Monday, February 24, 2014

Catullus and Some Thoughts on The Art of Competition


So, I had a thought today.  It is a thought I have had in various formations throughout the years and that thought is that ‘art’ thrives on competition. To me, competition is essential to growth.  It is training, it is a weeding out, it builds stamina and it builds appreciation for your fellow players.  There is competition in the A vs. B sort of way and there is also that form of competition that is against oneself. 

The juicer type is the more collective sort.  This is when there is someone, or a group, that is the locust of your fixated drive.  There is a reason why arty people flock to certain cities and why more equals both more art and many times better art.  Seeing this in New York is so evident that it is at times ghastly.  The competition aka ‘the game’ is so primary here that at times it seems to destroy all evidence of actual personality in some people.  But back to the positives, having peers or a peer group where some are doing amazing, others the stealth geniuses and a variety of deserved and undeserved forms of accolade, success, recognition and, darlings lets face it, money, makes everyone around this person/this group, swarm and vibrate a bit.  If they can do it, you can do it because gawd damn it you are as smart, sexy and talented as they are.  ‘Polite’ people say that they don’t care about such things but let’s be honest; the art world is not made for polite people.

Then there is the other kind of competition.  The one that is self-inflicted and this form is truly the w-o-r-s-t.  You know that you are this amazing bud of a thing and you know that you can do better/do everything but somehow you can never ever (ever) be satisfied with yourself.  Well, sometimes you are satisfied or what some call “happy” for a few minutes, a month, perhaps even a year but then you look back at something you did, made, accomplished and you think, ‘shoot me.’ Everyone who has half a brain is their own worst critic.  The inner competition within oneself is at times spurred by outside forces but this feels much different then the matchy-matchy group tit-for-tat form of competition.  This feels deeper and it can be the most paralyzing force but yet the thing that will help you transcend all those creative hurdles. 

The basic-ness of the concept of competition and art was reignited this past week by the poems of Catullus.  For those who took Intro-Latin or Intro-Poetry or some such course his name will probably be familiar.  For those who have not, such as moi, he was a poet who lived in the late Roman Republic, (?84-54 B.C.E.) and he was a part of a group of young poets that Cicero, (their older contemporary), called the “Neoterics” (“the younger ones” or “the innovators”).  This was not meant as a flattery on Cicero’s part, but I love this name because it reflects some of the loose freshness that Catullus and his peers wrote with in their new metering and subject matter. 

To put it bluntly many of Catullus’ poems are what could be called shit-talking and much of it is about his fellow poets.  I mentioned this to a friend the other day and he said it was almost like a form of rap.  The dissing, the gossip, the self-aggrandizement and debasement are so sharp it seems bizarre in its contemporariness.  I have only begun to read his works and one only can cringe at the level of translation errors that have occurred from then to now but I would like to share some poems by Catullus to show that competition is and will forever be one of the most basic of human motivations.

More then my own eyes I love you, Calvus,
you great tease: were it not so, for that ghastly
gift of yours I’d hate you like -- Vatinius!
What did I ever do or say to make you
finish me off with all these rotten poets?
May high gods heap troubles on that client
who sent you such a parcel of blasphemers!
Still, if (as I suspect) this new recherché
gift came to you from Sulla, Man of Letters,
I don’t take it amiss, but am delighted,
seeing that all your work has not been wasted.
Great gods, what a disgusting little booklet,
and you carefully chose the time to send it
to your Catullus, so that you would kill him
on that best of all days, the Saturnalia!
No, you won’t get away with this, you smart-ass--
first thing tomorrow morning I’ll go round the
booksellers’ stalls, buy Caesius, Aquinus,
Suffenus, all the poison on the market,
pay you back with counterdose of torture.
Meanwhile, you lot, out-- back where you hauled your
bad feet from, time’s trash, appalling poets!


My friend Varus saw me lounging in the Forum,
Dragged me off with him to meet his girlfriend.
“Little scrubber” was my first impression--
not unsmart, though, not entirely witless.
When we got there, conversation turned to
every kind of subject, and among them
how were things in Bithynia, what was happening,
had my posting brought me in a windfall?
I replied with the truth: not even praetors,
much less aides, could find even the slightest
hope of deals that would fatten their resources--
not least when said praetor was a fuckface
and didn’t give a shit for his poor staffers.
“Well, at least,” they said, “you must have picked up
some of what we hear’s their major export--
litter-bearers?” Anxious to impress his
girlfriend, make her suppose I was a fat-cat,
“Sure,” said I, “though I got a lousy province,
life wasn’t all that bad for me-- I somehow
found myself eight able-bodied porters.”
(Truth was, neither here nor there so much as
one spent shag did I won, the kinds who’d barely
manage to heft an ancient broken bed-leg.)
At this -- predictable bitch -- she said, “Catullus,
darling, please, please, lend me them-- I only
need them a little while, I want a ride to
Serapis’s temple.” “Whoa,” I told her, “What I
claimed just now that I had, I really hadn’t,
my mind was slipping, actually it’s my colleague
Cinna, first name Gaius, bought then-- though why
should I care who it is that they belong to?
I still use them just as though I owned them.
Not but what you’re a bore, a walking pest, who
won’t let pass even slight exaggerations.”


I hate and love. You wonder, perhaps, why I’d do that?
            I have no idea. I just feel it.  I am crucified.


If maybe there are some of you who’ll read my
stupid ineptitudes, and won’t recoil from
reaching out and laying hands upon us…

[ poems from: The Poems of Catulls, A Bilingual Edition, ed. Peter Green, University of California Press, c.2005 Peter Green]

Monday, February 17, 2014


Drawing of Hudson by Michael St. John

Last week Hudson, the owner of Feature gallery died.  He was 63.  His death was sudden.  In the last few years I was fortunate to get to know Hudson more personally.  I did not know him very well but his loss extends beyond the personal as it is a loss to the art world and especially to New York’s. 

People like Hudson are rare.  Rare is odd, different, against the grain and singular.  The way he ran his gallery and interacted with artists, professional peers and to strangers seems the counter to how the rest of the art world functions.  Everything was personal.  Everything was done with purpose and with a poignancy that was constant and deep.

Below is an email which was the first time I glimpsed Hudson’s nature.  He sent to me out of the blue after I wrote about B. Wurtz’s show at Metro Pictures on this very little blog of mine.

Subject: wurtz > feature > hudson > u

hello jamie1, terif wurtz review. u nailed him and his stuff.
love ur candidness and direct approach, its the way to go.
will put you on feature inc.'s e list
and keep you in my reading.
sin cerely, hudson feature inc.

The idiosyncrasies of the way he wrote made my heart go boom a little.

Hudson was a force, a slow, serene yet with penetrating gaze type of force.   His loss is so felt because we forget that things can be different and loosing him makes this seem harder since we have lost one of the few that were steadfastly creating the world they wanted to live in. 

Below is his obit by Roberta Smith from The New York Times.

Hudson, you will be missed.

Hudson, Gallerist and Nurturer of Artists, Dies at 63
By Roberta Smith, February 16, 2014

Hudson, a former dancer and performance artist known only by his last name, who went on to become one of the most prescient, independent-minded and admired gallerists of his generation, died on Feb. 10 at his home in Manhattan. He was 63.

Jimi Dams, a friend and a former director of Hudson’s gallery, Feature Inc., confirmed the death but did not specify the cause.

Like Alfred Stieglitz, Betty Parsons, Richard Bellamy and other earlier New York dealers, Hudson was part aesthete, part pedagogue, part artist and part nurturer of artists. He had few restrictions concerning art.

Hudson founded Feature in Chicago in 1984, opening with a show of Richard Prince’s re-photographs on April Fools’ Day. He relocated the gallery to New York in 1988, moving to SoHo, then Chelsea and finally the Lower East Side. He characterized Feature — so named because it was a neutral word that would not detract attention from exhibitions — as “hands-on” and an expression of a personal vision, the opposite of what he called “the current, corporate model” of galleries.

He never expanded his space or his staff, and not doing so cost him. Although he gave New York gallery debuts to artists like Charles Ray, Raymond Pettibon, Tom Friedman, Takashi Murakami and Vincent Fecteau before they were well known, they all moved on to larger, more moneyed galleries.

There was a subtle iconoclasm in Hudson’s gallery designs. Most of them had just enough room to stage two or even three shows simultaneously, a tactic he called “my move against stardom and a push for pluralism and multiplicity.”

He spurned the conventional pristine, white-cube gallery space by never walling off his offices, putting his desk up front — so he was available for questions — along with comfortable chairs for visitors. This intimate, underdone setting forced visitors to see the art for itself, free of the hyping effect of fancy architecture.

Even sartorially he went against the grain. In a sphere where most people wore black, Hudson — lean, with a shaved head and often distinctive facial hair styles — favored brightly colored tailored shirts and sometimes beads.

He ignored trends in art, figuring that artists who were part of them would not last. Instead he concentrated on and often gave first shows to a long list of widely respected, quietly original artists, among them B. Wurtz, Kay Rosen, Hirsch Perlman, Kathe Burckhardt, Tony Tasset, Jeanne Dunning, Jim Isermann, Nancy Shaver, Lily van der Stokker, David Moreno, Alexander Ross, Judy Linn, David Shaw, Jason Fox, Lisa Beck, Dike Blair and Roy McMakin.

And he enriched his schedule with exhibitions of the esoteric and the overlooked, including the exquisitely rendered, sexually explicit homoerotic drawings of Tom of Finland, whose work he first exhibited in 1988, and the small, anonymous Tantric paintings on paper that he showed several times.

Hudson took care not to show young artists before they were ready. He unfailingly returned slides that artists had sent him for consideration with notes about their work — to do otherwise would be, he said, “too cold, too corporate” — and would ask the promising ones to send him annual updates. One artist updated Hudson for nine years before joining the gallery.

Quietly authoritative and mysterious, especially about his first name, Hudson held strong, carefully articulated views. In an interview on the gallery’s website in 2004 with Mr. Blair, he lamented the rise of think-alike collectors, as well as museums’ emphasis on entertainment and education, saying that audio tours “churn out like-minded fact followers rather than observant eyes.”

Hudson was born on Oct. 4, 1950, in New Haven, the second of four children of Harold C. Hudson, an engineer for AT&T, and Aileen Donahue Hudson. He is survived by his sister, Patricia Hudson, and his brothers Thomas and James.

Hudson showed interest in the arts from childhood. In 1972 he earned a bachelor’s degree in art education from Southern Connecticut State College (now University) in New Haven, where he also studied dance. In 1977 he earned a master’s in fine arts, in painting, at the University of Cincinnati.

By then he was performing with Contemporary Dance Theater and Judy Gregg Dane Company in Cincinnati while finding his way around the nonprofit, alternative arts scene that was beginning to thrive across the country. He held administrative positions with both Contemporary Dance Theater and the Cincinnati Artists Group Effort (CAGE), learning to raise funds, write grants, coordinate programs and tours, manage offices, edit publications and organize exhibitions.

From 1981 to 1987 he served on the executive board of the National Association of Artists’ Organization, including two years as president, and juried for the National Endowment of the Arts.

At the same time, he was establishing himself artistically. Openly gay, he tackled issues like homosexuality and AIDS in his performance pieces. He became known for aggressive, fast-paced presentations that involved political provocation, disrobing, profanity and hand-held signs, as well as humor.

His performances had names like “Deep Kissing,” “Sophisticated Boom Boom,” “The Greek & French Arts” (which he described as “an art history porno cooking lesson”) and “Poodle Theater” (“beauty gayness love”).

One publication called him “the best performance artist in Ohio,” but he also performed in Chicago, New York, Toronto and Los Angeles, often to full, if small, houses. Hudson moved to Chicago in 1981 and soon became the director of live events at the Randolph Street Gallery, an alternative space. But he realized that he wanted to work longer with fewer artists, and that the commercial gallery format was better suited for that purpose, though he tended to run Feature like an alternative nonprofit space.

Beside exhibitions, Feature held monthly video nights, flew in writers like Dennis Cooper to give readings and published an irregular magazine called FARM. Money was never his primary goal, he said. In 2010, when Feature’s finances were precarious, numerous artists offered to raise money with a benefit exhibition and sale of their donated artworks. Hudson agreed to the show but not its mercenary purpose, insisting that all the donated works be given away. He titled the show “Power to the People” and figured out other, slower ways to put the gallery’s finances in order.

His interests ranged beyond art. Hudson had what he called Buddhist leanings and meditated daily. A vegetarian, he was also an exceptional cook and a devotee of Ayurvedic spices as promoters of good health. Asked by Mr. Blair what he would be doing if he weren’t a gallerist, he replied: “Chef in a tiny restaurant. Gardener. Sanskrit scholar.”

Monday, February 10, 2014

Dear Mexi Diary

puppies for sale at a marcado
I’m in Mexico City still.  Today is my last day. I fly out tomorrow afternoon and return to cold but home sweet home New York.  Coming back here for one week and for an art fair really made this time around drastically different then my month long stay.  New friends were made, old friends were re-seen and a lot of talking, drinking, partying and sometimes dull in-betweens occurred.  Below is a quick recap of this week (as I remember it) ((some things omitted, claro, si si). 

Tuesday, Feb 4 - Plane out of JFK 9:00am.  TSA giving me trouble about crate/suitcase thing.  Got them down from $290 bag fee to $70.  Have to unscrew lid with screwdriver with 4 people watching me.  Drill is inside the crate.  Get to terminal, just make the flight. Lots of art people talking about Zona Maco on flight.  Starving.  Haven’t eaten.  Plane, plane, plane.  Hungry on plane.  Land.  Take taxi to friend’s (N) apartment in Centro.  Box heavy and massive.  Third floor.  N not there, friend of N’s (B) is there (luckily).  He is very nice.   We go to a marcado for food.  Walk around after and look for a stool.  Buy clippers and nail polish for toes.  Forgot to paint toes before leaving.  Go out with B to an opening someone from New York (B2) is curating.  Never met B2.  Go to address.  Not the right place.  Don’t have internet.  Try to find place.  Decide to go to another opening in Roma Norte that friends are in.  Find it.  Friends there.  Talk.  Leave with group to another show in Roma Norte.  Talk to more people.  Go get food.  The big group doesn’t want to eat.  B and I eat.  Place full of Maco dealers.  Guy named (S) comes and asks to sit with us.  We chat.  We leave as our friends are coming to the place for free drinks.  Train ride and walk home, B feels sick.  Run to apt.  N is there.  Talk to N.  Relax, fall asleep.

Wednesday, Feb 5 - Wake up late.  Go get food with N and B.  See cops trying to get a motorcycle from people.  People beat cops.  Cops leave.  Go to apt and talk a bit.  Go with N to frame shop. Trouble with money.  Get money.  Get frames.  Taxi to fair.  Go to apartment and get crate.  N helps set up my booth.  I help N set up his booth.  Done install around 12:00am.  Talk to people near me at fair.  See some old friends there too, talk a little, everyone very busy with install.  Go to aptartment and sleep.

Thursday, Feb 6 - Get dressed, get sandwiches and walk to fair.  Fair is open from 11:30am to 10:00pm.  VIP people.  Busy sometimes, not busy others.  Talk to collectors.  Sell some work.  Feel exhausted.  Smoke cigarettes by pool with people.  Friends from NYC arrive.  New friends of N and B arrive.  Talk to people in next booth a lot.  No dinner.  Feel sick from being tired and not eating.  Leave at 9:30pm.  Go home and put on another outfit.  N comes with (A) and a few other girls.  We go to a taco place.  (M) and (D) show up.  Drink Micheladas.  Tacos not good, only eat 2.  Go to after party.  D is dj-ing so we get in.  Have to wait for girls.  Get them in.  Door is barred shut with wood.  Go to party on top floor.  Party not very fun.  Some friends there.  Talk to them.  Dance a little.  Feel tired.  Decide to leave early.  See B2 and other people trying to get in.  Tell them it is not fun.  We go to a bar.  Bar is not open that night.  Go to gay clubs.  Drink a lot of tequila.  B2s friends (R), (R2), (A2), and (P) are very drunk.  Almost get kicked out.  Dance a lot.  Go to another bar.  R’s friend (S) arrives.  Very nice and pretty girl.  We go downstairs and dance a lot.  A2 and P disappear.  R, R2, B2, S and I are dancing a lot. We get into a taxi.  Go to a place with food.  Meet up with someone else (?) Go to ?’s hotel.  Hotel is crazy. I feel very drunk.  It’s very late. I leave. Get lost in hotel, hotel huge.  Take taxi home.  Get money to pay taxi.  N, M, D come home soon there after.  I’m very drunk.  Fall asleep around 6:30/7am.

Friday, Feb 7 - Fair opens at 12:00.  Get to fair, feel bad.  Quite at fair in the morning.  Talk to neighbors next door.  They are, (J,) (J2), (E), (D2), and (C).  They are all really nice.  Talk to other neighbor (A3).  People come but very quite.  Barely anyone there.  Talk to some friends, smoke cigarettes by pool.  Go back to apartment.  Get jacket.  Take cab to opening at friend (F)’s in San Rafael.  Share cab with N and (N2).  Look at show. Talk to people.  Drink tequila.  Cops come.  Cops leave.  Go to (D3) and (A4)’s house.  Get lots of beer.  Hang out for a little bit.  Cops come.  Everyone leaves.  Go with N (S2) and (S3) back to Centro.  Drop off S2 and S3 at hotel.  Go back to apt.  B arrives soon after.  Talk with N and B and then go to sleep.

Saturday, Feb 8 - Go to fair at 12:00.  Eat food.  Busier.  Talk to people about booth, talk to people in booths near me.  Walk around fair when there is quite time.  Meet (S4) and (M2).  Really like their program.  Talk to some others.  Go back to booth.  Talk to people visiting fair.  Not very busy.  Go back to apartment with (K), A and N.  B is there.  We take cab to restaurant, same as the one on Tuesday night.  Meet N’s friends (F2) and others.  K leaves and rest of us go in cabs to party.  I am drunk since drank 3 tequilas at fair when it was closing down.  Talked too much.  Party was good.  Lots of dancing.  Drank more tequila with A.  Saw friends, danced with them.  Saw new friends from Thursday night.  Danced with them.  I was very insane and was truly a spectacle this night.  Did insane things.  Don’t remember much of night but had fun.  Was nice to see everyone letting loose.  Lights on in club, go home in cab.  Pass out.

Sunday, Feb 9 - Go to fair at 12:00.  Eat McDonalds since so hung over and don’t want to be late for fair.  Eye is bruised for some reason.  Have a burn blister on finger.  Think 'WTF' a lot.  Quite day but more people then Saturday.  Talk to people about booth.  Talk to neighbors.  Feel sick.  Start feeling better at 4:00pm.  Last day of fair.  Pack up at 7:00pm.  Done by 8:00pm. Go to N’s booth.  Waiting for truck.  Talk to D3, A4, F, K, (N2) about fair and other art things.  Truck messed up.  Call car.  Waiting for car.  Car comes.  Go to N’s place.  B, D, M are there.  They help bring things in.  Exhausted.  It's around 11:00pm.  Get tacos and tortas for N, B and I.  Drink beer and sit at table with all there.  The guys smoke, I don’t smoke.  We are all talking and laughing.  We are all tired, get ready for bed around 2:00am.  Say goodbye to D, M, and B.  Everyone flying out tomorrow.
Monday, Feb 10 - Hear B getting ready to leave for flight at 6:00am.  Can’t go back to sleep.  Throat sore.  N leaves for more work.  Get up, shower, find bank, eat.  Go to Marcado.  Buy things for some people and myself.  See lots of puppies for sale at the back of the Marcado.  Feel sad.  Want the puppies.  Go back to apartment throat throbbing. N comes in, is exhausted takes nap.  I get aspirin, I eat spicy food at a marcado, I feel amazing after.  Try to find a place that sells hammocks.  Give up.  Go back to apartment.  Message D3 to see if she is around. Drank coke and sat by a fountain.  Writing this.  Waiting to go to dinner for (Y).  Hope to catch up with Y, (D4), D3, A4 and others at dinner.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

Packing for an Art Fair

I’m going to Mexico City tomorrow.  I am going for an art fair.  The art fair is called Material Art Fair.  This is going to be the sic-est, fun-est, insane-est, week ever.  Below is a packing list of things I’m bringing. LOVE TO MY DF CREW.  See you fabulous mamis and papis soon.

Clothes - You have to basically pack double the amount of outfits you would usually bring on an art fair trip.  There are the ‘art fair clothes,’ things that look ‘professional’ but also something you can stand in and be comfy in for hours on end.  Lots of black and white are my defaults.  There is one special outfit for the opening VIP night.  Something a wee bit dressier but you can’t look like you are trying too hard so yeah, prepare ahead.  I try all my art fair outfits on in advance.  Head to toe from shoes to accessories.  When you are hung over and have to work another eight hours in a booth you will be thankful you don’t have to think about what you will be wearing that day.  The other set of clothes is hangout clothes.  Post fair you WILL party hard.  Comfy is key but also things that make you feel like you can go to a swank dinner or go to some crazy club.   You never know what will happen post fair hours but usually it involves many drinks so dress for both success and hard-core party mode. 

Hygiene Products - My face washing and shower regime is like a blankee for me.  Gotta keep fresh and clean so that you will be in tip-top shape.  I bring all my things in mini bottles and doing this, even while away, makes you feel like you have some bodily stability.  Favorite product at the moment in Mario Badescu’s Ceramide Herbal Eye Cream.  Eyelid amaze time. 

Art Tools - You have to have these because trying to find a hardware store, especially in a foreign land, is a mini version of hell on earth.  Bringing; Drill (cordless with extra battery), screws, level, spackle and spackle knife (cause there will be mistakes), mirco-fibre cloth (keep those framed works clean!), measuring tape, pencil, glycine, artists tape.

Stationary Etc. - Same as above, these little things make your sales efficiency soar!; Binder with artists info and pics (I know people like using ipads but I HATE ipads), pens (black, ball point and lots of them), sharpie, small tape dispenser, small stapler (both these for taking cards), business cards and holder, catalogs for artists, red dots (sales baby sales).

Art - Can’t forget the art!

Gifts - Small things for friends in the city you are visiting is always the best way to re-meet.

Books - You probably won’t read them because you will be too busy or too hungover but it’s nice to think you may have some down time.

Music - Always.

Computer - I wish they could just be the future ones where they hover in the air.  Such a drag to have to bring a compy around with you but it is necessary. 

Money - Exchanging currency in the states makes you ready to go right away and also saves on all those transaction fees.

Bathing Suit - I always, always pack a bathing suit, even if I was going to Antarctica I would pack one.  One never knows when water fun will be in the mix. 

Medicine - Headache, poop and other things you may be prone to should always be on hand. 

Passport - Don’t be fucked at the airport ya’ll.

Phone - Some people get an international number.  I don’t.  I think it’s just fine to be sorta hard to reach and others are flexible with this.  Wifi lifestyle hard in DF.  Make sure to turn your data roam off!  Cool thing though is that you can use Google Maps and it doesn’t charge.  Amaze. 

Chocolate - Need for when I want to punch someone in the face but know I’m just cranky from low sugar levels.

Map of subway - I screen grab this on my phone.  You will use it.  You will need it.  You will thank me for having it. 

Calendar - There is SO much happening in one week that a calendar is essential so you don’t forget or miss out on all the hoopla. 

Shoes - Related to clothes but this is a bit harder since you have to be strategic about what you bring.  They gotta match outfits and also you need relax shoes but shoes are big and you have to pack sparingly.  I wish shoes could shrink.

Extra bag - When it all ends, you will shop.  You deserve to shop.  Shop for yourself or for near and dears and bring a bag of goodies back to the NYC.