art coach would be Barnett Newman.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Now this is a team with good colors and a logo. Black and yellow is the pride colors of all Pittsburgh teams, just love that matchy match. The logo is the steel industries seal of red, yellow and blue star form. Sadly, they don’t make logos like that anymore. They have a fab ratio of black and yellow in their uniform and I just love the yellow pants. Also love that they don’t have cheerleaders. Art guru would be Chris Burden, sorry Warhol but your just too fey for this town.

Detroit Lions – Fab colors of a more saturated sky blue, white and gray. The logo is just fantastic, a blue lion in full kill mode. Detroit is a hard-knock, no frills city and there art guide should be no different, I name Richard Serra.

Green Bay Packers – Obviously fab-tastic uniforms and color. They are bold and bright in yellow and green and they leave little room for white. The name derives for a wonderful little back story of one of its founders, Earl Lambeau, getting funds for the uniforms from the Indian Packing Company in 1919. I give you Kippenberg, if you’ll have him.

Minnesota Vikings – Their purple and yellow ratios are just perfect. Love the mean looking mascot of the blonde braided Viking. The horns on their helmet are just the best as well. Nodding to the large Scandinavian population in Minnesota the Vikings posses that great folkloric touch. Their patron would be Marina Abramovic, not sure why but she seems like she could handle a horn.

Indianapolis Colts – Love the horseshoe. The blue and white are nice to look at. They were the first NFL team to have cheerleaders. Hmmm. A lot of teams have used the name colts in the past, but with the horse culture in Indiana, it seems the best fit for this team. Their art gal is Georgia O’Keeffe.

Buffalo Bills – The wild west in the cold east coast, what’s the deal with that? Well anyways, the blue buffalo with the streak of red to indicate its awesome fast charging is interesting symbology. Their cheerleaders are called the Buffalo Jills, cute eh? Their art pal would be Jasper Johns

Miami Dolphins – They have odd but delightful aqua and orange colors. Their dolphin wears a helmet making the porpoise look lean and mean. They are from the sunshine state that grows the oranges so the color choice is apt. Their art avatar would be Elizabeth Murray.

Dallas Cowboys – A most fantastic uniform of silver and a blue star, simple yet to the point. Being from the lone star state the team does two at once with the star badge. Their cheerleaders are the best in town and its hard not to like their guff. Their art star would be William de Kooning.

New York Giants – Their stadium is in my home state so there is always a bit of partiality there. They are the USA colors of red, white and blue and they don’t need no stinkin logo besides NY in all caps. Silly that they are actually in NJ but NJ is the type of state that will take that slap in the face with pride. To them they get Robert Smithson.

New York Jets – This team too is fair-weather to its actual location, sharing the Giants stadium but know one really cares. The green and white is classic. The logo includes both NY and the name Jets in case you don’t remember what team is playing at the meadowlands that night. Taking its name from it closeness to the airports, the Jets are truly a Jersey beloved team. Their artist would be Mark Di Suvero.

Philadelphia Eagles – From the constitution capital the Eagles have a darker green and white and have a mad looking eagle as their logo and eagle wings on their helms. This not New York City is burly and they are serious as hell about their football. They used to even have a court inside the stadium for unruly fans. Yikes. Their artist would be Vito Acconi.

New England Patriots – This is the most patriotic of teams with a colonial man as their mascot and a truly red, white and blue all over attire. Being from the refined area of the North East there is a snowy stodginess but the fans are resolutely, if not as boisterous, in their support of this leading team. Their artist would be Matthew Barney

Oakland Raiders – This is the prisoner batch of the NFL. They are rough and tough in black and silver and they have an old-timey, patch-wearing pirate as their logo. Their artist is Carl Andre.

San Francisco 49ers – In 1849 there was an influx of those seeking fortune in this area, becoming known as the gold rush. With gold and red they are a uniquely colored team. The manifest destiny history of the team is charming. Their artist would be Alexander Calder.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Swooning for de Kooning

de Kooning: A Retrospective : The Museum of Modern Art, NY

The Willem de Kooning exhibition that just opened at MoMA is about as exhilarating as art can get. Being called a labor of love, by the efforts of MoMA’s Chief Curator Emeritus of Painting and Sculpture, John Elderfield, this show is really a job worthy of bravo. Having spent about seven years and apparently an unknown but staggering cost (there is reportedly four billion dollars worth of art on this 6th floor), Elderfield’s efforts have finally evinced a show that should be the Museum’s goal. This exhibition takes itself very seriously, yet is also accessible to the eighth grade school trip. What is impressive, but also proves that curating is serious stuff, is the encompassing nature of the show, without the blunder other retrospectives have. This exhibition is freshly squeezed and tracks works from when de Kooning was 12 up to his 80s but it doesn’t go thunk-kety-thunk-thunk through the chronology, biography, myth and pathos many retrospectives have, instead it shows, tells, and leaves room for you to think for yourself.

Functioning as a retrospective, the show does throw down fish lines of de Kooning’s trajectory as an artist. As with most artists from this time, de Kooning has a looming personal life that is rightly and also not used as punctuations in deconstructing his art. He was born in Rotterdam in 1904 and they say came to New York as a stowaway in 1926. He met and be-friended the people who were doing things in the city, and he was more than astute and aware of the works being made by his near contemporaries; Picasso, Gorky, Kline, Mondrian, etc. He married Elaine and he impressed himself further upon the scene, drawing notice from the ordainer Greenberg and becoming entrenched in what is studied as the New York School. He was a part of an American art history that is bygone like well-designed cars and the idea that artists can change the world. He developed dementia in his later years and was proclaimed as incompetent in his late 80s and died at 92.

I never knew Willem de Kooning, I’m sure he would have scared the socks right off me, and while his biography is of course important, the minutia of these things is not something I enjoy fixating on nor find that revealing. This is because de Kooning made art that tells more about himself, his psychology, his physicality, his mind, then any amount of words pressed together. This is also the most important thing about de Kooning and why this show is so essential. His work is something that you must see, must be in the same room with, share the same oxygen with.

Willem de Kooning described in one word would be veracity. Painting was not a medium, a method or a tool for him, it was the problem, it was the solution, it was the it. And this is not an easy fact, as you can see throughout his years of painting. He was always pushing himself, sometimes to unsuccessful places, but always pushing painting to be not the thing he wanted it to be but the thing it was. The search for this truth is what makes de Kooning more than relevant and should be even more influential than he is today. Although there are obvious reveals in his work of mimicry, quotes and reference to his peers, such as Gorky, Kandinsky, Motherwell, Rothko, Picasso, Pollack, Dubuffet, Mondrian and many more, it’s done not as homage or replication but as in battle, not with the artist as a person but with the technique of painting that they were mastering. de Kooning seems to have studied, cropped, chopped and reconfigured the things he wanted to know about this or that type of painting. These resulted in some works that seem a touch too tutorial, as in a black and white painting called Painting from 1948 and Judgment Day, 1946, but throughout there are gems like Pink Angels, c. 1945 of course.

The biggest battle within de Kooning’s work is between abstraction and figuration. He is a master of figuration yet because painting is the thing that makes him tick, he needs to explode his mastery. The periods in which he is pushing his paintings in non-figurative abstractions can be noticed in his evolution of paintings of the figure. The epitome of this mixture of form is in his women paintings of the early 1950s where stands a fierce female with gaping eyes, vicious mouth and a body already disemboweled. These are the at once extremely chaotic but surgical and they are just as much about color as they are of composition. Many people love being able to call these works misogynistic but seeing these as a full suite and also seeing the earlier works of women throughout his years, should force pause to this quip.

The figure is the site on which de Kooning can contrast the application of paint as abstraction. Within the form of the female figure, he sets limitations and also situates painting within a charged arena of meaning. To go towards these obstacles, was a delirious faux pas, especially during the time of their making. The female figure in art is massive to overtake or seduce, but all of the great painters have faced her and have to danced with her. de Kooning’s women is in this way extremely feminist. She is the idea of the muse that has and was being rehashed, removed and elevated for centuries and it is this same idea of this female that de Kooning says, “You want a muse? Here’s your fucking muse.” And I think that is just fantastic. As a woman, I would rather be de Kooning’s women than Picasso’s any day of the week. These paintings are more than just a form of a female as well. They confront this dilemma of pure abstraction and the figure with brutal confrontation. The swipe of paint next to another swipe of paint somehow becomes an arm, a breast, an eye. Does it matter? Yes, and that’s the point. You are seeing more than just a painting but a battle of wills between the artist and painting.

There is another period of work that fused abstraction and the body that was newly seen. There are works from the mid 1960s when he was living in Long Island and they are just about the dirtiest, sexiest paintings I have ever seen. They are more pastel in color, more fleshy raw pinks, and mint greens. They are wobbly women with blurred features. Up close, like almost all of de Kooning’s paintings, they are splatters and shapes of colors but from a distance of twenty feet or so and if you move your head ever so slightly, you will see two bodies coupling, you see legs up in the air, buttocks squeezed, and the drizzle and swatches of paint that were abstract glops a minute ago become visualizations of an orgasm, of sweat and spit. They made me blush a little.

The paintings in the final years of his life, when he was in his 80s, were possibly the most surprising and refreshing paintings that I have seen in a while and not because they are the tail end of “de Kooning’s” work but because they are really brave new forms of abstraction. It’s like the heart of an artichoke, he had layers of tough leaves that he pulled and worked to perfection to confront abstraction and then in the end he had all the tools. He had worked out so much of it that at this stage in his life all the remained was a fleshy little heart that could be just as powerful with a few strokes and the primary colors to have a form of perfection.

This show proves that the way in which most of our visual intake and production is made today is not necessarily the best nor is it actually that interesting. To be able to sweep across a life and find such a singular focus with such varied exploration is not something that should be considered novel. This is the thing that makes good art. Also the ability to see, to look at and to go back and look some more is beyond educational, it is influential. The type of artist de Kooning was and seeing this show will make one realize that what he was confronting: the ideas of painting, the idea of making art, are far from being solved and needs others to step up and walk the walk.

Monday, September 12, 2011

9/11 : There is No Spectacle

It was just the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and with it came the commemorations, remembrances, reflections and analysis of the terrorists’ attacks that have shaped the psyche and policy of the United States for the past ten years. There is no doubt or insinuation that this event was not massive and the loss of lives, especially to loved ones, still intense and deep. Even with this being so, there are other things that this ten year marker for September 11th conjures. What is most startling is the disconnect between a trauma and the way that society as a whole copes with such a trauma. There are social mores and protocols that are in place so that people can behave, react and participate in a form of ritual of mourning. This is necessary and consistent with the constructs of human society, to have finality, control, and catharsis. What has changed is that this has become not only a form of ritualized observance but also a conduit for the performative. The way in which society collectively has been coping with 9/11 is a form of farce. Again, this is not pointed at any individual’s personal and emotional experience, but more a consideration of the collective and how it is a symptom of a new mode of behavior for a society.

Guy Debord, yes obviously, this is a shot from him, for those who have not read his Society of the Spectacle, read it. I will not go on to address points/counterpoints in regards to this text, more I will focus on the loose gist and basically really just ramble in my own regard. Those that give a crap more and have some delirious passion for academics, I say go at it if you wish, he's all yours.

To continue, this whole 9/11 national orgasm was daunting in its rhetoric. There was an interesting “heal the world” vibe. The word Muslin was barely uttered in the mainstream press, there was a lot of religious inter-faith-ing and the democrats and republicans who have been basically poisoning each others’ cupcakes gave a swoon to the partisan. Its as if the subject of 9/11 radiates a force field of mute humility. In some respects of course it should, but what is most vulgar is that this radiating aura of 9/11 is so grossly manipulated and used by people in the press, people in politics, corporations, television, advertising, clothing, food, and on and on.

9/11 has become its own brand, and like any brand it does all the right things. It associates you to something specific that has personal meaning. It makes you feel like you are a part of something bigger than yourself. It has logos and catch phrases and graphic design signifiers. It has a social cache when you wear it on a hat, on a shirt, on a wristband. Others will see you with these signifiers and they will salute you, nod, embrace you, and you will know that you are one of them. All the things that fill our brains and eyes and ears with brand infiltration use 9/11 to incite and to instigate feelings of nationalism, freedom, retaliation, and consumerism.

This brand is more powerful than most because it also gives authority to behave differently. What occurred on 9/11 was yes, very brutal and very traumatic. This is the reality of it. But what is bizarre and at moments of sheer distaste is that this trauma is kept alive in one form of another so that there is something to perform against. This is no longer an event or a situation in which “spectacle” can be used in any form of definition. This is now something that is methodically constructed and made to endure by society, government and the marketplace to build a stage in which there is something to squeeze more out of. The point and degree in which this has been done, for now ten years, no longer makes it potent in its ability to act as some sort of opiate. What is has become is a deformed version of human interaction and it cannot be ever adjusted or altered because of the nature of the trauma.

Has this happened in the past, with something like Pearl Harbor or the assassination of JFK? I’m not, sure, I wasn’t alive for it, but in reflecting on history in a distant way and reflecting on society within the past 10 years, it seems not necessarily unique in its manifestations but certainly very unhealthy in its extent. There is a need in all human beings to be witness to tragedy, man made or by nature, this brings them closer to death as we are animals who have been extremely clever in our ability to separate ourselves from so many forms of death. 9/11 will continue to be a big psychological dent in the collective conscious of the United States, but will it in twenty years time be as capitalized upon as it is now? Is there any other way for society to manage with such a big thing? I’m not sure, but what I am sure of is that the way that 9/11 is being inculcated and manipulated is more then just disingenuous, it’s dangerous.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Really Into…

The US Open

Tennis is fun to watch. It moves slowly like baseball but is also fast like basketball. Being only two people, unless doubles, playing in a smaller area makes it easier for the eye to focus since it does not have to move laterally as much. Also, there is are no time constraints in tennis, like baseball. Time constraints in sports have always bothered me, even though I know it is necessary. Tennis players look much older somehow. The top mens and womens players are in their early to mid twenties. They look much older though, like really fit forty year olds. The design and cut of the outfits the women players wear needs much improvement. It is interesting to watch the ticks of some players. How they bounce the ball a lot before serving or how they fix their hair. My pet peeve is a certain top player’s tick of picking his butt. Tennis seems like it is for rich people and I think that what makes is appealing to people in someway.

Being Over the Arts

Why do we have a fascination with art? Is it something that is “in” someone’s blood, brain etc? At times it is just the most amazing thing. It helps you cope with and to understand this crazy zany meaning and scope of life. It also lets you be a part of something that is bigger and more fascinating then yourself. It grants you entry into places high and low and introduces you to friends and lovers and mentors. It is its own bubble that like all other bubbles, everyone needs to be in one to rise above the oppression of the self and society. In turn, because it is something that may be “a part” of you, it can also be a burden. The art world is a sham. Anyone who is a part of it knows this. It subsists itself on the most inane self-aggrandizements and is built on a hierarchy that is repulsive in its elitism. Most sadly, the art world thrives on leeching. Every single person in the arts leeches off a person, trend, institution, etcetera, to sustain, promote and to infame themselves. The bigger the leech you are the more you are able to gobble smaller leaches and even still, those big leeches have smaller leeches on them, like those fish on sharks, and in the end the whole thing just wreaks. But why bother in caring about all that? It is the way it is, it is the way it has to be in the culture and society we exist in. To think that this can be otherwise and to think that this is even a negative is irrelevant. To make it in this wonderful yet horrid thing called the art world you have to convince yourself that this art thing really truly matters.

The Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

This book series is really the worst but also like a spicy food you just can’t stop eating. The writing is really remedial but the way the stories are built and overlap make it both easy and addictive to read. I am currently almost finished with the third book in the series and I can’t wait to be rid of these books. They are both a burden and sheer entertainment. I have to read a “real” book in between each in the series I finish so my eyes don’t melt back into the seventh grade but truly, Martin made a new form of crack for the eyes. Damn him and thank the gods, the old and the new.

Wanting To Move To Berlin.

I went there once a year ago and it was a lot of fun and very cheap and it seems more cosmopolitan then NYC. All the people are young and from crazy places of the world and they mostly speak English very well. It seems no one really does or needs to work as it is so cheap to live there. Awesomely cheap. Everyone seems like they are friends in the art world in Berlin, in the most open of ways, versus, “I’m doing a thing, lets do this thing…” Also they dress crazy, but in a good way, like the 90s that we have all forgotten about. It seems like it’s a place that you can re-invent yourself without having to work all the gawd damn time to just get by. It also seems like a place that you can just sit alone in a room and feel comfortable. I read Christopher Isherwood’s The Berlin Stories and although a nice read this is not what I am seeking, not some sort of fetish of Berlin but merely a place that seems cool, open, arty, young and most importantly cheap as hell. This status quo probably won’t last much longer and I’m sure the young hip things that have been in Berlin for a year or more already rue any sight of a newcomer but hey, that’s life and might as well jump on it before it becomes like Brooklyn.